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Author Topic: The English Longbow  (Read 4186 times)

Watch Ryder

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The English Longbow
« on: December 30, 2014, 09:52:22 AM »
A brief introductory overview of the longbow and a bit about my longbow.

First found in Denmark 9,000 BC! This predates the first swords by over 5,000 years!

To this day there are bowyers in England and the USA making the longbow. I got this one from a bowyer in England very nice one made out of Dagame / Lemonwood.



About my archery gear.



Armor Penetration



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    Watch Ryder

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    Re: The English Longbow
    « Reply #1 on: December 30, 2014, 09:53:50 AM »
    Out clout shooting with the bow.

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    Re: The English Longbow
    « Reply #2 on: December 30, 2014, 10:25:11 AM »
    Archery is fun.   I have always enjoyed it.
    I still have a bow, though I do not have a Release or any Arrows.  I should remedy that.
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    Desert Rat

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    Re: The English Longbow
    « Reply #3 on: December 30, 2014, 08:41:34 PM »
    Interesting videos, Ryder. Well done. I've been getting back into archery in the last few months, thanks to a guy at work keeps bugging me to go bowfishing with him. It's amazing how rusty I am. Those skills are definitely perishable.   

    Grant

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    Re: The English Longbow
    « Reply #4 on: December 30, 2014, 09:31:10 PM »
      Very nice Ryder.

    Friend of mine used to make longbows, something about a quality home-build is just danged cool.

      Getting a recurve soon, may get a longbow after that. 
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    Re: The English Longbow
    « Reply #5 on: January 02, 2015, 02:11:34 PM »
    How I string the bow via the stringer method:



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    Re: The English Longbow
    « Reply #6 on: January 03, 2015, 10:28:10 PM »
    Good videos.   :cool    Thanks for posting them for us.    :thumbup1     
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    Re: The English Longbow
    « Reply #7 on: February 26, 2015, 10:17:39 PM »
    Crap!!!  Now I'mna hafta drag out the Robertson, and make a new string, and fletch some arrows, and start shooting again.  Thanks a whole pantsload, like I dinna have enough hobbies and stuff going!!!!

    Hey!!!  Maybe I can get the Senior Minions started bowhunting.....
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    Re: The English Longbow
    « Reply #8 on: March 01, 2015, 06:15:55 PM »
     :cool
    Arizona"A dying culture invariably exhibits personal rudeness.  Bad manners.  Lack of consideration for others in minor matters.  A loss of politeness, of gentle manners, is more significant than is a riot."
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    Re: The English Longbow
    « Reply #9 on: February 03, 2016, 11:55:03 AM »
    Just a quick vid I made showing arrow shipping...

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    RMc

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    Re: The English Longbow
    « Reply #10 on: August 14, 2016, 08:55:03 PM »
    In 1776, Benjamin Franklin wrote of the Longbow as a superior weapon to the common musket.

    His advice was ignored.


    The Replacement of the Longbow by Firearms in the English Army
    Thomas Esper
    Technology and Culture
    Vol. 6, No. 3 (Summer, 1965), pp. 382-393

    https://www.jstor.org/stable/3101785?seq=1#page_scan_tab_contents
    « Last Edit: August 14, 2016, 10:05:45 PM by RMc »
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    Re: The English Longbow
    « Reply #11 on: August 14, 2016, 09:04:22 PM »
    In 1776, Benjamin Franklin wrote of the Longbow as a superior weapon to the common musket of the day. His advice was ignored.


