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Forum Index > Historical Arms Talk > stamina of medieval soldiers while wearing armour Reply to topic
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Philip Dyer





Joined: 25 Jul 2013

Posts: 502

PostPosted: Sun 08 Sep, 2019 10:56 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Dan Howard wrote:
No armour breathes. It doesn't matter whether it is made of metal or cloth or leather or kevlar. Leather and cloth are even worse than metal because they start out by being heavier and then they absorb moisture, which makes them even heavier and more onerous. Lice, ants, fleas, and flies love them.

Most of the accounts of people becoming overcome with heat stress in battle would have happened even if they were simply wearing heavy clothing. That heat stress is accelerated by wearing enclosed helmets, not armour.

Chainmail breathes allot because it is a mesh and it is armor.
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Jean Henri Chandler




Location: New Orleans
Joined: 20 Nov 2006

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PostPosted: Sun 08 Sep, 2019 11:02 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Dan Howard wrote:
No armour breathes. It doesn't matter whether it is made of metal or cloth or leather or kevlar. Leather and cloth are even worse than metal because they start out by being heavier and then they absorb moisture, which makes them even heavier and more onerous. Lice, ants, fleas, and flies love them.

Most of the accounts of people becoming overcome with heat stress in battle would have happened even if they were simply wearing heavy clothing. That heat stress is accelerated by wearing enclosed helmets, not armour.


That's a nice theory Dan - but it's no more than that unless you have some evidence to support it. Same as mine. From my experience, fighting with textile (linen) coat in fencing tournaments, it is hot but it does indeed 'breathe'. Once you have been at it for a while, it gets soaked with sweat (gross I know) but it actually cools you a little. That is just anecdotal so I can't definitively claim that this mirrors any realities 500 years ago but it's the basis of my perception of it.

I do agree though that textile armor is certainly susceptible to rot, insects etc. over time. Medieval jupons, aketons etc. were routinely boiled during longer campaigns to kill the lice.

I don't think leather as armor was as common as people seem to assume in modern times.

Mail, of course, does permit air to pass through it obviously.

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Dan Howard




Location: Maitland, NSW, Australia
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PostPosted: Sun 08 Sep, 2019 3:20 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Philip Dyer wrote:
Dan Howard wrote:
No armour breathes. It doesn't matter whether it is made of metal or cloth or leather or kevlar. Leather and cloth are even worse than metal because they start out by being heavier and then they absorb moisture, which makes them even heavier and more onerous. Lice, ants, fleas, and flies love them.

Most of the accounts of people becoming overcome with heat stress in battle would have happened even if they were simply wearing heavy clothing. That heat stress is accelerated by wearing enclosed helmets, not armour.

Chainmail breathes allot because it is a mesh and it is armor.


So how many people do you know who wear mail against their bare flesh?

Author: Bronze Age Military Equipment, Pen and Sword Books
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Philip Dyer





Joined: 25 Jul 2013

Posts: 502

PostPosted: Sun 08 Sep, 2019 4:01 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Dan Howard wrote:
Philip Dyer wrote:
Dan Howard wrote:
No armour breathes. It doesn't matter whether it is made of metal or cloth or leather or kevlar. Leather and cloth are even worse than metal because they start out by being heavier and then they absorb moisture, which makes them even heavier and more onerous. Lice, ants, fleas, and flies love them.

Most of the accounts of people becoming overcome with heat stress in battle would have happened even if they were simply wearing heavy clothing. That heat stress is accelerated by wearing enclosed helmets, not armour.

Chainmail breathes allot because it is a mesh and it is armor.


So how many people do you know who wear mail against their bare flesh?

For a long time is was common for mail to be worn directly over clothing. I know guys who wearing short sleeves of a mail shirt over their arms and mail drapes over their neck. Plate armor wasn't worn over bare flesh either.
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Henry O.





Joined: 18 Jun 2016

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PostPosted: Sun 08 Sep, 2019 4:13 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Anthony Clipsom wrote:
Quote:
I think it's mostly the helm and its visor (pig-face), though, so wearing a lighter, open-faced helm might provide much more stamina already.


I know work has been done on the effect of armour on e.g. breathing, heart rate etc. but does anyone know of any scientific tests on effect of open v. closed helmets?


Pietro Monte mentioned that the greater breath provided by having the visor raised could be an advantage at times.

"LXXVIII. HOW USEFUL IT IS TO HAVE THE VISOR RAISED.

