Welcome to the WWII Forums! Log in or Sign up to interact with the community.

Agincourt- French too tired?

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

  1. von Poop

    von Poop Waspish

    Joined:
    Apr 21, 2006
    Messages:
    6,260
    Likes Received:
    1,892
    Location:
    Perfidious Albion
    By the by,
    If any of you chaps come across any serious references to wounds inflicted by Late Medieval to Early Modern style weaponry, I'd be very interested.
    The Towton stuff is well covered, obviously, and Visby has some cracking skeletal evidence of war, but the overall reportage of the actual physical traces of melee/projectile weapon strikes on Skeletons is very thin - I might already have what you find, but if you could post it anyway if you spot something, you never know - the Internerd can be excellent for this sort of thing.
    It's all very well to talk of sword-cuts or Arrow-strikes, but it's quite another thing to actually visualise them.

    For the Armour fetishists :shifty:, if you haven't already, then browse the Wallace collection's excellent online resources. And if you're ever in London and want a free visit to an incredible collection of ways to maim people, do pop in there.
    The Wallace Collection - The Collection - Arms and Armour
    (Tick 'The collection' and have a shufti... well worth a dig.)

    ~A
     
  2. lwd

    lwd Ace

    Joined:
    Jul 24, 2007
    Messages:
    12,312
    Likes Received:
    1,238
    Location:
    Michigan
  3. scipio

    scipio Member

    Joined:
    Jul 8, 2011
    Messages:
    652
    Likes Received:
    122
    Henry V
    I did not realise that as a young Prince, Henry V had received an Arrow wound - might be of interest

    "The battle ofShewsbury began at midday on 21 July 1403 with a hail of arrows from veteran bowmen of the prince's own county palatine of Cheshire. Unfortunately for him,they had taken the rebel side.


    As the royal army struggled up the slope, the Welsh and Cheshire archers drew 'so fast andso thick were the arrows' that Henry's men fell 'as fast as leaves in autumn after the hoar-frost'. An arrow struck the sixteen-year-old prince full in the face but he refused to withdraw, fearing the effect it would have on his men.

    Instead he led them in fierce hand-to-hand fighting that continued till nightfall, by whichtime the rebels were defeated.

    Henry had survived his first major battle but his powers of endurance were to be tested further. A way had to be found of extracting the arrow that had entered his face on the left side of his nose. The shaft was successfully removed but the arrowhead remained embedded six inches deep in the bone at the back of his skull. Various 'wise leeches' or doctors were consulted and advised 'drinks andother cures', all of which failed. In the end it was the king's surgeon, a convicted (but pardoned) coiner of false money, John Bradmore, who saved the prince and the day. He devised a small pair of hollow tongs the width of the arrow­headwith a screw-like thread at the end of each arm and a separate screw mechanism running through the centre. The wound had to be enlarged and deepened before the tongs could be inserted and this was done by means of a series of increasingly large and long probes made from 'the pith of old elder, well dried and well stitched in purified linen cloth ... [and| infused with rose honey'.When Bradmore judged that he had reached the bottom of the wound he introduced the tongs at the same angle as the arrow had entered, placed the screw in the centre and manoeuvred the instrument into the socket of the arrowhead. 'Then,by moving it to and fro, little by little (with the help of God) I extracted the arrowhead'. He cleansed the wound by washing it out with white wine and placed into it new probes made of wads of flax soaked in a cleansing ointment,which he had prepared from an unlikely combination of bread sops, barley, honeyand turpentine oil. These he replaced every two days with shorter wads until,on the twentieth day, he was able to announce with justified pride that 'the wound was perfectly well cleansed'. A final application of 'dark ointment' toregenerate the flesh completed the process.

    The pain the prince must have suffered in the course of this lengthy operation is unimaginable: basic anaesthesia, based on plasters of opium, henbane, laudanumor hemlock, was under­stood and practised in medieval times but it was unpredictable and inefficient. It says something for Henry's constitution that he survived the operation and avoided septicaemia afterwards. A wound of suchmagnitude in such a prominent place would surely have scarred the prince for life, but no mention of one is made by contemporaries, though it is possiblythe reason why Henry's only surviving portrait shows him in profile, rather than in the three-quarter-face position favoured by all other medieval Englishkings.[SUP]21[/SUP]

    If nothing else, the battle of Shrewsbury must have taught Henry the value of archers and surgeons; both would be deployed innumbers at Agincourt.

