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The Military Science

Superguns Helped Defeat the Spanish Armada 501

Posted by kdawson
from the nobody-expects-the-spanish-armada dept.
Hugh Pickens writes "With the discovery last year of the first wreck of an Elizabethan fighting ship off Alderney in the Channel Islands, thought to date from around 1592, marine archaeologists are revising their ideas on how the English defeated the Spanish Armada. Replicas of two cannon recovered from the Alderney wreck were recreated in a modern foundry, and tests carried out showed that the Elizabethans were throwing shot at almost the speed of sound. Elizabeth's 'supergun,' although relatively small, could hit a target a mile away. At a ship-to-ship fighting distance of about 100 yards, the ball would have sufficient punch to penetrate the oak planks of a galleon, travel across the deck, and emerge out the other side. Tests on cannon recovered from the Alderney wreck also suggest that the ship carried guns of uniform size, firing standard ammunition. 'Elizabeth's navy created the first ever set of uniform cannon, capable of firing the same size shot in a deadly barrage,' says marine archaeologist Mensun Bound from Oxford University, adding that that navy had worked out that a lot of small guns, all the same, all firing at once, were more effective than a few big guns. '[Elizabeth's] navy made a giant leap forward in the way men fought at sea, years ahead of England's enemies, and which was still being used to devastating effect by Nelson 200 years later.'"
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Superguns Helped Defeat the Spanish Armada

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  • by D-Cypell (446534) on Wednesday February 25, 2009 @05:47AM (#26980007)

    Speaking of a Brit I am always humbled at my nations level of mastery of naval tactics, from the early 'near supersonic' artillery mentioned in this article, to the modern... "Just ram the fuckers with a submarine" approach that we employ today... *wipes tear*

    • by _Shad0w_ (127912) on Wednesday February 25, 2009 @05:54AM (#26980041)

      I blame the French for driving on the wrong side.

    • by Goffee71 (628501) on Wednesday February 25, 2009 @06:22AM (#26980163) Homepage
      Add to this our current aircraft carriers with no aircraft for them, and our future aircraft carrier that can't take the aircraft being built for it, we rock at this Navy stuff!
      • by Chaoscrypt (1476283) on Wednesday February 25, 2009 @06:38AM (#26980223)

        Dont forget about "Windows for Warships"

      • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

        RAF Harriers are currently deployed to our carriers, as they have much lower hours on the airframes than the RN Sea Harriers. The carriers are still completely effective. Also I have no idea what you are talking about with regard to the new carriers, they are being designed for the VSTOL F-35 variant, with no current problems. The new carriers will be ready before the new aircraft.
        • by Goffee71 (628501) on Wednesday February 25, 2009 @07:48AM (#26980489) Homepage
          >>RAF Harriers are currently deployed to our carriers,

          And that must cheer the Royal Navy up no end!

          >>The new carriers will be ready before the new aircraft.

          Precisely, the Harriers will be retired before then!
        • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

          by Sylver Dragon (445237)
          RAF Harriers are currently deployed to our carriers

          Wow, unless they really are the same aircraft that has got to be scary as hell for the pilots on landing. When the US Navy and US Air Force use similar aircraft at the same time the USN version's landing gear are usually beefed up a good bit to deal with the distinct possibility of the ship pitching up right as the aircraft was landing. That and the fact that USN aircraft don't really land, they just get above the deck and stop flying.
    • Rule Britannia! http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Rule,_Britannia [wikipedia.org]!
    • by Antique Geekmeister (740220) on Wednesday February 25, 2009 @07:20AM (#26980371)
      Or IBM's new 'take a step to the right' body armor. Can you imagine putting that on sailors and watching them fall overboard when you shoot at them?
    • by Ihlosi (895663) on Wednesday February 25, 2009 @07:23AM (#26980389)

      to the modern... "Just ram the fuckers with a submarine" approach that we employ today... *wipes tear*

      That approach was first invented by the US Navy, though. However, applying it to another submarine instead of some random fishing vessel is quite a refinement.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday February 25, 2009 @05:56AM (#26980045)

    Two cannons were shown on the programme being lifted from the sea bed to join a 3rd that had been lifted earlier.

