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Can you swim in a mail shirt?

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SarahWoodbury
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Post by SarahWoodbury » Sat April 4th, 2009, 4:01 pm

I read that the notion that suits of mail were really heavy is a product of surviving ornamental suits that nobody wore coupled with the later tournament armor, in which a man jousted. Both were very cumbersome and heavy, whereas well-made plate was lighter than mail, fit to the wearer, and they were well-able to hack around in it.

"While it looks heavy, a full plate armour set could be as light as only 20 kg (45 pounds) if well-made of tempered steel."
James, Lawrence (2003). Warrior Race: A History of the British at War. St. Martin's Press. pp. 119

My son has a children's book which shows a knight having to be helped onto his horse to fight. I refuse to read that caption to him :)

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Anna Elliott
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Post by Anna Elliott » Sat April 4th, 2009, 4:28 pm

On the other hand, accounts of the battles of Crécy (26 August 1346 ) and Poitiers (September 1356) credit the French defeat to their horses being disabled and the knights having to flounder around in their heavy armor in the mud.

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SarahWoodbury
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Post by SarahWoodbury » Sat April 4th, 2009, 8:22 pm

Yes. I just finished Bernard Cornwell's Agincourt and he describes that. I can see that if it was wet and muddy, and arrows were flying everywhere at you, and your horse has been killed out from under you, that suit of armor would get heavy pretty quickly. I just meant that if armor was really a 100 pounds, men wouldn't be doing much fighting in it at all. Similarly, the typical longsword was 2 pounds (still a lot more than a 10 oz baseball bat), not 10 and was held one-handed (not like the Scottish claymore). These men were big and strong, but not more so than an NFL football player. Or Tiger Woods :)

The bowman are equally amazing, the way that Cornwell describes their strength. Like knights, though, this was their job and they worked on it from the age of 7.

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EC2
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Post by EC2 » Sat April 4th, 2009, 11:43 pm

You can be proficient in armour and the weaponry providing you practice. I know a re-enactor who fights in full mail hauberk and chausses and he's deadly and can keep going for ages. He's fit and honed, but he's only around 5ft 9 ins in height and lean with it. You don't have to be massive to carry the weight and weild the weapons, just accustomed to hefting them. The guy in the pale blue tunic, 3rd from left in this pic on the home page of my re-enactment society is only about 5ft 5ins and of slender build, but a holy terror when garbed in his mail shirt and with a sword in his hand! http://livinghistory.co.uk/homepages/ConroiDeVey/
Les proz e les vassals
Souvent entre piez de chevals
Kar ja li coard n’I chasront

'The Brave and the valiant
Are always to be found between the hooves of horses
For never will cowards fall down there.'

Histoire de Guillaume le Mareschal

www.elizabethchadwick.com

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LoveHistory
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Post by LoveHistory » Sun April 5th, 2009, 3:14 pm

[quote=""EC2""]You can be proficient in armour and the weaponry providing you practice. I know a re-enactor who fights in full mail hauberk and chausses and he's deadly and can keep going for ages. He's fit and honed, but he's only around 5ft 9 ins in height and lean with it. You don't have to be massive to carry the weight and weild the weapons, just accustomed to hefting them. The guy in the pale blue tunic, 3rd from left in this pic on the home page of my re-enactment society is only about 5ft 5ins and of slender build, but a holy terror when garbed in his mail shirt and with a sword in his hand! http://livinghistory.co.uk/homepages/ConroiDeVey/[/quote]

That's absolutely right. There are a lot of guys like this in the SCA too. It's all about conditioning.

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Volgadon
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Post by Volgadon » Sun April 5th, 2009, 9:40 pm

And isn't much heavier than what my brother had to carry in the army, the difference is that the armour spread it out more evenly.

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Kveto from Prague
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Post by Kveto from Prague » Mon April 6th, 2009, 9:20 pm

I got a chance to try on a mail shirt a few years ago at a castle in north Bohemia. (id post a pic but the photos are the old type, not on a PC). It was quite heavy and to me the problem felt like an uneven weight distibution. the mail shirt hangs very heavily on your shoulders and you can imagine that lifting your arms repeatedly would tire you out quite quickly. Ive been told plate armour distributes the weight more evenly around the body, therefore does not feel as heavy even if it weighs more.

however i dont think it would overcome your bodys natural boyancy. Ive fallen through the ice into a frozen lake wearing full ice hockey kit, goaltender pads, body pads, full helmet and ice skates and still managed to swim my way out.

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Post by annis » Tue April 7th, 2009, 8:17 am

Doesn't sound like an experience you'd want to repeat, Keny!

I've just been watching a documentary about the spread of the Celts through Europe, and discovered something I hadn't realised. The Celts, with their metal-working skills, were the first to make and wear chain mail shirts.
Circa 300 BCE is the approximate date of the invention of chain mail. Chain mail is of Celtic origin, the earliest known examples appearing in graves dating from the third century. The concept of thousands of small, interlocking metal rings is a complex one, and its implementation required considerable skill on the part of the blacksmith. Because chain mail was difficult to make, and expensive, only senior warriors or royalty are thought to have made use of it initially, although it became more widespread later on. Chain mail was soon adopted by the Romans when it proved effective in battle.

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