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Gentleman's Military Interest Club


Old Contemptible
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Blog Comments posted by Spasm

  1. Yes, having just attended a show today, pack and price everything up, try to get it all into the car, set up display tent in field without it blowing away, set up tables, put everything out on display, enjoy the talking to loads of people, and then only sold stuff out of the 'junk bin' for a few quid (not even enough to cover the entrance fee) I'm thinking the same thing. But maybe also moving on a bit.


  2. It seems as though you would drive through snow storms to attend shows but, it seems, happily walk round without any dough about your person. Is there some form of plan here? Or is it just a collector's thing?

    I'm interested, as I do have the occasional stall at events with painted objects for sale and no one ever seems to have any money. I've always wondered why that is...... 

  3. Brian, I understand completely and sympathise with you. I too was confused by the 'new' approach at museums and thought too that the experts there had some greater knowledge about what holds the younger generation's attention. What with their apps and twitter continually having to be entertained by their little boxes on buses that were much too boring to even think about looking out of the window. I'd convinced myself that I was old and needed to put up with it.

    It was a fairly new concept for me - I was standing in the queue at our local shop behind about 6 or 7 grey haired old guys. I actually thought to myself "come along you old gits sharpen up, I'm in a rush" - then I realised I look exactly the same. A grey haired old git. Not quite with high hitched wastelined trousers and a walking stick yet but not far. Damn.

    Old and with an old mind set, that is until I visited the WW1 museum in Ypres. That place really opened my eyes as to how a museum in the new mould could be. Specially created music as a background, wonderfully created moving maps that take the watchers through the shifting front, highly definition recorded commentaries from actors in several languages all wearing accurate uniforms, a truely super and educating journey through the times. I found the experience very moving.

    It can be done differently, it can be done well and I was proved wrong about having to do things with bright lights and flashy just to attract those who are thought to have short attention spans. 

    But I admit, I do like things in straight lines and in an understandable order. 


  4. Very impressed with your skills Brian, outstanding other than measure twice before cutting strings as they look to have taken some time to make.

    I agree with your thoughts on attacking a heavily defended position. The English were pretty well sorted with the terrain. I have also heard that there was a quite steep embankment/bund (that is still there) which forced the heavily armoured French into a fairly narrow avenue and thus a fairly compact target for the warbows.

    Having watched a few videos on crossbows it seems that it was a fairly easy operation to change the strings. There's a miniature 1/6th scale world record holder (go figure) - the youtube video is called "miniature medieval crossbow world record part 4" if you'd like to see it (I did put the link on here but it sort of took over the blog) - it clearly shows how the strings were removed. Perhaps the winch shown came slightly later than Crecy but they certainly had the goat's foot lever. And, as you say, they didn't have to do this all by themselves.

    My thoughts are still that the French Noble Knights, having seen the much smaller English army, convinced themselves (and their illustrious leader) that they could trample the enemy into the mud. Hotheaded they also ran over the Genoese while they were retreating and they themselves being cut down by the arrow storms. So believing in their righteous victory they charged over and over unthinking that they couldn't smash the English.

    The French hadn't learnt from the day before when the Genoese (with their shields) and Knights had been mauled by the English while forcing the river crossing. The Nobles just couldn't believe they wouldn't mash the invaders. Their tactics went out the window.

    Your crossbows show that the range wasn't the issue either.

    So, I agree, the loss and deaths had to be blamed on something that couldn't possibly be the French's fault. Anything than admit they properly binned it. As I also suspect any admittance of bad leadership or tactics may have resulted in other political come backs.

    I'm half expecting (hoping) that they'll be some more pictures of you two Brians shooting at targets and reloading. The crossbows must look pretty good in the display. 


  5. One thing that I'm pretty sure about is that the bodkin (arrow tip) wasn't capable of piercing the quality armour and undergarments of the time. Maybe the lower quality armour to a certain degree. I've watched a heavy warbow smash it's arrow on armour at no farther than 20 yards without anything more than a scratch on the breastplate. I've seen armour made by modern blacksmiths that you'd have a problem getting a knife between the plates. The armoured gauntlets are just a work of art.

