Billmen - myth?

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Allan Harley
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Post by Allan Harley »

All constructive ideas considered and attempted if possible

What about "staves" to me?? Avaunt staves??

It has to be simple and short, for those that have forgotten its difficult to hear in the middle of the action, or during any major display - which again tells you that in real life the situation would be similar

The point is as staed just because reenactors did this in the past doesn't make it valid now
- pixie boots anyone :oops:
But constructive suggestions

And still want to know what a "shortbread tin livery" is?

I have 3 new ones, plus 2 sashes - (with a few more to come) my retired ones were patched, sweated in, covered in interesting stains (not all mine) but were once pristine - that is also true
At some stage armour, weapons, clothes that were worn would have been new - who else dislikes the "i've aged it to look authentic" b****cks
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Post by gregory23b »

"I suggested something like this in a different Era,& was told it would change the fundamental nature of the society........Yes,I thought...That's the point........Didn't get far.........
Steve"


Shame that Steve, I bet had you suggested that the group goes back to its origins of not so good footwear, cobbled together stuff, as we all have, then they would have said quite the opposite.

IMHO, we have a small duty to actually question what we do, and anyone who says that gets in the way of fun doesn't know squat. Nothing should stand still, we tell the MOPS and our peers all kinds of things, some we do in an active way - talking and others we do passively, ie how we present to the public.

"The point is as stated just because reenactors did this in the past doesn't make it valid now "

Totally agree, some stuff that was done way back when is valid, other stuff is not.

I don't have a problem with spears as the WOTR is primarily a foot combat era and I don't see any confusion with lances either as a weapon or a unit.

Staves as a second best alternative possibly.


"PS there is too much emphasis placed on "bill blocks" and not enough on true combined formations"

Yes, I think that is an old habit and is easier to get people's head round, but if there was a place to practice these new fangled ideas then it would be a great start.

Will there be a walk through or group warm up at Tewkesbury, for those that are interested?
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Post by Fox »

Allan Harley wrote:And still want to know what a "shortbread tin livery" is?
Explained in my post before the one you've just made, and also in Dave B's before that.

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Post by Laffin Jon Terris »

Fox wrote:
I must admit if I was starting a new unit (or even if we get people in the current group who are inclined in that direction) I might look to creating skirmishing archers (people dressed as archers, with old broken and then repaired bows slung across thier backs, lightly armoured and suitably armed).
Possibly the biggest issue for "fighting archers" is what to do with that darned expensive bow when you want to actually go and fight! Is slinging a longbow over your back practical (or even possible with helmet etc) or is that even more "Errol Flynn"?

Out of curiosity, are skirmisher/skirmish/skirmishing period (15th century) terms?[/b]
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Post by John Waller »

Laffin Jon Terris wrote:
Fox wrote:
I must admit if I was starting a new unit (or even if we get people in the current group who are inclined in that direction) I might look to creating skirmishing archers (people dressed as archers, with old broken and then repaired bows slung across thier backs, lightly armoured and suitably armed).
Possibly the biggest issue for "fighting archers" is what to do with that darned expensive bow when you want to actually go and fight! Is slinging a longbow over your back practical (or even possible with helmet etc) or is that even more "Errol Flynn"?

Out of curiosity, are skirmisher/skirmish/skirmishing period (15th century) terms?[/b]
It would seem so -


skirmen (v.) Also skirme, sckirme, (early SWM) skirmi, schirme, scurmen; p.pl. skirmed(e(n, (early) skirmden.

[From AF eskirmir, eschirmir, eskermir, vars. of OF escremir; also cp. AF eskermer, eschermer, vars. of OF *escremer.]

(a) To fight with a weapon (usu. a sword), fence; also fig. [quot.: c1250]; fight (with a weapon); also, fight in small parties, skirmish [quot.: c1440]; ?also, play (with knives), juggle [quot.: c1230, 1st]; ~ abouten, fig. ?play roughly (with sb.); ~ togeder; ~ to, thrust at (the body) with a sword; ppl. skirminge, making passes with a sword; (b) to fight with (sb.); also, throw (a knife), thrust (a sword); -- used fig.; (c) to fly, dart about; (d) impers. hit skirmeth, ?it rages, it is violent; ?it flashes; ppl. skirmand as adj.: ?raging, violent; ?error for *skremand screaming [cp. scremen v.].
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Post by gregory23b »

As it happens Jon, there are at least two possible ways of answering that:

1 - get cheaper bows, ones especially for battlefield, I see no point in spending hundreds on a battle bow. I would also compromise on the materials, a self wood degame bow lasts for years and at the distances we use them from the public eminently MOP friendly. I would go one step further and be ok with the idea of fibre glass bows if they could be made to replicate the at a distance look of longbows.

