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Medieval Mythbusting - Arrows vs. Armour

Discussion in 'Non-Firearm Weapons' started by hso, Sep 7, 2019.

  1. hso

    hso Moderator Staff Member

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  2. The Evangelist Cowboy

    The Evangelist Cowboy Member

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    Is anybody going to San Antone?
    Awesome to see, I am crap with a bow, wouldnt mind a crossbow though.
     
  3. bikerdoc

    bikerdoc Moderator Staff Member

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    Interesting. I watched it twice.
    We are still doing the same thing today, only with bullets and plate carriers.
    I remember the old time flac vests. They were hot and heavy and could be defeated with a well placed 7.62 X 39 round.
     
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  4. Slamfire

    Slamfire Member

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    The archer is using a 160 lb pull bow. That is amazing!
     
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  5. lemaymiami

    lemaymiami Member

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    From what I've read back when the English longbow was one of the most feared weapons of war... Ordinary farmers and tradesmen were encouraged to start their archery training very young since that was the only way to grow archers that could pull and properly shoot that war bow... Give one to anyone that hadn't grown up working heavy bows and they simply could not draw it properly. They were that strong....

    After writing the above... I finally watched the video... Here's a few thoughts from someone that actually wore body armor on the street for many years (I know different world - but some basics never change...). First off, body armor works great - where it is struck by the weaponry it's meant to protect against... The real problem is that you just can't cover all the spots where an injury could either disable or kill you outright... More than one officer killed in my area by gunfire was wearing a vest -but got hit where the vest wasn't.... (in my era in south Florida, 1973 to 1995 we lost three a year -every year... on the street, counting Dade and Broward as a single entity...).

    Second thought and very important for that time period... Archers were death on horses and that's the first step to defeating an armored knight on horseback... Kill the horse... Along with that is that armor, particularly armor way back when was heavy - heavy enough that sustained combat, particularly on foot... would just exhaust your knight (simply watch the fourth quarter of any NFL game and notice how much the linemen are slowed down in hot weather in those final minutes of any game..).

    Most medieval combat wasn't done by armored knights at all - it was done by the poor foot soldiers who wouldn't have very effective armor at all. For those poor guys - massed arrows were a nightmare since they killed before you could get into range to use your weapons.... Add to that a soft field which turned into mud to slow combatants down and you had the makings of an Agincourt... One of my favorite authors who wrote about that time period, Bernard Cornwell, is well worth a read on those times. He's pretty accurate historically...

    I greatly enjoyed the video but thought that simply focusing on the armor of the time didn't tell the whole story... Back then there were armored knights - and armored knights on horseback - but they were the minority in each army. It was the peasants on foot that made the majority of the troops in the field (sounds familiar doesn't it...).
     
    Last edited: Sep 8, 2019
  6. bannockburn

    bannockburn Member

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    hso

    Thanks for the excellent video! Very interesting stuff to think about!
     
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  7. JeffG

    JeffG Member

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    It's amazing the forged bodkin broadhead didn't penetrate the breastplate. A testament to armor makers!
     
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  8. CapnMac

    CapnMac Member

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    That's why they focused o nAgincurt, the two sides' strength is (moderately well) agreed upon--Henry having 5-6000 archers facing 1200-3000 French archers (but, many of those may have been in the baggage, in reserve).

    The French may have had from 12,000 t 20,000 troops, but their vanguard was probably less than 300 wide (and possibly no more than 200 abreast) The English archers were arrayed in four groups on both wings, to funnel the French down the center of the valley to the English position. It's presumed that the English would have been able to get at least 50% of their archers a clean shot and the ranks of 200-300 French in their files 10 or 20 (or 30) deep.

    So, that's somewhere between 2000 and 3000 arrows dropping into that target box. If we assign a 25% CEP for the front line [2000 arrows, 200 targets, 25% n target] that's 2.5 arrows per target. Per nocking.

    It was not rifle fire, but artillery.
     
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  9. CapnMac

    CapnMac Member

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    Ok, glad this popped up--been meaning to watch the video (it;s been in my YT recommendations for most of a week).
    I like Tod's videos.
    And, it was kind of amazing too, as I had seen videos from each of the people excpet the Canadian professor.

