Please explain the how of it

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Please explain the how of it

Postby DavidB » Sat Jul 21, 2012 5:44 am

OK, once again, I'm not understanding the following
(currently reading about de Soto's foray against the
Florida Indians)- how do you stick someone with a lance,
or sword, riding at speed, from a horse?
How is it that the blade doesn't get caught in the
target? I know that, with a sword, you're supposed
to keep your arm absolutely straight, but I don't
know why.
There has to be an immense amount of energy in the
point of the blade when it hits-formula anyone?
Let's see, small point, weight of blade, rider, mount and
speed of the above- I get that it will skewer.
But how does one retain the weapon?
Thank you.

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Re: Please explain the how of it

Postby Netpackrat » Sat Jul 21, 2012 5:48 am

Lots of practice.
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Re: Please explain the how of it

Postby Dinochrome » Sat Jul 21, 2012 10:52 pm

I've always heard that the use of a sword (saber) from horseback was to slash the target. If the horseman doesn't go for an impaling thrust it should be easier to retain the sword. For a lance, I don't know. Maybe it's, "stick the lance in the enemy, lose the lance, draw the saber".
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Re: Please explain the how of it

Postby Netpackrat » Sat Jul 21, 2012 11:03 pm

Not a horse rider, but from what I've read, the general idea with a lance is that you sort of raise your arm and let the lance pivot as you go past your victim, and then your forward motion will pull the lance out behind you as you continue on. Then raise the lance back to vertical and forward again for another thrust. Not something that you can just learn over knight. :mrgreen:
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Re: Please explain the how of it

Postby tfbncc » Sun Jul 22, 2012 1:40 am

Somewhere, many years ago, in some obscure book, I read something of lancers. Lancers are light cavalry. Meant to harass and harry a line of infantry or artillery. The lance was lightweight, strong, and flexible. Able to be held one handed with the arm extended forward during the charge. As the lancer makes contact with his target, he pulls his arm back swiftly so that only 3 or 4 inches of the point penetrates, inflicting wounds and causing confusion. The object is NOT to skewer your target, as the rider would lose his lance and make him all but useless. A light cavalry charge was designed to make holes in the enemy line that could be followed up by heavy cavalry with sabers and subsequently, a foot charge by infantry. The best charge was carried out from the flank or an oblique angle to the infantry line. The lance gave the light cavalry the extra reach to get past a line of muskets and bayonets. To be a lancer you had to be the absolute best of the best of horsemen with the skill of a fencing master to handle the lance properly. They were the Top Gun pilots of their day. Like fighter pilots, the training was longer and more intense than most other military units of the time.

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Re: Please explain the how of it

Postby HTRN » Sun Jul 22, 2012 4:35 am

Dinochrome wrote:I've always heard that the use of a sword (saber) from horseback was to slash the target.


Against platemaile, the preferred weapon is, IIRC, a warhammer or axe. The idea is to beat the armor hard enough to cause injuries inside. A sword doesn't do to well against it..

Didn't PBS/Nova/etc do a show on this not so long ago?
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Re: Please explain the how of it

Postby toad » Sun Jul 22, 2012 5:43 am

Used to be lancers would practice against tent pegs. The object was to lift the tent peg out of the ground on the point of the lance. I saw some photographs of this practice in a magazine back in the 1950's, as a very young child of course. Damned expensive and dangerous hobby.
When riding down fleeing infantry with the saber the standard practice was to do a back slash to the front of the grunt. If you tried to slash the back you often had a pack or leather helmet that would stop the blade from striking flesh.
Read the Sharpe's series of books for information on this.
In South America during the 19th century their were some pure cavalry vs. cavalry battles from the view point of lancers vs swordsmen, lancers vs. lancers, swordsmen vs. swordsmen. Usually the lancer had the advantage over the swordsmen because of reach. However the good swordsmen claimed they could parry a lance and close inside the reach of the lancer. Usually though the commander of sword equipped cavalry would try to get his unit to retreat from lancer units.

