Why the French lost the Battle of Agincourt: Heavy armour made troops too exhausted


Blackleaf
#1
At the start of the Battle of Agincourt of 1415, the English - led by King Henry V - were outnumbered six to one by the French.

But at the end of the battle the French had been annihilated, suffering 10,000 fatalities. The English, meanwhile, had just 112 soldiers killed.

Why, despite their numeric superiority, being better equipped and fighting on home turf, could the French could not triumph over Henry V and his 6,000 longbow archers, dismounted knights and men-at-arms?

The answer may be in the armour that the French were wearing. Experts now believe that the heavy armour worn by the French may have made them too exhausted to fight.

As they advanced across the fields of sticky mud, trampled down by the sheer volume of numbers, their breathing was restricted and tiredness kicked in quickly.

Their burden was much greater than the modern soldiers' backpack leading experts to believe that the armour played a decisive role in the 1415 battle.

The findings come after scientists from the Royal Armouries, Leeds, monitored four men, aged around 36, who carry out re-enactments using 15th century armour from different countries in Europe.

Their oxygen consumption and energy expenditure were measured as they did a range of walking and running exercises in suits weighing between 30 and 50kg.

The findings, published today in the journal Proceedings of the Royal Society B, showed that the net energy cost of walking was 2.1 to 2.3 times higher when wearing armour than when not wearing armour while running incurred a 1.9 times higher energy cost.

Why the French lost the Battle of Agincourt: Heavy armour made troops too exhausted to fight

By Daily Mail Reporter
20th July 2011
Daily Mail

It was a large scale medieval-day equivalent of David and Goliath. On the battlefields of Agincourt, the French outnumbered the English by up to six to one with a massive army of 36,000 soldiers.

Yet despite their numeric superiority, being better equipped and fighting on home turf the French could not triumph over Henry V and his 6,000 longbow archers, dismounted knights and men-at-arms.

They hit problems with their armour which, historians now believe, was their Achilles' heel, making them so exhausted that they were unable to fight.


Old meets new: A volunteer in French Medieval armour walks on a running machine. Historians now believe the French lost the Battle Of Agincourt because their heavy armour left them too exhausted to fight

As they advanced across the fields of sticky mud, trampled down by the sheer volume of numbers, their breathing was restricted and tiredness kicked in quickly.

Their burden was much greater than the modern soldiers' backpack leading experts to believe that the armour played a decisive role in the 1415 battle.

The findings come after scientists from the Royal Armouries, Leeds, monitored four men, aged around 36, who carry out re-enactments using 15th century armour from different countries in Europe.

Their oxygen consumption and energy expenditure were measured as they did a range of walking and running exercises in suits weighing between 30 and 50kg.

The findings, published today in the journal Proceedings of the Royal Society B, showed that the net energy cost of walking was 2.1 to 2.3 times higher when wearing armour than when not wearing armour while running incurred a 1.9 times higher energy cost.

Post-Second World War soldiers can carry a similar weight but, unlike a backpack, armour with interlocking steel plates may have played a part.


Researchers from the University of Leeds found that 15th Century knights used twice as much energy as modern soldiers - solely because of the weight of their armour

Dr Graham Askew, lead researcher from the University of Leeds, said: 'We found that carrying this kind of load spread across the body requires a lot more energy than carrying the same weight in a backpack.

'This is because, in a suit of armour, the limbs are loaded with weight, which means it takes more effort to swing them with each stride.

'If you're wearing a backpack, the weight is all in one place and swinging the limbs is easier.'

The energy costs associated with wearing armour were higher than those predicted by experiments in which loads are added to different parts of the body.

The reason may be due to the impact of armour on breathing, the study suggests.


Retelling: Kenneth Branagh, pictured here in a scene after the Battle Of Agincourt, plays Henry V in the 1989 film of the same name

Rather than taking deeper breaths when they exerted themselves, the four volunteers took larger numbers of shallower breaths.

'Being wrapped in a tight shell of armour may have made soldiers feel safe, but you feel breathless as soon as you begin to move around in medieval armour and this would likely limit a soldier's resistance to fight,' said co-author Dr Federico Formenti, from Oxford University.

Heavy armour may not only have contributed to the French defeat at Agincourt, but also at the Battle of Crecy in 1346, experts believe.

On this occasion the French knights fought the English and lost after an exhausting march lasting several days.

'Together with numbers and condition of soldiers, equipment availability, battle strategy and terrain, the high energetic cost of movement in armour could have contributed to the outcome of medieval battles,' the scientists wrote.

HOW THE BATTLE UNFOLDED


The French lost around 10,000 men while only around 112 English soldiers were killed in the battle

On St Crispins Day, 1415, the English army was tired and weary having marched across norhtern France on their way home, led by King Henry V.

The numbers are disputed but the French far outnumbered the English on the field and should have had an easy home victory.

Henry deployed his fighters across a 750-yard piece of land between the woods of Tramecourt and Agincourt.

