[English Longbow] longbow question

Blackcat

New member
I have a question which is probably completely dumb but as I am buying my first longbow soon I feel the need to ask. Would the different arrow lenghts not just be down to the various archers using the bows having different draw lengths (mine only 27, hubby 31) instead of same archer using different arrows? Just as a point of interest a member of our club was one of the divers on that salvage and seen the bows and arrows first hand, will ask his opinion when I see him again.
 


gino

New member
This is something I have considered and I think there is something to what you say.
The way I see it is that we must remember that not only were people different heights but also men of the age of 16 or more were likely to be fighting alongside the taller of their comrades. I'm sure they would have understood the importance of the right length of arrows and may have distributed arrows to archers according to their height as bows were assigned to men.
But then again when you have hundreds or thousands of archers going to war would you bother making sure people had the right length arrows?

I think this is something of which we can only speculate.
 


English Bowman

Well-known member
Good question.
The honest answer is that we just don't know, however, here are my thoughts on the subject.
I believe that some of the short arrows were found in a bundle with some of the longer ones, now if they were for different archers, which is the obvious answer to the different lengths then why weren't they separate?
Now we have fairly firm evidence that to reach the distances attributed to the English archers they would have to have used a different style to the modern archer and "over-draw" to beyond any anchor point. This would explain the longer arrows, however, it is much easier to shoot accurately with an anchor point of some description, and if you were to do this with an arrow that is too long you will end up with the arrow falling short due to the excessive weight of the shaft. So you would want an arrow the "correct length" when doing this.
I believe (Although I admit I have no proof) that the archers may well have carried some shorter "hunting" length arrows that were matched to they're size and bows to shoot when the enemy got too close for comfort and you wanted to take aim and know that you would hit the guy that you were aiming at, where you were aiming, and not just take out one man in a crowd in the distance.
I don't know this to be the case, but I don't believe that they would draw a point inside the bow, because of the damage that this could cause. (particularly without an arrow plate!)

Daniel

(PS don't try over drawing a longbow that's not been made for it. It'll break!)
 


English Bowman

Well-known member
This is something I have considered and I think there is something to what you say.
The way I see it is that we must remember that not only were people different heights but also men of the age of 16 or more were likely to be fighting alongside the taller of their comrades. I'm sure they would have understood the importance of the right length of arrows and may have distributed arrows to archers according to their height as bows were assigned to men.
But then again when you have hundreds or thousands of archers going to war would you bother making sure people had the right length arrows?

I think this is something of which we can only speculate.
You got in a bit before me, I think that each man would have his own arrows that suited him for close work, and use issue arrows for the distance stuff.
Again just my personal thoughts on the matter.
 


Blackcat

New member
Is it also possible that the shorter arrows were perhaps prev broken and the archer re footed them rather than throw away otherwise perfectly servicable arrows which would have been expensive items in those days, breaking at different points causing the variance in the lenghts?
 


English Bowman

Well-known member
Is it also possible that the shorter arrows were perhaps prev broken and the archer re footed them rather than throw away otherwise perfectly servicable arrows which would have been expensive items in those days, breaking at different points causing the variance in the lenghts?
Unlikely, as the nock is intact, and the pile end looks shaped ready to take the pile. (the piles have rusted away)

DAniel
 


English Bowman

Well-known member
It's for the ones I've seen, so I can't say that it's all of them, but I can say that there were some complete 26" arrow shafts brought up from the wreck.
 


Blackcat

New member
was just a thought, like I said don't know much yet. Was off surfing the sites and it looks like your right. Amazing what they managed to bring up. Has someone tried to recreate those bows and arrows yet and shot them in the ways your suggesting to see if changing the draw lenght works they way you say? It would be an interesting experiment don't you think?
 


English Bowman

Well-known member
Yes. I know that a few bowyers have made replica equipment, including Pip Bickerstaffe. There are also several archers that have shot the replica equipment including Simon Stanley and Mark Stretton
It was his idea that the different arrow lengths were for different ranges, and whilst the idea seemed wrong to me at first the more we talked about it the more sense it made.

Daniel
 


alanesq

New member
was just a thought, like I said don't know much yet. Was off surfing the sites and it looks like your right. Amazing what they managed to bring up. Has someone tried to recreate those bows and arrows yet and shot them in the ways your suggesting to see if changing the draw lenght works they way you say? It would be an interesting experiment don't you think?
I shoot a 85lb at 32" medieval style bow which I believe would have been about the draw weight of the lighter bows from the Mary Rose and although its a laminate bow its basically a copy of one of these
I do actually shoot both 32" 3/8 shaft arrows and 28" 11/32" shaft target arrows from this bow and it is perfectly feasible to use the same bow with these different length arrows (it is 68lb at 28")

But, the loss in power with using the shorter length and the loss in weight behind the arrow with the smaller arrow I think really makes it unlikely short arrow would be used in war, I do suspect shorter arrows may have been used in hunting though ?
i.e. If I were trying to shoot someone who was running towards me intent on killing me I really can't imagine not pulling the arrow back as far as I could to get maximum power behind it?

