Long bow Vs gun

#1
I have been watching a few documentaries recently on Britains military history, in which the long bow plays a pivotal role (Agincourt etc) it was a huge advantage to ourselves and we could boast the best archers in the world.
So why did we abandon the bow?
Early rifles were rubbish (and 19th century versions were not much better), their range was far less than a bow and their rate of fire was far less as well, also they could not be used in the rain, so why was archery abandoned? It does not make any sense to me.

Imagine the battle of Waterloo with a few hundred archers. We would have massacred the French (even more so).

I do understand that the evolution of the gun has led to the incredible weapons of today but still...
Can anyone offer a good reason for the transition? And WHO decided to switch?
 
#2
Have a look here for starters -http://www.tradbow.com/interactivetradbow/read.cfm?id=118
The book with the answers is on loan to a friend - I'll see if I can access it for you.
 
#3
The gun gained in popularity primarily because of the ease of use. At that time archers were trained from a young age and it was law that boys over a certain age had to be provided with a certain amount of arrows and a bow to practice regularly alongside the adult archers.

Although there is great debate over the average draw weight of a warbow, it is certainly high enough that only a trained archer could pull and release it, and then only after years of practice.

The gun on the other hand could be given to anyone and after a few hours practice in loading and aiming they would be proficient enough to do some damage on the battlefield.
 
#4
Something I read a while ago claims it was due to training time - to effectively use a bow requires years of training, practice, and building the right muscles.

Compared to- Bite, prime, pour, spit, ram, cock, aim...FIRE!
 
#5
It is difficult to say when exactly the longbow began its decline, but it must have been before 1544, for in that year Roger Ascham (sometime tutor to Princess Elizabeth and the young Edward VI) published his famous book on archery, Toxophilus, in which he argued for the retention of the bow.


In the view of many, the reason for the decline in the bow lay not in the weapon, but in the quality of those who drew it. Rather than long, cold hours at the butts developing their strength and improving their aim and rate of fire, the new generation preferred to spend their time at cards, dicing, quoits, bowls and other ‘new and crafty games’. Well before Elizabeth’s reign, Latimer bewailed the reluctance of the young to train. ‘In my tyme’, opined the Bishop, ‘my poor father was as diligent to teach me to shute, as to learn any thynge, so I thincke other men dyd thyr children … I had my bowes bought me according to my age and strength’. He saw the decline of the bow as part of a social slide into general decadence. In a sermon before a young Edward VI he ranted against how the young men had ‘taken up with whoring in towns, in stead of shooting in the fields’.


Some believed that the reason why the nation was turning away from archery had to do with the growing numbers within the lower classes who were using matchlocks to hunt, and thus had lost their skill and feeling for the bow. Others believed that too many years had gone by without a proper war: ‘The realm,’ grumbled Burghley, has ‘become so feeble by long peace’. Whatever the reason, the decline of the archer was famously satirized by William Harrison (1577); in his Description of England (in Holinshed’s Chronicles) in which he has the French and Germans taunting the English by showing them their backsides and crying ‘Shoote English’. In Edward III’s time, laments Harrison, ‘the breech of such a varlet should have been nailed to his bum with one arrow, and an other feathered in his bowels, before he should have turned about to see who shot the first’.


Simply put, the bow had been overtaken by technology. Not just by the matchlock ignition system, but also by plate armour which had become so effective that it left the wearer relatively immune to arrow strikes. According to Fourquevaux, in his Instructions sur le Faict de la Guerre, published in the 1548 and tanslated into English 1589, the bow was only of any service when it was used against unarmoured footmen. Within England, nobody was more forceful than Sir Thomas Gresham (d. 1579), the great financier of his age, who led a massive overseas arms-procurement program for the Queen. ‘Spare the bows and arrows’, he railed, ‘for they are of no force against an armed (i.e. armoured) man’. There was, noted David Eltis in his Military Revolution in Sixteenth Century Europe (1998), a broad consensus among sixteenth century writers of all persuasions that contemporary armour was equal to any bow. Williams, Fourquevaux, Barwick, Barret, Digges and Gresham, were all agreed that … ‘the armoured gentleman had nothing to fear from a commoner with a crossbow or longbow’.


