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Nathan Robinson
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PostPosted: Mon 08 Jan, 2007 12:21 am    Post subject: Jan 8: myArmoury.com news and updates         Reply with quote

Today's update:


The Battle of
Stamford Bridge
An article by Richard H. Fay


The Battle of Hastings

An article by G.L. Williamson


As always, you can see our Complete History of Updates listed right from our home page.
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Jean Thibodeau




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PostPosted: Mon 08 Jan, 2007 4:39 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Enjoyed both articles very much, congratulations to Richard and G.L. for clear and concise background and battle descriptions.

With the Stamford Bridge battle the lack of armour seems to have put the Norwegians at a significant disadvantage but also seems to indicate that given the opportunity leaving a heavy and hot hauberk behind must have been tempting. And a degree of overconfidence and the belief that no major battle being imminent.

Armoured with just helm and shield might give a small agility advantage in a skirmish but be a serious disadvantage in a standup fight lasting many hours were attrition of the less armoured side would be greater I assume.

With Hastings there would seem to have been a lack of time to really plan the battle on the British side and the default of just holding the shield wall might have succeeded if there had been better control of the British force i.e. discipline and troops well trained enough to actually obey the order to hold the line.

Any evidence that Edward tried to stop his men from falling into the trap of repeatedly pursuing the apparently retreating Norman force. Falling for it once is one thing making the same mistake all day long may be due to the difficulty of lacking the situational awareness of what was happening along the entire line and a lack of a command structure to issue orders clearly ? A very disciplined force might have been able to move some men out of line to attack the retreating Normans but avoid going so far that they would be surrounded and destroyed in detail i.e. Attack the retreating force but not straying so far from the shield wall that they could not themselves retreat back to the shield wall. The only safe thing for a force not trained or disciplined well enough to pull this off would have been to at least be disciplined enough to just hold their position!

Anyway, I guess I'm just speculating on how I would try to win if I was on the British side.

A stalemated battle might have meant that the issue would have been settled at a later battle or William might have had to retreat back to Normandy if he couldn't establish a defendable beach head and bring in reinforcements and supplies ?

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PostPosted: Mon 08 Jan, 2007 5:42 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

With this week's update, we welcome two new authors to the myArmoury fold. Welcome, Richard and G.L.! Happy
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PostPosted: Mon 08 Jan, 2007 9:31 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Congrats on two finely written articles, Richard and GL! Read a few things I hadn't seen before, which is always a pleasure. Hats off to you both.

-Greg

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PostPosted: Mon 08 Jan, 2007 10:31 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Those are two very nice articles, very concise without going into a lot of speculation as is often the case with this period in history. Congratulations to the authors.

Jean Thibodeau wrote:
With the Stamford Bridge battle the lack of armour seems to have put the Norwegians at a significant disadvantage but also seems to indicate that given the opportunity leaving a heavy and hot hauberk behind must have been tempting. And a degree of overconfidence and the belief that no major battle being imminent.


It definitely put the Norwegians at a disadvantage. However, as someone who's worn the stuff for extended periods of time I can say it would be very tempting.

Quote:
With Hastings there would seem to have been a lack of time to really plan the battle on the British side and the default of just holding the shield wall might have succeeded if there had been better control of the British force i.ediscipline and troops well trained enough to actually obey the order to hold the line.


I disagree. Given the composition of the opposing armies Harold couldn't have chosen a better position. Advancing even a portion of his force to make contact with the Norman army would be a mistake, as history showed. William won by luck more than anything else. If the English had maintained their position they very well may have won simply by attrition since the battle was largely a stalemate until the english flank broke. Some of the english troops at Senlac were probably involved at Fulford and Stamford bridge. The English were far from fresh when they met the Normans. In my opinion fatigue had more to do with the English breaking formation rather than any inherent lack of discipline, as the English army was as capable and disciplined as any in europe at the time and far more unified than Williams conglomeration of an army.

Quote:
A stalemated battle might have meant that the issue would have been settled at a later battle or William might have had to retreat back to Normandy if he couldn't establish a defendable beach head and bring in reinforcements and supplies ?


If the Normans hadn't gained victory Williams position would have been untenable and he would have had to retreat back to Normandy as his material and lines of supply were rather limited.
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Richard Fay




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PostPosted: Mon 08 Jan, 2007 11:08 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Hello all!

Thanks, all, for your kind comments and praise. It really helps this particular aspiring author's confidence! Wink

Patrick Kelly wrote:

Those are two very nice articles, very concise without going into a lot of speculation as is often the case with this period in history. Congratulations to the authors.

