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So, how long were spears in the period of this sub-forum?

Posted: Sun Mar 02, 2014 10:10 pm
by guthrie
The reason I'm asking is because you might have noticed it's Bannockburn soon, which is 1314. There's a law from the later 15th century in Scotland that says spears should be, IIRC, 5 ells long, that is 15 feet or so.
At the start of the period, I thought that the spears used with shields couldn't be more than 5 or 6 feet long without becoming unweildy.

But the tricky thing is the period in the middle.

Aryeh Nusbacher, in his book on Bannockburn, spends some time discussing this, and plumps for something like 12 foot or longer. Too short and they won't have so much of an effect on the heavy cavalry, too long and people wouldn't be used to them or able to manouvre with them.

Then there's the battle of Courtrai (According to wikipedia one of 4 with that name), in 1302, in which spear weilding militia defeated armoured knights. They apparently used a spear called the geldon, but just how long was it?

It also wouldn't surprise me if Robert the Bruce had known of the battle of Courtrai and added that to his own knowledge of previous battles in Scotland to come up with his plans for Bannockburn.
This book at least suggests that the geldon was 10 to 14 feet long, but that's rather a large variation for a weapon to be used en masse, surely?
http://books.google.co.uk/books?id=nXvdAAAAQBAJ&pg=PA45&lpg=PA45&dq=battle+of+Courtrai+geldon&source=bl&ots=BU4rNTXWWy&sig=x7Pu0X2lG1PIDO5APy2R4ZhL1KU&hl=en&sa=X&ei=a50TU9vECbOe7AamuYFA&redir_esc=y#v=onepage&q=battle%20of%20Courtrai%20geldon&f=false

Re: So, how long were spears in the period of this sub-forum

Posted: Sun Mar 02, 2014 11:00 pm
by SteveC
Not this period but it's perfectly possible to use a longish spear and a shield.
Greek hoplites used 10-12 foot spears with a 3 foot diameter shield.
The later Hellenistic pikemen had shields (admittedly supported by a strap round the neck as well as on the arm) and their pikes are sixteen foot.

Re: So, how long were spears in the period of this sub-forum

Posted: Thu Mar 06, 2014 1:21 pm
by Ayliffe's Steve
You might have the issue here of spears being long enough to control well enough to hurt people being too long to safely use when trying to not hurt people!

The longest I have used it just over 9 feet but that was allowing one handed step thrusts etc. It was perfectly doable, just took some extra body mechanics.

Re: So, how long were spears in the period of this sub-forum

Posted: Thu Mar 06, 2014 2:13 pm
by Biro
So, how long were spears in the period of this sub-forum?


Can I say, around 400 years?


:devil:

Re: So, how long were spears in the period of this sub-forum

Posted: Thu Mar 06, 2014 3:48 pm
by Fox
Ayliffe's Steve wrote:You might have the issue here of spears being long enough to control well enough to hurt people being too long to safely use when trying to not hurt people!

The longest I have used it just over 9 feet but that was allowing one handed step thrusts etc. It was perfectly doable, just took some extra body mechanics.

There were plenty of pike at last year's Flodden, all used perfect safely.

Re: So, how long were spears in the period of this sub-forum

Posted: Thu Mar 06, 2014 4:34 pm
by Ayliffe's Steve
Fox wrote:
Ayliffe's Steve wrote:You might have the issue here of spears being long enough to control well enough to hurt people being too long to safely use when trying to not hurt people!

The longest I have used it just over 9 feet but that was allowing one handed step thrusts etc. It was perfectly doable, just took some extra body mechanics.

There were plenty of pike at last year's Flodden, all used perfect safely.


Good job I included the caveat *might* then!

Re: So, how long were spears in the period of this sub-forum

Posted: Thu Mar 06, 2014 7:15 pm
by guthrie
Thanks, that's all more information and experience that is useful. I've not come across much evidence that the spearmen at Bannockburn had shields as well; some mention of targes or the like that would be worn mostly over the back when in use, since you need closed ranks to make a schiltron work properly.

I recall years ago being told that you could actually fight with pikes, if you had the training and practise, but it was difficult, therefore simpler just to make it more of a rugby scrum. Whereas in earlier re-enactment periods you can fight lots in an exciting fashion with a shorter spear, and I suspect this has influenced the lengths that people use. That and transporting anything more than about 8 foot long is really hard.

Re: So, how long were spears in the period of this sub-forum

Posted: Fri Mar 07, 2014 9:36 am
by Fox
A thing that hasn't been said is that there is no reason to suppose Bannockburn (and related battles) are typical of the period.

