The English army

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The English army

Post by DIESEL on Fri Jun 12, 2009 11:33 am

The English army is usually thought to have been around 7,500 strong, and consisted entirely of Spearmen and Housecarls. It is most probable that all the members of the army rode to battle, but once at the appointed place they dismounted to fight on foot.

The English army had fought a major battle at Stamford Bridge in Yorkshire less than three weeks earlier, which may have affected its battle worthiness at Hastings.

The core of the English army was made up of full-time professional soldiers called Housecarls. They had a long-standing dedication to the King, and would fight to the last man if necessary. Their armour consisted of a conical helmet, a chain mail hauberk, and they carried a circular shield. Their primary weapon was the Danish battleaxes which they wielded with two hands, although every man would have carried a sword as well.

The bulk of the army, called the fyrd, comprised part-time English soldiers drawn from the landowning minor nobility. These thegns were the land-holding aristocracy of pre-conquest England and were required to serve with their own armour and weapons for a certain number of days each year. The Victorian concept of the Noble Peasant defending his lands with a pitchfork has been relentlessly quashed by modern archaeological research.

The most formidable defence of the English was the shield wall, in which all the men on the front ranks locked their shields together. In the early stages of the battle, the shield wall was very effective at defending against the Norman archery barrages. The entire army took up position along the ridge-line; as casualties fell in the front lines the rear ranks would move forward to fill the gaps.
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