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Gordon Frye




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PostPosted: Thu 09 Sep, 2004 1:01 pm    Post subject: Armour Effectiveness in Real Life         Reply with quote

Gentlemen;

At the urging of Jean Thibodeau, I'm starting a new thread concerning people's experiences with armour in their own activities, be they live steel combat, jousting, or otherwise. I am interested in finding out what other's have concluded through such experiences as to not just the effectiveness of their armour, but also of how it can have, shall we say, "untintended consequences" due to weight, lack of mobility, etc.

In a conversation with Allan Senefelder, he noted that his belief in why there is the mythology of the armoured knight being a "turtle on his back" when on the ground is due primarily to the late use of extremely heavy armour for the German tournament course with sharp lances, which on occasion necessitated help in mounting, etc. Of course this sort of thing has been further reinforced through Hollywood's scenes of knights being hoisted upon their horses with winches, etc. Allan has an excellent point in all of this, in that the late use of heavy armour in tournaments seems to permiate the modern conciousness, but I have a different theory which may explain at least some of it.

In my own experience (pretty recent, actually) the wearing of armour has the unfortunate tendency to really change your center of gravity for the worse; i.e. it tends to make you even more top-heavy than you already are. In a recent event I was involved in, my idiot horse (the other one is great, BTW, which is why my friend was on HIM) decided on a whim to buck me off at the gallop, while I was wearing a long-sleeved shirt of maille, a maille coif, skull cap and carrying lance and Norman kite shield. After tossing the shield and lance (I had no desire to see if I could snow-board in a shield with no snow on the ground) I bailled/got tossed, and it seemed at the time to me that the extra weight of the maille shirt etc (around 30+ pounds) added a lot to the inertia,and that impact was pretty spectacular. Well, I remember rolling a few times at least. So my theory is that with the added weight of armour, the knight who was unhorsed (at least at speed) was so stunned by the impact that of course he didn't get up... I sure as heck didn't! (I have to admit it was pretty cool having the maille shirt stripped off of me like the Normans were shown doing to the Saxon dead in the Bayeux Tapestries!) Took a while to regain my senses, even though I was wearing a helmet, no concussion, etc. I would have been dead meat for any lacky with a "prei a'dieu"!

So I guess my question to all would be: What are your experiences? Did armour help or hinder? Do we have any jousters out there who have taken serious falls without any ill effects and were actually protected by the armour? How about live steel guys, any ill effects because of the armour???

Another question while we're at it: Any one ever see the reverse side of an original shield designed for use on horseback? If so, are the hand-holds in a different position than for foot use? My own experience is that the modern placement, while effective for foot use, really hinders the control of the reins!!!

Thanks for any responses,

Gordon Frye

"After God, we owe our victory to our Horses"
Gonsalo Jimenez de Quesada
http://www.renaissancesoldier.com/
http://historypundit.blogspot.com/
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Matt G. Meekma




Location: Horicon, Wi
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PostPosted: Thu 09 Sep, 2004 4:19 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Gordon,

I myself have no experience with armour, but have Just recently Watched Lloyd Clark and his Friend Rod (current Jousting World Champion) From the King's Champions Jousting group compete at Lanzefest. Both wear heavy armour and i am sure that Lloyd would be able to give you a first person account of being unhorsed while in it.

Sorry that I don't have any personal insight but I'll send off a PM to Lloyd to help you out.

Beer is God's way of saying He wants Us to be Happy. - Ben Franklin
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Gordon Frye




Location: Kingston, Washington
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PostPosted: Thu 09 Sep, 2004 4:41 pm    Post subject: Armour in the Joust etc.         Reply with quote

Matt;

Thanks! I hope to be able to speak to Rod this weekend actually, assuming he is attending the "International Jousting Championships" in Sonora, Ca. I'm supposed to help out a bit with some of the stuff, so I was going to use the opportunity to query the competitors as to their own experiences. But please do send him a message... he might be able to write up some interesting and amusing anecdotes!

