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Author Topic: Force composition in the Wars of the Roses  (Read 60668 times)

Offline Cubs

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Re: WotR using HC
« Reply #30 on: October 14, 2013, 05:44:13 PM »
True to a point. Certainly I'd expect a Man at Arms to be generally better on the whole than an Archer, skill-wise. But the 'levy' billman's primary role was perhaps ploughing a field or digging ditches, playing football and getting drunk on Sundays, while watching the mugs play with their bows and not as heavy infantry.


I think I worded it badly. I was trying to say I wouldn't put the archers and MAA on an equal footing hth-wise (even if we give the MAA better armour). The billmen levy and archers I would think to be much of a muchness.

Depending on the complexity of the system and your own leanings, I would also welcome the option of having 'levy' bowmen and 'professional' bowmen, with the associated differences. But then, this could be because I have a thing about longbows.
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Offline Arlequín

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Re: WotR using HC
« Reply #31 on: October 14, 2013, 08:59:21 PM »
Ok, I get you now. Yes certainly, working on 'typical' examples there would be a general scale, with the inevitable exceptions along the way, with Men at Arms at the top end. I can also accept that in terms of the bottom end, who's best at HtH might be somewhat clouded, particularly when some archers may not have had much more than a dagger, or short sword. Skilled with a bow doesn't equate with being an experienced soldier after all.

If you're playing a skirmish or 1:1 game these things are quite important, as is the case if you believe troops were formed into distinctive groups based on type and class in the context of larger battles. If on the other hand you believe they formed up based on the locale they were raised from, or as a sub-part of a magnate's contingent (perhaps internally divided by function, a bit like an ECW regiment, with bows on the 'wings', or something like that), then it becomes less so and instead you get a collection of units that are all pretty much the same within a given range of ability (which sounds a little dull tbh).

I'm at a loss as to which might have been the case and indeed how these guys formed up or operated... It's one of the questions I was never able to answer in any satisfying way to myself and one reason why I don't actually game the period.

lol


Offline H.M.Stanley

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Re: WotR using HC
« Reply #32 on: October 15, 2013, 08:10:02 AM »
Well Gents, all i all throw into the mix is to say that HC allows your Archers to be Levy (light infantry) or "Retinue" (medium infantry) and could also operate as a sub-unit of Billmen/MAA.

As such, it works for me  :)

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Offline Arlequín

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Re: WotR using HC
« Reply #33 on: October 15, 2013, 08:44:42 AM »
Other than to have the option of fielding them in combined units of bows and bills, all the bases seem to be covered there. I honestly can't say (and won't guess) how they interacted in battle, so having a degree of freedom within which to 'express yourself' as far as how you think things went, would indeed be the best option.

:)

Offline H.M.Stanley

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Re: WotR using HC
« Reply #34 on: October 15, 2013, 09:20:58 AM »
Other than to have the option of fielding them in combined units of bows and bills, all the bases seem to be covered there. I honestly can't say (and won't guess) how they interacted in battle, so having a degree of freedom within which to 'express yourself' as far as how you think things went, would indeed be the best option.

:)

Sorry, i should have said, there's also an option (Crusader list which i've adapted slightly to suit WotR) to combine Bills/Bowmen.

I was starting to think that combined Bills/Bows was a bit of a red-herring, in that it didn't happen. But as you said, nobody really knows how they fought.

Best,

James
« Last Edit: October 15, 2013, 01:45:46 PM by H.M.Stanley »

Offline Arlequín

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Re: WotR using HC
« Reply #35 on: October 15, 2013, 09:53:10 AM »
Indeed they don't know. There are a considerable number of people willing to guess though.  ;)

Typically 'backwards transposition' is used, whereby you take something that happened later and try to make it fit earlier. There's also your particular belief on what 'combined' units could and couldn't do in the terms of the ability of that army, at that particular time. Whether they were just a case of forming all the men of a particular contingent/geographical area, whatever their weapons, up together and telling the bills to keep to the back for a bit, or something somewhat more complex (archers on the flanks, or falling back to the flanks etc.), is impossible to tell.

