The Richard III Foundation Conference Report

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Frances Perry
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The Richard III Foundation Conference Report

Postby Frances Perry » Thu Oct 14, 2010 7:41 pm

I recently attended the Richard III Foundation conference in Market Bosworth, and for your interest I have written a report of the speakers and their lectures. I hope you enjoy it:

The Richard III Foundation conference – Saturday 9 October 2010
by Frances Perry

The conference was based at Dixie Primary School in Market Bosworth, and 70 people attend the conference.

After we were welcomed to the conference by Joe Ann Rica, we were presented to Professor Ralph A Griffiths, who discussed Richard, Duke of York: The Man who would be King. Professor Griffiths led us through the possible motivations for the actions – and sometimes inaction – of Richard, and how it led to his claim to the throne in London on 10 October 1460 at the age of 49. Professor Ralph questioned whether Richard was a victim of misfortune, misjudgment or of loss of nerve. Was his future always overshadowed by the treason his father committed in 1415? The conclusion was that it is not easy to judge Richard, who had an uncertain character which is not easily understood. Whilst he appeared to be a proud man, aware of his royal descent, his reputation was marred by his martial efforts in France, and a subsequent period in Ireland.

Professor Griffiths wondered if Richard’s pride had been piqued by the elevation of the Lancastrian peerage in the mid 1440s, and his allegiance to the king fundamentally changed at this point. Richard’s ambition for power appears to come to the fore, but instead of an image of ‘Protector of the Realm’, he appears to be a trouble-maker of sorts. It was concluded that Richard may have become a victim of circumstance due – in part - to the general level of unrest in the country at the time, but also that he appears to misjudge several key turning points. Did Richard’s nerve or convictions fail at these crucial moments? This appears to remain the mystery of the ‘Man who would be King’.

After this interesting discussion, we were joined by the costumed trio of the Master Fletcher, Mick Manns, his apprentice Ann Laken, and the “boy” John Potter to discuss The Medieval Fletcher in a visual display. Mick started by explaining that England – unlike France or Germany – had, in effect, a ‘standing army’ of trained archers as by the 15th century every 6 year old boy should be given a bow of ash or yew and 6 arrows to train with, by law. Eventually, most men would be able to draw a 100lb bow and shoot an arrow 300 yards easily, although Mick felt that even 8-10 arrows a minute could not be kept up for a long period of time as it was hard physical work to draw a bow of this weight and more.

Mick went on to describe the various jobs involved with the making of the bow and arrow. The string, usually coming from a ropemaker, would be linen or flax. His interesting ‘snippet’ of information was that many bowstring makers came over from Holland, and rather than being called ‘Stringer’ – which they felt to be too common – they called themselves ‘Stringfellow’. Ann followed this by describing the parts of the arrow, and how they were often made according to specifications and standards for both the shaft and the head. The Fletcher would use either goose or swan feathers – from the left or right wing, as long as all three were the same – and cut the feather at the oil line as it was the strong part of the feather. The feathers were then split along the back and affixed to the arrow shaft with glue of some kind – rabbit skin, bluebell bulb, and so on – and then tightly bound with thread as the glue was not as good as ours is now. Ann explained that with an already diverse array of hunting arrowheads, war heads could be made efficiently and cheaply, evolving as the armour of the time evolved on the battlefield. Whilst all heads were glued on, hunting heads were often also riveted with a small pin through the shaft as they were likely to be used again, whilst the war arrows were not, and if they came off in someone’s body, so much the better!

After a short break for refreshments we reconvened with the next speaker, Michael Miller, who discussed The Medieval Soldier. Michael introduced the subject by explaining how armies were raised via commissions of array directly from the king, and through the orders of the lord of the area, though fraud was often committed by lords bringing troops to the field to fight against the king rather than for him. Michael also explained that the rules of Livery and Maintenance were very strict, and that a lord was not permitted to raise and own a private army, and to travel with it if he had not been called upon by the king. To do so would mean heavy fines.

