PDA

View Full Version : Armoured knights - "broke him up like a lobster"?



tashirosgt
2012-Mar-18, 03:36 PM
I recall reading in a pre-internet article on armour (as worn by knights). It claimed there was an incident where a combatant in a duel fell down and couldn't get up due to the weight of his armour. It said that his opponent took the time to get an axe or hammer and "broke him up like a lobster".

I'm aware that body armour was actually designed to be fairly light. Does anyone know of a historical reference to an incident like that?

DoggerDan
2012-Mar-18, 04:16 PM
From tours in a couple of museums, body armor ranged in type from simple chain mail, capable of protecting against most injuries inflicted by a sword, to solid armor capable of deflecting a spear point at full charge. I've read of weights ranging from about 15 lbs for chain mail to 45 lbs for light plate armor and upwards of 90 lbs for heavy armor.

The armor was steel, which, when worked right, doesn't crack, but rather, bends. Perhaps it was poorly-made. Rapid quenching makes steel brittle. It then needs to be tempered, which reduces defects and results in a more ductile material.

Gillianren
2012-Mar-18, 07:02 PM
I recall reading in a pre-internet article on armour (as worn by knights). It claimed there was an incident where a combatant in a duel fell down and couldn't get up due to the weight of his armour. It said that his opponent took the time to get an axe or hammer and "broke him up like a lobster".

I'm aware that body armour was actually designed to be fairly light. Does anyone know of a historical reference to an incident like that?

Well, the first issue is that duels are mostly a post-armour development. Single combat, okay, but not duels as we think of them. It's true that plate can be pretty heavy, and all sorts of workarounds were developed for things like getting on a horse while wearing it, but both combatants would have been equally hampered by it. As in, you wouldn't want to walk very far in armour you couldn't get up while wearing. So unless he had a warhammer or axe or whatever, it's improbable at best.

Moose
2012-Mar-18, 08:07 PM
Had this person fallen onto his back, if the armor's design was too top-heavy, or the terrain was just uneven enough, or someone botched the poltrons, or a joint on the armor was damaged in a particularly catastrophic way, it's entirely possible that he couldn't get enough leverage to roll over or even sit up, a necessary precondition for getting up, unassisted, in heavy armor.

schlaugh
2012-Mar-18, 08:19 PM
At the Battle of Agincourt a number of mounted French knights apparently drowned in the mud because their horses had been killed by English and Welsh archers. The horses collapsed on the knights and when combined with heavy armor, made it difficult for the men to regain their feet. Then the un-armoured English archers were free to move among the downed knights dispatching them with knives, swords and whatever came to hand. A key contributor to the French losses was the densely packed ranks of fighters slogging through thick mud in freshly ploughed fields. The tactic essentially made for a single, massed target for the archers.

Gillianren
2012-Mar-18, 08:33 PM
Oh, I don't dispute Agincourt, of course! But the outcome there was pretty much planned. And it was the unarmoured archers, not other armoured knights, who were most effective.

Inclusa
2012-Mar-18, 09:03 PM
The Chinese talks about "shoot the horses before the riders"; apparently this strategy was used in Agincourt again.
I'm not too sure about vine armor, which is considerably lighter than steel, and is protective against most attacks.

marsbug
2012-Mar-18, 09:23 PM
This site, the Association for Renaissance Martial Arts (http://www.thearma.org/essays.htm) is a good place to look for answers on questions like this. From what I've read there even full plate was light enough do do a handstand in, and getting up from your back shouldn't have been a problem. I can imagine exceptional circumstances where that wouldn't be true - like if the armour was full of water or runny mud from falling down in a swamp - but there is a video of of ARMA guys practicing sword fighting moves from the surviving instruction manual and they certainly don't seem to be very weighed down or hindered by it.

Edit: Here's that video on youtube (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZnqOMbFDEAI). The guy who gets knocked down is back on his feet in a couple of seconds. These guys are very hot on their historical accuracy so I imagine the replica armour they are using is fairly close in weight to the real thing. Incidentally, so much for the idea that groin kneeing is dishonourable. I hope that guys armour included a cup!