Thanks again, and

Cheers,

Gordon

"After God, we owe our victory to our Horses"
Gonsalo Jimenez de Quesada
http://www.renaissancesoldier.com/
http://historypundit.blogspot.com/
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Allan Senefelder
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PostPosted: Thu 09 Sep, 2004 4:54 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

I'm EXTREMELY interested in hearing some responses on this .

Gordon , most modern made shields seem to lack a gaug(sp) or the long strap that went around the neck when on horseback to take most of the weight of the shield on the neck and shoulders( the same way it did for the greek round shield so that the hoplite could use his hands to control the pike ) so that the hand that holds the reins which is also the hand that hold the shield is free to both simply stear horse and shield .
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Gordon Frye




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PostPosted: Thu 09 Sep, 2004 5:28 pm    Post subject: Shield Straps         Reply with quote

Allan;

I actually experimented with the use of a shield strap last month... I sure didn't like it much! It did give a lot more freedom to my hands, but the darned thing kept banging around, and just wouldn't stay in one place for me. Maybe it's just getting used to it, I don't know. I do recall that not only the Normans etc. used that style of strap, but certainly much later the Anglo-Scottish Borderers were using a similar strap to hold their targets/shields over their backs. Interesting that since they generally wore maille, that they used the shield to protect their backs (of course it could just be that since they were usually herding someone else's cattle at the time it was to good effect there Big Grin ) So obviously there was something to it, or it wouldn't have been done for 2000+ years.

I have to admit though, that I was a tad cautious about trying such a method for long (with good reason, it turned out!) I had an inkling that my horse was going to rebel against a shield banging him in the flank, so I wasn't too keen on the idea of having the thing attached to me by my neck. I'll have to give it a try with my steady old War Horse soon, just to see how it works with a horse that isn't feeling like being a squirrel (or Alpo) that day.

Thanks Allan, I always appreciate your comments! When are you posting some new pics of cool original armour??? I am really looking forward to seeing more of the stuff you find!

Gordon

"After God, we owe our victory to our Horses"
Gonsalo Jimenez de Quesada
http://www.renaissancesoldier.com/
http://historypundit.blogspot.com/
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Jean Thibodeau




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PostPosted: Thu 09 Sep, 2004 7:04 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Gordon;

From a modern perspective I would want some sort of quick release or breakable/breaway release on a strap holding a shield over my neck. Maybe there was something like this that was never mentionned in the historical record?

I'm just guessing but I imagine that one would still hold the handgrip but with a loose open grip allowing the fingers to hold the reins on horse back or use a twohanded grip when on foot using a spear or a pike.
The handgrip should be loose and narrow enough to permit this use of the fingers. (And close to the rim of the shield.)
Also this would allow enough control to avoid having the shield flapping around.

The shield might be slung over the back for more control of a spear or when using a "Danish twohanded Axe"?

Is the strap around the neck or rather slung over the opposite shoulder in a diagonal carry where the neck is not normally supporting any of the weight of the shield?

You can easily give up your freedom. You have to fight hard to get it back!
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Gordon Frye




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PostPosted: Thu 09 Sep, 2004 7:34 pm    Post subject: Shield Straps         Reply with quote

Jean, the problem I found was that there was too much distance between the forward grip (where I would grasp it with my left hand) and the right side of the shield. While it allowed for excellent ballance while on foot, I found that it really got in the way of my using my hand and especially my fingers to manipulate the reins for the horse. There was about 4 inches of wood blocking the way, necessitating the reins to make a sharp turn around the right edge of the shield before they could come into my fingers. Am I making sense here?

I don't know if I'm really explaining it properly, but for the control of the horse, one needs a lot of communication via the reins, as it tells the horse what you want, and it can really tell you what the horse is thinking too, so you need to have a good "feel" on the reins,and "contact" with the horse's mouth. Thus having them bent around the edge of the shield really throws a monkey wrench into it, at least for me. Of course one needs to ride using only the left hand (assuming you are right-handed, LOL!) to control the horse, leaving your strong arm to hold your weapon. You CAN use both hands, and sometimes need to, but it sure can be awkward if you have a lance, a sword or carbine in your hand, as I have discovered on occasion! Perhaps though the handles were large enough for the user to slip his entire hand through, and just carry it on his wrist, while his hand could come to the edge of the shield and hold the reins properly. I would LOVE to see some illustrations/photo's of original shields that show an over-large grip!

