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Rantings of an Eccentric Norseman
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I began this story for a contest some time back, but it didn't win. I think it is somewhat topical to the world today and the political situation in Europe, so I'm posting it online here and there in forums that I frequent.

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7th-Sep-2013 11:59 pm - So I was reading the Daily Mail...
From 1896 that is, I got my hand on a copy of the very first Daily Mail, and of course I turned to the letters to the editor.

Cyclists in Traffic

To the Editor "Daily Mail"

As one who has watched the growth of cycling as a national pastime and as one of the earliest riders of the bicycle - having, in fact, used one of the original "boneshakers" in Paris in the sixties - it pains me to hear of so many serious accidents occurring daily in our streets. Now I think most of your readers - or at any rate those with any knowledge of the subject - will bear me out when I say that the majority of these mishaps are simply the inevitable result of the rider's own foolhardiness.

The cyclist of to-day, and especially the woman cyclist, has scarce learnt to balance ere he or she venture out into the crowded thoroughfares and wends a wobbling course in the thickest of the traffic. Some of the narrow shaves from disaster that I have recently seen are really enough to turn one's hair grey, and that more bad smashes do not occur I attribute entirely to the consideration and care shown to these foolish riders by drivers of vehicles. Unless cyclists want to be controlled by very stringent traffic regulations, efforts will, in my opinion, have to be made to check this mad cycling among traffic by unskilful and inexperienced "wobblers."

So far reactions from my friends have been, "That is exactly like one you'd see today," and complaints that I bought any Daily Mail no matter how old.
1st-Jul-2013 11:12 am - Coralbots Project on Indiegogo
So I discovered that I can't use iframes in Livejournal, but I can link to the image of the widget and then make a link to it. So here is the CoralBots widget image! Now I hope you'll click and contribute:

Being on the whole a speech by a member of the Roman senate against the suggestion that the right to marriage be extended to the plebeians. Quoted in full beneath...

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29th-Apr-2013 10:14 am - Interesting new KickStarters
Coral-bots: teams of robots that repair coral reefs
Coral-bots are a team of robots that intelligently navigate across a damaged coral reef, transplanting pieces of healthy corals along the way. The big job of developing and testing the robots at sea has already been done. All that remains is to embed the robots with computer vision to “see” healthy bits of coral, and configure appropriate manipulator arms for each robot to pick up and put down the pieces in the right spots.

I think this is a fascinating project and one that really deserves to be supported. Though the bit I liked the best was this one:

What makes our vision work is our idea of using swarm intelligence methods to control robot behaviour. Swarm intelligence explains how simple behaviours in a group of creatures can lead to complex and functional structures – this is how bees build hives, and termites build complex mounds, and beavers build dams.

I always found the idea of swarm intelligence robots to be fascinating (which of course could lead to some dramatic ironies once the robot overlords take over) and I also like the idea of being able to rescue and rebuild the various at risk coral-reefs out there.

Glowing Plants
So basically this is a kickstarter to make and distribute glow in the dark plants from seeds. I don't think I need to say more. Glow in the dark plants. How cool is that? And of course it got tons more money than the admittedly far more useful coral-bots XD
I have on various occasions seen references to "A Brief Discourse Concerning the Force and Effect of All Firearms and the Comparative Inferiority of the Longbow and Archery." It is a treatise by Humfrey Barwick an experienced Elizabethan soldier who argues that firearms are superior to archery. It may surprise you to know that there are people who still think that bows were superior right up to the Napoleonic age. This treatise was written in 1595 in order to disprove such ideas once and for all.

Given that Elizabethan English is very hard to understand and that Humfrey Barwick was not a very good writer, I've decided to create a modern transcription or translation of his work. In short what you are getting here is not the original in all of its Elizabethan glory, but my modernisation. I realise this may disappoint some people, but consider that I am writing this to be a source for my online friends.

This will be the index for the whole series, as I add more sections I will link to them here so place this post in your bookmarks.

