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Thread: New Warbow testing publication

  1. #26
    Quote Originally Posted by Curt Cummins View Post
    Jonathan,

    I should learn to read all the posts before writing my replies - we all seem to be in perfect agreement about how the bows were used and what they would actually do against plate armor.
    By and large, I think you're right, but I do think you are still making some fairly bold statements that aren't supported by the lion's share of the evidence.

    If some people are claiming that the arrows were effective in piercing the breastplates and strewing the field with dead and transfixed knights, they are in error and the accounts of the day do not back them up.
    This was the origin of your initial confusion I think - you and I have both come in to a long-running discussion at quite a late stage. I was aware of the extraordinary claims made previously, and had read this latest report that seemed to contradict what its own data was suggesting - that arrows cannot as a rule penetrate plate armour.

    Agincourt- the French knights and squires attacked on foot - they finally learned about horses and longbows - the field was muddy - the battle line compressed due to Henry's choice of ground to fight on - the English were much better generals.
    I am not up to speed on Agincourt specifically, but had read somewhere that the French dismounted specifically to avoid said arrows. Certainly the battle seems to have been won against the odds and largely thanks to tactical and strategic choices by both sides. Individual weapons and even classes of soldier don't swing whole battles nearly as often as such choices, as well as the numbers, training level, experience and cohesion of the forces present.

    The archers were behind palisades and stopped the foot charge at the barrier. The compressed front line of the French charge bogged down in the face of the arrow fire and the deep mud. The English foot attacked the numerically superior French from the flanks - the issue was in doubt.

    The archers left the palisades and attacked the French with their mauls and knives. The influx of fresh troops carried the day for the English.
    You've said it yourself, haven't you? With their mauls and knives. influx of fresh troops. Brave and capable individuals doing their bit to carry the day, not some technological wonder-weapon. Assuming there was the direct-fire defence by the archers and that was significant in slowing the advance and breaking up the attacking formation, this is a different proposition and a different argument. I don't have the knowledge of the battle to pursue that argument, but would be interested to know if there's a consensus as to how big a part the archers played in the battle.

    The bow won the day obliquely by forcing the French to abandon their heavy cavalry charge and advance on foot on ground that worked against them.
    As I say, I had though that the French deliberately dismounted in anticipation of facing arrows. Perhaps that's the same thing, I'm not sure. But I'd tend to credit the English footsoldiers with carrying the resulting toe-toe fight in the mud at least as much as the presence and actions of the archers. I need to catch up with my reading, certainly.

    One point - the fact that visors and joints were penetrated was not incredibly bad luck on the part of the knight. the real strength of the long bow, was it's ability to put large numbers of heavy arrows on the target - thereby greatly increasing the chances of such a hit. These strikes were by design, not happenstance.
    In a manner of speaking, yes. Once more we move away from "can an arrow penetrate plate and incapacitate a soldier?" to "was archery of merit on the battlefield". This is really a separate, and yet closely related, debate. The former being testable, the latter not so much.

    I would also guess that with so many arrows being fired at so many suits of armor occasionally a well made arrow would strike a poorly constructed or previously damaged breastplate and punch right through it. This probably gave rise to some of these extravagant claims.
    That and the low-probability penetration of breaths and eye slits, yes, I agree. It's bound to have happened. Doesn't reflect on the plate penetration issue. Two different arguments.

    At Crecy, Poitiers and Agincourt the English deliberately chose ground to fight on that forced the French to bunch up - thus giving the archers a smaller area to cover and concentrating their fire.
    And I've read that archery could add to such an effect - one of its advantages and no doubt part of a valid argument for archery being a significant contributor to English victories. Whether or not you think testing arrows vs plate is a worthwhile exercise in a battlefield context (and in many ways I'm not sure it is) I'm just saying let's not complicate the issue by widening the focus - in this thread at least. This was opened to discuss the recent testing, not medieval warfare per se.

  2. #27
    Quote Originally Posted by Curt Cummins View Post
    Erik,

    My references were specific to specific historical events - Crecy, Poitiers, and Agincourt, not general as in "any old arrow fired from any old sort of bow will pierce any old sort of mail. The armor would have been the armor of the day, the bows and arrows the typical bow and arrow of the day for the English longbowmen - 250 grain -1/2 inch diameter clothyard shafts tipped with forged bodkins shot from 6ft + long yew selfbows with pull strengths between 100 and 200 pounds.

    Now I don't claim to be any sort of expert on armor or its construction but didn't plate become popular, at least in part due to the effectiveness of the effectiveness of the longbow, Arab and Turkish composite bows and the crossbow against mail.
    That was the assumption, but the evidence doesn't seem to back it up. Check the armour FAQ - it was primarily down to economics vs effectiveness. Mail/padding combinations seem to have been quite adequate, but plate became more economic as time went on.