    The Replacement of the Longbow by Firearms in the English Army
    Thomas Esper
    Technology and Culture
    Vol. 6, No. 3 (Summer, 1965), pp. 382-393

    https://www.jstor.org/stable/3101785?seq=1#page_scan_tab_contents

    I've always been intrigued by Franklin's idea myself. Just fired in volley form, even by relative novices, IMO it would have been devastating to the massed forces of the time.
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    Re: The English Longbow
    « Reply #12 on: August 14, 2016, 10:15:37 PM »
    Considering the rate of accurate fire possible with any actual training it would have certainly been effective at the common engagement distances of the day as well a significant deterrent to the massed bayonet charge tactics employed by certain commanders.  It would also have worked well with the ambush tactics many of the colonists favored.   :hmm   A longbow and quiver, a brace of tomahawks and a decent camp knife that could double as a weapon.   A unit thus equipped could travel light and fast - hit quickly and silently - break contact before the enemy knew what hit them and then vanish back into the wilderness.   Nice.    :cool

    Obviously a revision in tactics would render some of that scenario a bit more difficult but imagine for a moment the "designated marksman" of such a group being able to drop a flaming arrow or two into the powder stores of a British army unit in the middle of the night from a hundred plus yards away while the rest of the unit rained flaming arrows down on the bivouac tents.    :panic
    Arizona"A dying culture invariably exhibits personal rudeness.  Bad manners.  Lack of consideration for others in minor matters.  A loss of politeness, of gentle manners, is more significant than is a riot."
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    Re: The English Longbow
    « Reply #13 on: August 14, 2016, 10:18:55 PM »
    He had a point (no pun intended) there.   With the standard military ideology of soldiers in formation firing volleys at each other, relatively close ranges, and no knights in armor on warhorses... only light cavalry... Maybe Ben was right. 
    Faster firing rate by double - almost triple.  No billowing clouds of smoke to obscure your vision.  Maybe.

    But not all American soldiers fought like the British fought.  And not all the British fought like the main British Army fought.  Never mind the Hessians. 

    A ball from a Brown Bess could cleanly kill the man it was aimed at... and the man behind that man... and still have enough juice to land a 3rd man in a field hospital.  You are not going to get that level of hate and discontent from a bow and a pointy stick.
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    Re: The English Longbow
    « Reply #14 on: August 14, 2016, 10:22:45 PM »
    Also, it's worth noting here...
    That many of the Army had just finished fighting enemy forces armed with Bows and Arrows... The French & Indian War was still fresh in their minds.   And we didn't see any Colonials dropping their Muskets and picking up Bows... When historically we've seen a lot of our Men using battlefield pick-ups to augment their firepower.  Our men picked up a lot of German guns and used them.  We picked up a lot of AK's since Vietnam through to this day... It's almost a tradition.
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    Re: The English Longbow
    « Reply #15 on: August 14, 2016, 10:25:48 PM »
    Considering the rate of accurate fire possible with any actual training it would have certainly been effective at the common engagement distances of the day as well a significant deterrent to the massed bayonet charge tactics employed by certain commanders.  It would also have worked well with the ambush tactics many of the colonists favored.   :hmm   A longbow and quiver, a brace of tomahawks and a decent camp knife that could double as a weapon.   A unit thus equipped could travel light and fast - hit quickly and silently - break contact before the enemy knew what hit them and then vanish back into the wilderness.   Nice.    :cool

    Obviously a revision in tactics would render some of that scenario a bit more difficult but imagine for a moment the "designated marksman" of such a group being able to drop a flaming arrow or two into the powder stores of a British army unit in the middle of the night from a hundred plus yards away while the rest of the unit rained flaming arrows down on the bivouac tents.    :panic

    Quick, someone write an alternate history novel with Nathanael Greene being more of a bad ass than he already was!  :panic
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    Re: The English Longbow
    « Reply #16 on: August 17, 2016, 01:25:43 PM »
    I think the real issue is not the bow but the arrow for large scale military use. Arrows are pretty complicated to make, and they need to continue to be produced, especially if being used to fire in volleys.

    A musket was quite complicated to make, but the projectile is stupid easy to make once the firearm is obtained. The colonists even melted down statues to cast balls. The only complicated logistics needed is for the gunpowder. Which would need to be acquired for cannons etc anyway.

    I think the bow and arrow is much more functional in a single individual survival scenario. Arrows can be made from fairly easily found materials, and the overall weapon system is easier to supply for an individual in the field.

