Friday 12 November 2021

The Perfect Militia. The Stuart Trained Bands

As promised, a review of one of the Helion books I acquired a couple of weeks ago. 

This is book number 75 from Helion in their remarkable ‘Century of the Soldier’ series This is an in-depth study of The Trained Bands in England and Wales in the period 1603-1642, that is, up to the end of the Bishop’s War but NOT the Civil Wars. I knew next to nothing on the subject but I am pleasantly surprised at its content. The book is an absolute mine of fascinating information covering what must be every aspect of the Trained Bands, including commentary on the officers and men, their equipment , organisation, how they were mustered, how they served, their drill, the roles of the various civil and military officers, uniforms or lack thereof and colours. An eye opener for me was that for some reason I had never thought about the existence of cavalry amongst the ranks of the Trained Bands. Interesting too is the explanation of the often difficult relationship between the Trained Bands and the King, and the debate about their effectiveness, or more probably not, as a force for dealing with civil unrest or invasion. Perhaps thankfully they were not put to the test.

The book contains no less than nine interesting appendices. Of particular interest is the one detailing the training manuals for Derbyshire and Hampshire, the former appearing far more comprehensive, including as it does quite detailed and informative notes on the roles and responsibilities of the officers, non-commissioned officers and the drummer within the company. The final appendix brought a smile to my face, it being the reproduction of a letter purportedly reporting a sighting fairies drilling in the countryside. Perfectly normal occurrence I’m sure.

As ever a well written and informative book on an overlooked and very English institution, with some nice black and white illustrations. A fascinating book and a must for seventeenth century buffs.

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