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Alexander H.




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PostPosted: Wed 30 Sep, 2020 12:13 am    Post subject: Gambesons/textile armor vs blunt trauma         Reply with quote

So, how effective were gambesons/textile armors against blunt weapons. I know that they did actually provide good protection against slashing weapons like swords and the amount of padding would reduce the sheer force of blows, but if a man were to get whacked in the chest with a mace or some other bludgeon would the gambeson provide any real provide all that much protection?

I'd also be curious to know how well they would fare against slings.
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Dan Howard




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PostPosted: Wed 30 Sep, 2020 3:49 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

A properly quilted gambeson or jack is rigid like a sheet of plywood. The wearer "floats" inside them just like a steel cuirass so there is no problem with blunt trauma.
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Leo Todeschini
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PostPosted: Wed 30 Sep, 2020 5:56 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Dan Howard wrote
Quote:
A properly quilted gambeson or jack is rigid like a sheet of plywood. The wearer "floats" inside them just like a steel cuirass so there is no problem with blunt trauma.


Dan I think this quite simply distilling what we know in to far few words. Bearing in mind there is almost no extant examples that I know of.

Plywood is basically, in this sense, rigid. A gamebeson cannot be sewn so tight by hand that this is possible; stiff yes, relatively inflexible, yes. Plywood, no.

Artwork often shows them quite tailored, but that aside, they do move and especially under the point of a mace to hammer for example that may not get through it, local deformation may be quite high and over a rib or spine for example, very much a problem.

They will help increase the area of contact and dampen the blow because of inertia, but they will not remove all trauma from the wearer. Whether enough is left to, always, often, or sometimes do damage is a moot point, but surely 'no problem' is overstating the case?

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Dan Howard




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PostPosted: Wed 30 Sep, 2020 8:14 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

It flexes like plywood but it is a rigid construction. The easiest way to see an example is to get a hold of some kendo kote. It will show you how rigid a quilted textile defense should be.

Here are some surviving physical examples and some textual descriptions. Note that the construction is basically the same all over the world; from Europe, to Asia, to India, to the Americas.

Two of them are in the Holstentor Museum in Lübeck
A partial example is in a museum in Stendal - the chest section is still intact.
One is in the Musée des beaux-arts in Chartres
One is in the parish church of Rothwell, near Leeds.
The Victoria and Albert Museum has an 18th century cuirass from India (called a peti) made from multiple layers of quilted cotton and covered in green velvet. It is almost an inch thick.
The Royal Armouries has another example from the arsenal of Tipu Sultan.
The MET has a Korean example donated from Stone's collection. It is 30 layers of cotton "skillfully cut and sandwiched together with hemp stitching to give an overall thickness of less than one inch." Weight: 6,207g

Ordinances of Louis XI of France (15th C)
"And first they must have for the said Jacks, 30, or at least 25 folds of cloth and a stag's skin; those of 30, with the stag's skin, being the best cloth that has been worn and rendered flexible, is best for this purpose, and these Jacks should be made in four quarters. The sleeves should be as strong as the body, with the exception of the leather, and the arm-hole of the sleeve must be large, which arm-hole should be placed near the collar, not on the bone of the shoulder, that it may be broad under the armpit and full under the arm, sufficiently ample and large on the sides below. The collar should be like the rest of the Jack, but not too high behind, to allow room for the sallet. This Jack should be laced in front, and under the opening must be a hanging piece [porte piece] of the same strength as the Jack itself. Thus the Jack will be secure and easy, provided that there be a doublet [pourpoint] without sleeves or collar, of two folds of cloth, that shall be only four fingers broad on the shoulder; to which doublet shall be attached the chausess. Thus shall the wearer float, as it were, within his jack and be at his ease; for never have been seen half a dozen men killed by stabs or arrow wounds in such Jacks, particularly if they be troops accustomed to fighting."

Dominic Mancini (15th C): writing about the archers in Richard III's army
"They do not wear any metal armour on their breast nor any other part of their body, except for the better sort who have breastplates and suits of armour. Indeed, the common soldiery have more comfortable doublets that reach down below the loins and are stuffed with tow or some other material. They say that the softer the garment the better do they withstand the blows of arrows and swords, and besides that in summer they are lighter and in the winter they are more serviceable than iron."

Howard Household Accounts (15th C):
"I took to the doublet maker, to make me a doublet of fence; for every four quarters: 18 folds thick of white fustian, and 4 folds of linen cloth, and a fold of black fustian to put without."

