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"Ratio archers-billmen-MAA?" Topic


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1,721 hits since 4 Apr 2012
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basileus66 Inactive Member04 Apr 2012 6:14 a.m. PST

Hi

I am starting a WoTR/late HYW project and I would like to know if someone knows which was the most common ratio archers-billmen-MAA in the English armies of the period.

I was thinking a 5:2:1 ratio, but I don't know if that is correct.

Thanks in advance

MajorB04 Apr 2012 6:29 a.m. PST

For the WoTR I would have equal numbers of archers and billmen/MAA. I would have 4 billmen for every MAA. So that works out at overall ratios of 5:4:1 for archers:billmen:MAA.

For HYW, you need lots more archers in proportion.

Hope that helps.

basileus66 Inactive Member04 Apr 2012 6:37 a.m. PST

Yes. That helps a lot.

My idea is to start my armies as small retinues, i.e. 1 MAA plus his archers/billmen. Once I have a couple of retinues I can start gaming skirmishes. From there, I will add up more retinues while I work my way up to bigger affairs.

Thanks!

Proniakin Inactive Member04 Apr 2012 8:49 a.m. PST

Older games and army lists use the 5:4:1 ratio. Some of the newer research indicates a greater proportion of archers.

MajorB04 Apr 2012 10:33 a.m. PST

Some of the newer research indicates a greater proportion of archers.

I'm interested. What newer research in particular?

Fat Wally04 Apr 2012 11:58 a.m. PST

From what I've read the ratio of bows:bills in the WotR was anywhere from 4:1 to 8:1.

Mako11 Inactive Member04 Apr 2012 12:35 p.m. PST

A lot of the lists I have seen do them at 1:1.

MajorB04 Apr 2012 1:18 p.m. PST

From what I've read the ratio of bows:bills in the WotR was anywhere from 4:1 to 8:1.

Also interesting. Where might you have read that? Those ratios sound more like the HYW than the WoTR.

Fat Wally04 Apr 2012 2:15 p.m. PST

Margard I have lent several of my books on WotR to my mates but in Ian Heath's 'Armies of The Middle Ages' volume 1

"The availability of the militia on such a grand scale meant the ratio of archers to men-at-arms was considerably higher than in the Hundred Years' War era, being as high as 8:1 on occasion. Edward IV's 1475 expedition to France, for instance, though an indentured army, comprised 10,173 archers to 1,278 men-at-arms" (p14)

Lord Raglan Inactive Member04 Apr 2012 2:25 p.m. PST

basileus66

The archer/bills ratio discussion is inconclusive and the subject has been debate on this forum many times previously.

Our fellow TMPer Magard clearly signs up to equal ratios, I respectfully disagree with him and run my War of the Roses retinues at about 4:1 in favour of the archers.

We simply don't know the correct historical answer, so choose what you think sounds logical. Certainly, nobody will be able to prove you wrong.

Raglan

MajorB04 Apr 2012 2:34 p.m. PST

I prefer where possible to go to primary source material. We are fortunate that many indenture documents from the period of the WoTR still exist. In all those that I have referenced the ratio of archers to others is more or less 1:1. A famous example is the Bridport Muster Roll. It lists 201 names of which 114 carry longbows.

I suspect the high percentage of archers in the 1475 invasion force was because the view was held that a foreign war required more archers (in order to defeat the French cavalry). It was certainly typical of English armies in the HYW to have a high proportion of archers. In the WoTR, men-at-arms typically fought on foot and so there was less need for archers, particularly as both sides had them.

Daniel S04 Apr 2012 2:43 p.m. PST

Considering that there is ample evidence for lots of archers and very little indeed for any number of billmen in WOTR armies I'd say that one interpretation is more plausible and better supported by the sources than the other. But a 1:1 ratio is well established as the wargaming standard and will likely remain so for a long time.

TMP link is an earlier discussion on the subject.

MajorB04 Apr 2012 3:03 p.m. PST

and very little indeed for any number of billmen in WOTR armies

Again by reference to primary sources, there is generally no mention of "billmen" as such. The categories are "men-at-arms" and "yeomen (archers)". But the existence or otherwise of billmen per se is another discussion.

Daniel S04 Apr 2012 3:06 p.m. PST

The Bridport muster roll is one of the most misunderstood documets from the WOTR because it is usually presented as a summary of weapons and armour without any reference to who owned what.

The muster lists contains 201 individuals who owned 114 longbows, 11 glaives, 10 pollaxes, 10 axes, 5 spears and 3 bills. (I've not included sidearms such as swords, daggers and lead mauls) However of those 39 polearms 69% are actually owned by men who also have a bow. Which leaves only 12 men with polearms as their primary weapon.

