Category Archives: Medieval Warfare

Time’s Arrow – Free Excerpt

Following on from my posts about Time’s Arrow and the cover reveal, here’s a free excerpt from my new short story.

I hope you enjoy the read and if you do stay tuned for details about how you can buy a copy of the story.

Times’s Arrow by Mark Lord

William Chan punched the number 1415 into the time machine. And followed it with the month of October and the day was 25. St. Crispin’s Day, 1415. The Battle of Agincourt. He breathed deeply, feeling the blood pump through his veins. He looked down at what he wore. A leather jerkin with a white badge and a red cross sown above his heart, green legged-hose, leather boots, a buckler shield, arrows stuffed into his belt and held together by a piece of rope on his right hip and a sword in a scabbard on his left. He stepped forward onto the central plate in the chamber of the machine. He adjusted the helmet strap under his chin and pealed back the woolen sleeve covering his wrist. He kept his finger pressed on a small button on the small black device strapped there and waited until the L.E.D. showed the time he wanted. Nine o’clock. Just half an hour, he hoped, before the first French attack. That should give him enough time to get a good vantage of the battle from the cover of the woods.  

A green light flashed on the device, waiting for him. He pressed another button and held it down until the green light stopped flashing and was a solid green. 

# 

The G.P.S. should have placed him perfectly into the woods where he could watch undisturbed. But it didn’t. He was standing in a ploughed field behind a large mass of men. They were archers like him, like he was pretending to be. They were all facing away from him and most were busy with large stakes of wood, driving them with mallets or pushing them, getting their whole weight behind them so that they sank into the earth. They were building an impenetrable fence between themselves and the French mounted knights. A single line of stakes, William noted, not stakes in front of each man reaching in every ranks. That was one question answered. 

“Archer! Where’s your bow? Find it and get into the ranks.” 

William turned. Behind him was a grey-bearded man-at-arms riding a huge horse. He waved a rod at William and pointed towards the archers in front of them. 

“Deserters will be hung.” The man nudged the flanks of his horse with his plate armored heals and the beast moved threateningly towards William. Just then there was a blast of a trumpet and the man looked towards his right, towards the centre of the English army. 

William looked too. There he could see what he knew was a pitifully small number of dismounted men-at-arms. He couldn’t make them out properly across the flat field, but he knew that arrayed in the centre of the English army there would be three units, or battles, of men-at-arms; a mix of belted knights, squires and common soldiers, anyone with enough money to afford proper armor and the horses that were required. But the English men-at-arms hardly ever fought on horseback these days. Their usual strategy was to dismount and wait for their French enemies to attack. The English archers positioned on the flanks would pepper the approaching French hordes with arrows, breaking up their formations and then the English, hopefully fighting with the advantage of a hill or from behind some prepared defenses would break the enemy with their pole-axes, their cut-down lances and their swords. And here, near the small chateau of Agincourt, would occur the epitome of the English victory against the odds. Only a thousand English men-at-arms, with perhaps four thousand archers arrayed in support on the flanks, all hungry and tired from a desperate march across northern France and many suffering from the rigors of dysentery, their bowels opening without any self-control. This rag-tag of an army against the pride of French chivalry, over ten thousand men-at-arms on foot, drawn up in three great lines of attack with a thousand mounted men-at-arms on the flanks ready to disperse the English archers. But what should have been forlorn hope for the English was to be their greatest victory, with only 112 dead they would leave seven thousand French dead on the field and within five years Henry V, the English King, would have forced them into a peace that would hand him the crown of France upon the death of King Charles VI of France. 

William licked his lips. It was an amazing prospect, and no-one from the 22nd century had ever seen it before. 

The trumpet blared again and the man on horseback turned his horse to watch. William looked across at the banners. He could see one massive banner of cloth bearing Henry’s arms, the leopards of England quartered with the fleur-de-lis of France. He watched as the banner was raised up in the air and pointed forward. Battlefield signaling in action. Something else to add to his research paper. Another first for him. 

“For flip’s sake,” growled the horseman. “We’ve only just got the bloomin’ stakes in.” William’s universal translator earpiece not only parsed Middle English, Old French and Latin into modern English, but it also, annoyingly, took most of the fun out of the swearing. 

