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SaxonPagan
Monday, February 18th, 2019, 09:48 PM
Where the English Longbow Met the Crossbow

Decisions, decisions...

The longbow was a formidable weapon during the Middle Ages and thus changed the nature of warfare. At the Battle of Crecy, which was fought on August 26, 1346, King Edward III decisively won against a superior French army. The French had been harrying the English Army and there was a skirmish at the ford of Blanche-taque (white stones) on the River Somme the day before. Edward’s army was exhausted and running low on food, however, after fording the river there was clear path for retreat to Flanders if necessary.

At Crecy, Desmond Seward writes concerning Edward’s forces, “His army, now somewhat reduced, consisted of about 2,000 men-at-arms and perhaps 500 light lancers together with something like 7,000 English and Welsh bowmen and 1,500 knifemen—approximately 11,000 men, though estimates vary.” It should be noted how skewed his army was in favor of the archers.

But Edward III was familiar at this point with the longbow’s capabilities and what a four-sided steel point, called a bodkin, could do. A bowshot was approximately 150 yards and could pierce armor at around 60 yards. Modern calculations give us a glimpse into the longbow’s raw power and disproves skepticism. Seward writes, “With a typical war bow, having a draw-weight of 80-100 lb, the instantaneous thrust on the string at the moment it checks the forward movement of the two limbs when it is shot is in the order of 400 lb, so it needed to have a breaking strain of about 600 lb to allow an adequate safety margin.”

It becomes clear that the closer an archer is to his target the greater the damage and, this was accomplished by a seemingly innocuous wooden stave from a yew tree. The descriptions of the longbow in this piece are typical. Where yew was unavailable, there were other species of trees that were good substitutes. Other sources differ slightly on the range, draw-weight, and length of the bow; however, there is no dispute that the English Longbow revolutionized medieval warfare. Its use shifted the paradigm: armor improved, battlefield strategies were modified and, during the Hundred Years War, the English armies were victorious in the majority of the battles (though they never gained the French crown).

So what about the crossbow? If you had a choice between the two weapons, which would you choose? Is not the crossbow more powerful than the longbow and just a bit more complex? Perhaps it’s viewed as a weapon a few notches higher in esteem than a weapon wielded by peasants?

During the Hundred Years War, the French utilized the crossbow as their favorite ranged weapon. Crossbowmen would carry a pavise and crouch down when firing and reloading once this portable shield was put into place. It was a cumbersome and complex weapon, but it had a range and velocity above that of the longbow. There were also crude sights, for zeroing in on a target; a bolt could pierce armor at about 200 yards. Also, its user could have a quarrel “locked and loaded”, whereas a bowman could not preload his bow.

However, its rate of fire was less than the English longbow, at about four bolts, or quarrels, per minute, versus the 10-12 for a longbow. It should be mentioned that the rate of fire depends on the method of loading the crossbow there are varied methods and the more sophisticated processes tended to directly affect the crossbow's inherent power. Additionally, it weighed in around 20 pounds, where a longbow came in less than 5 pounds.

Desmond Seward describes the process that a mercenary Genoan would have had to contend with, all while under a hail of English arrows, “The favourite missile weapon of the French was the crossbow, a complicated instrument with a bow reinforced by horn and sinew; to draw it the crossbowman had to place his foot in the stirrup at the front end of the bow, fasten the string on to a hook on his belt, which meant crouching down by bending his knees and back, and then stand up, pulling the string until it could be engaged in the trigger mechanism.”

The specifications seem to indicate that the crossbow is a superior weapon in terms of velocity and accuracy, but the time required to reload, either by pulling or winching the string tight, stacked the odds against the user. Further, at the Battle of Crecy, country lads from Wales and those scattered English hamlets were relatively rested - and more mobile based on the nature of their weapon; the Genoese mercenaries hired by the French had marched from Abbeville, about 10 miles south, and they most certainly were suffering from fatigue.

Add in a persistent English arrow storm and an anxious French cavalry itching for a mighty charge, then it becomes clear how quickly this battle turned and how useless the crossbow was rendered, based on poor strategy and the hail of English arrows. The crossbowmen had likely tossed their pavises aside during their march, combining the additional problem of protection into the fog of battle: “Highly vulnerable, they at once began to drop beneath the arrow-storm, which they never before experienced. Tired, demoralized – even the setting sun, which had reappeared, was in their eyes – the survivors started running.”

Battles can turn on a silver penny. What works well on a castle wall can be an utter disaster on the ground.

