The Norman Invasion - Preparations
The whole of
William's shipping had assembled at the mouth of the Dives, a
small river between the Seine and the Orne, in the middle of
August. Some sources claimed that he had collected fifty
thousand knights and ten thousand soldiers, other sources
state a total of between 5000 - 10,000 men.
Many of the
knights were mounted, but most were unable to bring their
horses due to limited transport available via the fleet.
The Duke was forced to wait impatiently for favourable winds
to take his invasion force across the channel, he made good
use of the time however, training his forces. Construction of
the Norman invasion fleet had been completed in July but an
unfavourable north wind delayed Duke William for six
wind veered from the northeast to the west, giving Duke
William the opportunity to sail for England's shores.
Unfortunately for the Duke the weather turned foul and drove
his force along the French coast to St. Valery, where most,
but not all, found safe harbour, a considerable number of
ships were wrecked, resulting in the coast of Normandy being
littered with the bodies of Duke William's drowned men.
The impact of this
bad luck was that William's army were discouraged by events
and were less keen on the idea of invasion, or going to sea
Duke William tried
everything he could think of to raise the spirits of his men,
as a last and desperate attempt he had the body of the patron
Saint of St. Valery exhumed. He then paraded it in front of
his men and had them implore the Saint for a favourable change
in wind. That night the wind veered, and enabled the fleet to
leave, following the southern breeze, the Norman invasion
fleet finally left French shores for England - somewhat
depleted but in high spirits.
It was documented
that the fleet consisted of "700 ships less 4" sailed from
St.Valery but these ships were accompanied by skiffs and small
boats, to act as ferries and landing vessels, bringing the
number of vessels in the Norman fleet to nearly 3000.