The arms and armour of the medieval soldiers were described by Michael, with the help of pictorial handouts. An interesting comparison of Medieval to modern soldiers was drawn in terms of the challenges faced by the medieval soldier. Foraging for food whilst carrying equipment and walking huge distances in leather soled boots and to be expected to fight a battle relatively quickly at the other end of the journey. Michael also described the battle formations taken by the troops in medieval combat, and how these were moved within the battle.

The lunch break provided people with the opportunity to circulate round the tables of books and pamphlets from the Towton Battlefield Society, Tewkesbury Battlefield Society, Lance and Longbow and The Richard III Foundation. It was also a chance to have a short wander round the centre of Market Bosworth, a village steeped in history and reflected in the buildings surrounding the marketplace.

We returned to the next lecture, Towton: England’s Bloodiest Day in which John Sadler smoothly described the run up and execution of the battle, with interactive help from a costumed group of ladies portraying Margaret of Anjou and her ladies in waiting. This helped to introduce the human aspect to what people were thinking at the time of Towton. John Sadler conveyed the background to the battle and what happened that day in 1461 with great feeling and detail, which reflected the depth of research John must have gone to to provide us with such an information-packed lecture.

Image

A short interlude in the lectures was made by David Baldwin in order to congratulate Caroline Donnay in obtaining The Richard III Scholarship for Medieval Studies.

We returned to hear about Margaret of Anjou: She Wolf of England presented by Dr Helen Castor. Helen provided a riveting explanation for why Margaret has been portrayed as a ‘She-Wolf’ rather than a peacemaker and loyal wife. As her background Helen explained that Margaret was married to Henry VI as a way of ending the Anglo-French wars that had been raging for 100 years. She provided him with an heir, Edward. Margaret decided to represent her husband and son in their ‘absence’ in 1453, but the complexity of the political situation and social expectations of the peerage and women in England turned this loyal action sour. Whilst there was a precedence for this kind of action in France – e.g. Rene of Anjou’s mother taking charge, in England the potential for women to take the throne was very unclear. Margaret may have felt her actions were acceptable and logical, but the English peerage felt she had overstepped her mark. She was thought to be immoral and ferocious, and against the very nature of what was expected of her sex – a monster. Thus she was stuck. Even when Henry recovered physically, he was not able to take decisive action, and Margaret was not able to take what appeared to be superior power without appearing to be unnatural.

In short, her French political education ended up hindering her in her actions within a very different political landscape of England, and her sex hindered her from taking power for her son and husband when she was otherwise able to provide a sound, decisive and loyal direction on their behalf. As Helen came to the aftermath of Tewkesbury, I felt very sorry for Margaret, a capable lady who was only trying to forge a role in an alien culture.

Mid-afternoon brought us to another interlude, where Joe Ann Rica opened a celebration of the 85th birthday of The Richard III Foundation’s honorary patron, Robert Hardy. Several people came to the front to relate moving memories and express admiration and thanks to Robert for his kindness in his private and professional life, and to wish him the warmest of birthday wishes. The celebrations were further heightened by the presentation of a cake to Robert commissioned by The Richard III Foundation, which was subsequently enjoyed by all!

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I was sadly unable to stay for the last lecture by Richard Knox - Bosworth 1485: A Battle Lost and Found or the Round Table Discussion led by Robert Hardy.

However, lecture notes by Richard Knox are available in The Richard III Foundation’s latest publication “Wars of the Roses: Defeats and Triumphs”, which can be purchased by contacting Richard3Foundation@yahoo.com.

I wish to thank the members of The Richard III Foundation for bringing together such a stimulating set of lectures on a variety of subjects, and to the speakers themselves for their time and research, and excellent presentations.


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Re: The Richard III Foundation Conference Report

Postby Marcus Woodhouse » Fri Oct 15, 2010 7:56 am

Once again no one sent the Woodville Household an invite!


