Welcome to the Strelets Forum.
Please feel free to discuss any aspect of 1/72 scale plastic figures, not simply Strelets.
If you have any questions about our products then we will answer them here.
Dear Forum Members,
One of my projects is finalizing my soft plastic armies of Knights in Armour for the above period of history. After watching some videos and computer graphics battle scenes on YouTube and reading the usual Wikipedia, it seems most knights obtained either Italian made or German made suits of armour. Here in the U.S., we have nothing like this in our short history. The many suits of armour and how they were designed and worked to protect the men inside are absolutely fascinating!
But here is my question: After watching action scenes of foot knights and mounted knights especially, once they have clashed into each other, may have dropped their flags, and are fighting away in close action hand-to-hand battle, how could they identify one from the other being an enemy or friendly? Since there were no Red & Blue sides, or Blue & Grey sides, what simple and obvious identfiers did they use to determine "friend or foe?" Much of the written materials reveals many fighters were mercenaries.
This question is just for fun! I'm not looking for a thesis paper on identifiers, just basic information. But I'd still like to learn some basic knowledge of this. Thank you in advance for any help. - GC :thinking_face:
Identification was by the coat-of-arms worn by individuals and groups, either on their jupons, bardings or banners. The warbands making up the armies were clustered around the banner of their lord, and the lord had his own flag, smaller but similar to the banner, carried by his trusted flagbearer. The fighting men wore the liveries of their lords, coats given by the lord, in his colours, with a symbol of the lord from his coat of arms on the left side of the chest and in the middle of the back. During a famous battle of the WOTR, one side lost just because they panicked when allies aproaching from behind were misidentified as enemies, just because of the similarity of the banners and liveries. During the 100YW, the English fighting in France wore the red cross of St George on their coats. The French used a white cross. All armies in this period were accompanied by heralds, who were specialists and heraldry and were the communication means between the opposite sides.
You might be interested in this website, which is a medieval re-enactment Society in the UK specialising in exactly the period that you are interested in; a family friend is a member of this Society:
You will also appreciate that the Wars of the Roses feature strongly in English and Welsh history and folklore. There are many groups and societies that exist to promote the memories of those turbulent years. One of these, which exists primarily to commemorate the Battle of Towton fought on Palm Sunday 1461 (in a snowstorm!) and the bloodiest battle ever fought on British soil - and in the days when men died mainly at very close quarters, not at a distance - is:
The whole subject of heraldry and livery is a deeply complicated one. I have a couple of hundred late-medieval figures in 1/72 (Ceasar, Redbox mainly) which are primed, base-coated, and have their armour partly done...but have no other colours because I would need to take the plunge and do some proper research on livery colours! These figures may be staying in their 'pending' boxes for some good time longer.
I think for knights and men of wealth the coat of arms on shield and surcoat did the trick, but for peasant soldiers , well no idea, contemporary artists often show the cross of saint George on archers, and that may or may not have been the case, or it could just be the artist letting the viewer knowing who is who in the painting.
When thinking about heraldry and coats-of-arms, it's all about branding. And copyright.
People's heraldry was carefully controlled by the College of Heralds and woe betide any one who used another person's coat-of-arms. Even today you can get into serious trouble with the college of heralds if you use someone's arms without permission.
At the time of the 100YW the knights tended to wear their arms on their surcoats - over their armour - and shields.
By the time of the WoTR surcoats were less fashionable and shields were less used as well. So banners were popular.
Factions used badges - the red and the white roses, the staffordshire knot etc, so if you joined a faction you would use their badges.
Lesser ranked soldiers would wear liveries - during the 100YW the English field army tended towards green and white (I believe) and a red cross of st George was popular. Away from France soldiers in armies might wear a coat based on the arms of their leader - eg Percy of Northumberland had a blue lyon on a yellow field so a livery coat for his soldiers might be yellow and blue, either halved or quartered or something similar.
If you had a large body of archers or billmen made up from several contingents then you'd probably see a mix of liveries - all with the same badge or fieldsign - a white cloth wor around the arm or something like that.
While walking with the local ramblers we came across the battle of Stoke Field.
This was the last major engagement of the Wars of the Roses took place at the Battle of Stoke Field, near the town Newark in Nottinghamshire. Notts county council have a nice walk leaflet with information boards(about 11/2 walk). The local church is also worth a look in.
You can download the video trail giving first-hand accounts of the battle from:
citadelsix.co.uk is for 28mm figures, but gives you a comprehensive understanding of the period and the heraldry. Alan is wrong assuming that only wealthy people afforded the liveries in the colors of the lord, with the badges sewn on them. There were three ways of raising armies in that period in England, plus the mercenaries. The one raising the warband also provided the liveries with the badges, and usually also the weapons, as they were stored with the coats in the arsenals of the castles. Wealthy towns had their own liveries in specific colors with quite elaborate coat of arms, the latter surviving to this day. The red cross of St George was used only when an English army was abroad. The noble English, as opposed to the French, were more inclined to use “white armor”, meaning not covered by heraldic fabrics, especially in the WOTR, making the banners and personal flags more important for identification.
Wow, fantastic gentlemen! Thank you, all for taking so much of your time for this. I've spent the whole morning here reading word-for-word your well written and thoughtful comments and recommendations. I also checked some links which also led to a few YouTube shorts.
As I confessed, I'm a beginner in this subject. I now know many new time period words and terms which led me to more info. I can now claim to know the origins of the St. George's Flag and the Union Flag and their evolutions. I always was curious about them. I've also got a beginner's understanding of liveries, heraldry, shields as identifiers and banners concerning Knights, Men-at-arms, Archers and more. Just a taste, however, and thirst for more learning.
Below I've added a link for a History of Britains Herald Swoppets which is quite sophisticated and informative. The Swoppets were my very first soft plastic figurines in my childhood, but too expensive, so I moved on to 1/72 Airfix, etc since then. But I never could shed my fondness for "The Swoppets look and style." The discovery of the former Giant of Hong Kong Swoppets from the Gold Crown comic book games and acquisition (long ago) of some of these nice figurines led me back to this today.
So, I promise to keep at it and learn more and little by little build up my army of Knights in shining armour! Thank you, again - Link (if you look, know that the top left corner of the Home page sub-titles are actually buttons to each section of the site):
GC - :sweat_smile:
P.S. Any further information from anyone will be much appreciated.
One practice was for armies to adopt a fieldsign,the most famous of which was a sprig of broom, planta genista in Latin when then evolved into the surname Plantagebet the line of English kings ending with Richard III.
Thank you, Graham. Of all that I've read and seen and watched to help answer my questions, your info is a new one!
Especially helpful for me are the great links suggested herein showing painted and described figurines as well as some very vivid computer graphic's battle scenes on YouTube. I get the impression all were done by serious people interested in historical representation. I'm afraid the full-length movies set in this time period were lacking in visual details and historical accuracy, although entertaining. The movies did, after all, re-awaken my curiosity in this fascinating period of military history.
OK, all you guys, thank you so much again! - GC