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10 popular battle bow myths planted by Hollywood
10 popular battle bow myths planted by Hollywood

One of the most famous is the myth of the English longbow as a superweapon. True, back in the 19th century, Sir Ralph Payne-Gullway questioned him and showed the serious advantages of a crossbow and a Turkish bow. But he acted with caution. Apparently, he understood that this national myth is one of those whales on which the kingdom stands.

Payne-Gallway's book is a century and a half ago. Since then, nothing clever on this topic has been translated into Russian. Our understanding of bows and crossbows is very outdated.

However, one factor has appeared that strongly influences the views and literally programs us. The most important of the arts, cinema, breathed new life into the myth of the longbow - after all, on the screen, the bow often acts as a wunderwaffe, successfully defeating both infantrymen with shields and armored cavalry.

Let's see what really happened.

1. Longbows in England were in service in the XII century

The long bow has indeed been known for a very long time. However, in England in the XII-XIII centuries, arrows used crossbows.

The longbow appeared in the English army only at the end of the 13th century. The English king Edward I met him during the conquest of Wales, appreciated and not only adopted him, but ordered his subjects with a certain level of income to have bows and arrows. At the same time, crossbows did not completely disappear in the army, they were used in the defense of fortresses. And the British even had it in the battle of Agincourt (in 1415).

Evgeny Bashin-Razumovsky - expert on historical issues:

"To raise a good archer, you have to start with his grandfather."

Crossbow shooting did not require such lengthy training. It was more powerful and required less space, but was inferior to a bow in rate of fire. In addition, the crossbow was much more difficult to manufacture.

2. The famous archer Robin Hood lived during the time of Richard the Lionheart

There are three heroes of English history, whose adventures are filmed most often. This is King Arthur, Robin Hood and Sherlock Holmes. Fictional characters - there is little that stops filmmakers from fantasizing. Robin Hood in this trio, of course, comes first.

Evgeny Bashin-Razumovsky - expert on historical issues:

Of the literary heroes in terms of the number of film adaptations, only three Musketeers from French history can compete with him.

The writer Walter Scott prescribed Robin during the time of Richard the Lionheart, and with his light hand, the robber continues to act in the same films with this king.

But in England, under Richard, the longbow has not yet been accepted into service!

Bows spread throughout England during the time of Edward I, and shooting competitions were introduced in general by King Edward III in the middle of the 14th century. That is, Robin Hood could at best be his contemporary, not Richard's. And he could rather fight the French at Crecy, and not participate in the Third Crusade.

3. The tensioning power of the longbow was 60-80 kilograms

Most English archers in battle used yew bows with a tension of 30-40 kilos, for standard arrows (a yard long and with a socketed tip). The task was not to get into the viewing slot of the knight's helmet, but to ensure a high density of "fire" - so that the arrows would fall like rain, causing injuries to the soldiers or their horses.

By the way, horse archers cannot create such density.

And from the bows with a capacity of 60-80 kilos, individual prominent arrows fired. Then legends were made about them. Here I recall Odysseus, whose bow could not be pulled by numerous rivals who woo Penelope.

Evgeny Bashin-Razumovsky - expert on historical issues:

The surviving English combat bows of the Middle Ages have an estimated pulling force of 27-45 kilograms. In longbows found on the Mary Rose carack, which sank in 1545, this value varies from 36 to 90 kilos (on average - 45-50).

Bows from karakka - late, XVI century, they were used during the reign of plate armor and were not "field". The use of bows during naval battles may have put forward different requirements for weapons.

4. The English Longbow is the most powerful of the combat bows

A compound bow with a reverse bend is capable of sending an arrow with greater force, that is, further. The speed at which the bow is straightened plays an important role here. And it depends on the materials from which it is made. The tree is limiting, which is why simple bows were made so big. The advantage of a longbow is, first of all, in the simplicity and low cost of manufacturing.

In addition, this bow is specifically for the infantry. Composite, of a small size, can also be used by cavalry. The Japanese for saddle shooting created an asymmetrical yumi long bow with a short lower shoulder. Crossbowmen could shoot from a horse, and English horse archers were a kind of dragoons. They rode on horseback, but they fought on dismounted, and sometimes even taking off their shoes.

Evgeny Bashin-Razumovsky - expert on historical issues:

Book writers and filmmakers need to stop putting onions in the hands of fragile girls. This is not a sniper rifle that can shoot even in the hands of a girl or teenager. Archery shooting is a big load!

5. The firing range of a combat bow was several hundred meters

Indeed, there are recorded results of shooting from Turkish bows at a distance of 500-700 meters. But it was shooting at a distance - for the sake of records. And for this, light, non-combat arrows were used.

Sir Ralph Payne-Gullway believed that English archers were unlikely to shoot farther than 230-250 yards (just over 200 meters). And here we are talking about mounted shooting, and the range of a direct shot was about 30 meters.

6. An arrow from a bow pierces the shield through

In The White Company by Arthur Conan Doyle, an arrow of a long English bow pierces the shield right through. The archer, competing in the firing range, managed to send this arrow as much as 630 steps.

It is known that the Parthian horse archers gave the Romans a lot of problems, and their arrows pierced the scutums. But when this happened, the arrows did not pierce the wooden shield right through - they got stuck.

Could breaking the shield right through still happen? An oriental military treatise describes a curious case when a Turkmen, dressed in chain mail, took off the garden door and made it a shield. The archer fired an arrow, which pierced the door, hit the chest and came out of the back. Seeing such a shot, the soldiers accompanying the Turkmen fled in panic.

Then the gunman said: “There was a hole in that door. The sun was behind the Turkmen and shone through this gap. I, with a good shot, hit the hole [and through it] right into that person. And they thought that my arrow had pierced the door, the mail and the man. This plunged everyone into fear."

