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"Any Spears at Shrewsbury 1403..." Topic

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Uesugi Kenshin Supporting Member of TMP19 Nov 2019 5:18 p.m. PST

I think this might have been discussed here in the past but I didn't see a thread.

The question is, did either army include organized bodies of Spearmen at Shrewsbury?

The overwhelming current opinion seems to be "no" however I noticed that Andrew Ayton puts 3,000 Spearmen on the English side at Crecy. That would account for anywhere from 20-50% of the English army.

That would seem to set a precedent for them to possibly be present at Shrewsbury.

I've had this discussion with the Perry Brothers and they were of the opinion that organized "bill" units would not of existed before the 1440s but they could not completely rule out the use of Spear units.

I'm curious to hear what others think.

Warspite130 Nov 2019 2:57 a.m. PST

The slide from spears to pole arms appears to start around 1400 which is when the first steel (rather than iron) armour appeared in the battlefield.

Spears and bills are quite possible but I would (at a guess) balance it 75% spears and around 25% bills. That is a guess.


Uesugi Kenshin Supporting Member of TMP30 Nov 2019 12:12 p.m. PST

Warspite, what would you guess the polearm to bow ratio would be at this stage?

Warspite101 Dec 2019 2:05 a.m. PST

@Uesugi Kenshin

Given it was about 50/50 in the later Wars of the Roses, one might suggest that longbow made up 60% of the whole army, maybe even 65%.

One might assume a higher figure from Cheshire or South Wales – remember this is only a few years after Richard II's loyal 'Cheshire Archers'.

Of course, from one historical perspective, Shrewsbury could be the first battle of the Wars of the Roses as it was a revolt against the new Lancastrian rule. It is also interesting to note that the loss of the battle cost the Northumberland/Percy family dear with Hotspur killed, the family disgraced and much loss of power. Therefore it is interesting to note that when the WOTR kicked off proper in 1455 the new Duke of Northumberland supported the same Lancastrians his ancestors had lost to. Why? Because most of the hated Nevilles (Warwick and Salisbury) were supporting York. Thus the Lancastrians were supported on the time old basis of: "My enemy's enemy is my friend".


It must still have stuck in the throat of Northumberland though!


Uesugi Kenshin Supporting Member of TMP04 Dec 2019 9:15 a.m. PST

Thanks Warspite, ill be doing 2:1 bows to spears until I read otherwise.

Uesugi Kenshin Supporting Member of TMP05 Dec 2019 10:19 a.m. PST

Interestingly much if not most of the modern (emphasis on modern) artwork for both Shrewsbury and Homildon Hill (a year earlier) both show Archers and Spearmen on both sides (for what that's worth).

Atheling06 Dec 2019 11:45 p.m. PST

The slide from spears to pole arms appears to start around 1400 which is when the first steel (rather than iron) armour appeared in the battlefield.

Spears and bills are quite possible but I would (at a guess) balance it 75% spears and around 25% bills. That is a guess.

Hi Warspite,

Please don't take this the wrong way, I'm not trying to shoot you down in flames but do you have an first hand sources for this?

I ask as it's a question that has continued to befuddle me for over 20 years! :>(

Just Add Water Painting and Wargaming Blog:

Warspite115 Dec 2020 9:29 a.m. PST

Sorry, missed your reply and question.
Try this:

TMP link

My comment (which you quoted) is as much a gut reaction as a reading of the few available facts.
While armies were longbow heavy at the start of the 15th century (see the link just above) history does suggest a gradual drop-off in numbers and proportions of longbow. By the last quarter of the 15th century foreign mercenaries tend to bulk larger in WOTR armies. Why? Fewer longbowmen? Henry Tudor's Bosworth French may have been as much as a third of his army then we have large numbers of Irish and Germans at Stoke Field.

The decline in longbow may have been due to:
1) social – men preferred to play other pastimes. Football, backgammon, chequers are all named
2) cultural – a move away from serving a local lord and being part of his private army. This would especially apply if moving into a town or city
3) chemical – gunpowder could fling a lead ball harder and faster than a longbow but with almost no physical effort. You can be sick as a dog and still shoot someone
4) medical – Europe was hit by a syphilis epidemic in the later 15th/16th century which debilitated people. A sick man cannot draw a bow well and will also produce sickly children.

see: link


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