All being well – this time next week I will have had the surgery on my shoulder – the shoulder blade will have gone and hopefully most – if not all – of the offending growth, and I will be on my way home to recoup before the next – and major stage of my present treatment. Radiotherapy. I am led to understand that this will involve 5-7days in isolation while the radioactive stuff does the biz. Again I am given to believe that the side effects are not half as bad as those associated with chemotherapy. I will be ‘radio active’ and will feel tired and lethargic, but hopefully not much worse than that. At least I am allowed to take my mobile phone and laptop with me into purdah, so I can do some writing and keep in contact. So Tuesday is H day with the operation on Wednesday morning.

If you read my last piece about RAF WESTONZOYLAND you might recall that I was in fact on my way with Rob Boulter to the adjacent site of the 1685 Battle of Sedgemoor. It was the year the His Late Majesty King Charles II died and his Catholic brother James came to the throne. However Charles’ eldest bastard son, The Duke of Monmouth, who had been living in The Netherlands challenged his uncle to the throne and landed at Lyme Regis on the Dorset coast. He led the “Western Rebellion” raising up to 7,000 men and intended marching on London via Bristol. The King’s army led by Lord Faversham and Lord Churchill halted the rebels at Bridgewater who now numbered only about 3,500 ill-equipped soldiers mainly untrained, ill-disciplined peasants.

The King’s army was encamped on the night of July 5th 1685 at Westonzoyland. A local villager had offered his services to the Rebels and agreed to lead them across The Levels at night in order to mount a surprise night attack on Lord Faversham. In silence, they arrived at the moors below the village having crossed the ditches and rhynes that criss-cross the countryside. All went well until they reached Langmore Rhyne where the guide lost his way in the dark and the early mist. A pistol shot was fired which gave the game away and the King’s Horse Guard Blues led by Sir Francis Compton immediately attacked the rebels.

Meanwhile the Duke of Monmouth had already become muddled about the lie of the land and the disposition of the Royal army, his cavalry of about 800 horse was halted and his infantry, although charging bravely, were in disarray and their ill-disciplined musketry served only to give away their position rather than inflicting any significant damage. Whilst this was going on, Faversham organised his cavalry, Horse Guards, Life Guards and Dragoons, and attacked the rebel flank. At the same time the Royalist artillery – helped into position by the coach horses of, and under the direction of The Lord Bishop of Winchester – began to break what was left of the peasant army which started to retreat and run.

Many of the fleeing rebels were shot in cold blood or summarily hanged. 500 of them were imprisoned in the Parish Church (where five died of their wounds); and there they waited for the so-called ‘Bloody Assize presided over by the infamous Judge Jeffreys.

Monmouth rode over Polden Ridge and headed for the coast and on to France then, but was captured and sent to London, where, despite a knee-bending plea to his Royal uncle for mercy, was condemned to death. He was executed on 15th July and it is said that it took five blows of the axe to remove his head. Many of his company who were not killed on the battlefield or subsequently shot and hanged, were sent as slaves to the colonies or whipped. The retribution was indeed severe and perhaps contributed to King James II being deposed only three years later.

When you think that this battle was the last to be fought on English soil; and caused the revolution that led to the deposition of the reigning Monarch; and was a formative factor on the continuing inhibition preventing Catholics from inheriting the throne; The Battle of Sedgemoor was a significant event. What a terrible shame that this important site is largely overlooked, unmarked, poorly signposted and ignored. But it is worth visiting and the Sedgemoor Inn next to the Parish Church has excellent beers and a good lunchtime menu.