7. Arrows pierced plate armor

How effective are arrows against armor?

"Bodkin" - an armor-piercing arrowhead of an English bow - confidently pierces chain mail at a short distance. But plate armor was a serious problem for arrows, much more effective was the heavy crossbow bolt.

At the same time, history knows many examples when chain mail with under-armor, leather or quilted cotton armor provided reliable protection from arrows. Indeed, in battle, shooting is conducted not only at close range, and not everyone has arrows with steel armor-piercing tips.

However, for a serious injury, it is not always necessary to pierce the armor. Thus, the fourth day of the Battle of Yarmouk in August 636 is known in Arab history as "the day of the gouged out eyes." Then the Byzantine archers, firing clouds of arrows, blinded about 700 Muslim soldiers.

A striking illustration of the effectiveness of the bow is the slain kings of England.

In the turbulent year 1066, the Viking chieftain Harald Hardrad was killed by an arrow that pierced his throat at the Battle of Stamford Bridge. And the winner, the English king Harold Godwinson, soon died at Hastings - an arrow hit him in the eye. All of them got arrows into unprotected places. In 1100, while hunting with an arrow, the English king William the Red was killed - he was not wearing armor. And the chain mail did not save Richard the Lionheart from the crossbow bolt.

8. English archers during the Hundred Years War did away with the knightly cavalry

The English bow performed very brightly during the Hundred Years War. But the main victories of the longbow occurred in the XIV century (Crécy, Poitiers), when plate armor had not yet become widespread. And in the battle of Agincourt, it became fatal that the French cavalry got stuck in the mud …

Despite the triumph of the longbow, the heavy armored cavalry did not disappear anywhere, even on the Isle. To combat it, all means were good: the forest peak, and firearms, and Wagenburgs. According to the Burgundian military regulations of 1473, the pikemen would kneel down so that the archers would shoot from behind them. A volley could be given almost point-blank! In England, they began to use hand firearms already during the War of the Roses - in the second half of the 15th century.

Why didn't the archers scatter before the heavy cavalry rushing towards them? Stability was given to them by the ranks of hammered stakes and heavy infantry, which prevented the proud knights from crushing harmful shooters. But in the battle of Pate (1429), the British did not have time to "dig in" and the archers were swept away by the blow of the French cavalry. The rout was complete. Under Formigny (1450), the English army, despite its numerical superiority, was defeated when it left fortified positions during the battle.

I wonder why the textbooks don't tell about these battles of the Centers?

Evgeny Bashin-Razumovsky - expert on historical issues:

In the battles of Kosherel and Aur (both in 1364), the English archers could not stop the dismounted French knights, who attacked them in close formation. The arrows were powerless against armor and shields.

Probably, the Roman legion, had it fallen into the XIV century, with competent command, would also have been too tough for the English archers.

9. The bow was more effective than smoothbore guns

Sir Ralph Payne-Gullway believed that a hundred skillful Waterloo archers with Brown Bess flintlocks would lose to a hundred archers from the days of Crécy and Agincourt (120 yards away). For each bullet, the archers would respond with at least six arrows, and they would shoot much more accurately and efficiently.

But this is a "battle of spherical horses in a vacuum."

Grigory Pastushkov - field expert in reserve:

And if you add Roman legionnaires to this competition, you can play "rock, paper, scissors."

Why didn't the bow triumphantly return? Each type of weapon had its own advantages.

A firearm has noticeable advantages in armor penetration, a more stopping effect. And the wounds are more severe: hitting the limbs, the bullets crushed bones and turned people into invalids. The psychological factor also worked.

Archers fired more accurately and faster, but this required lengthy, many years of training.

In this competition, firearms won, but not immediately. And not everywhere at the same time.

The English bow and crossbow in continental Europe gave way to the firearm by the middle of the 16th century. First of all, in the infantry - the accuracy did not really matter when the shooting was "in the squares". In the 17th century in Eastern Europe, the bow was preserved in the cavalry, including the Polish armor.

Evgeny Bashin-Razumovsky - expert on historical issues:

On the outskirts of the world, bows and crossbows were used later. In Scotland, the last massive use of bows dates back to 1665, during the Clan Wars. In the North Caucasus, bows and crossbows were used even at the beginning of the 19th century.

But the bow lost not only because it pierced armor worse.In the 18th-19th centuries, armor was practically not used in European armies (the exception was a few cuirassiers and pioneers). "Natural archers", Crimean Tatars or Bashkirs, could no longer defeat the enemy, bombarding him with arrows. The fire of rifles and carbines forced them to stay away, rendering the bows ineffective.

The French, in whom the arrows flew, were disappointed.

10.By the 19th century, guns had supplanted the bow everywhere

There is at least one exception, dictated by the specifics of hostilities.

It's about North America. And if in Woodland the gun quickly supplanted the bow, then the Great Plains created a different military model. There, the Indians, having adopted guns, kept the bow and arrows in the 19th century.

This is due to the specifics of the local theater of operations (theater of military operations) - the fighting was carried out by small cavalry detachments. A racing rider is harder to hit, and smooth-bore guns are inconvenient to reload when galloping. In addition, many shooters with rifles are needed to conduct dense, continuous fire.

As a result, the bow in the hands of professional shooters turned out to be quite right there.

Evgeny Bashin-Razumovsky - expert on historical issues:

During the invasion of the Comanches and Apaches in the 30s and 40s of the 19th century, the Mexicans tried to arm the militia with bows and arrows. But this is out of despair, since there was simply not enough weapons and ammunition.

Directors, writers, and indeed many history buffs should look more often at historical sources and read articles that tell how everything really happened. Otherwise, in the future we will have a lot of blunders, inconsistencies and the most fantastic, but incorrect legends …

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