What is known about Late Medival battlefield Combat?

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Marcus Woodhouse
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Postby Marcus Woodhouse » Mon May 19, 2008 7:14 pm

:D


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TimB
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Postby TimB » Wed May 21, 2008 3:45 pm

Phil the Grips wrote:Except most people would be relatively well off folk from the artisan and mercantile class so unsused to being in the rural trades


This is not my understanding of the Wars of the Roses at least. I don't have the book to hand, but IIRC, in John Gillingham's book on the subject he suggests a figure of 90% of the troops being drawn from the rural population.

I cannot remember offhand what he uses as a basis for this estimate, but if he is largely correct then you would be dealing with a lot of troops who were used to handling not just bills but a variety of lengthy agricultural implements (when harvest time comes around, everyone is expected to do their bit).

Someone whose muscles were honed to use a pitchfork all day would at the very least have the necessary strength and endurance to use a polearm. The level of training is debatable, but I know that when I get tired during a battle my ability to pull off anything sophisticated drops off sharply. Someone capable of shifting straw about on a pitchfork from dawn until dusk is going to be unpleasant to face off against.

Of course, this just makes me want to use a highly trained fighter like AdamR for experiments where we get him absolutely exhausted and make him fight incredibly fit people with polearms.



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Postby Adam R » Sat May 24, 2008 5:54 pm

Phil the Grips wrote:Except most people would be relatively well off folk from the artisan and mercantile class so unsused to being in the rural trades (maybe why Foresters etc were prized troops in a fray- just as gamekeepers were in WWII) and likely to have never seen a bill, let alone hefted one, especially not in anger.


I'm interested to know where this thinking originates Phil, I was rather under the impression that the typical fella of the rank and file (who were neither ranked or filed :lol: ) was from the rural estates - city contingents not - but the chaps from the estates, yes.... no?

As for their having spikes and the like - that's not my point really Colin, just that if you are dextererous enough to trim hedges - you'll be able to use a similar tool with a point on it quite well - lots of transferable skill! I'm not so sure of the length of a bill on the field in the 15thC either, seem to remember seeing something suggesting they weren't all that long - can't remember wher I saw it though and it was theoretical rather than evidential.


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Colin Middleton
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Postby Colin Middleton » Wed May 28, 2008 12:44 pm

I've seen bills with hafts from around 4' upto approximatley 7' (I think) and halberds with even wider variety.

As to the issue on points, (I think) I'm really just querying how transferable the skills are. Like I said, I don't know much about hedging bills, so I can't really say how similar hedging and fighting will be.

That said, if you're comfortable with a scythe and a hedging bill and a quarterstaff, a brown bill shouldn't be beyond you...


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Postby Man from Coventry » Wed May 28, 2008 2:34 pm

Except most people would be relatively well off folk from the artisan and mercantile class so unsused to being in the rural trades (maybe why Foresters etc were prized troops in a fray- just as gamekeepers were in WWII) and likely to have never seen a bill, let alone hefted one, especially not in anger


I don't believe this is so given that the urban population from which these classes were drawn was very small, not more than 200,000 out of an estimated population of approx 3 million. so 90%+ of the population was rural and it is therefore probable that they formed the vast bulk of the armies. Also evidence from the Coventry Leetbook points to town contingents being recruited from foreigners (i.e the countryside surrounding the city) rather than the townsfolk (far too astute to risk their skins).

Ghost, are you certain that all (or even any) of that retinue was armed? A retinue was a group of retained people, they may well have included his cooks, cleaners and what ever other servants he could bring along and may even have included children.


Why shouldn't cooks and cleaners have fought, given that there was no standing army and all soldiers were "amateurs". At Blore Heath, Lord Stanley's cook was wounded (in the contingent of William Stanley)and subsequently captured and a Laurence Westbroke, Cook fought in the contingent of Sir Thomas Fitton along with a shepherd, husbandman and "Knave", the majority of the contingent are described as yeomen. Certainly clerks, lawyers and secretaries fought.


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Postby Jim » Wed May 28, 2008 3:00 pm

Man from Coventry wrote:Why shouldn't cooks and cleaners have fought, given that there was no standing army and all soldiers were "amateurs". At Blore Heath, Lord Stanley's cook was wounded (in the contingent of William Stanley)and subsequently captured and a Laurence Westbroke, Cook fought in the contingent of Sir Thomas Fitton along with a shepherd, husbandman and "Knave", the majority of the contingent are described as yeomen.


And everyone knows Steven Seagal fought as a cook in "Under Seige" or whatever it was called, and it's absolute fact that it was a well known early medieval attack to "cut your heart out with a spoon".

Anyway you couldn't POSSIBLY want to inform Nix he couldn't go on the field with Spoon of Doom II.


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Postby Marcus Woodhouse » Thu May 29, 2008 7:45 am

And lets not forget that rabbit, he's f***ing dynamite!


