Part 27: Campaign: What Was It Like To Be a Medieval Archer?



[Applause] hello welcome to modern history I am here with a master bowmen Luke like we were all right we've seen you before you beat me up with the shield wall if I remember rightly that was really good fun we are going to look at the nemesis weapon of the night the English longbow and hopefully we're going to have a go at it and we've got a few targets to try and hit so you want to explain a little bit about the history of the longbow and your experience we're sure well firstly the longbow isn't a term that was used back in the day longbow comes in around the 1700s back in the Middle Ages when it was really at its height of use it was just known as either the English bow the bow or the war bow for reasons it was not purely for war so my particular area of expertise is mounted horsemanship so Knights in are mowing lots of Steel and stuff I've obviously got to cross that gap so I can hit you with my Lance if I can get within 12 feet of you but you could hit me from a lot further away than that theoretically so yeah you're looking at around sort of 240 yards as a sort of average distance so probably I'd line up 300 yards away just to be on the safe side all right and then I've got to use the speed of horse to cross that gap while you're loosing your arrows at me you're not looking to hit that one piece of armor on that one night you're looking to hit as many arrows as you can into that big wall of arm that moving towards you the sheer force of that wall of cavalry hitting you is its main destructive force so if we can disrupt that line before it reaches us you know bring horses down and create obstacles for other horses that's what the real effectiveness of the bow it's not necessarily about punching through armor of every single arrow it's a numbers game it's shooting as many arrows as he can into that clump of densely compressed men and just stopping them from coming at you as they're gonna be hitting men you're gonna be eating horse he's gonna be using the ground I guess sometimes but if if I am knee to knee with my fellows there's not much space for your arrows to actually hit the ground yeah you know there's not a lot of area to miss like it's a huge target must be looking at formation of men must have been horrendous and how many arrows would be would be shot in one hour stop do we have any knowledge of that it's absolutely no accurate record that we can say how many arrows were taken on campaign we know full well in every pitch battle the Hundred Years War period that all the archers ran out of arrows nobody said they ran out everything they had you shoot until you have nothing left obviously once you've shot all your arrows you're not gonna just stand around on the battlefield what did the archers do know the arch has joined in they were fighting men the archers were they were cheap they were effective we know they were effective because what was written but also just for their sheer number for that amount of time you don't spend more than hundred twenty years fighting overseas and deploy a weapon that doesn't work time and time and time again by the fact that it was used so much it must have been incredibly effective exactly we don't know how effective it was in terms of penetration of armor we don't know if the effectiveness was through blunt force trauma when you actually hit by an arrow but we know it must have been effective otherwise why use it yeah you're looking at massive draw weights compared to modern target archery I think Olympic archery tops out around 60 pounds raw weight the minimum classification in modern terms for a war bo-zone anything over 75 pounds draw way over 70 over 75 pounds yep 32-inch draw that's not that much in comparisons historical bodies those found on Mary Rose came up in the 70s they were approximately 120 to 160 pounds as an average weight and there are a few that were enormous Lee above that but we can't really test them unless so the bow that I'll be using today is 140 pounds 144 140 pounds at 34 inches which is my full draw so kind of mid-range for what we think to be sorry you're making me sound rubbish I'm gonna have sister ogle I think with the 75 pound bow but we'll see what we can that's all about practice now there's a little idea we came up with but we think this is probably a sort of Victorian notion but let's play with how what are we doing here where the concept of being able to shoot through a ladies bracelet there are 80 paces I'm not too optimistic myself but we'll see yeah so we had this beautiful bracelet made for this challenge but I said that was too lovely to shoot grim arrows yes but it's just too lovely to to risk so we've got a simpler copper bracelet there so let's have a go right it looks like you've got two bows here there's a big one I mean I'm not gonna try that out why Oh we'll start you off from the slightly smaller one to begin with now are you going now you say that's slightly smaller do you want to explain what that Bo is and you have all the poundage is so here we've got a selfish bow made single piece of English ash this one measures around 75 pounds at 32 inches draw it's kind of lighter weight that the minimum weight or modern classification of a war bow is so this is your light weight war bow this is your kind of full way yes yes we're going to see so you want me to try that yep see how we go so tell me so the arrow goes on this side yep where would I where'd I put my hand so you as a right-handed archer you can hold the bow with the left hand just underneath