    They wanted 3 cannons to make sure that a matching pair was not a fluke. A matching triple is much less likly. It was also interesting to to note that all the cannon balls lifted were of the same size.

    • by _Shad0w_ (127912) on Wednesday February 25, 2009 @06:06AM (#26980085)

      It was because the ship only carried one size of shot that he theorized the canon were identical in the first place. On any other wreck he would have expected to find lots of different sized shot.

      The musket they found on the ship, when replicated, also punched through a sheet of steel the thickness of a contemporary breast plate, which a modern 9mm handgun couldn't get through (the round just mushroomed over and dented the plate).

      • The breastplate test (Score:5, Informative)

        by nojayuk (567177) on Wednesday February 25, 2009 @06:13AM (#26980111)
        The pistol they used in the test at the Royal Armoury was not particularly modern -- it was a GI-standard Colt 1911A1 firing milspec .45ACP ball ammo.
        • by _Shad0w_ (127912)

          Ahh; I was unfortunately in and out of the room trying to cook dinner when it was on - missed exactly which gun it was.

        • by Lisandro (799651) on Wednesday February 25, 2009 @08:50AM (#26980713)
          For whatever is worth, the 1911 design is still very popular and has been copied by a gazillon gunmakers since its introduction; so is the .45ACP round, which is particularly popular in the US.
        • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

          by 4D6963 (933028)
          How is it not modern? How does it differ from more recent handguns? Modern pretty much means current, or non-obsolete. The fact that it's still being used by the American armed forces and that it's not technically obsolete make it modern.
      • by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday February 25, 2009 @07:14AM (#26980351)

        That was a stupid test. Pistols have absolutely no power, muskets have long barrels, lots of power and very heavy shot. I'd have liked to have seen a comparison between the musket and a modern rifle.

        • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

          by KillerBob (217953)

          Mod the parent up, he's right. Pistols are sub-sonic, and fire bullets that are mostly made of lead. They have a ton of stopping power, but almost no penetration. Also, the bullets, even milspec, are rounded at the front. It's designed to mushroom like that.

          Compare it against, say, a round fired from an M16 or its counterparts in other countries, where the round is jacketed, pointy, and supersonic.

          Of course, it wouldn't have looked as impressive, seeing as the modern military rifle ammunition is designed to

          • by hwyhobo (1420503) on Wednesday February 25, 2009 @12:33PM (#26982923)

            Pistols are sub-sonic, and fire bullets that are mostly made of lead. They have a ton of stopping power, but almost no penetration. Also, the bullets, even milspec, are rounded at the front. It's designed to mushroom like that.

            You are right in spirit and intention, but wrong in details.

            * Pistols are sub-sonic
            --- In fact, most of modern military handgun rounds are supersonic. Some of the .45 ACP rounds are subsonic.

            * fire bullets that are mostly made of lead
            --- In fact, today revolvers remain the only handguns with lead rounds made for them, and even those are not in the majority. Most have at least partial copper/brass jacket. Rounds made for military are almost exclusively fully jacketed (FMJ). If you meant that the cores are made of lead, then it is no different for long guns. Few cores are made of steel. Steel cores contribute to premature barrel wear.

            * They have a ton of stopping power
            --- In fact, they don't. They are notoriously poor stoppers. That is why police carry shotguns in the trunks of their cars in the US. One blast of 00 buckshot is devastatingly more incapacitating compared to almost any commonly used handgun round. The only way you can reliably stop an attacker with a handgun round short of hitting the central nervous system is to cause sufficient disruption in blood circulation to the brain. Due to their small diameter, it is not easy to achieve with one shot with a handgun.

