Weight of armour burdened medieval warriors

July 21st, 2011 - 2:29 pm ICT by IANS  

Sydney, July 21 (IANS) Suits of armour may have made medieval soldiers feel safe, but they were so heavy and cumbersome that they did little to influence the outcome of battles, a study says.

“The steel plate armour worn by soldiers in medieval Europe weighed 30 to 50 kg, and there was a real trade-off between increased protection and reduced mobility,” says Federico Formenti, expert in sport and exercise science at the University of Auckland.

“Our research showed that wearing a suit of armour doubled the amount of energy that a soldier used to walk or run, and substantially reduced their speed,” Formenti adds.

For instance, a 38-year old man who could normally walk up to 10 km per hour would have been limited to six km per hour in armour, while an older man of 55 years could only manage five km in an hour, the journal Proceedings of the Royal Society of London, Biological Sciences, reports.

“Carrying a load of 30 kg spread around the body requires more energy than carrying the same load in a backpack,” explains Graham Askew from Leeds University, according to an Auckland statement.

“This is because, in a suit of armour, the limbs are loaded with weight, which means it takes more effort to swing them with each stride. If you’re wearing a backpack, the weight is all in one place and swinging the limbs is easier,” Askew said.

“The fastest running animals, such as cheetahs or ostriches, have relatively light and thin limbs,” says Formenti. “Weighing down the limbs is clearly unhelpful in situations where quick movement is required.”

“Being wrapped up in a tight shell of thick steel makes one feel invincible but also unable to take a deep breath,” says Formenti. “You feel breathless as soon as you move around in medieval armour, and this would most likely limit a soldiers’ ability to fight.”

The research was undertaken with a team of highly skilled volunteers accustomed to wearing armour for shows at the Royal Armouries Museum in Leeds.

These findings lend weight to the idea that exhaustion contributed to the defeat of heavily-armoured French soldiers against their lighter English enemy on the muddy battlefield at Agincourt (1415) and the long march to the Battle of Crecy (1346).

–Indo-Asian News service

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