Battle of Warns

The Battle of Warns (West Frisian: Slach by Warns; Dutch: Slag bij Warns) was a battle of the Friso-Hollandic Wars between Count William IV of Holland and the Frisians which took place on 26 September 1345. The annual commemoration of the battle is important for many nationalist Frisians. The Frisians won the battle and repelled the Dutchmen from the eastern coast of the Zuiderzee.[1]

Battle of Warns
The monument of the battle of Warns in Friesland. It says, in Frisian, "Better to be dead than a slave".
The monument of the battle of Warns in Friesland. It says, in Frisian, "Better to be dead than a slave".
Date26 September 1345
Result Victory for the Frisians, West Frisia not under Hollandic subjugation.
Flag Zuid-Holland.svg Holland Frisian flag.svgFrisia
Commanders and leaders
Flag Zuid-Holland.svg William IV of Holland  Frisian flag.svg Frisians
Unknown Unknown
Casualties and losses
Unknown Unknown


After the Hollandic counts completed their conquest of West Frisia they planned the conquest of Middle Frisia, most of the present province of Friesland.

In 1345, William IV, count of Holland, prepared a military action to conquer Middle Frisia, crossing the Zuiderzee with a large fleet and with the help of French and Flemish knights, some of whom had just returned from a crusade.

He set sail in Enkhuizen to cross the Zuiderzee, together with his uncle John of Beaumont, and landed near Stavoren and Laaxum. They planned to use the Sint-Odulphus monastery near Stavoren as a fortification. The Hollandic knights wore armour, but had no horses as there was not enough room in the ships, which were full of building materials and supplies. William's troops set fire to the abandoned villages of Laaxum and Warns and started to advance towards Stavoren.

In the countryside around Warns the Hollandic count was attacked by the local inhabitants. With their heavy armor the knights were no match for the furious Frisian farmers and fishermen. The path the Hollandic knights chose to flee led straight to the Red Cliffs.

As they fled they entered a swamp where they were decisively beaten. Their commander William IV of Holland was killed. When John of Beaumont heard what had happened, he ordered a retreat back to the ships. They were pursued by the Frisians and only a few made it to Amsterdam.

Tactical mistakesEdit

The battle was marked by a number of tactical mistakes of the Hollanders. First, they divided their forces in two. William landed north of Stavoren and his uncle Jan landed south.

In addition, William continued the attack in haste without waiting for his archers. With a small group of 500 men he reached St. Odulphusklooster because the Frisians purposely moved back. But then they cut Willem from the bulk of his troops and defeated him.

After Count Willem was destroyed they turned against his main troops that could not flee because the ships were offshore. When these troops were defeated, they attacked John of Beaumont. He had not participated until then. The Frisians could beat him because his camp was chosen poorly with the sea in the back so that his army could never retreat. The Frisians took the battle with the Hollanders in the water where they beat them down.


The disaster sparked many accounts of the losses. In 1869 Van Malderghem made a serious study of the losses on Count Williams' side.[2] He made a list of the deceased, with notes about which source mentioned them. The table shows the part of Van Malderghem's list that he based on the Chronique Anonyme de Valenciennes and Beke. Relevant fragments of the Chronique Anonyme de Valenciennes were published by Joseph Kervyn de Lettenhove in his Histoire et croniques de Flandre.

The author of the Chronique Anonyme de Valenciennes focused on the losses from the County of Hainaut. The monk Johannes de Beke from Egmond Abbey focused on casualties from the County of Holland. Beke thought that the knight bannerets, referred to as 'Domino de' or 'D' and marked with (b), were important enough to mention, even when they were not from Holland.