Patrick,
I was a bit worried that the Stamford Bridge article would be nothing but speculation! I chose not to delve into the questions surrounding the actual course of events, and instead just presented an enjoyable synthesis of the available information. Apparently, the "swill-tub" incident was only recorded in one English source, but it was too exciting to leave out. Besides, a narrow span could be defended by one man for a while anyway.

Patrick Kelly wrote:
Some of the english troops at Senlac were probably involved at Fulford and Stamford bridge. The English were far from fresh when they met the Normans. In my opinion fatigue had more to do with the English breaking formation rather than any inherent lack of discipline, as the English army was as capable and disciplined as any in europe at the time and far more unified than Williams conglomeration of an army.


I agree with Patrick here. I see Harold's win at Stamford Bridge as a Pyrrhic victory. It may have bolstered the English morale a bit, but they had fought a hard battle after a forced march, and then were forced to do it all again a bit later. I don't think they had proper time to rest and replenish before they had to meet William's invading force. I briefly touch on some of this in my conclusion; if Edwin and Morcar had defeated Harald Hardrada at Fulford, Harold Godwinson may have defeated William at Hastings. Of course, luck did have a lot to do with it; that's why most medieval kings tried to avoid battles.

Jean Thibodeau wrote:
With the Stamford Bridge battle the lack of armour seems to have put the Norwegians at a significant disadvantage but also seems to indicate that given the opportunity leaving a heavy and hot hauberk behind must have been tempting. And a degree of overconfidence and the belief that no major battle being imminent.

Armoured with just helm and shield might give a small agility advantage in a skirmish but be a serious disadvantage in a standup fight lasting many hours were attrition of the less armoured side would be greater I assume.

Jean,
It was supposedly a sunny and warm day when Hardrada's invaders left their hauberks in their ships to gather their hostages (or so they thought) at Stamford Bridge. I've only worn butted mail, so mine was overly heavy to begin with, but I will agree with Patrick that it can be rather irksome, and tiring. If they expected no trouble, it would have seemed logical to leave their heaviest gear behind. Harold arrived much quicker than his foes thought possible; his march north was one of the greatest feats in medieval military history, and would probably be better remembered if he hadn't lost his crown and his life at Hastings. I found it interesting to discover that this move was foreshadowed by Harold's swift action in Wales in 1062. He was actually a formidible opponent for William.

The Norwegians were able to hold the English off the bridge for a bit while they prepared some sort of defense. Perhaps their lack of armour gave them a brief advantage as they maneuvered, but it probably doomed them once they formed up in a shield wall. Any time they moved to strike they would expose their bodies, while at least some of the English would probably be armoured. Even so, it took the deaths of the commanders, Hardrada and Tostig, to finally break the Norwegian shield wall. The English suffered heavy casualities; loses that probably couldn't completely be replaced in time for Hastings.

Hardrada may have been a bit overconfident, but he felt the north of England was subdued after his victory at Fulford. He never expected Harold to arrive as quickly as he did.

Anyway, thanks again for all your kind words! I'm glad you appreciated my efforts. Happy

By the way, good job G. L..!

Stay safe!

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Allen Andrews




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PostPosted: Mon 08 Jan, 2007 11:42 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

I really enjoyed these two articles. It is a period of interest for me and I like the both the substance and the way it was presented.

Richard Fay wrote:
Harold arrived much quicker than his foes thought possible; his march north was one of the greatest feats in medieval military history


I agree! To march 190 miles in 5 days and then fight a decisive battle?! Truly men of iron.

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PostPosted: Mon 08 Jan, 2007 1:14 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Patrick Kelly wrote:
Quote:
With Hastings there would seem to have been a lack of time to really plan the battle on the British side and the default of just holding the shield wall might have succeeded if there had been better control of the British force i.ediscipline and troops well trained enough to actually obey the order to hold the line.


I disagree. Given the composition of the opposing armies Harold couldn't have chosen a better position. Advancing even a portion of his force to make contact with the Norman army would be a mistake, as history showed. William won by luck more than anything else. If the English had maintained their position they very well may have won simply by attrition since the battle was largely a stalemate until the english flank broke. Some of the english troops at Senlac were probably involved at Fulford and Stamford bridge. The English were far from fresh when they met the Normans. In my opinion fatigue had more to do with the English breaking formation rather than any inherent lack of discipline, as the English army was as capable and disciplined as any in europe at the time and far more unified than Williams conglomeration of an army.

