5.2 The Loyalist Army

Unlike the rebels' uncertain and fluctuating strength, the size and composition of Warwick's army can be readily ascertained through chronicles and official records, with the professional soldiers who fought at Dussindale being selected from a far larger force. According to Edward VI's journal (1549, 15), the loyalist army set out with some 7500 men, comprising 6000 footmen and 1500 horsemen, which rendezvoused with the 1000-1500 survivors of Northampton's mounted detachment at Cambridge before continuing to Norwich. The total size of this army could thus be confirmed at approximately 6000 infantry and almost 3000 cavalry, and may have approached Southerton's (1549-1559, 257) estimates of 12,000 men when including ancillary units and camp followers, while Smythe (1589, 95) noted that it also contained 'four and twenty field pieces'.

Just as in Kett's army, many of the loyalist soldiers would have been members of the militia, with Warwick's force apparently including contingents drawn from as far afield as Wales (Neville 1575). The true strength of the army, however, lay in its powerful cavalry contingent and its inclusion of a core of elite infantry, encompassing bodies of urban militia such as the two-hundred-strong company of Captain 'Poignard' Drury, and a band of over 1000 mercenary landsknechts (Land 1977). It was this portion of the force, containing the most capable and best-armed soldiers, that was selected to confront the rebels at Dussindale, with the bulk of the militia being left behind to secure Norwich against a renewed outbreak of disorder (Bindoff 1949). The loyalist cavalry, which at nearly 3000 men comprised almost three-quarters of the army at Dussindale, consisted of a mixture of foreign and native soldiers, with many mercenaries from Northampton's force joining Warwick at Cambridge. Smythe (1589, 95), for instance, noted the presence of 'Count [Piero] Malatesta Baglion (an ancient and noble soldier Italian)', who had fought alongside Warwick at the 1547 battle of Pinkie (Fergusson 1963), where he commanded a company of heavily armoured cavalrymen known as men at arms. While these troops were prohibitively expensive to equip, and so were seldom available in large numbers except by the wealthiest nations (Macmahon 2002), the Tudor state frequently employed mercenary soldiers to compensate for its limited sources of native recruitment (Miller 1980). Delft (1549, 423) also referred to further horsemen, including the Genitors or light cavalry of 'Charles de Guevera's company' and 'Hacfort's company' of men at arms (Cornwall 1977), indicating the variety of mounted mercenaries contained within the loyalist army.

Despite this substantial mercenary contingent, most of the loyalist cavalry were native soldiers, with the large number of gentlemen accompanying Northampton and Warwick's forces implying that these horsemen were provided by personal retinues, whose leaders possessed sufficient wealth to outfit their followers for mounted service (Raymond 2007). Evidence from the battle of Pinkie (Caldwell 1991), England's largest field engagement of this era, and from Thomas Audley's Book of Orders for the Warre (c. 1550), suggests that Tudor armies typically assembled a third to a half of their mounted forces from light cavalry, with the remainder comprising equal portions of men at arms and demi-lances. Light cavalry were employed for scouting, harassment, and the pursuit of defeated enemies (Robson 1989), while demi-lances blended the equipment and tactical roles of light and heavy horse, being better protected than the former and more manoeuvrable than the latter (Phillips 2002). The absence of the Gentlemen Pensioners, the country's only native men at arms (Norman and Pottinger 1966), alongside the presence of Malatesta and Hacfort's companies, suggests that Warwick's army relied upon foreign mercenaries for heavy cavalry, with English troops occupying the roles of demi-lances and, with the help of Guevera's Genitors, light horse.

Although Drury's infantry company, recruited from the prestigious London militia (Cornwall 1977), was frequently commended for its 'excellent courage and skill' (Neville 1575, 57), reportedly dispersing rebel ambushes in Norwich and recapturing some of Warwick's lost artillery (Neville 1575), the 'Almayn' landsknechts embodied the army's true elite. These disciplined formations of professional soldiers were created by the Emperor Maximilian as a response to the armament and tactical successes of the Swiss (Turnbull 2006), and earned a fearsome reputation in battle, being famously unconcerned for whom they fought (Arnold 2001). The companies present at Dussindale, under the leadership of Clein Von Buren and William Walderdon, had been previously deployed to suppress the simultaneous Prayer Book Rebellion in Devon, marching north to join Warwick's force immediately after their victory at Clyst St Mary on 4 and 5 August (Cornwall 1977). Landsknecht companies routinely armed between four-fifths and two-thirds of their men with five-to-eight-metre long pikes and the remaining fifth/third with firearms (Nimwegan 2010), while a handful of veteran soldiers carried two-handed swords for beating down enemy pikes in close combat (Arnold 2001). Similarly, a pay-roll for Drury's troops, the only native soldiers to carry modern weapons, demonstrates that this unit contained 107 arquebusiers, the common mid-16th-century firearm, and 73 pikemen by the 27 August, having suffered twenty casualties during the recapture of Norwich (Cornwall 1977). Assuming that the landsknecht units contained their usual proportions of troops, the loyalist infantry would thus comprise approximately 800-900 pikemen and between 300 and 400 arquebusiers.

While pike and shot was not unknown in Tudor England, with weapons being stored in garrisons and armouries (Raymond 2007) and used at major battles such as Pinkie (Caldwell 1991), their large-scale domestic deployment was sufficiently unusual to be noted by Smythe (1589, 95), who asserted that Warwick 'had changed many archers into harquebusiers (because he had no opinion of the long bow)'. As it was highly unlikely for soldiers to be proficient with both weapons, Smythe's statement implied that Warwick selected his arquebusiers from the larger pool of 'many archers' provided by the county militia, an inference supported by Southerton's description of a skirmish within Norwich, wherein 'on both parts were shot a great number of arrows' (1549-1559 , 254). Additionally, the suggestion that Warwick's choice of armament resulted from his having 'no opinion of the long bow' alluded to the relative status of each weapon system, with pikes and firearms, the dominant tools of continental warfare, becoming increasingly well regarded at the expense of bows and bills (Eltis 1995). Thus the prioritisation of pike, shot, and a large and varied cavalry contingent to confront the enemy in battle, while archers and billmen were relegated to secondary roles, points towards a mid-century shift in English military doctrines and reflected Warwick's adherence to European tactical orthodoxies.

The impressive loyalist army was further augmented by the quality of its commanders, with Warwick having successfully led 3000 men at Pinkie (Patten 1547) and his subordinates being accustomed to controlling smaller detachments in combat. This would allow the loyalists' tactical units to operate with a far greater degree of discipline and cohesion than the opposing army, which, containing less-experienced officers and men, would have struggled to manoeuvre with the same speed and fluidity in battle. The army also included gunnery specialists such as Sir Edward Bray (Neville 1575), the country's Master of Ordnance, who would have provided expert guidance regarding the positioning and tactical use of artillery (Raymond 2007). Thus, although outnumbered by more than two to one, Warwick's army was significantly better armed, trained, and led than Kett's force, with the insurgents being both individually and collectively outclassed.