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Agincourt- French too tired?

Discussion in 'Military History' started by GRW, Jul 20, 2011.

  1. GRW

    GRW Pillboxologist WW2|ORG Editor

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    "Would the battle of Agincourt have turned out differently if the French had worn lighter armour? Perhaps, say researchers who have discovered that the heavy steel-plate armour worn by the French would have exhausted them before the fight with the English had even started.
    No self-respecting medieval knight went into battle without a suit of shining steel armour. A typical suit would have comprised steel plates covering the chest and back, plus leg and arm components, all weighing at least 30kg. Compared with wearing no armour, the steel plates would have doubled the effort required to move around and fight, according to Graham Askew, a lecturer in biomechanics at Leeds University, who led the research."
    Heavy armour would have exhausted the French at Agincourt, say scientists | Science | guardian.co.uk
     
  2. lwd

    lwd Ace

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    A friend mentioned this to me but didn't have the link. Now that I've seen it it has answered some questions but brought up others. For one thing wearing armor is something that takes some time to learn how to do at least as far as moving around and doing things in it. If they were just taking volenteers who had never worn armor before then their results are a bit in question.
     
  3. GRW

    GRW Pillboxologist WW2|ORG Editor

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    True. The average knight started as an esquire at a young age (about 8), and the Hollywood stuff about them having to be winched onto horses is rubbish; they were able to mount up normally while in armour.
     
  4. lwd

    lwd Ace

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    I think I read or heard that some of that came from late period jousting which was a rich mans sport. The armor was specfically made for jousting and at least some of the joints had very limited mobility to increase the protection as well as helms with very small view slots especially on the left side. Indeed I think I've read somewhere that a knights of at least one period were expected to be able to mount by jumping into the saddle while in armor. This being combat armor obviously. It has however been a while since I read/heard the above and it may all be "not quite correct". :)
     
  5. Skipper

    Skipper Kommodore

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    Funny, this should be compared to the 1966 football world cup or from a French perspepective to the battle of Crecy.
    Thanks for mentionning this, it reminds me of Skakespeare's Henry V . More seriously I don't think it's a matter of being harassed by jesting games or heavy armor, it's just a combination of guts and luck.
     
  6. brndirt1

    brndirt1 Saddle Tramp

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    If you have ever tried to move in a heavy "clay" soil, one will understand how hard it is to do anything. Horses make "sucking sounds" with their hooves, and stumble if pressed to speed. "Jumbo" is a nasty soil when wet.

    I (looking back) understand how the weather, and soil conditions could have made this an absolute failure for a mounted attack. Not only is the soil in the area high in clay content, it is low in drainage design. This would make both heavy cavalry and even heavy infantry a problem.

    Especially if the forces of Henry V were using the longbow as the "first contact". Geeze, you end up with thousands of bodkin pointed arrows falling out of the sky, and whether or not the points can penetrate French armor is a non-question. Can they cripple a horse? Can they kill a foot soldier? Is being stuck in wet clay heavy ground a detriment? All of the above to my mind.

    1415 AD - 25th October - Battle of Agincourt - Henry V of England was leading his army back to Calais in France after a successful campaign to the south. At the village of Agincourt, Henry and his army were confronted by a French army camped to the North.

    Henry's army consisted of 1,500 men at arms and 5,500 archers. The French army consisted mainly of noble knights on foot and cavalry, some 23,000 in total. Henry's army was out-numbered 3 to 1.

    Henry arranged his army at the narrow end of the battlefield with archers on each flank.
    The French army were arranged on the much wider end of the battlefield with the cavalry on each flank.

    The French Nobles disregarded the battle plan ordered by the French King and ordered the cavalry to charge the archers.

    The French noble cavalry were probably wearing expensive steel armour which protected them against the iron bodkin tips of the arrows, except that their horses were not as well protected. Most of the horses were probably killed or wounded in the first few minutes of the battle. The rest of the French army followed the cavalry charge and were obstructed by fleeing or dead horses, plus the narrowing of the battlefield, lead to mass chaos as the archers continued to shower arrows down on them.

