Medieval Combat

Discussion in 'OFF-Topic / Misc.' started by trackend, Aug 26, 2007.

  1. trackend

    trackend Active Member

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    The Battle of Bosworth is one of the most important battles in English history.
    Bosworth marked the end of the short-lived Plantagenet dynasty and the beginnings of Tudor England. With his death at the battle, Richard III became the last English king to die leading his troops in battle and the last king to have no known resting place.

    By the time of the battle of Bosworth in 1485 many refinements had taken place in both tactics and weaponry.
    The longbow had reached its zenith and the use of it had become well thought out.
    Foot troops had become well disciplined and manuals on the use of the various weapons had been produced.
    The Knight in his amour still commanded respect but was now more vulnerable than ever.

    The Long bow
    Made from Yew the long bow came in various lengths and pulls ranging from 70lbs to 120lbs or sometimes even 140lbs. Each served a purpose on the field of battle the high pull where the medieval sniper and would target the higher ranks to cause confusion and break the chain of command. The lower range 70lb-90lb pull was the standard rifle man of his day. In fact many arrows had angled flights this imparted a spin on the arrow for exactly the same reason as rifling in a modern firearm.
    A good Bowman could have two arrows in flight and one already nocked at the same time. Multiply this by three or four thousand men and the effect can well be imagined. As with modern ammunition arrow heads varied, from the pointed Bodkin Armour piecing to the anti horse Swallowtail and many variation as technology changed. The effective range of a 120lb long bow was 250yards at this range with a Bodkin, the Knights Harness of Amour (the term SUIT (French) was an 18th century invention) could be pierced with ease.

    At the battle of Crecy in 1346 the English archers found that against the angular amour of the French Knights those archers on the flanks had more effect than those in the center due to the flatter surface presented by the Knight. After this, future tactics would mean using initially, the Bodkin archers on the flanks and the Swallow and Broad head archers centrally.
    Another useful lesson learned at Crecy was that the night before the battle it rained heavily the English archers unstrung their bows placing the bowstrings beneath their hats and the French Cross bowmen allowed their strings to become wet. On the day of the battle the rang of the Crossbows had dramatically been shortened and in having to move closer they became easy meat for the Archers.
    This is where the saying keep it under your hatoriginates.

    These images show the Bosworth battle field with Richard III standard flying on the spot where he is believed to have rallied his army.

    A selection of arrow heads and a modern archer dressed in the attire of the day and using a longbow this one has a pull of 80lbs. Also a 70lb Crossbow replica. Easier to use than the long bow but much slower in rate of fire.
    Below these are a re-enacting group dressed in accurate copies depicting Richard III and his subalterns in full Harnesses of Armour attended by a squire.
     

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  2. Konigstiger205

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    Crecy and Azincourt where brilliant victories for the british...good pictures :)
     
  3. The Basket

    The Basket Well-Known Member

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    Oliver Cromwell is the last 'king' to have no resting place.

    Richard III died in battle a brave man. That is something history has forgotten. Henry Tudor was no more King than he was.
     
  4. trackend

    trackend Active Member

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    Cromwell wasn't a King, Basket
     
  5. The Basket

    The Basket Well-Known Member

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    Very correct. But he was a king to me.
    In fact he was more powerful than a king.
    Lord Protector.
    More right to the term King as Henry Tudor. Or William the Conquerer.
    King coz you killed the enemy, not because you were God's annointed.
     
  6. SoD Stitch

    SoD Stitch Banned

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    Excellent! Someone else who like mediaeval history (notice the archaic spelling!) . . .

    I have read new evidence suggesting that the longbowmen at Agincourt were not nearly effective as they were supposed to be; that the arrows that hit the horses caused the French knights to be unhorsed and, hence, easy prey to the English foot soldiers. The claim is that more French knights died on the battlefield due to wounds inflicted by the foot soldier's daggers, than arrows shot by the longbowmen. If anybody else is interested, I should be able to reprint the article here.

    I have fired many bows, but never a longbow; I can't even imagine a bow with a 100 lbs. draw, let alone 120 or 140 lbs. The most I've ever pulled is an 80 lbs. recurve, and that was hard enough!
     
