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Thread: The Famous Longbow

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    Retired Senior Member Prince Cobra's Avatar
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    Question The Famous Longbow

    I am interested in who were the first that used it, when this hapened and until when it was used. Also were the Welsh the only one who could use it and could the Englishmen also use it? Some more info would be OK. Thanks in advance.
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    Bringing down the vulgaroisie Member King Henry V's Avatar
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    Default Re: The Famous Longbow

    There are records that a long bow was in use in the North of England before Edward I's conquest of Wales in 1284, however they were not used extensively.
    The Welsh used their longbows in a different fashion to the English, shooting them over a straight trajectory and at a fairly short range.
    After the conquest of Wales, Edward recognised the value of such a weapon, especially against Scottish spearmen, and the use of the longbow spread throughout England, meaning that by the time of the Hundred Years' War, most bowmen were English rather than Welsh.
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    Ming the Merciless is my idol Senior Member Watchman's Avatar
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    Default Re: The Famous Longbow

    The Vikings used them, I've read. I've read a pretty funny exercept of some saga involving one too. They were also apparently used in Medieval Scandinavia (which long continued to use many "Viking Age" military traditions nigh unmodified), and given the similarities in climate probably also elsewhere on the Northern Coniferous Zone. Self-bows apparently deal with extended exposure to moisture way better than the glued-together composite bows (and way easier to make), so I wouldn't be surprised if longbows were also around in "Forest Russia".
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    Professional Cynic Member Innocentius's Avatar
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    Default Re: The Famous Longbow

    The longbow dates - just like the "normal" bow - to the stone age, and was used pretty widely across all Eurasia. The famous "Welsh" longbow was not very different (perhaps a tad stronger, I think a standard Welsh bow was stronger than 100 Ibs, while below 100 was standard otherwhere IIRC) than the ones used all across Europe and much of Asia.
    The longbow was mainly used for hunting, but it was the English who came up with the idea of using it en masse. I believe Falkirk and Halidon Hill were two early battles in which the English deployed this tactic. Halidon Hill is, IIRC, considered to be the first major victory for the English/Welsh longbowmen. Other peoples who used the longbow extensively in warfare were the Mongols, who mainly fired from horseback. In Japan, there were longbows as well. These were generally both larger and stronger than the Welsh ones though.

    Yes, there were longbows in Scandinavia during the Viking period and of course even later on. They weren't used for warfare in the same fashion as the Englishmen used it though.
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    Professional Cynic Member Innocentius's Avatar
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    Default Re: The Famous Longbow

    Quote Originally Posted by Watchman
    The Vikings used them, I've read. I've read a pretty funny exercept of some saga involving one too. They were also apparently used in Medieval Scandinavia (which long continued to use many "Viking Age" military traditions nigh unmodified), and given the similarities in climate probably also elsewhere on the Northern Coniferous Zone. Self-bows apparently deal with extended exposure to moisture way better than the glued-together composite bows (and way easier to make), so I wouldn't be surprised if longbows were also around in "Forest Russia".
    Many longbows were composite bows due to the difficulty in finding a
    Quote Originally Posted by Wikipedia
    single piece of yew of high enough quality to make a selfbow
    .
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    Default Re: The Famous Longbow

    Penetration 4 inches of oak? i don't think they tested it on people outside of war

    ottoman composite bows still had a far longer range i believe,
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    Oni Member Samurai Waki's Avatar
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    Default Re: The Famous Longbow

    Mongol Composite Bows were perhaps the best. But, perhaps the Turkish stole the design.

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    Ming the Merciless is my idol Senior Member Watchman's Avatar
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    Default Re: The Famous Longbow

    Composite recurve bows are the knee's bees as far as pre-gunpowder ranged weapons go. The multiple materials and construction methods involved let them pack a whole lot of punch in a pretty small package - such as can be easily handled by a mounted man or chariot warrior, for example. With self-bows aside from the choice of wood used you can't really do much more than make them bigger if you want to make them stronger, and the practical limits of that kick in pretty fast.

    As a side note I've read dedicated infantry archers in "composite bow" regions tended to use recurve composites a tad bigger and stronger than were in general use among mounted warriors, so apparently size is of at least some importance with those things too.

    The big Japanese laminate bows are a bit different thing, but for most intents and purposes can be thought of as an odd derivation of the longbow designed to be usable on horseback. I've never heard they were better than the standard long self-bow otherwise though, and I've read the Japanese regarded the Continental recurve composites (which they encountered both during the Mongol invasions and their own invasion of Korea at the end of 16th century) as better than their own bows.

    Quote Originally Posted by Innocentius
    Many longbows were composite bows due to the difficulty in finding a
    Quote Originally Posted by Wikipedia
    single piece of yew of high enough quality to make a selfbow.
    I don't think yew even grows too commonly in the Northern Coniferous Zone, you know. The Wiki articles on it I looked at (botanics aren't my strong field) seemed to imply a preference for slightly warmer climes, and I can't say I've seen them all that often around here. Yew isn't the end-all be-all wood for bows though; I've seen ash and elm mentioned as other options. I've read the Vikings used ash for spear-shafts so...