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Re: Please explain the how of it

Postby First Shirt » Sun Jul 22, 2012 12:57 pm

Back in the days of "The Raj" British cavalry practiced by "pig-sticking." Beaters would start the boar from cover, then the horsemen, armed with bamboo-shaft lances would try to ride down and kill the boar without killing themselves. (It was considered gauche to use a firearm, or to try and tackle the piggie on foot.) Apparently it was a dangerous enough activity that the powers-that-be tried to prohibit it, without great success. It normally involved one or two deaths each year, and any number of serious injuries. But it was considered great training for lancers and light cavalry.
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Re: Please explain the how of it

Postby skb12172 » Sun Jul 22, 2012 7:59 pm

On a DeSoto? Just strap it to the hood, I guess... :lol:
There must be an end to this intimidation by those who come to this great country, but reject its culture.

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Re: Please explain the how of it

Postby DavidB » Tue Jul 24, 2012 1:55 am

On a DeSoto
...well, kinda, it was while reading the Contact: The Battle for America series
Back in the days of "The Raj" British cavalry
...have you read Mallinson's
Matthew Hervey series?
Read the Sharpe's series of books
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even the wonderful contracted short stories for
The Sharpe Appreciation Society

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Re: Please explain the how of it

Postby First Shirt » Tue Jul 24, 2012 3:29 pm

Actually, I think I got that from an article written by the late Peter Capstick. IIRC, it was in one of his books made up from magazine articles he'd written.
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Re: Please explain the how of it

Postby SeekHer » Sun Jul 29, 2012 6:41 am

It depends on when your talking about the lancers was being used and where.

Ancient Egypt through late Roman period they would carry a few throwing spears to harass the pike line/phalanx, they’d also use them against other mounted cavalry primarily as stabbing weapons not thrown.

Heavy horse, knights, 1100 to 1400 carried a single heavy lance with them into battle and would use the speed and power of their destrier to drive the spike head through the other knight’s plate armour (where it usually got stuck or broke off) and then continue to battle with sword, mace, hammer or axe…If possible they would ride back to their lines to re-outfit themselves with another lance (of which they would carry many).

The tournament lances used in the lists where totally different then the war lances—those huge bell shaped covers forward of the grip where used to ward off sword cuts or halberd thrusts from infantry and they added extra weight to help balance a 12 to 15 foot, 30+ pound stick.

Napoleonic War to Crimean War period they had lanyards just ahead of the handgrip to retain the lance when stabbing but it wasn’t worn around the wrist—which could break when going 40 MPH and hitting a standing 200 lb man—but it sort of laid on the shaft and they would grip through it to hold the lance and the lanyard would just rest on their hand’s sides…They were used mostly against fleeing (broken) infantry and other light horse but their main job was reconnaissance and screening the advancing army by keeping other light horse far enough away.

They also were outfitted with a curved sword, shamshir-- changed to sabre—as they slashed their prey not stabbing and the blade shape lends itself better to the job…Whereas the heavy horse had long, straight blades as they used the like a lance to impale the opponent using the horse again for momentum…Both would take their prey not from behind as the stuffed haversack could stop the cut but as they rode past and used the backhand stroke instead.

During the American Civil War there really wasn’t many lancers but in India, Africa the British continued to use them until after the Zulu Wars and even into the Boer War…There was a British Light Dragoon charge by the Anzac troops on Beersheba in 1917 during the First World War and there was even a very unsuccessful (100% casualty) Polish charge against invading German Wehrmacht tanks in 1938.
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Re: Please explain the how of it

Postby D5CAV » Mon Jul 30, 2012 7:02 am

Uhlan cavalry still carried lances during WW1. I don't know of any recorded cavalry charge by Uhlanen - it would have been suicidal with machine guns. I think this was mostly a place to park sons of peerage where they could ride around and look dashing, without getting into any real danger or combat.

http://www.sarcoinc.com/lances.html

My father has a couple of these lances - from some distant relative. My mother asks me if I want them every time I visit. They are about 12 feet long. They don't fit very well with most home decor, certainly not hers.

