How were medieval artillery crews and handgonners selected/recruited?

May 2019
391
Earth
Between the 14th-15th centuries (when cannons and handgonnes started becoming notable on European battlefields) how were the crews/gunners chosen?

I imagine that for cannons, the role of master gunner was a specialized profession just like in later centuries, so these guys would have probably been career artillerists. But what about the rest of the gun crew? Was it just as simple as drafting teams of extra muscle from the army, or were there any special traits/qualifications that made guys likely to serve in artillery crews?

And what about the infantrymen who were equipped with handheld firearms? Again, was it just as simple as picking out a squad of random footsoldiers and training them how to load and shoot before a campaign, or was this seen as a more specialized job that only used career/professional handgonners?
 

Tulius

Ad Honorem
May 2016
6,520
Portugal
Between the 14th-15th centuries (when cannons and handgonnes started becoming notable on European battlefields) how were the crews/gunners chosen?

I imagine that for cannons, the role of master gunner was a specialized profession just like in later centuries, so these guys would have probably been career artillerists. But what about the rest of the gun crew? Was it just as simple as drafting teams of extra muscle from the army, or were there any special traits/qualifications that made guys likely to serve in artillery crews?

And what about the infantrymen who were equipped with handheld firearms? Again, was it just as simple as picking out a squad of random footsoldiers and training them how to load and shoot before a campaign, or was this seen as a more specialized job that only used career/professional handgonners?
From memory I recall some situation that “artisans” were contracted to make and operate cannons. The crews were their appendices.

For handguns I really can’t specify.
 
May 2019
391
Earth
From memory I recall some situation that “artisans” were contracted to make and operate cannons. The crews were their appendices.
Hm, good point, I didn't think that maybe those craftsmen and their apprentices could have also been manning the guns in battle after building them. We'll see if anyone here can clarify that or provide more details...

Handgonnes I believe were simple enough to be made by town blacksmiths, at least during the 15th century. I don't know if maybe these same blacksmiths were also recruited to shoot their pieces in battle...
 

Chlodio

Forum Staff
Aug 2016
5,009
Dispargum
From memory I recall some situation that “artisans” were contracted to make and operate cannons. The crews were their appendices.
I recall this also. The very first cannon were too complex for the common man to operate. Only the Medieval equivalent of scientists and engineers (artisans is a good word - specialists) understood how cannon operated. Eventually the knowledge of gunpowder and ballistics filtered down to the common man and the scientists and engineers were replaced by common soldiers.
 
May 2019
391
Earth
I recall this also. The very first cannon were too complex for the common man to operate. Only the Medieval equivalent of scientists and engineers (artisans is a good word - specialists) understood how cannon operated. Eventually the knowledge of gunpowder and ballistics filtered down to the common man and the scientists and engineers were replaced by common soldiers.
Is there an approximate historical point by which you'd say artillery had become well-known enough to be crewed by common soldiers? I'm fairly sure that by the second half of the 16th century, the men needed to move and load the guns were just rank-and-file recruits, or seconded infantrymen and sailors, although the gunners themselves were still educated specialists...
 
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Chlodio

Forum Staff
Aug 2016
5,009
Dispargum
In the 14th century gunners were contracted civilians. I'm not sure when the transition was. I'm sure it was well before 1550 (mid 16th century).
 

Frank81

Ad Honorem
Feb 2010
5,183
Canary Islands-Spain
I recall this also. The very first cannon were too complex for the common man to operate. Only the Medieval equivalent of scientists and engineers (artisans is a good word - specialists) understood how cannon operated. Eventually the knowledge of gunpowder and ballistics filtered down to the common man and the scientists and engineers were replaced by common soldiers.
In that context, the artillery pieces had "personal" names