Simple Shelters?

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Marcus Woodhouse
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Postby Marcus Woodhouse » Sat Mar 28, 2009 9:43 am

None of which reflects to the rather special needs you might meet as a soldier.


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Postby Lin » Sun Mar 29, 2009 12:56 am

and so what were they exactly??? [playing devil's advocate, you understand..] Do people need training? Perhaps they just need the need...



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Postby aidanwallis » Sun Mar 29, 2009 8:35 am

sleep in the hedge could be cosey :lol: , a few sheepskins and the worms :roll:


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Postby Marcus Woodhouse » Mon Mar 30, 2009 1:28 pm

I was feeling very much the Devil's Advocat myself in the posting of these later comments. I doubt that the need existed and that most people just struggled by veiwing the long uncomfortable nights on campaign as just another "one of those things".
What I wanted to know was what backed up assumtions that medieval soldiers were tough as nails, knew who to make survial shelters and in particular were especially hardy from 1450-1500.
All of this does not make sense and has been opinion dressed as fact. The stuff Ian used comes from The Medieval Soldier on Campaign and I don't regard that as a very good source of evidence as it is a bit dated now and I don't rate Gerry Embelton as the best scholar around.
I agree with earlier postings that make the point that this was someone in the 16th century saying that "they don't make 'em like they used to", not as being accurate judgements upon the soldiers of the century before.
I actually know nothing about this subject which is why I am keen to find out if there is any real facts about it before i say stuff to MOP who then turn around and tell me I'm talking at the eye of my *rse.

Again.


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Postby Marcus Woodhouse » Mon Mar 30, 2009 1:29 pm

I was feeling very much the Devil's Advocat myself in the posting of these later comments. I doubt that the need existed and that most people just struggled by veiwing the long uncomfortable nights on campaign as just another "one of those things".
What I wanted to know was what backed up assumtions that medieval soldiers were tough as nails, knew who to make survial shelters and in particular were especially hardy from 1450-1500.
All of this does not make sense and has been opinion dressed as fact. The stuff Ian used comes from The Medieval Soldier on Campaign and I don't regard that as a very good source of evidence as it is a bit dated now and I don't rate Gerry Embelton as the best scholar around.
I agree with earlier postings that make the point that this was someone in the 16th century saying that "they don't make 'em like they used to", not as being accurate judgements upon the soldiers of the century before.
I actually know nothing about this subject which is why I am keen to find out if there is any real facts about it before i say stuff to MOP who then turn around and tell me I'm talking at the eye of my backside.

Again.


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Postby Marcus Woodhouse » Mon Mar 30, 2009 3:44 pm

OOps I thought I had only sent the second posting. :oops:


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Postby Jack the dodgy builder » Tue Mar 31, 2009 1:36 pm

So far I have really enjoyed reading this thread and hopefully what I have to say will add something.
I suspect that I have more insight into this than many on this site. Firstly I served for 28 years and collected a number of hats along the way , Secondly I have spent along time on expeditions mainly to the colder lattitudes, to date I have 2489 nights sleeping in tents in the high Arctic (summer and winter) and 211 sleeping in tents in Antarctica , as well as Labrador and Kamchatka etc etc etc etc. I am also one of the team leaders of the local mountain rescue team here in North Wales.
I do not believe that we are any "softer" its just that our present way of living more than satifies our human instinct for the easy life and that in turn causes LMF .
In my experience we become aclimatised to the conditions we are in, but that takes time . So at the start of long expeditions people are wearing all there layers and 3 months later they are swimming in the sea amongst the ice bergs! in their under pants!!.
Medieval people I believe where more aclimatised to the cold for all the obvious reasons . Even the gentry . Any one who lives in an old building will tell you. Also even up to the 1930 it was not unusaul to see people in makeshift shelters (particulary in the country) because if things went wrong for you thats where you end up . and you dont have to look far in the US today to see this .
Lets have a little look at soldiery . I believe that how well soldiers preform is down to good middle management. , What ever the era, the bog standard infantyman is not always the sharpest chisel in the box . As working the land was the biggest employer in most periods, thats what most of them where labours. Squadies as a whole are prone to being idle. On campaign after campaign throughout history we read of huge losses of battle ready troops due to weather or illness. So often down to poor leadership, lack of beliefe in the cause and idleness ( from the top to be bottom).
I hope that all makes sense and will do for now .I look forward to your comments.
PS the coldest I have been is on the DZ at Thetford in Febuary !!!