    I suppose it's therefore difficult to understand why the armoured men at arms and knights didn't just wade through the arrowstorms and cut the archers down. I really can't imagine what it would be like below a storm of arrows but given that the French changed their tactics back to shield walls and looking away from a volley it must have had a terrible effect on the advancing line.

    Lightly armoured crossbowmen, men at arms and horses were driven back by high trajectory and aimed level volleys. The heavily armoured were forced to march uphill over the dead and dying, horses stumbled into pot holes and trenches and then facing a hedge of wooden steaks, long pole arms and fresh armoured men just baying to get at you. It must have been terrible. Given that the French charged at the English about 15 times and fought from around 4pm until midnight, they were very worthy to bear arms for Phillip.

    I'm looking forward to seeing how your experiments went with those very nice looking crossbows.



  6. So, to add some more input and because you re-ignited my interest as to just why Crecy was such a one sided affair:

    Originally my thoughts were on the longbow, or rather the warbow, being a superior weapon than the crossbow. Easy, I figured, I'll go find out that the crossbow didn't fire as far. Surprisingly this doesn't seem to be the case with the heavier crossbows used at the time. Although I'm hoping that your experiences and tests will fuel that thought.

    So, roughly 6,000 Genoese crossbows against 7,000 English warbows. With a few French tagging along (about 30,000) and some English dismounted men at arms (about 6,000). But still a complete destruction of Phillip's army with about 12,000 killed. Figures do vary enormously depending on the source.

    I agree with your thoughts on both the French and the Genoese blaming each other rather than being truthful and admitting they were simply mashed by the English.

    The Genoese also blamed the first use of cannon on the battlefield. (Probably not the very first time they were ever used but maybe the first time they had seen Knights knocked off of their horses by them).

    I suppose the clues are there that, in fact, the French were soundly beaten by better tactics and a battle plan well tried and tested against the Scots. The line holding firm with massed arrow storms from English warbows.

    Edward himself used Genoese mercenaries with crossbows to subdue the Welsh some time before this trip into France. He saw the Gwent longbows in action against his mounted Knights. The greater speed of firing (particularly against the heavier crossbow) and the heavy draw weight that could be handled by an experienced archer.

    The mounted Knight changed to fighting on foot alongside the archer during the battles against the Scots. Falkirk and Berwick were won by prepared arrow storms.

    The crossing of the Somme two days before the battle at Crecy was achieved against well prepared Genoese crossbowmen alongside French Knights. The English lost about 250 against a force of 3,500 who were so confident they waded into the river against the English. Impatient Knights again.

    So, my thinking is that the impatience of the mounted knights controlled, heavily armoured men at arms in the centre with large angled wings of archers well trained and accurate with heavy warbows with the use of the lay of the land basically out thought, and out fought, the Scots and the French. The French being further hampered by unruly Nobles and Knights insisting that their numbers would crush the English and wading straight in when advised to wait until the following day.

    Now all I want to hear is that the effective range of a crossbow is less than that of a warbow. It seems that the 170 odd longbows brought up on the Mary Rose had pulling lengths for a 30 inch arrow and a pull of between 100 and 180 pounds. Most of us couldn't even think about a full pull on one of these bows. It seems that although claims of a range of up to 400 yards the first volleys were let loose at around 250 - 300 yards. 





  7. Didn't mean to steal any of your thunder Brian.

    I expect that facing down an unruly mob of mercenaries who may be facing you on the battlefield at a later date was a lot easier than some banker who was threatening bankruptcy, pffft. 

    Having a think about those arrow storms, I wonder how many times a charging Knight would've been hit before he made the fighting line? Figures do vary wildly but losses were pretty bad, even with armour. Probably most were done in by the men at arms but it must've been pretty bad with some 8 thousand arrows streaking downwards with another wave already in the air.

    Assuming the battlelines were roughly 100 yards apart, similar to those battles fought 500 years later in the peninsular and the US civil wars. No armour there though, maybe the long bow would've been more effective than those flintlocks.   

