Taking off Mail for a Raid

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Taking off Mail for a Raid

Post by cmmcgarr »

A while ago I found a reference to when the Welsh were raiding into England (or what is now England, I can't remember the time period so it could have been Vikings or maybe Normans on the receiving end) that the Englisg were told to just wear leather rather than wearing the full mail armour to deal with the Welsh cattle-raids. I've been trying to find this source again, and haven't been able to. Does anyone else recognize this story?

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Brother Ranulf
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Re: Taking off Mail for a Raid

Post by Brother Ranulf »

This sounds like a very garbled story to me - it seems very unlikely that men in mail would be told to take it off when facing combat (not quite the same, but just look what happened at Stamford Bridge . . . ).

Gerald of Wales' "The Journey Through Wales" and "The Description of Wales" have been widely misquoted and mistranslated over the years. The Lewis Thorpe translation (Penguin Books 1978) is by far the best modern version and he sets out the description of Welsh fighters (Description, Book 1, chapter 9) in this way:
. . . they have not hesitated to fight without any protection at all against men clad in iron, unarmed against those bearing weapons, on foot against mounted cavalry. . . They use light weapons which do not impede their quick movements, small leather corselets, handfuls of arrows, long spears and round shields.
So the Welsh preferred to fight wearing leather rather than mail in Gerald's time and certainly before that (Description was written in about 1191); the weaponry and tactics tally exactly with what we find in the much earlier Anglo-Saxon Chronicles. If the time scale of your reference was after 1066 the Welsh would be met by Anglo-Norman forces, not English - if before 1066, the English would have been mainly fyrd, who wore little or no armour anyway.
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Re: Taking off Mail for a Raid

Post by Coraclebuilder »

To revive this thread, cannot find the reference at the moment but Harold Godwinson is supposed to have had his troops wear the lighter leather in part of his campaigns (1062–63) against Gruffydd ap Llywelyn of Gwynedd, the ruler of Wales.

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