William was no longer important to the man on the horse. William watched him ride away, taking another mental note of the man’s arms that he could now more clearly on the back of his surcoat as he rode away from him towards the unit of archers. A green shield with a number of white blobs inside it –probably representing birds. Most likely, this was Sir Thomas Erpingham, charged with commanding both wings of archers. He would be a busy man that day. 

William had nearly been caught out. But now he could make his way towards the woods and a safe place to watch the action. It had never been his intention to stand with either of the armies (especially not the French)—much too dangerous! And besides, from in the middle of the melee, would he really see much of what was going on? But a soldier’s disguise would help him get near enough. Even if he was to pose as an archer in the ranks (perhaps the least dangerous role on the English side), he would soon be shown up—there were no yew trees left in the 22nd century and his upper body muscles were certainly not strong enough to use one of the great English war-bows. 

In front of him the archers were pulling their stakes out of the ground. They would march forward several hundred yards until they were in bow range of the French and plant their stakes again and then goad the French into attacking. And the rest would be history. William walked towards the woods on the western side of the field directly to the left of the formation of archers which faced the French army in the north. He didn’t run to get his position. There was too much to take in. It was not a simple task for the archers to pull-up the stakes they had just hammered into the ground and he noticed that many were giving up. He watched one man slip in the mud as the stake he was pulling came free. The archer landed on his backside. The men around him laughed and William couldn’t help but smile. 

But the man didn’t seem to notice his comrades laughing. As he regained his feet he was staring straight at William. 

“Oi! What are you looking at?” 

William looked away and started walking quickly towards the woods. 

“You, come here!” 

TO BE CONTINUED

For a Life Forgotten – Volume 3 of Stonehearted – Now Available for Pre-Order!

Volume 3 of Stonehearted, my action adventure series set in the Hundred Years War, is now available to pre-order in eBook format!

As a reminder the previous volumes are:

By the Sword’s Edge (Vol 1)

By Fire and Sword (Vol 2)

For a Life Forgotten by Mark Lord

When the cut from the blade runs deep – You need a heart of Stone

The English army commanded by Robert Knolles has reached Paris – the capital and the honour of the French kingdom is under threat. But against the backdrop of war another drama plays out – will Eolande find her father, who was captured by the French? Will Richard seek the redemption he seeks after the terrible killing of his brother, and what will be the fate of the amoral Minsterworth, a captain in the English army, but only interested in his own gain?

Meanwhile secrets about the fate of Eolande’s father will be revealed.

For a Life Forgotten is the third part of the Stonehearted series, a fast-paced medieval adventure story set during the epic Hundred Year War between England and France.

Available to Pre-Order from:

Amazon.com | Amazon.co.uk | Barnes & Noble | iBooks | Smashwords | Kobo

By Fire and Sword – Stonehearted Part 2 Published!

I am very pleased to announce the publication of By Fire and Sword, which is the second part of my series Stonehearted – and the sequel to By The Sword’s Edge.

By Fire and Sword is a Medieval action adventure story set in the year 1370.

The English have again brought fire and sword to the country of France. An army devastates the country on its march south to Paris, hungry for loot and glory. But redemption is what Richard Stone seeks—having run away from home after a family tragedy for which he is responsible. The French resist as best they can—but to stand and fight the English they learn is a fools game.

Eolande, neighbour of Richard’s, has also left home—in search of the father that was captured years ago and never returned. But even Calais the bastion of the English in France, is not welcoming to her.

By Fire and Sword is the second volume of Stonehearted. You can purchase from:

Amazon.com | Amazon.co.uk | Barnes & Noble | iTunes | Kobo | Smashwords

If you want to get into the Stonehearted series now then the first part, By The Sword’s Edge is available for just £0.99 or $0.99 from most eBook retailers.  See below for purchase links:

Buy print and eBook at: Amazon.com | Amazon.co.uk

Buy eBook at: Smashwords | Kobo | Nook | iBooks

 

Mystery of the Medieval Sword Inscription

This 13th-century sword with a gold inscription was likely made in Germany, but was found at the bottom of the River Witham in 1825. Credit: The British Museum
This 13th-century sword with a gold inscription was likely made in Germany, but was found at the bottom of the River Witham in 1825.
Credit: The British Museum

To be honest I thought that the inscription of swords was just something that happened in fantasy books and role-playing games – but it seems not! Most inscriptions were invocations to God to help out the person bearing the sword.