    The written records of the day are filled with accounts mail pierced by arrows.
    Again, check the FAQ - there are many more accounts of it protecting the wearer. Even with piercing (as long bodkins might manage), the padding would complete the protective process and either shed the arrow or result in "human porcupine" effects as witnessed in some accounts (in the FAQ).

    Indeed the bodkin was developed specifically to penetrate mail - the long slender head punching through the links. It was added to the bowman's arsenal to complement the broadhead once a bow powerful enough to drive it through mail was developed.
    A bold assertion, but where's the evidence? What you state has been surmised, but not confirmed, in fact evidence suggests something different, such as long bodkins being "flight arrows" for harrying the enemy. They certainly haven't been found to be hard enough to defeat plate, and AFAIK struggle with quality, properly backed mail. Hang on, how did we get on to discussing arrows vs mail???!

    Are you saying flatly that no bodkin shot from any historical longbow bows could pierce any mail? If so, why was plate developed?
    Begging the question there I think. Please see that FAQ. The "arms race" idea is a modern notion, though it may tell part of the story in certain regions/contexts.

    Are you saying that no arrow from any longbow ever seriously wounded or killed any man protected by armor whether it was mail or plate?
    Sorry to butt in, but clearly he isn't, you've "strawmanned" him there. Low quality armour, weakened armour, fluke hits, inadequately protected joint areas, targets not fully armoured, those who have raised their visor or discarded their headgear, the list goes on. The key word for me at least is reliably. As in, could arrows reliably penetrate armour and incapacitate or kill a man wearing it? And as you've stated yourself, the answer is a resounding "no". The relevance of that to the battlefield where other factors (e.g. the sheer number of arrows fired etc) come in to play, is debatable.

    If so, how did the English win the battles in question, and why did they and the French credit the victories in large part to the bow? Was everybody who wrote accounts of these fights and the effectiveness of the bow lying?
    Textbook begging the question there, I'm afraid. And though some accounts may be outright "lies", there are many more innocent explanations for our receiving a skewed picture from such sources (if we don't assess and take them all into account). Anecdotal evidence is well documented as extremely unreliable. It's used historically for want of other evidence, and because critically appraised, it can add to our understanding, if only of what people thought was possible. Then there's the aspect you've mentioned - selective validation of relatively unusual kills and woundings, and the visually impressive nature of archery adding to a certain mythos about the effectiveness of the bow itself. It's how we've arrived at this debate in the first place (via those wonderful Victorians and role-players ).
    Last edited by Jonathan S Ferguson; 08-10-2007 at 10:21 AM.

  3. #28
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    Sorry,

    Erik,

    Sorry about the mistakes in the last post, my wife kicked me off the computer before I could edit my remarks.

    At this point we seem to be squaring off on somewhat of an emotional level- armor nuts vs bow geek and I certainly don't want to push anyone into a feeding frenzy.

    I'm beginning to feel like the Lone Ranger here, so let me summarize my position and then I'll bow out and leave the field to gentlemen for the nonce.

    1. I personally am not making any extravagant claims about the longbow.

    I believe that a lot of the claims made then and now as to the penetrating power of the longbow were and are hype.

    The ones made during the period by the English were just good psychology -it never hurts to have your enemy afraid of you going into a fight.

    The counter claims made by the French were done for the same reason, "He never laid a glove on me. I slipped".

    The reason for ones made today totally escape me.

    2. If some people are claiming that bowmen routinely killed people in full plate armor, or in mail, dead with one well placed arrow they are wrong. Please don't attribute such claims to me because I'm not making them.

    3. No test is ever going to completely satsify either side of this debate because there are too many variables and we don't have that time machine.

    4. Common sense tells me that the bows were able to inflict death and wounds on men in armor or they wouldn't have been used against them. Nobody is going to be intimidated very long by a weapon that can't hurt them . Certainly not seasoned warriors pumped up by adrenalin in a battle. How do use a bow to break up a formation unless you're hurting people? I'm sorry but I just can't buy off on annoyance factor.

    5. There is ample written evidence from the day to back up point number 4 so I'm stating it as a fact. English longbowmen shooting arrows at armored French fighters , both on foot and horseback killed and wounded them in substantial
    numbers.

    All the hype and exageration aside, this is a historical fact.

    Did the longbow sweep the field and leave the dead in windrows - absolutely not - and the historical record does not back up that claim.

    It did sweep the field of horses however.

    6. The longbow was a wonder weapon in its day, but not because it had mystical powers to pierce even the heaviest armor.

    Like any weapon, offensive or defensive, it had its limitations. It ranks as a wonder because it forced a change in tactics and armor onto the battlefield to counter it. It shares this distinction with many other innovations in weapons and armor.

    Anyone who argues against the effectiveness of armor to protect the wearer in battle is seriously misinformed. Please note that I say armor -inclusive - mail, lamellar - scale - plate etc. You don't need to justify the use of armor to me, it justifies itself in that it works, thats why they used it. That's why my son wore Kevlar in Iraq, it still works.

