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Connor Ruebusch




Location: Cincinnati
Joined: 10 Nov 2009

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PostPosted: Mon 27 Sep, 2010 8:25 pm    Post subject: Sword and Buckler on the Battlefield         Reply with quote

We all know that the tradition of sword and buckler combat in Europe goes back to at least the 13th Century, and quite likely a century or two before that in many places. Not only was sword and buckler the preferred form of duel for young swashbucklers and judicial combatants alike, but it was a popular weapon on the battlefield. I've seen numerous paintings and depictions of heavily-armored knights and commoner-soldiers alike wielding the weapon combination.

So after that ostentatious paragraph, here's my question! How exactly were swords and bucklers used on the medieval battlefield? I am familiar with the sword and buckler men of late-period Spanish and Italian armies, but how were they used in the earlier period? Would they be stationed behind a wall of spears, on hand to deal with those that slipped past the points? Would they be used to flank an engaged line? The battlefield seems to favor the use of a large shield, which would help one in disciplined group combat, so how did the professional (or well-trained) soldier use the sword and buckler in battle, and how would his commander have positioned men armed likewise?

Thanks for the responses, everybody!

Connor
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Sam Gordon Campbell




Location: Australia.
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PostPosted: Mon 27 Sep, 2010 9:09 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Well it wouldn't surprise me if the more well equipped carried both a larger shield and a buckler. The larger might conceivably be used initially in the opening moments of the battle, but once the melee was on and there was little room to maneuver, I'd assume they might ditch the now damaged larger shield and use the durable buckler.
That's just my thought anyway.

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Stephen Curtin




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PostPosted: Tue 28 Sep, 2010 2:32 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Well as far as my understanding goes, before the above mentioned sword and buckler men of later spanish and italian armies, bucklers were not used by specific units of soldiers on the battlefield. They were mostly used by men whose two hands were needed to employ a weapon such a longbow or pike. When combat got too close to employ these primary weapons, they would be dropped and sword and buckler would be taken up for the melee. It is their small size and weight than made them so appealing to these men. This does not however, explain why they would be used by more heavily armoured soldiers, such as knights, but perhaps this was just personal preference.
Éirinn go Brách
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Randall Moffett




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PostPosted: Tue 28 Sep, 2010 6:46 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

From what I can tell the Rodeleros were using much larger shields than bucklers. I think there are a few in Madrid that are 22" plus. Not sure we can put them in the same bunch as medieval bucklers. They last only a few decades before they stop huge forces of rodeleros to put them in mixed, pike/rodeleros/gun/crossbow units.

My guess is that men who had another primary weapon used sword and buckler once that was used and no longer useful. Say for example men with bows or pikes, maybe bills etc. for when the melee got closer than their primary weapon wouldn't work well.

RPM
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Paul Hansen




Location: The Netherlands
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PostPosted: Tue 28 Sep, 2010 1:37 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Additionally, the rodela was strapped to the arm rather than held in the hand.

It's a completely different shield. The only commonality between the two is that they were both made of iron.

There were some small pavises with centre grip though. But these were mostly made of wood...
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Connor Ruebusch




Location: Cincinnati
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PostPosted: Tue 28 Sep, 2010 5:22 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Hmm, interesting! So then what about the actual buckler in earlier times, before the rodelero came to be. I know bucklers became popular in at least the 13th century, so what about earlier use? Was there some equivalent of the shield/spear wall still in use in the high middle ages? If so, wouldn't lighter troops armed with swords and bucklers have worked well to take care of any foes that managed to slip past the points of all the polearms in front? Or for flanking maneuvers? Was it just a backup weapon set, or were there men in the lines with a short sword and buckler as their primary weapons--because it seems to me that this combination would be great for the limited space available in the press of battle.

Connor
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David Teague




Location: Anchorage, Alaska
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PostPosted: Tue 28 Sep, 2010 7:43 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Hello All,

From everything I've ever read, the sword and bucker is a secondary backup weapon to the crossbow, longbow, pike, bill, et al.

How would they be used? In desperation (and hopefully skill), as there is some reason they aren't using their primary weapon anymore.

Cheers,

David

This you shall know, that all things have length and measure.

