Who were they?

The spearmen were foot soldiers, the backbone of the Scottish army. Armed with long, iron-tipped spears, spearmen carried a sword or hand axe as well, for close quarters combat. Better-equipped men wore armour such as a helmet, gauntlets or the padded gambeson. They likely stood in the front ranks, while those with little or no armour would stand behind them.

The Scots’ tried and tested method of deploying spearmen was to arrange them into a schiltron: a densely packed and deadly mass of men presenting a forest of spears to the enemy. One Scottish source described a schiltron as looking a bit like a hedgehog! It was designed as a defensive strategy, capable of absorbing the force of a cavalry charge and hacking away at its strength. They could simply sit tight, or could, with practice, move across a battlefield.

At Bannockburn

The Scottish spearmen were the key to victory. Moray’s schiltron defeated Clifford’s cavalry on 23 June, a grave shock to the English. On 24 June, schiltrons led by Moray and Edward Bruce advanced on the English lines, in a terrifying and unexpectedly aggressive move. Gloucester charged, but was killed with many other English horsemen. The Scottish spearmen then advanced, squeezing the English into a narrow space between the Bannock Burn and the Pelstream.