Artillery at Crecy

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Artillery at Crecy

Postby craig1459 » Sun Jul 26, 2009 9:04 pm

The first public we had at Kelmarsh produced what appeared to be a small stone cannon ball 3in diameter, which they claimed they had found at Crecy when they visited it last year.

They wanted us to advise - but neither Fox nor I could provide them with any guidance. Is it possible that it could have come from the battle?
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Postby Brother Ranulf » Sun Jul 26, 2009 9:58 pm

Crecy Museum houses a replica of the type of gun (fixed to a kind of table arrangement with a massive timber backstop) that may have been used during the battle - but it is equipped with iron balls, which I understood to be typical of the earliest cannon (together with enormous iron arrows).

Such guns were certainly being used by the early 1300s; a Pipe Roll of Edward III dated February 1 1345 lists 'gunnis cum saggitis et pellotis' (guns with arrows and pellots, which could be metal ammunition).

Given that evidence for the use of artillery by the English at Crecy has previously been lacking, it seems to me more than regrettable that people should think it acceptable to remove possible evidence both from the site and from any possible expert scrutiny. :(
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Postby Nigel » Mon Jul 27, 2009 8:48 am

If I recall the first ever recorded casualty caused by gunfiore was at crecy so its possible
There’s a country in Europe where they treat their ex soldiers with pride no waits for medical treatment after injuries received during service, no amensia from the government. Cant for the life of me recall where it is but I know exactly where it is not.
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Postby Marcus Woodhouse » Mon Jul 27, 2009 4:18 pm

Cannons are mentioned by four French chroniclers and an Italian chronicler of the battle who ascribes the Genoese rout as being down to confusion caused by this as playing a bigger part than the acrhery of the English. However none of the three English chroniclers mention cannons being used in the battle although cannon and gunpowder is listed as part of the acroutements of war Edward III takes with him to France.
The French and Italian chroniclers all seem to know what a cannon is and don't talk of it being a devilsh contraption or any such bollox-to them it is clearly a novel, but not unfamiliar weapon of war.
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Postby Langley » Mon Jul 27, 2009 5:33 pm

3" diameter sounds a bit large for a "perrier" or stone thrower. Ours is based on one in Leeds armouries given to Edward IV by Burgundy and while it has a restricted bore due to needing to remain within Shotgun definition, it would not take a 3" ball even if bored out, the bore would be bigger than the barrel (EH?). However, I have also seen a stone ball found by a lovely old couple whose cottage backs on to Mortimer's Cross battlefield which was about that size. They found it in their garden. It does not appear to have been fired - very clean but then, it could have been weathered away but also no damage to suggest it ever hit anything. Were there possibly small siege engine type ball throwers in use? Never seen any mention of such things but absence of evidence is not evidence of absence as they say. Will talk to Lady L about the size, she is the real expert in our household having been going bang for much longer than I have.
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Postby Fox » Mon Jul 27, 2009 6:35 pm

First off, I suggested they take it to an archeologist.

Second, it wasn't as big as three inch diameter. We have a cannon ball for our cannon, which while too big for bore is only just too big. This was defintely smaller, and indeed looked like it would have been a fit for the cannon, so I would say it was more inch and half to two inch diameter.

I did point out to them that cannon that small typically fired shot rather than ball, and that ball that size was usually iron.

At that point I held up my ignorance, and indeed couldn't remember anything about cannon at Crecy, and, I reiterate, I suggested they go see an archeologist.

Personally, I have no idea what it is that they'd found, but it did look artificially spheriod, but far from perfectly so (in otherwords it was a distorted sphere).
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Postby craig1459 » Mon Jul 27, 2009 6:58 pm

Fox wrote:First off, I suggested they take it to an archeologist.

yep I think I suggested asking someone in Britannia - apologies for wonky measurement
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Postby Brother Ranulf » Mon Jul 27, 2009 9:00 pm

Looking for evidence of previous finds from the Crecy site, I came across a mention on another forum ("Shadowed Realm"), posted by one Liang Jieming in January 2006. Liang says:

"I really excite! My good friend General Laporte of the French Navy, who's family still owns and hold the titles to lands of the old Crecy 1346 battlefield between Edward III and Philip IV is going to give me photographs of stone and iron cannon balls unearthed from Crecy which are still in his family!"