            * almost no penetration
            --- Depends on what you are penetrating. For a human being, a FMJ 9mm has a tendency to overpenetrate. Not only can that result in injuries to bystanders, but it lowers the effectiveness of the round on the attacker. Hence the development of the hollow point rounds.

            * the bullets, even milspec, are rounded at the front. It's designed to mushroom like that
            --- It is primarily, not even, in the milspec. Rounded FMJ rounds penetrate more reliably than mushrooming (hollow point) rounds. This requirement for a rounded FMJ stems from the Hague Convention and the fact that reliable penetration is more important to the military who often face purpose-built or improvised obstructions in the path of their projectiles.

            Other than that, I agree with you.

            BTW, it's a pity DL lists do not work in /.

      • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

        by nasor (690345)
        My (admittedly layman) understanding of cannon vs. wooden ship naval warfare was that they wanted cannons with just enough speed to punch through one side of the hull, rather than cannons that fired shot so fast that they punched through both sides of the ship. Apparently the cloud of flying splinters, debris, etc. from a slower shot did more damage than a faster shot that went in one side and out the other.
  • I don't see anything special about those guns. We Dutch had the same guns on our trade- and war ships in that time. They can shoot a cannonball to a distance of about a kilometer I'm told, so I'm not surprised that they can pulverize a wooden ship at 100 m distance.

    • by Mascot (120795) on Wednesday February 25, 2009 @06:06AM (#26980087)

      Since you can't be arsed to read the article, let me quote the pertinent part for you.

      Until now, it was thought Queen Elizabeth was using the same cannon technology as her father, Henry VIII. His flagship, the Mary Rose, was ultra-modern for its day.

      However, it carried a bewildering variety of cannon - many designed for land warfare. They were all of different shapes and sizes, fired different shot at different rates with different killing power.

      The point isn't the size or type of cannon. It's the notion of using a bunch of identical ones as opposed to a variety.

      • Re: (Score:2, Interesting)

        by tsa (15680)

        And that means the title of the abstract is all wrong. I admit I read the article after I posted but still I am right: the guns were not very special. It's the way they were used that was special.

    • by MosesJones (55544) on Wednesday February 25, 2009 @06:10AM (#26980101) Homepage

      The difference is that while EVERYONE had guns that could fire something inaccurately over a long distance these guns had a few rather special features.

      Firstly they are all the same, no variability which means that the shot can be made more precisely and firing can be made more accurate

      Secondly their recoil was able to throw the gun back into the ship consistently (read straight) due to the level of accuracy, this meant that the guns could be reloaded quicker

      These combinations also meant that the guns could be used effectively in a broadside with standardised shot rather than having shot "tuned" to each individual gun.

      So while the Dutch may have invented the stock exchange and orange carrots the guns used here by the Brits (strictly actually the English at this stage) were the first "modern" cannons if such a term can be used.

    • I recall the Dutch did have one fo the largest fleets around the 17th centuary, large enough to contest the Spanish. However when the English (Supported by the French) started a naval war with he dutch, not only were they out numbered, but the majority of there ships substandard compared to the English fleet (though this may have been due to the general deterioration of the Dutch fleet for some years before), resulting in the English gaining a near sea based trade monopoly.
      • by san (6716) on Wednesday February 25, 2009 @06:30AM (#26980191)

        That only happened near the end of the 17th century - well after the start of the decline of the Dutch empire. Earlier that century, the Dutch did defeat the English at sea - three times.
        So whatever advantage these guns gave, it wasn't very long-lasting.

        The Spanish Armada was defeated in 1588, so maybe everybody else had caught up by the mid 17th century?

      • by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday February 25, 2009 @06:36AM (#26980209)

        The dutch had a problem: they sea exits were very shallow, which put serious limit on the size of ships they could build and run domestically. They even invented cumbersome floating drydocks to help "fly" large east indiamen over reefs, but eventually trade and commerce went to the brits and the french, just like the german Hansa alliance lost most of their lucrative trade about 150 years beforehand.