We used to have communal battle bows, 30-35 tops and they were used by anyone not having a bow of their own, they lasted for seasons.

As long as people are not fighting with the bows then they are likely to last a long time. My old faithful, degame saw four really active seasons years' back and still works a treat.

2 - tactics, I would guess that there will be more than a few archers who do not want to fight, with a bit of practice and training, handing over the bows or stashing them in a safeish place behind the lines is doable. If, for example there was an 'archer guard, then deploying them in the front gives time for the fighting archers to hand over etc. But if bows at the cheapness yet durability level of point one are there, then it is even more viable.
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Post by steve stanley »

Laffin Jon Terris wrote:
Possibly the biggest issue for "fighting archers" is what to do with that darned expensive bow when you want to actually go and fight! Is slinging a longbow over your back practical (or even possible with helmet etc) or is that even more "Errol Flynn"?

Out of curiosity, are skirmisher/skirmish/skirmishing period (15th century) terms?[/b]
Something like Dragoon horseholders maybe?....'X' men stay back to keep them?

As for skirmishing...As one who's only looked at the History & have no knowledge of re-enacting the period....I thought in field battles,the whole point was massed archery to create the 'arrow storm'?
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Post by Allan Harley »

Sorry Fox missed it, must have been when posting or reading other stuff. There is a place for troops like that but as always ALL the equipment must be of a level not just the liveries.

Is there too much? difficult to answer, as do they just stand out more?

Loke the idea of battle bows - why not? people are willing ot spend money on polearms and these break in time.

Massed archery, or skirmish archery - just depends on what you are facing.
Non-combatant archers can move away with the bows/arrows of those who want to fight.

Still allows for individuals to operate as spear/stavemen to the fore but more fluidity in the battle and more to do for both reenactors and those watching.

Tewkesbu,ry if 50% carried bows as well the arrow storm would be an experience
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Post by gregory23b »

Alan, will you be doing a run through at Tewks or planning a practice session at mixed units? even if only with your group, if so, can I tag along, with my bow and sword? Assuming there is time etc....pretty please.
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Post by Allan Harley »

I'm not organising the battle but would like to do something like this
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Post by Fox »

Laffin Jon Terris wrote:
Fox wrote:
I must admit if I was starting a new unit (or even if we get people in the current group who are inclined in that direction) I might look to creating skirmishing archers (people dressed as archers, with old broken and then repaired bows slung across thier backs, lightly armoured and suitably armed).
Possibly the biggest issue for "fighting archers" is what to do with that darned expensive bow when you want to actually go and fight! Is slinging a longbow over your back practical (or even possible with helmet etc) or is that even more "Errol Flynn"?
Actually, I've no idea what real archers did with bows when they waded in.
I think bows generally were a lot more disposable than we imagine now, so perhaps they just dropped them.

Anyone actually know the answer? (Obviously one of the things to find out if we ever got that far).

I was actually thinking of a unit of archers as infantry. If any of them actually loosed a bow so much the better, but generally I was thinking of infantry who looked like archers (hence the old, knackered and then reconstructed bows) to be introduced as foot troops at the appropriate point.

The idea is intended as an offset to the fact that most current archers don't want to fight in foot combat, or often simply can't for medical reasons.

Of course, soldier who wanted to do both would be ideal.

Daganham Dorris' gun crew used fire until they were bored with it, then, parking her up with other guns, waded in (or on at least one occasion I was told charged her at clankies).

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Post by gregory23b »

"I'm not organising the battle but would like to do something like this"

Sure, but if you were wanting to say get your boys and any other volunteers for a bit of experimenting, you might get some interest....


"Actually, I've no idea what real archers did with bows when they waded in. "

I would imagine, given the nature of
a) armies - ie temporary
b) swiftness and definite conclusion to battles

that at some point, you chuck the b**ger down and wade in. Bows were regulated in price, as were arrows and strings etc a dozen per bow at least. We know that bows were supplied, as was the ammo etc, possibly as a supplement to existing kit. The ed IV campaign is well recorded and he orders a number of bows and given that people like John Paston, who was indentured to provide men - equipped, then the supplement to worn out and lost kit might be a good one.
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Post by Fox »

gregory23b wrote:"Actually, I've no idea what real archers did with bows when they waded in. "

I would imagine, given the nature of
a) armies - ie temporary
b) swiftness and definite conclusion to battles

that at some point, you chuck the b**ger down and wade in. Bows were regulated in price, as were arrows and strings etc a dozen per bow at least. We know that bows were supplied, as was the ammo etc, possibly as a supplement to existing kit. The ed IV campaign is well recorded and he orders a number of bows and given that people like John Paston, who was indentured to provide men - equipped, then the supplement to worn out and lost kit might be a good one.
Which supports my suggestion, that people might just have abandonded them (I'd read similar stuff). I got the impression that most bows might not even have lasted the battle.