Being mainly a brief autobiography to show that he is qualified to speak on military matters due to his long wartime career as an officer, as well as an explanation of what he will seek to prove in his discourses.
1st Discourse
Being mainly a discussion of how noblemen (who were often made officers because of their rank) were very ill informed about how modern war was waged. An objection to how many people were more concerned with examples from antiquity, rather than looking at how wars were actually being waged now. As well as demonstrating by way of examples how gunpowder had greatly diminished the efficiency of fortifications.
2nd Discourse
Further examples of how unskilled officers are a threat to themselves and to the ones they command. He complains of how court politics count for more than military skill, and calls for the appointment of competent officers.
3rd Discourse
Discussion of how to organise your companies and regiments (or battalions). What proportion of them should have what weapons, as in pikes, arquebuses, etc.
4th Discourse
Discussion of the equipment of an arquebusier and the need for him to be well trained. Some examples of the force and efficiency of firearms.
5th Discourse
We finally reach some of the meat of the matter, particularly from the third paragraph on. This contains a discussion of the relative accuracy of bow and musket, as well as a discussion of the deficiencies of aim in the bow.
6th Discourse
The undertitle is: Proving the longbow to be far inferior to fire-arms. Though this is more like an introduction to the proof, the meat of the story is in the 7th Discourse.
7th Discourse
An account of a somewhat interesting battle, a major victory in which 280 English soldiers (including 35 archers) defeated some 400 Frenchmen. Somewhat digressive, but points out how no one was killed by arrows.
8th Discourse
Discussing the sieges of Boulogne, Leith, and Le Havre, pointing out how archers were present at all these sieges, and yet they accomplished nothing. Also contains various accounts of the French opinion of English archers.
9th Discourse
Great deal of space spent rebutting Sir John Smith's arguments in favour of the bow. Said arguments are much the same that are current today. Also includes a section warning that unless Englishmen practise with firearms they shall suffer greatly in wars with the evil, despicable Spaniards.
And now to answer the first part of Sir John Smith's arguments, which are in on the 20th page the 15 line. I will now proceed to discuss the these matters and their ramifications, which concern the true effectiveness of musketters, arquebusiers, and archers, and their weapons.

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Let us now justly consider Sir John Smith's words. Although he gives the longbow many and excellent commendations, when it comes to the matter of force he says that: It does wonderfully well with its noise, which terrifies the enemy, and so forth. But he also confesses that it only occasionally kills. I refer that point to the judgement of all good soldiers. There is no one worthy to be a soldier that doesn't want to become a Captain in good time, by his valour, knowledge and good behaviour. And what man of that character will be afraid of any wounds that place his life in little or no danger? I firmly believe that it'd be an encouragement to a resolute fellow, who would try to move forward, rather than shun the engagement.

For in truth when I was in the French king's service among the old bands of footmen, I vigorously defended the force of the longbow, but this is how I was answered: Non non Anglois, vstre cause est bien sale car dieu nous a donnes moyen de vous encountrer après, unautre sorte que en temps passé. No, no, Englishman, said he, your cause has become a bad one, for God has given us means to the means to meet with you in another way than was the case in the past. For now the weakest of us are able to give greater wounds, than the greatest and strongest archer you have.

When I replied, as Sir John Smith often does, that the number of arrows come so thick that it was like a hail, he answered that it was not to be feared like a weapon that kills where it strikes. For, said he, when I march directly towards them [the archers] and see them coming [the arrows], I stoop my head forward a little, and so my burgonet will save my face. And when I see the arrows fall on my head piece; or on my chest; or pouldrons; or vambraces: well after seeing that, and noticing that they do me no harm and have no force, I bravely advance forward to meet with the enemy.

But these arguments won't have much effect, and I'm presenting them to show the opinion of the French foot soldiers rather than as any just proof of the matter. It is necessary that we use our own knowledge and experience to reach a conclusion. For as I have said before about the English performance at Bolloigne and Guisnes, whose large garrisons kept there over a long period of time, were an immense expense to our princes. Especially Bolloigne with its extensive fortifications. Aside from that there were in these garrisons a great number of archers, so strong and skilled that you wouldn't find their better anywhere in Christiendom. Let us now consider how they performed, at any time of their service, during the five years that it was English, or at Guisnes or Callice during the same time.

And now to a later time: The second year of Her Majesty's happy reign. At the siege of Lieth where there we many archers, from Yorkshire, Lancashire, Cheshire, Nothingham-shire, and Darbyshire. In these latter days that was as good a place as any to use the archers. But I know that there was no great proof of the abilities of archers or the long-bow. And I may most certainly use this example to plead my cause.