Name by Van Malderghem County C.a. de Valenciennes[3] Beke[4] Comment
Henri d'Antoing (b)[5] Hainaut D. de Antongen (b)
Michel I de Ligne (b)[6] Hainaut M. de Lingne D. de Lingni (b)
Gaultier Lingne Hainaut Gautier de Lingne Brother of the Lord of Lingne[7]
Le Sire de Wal(in)court[8] Hainaut M. de Walecourt D. de Walincord (b) Jean sire de Walincourt et Cysoing[9]
Thierry de Walcourt[10] Hainaut Theodricus de Walkord
Rasse de Montigny[11] Hainaut M. Rasse de Montigny There were 2 Montigny's in Hainaut[11]
Jean de Lisseroeulx[12] Hainaut M. Jehan de Lussereulles
Jean de Billemont[13] Hainaut M. Jehan de Buyllemont
Henri de Brissoeul[14] Hainaut M. Henry de Brisseul
Gauthier de Mauny[15] Hainaut D. de Many (b) Van Malderghem had doubts here
Gilles de Mauni dit Grignart[16] Hainaut M. Gille Grenart
Thierry de Mauny[17] Hainaut M. Thiery de Mauny
Jean de Mauny[17] Hainaut Jehan de Mauny
Ferri de Hordaing Hainaut M. Ferry de Hordaing
Name by Van Malderghem County C.a. de Valenciennes[3] Beke[4] Comment
Gerard of Hornes, Gaesbeek etc. (b)[18] Holland D. de Hoorn (b) Gerard II of Horne
Daniel lord of Merwede and Wieldrecht (b)[19] Holland M. Daniel de la Merwede D. de Merwede (b)
Floris van Haemstede (b)[20] Zeeland D. de Haemstede (b)
Gerard d'Audenhove dit Mettenbaerde[15] Jülich M. d'Adenehove Gerardus Barbatus The Lord of Audenhove
Guillaume de Naeldwyck[21] Holland Wilhelmus de Naeldwijc
Simon van Teilingen[12] Holland Symon de Teyling
Thierri van Teilingen[22] Holland Theodricus de Teyling
Nicolas van Arkel dit Oem[23] Brabant Nycolaus Oem
Gui son of Otto van Arkel[24] Holland Ghyo de Asperen
Jean, vicomte de Montfort[25] Utrecht Ioh. Roverus de Montford
Guillaume de Montfort[11] Utrecht Wilhelmus de Montford
Thierri van Zanthorst[26] Holland Theodricus de Zanthorst
Thierri van Swieten[22] Holland Theodricus de Zweten
Herman van Swieten[22] Holland Hermannus de Zweten
Florent van der Merwede[25] Holland Florencius de Merwede Brother of the Lord of M.[22]
Ogier van Spangen[22] Holland Ogerus de Spange
Gérard Ever[27] Holland Gerardus Ever
Alfert van der Horst[28] Holland Alfardus de Horst Van Malderghem is uncertain
Guillaume van Dongen[29] Holland Wilhelmus de Dongen
Gérard de Florenville[16] Luxembourg Gerardus de Florevyl


Memorial tablet for the lords of Montfoort, Centraal Museum, Utrecht.

The Battle of Warns was annually celebrated on September 26 until the 16th century, then it moved to the last Saturday of September on which it is celebrated nowadays by nationalistic Frisians. There is a monument on the Red Cliffs in Warns since 1951, a large glacial erratic with the text leaver dea as slaef [sic] (rather dead than slave). The road to Scharl is still called the ferkearde wei (the wrong way) by the local inhabitants because this was the way the Hollandic knights chose and led to their downfall.

The Battle of Warnsveld was the inspiration for the historical novel De Roos van Dekama by Jacob van Lennep.


  • Beke, H. (1973), "The Johannes de Beke Chronicle up until 1430" (PDF), Rijks Geschiedkundige Publicatiën (in Latin), Martinus Nijhoff, 's-Gravenhage, p. 301-304
  • Bruch, H. (1973), "The Johannes de Beke Chronicle up until 1430" (PDF), Rijks Geschiedkundige Publicatiën (in Dutch), Martinus Nijhoff, 's-Gravenhage, p. 189-192
  • Kervyn de Lettenhove, Joseph (1868), "Depuis le siége de Rennes jusqu'a l'expédition d'Edouard III en Normandie", Oeuvres de Froissart (in French), Victor Devaux et Cie, Bruxelles, vol. IV
  • Leuridan, Th. (1883), "Le Château de la Royère", Bulletins de la Société Historique et Littéraire de Tournai (in French), H. Casterman, Tournai, vol. XX, p. 343-372
  • Van Malderghem, Jean (1869), La bataille de Staveren, 26 septembre 1345: Noms et armoiries des chevaliers tues dans cette journee (in French), Leemans et Ce, Bruxelles