Medieval Artillery and Limber

By the time of the Wars of the Roses, artillery was a common sight in warfare. The big bombards were mainly used for sieges and were positioned on the ground, their barrel only adjustable for height. But there were also smaller guns mounted onto carriages which were used in the field. Historians tend to agree that they had not much effect on the outcome of battles. At a rate of about 10 shots per hour and a range of 2000-2500 paces, normally only one salvo was possible before melee began. One exception was before the battle of Barnet, when the Earl of Warwick’s artillery fired all night long only to overshoot the Yorkist position which was much nearer than he thought.

However, artillery was certainly deemed an important asset by the commanders. Men like John Judde, the master of ordnance to Henry VI., spent great amounts of money and effort to produce an impressively large number of guns – 26 serpentines alone in his first month of employment. Raids were undertaken to capture the enemy’s artillery, for example by Sir Richard Beauchamp, the governor of Gloucester, who seized some of the Lancastarian guns as they passed on their way to Tewkesbury.

Such a raid would, of course, make a great scenario for skirmishing, and that is one of the reasons why I decided to make some artillery for our Wars of the Roses games. I wanted to have a siege bombard, a field gun and a limber.



The pavises for the bombard are from Magister Militium, but I exchanged the gun for one from Peter Pig – the latter is larger and more detailed. I mounted it onto a plastic base and added some barricades at the sides and some clutter (a barrel and cannonballs) to provide a good position for the artillery crew. I’ve already a scenario in mind for the bombard: A small group is to sally out of a castle and spike the besiegers’ gun.

The crew is a mixture of different manufacturers, mainly Peter Pig, Essex and Donnington. I also made some sappers, for which I used figures with axes or hatchets from ‘armed peasants’ sets, but they are not painted yet.

Preparing to fire the culverine.
Preparing to fire the culverine.

The culverine is also from Peter Pig.

Now as far as I know there is no manufacturer who makes a medieval limber. There are some illustrations in manuscripts and at least one wargamer has built one from scratch, namely the admirable Simon from the Je lay emprins Blog (he also has another blog well worth visiting). His Burgundian artillery limber is a work of art. However, he used parts from 28mm kits, so I couldn’t just copy his construction.


I based my limber on the same illustration as Simon, an image from a German manuscript of about 1480. There are more contemporary illustrations, and all look a bit different, so there was probably no standard way to limber a gun (more images can be found in the Osprey on Medieval Siege Warfare by Christopher Gravett). I decided to make a simple conversion of a generic 15mm limber I got from Magister Militium. The wheels were too small, so I swapped them for some from a Peter Pig gun. I also changed the shaft to accomodate two horses instead of one. The gun can be put onto the limber to rest in a small notch – an easy way to signify the limbered as well as the unlimbered status of the gun on the table top.

The limbered culverine.
The limbered culverine.
Artillery train on the march.
Artillery train on the march.

Researching, building and painting the artillery was great fun. This is a fascinating topic which provides great inspiration for skirmish scenarios. Let’s see how the guns will fare on the gaming table.


2 thoughts on “Medieval Artillery and Limber

  1. Phil April 5, 2014 / 10:45 am

    Excellent work, especially on the bombard to my mind…

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