Brian Wolfe

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About Brian Wolfe

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    Senior Moderator
  • Birthday 06/08/48

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    Ontario, Canada
  • Interests
    Medals: British and India (post 1947), Special Constabulary and a few others.
    General: Staffordshire and British Police memorabilia
    Plus odds and ends that capture my interest from time to time.

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  1. Thank you for your kind comment Percy. Regards Brian
  2. HI Bernhard, I was so tempted to say "boulder dash" but even I would stoop to a pun as low as that. Oh, I guess I just did. Thank you for your comment and I am reminded of something I read where the South Africian troops would often fire their FN rifles just in front of a prone enemy thereby sending shards of rock into their faces. Regards Brian
  3. Very nice Chris. It's really great when one can help out an organization and educate the public all at the same time. I salute you. Regards Brian
  4. I knew that sooner or later my blogs would drive some of the members to drink. If this offended you wait until my Easter blog where I take a shot at the Easter Bunny. My theory is that he or she is pure myth. So be vewy vewy quite; I'm hunting the Easter Wabbit. Regards Brian
  5. I thought I would add photos of the bolts (arrows) I made for the crossbow trials now. There is a photo of an original from Prauge of around the same time period as the Battle of Crecy as an example for compairson with the ones I made. Mine are shorter and a little lighter but since I was not trying to use them to test penetration I was staisfied that they would do the job. The fletching (arrow feathers) of the original, now mostly lost, were made of thin wood. I could have copied this as well but it seemed to me a lot of bother when plastic sheet would do just as well. The originals were set on a partial spiral to give the bolt a spin and therefore more accuracy. Mine are straight. The ends of the bolts, I have read, were prone to damage when fired due to the action of the string. I have never seen such damage but to avoid the possibility I used a small strip of plastic glued to the end where the string would contact the bolt. Note that the original bolt was shaped to fit into the arrow slot of the crossbow. I copied this to a point but again exact copies were not necessary. In total I made two dozen bolts of the same weight and proportion so that Brian and I would not have to do as much walking to and from the target. I also experimented with much lighter bolts and some with a third feather on the top. These were much more accurate than the copies of the original and a lot of fun to play with. I think there were two or three that we either didn't loose or destroy. If I can locate the one I have around here I'll post it later. I will be taking a trip to the local armourer/blacksmith to have some experimental tools made for the shop, and possibly to market, soon and intend to have him make a reproduction bodkin tip as in the photo. I will then make a reproduction of the bolt I have in the collection to display with my crossbow, but that is a story for later. Regards Brian It might be interesting to add a couple of photos of a chain mail hood or "coif" I have here in the Home Office. Where it came from and how I got it I have no memory of but it's here. It is a modern reproduction but gives some idea of the construction, which in this case is quite nice. As noted in earlier posts either by Steve or me, the bodkin arrow point was designed to penetrate chain mail. Again, my sincere thanks to you, Steve, for your assistance in making this an interesting blog. Regards Brian
  6. Hi Steve You make some very good points. The French did indeed change their tactics concerning mounted knights wearing heavy armour to what we would see as cavalry in modern thinking. At the battle of Crecy I have read that King Philip had mounted infantry but decided to use them as ground troops. Why didn't the armoured knights just wade through the arrow storm is another good point. One suggestion (from past thinking) was that the heavy amour would not allow fluid movement and rendered the knight to moving like a slow robot. This is simply not true as tests with full armour has shown that getting up after a fall such as tripping or side-stepping an opponet is quite possible. I would think that it was a matter of vision. Vision through the visor slot was quite obstructed. I have had the opportunity to wear a reproduction helment and it is like wearing a box over your head with only a very narrow slot to look through. Any larger slot would allow arrows to pass through. Taking the helmet off to allow clear vision would allow the head to be unprotected with an easy target for the longbow or even a crossbow at distances where the knight's weapons would still not be able to be put to use. As you have pointed out the attacking forces needed to cross over a field strewn with dead and dying soldiers and horses. The point you make about the French soldiers being very worthy to bear arms for Philip could not be more accurate. Overall I don't think either side saw much cowardness in either their own troops or those of the enemy. Regards Brian