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Postby Marcus Woodhouse » Tue Mar 31, 2009 2:02 pm

I can go along with a lot of that, it makes ense to me.
I still think the only people who had regular experience of making temporary shelters in England at this time were charcoal burners and sheperds, neither of who would be the type of men called to serve their Lord in times of war.
I would even suspect that the number of farm hands pressed into service would have been dependent upon the time of year as they would be needed to work the land and feed everyone else.
I know that there are too many tents at "medieval" shows maybe what we ought to look at is more sharing and cramming people into one or two big tents then lots of smaller ones with one or two in them.
Anyway I've enjoyed this thread while it lasted.


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Postby Jack the dodgy builder » Tue Mar 31, 2009 2:37 pm

I think that there where lots of people who used temporary shelters and there are lots of illustrations of them . all the building trades for a start . If you look at market scenes there is nearly always some sort of temporary shelter. What used to suprise me was the number of domed structures
I dont think that there is to much canvas on show. the illustrations back that up as does the written word. However I do agree that there are way to few people in those tents and that they have to much stuff . A 14 ft diameter british army bell tent in the 1800 would have 12 men in barracks service and 24 in campaign service. !!
Below is one of my favourite tent pictures quite a bit latter but does make the point.



They are examples of complaints to the powers that be because there where not enough workers left to bring in the crops . It really depends on the individual campaign.
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Postby wurzul » Tue Mar 31, 2009 5:23 pm

edit: double post.
Last edited by wurzul on Tue Mar 31, 2009 5:25 pm, edited 1 time in total.



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Postby wurzul » Tue Mar 31, 2009 5:25 pm

I think there is some underestimating of the efficacy of huddling here. If you are prepared to cosy up to people and animals you can sleep outside or under a basic shelter in all weathers. Its always seemed to me one of the best reasons to keep a dog, and one thing most armies have, is dogs. The warmth a dog provides on a little scavenged or waste food is extraordinary. And people are almost as good.
If you are huddled with others and round a fire, or in a shelter open to a fire, you are going to do pretty well for warmth. I camp in January in C19th period clothing every year, and have woken with snow on my shelter but cosy inside with mutt. A few branches, a blanket, and some bracken and a fire, bit of brandy so as to feel your limbs in the morning, perfect.
The rough and far from perfect shelter here would sleep six easily and takes 20 min to put up with a single billhook.
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Postby gregory23b » Tue Mar 31, 2009 5:29 pm

Nice post Jack. When are you next down this way btw?


Marcus, may I suggest Artists and Warfare in the Renaissance, J T Hale, Yale books. 1990s, a visual guide through artistic interpretation of the soldier from the late middle ages to the end of the 16thc. A fair few camp pics, a few with what look like make shift shelters alongside tents.

Also, re huddling, let us step away from our modern views on privacy and personal space, common inns often had people sharing beds with complete strangers, so a few blokes keeping warming by huddling should not be that big a deal, possibly the norm.


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Postby Sir_John_Thomas » Tue Mar 31, 2009 6:34 pm

I personally don't think that we should assume that the muddy evil guy knew how to built shelters and keep warm, When I went through basic training we were tought how to put up a basha, or if you had no poncho, how to build a shelter, but not everybody always bothered, after a long march, many would just flop down and sleep. If it wasn't for the NCO's beasting them to put up their shelter, they may well have suffered from exposure by the morning, the proffesionals would imediatly put up a basha and get a brew going to warm themselves up, no matter how tired.

Its all about training and common sense, some ppl just dont get it. and some even more unfourtunate ppl don't get issued the kit, I'm thinking here of the soldiers in the Peninsular who were not issued tents for the first 2 winters, and the poor buggers died in their droves from cold and cold related ilness. Even worse were the chaps in the Crimea who spent a winter on the platue with no shelter, they faired even worse, some Battalions lost 75% of their men to the cold during that winter. Then think of the Wermacht on the Eastern front in WWII, they had no winter clothing at all for the first winter, and they suffered because of it.

Its not until you get to more resent times that the average soldier can fair better in the field no matter what the season, In the falklands Conflict, not a single British serviceman was lost to the cold (OK a lot had trenchfoot, but that was down to the terrible DMS boots) and again many were let down by their kit, as some were not issued cold weather gear, But their training paid off due to lessons learned over the years.

So even the toughest struggle in cold weather, we cannot say, just because they had a good diet and that many were from a rural background that they would survive, training in those days was almost non existant for the average soldier, and if you could not afford a shelter out of your own purse, you probably would not get one

Sorry for the long post

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Postby Colin Middleton » Wed Apr 01, 2009 1:09 pm

How many people in the middle ages hadn't seen a thatch put on a house or a haystack? Or a wattle made? Wasn't there periods in the middle ages, where the family were expected to build their own houses? People may have had more basic practical skills than you might think.