    Any one who argues that armor was or is completely impervious to the projectile weapons arrayed against it is likewise misinformed. That's why they used them then and that's why we use them now.

    Innovations in one always sparks innovations in the other.

    Finally, I love this sort of argument. I had to crack the books last night and re read accounts of the battles etc. to make sure I knew what I was talking about and I had to think out my position and formulate my points.

    This sort of exercise, whether we reach an agreement or not, is good for us.

    So, my thanks for a stimulating debate.

    Respectfully,

    Curt Cummins

  4. #29
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    Parthian Shot

    Jonathan,

    My brain is about to explode here.

    I got off track in the beginning because I missed the point of the opening argument - that the tests seemed to show that the longbow could not reliably penetrate the plate and cause wounds even though the people running the tests interpreted them to show that they could.

    The armor community on this forum seems to have taken umbrage with this and I agree with their assesment of these tests.

    If I have understood this correctly, and I stress the if, the people running the test sort of refused to look at what they had because it refuted their premise that arrows could reliably pierce plate.

    I missed this point and started off on the wrong foot by defending the ability of the bow to defeat the armor as a unit by attacking its weak spots even if it can't pierce the plate when the discussion was "will the arrow pierce the plate?".

    This certainly was changing the topic and was due to in attention my part, and I apologize.

    Now at this point, I got the impression that the armor people are saying - arrows won't pierce plate - the tests prove it. ergo the archers couldn't have affected the course of battle and the bow is an ineffective weapon because it couldn't hurt anyone so it was all hype.

    Did I misunderstand the jist of the comments or is this correct?

    I certainly would disagree with that notion.

    From there forward, I don't see how you can discuss the overall effectiveness of a weapon without discussing how it was used, what tactics were used with it. How it fit in to the order of battle etc.

    However this is certainly a separate notion from the original point of this thread about the validity of the tests.

    Curt

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    Curt,

    You and I are more in agreement than we are not. My contention through every one of these debates is that mail could sometimes be defeated by arrows and vice versa. To go any further than that premise in either direction requires a good deal of testing. Some of which I will be doing in the very near future. With mail that is. I mean honestly, who gives a rip about plate anyway.

    I would however, like to know more about these longbows of yours. You can shoot me an e-mail if you wish. erikdschmid@charter.net

    Oh, and about the specifics you mentioned... They still aren't that specific. This is one of those things that is going to require a whole lot of research. But hey, research is fun is it not?

  6. #31
    Quote Originally Posted by Curt Cummins View Post
    Jonathan,

    My brain is about to explode here.
    No need Curt, there's no major conflict going on here that I can see.

    I got off track in the beginning because I missed the point of the opening argument - that the tests seemed to show that the longbow could not reliably penetrate the plate and cause wounds even though the people running the tests interpreted them to show that they could.
    That's right. But you really should read said article or at least Dan's precis of it. The authors come to a quite different conclusion than he did, from their own data. He suggest that this might be due to "pro-arrow" bias, and I agree. I see nothing in their data to suggest that war bow arrows could penetrate 2 and 3mm plate, and evidence to suggest the penetrations achieved on thinner plate might be quite misleading. Hence the entrenched arrows>plate fans will agree with the interpretation, and the sceptics and "armour fans" that you refer to will focus on the data and compare with other tests. I'm not suggesting there isn't bias on both sides, just that for this specific claim the evidence is in favour of the armour.

    The armor community on this forum seems to have taken umbrage with this and I agree with their assesment of these tests.
    I am not part of any such "community"; I am an interested and neutral party, and a sceptic first and foremost. I assess evidence and come to a conclusion, to be modified in light of further evidence.

    If I have understood this correctly, and I stress the if, the people running the test sort of refused to look at what they had because it refuted their premise that arrows could reliably pierce plate.
    That seems to be the case, without wishing to cast aspertions. They appear to have carried into the tests significant confirmation bias and have read things into the data, and gone beyond what it's possible to say from it. But it would would be just as wrong to draw a conclusion that arrows, war bows, or archers were somehow combat ineffective.

    I missed this point and started off on the wrong foot by defending the ability of the bow to defeat the armor as a unit by attacking its weak spots even if it can't pierce the plate when the discussion was "will the arrow pierce the plate?".
    Yes, but don't worry, it's easy to jump into threads like this when they deal with a "hot" topic, and you think they're leading somewhere you don't like.

    This certainly was changing the topic and was due to in attention my part, and I apologize.
    No need!

    Now at this point, I got the impression that the armor people are saying - arrows won't pierce plate - the tests prove it.
    Not an "armour" person, but I'm saying that.

    [quote]...ergo the archers couldn't have affected the course of battle and the bow is an ineffective weapon because it couldn't hurt anyone so it was all hype.