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Re: The Richard III Foundation Conference Report

Postby gregory23b » Fri Oct 15, 2010 8:31 am

"The string, usually coming from a ropemaker, would be linen or flax"

Interesting, the York Probate records show some people having the kit to make bowstrings, as part of a wider range of kit, will dig up the ref at the weekend.

I would still like to know how thick the strings were.

"and then tightly bound with thread as the glue was not as good as ours is now."

The archaeological and written records give a wide variety of glues, for a wide range of purposes, some of those glues are working still, I see what they are getting at, but to compare with modern glues is a bit pointless, in the same way that most modern weapons are more efficient than the bow, sword etc.


"every 6 year old boy should be given a bow of ash or yew and 6 arrows to train with, by law."
Interesting, did he cite the law? A while back I asked if anyone could cite the law at the time on that, as we often quote that little titbit, or similar, it would be nice to have the statute listed verbatim.


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Re: The Richard III Foundation Conference Report

Postby Allan Harley » Fri Oct 15, 2010 9:54 am

Thank you for this Frances - I would have loved to attended but life got in the way
:thumbup:


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Re: The Richard III Foundation Conference Report

Postby Frances Perry » Fri Oct 15, 2010 11:21 am

gregory23b wrote:

"every 6 year old boy should be given a bow of ash or yew and 6 arrows to train with, by law."
Interesting, did he cite the law? A while back I asked if anyone could cite the law at the time on that, as we often quote that little titbit, or similar, it would be nice to have the statute listed verbatim.


Hi Gregory,

I completely agree with your assessment of this lecture - and indeed several others - but I did not have time to ask Matt about his sources. I do get concerned when re-enactorisms appear to creep into lectures - this is how myths are perpetuated.

Personally, I'd like to know the period source from which we claim that archers should shoot 12 plus per minute to obtain their pay. From seeing the higher poundage bows being used (100+), I would say this was a mean feat, and not something to keep up for a long period of time. I would have thought accuracy in being able to shoot a range of measured distances upon request would be a better assessment for a battlefield archer...

The lecutres were interesting, none the less and I enojyed the day.


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Re: The Richard III Foundation Conference Report

Postby Fox » Fri Oct 15, 2010 11:53 am

Frances Perry wrote:Personally, I'd like to know the period source from which we claim that archers should shoot 12 plus per minute to obtain their pay.

Yes. Absolutely.

Frances Perry wrote:From seeing the higher poundage bows being used (100+), I would say this was a mean feat, and not something to keep up for a long period of time.

From a purely tactics point of view, I can envisage there are key moments when 12 arrows a minute, just for one minute, might be real battle turner.



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Re: The Richard III Foundation Conference Report

Postby Marcus Woodhouse » Fri Oct 15, 2010 12:04 pm

And tactically why crossbows were just as important.
A crossbow is slower to load but can maintain a level of fire for a lot longer than a longbowman who will quickly find himself either out of arrows or banjaxed if he was loosing 12 arrows a minute.


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Re: The Richard III Foundation Conference Report

Postby Allan Harley » Fri Oct 15, 2010 2:50 pm

Isn't this the old argument over single shot weapons vs automatics - volume of fire has afear factor all of its own putting 12+ in the air,means for every 1000 a rate of 12,000 per minute Frightening nowadays let alone 500+ years ago

But agree its easy to let reenactorisms in - sources need to be listed but all in all sounded like a day I'm dissappointed to miss


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Re: The Richard III Foundation Conference Report

Postby Marcus Woodhouse » Fri Oct 15, 2010 3:17 pm

I just wonder if the effect was not unlike the mad minute of first contact, an absolute hail of arrows tittering off to a much lower rate of fire as tiredness and expenditure takes its toll.
I get the impression from my research that actual medieval battles were usually quite short, not even lasting an hour or so, in which case the sky going black with arrows will be a significant factor in its outcome.
All the same I do wonder if over the course of an hour if a two man team of crossbowmen (one holding the mantle and reloading while the other fires) might loose off as many bolts as an archers "shock and awe".
If crossbows were of no use why did every nation across Europe and Asia use a variant of them.
And not just in sieges.
I'm glad that the Oxfords are using them in quantity as it means the odd crossbowman on the field will not be written off as a foreign mercenary with his strange alien weapon.