    They are likely to need several more videos. (Yay, cool! [:)] )
    There's a great deal f debate about how many of the French were on horse; and more thna passing debate about how many were raised from page or squire to Hommes d'armes (Chevalier was a more complicated status--yet a different pile of debates).
    SO, many of the French might have been standing rather than riding. Which changes the exposure to arrows. More than some debate on hw many of the French nly had a cuirass and helm and no other plate protection.
     
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  10. DocRock

    DocRock Member

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    Great video and, I think, fairly conclusive on the question of longbow vs late medieval steel armor.

    Armored knights were like armor in modern armies. Meant to bring mobility and a heavy punch to the table. And they needed the support of infantry to exploit holes they may have punched in enemy formations. As noted above, infantry will not have had the armor of the knights and would be very vulnerable to English archers. The archers could break up infantry formations before armored knights could make contact with their own front lines, isolating the armored cavalry,

    What the chaps need to test next is period horse armor. Because an armored knight with a dead, wounded or immobile horse is a dead man walking. Put some arrows into his horse and said knight becomes a rather immobile target with limited visibility, vulnerable to the pike or the bill hook.
     
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  11. Nuclear

    Nuclear Member

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    Maybe the archers concentrated on head (eye openings) and seam shots. One would be an immediate kill shot, and the other would disabling through joint damage or internal injuries.

    The arrow speeds in the video were about half what a modern crossbow can generate. I wonder what period crossbows were capable of, and did those actually penetrate equivalent armor?
     
  12. lemaymiami

    lemaymiami Member

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    Maybe... but not very likely... The way you defeated an armed knight on horseback was to either un-horse him - or just kill the horse... Once he's on foot the foot soldiers dragged him down (any way possible...) then stuck nasty sharp things in any opening until they were dead or dying or battered him to death using a sledge hammer type attack... Not very sophisticated but terribly effective if Agincourt is any example of what happened to an armored knight in a conflict if he wasn't very careful to choose his ground and avoid archers killing his horse from a distance...

    Remember as well that almost any wound in those days might not be survivable and that the armor they wore in some cases was so heavy that a knight had to be winched up onto the horse (and no matter what movies show - a knight's war horse had a lot more in common with a Clydesdale than some perfect looking Arabian....). If you could get a knight down he was in big trouble... And if you could get them on foot in soft or muddy terrain - your job was half done before you ever struck the first blow....

    Not exactly how the movies show it....
     
  13. Shanghai McCoy

    Shanghai McCoy Member

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    I shoot traditional archery and know a guy who makes and shoots yew English war bows based on the ones recovered from the Mary Rose. He also forges the bodkin points and builds his arrows which are accurate replicas to ones that were used. These arrows are ash shafts that are about 1/2" in diameter and the points are forged steel and heavy. watching him draw and shoot them from a 120# bow is amazing. The fact that he's in his late 50's and of average size is even more humbling.
    For the most part the war bow was employed as a distance weapon that provided plunging fire into the ranks of foot and mounted soldiers. Watching John's arrows coming down 200 yards from where he's shooting them from, one appreciates how they must have looked to a foe who was marching into them...
     
    Last edited: Sep 10, 2019
  14. theotherwaldo

    theotherwaldo Member

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    140 pound draw!! :eek:
    My wimpy 50 pound canvas-backed red oak bow is about all that I can handle and hit a target consistently!
    I could probably go 75 pounds just volley firing, but 140 pounds!!!
     
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  15. dh1633pm

    dh1633pm Member

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    That was a cool video. I couldn't imagine trying to pull that draw string back. Let along hit consistently. I bet those shots hurt the wearer of the Armour as well.
     
  16. Shanghai McCoy

    Shanghai McCoy Member

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    The trick to drawing the heavy bows, as John puts it, is putting your whole body into the bow. As in not just pulling back the string. It's an art/skill only mastered with much practice.
    I have read that the archers of the English archer was required by royal edict to practice. When graves of that era are discovered and the remains examined they can tell if it was an archer by various "deformities" in the bones. This has been attributed to the shooting of the war bow so much.

    Once, a few years back, John let me try a few shots with his "light", 85" draw, longbow. It was a less than impressive showing on my part... :oops:
     
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  17. theotherwaldo

    theotherwaldo Member

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    -Maybe if my left shoulder were in better shape... .
     