    Has anybody any more information on this - was he wearing a helmet?
     
  4. GRW

    GRW Pillboxologist WW2|ORG Editor

    Joined:
    Oct 26, 2003
    Messages:
    20,347
    Likes Received:
    2,777
    Location:
    Stirling, Scotland
  5. von Poop

    von Poop Waspish

    Joined:
    Apr 21, 2006
    Messages:
    6,260
    Likes Received:
    1,892
    Location:
    Perfidious Albion
    Dr. Askew's Report is now available online.
    Limitations imposed by wearing armour on Medieval soldiers' locomotor performance

    While I'm sure the biological stuff is valid and of interest to Biologists, I'm not so sure it really addresses the wider factors of the subject 'armoured soldier at war', or even attempted to - understandable as it's a pleasing nugget of very specific research in Biology rather than History.
    Doubtless it'll be a useful addition to the overall heap of Medieval Military History, but it strikes me as something that'll feed into more solid interpretation rather than being a conclusion in itself.

    "Could have".
    Alternatively, it 'could have' meant the best-trained fighters stayed alive longer (even if they were a bit hot & bothered) - surely the primary intention of Battlefield Armour.

    ~A
     
    GRW likes this.
  6. von Poop

    von Poop Waspish

    Joined:
    Apr 21, 2006
    Messages:
    6,260
    Likes Received:
    1,892
    Location:
    Perfidious Albion
    Just in passing.
    Some C16th Munitions Armour I assisted in the making of this weekend:

    [​IMG]

    Sadly, I can't comment on these collars' mobility effect, because none of them bloody fitted me.
    (Almain Collars. modelled along similar lines to this original.)


    Back on the 'knockdown' thing. Some friends experimented with C16th Black Powder weapons against the same plate they tested the longbow on.
    Interesting results; modern powder etc., but only one partial penetration in four hits. I wouldn't want to have been wearing the plate, as at least one hit might well have torn an arm off, and I doubt anyone would stay on their feet for most of the hits, but I'd still very much rather choose to wear the armour than not.
    Pavia may have signalled the true superiority of the gun, and caused some deep thought about full plate, but battlefield Armour survived, and still survives, for good reasons.
     
  7. urqh

    urqh Tea drinking surrender monkey

    Joined:
    Dec 23, 2002
    Messages:
    9,683
    Likes Received:
    955
  8. KodiakBeer

    KodiakBeer Member

    Joined:
    Nov 20, 2012
    Messages:
    6,329
    Likes Received:
    1,709
    Location:
    The Arid Zone
    Hey, let's not forget that there is a horse involved also. I know the horses were armored to some extent, but an arrow striking a horse just about anywhere is liable to bring that horse down or at least shake the rider free when the horse reacts.

    Also, I think calculating the power of an arrow is missing the point. Arrows kill through penetration rather than shock, so it's the ability of an iron tipped arrow to penetrate armor (and the flesh underneath) that is the point, which is going to be entirely dependent on the quality of the steel used in the armor.

    A friend of mine once told me that his .30/30 would penetrate steel railroad track, which I found hard to believe. But, some time later we were at his property doing some shooting and he showed me a berm constructed out of old railroad ties and rail, filled with dirt that he used at a backstop for shooting. One section of rail at the bottom was punctured by rifle rounds (though the thin part between base and top. He popped a few more holes in that rail just to prove his point. These were soft-point hunting rounds, not some sort of military AP ammo. The steel must have been at least a 1/2" thick.

    It wouldn't surprise me at all if an iron tipped arrow would penetrate armor of the period.
     
  9. von Poop

    von Poop Waspish

    Joined:
    Apr 21, 2006
    Messages:
    6,260
    Likes Received:
    1,892
    Location:
    Perfidious Albion
    Iron/steel bodkins can indeed penetrate steel plate, quite possibly even better than early firearms could if the experiments I've seen are to be believed.
    But... Penetrations into plate don't generally seem too deep, not quite killing blows on the whole. The real danger is to the mail exposed between plates, and unarmoured openings necessary to see etc. (even contemporary sword manuals make much of the fact that plate-armoured men are a very hard target when using less than the greatsword, and most killing strikes must be with the point into face or anywhere not quite so well-covered. Sword-cuts were not expected to penetrate armour, that was a job for the polearm men, though broken bones and bruising might be hoped for).
    Quantity of shot in the air is perhaps the thing. Good chance of squidgy bits being hit with that many arrows in flight...