Companion of Hernan Cortez (16th C)
"The armour which they use in war are certain loose garments like doublets made of quilted cotton, a finger and a half thick, and sometimes two fingers; they are very strong. Over them they wear a doublet and hose all one garment, which are corded behind. This garment is made of thick cloth and is covered with a layer of feathers of different colours, making a fine effect… for neither arrows nor darts pierce them, but are thrown back without making any wound, and even with swords it is difficult to penetrate through them."

Aguado, History of Venezuela (16th C)
"Out of sacking or light linen cloths they make a kind of surcoat that they call 'escaupil'. These fall below the knee, and sometimes to the calf. They are all stuffed with cotton, to the thickness of three fingers. The layers of cotton are quilted between folds of linen and sewed with rough thread…"

The Irish "Cattle Raid of Cooley" (7th C) says that Cúchulainn was wearing armour made of 27 layers of linen (liente) and an apron made from the hide of yearling oxen.


Here is a document specifically telling us that textile armour was the best out of all the armours at resisting blunt trauma (the "shock of arrows"). Giovanni Michiel was a Venetian Ambassador to Queen Mary and King Philip. This comes from his "Report of England", written to the Venetian Senate on the 13th May, 1557. He is describing what regular English fighters wore to battle.

"... and for the body they either use some sort of breastplate (qualche petto di corsaletto) which guards the forepart, although indifferently, or else more willingly (especially those who have the means) some jack (giaco) or shirt of mail (camicia di maglia); but what they usually wear are certain padded canvas jupons (giubboni di canevaccio imbottiti), each of which is double high, two fingers or more in thickness (doppi alti due dita); and these doublets are considered the most secure defence against the shock of arrows. Upon their arms they place strips of mail (liste di maglia), put lengthways, and nothing else."

It says that plate was the LEAST desirable of all the kinds of armour - only worn by those who couldn't afford anything better. By this time, mail armour and textile armour cost more than plate. It also says that their padded canvas jupons were best at resisting the "shock of arrows" and not any kind of metallic armour. Note that custom-fitted, fully-articulated plate harness is not in the same category as the above-mentioned muntions plate. It was only worn by the wealthiest people, and was beyond the scope of Michiel's report.

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Leo Todeschini
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PostPosted: Wed 30 Sep, 2020 12:57 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Thanks Dan,

I think in general the point I am making is please don't be so emphatic and final in your statements.

For those less comfortable with their knowledge and the subject they take it as the last and final word and that is just not the case; there is always room for debate and I stand by my point, you cannot say with such force "there is no problem with blunt trauma" - it is simply misleading.

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Dan Howard




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PostPosted: Wed 30 Sep, 2020 3:19 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

So where is the evidence that blunt trauma was a problem? I've outlined my argument. The counter argument seems to rely on dodgy reconstructions that don't conform to the primary evidence. Presented here is a list of physical examples from which to copy and more than enough texts telling how they were assembled. Perhaps it would be a good idea to actually use these when attempting a reconstruction.
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Martin Kallander




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PostPosted: Thu 01 Oct, 2020 4:44 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Has there ever been made a reconstruction that looks like how gambesons are depicted in the arts and also has the properties described in your sources Dan? Whenever people attempted to make reconstructions based on those sources they always ended up looking nothing at all like how they do in contemporary manuscripts and whatnot as far as I'm aware
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Pieter B.





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PostPosted: Thu 01 Oct, 2020 5:35 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Swordsmen of the British Empire gives us some more details on later 19th century quilted garments.

I reckon some might find this useful.

Quote:
An example of this was given by Twemlow’s fellow Bengal
artilleryman, Lt. George Swiney, whose battery was attacked by Mahratta
horsemen during the battle of Deeg in 1804: “The soobadar [captain] of my
company was cut down by one of the enemy, who was about to finish him
when I gave the fellow what I thought a huge cut on the shoulder; but I
might as well have struck him with a riding whip. My sword made not the
smallest impression excepting that of calling the Mahratta’s attention to me
instead of the poor soobadar; and I should most probably have fared but
badly if Captain N— [John Nelly] had not at that instant come up, and
calling to me, ‘You should use your point with these fellows; their jackets
are quilted an inch thick with cotton,’ run my opponent through the body.”
(J. H. Stocqueler, The Old Field Officer, 1853.)
However, sometimes even “the point” was ineffectual. “Our men’s sabres
could not penetrate their quilted coats,” wrote S. S. Thorburn, Indian Civil
Service, of the Sikhs. (The Punjab, 1904.) And, “I bent my faithful friend,
the 24th Dragoon sabre, nearly double by striking at the thick cotton-stuffed
coats of the Pindarees,” wrote Lt. John Shipp of the 87th Foot. “The cotton
is about two inches thick, and the coats are worn rather loose, so that you
can with difficulty cut through them.” (Memoirs, 1829.)