    It would seem to me many of these positives are negated when you stick it into a military context. This is doubly true if you must acquire gunpowder for your cannons etc anyway. 
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    Re: The English Longbow
    « Reply #17 on: August 17, 2016, 06:43:28 PM »
    I think the real issue is not the bow but the arrow for large scale military use. Arrows are pretty complicated to make, and they need to continue to be produced, especially if being used to fire in volleys.

    A musket was quite complicated to make, but the projectile is stupid easy to make once the firearm is obtained. The colonists even melted down statues to cast balls. The only complicated logistics needed is for the gunpowder. Which would need to be acquired for cannons etc anyway.

    I think the bow and arrow is much more functional in a single individual survival scenario. Arrows can be made from fairly easily found materials, and the overall weapon system is easier to supply for an individual in the field.

    It would seem to me many of these positives are negated when you stick it into a military context. This is doubly true if you must acquire gunpowder for your cannons etc anyway. 

    The Mongols used unfletched arrows for volleys.  That would simplify the manufacture and greatly increase the number of arrows an archer could carry.  A Mongol horse archer went into battle with something like 200 arrows in two quivers attached to his saddle.  He also carred a small number of fletched arrows for aimed fire.

    A man on foot would carry fewer arrows but might be easier to resupply.

    Still, a bow:
    • Requires approprate and well aged wood.  How many yew trees where there in Colonial America?  (I have no idea myself)
    • Would require more training.
    • Is less accurate compared a comparably trained rifleman even given the muskets fo the day.
    • Is just about useless in close quarters combat.  An empty musket is still useful as a club.

    On balance the bow may have been useful in some kinds of engagements but I don't really think is could replace even muzzle loaders as a war weapon.
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    Re: The English Longbow
    « Reply #18 on: August 17, 2016, 07:30:06 PM »
    I was not worried about fletching as much as the need for mass arrowhead manufacture. You also need the wood for arrow shafts. Which in military supply terms would be a bit of an issue. This is IF each fellow spends his off time fletching arrows for his next engagement.

    1. The bow wood would be easy peasy for the colonials. There was very high quality hickory available to the colonials. Which is every bit as good for bows as yew. I would also assume the colonials would be using flatbows instead of the traditional D cross section of English longbows.

    2. Training is the biggest issue here IMO. It takes a good while to make a quality bowman. English kings forced bow practice for centuries because of this very issue.

    3. A good bowman would be AT LEAST as accurate as a musketeer. My personal opinion is they would be more accurate.

    4. Bows are very effective parrying sticks in close combat. I would say a hatchet armed bowman against a musketeer would be about even in melee combat.

    Something I had not even considered was bayonets. I do not think they give a musketeer much extra effectiveness in melee over bow + melee weapon, but I think it would give a massive advantage over bowman against cavalry charges. Since a musket + bayonet is basically a short pike.

    Bowman might be more effective against unarmored cavalry at range, but they would be at huge disadvantage if the cavalry closed on them.

    I think the bow and arrow would really shine in ambush and harassment actions against an enemy force during the colonial period. The rate of fire and silent first strike ability would be ideal in those type of scenarios.

    I also think a mixed unit of muskets + bowman might give a smaller unit abilities to punch above its weight in mass military engagements. This would be especially true if you equipped the bowman with bucklers + saber/hanger for melee.

    It would basically just be the archer + pikeman blocks of the middle ages with the pikeman able to join in the ranged combat.

    I think it mostly boils down to the old truth of any combat great or small. You gotta 'run what ya brung' not pick through for the ideal setup for every encounter. Since the enemy rarely lets you ask for a time out to acquire the ideal loadout for the given scenario.     
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    Re: The English Longbow
    « Reply #19 on: September 08, 2016, 03:18:00 PM »
    Couple of things to bear in mind:

    The Native American bows were intended for hunting first, warfare second.  Normally, they had a 40# or less draw weight.  The English longbows of Crecy and Agincourt fame were 80-150# draw weight, or heavier.  The arrows were, likewise, much heavier than the Indian arrows.  (HIstorical note:  When the English archers went to Agincourt, they took 144 oxcarts full of arrows, all fletched, and with bodkin (armor piercing) points.  That's a metric buttload of arrows!)