  7. Hi Steve, Thank you once again for the additional information on the battle and history. I didn't really want to spend a lot of time on the material you have added, even though I had intended to do so, in the next installment. So, again thank you, you've saved me a lot of time and now I can spend my efforts on my findings. Considering the short draw of a crossbow neither Brian nor I had a lot of faith in the two bows I had constructed. Brian held his opinions until after I admitted my own doubts, however, I found it good to realize I was not alone in those misgivings. Not to give a lot away (i.e. spoiler alert) we were both quite surprised, specially in our first vollies which were far too high to hit the target. The surprise came when we needed to retrieve the bolts (arrrows) and couldn't find them at all, initially. After some frustration we moved our search farther back and eventually located the spent bolts, also called quarrels. After this we moved the target farther away. Naturally my crossbows are not as good as the originals especially when considering their range However considering Brian and I have both hunted with standard bows which were rated at 80 and 100 pound draws I consider our findings as a fair representation. Honestly I'd say our findings are as good as many of the experiments found on so-called History and Discovery Channels. Please feel free to add as much as you please to this blog. Who knows we may have the beginnings of a book here. Regards Brian
  8. Steal my thunder? Not at all, please do. When I started my blog section I was intending it to be a base to build on by the membership. When I am not being a knob and actually posting something serious I really want input, new ideas and ways of looking at things. It's probably a shelfish thing in a manner as I want to learn as much from others, perhaps more, than educate. Regarding arrow storms I would think it would be even more terrifying than being fired apon today as you can see "them" coming. Of course never having been a target of either arrows or under machine gun fire I am just speculating. Thanks for adding to the blog and please feel free to keep doing so. Regards Brian
  9. Hi Steve Thanks for your additional information. I will now have to take a bit from my next blog as you have already covered some of the information. A bit shorter blog next time is welcomed. Mercenaries were welcome before and after a battle but like the military of old of little use to the winners. Often they were more problems than they we were useful. Actually Edward III failed to pay back loans to finance the war to three Florintene banks causing them to declare bankruptcy. This allowed the bank of the Medici to rise. Makes one wonder if a King would not pay his bills would he be as honest in paying other bebts? It is a thought. Regards Brian
  10. Often when I start to write what is supposed to be a serious article and I get into the research I find that suddenly I start to doubt my original viewpoint. I was researching into the Battle of Crecy, 26 August 1346 with the intention of writing a piece on the event when I found a good deal of contradictory opinions and sketchy so-called facts. It is not my intention to hammer on and on about these opinions but as an example I found one source as stating the number of Genoese Crossbowmen mercenaries being at 5,000 and another at 15,000. I can over look a few hundred or even a couple of thousand but not a difference that equals three times greater or lesser. Interestingly enough King Edward III set sail from Portsmouth with a fleet of 750 ships and 15,000 men on 11July 1346. Perhaps this is where the confusion came from in one of my sources. Another source doubts the capability of the city of Genoa to be able to provide even 5, 000 mercenaries, though we’ll accept that number for now. As you can see right away I started to doubt my sources. My viewpoint has always been that the British longbow was far superior to the crossbow of the same era, as in the case of this battle in 1346. Spoiler alert! I still hold to my original hypothesis that the longbow was superior but not as it was based on the information I have always held as accurate. A quick overview of the Battle of Crecy as it pertains to the difference in bows is as follows. The British had the longbow the French the crossbow; to be more accurate the Genoese mercenaries had the crossbow in the employment of the French. The English held the high ground, a classic tactical move, on a south slopping hillside at Crecy-en-Ponthieu. This put the French mounted knights at a disadvantage from the start. Out flanking the English was impossible for the French as the English left flank was anchored at Wadicourt and the right flank protected by Crecy and the Maye River just beyond the city. In essence this constricted the French into what could be termed a confined killing zone. Since the English had arrived well before the French they were well rested and fed, in contrast to the French who were weary from the long march and had not had time to take sustenance. King Philip VI of France was advised to encamp for the night so the troops could be fed and well rested prior to the battle. Unfortunately for the French, King Philip listened to his to his senior nobles and elected to fight on that very day. Around 16:00 hrs (4:00 PM for you non-military/police types) a heavy rain started. The British took their bow strings off their bows and stored them under their waterproof hats. The Genoese could not remove their bowstrings as this required special tools to install and remove the strings. The wet crossbow strings, which could not have been removed or even adjusted to” take up the slack”, greatly reduced the range of the crossbow while the dry longbow strings, once the British bows were re-equipped maintained their range. As the Genoese advanced the setting sun shone directly in their eyes blinding them. At the same time the British arrows started to rain down on them well before they could reach the