        Otherwise, english victory over the Spanish Amrmada was due to two factors mostly: wind conditions made it impossible to land the big spanish ships on british mainland and the english made iron cannonballs were of much higher quality owing to the slow cooling process applied after casting.

        The spanish just threw their freshly minted cannonballs into a bucket of water, which made the metal brittle, so it shattered when hitting the outside of a sailing ship's thick timber, making little damage inside, if any. The english buried their hot cannonballs into charcoal, taking days to cool to ambient temperature, so the resultsing piece of iron was almost as soft as a piece of lead, staying in one piece while it went throught the timber of spanish ships, sometimes even coming out on the opposite side of the impact! (Whatever was in-between got almost totally destroyed).

        On the other hand, one should not overestimate the role of artillery in late XVIth century sea combat. Accuracy was nil and reload times / repeat fire rates were nowhere near the Nelsonian standards. The Lepanto sea battle only a decade before, fought between venetians + spanish crusaders and the ottoman turks, was mostly sword and knife gore.

        Let's say bad winds and substandard or outright bad seamanship was 75% of the 1588 spanish defeat, their commander actually never been to the sea before, he was simply a close relative of the king, that's why they appointed him to the post. (The russians made the very same mistake in 1905, earning the catastrophic Tsushima defeat.)

        • by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday February 25, 2009 @08:54AM (#26980733)

          Another advantage of cooling off iron in charcoal is that the exterior absorbs carbon. You know what iron + carbon is? Steel. It's called case-hardening.

        • by SoupIsGood Food (1179) on Wednesday February 25, 2009 @01:52PM (#26983993)

          No, the Russian admiral at Tsushima, Rozhestvensky [wikipedia.org] was a very competent and disciplined officer, and not some clueless fop. His problem was a conscript crew on the verge of mutiny, poorly trained officers, outdated ships ill suited outside the Baltic and only a few colliers stationed along the way for resupply. The Emperor ignored all of his suggestions and concerns.

          The Japanese had a volunteer navy, British-built warships of the latest design with British-trained officers, and a variety of home ports nearby for refit and resupply. Oh, it also had Togo, the most brilliant and aggressive naval commander of his generation.

          The Baltic Fleet was doomed before it even set sail, despite the quality of its commander.

    • by Weedlekin (836313) on Wednesday February 25, 2009 @07:46AM (#26980477)

      "We Dutch had the same guns on our trade- and war ships in that time"

      The Spanish were notably impressed by Dutch gun makers, and commissioned lots of cannon and ammo for their armada from them. Unfortunately, the fact that they were occupying Holland by force at the time meant that the Dutch hated them, so archaeologists have found Dutch cannonballs on Spanish wrecks that had been "accidentally" made just slightly too big or just a smidgeon too small for the intended cannon.

      These differences in tolerances were small enough to ensure that they looked as if they were the right size to Spanish inspections. Attempting to fire them at the English however would have had tragi-comic results such as swearing gunners being unable to force some cannonballs into the muzzles of their guns, while others formed such a poor seal that most of the gases from the burning powder went round them, so the initial "bang" was followed by the sound of a ball rolling sluggishly along the muzzle, and then a "plop" as it fell into the sea.

      The strangest part of all this is of course that archaeological evidence from non-Spanish wrecks indicates that the Dutch ammunition tolerance problem didn't occur in stuff they made for themselves or sold to countries who weren't occupying them at the time. Some historians believe that this notable discrepancy may well have been behind the famous rant from King Philip II, where he threw his throne at a courtier while screaming "I'll kill those fucking Dutch!"...

