Soon they were being driven into a wetland that swiftly became a deathly pool of blood: their only escape was to scramble uphill from the left flank and attempt to flee. Doing so, however, meant climbing up wet and churned-up turf with the blizzard on their backs. As they tried to run they were mown down by the Yorkist cavalry, who swept over the open ground, cudgelling and lancing their enemies with abandon. Even those who made it past Towton suddenly found themselves trapped once more: before the battle the Lancastrians had broken the wooden bridge further up Cock Beck, and they were now penned in at the far end of the battle-site. As the cavalry closed in on them, men threw off their armour and tried to wade or swim through the brisk water. Weary, wounded or half-frozen, they drowned by the dozen, until eventually the beck was so dammed with corpses that their colleagues could scramble to safety over what became known as the Bridge of Bodies.
With men dying in their thousands, the Lancastrian line dissolved by midafternoon, and the leaders took flight. Behind them, defeat became a devastating rout. On Edward’s orders, no mercy was shown in victory. Skulls later found on the battlefield showed the most horrific injuries: faces split down the bone, heads cut in half, holes punched straight through foreheads. Some men died with more than 20 wounds to their head: the signs of frenzied slaughter by men whipped into a state of barbaric bloodlust. Some victims were mutilated: their noses and ears ripped off, fingers snipped from hands to remove rings and jewellery in the plunder of the dying.