that little cross there that's your arrow pass right you're going to turn left side of your body towards the target so you know turn around for us one and you're just going to align your feet so that your back toe and your front so are pointing in a straight line straight toward the center of target so so not quite like that just twist them so their side on step that way that's it so at the moment if you follow the path of your feet that line there should point someone's a sensor the target right right that's it perfect okay there you go sorry no you're ready to load up you're quite across there yeah it's a sight on to the target it's it's not facing forwards that's incomplete Leeside on you're aligning your entire body with the target yeah so here's your arrow you see it's got a great cop feather there so that's going to point upwards away from the boat because they're three feathers one's got to stick out exactly right so it doesn't collide with the bow as you loose it will click there clicks on yeah and then you're gonna use three fingers first three fingers on your right hand one above to blow in what's known as a Mediterranean draw and that's going to come all the way back slightly shorter arrows here so it's going to come back to the corner of your mouth site down the arrow and then straight into the bullseye that's the theory that's the water let's have a go here we go I'll tell you what that didn't go far enough did it scared the rabbit yeah right here you try another yep what you want to try and do with your back arm instead of pulling down yeah you can pull up so your elbow should be in a nice straight line to the cornea math why is it so am i putting your your pinching on the arrow so you're focusing on the air I try drawing the string rather than the eye it's on target again just as you draw yeah you're very hunched in and you're sort of pulling like this across your body can – all right try and roll that whole shoulder okay try and use your chest and your back muscles as much as you can so not touching the arrow so I've got to say how many of these do I have to do in a medieval battle there's many easy count until they stop coming at you or you run out of arrows so it's up and that's fun yep you try one more one more a couple more maybe two more for the full half-dozen Philosopher's one you focus on when you draw yeah push with your front arm yeah as much as you pull with your back arm okay because then you'll use both your chest and your back at the same time if you set your arm up and then pull your right arms doing all the work all right okay so you're gonna try and push and pull at the same time that's it nice miles over all right thank you thank you very much I you must have practiced a lot sir yeah I've been doing this since I was a kid a few years and years she's exactly right really yeah historically you're looking at starting around the age of 8 and 9 practicing by law 3 hours every week so your profession with something of this to a way that's fantastic that's just it the energy going through that is just extraordinary you go and have a look [Laughter] well not too bad I've got two on the target one in the gold quite close to one on the edge there so three out of six pretty good for a first time thank you it was it was absolutely your instructions that beau leaf that beau is incredibly hard to draw and it doesn't really compare to your war beau how much training do you have to do to pull that in almost beau um it's not something that that you can really quantify as simple as you know do it for five hours for three weeks and you'll be good it all comes down to EADS think some people are naturally prone to it some people aren't and comparision practice and never quite get it and so for you you when when I'm doing and I'm thinking all the things I'm doing wrong and trying to remember everything but presumably for you is it all comes together and just sort of you just draw the bow and loose yeah you're you're no longer really worrying about how you're shooting you know if you're pulling in our own back to a certain point it all but just becomes muscle memory you look at what you want to hit and nine times out of ten you don't but when you do hit it is great and and your your arrows were significantly those are war arrows we all know they're half inch at the shoulder and then they taper down to three-eighths of an inch at the nock so they're designed for flight they're a perfect shape for aerodynamic and we are waiting yeah and we talked a little bit about that they're not really it's not really a kind of an accuracy thing it's about throwing arrows downrange in military archery is all about volume you're looking at mastering swatches shooting at mass ranks of men there's no reason suggest that a test like this couldn't have been conducted you know this was the the kind of national pastime and so we have the same way we have people who do trick shots with football these days there's no reason that archers couldn't have been that out accurate in the day yeah I don't practice enough to be sure but some in terms of military use it's all about volume number of arrows in the air at the time putting up a wall of steel so one of the things I noticed when he was shooting those war arrows was the massive impact it had on the target so next time I think we should actually use some of your arrows against some may evil armor and just see what it does sure yeah all right happy to thanks for watching please like and subscribe and don't forget to use that notification button and we'll see you next time