    The horse is a fair point to bring up, and the mud at agincourt is said to have played a part on un-horsed knights, but being un-horsed was a regular feature of battle for the men of the time, and switching to foot-fighting a hazard of the trade. Again, I'd rather fall from a horse in full armour than not, and I'd still rather be the man wearing it than not as the battle went on.
     
  10. green slime

    green slime Member

    Joined:
    Nov 18, 2010
    Messages:
    3,150
    Likes Received:
    583
    Agincourt has to be seen in the context of the campaign that was occurring at the time. Henry V had been harrowed for a some time, and was trying to get back to safety, while the large French forces had been chasing him seeking battle. October is quite late in the season. Many of Henry's men were suffering from disease, and an extended period of forced marches in hostile country. The English had approx. 9,000 men, while the French had approx. 50-60,000. But also remember, in this day and age, commoners were commonly reviled, and only noblemen really mattered. In this context, the English had 1500 noble men at arms, while the French had more than 15,000.

    In this context it is easy to see how the French could think they, with their superior numbers, better shape, and better morale, would win the day against the terrain of Henry's choosing. Winning the day would mean either capturing the English king or his death, and a disaster for England and its continental possessions. From the French viewpoint, Henry had been finally forced to take a stand, with a weary army with no longer any chance of outrunning the French.

    Henry's decision to kill the captives, was unpopular with his own men at the time, (ransom being a big bonus for the soldiers), but he feared a second attack on the baggage train in the rear, and needed the troops that were guarding prisoners, to actually guard the baggage.
     
  11. green slime

    green slime Member

    Joined:
    Nov 18, 2010
    Messages:
    3,150
    Likes Received:
    583
    The ONLY reason the gun became dominant, was ease of use. It took years of dedicated exercise to become proficient at the longbow. There is a reason it was only ever really used in England and Wales. Each longbowman was a highly valuable, scarce commodity. The gun, for all its lack of reliability (early guns weren't very good), poor rate of fire, and inability to use in the wet, made up for it in that any village idiot could use one. You didn't need to train minions for 1½ decades just to get some level of proficiency.

    England and Wales had laws requiring each able-bodied man to train every holiday (that's Sundays too) with the Longbow. So that by their mid-twenties, they'd be selected, if good enough.

    Longbows were part of the complement of the Mary Rose, in 1545, and its last recorded use is believed to 1642, during the English Civil War.
     
  12. von Poop

    von Poop Waspish

    Joined:
    Apr 21, 2006
    Messages:
    6,260
    Likes Received:
    1,892
    Location:
    Perfidious Albion
    Neade's 'Double-Armed Man'.

    [​IMG]

    [​IMG]

    [​IMG]

    [​IMG]

    Never fancied it myself...
    Good article:
    http://leatherworkingreverendsmusings.wordpress.com/2012/11/23/the-double-armed-man/
    Though I might lightly dispute some of the thoughts there - since Pavia the real thinkers knew the Gun would rule, and I suspect pro-archery sentiments were considered mostly 'eccentric' in the C17th.

    I'd certainly not dispute the ease of use reason for the Gun's rise, and have stated that reason here, but would take some issue with it being the ONLY reason, and say that 'ease of use' has wider implications than just training. Destructive power & reliability increasing, ease of direct integration with more traditional formations, ammunition supply/portage etc.
     
  13. lwd

    lwd Ace

    Joined:
    Jul 24, 2007
    Messages:
    12,312
    Likes Received:
    1,238
    Location:
    Michigan
    Well I think I've read of bows being used at Tippermuir which was a couple years later. If you don't mean massed usage there was at least one British officer who used one during one of the world wars.
     
  14. von Poop

    von Poop Waspish

    Joined:
    Apr 21, 2006
    Messages:
    6,260
    Likes Received:
    1,892
    Location:
    Perfidious Albion
    Mad Jack Churchill.


    [​IMG]
    Yes, that's a sword...
     
  15. GRW

    GRW Pillboxologist WW2|ORG Editor

    Joined:
    Oct 26, 2003
    Messages:
    20,347
    Likes Received:
    2,777
    Location:
    Stirling, Scotland
    I agree with Adam about the other factors behind the rise of guns. One arrow will only kill one enemy soldier; a bullet could go straight through him and kill/maim the guy behind too.
    More bangs for yer buck...sort of...
     
