Medieval Archery! Hayley learns all about the English Warbow!
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Medieval Archery! Hayley learns all about the English Warbow!

August 12, 2019


Here I am with Dickon and he’s an archer
from the 100 Years War and we’ve been talking about Agincourt haven’t we? Tell
us about your your role as an archer in Agincourt? Well I’m the most
numerous troop-type in the English army at this point, we’re a professional army unlike the French who are a feudal levy we’re professional soldiers and the most
numerous was the Archer because we are the easiest, it takes time to train us but
once we’re there, we’re there and we’re less expensive than men-at-arms and
knights so hence were more numerous and our King Henry knew this and used it to
its best advantage. Of course and can I just talk to you about the the the
famous sort of theory that we the V-sign came from the Battle of Agincourt so
first of all what was the V-sign and what is the theory behind the V-sign? Apparently
the myth is that the fact that when an archer was captured on campaign they
would cut the three fingers off to deny him the use of the bow; we have looked
into this in great depth over the years we cannot find anywhere a mention or
picture or a reference to this ever happening so we actually think it’s a Victorian
fallacy; it’s easier, think practically, it’s easier just to kill the man because
he might have lost his fingers but he still got his knowledge to pass on and
it makes perfect sense just to kill him on the spot job. There’s that theory gone!
We’re constantly learning. Yeah, yeah of course, no it’s great to know these facts. And
can you tell me about this bow here that you’ve got in front of you? Well this is
a great bow or awar bow, the term longbow is a Victorian word, we wouldn’t
have known this. It’s a stout piece of timber, normally about six foot, six
foot two, six four three, it’s made the best bows are made of yew like this one
here and it’s very distinctive because of that; it’s got two separate colours;
that’s one piece of wood; we’ve got the heartwood that likes to be held under
compression or squeezed. We’ve got the sapwood which likes to be
held under tension or stretched; that makes a really good, naturally laminated
spring, which means if I had a bow maybe of ash the same size, this would always
give me more power. So yew is the most sought-after, but it’s
quite hard to get hold of. And and how much are you pulling here? This one I’m
pulling about this is a light-pounded bow because I’m on a short-range, I’m
pulling 60 to 70 on this one and what was an archer traditional archer what would
he have pulled? A lot more than that, they we have references if we look at things
like the Mary Rose which is a little bit later, but it’s the biggest source of
bows that we have. They’re pulling over a hundred pounds up to 180 which is a
phenomenal amount of poundage and it affects the human body because of that.
It causes slight curvature of the spine, a slight thickening of the forearm and
forearm muscles, it causes the bone on the shoulder, when you’re young the
tip floats, free-floating and it should ossify with age.
Typical mark of an archer is all that strain going through the shoulders,
it never happens and we know this from battlefield graves
that we’ve found, archaeology we can pick out the arches straight away because
these subtle deformities through what they’re doing. Fascinating. Well I know that you’re going to
give us an example of how this works so let’s see a bit of that shall we? So
literally I’m going to take an arrow, now most of us would either keep them in the
back of our belt, on the ground, or some archers would even hold the arrow in
arrows in the hand while they shot; it means you can get to them quickly and
see how easy that was just to take it out place it on, I place it on the on the
bow, the cock-feather stands proud. My technique means I don’t wear a brace,
don’t wear wrist-guard because I cant the bar over at an angle so that the string
avoids my wrist. What’s the significance of this feather then that needs to be..?
It’s the cock-feather, it stands away from the bow. If I had it on the cock, i.e. the
wrong way around, when we loose the arrow, it hits the timber, the timber strips the
fleshing away and the arrow loses stability in flight. I’ve got a
different colour cock-feather, sometimes I just put a smidgen of blood or a mark on a
feather just to signify that, and you can see as we look at the tip it’s always at
90 degrees to the groove or the knock in the end of the arrow. So that’s how we
know that the arrow is set correctly. And a trained archer, how many of these
arrows would he have been able to fire in say a minute? Well first of all, we
shoot rather than fire, fire is guns that hasn’t really happened yet. Sorry. So we
would shoot. That’s okay it’s a common mistake.
From the records that we find, the average, just to qualify, you had to prove
that you could shoot 16 aimed arrows a minute. Wow.Okay so.. That’s a lot, that’s a
lot happening. And times that by how many archers you had on a front line? At
Agincourt you’ve got 5,000 archers, at that rate of shooting, you’ve got your third arrow
up in the air as your first one’s coming in, so it’s approximately 15,000 arrows
in the air at any one time. That’s great Dickon, I’m gonna let you have a fire, I’m going to
stand clearly out of the way. So I’m gonna move forward to a typical defensive position
known as a hedgehog, this is to stop enemy cavalry, I’m gonna shoot at a
close-range target because I’m on a very small range, so we go forward I’m gonna
shoot my position and here we go. We will try again, see if we can get a bit
more central and you can see good grouping. Really good grouping! Shall we go and
have a look? Yeah please that’d be great. so here we have the target what I’ve got
in the target here is to replicate human flesh and you can see I’ve got mail. What
I haven’t got is the padding but that wouldn’t make much difference. Can I just
point out to the viewers that this has gone right back significantly by a good
few inches here as well. And it’s gone straight through, through its hit the ring, its
burst the ring open, its but broken rings around it and it’s drawn all those rings
into the wound; it’s drawn any fabric you’re wearing from the padded tunic
underneath, it would be drawn into the wound again, that causes infection; the
wound would fester, I don’t think much for his chances. Thank you so much Dickon that’s been
great! I want to have a go myself but I won’t put anybody else in danger! That’s fine. Thank
you so much.

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