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Was firing arrows at Enemies clashing your own Doomed Units practical?

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  • Was firing arrows at Enemies clashing your own Doomed Units practical?

    One thing that people often wondered and I did too at one point.

    When I watched the movie Bravehart, during the Battle of Falkirk Edward Longshanks I ordered his English Longbow men to fire at Scottish Units. The thing was that these Scottish Units were in clash with Edward's troops so he tried to warn Edward saying "Won't we hit our troops?". Edward responded "Yes-but we'll hit their's as well". Thus in addition to the nobles betraying William Wallace, the film portrays the English Longbow men as a key factor in the English Victory in this battle.

    Now when people rewatch Bravehart they often comment during Stirling Bridge "Instead of sending the rest of his melee units to attack Wallace after all the English Knights were being slaughtered, why doesn't the English General fire at the Scottish units in Melee? I mean all the Knights are going to die, you might as well take advantage of this opportunity!"

    Indeed people often wonder why Generals were hesitant to order Arrows to be fired on Enemy units clashing with their own Doomed Melee Units. I mean if they were gonna die anyway why not use that to your advantage to take out enemies of your own so your doomed unit's lives don't go to waste?

    Was what Edward I did at Falkirk in Bravehard common in Medieval Warfare?If not why wasn't it practical to commit such an act?

  • #2
    Look at it from the officer viewpoint. The commanders were knights. It took years of training and expensive horses and equipment to make a knight. A smart commander husbands them and only uses them at the proper time. Once they are gone, it takes years to get more. Infantry is cheaper and easier to train, so more easily replaced!

    Do you send your Mercedes, Bentley or Rolls to compete in a Demolition Derby, or do you send an old Ford or Chevy?

    Keep in mind in the movie the Irish went over to the Scots and Edward wanted to hurt them as well as the Scots. Firing on the melee will accomplish this.

    By the way, the Scots also had Archers but they used the Short Bow and were at a significant range disadvantage.

    Pruitt
    Pruitt, you are truly an expert! Kelt06

    Have you been struck by the jawbone of an ASS lately?

    by Khepesh "This is the logic of Pruitt"

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    • #3
      It's important to seperate the movies from reality in this case. When one looks at three of the major battles involving archery and arrow storms during the hundred years war, Crecy, Poitiers, and Agincourt, there were pretty clearly defined lines and the archers were never shooting into a massed gaggle of disorgainzed flailing men at arms. (Another distinction should be made here. You mentioned knights, and knights were certainly present at Stirling and Falkirk, but most of the massed infantry were not knights.)

      Regarding Falkirk, it didn't happen as in the movie. After an initial rebuff by the schiltrons the English cavalry regrouped and waited for English archers to thin out the Scottish ranks. Once the arrow storm started it was pretty much a decided matter. The cavalry mopped up and assumed their role of chasing and killing a routed enemy.

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      • #4
        Originally posted by Pruitt View Post
        Look at it from the officer viewpoint. The commanders were knights. It took years of training and expensive horses and equipment to make a knight. A smart commander husbands them and only uses them at the proper time. Once they are gone, it takes years to get more. Infantry is cheaper and easier to train, so more easily replaced!

        Do you send your Mercedes, Bentley or Rolls to compete in a Demolition Derby, or do you send an old Ford or Chevy?

        Keep in mind in the movie the Irish went over to the Scots and Edward wanted to hurt them as well as the Scots. Firing on the melee will accomplish this.

        By the way, the Scots also had Archers but they used the Short Bow and were at a significant range disadvantage.

        Pruitt
        Were there Irish troops fighting for the English- in reality that is ?

        There were certainly Welsh ,of course.
        "I dogmatise and am contradicted, and in this conflict of opinions and sentiments I find delight".
        Samuel Johnson.

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        • #5
          Originally posted by BELGRAVE View Post
          Were there Irish troops fighting for the English- in reality that is ?

          There were certainly Welsh ,of course.
          Yes, and they defected.

          Without the nobility, Wallace was denied the light cavalry (the finest in Europe) who could've taken the archers in the flank - as happened at Bannockburn.

