Crossbows - some questions

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John Waller
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Post by John Waller »

Hobbitstomper wrote:Any fool can block a single arrow with a shield if he sees it coming. It isn't possible against volley fire.
With, say, 1000 archers pinging 10000 arrows a minute in your direction independent shooting hardly constitutes a single arrow. What is easier to defend? A shower of arrows then a dash forward or a constant drizzle with your sheild permanantly in front of your face?

Still supposition is not evidence. Were archers trained in volley fire? Was there even a requirement for an archer to shoot x arrows in a certain time as is often quoted. The only training I'm aware of was shooting for distance and the requirement to practice shooting.
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Spurious
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Post by Spurious »

John Waller wrote:
behanner wrote:Mass volley firing is the real effectiveness of the longbow. It would start about 300-400 yards out and continue until you end up close enough for the archers to consider alternate actions.
So basically you would have to cross 3-4 soccerfields under archery fire.
For crossbows I'd guess you are more correct. Crossbows in NW Europe in the 15th century are more of a siege weapon then open field weapon.
But what is your evidence for longbows? Might it not be a case of start shooting then 'as fast as you can lads' rather that controlled volleys?
Controlled volleys makes more sense as with deep formations of archers, only the first few ranks can see the target most of the time, leading to the ranks further back having to follow the aim of those in front. And since longbows should not/can't be held fully drawn for any significant length of time, rows of archers having to follow the aim of the people in front are going to have to aim and fire in a short period of time, which would lead to it being in a form of volleys as each successive rank follows the aim of the guys in front, draws and looses.

Shooting in the order of 'as fast as you can' is not really going to be a sensible course of action except for those in the front of a small, loose formation where everyone can aim at the target individually.

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Post by Marcus Woodhouse »

This was discussed recentally on a different thread about lacared armour.
I found the arguements there were quite astute, especially the ones I made.
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behanner
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Post by behanner »

I've honestly never given much thought to it. There are certainly drawings that would indicate group action. And the Burgundian Ordinance of 1473 kinda indicates is. "In like manner they are to exercise the archers and their horses, to get them used to dismounting and drawing their bows. They must learn how to attach their horses together by their bridles and make them walk forwards directly behind them, attaching the horses of three archers by their bridles saddle-bow of the page of whose man-at-arms they belong; also to march briskly forwards and to fire without breaking rank. "

So I could certainly accept that it was not as regimented as a later period musket barage, beyond that I'm now without an opinion.

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John Waller
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Post by John Waller »

Spurious wrote:
John Waller wrote:
behanner wrote:Mass volley firing is the real effectiveness of the longbow. It would start about 300-400 yards out and continue until you end up close enough for the archers to consider alternate actions.
So basically you would have to cross 3-4 soccerfields under archery fire.
For crossbows I'd guess you are more correct. Crossbows in NW Europe in the 15th century are more of a siege weapon then open field weapon.
But what is your evidence for longbows? Might it not be a case of start shooting then 'as fast as you can lads' rather that controlled volleys?
Controlled volleys makes more sense as with deep formations of archers, only the first few ranks can see the target most of the time, leading to the ranks further back having to follow the aim of those in front. And since longbows should not/can't be held fully drawn for any significant length of time, rows of archers having to follow the aim of the people in front are going to have to aim and fire in a short period of time, which would lead to it being in a form of volleys as each successive rank follows the aim of the guys in front, draws and looses.

Shooting in the order of 'as fast as you can' is not really going to be a sensible course of action except for those in the front of a small, loose formation where everyone can aim at the target individually.
Good argument. But what evidence do we have on the formations employed by archers? Historians can't even agree what the herce (sp?) formation at Agincourt was. If you can't see your target in a deep formation then why have a deep formation? Burgundian illustrations show bows and bills in mixed formation.

Perhaps it was a case of starting with controlled volleys then a deterioration in timing and effectiveness as casualties, equipment failure, arrow supply, muscle fatigue and the sight of a couple of thousand p*ssed off froggies heading your way had an effect. Happened at Waterloo (apart from the arrows of course :) ).