I can see well how it would be handy to have the shield independent of your hands on occasion, but by the same token, it would really suck to have the darned thing come smack your horse in the head at an inopportune moment. Wearing a shield close-buckled to your back would probably work well, though, come to think of it. It remains to be seen... we need to get some imput from someone who has landed on one! Big Grin But you may well be right that the straps were lightly built and sort of "break away" or something like that.

Allan, were there any handles left on the shield you guys used as the prototype for your Renaissance shield?

Gordon

"After God, we owe our victory to our Horses"
Gonsalo Jimenez de Quesada
http://www.renaissancesoldier.com/
http://historypundit.blogspot.com/
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Allan Senefelder
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PostPosted: Thu 09 Sep, 2004 7:45 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Jean as far as i've been able to tell the shield is still held or strapped ( the Bayeaux Tapestry shows the reverse side of several teardrop/kite shields and the upper arm appears to be held by either tight cross straps or adjustable straps ) to the arm with the gaug(sp) moving the weight of the shield from the arm to the neck and shoulders . The hand especially
if the fore arm were strapped in would be free to hold the reins and the shield would move with the upper arm . However
this brings up a good point that is why Gordon started the thread . What i've just put forward is to large extent accepted theory based on mostly illustrated period sources . Whats the real use expirience(sp) of the jousters and WMA folks out there with this and other protective gear ?

Gordon , late gothic gauntlet and 16th century steel horsemans axe pics tommorow night .
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Allan Senefelder
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PostPosted: Thu 09 Sep, 2004 7:48 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Oh sorry Gordon the target we worked from just had the little washers of leather under four rivets left from where the
strap layout once was (long rotted away as is so often the case with period pieces ) .
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Jean Thibodeau




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PostPosted: Thu 09 Sep, 2004 8:22 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Gordon/ Allan;

To have usefull use of the shield side hand holding reins or spears I would think that the grip would have to be very close to the rim so that the rim does not interfere as in your example: I would expect that the shield would cover your closed fist but extended fingers would clear the edge.

Just a thought: If the grip was loose and big enough, would it make sense for the forearm to be , at need, slipped forward so that the hand strap would end up in the bend of the elbow? ( Inside of the elbow at most or mid arm at least.)

The elbow replacing the hand and the "Guige" playing the role of a third hand.

When the guige is being used I assume that the forearm strap would be bipassed ( Not used) with the hand holding the hand strap and ready to be slipped to the above mentionned elbow possition.

A lot of guesswork here: What you want to be able to do with the shield should impact were the handholds are possitionned and conversely there possitions limit what you can do with the shield. ( A bit of which came first the chicken or the egg.)

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Gordon Frye




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PostPosted: Thu 09 Sep, 2004 8:51 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Jean, I think that pretty much is it. Either the handle/strap has to be close to the edge, or it needs to be big enough to allow the hand to fit through and be able to feely grasp the reins at either the edge, or past the edge of the shield.

One thing I noticed in the Bayeux Tapestries is that there seems to be a square pattern to the straps... perhaps one set is for foot use, the other for mounted? I don't know at all.

Allan, I look forward with bated breath to see the Gothic gauntlet! And of course, it is only reasonable that there would be little if anything left of the straps and liner to the 16th Century shield... it was a long shot! BTW, were the rivet washers square, or round???

Thanks for the recap Jean, and the info, Allan. Now we need to see what plate does in real life!

