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Forum Index > Off-topic Talk > Genoese Crossbowmen and crossbow tactics Reply to topic
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Michael Parker




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PostPosted: Sun 15 Jul, 2012 6:00 pm    Post subject: Genoese Crossbowmen and crossbow tactics         Reply with quote

Genoese Crossbowmen were supposed to have been among the best troops in Christendom, and the sources seem to have taken pains to explain how they were routed so quickly at the battle of Crecy. That it was such a one-sided engagement surprised everybody. Which weapon is "better" is a pretty old controversy which on Youtube can degenerate into a mud-slinging contest between self-appointed experts, but let's revisit it anyway. A longbowman can reliably shoot more arrows in a minute than a crossbowman, but a test on Weapons that Made Britain using a guy with a belt and claw suggested that with considerable effort a crossbowman could shoot as many as 8 bolts per minute to the longbow's 12-18. The Genoese as I understand it used some kind of relay system behind cover to keep up a steady rate of fire, so the margin by which they were out-volleyed may not have been so great. Certainly 1-2 bolts per minute is way too low an estimate. Each side's missile troops were the best in the world with their weapons of choice. It seems the greater rate of the longbow wasn't enough to yield such a lopsided battle on its own, so the extenuating circumstances were considered important. If anyone wants to make comments on the draw weights or firing rates of longbows and crossbows feel free to do that too.

The reason that the Genoese crossbowmen were so quickly routed by the longbows at the battle of Crecy in 1346 has been explained many different ways and yet I haven't yet seen it put to rest for good exactly what factor or combination of factors it was. Some of the most commonly cited reasons that come from the primary sources (as I've heard them cited, since I haven't yet read the reports of Froissart or Villanni etc.) are as follows:

A) Their crossbow strings were dampened by the storm before the battle, while the longbowmen unstrung their bows and kept the strings safe and dry under their helmets
B)Their Pavises were left in the baggage train during the march and they could not retrieve them before they were rushed into battle by the impatient knights
C) They were frightened by the English cannons.

I don't know what to think about A. It seems clear enough that a longbow can be quickly strung and unstrung, but what about crossbows? Do people who are experienced with crossbows think that in a quick storm the Genoese could have protected their bowstrings somehow, or is it really possible that their strings got ruined in the rain?

I thought that B seemed likely considering that according to Lt Col. Burne the French were surprised to find the English at Crecy, having poor scouting information, and decided to give battle with little preparation after a long, exhausting march. It seems logical to me that the pavises would be in the wagons and that in the confusion of the French preparations the Genoese were made to attack without them.

This is in addition to the fact that they were forced into battle by the French lords behind them after a long march with no chance to prepare, that their deployment was constrained by the terrain and the jostling French army, and that the valee au clercs might have been rather muddy. Is it true also that the sun was in their eyes? It seems pretty clear that in more ways than one it was a royal mess that the Genoese were made to take part in. Certainly they were poorly directed by the French knights who misused and wasted some of Europe's crack troops.

It seems like any one or two of the factors listed could have been disastrous, and it seems unlikely to me that all of these claims are true. Why don't you all lend me your arguments for which combination of factors was most important, and which you think were unlikely or can be dismissed. It would be great to be linked or redirected to other threads or resources on this discussion topic. I would like to know where the latest debate on this subject is taking place. And of course, am I missing anything obvious?

"This is a sharp medicine, but it is a physician for all diseases and miseries."
-Sir Walter Raleigh, upon being allowed to see the ax that would behead him, 29 October 1618
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Kurt Scholz




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PostPosted: Mon 16 Jul, 2012 1:49 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Let's get a few things straight:

A crossbow has one long loading string that enables to fix the shorter shooting string(s - you have more than one of these). As long as it's possible to span a crossbow, you can switch strings. Crossbow strings were highly lubricated because they were thick bundles of moved fibres that would wear out rapidly due to friction. Lubrication was often with wax and other hydrophob materials. There's of course a problem if you are shooting in the rain - same with longbows - or if you have to keep your crossbow ready in the rain because of an imperfect information situation - scouting & command failure.

