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Craig L.




PostPosted: Tue 02 Nov, 2010 8:34 pm    Post subject: New Arma Bohemia halberd         Reply with quote

Came across Arma Bohemia's newest halberd the other day:

It's described as "Switzerland, XVth century".

A few questions...
- How historically appropriate would this be for a mercenary man-at-arms from Hesse (Holy Roman Empire) c.1450?
- What would be the earliest we would see a halberd such as this in the HRE / medieval Germany? The latest?
- Has anyone seen evidence of / depictions of similar polearms in use in the HRE during my time period?

Thanks in advance!
Craig
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Jean Thibodeau




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PostPosted: Tue 02 Nov, 2010 8:55 pm    Post subject: Re: New Arma Bohemia halberd         Reply with quote

Craig L. wrote:
Came across Arma Bohemia's newest halberd the other day:
It's described as "Switzerland, XVth century".

A few questions...
- How historically appropriate would this be for a mercenary man-at-arms from Hesse (Holy Roman Empire) c.1450?
- What would be the earliest we would see a halberd such as this in the HRE / medieval Germany? The latest?
- Has anyone seen evidence of / depictions of similar polearms in use in the HRE during my time period?

Thanks in advance!
Craig


That really looks nice and at least fairly early halberd design: Not sure how early one can go but very late 14th century might be possible but I'm not sure when we first hear about halberd in historical texts ? One of my reference books shows a very early halberd a little cruder than this one and dates it to late 14th century. The one shown might be early 15th although it might still have been in use later in the mid.15th century.

Since it doesn't have a back spike I tend to think earlier period since back spikes came later mounted on a separate eye between the two eyes on the axe/top spike part. Even later the socket becomes a full socket and the halberd heads start looking as being forged into 1 piece. The classic Swiss guard type halberds are more end of 15th century and well into the 16th., by the 17th halberds have become ceremonial weapons and less functional.

As to region I think it would be appropriate for most of Europe as a fairly international style but the very early halberd adopters seem to have been the Swiss.

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Alex Spreier




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PostPosted: Tue 02 Nov, 2010 10:02 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Jean hit the nail on the head.

The only thing I'll add is that it is not uncommon to see early type halberds used well into the late 15th / 16th centuries - If a man-at-arms had an early type halberd that he considered "lucky" or had had through many battles, he would be likely to hang onto it, despite the "latest technologies"

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Gregory J. Liebau




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PostPosted: Tue 02 Nov, 2010 10:16 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Quote:
If a man-at-arms had an early type halberd that he considered "lucky" or had had through many battles, he would be likely to hang onto it, despite the "latest technologies"


Not to be nit-picky, but do you have any evidence for such a mentality among contemporary soldiers? I'd be interested to see it, if so. Most technological developments among weaponry during the high middle ages developed as immediate counters to advances in armor or tactics, and keeping up with the game was likely to be a serious interest for most fighting men. For example, in this particular instance, the development of back-spikes for piercing the heavy plate armor of the 15th century was a crucial element of pole arm evolution. The weapon being scrutinized here would be much less effective against a cap-a-pie harness than any of its later forms that incorporated back-spikes for punching through armor.

-Gregory
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Nicholas A. Gaese




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PostPosted: Tue 02 Nov, 2010 10:46 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

The Swiss seemed to had used them by mid 15th c. although by the the Burgundian wars the swiss would have used the more recognized style of halbards. Regardless, even by then such older versions may had been reused on occasion by individuals.

The Swedes seemed to have used them into the 16th c. though...



 Attachment: 61.38 KB
Paul Donsteins pic of swedish yeomen. 16th c..gif

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Daniel Staberg




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PostPosted: Wed 03 Nov, 2010 12:31 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Actually this style of halbered is by far the most common in the illustrated Swiss chronicles of Burgundian wars and images show it still in use during the Swabian war of 1499 alongside more "modern" forms of the halberd.







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

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Daniel Staberg




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PostPosted: Wed 03 Nov, 2010 12:47 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Gregory J. Liebau wrote:


Not to be nit-picky, but do you have any evidence for such a mentality among contemporary soldiers? I'd be interested to see it, if so. Most technological developments among weaponry during the high middle ages developed as immediate counters to advances in armor or tactics, and keeping up with the game was likely to be a serious interest for most fighting men. For example, in this particular instance, the development of back-spikes for piercing the heavy plate armor of the 15th century was a crucial element of pole arm evolution. The weapon being scrutinized here would be much less effective against a cap-a-pie harness than any of its later forms that incorporated back-spikes for punching through armor.