But a certain sword that is currently part of a 1215 Magna Carta exhibit at the British Library has got all the experts stumped, as no-one knows what the following means:

+NDXOXCHWDRGHDXORVI+

I must say that I certainly don’t – the signs of the cross that top and tail the inscription are standard for medieval spells as well, so maybe its a magical inscription – and perhaps that’s why it is so hard to decipher?

You can read the full story at livescience.

 

By The Sword’s Edge published – first part of serialized novel Stonehearted

By The Sword's Edge CoverI am currently writing a new novel set in the Hundred Years War called Stonehearted. As the novel is progressing quite well I thought it would be fun to release it in serial format every month or two. There should be four or five parts in total, each ranging from 15,000 to 20,000 words. I will then release the full novel once the last part has been finished.

By The Sword’s Edge is the first part and I have made it free for the moment to introduce new readers to the series. You can currently download it for free from Smashwords.

Here’s a bit more about the book:

By The Sword’s Edge is the first volume of Stonehearted, a serialized novel.

After a decade of peace England is again at war with France. But England’s warrior king, Edward III, is not the man he was. Ageing and turned to a life of pleasure, he will not lead an army into France again. And his eldest son, the famous Black Prince, suffers from a chronic illness while he tries to hold onto his principality of Aquitaine.

Many men in England have grown rich from war and some, like Sir Robert Knolles, have risen from the lowest ranks to lead great armies, and he will now lead a force into northern France to challenge the French to battle. But first he has a visit to make to a Norfolk manor to visit an old friend.

In By The Sword’s Edge two young people are thrust into the harsh realities of war. Richard Stone is a knight in training and son of a rich Norfolk merchant. Their neighbours are the d’Aubrays, who hold Sarbrook castle, but have sold or rent much of their land since falling into poverty. The lord of Sarbrook is missing in France, captured many years ago and not returned despite the payment of ransom. His daughter, Eolande d’Aubray is desperate for her father to return. Only he, it seems, can save her from the prospect of an unwanted marriage.

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French Cavalry Charge at Agincourt – Video From Medieval 2 Total War

I have been experimenting with some video capture software recently and recorded this brief video of the Battle of Agincourt from Medieval 2 Total War. The game version of the battle is actually pretty accurate.

This is the moment when the French cavalry wings charge the English and are defeated quite easily by the English longbowmen fire! By the way there is not supposed to be any sound!

I am thinking about paying for the full version of the software so I can record longer clips!

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PC Strategy Wargames and Realism

Medieval Total War2
Image via Wikipedia

This is something that has been bothering me for a while now. I’m a fan of PC computer games such as Medieval II: Total War and the other titles in that series, and I have also occasionally played a few other PC strategy wargames. Most of these vary in the amount of realism that they include, but usually they aim to get things like the effects of weapons, terrain, morale etc fairly accurate. You can argue about the finer details of how effective crossbows or longbows should be, but at the end of the day the differences aren’t too great, and if you’re into modding can be corrected by access to the game’s source files.

Where I feel that all such PC games always fall down is on the realistic portrayal of command and control. All PC games tend to allow the player pretty much omnipotent control of his forces. You click on a unit and command it where to go, and usually pretty soon it gets going. There might be a slight delay sometimes, but the order is obeyed and carried out.

Back in the 1980s when I was a schoolboy I was interested in actual wargames with lead figures etc, and although I didn’t get much further than playing a bit of Warhammer, I did buy War Games Rules: 3000 BC to 1485 AD by the Wargames Research Group, published in August 1980. These guys did wargaming properly, and for them it was all about accurately portraying what might happen on a battlefield, as well as the thrill of commanding troops and all the excitement associated with a game.

Now as any military historian will tell you, the ability of a commander to actually change the course of a battle in pre-modern times was fairly limited – things got better in the times of Napoleon I think, mostly because battles just took a lot longer – whole days, so things could be changed, but once troops were off and marching you would have to send them a message to change their orders. You would have to hope the messenger got through alive and then that the subordinate commander actually understood and correctly implemented the new order – by which time of course the situation of the battle may have changed radically.

