'Munitions' armour/weapons

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'Munitions' armour/weapons

Postby gregory23b » Mon Jan 19, 2009 5:21 pm

From the brigandine thread.

Why do we use this term and how does it relate to the medieval context?

It was not a contemporary term.

Why do we use it to describe amongst other things:

less embellished items

rougher items

cheaper items

Items of an inferior quality


If this term was not so oft used with a great deal of authority I would not be asking, but as I am an inquisitive fellow I thought I would ask why.


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Postby Marcus Woodhouse » Mon Jan 19, 2009 5:39 pm

I have no idea why we use it.
There was always considerable skill involved in making armour and weapons and as mass produced items were still crafted and certainly finished by hand it doesn't make sense.
No soldier would willingly make use of arms or armour they thought was shoddy or would let them down in combat.
for the same reason I cringe whenever I hear commentators hark on about how slow and clumsy crossbows are or how dangerous and ineffective handgunnes are (meaning dangerous to the gunner).
If that was the case why were they used by so many troops and armies?


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Postby Allan Harley » Mon Jan 19, 2009 5:49 pm

Munition armour was mass-produced, cheaply made armour produced in very large quantities at the beginning of the 16th Century and stockpiled in arsenals to equip common foot soldiers.
"Royal Armouries: 8. The metallurgy of plate armour"
So why used earlier? because we are comfortable with the term and can't find something similar or as simple to describe the difference between noble (knight) and commoner (billman/archer) armour
Please note noble & commoner are just terms I've used here to goive some sort of distinction


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Postby Fox » Tue Jan 20, 2009 7:59 am

Marcus Woodhouse wrote:No soldier would willingly make use of arms or armour they thought was shoddy or would let them down in combat.

But unwillingly? Or unknowingly?
In more recent conflicts we have lots of records of soldiers being issued with substandard kit.
We have very little idea how good the swords shipped by the barrel to France in the early 15thC were, although some finds indicate they were not "top of the range".
There may also be an element of something is better than nothing.


Marcus Woodhouse wrote:for the same reason I cringe whenever I hear commentators hark on about how slow and clumsy crossbows are or how dangerous and ineffective handgunnes are (meaning dangerous to the gunner).
If that was the case why were they used by so many troops and armies?

The facts are sort of right, perhaps its the emphasis that's wrong.
Crossbows are significantly slower than long bows. It doesn't make them a bad weapon. You can learn to use one in an afternoon for a start and, potentially, get more power.
And guns and powder are dangerous, and continued to kill the users centuries later. Inaccurate rather than ineffective too.



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Postby Nigel » Sun Jan 25, 2009 9:23 am

Fox wrote:
Marcus Woodhouse wrote:No soldier would willingly make use of arms or armour they thought was shoddy or would let them down in combat.

But unwillingly? Or unknowingly?
In more recent conflicts we have lots of records of soldiers being issued with substandard kit.
We have very little idea how good the swords shipped by the barrel to France in the early 15thC were, although some finds indicate they were not "top of the range".
There may also be an element of something is better than nothing.


Marcus Woodhouse wrote:for the same reason I cringe whenever I hear commentators hark on about how slow and clumsy crossbows are or how dangerous and ineffective handgunnes are (meaning dangerous to the gunner).
If that was the case why were they used by so many troops and armies?

The facts are sort of right, perhaps its the emphasis that's wrong.
Crossbows are significantly slower than long bows. It doesn't make them a bad weapon. You can learn to use one in an afternoon for a start and, potentially, get more power.
And guns and powder are dangerous, and continued to kill the users centuries later. Inaccurate rather than ineffective too.


Yes substandard kit was and still issued and msot of it hits the bin

things I can aprticualarly think of the DMS boot usually repalced if allowed with german para boots

The large pack or G9 Bergan repalced with a civvy rucksack (I rememeber watching with amusement a barand new type trying to fit all his kit very quickly into a large pack and then ina mad fit of generosity I took him asisde and agave him ny spare roc.

What iam driving at is that experieinced troop swill know better and may offer gudance to those with less expereince


There’s a country in Europe where they treat their ex soldiers with pride no waits for medical treatment after injuries received during service, no amensia from the government. Cant for the life of me recall where it is but I know exactly where it is not.

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Postby Marcus Woodhouse » Sun Jan 25, 2009 10:27 am

I prefered the American boots. The French ones were nice in the desert as well. I also liked the M16 much more then the L83.
But didn't most people in the medieval period bring their own arms and armour, which would have elemenated this problem anyway?