The usual comparison is with the Burgundians, who under Charles, were experimenting with somewhat complex manoeuvres (for the day at least). However he had the luxury of a consistent body of men, all year round, with which to try things out with. In the WotR most of the troops were in the fields one day and within a couple of weeks had marched, fought a battle and then returned to them. What sort of 'military skills' that might be conveyed in such a time you can work out to your own satisfaction... but I doubt they'd be ready to take part in the Edinburgh Military Tattoo.

;)

   

Offline Captain Blood

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Re: WotR using HC
« Reply #36 on: October 15, 2013, 10:23:25 AM »
I think this thread should be titled 'Wars of the Roses - unanswerable questions answered' and made a sticky!  :)

The whole topic of how men were organised in the field is interesting. I've gone with retinues in mixed units of bows, bills and men at arms.
I cannot see that Sir Fred Bloggs would have turned up to muster with his lord, and then separated out his men to send them off in different directions to go and join the various different 'arms'. Seems much more likely to me (based on nothing more than my ill-informed opinion :)) that Sir Fred would have kept his lads together. Yes, his longbowmen might have stepped forward from the line and done their business, and then stepped back to let Sir Fred and his better armed and armoured friends, relatives and employees step forward for the clash of arms itself. But I can't imagine that all the bowmen, billmen. etc were grouped into great bodies of one troop type, separated from their own retinues.

I also think the point about billmen and MAA is instructive. Certainly if, like me, your WOTR wargames force is based on Perry plastic figures, then it's probably predicated on the assumptions built into the composition of the troop types in the box:
That the force is mainly composed of well armed and uniformed 'professional' longbowmen and billmen, helmeted, part armoured, wearing livery coats. You can decide on the ratio of bows to bills, but they are basically two types of rank and file professional infantry - hand to hand or missile specialists. Then on top of this, you have a much smaller proportion of fully plate armoured 'knights', who are the leaders and top hand-to-hand specialists.

Actually, Arlequin's proposition sounds a lot more persuasive, viz:
- The better armed, armoured and equipped 'billmen' probably ranked up alongside the few wealthy, upper crust fellows with plate armour. Together, all these hand to hand specialists counted as 'men at arms'.
- The longbowmen were good quality missile specialists, reasonably well equipped - some liveried, some perhaps not, but all reliably capable of discharging their basic function of shooting at the enemy.
- The actual 'billmen' - viz poorly equipped types with basic polearms, staves or agricultural implements, were probably more of a rabble - not armoured, not well armed, and not uniformed, liveried or trained to any great extent. We don't know what proportion of the overall force this rabble or levy would have formed, but it could have been quite significant. And they ain't represented anywhere in the Perry range.

Well, maybe they didn't exist after all, and forces were only ever composed of trained, professional soldiers (nobility and men at arms), or skilled longbowmen...

But if we take Shakespeare as some kind of reference point... Well, admittedly he was writing over a 100 years after the WOTR, but his famous recruiting scene in Henry IV part 2, certainly shows the process of raising men in the countryside, and caricatures this as basically pressing ill-armed, untrained dregs into the armies of the various Lords, simply to bulk out the muster roll.
Can we take this as evidence?
I would think to some extent yes. Shakespeare was a lot closer to that world than we are now - and there's a huge ring of truth underlying a lot of what he shows about the contemporary English way of life, across many of his plays...

 

Offline janner

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Re: WotR using HC
« Reply #37 on: October 15, 2013, 01:41:08 PM »
Unfortunately, there is no evidence that Shakespeare had his own version of R. Lee Ermey to put him straight  lol

Offline H.M.Stanley

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Re: WotR using HC
« Reply #38 on: October 15, 2013, 01:48:09 PM »
My army started life as mixed units of bills/archers and then i allowed a clubmate to convince me to buy more archers.

Rearrange these words "door...on ... open ... pushing ... an"  lol

Offline Arlequín

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Re: WotR using HC
« Reply #39 on: October 15, 2013, 03:05:33 PM »
Crikey... I've just discovered I'd got into the habit of writing long posts but not so much in the habit of reading them.  ;)

You're pretty much spot on to my mind though and I think the Shakespeare analogy is valid, as other than weapons and styles of armour and dress, the military of his time was not that much different in how it was raised. It is very difficult too, to separate the 'social' from the 'military' aspects of the time, that division is quite a relatively recent concept.