    Did I misunderstand the jist of the comments or is this correct?
    No, you're constructing a straw man argument there. I have attempted to get across that this is not an argument of mine. The one thing does not follow from the other. If you see plate armour penetration as the key to the arrow's merits on the battlefield, then yes, it would follow. Apparently that's not what you believe though.

    From there forward, I don't see how you can discuss the overall effectiveness of a weapon without discussing how it was used, what tactics were used with it. How it fit in to the order of battle etc.
    You're not wrong. It may be of very little use to demonstrate the arrow's ineffectiveness against plate, because it can't hope to cover the various other attributes they may or may not have (and it certainly had some). But the claims keep being made, and people on both sides and beyond (especially the layman) continue to express interest in testing them, whether informally on TV or under more empirical conditions. I know I am! The wider argument of the role of archery is far more open to subjective interpretation and reassessment of historical evidence - just as any other type of combatant is critically looked at. But I'm not really qualified to put anything new forward on that subject.

    However this is certainly a separate notion from the original point of this thread about the validity of the tests.
    Exactly. As interesting as this has been, I'd suggest that you need to get hold of a copy of the article before commenting further. You can grab a copy online for $28 here.

  7. #32
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    Curt, not to argue the technical aspects ad nauseam but some of your statements regarding the tactical issues and historical context should be examined in a little more detail.

    Crecy and Agincourt were just two battles and arguably none of them was a clear cut victory for the longbow. There were in fact encounters where the longbow played a more decisive role. Scotland in particular as massed archery proved much deadlier against the lightly armored Scottish pikemen (for example Falkirk, Dupplin Moor, Halidon Hill).

    Just as importanly, there were many cases when the English archers had far less effect on the enemy than expected and sometimes barely any at all. This was sometimes a matter of less than perfect tactical deployment, terrain that did not favor the English so decisively or just a matter of not having enough archers (or enough good ones) at hand. At Poitiers the arrows simply bounced off the heavily armored French knights and the fighting quickly went hand-to-hand. Same at Verneuil, even worse at Flodden. This is not the time or place to go into a heavyweight scholarly discussion on late medieval warfare but it does show that there was more to it than Crecy and Agincourt and that the longbow was far from the wonder weapon it is sometimes said to be.

    Second, though the English tactics and the longbow unquestionably did their part in the infantry revolution during the 14th c. it was merely a sideshow if you look at the broad picture. The real impulse came from the Continent. Most notably the Flemish pikemen (and everyone else who copied them) and Swiss halberdiers (who incidentally adopted the pike full scale only much later). Though missile weapons, be it the longbow or the gun, provided valuable support it was heavy infantry armed with polearms that ultimately reigned supreme when properly led. This holds just as true for the English who understood intimately that their archers absolutely needed a strong screen of heavy infantry and dismounted men-at-arms.

    Third, any claim of the longbow being a "wonder weapon" of the middle ages should take into account a few important facts. The longbow had been around since the Neolithic and was familiar to pretty much all Europeans. But only the English managed to put it to really effective use, and then only for a relatively short period of time.

    Consider the simple fact that very few European nations other than English even tried to adopt the longbow en masse. Yes, the French did experiment with it but with poor results. Then the Burgundians, who through close contact with the English went to quite great lengths to imitate English tactics during the second and third quarter of the 15th c. Unfortunately, at that time the English tactical concept as well as the longbow itself were already outdated. So the Burgundians paid dearly for their military experiments when their armies were completely destroyed by the Swiss.

    Far from being an innovative superweapon the longbow was really considered quite primitive on the Continent. It is interesting that literally millions of longbows were made for export to England in central Europe but were never used locally for military purposes. There were simply better alternatives available and warfare generally evolved in a different direction. So it is fascinating that the English managed to put such a simple weapon to such good use. But then again, it was not a flawless concept and once their enemies devised effective countermeasures it was the English who faced total failure on the Continent by the late stages of the Hundred Years' War.
    Last edited by Tomaz Lazar; 08-10-2007 at 02:48 PM.

  8. #33
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    Erik and Jonathan

    Erik

    I'll post some pictures of the bows as soon as I can figure out how to, I'm new to these forums and don't how to use them properly as you amy have guessed.

    My longbows are not yew self bows - they are all wood laminate bows similar to the Victorian era / Howard Hill style. No fiberglass, mostly hickory and lemonwood.

    How do you guys highlight my comments to address them point by point? I can't seem to figure out how to do that and it is causing some confusion.

    When I wrote to Jonathan the line about the jist of the comments, I wasn't referring to him, but the other posts in general -not a specific post of his. He and I seem to be pretty much in agreement on general ideas.

    This would be a lot easier over a couple of cold beers.

    By the way, if you folks decide to try these tests yourselves, I'll kick in a 150 lb bow but you'll have to find somebody else to shoot it. I have some yew so I shoul be able to get you something that functionally close to the original if not visually.

