Monday, March 4, 2013

Unarmoured Poleaxe

It's been awhile since I posted anything here but I just have a quick poll type question:

How likely do you think it was for poleaxes to have been used while unarmoured? That is, in gambeson, gloves, etc. No real armour to speak of.

I know that we see some illustrations of unarmoured fighters in Talhoffer (I think) but I've always been told that these were simply the artist not wanting to have to draw all that freaking armour in all the images.

I personally don't see why you couldn't use an axe while unarmoured - I wouldn't consider it the most ideal weapon for unarmoured combat - then again I do enjoy smashing things so that could just be it.

Anyways, what are your thoughts on this?


Scott Baltic said...

Not a comment, because you know much more about this than I do, but a question: I've always heard that the poleaxe was a knightly dueling weapon, and not one that was used on the battlefield. So if the poleaxe were to be used with little or no armor, wouldn't the circumstances have had to be highly unusual?
And actually, let me ask a related question: *Why* would the poleaxe not be used on the battlefield? Too limited a reach for the weight?

Jonathan Allen said...

The poleax was a ridiculously effective battlefield weapon. It could punch through armor that would turn aside swords and spears.

It is also easy to use. Any peasant strong enough to swing an axe can be trained to use a poleax offensively. He may not be able to defend himself, but he can do a lot of damage in the mean time.

I would guess halberds would be more effective, but the extra length would require significantly more training to use.

A poleax is cheap to make, you don't need high quality steel like you would for a longsword.

Armor, on the other hand, is incredibly expensive. You may not even bother giving your unit of knight-smashing peasants helmets, let alone full armor.

Alex said...

The axe was a dueling weapon, which is why I think we tend to see it being used in armour against armour. At it's basic, the poleaxe is an anti-armour weapon that, in my opinion, doesn't really require you to be in armour. I think the pollaxe was a perfectly valid battlefield weapon - amongst the men-at-arms. The true "knights" would have been on horse, and if they found themselves fighting on foot they would just use the lance.

Alex said...

I'm curious where this idea that the pollaxe was "not a battlefield weapon" comes from? After all, we see poleaxes (both hammer and axe blade variants) all the time in contemporary artwork about battles.