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Author Topic: Force composition in the Wars of the Roses  (Read 58175 times)

Offline MerlintheMad

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Re: Force composition in the Wars of the Roses
« Reply #105 on: March 16, 2015, 04:40:26 AM »
I think that you are right: the ratio of hand-to-hand troops was much closer to a parity with the archers. And I think that the archers shot at each other rather than shooting at the MAA and other non archer troops. This would be the normal situation, of course, not exclusively the case. Finally, I think that the archers, almost all, had good melee capability themselves and had swords, bills and the plethora of other melee weapons with which to engage in the hand-to-hand....
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Offline Arlequín

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Re: Force composition in the Wars of the Roses
« Reply #106 on: March 16, 2015, 11:20:09 AM »
I'm sorry but there is no primary source evidence to support any sort of parity between 'hand to hand' and 'missile troops', even in the quite detailed indentures of the 1492 retinues. Archers still outnumber all other types by 3:1, bearing in mind that most of the 'others' are now 'cavalry', the archers overall outnumber the bills 9:1.

All surviving indentures 1415-1492 show a shift over the century to more archers and fewer knights and esquires, to the point that the men at arms go to around 10% of the totals and the actual well-armoured 'knights' to around 25% of those, the rest being partially-armoured demi-lances and custrells.

Okay I'll accept these are all 'picked forces' for foreign wars and that absence of evidence is not necessarily evidence of absence and all that. I often think that the army at Flodden was perhaps far more representative of what a Wars of the Roses army of indentured companies and levies might have looked like. Anyone have primary source details of the composition of that army? It's way beyond my knowledge, interest or time to research.
:)

Its seems like the sheer volume of missile fire would have vaporized the hand to hand troops, yet we know that didn't happen. What is the missing piece of the puzzle? My guess is that the ratio is not quite as high as those for continental expeditions and the earlier HYW.

You might be right, but as I mention above, the evidence for masses of 'hand to hand troops' just isn't there. You can go round in circles arguing what might have been the case (and I have done), but without any actual proof you have to go with what you have. 

My guess is that like modern day artillery archers engaged in 'counter-battery fire' against the enemy to their front - who were mostly opposing archers. Where one side did have an advantage in numbers of archers or conditions (Towton snow storm, or Herbert's Welshmen at Edgecote), they were forced to attack immediately. As effective archery engagement range was around 300 yards, we are only talking just under four minutes to cover the distance at normal gentle walking speed, you can guarantee they were trying to go much faster than that.

In more even-handed battles I imagine they shot until their supply was exhausted... however long that took.

I vaguely recall Moorish or Morris pikes being used to describe those carried by Scots Schiltrons. I'll see what I can dig up.

I believe that 'Moorish/Morris pike' came from the belief back then that it was the Moors who introduced the pike to Europe... likewise 'Morris dancers' are representing 'Moors' too, which explains the 'black face' traditions. I'm surprised that hasn't been hammered by RR legislation to be honest.   
 ;)
The science of war at the beginning of a war is a strict science like astronomy, but that at the end of the war it is more like astrology. - Rebecca West

Offline MerlintheMad

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Re: Force composition in the Wars of the Roses
« Reply #107 on: March 16, 2015, 05:17:55 PM »
IF, if, the MAA and other hand-to-hand troops were as outnumbered as the muster roles say, in WotR battles, I would mix them up with archers all across the frontage of the army. Discrete units (battles) would just invite focus of the enemy's masses of archers, which would result in their annihilation (as pointed out again by Fred). But if hand-to-hand troops were mingled across the frontage, then the received shot of the enemy would land at random upon the armored troops, and their armor would make them more resistant to the chance missiles that hit them. Their presence would "stiffen" the archers, both because of their armor and their (asserted) higher morale and melee capability/training. I believe that this pov loops back to the other original question: how were WotR armies arrayed? Were archers in fact in discrete formations as in the HYW?...

Offline Captain Blood

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Re: Force composition in the Wars of the Roses
« Reply #108 on: March 16, 2015, 05:49:46 PM »
Haven't we had this argument before a few months ago?
Perhaps keep to what little evidence there is rather than 'I think this' or 'I believe that'.

The idea of this thread was to simply corral in one place the basic evidence and explanation for the probable / possible ratio of MAA:bills:bows in WOTR era armies: a question which was repeatedly asked by LAF members - hence the sticky.

It's not meant as a platform for extended academic debate on the subject.

Offline le bon roi rene

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Re: Force composition in the Wars of the Roses
« Reply #109 on: March 17, 2015, 02:20:55 AM »
Fair cop, however...

We can all agree on this much: Speaking exclusively about WotR engagements, missile fire on its own almost never won the day. So, when we speak in terms of 3, 4,5:1 ratios in favor of archers, I have to ask: why not?


