Would knights fight in pairs?

Discussion in 'Western Martial Arts' started by Southpaw535, Oct 7, 2011.

  1. Southpaw535

    Southpaw535 Well-Known Member Moderator Supporter

    Felt better here than in off-topic or weapons. I'm watching an old series by Mike Loades called "weapons that made Britian" and I'm on an episode about armour. He's just been talking about the design of helmets and the trade off between line of sight and protection. Now what he said on the subject was that during a cavalry charge the visor would be down, but on foot at close range the visor would be raised to allow peripheral vision. No problems with that.
    Next though he said that because a man can't see behind him he believed knights would fight in pairs with each covering his partners back.

    I threw it in google and didn't find anything and the fact he said "I believe" is making me wonder if there's any basis for this?
  2. Polar Bear

    Polar Bear Moved on

    No evidence of that. The probably would have fought in lines so pairs seems redundant.

    The Bear.
  3. Southpaw535

    Southpaw535 Well-Known Member Moderator Supporter

    Aaaand my opinion of Mike Loades dips a teeny bit :(

    Thanks for the reply Bear
  4. John Titchen

    John Titchen Still Learning Supporter

    I can remember the series as I videoed it for use in teaching.

    My recollection is that this is sound conjecture, but you have to consider context.

    In tournaments you would have one on one, where this lack of all round vision was less of a problem. You might also have the melee - but there you would essentially be in teams and have groups looking out for each other.

    In battle you always fought as a group, so he is not really off base here. In battle once unhorsed knights could be vulnerable if isolated to less well armed men, and according to Strickland and Hardy this was probably the fate of well armed French aristocrats at both Crecy and Agincourt - killed not so much by the arrows, but by being overwhelmed by lightly armed men.
  5. Southpaw535

    Southpaw535 Well-Known Member Moderator Supporter

    Was Agincourt the one where the arrows killed the horses and the men couldn't get out of the mud before the longbowman drew knives and swords on them?

    The group thing is a really good point. I knew knights charged as one group and thoguht they were used more as a mopping up force or shock troops rather than standard infantry so its hard thinkign of a situation where 2 men back to back is more likely than a group.

    Also why were you using the series for your classes out of interest?
  6. John Titchen

    John Titchen Still Learning Supporter

    After I stopped teaching medieval history to undergraduates at university and went into secondary school history teaching, I taught medieval history at A level and to Year 7 students. At Year 7 history needs to be big, brash, physical and exciting! Clips of the series combined with snippets of Blackadder and Ivanhoe were perfect for that. :)

    Both Crecy and Agincourt were battles where the use of the Longbow enabled a smaller English force to defeat a numerically superior (particularly as regards heavy cavalry) French force.
  7. Southpaw535

    Southpaw535 Well-Known Member Moderator Supporter

    Ohhhh I thought you meant DART :p
  8. Fish Of Doom

    Fish Of Doom Will : Mind : Motion Supporter

    it's worth noting that jousting and combat armor were different. don't know how helmets figure into that, but as far as the body goes, the differences were quite notable (with jousting armor having one side shaped differently and more heavily armored than the other one, for example).
  9. Southpaw535

    Southpaw535 Well-Known Member Moderator Supporter

    Good point but I think he was only talking about combat armour
  10. slipthejab

    slipthejab Hark, a vagrant! Supporter

    One of the issues in those battles that I'd read (Barbara Tuchman - The March of Folly if I recall) was that the mounted French knights being both arrogant and impatient, not to mention macho... charged soon after their line of foot soldiers was ordered to advance into battle... being so impatient to get into the thick of it they trampled their own advance foot troops... then when tangled up they began to hack away at the their own foot soldiers in order to get to the front line at which point, being heavily bogged down in their own foot soldiers and under the swarms of long bow arrows made very easy picking for the English and Welsh that went in and carved them up by hand.

    Curious if anyone had come across this scenario in other reads on the subject.
  11. 19thlohan

    19thlohan Beast and the Broadsword

    Fighting back to back is a pretty common strategy around the world if you got surrounded or were trying to defend a specific place while under attack from all sides. I'm sure knights used that strategy a time or two but it wasn't the typical way they fought so I doubt their armor would have been designed with that in mind.
  12. John Titchen

    John Titchen Still Learning Supporter

    I don't have my best text on this to hand. I've just leant it out to another history teacher for his lessons.