      • by nojayuk (567177) on Wednesday February 25, 2009 @08:43AM (#26980679)
        Philips made radio tubes for the Wehrmacht, Kriegmarine and Luftwaffe during WWII while Holland was occupied by the Nazis. Remarkably the tubes suffered a high failure rate, but only after several hours of flawless operation, enough to get them past inspection and initial fitment but not much longer. Odd that.
        • by TheLink (130905) on Wednesday February 25, 2009 @09:25AM (#26980903) Journal
          Almost everyone seems to be making stuff to such standards nowadays.
        • by Weedlekin (836313) on Wednesday February 25, 2009 @10:17AM (#26981297)

          People in occupied France often served the Nazis with food and wine that wasn't quite up to their usual standards. The idea behind this was that nobody would want to stay in a country where every sauce was a little lumpy, every vegetable was limp through overcooking, and every glass of wine was a tad on the sour side, so the Germans would rapidly tire of France and leave of their own accord.

          The flaw in this otherwise cunning plan was of course the fact that the German idea of good food and wine is based on quantity rather than quality, so they weren't at all put off by pate served at slightly the wrong temperature if there was lots of it and they didn't get diarrhoea or indigestion from eating it.

      • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

        by Dr. Photo (640363)

        Some historians believe that this notable discrepancy may well have been behind the famous rant from King Philip II, where he threw his throne at a courtier while screaming "I'll kill those fucking Dutch!"...

        Steve Ballmer in a past life...

  • by Max Romantschuk (132276) <max@romantschuk.fi> on Wednesday February 25, 2009 @06:02AM (#26980057) Homepage

    It's both fascinating and sad how technology and warfare has been intertwined from the very dawn of man. A lot of "geeks" from way back, Greek philosophers, Leonardo da Vinci, etc. were sponsored by the rich and powerful of their respectable eras in exchange for using their minds to create better warfare technology.

    For good or for evil, it seems that's the way it has always been, and likely always will be. We possibly wouldn't be having this discussion if it weren't for DARPA...

    • Actually... (Score:5, Interesting)

      by Moraelin (679338) on Wednesday February 25, 2009 @06:45AM (#26980249) Journal

      Actually, the funny thing is: only because our history textbooks are still fascinated with conquerors, ignore civillian progress almost entirely, and kings which built up the economy instead of going to war are presented as weak kings. So yeah, you only get to hear about the stuff used in war.

      But if you look as far back as the dawn of civilization, the advances which made those armies and empires possible in the first place were almost invariably civillian technology. E.g., you wouldn't have had those empires rising and falling in Mesopotamia without irrigation and timekeeping and a bunch of other things. I'm hard pressed to see how irrigation might have been developed for warfare.

      Or if you look at ancient Egypt, their greatest advances were made before the Hyskos invasion, while Egypt was still shielded by the desert from any noteworthy warfare. Their only concerns were minor border fights against raiders and nubian tribes, and they didn't waste much of their GDP on the army or even on fortifying their cities. In fact, none of their cities had a wall at all. And yet in this age they developed construction, medicine, etc, to an extent far beyond their warring neighbours.

      Romans, if you look at them, were actually a remarkably peaceful civilization. With some few exceptions, like the last war against Carthage, Rome almost never started a war of aggression. They just defended what was theirs and honoured their alliances to the letter. But when attacked, they hit back _hard_. Among other things because they hadn't ruined their economy and manpower with pointless wars before that. The vast majority of their conquests were actually done in counter-attacks.

      But anyway, while everyone drools about the Roman legions, few people give thought to the economy that could afford them in the first place. There were advances in engineering, administration, construction, etc. There was stuff like the aqueducts that allowed Rome to have that monstruous manpower to throw at an enemy. Most of that stuff was civillian tech. Nobody built an aqueduct as an offensive thing.

      • Re:Actually... (Score:5, Insightful)

        by Kirth (183) on Wednesday February 25, 2009 @07:29AM (#26980411) Homepage

        I don't concur with Rome being peaceful. They were pretty belligerent. If you wanted to be someone politically, you had to server in the army first. If you wanted to raise really high, you had to conquer someone.

