Leongatha Medieval Society
A brief summary
weapons have carved a bloody name for themselves in history.
Weapons such as the Roman gladius, the Japanese katana and the
British brown bess musket come to mind. But
not many can match the aura or legendary status of the English warbow,
more commonly referred to as the English longbow. Few
weapons conjure up images of glorious victories against the odds like
this most simple of bows that transformed
longbow was used throughout Western Europe and
During Edward 1 conquest of Wales, the Welsh had shown that, if you made the bows big enough, you could make it an effective frontline weapon against the armoured elite of the day, not just a support weapon used more for harassing the enemy and only really effective against un-armoured opponents.
Edward set about establishing a national training programme throughout
So, how big were these bows? Well, we know that to be considered for military service an archer had to be able to shoot a battle shaft of 3-4oz at least 220 yards and to do that you generally need a bow of at least 110 lbs and more like 120 -130lb to achieve it consistently. Also, as the 14th century went on, armour improved considerably and so the bows could only have got bigger. It’s interesting to note that modern replicas of the warbows found on the wreck of the warship ‘Mary Rose’ when made of the same Italian yew as the originals, usually come in somewhere between 110lb and 180lb with the average around 140lb.
first large battle where the English used the warbow to great effect was
the battle of
In the years between Edward 1 death and Edward 111 becoming king, the English had taken to archery in a scale not seen before in previous generations and unmatched anywhere in Europe and they now had the archers in both the numbers and skill to make the most of the warbow.
Edward 111 re-organised the army so that archers were now the main component and devised the tactics that would bring him victories over the Scots at Dupplin Moor and Halidon Hill. Even though outnumbered, his armies at these battles slaughtered the Scots, mainly due to his companies of archers.
Edward 111 most famous victory however was against the French at the battle of Crecy where his army of around 12,000 men, of whom over half were archers, defeated the best army France could field numbering around 40,000 men.
By the early 16th century, guns were becoming lighter, more reliable and easier to use and the great English warbow went into decline until it more or less had vanished from the battle field by the late 1500’s. Lucky for us though, as it declined in military service its sporting cousin, the English longbow or butt bow remained, as archery as a sport grew in popularity and is with us till this day.