There's a constant urge to compare long self-bows and crossbows because of a few encounters in reported battles during the 100 Years War. The crossbow of the Genoese was a different concept. It's technically speaking no problem to create crossbows with much longer draw length and much less power required per draw length in order to achieve a shooting frequency like the bow. Looking at ancient China, you'll find no differentiation between prod and bow because the stock of the crossbow was rather an instrument to simplify using the same bow, but with a very steep learning curve - allows for rapid mobilization of large combat forces. In Europe that's absolutely not the case.
The often repeated story that crossbow use could be taught within a short timeframe was not what paymasters considered when they made crossbowmen in Europe highly paid professionals that were sought after mercenaries (The English longbow archers did make a reputation in English service due to enemy blunders, they did not earn the same praise as mercenaries of various rulers). Why? Well, I mentioned that earlier in the forum, the crossbow was a complicated machine that required maintenance and adjustment and someone capable of doing that with the right tools. This made the crossbow a craftsman's weapon and learning a craft put you on a know-how advantage in comparison to the usual peasant population, plus you did have the option to earn your money in a free town. In order to entice such people to serve as mercenaries you needed some motivation - good pay.
Conceptual the crossbow in Europe developed towards increasingly heavy draw weight with a short draw length. The requisite bolt for optimized energy transfer is quite heavy, but has much reduced friction loss during time of flight due to being short and heavy. A heavy projectile weapon - the javelin - had so far been typical of Western European and Maghreb warfare in stark contrast to Eastern Europe and the Mashriq who traditionally relied more on sophisticated bows.
Verbruggen (The Art of Warfare in Western Europe during the Middle Ages) even mentions groupings of crossbowmen an javelineers in French service. If you compare crossbow and javelin it turns out both have similar rate of shot in combat operation, but the munition spent with a crossbow is cheaper and lighter, allowing for a more continuous rate of shot. The big bonus is that the crossbow allows for much more precise shooting and exploitation of situations in combined arms combat and it has much less qualms with space and footing - try hurling a javelin from constricted slippery ground.

In regions like Scandinavia, that had been heavily into the longbow, the crossbow became the universal weapon and was replaced as such only by the reforms in order to create the military to fight Gustav Adolph's conquests in the 30 Years War (with prior limited success against Poland-Lithunia). In Scandinavia you find just the same tactical ideas the English had with their longbows enacted with massed crossbows. Unfortunately I know no study that directly compares both approaches.

The reports from the 100 Years War serve agendas you must find out in order to understand a text. Wars are fought within a political framework that regulates the blame game. It may be true that the Genoese crossbowmen considered their current situation against the English not as a sound tactical situation to press on. They opted for retreat because they wanted to make a better approach with the protection of paveses still in the bagage train. The English archers had no such option. The mass of the French knights never understood that there was a man other than a noble capable of thinking and making a decision and led their disastrous charge. This might have been fueled by the usual rivalry between different military approaches. If you go to the Wars of the Roses you'll discover that the English had the ability of mutual destruction with missile warfare, but pressed for close combat in order to live through the decision. The Genoese had also the close combat option - against English men-at-arms and archers, but for them the pavese option was the best choice to fight well and enjoy their payment afterwards. From an egoistic perspective it's usually pretty annoying to be a dead mercenary.
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Karl Randall




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PostPosted: Mon 16 Jul, 2012 2:26 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

The affect of wetting a bow or crossbow string varies on what material the string was made of.

There are several reverences that English longbow strings were typically made of linen. Linen does not appreciably stretch when wet. The English archers very well may have put their bowstrings under their helms as a holdover from earlier times when strings were perhaps not made of linen, just as a precaution, or because of a preconceived notion that it moisture would affect a linen string when if fact it wouldn't.

If a string is made of rawhide or gut however, there is the possibility that it may stretch when wet.

I believe Payne-Galloway(sp?) covered this and did a test, albeit rough, that showed that a gut or rawhide string would stretch noticeably when soaked.

While not ironclad conclusive, if the Genoese Crossbowmen had gut or rawhide strings which were allowed to become wet, then that would have been problematic indeed.

