Normans were the descendants of Vikings who began raiding the European shores beginning in the 9th century. Soon after their raids, the Normans settled in different parts of Europe and also began serving as mercenaries in established European kingdoms and empires.
Due to their vast exposure, Normans evolved their own unique form of warfare which utilised elements of combat from different cultures. Norman warfare included warfare elements from the Vikings, Franks, Byzantines as well as Arabs whom they encountered during the Crusades. Typically, Normans relied on a strong and organised force during warfare and cavalry formed an important part of the Norman might.
Norman Offensive Warfare
The Normans were veritable warriors who used different offensive techniques during warfare. They borrowed the raiding prowess of their ancestors, the Vikings, as well as from different other cultures. As a result, a Norman army made use of various elements when attacking an enemy.
Such an army comprised of a large number of foot soldiers who were heavily clad, a sizable number of knights and noble warriors who rode on horseback as well as a contingent of archers. The inclusion of archery gave the Normans a crucial advantage in many conflicts, including the conquest of England in the 11th century.
During the Battle of Hastings fought between Normans and Anglo-Saxons, the Norman archery proved decisive in concluding the battle in favour of the invading Norman force. In organising cavalry, Normans used special destrier horses which became a hallmark of European cavalry in the medieval ages.
Norman Defensive Warfare
After Norman settled in Normandy, they excelled in the art of castle-building. This soon became the backbone of Norman defence in any areas they conquered. Early castles built by the Normans were of the motte-and-bailey type. These were not very durable but proved crucial in cementing Normans’ control in England following the defeat of Anglo-Saxon forces.
In time, Normans began building huge stone castles with iconic circular arches and stone keeps. These defensive structures helped the Normans establish their control definitively in Britain and later in Wales as well as other neighbouring regions.
Norman Armour and Weaponry
Normans didn’t wear too heavy an armour. During the invasion of England, the Norman warriors mostly wore a mail shirt and a steel helm. The Shield was a very common part of the Norman soldiers’ defence. Normans usually used shields which were kite-like in shape and made of wood.
The Spear was a very commonly used Norman weapon, both by the infantry and the cavalry. The Normans constructed light-weight spears with iron heads which they could wield with speed and agility. These spears were used in a downward movement, held above the head.
The Norman aristocracy which rode as cavalry also carried a sword which was used in case the spear or lance was broken. The Norman sword was typically long and used for a strike to the head, cutting down to the chest of the enemy warrior. Normans also made use of axes and the bow and arrow played a vital part in many crucial Norman wars.