On the other hand there is also some suggestion that other forms of textile armor such as turbans could not always protect the wearer from blunt trauma.

Quote:
But just how well that Asians were protected against their own swords---
or any razor-sharp swords, for that matter—is evidenced by an example of those Europeans who armored themselves like Asians: “Lieutenant
Mackenzie [of the 3rd Bengal Cavalry] had three sword cuts over the head,
which penetrated two thick puggerees [turbans] and notched his cap. This
is a singular instance of their [the Afghans’] dexterity with the sword, which
I saw and examined; otherwise I could scarcely have credited that a sabre
could have been so used as to penetrate so many folds of soft cotton
cloth. An English dragoon would perhaps have stunned the man, or
fractured his skull, by strength of arm; but I do not conceive that he could
have cut through such a defence.” (Allen, op. cit.)
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Dan Howard




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PostPosted: Thu 01 Oct, 2020 7:24 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Since when is a turban considered to be armour? Textile armour is compressed and quilted. It isn't just a cloth wrapped around the head.
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Dan Howard




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PostPosted: Thu 01 Oct, 2020 8:12 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Martin Kallander wrote:
Has there ever been made a reconstruction that looks like how gambesons are depicted in the arts and also has the properties described in your sources Dan? Whenever people attempted to make reconstructions based on those sources they always ended up looking nothing at all like how they do in contemporary manuscripts and whatnot as far as I'm aware

There is an upcoming Tudor Tailor book that will be focusing on reconstructions of textile armour.

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Sean Manning




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PostPosted: Thu 01 Oct, 2020 10:38 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Martin Kallander wrote:
Has there ever been made a reconstruction that looks like how gambesons are depicted in the arts and also has the properties described in your sources Dan? Whenever people attempted to make reconstructions based on those sources they always ended up looking nothing at all like how they do in contemporary manuscripts and whatnot as far as I'm aware

What do you mean? There are lots of reproductions of surviving quilted garments like Tasha Kelly Mele's reproduction of the red lampas coat of Charles VI of France and Jessica Finley's reproduction of one of the Lübeck jacks.



Here are some examples based on written sources and the Indian armours which will appear in a forthcoming journal article.

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PostPosted: Thu 01 Oct, 2020 1:27 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

I would interject here with a point on physics on this matter:

We are talking of blunt-force-trauma, and how well textile or perhaps other non-metallic armor deals with that matter. The first item we then discuss are swords vs. such armor. I would like to point out that most swords weigh in at 2-to-3 pounds and are balanced to be maneuverable around the hilt region. I do not have any numbers handy, but I think it should be considered how much momentum or kinetic energy a typical sword is going to carry to the armor in question vs. something like a mace or hammer in the same weight range. I don't think you will have to mull this item over for very long.

Next, I feel this is relevant:

Quote:

Since when is a turban considered to be armour? Textile armour is compressed and quilted. It isn't just a cloth wrapped around the head.


How much do we know about turbans here? I suspect many would feel inclined to think very little of textile armor as armor without knowing more about it as well.
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Martin Kallander




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PostPosted: Thu 01 Oct, 2020 1:28 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Sean Manning wrote:

What do you mean? There are lots of reproductions of surviving quilted garments like Tasha Kelly Mele's reproduction of the red lampas coat of Charles VI of France and Jessica Finley's reproduction of one of the Lübeck jacks.

I mean a 30 layers thick gambeson, the ones I've seen don't really look like how they appear in contemporary art. It is true that there are loads of replicas and reconstructions that look authentic, however none of the ones I'm aware of are even close to as thick as they are described in Dan's texts. Kelly's for example is only 7 layers thick and while that is not at all ahistorical, it is quite shy of the 25-30 layers as detailed by Louis. The few times I've seen someone attempt a gambeson that thick they always ended up looking nothing like they do in the manuscripts.
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Sean Manning




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PostPosted: Thu 01 Oct, 2020 1:43 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Martin Kallander wrote:
The few times I've seen someone attempt a gambeson that thick they always ended up looking nothing like they do in the manuscripts.