  7. trackend

    trackend Active Member

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    The archer explained to me that the arrow is nocked while still in the ground then drawn aimed and fired in one movement as with 120lb plus pull accuracy is very fleeting before the bow starts wandering all over the place
     
  8. HoHun

    HoHun Active Member

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    Hi Stitch,

    >If anybody else is interested, I should be able to reprint the article here.

    I'd love to see that!

    >The most I've ever pulled is an 80 lbs. recurve, and that was hard enough!

    I believe an 80 lbs recurve takes more energy to pull (and imparts a higher energy to the arrow) than a longbow of the same pull due to the different characteristics of the two bow types. (The recurve has a higher pull in most partially-drawn positions.)

    However, that's just something I read - I never shot a bow in my life :)

    (In an old National Geographic issue, I read that it was possible to identify the remains of some crewmen of the Mary Rose as archers by the way some bones in the left arm and some vertebrae were deformed from life-long training with heavy bows. So you're probably right that it was extremely hard :)

    By the way, when I visited Bayeux a while back, I was deeply impressed by the large number of archers that appear on the bottom fringe of the Bayeux tapestry near the scene where King Harold is slain. (I had never realized that from the small printed reproductions I had seen.) One of the Housecarls is depicted with some half dozen arrows sticking in his shield (and more incoming, I believe). It really made me ponder the role of archers in this battle ... you'd expect the tapestry to favour the noble knights, so if the archers are given that much credit anyway, I can't help but think they might have been decisive after all :)

    Regards,

    Henning (HoHun)
     
  9. SoD Stitch

    SoD Stitch Banned

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    I had read the same thing about the remains of the Mary Rose archers; the same is true of knights, in general. The bones in their right wrist were more developed than the bones in the left wrist from constant practice (and sometimes combat!) with a sword.

    So, you went to Bayeaux? Cool! I'd love to go there . . . They weren't really "knights" back then, that term hadn't come into widespread use yet, they were "men-at-arms"; there wasn't quite as much disparity between the lord (or housecarl or whatever) and his men as there would be in the mid- to late-Middle Ages, so I could see why they would feature the archer prominently in the Bayeaux Tapestry.
     
  10. HoHun

    HoHun Active Member

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    Hi Stitch,

    >The bones in their right wrist were more developed than the bones in the left wrist from constant practice (and sometimes combat!) with a sword.

    Interesting! I'd like to know the proportion of left-handed swordsmen (and if there were any at all :)

    >They weren't really "knights" back then, that term hadn't come into widespread use yet, they were "men-at-arms"; there wasn't quite as much disparity between the lord (or housecarl or whatever) and his men as there would be in the mid- to late-Middle Ages

    Ah, you've got a point there :) According to Bumke's "Höfische Kultur", the German "Ritter" (="rider", meaning "knight") originated in the second half of the 11th century, the French "chevaler" in the 12th century, and "Knight" at the turn of the 11th and 12th century. My impression from Bumke is that the Latin "miles" ("soldier", developed to "serving man" in the sense of "vassal" in the early middle ages, the fief giving them the means to equip for mounted combat so that "miles" came to refer to horsemen) provided the mold for the new terms.

    Online Etymology Dictionary

    The feudal structure seem to go back to the Carolingians, but the concept of chivalry apparently was fully developed only by the 12th century. Bumke cites the poetry of Chrétien de Troyes as catalyst for the development of the ideals of chivalry in Europe in ca. 1160 to 1180.

    Regards,

    Henning (HoHun)
     
  11. SoD Stitch

    SoD Stitch Banned

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    I was wondering about that myself; it only makes sense that there should be a certain proportion of knights who are left-handed, hence, they should have well-developed left wrists, instead of right wrists.

    Yes; that, the French De amore, written by Andreas Cappellanus in the 11th century, and the Roman de la Rose from the 13th century. Chivalry, especially the romantic aspect of it, had a huge impact on Eleanor of Aquitaine and her royal court, both in France and England.
     
  12. plan_D

    plan_D Active Member

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    Stitch,

    The French lost Agincourt due to many reasons. The idea of the longbow cutting down thousands of French knights is one for the glory and history of the English skill at arms; but in actual fact the weather and French arrogance played a much larger part to English victory. Aside from this English position and sturdy hearts are not something to be forgotten.