range to use their crossbows. The Genoese commander ordered a tactical withdrawal (another and more honorable term for retreat) which enraged the French knights, which was comprised of their nobility. History states that the French mounted knights slaughtered the 5,000 (or was it 15,000) Genoese crossbowmen for showing cowardice in the face of the enemy. As we have all probably read the French knights then fell before the British arrows throwing the French battle strategy into complete disarray and defeat. This defeat sapped the fighting strength of the French to such a degree that defence of Calais at a later date was impossible, allowing the British to control that area for several hundred years afterward. My issue was with the long held theory that the Genoese crossbowmen could not remove their bow strings in the rain and therefore the range was lessened. It seems to me that professional mercenary crossbowmen, if the bow string could not be removed, would have planned for such an event, based on their past experiences and training. Crossbowmen had large shields, called pavises, where they could take shelter from enemy arrows while reloading. So why not use these to cover the crossbows while the weather was wet? There are two stories to this question (stories are not necessarily facts). One story was that while on route to Crecy in the August heat the crossbows plus the heavy shields were too much to carry so they discarded them. This seems unlikely for two reasons; first you would not discard your pavis in the face of an enemy who could launch almost twice as many arrows as you. Second the crossbowmen did not carry their own pavises as they had pages, or squires, to do so. Another theory was that the pavises were on the baggage trains and they simply had not arrived in time for the battle. The battle did not actually need to start that day but at the insistence of the French nobles it did and the crossbowmen were pressed unto the attack, therefore this might lend credence to the theory that the pavises were indeed absent. Had the pavises arrived in time would this had made a great difference in the outcome of the battle? I tend to doubt that it would. The French were too confined and with the greater range of the longbow and the higher number of shots per minute the Genoese would have suffered greatly. The impatience of the mounted armoured knights would undoubtedly lead them to attempt an attack which would have been through the front line (the Genoese). One of the facts of using mercenaries is that you don’t need to pay a dead mercenary and often they would take causalities from “friendly fire” in order to thin their ranks once the battle had turned in the favour of their employer. The distain for mercenaries by the nobility and the need to reduce the number of survivors needing to be paid may have meant that charging through their ranks was a positive move on several levels. If we can accept this scenario then the outcome of the battle would have been much the same. It is my opinion that the English were simply superior archers with a far longer ranging bow, the long bow. The arrows being much longer and with more weight tipped with a four sided tip called a bodkin tip had greater kinetic energy at impact. This not only brought down the Genoese but the flower of the French mounted knights. There has been doubt that a longbow arrow could penetrate plate armour; perhaps this is true as it is supported by contemporary observation. However, the armor on a horse is relatively light and certainly not even close to full covering. Bring down a knight’s horse and you have finished off the man. I say this as a man in a couple of hundred pounds of steel armour hitting the ground at speed (full charge) would cause multiple debilitating and mortal internal injuries. Add to this a 2,000 pound horse and its armour rolling over him and you have what could best be described as “puree of knight in a can”. I am suggesting that the wet bow strings and perhaps even the missing pavises (if that is even true) combined with the French knights slaughtering the Genoese as cowards as they were retreating is something that was made up by the Genoese survivors themselves. A mercenary is only as good as the last victory in which he was engaged. To admit that the enemy (English in this case) were simply using superior bows and were the better archers would not bode well for potential future employment. To tell the tale that they were exhausted prior to the battle and upon moving back out of range of the English archers, as a tactical move to regroup, then be cut down by the French (a betrayal) would be acceptable to potential employers who may not be friendly toward the French. Add to this possibility that the French used the Genoese as a reason for their defeat. Always be quick to take credit for your victories and be quicker to deflect blame in the case defeat. It would be folly to suggest the reason for English victory was due only to their superior bowmen as there were other factors such as the tactically wise choice of terrain by the English and King Philip’s decision to give in to his nobles poor advice. This, of course, is pure speculation on my part. So how can I sit here in the Home Office and make such profound statements? On what am I basing my opinions and assumptions? Well, I’m glad you asked. Almost two years ago this question, in my mind, of wet bow strings drove me to produce two exact as possible copies of a crossbow based on the weapons of the 1300s. Research alone took almost a year then testing both bows over the course of several months, when time allowed, saw two years pass by. I built the two crossbows, one for me and one for my friend Brian, in order to see if they would perform in the same manner in the hands of two people who never fired a crossbow before. The cost of these two bows, considering some parts were made by professional armourers, was just under $1,000.00 Canadian. I’ll take you through some of the processes of making the bows and the materials used as well as our findings in the next blog. Please stay tuned for a little applied archeology and discussion as to what we discovered. Regards Brian