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Re: The Richard III Foundation Conference Report

Postby Brother Ranulf » Fri Oct 15, 2010 6:25 pm

Gregory -
I came across this interesting web page a while ago and stored it away for future reference, it may be pertinent to the "bow and six arrows[actually two arrows]" thing. My initial thought was that Henry VIII doesn't really count as "medieval", but some may disagree: http://archery.mysaga.net/archlaws.html


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Re: The Richard III Foundation Conference Report

Postby Fox » Sat Oct 16, 2010 5:19 am

Brother Ranulf wrote:six arrows[actually two arrows]

:eh: Sorry; you're going to have to explain that.



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Re: The Richard III Foundation Conference Report

Postby Brother Ranulf » Sat Oct 16, 2010 6:06 am

Gregory picked up this quote from the conference report:

in a visual display. Mick started by explaining that England – unlike France or Germany – had, in effect, a ‘standing army’ of trained archers as by the 15th century every 6 year old boy should be given a bow of ash or yew and 6 arrows to train with, by law.


In the link I gave, an Act of the 33rd reign of Henry VIII (1541) states in part:

CAP. IX. An Act for the Maintenance of Artillery, and debarring unlawful Games. "RECITAL of Stats. 3 H.8.c.3. & 6 H.8.c.2. Several new devised Games the "Cause of the Decay of Archery. - All Men under the Age of sixty Years "shall have Bows and Arrows for shooting. Men-Children between Seven "Years and Seventeen shall have a Bow and 2 Shafts. Men about Seventeen "Years of Age shall keep a Bow and 4 Arrows - Penalty 6s.8d." . . .
S4. "Common Bows shall be made of "Elm, Ash, &c."

Children of under 7 are not covered by the Act, children are expected to have two shafts, not six, while clearly other woods are permitted for bow-making besides yew and ash, so the quotation is incorrect on three counts.


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Re: The Richard III Foundation Conference Report

Postby gregory23b » Sun Oct 17, 2010 8:56 am

Thanks Brother.

I would say that Hen VIII is medieval, it is not as if the lights went out in 1500 and, 'hey, we are in the early modern era', all the major stuff seems to be the same.

I would love to see the earlier statutes, as that one seems like a reaction, a reaction that seems to have been voiced over a couple of centuries before the Welsh tyrant even thought about it.


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Re: The Richard III Foundation Conference Report

Postby Fox » Sun Oct 17, 2010 8:58 am

Sorry. I'd forgotten the content of Jorge's post between me reading it and then yours. [it was very early in the morning]

I read the link, but couldn't work out what you were refering to.

It must be my age; memory like a.... you know, think with holes in it....colander. What were we saying?



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Re: The Richard III Foundation Conference Report

Postby EnglishArcher » Sun Oct 17, 2010 5:40 pm

About 2 years ago I asked the question about the 12 arrows a minute.

To date, no-one has been able to supply me with any references.

From 5 years experience of shooting heavy (100lb+) bows 12 arrows a minute is, at best, difficult. The lactic acid build up in the muscles severely limits the number of arrows that can be shot - properly - off a heavy bow. Yes, one can 'plink' dozens of arrows off a heavy bow, or shoot the same off a lightweight bow, but these have limited (if any) combat effectiveness (the equivalent of 'wiggling' your bill at an opponent, or trying to attack a man in armour with a rapier)


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Re: The Richard III Foundation Conference Report

Postby Fox » Sun Oct 17, 2010 6:18 pm

Would they even have a good measure of a minute?