  8. A great read as usual Brian. 

    I was always under the impression that the crossbows of the time had a range of about 80 yards. At Crecy, when the Genoese mercs approached to about 100 yards they made their stand. The English longbow is said to have had a range of up to 300 yards (although having been to a few re-enactments in the West Country showing arrow storms I'd doubt it) it is likely that the Genoese were in killing range of the English war bows.

    Edward III had seen/heard about the English Knight's failed excesses against the Scots at Stirling and Bannockburn and built upon his Granddad's battleline strategies when the longbow was developing. A shield wall of men at arms behind a herce (line of dug in pikes) intersperced with archers. Sometimes with wings slating towards the enemy allowing arrows from 3 sides. They had also learned from the Scots and had dug pot holes and trenches to break the horses legs.

    I've read that 150,000 arrows were fired in 30 volleys at Crecy. At around 6 shots per minute that would give an arrowstorm of about 5 minutes duration. With bodkins the heavier 3 foot arrow fired from a 6 foot war bow could easily pass through chain mail and the lighter cheaper wrought iron armour. (As demonstrated by the French adopting shields and looking away at Potiers later on.) The unruly French nobles (excessive as were the English Knights) pressed forward against the Genoese and fell with them as the horses and thinner armour on arms and legs were penetrated. 5 minutes of dying in the shade!

    The French lost a couple of thousand while the English lost only a couple of hundred.

    I also thought that Mercs were pretty well treated during those, and later times. It was difficult to raise the money for a home grown army given the rules at that time. Relatively small armies (in comparison to the later WWs) would scrap in a field and the peasants would work for a new ruler. Didn't really change their way of life. Mercenaries could be raised already trained and already equipped with arms and armour. Albeit the mercs would remain loyal to their Captain rather than who was paying him. And which Captain would go work for someone who was known for killing off the mercenaries - ok maybe the one who wanted a bigger share of the money. But what mercenary would go work for that Captain.

    I'm looking forward to the results of the two Brian's (or is that Brians') shooting trials.

    Nice one


  9. My Uncle Alf certainly learned a lesson at Dunkirk. This was the Uncle who used to tell me, as a child, that his dented lighter had saved his life.....with all my other Uncles, including my Dad confirming that it was true......of course it wasn't. Just Cockneys pulling their kid's legs.

    Some years later, however, I found that he was indeed at Dunkirk fighting and wounded as part of the rearguard. Spending some time recuperating at home he received a letter from the War Department. It was a bill for 6 pounds and 6 shillings for his rifle that he had left behind in France. Good grief..... 

    Another great blog post Brian, please keep them coming, all are a joy.

  10. What's the use?

    I had this self same discussion with the Admin Staff only the other weekend. As you are probably aware, or not, I've started to attend a few militaria shows to try to sell some of my artwork on relics, bits and bobs and paintings. I've been really pleased with the comments and discussions from both interested members of the public and also stallholders at the shows. One thing has struck me though, I put a fair bit of research into each item that I paint - making sure the correct helmet/item reflects the artwork upon it and that each badge, design etc painted relates, in some way, to the rest of the item. I try to ensure that each piece has it's own little bit of history with a story behind it. But that has never been the subject of the discussions when an item is selected off of the table by someone.

    It is probably due to it being artwork, one either likes something or does not, as simple as that. However, I asked the Admin Staff why should I bother doing all the research and additional artwork on something when no one really seems interested in the details. "Ah," she says "but would you be as happy with it if you hadn't put in that extra effort?"

    Quite right - that's the use.  

  11. While working in London we used to get asked to help with the odd police investigation into the sewer system (a few stories there) and was asked if I would like to visit the Black Museum in Scotland Yard. Now, not being that erm.. keen on the old Bill I took a bit of persuading to go. I never realised that only invitees were allowed in. Had some pretty hair raising stuff in there - the museum looked like something out of Victorian times, dark and foreboding. On display were all sorts of weapons that have actually been used on London's streets, Hang Man's nooses with which one hanged which infamous murderer, Jack the Ripper's letter amongst loads and loads of other macabre stuff. Glad I went but not so sure I should've.

    As the Yard is due to close I assume the museum will go with it.