But now I'm speculating.
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behanner
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Post by behanner »

There is also a certain degree off a human tendancy to create natural paces with those around them. So I certainly could see it being less regimented then safety ideas currently dictate.

Burgundian archers were primarily defended by pikes. This idea I believe was originally proposed by an Englishman but not taken up by them.
My best guess is that the guys with the glaives are coustiliers.

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Spurious
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Post by Spurious »

Actually the whole ranks and volley fire in the case of say, Agincourt is provable by math, as I learned via a large thread about it on another forum I frequent. The gist of the argument for it was in the case of Agincourt we still have the rough dimensions of the battlefield, as well as several lowest and highest estimates of troop numbers, and a general idea of how much space a man needs to draw and fire a longbow.

These combined, going form the minimum to the maximum amounts of space and numbers worked out at about 6 ranks to 16 ranks worth of troops jammed into the space available and still able to bring enough bows to bear on target to have an effect as described by the accounts we have. Leading to volley fire being about the only logical method for that situation.
I'm not suggesting that it was always used, but the evidence is there for it being used in that instance, and does lend itself to being the logical method for other large scale engagements to bring a very large amount of arrows onto target in a short space of time.

http://theminiaturespage.com/boards/msg.mv?id=146171 heres the thread for those interested. Warning: it's not small.

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Post by Black Pear »

my fault for saying "volleys", I should have said "en masse", which was more what I meant. My gut instinct is that it would have been more "start shooting now lads" and "stop shooting ya b*ggers" rather than what we would understand as volley firing.

Still, interesting discussion, particularly Spurious's space related crowd dynamics bit and the natural rhythm ideas.

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Post by Marcus Woodhouse »

Given the power of a late medieval crossbow I doubt a shield would have been able to stop the bolt.
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John Waller
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Re: Crossbows - some questions

Post by John Waller »

Thought I'd start this one off again with an appeal for any references to crossbows in England in the WOTR period. Anything, wills, inventories, letters, accounts etc etc. Am aware of the ref in the Paston letters.

Oh BTW Black Pear, I found a nice early C16th woodcut in The Great Warbow book showing crossbows 'clout' shooting against armoured cavalry. link to a copy http://books.google.co.uk/books?id=GH_u ... q=&f=false
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behanner
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Re: Crossbows - some questions

Post by behanner »

There is actually an article just about that.

Holmer, Paul, The Military Crossbow in Yorkist England, Journal of the Archer-Antiquaries 22/1972

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Re: Crossbows - some questions

Post by gregory23b »

With 1000 men shooting what need is there of volleys? There will be the first loose then an ongoing barrage. We do not know the command structure of the forces, other than large battle groups in the WOTR for ex. to make an assumption that volley shooting was possible or even required. Volley shooting is counter to archery practice in that each man's bow is unique and should be held drawn for as little time as possible to get the eye in and loose. I can imagine a signal to loose then one to fast.
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Re: Crossbows - some questions

Post by behanner »

To a certain degree it is a moot point due to safety reasons in re-enactment.

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Re: Crossbows - some questions

Post by John Waller »

behanner wrote:There is actually an article just about that.

Holmer, Paul, The Military Crossbow in Yorkist England, Journal of the Archer-Antiquaries 22/1972
Thanks muchly. I'll seek it out, even though I'm a Lancastrian!
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Re: Crossbows - some questions

Post by Spurious »

gregory23b wrote:With 1000 men shooting what need is there of volleys? There will be the first loose then an ongoing barrage. We do not know the command structure of the forces, other than large battle groups in the WOTR for ex. to make an assumption that volley shooting was possible or even required. Volley shooting is counter to archery practice in that each man's bow is unique and should be held drawn for as little time as possible to get the eye in and loose. I can imagine a signal to loose then one to fast.
Line of sight to the target for range being one big reason for shots to be in volleys. Effective target saturation against mobile targets being another. The idea that each man's bow is unique can also be countered by logistics and the need for arrows that work for the poundage of bow used. Since we know arrows were used in their (tens of) thousands, issuing each archer their own arrows suitable to their draw weight is pretty much impossible. See the thread linked http://theminiaturespage.com/boards/msg.mv?id=146171 for more, and better quality explanations than my own.

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