But discarding is not an ideal solution, although may turn out it was the most pragmatic.

Ideally you'd take your bow and some arrows with you in case you needed them again in the fight, if that could have been done. So was that possible?

Do we have any evidence of it, or even any evidence that suggests they were abandoned. (Is this why 'deliberately' broken bows are found on the field? Trampled, perhaps.)

I'll check with my archery people tomorrow night at training; they are disgustingly knowledgable sometimes and might know the answer.

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Post by DickiedeVere »

gregory23b wrote:The BP as the title suggests is a chronicle, much of it not contemporaneous to the date it was produced. I uses its own time frame to describe earlier events and can't be relied upon to be an objective description of what men were doing in the early 15thc etc etc. Having said that, the images are really quite excellent, all in line art, with a witty later addition.
Agreed - as I said it is believed written between 1483 and 1492 thus could be considered representative of that period rather than the lifetime of Richard Beauchamp himself.
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Post by gregory23b »

"But discarding is not an ideal solution, although may turn out it was the most pragmatic."

depending on the nature of the battle, if you are fighting a static defence like say at Agincourt, then it is fine, if you win you can pick up relatively easily when the battle is over.

If in say WOTR where the object was not to massacre the commons, then being on the losing side may not be that big a deal. To whit, yes, the Pastons again, one of the Johns was wounded at Barnet, on the wrong side, yet was billeted there after the battle having his wounds seen to, no hint of a ransom.

I suspect the life spans of the battles are the key determinant in what you do with your kit, or whether it was 'disposable'.

Total war in England was an odd concept, esp the dynastic struggles, as they were solely designed to displace the unwanted monarch or power broker, not to depopulate the lands or otherwise punish the populace.



Dickie, I was making a general point re the BP, it is a lovely document, but often used, as Froissart for example, to reference 1st hand events that were not, still an excellent resource.
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Post by Allan Harley »

I won't upstage anyone elses event but we will be trying this idea at Windsor, Bosworth, Kenilworth and Blore

My group over the off season practised some alternatives (a bit of which was at the Fed training) but you need numbers to see if practicable

On the other hand if enough people were interested and can stay away from shopping for an hour :lol:
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Post by gregory23b »

"On the other hand if enough people were interested and can stay away from shopping for an hour "

Which was more my line of thinking, using some down time constructively, be a good crack I reckon.
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Post by Marcus Woodhouse »

Colin "spear" was at least a common enough term, unlike "billman". The units of Lance (Gleben, glaiven) were administritive not tactical. As far as I'm aware only one historian, that Gerry Embleton fella is suggesting they are anything else. Mind you if, as he believes, the duke of Burgundy did employ them as tactiacal then it may explain Morat, Grandeson and Nancy!

For a start an Italian Lance is different from a Austrian one, which is different in organisation to the Burgundian Lance which is based upon, but not identical to the French form!

I don't believe that there wasa great transference of "New" ideas from Burgundy into England. I can only think of two notable nobles who forught with the Burgundians, Anthony, Lord Rivers (who just was along for the ride as he was trying to persuade the Duke to commit to the English invasion) and that Beaufort fellow. Now it may well be that Charles taught him everything he knew about war because in his first, and only major battle as a commander Beaufort lost his army, his cause, his prince and his life.

Their are lots of occassions when skirmishers are mentioned (De Commes mentions listening to burgundian and Swiss hand gunners skirmishing in the advance to grandeson.) The Swiss used large numbers of them, armed with crossbows or guns for scouting and harressing the enemy (I can't remember who refered to them as the "bear's fleas"-a reference to Berne).

The Italains had loads of different skirmishers. Slingers, unarmored crossbowman "snipers", heavily armoured handgunner "A.T. men", special pavise men whose job it was to charge into the enemy and force a gap, heavily armoured sword and buckler men who would follow and cut out a bigger gap.

How much of this is tranferable is very debatable and my guess would be zilch. Even at its peak the number of english serving in the burgundian army numbered perhaps 3000. And that was in 1477, long after the serious battles of teh WOTR were over. And how many came back home? At Nancy the english suffered between 60% and 80% casualties. And who were they? Archers, not gentlemen, not nobles, not royalty. So I really doubt anyone would take them on as "consultants" to train their troops in the "latest modern combat techniques".