But the armoured gentlemen had everything to fear from firearms. The Spanish, who had embraced firearms long before the English, realized that within a certain range, average plate armour could not withstand a round of shot. Diego de Alaba y Viamont, in his El perfecto Capitan of 1590 said that none of the soldiers he knew had any faith in the ability of body armour to protect a soldier against a harquebus hit.
http://www.alderneywreck.com/node/59
 
#6
jethro: I understand that, I belive Henry V banned all other sports in order to achieve good quality archers however I deem the effort worth while plus the nature of an "archer culture" ensured a constant supply of fresh archers.

old red cap: I appreciate the effort.


Also watching Sharpe this week and it occured to me how daft napoleonic warfare was. Everyone WALKS in LINES toward the enemy and gets battered for their trouble. The only ones who dont are the cavalry chaps who just charge with nothing but a sword swinging around. Why does nobody run!!!?
 
#7
Get yourself on youtube and have a butchers at Jeremy Clarksons " the gun" documentary- theres a bit on agincourt and shortly after when the french kicked our arses after polwing a bit of cash into firearms research. The gun really came into its own with the advent of machined parts during the industrial revoloution. It also hints at there being alot of politics and money involved with the maufacurers at the time (the army didnt actually buy the best available product at the time , opting for a less accurate and reliable design cause them wot made it wos someones brothers cousins dogs auntys manservant or something similar) , sound familiar? :wink:
 
#8
Thanks Sandman. however in the part refering to armour; it utter nonsense. Agincourt and many other battles with the French were against heavily armoured Chivalric knights who were destroyed by English archers in fact we eliminated 70% of the french nobility in one battle (I'm sure it was Agincourt under Henry V)

edit: it was Edward the III and the battle of Crecy (not what I previously said)
 
#9
fusil89 said:
jethro:
Also watching Sharpe this week and it occured to me how daft napoleonic warfare was. Everyone WALKS in LINES toward the enemy and gets battered for their trouble. The only ones who dont are the cavalry chaps who just charge with nothing but a sword swinging around. Why does nobody run!!!?
Cos that was not the way they did it! There was a pride in how much pounding a regiment could take from cannon and rifle. The Scots regiments had a reputation for charging in but this resulted in greater casualties as the cohesion broke up and the defenders only had to deal with small groups. Accounts of where cavalry got in amongst foot soldiers show that "nothing but a sword" caused a heck of a lot of damage and, again, broke the attackers up into penny packets.
If interested in Sharpe, get one or other of the original books and not a reprint of a TV show. Cornwall includes real tactics and explains why. Have a look if you can find it about the French drummers who set the pace for the walk into action. PARA in NI early on used to tap shields with baton and chant "We're coming to take you away (tap tap)" as they walked to contact. Great psychological effect but deemed politically incorrect.
 
#10
fusil89 said:
Thanks Sandman. however in the part refering to armour; it utter nonsense. Agincourt and many other battles with the French were against heavily armoured Chivalric knights who were destroyed by English archers in fact we eliminated 70% of the french nobility in one battle (I'm sure it was Agincourt under Henry V)
Not neccesarily by penetrating their armour though. Their is much debate regarding Agincourt and Crecy. It may just have been the horses that were killed by our longbowmen, the heavily encumbered knights were then mobbed and slaughtered by our bowmen using falchions, axes etc.
 
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#11
fusil89 said:
Thanks Sandman. however in the part refering to armour; it utter nonsense. Agincourt and many other battles with the French were against heavily armoured Chivalric knights who were destroyed by English archers in fact we eliminated 70% of the french nobility in one battle (I'm sure it was Agincourt under Henry V)

edit: it was Edward the III and the battle of Crecy (not what I previously said)
Those knights were eliminated after falling down in a very muddy field and dispatched either with a dagger through the visor (bit nasty) or after they surrendered as there weren't enough guards and the dastardly French were trying to make off with the supply wagons.
 
#12
OldRedCap said:
fusil89 said:
jethro:
Also watching Sharpe this week and it occured to me how daft napoleonic warfare was. Everyone WALKS in LINES toward the enemy and gets battered for their trouble. The only ones who dont are the cavalry chaps who just charge with nothing but a sword swinging around. Why does nobody run!!!?
Cos that was not the way they did it! There was a pride in how much pounding a regiment could take from cannon and rifle. The Scots regiments had a reputation for charging in but this resulted in greater casualties as the cohesion broke up and the defenders only had to deal with small groups. Accounts of where cavalry got in amongst foot soldiers show that "nothing but a sword" caused a heck of a lot of damage and, again, broke the attackers up into penny packets.If interested in Sharpe, get one or other of the original books and not a reprint of a TV show. Cornwall includes real tactics and explains why. Have a look if you can find it about the French drummers who set the pace for the walk into action. PARA in NI early on used to tap shields with baton and chant "We're coming to take you away (tap tap)" as they walked to contact. Great psychological effect but deemed politically incorrect.

