New register of English battlefields aims to set record straight: Public help sought in compiling definitive list of military engagements on home soil. Oliver Gillie reports

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The Independent Online
ALMOST 250 years after the last military engagement in England, a process of public consultation has begun to decide what happened in 60 or more battles and skirmishes on English soil. The public is not being asked who won, but rather which battles were genuine and where they took place.

English Heritage has compiled a register of English battlefields which it put forward yesterday for public comment. Its panel of experts, chaired by General Sir Martin Farndale, has selected 41 battles out of 69 for inclusion in the proposed register after considering the historical, military, biographical and military importance of each battle. Some military engagements were excluded from the register because they were considered to be skirmishes rather than battles and others were excluded because the exact place where the battle occurred was not known.

Jocelyn Stevens, chairman of English Heritage, said: 'If battles are, as Winston Churchill wrote, 'the punctuation marks of history', the battlefields are the fragmentary pages on which those punctuation marks are written in blood. Some represent turning points in history; on many others great leaders' reputations were made or lost; on many more the tactics and skills of war which have served our country so well were developed. It is vital that those battlefields that remain should be recognised and should survive.'

The last battle to take place in England, according to the English Heritage expert panel, took place at Preston, Lancashire, in 1715. A later engagement at Clifton Moor in 1745 when the Duke of Cumberland attacked Bonnie Prince Charlie's rearguard north of Shap Fell was deemed by the expert panel to be only a skirmish. But the panel acknowledges that its list is not final and the public consultation, which lasts until 1 December, is being undertaken in the hope that further information may be forthcoming.

The register of battlefields is being sent to 1,200 owners and occupiers of battlefield land and to local authorities, district and county planners and others with any interest. Anyone who has any information is asked to write to Dr Andrew Brown at English Heritage, 23 Saville Row, London W1 1AB.

English Heritage experts believe that the register will give a measure of protection to English battlefields which they have not hitherto enjoyed. Inclusion in the register will be taken into account in local planning processes involving development or road construction.