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Postby jelayemprins » Sun Jan 25, 2009 11:57 am

Marcus Woodhouse wrote:But didn't most people in the medieval period bring their own arms and armour, which would have elemenated this problem anyway?


Unfortunately, no. If that were the case, then why do the greater Lords and their kin have vast amounts of 'common' armour in their wills and inventories?

Such as
John Holland, Duke of Exeter 1447, six 'doublettes called Jakkes'
Katherine, Lady Hastings - 6 pairs of brigaunters, 1503
Edmund Dudley, 1509, 30 pairs of brigandines covered with fustian
John de Vere, Earl of Oxford, Armoury 101 brigandines for common issue and 2 for personal use.
Dame Agnes Hungerford, 1523, one enriched pair of brigandines and 120 'pare of harness of Almayne ryvets and brygendens'
and not to be outdone, HEnry VIII had over 250 in stock.

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Postby zauberdachs » Sun Jan 25, 2009 1:03 pm

From what I've read sometimes, especially when required at short notice, men would be gathered irrespective of their suitability to fight and with what ever kit could be acquired.

In this situation I imagine the armour that was dredged would be whatever was available rather than whatever was good.

However unless there is evidence that there was stores of rubbish kit held for this eventuality this doesn't mean that there was a whole class of "munitions" armour that was inherently bad quality.


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Postby guthrie » Sun Jan 25, 2009 1:37 pm

But also, poor quality cheap is not necessarily bad quality- to make stuff up in my head, imagine a barrel of swords turned out fast using cheap but usable iron. You might make 50, and 2 will break in use, 20 will not keep a decent edge for longer than 2 minutes, and 20 more are not so well weighted.
None of these problems are likely to come back to haunt you, and in the midst of a battle I don't see them causing lots of problems (except maybe the breakage, but then it is very unlikely anyone will come back to complain)
Whereas if you bought top quality iron and spent 4 times as long, you could make 50 top quality swords that would keep an edge for years, never break and are perfectly balanced. But that would make them too expensive, time being money and all that.

What would be useful would be any primary evidence for there being different grades of material, or complaints about armourers making stuff that is not up to scratch, as well as metallurgical evidence from the small number of finds that we do have.



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Postby Marcus Woodhouse » Sun Jan 25, 2009 3:38 pm

In my own mind it just plays upon the Hollywood notion that there were a group of well dressed, well armed, well armoured elite, and a mass of dirty peasents who were only around waiting to be killed.
I blame the Gerry Embleton fella. He sowed this seed into our poor re-enacting heads along with braes and women gunners and now we're all reaping his harvest of confusion.
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Postby Colin Middleton » Tue Jan 27, 2009 2:23 pm

Marcus Woodhouse wrote:In my own mind it just plays upon the Hollywood notion that there were a group of well dressed, well armed, well armoured elite, and a mass of dirty peasents who were only around waiting to be killed.


Why do you beleive that this is not the case (approximately)? Okay, so Hollywood over-plays the squalar, filth and incompetence, but do you have any evidence that the gap between lord and cotter was not so vast?


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Postby Marcus Woodhouse » Tue Jan 27, 2009 2:30 pm

Colin, you're just trying to get an arguement started. You have read enough to know that this isn't the case.


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Postby Colin Middleton » Tue Jan 27, 2009 2:33 pm

Given that important nobles kept these stocks of armour (and I beleive that cities did too), it seems likley that the individuals that they were issued to were wearing armour that did not fit well. This could be considered to be a staring point for defining 'muntions' armour.

You would also have to ask the question, 'where does all this armour (in the armour houses) come from?' Does it represent armour that the lord became too fat/old/unfit to wear, is it armour that's out of fashion (grandad's armour?), is it armour scavenged from the battle-field, or is it armour that has been purchased in bulk to meet the lord's troop comitments? 'Cast off armour' and 'grandad's armour' are likley to be of high quality (and possibly decorated), but unfashionable style and poor fit, while the 'bulk bought armour' may be very palin and possibly badly finished (sharp edges, poor tempering, one-size-fits-all, etc) to keep costs down. It's also possible that the armour house was equiped with cheaper types of armour (no arm or leg harness, but lots of sallets, brigs and jacks as they're cheaper to make).


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Postby Colin Middleton » Tue Jan 27, 2009 2:40 pm

Marcus Woodhouse wrote:Colin, you're just trying to get an arguement started. You have read enough to know that this isn't the case.