Quote:
A stalemated battle might have meant that the issue would have been settled at a later battle or William might have had to retreat back to Normandy if he couldn't establish a defendable beach head and bring in reinforcements and supplies ?


If the Normans hadn't gained victory Williams position would have been untenable and he would have had to retreat back to Normandy as his material and lines of supply were rather limited.


Makes sense and with a good defensive position the English only had to hold to win ( not lose ) while the Normans had to actively defeat the English. The Normans were not in a logistic position to pursue a long campaign or have a secure base that they could hold i.e. the only choice would have been to retreat back to Normandy assuming an orderly strategic retreat and not a rout.

Maybe I should have said that the English didn't have the time to plan for any complex tactical manouevers and a static defense in a good defensive position was simply the best option anyway if they had held the line of the shieldwall.

In any case there are probably many different ways any battle might turn out even with identical initial conditions and I couldn't resist playing armchair general. Wink Laughing Out Loud

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PostPosted: Tue 09 Jan, 2007 2:41 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Thank you all for the kind words. I look forward to doing more pieces for the site in the future. If I weren't about to pass out at the keyboard (another long night of research/study...heheh) I'd type more. Oh, congrats to Richard on his article. Happy
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PostPosted: Tue 09 Jan, 2007 12:39 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

I very much enjoyed the Battle of Hastings article. I've always found the history of this war to be interesting.
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PostPosted: Tue 09 Jan, 2007 1:23 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Great articles. Very good subject choice. 1066 was quite a year.
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PostPosted: Tue 09 Jan, 2007 3:12 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Very nice articles! hope to see more in the future.
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PostPosted: Tue 09 Jan, 2007 6:05 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

An excellent pair of articles about a fascinating point in time, one that leads to limitless imagining of "what if ..."
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PostPosted: Tue 09 Jan, 2007 7:23 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Thanks to both of you who wrote these articles, they were both great reads! I especially enjoyed the part about the berserker holding off the English on Stamford Bridge. That's the stuff of legends!
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PostPosted: Wed 10 Jan, 2007 8:13 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Tim Lison wrote:
I especially enjoyed the part about the berserker holding off the English on Stamford Bridge. That's the stuff of legends!


And it very well may be, the stuff of legends that is! It apparently appears in only once source, but the sources I used pointed out that the story was in an English chronicle, so the reported description of the heroic actions of that particular berserker may be true. (Why glorify the actions of your enemy? Well, there are some reasons, including making your victory appear even more heroic, but the course of events surrounding the berserker champion may have the ring of truth to it.) Of course, it may just have been a way for the English to show themselves as the smarter combatants. After all, it was an Anglo-Saxon that paddled the swill tub beneath the bridge and struck the berserker from underneath! (Think about the positioning of that for a moment, and where a mail hauberk tends to be open, and you can get a better idea just where this poor brute was struck! Ouch!)

Glad you enjoyed the article!

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PostPosted: Wed 10 Jan, 2007 10:20 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Patrick Kelly wrote:
I disagree. Given the composition of the opposing armies Harold couldn't have chosen a better position. Advancing even a portion of his force to make contact with the Norman army would be a mistake, as history showed. William won by luck more than anything else. If the English had maintained their position they very well may have won simply by attrition since the battle was largely a stalemate until the english flank broke. Some of the english troops at Senlac were probably involved at Fulford and Stamford bridge. The English were far from fresh when they met the Normans. In my opinion fatigue had more to do with the English breaking formation rather than any inherent lack of discipline, as the English army was as capable and disciplined as any in europe at the time and far more unified than Williams conglomeration of an army.


Wasn't it a case of veterans vs. veterans? Many of the men in William's army had fought with/for him on and off for years, although for many of them Hastings was probably their first great battle under his command. So Harold's disadvantages also got a little magnified that way--and if William's men weren't professionals, I doubt they would have been able to react and exploit the consequences of the Breton retreat so quickly.

BTW, what century is the Book of Arms from? The illustration of William certainly has a very different flavor from those in the Bayeux tapestry. Not a criticism--just curious.
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PostPosted: Wed 10 Jan, 2007 10:28 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Lafayette C Curtis wrote:
BTW, what century is the Book of Arms from? The illustration of William certainyl had a very different flavor tha ntose fro mthe Bayeux tapestry. Not a criticism--just curious.


At a guess, I'd date it to somewhere in the 15th century or so, based on the armour, sword, and dress. Nathan, who illustrates all the articles, should be able to be more helpful.

