Warfare was changing rapidly in the mid 16th century when the Battle of Wrotham was fought. For the past two centuries firearms had been large, cumbersome, unreliable and inaccurate. From around 1510 improvements in gunpowder and gun barrel manufacture was changing all that. Wrotham was one of the first battles on English soil where the new guns and new tactics developed to support them were put into practice.
key weapon was the harquebus, a firearm that shot a ball weighing
around 2 ounces over a distance of about 100 yards, though it was
accurate over only half that distance. The weapon was fired with a fuse
that remained alight even in damp weather. A trigger plunged this into a
firing hole, which was covered by a small lid that pulling the trigger
moved aside. These two key technical innovations combined with more
reliable powder meant that the weapon could be loaded aimed and fired
with some expectation that it would actually go off. This may not sound
much, but compared to earlier firearms it was a great improvement.
the harquebus was a lengthy affair, taking over a minute. Commanders
therefore drew their men up five or more ranks deep and had the ranks
fire in turn, timing the volleys so that the first had reloaded by the
time the last had fired. Even so the harquebusiers were vulnerable to
sudden charges by cavalry or infantry armed with edged weapons. To
protect them numbers of men with halbards were mixed in with the
harquebusiers. By 1550 it had become conventional for the men to drawn
up in squares with the halbardiers grouped in the corners. This
formation was called a hedgehog.
Marching over a battlefield in a
tightly formed squared called for a high degree of training. Only
professional, or at least semi-professional, regiments and militias
could hope to carry out these new tactics successfully. Warfare was
becoming more a task for full time soldiers than amateur warriors,
though this was not always appreciated at the time.
from "Battlefield Walks of Kent and Sussex" by Rupert Matthews
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