Advantages of Using Shield and Full Plate Armor

Sep 2017
697
United States
#11
I agree. Plate armour meant that you were better protected, not invulnerable. A sword chop or slice, or a blow from a mace or hammer , which would more than likely kill you, would mean that you wold very likely survive. The more and better your armour, the less likely you would be outright killed, the lesser the injury you would suffer.

A longsword would be better at keeping enemies at a distance, but not so useful if they got up close. A one-handed sword and shield was much handier at close quarters, but harder to fight an opponent with a longer weapon and lesser damage caused. But as the ultimate aim was to leave the field of battle alive, I'd take my chances with sword and shield.
A sword chop or slice would not if you were in plate armor. I also believe it would take multiple blunt-force blows.

A longsword might be better at keeping enemies at a distance, but a polearm would be the best and be able to do damage through armor much more efficiently. A shorter sword would be very hard to kill an armored opponent with.

If I had a full suit of plate, I'd take my chance with a polearm, knowing I'm sacrificing a bit of protection without the shield but increasing my fighting power much more.
 
Feb 2011
6,384
#12
Many of those were stationary, with points at the bottom to anchor them to the ground, and a prop at the rear. They were made for missile troops, to shield them while reloading and shooting. You can't fight as an infantryman from behind one. Others were slung on the back, but designed for the same general purpose, to protect a crossbowman or handgunner while reloading. There is an account from the Battle of Flodden (1513) in which the front-rankers of the Scottish pike columns carried pavises or mantlets--not sure how they did that! They were excellent protection against English arrows. But it also says that the Scots' armor protected them very well even when several bills hit them at once.

And frankly, if *I* were an armored knight, I wouldn't be hiding behind a pavise when the enemy is approaching! That would be a serious blow to my ego and self-respect, at least. Plus I'd want mobility to fight, and you don't get that with a pavise.

Matthew
I was speaking under context of a siege or intial battle phases in which people in full plate would still be trading shots initially and not fighting as infantrymen.
 
Sep 2017
109
Pennsylvania
#13
...But for protection against one-handed maces and hammers, take a look at modern "armored combat league" fighting, basically real armor and (blunt) weapons, with the participants literally beating each other into submission. The guys I know who actually do this have never mentioned broken bones. There will certainly be damage to the armor over time, but fights just don't last long enough to immobilize an opponent by beating at his joints. More often the combatants will close in and wrestle!...

Matthew
Armored Combat League is a sport. My understanding is that there are specific rules in place which prohibit attacking vulnerable points such as the knee with a warhammer or mace, explicitly intended to prevent serious injury.
Ditto strikes to the back of the head.
I don't think then that lack of injuries in ACL speaks to lack of effectiveness on the part of maces and warhanmers in medieval combat.
You also mention wrestling, historical warhanmers usually have a spike on the end designed to punch through the opponent's armor, it would seem to me that this would be pretty effective against a knight knocked to the ground by one of your buddies. Again, attacks against downed opponents are explicitly forbidden by ACL to my knowledge and, I can't say for certain, but I'd expect hammering a spike into someone is as well.

All of this was not only fair game but mostly the point of warhanmers and maces historically.
 
Likes: Olleus
Mar 2014
1,897
Lithuania
#14
Short one handed weapon still poses a lot of problems. For example when you try to approach formation of knights in plate armor with pole arms 3 people will be able to hit you even before you can reach them. Maybe you are pretty good, you will block one of them with your shield, another with your hammer, but what about third person? Will you be able to come in reach at all if they are good? There is a good chance that people behind those knights are also holding pole arms who also can reach you when you try to get into reach, while your friends with shields and one handed hammers can only watch you predicament.
 
Jan 2015
2,881
MD, USA
#15
Armored Combat League is a sport. My understanding is that there are specific rules in place which prohibit attacking vulnerable points such as the knee with a warhammer or mace, explicitly intended to prevent serious injury.
Ditto strikes to the back of the head.
I don't think then that lack of injuries in ACL speaks to lack of effectiveness on the part of maces and warhanmers in medieval combat.
You also mention wrestling, historical warhanmers usually have a spike on the end designed to punch through the opponent's armor, it would seem to me that this would be pretty effective against a knight knocked to the ground by one of your buddies. Again, attacks against downed opponents are explicitly forbidden by ACL to my knowledge and, I can't say for certain, but I'd expect hammering a spike into someone is as well.