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Re: The Richard III Foundation Conference Report

Postby Brother Ranulf » Sun Oct 17, 2010 7:11 pm

It would be interesting to find the original source of the "12 arrows per minute" thing, but it is certainly still being perpetuated in mainstream literature: it features in a 2004 book by Andrew Liebs entitled "Sports and Games of the Renaissance" published as part of a series by Greenwood Press in both the UK and USA. Liebs appears to be a journalist with experience of writing for a San Francisco newspaper and his chronology for the "Renaissance period" covers the years 1347 to 1666 :o The blurb states that he is also a "noted expert on sports and disability" . . .

In the introduction to his book he claims that watches were available from about 1500, presumably thus allowing all those Tudor archers to accurately measure a minute for their dozen arrows. (I should say here that I don't have a copy of the book but used the "look inside" option on Amazon - as an American writer you would imagine that he could correctly spell the name of a Native American tribe, but he calls them the Suak :worried: instead of the Sauk).


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Re: The Richard III Foundation Conference Report

Postby EnglishArcher » Sun Oct 17, 2010 7:57 pm

Brother Ranulf wrote:It would be interesting to find the original source of the "12 arrows per minute" thing, but it is certainly still being perpetuated in mainstream literature: it features in a 2004 book by Andrew Liebs entitled "Sports and Games of the Renaissance" published as part of a series by Greenwood Press in both the UK and USA. Liebs appears to be a journalist with experience of writing for a San Francisco newspaper and his chronology for the "Renaissance period" covers the years 1347 to 1666 :o The blurb states that he is also a "noted expert on sports and disability" . . .

In the introduction to his book he claims that watches were available from about 1500, presumably thus allowing all those Tudor archers to accurately measure a minute for their dozen arrows. (I should say here that I don't have a copy of the book but used the "look inside" option on Amazon - as an American writer you would imagine that he could correctly spell the name of a Native American tribe, but he calls them the Suak :worried: instead of the Sauk).


Caveat Emptor, methinks! :D


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Re: The Richard III Foundation Conference Report

Postby guthrie » Sun Oct 17, 2010 11:41 pm

A watch capable of measuring a minute in 1500? Not that I've ever read about. Small portable compass directe sundials, yes. Sandglasses, yes. But not small mechanical watches. If anything I suspect you might use hail mary's or such, but that would be very rough.
Oh dear, this really is seeming like another re-enactorism. How come so many authors in the past extended the evidence beyond breaking point?



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Re: The Richard III Foundation Conference Report

Postby Brother Ranulf » Mon Oct 18, 2010 6:46 am

I am no expert on early mechanical clocks but I believe that in the 16th century they only had an hour hand and they were largely inaccurate due to inconsistent and poorly-made mechanisms, so measuring a minute would have been impossible.


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Re: The Richard III Foundation Conference Report

Postby Brother Ranulf » Mon Oct 18, 2010 7:29 am

I have been looking for the earliest mention of "12 arrows per minute" and so far the trail looks like this:

"The longbow, because of its rapidity of fire, was a medieval machine gun. It has been calculated that a bowman of the Hundred Years War period, when military archery was at its zenith, could shoot 10 to 12 arrows a minute" [The Medieval English Longbow" by Robert E. Kaiser, M.A. - this article was first published in the Journal of the Society of Archer-Antiquaries, volume 23 in 1980].

Kaiser copied this statement directly from: Kenneth Fowler, "The Age of Plantagenet and Valois" (New York: C.F. Putnam's Son's, 1967), p. 108.

The same idea is then repeated in Bradbury J 1992 "The Medieval Archer" (Rochester, NY: Boydell and Brewer) and Hardy R 1976 "The Longbow" (New York: Lyons and Burford), who both take the earlier writings for granted without quoting any period sources. Robert Hardy does the same with the idea of a Welsh origin for the longbow, simply repeating what others have written without checking the facts for himself.

At the moment Fowler in 1967 seems to be the original source for the 10 - 12 arrows per minute, but I will keep looking.
Last edited by Brother Ranulf on Mon Oct 18, 2010 9:11 am, edited 1 time in total.