  11. Excellent collection. Thank you for showing them to us. Regards Brian
  12. Oh, I have given offence in times past, "wigs on the green" and all that. However, I do agree with you for the most part. Have a happy New Year, Megan. Regards Brian
  13. Hmmm indeed. Sounds about correct though. LOL I will have to bow to your knowledge of who might live in the Artic as you reside much closer to the North Pole. Regards from the sunny tropicical south (New Hamburg for those who don't know). Brian I'm glad you asked that my northern friend. According to my gnomes here in the Home Office that would be China. The gnomes seem to know everything; too bad I may have to lay them off as there is talk of unionizing. }:[
  14. Hmmm indeed. Sounds about correct though. LOL I will have to bow to your knowledge of who might live in the Artic as you reside much closer to the North Pole. Regards from the sunny tropicical south (New Hamburg for those who don't know). Brian
  15. The content of this blog may be offensive to some readers and should probably not be viewed by readership under the age of 14. Content may include nudity, coarse language and/or violence (though probably not). Reader discretion is strongly advised. After what could be easily described as a Dickensian childhood I am not what you would term as a warm-hearted individual. The fact that I have never watched the movie “A Christmas Carol” past the first half point, I did like the whole ghost segment, is not to say I am completely lacking in compassion. As an example, living in Canada, we get a good deal of snow and the municipal sidewalks require by law to be cleared by the abutting property’s owner. My section of municipal sidewalk is 180 feet in length. I don’t know what that is in metric measure because, first I remove the snow in the imperial system of measurement and secondly if you want it in metric you can come over and remove the snow and measure it anyway you want. My neighbour next door has a heart condition so I remove an additional 100 feet of snow from his sidewalk. Once this is completed I remove the snow from my driveway and the sidewalks surrounding our home. This year the neighbour on the other side of the street just experience a heart attack so I decided I would also remove he snow at his place for the winter to allow him time to recover. I do these tasks with a snow blower machine; the largest, most powerful machine I could find. The neighbours have nicknamed it “The Beast”; or at least I think they are talking about the snow blower. The first time I removed my neighbour’s snow, which was unannounced, his wife hugged understand that I do not like to be touched. If I knew doing a good turn would result in a hug I would probably have avoided the act in the first place. Today I received a large plate of cookies. Now we’re talking. I speak fluent “cookie”. I said to my dear wife. Linda, “Wouldn’t it be funny if there were peanuts in the cookies and by thanking me she killed me (I have a peanut allergy). Linda didn’t think that was funny at all. So I am not a warm individual and also have a sick sense of humour. This brings me to my point. Anyone who has ever read my blogs knows by now it takes a while to get around to the actual point; if indeed there even is one. While attending the shopping mall to pay homage to the patron saint of retail sales, Santa Clause, by throwing good money (I mean “investing”) in cheaply made gaudy toys for the grandchildren an interesting thing happened. An older sales representative wished a younger woman a “Merry Christmas”. To this the young woman replied, “That’s Season’s Greetings” not “Merry Christmas”; “Merry Christmas” might insult some people. Well, I though, that’s interesting. You mean that is all it takes to insult some people? All this time I have worked so hard to annoy others and this is all it took. Well you can imagine just how frustrated I was after expending all of that effort over all those years. Here’s my way of looking at it. Don’t care? Too bad, you should have known better than to have read this far; don’t blame me for your short comings. Not my circus, not my monkeys. If I were to wish someone “Season’s Greetings” then to my compulsive obsessive mind I would be wishing them good wishes throughout the whole season. What, two or three weeks? By wishing them a “Merry Christmas” I am only extending those wishes over a 24 hour period. I might not really know this person and if I actually took the time to do so I would most likely find some reason to dislike them. Merry Christmas (the 24 hour greeting limit) is both efficient and time specific; not all wishy washy, warm and fuzzy like the imprecise “Season’s Greeting” which has the potential to go on and on forever. If I don’t really know you then be satisfied with a “Merry Christmas”, be happy with that and don’t push your luck. As to the membership of the GMIC, over the years I have gotten to know many of you and even those I have yet to meet seem to be a pretty good lot. So I am wishing you all both a “Season’s Greetings’ AND a “Merry Christmas”. Well, except for “you-know-who” he just gets a “Merry Christmas”. Regards Brian