Also, remember that we're not talking about making an ideal shelter. It's not a Ray Mear's TV show. All they need to do is make something good enough to keep them ALIVE. They may be too cold to sleep, but if they don't freeze, they've succeeded.

I suspect that, with no experience at building a shelter, I could probably create something that could keep me alive overnight, even in the winter. I might not be happy in the morning, but I think that I could avoid death and that's all that they really needed isn't it?


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Postby Marcus Woodhouse » Wed Apr 01, 2009 1:11 pm

I've seen people thatch, working in a rural town I got to watch one from the classroom window during last summer.
Doesn't make me a thatcher though.


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Postby Jack the dodgy builder » Wed Apr 01, 2009 1:34 pm

I think firstly we have to think of population, it is hard to imagine in this day that the medieval population was a tenth of what it is now . The upshot of this is that people where spread much wider apart than now. Add to this devastating deseases and I believe you had a much more adaptable population than now . We know that some people lived in hovels (open shed or shelter) so it would not have been unusual to see such structures.
Even the gentry where used to slumming it , There is written record that after big feasts etc that only the rich where invited to, the guests just curled up on the floor and went to sleep (probably in snuggly huddles). Jorge might confirm that this happened at Hampton court. So although not ever person would know how to make a simple shelter I suspect there where enough who did. Just like not everyone would have had a flint and steel.
I often chuckle to myself at the reaction of folks when I put a tarpaulin shelter in their garden and thus give myself extra dry work space.

As other have confirmed leadership is the key, so in the examples quoted some units didnt lose many but others where devastated. Also if they had been issued winter clothing things would have been different. Modern winter clothing is not any better than any issued from medieval to now.
The Falklands is also an interesting case because although it is true that no one died of cold, some units where bearly able to preform and this lead to other problems and lack of combat effectiveness. I used DMS throughout the campaign had no problems and nor did any body else in my unit. The DMS agruement has always been an excuse for bad leadership and personal idleness. Lessons where not learnt from the past and still havnt been.

Jorge could agre more about the privacy and personal space thing . I think it it has a lot to do with problems in this country ,
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Postby Sir_John_Thomas » Wed Apr 01, 2009 9:19 pm

Yeah good point about the DMS boots

I suppose if you cannot be arsed to keep your feet dry, then you will go down with Trench foot, dont matter whitch boots you wear really I suppose. as my old Seargeant used to say "any fool can get wet and cold, but only a professional can keep warm and dry"

That has worked for me many times over the years


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Postby Langley » Thu Apr 02, 2009 1:48 pm

We have someone in the group who plays a pilgrim (and has done the trip to Compostella so he doesn't feel he is just bull*****g). He uses just such a shelter as you are proposing and has had never a bad night's sleep. I also recall reading of temporary shelters made from hurdles carried in the wagon train. Dead easy to throw 4 up in a square and cover with something like brances. As with a lot of the stuff I have read as I research, damned if I could find it again though...
We did have one hardy bunch at Warwick a few years back who rolled in their cloaks and slept in the hedges. Don't think it was just how much they had drunk. And yes, the weather can be very odd. Many Easters at Warwick with frost on the tent testify to that, even late Easters. AS for last year and the snow. (Which is why the gun which fired from the wall first day stayed firmly on the ground and not up any nasty slippy stairs the second). Hoping for better weather this year., See you there Methley...



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Postby Lindsay » Fri Apr 03, 2009 12:06 am

I found this quote in Patten's description of the Battle of Pinkie (1547) Here he is describing the Scottish Camp

Here now, to say somewhat of the manner of their camp.
As they had no pavilions or round houses of a commendable
compass : so were there few other tents with posts, as the
used manner of making is ; and of these few also, none of
above twenty foot in length, but most far under. For the
most part, they were all sumptuously beset, after their fashion,
with fleur de lys, for the love of France, some of blue buck-
ram, some of black, and some of some other colours.

These white ridges, as I called them, that, as we stood on
Fauxside Bray, did make so great a muster towards us, which
I did take then to be a number of tents : when we came, we
found them to be a linen drapery, of the coarser camerick
[cambric] indeed, for it was all of canvas sheets.

They were the tenticles or rather cabins and couches of
their soldiers : which (much after the common building
of their country besides) they had framed of four sticks, about
an ell long a piece : whereof two fastened together at one end
aloft, and the two ends beneath stuck in the ground an ell
asunder, standing in fashion like the bow of a sow's yoke.
Over two such bows, one, as it were, at their head, the other
at their feet, they stretched a sheet down on both sides
whereby their cabins became roofed like a ridge, but scant
shut at both ends
; and not very close beneath, on the sides,
unless their sticks were the shorter, or their wives the more
liberal to lend them larger napery. Howbeit within they
had lined them, and stuffed them so thick with straw, that as
the weather was not very cold, when they were once couched,
they were as warm as [if] they had been wrapped in horsedung


Historians did it in the past.