To picture how things worked overall, the typical Noble/Captain was not unlike the typical PMC company of today, but much smaller in scale. His household would largely be the full-time operatives used in the day today business of 'security' work (Professional archers and men at arms). On top of these you have the cleaning company which has the contract to clean the offices, the stationary suppliers, the garage who maintains the company's domestic vehicles and other non-military functions. All of these are usually on contracts and it was the same back then, they were just called indentures.

In the 15th Century, it would be unsurprising to find written into these contracts, that besides these mundane functions, they might also have to don armour and tool up to work for the contracting company from time to time, if their operations suddenly expanded. Some of these 'service' companies might have contracts with several similar companies, which obviously creates a conflict of interest for them when the going gets tough. Such a concept is unthinkable in our world, but quite common back then.  

Whatever your income back then, the law defined your military position in the hierarchy, for when you were required to serve the 'national interest' and in terms of what you were to bring to the show. Obviously these were minimums and if you were routinely engaged in such things as your main line of employment, you would probably have somewhat more than the minimum. At the top were the Nobles, Knights and Gentry - Fully armoured, mounted and with a variety of weapons. Next down were a sort of vague class, who were not required to exactly wear quite full armour, but had to be mounted and armed (sword and lance or pole-axe etc), we might call these 'lesser men at arms', or 'retinue billmen/spearmen/currours/whatever'. At that time, the whole lot, plus the Nobles et al, were simply termed 'Men at Arms'.

About middle income point is the separation between 'Men at Arms' and 'Archers', with the higher income of the archers required to wear the same standard of kit (and mount) as the 'lesser men at arms', but swapping out the pole-axe or lance for a bow. The difference between the two types in essence being a theoretical penny difference in income. Moving down the scale, next to go is the requirement for the archer to be mounted, then reductions to the level of armour required, right down to the archer just being expected to have a bow and a dagger. We are now at the typical yearly income point of a semi-skilled man (£2). Below that level, while 'Free men' were still required to serve, they weren't expected to bring much; a spear, staff or bill, armour if they had it and some did.

One thing to remember however, was that the stipulation was that, nowhere did the law say that an individual had to personally serve himself, but that he had to 'provide' a man so equipped. The option was always there to provide a substitute for your own service. The requirements didn't end at an individual level either and if you had enough income, besides providing a man at arms, you might also have to provide one or more lesser men at arms, or the varying degrees of archer on top. In terms of raising troops from a given area, the 'Falstaff Gambit' of taking bribes to overlook individuals and just recruiting those who couldn't afford to pay them was almost likely to have been fairly widespread, but obviously there is no documentary evidence for this. However if Shakespeare's audience could laugh about it, it must have been 'known'. I won't go into the fudging of reported income to avoid any or part of all this.  

In any village, town or county, you had a cross-section of all these types in varying quantities. In one village the 'top man' might be a mounted archer, in another he might be slightly better off and be required to be a 'lesser man at arms'. Some villages might have two such individuals, others none. The rest would be of varying numbers of the other levels. Legally these were all the men who formed the 'shire levy contingents'. However all of these were also the men who served within the retinues of the various magnates and captains, whether as full-time or part-time members.

In the turbulent times they faced, many of the richer archers and the lesser men at arms, were already contracted or 'had an understanding' with someone higher up the social or political chain, whether it was in terms of military service and/or political support in local politics... the 'affinities' you hear so much about and which polarised whole areas seemingly overnight. With these guys already committed to one side or another, when it came time to issue a Commission of Array to raise men, the cream were largely already committed one way or another... which just largely left the poorer individuals to be called up, along with a few of the richer types, who had managed to stay out of things until then.

