critchMemberMay 13, 2014 at 1:41 pmPost count: 111
I was watching the History Channel a few weeks ago and they had a rerun of look at the English longbow. The gentleman who was demonstrating everything seemed knowledgeable, and since I’m not, I thought it was pretty good. His arrows must have a yard long and quite thick, they reminded me of an atlatl dart. When he fired the bow he almost got a running start by stepping forward quickly as he drew the bow.
Reading an article in TradBow about the find on the Tudor ship Mary Roseit would seem that the arrow shafts they found on it were 28 inches long and no mention of them being very thick. Other articles I’ve read do not indicate that the longbowmen had to run to move forward to draw the bow, in fact, other reenactments and old pictures would seem to indicate that it was a very smooth process in drawing and shooting the bow. I would think that line after line of bowmen moving forward every time they fired a volley of arrows would cause mass confusion, not to mention the problem of aiming the re-aiming arrows every time you move.
Anyone got any thoughts on what was actually happening at Crecy’ and Agincourt?
Bruce SmithhammerMay 20, 2014 at 4:29 pmPost count: 2514
Not sure which video on the English longbow you were watching (maybe the one with Mike Loades?) but I agree – I doubt that a running start, or even an aggressive step forward, was the usual way to shoot an English longbow in war.
Tactically, the English approach to using the bow in war was largely pretty regimented and static (which some historians attribute to why its success was limited). The role of the English archer in battle was primarily for pre-emptive strikes, cover fire upon retreats, and as a supporting role to what the English considered to be the more “valorous” form of fighting – hand-to-hand combat on foot, or even more esteemed – as a nobleman on horseback. As you point out – if a step forward was required of an entire line of archers with every shot, you do not have a static line, you have an advancing line – not what you would always want in those situations.
In addition, it was common for English archers in battle to have a supply of arrows in, or on, the ground by their side. I would bet they would want continue to stand next to that supply and not keep stepping away from it.
Mark TurtonMay 22, 2014 at 12:17 pmPost count: 759
Early part of the 100 years war almost all archers were mounted in small bands and self supporting.
They were pretty much a mercenary force and during the frequent truces would lay siege to towns and villages until sufficient payment was forthcoming, I think they laid siege to the Pope on three occasions and would roam all over Italy doing the same thing.
Set piece battles were a logistic nightmare 5’000 archers firing 10 arrows per minute, 50’000 arrows took some keeping up with children were used to ferry arrows from the baggage train and collect them from the battlefield during any lull in the fighting whilst collecting any valuables they might see, the English archers were far from chivalrous. They would be reluctant to leave their positions that would have stakes and slit trenches to defeat horses.
Early English bows mostly had broad limbs such as the Mere Heath bow and were primarily a hunting weapon.
First large scale use of bows in battle on English soil was probably by William The Bastard of Normandy and his invading army, that was the beginning of the end for the Anglo Saxons.
James HarveyMemberMay 23, 2014 at 9:00 pmPost count: 1130
This isn’t about History Channel, but I was reading an article about Mad Jack Churchill (the British officer that plugged some German with a longbow launched arrow in 1940). The article included this about Jack’s bow:
Poor Misguided Article wrote: Based on images of Churchill, (weapons historian) Loades suspects he used a lightweight bow with a draw weight under 40 pounds, versus the 100-pound of medieval bows and 180-pound modern warbows. But, says Loades, “unarmored German troops during WWII present a softer target than men in armor during the middle ages. Consequently a really heavy bow would not be necessary.” Modern bowhunters say a 70-pound draw bow can drop a deer easily at 20 yards, and a 40-pound bow would have a greater range, if lesser impact, so its killing potential in early modern times was still notable.
🙄 Where did this guy do his research??
Bruce SmithhammerMay 29, 2014 at 1:37 pmPost count: 2514
pothunter wrote: Early part of the 100 years war almost all archers were mounted in small bands and self supporting.
They were pretty much a mercenary force and during the frequent truces would lay siege to towns and villages until sufficient payment was forthcoming, I think they laid siege to the Pope on three occasions and would roam all over Italy doing the same thing…
Early English bows mostly had broad limbs such as the Mere Heath bow and were primarily a hunting weapon…
I’m curious – are you saying that the above was the case at the time of Crecy?
Mark TurtonMay 30, 2014 at 1:25 pmPost count: 759
There’s a lot information about this but mostly lost in the Shakespearean, Victorian rewriting of history.
Bruce SmithhammerMay 30, 2014 at 1:44 pmPost count: 2514
Thanks for the links, Mark. I can’t get enough of archery-related history!
On the subject of the English longbow, one of the challenges I find is that it has become so romanticized and mythologized – esp. in English versions history, that it’s hard to find truly objective accounts. But then I suppose that’s the challenge with much of written history in general…
David PetersenMemberMay 30, 2014 at 11:48 pmPost count: 2749
Hammer — Yep, history is writ by the victors. Viewed from the pov of how various nations treated their own citizens–the ONLY valid measure of a civilization in the long run–there were no clear-cut good guys vs. bad. The cocky flaming arrogance of the French military back then does not elicit a charitable view. Meanwhile, get cross-wise with the King or Church in England, and you’d be partially drowned, partially hung, eviscerated carefully so’s not to fully kill you, then drawn and quartered. True heroes and unimpeachably “right” causes are darn hard to find, eh. The history of civilization is the history of politics and war. Not much else. We be lucky to be here, now, and the world would be far better off if we still fought our endless wars with bows and spears.
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