    Curt

  9. #34
    Beer sounds good, but the virtual stuff doesn't taste as good I find

    Doing my best MS Office talking paperclip impression, it looks like you're struggling with the quote function...just hit the "quote" button instead of "reply", and you'll see [quote] tags around the block of text you're replying to. You can add a block reply underneath, or break up the block with further tags - select a block and click the little speech-bubble quote button to add the start and end tags for each block.

    I see Tomasz has "gone there" and addressed the wider issue of longbow use. I can't really add to that, and have made my thoughts on this article (for what they are worth) quite clear, so there may not be much more I can say of relevance at this point. But I will watch with interest!
    Last edited by Jonathan S Ferguson; 08-10-2007 at 03:17 PM. Reason: clarification of quote system

  10. #35
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    Quote Originally Posted by Tomaz Lazar View Post
    Curt, not to argue the technical aspects ad nauseam but some of your statements regarding the tactical issues and historical context should be examined in a little more detail.

    Crecy and Agincourt were just two battles and arguably none of them was a clear cut victory for the longbow. There were in fact encounters where the longbow played a more decisive role. Scotland in particular as massed archery proved much deadlier against the lightly armored Scottish pikemen (for example Falkirk, Dupplin Moor, Halidon Hill).

    Reply - Tomaz

    I was referencing the 100 Years War battles specfically because we were discussing the bow vs plate.

    Just as importanly, there were many cases when the English archers had far less effect on the enemy than expected and sometimes barely any at all. This was sometimes a matter of less than perfect tactical deployment, terrain that did not favor the English so decisively or just a matter of not having enough archers (or enough good ones) at hand. At Poitiers the arrows simply bounced off the heavily armored French knights and the fighting quickly went hand-to-hand. Same at Verneuil, even worse at Flodden. This is not the time or place to go into a heavyweight scholarly discussion on late medieval warfare but it does show that there was more to it than Crecy and Agincourt and that the longbow was far from the wonder weapon it is sometimes said to be.

    I hope my argument stresses the fact that the bow was the most effective in conjunction with the the other troops. Combined arms and good generalship placed the archers where they could do the most damage- this made them effective.

    Second, though the English tactics and the longbow unquestionably did their part in the infantry revolution during the 14th c. it was merely a sideshow if you look at the broad picture. The real impulse came from the Continent. Most notably the Flemish pikemen (and everyone else who copied them) and Swiss halberdiers (who incidentally adopted the pike full scale only much later). Though missile weapons, be it the longbow or the gun, provided valuable support it was heavy infantry armed with polearms that ultimately reigned supreme when properly led. This holds just as true for the English who understood intimately that their archers absolutely needed a strong screen of heavy infantry and dismounted men-at-arms.

    France was the largest power in Europe at the time and it took them a century to deal with the English, so I hardly consider these battles a sideshow. As to the Flemish pikemen and the Swiss halbardiers that is who I was thinking of when I said that the bow was only the beginning of the end of the dominance of feudal cavalry. Infantry that could stand its ground against cavalry absolutely changed the face of warfare.

    What I admire most about these troops is they took war away from the nobility and gave it back to the common man. Along with a lot of other factors, they contributed to the great social changes of the next few centuries.

    Third, any claim of the longbow being a "wonder weapon" of the middle ages should take into account a few important facts. The longbow had been around since the Neolithic and was familiar to pretty much all Europeans. But only the English managed to put it to really effective use, and then only for a relatively short period of time.

    Now we are on ground that I'm very comfortable with. The existing examples of the Neolithic long bows are not just like the English or Welsh if you will bow of the middle ages. The generic term 'longbow" is used loosely to describe bows generally over 5 foot in length with straight limbs. the existing samples of neolithic bows do come close to the performance of the medieval bow due to limb shape - orientation of grain in the wood etc. This is well documented among the primitive archery community who have duplicated and shot both types. this includes using hand made strings of period a materials and arrows the same. by the way in the case of the Neolithic bows some of the use stone and wood tools to fell the trees, split the logs and shape the bows.

    Consider the simple fact that very few European nations other than English even tried to adopt the longbow en masse. Yes, the French did experiment with it but with poor results. Then the Burgundians, who through close contact with the English went to quite great lengths to imitate English tactics during the second and third quarter of the 15th c. Unfortunately, at that time the English tactical concept as well as the longbow itself were already outdated. So the Burgundians paid dearly for their military experiments when their armies were completely destroyed by the Swiss.

    The great weakness of the longbow was that the archers were specialists who trained from child hood to be able to effectively use the heavy bows. This gets overlooked a lot - it took a very special man to draw a 150 lb bow.
    I can't do it and I'm 6'3" tall - 235 lbs and have have done hard physical labor all my life - oil field , millwrighting - construction etc.

