|Picture (c) Mike Ingram|
Having torn into Tom Lewis' book, I suppose I should pick up on his plea to talk about his conclusions not the mess that is the historical analysis. This really warrants a full post, rather than a protracted comments discussion. So, what does old clever-clogs Trebian think, having rubbished someone else? Put up or shut up time, I guess.
Firstly I'd have to say that the realities of medieval combat is a really hard subject to be specific about. Plus the "medieval period" is a long time. So lets stick to what I know best: The Wars of the Roses.
Secondly, you'll have noted that I haven't written a book on the subject. There's some reasons for this. The main one is that I've got a colleague that really should write one and probably has the outline in his head already. If I was to do it, I'd be pinching his ideas, and that's not ideal. Then there's the lack of solid evidence that gets me out of "interesting article" territory to full blown book.
So what comes next will have pointers to why I think what I think, but it ain't footnoted, and it's mostly guess work.
I'll look at four things:
- Archers & what they're for.
- How main battle lines fight
- How big Wars of the Roses armies are
- Routs, and how many dead bodies we end up with (plus who they'll probably be)
- I attended a talk by Toby Capwell that suggests this was the case.
- Videos of people shooting long bows at plate show it can't be penetrated at long range, but only by direct, flat trajectory shooting at up to 30 yards.
- My colleague, Phil Steele, has convincingly used contemporary art to show this type of deployment, in a couple of talks I have attended.
- It seems to be what is happening at Towton.
- At Edgcote, one side is provoked into attacking by archery, despite being well equipped as they don't have any bowmen.
- The close up formations are what we see in contemporary pictures, as are lots of spears
- Based on what happens in later periods to open order formations when attacked by cavalry, I see no reason for it not to apply here***. I don't think a single arrow brings down a horse. Cavalry aren't charging blocks of infantry because they'll get "galled" by archery, and they won't be able to break into dense infantry formations. Standing apart to wave a poleaxe from side to side is asking for trouble.
- There are drawings by Holbein, of landsknechts fighting (see below). Okay, it isn't exactly the same, but the guys with halberds are embedded in the fray, they're all close up and they're stabbing or cutting over head.
- I've been and watched re-enactments with all that's going on, and I'm not convinced (I said why on the previous post, mainly because no one is getting killed).
- The source evidence we have - such as it is - points this way.
- See comments in above paragraph re population
- Get a copy of "Edgcote 1469 - Re-evaluating the evidence" so I don't have to repeat myself
- The big armies don't fit in the landscape where we know the fighting takes place.
- See comments above!
- I've tried to run in a reproduction steel helmet with a pole weapon. It's really annoying. The helmet bounces around and is really heavy, literally making it awkward to put your head down and run. I'd chuck it away at the earliest opportunity if fleeing.
- There just isn't any evidence for anything else that makes sense.