        And no, crying "the Gaul have weapons of mass destruction" and calling the war of aggression a "retaliation" didn't count then anymore than it does now. Of course, now and then, it gets your population behind your war. For the rest, there is fast food and TV,

        • by Moraelin (679338) on Wednesday February 25, 2009 @08:23AM (#26980607) Journal

          The gaul wars were a mixed bag and Caesar was going to be investigated by the Senate for it, when he decided to attack Rome instead.

          But even there, it all started when the Helvetii attacked some gallic tribes which were allies and clients of Rome. The next two major interventions there followed the same pattern: someone attacks the allies of Rome, Rome smacks back hard.

          It has nothing to do with crying "the Gaul have weapons of mass destruction", and everything to do with your allies being actually attacked first. Big difference.

      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by Woy (606550)
        "Nobody built an aqueduct as an offensive thing."

        Without detracting from your point, you clearly never played Dwarf Fortress. :)

      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by mdarksbane (587589)

        The civilization studies I've read believed that once a civilization began any sort of rapid empire building it was already past its peak, and the increased militarism was a symbol of its decline. You can see it in quite a few civilizations.

        A country needs some border wars to keep them strong and organized, but if they progress to invading the rest of the world they are on the way out.

        So says "A Study of History" anyway.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday February 25, 2009 @06:23AM (#26980165)

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/English_Armada

    What amuses me is the selective memory Brits have on their naval affairs...
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Battle_of_Cartagena_de_Indias

    That's what I'd call a defeat.

  • Not surprising... (Score:5, Insightful)

    by tjstork (137384) <todd.bandrowsky@nosPAm.gmail.com> on Wednesday February 25, 2009 @07:22AM (#26980377) Homepage Journal

    The British had for almost a 500 years a fairly simple approach to warfare. It's called "shoot the enemy a lot". I'd bet that it comes from their own ancient fascination with the long bow, where, really, you had to just put as many arrows in the air as possible to win and they did win that way at Agincourt.

    From that they always worked on the rate and power of their fire, whereas other nations had a more mixed set of priorities. It wasn't just about getting more hits - they also recognized the intimidating effect having a lot of stuff coming your way meant.

    But even after their machine gun, you saw British military theorists like Lidell Hart advocating for what the Germans would adapt into their own blitzkreig, and the USA into its Shock and Awe. And, even their commandos and SAS, upon which all the special forces of the world are based, are also really about, "shoot the enemy a lot"...

    Bottom line is, if you mess with the British, they are going to shoot you a lot. So its really easier just have them as an ally and keep them working on their bad food and good music and television.

    • by VShael (62735) on Wednesday February 25, 2009 @08:44AM (#26980685) Journal

      Bottom line is, if you mess with the British, they are going to shoot you a lot.

      Speaking as an Irish man, you don't even have to mess with them. Just being in their general vicinity can be enough.

    • by DougWebb (178910) on Wednesday February 25, 2009 @09:12AM (#26980831) Homepage

      The British had for almost a 500 years a fairly simple approach to warfare. It's called "shoot the enemy a lot".

      During the American Revolution, the British were also apparently upset by the fact that the American army didn't always stand out in the open to get shot at a lot, like a proper army should. Instead, the Americans hid behind trees and rocks, and rather than shooting back a lot, they just shot back a bit, at the British officers. It was a pretty effective strategy when faced with an enemy who likes to shoot a lot, and has the guns for it. It still works today, too.

    • by Shivetya (243324) on Wednesday February 25, 2009 @09:15AM (#26980859) Homepage Journal

      which obsoleted all warships before it when it appeared in 1906. If anything this older ship they should follows the same idea, lots of powerful guns all the same size. What is known as a uniform main battery. The article on wikipedia is pretty good when it comes to why such a feature is important.