War Games Rules: 3000 BC to 1485 AD  actually recreates such situations. Commanders are required to write orders for their units prior to the start of the battle. You can write standing orders which can be applied if certain circumstances occur, which is quite handy, but if you want to change orders during a battle you actually have to send an order to your units and tell them to do something different – this can be by some sort of pre-arranged signal, or by sending a messenger. And each type of order despatch is subject to realistic chances of success. If your General figure is engaged in combat then quite rightly you can’t send any commands – something that’s quite important during battles before the Early Modern period. For instance Henry V was engaged in hand to hand combat during Agincourt, and probably had the opportunity to change very few of his orders once the battle was under way – in fact the only decision he made during the battle was probably to kill the French prisoners because of the threat to English rear.

Should PC games reflect reality in this way? I think so. I think it would make games actually more challenging for players, more exciting and more realistic. You wouldn’t have the arcade style click and shoot style action, but I think the there would be a lot more involvement in actually planning and trying to react to events in time to make a difference, that would actually add to the excitement.

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How did the Carolingians Recruit their Armies in the Early Middle Ages

I have started a new series of articles about Medieval warfare off in the Medieval (Middle Ages) History and Literature section of the site. It’s a subject which has always fascinated me, and which I think is often misunderstood – we tend to either think of glorious knightly cavalry charges or heroic yeoman archers and maybe that’s it. What I hope to do is get behind some of the myths that circle about war in the Middle Ages.

The first article is The Recruitment of Armies in France and the Carolingian Empire, 650-1100. I think it’s interesting that in terms of military organization this era in the so called Dark Ages was in many ways more advanced and effective than during the later Middle Ages. Hope you enjoy the article!

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Forthcoming Medieval History Book: Divided Houses: Hundred Years War Vol 3 by Jonathan Sumption

Divided Houses

Paperback
ISBN:9780571240128
Published:01.03.2012
No of pages:700

The Hundred Years War, Volume 3: Divided Houses (The Middle Ages Series)
is the third volume of Jonathon Sumption’s epic history of the Hundred Years War. If you want to read about every turn of this conflict then I would recommend this series of books. I got this in hardback when it came out and its now going to be published in paperback – next March that is in the UK – so perhaps one to pre-order! Although I see if you follow my link above the US edition is coming out this autumn.

Here’s some more details from the publisher’s website.

Divided Houses is a tale of contrasting fortunes. In the last decade of his reign Edward III, a senile, pathetic symbol of England’s past conquests, was condemned to see them overrun by the armies of his enemies. When he died, in 1377, he was succeeded by a vulnerable child, who was destined to grow into a neurotic and unstable adult presiding over a divided nation.

Meanwhile France entered upon one of the most glittering periods of her medieval history, years of power and ceremony, astonishing artistic creativity and famous warriors making their reputations as far afield as Naples, Hungary and North Africa.

Contemporaries in both countries believed that they were living through memorable times: times of great wickedness and great achievement, of collective mediocrity but intense personal heroism, of extremes of wealth and poverty, fortune and failure. At a distance of six centuries, as Jonathan Sumption skilfully and meticulously shows, it is possible to agree with all of these judgments.

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Left Hand of God and Agincourt – not sure about this one?

SPOILER ALERT:

20110909-132247.jpg
You’ll need to have read Paul Hoffman’s Left Hand of God to appreciate this, so that’s why I’ve flagged this up as potentially a spoiler.

If you’ve read the book you’ll know that nest the end of the book there is a big battle between the Materazzi and the Redeemers. What I found unusual about this is that the battle pretty much exactly mirrors the historical battle of Agincourt of 1415. So the redeemers are the English, lots of archers, smaller numbers, and the Materazzi are the heavily armoured and over confident French. The battlefield is a narrow muddy field flanked by woods, the Redeemers use stakes to protect themselves from the Materazzi, etc etc. The only detail I think that is different is that there’s no equivalent of the French attack on the English camp that prompted the English execution of prisoners.

20110909-132439.jpgAs a description of Agincourt it’s all very good. But for me it doesn’t feel quite right in a fantasy novel. I enjoy the way that Hoffman plays with historical events in this book, so we have a pseudo Christian religion, we have a sort of WW2 eastern front allusions, we have place names such as York, Memphis, and Norway used, but not in their historical and geographical contexts. All well and good and nicely thought provoking, but somehow the dumping of Agincourt into the book didn’t work for me.

What do you think?

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