The New Model Army

The New Model Army

One of the decisive factors in why the Parliamentarians managed to defeat the Royalists in the English Civil War was the creation of the New Model Army.

Created in February 1645, the New Model Army introduced a new level of professionalism into military units. Its creation by Parliamentarians during the English Civil War came as a result of their desire to build a more disciplined army of professional soldiers which could comprehensively defeat the Royalists.

The Parliamentarians had already achieved military success at the Battle of Marston Moor, but they still could not finish the job: Charles had not yet been fully quashed. The efficacy of this new military unit would transform the English Civil War and give Parliament the upper-hand in the years that remained of the war. Prince Rupert, an important Royalist officer, nick-named New Model Army soldiers ‘Ironsides’ because they cut through enemy forces with such ease.

General Fairfax became commander-in-chief of the army and the command of the cavalry was given to Oliver Cromwell, who had shone as a military leader in the early years of the war.

Charles Landseer, Cromwell in the Battle of Naseby, 1851
Charles Landseer, Cromwell in the Battle of Naseby, 1851

The NMA differed in several ways from fighting units that had come before. Most notably, this new fighting force promoted social mobility: its senior positions were determined by merit, skill and experience, rather than the traditional approach of giving command to people of the highest social rank. For example, one man rose from being a butcher before the war to become one of the NMA’s leading officers.

This meritocratic ethos meant that the best men were promoted regardless of their position in society. The army was well-disciplined and well-trained.

Another factor which strengthened the New Model Army was religious zeal. The unit was infused with religious fervour, with Cromwell wanting his troops to be fellow God fearing men like himself - this would be bind the soldiers but also give them a greater sense of purpose.

The NMA’s trademark was its lightly armed cavalry. The cavalry soldiers that wore the full set of armour would typically be slower and run out of stamina so instead Cromwell’s cavalry wore thick leather jerkins for protection. This speedy cavalry force was instrumental in the New Model Army’s success.

Equipped with its faster cavalry and more disciplined troops, the New Model Army also devised new and effective tactics. The NMA would typically target an opposition’s flanks with their quick horsemen. Moreover, by attacking from the side Cromwell and co could negate the threat posed by the dangerous royalist artillery and muskets units, which were located front and centre.

The NMA had also made a rule not to chase after retreating forces; this was something that both sides had fallen foul of in earlier battles, with soldiers opting to chasing down the fleeing opposition rather than lending their help to finish the battle. These tactics came from clear leadership, strong discipline and careful planning

The New Model Army first saw action at the Battle of Naseby, which took place in June 1645. It was a resounding success: the Royalists suffered a heavy defeat, with almost 1,000 Royalist soldiers killed and a further 4,500 taken prisoner. It was a decisive victory that would well and truly turn the war in the Parliamentarians’ favour, particularly because the NMA managed to make away with the majority of the Royalists’ guns and ammo.

See also: Second English Civil War

MLA Citation/Reference

"The New Model Army". HistoryLearning.com. 2019. Web.