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  18. Jim Watson

    Jim Watson Member

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    I doubt it. The archer in the video was doing well to hold on the breastplate at rather close range.

    Tod did a video with a 1250 lb windlass crossbow, we shall have to check it out.

    I once read that armor was proof tested with a crossbow. The bolt had the armorers touchmark on the point, so it left an actual proof mark.
     
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  19. kBob

    kBob Member

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    During Henry V and many later English kings Reigns archery was the ONLY sport allowed on Sunday. Villages of a certain size were required to maintain archery butts, the mounds of clean stone free dirt that allowed recovery of fired arrows in good and reusable condition to allow practice of flat shooting ( low angle direct fire) the traditional targets were set up in front of these butts so those that missed the target did not fly off and become either lost in the turf or bent and broken from skimming the ground.

    Men also practiced firing at high angles to provide plunging fire generally at a post with a small flag (sound familiar to those that golf?) with a small and large circle around it on the ground.

    There was also clout shooting, a game where a small mound of dirt (the clout)was the target at some distant unknown range generally so far that hitting it with the first shot was near impossible. These were frequently marked by a small flag on a staff. One fired to get as close as one could and then walked to where ones arrow was stuck up in the ground then fired again to hit the clout or get close enough for an easy flat shot. From the clout one could see another clout in the distance and the drill was repeated. One strove to take the least total shots for the course.

    Oh wait... that does sound like golf, doesn't it? Any guess where a bunch of Scots that were forbidden to practice archery on Sunday after certain misunderstandings with the English may have gotten the idea for golf?

    Boys too young to pull a bow worth calling a bow were encouraged to match skills at simply holding a straight stick vertically absolutely still. One wonders how many fights started among boys arguing about who moved and which way as two boys stood facing and holding their sticks before them in line with one anothers'. Like the gentleman in the video by age 12 they were pulling bows and progressively stronger bows up to adulthood.

    From the old Danelaw history of the earlier English history , house holders were required to be armed with arms appropriate to their "condition" or wealth based on property value and income. I rather imagine that compared to drilling with the pike that archery seemed a lot more like a fun way to spend Sunday after noon....

    Oddly working to make bows, strings, or arrows were all still forbidden on Sunday as was any other work not of the getting one's ox from a ditch sort of work and that was rigidly enforced

    -kBob
     
  20. Shanghai McCoy

    Shanghai McCoy Member

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    Mine is the right shoulder...:(
    But I did walk and shoot a 3D course Sunday with my old 30# Howat Stick. :thumbup:
     
  21. bannockburn

    bannockburn Member

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    I remember reading somewhere that a typical knight had four horses. One smaller horse for transporting the knight, one for use as a pack horse, one larger draft horse for practice and another one just for combat.
     
  22. Jim Watson

    Jim Watson Member

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    That is a lot of horseflesh. I knew of two, his palfrey for general transportation, and his charger.
    Old saying, it is expensive to support cavalry, the mount eats like a horse and the trooper is worse.
    There was the (fictional) knight who was a second son. Of course his elder brother got the title and the estate but Dad was thoughtful enough to leave the second son enough money for a suit of armor and a good horse so he wouldn't have to join a monastery.
     
  23. AlexanderA
    • Contributing Member

    AlexanderA Member

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    The English longbow was a formidable weapon. Soon after Jamestown was established, the Virginia Company in England decided to send over a shipment of longbows to enhance the colony's armory. When the settlers heard of this, they became alarmed.The thinking of the colonists was that if a longbow fell into the hands of the Indians, they might be able to "reverse engineer" it and tip the balance of power. Firearms weren't a problem if they fell into the hands of the Indians -- the Indians wouldn't be able to duplicate gunpowder or fabricate metal. So, the colonists sent out a ship to intercept the supply ship, and the longbows were offloaded in Bermuda (which was a sort of "forward base").
     
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  24. toivo

    toivo Member

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    That's it in a nutshell. Knights were tanks.
     
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  25. theotherwaldo

    theotherwaldo Member

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    -And armored knights were so important that many nations had a forced breeding program to raise more chargers. It was decreed that any horse that was undersized or otherwise undesirable could not be allowed to reproduce.
     
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