    The battlefield was also made very muddy during the melee and the French knights in their armour had a very hard time even walking in the crush of their own army. The English were not weighed down by heavy armour and so could easily out manoeuvre the French knights in hand to hand combat, where the archers used their daggers and mallets.

    The battle lasted about two hours, with many French knights taken captive. Henry could not afford to guard so many captives, even for ransom back to the noble's family, so he ordered the archers to kill them Other accounts state only 29 English killed.

    It appears that the Longbow Archers of King Henry's army did not win a great victory as per many history books state, but rather the French army defeated themselves on the battlefield.


    (Article based on recent information from "Battlefield Detectives", a television documentary).

    There is still some contention as to how effective the Longbow was against the steel armour of the period. Some studies show that an iron bodkin point would not have penetrated the steel armour of the knights, while an article in "The Glade" magazine, issue 107, clearly demonstrates the penetration power of the bodkin point through armour. In fact, further tests by Mark Stretton written in The Glade magazine, issue 111, have clearly demonstrated the penetration of bodkin points through the armour of the day.

    Goto:

    http://www.centenaryarchers.gil.com.au/history.htmall.
     
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  7. GRW

    GRW Pillboxologist WW2|ORG Editor

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    lwd,
    You're right about the tournament being a much later development. Originally knights engaged in melees, which were fought under actual rules of combat, since this was as close to the real thing as they could get in peacetime-
    "Medieval use
    During the Middle Ages, tournaments often contained a mêlée consisting of knights fighting one another on foot or while mounted, either divided into two sides or fighting as a free-for-all. The object was to capture opposing knights so that they could be ransomed, and this could be a very profitable business for such skilled knights as William Marshal. There was a tournament ground covering several square miles in northern France to which knights came from all over Europe to prove themselves in quite real combat. This was, in fact, the original form of tournaments and the most popular between the twelfth and thirteenth centuries—jousting being a later development, and one that did not completely displace the mêlée until many more centuries had passed. The original mêlée was engaged with normal weapons and fought with as much danger as a normal battle. Rules slowly tempered the danger, but at all times the mêlée was more dangerous than the joust."
    Melee - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

    Clint,
    If I could just clarify something you said. Henry V actually ordered the French captives to be killed because he thought the French were regrouping for another attack, and didn't want to find himself fighting on two fronts if the captives had managed to arm themselves-
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Battle_of_Agincourt#Henry_orders_the_killing_of_the_prisoners
     
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  8. brndirt1

    brndirt1 Saddle Tramp

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    I would not doubt for a moment that wasn't a justifiable reason for the killing of those enemies, there really weren't "rules of war" at the time other than using nobles as ransom material. The "hoi poli" were simply of no import.
     
  9. Triple C

    Triple C Ace

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    I think this is a very techno-deterministic view on warfare which is a unique modern bias. Without armor the French men-at-arms would be dead before they reached the English lines instead of being defeated after making contact. The more important question is, why did the French decide to fight the English in a wet field flanked by two forests which, in addition to protecting the English flanks, could funnel the attacker into a kill zone. ;-)
     
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  10. GRW

    GRW Pillboxologist WW2|ORG Editor

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    I think overconfidence played a large part; the French genuinely thought they were going to massacre the English next day-
    Account from Enguerrand de Monstrelet, governor of Cambrai-
    "When these battalions were all drawn up, it was a grand sight to view; and they were, on a hasty survey, estimated to be more than six times the number of the English. After they had been thus arranged, they seated themselves by companies as near to their own banners as they could, to wait the coming of the enemy; and while they refreshed themselves with food, they made up all differences that might before have existed between any of them. In this state they remained until between nine and ten o'clock in the morning, no way doubting, from their numbers, but the English must fall an easy prey to them. Some, however, of the wisest of them had their fears, and dreaded the event of an open battle."
    Battle of Agincourt
     
  11. lwd

    lwd Ace

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    Another thing that has been noted about archery fire is that even if the troops are relativly immune to it due to armor it tends to compress their formations which results in even more energy expenditure and a decreased ability to fight well.