It's a time of change for British tactics, that arguably might be triggered by the English experience at Bannockburn.
I don't think it's a co-incidence that the English combine those tactics with archers during the 100 Years War.

But at Crecy, one of the descriptions describes the soldiers shortening lances to create a foot weapon, which would imply the idea was still in it's infancy.

That's a bit speculative, but it's something worth considering when reviewing the length of spears at Bannockburn, relative to what came before or after.

Nusbacher is very good military analyst (on events topical and historical).
The reasons she gives in the Bannockburn book are practical as much as historical, and that gives them some sort of credence.
If she says about 12 foot, that's good enough for me.

Re: So, how long were spears in the period of this sub-forum

Posted: Fri Mar 07, 2014 7:42 pm
by guthrie
Fox wrote: A thing that hasn't been said is that there is no reason to suppose Bannockburn (and related battles) are typical of the period.

I agree.

Fox wrote:It's a time of change for British tactics, that arguably might be triggered by the English experience at Bannockburn.
Or rather the series of other battles in the period of 30 or so years, but more below.

Fox wrote:But at Crecy, one of the descriptions describes the soldiers shortening lances to create a foot weapon, which would imply the idea was still in it's infancy.

You'll have to be more clear here - Bannockburn showed mounted knights losing to lots of spears, you're presumably saying the idea still in its infancy is of fighting on foot instead of on horseback. And Crecy is 1346, i.e. 32 years later, under a King who was a toddler when Bannockburn occured. So the question would be what train of thought led to the relatively sudden introduction of those tactics, when there probably were very few people in the campaign who had any experience of the first Scottish Wars of independence, or the power to introduce changes based on them. Or else did someone write an influential treatise on war which Edward III liked a lot? (Okay, that last suggestion is a joke)

Fox wrote:Nusbacher is very good military analyst (on events topical and historical).
The reasons she gives in the Bannockburn book are practical as much as historical, and that gives them some sort of credence.
If she says about 12 foot, that's good enough for me.

Yes, I'm persuaded they were around that; I've been told 14 foot by one of the new 'Battle Masters' at the Bannockburn centre, who guide the interactive battle thingy.

Re: So, how long were spears in the period of this sub-forum

Posted: Fri Mar 07, 2014 10:18 pm
by Fox
guthrie wrote:You'll have to be more clear here - Bannockburn showed mounted knights losing to lots of spears, you're presumably saying the idea still in its infancy is of fighting on foot instead of on horseback. And Crecy is 1346, i.e. 32 years later, under a King who was a toddler when Bannockburn occured. So the question would be what train of thought led to the relatively sudden introduction of those tactics, when there probably were very few people in the campaign who had any experience of the first Scottish Wars of independence, or the power to introduce changes based on them.

There's nothing sudden about the introduction.

The gentleman usually credited with the change of tactics is Henry de Beaumont. He's present at key battles in the First War of Independence, including Bannockburn.
He dies in 1340, before Crecy, but the English have already had chance to try it out in the Second War of Indepence.

But even by Crecy, although the English army has switched to a large percentage of archers, it doesn't yet appear to have evolved to ranks of specialist spearman/billmen.

guthrie wrote:Or else did someone write an influential treatise on war which Edward III liked a lot? (Okay, that last suggestion is a joke)

As an aside, and not joking, he's said to have been fond of Walter de Milemete's De nobilitatibus, sapientiis, et prudentiis regum, which was written for him and contains the first illustration of an early cannon.

Re: So, how long were spears in the period of this sub-forum

Posted: Fri Mar 07, 2014 11:30 pm
by guthrie
But as you pointed out, they were breaking lances to make suitably short weapons at Crecy, which rather suggests a lack of preparedness, hence my use of the word 'sudden'. Of course I agree the ideas were likely floating about for a fair time beforehand, but I'd have to read up on the military side of the 2nd war of independence to see about such tactics being used in that.
I'd forgotten about the Milamete manuscript, that's a good call.

Also I found this paper on the historiography of the issue:
https://www.academia.edu/5336808/Historiography_of_Falkirk_1298_as_the_Predecessor_to_Infantry_Dominance

Re: So, how long were spears in the period of this sub-forum

Posted: Fri Mar 07, 2014 11:37 pm
by Fox
I think it suggests the idea is still being experimented with; which suggests to me there is nothing standard about the spear lengths at either Bannockburn or Crecy.
That is all.