They are surprisingly light and well balanced at the handle. They look very well made. They do not look disposable. They do not look like they were put together with field expedient wooden poles.
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Re: Please explain the how of it

Postby toad » Mon Jul 30, 2012 7:08 pm

I remember reading somewhere that just prior to WW I, the Germans had some lances that were sectional and made out of aluminum. I don't remember if the article mentioned how the sections were put together. Knowing the Germans the design was for speed of assembly and secure fastening both. I wish my search fu was up to finding something about them.

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Re: Please explain the how of it

Postby JAG2955 » Tue Jul 31, 2012 3:41 am

Incidentally, if you watch enough Hitler Channel about Western Ancient/Medieval warfare, you'll see my college history professor, Prof Abels. I remember discussing how there was a renaissance in warfare between the light lance/cavalry and heavy lance/cavalry. If you look at the design of saddles, during the time of the light lance, the saddles were small, lightly padded, and without stirrups. The lancers would mostly hold their lance in the overhand fashion and stab downward at their opponent, throw it, or leave it in their opponent by holding it underhand. They could carry multiple ones on their horse in a quiver, as written about by Josephus, and would carry as many as 20, as written about by Arrian while describing cavalry exercises.

Once the invention of stirrups and the high back saddle, cavalry began holding their much heavier lance in a couched fashion, tight under their arm. The heavy lance began to appear around 1300. Often, the heavy lance would break or would stay lodged in a body or shield. There's still arguments by scholars about what was of more use-the couched lance or the fact that many tons of armored cavalry that would bear down on a target. In fact, there are very few recorded events of heavy cavalry smashing through a well-defended line like in Lord of the Rings. Many of the successful cavalry charges against pike-carrying infantry were due to a dying horse crushing a few men and the resulting exploitation of the hole in the defense.

Look at that, I even broke out some college books for this post!

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Re: Please explain the how of it

Postby D5CAV » Tue Jul 31, 2012 8:37 pm

JAG2955 wrote:In fact, there are very few recorded events of heavy cavalry smashing through a well-defended line like in Lord of the Rings. Many of the successful cavalry charges against pike-carrying infantry were due to a dying horse crushing a few men and the resulting exploitation of the hole in the defense.

My cavalry experience is with the kerosene-inhaling kind rather than the oats-nibbling kind. However, I do have some friends who enjoy the anachronism of riding their four legged cavalry around a polo field chasing a ball. Every one of them has told me that horses are not as stupid as they look, and there is no way a horse will charge into a hedgehog of pike carrying infantry. Any cavalry trooper who thinks their well trained mount will do so, better hold on tight, because that horse will come to an abrupt stop just short of the pikes, and the unprepared trooper will find himself with a birds-eye view of those pikes when Mr. Gravity decides to end his flight.

I think history bears this out. From the Greek Phalanx to the British Square, pike or bayonet carrying infantry were more than the match for cavalry. All the cavalry could do is ride around the phalanx out of pike range and poke at the infantry with their lances. When pikes evolved to muzzle loading muskets with bayonets, even that practice became inadvisable. The Hollywood fantasy of horses charging a hedgehog of pikes is exactly that - a Hollywood fantasy.

I'm at a loss to find any example of a successful horse cavalry charge against trained troops. The only (relatively) recent examples were both spectacularly unsuccessful: The suicidal charge of the British lancers against the Russians during the Crimean War, and the suicidal charge of the Polish lancers against the Germans in WW2. I won't even call them "Kamikaze" charges. At least the Japanese Kamikaze were able to inflict real damage to US warships and troops. These actions were pure suicide.
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Re: Please explain the how of it

Postby randy » Tue Jul 31, 2012 9:54 pm

From David Drake's An Oblique Approach

Imagine three thousand Persian lancers, thundering up to a wretched little earthen wall, guarded by not more than a thousand terrified, pathetic, wretched infantrymen. They sweep the enemy aside, right? Like an avalanche!

Well, not exactly. There are problems.

First, each cavalry mount has been hauling a man (a large man, more often than not) carrying fifty pounds of armor and twenty pounds of weapons—not to mention another hundred pounds of the horse's own armor. At a full gallop for half a mile, in the blistering heat of a Syrian summer.

So, the horses are winded, disgruntled, and thinking dark thoughts.

