Medieval Foot Soldiers

Medieval foot  soldiers were the natural the enemy of Medieval Knight, the medieval Knight who had been so dominant for so long in medieval battles found himself being dominated by foot soldiers as their weaponry and armour improved during the medieval period.

This change in circumstances was no more evident than in the battle of Crécy in 1346 in which the English Medieval crossbow men destroyed the best Knights that France could offer.

Medieval Foot Soldiers

Medieval foot soldiers were military men that fought on foot (ground troops) such as crossbow men, longbow and pike-men. Improvements in armour making, training and tactical awareness for foot soldiers made them a serious threat to the previous domination of the battlefield by Medieval Knights.

It would be at the battle of Crécy where foot soldiers used as tightly packed longbowmen this would be best illustrated as the longbow men destroyed the French knights killing literally thousands them in a rain of arrows.

Medieval Foot Soldier Weapons

Medieval Crossbow and Footsoldier

Medieval Footsoldier – Medieval Weapons – Footsoldier loading a Crossbow

Foot soldiers | Crossbows

The addition of crossbows to the arsenal of medieval footsoldiers was significant, now footsoldiers could attack the enemy whilst keeping out of harms way their weapons.  The crossbow was a powerful and relatively easily to to load weapon that had a winding back mechanism and handle that needed less training and strength to use than the longbow.

The crossbow was popular with foot soldiers in Europe and was a dangerous weapon on the battlefield. Crossbowmen could fire two metal tipped arrows at the enemy in around a minute, and although this weapon was not as effective as the longbow, the deadly missiles it could fire ripped through a knights armour leaving him vulnerable on the battlefield.

Foot soldiers | Longbows

The effective use by footsoldiers of the longbow in medieval cannot be underestimated, it led to the famous English victory in the battle of Crécy. The victory at the battle of Crécy was down to tactical changes that were made in the use of the longbow  as it was not a new weapon like the crossbow.

However the was a range of specialist arrows developed for the longbow that could inflict different kinds of damage to an enemy, there were bodkin arrows that could penetrate a knights armour and flesh piercing Broadhead arrows amongst others.

Military leaders discovered that thousands of tightly packed footsoldiers with longbows could fire an unrelenting hail of arrows into the sky that would rain down on the Medieval Knights below with devastating effect. Thousands of arrows would literally make a hissing sound as they darted across the sky and honed in on enemy knights.

Foot soldiers would spend many years training to use the longbow and were eventually able to fire up to 10 arrows per minute against the crossbows 2 per minute; they could hit a target from around a distance of 250 m. Medieval Knights were sitting ducks and their horses were also killed or wounded and sent  into a panic that made them harder to control on the battlefield.

Foot soldiers | Spears and Pike Weapons

Spears and Pike weapons (long spears with spike ends) were also a very effective weapon that was used well by footsoldiers, these weapons were also improved and re-designed as the medieval period progressed.

Spears and Pike weapons had a very long handle sometimes up to 20 feet long and special formations were developed for the foot soldiers in which they would create pike formations to create a wall of spears or spikes. Medieval Knights cavalry charged would be made ineffective as they  could not get near to the enemy and they would be easily brought down as their horses were killed as they ran onto these weapons.

Medieval Footsoldiers Battle of Crécy

Medieval Footsoldiers Crossbowmen in the Battle of Crécy

How Foot Soldiers won the Battle of Bannockburn

It was another famous battle that showed how the previously dominant medieval knights could be defeated by a well armed and organised group of foot soldiers. In the battle of Bannockburn King Bruce the Scottish king was outnumbered 3 to 1 by the English Kings army and it looked on paper as if the English would win easily and the Scottish army would be destroyed by the superior English forces.

The English had a large cavalry which should have been a major advantage, however the cavalry were brought down by wall of Spears by the well organised foot soldiers of King Bruce were grouped into close formations as the cavalry charged, these foot soldiers waited in formation with their long Spears (pikes).

The English cavalry was decimated and they were slaughtered in the muddy marsh lands. These type of foot soldiers were commonly known as pikemen in England and had other names in different countries.

Interesting Facts about Medieval Foot Soldiers:

  • Medieval longbow men were probably the most effective force against medieval knights
  • Medieval foot soldiers longbowmen could fire up to 10 arrows per minute
  • longbows were more powerful than crossbows and were a better all round weapon
  • Foot soldiers who used crossbows could fire two arrows per minute
  • Crossbows were easier to use and required less training for medieval foot soldiers
  • The foot soldier was the natural enemy of the medieval Knight
  • Longbow men destroyed the best knights France could offer in the battle of Crécy in 1314
  • Medieval Knights horses were destroyed and sent into panic by a hail of arrows fired by crossbowmen
  • Various arrows were developed for the longbow including the Broadhead and bodkin arrow heads
  • Foot soldiers using Spears and Pike’s defeated the English cavalry in the battle of Bannockburn
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