Re: So, how long were spears in the period of this sub-forum

Posted: Fri Mar 07, 2014 11:56 pm
by guthrie
Fox wrote:I think it suggests the idea is still being experimented with; which suggests to me there is nothing standard about the spear lengths at either Bannockburn or Crecy.
That is all.

So, your answer is it's all a bit messy and we can't tell.

Re: So, how long were spears in the period of this sub-forum

Posted: Sat Mar 08, 2014 12:08 am
by Fox
Yes. That's what I'm saying.

Re: So, how long were spears in the period of this sub-forum

Posted: Sat Mar 08, 2014 1:05 pm
by PaulMurphy
With respect to Crecy, the cutting down of lances to make usable spears is purely an artifact of the cavalry being dismounted. They had several lances each and a sword, but on foot what they really needed was a spear.

Plus by "cutting down" I assume they didn't shorten the length, but instead were removing material from the counter-weighted butt end to make it less unwieldy as a spear.

From about 1000 onwards, spears were primarily used with shields, and up until about 1200 or so I guess this remained the case. After this, the shield seems to have been partially dropped as armour use increased, and it becomes more common to see heavily armoured infantry with just a pole weapon, e.g. http://manuscriptminiatures.com/4673/8021/
Image
and http://www.medievaltymes.com/courtyard/ ... 27va&b.gif
Image

Based on the spear being around 150% of the length of the man, I'd put them at about 8 feet, but then anything up to about 10 wouldn't surprise me. Beyond this, it becomes very difficult to wield effectively, until you can enforce regular training.

Re: So, how long were spears in the period of this sub-forum

Posted: Sat Mar 08, 2014 1:09 pm
by guthrie
Fox wrote:Yes. That's what I'm saying.

Okay then, I'll take a 20 foot spear along then and tell everyone it's fine because we don't know what length they used.

Re: So, how long were spears in the period of this sub-forum

Posted: Sat Mar 08, 2014 1:13 pm
by guthrie
PaulMurphy wrote:Based on the spear being around 150% of the length of the man, I'd put them at about 8 feet, but then anything up to about 10 wouldn't surprise me. Beyond this, it becomes very difficult to wield effectively, until you can enforce regular training.

But you have to remember that Bruce issues his call to arms in April- May, so had several weeks in which to train the soldiers for battle. So the unknown is more whether the training was for moving en masse with spears, and/ or using even longer spears.

As for illustrations, I am always a little wary of them; certainly they show ones much longer than the soldier, so we're into the 9ft and more range, but then I have also seen one from the HOlkham bible which shows three men with a spear, axe, and curved blade on a stick, all of which are the same length as the soldier, which would rather suggest that the artist made things fit the space or didn't know or care how big they really were.

Re: So, how long were spears in the period of this sub-forum

Posted: Sat Mar 08, 2014 3:36 pm
by Fox
guthrie wrote:
Fox wrote:Yes. That's what I'm saying.

Okay then, I'll take a 20 foot spear along then and tell everyone it's fine because we don't know what length they used.

I was implying that the best thing to do is to speculate based on practical considerations, rather than extrapolating from other datelines; but you can be as obtuse as you like.

Re: So, how long were spears in the period of this sub-forum

Posted: Sat Mar 08, 2014 3:38 pm
by Fox
PaulMurphy wrote:With respect to Crecy, the cutting down of lances to make usable spears is purely an artifact of the cavalry being dismounted. They had several lances each and a sword, but on foot what they really needed was a spear.

Yes. That's exactly my point.

Re: So, how long were spears in the period of this sub-forum

Posted: Mon Mar 17, 2014 10:00 am
by Mark Griffin
If I was Robert the Bruce I'd have made sure they fitted inside a Transit or Reanault Master, so thats about 9-10ft if fitted diagonally. You'd need to pack carefully obviously.

Re: So, how long were spears in the period of this sub-forum

Posted: Mon Mar 17, 2014 2:45 pm
by Tod
20' pikes fit on the roof of a Merc Vito. Been there done that.

Re: So, how long were spears in the period of this sub-forum

Posted: Mon Mar 17, 2014 2:57 pm
by Mark Griffin
I suppose the costlier van would be better for someone of that rank...

Re: So, how long were spears in the period of this sub-forum

Posted: Sun Aug 31, 2014 5:09 pm
by Thalion
Hi,

As a brother on foot we use lances, and they aren't unwieldy if you use them correctly (two handed), our shields were secondary or if they got too close, just like our swords. What I go by is a spear war around 7 ft - 9 ft, a lance 10 ft - 12 ft and a pike 14 ft +

Regards,
Thalion.