The Norman Invasion - Preparations at Dives
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 weeks.
Eventually the 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 again.
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.