Author Since: Mar 11, 2019

  1. There was a much different style to fighting beyond the long distance attacks. They could go into close combat and were very active and deadly in killing up close as well as far away.

  2. Lars Andersen is a true master archer I dont believe that big guys half as skilled as Lars do an archery video about Lars loved the video though

  3. From all the battle area's, in which remains were recovered, do you find that there is an equal ratio of dead horse remains to body remains, did the archers in fact, aim for the horses, or did they try to avoid them?  Is there enough evidence to hint towards either verdict, or perhaps all we can do is speculate.

  4. I shot a bow for over 40 years, started at age 9. By the time I was in my late 20's I practiced 2 hours a day over 60 metres range with postage stamp sized targets. I could group 3 arrows on a postage stamp from 60 metres 65lb draw weight 3 fixed pins. I have a drawer full of gold, silver and bronze medals competed for in Field Archery. ( Bowhunting)
    One day, I realised I was not actually using those pin sights, but shooting instinctively, so threw them away and went bare bow, without pins, and continued scoring into the 500's.
    At age 63 I now have Scoliosis of the spine, as did most of the ancient Archers. Had to give up bow shooting all together. I really miss my bow shooting
    and if I could repeat my life, I would do it all over again. Great vid guys, keep it up. The secret to being a good Archer, is start at young age, about 8 and slowly work up to heavier weight bows over a long period of time. Practice on very small targets, this hones your natural instinct and ability to judge depth of field and arrow trajectory. It's like a force that dwells within.
    When you shoot targets at competition level, you have something most if your competitors do not, you can pick out a spot on the target face, or 3D animal target, much smaller than your competitors can, and strike hard with your first arrow.
    A young man with a bow that is too heavy, will never shoot well. A well disciplined archer with the right weight bow and well spined arrows can be as accurate as a target rifle, in absolute silence.

  5. 75lb draw is heavy asf 50 lbs is legal weight to kill elk bear the biggest of animals on earth

  6. If the knights line up 300 yards away a horse can go 50km/h full out = ~15 yards/second. 300 / 15 = 20. The bowman would have ~20 seconds to break the charge.

  7. I find all your videos very fascinating. Indeed, the time periods you cover are not so well documented, yet so much is able to be uncovered by looking at surrounding facts, what evidence there is, and you and your guests putting things to the test. I really appreciate your work.

  8. Such an awesome channel. I love the content. Better than anything on television. Keep up the great work, I love it!

  9. Brilliant vid. I'm a know all history boffin and I loved it. I also shot a 32 at 28 bow in competitions when I was 16. The 150 pound pull Mary rose bows astound me.

  10. I'm beginning to think that the horses were the main target. If a knight's horse went down and then the knight went down in that solid formation, the knight would be lucky just to survive. No wonder agincourt was a clusterfuck for France.

  11. The draw weight really seems too much for him… The wiggle in the hands when he draws is so apparent.

  12. The Arrow is on the wrong side of the Bow. Archers placed the Arrow on the opposite side of the bow where the Thumb is. This can be seen in paintings from the 1400's, and it makes sense because it is much faster to fire more arrows in a shorter period of time than using the modern method of shooting a bow. see: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BEG-ly9tQGk

  13. Skeletons of Archers brought up on the Mary Rose showed that their bones were deformed from the enormous stresses of shooting bows with such heavy draws over years and years of practice. These guys had some serious muscle and sinews on them. The archers would have started as young boys while still growing with softer bones. As for wars…an Iron Bodkin such as used in Agincourt would not have penetrated plate mail…but it would had instead shot the horse out from under the knight who would have then gone plunging into the mud with other horses and knights piling on top of him combined with the heavy armor and thick mud..at Agincourt the French knight would have been unable to get up and would be finished off with a dirk. Horses were bigger targets and didn't have much if any armor…the horse would have been the main target that an Archer would have been aiming for.

  14. I want the Big Blood nut on my team at what ever. Wrestling, Archery, sword fighting, Trivia, Mathematic equations, Beer consumption.

  15. The question not answered was why didn't the French counter with their own war bows? Or did they?

  16. I like the video. Very good teacher. I wanted to see him shoot that beast. Enjoyed the discussion. They say 'lets use some arrows against armor.' Figured that was going to be in this video. Interesting to learn about. Hoping for more.

  17. Judging from this video an archer could smack a knight around in the pub. Lol.

    What great fun this would be.

  18. What was that? What was it like to get cut down by armored knights or cut down by stampeding cavalry 😂

Related Post