Be sure to watch the short video and decide what’s best for you!


https://englishhistoryauthors.blogspot.com/2013/12/where-english-longbow-met-crossbow.html


https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HagCuGXJgUs

Chlodovech
Monday, February 18th, 2019, 10:07 PM
TBH, the longbow is a bit overrated, it playing such a major role in English victories over the French in Medieval warfare is part of the longbow mythology, it's is not true though. They were not the decisive "super weapon" some have made it out to be.

It takes many years to become a pro at shooting a longbow, you would have to start learning how to use one at a fairly young age, which is what historically happened. It requires skill. But anyone can fire a crossbow. If the goal is to create a missile unit as fast as possible, then the crossbow would be the logical weapon of choice.

Þoreiðar
Monday, February 18th, 2019, 10:39 PM
Looking at the difference in size between the crossbow's bolts and the longbow's arrows, I'm thinking I'd much rather take a bolt to the knee than an arrow. More weight equals more force transferred to its target, no?

Astragoth
Monday, February 18th, 2019, 11:26 PM
A crossbow is actually quite dangerous. Those bolts have to be that shot and wide or they'd shatter just from being fired.
The longbow is actually a better weapon it fires much faster. The problem is it takes years of practice to use one properly.
A crossbow anyone can pickup and use.

GroeneWolf
Tuesday, February 19th, 2019, 05:24 AM
Looking at the difference in size between the crossbow's bolts and the longbow's arrows, I'm thinking I'd much rather take a bolt to the knee than an arrow. More weight equals more force transferred to its target, no?

Not really, a good bolt when fired by a crossbow has a significant amount of force (including armour penetration) in comparison to a bow.

tQ4WMLgvOu4

SpearBrave
Tuesday, February 19th, 2019, 10:14 AM
It takes many years to become a pro at shooting a longbow, you would have to start learning how to use one at a fairly young age, which is what historically happened. It requires skill. But anyone can fire a crossbow. If the goal is to create a missile unit as fast as possible, then the crossbow would be the logical weapon of choice.

I used to hunt with a replica English long bow, and it does not require as long as you think to master it. Though I switched to a shorter bow called a "Sudbury" because it handles better in thick undergrowth. Hunting game requires sharper shooting skills then shooting arrows in mass at a large group.

Also I read somewhere that George Washington considered arming the Continental Army with long bows, as they were cheaper to build then muskets.

Chlodovech
Tuesday, February 19th, 2019, 11:02 AM
I got Medieval archery in mind, SB - the soldiers trained for years before being becoming actual archers. If you've ever visited a castle, you must've noticed these slits in the walls and towers for archers (they're useless for unadapted crossbows, the arrow simply falls off the crossbow when aiming downward): to be able to fire through these slits and do it every single time, from a distance of a meter or two, you need lots of training (http://myarmoury.com/talk/viewtopic.16300.html) to be accurate and to achieve a high rate of fire.

https://i.pinimg.com/originals/80/c1/80/80c180545cf558678d8d1e9532f8a502.jpg

SpearBrave
Tuesday, February 19th, 2019, 11:15 AM
I got Medieval archery in mind, SB - the soldiers trained for years before being becoming actual archers. If you've ever visited a castle, you must've noticed these slits in the walls and towers for archers (they're useless for unadapted crossbows, the arrow simply falls off the crossbow when aiming downward): to be able to fire through these slits and do it every single time, from a distance of a meter or two, you need lots of training (http://myarmoury.com/talk/viewtopic.16300.html).

https://i.pinimg.com/originals/80/c1/80/80c180545cf558678d8d1e9532f8a502.jpg

Yes, I visited a few castles in England, Wales and Germany my guess is they used shorter bows than the English long bow, I could train you to shoot a long bow to hit a man sized target including shooting through a loop holes in less then a few weeks. As with any weapon, you have to keep up on practicing to stay effective. Besides shooting through a loop hole is still easier than hitting game while shooting through tree branches.

I don't think even the heavy crossbows have the range a long bow has.

Astragoth
Tuesday, February 19th, 2019, 01:04 PM
A real long bowman could have three arrows all coming down on a target at the same time.
But you had to practice and train to get there. Including just building up the muscle necessary
to be effective. It probably depends on what skill level you're talking about. A crossbow though
was very effective against a fully armored knight and required almost no training.

Chlodovech
Tuesday, February 19th, 2019, 01:52 PM
I'm sure I can learn to fire a longbow in a few weeks, SB, but not on a battlefield - which is what interests me (all the more so because we don't have guns over here and war with the invaders could very well turn out to be pretty Medieval in nature!), I would be combat ineffective with a few weeks of experience under my belt. Hitting something at a distance of twenty yards isn't good enough. If you're not an Olympian or a professional archer in our world, you can simply forget about even beginning to compete with Medieval military archers.