    Somewhat related to this a friend of mine has a couple of books more concentrating on the 14th century though. They are listed along with some other resources at:
    Steve Muhlberger's Home Page
    I will admit I haven't read the books but knowing what I do of him I would expect them to be quite good.
     
  12. Triple C

    Triple C Ace

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    Of course I am not disagreeing. Arrow serenades and the terrain funneled/compressed the French knights into a stampede rather than a military formation. As I recall a chronicle said the French troops were so densely packed they had no room to wield their hand weapons.
     
  13. T. A. Gardner

    T. A. Gardner Genuine Chief

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    From another board:
    Today I ran the Battle of Crecy through the QJM. Yes, I can actually do all the calculations and get results....

    Anyway, I chose Crecy because it is set piece and horribly lopsided in outcome. Also, being a medieval battle makes for fewer variables in the mix allowing clearer analysis of outcomes.

    Any historical account of the battle leads to two primary determinants for the outcome:

    1. The English longbow was a devastating weapon.
    2. The French chivlary was essentially a disorganized mob with a single mind; destroying the English.

    As for the QJM:

    The OLIs for each side are: English 1788, French 5575 (that is divided by 1000 for ease of calculation).

    Personnel are E = 11,000 F = 36,000

    Casualties are E = 200 F = 11,000

    Terrain is considered sunny, flat, wet.

    The English are in a prepared defense posture.

    The end calculations are
    Pe = 1061
    Pf = 15137

    for a P/P of 14.27 or a prediction of a crushing French victory.

    MF (mission factor) is English 10 (totally successful) French 1 (complete defeat)

    Re = 20.53
    Rf = -3.36

    R-R is therefore -23,89 or a crushing French defeat.

    PR/PR gives a -2.33 to the French and a -.42 to the English. Yes, both are negative due to the single presence of a negative outcome for the French.

    More later....

    To continue:

    In the battle of Crecy we have a very well defined set of causes for the French defeat:

    * The firepower of the English longbow
    * The lack of orgainzation and tactical prowess on the part of the French
    * A lack of appreciation of combined arms by the French (their knights even rode down many of the Genoese archers to get at the English).

    So, given the above data from the QJM calculations how does the model reflect these known factors? I calculated the OLI of a longbow at 159 and a French knight at 175. The factors for weather, terrain, posture, leadership, training, etc., are all fixed within the model so I am stuck using those values.
    There is no input for orgainzation (or lack thereof).

    Another thing the QJM doesn't do is calculate over time. The French are known to have made a total of at least twelve (12) seperate charges with portions of their available knights over a period of about an hour against the British before admitting defeat. The English archers broke the majority of these with only a couple reaching English lines where the men-at-arms repulsed them. As there is no time factor within the QJM and the model is not set up to take accumulated battle results, there is no way to model this within it.

    So, what did the QJM analysis tell us? That the English won when the French should have won? No. The French should have, and did, lose. They lost exactly the same way at Agincourt too. So, now we have two almost identical battles with nearly identical outcomes by essentially the same force composition. Yet, Dupuy's model says the French should win.
    Why didn't it predict a French loss particularly at Agincourt? The answer is simple. The model doesn't model the right things in the right way to deduce outcomes correctly. Instead, it models firepower and how firepower is applied in a battle; nothing more.
    It has no component for orgainzation and command. It also lacks a component for mobility and time-motion in battle. Therefore, it lacks two sides of the triangle that makes up the complete model of how warfare is conducted.

    Now, if I ran Agincourt too I'd get similar results. But, those results don't tell me anything. I can't really go back and tweak various inputs from known historical causes to see what might bring the model into balance.

    Think of this this way:

    I have a model that has a fixed output. That is Attacker = Defender. What I do is vary inputs until the model balances (equals out). So, one side may be much stronger than the other but, I can input values for things until both sides become equal.
    This allows me to control variables within the model and change them in controlled circumstances. In this way I can change just one variable and see how it effects the outcome. I can't do this in the QJM for the most part as most of the inputs are fixed values.

    The question we try to answer is: Why did the English win and French lose at Crecy? And, what in the QJM answers that question?