HenrikOlsen
2012-Mar-18, 09:46 PM
This site, the Association for Renaissance Martial Arts (http://www.thearma.org/essays.htm) is a good place to look for answers on questions like this. From what I've read there even full plate was light enough do do a handstand in, and getting up from your back shouldn't have been a problem. I can imagine exceptional circumstances where that wouldn't be true - like if the armour was full of water or runny mud from falling down in a swamp - but there is a video of of ARMA guys practicing sword fighting moves from the surviving instruction manual and they certainly don't seem to be very weighed down or hindered by it.

Edit: Here's that video on youtube (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZnqOMbFDEAI). The guy who gets knocked down is back on his feet in a couple of seconds. These guys are very hot on their historical accuracy so I imagine the replica armour they are using is fairly close in weight to the real thing. Incidentally, so much for the idea that groin kneeing is dishonourable. I hope that guys armour included a cup!
There are more than one surviving instruction manual but those moves look like they're from Thalhofer's manuscript from 1459.
It's a training manual for professional soldiers, not for the Knights of the Romantic Novels. Any move that means you the one living at the end is a valid move.

marsbug
2012-Mar-18, 09:58 PM
Darn that definate article! I meant 'a', I know they have upwards of twenty on their (your?) site. I didn't seriously expect that a person facing a real opponent trying to hit them with a longsword would hesitate to knee the groin, gouge eyes, bite or do anything else that would save them. It's just nice to see myths getting dispelled.

jokergirl
2012-Mar-19, 04:00 PM
I do distinctly remember (think it was even linked on this forum) a video that made the rounds about a year ago of a guy running a treadmill in full platemail armour, so I would say it's definitely possible to get up again.

I am wondering though how much you can get hurt/break bones/etc by falling off a horse in heavy armour. Doesn't seem like it would be easy to break your fall or even fall gracefully in any way.

;)

Trebuchet
2012-Mar-19, 04:26 PM
I think jousting armor was much heavier than that intended for war. You didn't have to do anything in it but sit on the horse, point the lance, and try not to fall off. There's a really stupid "reality" show on lately called Full Metal Jousting. They pretty much can't get up on their own after falling off.

As for cracking him like a lobster, my thought is that he'd be taking an axe to the joints, not the middle of the plate.

Delvo
2012-Mar-19, 04:31 PM
Well, a reference to a North American food that wasn't even commonly eaten here until hardly over a hundred years ago certainly isn't a contemporary description of an event involving full plate armor in real use. :D

But really, trying to cut or crack it open was just not how people fought enemies in armor. The idea was to poke small holes through it or smash dents into it.

BigDon
2012-Mar-19, 08:04 PM
A nice set of mid-thigh chainmail weights about 46 pounds. I had the pleasure of wearing an authentic set one evening.

I was also shown the origin of the concept magic weapons. The same person also had two swords made by an absolute master bladesmith. (From either Washington or Oregon, I forget) The first time I ever held one handed "balanced blades". One was balanced for slashing and the other for thrusting. It instantly came to me the difference between a weapon and a wall piece.

They honestly gave the impression that they WANTED to bite into flesh. The darn things felt like they pulled your arm in the proper direction correctly whether you knew how to or not.

I didn't mind giving them back. (I read stories about such things...)

captain swoop
2012-Mar-19, 09:16 PM
Lobster a 'North American Food'? Whitby has always been famed for it's Lobsters, as has the North Yorkshire Coast. Lobsters from arounf Boulby and Staithes were a Monopoly of Guisborough Priory up until the 15th Century.

Plate Armour is Face Hardened. It is designed to resist the impact of a spear point or arrow which will just pierce Chain with little resistance. Hammers were the weapon of first choice for fighting in Plate, they would crack and dent the plate withtheir flat face and the reverse face was a pointed 'pick' for piercing joints and visors. Knives with stilletto blades were favoured as well for stabbing through visors and between joints.