I'm going to take my crossbow with me to Windsor, Alan. If you let me I'll hide behind the Woodville pavise and come out fighting with sword and buckler.
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Post by gregory23b »

"So I really doubt anyone would take them on as "consultants" to train their troops in the "latest modern combat techniques"'

he he.

But it does show that English archers were prized in their function, albeit working for a lack witted warmonger, erm his grace the Duke of Burgundy, the ridiculous fruit loop.
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Post by Allan Harley »

Bring it and if not too powerfull use it
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Nice picture!

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Post by Marcus Woodhouse »

Note the fella with a bill and a big shield-very Italian. Must have the arms of the almighty to be swinging that hatchet one handed as well! :shock:
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Post by Colin Middleton »

Marcus, my problem with the term "spears" is not that it isn't period, quite the oposite. I understand that at Tewkebsury 200 "spears" were hidden in a wood some way from the main fighting and many people assume from the distance that they were mounted.

A spear could (asside from indicating the weapon) be:
* A 'bill-man'.
* A light cavelry-man (prikers?).
* A heavy cavelry-man.
* A unit of organisation like the continental lance (unlikly I agree).
* Something else.

Or even all of the above. Man at arms seems the most likley term to me, but even so, I am certain that terms were not used uniformly.
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Post by gregory23b »

"Man at arms seems the most likley term to me,"

Isn't man at arms a term of rank, rather than stating they are armed?

Ie not everyone who was not an archer was a man at arms.
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Post by Fox »

gregory23b wrote:Ie not everyone who was not an archer was a man at arms.
If that's true then lists of forces mustered would contain words for those other types of infantry.

If that's the case, why haven't we mentioned that earlier?

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Post by gregory23b »

"If that's true then lists of forces mustered would contain words for those other types of infantry. "

Why? Maybe the only type of infantry that 'counts' is the archer, the rest are either supplementary or of higher status.

I will drop a line to Mr Key
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gregory23b wrote:"If that's true then lists of forces mustered would contain words for those other types of infantry. "

Why? Maybe the only type of infantry that 'counts' is the archer, the rest are either supplementary or of higher status.
Does that match the evidence of archeological finds [for instance]?

gregory23b wrote:I will drop a line to Mr Key
Please do. Mr. Key is always very enlightening.

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Post by Allan Harley »

At Windsor, the Woodvilles and on the second day half the Lancastrian force tried to enact a combined arms force with archers and handgunners going forward and retiring through the ranks at different times. with a core of stavemen and swordsmen to the flanks and archers interchanging weapons as required.

It will get better with practice, one other point is that for the second battle deliberately put the archers on one side, told to loose until they ran out of arrows, then to fight (at least some of my group did) or stand or run away . Also forced the other side to attck until arrows ran out.

Also then could use horses, which stayed out of range until archery exhausted

During the firepower flanked the guns with archers and pushed handgunners forward as goads to draw the foot units on - looked good.

Still want to try more, volunteers and suggestions accepted

PS pavaised crossbows look good as well
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Post by gregory23b »

"Does that match the evidence of archeological finds [for instance]? "

Not sure that the weapon types will necessarily be indicative of troop nomenclature.

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Alan, sounds great, more more more.
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Allan Harley wrote:At Windsor, the Woodvilles and on the second day half the Lancastrian force tried to enact a combined arms force with archers and handgunners going forward and retiring through the ranks at different times. with a core of stavemen and swordsmen to the flanks and archers interchanging weapons as required.

It will get better with practice, one other point is that for the second battle deliberately put the archers on one side, told to loose until they ran out of arrows, then to fight (at least some of my group did) or stand or run away . Also forced the other side to attck until arrows ran out.

Also then could use horses, which stayed out of range until archery exhausted

During the firepower flanked the guns with archers and pushed handgunners forward as goads to draw the foot units on - looked good.

Still want to try more, volunteers and suggestions accepted

PS pavaised crossbows look good as well
Alan,

That's really inspiring and sounds great.

PKoSD are pretty small, but we have a reasonable mix, typically fielding 4 poles [various], one archer maybe two, one gunner, maybe two.

I'd love to work in this intergrated way though, if we had some reason to believe it was more authentic (it certainly might be more fun).

I can see some concerns about the safety of more random arrow fire under those circumstances (looking up at the wrong time).
Can I gather that you were operating in relatively large groups?

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