All of this was not only fair game but mostly the point of warhanmers and maces historically.
All good points! And I'm not trying to say that maces and hammers were ineffective. Nor that modern sports can compare to ancient warfare! (In fact I'm usually more careful to avoid such comparisons, oops...) I just don't think that it's all that easy to break bones under plate armor, especially with a one-handed weapon.

Didn't know about the rule against knee strikes with maces! Fascinating... I do know that there is a lot of concern over traumatic brain injury, in the SCA as well, and that's a current health issue which REALLY should not be ignored or downplayed. I work in a medical library, and just the little bits that I've seen are scary as hell. Of course, none of that was known in the middle ages, and if you could take a poleaxe to the head and still get up afterwards, and shrug off a couple days of headache and dizziness, eh, you're good, right? Yikes...

Matthew
 

Bart Dale

Ad Honorem
Dec 2009
7,095
#16
Many of those were stationary, with points at the bottom to anchor them to the ground, and a prop at the rear. They were made for missile troops, to shield them while reloading and shooting. You can't fight as an infantryman from behind one. Others were slung on the back, but designed for the same general purpose, to protect a crossbowman or handgunner while reloading. There is an account from the Battle of Flodden (1513) in which the front-rankers of the Scottish pike columns carried pavises or mantlets--not sure how they did that! They were excellent protection against English arrows. But it also says that the Scots' armor protected them very well even when several bills hit them at once.
In the Gams of Thrones, there was a battle where a formation of spearmen advanced where the one person would hold a large shield, while the person next to them held the
spear. Perhaps they did something similar at Flodden.


And frankly, if *I* were an armored knight, I wouldn't be hiding behind a pavise when the enemy is approaching! That would be a serious blow to my ego and self-respect, at least. Plus I'd want mobility to fight, and you don't get that with a pavise.

Matthew
If you are standing shoulder to shoulder,as in the Game of Thrones battle scene, you don't have a lot of room to manueverability anyways. Plus not all these soldiers would be knights, and even common soldiers wore armor the 1500s.
 

Dan Howard

Ad Honorem
Aug 2014
4,357
Australia
#18
Jousting with a shield and full plate had nothing to do with extra protection; the shield was an integral part of the game. In Rennen-style jousting the entire goal was to hit the shield. Some Maximillian-style jousting armours had the shield attached to the harness with catches and springs. The shield was designed to detach upon impact.
 
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Dan Howard

Ad Honorem
Aug 2014
4,357
Australia
#19
Armored Combat League is a sport. My understanding is that there are specific rules in place which prohibit attacking vulnerable points such as the knee with a warhammer or mace, explicitly intended to prevent serious injury.
The main reason for those rules is to avoid culpability in the event of a law suit.
 
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Apr 2018
279
USA
#20
Certainly a shield will keep you better protected than not having one. But it was an era of 2-handed weapons, in part necessary *because of the armor worn by opponents.* There was no point in carrying a shield and having only a one-handed weapon to attack them, because you couldn't do them any harm. Even if you could engage, that is, due to their having longer weapons in the first place.

Matthew
George Silver did say that cross-gripped targets were very useful in a pitched battle because they were much better at defending against heavy, two-handed blows than other weapons, though he rated them fairly poorly for one on one combat. Quite a few other military treatises at the time similarly considered targeteers to be very effective during skirmishes, assaults, or a "pell mell". Carrying a metal target could also provide a bit more protection against bullets than the soldiers armor could on its own.

It seems like they could potentially be very useful when coordinating very closely with other troop types. The targeteer might have trouble hurting an enemy with full plate armor and a polearm, but the enemy will have trouble hurting him as well, and the guy standing right behind the targeteer with either a two-handed polearm or an arquebus could definitely hurt the enemy. The more sober treatises tend to reccomend at most just a few targeteers per 100 footmen.


During the 16th century it seems that some armies such as the black army of Hungary did start to incorporate dedicated "shieldbearers" who would wear heavy armor, a large "pavise" or tower shield, and then a one handed weapon of some sort and serve as a sort of mobile wall to help protect the other infantry from missile weapons. In the 1490s Spanish infantry was apparently classified as either "lancers", who cared a small shield and a long lance, and "pavisers" who carried a large shield and a small lance. Presumably shieldbearer infantry started to fall out of favor again as artillery and more powerful handguns became more prevalent and mobility and trenches started to become much more important.
 
Likes: Matthew Amt

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