Old Oswestry, Same Battles

Relatives and I spent a pleasant day in the summer tracing the Great War career of our great-uncle Harry, a sergeant in the King’s Own Regiment. He was a bayonet instructor based at the Park Hill training camp at Oswestry, Shropshire, and we were interested to learn that the recruits there made use of nearby Old Oswestry. This is a wonderfully impressive old hill fort dating back to before 100BC. The aerial photograph still offers a glimpse of its magnificence, even without the palisades and structures which its original inhabitants would have known. It may have played a part in the unsuccessful defence against Claudius’ Roman invasion of 43AD. Long after the Romans left 400 years later, it is said to have been the birthplace of the Brythonic queen Ganhumara, better known as Guinevere, wife of Arthur. Whatever the truth of these old myths, it’s certain that post-Roman Britain was a warlike, bloody place to live, and the Old Oswestry hillfort must have proved a useful place of defence.


Credit: Oswestry Borderland Tourism / Old Oswestry Hillfort / CC BY-SA 2.0

1500 years later, and the descendants of these warring tribesman, both British and Canadian, would use this huge defensive mound to practise trench warfare and perfecting their artillery aim. Once more, Britons were threatened by their Saxon and Teutonic neighbours; once more they repaired to Old Oswestry to refine their military prowess. The weapons and clothing may have changed, but the essential business was the same: learn to fight well, or learn to submit and die.


When we compare ourselves to the heroes of the Bible, we often spot the obvious differences. The language, the clothes, the names and the climates were very different to our own. Yet the same desperate struggle was both theirs and ours. Against whispered temptations, the lusting of the flesh, the dangers of pride- what they battled, we battle. The apostles Paul, Peter and John all combatted false teaching infecting the churches, as do we. The ancient elders and deacons sought to inspire their congregations to lives of holy service and commitment, as we do. Against ungodly and ruthless governments did they make their stand, as do many of us. The scenery and calendar changes, but the ground upon which we fight remains the same.

In Ephesians 6, Paul lists the Roman military hardware each believer must employ, such as shield and sword. Few modern soldiers would carry such equipment now, but his opening remarks apply just as nearly:

Be strong in the Lord and in the power of His might. Put on the whole armour of God, that you may be able to stand against the wiles of the devil. For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this age, against spiritual hosts of wickedness in the heavenly places. Therefore take up the whole armour of God, that you may be able to withstand in the evil day, and having done all, to stand. (NKJV)