There also of course is the question of comparative ranges which while difficult to gauge might also be a significant factor.
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Kurt Scholz




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PostPosted: Mon 16 Jul, 2012 5:56 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Karl Randall wrote:
The affect of wetting a bow or crossbow string varies on what material the string was made of.

There are several reverences that English longbow strings were typically made of linen. Linen does not appreciably stretch when wet. The English archers very well may have put their bowstrings under their helms as a holdover from earlier times when strings were perhaps not made of linen, just as a precaution, or because of a preconceived notion that it moisture would affect a linen string when if fact it wouldn't.

If a string is made of rawhide or gut however, there is the possibility that it may stretch when wet.

I believe Payne-Galloway(sp?) covered this and did a test, albeit rough, that showed that a gut or rawhide string would stretch noticeably when soaked.

While not ironclad conclusive, if the Genoese Crossbowmen had gut or rawhide strings which were allowed to become wet, then that would have been problematic indeed.

There also of course is the question of comparative ranges which while difficult to gauge might also be a significant factor.


I concur that there can be different reactions to moisture due to string material, but you can switch any wet string for a dry reserve string in the same time as it takes you to load this weapon - quite fast.
Payne-Gallway's test is problematic because he highlights how a much heavier bolt has no significant speed reduction when released by the crossbow and afterwards compares effectiveness as a weapon system between a very light crossbow bolt (with a linear degression of energy transfer to a very low level, not at all requiring the excessive energy transferred to the crossbow for this result) and a well-fitted arrow.
It's often quoted that the crossbow had a flat trajectory direct shot and the bow indirect shot capability and thus a longer range - nonsense. The Scandinavian sources show how crossbows could be shot in indirect attacks.

You really have to go down to understand the blame game in our sources. The Genoese were pretty clueless walking around with their shooting strings ready on their crossbows in the rain, ran into the English line, had an exchange of missiles they didn't want to continue like that and then had the French men-at-arms ride them down and losing due to the bad preparation. Nothing in this battle is about a comparison in capability between crossbowmen and archers, everything is about a French military organization that tripped over their own blunders.
The English archers had no option but missile exchange, the Genoese did have them. That's not winning, but doing all you can, while the enemy (the Genoese) thinks he can outsmart you. Luck for the English was that the French had some arrogant cretins in armour who spoiled it because armour and speed made them "invincible" and glory seeking.
As soon as the French switched to not so glorious skirmishes, with soldiers of more professional attitude, things went terribly downhill for the English who lost the 100 Years War and during the course of the war had to recover lost territory in France again and again.
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Gary Teuscher




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PostPosted: Tue 17 Jul, 2012 1:26 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Quote:
A longbowman can reliably shoot more arrows in a minute than a crossbowman, but a test on Weapons that Made Britain using a guy with a belt and claw suggested that with considerable effort a crossbowman could shoot as many as 8 bolts per minute to the longbow's 12-18. The Genoese as I understand it used some kind of relay system behind cover to keep up a steady rate of fire, so the margin by which they were out-volleyed may not have been so great. Certainly 1-2 bolts per minute is way too low an estimate.


Interesting on the crossbow rate of fire.

I know that some of the crossbows may have been using a windlass system - whcih I would think would be slower than the 8 bolts per minute.

On the other hand, I have read that a claw and pulley type of arrangement was certainly technologically avialbale/possible as ealry as the 12th century, and this could easily double or triple the weight a belt claw could draw.

Seems from what I have read from those in the crossbow field that 300+ could be drawn via belt claw alone - which would seem to indicate a pulley and belt claw could draw in the 600-900 pound range. And this method of drawing would be very similar in speed to that of a belt claw alone.
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Michael Parker




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PostPosted: Tue 17 Jul, 2012 2:06 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Here's the speed contest between longbow and crossbow in the Mike Loades documentary Weapons That Made Britain. The blonde guy is using a crossbow with a composite horn and sinew prod but a draw weight light enough to draw it straight up with a belt and claw without pulleys. I'm beginning to notice that coming up with a good average or mean number is hard because it depends on the dexterity of the shooter. These tests are interesting but there's always variables that leave us with questions. To me the most interesting question is what kind of crossbows the genoese were using in 1346 and what the most popular devices for drawing them were.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=85CcSgnDgPo

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Glennan Carnie




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PostPosted: Tue 17 Jul, 2012 11:55 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Michael Parker wrote:
Here's the speed contest between longbow and crossbow in the Mike Loades documentary Weapons That Made Britain.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=85CcSgnDgPo


This is little more than an irrelevant archery party trick.