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Postby Colin Middleton » Thu May 29, 2008 12:26 pm

Man from Coventry wrote:Why shouldn't cooks and cleaners have fought, given that there was no standing army and all soldiers were "amateurs". At Blore Heath, Lord Stanley's cook was wounded (in the contingent of William Stanley)and subsequently captured and a Laurence Westbroke, Cook fought in the contingent of Sir Thomas Fitton along with a shepherd, husbandman and "Knave", the majority of the contingent are described as yeomen. Certainly clerks, lawyers and secretaries fought.


I agree entirely and it's nice to hear that I'm not the only one of that oppinion. However, my meaning wasn't the 'cooks don't fight', it was more 'does the retinue contain people who are not going to fight'. Does the term Retinue mean 'fightine people' or just 'people you're with'?


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hay pikes, bills and polearms

Postby bmht » Thu May 29, 2008 1:04 pm

We have spent time both hay making with hay pikes and forks, hedge laying with short handled bill hooks and always end up justifying 'the burn' as good training for the battlefield!
Agricultural work is fine for personal training/fitness, but what really counts on the battlefield is cohesion, discipline and good moral.?
A decent leader also helps?
great topic...


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Battlefield Psychology

Postby cripplestickmick » Thu May 29, 2008 1:58 pm

A good book to read on Battlefield Psychology is 'Acts of war' by Richard Holmes. Whilst it is written about warfare in the 20th century some of the sources do go back to earlier times.

one of the main things I took away from it is the amount of people that actually fight in an effective manner, during WWI and WWII is was reckoned that out of every 100 men, only 2 could shoot to kill, a further 15 would shoot to kill if near an officer, and the other 83 men would shoot ineffectivly, but often performed other important tasks, supplying ammo under fire to their mates, helping the wounded, shooting in the general direction of the enemy but not actually able to bring themselves to shoot to kill.

A little off topic, but I hope its helpful.



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Postby Marcus Woodhouse » Sat May 31, 2008 4:37 pm

I'm not sure I agree. There are some fundemental differences with the fighting conducted on a modern battlefield. It really is quite easy to choose to kill or not to kill when you are aiming a rifle or machine gun. I've spoken to old men who flew in WWII and they didn't even acknowledge that they were killing anyone one when they shot down a plane or dropped their bombs (it was a plane or a target they were hitting).
I never had to make such a decision when I was in the army, only thing i ever shot was a camel (and that was to put it out of it's misery-i did blow up a sheep by accident as well, not at the same time.) medieval warfare was pretty damn personnal. I don't think there would be much room for ducking out on pulling a killing blow if you were face to face with someone trying to open your guts.


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Postby gregory23b » Mon Jun 09, 2008 12:14 pm

"Why shouldn't cooks and cleaners have fought, given that there was no standing army and all soldiers were "amateurs". "

But not all armies were comprised of soldiers, drovers, servants, ie men paid to lug stuff about are not necessarily expected to fight, nor are they necessarily a tactical threat or would it offer any political advantage to engage them

Also, why is it that if all men are supposed to be self-taught archers that relatively low numbers of them were picked for arrays? Maybe because the idea of all men being expected to function gives a deeper pool from which to get men who are willing, equipped and able, ie to some extent volunteer. Some of the contracts list the amount of men to be raised, suggesting a realistic expectation of commitment weighed up against depopulating the region of men, ie not all can be soldiers or are required to be even if they want to be.


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Postby Immortalis » Mon Jun 30, 2008 12:40 pm

Hi

I dont know that much about the actual combat techniques used, but this may help with the effects they produced when used.

http://www.the-exiles.org/Article%20Towton.htm

I now it doesnt really help with the question originally posted but does open your eyes to the brutality of the period and the weapons that were used. Even sheding new light on the wounds and what caused them obviouslly it doesnt give details on any deaths cased by internal trauma that wouldnt leave marks on the remains.

p.s it is quite old so please let me know if things have been found to not be accurate.



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Postby Wolf-Rampant » Tue Jul 01, 2008 11:51 pm

Also Marcus just because I :oops: ...sorry Sir john Dunne (quick reality check then) supplied the welsh archers,we need to remember that when the supply of arrows had exhausted, they may well have made up the rear guard ;skirmish line in the flanks or joined in with the main body.

PS Marcus as a Mercenary Ordanance Advisor to Lord William/Valet I like to keep you close by to attend my needs ,as bits of harness come adrift like at Tewksbury last year lol.

But seriously it just shows how little we know for certain & how much we make educated guestimates of what happened.



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Postby Adam R » Wed Jul 02, 2008 8:15 pm

Wolf-Rampant wrote:But seriously it just shows how little we know for certain & how much we make educated guestimates of what happened.


That's another nail with a headache!

But worse are the assumptions based on what is simply old re-enactment practice!

Challenge everything - because there might be more fun AND more 'accuracy' to be found.

And who better to get involved in some 'experimental archaeology' than re-enactors, given some historical parameters, a field and probably a beer tent ;)


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Postby Dave Key » Tue Jul 08, 2008 12:52 pm

Man from Coventry wrote:
Also evidence from the Coventry Leetbook points to town contingents being recruited from foreigners (i.e the countryside surrounding the city) rather than the townsfolk (far too astute to risk their skins).


It's been a while since I read the Coventry Leet ... what is the evidence you are using to suggest that the soldiers were not from within the city ?

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