    When Franklin was making his pitch for the longbow, he was thinking of the English version, not the Indian one.  A heavy bow, with heavy arrows
    (8-10 grains per lb. of draw weight) was easily as lethal as the Brown Bess musket, and had a greater effective range.  (The last deer I took with a bow was taken with a 60# reflex-deflex longbow, using Douglas fir arrows and 125 gr. Magnus broad heads.  The total weight of the arrow, with feather fletching, was 585 grains.  The shot was about 25 yards, and the arrow landed about 30 yards past the deer.  He never knew he'd been hit, continued browsing, and wandered off about 40 yards, where he collapsed. D.R.T.)

    And I recall reading that the Tartars of Russia gave Napoleon fits, because they would ride in, loose a volley of arrows (landing them inside the formation of troops) and retreat without getting in range of the French muskets.

    The only reason the crossbow, or the musket, supplanted the longbow is because it was easier to teach a farm boy how to use a musket (or crossbow) than to use a longbow effectively.
    « Last Edit: September 08, 2016, 03:51:20 PM by First Shirt »
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    Re: The English Longbow
    « Reply #20 on: September 08, 2016, 03:41:54 PM »
      Couple of things to bear in mind:

      The Native American bows were intended for hunting first, warfare second.  Normally, they had a 40# or less draw weight.  The English longbows of Crecy and Agincourt fame were 80-150# draw weight, or heavier.  The arrows were, likewise, much heavier than the Indian arrows.  (HIstorical note:  When the English archers went to Agincourt, they took 144 oxcarts full of arrows, all fletched, and with bodkin (armor piercing) points.  That's a metric buttload of arrows!)

      When Franklin was making his pitch for the longbow, he was thinking of the English version, not the Indian one.  A heavy bow, with heavy arrows
      (8-10 grains per lb. of draw weight) was easily as lethal as the Brown Bess musket, and had a greater effective range.  (The last deer I took with a bow was taken with a 60# reflex-deflex longbow, using Douglas fir arrows and 125 gr. Magnus broad heads.  The total weight of the arrow, with feather fletching, was 585 grains.  The shot was about 25 yards, and the arrow landed about 30 yards past the deer.  He never knew he'd been hit, continued browsing, and wandered off about 40 yards, where he collapsed. D.R.T.)

      And I recall reading that the Tartars of Russia gave Napoleon fits, because they would ride in, loose a volley or arrows (landing them inside the formation of troops) and retreat without getting in range of the French muskets.

      The only reason the crossbow, or the musket, supplanted the longbow is because it was easier to teach a farm boy how to use a musket (or crossbow) than to use a longbow effectively.

      Cool account of the Tartars. The pass through on deer happens more often than people think especially with compound bows but I'm not a bit surprised to hear of your long bow doing the same.
      Yes, the ease of teaching a musket v. a longbow was also one of the reasons the crossbow caught on as well. Compared to a lifetime of practice for a longbow, the crossbow and musket were easy to pick up. I still think it would have worked if fired volley style and didn't require a precise hit in the opening of a raised armored visor like English archers prided themselves in.
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      Re: The English Longbow
      « Reply #21 on: September 08, 2016, 04:30:09 PM »
      and didn't require a precise hit in the opening of a raised armored visor like English archers prided themselves in.

      The English didn't try for a precise hit on the visor.  They were looking for gaps in the armor of the knight or his horse.  (Let's face it, an armored knight on foot is about as useless as a rubber crutch), and if you're flinging 6-12 arrows downrange EVERY MINUTE, you'll hit something useful, eventually. 

      So, we figure 6000 archers, firing 6 arrows/minute, is 36,000 arrows/minute.  If the engagement lasted 20 minutes (a very conservative estimate), the archers fired 720,000 arrows.  All of a sudden, the 144 oxcarts of arrows that they took to Agincourt doesn't seem like overkill, does it?  And the arrows were fired at an upward angle, so that they came down from above, where the armor was weakest, and the gaps most available.  And aimed at targets that were pretty much immobile, due to the mud, and dead horses.

