The amazingly true story of how King Harold lost his eye at the Battle of Hastings

The Battle of Hastings joke came to mind on seeing a widely circulated photo of the South Korean air force honour guard performing at the Seoul International Aerospace and Defense Exhibition.

South-Korea-airforceKing Harold was inspecting his troops on the eve of the Battle of Hastings, chatting with them and trying to raise their morale. He went to the swordsmen first, choosing a soldier at random from the ranks. “Do you feel ready for the battle tomorrow?” he asked. “Oh yes, sire,” the swordsman responded eagerly.

“Handy with that thing are you?” Harold asked, indicating the man’s sword. “Reasonably so, sire,” the man replied, “Watch!” He bent down, picked up a handful of grass, flung it in the air, and waved his sword about. When the grass fell down again, it had been cut into a neat line of soldier figures.

“Good work, man,” said Harold, impressed, “and good luck in the battle.”

“Thank you, sire,” said the soldier.

King Harold proceeded to inspect the pikemen. “Are you looking forward to the battle?” he asked one of their number. “Yes, sire,” the man replied eagerly.

“Good with your pike, are you?” the King asked. “Not bad,” the pikeman said. “See that flock of birds?” Harold nodded, and the pike went sailing through the air and when it came down five birds were skewered on it.

“Well done,” said Harold, “and good luck in the battle tomorrow.”

He then went to the archers, who stood menacingly with their longbows. “Are you ready for tomorrow’s battle?”, King Harold asked one bowman. The man squinted at him and said, “Good Lord, it’s the King! Yes I’m ready.”

“What can you do with that bow?” Harold asked him.

“What? Oh, this thing? I dunno. Someone gave it to me yesterday and told me to stay with these people here.”

“Well… do you see that barn over there, about twenty yards away?” said Harold.

The archer peered in the direction of Harold’s pointing finger. “Oh yes, I see it,” he said at last.

“Do you think you could hit it?”

The archer lined himself up in the general direction of the barn, grunting with the effort of drawing the bow, and loosed an arrow. It sailed past the barn, five feet too high and ten feet to the left.

Turning to his captain of archery, the King said, “Watch out for that man tomorrow, Captain. He’ll have someone’s eye out!”

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