The Bow In Warfare

The Bow In Warfare
By Thomas Forbes from his book 'Guide To Better Archery'

As firearms improved, they gradually replaced the use of the bow in English warfare. The forces of Elizabeth the 1st were the last in which the bow played an important role.

Of all the long-bows that were made and used in England, only four examples have survived to the present day. Two of these were recovered from the wreck of a ship which sank in the Thames during the reign of Henry VIII.

The tactical use military men made of the bow was predicated not on the skill or marksmanship of the individual archer but on the premise that serious casualties could be in­flicted on an enemy by massing the fire of hundreds and thousands of archers and actually filling the air, in the words of old writers, with a cloud of arrows.

Additional evidence that aimed individual fire was not practiced as late as the eleventh century is contained in an account of the Battle of Hastings, fought in the year 1066.

William, Duke of Normandy, was unable to penetrate the Saxon wall of shields with his men-at-arms. Every charge of his knights was repulsed. Near the end of the day he ordered his archers to shoot high in the air and drop their arrows behind the Saxon wall of shields. Harold, the Saxon King, struck in the eye by an arrow, was mortally wounded, and the Conqueror's men-at-arms charged through the line to victory.

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