Wednesday Weapons – The Longbow

Time for a bit of history. Let’s look at one of the most devastating weapons on the battlefield until the invention of gunpowder. The English Longbow.

In 1346 at the Battle of Crecy over a third of the French aristocracy was wiped out in one afternoon and largely by the Archers using the Longbow. From Wikipedia

Cr?cy was a battle in which an English army of 12,000 to 16,000 (depending on source), commanded by Edward III of England and heavily outnumbered by Philip VI of France’s force of 35,000 to 100,000 (depending on source), was victorious as a result of superior weaponry and tactics, demonstrating the importance of the modern military concept of fire power. The effectiveness of the English longbow, used en masse, was proven against armoured knights, contrary to the conventional wisdom of the day which held that archers would be ineffective and be butchered when the armoured units closed in.

The thing was that not anyone could pick up a bow and become effective. It was actually the English feudal system that developed the skills with the Longbow enabling the English Army and only the English Army yo filed Longbows. In order to even pull the string back required immense strength. Strength that could only come from years of practice from an early age. Skeletons of Archers that have been exhumed show clearly enlarged upper body from constant bow use. Draw weights for Longbows varied between 100 to 185?lbf. In order to maintain a steady supply of trained archers King Edward I of England (r. 1272?1307), banned all sports but archery at the butts on Sundays, to make sure Englishmen practised with the longbow. As a result, the English during this period as a whole became very effective with the longbow. Later supplies of Yew for the bows were difficult to come by and so by the Statute of Westminster in 1472, every ship coming to an English port had to bring four bowstaves for every tun. Richard III of England increased this to ten for every tun.

One eccentric English officer Lieutenant Colonel John Malcolm Thorpe Fleming “Jack” Churchill, DSO & Bar, MC & Bar who was nicknamed “Fighting Jack Churchill” and “Mad Jack”, was an English soldier who fought throughout World War II armed with a bow, arrows and a claymore. He once said “any officer who goes into action without his sword is improperly dressed.”

In May 1940, Churchill and his unit, the Manchester Regiment, ambushed a German patrol near l’Epinette, France. Churchill gave the signal to attack by cutting down the enemy Feldwebel (sergeant) with his barbed arrows, becoming the only known British soldier to have felled an enemy with a longbow in the course of the war.

Now for some video of this serious man-killer.

How to shoot a medieval Longbow

Distance Shooting with an English Warbow

Armour Piercing with Medieval Arrows

The LongBow had a short reign on the Battle field but in the Hundred Years War categorically proved itself against Crossbows and Armoured Knights. Between Crecy, Agincourt and Poitier the majority of French nobility were slaughtered by essentially peasant troops. Before the 100 years war was the age of chivalry, knight against knight, and the Longbow destroyed that in three afternoons.