The Italian War of 1542 – 1546 was a series of wars in the larger Italian Wars that saw England, France, Italy, Spain and the Low Counties fight one another.
France attempted to invade the Isle of Wight for the last time after a series of attempts to capture the island. The French, led by Claude d’Annebault, outnumbered the English but they met twice in battle once in the Solent and then at Bonchurch.
During the Battle of the Solent the English lost their flagship vessel, Mary Rose on 19th July. The English retreated in the hope that they could draw the French into the shallow waters of Spithead. The French would not be drawn into this and instead drew up a plan to bring the English to them and abandon their defensive position by invading the Isle of Wight.
On 21st July the French landed on the Isle of Wight, the plan was that the French would land at Whitecliff Bay and cross Bembridge Down in order to attack Sandown, another landing was planned at Bonchurch with the plan to march across and meet the rest of the troops at Sandown. However, the northern troops were intercepted and had to fight their way to the rendezvous point.
Every man that lived on the Isle of Wight was required to have military training and therefore Sir Richard Worsley led the residents of the Island out to defend their homes
Martin Du Bellay, a French chronicler, wrote about the invasion;
“…To keep the enemy’s forces separated, a simultaneous descent was made in three different places. On one side Seigneur Pierre Strosse was bidden to land below a little fort where the enemy had mounted some guns with which they assailed our galleys in flank, and within which a number of Island infantry had retired. These, seeing the boldness of our men, abandoned the fort and fled southwards to the shelter of a copse. Our men pursued and killed some of them and burned the surrounding habitations…”
Despite the French attempts to surprise the English by landing at different undefended points the English were prepared for the attacks and reached the high points of the to oppose them. At Bonchurch the French landed at Monk’s Bay but found it difficult to climb the slopes of St Boniface and Bonchurch Downs before they were met at the top by the waiting English.
François van der Delft, the Imperial Ambassador wrote to the Holy Roman Emperor, Charles ;
“On Tuesday [21st] the French landed in the Isle of Wight and burnt 10 or 12 small houses; but they were ultimately driven to take refuge in a small earthwork fort, and a large force, 8000, is now opposed to them. Yesterday, Wednesday, and the previous night, nothing could be heard but artillery firing, and it was rumoured that the French would land elsewhere.”
There is no comprehensive record of the battle of Bonchurch but many sources have the English as winning the battle.
The Battle of Bonchurch