Actually, I haven't. What I have read, which I agree isn't enough, has brought me to the conclusion that a 'properly equiped' knight is something like a tank on the battle-field, hard to hurt, skilled and frightening to the 'common folk'. By contrast, the impression of the 'common man' that I've picked up is that they are more vulnerable to arrows, equiped with weapons that can kill a knight if they can get a good blow in and of limited combat skills (based on evening brawls, rather than battle-field experience), who is frightened of his 'natural better' in the shiny armour.

Obviously I'm ignoring mercenaries, garrison troops and those knights who're so poor as to be denied the title as well as the many 'knights of the robe' who probably would avoid the battlefield if they possibly could.

I wasn't sure if you were 'exagerating' the point a bit, or if you had access to some information that I lack. If it's the latter, please point me in the right direction, as the 'common soldier' is an area that I'm strugling to find good information on.


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Postby Marcus Woodhouse » Tue Jan 27, 2009 2:55 pm

Only if you look at it with a modern head and viewpoint.
I've seen items "hand finished" that have looked crap because the person sowing them has done a bad job. I've then heard them tell MOPs that this is a sign that it is "authentic". That's tosh and nonsense.
In the past skilled seamstresses could put more threads per cm than can my wife on a sowing machine. if you visit the V&A you'll see garments that are finer than those my wife can make. Some of these were "mass produced".
When I look at the "munition armour" on show at the Wallace or Tower,or Royal Armouries in Leeds I am looking at mass produced armour (and Milan could equip an army of 3000 in a week using pre cut material that was waiting ti be finished into staock items). Tha quality is vastly superior to that of many re-enactors kit.
Mass produced does not need to mean that it's crap. That seems, in my limited experience, to be even more the case in the past.
Nor did a lot of armour sit around doing nothing. It was bought up by someone else, there was a thriving market in second hand armour and weapons in Italy with merchants buying both used and unused equipment back en masse and then racing each other to the nearest war zone or soon to be war zone to sell it to someone else.
The Albertii family of Milan made a fortune doing just that (then lost it all backing the wrong Pope-there being three to choose from at the time.)
And when it did get to be too knackered or old fashioned to use, it didn't have to be put on the shelf. It could be adapted (there are examples of helmets that have been chopped about and altered for instance.) It could be cut up to make other pieces of armour, for instance those brigs tht started this thread elsewhere or household items like pots, pans, or it could be melted down and the metall resused.
But you all knew that anyway.


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Postby Marcus Woodhouse » Tue Jan 27, 2009 3:11 pm

Now we are talking about something different.
I don't beleive that even knights were the formidible killing machines that they are often portrayed.
A knight may be in armour, have a good pollaxe, a good horse, the social trappings, but unless he was a leader of some mercenary force he would have as much cobat experience as the ostler who he has dressed and put in arms beside him.
war may have been the original reason for a knight's existance but by the 15th century a knight is more likely to be a good household accountent and farm manager than death on four hooves.
Now with that in mind, the average soldier under his command is going to have neither more or less skill or experience of real fighting.
But he will have been expected to provide his own armour and arms, and in many "countires" there were set minimum standards for this. Or he would be provided with arms and armour at the expense of his guild, city or Lords reserve.
Finally if he was a mercenary then he would be fined if he failed to provide the expected norm (but given replacements out of "company" supplies if they were lost or broken on duty.)
Now with prestige being an even more important aspect of socital and royal obligation then, would a guild, city, lord distrubute a load of rubbish when it would
Look bad on them ("Do you see the fiflthy armour Lord Harry's men have?"
be bad for morale ("I don't think much of yon Lord Harry, look at this filthy armour he been give me.")
Reduce the effectiveness of your troops ("All your men are dead Lord Harry-perhaps we should have given them better armour.")
I'd love to swap some books with you, Colin. i love to read and am happy to share some with you and return the help you've shown me in the past. Maybe we could arrange to meet and do that.
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Postby m0rt » Tue Jan 27, 2009 5:34 pm

When talking about armour, in any period, I think its important to make a distinction between armour that was made to measure and fit, and so therefore being expensive, and armour that was mass produced for the more common soldiery.

The way I prefer to think of the difference is akin to the difference in clothing today. It's very possible to go out and buy a suit for under £50. It won't fit exactly right (unless you're really lucky) but it'll do the job. Or, you can go and get fitted for an expensive, designer suit, with all the trimmings, for several hundred pounds. It'll look better, fit better, probably last longer, and will possibly be better at the job its supposed to do.