    The inhabitants of the British Isles preferred to make theirs out of yew, true, and apparently considered Spanish import wood to be the best by what I've read, but that may have been a case of sheer ecological necessity.

    Plus making a longbow "composite", whatever the heck that now is supposed to mean in this case, would really seem to be a bit of exercise in pointlessness by what I know of it.
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    Ming the Merciless is my idol Senior Member Watchman's Avatar
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    Default Re: The Famous Longbow

    Quote Originally Posted by Wakizashi
    Mongol Composite Bows were perhaps the best. But, perhaps the Turkish stole the design.
    The Turks were around first, you know, assuming with "Mongols" you mean Genghis And The Boys ("Mongolians" are a much wider group, however; the Huns were probably proto-Mongolians, the Avars almost certainly). But then the the Turkic peoples' original haunts from whence they spread over half Eurasia were pretty close to the Mongolian steppes, and composite bows seem to have been a type of weapon in whose case a new and improved design superceded older ones very quickly.

    Anyway, by what I've read of it the so-called "Turkic" type is apparently the more or less final evolutionary developement of the recurve composite bow, although the master bowyers of the Ottomans may have been able to "push the envelope" a bit further. Variations to suit particular needs and preferences aside I understand it had more or less became the "international standard" type wherever composite bows now were used by around the end of first millenium AD or thereabouts.
    "Let us remember that there are multiple theories of Intelligent Design. I and many others around the world are of the strong belief that the universe was created by a Flying Spaghetti Monster. --- Proof of the existence of the FSM, if needed, can be found in the recent uptick of global warming, earthquakes, hurricanes, and other natural disasters. Apparently His Pastaness is to be worshipped in full pirate regalia. The decline in worldwide pirate population over the past 200 years directly corresponds with the increase in global temperature. Here is a graph to illustrate the point."

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    Boondock Saint Senior Member The Blind King of Bohemia's Avatar
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    Default Re: The Famous Longbow

    Quote Originally Posted by Innocentius
    The longbow dates - just like the "normal" bow - to the stone age, and was used pretty widely across all Eurasia. The famous "Welsh" longbow was not very different (perhaps a tad stronger, I think a standard Welsh bow was stronger than 100 Ibs, while below 100 was standard otherwhere IIRC) than the ones used all across Europe and much of Asia.
    The longbow was mainly used for hunting, but it was the English who came up with the idea of using it en masse. I believe Falkirk and Halidon Hill were two early battles in which the English deployed this tactic. Halidon Hill is, IIRC, considered to be the first major victory for the English/Welsh longbowmen. Other peoples who used the longbow extensively in warfare were the Mongols, who mainly fired from horseback. In Japan, there were longbows as well. These were generally both larger and stronger than the Welsh ones though.

    Yes, there were longbows in Scandinavia during the Viking period and of course even later on. They weren't used for warfare in the same fashion as the Englishmen used it though.

    The tactics at Halidon Hill of the english force was moulded around the victory of the scottish exiles at Duplin Muir a year before. Using only small forces in defensive positions with a good rate of fire could prove devastating in the packed formations of the scots who would often disperse men at arms throughout the schiltrons on order to protect the spearmen with shields from the archery

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    Tovenaar Senior Member The Wizard's Avatar
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    Default Re: The Famous Longbow

    The longbow was a weapon widespread amongst Germanic peoples, if not simple all Western-European Indo-European peoples (or even simply all hunter-gatherer societies). I don't know if the Welsh one was any different from the ones used by, for instance, the Vikings or Great Migration tribes.

    As an interesting note on the side: in India they used recurved longbows -- of steel. How's that for interesting
    Last edited by The Wizard; 12-06-2006 at 01:17.
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    Ming the Merciless is my idol Senior Member Watchman's Avatar
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    Default Re: The Famous Longbow

    Unlikely. There's only so many ways you can turn a six-foot staff into an effective arrow projector, I'd imagine.
    "Let us remember that there are multiple theories of Intelligent Design. I and many others around the world are of the strong belief that the universe was created by a Flying Spaghetti Monster. --- Proof of the existence of the FSM, if needed, can be found in the recent uptick of global warming, earthquakes, hurricanes, and other natural disasters. Apparently His Pastaness is to be worshipped in full pirate regalia. The decline in worldwide pirate population over the past 200 years directly corresponds with the increase in global temperature. Here is a graph to illustrate the point."

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    Tovenaar Senior Member The Wizard's Avatar
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    Default Re: The Famous Longbow

    I will assume you're referring to me. Yet I have read about metal Indian bows, and also that wooden Indian bows were of the long type and recurved (the reading was done in Rajput's excellent Indian Military History thread).
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    Ming the Merciless is my idol Senior Member Watchman's Avatar
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    Default Re: The Famous Longbow

    I've read of the Indian steel bows too, but it was long ago and the source gave the impression they were a late experiment that never worked quite as well as it was supposed to.