Edit: There was a Sir Thomas Holme who held the title Clarenceux King of Arms from 1476-1483. Perhaps the book was his.

Both of the articles in this update group feature a mix of interesting art, as do many of our other articles. In just these two, we have images from the Bayeux Tapestry (11th century), what appears to be the 13th century, the 15th century (most likely) and the 19th century, plus some others.

Happy

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PostPosted: Wed 10 Jan, 2007 10:39 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Hello all!

I hope Nathan doesn't mind if I jump in here (I know he's a very busy man), but I found the information regarding the image of William the Conqueror from the British Library:
British Library wrote:


Record Number: 8144
Shelfmark: Harley 4205
Page Folio Number: f.1
Description: William I, the Conqueror, holding a sword and sceptre, with framed verse.
Title of Work: Sir Thomas Holme's Book of Arms
Author: -
Illustrator: -
Production: Circa 1445-1450
Language/Script: Middle English / -

So, Sir Thomas Holme's Book of Arms is mid 15th century.

I hope this helped!

Stay safe!

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PostPosted: Wed 10 Jan, 2007 5:05 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Lafayette C Curtis wrote:
Wasn't it a case of veterans vs. veterans? Many of the men in William's army had fought with/for him on and off for years, although for many of them Hastings was probably their first great battle under his command. So Harold's disadvantages also got a little magnified that way--and if William's men weren't professionals, I doubt they would have been able to react and exploit the consequences of the Breton retreat so quickly.


Yes, and no. I didn't say Williams army wasn't a professionsl force. Professional doesn't mean unified and cohesive in a common purpose. Both armies contained a large number of veteran troops. Troops such as the English Housecarls and the Norman Familia would have been considered some of the elite soldiers of their day. While William would have had a large number of troops with him who had served under him in previous campaigns, his army was much more of a conglomeration of Normans, Bretons, etc. Many of the nobles under him, such as Count Eustace of Boulogne, owed him fealty but were far from friendly allies. His own brother, Bishop Odo of Bayeaux, would later be imprisoned by the Duke for crimes against the realm. William was leading a lot of people who were there for their own motivations and loyalty to their Duke wasn't neccessarily high on the list. By comparison the English were a much more unified force in terms of their goals and ambitions. Harolds main commanders were his surviving brothers, Gyrth and Leofwine, and no matter how treacherous and conniving the Godwin family was it was certainly unified. In the end William had a lot more to worry about than just repelling an invader. Not only did he have to win a battle but he also had to keep his diverse army together and focused, something he was only able to do through an obvious display of his well-known iron will.

In my opinion the long held belief that the English were at some kind of disadvantage is a myth. It seems to have been created under the belief that the Norman army was the superior one because it contained cavalry. If one studies this battle in detail and compares the various sources from the period it should become clear there was no disadvantage on the English side. Harold led a motivated and cohesive army. He also chose a position to fight from that couldn't have been better. The terrain at Senlac optimized his armies strengths and completely negated the Norman advantages of mobile cavalry and a larger number of missile troops. The result was a real slug-fest with no real advantage being gained until the English flank gave chase to the retreating Bretons. Of course the Normans were able to exploit it because, after all, they planned it. They had used that same tactic time and again with good success, from the battle of Civitatae in the 1050's to Williams campaigns in Normandy. They were able to react so quickly because that maneuver was in their well established bag of tricks.

In the end, if the English had a breakdown in discipline it was only due to fatigue and lack of communication, in my opinion. The English had fought two major battles that month prior to Hastings, and Fulford may have even been larger in the number of troops engaged. They fought two previous battles and marched hundreds of miles to the third and final round, so even though they had opportunities to rest they were continually engaged during the entire month of October, if not actively giving battle at least on the move in-transit. In this respect Williams army was far fresher. The breaking of the English line only came after Harolds two main subordinates, his brothers, were killed. This obviously effected the command and control element within the army. Being lured into pursuit may have been, and in my opinion probably was, a case of a few going then every thinks, "Okay, we're all going" then everybody goes. By the time command is regained a large number of troops have inadvertently committed themselves. I've seen this myself more than once in reenactment combat and that's far from the real-life stress of battle.

I may be a big Norman fan-boy but I'll be the first to admit, they didn't win because of their innate superiority and because of any inherent English inferiority, but rather from being able to quickly exploit a lucky occurrence.
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Hugo Voisine





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PostPosted: Wed 10 Jan, 2007 7:01 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

I found those two articles very interesting. Well done Richard and G.L. Happy
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