Moose
2012-Mar-19, 10:00 PM
As for cracking him like a lobster, my thought is that he'd be taking an axe to the joints, not the middle of the plate.

Depends. Axe? Joints. Maul or Warhammer? Immobilize the joints then crush the plate. The same technique applies to the lobster.

captain swoop
2012-Mar-19, 10:32 PM
My old Metallurgy Lecturer did a lot of work on Plate Armour for the Royal Armouries. He was given samples to do hardness and ductility tests on and prepare Micrographs It was with a view to recreating the techniques used in making the steel and the 'Face Hardening'. Some of the samples made and matched to the grain structure of the originals were prone to cracking when hit with a hammer but were good at deflecting arrows and sword thrusts. One of the probles with the original samples was deciding how their characteristics had changed with centuries of ageing.

Trebuchet
2012-Mar-19, 11:53 PM
Depends. Axe? Joints. Maul or Warhammer? Immobilize the joints then crush the plate. The same technique applies to the lobster.

I'd think that once you've killed the opposing knight, you probably just go on to the next one. And assuming you win the battle, the armor is much to valuable to destroy unnecessarily.

Moose
2012-Mar-20, 12:06 AM
I'd think that once you've killed the opposing knight, you probably just go on to the next one. And assuming you win the battle, the armor is much to valuable to destroy unnecessarily.

I would argue that armor, in which you can be rendered helpless and shucked like a walnut, isn't perhaps quite so valuable. Making its flaws obvious to the layknight? Call it a public service. ;-)

captain swoop
2012-Mar-20, 12:10 AM
Armour was valuable, If you killed someone their gear was yours. Common Soldiers got their gear from the battlefield and sold any good stuff after the campaign.

Romanus
2012-Mar-20, 12:19 AM
^
Ditto; from the little I've read ancient battlefields were picked clean quickly (incidentally, this was also the case in both world wars).

RE OP: It sounds like a combination of weight and poor flexibility.

HenrikOlsen
2012-Apr-26, 10:29 PM
Incidentally to continue the knight theme, for people who imagine the two-hand sword is a slow and cumbersome thing, here's (http://vimeo.com/20504334) a video of a couple of guys training Lichtenauer/Krumpau with blunt but full-weight two-hand swords.

I really wouldn't want to be within reach of one of these guys if he got mad at me.

Solfe
2012-Apr-26, 10:42 PM
I have a suit of chain. One of the issues with it is mud. The metal portion is pretty good in water, but once it is muddy the weight is really bad. But what I have found is that a wet gamberson underneath the armor can make it very, very hard to move. Once I wore it to a costume party, complete with a cotton cloak and, of course, it rained. I was pretty miserable and mad at myself for riding a motorcycle in that get-up.

On a side note, I am pretty sure my gamberson is constructed completely wrong. I never researched that portion of the armor beyond that it was quilted and cotton. It must have been waterproofed in some way or used other materials than cotton. There is no way you could fight in mine when wet.

Gillianren
2012-Apr-27, 12:03 AM
Well, of course cotton was a lot more expensive in those days. Wool or linen, which of course are expensive now, were the fabrics of use for most of Europe.

Solfe
2012-Apr-27, 12:44 AM
Ah, I found this via Google: a dowbelet of ffustean lyned with satene cutte full of hoolis”.

They were wool.

HenrikOlsen
2012-Apr-27, 01:28 PM
That's one of the problems with recreating period clothes, there's an almost pure price reversal on materials in the relevant weaves, so wool which was cheapest then is most expensive now, with hemp and flax in the middle and silk being cheapest.
Cotton is out of the question as it was just not used (at least in Northern Europe which is the area of interest to me) for most periods.

Gillianren
2012-Apr-27, 06:17 PM
Around here, wool is a lot cheaper than silk. It's just that it's not available all year at my local fabric store, so I'd have to go looking unless they were specifically selling fabric for fall and winter clothing. They don't sell hemp at all.