What draw weight(s) were Medieval English war bows?


From: twigam@ix.netcom.com (CG) Subject: What draw weight(s) were Medieval English war bows? Date: 28 Nov 1995 06:10:31 GMT Greetings, Recently I read accounts of the 14th Century battles of Crecy & Poitiers, where the English archers decimated the French mounted knights. Reading of how longbow-fired arrows could pierce armor led me to wonder what sort of draw weight would be necessary. Also, what was the preferred bow material at the time? Yew? Max effective range? Cheers, Chris ------------------------------------------------------------------------------- From: cody@cix.compulink.co.uk ("Jon O Brien") Subject: Re: What draw weight(s) were Medieval English war bows? Date: Mon, 4 Dec 1995 11:39:29 GMT > ...all men between 12 and 60 were required to own a bow and > practice once a week 'The Butts' endures in many English towns as a street name or name of an open area, etc. In Reading, Berkshire, for instance, there is a shopping centre [mall] called 'The Butts Centre'. > The English longbows were made of yew. Which is why you will find Yew trees in all ancient churchyards in England. Jon. ------------------------------------------------------------------------------- From: fj1200s@aol.com (FJ1200S) Subject: Re: What draw weight(s) were Medieval English war bows? Date: 5 Dec 1995 07:00:08 -0500 I understood from Saxton Pope's book that bows made to the Mary Rose dimensions pulled only about 65 lbs at 28 inches. Supposedly he made the bow himself, from American yew. 65 pounds sounds much more reasonable for a warbow used in the Agincourt/Crecy/Poitiers types of battle wherein the archers were required to loose as many shafts as possible in as short a time as possible. Twelve arrows in one minute is simply not possible with a 120 lb bow given an archer who was probably malnourished, was definitely small in stature compared with modern men, and who (in the case of Agincourt) was dead tired and sick. ------------------------------------------------------------------------------- From: Bob Unitt <bob@bobunitt.demon.co.uk> Subject: Re: What draw weight(s) were Medieval English war bows? Date: Wed, 06 Dec 95 09:11:19 GMT Reply-To: bob@bobunitt.demon.co.uk In article <1995Dec6.083328.1@ccc.govt.nz> rob@ccc.govt.nz "Rob McNeur" writes: > In article <leem.3.004153B2@mastnet.net>, leem@mastnet.net (Lee McMullen) > writes: > > > > Chris asked > , > >>Recently I read accounts of the 14th Century battles of Crecy & Poitiers, > >>where the English archers decimated the French mounted knights. > >>Reading of how longbow-fired arrows could pierce armor led me to wonder what > >>sort of draw weight would be necessary. Also, what was the preferred > >>bow material at the time? Yew? Max effective range? > > > > I have shot reproductions of period war bows that were made of yew to the > > dimensions of completed bows found on the Mary Rose. The bow pulled 160# at > > 28". It wasn't as bad as it sounds. > > > Calulations from the Mary Rose bows suggest that most of the bows were in > the range 100#-150#. There's at least one UK longbowman today who shoots a 140# bow, but he squeals like a pig when drawing it :-). I can just manage 75#, but a 95# bow defeated me (and it's owner...). Howard Hill once shot a 172# longbow. > Of course during this period, every able bodied male (sexism raises its head > again :-) was required by law to attend archery practice once a week > (usually Sundays), so that the local population was better trained to use > bows of this sort. Even so, (IMHO) I doubt that they tried to hold them at > full draw for long to aim, so that they would have been releasing *very* > shortly after they reached full draw (IMHO). As in clout shooting, it's a quick loose. I find I can draw a heavier bow in clout (drawing to the chest) than in target (drawing to the face), and it's less tiring. > In war sitautions, they would usually draw to the chest rather than the > chin or side of the face) with a longer arrow (the Cloth-yard shaft) and > release in large volleys Somebody did the maths (in 'New Scientist' a couple of years ago) to show that the French faced volleys of 1,000 arrows a *second* at Agincourt - 5,000 archers at 12 arrows a minute each. I've seen 15 arrows shot in a minute, but I don't know how long the archer could have kept it up. > The English were also (I believe) using heavier arrows than are used today, > eg made of oak etc to stand the shock of impact with heavy steel better, so > that they would have more weight/momentum behind them, but a relatively > shorter range Up to 1/2" Ash was the standard shaft, I believe. A medieval arrow found in Westminster Abbey was barrelled - 0.41" at the pile, 0.45" in the middle, down to 0.33" at the nock. Other shafts, found in the 'Mary Rose', were Birch, Hornbeam, Oak, Poplar and Alder. Ranges quoted in Hardy's 'Longbow' for a 100lb bow show 250 yards for a comparatively heavy Bodkin point. > > Spanish yew was the wood of choice to my understanding. I believe that the > > rules of the times reqired boyers to make two bows of lesser woods to one of > > yew. > > > By this time, Yew in the UK was rapidly running out and they were > importing the stuff furiously from Europe. The rapid demise of available Yew > sources prompted another law in the UK that for every bow made of Yew, a > lesser bow was to be made of each of 4 woods, elm, ash, wytch-hazel and > brazil (whatever that was). And importers of all goods had to bring in 4 bowstaves for every ton of other goods (Edward IV). Staves were imported, in order of preference, from: Italy, Germany, Switzerland and Eastern Europe. > Mostly all IMHO And mine, with a little help from reference books :-) -- Bob Unitt ------------------------------------------------------------------------------- From: cody@cix.compulink.co.uk ("Jon O Brien") Subject: Re: What draw weight(s) were Medieval English war bows? Date: Wed, 6 Dec 1995 18:05:08 GMT > By this time, Yew in the UK was rapidly running out and they were > importing the stuff furiously from Europe. The rapid demise of available > Yew sources prompted another law in the UK that for every bow made of Yew, > a lesser bow was to be made of each of 4 woods, elm, ash, wytch-hazel and > brazil (whatever that was). > > Mostly all IMHO > > Rob McNeur It wasn't me, I wasn't there > Rob@ccc.govt.nz and you can't prove a thing !!! According to the OED, Brazil-wood was originally the hard, brownish-red wood of the Sappan tree, found in the East Indies and felled for the red dye it produced. Later, woods producing similar dyes were found in the newly discovered South America and the area they were found in was called 'terra de brasil' or 'red-dye-wood land', later shortened to Brasil or Brazil. "Brazil-wood was thus not named from the country, but the converse was the case". The term now includes other species found in the West Indies and Central America. The OED also notes: "1544, Ascham, Toxoph. (Arb.) 113 As for brasell, Elme, Wych and Asshe, experience doth proue them to be but meane for bowes." Jon. ------------------------------------------------------------------------------- From: Martin Gregory <martyg@well.com> Subject: Re: What draw weight(s) were Medieval English war bows? Date: 8 Dec 1995 06:52:35 GMT In article <4a3jcl$ek@cloner3.netcom.com> CG, twigam@ix.netcom.com writes: >Also, what other armies/peoples have employed mounted archers ? >I'm aware of the Japanese Samurai and American Indians. >How about Medieval England and Europe? > Interestingly, a good proportion of medieval English archers apparently rode horses when the army was on the march, though these horses were not used in the battle itself. From Hardy's "Longbow" comes the information that the Black Prince's army in his campaign in France of 1355/6 included 1000 of these "horse" archers and only 300 or 400 foot archers. Martin Gregory

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