The psychological advantages of armor

Sep 2016
211
Australia
I’m not sure if this thread needs to be in speculative history, but I think this topic needs references to historical circumstances to be answered.

Will armour be able to give a line of heavy infrantry men (A) the psychological push to aid them to wave through the pikes of an opposing of infantrymen with much lighter armour? (B) Let’s say for example (A) are a group of dismounted German knights with lances and (B) are a group of fanatical and extremely loyal flemishmen. The period is late 14th century.

I ask this question because i would assume that even a little seed of doubt over the protective capabilities of plate armor would be to make most soldiers reluctant to go forward despite how low the chances of armour failure might be.
 

Belgarion

Ad Honorem
Jul 2011
6,752
Australia
Knowing your gear, its strengths and weaknesses and forming your tactics accordingly as well as having faith in your own ability has always been a requirement for military success. If your heavy infantrymen are happy their armour can do the job against pikemen then there is no reason this should be the deciding factor in whether to attack or not.
 
Apr 2018
281
USA
The short answer is that yes, armor at the time was recognized as providing some pretty major psychological advantages in combat, particularly among medieval and Renaissance military thinkers who were drawing from the writings of vegetius.

Good armor could make soldiers much braver and more willing to advance into danger while at the same time intimidating the enemy. Additionally its weight made it more difficult for soldiers to backpedal or run away, encouraging them to hold their ground and stand tall as long as possible against an enemy attack.

Ideally it would be preferred to have soldiers wear as much armor as practical and then exercise until they got used to the weight. Although this wasn't always the case in practice. Additionally, while a wealthy soldier in armor might feel confident in many situations that even if he was surrounded and overwhelmed he would most likely be captured and ransomed rather than killed, a poorer soldier or one fighting in the later religious or nationalistic wars wouldn't always like the idea of being unable to run away when in danger.
 

Edric Streona

Ad Honorem
Feb 2016
4,520
Japan
Even as late as the Napoleonic wars the cuirassier’s breast plate was thought to give them a slight psychological boost even if it offered no protection against musket and cannon shot.
 

Poly

Ad Honorem
Apr 2011
6,698
Georgia, USA
Even as late as the Napoleonic wars the cuirassier’s breast plate was thought to give them a slight psychological boost even if it offered no protection against musket and cannon shot.

Depends what range a musket ball has been shot at.


Today it's unthinkable that an expensively trained soldier goes into battle without armour.
 

Pendennis

Ad Honorem
Mar 2013
3,386
Kirkcaldy, Scotland
The following dialogue occurs in the 1955 war movie bio of Audie Murphy--the USA's most decorated W.W. 2 soldier.
Sherman tank commander to Sgt Kerrigan -This tank only has four inches of Armour....'
Kerrigan -How thick do you think this G.I. shirt is buddy!!!?'
 

Dan Howard

Ad Honorem
Aug 2014
4,929
Australia
Depends what range a musket ball has been shot at.
Yep. There is an anecdote in the US Civil War where an officer was shot in the breastplate and it was holed. He took off the breastplate and jacket underneath, shook out the metal fragments, and put them back on before returning to battle.

It also depends on the thickness of the breastplate. We have at least three separate incidents where Hussar breastplates protected the wearer from direct cannon fire. The men were severely wounded but all three survived.
 
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Dan Howard

Ad Honorem
Aug 2014
4,929
Australia
Siege of Smolensk (1609-1611). Jan Wejher was hit by a cannon ball shot by a Russian on the rampart (it did not bounce first). He was saved by his cuirass, which was damaged but not penetrated. Wejher barely survived; when he recovered he donated his armour to the Carmelite Monastery in Loretto.

Aleksander Gosiewski from the unit of voivode of Smolensk was was hit by a cannon ball in 1633. The armour was dented but not penetrated. Unfortunately it skidded off the surface and continued through his arm, leaving it severely mangled.

During a battle between Liubar and Chudniv (1660) a hussar named Prusinowski, under field hetman Jerzy Lubomirski had his breastplate crushed by a cannon ball, denting but not penetrating it. There are three separate accounts saying that he was wounded but survived. One eyewitness (colonel Samuel Leszczyński) wrote that the dent was so large that he could put his hand in it.

Hussar breastplates were pretty heavy. There are multiple extant examples in various museums that are 8-9 mm thick across the chest. They were specifically designed to stop firearms.
 
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Dan Howard

Ad Honorem
Aug 2014
4,929
Australia
The short answer is that yes, armor at the time was recognized as providing some pretty major psychological advantages in combat, particularly among medieval and Renaissance military thinkers who were drawing from the writings of vegetius.

Good armor could make soldiers much braver and more willing to advance into danger while at the same time intimidating the enemy. Additionally its weight made it more difficult for soldiers to backpedal or run away, encouraging them to hold their ground and stand tall as long as possible against an enemy attack.

Ideally it would be preferred to have soldiers wear as much armor as practical and then exercise until they got used to the weight. Although this wasn't always the case in practice. Additionally, while a wealthy soldier in armor might feel confident in many situations that even if he was surrounded and overwhelmed he would most likely be captured and ransomed rather than killed, a poorer soldier or one fighting in the later religious or nationalistic wars wouldn't always like the idea of being unable to run away when in danger.
Armour was a lot lighter and easier to move in than many seem to think. This video should be required viewing for anyone interested in this subject.

 
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