    My recollection was that it wasn't their own footsoldiers that they cut down but genoese cross bowmen who were falling back too slowly - but I might be thinking of a different stage in the proceedings.
  13. Southpaw535

    Southpaw535 Well-Known Member Moderator Supporter

    Depends how much faith you want to place in me considering I've only seen shows about Agincourt and not done any proper source reading but I heard the same thing as JWT: It was crossbowmen that got cut down (I vaguely remember something about it being because they were trying to flee?) but they were finished off hand to hand by the longbowmen. Wierd considering Agincourt's the one everyone knows for being a demonstration of how great the longbow was but I don't think the arrows themselves achieved a huge amount of casualties.
  14. slipthejab

    slipthejab Hark, a vagrant! Supporter

    Interesting... a bit different than I'd heard it told before. I gave this a quick read and it makes reference to Keegan (very popular writer/historian)... terrain appears to be the main factor - the English took advantage of that by using posts (like a massive wooden spike or pylon - the medieval version of the landing craft/tank barriers made from angle iron of WWII perhaps) that forced the French knights to have to veer apparently. I remember being told that the Welsh on top of making up part of the archers were also renowned for moving amongst the dead and dying with long daggers and making sure the dead stayed dead.
    Last edited: Oct 8, 2011
  15. John Titchen

    John Titchen Still Learning Supporter

    The arrows achieved a significant number of human casualties, but that wasn't their main impact. The significance of the longbow was that it prevented the opposing force from bringing its numbers to bear against a smaller force using the tactics that worked best.

    With regard to the programme you mention, its recorded delivery of longbow force was significantly different to another programme I saw presented by Robert Hardy (Cornelius Fudge, Minister for Magic for all you young ones - Siegfried for the older generation). Since Hardy is recognised as the preeminent authority on the English longbow - I know whose demonstration and findings I would support.

    The key thing about the longbow compared to the crossbow was its greater range and rate of fire. The French cavalry charges faltered because the horses were cut down, and mounted men were trapped without room to manouvre. The French were unable to deploy the numbers they had which would have crushed the English because of this situation.
  16. John Titchen

    John Titchen Still Learning Supporter

    Keegan is good. His book The Face of Battle which looks at Agincourt, Waterloo and the Somme is an interesting read.

    Terrain is always a factor, and a good general does the best he can to fit with the tactics he could employ. At both Crecy and Agincourt the English forced the French to approach via a tunnel - the worst possible tactic for them. In both instances the French could have delayed the battle and destroyed the English.
  17. Southpaw535

    Southpaw535 Well-Known Member Moderator Supporter

    Actually weapons that made Britain isn't where I got this from. There was another programme I can't remember the name of we were shown in politics, one more in history and also just the wiki page.

    As far as the cavalry charge goes the longbow's main effect seems to have been killing the horses more than killing the men. Not saying it didn't cause casualties among them simply that the casualties from arrow strikes possibly weren't as significant as general knowledge thinks they were.

    By Keegan from Wiki
    Also slip there is a bit about killing their own men
    Then with the footsoldiers

    I accept I read that wrong before and assumed because they were bending their necks to avoid getting hit in the holes in their helmets that meant the arrows weren't penetrating at all. I'm going to assume some it did and some it didn't depending on where it hit on the body?

    That does sound to me like the arrows weren't actually cutting men down by the hundreds like "Agincourt was won by the longbow" instantly suggests but more that the bombardment they took walking across the mud left them too battered and exhausted to fight. So I guess I'm not saying the crossbow wasn't a crucial factor just that it was hand to hand fightign that led to most of the casualties not the actual arrows by themselves.
  18. Southpaw535

    Southpaw535 Well-Known Member Moderator Supporter

    Possibly stupid question: the battle of Agincourt and the Battle of Crecy were two different battles right?

    Only I was reading Crecy and found the point about crossbowmen
  19. Polar Bear

    Polar Bear Moved on

    The problem is that we don't actually know how it was used. There is alot of conjecture but very little actual evidence hence alot of the myths that surrounded medieval europe like " two handed swords were too heavy to lift unless you were super strong".

    The Bear.
  20. Southpaw535

    Southpaw535 Well-Known Member Moderator Supporter

    Huh. I would of thought we could make fairly accurate replicas?

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