I didn't mean that as a negative. I'm saying that the simplest forms of warfare and the simpler instruments were often far more effective in killing the enemy and not the clunky slow and unreliable musket which after your first few volleys was little more than a club (relating to my original question).
 
#13
sandmanfez said:
fusil89 said:
Thanks Sandman. however in the part refering to armour; it utter nonsense. Agincourt and many other battles with the French were against heavily armoured Chivalric knights who were destroyed by English archers in fact we eliminated 70% of the french nobility in one battle (I'm sure it was Agincourt under Henry V)
Not neccesarily by penetrating their armour though. Their is much debate regarding Agincourt and Crecy. It may just have been the horses that were killed by our longbowmen, the heavily encumbered knights were then mobbed and slaughtered by our bowmen using falchions, axes etc.
a fair point. But it got the job done. So by what you are saying if the Frenchies had not been so lazy and had instead walked towards us at Crecy then they would have stood a better chance.
But why would the Frogs possibly think that their horses would be turned into pin cushions. Another reason for English triumph. French stupidity and lazyness.
 
#14
fusil89 said:
OldRedCap said:
fusil89 said:
jethro:
Also watching Sharpe this week and it occured to me how daft napoleonic warfare was. Everyone WALKS in LINES toward the enemy and gets battered for their trouble. The only ones who dont are the cavalry chaps who just charge with nothing but a sword swinging around. Why does nobody run!!!?
Cos that was not the way they did it! There was a pride in how much pounding a regiment could take from cannon and rifle. The Scots regiments had a reputation for charging in but this resulted in greater casualties as the cohesion broke up and the defenders only had to deal with small groups. Accounts of where cavalry got in amongst foot soldiers show that "nothing but a sword" caused a heck of a lot of damage and, again, broke the attackers up into penny packets.If interested in Sharpe, get one or other of the original books and not a reprint of a TV show. Cornwall includes real tactics and explains why. Have a look if you can find it about the French drummers who set the pace for the walk into action. PARA in NI early on used to tap shields with baton and chant "We're coming to take you away (tap tap)" as they walked to contact. Great psychological effect but deemed politically incorrect.

I didn't mean that as a negative. I'm saying that the simplest forms of warfare and the simpler instruments were often far more effective in killing the enemy and not the clunky slow and unreliable musket which after your first few volleys was little more than a club (relating to my original question).
With bayonet fixed it was a pike. In a sense, the musket armed infantry were pikemen with pikes that could shoot!
 
#16
cheers thieftaker. Wasn't too bad except the guy who started the thread was a deluded fool.
 
#17
The French at Crecy just became impatient and lost the plot. They had their own missile troops in the form of mercenary Genoese crossbowmen.
Unfortunately for them, it rained just before they were scheduled to attack.
Its imperative that you keep your bowstring dry, otherwise the power and subsequent range is dramatically reduced.
Our bowmen were able to unstring their bows and coil the strings under their hats to keep them dry.
You can't do that with a crossbow, instead you shelter under your pavis (large shield) but the French King commanded the Genoese to leave their pavises with the baggage train. The commander of the Genoese pointed out that they would have to postpone the advance until their strings had either dried out or been changed, but they were ordered forward anyway.
They were outmatched by us, and sensibly, withdrew. The French took this as a show of cowardice, slaughterd them and them charged up the muddy hillside to engage us, their horses becoming mired or breaking their legs in the numerous pits we had dug.
 
#18
Exactly my point. The cross bow was supposed to be an improvement but was fundamentaly flawed in many aspects an inferior to the bow. The long bow was also perfect because the idea could not be easily imitated by our enemies because of the expertise and know how needed.

As for the French killing their own mercenaries; I had heard that before but doesnt that say it all to you the french killing their best chance of victory because of some inpatient French snobs...
 
#19
fusil89 said:
Also watching Sharpe this week and it occured to me how daft napoleonic warfare was. Everyone WALKS in LINES toward the enemy and gets battered for their trouble. The only ones who dont are the cavalry chaps who just charge with nothing but a sword swinging around. Why does nobody run!!!?
Tactics come from weapons, and the blokes who are using them.

