1066-1215 About half of any Anglo-Norman army or garrison force was made up of ordinary soldiers.  These men were either discharging their feudal obligation to their lord by performing a set number of days service per year, or they were paid professionals, hired and fired as needed.  Being relatively lightly armoured these man would be highly mobile and typically would have fought in ranks six of eight men deep behind the dismounted knights in any battle..

They were typically armed with spears, axes and swords and the long kite shield that the Normans are well known for.  Their armour was mainly cloth gambesons and light coats of mail.  The helmets were plain, simple but very efficient in protecting their heads.

The gamberson was a thick quilted coat, typically made of several layers of stiff linen cloth, sewn into tubes.  These tubes would be stuffed with cloth waste, straw etc to for a stiff body armour very similar to modern cricket pads.  Experience has shown it to be a highly effective form of body armour and the 15 lbs that it weighs barley encumbers a fit man.

1170-1250:  With time new weapons were developed and adapted for use on the battlefield.  These bill men were armed with adapted agricultural implements that were found to be very effective against the better armoured solders and mounted knights. 

The soldier on left represents a standard soldier probably performing military duty for his lord, whilst the two on the right are professional mercenaries in the employment of the King.  As time progressed more and more mercenaries were used by the the king as the nobles preferred to pay him money instead of supplying troops from their own lands and households. 

It was said that when Henry II died that all the mercenary captains in Europe cried, because he had been such a good and frequent employer.    

1066 -1250:  One of the great strengths of the Anglo-Norman / Norman army was their use of massed blocks of archers and crossbowmen.

The use of massed arrow showers on the Saxon army at Hastings was  critical to wearing them down before the infantry and cavalry assaults and it ensured they had no time to rest between assaults and importantly no time to reorganise their army. 

In the later periods the field army would move into battle screened by large bodies of archers and would also have large units of archers and crossbow men on its flanks to protect it.  They were also used to pin down the enemy with arrow showers as the foot soldiers or knights manoeuvred to attack them.

Archers were highly valued by the Norman armies and as such received one and a half time the pay of a common soldier.  As time went on and siege warfare became more common the archers became critical to the success of any force in defence or attack of a castle.

When confronted with enemy infantry or cavalry the archers would attempt to use their high mobility to flee contact with the enemy, however in later periods the English archers would stand and fight, usually behind some improvised defence like a hedge of stakes.  Although lightly armoured they would be quite heavily armed with pole weapons, hammers, swords and daggers.  They had a particularly vicious reputation when fighting the French as the French would always mutilate or kill any English archers that they captured.


1066-1250:  The Normans also brought with them the crossbow, a weapon that the knights so hated that they persuaded the church of Rome to ban it as an unchristian weapon.  It being such a good weapon to use in warfare all the kings of Europe ignored this papal edict and eagerly recruited mercenary crossbow men each time they went to war.  It is said that the first troops Richard CDL raised for the their crusade were units of crossbow men.    


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