    Just because Dupuy "predicts" a win doesn't mean much. First, you have hindsight on your side. The model was verified using historical examples. The second problem is that the model doesn't tell you the extent of the win per se. That is, the model gives you a number.
    In the case of Crecy, the battle I examined, the number for outcomes predicted are huge in favor of the French. The number is about 4 to 5 times as great as any of Dupuy's database gives.

    But, now, digressing for a moment: Let's look at a microcausim of the battle. We have for this example one English longbow archer versus one French Knight. The Knight is going to charge and kill the stationary archer (historically reasonable). They are 300 yards apart to start the example.
    Per Dupuy the knight has a TLI of 175 and the archer a TLI of 159. But, Dupuy makes no allowance for the distance these two are apart, nothing for the time - motion involved in our example. That is, there is nothing in the QJM to allow for the fact the knight must close 300 yards with the archer.
    Now, if we assume a closing rate of about 6 mph (typical for a heavy knight on an armored horse) the closing time is about 1.5 to 2 minutes. The archer can be assumed to fire four aimed shots per minute.
    So, the OLI of the knight for 98% of this time is essentially ZERO. A knight with a sword and a lance has ZERO combat value until he closes to about 1 meter from his enemy. So, for the first 299 meters he is charging his combat potential is ZERO.
    The archer fires between 6 and 8 aimed arrows at the knight as he charges. The arrows have a good probability of penetrating and wounding or killing the knight or his horse, dismounting him and rendering him hors de combat (let's say 50% just for argument).
    This means that the archer has essentially a 100% + chance he will stop the knight before he reaches the 1 meter mark.
    Now, lets multiply this example by 1000; or 5000. What we see is that the French are doomed when whe consider a time - motion view of this battle. Their knights will be shot down wholesale long before they reach the English lines.
    All of a sudden the result is a huge English victory. Now the model reflects the historical outcome rather than being contrary to it. We could also consider how the French could have used flanking maneuvers in conjunction with their crossbowmen and far more numerous knights to defeat the English tactically and orgainzationally too. Again, Dupuy's model has nothing to show this potential outcome or model it.

    That is the problem with Dupuy: The wrong answer some of the time. The right answer for either the wrong or unknown reasons other times. If the math between the stated problem and the answer is wrong, then the answer itself is wrong.


    The bottom line is:

    Agincourt and Crecy are virtually the same battle fought almost exactly the same way with the same results. The French lost because their military system was grossly flawed. Dry, wet, lighter armor, makes zero difference. The French are going to get on the order of 6 to 10 arrows fired at them per man attacking, maybe more if all don't go n. They will be cut down before they reach the English. Firepower trumps shock here completely.
     
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  14. lwd

    lwd Ace

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    Well done. The only quibble I have is you actually underestimated the archer a bit in the rate of fire department. A well trained archer should have no problem firing 10 arrows a minute. If he's rushed he can probably double that. P(K) of .5 at 300 meters seems a bit high but even if it's as low as .25 at 10 shots a minute and a 1.5 minutes to close the probability of the knight being taken out in the 14 shots before he reaches the archer is just under 98%. That's without factoring in the increase in p(H) and p(K) as the knight gets closer or the incentive for a higher rate of fire once he gets in side a 100m or so.
     
  15. USMCPrice

    USMCPrice Idiot at Large

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    This is very true and that's why I no longer watch battlefield detectives and put little faith in modern, so called scientific examinations that try to explain, and generally revise, what occurred in historic battles. Most times they ignore the testimony and accounts of witnesses. Many of these witnesses were well trained, veterans in their contemporary martial arts, and were well qualified to interpret what they observed. They also tend to ignore more common sense explainations in their attempt to "scientifically" prove their pet theories.

    Both of these are good points and factors mentioned by most observers. Henry chose his battlefield carefully, like the Spartans at Thermopylae, he positioned his troops in a manner that negated their opponents numerical advantage and forced them to fight on a narrow front where their superior numbers actually became a disadvantage. The press of the following troops actually decreased the ability of the troops in front to fight effectively and those that fell were trampled by the following waves.