"If someone knows how to parry and the enemy is strongly armed, it is often useful to have a visor which goes upwards, because our breathing endures more and it is also easier to see what must be done, and almost no danger threatens, or will rarely happen, especially if we have iron gauntlets to turn away the otherís weapon. But those who go grosso modo (roughly) lack that all places are well covered, and then they act no differently from blacksmiths beating each other. Finally, long breath is very powerful in fighting on foot or horseback; therefore we should train ourselves in breathing powerfully, in case this would have been denied us by nature."

Although it also depends on the design of the helmet. Elsewhere Monte discusses making sure that the visor doesn't come too close to the face, has plenty of holes/windows, that the windows on the visor and the windows on the bevor line up correctly, etc. in order to ensure that the fighter can breathe adequately.
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Anthony Clipsom




Location: YORKSHIRE, UK
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PostPosted: Mon 09 Sep, 2019 2:00 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Thanks for the reminder Henry. I knew I'd read a period comment on the subject but I couldn't remember where. Happy

It would appear that it was common for men awaiting battle to be "fully armed save for the head" and that tying on of helmets was a sign of imminent action.

Anthony Clipsom
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Dan Howard




Location: Maitland, NSW, Australia
Joined: 08 Dec 2004

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PostPosted: Mon 09 Sep, 2019 2:14 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Philip Dyer wrote:
Dan Howard wrote:
Philip Dyer wrote:
Dan Howard wrote:
No armour breathes. It doesn't matter whether it is made of metal or cloth or leather or kevlar. Leather and cloth are even worse than metal because they start out by being heavier and then they absorb moisture, which makes them even heavier and more onerous. Lice, ants, fleas, and flies love them.

Most of the accounts of people becoming overcome with heat stress in battle would have happened even if they were simply wearing heavy clothing. That heat stress is accelerated by wearing enclosed helmets, not armour.

Chainmail breathes allot because it is a mesh and it is armor.


So how many people do you know who wear mail against their bare flesh?

For a long time is was common for mail to be worn directly over clothing. I know guys who wearing short sleeves of a mail shirt over their arms and mail drapes over their neck. Plate armor wasn't worn over bare flesh either.

And none of them affect heat stress any more than regular clothing. I've done it in the Australian outback and in the tropics. Armour is no more bother than clothing. So long as your head stays ventilated, it doesn't matter what you are wearing.

Author: Bronze Age Military Equipment, Pen and Sword Books
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Luka Borscak




Location: Croatia
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PostPosted: Mon 09 Sep, 2019 3:22 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

I agree that armour (except helmet) doesn't add up much to heat in comparison with wearing just gambeson/arming clothes. BUT, armour's weight does fatigue you much more. I know how much longer I can fight with just gambeson and gauntlets compared to full armour even without closed helmet. And it's not because of heat or breathing but because of pure exhaustion. Of course highly trained men can fight much longer in full armour, but equally trained ones with lighter armour could fight effectively much longer.
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William P




Location: Sydney, Australia
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PostPosted: Yesterday at 9:49 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

it's an extreme case but theres an account of a man pulled from the battle line at a battle during the wars of the roses, and found to have died of the heat in his plate harness.

and this battle took place in england.. during winter, while it was snowing heavily.
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Dan Howard




Location: Maitland, NSW, Australia
Joined: 08 Dec 2004

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PostPosted: Yesterday at 4:20 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

William P wrote:
it's an extreme case but theres an account of a man pulled from the battle line at a battle during the wars of the roses, and found to have died of the heat in his plate harness.

and this battle took place in england.. during winter, while it was snowing heavily.


It was caused by his enclosed helmet, not his armour. The fighting at Towton was intense and prolonged. Many did not have the opportunity to pull back and raise their visors for relief.

Author: Bronze Age Military Equipment, Pen and Sword Books
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Anthony Clipsom




Location: YORKSHIRE, UK
Joined: 27 Jul 2009

Posts: 29

PostPosted: Today at 1:26 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Dan Howard wrote:
William P wrote:
it's an extreme case but theres an account of a man pulled from the battle line at a battle during the wars of the roses, and found to have died of the heat in his plate harness.

and this battle took place in england.. during winter, while it was snowing heavily.


It was caused by his enclosed helmet, not his armour. The fighting at Towton was intense and prolonged. Many did not have the opportunity to pull back and raise their visors for relief.


Not a story I'd heard before about Towton. Any chance of some details e.g. source or even name of casualty so I can follow up?

Anthony Clipsom
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