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Complimentary Angles In Archery

  1. Nov 28, 2007 #1


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    Howdy Eevrybody!

    I'm starting research into an idea that struck me rather suddenly (but with no lasting injuries), while reading Shakespeare's Henry V. At the battle of Agingcourt, the English had the advantage of a standoff weapon, the Welsh longbow. I fell to wondering whether they might have made the fullest use of this advantage the way modern artillary units do, by the use of complimentary angles.

    I'm talking about the practice of allowing an enemy to come into range by some margin; not firing at extreme long range. Firing at maximum range forces a guncrew, or an archer, to fire at about 45o. That is the only way to get the projectiles to fly the farthest that they can. But a fairly savvy commander, if he knows he has standoff capability, will wait for the enemy to approach to some distance considerably less than maximum range. Then, there are two different angles at which the projectile will reach the enemy, one high and one low. If the first vlley is fired high, it takes a longer time to reach the target. This diminishes the time between firings, and often illiminates it completely. If the difference in travel time for to ballistsic trajectories is 12 seconds, for example, and the gun takes 12 seconds to reload, re-aim, and fire again, then both projectiles arrive at the same time, and the first strike hits with as much force as though the attacker had twice as many field pieces. Surely, some archers must have noticed this in King Henry's day. But I wonder if they realised the use to which it could be put, and I wonder if King Henry knew of it, and if he made use fof it at Agingcourt.

    Does anyone know if 17th-century millitary tactics included the use of complimentary ballistic trajectories to increase the lethality of their first-strike? Does anyone know of any archeological investigation of the battle-site, or do we not know where it happened?

    If anything interesting comes of this, I'm going to write a paper on it for my English class.
    Last edited: Nov 28, 2007
  2. jcsd
  3. Nov 28, 2007 #2


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    I can't answer your question, but it certainly is an interesting one. I would think with the quick reload times of an archer, the hard part would be when to launch the second volley. It seems possible for the second volley to arrive before the first, if the timing is not just right. This would make it difficult to shield yourself from arrows raining down at a high angle AND a flat trajectory. Very interesting, I have not read of this being done, does not mean it wasn't. They were not ignorant after all.
  4. Nov 30, 2007 #3
    Plunging fire would almost certainly have been known by archers at Agincourt (1415) since it had been used at Hastings (1066), but many historians believe the chief benefit of the longbow at Agincourt was to provoke the French at a great distance, leading to their ill-fated charge. At closer range, the English archers used other weapons in hand-to-hand combat, taking advantage of the narrowed front and clumsy armor of the (by now) unhorsed French.

    I believe there is not any archeological evidence of the battle. Tere was a recent development flap and, to the best of my knowledge, nobody could prove exactly where the battle occured.
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