    Far from being an innovative superweapon the longbow was really considered quite primitive on the Continent. It is interesting that literally millions of longbows were made for export to England in central Europe but were never used locally for military purposes. There were simply better alternatives available and warfare generally evolved in a different direction. So it is fascinating that the English managed to put such a simple weapon to such good use.

    The simplicity or primitveness of the long bow was an asset - the bows were brought to the field in sheaves and shot until they gave out and replaced with another. The simple "d" design allowed a lot of bows to be made from a single log. A bowyer could whack out an English longbow in a couple of hours. they were effective , cheap, disposable weapons.

    A composite horn/sinew bow such as was prevalent among the Magyar, Poles, Tatars , Turks etc. could take as long as 2 years to make due to curing time for the glues. These were complex and beautiful weapons and devastatingly effective - technically vastly superior to the longbow, but they were expensive and slow to make, and you better not get them wet.

    The same with the crossbow - a powerful technically superior weapon and didn't require such intense early training to gain profficiency in its use. Perfect at sieges from either side of the wall, but too slow in the field against the English longbow -see Crecy.

    But then again, it was not a flawless concept and once their enemies devised effective countermeasures it was the English who faced total failure on the Continent by the late stages of the Hundred Years' War.
    I think this is what Jonathan was calling a straw man argument - my posts clearly state that the longbow or any other great weapon simply spark development in response to their use - they have their day and then they fade away.

    Your pikemen suffered the same fate when light artillery hit the field.

    Respectfully,

    Curt

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    Gentlemen,

    It is 4 pm here in Oregon and Friday to boot - I'm headed across the street from my office for a couple of pints of Murphys with a Bushmills chaser.

    You may assume that I have raised my glass to you all.

    Curt

  12. #37
    I don't think that's strictly fair to call Tomas' response a straw-man; he seems to be responding to the fairly general claims you've made in your posts (some of them whilst under a misapprehension about the original purpose of this thread) about the role of the longbow and archers in medieval warfare. As I said, I see this as a separate argument, but it was always likely once you started arguing a case for the above, that someone would also go beyond the arrow vs plate argument and "take you on" as it were.

    In other words, this is now the full on "how much use were archers" debate that you initially thought it was You can pick it up and run with it or not, of course.

    For my part I would welcome any other comments on the opening post and the test results/article it concerns.

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    Curt, the Hundred Years' War surely was no sideshow but the English concept of massed archers was, especially when you look at the relative lack of wider influence it had on European warfare. Aside from a couple of exceptions (that always ended in failure) nobody else copied the English system nor were there any serious attempts to adopt the longbow as the primary infantry weapon.

    As for France as the largest European power being unable to expel the English for such a long time, the question is a bit more complicated than that. For a very long time there was serious political division among the French. Much of the French nobility did not support the king and was more than happy either to stay neutral in the conflict or downright sided with the English. The dukes of Burgundy were a particularly powerful English ally and took advantage of the situation to become de facto independent rulers. It was not until Joan d'Arc that the English were facing anything resembling a united French front. Once that happened though the English rapidly began to lose ground.

    It would also be wrong to claim it was the longbow that started the infantry revolution. That process had already been in full development on the Continent well before the longbow made its appearance in France. The victory of massed pikemen at Courtrai had a great impact in contemporary Europe and affected European warfare in a much more radical manner. It was a direct inspiration for the Scottish schiltroms that gave the English such a nasty surprise. It may also have been involved with the beginning of the Swiss infantry formations though the Swiss for a long time preferred the halberd over the pike. The great infantry victories at Courtrai (1302), Bannockburn (1314) and Morgarten (1315) all predate Crecy by a whole generation.

    Clearly the longbow offered some advantages though many of them were offset by the need for very intense and regular training, as you yourself have pointed out. What I am saying however is that within late medieval European warfare at large the longbow was a relatively short lived and not completely successful experiment. There can be really no comparison to the pike formations that played a central role from about 1300 to almost the end of the 17th c. (and in fact both survived and coexisted with light field artillery for centuries). The old Anglocentric myth of the longbow being a wonder weapon responsible for radically changing the face of European warfare and even social structure is an unfortunate product of Victorian historiography.

    Cheers!
    Last edited by Tomaz Lazar; 08-11-2007 at 01:08 AM.

  14. #39
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    Tomaz,

    We are debating to cross purposes here, so I'm going to let this one go. I'm never going to agree with a complete lack importance of the longbow to the changes in European warfare, but I will certainly agree with you that the appearance of massed pikeman on the field had the greater influence.

    The use of pikemen was certainly wider spread and lasted longer than the longbow.

    In my mind, they were both part of a sea change - the end of feudal warfare and the beginnings of modern armies.

    I do find it interesting that what ultimately replaced both of these weapons was the infantryman armed with a musket and bayonet.

    An archer and a pikeman all rolled up in one.