  16. von Poop

    von Poop Waspish

    Joined:
    Apr 21, 2006
    Messages:
    6,260
    Likes Received:
    1,892
    Location:
    Perfidious Albion
    Something that boggles my mind whenever I think about it is the ammunition supply for gigs like Agincourt.

    C.5K Archers (?) - High Rate of Fire (debatable - extremes of c.20-a-minute, but I suspect with full Warbows and experienced men an average anywhere between Eight to Ten might be more realistic - that one rumbles on).

    That is quite some logistical problem right there, even if the Enemy's approach and charge might be fairly rapid - Arrows don't grow on trees...
     
  17. lwd

    lwd Ace

    Joined:
    Jul 24, 2007
    Messages:
    12,312
    Likes Received:
    1,238
    Location:
    Michigan
    I've seen the numbers somewhere on what was carried, at least typically, both by the archer and in the supply trains. The Mary Rose had a huge number of arrows on board from what I recall.
     
  18. lwd

    lwd Ace

    Joined:
    Jul 24, 2007
    Messages:
    12,312
    Likes Received:
    1,238
    Location:
    Michigan
    I wouldn't expect most early firearms to have that sort of penetration. On the other hand they were flatter shooting than long bows so at any sort of range if you missed the front rank you still had a chance of hitting the second and subsequent ranks. There was also the moral effect of the bang and the cloud of smoke. Training has also been mentioned I think. It takes a considerable period of time to train an archer up to using a period war bow. A crossbow or musket requires considerably less.
     
  19. green slime

    green slime Member

    Joined:
    Nov 18, 2010
    Messages:
    3,150
    Likes Received:
    583
    The Longbow was lighter, more rapid-firing than either the crossbow, or early guns, supplies of arrows are easily carried, and they could stand together in more dense formation. No target practice was carried out at shorter ranges than 220 yards.

    "An English archer who in a single minute was unable to draw and discharge his bow twelve times with a range of 240 yards, and who in those twelve shots once missed his man was very lightly esteemed."
    - Author unknown.

    "My father was as deligent to teach me to shoot as to teach me any other thing. He taught me how to draw, how to lay my body in my bow, and not to draw with strength of arms as other nations do, but with the strength of my body. I had my bows bought to me, according to my age and strength, for men shoot never so well except they be brought up in it; it is a goodly art, a wholesome kind of exercise..."
    - Bishop Latimer, in a sermon before Henry VIII.

    When Richard Coeur-de-Lion lays siege to Messina, Richard of Devizes tells us the Sicilians left the walls unmanned "because no one could look abroad but he would have an arrow in his eye before he could shut it."

    Early firearms were neither as accurate, nor as reliable. But the opportunity cost of producing archers capable of these feats was something mainland Europe never invested in. Show me the early firearm capable of reliably hitting anything smaller than an elephant at 220 yards. They needed massed fire to be effective. But replacing commoners armed with misfiring handcanons of questionable manufacture was cheap, and replacing archers was not. Solely because of the time it took to train. We are not talking months, or years, but decades, from a young age.
     
  20. Sheldrake

    Sheldrake Member

    Joined:
    Jan 5, 2013
    Messages:
    1,773
    Likes Received:
    564
    Location:
    London UK
    The French should have won. The underlying tactics of an attack by dismounted men at arms in plate armour were sound. Men in full harness could and did close to combat at Shrewsbury in 1402 and in the battles of the Wars of the Roses in the face of war bow armed archers.

    The research by the Leeds academic is flawed because his theoretical results are confounded by the evidence that soldiers have historically gone into battle carrying C 30Kg, It is not for nothing that Roman Legionnaires called themselves Marius' mules. In recent wars US and British soldiers have worn body armour and personal equipment with a weight approaching that of medieval harness. Note that the C 15th man at arms is not carrying any of the following items: as much ammuniton as will fill all spare magazines, spare link for any belt fed section weapon, grenades, personal radio, 1 l of water, 24hr emergency rations, NBC suit, LAW, signal flares, mortar bombs, shovel, pick, machette or other tools.

    John Keegan has probably made one of the best analysis of Agincourt - along with Anne Curry, Malcolm Strickland and of course Robert Hardy.
     

Share This Page