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Re: The Richard III Foundation Conference Report

Postby Merlon. » Mon Oct 18, 2010 9:03 am

The key stepping stones appear to be the Assize of arms followed by the Archery and Gaming Acts issued by kings upto Henry VIII

The assize of Arms was republished in 1252 and was restated in the 1285 Statute of Winchester.:-
That is to say, every man between fifteen years of age and sixty, shall be assessed and sworn to armour according to the quantity of his lands and goods: to wit, from £15 in land, and goods 40 marks (£26 13s. 4d.), shall keep a hauberk of iron, a sword, a knife, and a horse ; from £10 of land, and 20 marks (£13 6s. 8d.) in goods, the same as the preceding class, the horse excepted ;(1) from 40s. to 100s. of land, a sword, bow and arrows, and a knife. He that hath less than 40s. yearly, gisarmes, (2) knives, and other less weapons; and all others that may, shall have bows and arrows out of the forest, and in forest, bows and bolts. (3) An inspection of these arms was to be made twice a year, by two constables chosen from each hundred, who were to report defaulters to the justices, and these were to present such defaulters to.

The key thing here is that types of equipment vasry by income band and that it is not all people hae nows but those of an income below 40 shilling. Granted that would be the majorirty of the population at that time.
The Archery and Gaming acts did not specify the nature of the training to be carried out only that other sports were not to played to the detriment of archery practice. The Henrician 1541 act referred to above is the most expicit or detailed of them all.


The other modern myth that there is still a requirement to practice at the butts is incorrect . Vast quantities of obsolete legislation were repealed in the 30 various Statute Law Revision Acts enacted between 1861 and 1966.



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Re: The Richard III Foundation Conference Report

Postby Brother Ranulf » Mon Oct 18, 2010 9:24 am

Still on the trail of "12 per minute" I found this fairly recent article by Robert Hardy, http://www.deremilitari.org/resources/pdfs/hardy.pdf in which he states on page 11:

"Tests today, as well as the evidence of history, suggest that a crossbow could only be spanned and shot twice in a minute while a skilled longbowman can and no doubt could loose up to twenty aimed arrows in the same time." [my italics].

In the same article, on the next page, he quotes Professor Edward Prestwich in "The Three Edwards: War and State in England 1272 - 1377" (London 1993) as saying that "a rate of fire of ten flights a minute was possible . . ."


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Re: The Richard III Foundation Conference Report

Postby EnglishArcher » Mon Oct 18, 2010 3:10 pm

Some of the earliest works I know of are 'The Crecy War' and 'The Agincourt War' by Lt-Col Alfred H Bourne and published by Wordsworth Military Library.

Bourne applied his knowledge of WWI trench warfare to these campaigns. His ideas are still largely extolled as 'truth'.

The best source for the '12 arrows' is extrapolating from Napoleonic rifle tactics; that is, the warbow was used in the same way as the Napoleonic rifle, shooting in defined volleys. As far as I can tell there's no evidence that warbows were used this way; in fact, given the techniques required to shoot heavy bows getting all archers to shoot at a precise moment is very difficult.


Personally, I think the precise volley fire technique is a pure re-enactorism. It doesn't match with the mechanics of shooting heavy bows, nor the logistics of controlling thousands of archers:

1) Shooting a heavy bow is an intensely physical activity. Each archer has their own way of managing the energy required to draw the bow, aim and loose. No two archers have precisely the same timing, due to physique, strength, technique, preferences, etc.

2) Even at 200+ yards an archer will still be aiming. Typically, this will at a target moving towards him (the most difficult target to hit). There is little point shooting arrows that are nowhere near their mark; the intimidation effect drops off sharply if you know you won't get hit! Even considering a medieval archer's undoubted skill and experience he still has to see if he's near his mark - he's a soldier, not a Jedi! There's a compelling argument that you must wait for an arrow to land before the next is shot. Flight time to 200 yards is about 6 seconds, which puts a limit on the number of (useful) arrows shot in a minute.