Same with armour. You could pay a lot for a fully fitted harness, with all the extras, or you could go and get standard issue, some sizes fit some, essentially off the peg armour from different armourers until you get enough protection that fits you well enough for you to be satisfied.

It's important to remember when talking about armour that there was clearly a difference in what the rich 'knights' (for lack of a better word) and the common (again, lack of a better word) soldiery were wearing and using.

We need a word for it. Munitions seems good, why shouldn't we use it?

RE: The difference between rich and poor, I believe, mostly through the research and teaching I've done as part of my medieval history module this year, there was a clear difference between the two, and this would be reflected in every aspect of their lives, including the battlefield. It's obvious that the peasantry weren't all unskilled, dirty and ate mud, but they clearly didn't have the income or combat training the upper classes did.

This all points to a 'knight' being a 'tank' on the battlefield, who is difficult to kill without some combination of specifically designed weaponry, numbers or luck. If armour didn't protect you from the majority of attempts to kill you, why bother with it.


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Postby gregory23b » Tue Jan 27, 2009 8:47 pm

"We need a word for it."

I think that is the issue, at least to me, we are retrofitting an argument to suit us, rather than ask what the relative qualities of kit were. We as reenactors do that a lot, we have a premise based on our current viewpoint and activities then try to make it work by forming arguments around it, rather than placing evidence there.

I raised the question because I hear the term being used in a few ways and they don't stack up. Certainly we could argue that some sorts of armour were cheaper than others and comment made about shoddy workmanship, IIRC poor quality jacks being stuffed with inferior material by unscrupulous contractors. But jacks as we can see were indeed produced for the need as it arose, as well as some kept in stock. But when I hear people talking about 'munitions' to justify a piece of harness that is not hammered properly or even forge blackened, as if that of itself means munitions, was all 'munition' armour not quite finished or are we creating a definition to suit us, again?

Do we need a term? of so why, using medieval sources not modern reenactment ones that is.


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Postby Colin Middleton » Wed Jan 28, 2009 2:02 pm

Marcus Woodhouse wrote:Now we are talking about something different.
I don't beleive that even knights were the formidible killing machines that they are often portrayed.


I think that we'd better agree to disagree on this (for the time being), before we hijack this thread. :D I'd love to have a chat about it sometime though!

Marcus, I think that you and I may be more broadly in agreement than we appear, but arguing in the minutea. I agree with M0rt's definition of fitted and unfitted (munitions), after all I've read a few book proposing the idea of shoes comming in 3 sizes, get the nearest, rather than the sizing options that we have today (presumably you could also buy fitted shoes). If people were willing to do that with shoes, why not with armour?

However, I agree entirely with Marcus when he says
Marcus Woodhouse wrote:When I look at the "munition armour" on show at the Wallace or Tower,or Royal Armouries in Leeds I am looking at mass produced armour ...
Tha quality is vastly superior to that of many re-enactors kit


I think that this is a pertinent point. Even the 'crap' stuff is still good by our standards.

Gregory23b, we need a word for it. Most people have an idea of what Munitions means, while if you called it "alamain-rivit" (sp?), how many blank looks would you get (and that's a Tudor term, not Medieval)? Do you know of a good medieval term that we can try to push out?


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Postby Marcus Woodhouse » Wed Jan 28, 2009 2:27 pm

I'd love to meet up for a chat, omae.
We'll make a date of it and leave this thread alone.
I agree that we need a name for this kind of armour/armrament, perhaps thats wha t the search should now be for.
Does it matter if it is an obscure medieval word? Most of the stuff I talk about is, even down to explaining that the poll in pollaxe is not a reference to the pole the axe head is on?
Too many re-enactors use the term "munitions" to explain away naff kit though, and that gives an impression that this stock armour sold "off the peg" was naff as well. That is what I'm getting at.
I also think that the meddieval realms unit of study does simplify the differences that existed. By the late middle ages you had "peasents" like the Pastons who are able to buy the land and titles that go with it.
I don't think that I have seen any hovel dwelling peasent scum re-enactors either as most WOTR period types (limiting it to that end of the middle ages) "represent" a "household" and are therefore of lower to middling end of the strata. Hence reasonably weel attired and equiped.
Nothing worse than someone in full milanese plate who spends the rest of the day in baggy single hose and shirt.


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Postby gregory23b » Wed Jan 28, 2009 5:39 pm

"Gregory23b, we need a word for it. Most people have an idea of what Munitions means, while if you called it "alamain-rivit" (sp?), how many blank looks would you get (and that's a Tudor term, not Medieval)? Do you know of a good medieval term that we can try to push out?"