It so happened that at the conclusion of the peace-treaty and the yielding of the city of Lieth, that I had occasion to meet with various French acquaintances of mine. Among them I met with a gentleman and an old soldier, who served in the same company of footmen as I had when I was in French service. His name was Monsieur de Sentan, whose valour and honesty I will vouch for. I learned to know him as we were both under the same corporal and lodged together, as well as dining and drinking together for a long time afterwards. Given the great courtesy and respect I received from him in France, I tried to be considerate to him at Lieth. After we had spent some time talking together on various matters, I asked two questions of him.

The first was how many of our soldiers were slain during our attack on the city. He told me that 448 were killed. I asked how he know that, he answered that the Governor of Lieth had ordered that the uppermost garment of the English soldiers should be removed and brought into the marketplace to be counted. This was done and there were found to be as many as mentioned earlier.

Secondly, remembering the words of the Frenchman I quoted earlier on, I asked Sentan how many were slain from arrows from the beginning of the siege onto that very day. He answered not a single one, aside from one, he said, who was shot between the shoulder and the bodie, and that with the heat of his body when the arrow was pulled out, the head got stuck and didn't come out in one piece. The surgeon was forced to cut the man to recover the arrowhead, and so the man was still recovering from the wound. From this and other accounts I'd heard up to that time and since, it does appear that great numbers have come to their deaths by arquebuses, but few or none through arrows or archers.

And now touching on the fighting during the siege of New-haven [Le Havre], during the 5th year of Her Majesty, where the Earle of Warwick commanded. Let the chronicle or the survivors make an account who were slain there by the force or dint of arrows. On the 37th page of his discourse Sir John Smith speaks of a skirmish before the town of Newhaven. We can suppose that the French having endured a lengthy skirmish and having spent most of their gunpowder and bullets, and being close to the town walls and its guns, would be willing to retreat on their own. Whether the four score bowmen had arrived or not. I see no reports in the chronicles about bowmen there, or that they've done any good as of late. Especially since the arquebus is rightly known to be superior, then the longer archers are kept in the field the less esteem they'll be held in.
It so happened that Sir John Wallop, Knight of the Order of the Garter, got intelligence from his spies that the French would enter English territory that night. Therefore as soon as the gates were shut he sent forth his Gentleman Porter, to command the Captains to prepare their companies. All save one who would stay within the town, to stand watch and defend it until the other companies returned. Everything was done accordingly, and at the appointed time some 400 footmen and 25 horsemen marched out. About half a mile out of town there came such a heavy and tempestuous rain that the Captains agreed to return to town. And so did Sir John Wallop, who was a lame man could neither walk nor ride, but had to be carried in a litter. Despite that his instructions and command abilities were always most perfect.

The French were in the field and had lain in cover that very morning. About ten o'clock the French horsemen crossed the Mewnam Bridge, close to the marshy side, and attacked the English villages, and captured great numbers of cattle and sheep. But they came no closer than two miles to Guynes. When they had gotten as much loot as they could, they moved back towards Hambletewe, after which they were out of sight of the day watch of Hams and Guynes. At this point the French soldiers from Hambletewe and Arde split up their loot and returned towards their respective garrisons.

In the mean time Sir John Wallop found out that the Captains had not gone forth as he ordered them to, therefore he summoned them to explain themselves. But before the Captains could come the alarm went off through the county, the day-watch sounded their bells and fired a cannon to give the rest of the county a warning. Immediately the Captains and soldiers went out into the field, with only their weapons and no armour whatsoever. The bells continued sounding the alarm so loudly that everyone thought the enemy was at the very gates, so the governor himself came out and met with some of the Captains. So angry was he that they had failed to obey his commands that he swore by the Mother of God (his favourite oath) that they were all a pack of cowardly knaves who didn't dare to look a Frenchman in the face. This greatly upset the Captains, but right then a horseman came from Sindercafe Church, who had seen all the movements and dispositions of the French. He told them that one part of the French force was going towards Hambletewe, and the other towards Arde.