Gordon

"After God, we owe our victory to our Horses"
Gonsalo Jimenez de Quesada
http://www.renaissancesoldier.com/
http://historypundit.blogspot.com/
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Rod Walker




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PostPosted: Thu 09 Sep, 2004 9:34 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Hi Gordon, I will be arriving at Sonora tomorrow. Please hunt me down.
Cheers

Rod
Jouster
www.jousting.com.au

"Come! Let us lay a lance in rest,
And tilt at windmills under a wild sky!
For who would live so petty and unblessed
That dare not tilt at something, ere he die?"
--Errantry, John Galsworthy
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Gordon Frye




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PostPosted: Thu 09 Sep, 2004 10:13 pm    Post subject: Sonora!         Reply with quote

Rod;

Great! I look forward to meeting you! I'll be up on Saturday being helpful if I can.

Is there anything you might need, horse gear, etc that I can bring up? I packed a bunch of spare tack, reins, girths etc, as I know it gets some hard useage. Even threw a couple of Portuguese saddles into the truck just in case. I assume that Clif is supplying you with a horse... his are great, especially that big Percheron mare!

Cheers, and see you there!

Gordon

"After God, we owe our victory to our Horses"
Gonsalo Jimenez de Quesada
http://www.renaissancesoldier.com/
http://historypundit.blogspot.com/
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Jean Thibodeau




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PostPosted: Fri 10 Sep, 2004 12:02 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

On the subject of falling off horses: I would imagine that the odds of falling of a horse would vary very much according to the type of activity.

With jousting falling off would be expected to be an unavoidable and frequent event as opposed to recreationnal horseback riding where falling would be expected but hopefully a rare event.

I would expect that some form of trainning in anticipation of falling would be a good idea?
In a similar way that the first thing you learn when practicing Judo is how to fall!

Do "Professionnal" jousters practice falling in or out of armour from a horse so as to have the best possible chance of avoiding serious injuries. Sort off develop catlike ability to land with minimun damage.

You can easily give up your freedom. You have to fight hard to get it back!
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Patrick Kelly




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PostPosted: Fri 10 Sep, 2004 1:27 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

I once fell from a bridge (actually I was knocked from it) while wearing a light harness of Milanese plate. The fall was perhaps six or seven feet into a dry (of course) riverbed. The fall didn't knock me out but it did stun me nearly senseless. I can just imagine how much more *dramatic* the fall from a charging horse would be. At least I've never had my "junk" skewered Surprised
"In valor there is hope.".................. Tacitus
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Gordon Frye




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PostPosted: Fri 10 Sep, 2004 1:43 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Patrick;

Thanks! This is exactly the sort of stuff that I'm interested in. Were you pretty well bruised up, or did the plate protect you from the rocks and such? What kind of damage did your armour sustain from the fall?

I guess on the plus side of your fall, being in a dry river bed, was that you couldn't very well drown in it! Stunned and in a suit of plate might otherwise be incompatible with swimming.

Speaking of getting it in the "junk" (sorry Rod!) it shows why most (if not all) of the arming saddles had huge plates of steel covering the front of the saddle, and thus covering your "junk"! Presently, the only saddles that have much protection there are the Portuguese saddles, which are nothing compared to the 15th and 16th Century arming saddles! Good reasons for such, of course.

There is the sad story of a really amazing Conquistador, Melchor Diaz, who as a part of the Coronado Expedition of the early 1540's led some men into what is now Southern California. With them they were driving some sheep for their supplies, and a dog was chasing them, much to Diaz's annoyance. He ran down the dog (on horseback, of course) and hurled his lance at the beast... it avoided it, and the lance stuck into the ground, while unfortunately at the same time his horse swerved into it. He got the end of it, which must have been shod or with a point on it as well, right in "the junk". Pierced his urethra, and he died two weeks later. He said "If only I had a silver tube, I would live". Jeeze. What a way to go. So Rod, count your blessings!!! We're happy you were far more fortunate!