French Men-at-arms primarily fought dismounted from the 1350's onward and only retained a small part of the best mounted and armoured MAA to serve as cavalry if the terrain allowed for it. It was only the introduction of high quality plate armour for both men and horses that led to a an increase in the number of French MAA fighting mounted.

I'd say that need for archers increases if both sides have them. The side with the most archers will gain the advantage in any archery duel and will in turn be able to use archery against the other troops present. A good example of this is the battle of Guinegate in 1479 where superior numbers allowed the French to outshoot the Burgundian and English archers. Having won the archery duel they went on to capture Maximilians artillery and their archery began to take a serious toll of the two squares of Flemish pikemen. However because the pikemen were not "fixed" in place they were able to advance and rout the French archers and their supporting infantry in close combat.

MajorB04 Apr 2012 3:19 p.m. PST

The muster lists contains 201 individuals who owned 114 longbows, 11 glaives, 10 pollaxes, 10 axes, 5 spears and 3 bills. (I've not included sidearms such as swords, daggers and lead mauls) However of those 39 polearms 69% are actually owned by men who also have a bow. Which leaves only 12 men with polearms as their primary weapon.

Good points, however the fact surely remains that only 114 of those 201 men had a longbow (assuming no one had more than one). That is 56% of the force were (or could be) archers. According to your figures, only 126 of the 201 men were armed at all. What were the rest armed with?

Daniel S04 Apr 2012 3:49 p.m. PST

Nothing, a large number of men did not own any weapons at all. Some owned armour but no arms. It is a town muster made during the raising of a commision of array following a raid on Sandwich.

It is a very diffrent force compared to the well armed men of the Howard household.

Lord Raglan Inactive Member04 Apr 2012 10:49 p.m. PST

Guys, the evidence is inconclusive.

Its just one of those things that you need to look at and then decide which side of the fence to fall on. For me the historical information suggests larger numbers of archers. Moreover, I believe tactically it would make sense to put as many arrows in the air as possible – WIN THE FIREFIGHT.

However as there is no exact evidence one way or other, the best advice you can give to someone coming into this colourful period of British history is, make your own mind up.

Raglan

MajorB05 Apr 2012 2:21 a.m. PST

Apart from Edward IV's 1475 expedition to France, is therre any other primary source evidence for the presence of a high percentage of archers in the WoTR?

Daniel S05 Apr 2012 2:54 a.m. PST

Well to begin with there are very few documentary sources to begin with. For the WOTR period you have the Bridport muster, the 1475 indentures and the muster roll of the Ewelme half-hundred. Of these both the Bridport muster and the 1475 indentures show archers as the most numerous troops.

Narrative sources add a bit more of information but not much. You have the force of men-at-arms and archers described by Mancini in 1483, no billmen mentioned.

There is also no evidence of billmen found in the indentures for the last decade of the HYW. (Or at least no such evidence have been published.) The reference to billmen at Formigny in 1450 is based on a latin text with very ambigious wording. Robert Blondel used the word "gladiatores" (roughly "swordsmen") How and why this has been translated to "billmen" I've so far been unable to find out.

So we get back to the basic problem which is that there is no solid evidence for the use of billmen in large numbers.

A Twiningham Inactive Member05 Apr 2012 4:40 a.m. PST

Oh yeah? Well you can have my 28mm bills when you pry them from my Perry figures' cold, plastic hands! :)

pigbear Inactive Member05 Apr 2012 6:58 p.m. PST

Never really been interested in this period but darn it this topic has me hooked. Should've never clicked on that title.

Ligonater03 Jan 2019 10:48 a.m. PST

I tend to think that many of the times when we read "Archer" in the original manuscript, it is more appropriate to read, [Soldier, who is not a Man-At-Arms, but may be a professional, and is, naturally, trained in the use of the Longbow.] As Daniel S points out, according to the Bridport Muster, a number of the pole-arms are carried by men who also carry bows.

Generally I see rations of "Archers":MAA about 8:1. The high ratio of archers, seems to be supported by Dominic Mancini when he wrote "There is hardly any without a helmet, and none without bows and arrows." When describing troops summoned to London.

This offends my inner gamer sensibility to want to clearly classify troops into specialities, but I imagine a more accurate picture is contengeants of archers were capable of firing volleys of arrows, and could then close alongside contengeants of men-at-arms and fight with whatever melee weapons they have, be it pole-arms, or their swords and bucklers.

For Modeling purposes 5:3:1 will probably work just fine, especially if the archers and bill men are based together as a group. (Not quite the DBx Standard but for the right game system it would look fantastic, and it would convey the dual nature of archers, so it would not look as odd to see miniatures armed with bows charge each other across a field.

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