The bow in the video is of Victorian pattern and probably about 50lb draw-weight, shooting a light target arrow, none of which is drawn to full draw.

Get an archer shooting a 140lb bow and a heavy livery shaft, and demand that every arrow must travel at least 220 (that is, something that is effective in battle) and you'd get a very different result.

This stunt is often used as a demonstration of the superiority of the longbow by ignorant re-enactment archers trying to show off. It proves nothing.
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Matt Easton




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PostPosted: Wed 18 Jul, 2012 1:04 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Weren't there many times more English archers than Genoese/French crossbowmen at Crecy?.. Most of the English army was made of archers.
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Kurt Scholz




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PostPosted: Wed 18 Jul, 2012 1:55 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Matt Easton wrote:
Weren't there many times more English archers than Genoese/French crossbowmen at Crecy?.. Most of the English army was made of archers.


Reliable numbers is a constant problem with these sources. We don't know if all Genoese crossbowmen were archers or if the number included the servants a professional crossbowman often had to carry the pavese and span the weapon in order to keep the expensive shooter better operational.

The crossbow hasn't been really tested in any of these English-longbow-proof tests. It's like showing how ninjas, samurais and shaolins can take down cannons. Energy transfer equivalent is required for comparison as well as a level of useful energy achieved with the device. The crossbowman in the "tests" is the "armed kitchen help" often quoted from the English POV modern compilations, while all medieval sources state what a sought after and well paid professional mercenary he was. Pray tell me, why bothers anyone to hire mercenaries from far away land using such an "easy to learn weapon" if he can just arm some of his subjects to do the job for a fraction of the costs? So where do we get someone who has achieved a level of profiency with the crossbow that can't be reached anytime soon by a noob - despite the steep learning curve - and pit him against an equally well-trained man with his longbow?
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PostPosted: Wed 18 Jul, 2012 4:26 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Read 'The Road to Crecy', by Livingstone and Witzel. There were lots of encounters between English longbowmen and French crossbowmen in the campaign that led to the battle - French crossbowmen were generally tasked with garrisoning towns. The Genoese crossbowmen were a marching field force and were not, as far as I recall, used to garrison French towns. Regardless of that detail, the French forces required an extra large supply of crossbowmen - this is presumably why they contracted to Genoa. Genoa was heavily under French influence at this time - Marshal Boucicault (one of the field commanders at Agincourt) was even Governor of Genoa for a time.
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Leo Todeschini




PostPosted: Wed 18 Jul, 2012 6:17 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Michael Parker wrote
Quote:
but a test on Weapons that Made Britain using a guy with a belt and claw suggested that with considerable effort a crossbowman could shoot as many as 8 bolts per minute to the longbow's 12-18


I was there that day, working on the production and unfortunately Glenn pretty much hit the nail on the head. Numbers were rounded up, others were rounded down and it was spliced in the edit. The bow was a 150lb bow not a war bow and after the minute the longbowman was happily ready for more, the crossbowman had his hands on his knees panting with exhaustion and very much not ready for more.

Either a windlass or cranequin bow takes around 40 seconds a shot, = 1.5 shots a minute, with a loader this becomes 3, in the nature of this lets round up on the basis maybe they take 35 seconds = 4 shots a minute. In no way even with a single loader is 8 possible.