-Gregory

Back-spikes are not intended to pierce "heavy plate armor", if you study preserved halberds you will find that they have neither the shape nor the reinforced construction necessary to pierce plate armour. Not to mention that swinging the huge blow need to use the back-spike that way would leave you wide open to be killed by an enemy thrust.
The back-spike is often not so much a spike as a cutting hook if you look at the curved examples. Very usefull to cut the reins of any hirseman you are fighting, hooking his harness and possibly cuting/tearing the straps & points holding it up or dragging him off the horse. Against a foot soldier they can be used in a series of very nasty hooks and cuts, for example against the back of the knee or the achillies tendon.

Against a well armoured foe the main weapon of choice is always the point of the halberd which is both shaped the right way and massively reinforced to pierce armour thoug as always the thrusts would be aimed at the gaps in the armour rather than trying in wain to thrust through the plate armour.

"There is nothing more hazardous than to venture a battle. One can lose it
by a thousand unforseen circumstances, even when one has thorougly taken all
precautions that the most perfect military skill allows for."
-Fieldmarshal Lennart Torstensson.
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Alex Spreier




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PostPosted: Wed 03 Nov, 2010 8:54 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Gregory J. Liebau wrote:
Quote:
If a man-at-arms had an early type halberd that he considered "lucky" or had had through many battles, he would be likely to hang onto it, despite the "latest technologies"


Not to be nit-picky, but do you have any evidence for such a mentality among contemporary soldiers? I'd be interested to see it, if so. Most technological developments among weaponry during the high middle ages developed as immediate counters to advances in armor or tactics, and keeping up with the game was likely to be a serious interest for most fighting men. For example, in this particular instance, the development of back-spikes for piercing the heavy plate armor of the 15th century was a crucial element of pole arm evolution. The weapon being scrutinized here would be much less effective against a cap-a-pie harness than any of its later forms that incorporated back-spikes for punching through armor.

-Gregory


I'll have to get the direct quotes, but in his book John Waldman ( http://myArmoury.com/books/item.9004144099.html ) devotes an entire chapter to the use of different types of halberds being used contemporaneously.

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Gregory J. Liebau




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PostPosted: Wed 03 Nov, 2010 9:42 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Alex Spreier wrote:
I'll have to get the direct quotes, but in his book John Waldman ( http://myArmoury.com/books/item.9004144099.html ) devotes an entire chapter to the use of different types of halberds being used contemporaneously.


Hey Alex,

I'm particularly interested about quotes regarding the keeping of weapons that one may have considered lucky, etc... I am interested in soldier lifestyle and psychology and your quote struck me as very interesting. I wasn't trying to disprove you in my above post, but it just seemed that the context was very interesting, and further information would be splendid. Of course, not everyone could afford the newest technology, and there is no argument to be made against many types of halberds being used at once on the battlefield, irregardless of their technological innovations. The reasons for keeping these weapons around is what struck me initially, as I can imagine that cost and availability were major factors in which weapons were used by whom... But if what you say is true - that even amidst the option to purchase the best, soldiers would hang onto the old stuff merely because it was valued personally, even if it was not as suitable a weapon as newer designs, then that's news to me, and it's a very cool insight into contemporary perspective.

Daniel,

Thank you for the practical information about the back-spikes. No argument there. After going back and perusing a number of halberd back-spikes, they certainly do seem inappropriate for knocking into plate. The often diamond-headed thrusting points are much more logical for targeting armored opponents, as you mentioned. I've definitely confused halberd design with the typical back-spikes on poleaxes and polehammers, which seem to have similar reinforcement for hitting heavier targets.

I'd also like to note that it's interesting to see the three late-15th century images you posted... You say that they're used "alongside more modern halberds" but in fact, I see very few other halberds in any of those pictures! Maybe it's like playing Where's Waldo, but the only design that sticks out to me is the one in question. Perhaps it is a purely Swiss design that was favored during the era? In any case, it looks like the product description is spot on with "Swiss XV Century."

Cheers, guys!