    The Indians were apparently big for really large self-bows already when Alexander and his merry men turned up, but I'm afraid I know next to nothing of the archery tradition of the subcontinent before the recurve composite bow was introduced. The self longbow coexisted with the recurve composite, that much I know, and I know a limited degree of "recurving" effect can be achieved in self-bows through both the qualities of the wood itself and heat treatment, obviously with the exact same benefits as when used in composite bows.
    "Let us remember that there are multiple theories of Intelligent Design. I and many others around the world are of the strong belief that the universe was created by a Flying Spaghetti Monster. --- Proof of the existence of the FSM, if needed, can be found in the recent uptick of global warming, earthquakes, hurricanes, and other natural disasters. Apparently His Pastaness is to be worshipped in full pirate regalia. The decline in worldwide pirate population over the past 200 years directly corresponds with the increase in global temperature. Here is a graph to illustrate the point."

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    Senior Member Senior Member Red Peasant's Avatar
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    Default Re: The Famous Longbow

    Come on lads, the chap wants to know about 'The Famous Longbow', not the strange contraptions foreign Johnnies used.
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    Professional Cynic Member Innocentius's Avatar
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    Default Re: The Famous Longbow

    Quote Originally Posted by The Blind King of Bohemia
    The tactics at Halidon Hill of the english force was moulded around the victory of the scottish exiles at Duplin Muir a year before. Using only small forces in defensive positions with a good rate of fire could prove devastating in the packed formations of the scots who would often disperse men at arms throughout the schiltrons on order to protect the spearmen with shields from the archery
    Yeah, that's why I wrote major victory
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    Boondock Saint Senior Member The Blind King of Bohemia's Avatar
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    Default Re: The Famous Longbow

    Quote Originally Posted by Innocentius
    Yeah, that's why I wrote major victory

    Dupplin Muir was a major victory for Edward Balliol. It secured his throne, all be it for a short time. The carnage was immense at the battle with the 'The disinherited' killing around 4-6,000 scots with small losses on the anglo-scottish force. They were outnumbered heavily, at least 4 to 1, with around 1,000 men at arms and around 2,000 archers defending a hill position near Gask. They faced at least 10,000 scots under Mar. The battle itself was the worse defeat the scots had since Falkirk and was a design already implemented at Boroughbridge but perfected at this battle which was the turning point of the Scottish wars and without the battle it would not have encouraged young Edward III to support Balliol's claim thus bringing about another major battle at Halidon Hill
    Last edited by The Blind King of Bohemia; 12-08-2006 at 14:57.

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    Camel Lord Senior Member Capture The Flag Champion Martok's Avatar
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    Default Re: The Famous Longbow

    A new member wished to contribute the following:

    Quote Originally Posted by StrategyMaster
    The most reliable and effective arrowheads are those which are either triangular or square (i.e. in cross-section). These are for use in battle and for piercing iron and all kinds of armour. There are various types of arrowheads, of which the most useful are those just mentioned. The haydari head (a broadhead for hunting?)' is not as good as either of these two kinds. Target heads (nusul al-ahdaf) should be rounded. There is also a kind of head resembling an olive, which, some masters have told me, is the most useful of all arrowheads for battle and for piercing shields and which in Turkish territory is used by archers more than any other type. They also have an arrowhead resembling a chisel. Like the maydani it is cylindrical, but its tip is not pointed. On the contrary, it looks as if it has been cut obliquely from its lineal midpoint and tapered to a blade on two opposite sides so as to present the appearance of a scalpel. The edge of the blade is as wide as the diameter of the body. I have tested this head and found that it will pierce the laminae of a brigandine (qarqal) as well as it is possible to do so.
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    Default Re: The Famous Longbow

    Nobody can state in any certainty which composite bow is the best, it really depends on the bowyer. That the Hun bow was a vast improvement over the Scythian is without doubt but for any other variation of this design the performance is more or less similar. There is no marked difference that suggests the Turkish bow (btw this design usually refers to the type used by the Ottomans rather than the 'Turkic' steppe nomads) is any better than the bows introduced by the Huns, ie composite bows with siyahs (rigid limb tips). In fact, the asymmetrical design of the Hun bow could well qualify as the best performer of the Asiatic reflex bows if we consider the negative effect of 'handshock'. Many historians have put forward their theories as to why the lower limb was shorter and conclude it was for ease of use from horseback. I don't agree. The Hun is markedly asymmetrical while the others are not and there were many others. Handshock is hardly noticeable with the Hun compared with others such as the Mongol or Turk and accuracy is not affected at all by the asymmetrical limbs. Accident or design?

    Longbows were prevalent throughout various European countries though the bows remembered are those of English armies. Yew was the stave of choice due to the heartwood/sapwood combination which works in a similar way to the horn/sinew constructon of the composite. However the tensile strength of sinew is supposedly four times greater than the best sapwood. The other drawback of self bows is 'memory', the bow will eventually begin to lose its performance as the stave begins following its draw path and is the reason why such bows are not left strung for long periods.

    The Japanese Yumi is a very long bow and is another example of asymmetry. Japanese archery, mounted or not is quite different and is more of a Zen approach, as in the 'perfect release'. To the best of my knowledge, they were not renowned for huge draw weights

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