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The Historic Recrudescence Guild

"Yea though I walk through the valley of death, I will fear no evil: for Thou's sword art is with me; Thy poleaxe and Thy quarterstaff they comfort me."
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Connor Ruebusch




Location: Cincinnati
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PostPosted: Tue 28 Sep, 2010 10:28 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Just a quick side question here: when did the bill come into use?
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Gabriele A. Pini




Location: Olgiate Comasco, Como
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PostPosted: Tue 28 Sep, 2010 11:03 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

In the last battle I had to serve as a front line soldier (with tower shield and falchion, not a spear for safety reasons) and then as a "slave" to the trebuchet (in full mail armor), but I had to ditch my shield and then recover it for the second round.

Now I'm considering a small round wood shield or a buckler that I can strap to my back when I help to load the trebuchet (my responsibility is the placement of the rounds). Any ideas?

Bearing in mind I'm a professional soldier of north Italy (Como, of course) of the 12th century.
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Sam Gordon Campbell




Location: Australia.
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PostPosted: Tue 28 Sep, 2010 11:34 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Gabriele A. Pini wrote:
... (with tower shield and falchion, not a spear for safety reasons)... Now I'm considering a small round wood shield or a buckler that I can strap to my back...


A tower shield? I was under the impression that spears would be safer then falcions?
I think bucklers were mostly hung from the belt or scabbard, and from my experiance (which isn't much [tried to fire an espringal]) it doesn't get in the way to much.
Wood rim with an iron boss is legit as far as I know.

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Elling Polden




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PostPosted: Wed 29 Sep, 2010 5:08 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

The buckler is usually carried by a leather cord running paralel to the handgrip and slipped over the mouth of the sword scabbard. This allows it to be carried without getting to much in the way.

Sword and buckler is a huge step up from the single sword, but they are still not really suited for front line combat, as they are outperformed in pretty much every aspect by the full size shield. A spearman would also make short work of a sword and buckler fighter in most circumstances, not to mention a group of them.
Thus, as David mentions, they are largely used as backup weapons by men carrying two handed weapons. The reason we see them in use in battle scenes could be as much a result of the overrepresentation of swords in high medevial art in general, or that sword and buckler fighting, beeing lots of fun, was the dominant combat sport of the period.

In reenactment fighting, buckler fighters are usually used as runners and reserves, as the reduced target areas make them less voulnerable in single combat than in a full-target figth.

"this [fight] looks curious, almost like a game. See, they are looking around them before they fall, to find a dry spot to fall on, or they are falling on their shields. Can you see blood on their cloths and weapons? No. This must be trickery."
-Reidar Sendeman, from King Sverre's Saga, 1201
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Lafayette C Curtis




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PostPosted: Sun 03 Oct, 2010 5:54 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

I have to agree with a lot of the things already posted here. The rodelero/rotularii/whatever only became "sword-and-buckler men" in later sources, mostly from the 19th and 20th century. Contemporary sources from the 15th to the 17th centuries exhibited no such confusion, calling them "targeteers" or "sword-and-target men" in line with the name "round target" for the shield known elsewhere as the rodela or some variation thereof. (The German name Rundschild might be the most accurately descriptive of them all).

Additionally, the sword and buckler was quite a common secondary weapon combination for polearm-equipped troops and heavier types of archers. The most famous users of sword and buckler on the battlefield were arguably the English longbowmen, who were both better protected and more willing to engage in (or even charge into) hand-to-hand combat than most other archers in their period. An Italian chronicler (probably Villani) specifically remarked on this, calling the sword and buckler a nearly universal secondary armament among the mercenary English archers in Italy at the end of the 14th century. There doesn't seem to be any specific tactics designated for their use. However, the longbowmen's natural position on the flanks of the men-at-arms naturally put them in a good place to outflank the enemy with their mobility once hand-to-hand fighting was joined, so we see them doing this a lot.

Other than that, the best evidence we have for the use of sword-and-buckler troops in earlier times is in illustrations like the Holkham Bible(?) here:

http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons...ckburn.jpg

They tend to depict sword-and-buckler men as part of an undifferentiated infantry formation along with other men armed with axes, spears, and polearms. They (the mixed infantry formation, not the sword-and-buckler men in particular) seldom get any mention in chronicles so we have little more information about them, but it is possible that they were used when there was some need for an infantry force more aggressive than shallow spear formations but more expendable than dismounted knights/men-at-arms.
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