    "Their vanguard, composed of about 5,000 men, found itself at first so tightly packed that those who were in the third rank could scarcely use their swords"

    Contemporary accounts do mention the fatigue caused by slogging through the muddy fields, made worse by the thousands that slogged across them and even mention some French knights drowning in their helms when they were knocked to the ground and couldn't get up because of the press of their own men. This is nothing new. The muddy battlefield was the major factor, and it would have hampered even less heavily armored troops, just to a lesser degree.

    The headline was, "Would the battle of Agincourt have turned out differently if the French had worn lighter armour?
    Let's look at it from a military not a scientist's point of view. If the French had been more lightly armored....
    1.) The battlefield would still have channelized them into a narrow front and their numbers would still have hampered their effectiveness.
    2.) The muddy fields would have still hampered their movements and still have tired them just to a lesser extent.
    3.) The English bowmen would have exacted a much heavier toll on the densely packed French troops moving slowly across the muddy, plowed field.
    4.) The approximately, 4,000 French archers and 1,500 French crossbowmen would still not have been able to be employed unless the French rearranged the order their forces were sent forward.
    5.) More lightly armored Frenchmen would have been at a greater disadvantage once the two sides engaged in melee, because the English knights, nobles and men at arms, that made up the center of the English line, were more heavily armored than the longbowmen on the flanks.

    I really don't think that had all other factors remained constant, that a change in the armor worn would have benefitted the French or changed the outcome of the battle for the better.

    Weight of armor was a factor, but nowhere near one of the most important factors. 30kilos for a full metal suit of armor is only 66lbs. How does this compare to a chain mail hauberk at @45lbs, plus a metal helmet, or leather armor. The difference in weight is not as great when compared to the alternatives.

    This interpretation is just as stupid as one I saw onetime where they used Civil War re-enactors to recreate a march and then used the time it took them to extrapolate what was possible for a Civil War unit. They were comparing fat, overage, out of shape men that periodically march in Civil War formations with Civil war era uniforms and accouterments with the real deal. The real men had walked all their lives, were lean and their muscles hardened, they could be shot for straggling, and didn't drive a car everywhere they went. They were well drilled daily, reacted instinctively to commands and wore their uniforms daily, and carried their arms and accouterments all the time. They were used to long marches, in formation. I've yet to meet a re-enactor that can march 30 miles in a day like Jackson's foot cavalry or march 17 miles in eight hours and go straight into battle like A.P. Hill division did at Antietam.
     
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  16. lwd

    lwd Ace

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    Well if you consider the SCA to be re-enactment you wouldn't be able to say that. Of course that's in part because we cheat a bit. The largest SCA event is called Pennsic. It's a two week event and during the its second week in 90 they recalled active duty personel and at least some reserves. The result was about 10% of those attending Pennsic left. Our fighting is a bit more active than most re-creation groups as well.
     
  17. T. A. Gardner

    T. A. Gardner Genuine Chief

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    Yes, I'm sure I did but, I also did it deliberately. Even with the low rate of fire, he is going to chop the knight down long before he can get to melee range. That is the critical part of the assessment. We can quibble over the rof and accuracy but the result is the same: a dead or wounded knight.
     
  18. brndirt1

    brndirt1 Saddle Tramp

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  19. GRW

    GRW Pillboxologist WW2|ORG Editor

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    To me the following link highlights the problem with using modern re-enactors to back-project results onto historical events-
    '"He was a very strong and fit nobleman, with the physique of a professional rugby player, who would have been trained since boyhood to handle heavy swords and other weapons and who would have spent a great deal of time on horseback," he said.'
    BBC News - Face of Stirling Castle warrior reconstructed
    That was a programme called History Cold Case where forensic archaeologists successfully identified the body of a knight found beneath Stirling Castle and dated it back to the 14th century. As well as reconstructing his face, they also reconstructed his entire physique, hence the above description.
    Now I don't care how fit the men used in this study were, they don't travel everywhere by horse, and they certainly haven't spent several hours a day since childhood training for war. There's even less chance of them having a diet as high in seafish as this knight's bones proved his to be, so the results are always going to be skewed.
     
  20. brndirt1

    brndirt1 Saddle Tramp

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    Just added the link for the fun/interest factor Gordon.
     

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