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The Quest for Bannockburn

Programme Run: 2 x 60 minutes
Production: BBC Scotland
First Transmitted: 2014

The Quest for Bannockburn aims to uncover one of Britains's most famous battlegrounds, and use the archaeological finds to shed new light on just how Robert the Bruce achieved the most incredible victories in history.

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700 years after one of the most significant conflicts in British history, Neil Oliver and Tony Pollard go in search of both the real and imagined Battle of Bannockburn. With the help of the country’s greatest minds, 3D computer generated graphics and a good old fashioned spade - they’ll chart the final nail-biting 48 hours and re-create the landscape and environment that determined this seismic moment in British history. In the process, they hope to discover the battle’s true location.

Programme 1 - Day One
The Lead up to the Battle

Programme 2 - Day Two
The Battle and Aftermath

By June 23rd 1314, the English army was in sight of Stirling Castle. If Edward II didn’t relieve the besieged castle by the following day, the Commander had agreed in a pact with Bruce, he would surrender it to the Scots. Strategically, Stirling was of vital importance to the English. It was the key to the Kingdom of Scotland. Edward II was determined the Castle (and Scotland) would remain in his hands.

Just to the south west of Stirling, wedged between the M9 motorway and the edge of town lies the ‘New Park’. This small hill stands just above a stream called ‘the Bannockburn’. Most visitors believe this to be the location where Bruce’s army attacked Edward’s, to prevent him reaching Stirling Castle. Commanding the site stands the statue of the victor – Robert the Bruce, the soldier king who fought for Scottish liberty… and won.

After years of preparation, locating the actual site will be one of Neil Oliver and Tony Pollard’s biggest archaeological challenges. To help, Tony will call upon the staff and expertise from the Centre for the Battlefield Archaeology in Glasgow. Tony is the department’s head and the unit leads the world in the field of battlefield and conflict archaeology. The project will start off by enlisting the help of environmental historian Richard Tipping who argues that the impact of rapid climate change had dramatically changed the landscape around Stirling by 1314. So as well as trying to locate the battlefield, Tony and Neil will also be asking if the favoured English strategy of cavalry-driven warfare failed, because climate change had transformed the battlefield into the "evil, deep wet marsh" described by contemporary records.

A 3D landscape will be generated (commissioned by the National Trust For Scotland) and help the team understand how the landscape and river systems had changed by 1314. They’re looking for one clue in particular; the location of the ‘Great Ditch’ into which the English troops fell and perished.


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