What do you mean? How would you know whether a garment in a painting or sculpture is the type in the 15th century French ordonnance? The kind which are many layered look smooth on the outside so there is no way to distinguish them from other garments with a waist. It is only the kind stuffed with loose fibres which look 'bumpy.'

The kinds of quilted armour stuffed with layers of fabric rather than raw fibres were probably the rarest and most expensive, because a pound of spun and woven linen is more expensive than a pound of flax. The Paston family were rich, they had fortified houses. The most accessible surviving examples of many-layered armour are from late Mughal India.

The white linen sample in the above photo is 12 layers quilted in two groups of six + a 13th layer as a cover. It is about 6 mm thick. Several of the Burgundian ordinances say that 10 or 12 layers of linen / hemp is enough worn over a haubergeon, while Paston's doublet of defense and the jacks for Franc-archers were worn without any iron armour.

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Dan Howard




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PostPosted: Thu 01 Oct, 2020 3:18 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Generally speaking, there were two different types of textile defense (but lots of variation within those two categories). The standalone variant (20-30 layers) is a lot thicker and more rigid than the variant (10-15 layers) that was worn over a haubergeon. The latter often gets confused with arming garments that were designed to be worn underneath armour, but these were a lot lighter, about as substantial as a winter tunic.
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Pieter B.





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PostPosted: Fri 02 Oct, 2020 8:51 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

The thing about the Turban was more of an offhand remark about how a substantial quantity of textile might not provide enough protection against blunt trauma.

During the 17th, 18th and 19th century Europeans encountered them and not infrequently mentioned how it could turn aside sword cuts. It was sometimes worn as standalone head protection or at least served that purpose.
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Leo Todeschini
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PostPosted: Fri 02 Oct, 2020 9:33 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Dan Howard wrote
Quote:
So where is the evidence that blunt trauma was a problem?


I didn't say it was, nor that there was evidence, but it stands to reason that as an example the gambeson has to touch the body at some points, one assumes that it settles on top of the shoulders for example. I do not need to test it to know that a full strength downward blow with a poll hammer or similar may well damage the collar bone. Please note I use the word "may".

Going back to your first statement that "blunt force trauma is no problem", and comparing it with mine "They will help increase the area of contact and dampen the blow because of inertia, but they will not remove all trauma from the wearer. Whether enough is left to, always, often, or sometimes do damage is a moot point, but surely 'no problem' is overstating the case?"

Again please note that I did not say it was always a problem, just that it could be.

I wish I could more meaningfully add something other than nit picking, for which I am sorry, but armour is not my specialty. However thinking about weapons, armour, people and physics is something I do and occasionally testing my thoughts and I have found being so emphatic tends not to move knowledge further forward, that was all.

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Martin Kallander




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PostPosted: Fri 02 Oct, 2020 9:54 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Sean, you don't need to know which depictions are gambesons with 30 layers, 10 layers, filled with other stuff or just normal clothes to know the modern 30 layer gambesons look nothing like any of them. It is true telling these apart from each other is difficult at times but the modern 30 layer gambesons aren't even vaguely shaped like them.
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PostPosted: Fri 02 Oct, 2020 9:58 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

I happen to have worn and fenced in one of Jess Finley's personal reproductions of the Lubeck jack (we're the same size and I was visiting last year). It's sturdy for sure, but you can still feel blunt force impacts through it.
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Sean Manning




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PostPosted: Fri 02 Oct, 2020 11:00 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Martin Kallander wrote:
Sean, you don't need to know which depictions are gambesons with 30 layers, 10 layers, filled with other stuff or just normal clothes to know the modern 30 layer gambesons look nothing like any of them. It is true telling these apart from each other is difficult at times but the modern 30 layer gambesons aren't even vaguely shaped like them.

Could you explain with pictures? I already named two people who copy specific surviving heavy quilted garments, although neither makes the many-layered kind.

A lot of modern gambeson-makers are not brave enough to cut them like the originals and not hard-working enough to quilt them as densely as the originals. But the cut does not matter for understanding the basic construction. A 20 x 20 cm patch, like I made or like Tod uses in his tests, is fine for understanding what quilted armour can look and feel like. It does not show what the whole garment looked like, but it shows what a 20 x 20 cm section looked like.

Its important to separate the troubles which we moderns have with cutting historical clothing from the way the clothing is made up. Someone can beautifully lay out a 1580s doublet and then throw it together by machine, and they can hand-stitch a shapeless clumsy thing and call it a "replica gambeson." Neither is right, but each teaches some true things.

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