Frmupiet aairitnts areft then Cay m s Cnecke to tfie fie cite

third for the pikemen, which for the most part they keep'.

Most English writers in the 1620s and 1630s still held that a company should have equal proportions of pikemen and musketeers, and Trained Band units were still equipped in this way on the eve of the first Bishops' War in 1639; but opinion was beginning to favour an increased ratio of musketeers. (A proportion of pikemen were still necessary, of course, as only the protection they offered could prevent—under most circumstances—an infantry unit being ridden into the ground by a determined and well-timed cavalry attack.) The contract for Scots infantry agreed in July 1642, for example, specified a ratio of 3:2 (6,000 musketeers to 4,000 pikemen) and this probably represented the state of the art in England. Later in 1642 a ratio of 2:1 became the standard and in October Alderman Andrewes and Stephen Estwick were buying arms for Parliament in France and Holland on this ratio ('twelve thousand muskets and rests, six thousand pikes, six thousand corslets1). This was retained by the New Model Army and was continued throughout the Commonwealth and the armies of Charles II and James II.

This was the theory but the actual availability of weapons often made a nonsense of precise ratios. In the first year of the Civil War Parliamentary

Two views of the (Give Fire' posture, showing the butt of the musket held to the right breast, not the shoulder. The first is from an English manual of 1623, and the second from a manual by Henry Hexham printed in 1637. Apart from the helmet, rarely issued to English musketeers, Hexham's illustration provides a good impression of a Civil War musketeer. (British Library, and author's collection)

regiments were able to draw upon the arsenals of the Tower of London and Hull as well as the private armouries of the City Guilds. This allowed the Parliament to equip infantry in ratios varying between i: i and 2:1; but the King's Army was more hard-pressed for equipment, and a ratio of 1:1 would have been more common amongst the Royalists in 1642.

As the war progressed problems of supply were largely overcome, and by 1643 there was probably an effective ratio of 2:1. The position of the Royalist army was complicated by the swift reduction in the relative strength of their regiments as they found it harder to recruit infantry, and the inclusion in their Marching Army of 'Commanded' bodies of musketeers from their garrisons. It is probable that a Royalist regiment would still have been equipped on a 2:1 basis, but the inclusion of detachments of musketeers raised the overall ratio in the Marching Army. This was the experience of regiments in the Marching Armies whose supply was a priority. Garrison units and regiments in the smaller armies were more dependent on local resources and the standard of their equipment varied from the perfect to a burlesque of it.


At the turn of the century a musketeer 'hath his Sword and Dagger, his Burgenet, his Musket with a rest and Scowring-stick, sometime called a rammer; his flaske turned now into a Bandeler with charges, or Powder-bags; or some fantasticall fellow will carry it in his pocket, trusting to his hand for the Charge; his Touch-box, Powder, Bullet mold, priming Yron, Match, Worm and etc'. Improvements were required as the century progressed as the equipment specified in Directions for Musters (1638) indicated. This manual, modelled on the Dutch style, stated: 'The Muskcticr must be armed with a good Musket, (the Barrel of 4 Foot long, the bore of 12 bullets in the pound rowling in) a rest, Bandelier, Head-piece, a good Sword, Girdle and Hangers'. Although Trained Band musketeers were still expected to wear them, few musketeers still wore helmets on campaign.

Another major change was the introduction of a lighter musket with a shorter barrel, three and a half feet instead of four feet. Muskets of this pattern could be fired without a musket-rest, and from 1643

Musket Standing Position


were issued by both sides without one. This new musket had been recommended by the Board of Ordnance in 1640, but its use during the Civil War depended upon its availability. Old-fashioned and second-hand muskets were imported in large numbers from abroad, particularly Holland, and these would still require rests. Another problem with these imports was poor quality—as in the case of those received for the king by Captain John Strachan in March 1644, who commented: 'and the musketts, there are about 1000 of them, I am assured they are of 3, or 4 sundry bores, some pistoll

Firelock Musket


Firelocks. Muskets using types of flintlock rather than Royalist infantry were also equipped with them. These are the smouldering matchcord were commonly used by companies two most common types, the 'English lock9 above, and the of artillery guards on the basis that they were safer to carry 'dog-lock5 below. (By courtesy of the Board of Trustees, Royal near stocks of gunpowder. A few independent companies of Armouries)

English Fowling Piece

bores, some carbine bores, some little fowling peeces, and all the old trash that could bee rapt together1. Different bores caused considerable supply problems, and some musketeers had to bite pieces off their bullets to make them fit the barrel.

The majority of muskets used during the Civil War were matchlocks such as those described above; but a type of flintlock, termed 'firelocks' by contemporaries, was also in limited use. These were especially popular for companies of artillery guards, since the use of matchlocks, with their lengths of smouldering matchcord had obvious disadvantages when carried near the gunpowder of an artillery train. In addition there were several independent 'Firelock' companies in service in the King's Army.