      What it comes down to is range. Having the bulk of your guns available at range is what used to win naval battles. The same could be said this day and age about your missiles. Who can shoot the furthest should win.

      http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/HMS_Dreadnought_(1906) [wikipedia.org]

      • by rcastro0 (241450) on Wednesday February 25, 2009 @01:23PM (#26983593) Homepage

        What it comes down to is range. Having the bulk of your guns available at range is what used to win naval battles.

        While I agree with your reference to the Dreadnought (beautifully told in Robert K. Massie's book [amazon.com]) I think the power of that concept could be beter explained as:
        1) Few, large guns onboard. All the same caliber, all of the longest range you can build.
        2) Light armor -- you will keep your ship always beyond the range of opponents.
        3) Highest mobility -- you need to outrun all other battleships in order to *stay* in the range where only you can hit.

        Building large warships was always a trade-off between armor, guns, and speed. The trade-off was both economic (use the years' steel production for a large number of light-armor, high speed ships, or small numbers of heavy-armor, slower ships?) and physical (pile too much armor and guns, and the ship will become a fixed platform).

        The dreadnought design was the "sweet spot" in that mix for a relatively short period of time: roughly between 1900 and 1920, the WWI era. Then came submarines, torpedos, air-carriers, and things stopped being as simples as "having the bulk of your guns available at range".

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by mjwx (966435)

      The British had for almost a 500 years a fairly simple approach to warfare. It's called "shoot the enemy a lot". I'd bet that it comes from their own ancient fascination with the long bow, where, really, you had to just put as many arrows in the air as possible to win and they did win that way at Agincourt.

      The LRDG (Long Range Desert recon Group) in North Africa used jeeps that were equipped with 4 machine guns (Lewis and Vickers) in 3 positions, there is a lot to be said about being able to concentrate f

    • Re:Not surprising... (Score:5, Interesting)

      by professionalfurryele (877225) on Wednesday February 25, 2009 @11:46AM (#26982369)

      While amusing the situations you describe are rather less clear cut than your (albeit funny) post suggests. I'll take one example, Agincourt.

      Agincourt was a crowd control nightmare for the French made worse by the disproportionate number of heavily armoured french troops. The reason the English didn't have so many heavy troops was in part that archers were cheaper. Some accounts suggest the French had trouble moving (or even lifting their weapons) in the poor, near boggy conditions. A longbowman on the other hand, is lightly armoured, and does not need to close on you to use his weapon.

      The French knights viewed war as their vocation. The English archers on the other hand viewed war as their profession. The English were a more professional force, a more disciplined force. It turned out that 'breeding' was no replacement for hours of practice each day.

      Leadership played a important role as well. While the Henry V of Shakespeare never existed, the real Henry V had the loyalty and trust of his men. He had led them through France, and they had done rather well financially out of it. Less valiant but still effective was his instruction to his men (now effectively trapped) that they would not be ransomed themselves if captured, and that they had best fight for their lives. It is rarely wise to fight an army that is prepared to fight to the death. Henry was also highly pragmatic, executing valuable prisoners when he feared they might rearm themselves. Amusingly while the French chroniclers didn't seem to have much of a problem with this, it was probably rather unpopular with Henry's own army.

      The list of factors that affect the outcome of a battle are numerous. And English grand strategy (of that time or any other) probably isn't best summarised by "shoot the enemy a lot", any more than the strategy of the Byzantine Empire is best summarised by "assassinate, assassinate, assassinate". Of course there is a nugget of truth to any funny summary of grand strategy. We can probably trace modern doctrines such as overwhelming fire-power and air superiority right back through to notions similar to the English focus on archers during the time of Henry V or the notions of naval superiority that arose in the post Elizabethan England (and later Britian).

      As with most conflicts, one is looking at a long list of factors, and strategy and tactics vary depending on circumstances.

  • by saboola (655522) on Wednesday February 25, 2009 @10:05AM (#26981209)
    "pew pew pew"

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