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Kurt Scholz




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PostPosted: Wed 18 Jul, 2012 6:24 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Matt Easton wrote:
Read 'The Road to Crecy', by Livingstone and Witzel. There were lots of encounters between English longbowmen and French crossbowmen in the campaign that led to the battle - French crossbowmen were generally tasked with garrisoning towns. The Genoese crossbowmen were a marching field force and were not, as far as I recall, used to garrison French towns. Regardless of that detail, the French forces required an extra large supply of crossbowmen - this is presumably why they contracted to Genoa. Genoa was heavily under French influence at this time - Marshal Boucicault (one of the field commanders at Agincourt) was even Governor of Genoa for a time.


Not really an answer, you contract Genoa to supply men with crossbows if it's not sufficient to supply only crossbows and some instructors for whatever soldiers France had in large numbers who were not nobles. It's the man that makes the crossbow, not the crossbow the man.

How about a team of two loaders who just keep transfering the energy and the crossbow-archer does the rest and what kind of crossbow was used?
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Gary Teuscher




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PostPosted: Wed 18 Jul, 2012 9:12 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

In Payne Galwey's book, he believes (and has some good references) that the composite crossbow would have definitely been the most common crossbowbow on the field in the 14th century.

I would guess (Leo you may have a better idea here) that a aided only by a belt claw could easily be 300 pounds, and this could be drawn a handful of times a minute with little ill effect.

My thoughts are as thus - I am not an overly large man, and can deadlift 300 pounds for a few reps, 225 can be done many times without feeling overly tired. Now this is 300 pounds starting at about 6 inches off the ground, "drawn" to about 32" off the ground. This is a 26" "draw", but more importantly, the draw starts 6" off the ground, where it is the hardest due to some factors involving leverage. A Belt hook would probably start the draw at 12"-18" off the ground, possibly higher, which would give one the ability to draw a heavier load, again due to leverage. There is a training excersize wear you deadlift with the bar on blocks, starting at about in that 12-18" range, and you can lift a good 50% more starting at this higher point.

Come to think of it, I think I see a few reasons that escaped be before for both a stirrup and a belt claw. The stirrup, in additon to giving the foot a spot to hold the bow for more leverage, also increases the height of the initial start of the draw. The Belt claw I thought was to make it easier on the hands - but what it does strictly from a leverage point is allows the draw to start at a higher point as well, as you do not have to bend low enough for your hands to grab the string - only low enough to hook the claw to the string.

So I'd think a 300 pound draw would certainly be manageable - and with a pulley in effect, 2-3x that could be drawn, depending upon the ratios involved with the pulley.

This also makes me think that "professional" crossbowmen such as the Genoese would be good dead lifters in addition to beinggood marksmen. This specific motion would devlop muscles in a way most farming would not, in a way similar t the deformities we see with skeletons from the Mary Rose. Maybe what one was paying for was strong backs Big Grin

Payne Gallwey also makes reference to that as well, that the quality of the crossbowmen was judged by the strength the had for the draw.

As an aside, I find some things I believe to be in error in his books, stating that the Composite crossbow was similar in strength to the "short bows" used at that time, and the later steel crossbow competed with the longbow in power. The whole middle ages "shortbow" idea goes against much evidence we have from around this time.

Scandanavians were using 6' long bows with 100+ draws, and the composite crossbow clearly saw much use, perhaps more of these in use than the self bow by the 12th and later centuries.

If these composites had draw weights in the 600-900 pound range, they would at least have had up to two times the stored energy of a 150 pound and 32" draw longbow.
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Michael Parker




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PostPosted: Wed 18 Jul, 2012 12:58 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Thanks, Glennan and Leo, for weighing in on the Weapons that made Brittain test. I have a real soft spot for Mike Loades and his documentaries because they make battlefield recreation seem so lively and exciting, but I guess I was naiive not to consider that it is a television product and that what's going on behind the scenes biases the result. It's easier for me to spot chicanery in History Channel weapon tests such as in Conquest and R. Lee Ermy's Mail Call because they're much more shameless about it, but in things like historical archery that I'm less experienced about and in a slicker documentary I can be kind of gullible if something is stated with authority.

Since I only recently discovered any local historical groups, youtube and books (not to mention this website) have been my window into historical recreation. Another amateur "test" I happened to see was this one.

