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English Longbow

Updated: Dec 21, 2021

The English Longbow is known by many, but it's history is not always recognized. English Longbows are made of yew or elm and the range was up to 200 yards. They were used in war for thousands of years, starting with the Battle of Mount Badon (about 490 AD) where the longbow would be instrumental in defeating the Saxons.

So how did it come to be?

The English Longbow is a long, narrow bow made of a single piece of wood and so has no handle or knob at the bottom. The bow is arched with the tips of it bent upwards when unstrung. English archery never used a thumb ring, the archer used his fingers to draw the bowstring. The bow was in widespread use between 1250 and 1500 AD when they were turned into infantry bows, starting with the Battle of Crecy in 1346 where archers proved superior in firepower to heavy cavalry.

What wood is used for the bow?

The traditional material for English Longbows is yew. Other woods are sometimes successfully employed, but yew remains preferable even though other woods such as elm and ash can be stronger than yew for any given cross-section because of differences in strain pattern along their length, something that doesn't matter for an arrow since its shaft is identical along its entire length and always has the same amount of flex. The potential strength of yew, based on archery bows from continental Europe, is around 540-560 N/cm for the complete bow arched to 28" of draw. This compares with an average English Longbow draw weight between 80 and 150 pounds (36–68 kg).

As seen @ comparasions can be made between the English Longbow and the Mongol Bow below.

In Battle

The archers attributed their success in battle to divine favour rather than skill at arms. English archers were trained from childhood not only in archery but also wrestling, as well as swordsmanship, mace work and quarterstaff fencing. It was the latter that gave rise to a legend that king Edward III had decreed that any man practising archery must have three weapons – the english longbow, the bill hook and the dagger – hanging upon his person, which archers were obliged to wield whenever called upon.

The archers were supplied with some sixty arrows each before beginning the battle; these would be carried on their persons or in bow quivers attached to their belts. At Crecy archers had some four minutes of shooting time by moonlight (about 120 shots) at ranges of around 200 yards (180 m), an estimated 1-1.2 million arrows launched into the sky. The number of archers has been estimated at 8,000 men but it is not clear whether this figure reflects total archery manpower available including administrative personnel and craftsmen, or only combatant archer units, all calculated as longbows although most estimate between 900–1750 archers per army at this time.

The archers not only wore a hat, but also a hood known as a "bracer" to prevent a stray arrow from hitting their unprotected arm or neck. A leather glove was worn on the drawing hand.

At about 150 yards, archers switched to shorter composite bows. At Crecy the archers were placed at the flanks of the army where they could use their longbows most effectively against cavalry charges. They inflicted very heavy casualties upon the French men-at-arms at that battle and later English archers used similar tactics with equally devastating results against cavalry at Poitiers and Agincourt in succeeding generations during The Hundred Years' War (1337–1453). Arguably the most famous archer of the Hundred Years' War was Sir John Hawkwood who is buried under the dome at Florence Cathedral.

English archers were also known to fire two or three arrows at once, either by sliding two or more full-draw hand-held bowstaves together, so they snapped back on release and flew as one arrow, or else archers would hold several arrows between drawing fingertips so they all struck simultaneously. A legend tells of an archer being offered a large sum to come over to the French side during the Battle of Agincourt but replying "I shoot for England!" with great determination before letting fly his deadly hail of English arrows.

The last battle in which archers played an important role was Flodden in 1513. Scottish archers, fighting with the English on this occasion, were ordered to shoot at the perceived Scots archers in an act of revenge for an archer raid on their camp a few days previously.

Archery itself has never fallen into complete disuse as a military weapon; it was only when gunpowder weapons became powerful and accurate enough that archery receded into specialized roles or forms of sporting events. During The Hundred Years' War siege engines such as mangonels and trebuchets often had loopholes through which an archer could fire a longbow at the attackers; crossbowmen were sometimes used to defend these machines from attack parties formed of men armed with pikes or swords, who might try to climb the siege engine and disable it.

What Benefits Does Archery Have For You?

Archery is commonly used by archers to hit archery targets at different ranges, heights or elevation angles depending on the archer's purpose. Archers are able to judge distances, height differences, elevations, target size and environmental conditions such as wind speed with good levels of accuracy. It is necessary for an archer to be extremely fit in order to draw a bow back fully so that it will shoot at high velocities. This can be achieved through maintaining one's upper body strength through physical exercise or training techniques called "archery pulls" where one holds the draw weight of the bow by pulling against either free-hanging 60 lb–100 lb weights for 15 seconds to several minutes or by using machines designed for archery pulls at health clubs.

Many archers use special "gloves" with leather palms and fingers, used to draw the string to the correct height without being pinched between the string and the bow. They are usually of two types, firstly a glove that is open down the middle which allows one to shoot barehanded if necessary but will wear out quickly, or secondly a closed glove which can be bought or made specifically for archery purposes. Another device archers may use is known as an arrow puller, commonly referred to as a 'clutch' this device attaches to the archer's belt on their dominant side. When they make a bad shot or fail an attempt at a shot and their arrow falls to the ground, archers with a 'clutch' can simply turn it around and catch the side of their arrow in the notches.

  • This enables archers to retrieve almost all of their arrows, most times they just have to flip the arrow over and pick it up.

  • The archer's bow itself is very light, often weighing only a few ounces more than the draw weight of the bow. As such most modern archers switch bows frequently according to the archer's particular needs.

In Conclusion

The English Longbow led to the spread of archery across all of Great Britain. It became a weapon that could be used by anyone if the correct training was applied. Archers were no longer confined to defending castles or charging into battle at Waterloo, archers became sportsmen and women who participated in events such as archery tournaments.

Archery is now used throughout the world during various competitive events ranging from archery contests, hunting, historical reenactments and archery games similar to paintball or airsoft where archers shoot other archers then "tag" them using arrows with blunt tips made specifically for safety purposes.

The English Longbow helped to change archery forever but it did not only affect archery; this new type of archer led to archery becoming a respected form of sport. Without archery, the world would be a much different place.

Thank You For Reading! -- KMC Archery

#englishlongbow #bow #history #archery #BOW

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