-Gregory

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Craig L.




PostPosted: Wed 03 Nov, 2010 4:19 pm    Post subject: New Arma Bohemia halberd         Reply with quote

Thank you all for this wealth of information!

Daniel Staberg wrote:
The back-spike is often not so much a spike as a cutting hook if you look at the curved examples. Very usefull to cut the reins of any hirseman you are fighting, hooking his harness and possibly cuting/tearing the straps & points holding it up or dragging him off the horse. Against a foot soldier they can be used in a series of very nasty hooks and cuts, for example against the back of the knee or the achillies tendon.

This got me thinking... In halberds similar to the one we're discussing, was the bottom edge of the blade (when the weapon is held erect with the butt on the ground) ever sharpened -- as a means of providing some of the functionality Daniel mentions above?

Thanks for your thoughts,
Craig
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Randall Moffett




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PostPosted: Wed 03 Nov, 2010 7:45 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Greg,

There is so much evidence for the continued use of outdated arms and armour I could not even give you a small number of them in this post and demonstrate how common it is.

I'd start with inventories. The York Archdiocese records have some from York that have armour that was some 100 years old and still listed as ready for use.

Daniel,

I am curious how you have come to the conclusions you have about the back spike. Do you have any evidence they were used to cut reins or harness straps? I have never seen such use listed anywhere. I have seen back spikes on halbards that would be reinforced plenty for armour penetration but could not say with such surety they were for one thing or the other.

RPM
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Alex Spreier




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PostPosted: Wed 03 Nov, 2010 7:49 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Here's my paraphrase of the info from Waldman -

In Chapter 4 "Different Styles in Simultaneous Use", he says that, prior to the standardization of troops (and their armaments), individuals were left to choose their own weapon based on their own criteria - he lists several options, including "newly acquired or old, perhaps inherited through several generations, or recently transformed from a farm tool." He goes on to list several pieces of artwork (and artists), including Durer, who show (as we've seen) several types of halberd used together. Waldman also notes that many earlier styles of halberd were still being ordered and made into the 17th century.

I can't find the exact quote, but I do remember Waldman talking about soldiers considering weapons lucky. I also know that many modern soldiers are still superstitious about certain items of their kit (a Marine buddy of mine never left his barracks without his Zippo lighter). I have little doubt that medieval soldiers were any less superstitious.

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Jean Thibodeau




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PostPosted: Wed 03 Nov, 2010 9:36 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Alex Spreier wrote:
Waldman also notes that many earlier styles of halberd were still being ordered and made into the 17th century.



If the design was good and not obviously inferior in capabilities to more " modern " designs, and in addition easier to make than the later ones by less skilled arms makers or improvised makers not normally making weapons like village or castle blacksmiths, it makes sense that they would be still made and used. Wink

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Jean Thibodeau




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PostPosted: Wed 03 Nov, 2010 9:57 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Randall Moffett wrote:
Greg,

There is so much evidence for the continued use of outdated arms and armour I could not even give you a small number of them in this post and demonstrate how common it is.



Randall, I started a new Topic asking this question using your quote to start it.

NOTE: To not go off Topic on this Topic reply there please if discussing the use of outdated armour not related to this Topic above everyone.
http://www.myArmoury.com/talk/viewtopic.php?t=21345

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Craig L.




PostPosted: Thu 04 Nov, 2010 10:17 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Daniel Staberg wrote:
Actually this style of halberd is by far the most common in the illustrated Swiss chronicles of Burgundian wars and images show it still in use during the Swabian war of 1499 alongside more "modern" forms of the halberd.

Nicholas A. Gaese wrote:
The Swedes seemed to have used them into the 16th c. though...


Just to round out this thread, and tie it into another one of interest... I was doing some additional searching on mA today, and found this thread:
http://www.myArmoury.com/talk/viewtopic.php?t=1403&start=31

In Craig Johnson's sketch at the top, there is a halberd that looks extremely similar to our Arma Bohemia specimen -- and the sketch has it dated as 1315!

If some of the later dates we've discussed in this thread hold true, and the early one seen in the sketch holds true, then this style of halberd seems to have had a nice long service life of around 300 years. Not bad, in an era where military technology churned relatively quickly.

Thanks again everyone for you input -- very much appreciated!
Craig
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