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Postby Chris, yclept John Barber » Fri Apr 03, 2009 12:31 pm

Lindsay wrote:I found this quote in Patten's description of the Battle of Pinkie (1547) Here he is describing the Scottish Camp

when they were once couched,
they were as warm as [if] they had been wrapped in horsedung


There's another option for you...


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Soldiers shelter

Postby glyndwr 50 » Wed Jun 17, 2009 9:51 pm

Follow the battles of the rebellion wars of Glyndwr ,and as he was marching through wales heading south.He men often used what was around,this could of been any type of building ,Barns or pens for livestock .But some time when no cover was avalible the soldiers made up makeshift shelters of whatever came to hand.Ferns or leafy branches. But in the case of a reenactor such things are not pratical .A solider carries his equipment on his back ,this will no doubt meen some sort of shelter as well.I camped out one night with nothing more than a piece of waterproof canvas ,just to see what it was like.Wrapping it around you a bit like a cone was fine untill it rained then I got very cold . I found that if you can get the covering away from your body you stand a better chance of keeping warm.A simple vee shaped tent with if possible the ends coverd is good .And is made even better when you place sods of cut turf around the base to keep out the wind .Two branches as poles and its home from home . Its allways good practic to camp as near to a hedge row as possible as this can also act as a wind break.. and if possible near a pub HaHa.



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Postby Marcus Woodhouse » Thu Jun 18, 2009 1:27 pm

Your mentioning of a pub is a good one as most travellers just went from one hostel to the next one down the line, or the next monastery, or the next castle, manor house, etc.
Thus being another reason why many would neither know, or care how to make a shelter.


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Postby Langley » Fri Jun 19, 2009 1:16 pm

The secret of a good shelter is not to make it too big. You do need to get whatevery you are using as covering, ferns, branches or ponchos away from your body - but only by a couple of inches. The idea is to have all the heat your body generates confined close to you. with one side open as you get wiht hte simplest coverings a small trench dug in front with a fire makes things very snug. I was a Scount Leader instructor and taught these methods to modern adult volunteers and they were usually very surprised at how effective a small lean to can be.



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Postby Langley » Mon Jun 22, 2009 1:18 pm

At just the right time Tentorium published a reminder about their products which are backed up by a lot of research into the iconography elsewhere on the forum. Now you can argue that the illustrations are continental of course but take a look at this...
http://www.tentorium.pl/main.php?dzial= ... r=04&lg=en



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Postby Colin Middleton » Wed Jul 01, 2009 12:51 pm

I was readingthe EH magasine this morning about the Field of the Cloth of Gold. They listed the number of tents and number of people taken with Henry and there seemed to be plenty of accomodation for everyone. Similarly, we hear of the Duke of Burgundy owning 2 tents, which could each sleep 1,000 men. This begins to sugest that perhaps the household at least would all have accomodation. We may also find that the garrisons and levy would be issed tents from their armouries, along with other equipment. But where to start looking for that information, I don't know.


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Postby Marcus Woodhouse » Wed Jul 01, 2009 1:04 pm

Well thats it sorted then what we really need is to club together and buy one single circus marque tent and then get everyone to sleep in it.


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Postby behanner » Wed Jul 01, 2009 6:59 pm

There is something that is being over looked. A military camp set up for a period of time especialy a siege and one that is moving through. If you take something like Edward's march to Tewksbury it likely looked nearly like a forced march. On the other extreme in the same period you had the French campaign of 1475 which traveled something like 10 miles a day, with plenty of time to organize a camp and billet troops.

And for the English it isn't like England has particularly harsh weather that you can't sleep outside most nights of the year with good wool garments and a wool cloak. An ACW friend of mine here in the states has slept outside in near freezing weather outside he and several other men basically spooned together and while it wasn't the most pleseant night but they stayed perfectly warm and slept fine. I even bet my friend snored cause the only way to keep him from doing that is forcing him to sleep in the cold without a blanket.



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Postby Langley » Wed Jul 08, 2009 12:02 pm

So if Duke of Burgundy had a tent to sleep 1,000 falling over and snoring where you land in the beer tent must be 100% aufentic right?



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Postby The Methley Archer » Tue Aug 04, 2009 9:06 am

Here is my MK II version which withstood the weather at Ponderosa with only a couple of drips.

And yes, I did sleep in it through the rain Friday night without a bother :D
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