Another site mentions "5 stone cannonballs found at the Crecy battlefield in 1850", the present whereabouts of which are unknown - perhaps they are the same as those in General Laporte's family.

As far as I can discover none of these finds has been documented , plotted or scientifically studied. It would be interesting to know the sizes of these other finds, as a comparison with the one you mention.
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Postby Langley » Wed Jul 29, 2009 11:19 am

Discussed with Lady L last night. Her feelings were that she doubted the powder of the period was good enough quality to get something that size out of the gonne. She also came up with a comment I had been thinking about. Just because you found it on the battlefield at Crecy is there evidence it came from that battle? Do we know if there were any other later little disagreemetns over the same piece of France which might have resulted in this hanging around. She was dubious about the shape. We had some balls made (just too big for the bore like Fox - don't truyst MOPs not to stick one down there when you have your back turned. Our bagged gravel ammo is also just too big to fit and when we get round to making the wooden shells packed with blacksmith shop floor brushings, those wil be too). We believe our little perrier would mostly have been used with bags or wooden shells but balls might have been made for knocking on doors in a less than polite manner. The mason who made them found them hard work to get right. Lady L thinks anything more than a little off spherical would be very difficult to get to work as the propellant gases would leak far too much.
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Postby Brother Ranulf » Wed Jul 29, 2009 11:52 am

Thanks for that, Langley, some interesting points raised there.

Crecy is almost unique as far as battlefields go - there is no record of any other military activity on the site at any period, so anything found there is almost guaranteed to be of 1346 date.

As you say, this does not automatically mean that the guns of the period were shooting non-spherical stone balls - but the argument about "leaking propellant gasses" seems a little strange in view of the fact that these same guns are known to have shot iron and/or oak arrows, which were almost certainly a very poor match for the bore of the gun (my earlier quote of a 1345 Pipe Roll refers). Contemporary illustrations show the arrows to be much smaller that the gun bore, indicating a substantial loss of propellant power. These were very early days for gunpowder weapons and we should expect a degree of ineptitude. It would have been interesting to know just how accurately the iron balls discovered on the site were cast.

So let's consider what alternatives there are if the stone balls did not come from the guns (perhaps pots-de-fer is a better term than perrier at this period):

It would have been helpful if all the finds had been carefully mapped and plotted, since this might have given a clue - if they were found scattered about at the French end of the field (and in the zone between the two armies) then they probably came from English guns.

If they were found scattered about at the English end, a different option presents itself - that they perhaps came from Genoese crossbows. Stone-throwing crossbows are listed in Pipe Rolls and other records of the time, alongside the usual bolt-shooting variety.

Since all these finds have been recklessly looted, no such study is possible.
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Postby Dave B » Wed Jul 29, 2009 12:11 pm

I would strongly argue that we do not know enough about firearms technology from the first 50 years from Milemete (1327) to have the slightest idea what bore cannon were available.

Not sure I agree about the powder not being good enough. I think we just don't know, and I'm not convinced that a 3" bore cannon needs a better grade of powder than a handgun in order to work, as long as it isn't too short barreled.

I'm also not convinced that the stone ball would have to be terribly round. after all we know that wooden discs were used as wads slightly later in the medieval period, so a loose and badly fitting ball might fire, albeit not accurately.

However cannon were so rare at the period that if there were such a cannon at Crecy there would not be lots of them and the number of stones that might be scattered about would be pretty small. the odds of finding one would be very small, and it's much more likely to be some less war-like debris. I seem to recall that there was some sort of threshing machine (for making flax?) that involved rolling stuff in barrels with stone balls, I'm sure that are lots of more likely things it can be.
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Postby Brother Ranulf » Wed Jul 29, 2009 1:21 pm

Cannon were not quite as rare as you might imagine:

