London, Nov 26 (ANI): A new archaeological find has revealed that the bloodiest battle ever fought on the English soil is the first proven gun battle in British history.
The Battle of Towton on March 29, 1461, was a ten-hour clash between the Yorkists and the Lancastrians, which ended with the slaughter of 28,000 men - the equivalent of one per cent of the English population at the time.
Artefacts unearthed by a metal detector in a Yorkshire field have shown that some of the earliest handguns were fired on this day - making it the first proven gun battle in British history.
The Act of Settlement signed by King Henry VI in October 1460 transferred the right of succession to Richard, Duke of York, and his heirs. However Queen Margaret was unwilling to accept that her son should be disinherited.
This resulted in three battles: Wakefield, at which the Yorkists were defeated and Richard killed; Mortimer's Cross, when Edward, Richard's son, defeated a Lancastrian army; and St Albans, where the Yorkists were defeated and Henry VI released from captivity.
Despite this latter setback, the Earl of Warwick saw to it that Edward became king in March 1461. England now had two kings - Edward IV and Kenry VI - and the issue could only be resolved on the battlefield.
As well as the fragments of two separate gun barrels, archaeologists also found a lead bullet with an iron core. According to Tim Sutherland, archaeologist from the University of York, this bullet is the 'earliest one to be found in Europe so far'.
"One bullet will have been fired at a time from a small calibre weapon like this, but it would have been deadly and the effect quite horrible at close range," the Daily Mail quoted him as saying.
Although the size of the bronze weapon is not known, the barrel was 2cm in diameter. Gunpowder inside would have been ignited by lighting a taper.
Dr Evelyn Godfrey from the ISIS Research Centre said, "Almost certainly there are two different alloys which came from two different castings. They are almost certainly from two different guns."
But the castings were 'incredibly poor' and the metal 'full of bubbles', making the gun liable to fall apart when fired. Analysis of the internal coating of the gun fragments indicated it contained 'the constituent parts of gunpowder' and was therefore used in the battle.
"In terms of the Towton battlefield, it's very important because we're looking at the cusp of the use of archery and the introduction of handguns. Guns didn't become common in battles for about 30 years or so. It's incredibly important and we still can't believe we've found this," said Sutherland.
Unfortunately the guns didn't do them much good as the forces of Henry V1 were defeated by the Yorkists, leaving 18-year-old Edward IV to claim the throne. (ANI)