Two—all hearsay to the contrary—horses are not stupid. Quite a bit brighter than men, actually, when it comes to that kind of intelligence known popularly as "horse sense." So, when a horse sees looming before it:

a) a ditch

b) a wall

c) lots of men on the wall holding long objects with sharp points

The horse stops. Fuck the charge. If some stupid man wants to hurl himself against all that dangerous crap, let him. (Which, often enough, they do—sailing headlong over their horse's stubborn head.)

It was the great romantic fallacy of the cavalry charge, and Belisarius had been astonished—all his life—at how fervently men still held to it, despite all practical experience and evidence to the contrary. Yes, horses will charge—against infantry in the open, and against other cavalry. Against anything, as long as the horse can see that it stands a chance of getting through the obstacles ahead, reasonably intact.

But no horse this side of an equine insane asylum will charge a wall too high to leap over. Especially a wall covered with nasty sharp objects.

And there's no point trying to convince the horse that the infantry manning the wall are feeble and demoralized.

Is that so? Tell you what, asshole. Climb off my back and show me. Use your own legs. Mine hurt
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Re: Please explain the how of it

Postby Aglifter » Tue Jul 31, 2012 10:26 pm

Trained horses jump blind all the time. You might have to slip a blinder on a horse to get it to charge pickets - or train it that it won't get hurt if it charges pickets, but considering horses can panic and run into walls, etc, breaking their own necks, or run off cliffs, I don't think your argument holds.

That, and for some reason, heavy horse was considered an improvement over the phalanx.
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Re: Please explain the how of it

Postby Yogimus » Wed Aug 01, 2012 1:24 am

Aglifter wrote:Trained horses jump blind all the time. You might have to slip a blinder on a horse to get it to charge pickets - or train it that it won't get hurt if it charges pickets, but considering horses can panic and run into walls, etc, breaking their own necks, or run off cliffs, I don't think your argument holds.

That, and for some reason, heavy horse was considered an improvement over the phalanx.


You don't charge the phalanx with the horse, you go around it and crush the squishies.

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Re: Please explain the how of it

Postby randy » Wed Aug 01, 2012 2:41 am

Yogimus wrote:... crush the squishies.


In the Targeting community the technical term was "soft pudgies".
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Re: Please explain the how of it

Postby Yogimus » Wed Aug 01, 2012 3:41 am

CByrneIV wrote:
randy wrote:
Yogimus wrote:... crush the squishies.


In the Targeting community the technical term was "soft pudgies".


Or sometimes "fluffy bunnies"


"civilians"

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Re: Please explain the how of it

Postby HTRN » Wed Aug 01, 2012 3:54 am

CByrneIV wrote:
randy wrote:
Yogimus wrote:... crush the squishies.


In the Targeting community the technical term was "soft pudgies".


Or sometimes "fluffy bunnies"


Isn't Infantry referred to as "Crunchies" by Armor guys?
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Re: Please explain the how of it

Postby Erik » Wed Aug 01, 2012 11:31 am

D5CAV wrote:I'm at a loss to find any example of a successful horse cavalry charge against trained troops. The only (relatively) recent examples were both spectacularly unsuccessful: The suicidal charge of the British lancers against the Russians during the Crimean War, and the suicidal charge of the Polish lancers against the Germans in WW2.

Do you have a source for the Polish cavalry charge against German tanks in WW2? I've always thought that story was a bit hard to believe, and when I checked Wikipedia it says that story is a myth. The Polish cavalry usually fought dismounted. The incident that caused it was when the Polish cavalry actually charged German infantry, and were actually successful. The Germans then came back to the battlefield later, when their tanks had arrived, and showed the reporters horses and cavalry next to the tanks, giving them a great story to be used by German propaganda.

I know Wikipedia isn't to be considered absolute authority, but I have never actually seen any real proof of a cavalry charge against tanks, except stories being told that it happened. So it would be interesting to have a source for it.
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Re: Please explain the how of it

Postby Yogimus » Wed Aug 01, 2012 8:57 pm

There actually were several successful mounted charges in WW2, but mostly on camelback and in africa, and against supply lines and undefended air bases. Unfortunately I can not cite my source, other than "The history channel, when they were on a hitler kick"

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Re: Please explain the how of it

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