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halbadier from the period of the Wars of the Roses depicted in stained glass at East Harling church, Norfolk
 
Deployments

HENRY'S ADVANCE

Sunrise will have been around 5:00 am on the 22nd August. Soon after this the two armies will have had to rendezvous. Although it has long been argued that Henry camped near the battlefield, this is far from certain. It is more likely that Henry’s army was at Merevale and that the troops mustered there or, if more widely distributed around Atherstone and assuming that the Roman road was the route to be taken, then the rendezvous may have been somewhere in close proximity to the junction of Watling Street and Fenn Lanes. At the rendezvous the army will have had to form up into line of march. From here to Redemore, where the battle was fought, is just under four miles. They were surely ready to march by 7:00 if not before. If encumbered by a baggage train and possibly a small artillery train then this march may have taken about two hours, so with the time taken to form into battle array, it might have been as late as 9:00 before the two armies engaged.

RICHARD'S PREPARATIONS

In contrast, Richard was certainly camped in close proximity to the field, whether on Ambion hill, at Sutton Cheney village or nearby. It is argued that Richard’s army may not have been fully deployed and ready when the rebel army advanced. There is nothing about the action in the original accounts to support this. Having chosen the ground and forced the rebels to attack him close to where his army was camped, it is almost certain that that Richard’s battle array was complete well before the rebels advanced, as indeed Molinet’s description implies.

BATTLE DEPLOYMENTS

15th century armies were typically organised in three ‘battles’, the vanguard, the main battle and the rearguard. A commander would normally deploying these ‘battles’ one behind the other. Sometimes he might even form a third battle line as a reserve, acting in support. Alternatively he could deploy the battles side by side to achieve a particular tactical objective, as the English army had to do at Flodden in 1513, to avoid being enveloped by the wings of the much wider Scottish army deployment.

There is some dispute as to exactly how Richard's army was deployed at Bosworth. The royal vanguard was commanded by the Earl of Norfolk, with archers to the fore and a wing of cavalry on either side of the infantry. It seems likely that Richard also deployed his rearguard, under the Duke of Northumberland, in line with the vanguard, forming a left wing, again of infantry and cavalry. The king himself was behind the main battle line with a small reserve or lifeguard, probably solely of heavy cavalry numbering perhaps a hundred to two at most. Richard had the advantage of ground in the height of both the Ambion ridge, offering him a good view of the rebel advance, deployment and manoeuvres. His battle plan seems to have been to deploy in a very wide battle array, to weaken the rebels with damaging artillery fire as they advanced and then to ‘overwing’ and envelop them.

As Lord Stanley would not deploy with Henry’s battle array, presumably because his son was Richard’s hostage, Henry was forced to deploy most of his troops in the vanguard under the command of the Earl of Oxford, in a ‘slender’ battle array in an attempt to match the frontage of Richard’s vanguard. Henry himself was with the main battle, a small force of perhaps just a troop of cavalry and a company of foot behind the vanguard. The Stanleys appear to have formed a quite separate battle array, between the two other armies, probably off to the south of the field on the rising ground towards Dadlington and Stoke Golding.

 

   
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