There's so much to learn too, beyond mere technique as well:

You must be able to fire on rainy and windy days, you need to learn to use the wind or to at least work with it - and often there will be wind on the open space of the Medieval battlefield and it changes everything - not something you'll pull off in a few weeks or months. If you can't use your bow anymore if there's gonna be a breeze on the battlefield, you're useless as a soldier
You should be able to fire a flaming arrow
You need to learn all about direct and above all indirect, suppressing fire, the latter being done in group and more common
You must shoot up-tempo, firing 5 times a minute is not good enough - a Medieval archer has one arrow on his bow and at least one or two if not more in one of his hands while firing
You need to cope with the battlefield stress, an unsteady arm or eye also makes you useless
You need to learn all about skirmishing, which is done in group - and involves constant tactical movement and falling back, as well as keeping an eye on whatever the enemy skirmishers may be up to if they're present
You must be able to hit a vital body part or at least skin when firing directly - across a distance of 40 yards as well as 200 yards or more .... that's the heart of the matter, that takes experience and strength, which you can't build up in only weeks or months - to do this without thinking you must train on a regular basis for years, it must become second nature - only then you are a soldier ... you won't always be successful, but if you're never successful, you're useless
You need to think on your feet: if you're out of arrows for example, you pull the enemy's arrows out of the trees or the soil and return them to sender
Your targets may not be stationary at all, but moving around themselves - a whole new challenge and even harder than aiming for stationary targets
And then you must learn to fire through these slits in castle/city walls during sieges - I've seen trained modern day archers fail to do that. Just think about how much skill it requires to a) get your arrow beyond the slit - b) succeed in it every time c) then hit someone running below the castle or city walls d) hit to injure e) do it under pressure because the walls are being assaulted, otherwise there would be nothing to shoot at

It's also important not to get caught, cause some enemy commanders, knowing what it takes to make an archer, will simply cut off a few of your fingers before they will release you, that solves their little problem.


Also I read somewhere that George Washington considered arming the Continental Army with long bows, as they were cheaper to build then muskets.

George Washington made the right choice then, also as far as logistics are concerned - it seems counterintuitive, but it's easier to move muskets/powder/musket balls around than bows and arrows in sufficient numbers.


https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KufRyGMeTAo&t=

SaxonPagan
Tuesday, February 19th, 2019, 03:48 PM
You must be able to fire on rainy and windy days,

What did for the crossbowmen at Crécy was the fact that their strings had become soaked in the torrential rain and lost their elasticity. The more experienced archers on the English side had kept theirs dry ;)


Just think about it much skill it requires to a) get your arrow beyond the slit - b) succeed in it every time c) then hit someone running below the castle or city walls

As regards that photo of an embrasure, the archer or crossbowman would stand immediately behind the opening and not have to fire from several yards back as (I think) is being suggested. So getting an arrow or bolt through the slit was really not that difficult.

Incidentally, the ones in the form of a cross were made for both types of weapon.

Chlodovech
Tuesday, February 19th, 2019, 06:57 PM
As regards that photo of an embrasure, the archer or crossbowman would stand immediately behind the opening and not have to fire from several yards back as (I think) is being suggested. So getting an arrow or bolt through the slit was really not that difficult.

Do you think there's room for that? I saw a docu in which they explained that archers would stand a few meters away from the slit, using a longbow here would be out of the question anyway, I think. Which would certainly be safer too, because otherwise you could expose yourself too much to another very skilled enemy archer who could aim for that slit.

SaxonPagan
Tuesday, February 19th, 2019, 07:10 PM
If you consider the angles involved, how would you ever hit (or even see) an attacker close to the wall by standing several metres back? ;)

Here is a Wikipedia photo of an embrasure at nearby Corfe Castle*, that I've visited several times ...


https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Arrowslit#/media/File:Arrow_slat_corfe_castle.jpg

Notice that the caption says: "An arrowslit at Corfe Castle. This shows the inside - where the archer would have stood".

* Useless historical fact: my wife was born just a few hundred metres from Corfe Castle

SaxonPagan
Tuesday, February 19th, 2019, 11:14 PM
I've also been to Caen Castle in Normandy and there's an interesting embrasure into which can be fitted the nozzle of a cannon ...


https://i.ibb.co/k0J83kQ/EMBRASURE.jpg (https://imgbb.com/)

Here is a close-up ...

https://i.ibb.co/PhyG7V9/EMBRASURE2.jpg (https://imgbb.com/)

Mind you, if things ever kick off again I wouldn't want to be living in that house opposite :-O

SpearBrave
Wednesday, February 20th, 2019, 02:07 AM
I'm sure I can learn to fire a longbow in a few weeks, SB, but not on a battlefield - which is what interests me (all the more so because we don't have guns over here and war with the invaders could very well turn out to be pretty Medieval in nature!), I would be combat ineffective with a few weeks of experience under my belt. Hitting something at a distance of twenty yards isn't good enough. If you're not an Olympian or a professional archer in our world, you can simply forget about even beginning to compete with Medieval military archers.