The musket was inaccurate over 100 paces, so to get an effect you've got to group them together. Let the blokes run around, and almost all of them will miss. Line them up 2 or 3 deep, and some of them may hit the target. Also, the thing takes a long time to reload, so if you let them go off on their own, they'll get shot or stabbed before they can shoot a second time. Keep them in groups, and some can shoot while the others reload.

Of course, you could give some of them rifles, and train them to run around and fire, but then you'd need to give them special green coats, and they'd get all self-important about it :roll:
 
#20
For no other reason than to amplify some of the points made here already (and to boost Google's French-spanking index) here are some interesting bits from Major C H B Pridham's Superiority of Fire (Hutchinson's Scientific and Technical Publications, 1945) for your delectation and edification:

This great victory [Crecy 1346] was due to the perfect marksmanship of the English long-bowmen, who proved themselves vastly superior to the Genoese cross-bowmen—our archers firing about ten arrows to the crossbow's one. With the long-bow, expert archers could fire so quickly that two or three arrows from the same bow were in the air at the same time. Not only did they fire faster and with great accuracy ; but the out-ranged the enemy and established superiority of fire within a few minutes.

A terrific thunderstorm delayed the opening of the battle, whilst the troops of both armies were soaked. The English archers slipped off their bowstrings to keep them dry ; for, if wet, a bowstring loses most of its efficiency. This prudence proved to be a big factor in the issue of the battle.

The storm passed. At 5pm on August 26th, the sun, low down in the west, flashed full in the faces of the French. King Philip of France ordered his Genoese cross-bowmen forward and the battle began. The 6,000 Genoese, jaded by a long march and drenched with rain, had allowed their crossbows to become wet, and were conscious that they were almost disarmed by the wetness of their bowstrings. They opened with a volley ; but the first discharge of their 'quarrels' fell short, dropping harmlessly in front of the English position. This had been well chosen, on rising ground, the forward slopes conforming to the line of flight of the arrows—with the advantage of 'grazing fire'.

The long-bowmen's first volley proved fully effective, and the Genoese, completely outmatched, were driven back with heavy losses. The French knights in armour charged impetuously down upon the 'faint-hearted rabble' of their own fugitives, and soon the enemy became a mere mob of horse and foot struggling with each other. The English archers did not neglect this opportunity, and shot coolly and rapidly into the helpless target in front of them. Sixteen distinct attacks were made by the French and the fighting lasted until long after dark, whilst no impression was made on the English line. 30,000 of King Philip's army of over 40,000 were casualties, whist those of the English were 'negligible', some fifty men.
With the smashing victory of Crecy, the English army established a lasting reputation throughout Europe. The French, in alarm, called for the assistance of Italian artificers, who designed for them coats of mail of steel to resist penetration by arrows from the long-bow. At the Battle of Auray, in 1365, they wore this new armour. Our archers, finding that their arrows were unable to penetrate steel, threw down their bows in disgust, and boldly advancing on the French men-at-arms plucked their axes from their hands. The unhappy Frenchmen, cased stiffly in their armour, were taken by surprise. History then repeated itself, for—like David of Israel—the long-bowmen decapitated the enemy with his own weapons.
A little further on...

Superiority of fire, as attained by the long-bowmen, was due to the Archery Laws. These compelled all able-bodied males, under a certain rank, to practise with the long-bow on Sundays and holidays from childhood to the age of sixty. Butts were ordered to be set up in all villages. Sheriffs were commanded to provide archery tackle. The quality and prices of these weapons were fixed*. Nearly all other games were prohibited. Merchants were obliged to import bow-staves with every ton of merchandise, those of 6 feet 6 inches long being passed in free of duty. All archers above the age of 24 were commanded not to shoot at distances under 220 yards—the effective range of the long-bow. From the reign of Edward I until the end of the 16th Century, archery remained a compulsory sport in our towns and villages, just as prevalent as the present day [1945] voluntary sport of Association football. About the end of the reign of Queen Elizabeth, the war-bow fell rapidly into disuse, and a firearm of primitive design—the Hand-gun, or Arquebus—took its place.

*The long-bow of 1341 was 6 feet 4 inches long. A bow cost one shilling plain, one and sixpence painted. Twenty-four arrows cost one and twopence. The arrows were fitted with a barb and point of iron, and were fledged with goose or peacock feathers. At 100 yards the shaft could pierce a 4-inch oak door, and would come out a hand's breadth on the other side. Bishop Latimer, preaching before King Edward VI, spoke of the long-bow as 'God's weapon'.
 
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