3) Getting 5000 archers to loose at exactly the same time is a remarkable feat of signalling; and we have no evidence to suggest how it was done. The average re-enact has it much easier: rarely are there more than 100 archers on any one side (and under 50 is probably far more common). Even then, and with pitiful, lightweight bows getting all the archers to shoot in sync is tricky. The infamous 'Nock-Draw-Loose' (or whatever variation you prefer) tends to only work for those near the archery captain; the archers at the extremes generally don't hear anything and just loose when everyone else does. Now scale that problem by 100.

We like the volley-fire style because it looks good at events and it's what the public (and many re-enactors) expect to see.


I must state this opinion is based on practical and empirical experience of using replica warbows, not on information taken from canonical sources. As such it can be taken as purely speculative.


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Re: The Richard III Foundation Conference Report

Postby guthrie » Mon Oct 18, 2010 3:17 pm

I thought volley firing was supposed to make it a bit safer when you have archers blocks against archers blocks. But I do think that using a block of archers the same way as you would a block of riflemen firing into a group of your enemy makes perfect sense, they just wouldn't have all fired at the same time, rather as often as they could until they ran out of arrows or were told to stop.

So somehow the idea that a well trained archer could loose 12 arrows a minute or more somehow morphed into it being an essential part of their getting taken on as an archer? I'm not surprised by that.



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Re: The Richard III Foundation Conference Report

Postby Fox » Mon Oct 18, 2010 4:50 pm

My understanding has always been that volley fire in re-enactment is a function of safety, because it allows the targets to look away briefly, avoid arrows in the face, and then look up again.

I think, in a rather lazy way, I assumed arrows were probably not shot in volley; but I hadn't really thought about it.
Reading English Archer's post I find no really good arguments against volley fire, although I'd have to conceed I know of no evidence for it either.

But I can think of at least one reason for it, and I'll come back to that.

First, instictively I feel, if you needed archers to loose at speed, you would just let them get on with it in their own time, so I don't think "12 arrows a minute" or any other expected or imagined rate, has anything to do with volleys.

EnglishArcher wrote:1) Shooting a heavy bow is an intensely physical activity. Each archer has their own way of managing the energy required to draw the bow, aim and loose. No two archers have precisely the same timing, due to physique, strength, technique, preferences, etc.

I would have thought that this is at least as true of the rag-tag of sometimes half-trained/poorly practiced archers who make any re-enactment block, yet it is managed well enough there.

EnglishArcher wrote:2) Even at 200+ yards an archer will still be aiming. Typically, this will at a target moving towards him (the most difficult target to hit). There is little point shooting arrows that are nowhere near their mark; the intimidation effect drops off sharply if you know you won't get hit! Even considering a medieval archer's undoubted skill and experience he still has to see if he's near his mark - he's a soldier, not a Jedi! There's a compelling argument that you must wait for an arrow to land before the next is shot. Flight time to 200 yards is about 6 seconds, which puts a limit on the number of (useful) arrows shot in a minute.

This is obviously a step away back to speed, and doesn't preclude the idea of volleys.

I know a number of war bow archers, some of them very, very good; and instinctively I am keen to challenge the practicality of this premise; but you are the archer, so I'll trust you on that, as it isn't much of an argument anyway; 200+ yards is probably not the time for speed shooting either.

EnglishArcher wrote:3) Getting 5000 archers to loose at exactly the same time is a remarkable feat of signalling; and we have no evidence to suggest how it was done. The average re-enact has it much easier: rarely are there more than 100 archers on any one side (and under 50 is probably far more common). Even then, and with pitiful, lightweight bows getting all the archers to shoot in sync is tricky. The infamous 'Nock-Draw-Loose' (or whatever variation you prefer) tends to only work for those near the archery captain; the archers at the extremes generally don't hear anything and just loose when everyone else does. Now scale that problem by 100.

I don't see any reason why volley fire would have to be 5000 archers; groups of a hundred or a few hundred is still a volley; groups of fifty even.
The assumption of absolutely synchronous loosing doesn't make sense either; a single command calling the archers to loose, when they then draw and release a single arrow in their own rythmn, would be close enough (especially for the only reason I can think of [see below]).
On that basis, hearing the command isn't important either, just follow the chap next to you.