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

It looks to me like this longbow guy is closer to the real deal, using a more accurate bow, bending it the medieval way, and aiming carefully. It's 110 pounds, which some people say is too low, but if you're using proper technique then I don't see how that matters in speed for a close range test. The crossbowman in contrast is using a crossbow that appear much lighter draw than historical examples so his time is probably too fast.

By the way, I talked to a medieval anthropologist named Richard who shoots both crossbows and longbows and he shared an interesting theory with me. He's willing to swear by an academic work whose name escapes me at the moment that say the find of the Mary Rose has been misinterpreted to indicate that English archers used monstrously high draw weights like 185 or 200 lbs because the bows are so stiff and the skeletons found had disfigured spines. Its opinion was that remains of sailors were mislabeled as the skeletons of archers (supposedly there were only a few archers on board and a much larger crew) and that the back problems came from the crew's manual labor on the ship, and that the bow staves being carried were actually half-finished munitions bows in transportation with the intention that they would be shaved down by a bowyer when they reached their destination to suit the individual man who would draw it, therefore reducing its draw weight. Maybe they think so because the natural texture of the wood was left on the back of the bows. Anyway, if you believe that as this guy I talked to did, he was skeptical that all war bows were heavier than 110 pounds, arguing that a 190 pound bow is impossible for even a very strong man to draw. He thinks that the emphasis on the superhuman strength of English archers is a kind of historical myth perpetuated by England because it reinforces national pride and glorifies their ancestors. Certainly Mike Loades took the Mary Rose draw weights and construction at face value in the documentary.

I probably didn't do justice to the argument, but does anybody recognize this theory? I would like to know if this is a fringe idea that can be discredited or whether there may be something to it. The more I study this question the more I'm bewildered by the difficulty of which findings to consider credible.

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Glennan Carnie




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PostPosted: Wed 18 Jul, 2012 3:50 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Michael,

I know Nick Birmingham and Martin Harvey extremely well. They're both sound competent archers.

As to your friend, perhaps you should show him this video:

http://youtube.com/watch?v=7nPNxTcaZPc

And, yes, that really is a 190lb bow. I've tried it. It stops me dead. Joe commented that he can't draw it more than 32" because of the compression on the body!

Joe Gibbs is, in my opinion, the best warbow archer in the world. He regularly shoots 160lb bows accurately, and recently set the EWBS Livery arrow (a Mary Rose replica arrow) record with a 178lb Italian Yew bow.

To say that the bows on the MR were unfinished demonstrates a high degree of ignorance of the MR bows. I have seen and held many of the MR bows and I can tell you - first hand - that they are NOT unfinished staves, but complete, working bows - indeed, one was even recovered that was very clearly braced when the ship went down.
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PostPosted: Wed 18 Jul, 2012 6:51 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Thank you for sharing that, Glennan. Now I won't spend sleepless nights wondering if English war-bows weren't really as powerful as commonly claimed because you put my doubts to rest. Frankly I'm relieved because it would have sapped so much of the fun out of the Hundred Years' War if I'd been left with any doubt.

Please also thank your friends for me because Nick, Martin, and Joe are demonstrating a beautiful and fascinating skill. I am more interested in historical archery than I've ever been before now.

Getting back to the thread, I was puzzled by what Nick said at the end about the crossbow needing to have two or three times the draw weight of a longbow in order to impart the same amount of penetrating power to the bolt as an longbow arrow. Maybe it was already explained while I was skipping over jargon I couldn't understand but can I have it explained again? I'm trying to understand.

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Michael Parker




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PostPosted: Wed 18 Jul, 2012 7:02 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Also, I just realized that we're getting away from the original point of my question, which is how to understand the conflicting claims of the sources regarding the defeat of the crossbowmen at Crecy. It is quite right to say that this battle was not a fair contest to see whether longbow or crossbow was superior, but rather a debacle for the Genoese caused my events largely beyond their control. I am trying to figure out what those extenuating circumstances were, and while continuing the interesting discussion of the finer points of longbow and crossbow archery I would like to hear more thoughts about what actually happened in the Valee aux Clercs at Crecy. Was it the pavises that weren't there, or the strings that got wet? There are so many excuses in the sources that I tend to doubt that they all were true. Can we figure out which of these overlapping claims are more or less likely?
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Matt Easton




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PostPosted: Thu 19 Jul, 2012 1:05 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

There was no contest at Crecy. Putting aside all the possible additional factors, such as rain and poor deployment, the English archers were in far greater numbers and up-hill. The Genoese crossbowmen were never going to make an impact in that context.