1324 Cannon used at Siege of Metz

1324 English fortress of La Réole in Gascony falls after a month's bombardment by cannon

1326 Illustration of cannon by Walter Milemete in a book presented to the future Edward III

1326 Florentine directs manufacture of metal cannon and inventory lists a bronze cannon

1327 Cannon used by English against the Scots 'crakys of war', as described by John Barbour writing in 1375

1331 Cannon used at the siege of Cividale in Friuli, Italy

1331 Siege of Alicante, Spain, cannon described

1333 Edward III orders gunpowder from a York apothecary

1333 Cannon used at the siege of Berwick

1334 Cannon used in Merrburg, near Freiburg, Germany

1338 French documents list the purchase of iron arrows and sulphur

1338 Gunpowder is being stored in the Tower of London

1338 English manuscript lists French ships with 'pots der fer' firing iron bolts (the same word can mean arrows) against the English at Southampton

1339 Peter Van Vullaere described as 'Maitre de rebaudequins', took service with the English at Bruges

1339 October 8 Cambrai accounts list the production of 5 iron and 5 metal cannon

1339 French use 'pot de fer' in Perigod and Cambrai against the English

1340 French use 'pot de fer' at Quesnoy

1340 Ribaudequins used at siege of Tournai

1340 Italian painting shows hand guns

1340 June 24 Edward III may have used cannon at the battle of Sluy

1341 Stirling Castle has guns for its defence

1342 Florentine inventory lists canon to fire iron balls the size of apples

1342 Spanish Muslims used cannon which fired metal balls against Castilian army at Siege of Algeciras (Earl of Derby and Salisbury were present at the siege)

1343 Spanish muslims used gunpowder against Alfonso XI of Castile

1344 The household of Edward III includes 'artillers and gonners'

1345 February 1, Pipe Rolls of Edward III list 'gunnis cum saggitis et pellotis' (guns with arrows and pellots)

1345 Earl of Derby uses canon at the siege of Monsegur

1345 Tower of London has 100 cannon

1345 French had 24 cannon made at Cahors for the siege of Aiguillon

1346 March 1 Pipe Rolls of Edward III list 'gunnis cum pelotes et pulvere pro eisden gunnis'

1346 May 10 Edward III inventory lists 10 guns or stocks or beds, 6 pieces of lead, 5 barrels of powder, 100 large pellots

1346 26 August Cannon possibly used by the English at the battle of Crecy

1346 2 tons of gunpowder made at the Tower of London

1346 20 Cannon used at the siege of Calais

The 1342 "balls the size of apples" would be helpful if we knew exactly what Florentine apples looked like!!! :roll:
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Postby Dave B » Wed Jul 29, 2009 1:49 pm

Sure, but it's still only a few dozen refferences spread over 20 years and the whole of europe, and most of them lack detail. BTW, I read that the Metz reference was now generaly accepted as a later addition to the document.
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Postby craig1459 » Fri Jul 31, 2009 8:14 pm

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Postby Dave B » Fri Jul 31, 2009 8:26 pm

It is, the quantity of saltpeter ordered suggests stocking up to make perhaps 2.5 tons of powder at a time, which is a lot of you've only got little guns.
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Postby craig1459 » Sat Aug 01, 2009 8:04 pm

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Postby Langley » Tue Aug 04, 2009 11:28 am

Hi Dave, I think Lady L and I were thinking about the variety of recipes for powder. The proportions of ingredients reccomended vary widely and many would not give a very good result. The exact proportions for a good bang are surprisingly critical. That and the nasty habit of separating out as you drag it around in barrells so that quality of bang changes as you dig down. This was a problem until the invention of making a cake and then milling it. That is why we were dubious about being able to shoot anything terribly big with it. As for quantity - well, we have 3 breeches for our perrier (would prefer 4 and talking to Miel about that...) and we can keep up a pretty constant fire although she does start to get sticky and need to cool occasionally but we get through a surprising amount of the stuff. I k now most guns shot only a few times in a day because of the way contracted independent gunners sold their services but for guns like ours which were in the main army I suspect this was not such a limiting factor.
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Postby fishwife » Sat Aug 22, 2009 10:35 pm

Anyone thought of contacting Sir Philip Preston? He lives in Crecy and is the author of "the" book?
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Postby Mick,M » Mon Aug 24, 2009 8:52 am

May be you should ask these guys they have conducted the tests and will tell you exacty what mix powder, what projectile will do what

http://www.abc.net.au/science/news/stories/s943726.htm

http://members.iinet.net.au/~rmine/middel6.html

http://www.archaeology.org/online/inter ... index.html

their result make good reading
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Postby the real lord duvet » Mon Aug 24, 2009 9:29 am

i've alwasys though that guns came in which ever calibre the maker finished them in and then someone else made the ammunition to fit (or not) - the chance of 2 barrels being the same (micromimeter measuing) was minimal?