The matchlock was still a more usefully rugged weapon in action than the 'firelock', since even if the mechanism was broken the musket could be fired by simply 'popping' the match in the priming pan by hand. Its disadvantages were the huge amounts of matchcord required, since even on the march the file-leaders kept theirs alight so that they could light those of the rest of their files if attacked. The consumption of match was also a problem for the garrisons of threatened towns, the garrison of Lyme Regis, for example, 'having in it 1,500 soldiers, including the seamen1 who used 'every day and night near \ tun (five hundredweight) of match'. The city of Stafford overcame this by giving orders for the delivery 'out of the Earle of Denbigh's Magazeene unto the severall Commanders of Footc belonginge to this garrison for every twenty soldiers they have in there severall companies 5 firelock muskets' on the understanding that 'they bringe in the said Firelocks againe which the said Mr. Flower is to call for when any of the said companies goe to remayne in any other garrison'. This was an intelligent solution for a common problem but was probably exceptional.

Military theorists did see real advantages in the use of the 'firelock' for particular occasions, and Sir James Turner's comments provide a clear impression of the trend: 'It is impossible to hide burning Matches so well in the night-time especially if there be any wind, (though there be covers made of white Iron, like extinguishers purposely for that end) but that some will be seen by a vigilant enemy, and thereby many secret enterprises are lost. It were therefore good, that for the half of the Muskets (if not for them all) flintlocks were made and kept carefully by the Captain of arms of each company, that upon any such occasion or party, the half or more of the other Locks might be immediately taken off, and the flint-ones clapt on by the Gunsmith of the company, and there would be no danger of seeing burning Matches, the sight whereof hath ruin'd many good designs'.

George Monk favoured as an alternative 'that you have in each Company six good Fowling-pieces, of such a length as a soldier may well be able to take aim, and to shoot at ease . . . those souldiers that carry the Fowling-pieces, ought to have command when they come within distance of Shot of that Division of the Enemy that they are to

Matchlock musket. Before firing the musketeer would check that the matchcord in the 'serpent' would touch the centre of the cover which guarded his priming pan. When ready to fire he would swivel the pan cover and pull the trigger to bring the matchcord to the priming powder. This matchlock has a circular depression to mark the check point. (By courtesy of the Board of Trustees, Royal Armouries)

Tower London Royal Armouries


encounter with, that they shoot not at any, but at the Officers of that Division1. There is no evidence that this theory was ever used in battle but there are several instances of marksmen armed with 'fowling-pieces1 with rifled barrels picking off gun crews and oilicers during sieges.


The pike was considered by military authors to be the most honourable weapon and the one fit for a gentleman to carry because, as Richard Elton commented in his The Compleat Body of the Art Military, 'it is so in respect of antiquity; for there hath been the use of the Pike and Spear, many hundred years before there was any knowledge of the Musket1. Military theory also held that the 'tallest, biggest, and strongest should be ordered to carry pikes, that they may the better endure the weight of their defensive arms1.

The extent of the pikeman's equipment can be seen from the statutory requirements listed in the manual Directions for Musters (1638). This stated: 'the Pikeman must be armed with a Pike seventeen foot long, head and all; (the diameter of the staff to be one inch the head to be well steeled, 8 inches long, broad, strong, and sword-pointed; the cheeks 2 foot long, well riveted; the butt-end bound with a ring of iron) a Gorget, Back, Breast, Tassets and Head-piece, a good sword of 3 foot long, cutting and stiff-pointed, with Girdle and Hangers1.

The 'cheeks1 of the pike were strips of steel riveted to the staff below the head to prevent an opponent hacking it off with a sword. There was some dispute over the optimum length of a pike, as some authorities favoured 15 feet and others, such as George Monk and Sir James Turner, recommended 18 feet. Sixteen feet had become the standard by 1657, when an order for equipment specified they were to be 'made of good ash, 16 feet long, bars to be strong and serviceable, in length to be 2 ft or 22 inches. The staves to be coloured with aquafortis'. Amongst the Trained Bands, whose equipment would have been bought over a period measured in decades, this could result in several different lengths of pike in use together. The same uneven appearance could be found amongst regular soldiers, but for a different reason: Sir James Turner commented, 'In our Modern Wars it is ordr'cl by most Princes and States to be eighteen foot long, yet few exceed fifteen; and if officers be not careful to prevent it, many base soldiers will cut some offthe length of that, as I have oft seen it done'. An officer serving in Ireland also commented on this practice, saying rather bitterly: 'Some that were not strong enough in the British Army for his Pike in a windy day would cut off a foot, and some two of their pikes, which is a damned thing to be suffered1, an indication that this was a common problem.

The heavy armour was usually carried on carts on the march although it had to be worn if action was imminent. By 1642 it had become the practice to abandon the collar or gorget, and as the war progressed the tassets were dispensed with also. George Monk recommended 'a Buff Girdle of double Buff eight inches broad, the which is to be worn under the Skirts of his Doublet instead of Taces [tassets] ... I am well assured that a Girdle of

Pikeman's armour: back (left) and breast (right) plates. Note the belt which passes around the waist of the armour to fasten it, and the hole at the base of the backplate. This would have a hook attached from which the pikeman would hang his helmet when on the march. (National Army Museum)

English Pikeman Helmet

Buir will be much safer, and much more serviceable and easier for a Pike-man to wear than Paces'. Again, this is an experimental idea which may never have been used in practice.

In the years after the Civil War the New Model Army abandoned the use of armour altogether. Sir

William Lockhart, commander of the English regiments serving in Flanders, wrote to John Thurloe, Secretary of State, asking 'If his Highness could spare twelve or fifteen hundred corslets for our pikemen, I would accustom them to wear them when they mount guards, and at all other reviews; a

Royalist Musketeer

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  • grisel
    What did royalist musketeers wear?
    8 years ago

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