    The English position was directly across a flat field from the French; which seems foolish at first glance as it would give the French knights chance for an open charge. However, the field was rain sodden and the French knights soon found it so.

    The French seemed to be in a rush at the battle and they charged across the field into a hail of fire from the English longbows. As you rightly said, a lot of the knights were unhorsed from this fire rather than killed. But what did more damage was the weight of armour on the knights and the horses inability to manage the terrain.

    Many French soldiers sank into the ground and ended up drowning the mud as they couldn't get up; some were even trampled to death by their own troops who wanted a go at the English calmly waiting. The charge caused confusion and countless deaths to the French before they even reached the English lines.

    Upon reaching the lines the French knights refused to fight the longbowmen and instead chose to fight men of standing in one on one combat; the only true show of courage. This left the longbowmen and their daggers a free-hand to assault the exhausted French knights much to the dismay of the French after they were routed.

    Had the French knights seen the need to take on the English longbowmen, men of no standing, then they may have routed the English weapon of choice - instead honour and glory stood in the way of victory when the French reached the English lines. But before they even got there, the longbow, muddy ground and French gung-ho assault led to many losses that were easily avoidable.
     
  13. Konigstiger205

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    The French being arrogant....thats a "new" thing....look what happened in WW2 tot them...
     
  14. SoD Stitch

    SoD Stitch Banned

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    Excellent analysis . . .

    Yes, I think the French were their own worst enemy; they essentially lost the battle before it was even joined due to "chivalry". A noble concept with many virtues, but in this case it worked against the French and brought about their defeat.

    It also points up the difference between fighting as a unit (the English), and individual acts of heroism (the French); the English tended to stick together and fight as a unit, partly because they had to, whereas the French did not coordinate their offensive and broke-up into individual groups attacking the English piecemeal. They should've learned their lesson from the Roman legions . . .
     
  15. Soundbreaker Welch?

    Soundbreaker Welch? Active Member

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    I believe many of the french knights weren't even on horses.
     
  16. SoD Stitch

    SoD Stitch Banned

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    Well, yeah, a lot of the horses got shot out from underneath the French knights by the English longbowmen.

    Also, they weren't exactly fighting in "horse country"; as plan_D said above, it was very boggy terrain, with puddles of water, that the horses tended to get stuck in. Unfortunately, dismounted, the French knights didn't fare much better.
     
  17. Aussie1001

    Aussie1001 Member

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    I have heard exactly what plan D said somewhere else as well Documentry on TV........
     
  18. trackend

    trackend Active Member

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    Changing the subject just a tad from longbows large numbers of the foot troops tended to be enlisted or more likely pressed into service from the farming communities so the weapons employed usually started life as a farm impliment the pitch fork or Bill hook being the most common however even simple impliments such as these had drills and manuals written about them and in the case of the Billhook a longer shaft was fitted and and additional spikes or flukes attached the idea being that the weapon could now be used for stabbing and drawing as well as slashing.
    If you had recieved a wound from the drawing of a bill it would be said that,
    "it was a fluke"(hence the saying).
    The Pitch fork was not just for stabbing, wrists and ankles could be broken by catching an opponants limb between the prongs and sharply rotating the fork.
    The picture below shows a typical English bill with the addition of a fluke on the side and stabbing blade or as was known at the time Bayonet (French word origins) fitted.
     

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  19. plan_D

    plan_D Active Member

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    Soundbreaker,

    You're right, there were French knights who were on foot. It was a common thing for knights to dismount before combat; especially in the English armies where horsed knights never seemed to have caught on like in France. The English liked to fight on foot and developed the deadly combination of pike and bow.

    The European armies were certainly in shock with the arrival of the Mongols whom relied on the horse like no other. The mobility of the mongols was like blitzkrieg through eastern Europe.
     
  20. SoD Stitch

    SoD Stitch Banned

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    trackend, was that picture taken at a Renaissance Faire or something? We've got our local Renaissance Faire coming up starting next week, I'd really like to attend again this year.
     
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