until gunnery became the science of sixe of charge, length of barrel and size of shot at least.

also our barrel isn't perfectly round. its between 1.99 and 1.95 inch at the muzzel when new and might have worn away a bit since. liike a lot of modern repros its not made authentically but out of hydraulic steel tube.

the 25lber and 6lber i play with at other times are also not perfectly round as the barrels have worn out with use.
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Postby Marcus Woodhouse » Mon Aug 24, 2009 1:39 pm

Why do you think seige guns were only fired a few times a day? The research I have done suggests that considerable rates of fire could be achieved evn by mamouth bombards.
master gunner might also have more than one gun to direct, his being the "scientific" task of postioning and directing the fire rather than the grunt work of loading and shooting.
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Postby zauberdachs » Mon Aug 24, 2009 5:03 pm

Forgive my lack of knowledge but would a ball like projectile necessarily have come from a cannon in this period?
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Postby Brother Ranulf » Mon Aug 24, 2009 6:06 pm

I believe the only other option is the stone-throwing crossbows which I mentioned above - these tend to get ignored but were certainly used by the French/Genoese crossbowmen. I guess the projectiles would have been smaller than those we are considering, but . . . .
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Postby zauberdachs » Tue Aug 25, 2009 9:09 am

Brother Ranulf wrote:I believe the only other option is the stone-throwing crossbows which I mentioned above - these tend to get ignored but were certainly used by the French/Genoese crossbowmen. I guess the projectiles would have been smaller than those we are considering, but . . . .


It occurs to me that the ball of that size is about the same size as the grapefruit we were shooting from Conquest's Perrier at the weekend...
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Postby guthrie » Tue Aug 25, 2009 11:13 am

I've never read of a perrier o other such weapon being used on a battlefield. I have read of a springald being taken out of its usual place defending walls, massacring a few knights in a field until they all ganged up and killed the operators.
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Postby Marcus Woodhouse » Wed Aug 26, 2009 8:03 am

They were used on ships (but that's not what you mean is it.)
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Postby zauberdachs » Wed Aug 26, 2009 9:14 am

guthrie wrote:I've never read of a perrier o other such weapon being used on a battlefield. I have read of a springald being taken out of its usual place defending walls, massacring a few knights in a field until they all ganged up and killed the operators.


You mean Medieval Total War isn't historically accurate? ;)
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Postby guthrie » Wed Aug 26, 2009 11:45 am

zauberdachs wrote:
guthrie wrote:I've never read of a perrier o other such weapon being used on a battlefield. I have read of a springald being taken out of its usual place defending walls, massacring a few knights in a field until they all ganged up and killed the operators.


You mean Medieval Total War isn't historically accurate? ;)


Yes.
That reminds me, I have a cheap version of it sitting on my computer, never played. Must install it some time.
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Postby the real lord duvet » Wed Aug 26, 2009 1:31 pm

guthrie wrote:
zauberdachs wrote:
guthrie wrote:I've never read of a perrier o other such weapon being used on a battlefield. I have read of a springald being taken out of its usual place defending walls, massacring a few knights in a field until they all ganged up and killed the operators.


You mean Medieval Total War isn't historically accurate? ;)


Yes.
That reminds me, I have a cheap version of it sitting on my computer, never played. Must install it some time.


but in years to come it will be seen together with robin hood and merlin and factual historical drama or entertainment
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Postby Fox » Wed Aug 26, 2009 1:48 pm

zauberdachs wrote:
guthrie wrote:I've never read of a perrier o other such weapon being used on a battlefield. I have read of a springald being taken out of its usual place defending walls, massacring a few knights in a field until they all ganged up and killed the operators.


You mean Medieval Total War isn't historically accurate? ;)


Actually, within the limitations of being a computer game, it's not bad. (A bit better again in MTW2).

If the enemy puts siege engines, or even cannon, on to the field you just send cavalry round the back to, er, gang up and kill the operators.

In the game, siege engines, it turns out, are particularly useless on the field; they tend to kill a small number of blokes really, really dead.
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