They had around three hours of sunlight to arrange themselves as the French waited for additional troops to arrive, blocking the return to England.

It was Henry that made the first move, creating long spikes to disable the French cavalry and protect his longbowmen who then launched their arrows.

In retaliation the mounted knights advanced on the English but it is thought their charge was too late and lacking in numbers, losing control as the arrows rained down on them and churning the ground through which the footsoldiers would then have to trudge.

By the time they did reach the longbowmen who had spent all their three million arrows for hand-to-hand fighting they were tired and weary as the mêlée continued until thousands of French had died or had been captured.


A mock up of how the Daily Mail would have looked the day after the battle

Why the French lost the Battle of Agincourt: Heavy armour made troops too exhausted to fight | Mail Online
 
earth_as_one
+1
#2  Top Rated Post
Another factor might be that longbow arrows had a greater range and armor piercing capability than what the French were using. Their infantry were killed before they got close enough to use their swords.

Don't bring a sword to a longbow fight.
 
Colpy
+1
#3
Quote: Originally Posted by earth_as_oneView Post

Another factor might be that longbow arrows had a greater range and armor piercing capability than what the French were using. Their infantry were killed before they got close enough to use their swords.

Don't bring a sword to a longbow fight.

BINGO!

The Welsh longbow could put an arrow through both sides of a suit of armor at 200 yards...............it was the best missile weapon in existence until the invention of the minie ball..........and even then would have been superior in massed fire at close to medium range.

The only reason early firearms were superior is that one can learn the musket in half an hour.............while longbow men must be professionals, paid, kept and practised only for that purpose. Longbowmen were so valuable that infantry and calvary were typically deployed to protect them. You can pick out the skeletons of longbowmen in ancient battleground burials because of the deformations in their arm bones.....from hours of daily practise.

Agincourt was actually the exception in this type of warfare, as the archers exhausted their supply of arrows, then plunged into the melee.....or into the slaughter in this case. Very unusual.

The amount of practise necessary to master ancient weapons....the bow or the sword....was such that only the rich had the time to learn, or the money to hire trained men.


The firearm is the weapon of the people.

That is why firearms and democracy are parallel developments.

And why we should never again let the elites become the only armed power in our society.

Oh....and while I'm at it, I don't believe men-at-arms fought in such extensive armor......only heavy calvary wore extensive plate........I could be wrong, but I think these guys are way off-base.
 
Bar Sinister
#4
Quote: Originally Posted by ColpyView Post

BINGO!

The Welsh longbow could put an arrow through both sides of a suit of armor at 200 yards...............it was the best missile weapon in existence until the invention of the minie ball..........and even then would have been superior in massed fire at close to medium range.

The only reason early firearms were superior is that one can learn the musket in half an hour.............while longbow men must be professionals, paid, kept and practised only for that purpose. Longbowmen were so valuable that infantry and calvary were typically deployed to protect them. You can pick out the skeletons of longbowmen in ancient battleground burials because of the deformations in their arm bones.....from hours of daily practise.

Agincourt was actually the exception in this type of warfare, as the archers exhausted their supply of arrows, then plunged into the melee.....or into the slaughter in this case. Very unusual.

The amount of practise necessary to master ancient weapons....the bow or the sword....was such that only the rich had the time to learn, or the money to hire trained men.


The firearm is the weapon of the people.

That is why firearms and democracy are parallel developments.

And why we should never again let the elites become the only armed power in our society.

Oh....and while I'm at it, I don't believe men-at-arms fought in such extensive armor......only heavy calvary wore extensive plate........I could be wrong, but I think these guys are way off-base.

Actually English archers were not members of the nobility. They were members of the peasant class known as yeomen. However, in England, unlike other European states, these peasants were encouraged to learn the use of the bow. At Agincourt there were a number of factors that led to the English victory. Recent studies of the battlefield indicate that when the French cavalry attacked it was funneled into a relatively narrow front by the terrain making it difficult to commit all of the knights to battle and making them relatively easy targets for the English archers.

The cavalry attack was so easily repulsed that later in the day the French decided to attack on foot; still clad in their heavy armour. The effect was that they arrived at the English line in a state of exhaustion and were easily cut to pieces.

So far as firearms being the weapon of democracy, you might be right. But the rise to power of various non-democratic regimes during the gunpowder age firearms indicates that weapons have little impact on whether a nation ends up as a democracy. Certainly the widespread presence of firearms in in regions such as Italy, Spain, and Germany during the 16th to 18th centuries seem to have had little impact on the development of democracies there. In fact it can easily be argued that firearms actually make it easier for a highly trained minority to control a poorly trained minority regardless of how they are armed.

What actually seems to have had the greatest influence on the development of democracy is the level of education of the population which is why nations where most people could read and write were among those that spearheaded the movement to democracy. This is certainly illustrated by the development of democracy in the American colonies and in Britain itself.
 
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