Gordon

"After God, we owe our victory to our Horses"
Gonsalo Jimenez de Quesada
http://www.renaissancesoldier.com/
http://historypundit.blogspot.com/
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Patrick Kelly




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PostPosted: Fri 10 Sep, 2004 2:07 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Gordon,

As I recall the only damage to my harness was a dented pauldron. I was wearing an open faced sallet so I managed to twist around so as not to land face first. The bowl of the helmet was made from 12gauge steel so it came out unscathed. This was many years ago, back when most US built armor was built to Sherman tank specs. The harness didn't have a back plate (part of the light designation) just my heavy gambeson in that area so there wasn't anything back there to dent up. I don't recall being bruised up any more than after a normal day in armor. Fortunately the only permanent damage was to my pride.

"In valor there is hope.".................. Tacitus


Last edited by Patrick Kelly on Fri 10 Sep, 2004 3:18 pm; edited 1 time in total
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Joseph C.




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PostPosted: Fri 10 Sep, 2004 2:56 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Well, I can only post on my experiences with SCA foot combat in full-plate, which I found reduced my flexibility and stamina pretty significantly. It also reduced my peripheral vision a lot too. It did protect me quite well though—even considering I was only wearing a tunic and BDU pants. (Considering that I live in Florida, I can’t even imagine fighting in a gambeson!) I remember shots to the forearm and hand area hurting the most. A few of the head shots rang my bell pretty good. (The helmet did have thick foam padding in it, BTW.) I think the worst damage I received was light bruising.
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Gordon Frye




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PostPosted: Fri 10 Sep, 2004 5:55 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Patrick and Joseph, thanks for your comments on this. I recall well the "good old days" of repro armour which was designed and build to withstand a direct hit from a Krupp 88... that or it was a gossamer thread in relationship to the brute swinging that rattan club! Yup, bruises were a standard issue as I recall, if not from the blunt instrument, then from the poor ability of the armour to spread the force due to poor design.

I well remember the first time I ran into a fellow named Jay Bliss, out of Fresno Ca. What a breath of fresh air! I bought a Gothic harness off of him immediately, because, well, it actually looked and felt right! What a Concept!!! I ended up with a nice mid-16th Century half-suit that weighed less than my arming clothes but still was great protection and worked properly... darn, I wish I hadn't had to sell that stuff off.

Swinging wildly here, I note that in the "Off-Topic" forum, in the "King's Champions" thread there is some interest in actually testing some weapons, and perhaps armour. The only serious scientific testing (that I know of) of armour is the series done by the Zeughaus Museum in Graz, Austria of some of their collection. They took an original breastplate of ca. 1570 and actually shot at it with one of their wheel lock pistols of the same vintage. Made a nice hole in it, but the bullet was stopped by the linen liner that they made up to imitate clothing.

A friend of mine, Henrik Olsgaard, some years ago did a "test" with a compadre of his to see how well a man on foot could withstand a lance hit, using a heater shield as the target. The gentleman who was the target was of course in armour, while Henrik charged him on horseback using a heavy lance with a coronelle point. Seems as though they tried it some six times, and three of them resulted in the subject being knocked ass over teakettle, while the other three resulted in a slipped lance off the shield. They sharpened the coronelle points, too, btw so it would catch. The sheild held up fine. Anyway, interesting and fun tests to try out!

Allan, since you stated something about being interested in doing "tests", what do you want to try? Against wheellock pistols, arquebuses, long bows, or just swords and lances??? I'm game, as long as I'm not the guy wearing the armour being tested... Big Grin Anyway, it's all food for thought.

Jean, I have no idea as to whether the Jousters "practice" their falls, but I suspect it's more of an "on the job training" event...lol! I'll find out more this weekend!

Thanks again for your input Patrick and Joseph, I appreciate it!

Gordon

"After God, we owe our victory to our Horses"
Gonsalo Jimenez de Quesada
http://www.renaissancesoldier.com/
http://historypundit.blogspot.com/
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Patrick Kelly




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PostPosted: Fri 10 Sep, 2004 6:28 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Your welcome Gordon,

Most of my fighting was done with steel blunts. My harness was considered quite good for the time. Only the helmet was made to stop an RPG round. The rest of it was pretty accurate. That helmet sure rang like a bell every time I took a blow to the head!

"In valor there is hope.".................. Tacitus
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