As I mentioned previously, if a somewhat low-level demand for an array of 28,000 archers across England, could only potentially produce something like 21,000 (iirc), due to so many already being signed-up to various lords, then it doesn't take much to imagine just how big a force some of these lords could actually raise, on top of their actual households and those of their closest supporters or indentured 'captains', as well as their supporters and so on. Buckingham had 3,000 livery jackets made up in 1483 for just his own crew and a junior Percy managed to collect 1,000 men in York alone during their pre-war dispute with the Nevilles. Many of the guys given these livery jackets would be the 'poor ill-equipped' types to a point, so you can still get away with the Perry figures to represent them.

So... for what it's worth, my opinion...

I would be surprised if a contingent drawn from a particular village, half-hundred, or whatever would be divided up overly much. There are morale and cohesion advantages to this, not least that running away from a group of strangers, or holding back in the attack, has less 'social impact' than running away from a group which includes family and community members. The same idea was behind the 'Pals Battalions' of the Great War. I can imagine that local leading individuals would be delegated to lead such groups too; they already have 'deference' and 'respect' from the men (or fear and loathing in some cases maybe).

In the main then, I'd expect mixed units (however you want to interpret that), based on locality, possibly stiffened by some of the 'household' and 'retinue' men, either as added muscle, or as leaders. Largely what Captain Blood, Silent Invaders and others have been doing in their games, but on a larger scale. Such groups would form the 'battle line'. There is still scope for the collection of the remaining household men to form 'plomps of spears' (a unit of men at arms in other words), or other detached 'special' units, but there would not be many of them in relation to the 'masses'.

The typical 'household' varied between 20 to 150 men, depending on wealth, or how much of a demonstration of 'power' you wanted to make. Even with those of your supporters/retainers, they might only number less than 500 out of the potential maximum of 2-3,000 troops you could raise overall. Deduct those you detail to lead individual groups and groups of groups etc, and it will take a chunk away from the total. What's left are your 'elites' or your vanguard, whatever.

In terms of army lists and the like, I've always imagined the divisions of 'household', 'retinue' and 'levy' as just representing the 'average' of ability and quality across a unit as a whole. If I was making up such a unit, I would essentially use all of the figure types to represent it, but just vary the proportions of them within each one. More men at arms in a household unit, considerably less in a levy one, with a 'retinue' unit somewhere in between the two.

Offline Ray Rivers

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Re: WotR using HC
« Reply #40 on: October 15, 2013, 06:26:59 PM »
Excellent read... Bravo!

In terms of army lists and the like, I've always imagined the divisions of 'household', 'retinue' and 'levy' as just representing the 'average' of ability and quality across a unit as a whole. If I was making up such a unit, I would essentially use all of the figure types to represent it, but just vary the proportions of them within each one. More men at arms in a household unit, considerably less in a levy one, with a 'retinue' unit somewhere in between the two.

That is how I am doing my WotR Impetus units. "Men-at-arms" units have a majority of fully armored figures with some unarmored ones, while "Billmen" will have a majority of unarmored minis with some armored ones. Figure this will make them very easy to identify on the table.

Offline fastolfrus

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Re: WotR using HC
« Reply #41 on: October 15, 2013, 06:35:37 PM »
HC ?
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Offline Cubs

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Re: WotR using HC
« Reply #42 on: October 15, 2013, 08:52:54 PM »
Hail Caesar.

Offline Arlequín

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Re: WotR using HC
« Reply #43 on: October 15, 2013, 10:20:01 PM »
Excellent read... Bravo!

That is how I am doing my WotR Impetus units. "Men-at-arms" units have a majority of fully armored figures with some unarmored ones, while "Billmen" will have a majority of unarmored minis with some armored ones. Figure this will make them very easy to identify on the table.

In a large figure to man scale game, for my money I think that should be about as close a representation of the real thing as you could get.

Thanks for reading though, it looked a lot shorter when I was typing it, you must be a glutton for punishment.  :)

Offline Ray Rivers

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Re: WotR using HC
« Reply #44 on: October 15, 2013, 11:59:41 PM »
Thanks for reading though, it looked a lot shorter when I was typing it, you must be a glutton for punishment.  :)

In respect to military history, I think the WotRs is probably one of the most murky that I have found. Your explanation was very clear, concise and well written.

Such things are a pleasure to read.

 

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