Students look in detail at the armies of William and Harold and analyse their strengths and weaknesses prior to the Battle of Hastings. They then apply this knowledge to label a piece of the Bayeux tapestry (image published courtesy of Britannica Image Quest and supplied as a separate PDF to download).
Harold’s Saxon army
Housecarls: 3,000 men
These were the well-trained, experienced full-time fighters of the Saxon army. They wore the armour of a chain-mail coat made of iron rings. They also carried a kite-shaped shield and wore iron helmets. They were armed with a mighty battle-axe – capable of killing a horse! They also carried swords, spears or a small throwing axe.
The Fyrd: 5,500 men
These were mostly local, untrained peasant farmers with a duty to defend the country. Only the leaders (the local landowners), would be armed like the Housecarls. The rest had no armour. Some had round homemade wooden shields and leather helmets. Their weapons varied. Some had axes, but others had only farm tools and anything they could find.
William’s Norman army
Infantry: 3,000 men
These were well trained, experienced full-time fighters. They wore armour including chain-mail coats of iron rings, kite-shaped shields and iron helmets. They were armed with a sword, a spear or an axe.
Cavalry: 2,000 men
These were the best soldiers in the army. They were highly trained full-time fighters. On flat ground, infantry could not stand up to the power of a knight. They wore armour including a chain-mail coat of iron rings, a kite-shaped shield and an iron helmet. The carried a sword, spear or axe. Blunt instruments such as the battle mace were also used. They rode large, trained warhorses.
Archers: 800 men
These were highly trained men. They didn’t normally wear armour as they needed to be able to move freely, though some did wear leather or iron helmets. They carried their bow and a quiver of arrows (with a range of up to 100m). Many also carried a small knife or sword.