          While the Scottish scilltrons could easily counter mounted knights and were a good match for infantry, their long pikes precluded the use of shields - making them vulnerable to sustained archery.

          At Stirling Bridge, the archers were on the opposite bank of the Forth, beyond effective range.
          Indyref2 - still, "Yes."

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          • #6
            The English took out the Scottish Archers and the Scots could not answer the Welsh Bowmen.

            Pruitt
            Pruitt, you are truly an expert! Kelt06

            Have you been struck by the jawbone of an ASS lately?

            by Khepesh "This is the logic of Pruitt"

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            • #7
              I don't think "firing arrows at Enemies clashing your own Doomed Units" would be to good for morale
              You better drop your flag an withdraw.

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              • #8
                I think the general use of firing arrows while the soldiers were clashed was that the enemy soldiers were close enough to your archers that the arrows would, for the most part, go beyond your own soldiers, and considering the strength of English longbows, I'm sure for the most part that the arrows went far enough that it wasn't too much of a problem. Although I'm sure mis-calculations have been made.
                Do not fire until you see the whites of their eyes!- Gen. Israel Putnam


                Neither current events nor history show that the majority rule, or ever did rule. -Jefferson Davis

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                • #9
                  Originally posted by Blakdust View Post
                  I don't think "firing arrows at Enemies clashing your own Doomed Units" would be to good for morale
                  It is when they believe that overwhelming firepower can force the enemy to disengage, and allow then to save as many as many men of the "doomed units as possible before those units are overrun. The modern military term is "broken arrow".
                  Last edited by Salinator; 05 Dec 12, 01:50.
                  Flag: USA / Location: West Coast

                  Prayers.

                  BoRG

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                  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5PtsX_Z3CMU

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                  • #10
                    When I watched the movie Bravehart
                    Having this at the start of your question very much secludes you from a serious historical debate.

                    But, to answer your question: No, shooting your own men would not be effective. But neither would it occur all that frequently. You have to remember that once the infantry of both sides committed, chances are that no control over the army could be exercised anymore. It wasn't a modern era battle where many small units can be shuffled around and controlled, besides cavalry no units smaller than battailles were employed. And a battaille was just an ad hoc division drawn up as the army assembled, usually a third of the army, including archers, infantry and cavalry. In a pitched battle the infantry of each battaille would usually just be deployed in a single phalanx-ish formation.
                    Archers would either run away or join the melee most of the time. In fact, English bowmen generally picked up polearms and swords after expending their arrows, and went to fight up close.

                    Do note that pitched battles were uncommon.

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                    • #11
                      Originally posted by Salinator View Post
                      It is when they believe that overwhelming firepower can force the enemy to disengage, and allow then to save as many as many men of the "doomed units as possible before those units are overrun. The modern military term is "broken arrow".
                      I don't know if arrows were ever overwhelming firepower
                      maybe with 20th century weapons that could work but with arrows I'm not to sure, since your men will likely have there back to the arrows an be more vulnerable than there opponents

                      could depend on a bunch of other factors like the period an positions ect
                      You better drop your flag an withdraw.

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                      • #12
                        Originally posted by Blakdust View Post
                        I don't know if arrows were ever overwhelming firepower
                        Parthians? The Han? The Mongols? Welsh Longbowmen?

                        maybe with 20th century weapons that could work but with arrows I'm not to sure, since your men will likely have there back to the arrows an be more vulnerable than there opponents
                        You shoot over their heads and work you way inward, not at the backs of your own.

                        could depend on a bunch of other factors like the period an positions ect
                        You don't say!
                        Flag: USA / Location: West Coast

                        Prayers.

                        BoRG

                        http://img204.imageshack.us/img204/8757/snap1ws8.jpg

                        https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5PtsX_Z3CMU

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                        • #13
                          I guess your right, tho the back ranks could just raise there shields since there not engaged an it wouldn't help that much and as you get closer you would definitely hit your own men

                          I doubt it would force the enemy to disengage if it's already at the point your units are doomed


                          Originally posted by Salinator View Post
                          You don't say!
                          sorry if that was a bit obvious no need to get upset
                          You better drop your flag an withdraw.

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