But I can understand one reason that might get archers to loose in volleys: control of the ammunition.

Like English Archer, I'm not basing this only any documentation; simply logic applied to knowledge.
This intended only as a reason to keep the field open until evidence is provided, rather than direct denial or straight rebutal.



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Re: The Richard III Foundation Conference Report

Postby EnglishArcher » Mon Oct 18, 2010 6:44 pm

I'm not going to argue against any of these points. There are several sound logical theories for how archers were used; none of them perfect, and all with their pros and cons. In the absence of any other evidence all the (sound) theories must be considered equally plausible.

I've been through most of these arguments over the years and have settled on the theory that makes sense to me - that is, until I find some new compelling piece of evidence that causes me to change my ideas again! :D


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Re: The Richard III Foundation Conference Report

Postby Grymm » Mon Oct 18, 2010 7:19 pm

From Froissart, ( There's every chance that volley shooting [pedants head on]no fire involved[/pedants head on] has been 'extrapolated' from these few lines about Crecy, discuss)

" and the Englishmen removed not one foot: thirdly, again they lept and cried, and went forth till they came within shot; then they shot fiercely with their crossbows. Then the English archers stept forth one pace and let fly their arrows so wholly and so thick, that it seemed snow. When the Genoways felt the arrows piercing through heads arms and breasts, many of them cast down their crossbows and did cut their strings and returned discomfited. When the French king saw them fly away, he said: "Slay these rascals, for they shall let and trouble us without reason." Then ye should have seen the men at arms dash in among them and killed a great number of them: and ever still the Englishmen shot whereas they saw thickest press; the sharp arrows ran into the men of arms and into their horses, an many fell, horse and men, among the Genoways, and when they were down, they could not relieve again, the press was so thick that on overthrew another. And also among the Englishmen there were certain rascals that went afoot with great knives, and they went in among the men of arms, and slew and murdered many as they lay on the ground, both earls, barons, knights, and squires, whereof the king of England was after displeased, for he had rather they had been taken prisoners."


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Re: The Richard III Foundation Conference Report

Postby Grymm » Mon Oct 18, 2010 7:32 pm

JF again this time on Poitiers and other campaigns
....archers shot so wholly together that none durst come in their dangers: they slew many a man that could not come to no ransom:

....for when they knew that the marshals' battle was discomfited, they took their horses and departed, he that might best. Also they saw a rout of Englishmen coming down a little mountain a-horseback, and many archers with them, who brake in on the side of the duke's battle. True to say, the archers did their company that day great advantage; for they shot so thick that the Frenchmen wist not on what side to take heed, and little and little the Englishmen won ground on them.

...on the other side the archers of England shot so wholly together, that the Frenchmen were fain to give place to the Englishmen. There was a sore battle, and many a noble feat of arms done on both sides. Finally the Englishmen passed over and assembled together in the field

...They entered a-horseback into the way where the great hedges were on both sides set full of archers. As soon as the men of arms entered, the archers began to shoot on both sides and did slay and hurt horses and knights, so that the horses when they felt the sharp arrows they would in no wise go forward, but drew aback and flang and took on so fiercely, that many of them fell on their masters, so that for press they could not rise again;

My take is that they are doing both, gurt big volleys when needed and a constant rolling barrage as long as they had ammo then in with the 'knives', no mention of that other fabled weapon of the English bowman dan dan daaaaaaaan The Archer's Maul.....funny that.


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Re: The Richard III Foundation Conference Report

Postby Fox » Tue Oct 19, 2010 5:48 am

Grymm wrote:volley shooting [pedants head on]no fire involved[/pedants head on]

Thanks for clearing that up, Grymm; as a gunner obviously we used to fire arrows from cannons, and I just got confused.
:wink: :lol:

Personally, I'm not sure what you can read into that text; and how much you have to take Froissart with a pinch of salt.
But it is an interestng description.




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