I am not really at a skill level yet where I can say for sure if the shorter draw is ultimately more accurate but I plan to find out ?
but Judging from what Simon Stanley can do I know that the long draw can be very accurate with practice

BTW - I have just ordered a 115lb at 32" bow so I will try it with this also (when I manage to pull it ;-)
 


gino

New member
Folks, I have had an epiphany.

What's the proportion of the number of short arrows compared to longer ones?

Alan, you've suggested that a shorter draw may have been used to hunt animals with so perhaps thats what the short arrows were for originally but just being used in warfare with the rest of them?

How about if everyone is right a little bit?
What if the short arrows were sent across with the army but not for the purpose of killing men? The logistics involved of moving and feeding an army that vast would be difficult at best so you would need some people out in the wild hunting for food to supply their meagre rations. What if the short arrows were for that exact purpose? for hunting food (via this short draw method) to feed the army? If this short-draw hunting theory is correct then it might explain why an army would carry arrows that seem unsuitable for the normal task of being drawn to the ear.

I'm not saying it was impossible to use the short arrows for warfare but perhaps they were meant for hunting?

It's just an idea....
 


alanesq

New member
Just to throw a spanner in the works ;-)

I have just had a try shooting 32" arrows from my light longbow (i.e. 45lbs at 32") just pondering if I would be happy using this draw in a hunting sense (i.e. in a forest trying to hit a small target relatively close)
and the answer I come to is that it would be perfectly ok and I wouldn't feel the need to convert to a shorter draw

so now I am not convinced that a shorter draw would necessarily be used when hunting, although it would still be a perfectly good way to reduce the power of your bow - in fact in the way that I myself am doing at the moment so that I can use the same bow for roving (32") and field (28")
 


English Bowman

Well-known member
Folks, I have had an epiphany.

What's the proportion of the number of short arrows compared to longer ones?

Alan, you've suggested that a shorter draw may have been used to hunt animals with so perhaps thats what the short arrows were for originally but just being used in warfare with the rest of them?

How about if everyone is right a little bit?
What if the short arrows were sent across with the army but not for the purpose of killing men? The logistics involved of moving and feeding an army that vast would be difficult at best so you would need some people out in the wild hunting for food to supply their meagre rations. What if the short arrows were for that exact purpose? for hunting food (via this short draw method) to feed the army? If this short-draw hunting theory is correct then it might explain why an army would carry arrows that seem unsuitable for the normal task of being drawn to the ear.

I'm not saying it was impossible to use the short arrows for warfare but perhaps they were meant for hunting?

It's just an idea....
This is a good idea, and makes sense. I think that it's a lot more likely than drawing an arrow within the bow, and does explain the evidence quite well.

Drawing to past the ear when hunting would mean making a larger movement than necessary which would make it more likely for the animal to see you and run. I also believe that you can be more accurate with a firm anchor such as the corner of the mouth, and this accuracy would be more important when aiming for a smaller target such as a rabbit or pheasant. It's a pity that the heads weren't still on the arrow as if they were crescent heads it would add weight to this argument.

Daniel
 


alanesq

New member
I could be wrong, but I think the two lengths of arrow shaft on the Mary Rose were bundled together?
wouldn't you expect the two types of arrow to be kept seperate if one was used for war and the other hunting?
 


gino

New member
could be alan but we should find out for sure.

Or it could be that people were as disorganised back then as much as we are today :D
 


jb.68

New member
Just to throw a spanner in the works ;-)

I have just had a try shooting 32" arrows from my light longbow (i.e. 45lbs at 32") just pondering if I would be happy using this draw in a hunting sense (i.e. in a forest trying to hit a small target relatively close)
and the answer I come to is that it would be perfectly ok and I wouldn't feel the need to convert to a shorter draw

so now I am not convinced that a shorter draw would necessarily be used when hunting, although it would still be a perfectly good way to reduce the power of your bow - in fact in the way that I myself am doing at the moment so that I can use the same bow for roving (32") and field (28")
I don't think a shorter draw length is the answer either, but a lighter draw weight for hunting makes does more sense. That way you always draw to your natural draw but the lighter bow means that your arrow don't just pass straight through your prey.
 


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