      (Not sure if it was Agincourt or Crecy, but at some point in the battle, the French asked for a truce, to collect their dead and wounded.  The English agreed, and asked if they could go out to the field to collect their arrows.  The French agreed.)
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      Re: The English Longbow
      « Reply #22 on: September 08, 2016, 05:43:54 PM »
      If your numbers are right. Then 144 ox carts of arrows would last about 48 minutes of total fire time at 6 arrows per minute per archer. (The only stats I could find for ox cart load was about 1 ton. If you were using it to transport very far at all.)

      Just to put this number into perspective. If you have 6000 archers firing 6 arrows per minute. You are launching 3 tons of weight in arrows per minute. If each arrow is about 1050 grains. Which should be about right for 100 pound draw weight bows. Which seems to be the sorta average for English war bows.

      Many folks that study the Agincourt battle, and study the remains that can be found from french losses show most were killed by blunt head trauma. They found relatively few with puncture wounds, and there are not a ton of eyewitness accounts stating french knights fell to arrow strikes. It does state that the french horses fell super quick, and by the time the french knights crossed the muddy fields. The english men-at-arms could basically slaughter the worn out men along with the bowmen joining in the bash fest.

      I know that at the time Agincourt takes place decent plate harness was considered pretty much proof to longbow shots. Most did recognize that the longbow could murder horses like a champ tho.

      I have never bought the mythical longbow powers of piercing plate armor etc, and most of the experts that I have heard that study medieval warfare do not believe it either. Most everyone agrees the longbow could negate the mobility of cavalry if commanded/deployed properly. Which is a massive game changer in that time period.     
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      Re: The English Longbow
      « Reply #23 on: September 08, 2016, 06:28:06 PM »
      It's not about puncturing the plate armor, it's about finding the gaps in it, to incapacitate the knight wearing it.  Once you get them off their horses, you only have to hit the gaps in the armor to make them stop advancing.  And you don't have to hit all of them, just enough to break the weight of the charge.  Once they lose the momentum, then the English knights and men-at-arms can go out and deal with them one-on-one.

      That's why the English volleys were fired upwards, to ensure that the arrows came into the targets at a downward angle, which is where most of the gaps in the armor actually were.

      And how many of the French knights were taken out of the fight by their horses falling on them?  Doesn't matter how ready you are, dropping a 1500 lb. horse on your leg does a lot to take you out of the game.  (Said as one who has had a 1200 lb horse fall on him.)

      I'm not disagreeing with you, I agree that there is a lot of hype on both sides to deal with, making it hard to find concrete answers.  But I think that the effect of the archers was enough to negate the French advantage in numbers, giving the English a definite win, and securing the longbow in the hall of "Great Weapons of War".
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      Re: The English Longbow
      « Reply #24 on: September 08, 2016, 08:43:44 PM »
      ^ This ^ .  The bodkin points on the English arrows were malleable iron.  Unhardened iron points were recoverable, reusable and could be straightened in the field as needed.  They were never designed to pierce plate armor.  A properly hardened and tempered  conical point might be able to do so if pushed hard and fast enough on a heavy arrow but it would always be an iffy proposition because most of the plate armor surfaces were curved and would cause many impacts to skid off and not penetrate.  Angle of attack?   :hmm   At any rate, even the English points of the day were up to penetrating the chain mail of the period and thus were very effective against unmounted troops with inferior armor to the mounted knights. 

      As was pointed out, an unhorsed knight is more of a conversation topic than a credible threat to unarmored bowmen with the ability to outmaneuver him.  Stick a bow stave between his legs from behind and trip him and its over.  Once a fully armored knight hits the ground in the prone position he's kind of like a lobster on land. 

      If you can manufacture muskets and long rifles you can surely manufacture arrows and high quality arrowheads.   As was pointed out, hickory makes a wonderful bow material and it makes a passable arrow shaft as well.  As does maple and ash as well as the more conventional cedar.  The colonial textile industry would have had no problem turning out high quality bowstrings en masse.   Had the colonial army decided that a few companies of horse archers would have been useful it would have been a fairly easy thing to arrange. 
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