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Crouching enemy, hidden ally: the decisive role of groundwater discharge features in two major British battles, Flodden 1513 and Prestonpans 1745

By
Paul L. Younger
Paul L. Younger
Newcastle Institute for Research on Sustainability, Newcastle University, Devonshire Building, Newcastle upon Tyne NE1 7RU, UK (e-mail: paul.younger@ncl.ac.uk)
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Published:
January 01, 2012

Abstract

Geomorphological features associated with groundwater discharge zones can affect ground conditions so greatly that they determine the outcomes of battles. Two cases in point are found in Scottish history: (i) despite outnumbering their English foes, the Scots lost the Battle of Flodden Field (9 September 1513), largely due to failing to identify the presence of marshy ground associated with an area of groundwater discharge; (ii) on 21 September 1745, the Jacobites defeated the Hanoverian army at Prestonpans by finding a way around marshland corresponding to a regional groundwater discharge zone, upon which the Hanoverian commander had been relying as a natural defensive feature. Analysis of both battlefields drawing upon present-day understanding of local stratigraphy and hydrogeological conditions allows identification of the specific groundwater discharge patterns that largely determined the outcomes of these two emblematic battles. At Flodden, the proximal source of groundwater discharge is Quaternary outwash gravels, distally fed from sedimentary strata (Cementstones) of lowermost Dinantian age. In the case of Prestonpans, the groundwater emerges from particularly arenaceous coal-bearing strata of Namurian age. Both case studies suggest that military commanders selecting advantageous terrain could benefit from consulting hydrogeologists who are familiar with the intricacies of groundwater geomorphology.

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Contents

Geological Society, London, Special Publications

Military Aspects of Hydrogeology

E. P. F. Rose
E. P. F. Rose
Royal Holloway, University of London, UK
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J. D. Mather
J. D. Mather
Royal Holloway, University of London, UK
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Geological Society of London
Volume
362
ISBN electronic:
9781862396104
Publication date:
January 01, 2012

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