Hearing this the Captains and soldiers immediately moved out towards a place called Buckhole or Buckhold. They went in groups of 20 and 10, more or less, until they came close to the open area that the French had recently passed through after leaving the woods, with their booty of sheep and cattle. Here the Captains placed their footmen in their best order and the horsemen on the left hand. The English had about 280 footmen and 9 horsemen at this point. By now the French had dressed their ranks and were in good order. But before the English could come into the open area where the French had formed their ranks, there was a hedge with a gap so narrow that a rank of 3 men couldn't pass through it. We wondered if the French horse would charge us before we had all passed through the gap, but they quietly allowed us to pass through it. There was no need for a sergeant, for each man fell into ranks as fast as he could. We arranged ourselves in seven ranks and ascended towards the enemy. The French stood on an angled bank about 2 yards high, with the horsemen at the end of the same angled bank, where we concentrated our fire. The French fired their pieces towards our flank, to little effect as they mostly overshot us. We let fly towards the horsemen, hitting so full in their faces that all the survivors turned and ran, with no need for us to tell them to spur their horses. The footmen stayed until we came to join them pike to pike, and at last they began to shrink back, and thought they could flee safely into the nearby forest. But we pursued them so fast that only a few got away, and so they threw away their pikes and fled towards the wood. We killed 117 of the footmen and took Monsieur de Outing, Lieutenant of the Governor of Arde and one other horseman, and 69 prisoners, as well as the armour and weapons of the slain. The French booty however got clean away, for before we had put ourselves in good order to march home, the booty was near the gates of Arde.

Sir John was told by members of the day watch that the French and our men were joined in battle, for the gunsmoke could be seen from far away. At this he said he wished for all his land that we had been at home. But when a Muse, one of the 9 horsemen, brought him news that his cook should prepare a meal for Monsieur de Outing would dine with him, the Governor became right happy. He was sorry that he had so reprimanded his Captains. This happened in November in the 3rd year of Edward the First, by my Captain Hugh Smith and Captain Thomas Sibell, Captain Matson, and Captain Basset with 268 footmen and 9 horsemen. The French were 87 horsemen led by Captain Pelowes and 340 footmen led by the L. Of Outings. In this encounter we lost five men, though several more were injured though they all recovered. Among the English were 35 bowmen, of which one had died, but not a single Frenchman had been killed by the archers. Nor to my knowledge have I ever seen anyone slain outright with an arrow, and only a few with crossbow quarrels. But with arquebus and pistol shot I have seen 20000 killed outright, beside all the wounded and maimed.

I have made a long account of this battle of Buckhole because I haven't seen it described in any other place, by any of our late Chroniclers, even though they've described many things of less effect.

I have been at many greater fights, but never at any fought with such high spirits, or greater courage from Captains and soldiers. For even though we were unarmoured and the enemy well armoured, we chose to set upon them rather than leave them where they were.

And now where I left of regarding archers with their longbows.
Proving the longbow to be far inferior to fire-arms.

And now to the longbow so highly commended by Sir John Smith, with so many various arguments and proofs presented in his book, at such length and with so many instances. I don't think it's necessary nor required to answer most of them, since as the proverb goes: Good things need no praising. Therefore as much as God permits me I shall set down my opinion and knowledge, without either affection or hatred of the longbow.

The time that I first went to war was at Bolougne, where there were a thousand five hundred or so soldiers in the mentioned city and the forts surrounding it. Although I served there for four or five months I did not, at any point in my stay there, see them all together at once, before the city was surrendered to the French King. All the men then went to Calais, in good order, and as I served in Guines under Sir John Wallop I went to see them. Being able to study them at some length, I thought that in all of England there would not be many men in each shire, who could match them for health and good looks. Notwithstanding that most of them were archers, I never saw or heard of any great deed done by them with longbows. But I have seen many men slain in various skirmishes and encounters, between the English in those forts, and the French in garrison at the forts called Mon pleasure and mon gardenet, situated as they were right across from our forts and holds there. And where I served in Guines in a unit that were all arquebusiers, save fourteen, there was also another company of soldiers under a Captain Baffet, who had no arquebusiers in his company. He was an Essex man under the Earl of Oxford, and the two companies often served together, in various skirmishes and fights between the garrison of Guines and Arde, and other places. Both before the town of Arde and at other times, near the castle of Guines, where twice or thrice a week there was some trial of arms where all manner of weapons were tested in battle. There we had proof of the insufficiency of the longbow when pitched against other weapons, the circumstances of this I shall tell in my next discourse.
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