    Curt

  15. #40
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    Please read the FAQs at the top of this forum:
    http://forums.swordforum.com/showthread.php?t=41041
    They are a summary of years of threads both on SFI and other forums. They are by no means the final say on the topic. I would welcome continuing discussion. The whole point of the FAQs was so that we did not continually cover old ground. The aim was to get all participants up to speed more quickly so the subject could take new directions. Please start a new thread about anything you like. This thread is specifically about the test in the original post.

    I would like to applaud everyone for remaining so cordial and courteous - an excellent example of how to have a spirited discussion without resorting to nastiness.
    Last edited by Dan Howard; 08-12-2007 at 03:31 AM.

  16. #41
    Far from being an innovative superweapon the longbow was really considered quite primitive on the Continent.
    Than why have I read so many non-English sources praising the prowess of English archers?

    For example, Padre Fre wrote, "With all this it must be said of them that they were marvelous good men in the field; dexterous archers and powerful with the battle axe."

    Dominic Mancini wrote the following: "There is hardly any without a helmet, and none without bows and arrows; their bows and arrows are thicker and longer than those used by other nations, just as their bodies are stronger than other peoples', for they seem to have hands and arms of iron. The range of their bows is no less than that of our arbalests; there hangs by the side of each a sword no less long than ours, but heavy and thick as well."

    I remember Garcilaso de la Vega writing with respect of the archery skills of an Englishmen and of a Spaniard raised in England. In general, Spaniards in the New World did not discount bows. Far from it. De la Vega and Cabeza de Vaca both wrote with awe of the power and skill of Amerindian archers.

  17. #42
    Quote Originally Posted by Benjamin H. Abbott View Post
    Than why have I read so many non-English sources praising the prowess of English archers?
    Well, one explanation (assuming the bow was regarded as such) would be that prowess or skill can be with a "primitive" weapon just as well as an "advanced" one. Arguably it would take more of both to make it an effective weapon.

    [quote]For example, Padre Fre wrote, "With all this it must be said of them that they were marvelous good men in the field; dexterous archers and powerful with the battle axe."

    There are similar accounts of say, Scottish Highland soldiers with their broadswords in the 19th Century - they are positive reflections upon the individuals in question, not necessarily on how advanced, modern, or otherwise effective their weapon might be in itself.

    Dominic Mancini wrote the following: "There is hardly any without a helmet, and none without bows and arrows; their bows and arrows are thicker and longer than those used by other nations, just as their bodies are stronger than other peoples', for they seem to have hands and arms of iron. The range of their bows is no less than that of our arbalests; there hangs by the side of each a sword no less long than ours, but heavy and thick as well."
    An interesting account, and one which actually does suggest a positive view of the weapon as well as the warrior. The last bit about swords is a bit odd, but that's by the by really (though might detract slightly from the reliability of his account, I don't know).

    I remember Garcilaso de la Vega writing with respect of the archery skills of an Englishmen and of a Spaniard raised in England. In general, Spaniards in the New World did not discount bows. Far from it. De la Vega and Cabeza de Vaca both wrote with awe of the power and skill of Amerindian archers.
    Again, skill and proficiency are no indicator of how the weapon itself was viewed as compared to others. The last sentence of course pertains to a different culture, but I see where you're going. Something else you have to bear in mind is the sheer impressiveness of being able to string and shoot such a weapon, and the visual impressiveness of seeing it in action. This may be what the contemporary writers are praising.

    Just looking at these critically and playing devil's advocate really - I haven't read enough sources to make my own case either way.

  18. #43
    That's all true, but I don't sense any contempt in the bits I quoted. Especially not those two Spanish sources. De la Vega rather clearly believed bows were deadly, whether in the hands of Amerindian or English-trained archers. He treated crossbows with equal respect, but wrote that guns were basically useless in Florida.

    Fourquevaux is perhaps a better example of respect for bows in the Continent. He considered both bows and crossbows somewhat superior to guns, when available. And that was in the first half of the 16th century.

    The only sources I've read claiming bows were worthless are English sources, typically from near the end of the 16th century.

  19. #44
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    blunt trauma, effect of

    I can add nothing to the debate proper but I think that the following contemporary account, written about the battle of Flodden can shed some light on the effect of blunt trauma on a man wearing plate:
    >
    A report (Sept, 1513) by Thomas Ruthal, Bishop of Durham, stated that:
    >
    'the Scots were so well harnessed that...they would not fall even when four or five billmen struck them at once'.
    >
    Being able to, initially at least, withstand four or five blows from the not inconsiderable billhook is testimony to the effectiveness of period armour and , presumably, underpadding at withstanding blunt trauma.
    >
    The question is, could sufficient arrows simultaneously strike a single target in sufficient numbers to equal or exceed the blunt trauma being applied from four or five billhooks!
    >
    The fact that the billmen won this contest proves that even men in plate armour eventually succumbed to such blows but this account at least gives a contemporary yardstick by which to judge matters.
    >
    BTW, I am a huge fan of the English warbow

