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Medieval Military Ranks – Parts, Organization, Care, Strategy, and more

Medieval Military Ranks – Parts, Organization, Care, Strategy, and more

Medieval Military Ranks

Medieval Military Ranks indicates the rank occupied in the military hierarchy and gives the right to command.

In general, it relates to a particular job. Still, staff and services development has led to officers and non-commissioned officers without troops sometimes bearing a specific designation.

Medieval Military Ranks includes:

junior officers, corporals, and master corporals;

NCOs, sergeants and master sergeants, warrant officers and chief warrant officers and majors;

junior officers, second lieutenants, lieutenants, and captains;

senior officers, commanders, lieutenant-colonels and colonels;

general officers

The term “general was first used ” from the 15th century in opposition to the word “particular officers,” which designated the owners of units, the brigade’s generals, division, army corps, and army.

Medieval Military Ranks – Constituent parts of the army

  • The first medieval armies consisted of warlike hordes, as they had already existed in antiquity.
  • For the knights, military service was a matter of duty and honor. They lived to fight.
    Success in battle was the quickest way to gain wealth and recognition.
  • For the mercenaries, however, fighting was part of their profession.
  • Often the younger sons of noblemen hired themselves out as professional soldiers because they had little left after the eldest son had inherited the family.
  • Even for the peasants called up, military service was more of a duty than an honor.
  • In the 14th and 15th centuries, commoners joined the professional army, as the pay was usually well above what more peaceful activities brought in.

Medieval Military Ranks Organization

  • Compared to the massive national armies of modern times, the organization of the feudal armies was simple.
  • There were no standing regiments, divisions, or corps until the end of this age.
  • If a feudal army was called together, each vassal went to the agreed meeting point with his retinue of knights, archers, and foot soldiers.
  • Once there, the troops gathered according to their function in the battle.
  • The knights and their squires marched together, just as the archers and foot soldiers did.
  • In the late Middle Ages, the mercenary profession was highly regarded.
  • So-called advertisers put together mercenary armies, which enabled the wealthy landlords or the respective cities to set up a powerful armed force.
  • There were mercenary armies in which all mercenaries fought with the same weapon.
  • Other mercenary armies were composed of forces from all branches of service.
  • Often calculated, the size of these armies was according to the number of lances present.
  • A lance consisted of a knight and additional mounted troops, foot troops, and long-range weapon units and formed the army’s smallest unit.
  • An army with 100 lances thus comprised a few hundred fighters.
  • The command structure within the feudal army was flat. A large staff to support the military leader and relay his orders was seldom necessary.

Medieval Military Ranks Organization


  • They rarely planned food and medical supplies. In the Middle Ages, armies lived on what they killed or harvested during a siege or a march through an area.
  • The residents of the respective area were often exposed to great hardship by the armies.
  • It made little difference to them whether an enemy or a friendly army plundered their fields.
  • Medieval armies did not linger in one area long as the local food and fodder supplies were quickly exhausted.
  • This particular problem arose during all sieges. If a besieging army did not make provisions for the supply of food and fodder for the siege period, it could run out of stores.
  • The army was a force to lift the siege, which might have been successful.
  • Hygiene was another problem when an army stayed in one place for a long time.
  • A medieval army carried many animals in addition to the horses of the knights.
  • Due to inadequate sewage disposal, diseases such as dysentery often broke out and considerably decimated the army.


  • The Middle Ages’ military strategy aimed to create the economic basis for wealth to send armies into the field.
  • It initially meant devastating or defending land because fields and pastureland formed the basis for all prosperity.
  • Over time, agriculture lost its importance, and the cities became more prosperous and increasingly important as trade and industry flourished.
  • Securing or taking castles was a vital element of the war, as used courts to defend farmland.
  • The warriors who occupied a castle also controlled the surrounding land. As the cities grew, they too were fortified.
  • Gradually, the defense or conquest of cities became more important than the battle for castles.
  • Armies carried out campaigns to take strategically critical fortified points, devastate the country, or prevent the enemy from carrying out such a movement.
  • If the enemy penetrated the country, a direct counterattack prevents the government from being devastated.
  • The Battles’ main aim was to capture and hold strategically essential points in the Holy Land to control the entire country from there.
  • The individual battles should break the respective supremacy of one side or the other.

Combat tactics

  • As the Middle Ages progressed, battles evolved from clashes of ill-organized warbands to skirmishes that use tactics and maneuvering.
  • It was partly due to the army’s differentiation and the further development of the branches of arms and their tactical and strategic use.
  • The first armies of the Dark Ages were made-up of hordes of foot soldiers.
  • With the advent of heavy cavalry, this changed, and the best armies comprised knights.
  • Foot soldiers were carried along to devastate enemy territory and do the heavy lifting of a siege.
  • During the battle, the foot soldiers threatened danger from both sides as the knights tried to engage their opponents in close combat.
  • It was confirmed at the beginning of this age because the foot soldiers were untrained farmers who were obliged to do military service to their feudal lord.
  • Archers also proved useful for the siege but ran the risk of being overrun on the battlefield.
  • Discipline continued to improve as more and more knights fought for pay and less for fame and honor.

Cavalry tactics

  • The cavalry has three groups, or divisions, sent into battle one after the other.
  • The first wave of attacks would either breakthrough or scatter the enemy, thus paving the way for the second or third wave of attacks.
  • Once the enemy fled, the slaughter and murder began.
  • In practice, the knights followed their plans rather than those of the commander.
  • For the knights, fame and honor were paramount, so they tried to push themselves into a good position in the front row of the front division.
  • Overall, victory on the battlefield was behind personal honor. As soon as the enemy was in sight, the knights charged forward, ruining any strategic plan.
  • Occasionally the commanders dismounted their knights to have better control of them.
  • It was possible to improve the chances, especially with smaller armies, which had little hope in a competition of attacks.
  • Dismissed knights supported the armed forces and encouraged the standard foot troops.
  • The knights and other foot soldiers holed up on the battlefield behind stakes or other structures designed to take the force of the cavalry attacks.
  • By the end of the Middle Ages, the significant cavalry had reduced number on the battlefield.

Infantry tactics

  • In the Dark Ages, the tactic used by foot soldiers was to switch to hand-to-hand combat and attack each other.
  • To stop the enemy, the Franks hurled their axes just before engaging in hand-to-hand combat. For the victory, the Warriors relied on their strength and fury.
  • The advent of knights caused the infantry to briefly disappear from the battlefield, primarily since there was simply no such thing as disciplined and well-trained infantry.
  • The foot soldiers of the early medieval armies were primarily farmers who were only sparsely armed with weapons and had received no training whatsoever.
  • The Saxons and Vikings developed a particular defensive formation, the so-called shield wall, in which the men stood next to each other and held their long shields together so that they formed a barrier.
  • It enabled them to protect themselves against archers and cavalry that their armies did not have.
  • In areas that did not have the means to send heavy cavalry into the field, such as mountainous regions and emerging cities, the infantry revived.
  • Inevitably, they found ways and means to send mighty armies with very little or no cavalry into the field.
  • It turned out that horses refused to attack barriers made from sharpened stakes or spearheads.
  • A disciplined force of spearmen was able to stop the heavy elite cavalry of the wealthier nations or feudal lords and cost only a fraction of what had to be raised for heavy cavalry.

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