If you really want to compare the battlefield effectiveness of longbow vs. crossbow then you either need to look at the compaign that led to Crecy (read 'The Road to Crecy'), or you need to look at other battles where bows and crossbows were actually deployed against each other in large number - the last period of the Hundred Years War actually has quite a lot of examples of English and French archers and crossbowmen meeting, and remember that the French and Burgundians by that point had adopted longbowmen. The Flemish even had longbow archery guilds until the 16th century and probably later.

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Gary Teuscher




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PostPosted: Thu 19 Jul, 2012 9:12 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Quote:
I was puzzled by what Nick said at the end about the crossbow needing to have two or three times the draw weight of a longbow in order to impart the same amount of penetrating power to the bolt as an longbow arrow.


The draw length, or more accurately power stroke of a bow is what determines how much energy it stores. From what Payne Gallwey has written, it would imply about a 10" draw length for a crossbow. Compare this to a draw length of about 30-32" for a longbow, and by an overly simplistic general calculation, a crossbow that has 1/3 the drawlength needs to have 3x the draw weight to be on the same footing.

There are a lot of other factors if you get more detailed, such as the powerstroke, not the drawlength is the actual energy stored. Powerstroke is maximum draw minus the brace factor on the bow. As the draw gets heavier as it is drawn longer, the first few inches of bracing don't detract much from the overall calculation.

And I could write a handful of paragraphs how arrow weight, "stiffness" of arrow, quality of string, whether or not the bow is a recurve and other factors can increase or reduce the efficiency of a bow, but won't bore everone with these Big Grin

But as a simplified rule of thumb, a 3 to 1 ration is about accurate. Maybe a 2.75 to 1 with crossbow in the 300-450 pound draw range, but depreciating results as the crossbow becomes heavier, shorter draws on steel bows and arrow/bolt weight being 2 of the biggest factors. For example, a 900 pound crossbow won't have 2.4 times the pentrating value of a 150 pound longbow, but a 400 pound crossbow would be about on equal footing.
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Michael Parker




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PostPosted: Thu 19 Jul, 2012 11:04 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Thanks Gary, I think I understand now. In what ballpark of missile energy might the Genoese have been shooting compared to the longbows in 1346? How heavy-duty might their crossbows and ammunition have been in comparison, and which devices for drawing the crossbow were then in common use?

Matt, are you suggesting that because the Genoese had the terrain and numbers of the enemy against them, we needn't be too concerned about the excuses of the chronicles? In 1955 Colonel Alfred Burne simply opined that the wet strings, being outranged by the longbows, and having their ammunition or pavises left in the baggage were silly imaginary excuses made up by chroniclers who didn't understand that the low morale and bad deployment of the genoese was more than enough to make them retreat when they were attacked with massed longbows and cannon. Clearly the hotheaded Duke of Alencon blamed the crossbowmen for retreating before they put up much of a fight, suggesting he had unrealistic expectations of how useful they would be when deployed into such a situation. I am still interested in those "excuses", however, and would like to have a good guess as to whether or not they were just often repeated rumors that became fact. Burne presumed that at least some of these stories that worked their way into Villani's Nuovo Cronica came from the defeated Genoese, but I can't guess how likely that is. I suppose I should hunt down "The Road to Crecy", and while I'm at it I'll just flip through "The Crecy War" (even if it does show its age) to find some other interesting English vs Genoese encounters that were proper battles rather than mismatches.

"This is a sharp medicine, but it is a physician for all diseases and miseries."
-Sir Walter Raleigh, upon being allowed to see the ax that would behead him, 29 October 1618
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