Only that Henry VIII had a different way of equipping his armies than his forebears. The whole point of Almain rivet was that it was the first time a uniform set of one size fits all armour was put about in England. It is not analogous to medieval armour sales and distribution as we know it. Almain rivet was a standard design, earlier ones were of different designs from a variety of sources.

You would not use the term Almain rivet for anything pre Henry VIII, military set-ups in his time were different, his men even had liveried hose whereby you could tell which unit they were from, totally different from earlier periods.

As I said before, it appears we are retrofitting a convenient term that may or may not actually be applicable. As Marcus has said, there was a widespread trade in harness, it was not cheap, it was sold, re-sold, hired, leased, lent etc.

All I want to know is:

where is the evidence to support our use of the term?

Medieval terminology is not the issue, how we describe medieval usage is.


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Postby Colin Middleton » Fri Jan 30, 2009 2:23 pm

Okay, so the question is, at least as a starting point:

"do we have evidence for 2 grades of armour, one more expensive and 'better quality' than the other?"

If we can find evidence, then we can start to look at what 'better quality' means.

Is that a reasonable place to start?

Is anyone able to offer any evidence on that question?


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Postby Colin Middleton » Fri Jan 30, 2009 2:25 pm

If I recall correctly, the Bridgeport Muster does list one man in 'alwhite harness with a bascinette', which is taken to imply that he was wearing old (and seriously unfashionable) armour.


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Postby gregory23b » Fri Jan 30, 2009 4:31 pm

bascinettes are recorded as imported into London in 1480, petty custom accounts.


"Is that a reasonable place to start? "

Yes, suits me.


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Postby John Waller » Fri Jan 30, 2009 5:24 pm

From the bit of trawling I've done the word Munition does not seem to feature much before the Tudor era and then it is used seperately from references to armour, as in "ordnance, munitions, armour" etc.

I'll keep digging to see if there was a common description to distinguish 'bespoke' armour from the lower end of the market.

Interesting thread.


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Postby Colin Middleton » Mon Feb 02, 2009 1:46 pm

gregory23b wrote:bascinettes are recorded as imported into London in 1480, petty custom accounts.


And still being worn in tournaments until the closed helmet replaced them. However, AFAIK they weren't being used on the battlefield after 1450 (at least not by anyone worth writing about :wink: ).


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Postby Colin Middleton » Mon Feb 02, 2009 1:54 pm

Thinking back to a visit to the armouries in Gratz. They've changed the origianl armouries into a museum, but pretty much populated it with what was already there (I think that it went out of use in the 17th C, but everything got stored).

It makes a fascinating visit. There are racks upon racks of polearms, mostly halberds (from 4 foot tall to almost 10 foot tall) and morning stars (7 foot long with 2 inch spikes!). Most of the morning stars looks like fairly crude weapons (what we tend to call muntions quality). Many of the halberds and partizans on the other hand were clearly designed for parades.

The armour tended to be of higher quality, though I think that there were a few more plane suits. That said, by the 17th C, who was wearing the armour?


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Postby Merlon. » Mon Feb 02, 2009 3:14 pm

The Landeszeughaus cannot be used to support any concept of medieval munition armour, although it started in the 15th century little of the early equipment has survived. The core of the collection spans 1610-1690, which a time period when the concept of munitions quality armour is well established..

The vast majority of the armour in the Landeszeughaus in Graz is cuirassier armour from the 1630s onwards. The foot armours are for pikemen. The articulated corselets with chain mail sleeves for hussars reflect the particular circumstances of defence against the Turks etc in that region.

The polearms date from the 1620s through 1670s. The armoury was finally decomissioned in the 1740s.

(Sorry its one of my favourite places, spent four days there last October.)



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Postby Laffin Jon Terris » Mon Feb 02, 2009 5:46 pm

Just like at the Tower of London, items at Graz and Churburg and other real armouries (as opposed to museums and collections) at some point (or various points) items WERE discarded as being "too old" or "no longer fit for purpose".

They didn't think "we'd better hold on to that, it'll be a museum piece in another 400 years."

More a case of "That is just taking up space that I really need to fill with newer kit!"

Not to mention the various methods used to maintain armour and also to :roll:"restore" :roll: armour used in the Victorian era (where the fashion was for shiny armour over anything else).

We aren't likely to find much in the way of existing "scruffy" kit now, what could originally have been "common issue" armour is now just as shiny as the best of Helmschmieds work ever was.

What evidence do we have in records, accounts and such?

JonT


Knowing is only half the battle.
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