    On the First Aid training did ya'll know that Annie, the doll that all first aid trainees practice CPR on(or whatever it's called these days) is actually a copy of a young girl that drowned in the sea off Norway, or was it Sweden. The distraught father was told that if any of the people who pulled her out of the sea had known how to resuscitate her, she would probably have survived. So the father donated loads of dough to help first aid training by paying for the manufacture of the training dummies, with one proviso, that they all looked like his daughter Annie.

  12. Bud

    Sorry, me not being very clear - www.findmypast.co.uk - is the site that have the Waterloo medal roll. You have to search in the roll using first and last names, it then gives you a list of all the Richard Smiths. As he's from the 73rd he'll be lower down the list (just in case you are paying as you go or you'll waste your credits searching every Richard Smith in the list). It'll show who was his Captain and what regiment he was in, nothing else, but it does confirm he was there. You can also purchase a printed certificate to display but it's new and made up by the site.

    To get access to original paperwork (or at least copies of them) - medal entitlements, (he may have others that he is entitled to particularly if he transferred from other regiments or stayed on in the army - most army personnel in those days did a few years unless they were killed, sick or injured), postings etc it would be worth contacting www.nationalarchives.gov.uk to get a copy of his discharge papers (costs only pence if you can find it yourself on their website - best of luck as it's a horrible unuser friendly website) which would give you a clue as to where to next look. There are contacts on their website if you would like someone to search for you (well worthwhile).

    Best of luck, let us know how you get on.


  13. Bud

    The Waterloo medal roll (that the Royal Mint has in its collection) lists all that received the medal and includes who's company the recipient was in. Find my past website has the roll - you can buy access on a pay as you go basis. It will also have more details of Richard's life if you have the time to search Census and all military records. Ancestry will also have details if you spend the time to search - this site also costs.

    A free site is birth marriages and deaths (BMD free) but this will only be helpful once you've identified birth place, mum and dad etc. But it will show marriages and kids to help track things.

    It would be worth searching the National Archives for more details as they will have enlistment, muster rolls and discharge papers which will describe Richard, give details of pay, ranks, location depending on his discharge point. Either Chelsea or Kilmainham Hospital. The site is almost impossible to search out any details and you have to order copies of any paperwork you find. You can either book a visit (and tell them beforehand what you are looking for) or get them to do a search for you. It takes some time but is usually well worth the wait. Private searchers will also do this for you and are much quicker but more expensive. You can find them fairly easily on the web.

    Although we already know he was 2nd Btn of the 73rd and there is a fair amount of info available available on the net. They eventually amalgamated with the 42nd to form the Royal Highland Regiment or better known as The Black Watch.

    Loads to find out, keep hold of the medal, it's proper British history. I wish it were mine.

    Good luck


  14. Reyes

    The medal looks pretty good to me although the ring clip looks to have been re-soldered and may not be original. The medal may have been "broached" at some time, hence the missing ring and ribbon and what looks to be telltale signs around the rim. In hand to a medal collector will quickly tell.

    The Waterloo Medal Roll has Richard Smith in the 2nd Battalion 73rd Regiment of Foot (Perthshire Regt) - which checks with the inscription - in Captain John Pike's Company. The 73rd had Dark Green facings and Gold lace.

    The 2nd/73rd Foot fought in the Battle of Quatre Bras two days before Waterloo. They lost 53 men killed and wounded. At the Battle of Waterloo itself, the regiment was charged by French Cavalry no less than 11 times during the battle and bombarded by French artillery. It remained in square without breaking. The 2nd/73rd lost 6 officers and 225 men killed and wounded, the second heaviest casualties suffered by a line infantry regiment, after the 1st 27th (Inniskillings) which lost 450 out of 700 men in holding their square and Wellington's line. After Waterloo the battalion was part of the Army of Occupation in Paris before moving back to England. The 2nd Battalion disbanded in 1817 sending 300 men to the 1st Battalion in Trincomalee.

    I'm sure those with access to Ancestry will be able to give you more details on Richard, also the many medal experts on here will help with the medal.


  15. Jim

    This needs to be posted in another area to get maximum viewing - I'll ask a moderator to re-post for you

    Best of luck in finding. I'm assuming these still give diplomatic immunity to the holders so every security screen is aware that badge 131 is on the "arrest on sight" list.