OK forget about the English long bow for a second, use a modern take down recurve. As with most things when it comes to bows the new ones are far more forgiving and you can make 60 yard kill shots with practice.



There's so much to learn too, beyond mere technique as well:

You must be able to fire on rainy and windy days, you need to learn to use the wind or to at least work with it - and often there will be wind on the open space of the Medieval battlefield and it changes everything - not something you'll pull off in a few weeks or months. If you can't use your bow anymore if there's gonna be a breeze on the battlefield, you're useless as a soldier
You should be able to fire a flaming arrow
You need to learn all about direct and above all indirect, suppressing fire, the latter being done in group and more common
You must shoot up-tempo, firing 5 times a minute is not good enough - a Medieval archer has one arrow on his bow and at least one or two if not more in one of his hands while firing
You need to cope with the battlefield stress, an unsteady arm or eye also makes you useless
You need to learn all about skirmishing, which is done in group - and involves constant tactical movement and falling back, as well as keeping an eye on whatever the enemy skirmishers may be up to if they're present
You must be able to hit a vital body part or at least skin when firing directly - across a distance of 40 yards as well as 200 yards or more .... that's the heart of the matter, that takes experience and strength, which you can't build up in only weeks or months - to do this without thinking you must train on a regular basis for years, it must become second nature - only then you are a soldier ... you won't always be successful, but if you're never successful, you're useless
You need to think on your feet: if you're out of arrows for example, you pull the enemy's arrows out of the trees or the soil and return them to sender
Your targets may not be stationary at all, but moving around themselves - a whole new challenge and even harder than aiming for stationary targets
And then you must learn to fire through these slits in castle/city walls during sieges - I've seen trained modern day archers fail to do that. Just think about how much skill it requires to a) get your arrow beyond the slit - b) succeed in it every time c) then hit someone running below the castle or city walls d) hit to injure e) do it under pressure because the walls are being assaulted, otherwise there would be nothing to shoot at

It's also important not to get caught, cause some enemy commanders, knowing what it takes to make an archer, will simply cut off a few of your fingers before they will release you, that solves their little problem.


Do you think some of these things are easy with a modern gun?

SaxonPagan
Wednesday, February 20th, 2019, 03:20 PM
using a longbow here would be out of the question anyway, I think. Which would certainly be safer too, because otherwise you could expose yourself too much to another very skilled enemy archer who could aim for that slit.

Well no position is ever invulnerable but a narrow slit at least reduces the target. Check out this short video ...



https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=EB5junHFYCE

Chlodovech
Thursday, February 21st, 2019, 04:46 PM
A video I saw four years ago - it's my favorite video on YT. I'm sure some of you have seen it, if you haven't already - watch it. You won't regret it and you'll never forget it. Truly astonishing.

A bow in the hands of Lars Andersen (Denmark) becomes like a handgun or a semi-automatic rifle in the hands of another man - and Lars can shoot a fly sitting on your nose without as much as scratching your skin, he's that accurate. And he can do it from all angles and even hanging upside down and while running or sitting on a motorcycle. When you shoot at him with a bow, he'll grab your arrow out of the sky with his bare hands or hit an incoming arrow with one of his own, then fire right back at you. He'll fire ten arrows in a row in (much) less than ten seconds. I'm not exaggerating. When he has his bow on him or near him, he's supremely armed and dangerous. He makes the most of what a man can do with a bow - almost the most, because Lars could stand losing some pounds to reach peak fitness and become the ultimate archer and assassin.

However, some of the video's and Lars' claims are unfounded ("this is what historical archery looked like, it all comes straight from historical Arab and European handbooks on archery", ... that isn't fully the case ... and also "archers didn't carry quivers" - yes, they did, how else would they've carried their arrows around and into battle - Medieval archers had quivers beyond all doubt, we know so for a fact), but all that is irrelevant. Just enjoy his speed archery, stunts and tricks and his insane level of skill and ridiculously fast rate of fire, you'll be sitting in front of your screen mouth agape as the video progresses. Naturally, it took him ten years of training to get where he is today and to make his bow a natural extension of his arm.

Isn't he the baddest bastard with a bow you've ever seen? LORD OF WAR!


https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BEG-ly9tQGk

Lars Andersen has his chan own YT chan (https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCJZ94qp4dtCw0Q5UQqAkg7w) where he teaches his viewers his trade and he appeared on television before too.