Offline Arlequín

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Re: Force composition in the Wars of the Roses
« Reply #110 on: March 17, 2015, 05:45:36 AM »
For the same reasons that archers in the HYW felt the need to dig pits, deploy behind ditches and hedges, or within and behind a field of sharpened stakes... alone the longbow was never enough. I'm not aware of a single battle involving the English that was not settled one way or another by a melee.

As for the WotR you have a range of battles fought largely with "household men and fee'd men", or those supplemented by numbers of levies, which by connotation we presume were low quality. After they end we see reasonable numbers of cavalry evident in English armies, probably the last thing you would expect to see after a war involving two sides predominantly composed of archers, yet there they were.

I think it was Commines who described the English archers in 1475 as not being of the same quality as they once were and how disorderly they appeared on the march - and he was there to see them. 'New men of war' crops up a fair bit in accounts, so maybe inexperience was an issue.

The summonses to provide troops that have survived often mention 'defensively arrayed', so we are talking men with a degree of protection being involved. The instances of 'naked men' are uncommon enough to warrant mention in accounts, so the typical soldier was probably reasonably protected.

While assessments of who had what (Bridport roll, Ewelme's and later ones from 1512 and 1522) show a lot of people with very little, there is nothing to say these were ever called up. Despite being called 'muster rolls' they were not, they were assessments, a very different thing.

The Duke of Norfolk's accounts list his non-household men of 1485 by village, but there are only a small number of men from each one listed, so perhaps he chose the best of a bad bunch. He should have had no difficulty raising the 1,000 men he promised, yet only raised 800 or so in the end; I'm guessing he discarded some who did not meet whatever standard he felt was acceptable.

In all there is nothing to suggest that troops in the WotR were largely composed of hordes of ill-protected men dragged from field and plough, nor that these men were 'expert archers' of the kind tried and tested before being sent to France, as was supposedly the case in the 'glory days'.

So was the longbow somewhat over-rated in terms of its effectiveness, or was the typical soldier protected sufficiently to somewhat neutralise its effects, or both?

Offline MerlintheMad

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Re: Force composition in the Wars of the Roses
« Reply #111 on: March 17, 2015, 03:41:09 PM »
So, lots of bows still. But, lower quality among their total numbers. How to separate out the good and best quality bow from the lower quality bow? We can probably assume that the household yeomen were all good quality. That the "hand-picked" retinues were also good quality. But that the "levy" were assorted, mostly poorer quality archers. Some/many probably were told to ditch their bows and take to the "bill". So even though on a "muster" roll they appear as "archers", in reality they resorted to their secondary, or melee weapons as their main arms when arrayed for battle. This is all speculation.

In the army list I use, the original premise of it's designer included the notion that the poorer archers are there if you insist on using them. But the good and best quality bows are limited to 25% and 10% respectively, of the total in the army. You can shoot with the poorer quality archers but they will not reach as far or hit as hard. The good quality archers are the ones that made up the "warbow" of the HYW. They are still there, but they are "hidden" amongst the mass of archers mustered (and, of course, are employed by the nobility as household and retinue troops). The best of the best, c. 10%, or "one archer in ten" (I'm still without the original source that said that, and I still think it was Roger Ascham, but can't find it in "Toxophilus") shot the bow that exceeded a hundred pounds draw weight. These, when found amongst the population, would be snapped up by the noble households, and (imho) comprised the royal archers of the guard, and aboard the king's ships; nobody of lesser skill would be able to qualify for such employment.

So on the battlefield, the wargames table, you could array the masses of lesser bow as "billmen" or "spears", whathaveyou. Yes, they can shoot too (if "you" insist), but their skill will be less in addition to their bows being lighter draw weight than the "warbows" of c. 70-80 lbs, and the cream of the crop shooting c. 100 lbs. I don't know how "you" would model that. But in our rules it is all taken care of by "Bow 2", "Bow 3" and "Bow 4"....

Offline Arlequín

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Re: Force composition in the Wars of the Roses
« Reply #112 on: March 17, 2015, 09:05:53 PM »
Sure, if you have a pool of archers of finite limits, then it stands to reason that the more that are recruited, the lower the average drops. There is of course a lower skill limit by which a man can no longer be considered an archer (especially if you're the guy paying his wage), there was a standard after all.

I can't say with any confidence that there weren't any 'billmen' either (whatever they were called), I'm just saying there's not much evidence. That being lacking, any consideration of numbers, proportions, or anything else is just pure guesswork and anyone's guess is literally as good as mine, if not more so.

Offline Captain Blood

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Re: Force composition in the Wars of the Roses
« Reply #113 on: March 17, 2015, 09:18:00 PM »
I'm just saying there's not much evidence. That being lacking, any consideration of numbers, proportions, or anything else is just pure guesswork and anyone's guess is literally as good as mine, if not more so.

Which I think, Jim, is pretty much what you said very near the beginning  :)

And therefore seems as good a place as any to call a halt to this thread and preserve it, along with all its learning / guesswork for the benefit of posterity.

 

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