  20. #45
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    blunt trauma, effect of

    I can add nothing to the debate proper but I think that the following contemporary account, written about the battle of Flodden can shed some light on the effect of blunt trauma on a man wearing plate:
    >
    A report (Sept, 1513) by Thomas Ruthal, Bishop of Durham, stated that:
    >
    'the Scots were so well harnessed that...they would not fall even when four or five billmen struck them at once'.
    >
    Being able to, initially at least, withstand four or five blows from the not inconsiderable billhook is testimony to the effectiveness of period armour and , presumably, underpadding at withstanding blunt trauma.
    >
    The question is, could sufficient arrows simultaneously strike a single target in sufficient numbers to equal or exceed the blunt trauma being applied from four or five billhooks!
    >
    The fact that the billmen won this contest proves that even men in plate armour eventually succumbed to such blows but this account at least gives a contemporary yardstick by which to judge matters.
    >
    BTW, I am a huge fan of the English warbow

  21. #46
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    Quote Originally Posted by Curt Cummins View Post
    The bows were drawn to the chest, which imparts a lot more energy to the arrow, and were not aimed at individuals, but were area fire.
    Curt Cummins
    >
    Hi Curt,
    >
    The above intrigued me greatly. I have read that shorter bows were drawn to the chest but that the warbow/longbow was always drawn to the side of the face/ear. I don't know enough to dispute your assertion, I am just genuinely interested in the reasons/sources that lead you to say this.
    >
    BTW Someone I know who shoots the warbow said that there is an English guy who bends a bow of enormous power (over 250lbs) have you heard of this person? Or is it just an urban myth?
    >
    TIA,
    Best wishes,
    Terry

  22. #47
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    Benjamin, little to add to what Jonathan has pointed out already. It is not a matter of contempt or derision. The longbow just wasn't considered a viable military weapon by continental European standards, hence it was not used on any significant scale. Which does not in any way mean that the English longbowman as such was not a highly respected specialist. Whether his weapon was primitive, effective, deadly... or not - any man capable of drawing a 150lb bow, disciplined through systematic training and possibly an experienced veteran of several campaigns is someone to be reckoned with on the battlefield, either as an archer or light infantry. Though in the end this is not really a testimony of the longbow's power but rather of the individual fighter's prowess.

  23. #48
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    Quote Originally Posted by Tomaz Lazar View Post
    Benjamin, little to add to what Jonathan has pointed out already. It is not a matter of contempt or derision. The longbow just wasn't considered a viable military weapon by continental European standards, hence it was not used on any significant scale. Which does not in any way mean that the English longbowman as such was not a highly respected specialist. Whether his weapon was primitive, effective, deadly... or not - any man capable of drawing a 150lb bow, disciplined through systematic training and possibly an experienced veteran of several campaigns is someone to be reckoned with on the battlefield, either as an archer or light infantry. Though in the end this is not really a testimony of the longbow's power but rather of the individual fighter's prowess.
    >
    Hi Tomaz,
    >
    Whilst I agree with most of your well-written post I am a little confused by your meaning when you say:
    >
    'Though in the end this is not really a testimony of the longbow's power but rather of the individual fighter's prowess'
    >
    Surely they are both equally important! Surely when the warriors of the Western powers of the day fought equally brave and skilled warriors of the 'New' world it was often the possession of superior weapons, and tactics based on those weapons, which won the day for them!
    >
    I have probably misunderstood your meaning but perhaps you can expand on it somewhat.
    >
    Cheers,
    Terry

  24. #49
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    Terry, perhaps that statement is easier to understand in the context of my previous posts. What I mean is that the current debate has probably focused too much on the technical aspects of the longbow when the real reason for the English victories in the late middle ages lies elsewhere.

    In itself, the longbow did not give the user any overwhelming advantage over the contemporary weapons. It could be very effective under certain conditions but nearly useless at other times. Increased availability of plate armor reduced its effect as well. Several other European nations, most notably the French, invested quite a bit of effort to introduce the longbow in their armies but to very little avail. I would argue that the reputation of the English longbowman did not owe nearly as much to the technical capabilities of the longbow as to the combined arms tactics, proper choice of terrain (and in many cases, a "cooperative" enemy) plus the very high degree of skill, training and professionalism of the English archers.

    You could say something similar about the pike. Nearly every army of the late middle ages incorporated pikemen but it was only in the hands of the Swiss that the pike really dominated the battlefield to the extent no other contemporary forces could rival. Again, the success of the Swiss was not due to any inherent technical superiority of their primary weapon, which was after all easy to make and known everywhere across Europe. But the superior tactics and training made all the difference.

  25. #50
    The longbow just wasn't considered a viable military weapon by continental European standards, hence it was not used on any significant scale.
    As I said, Fourquevaux ranked the bow as equal to the crossbow and thought both were better than guns. The main problem was that archers, bows, and arrows were hard to come by in many places.

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