Wednesday, December 5, 2012

What was it like fighting behind a shield wall?

CC Licensed by Flickr user mararie

At the moment I've got 15mm Eastern Front for Fireball Forward in the wings, the Reaper mega delivery of fantasy figures coming this spring, and Warlord threatening to release plastic Caesarian Romans soon, so the only natural course of action when faced with so many projects is to start a new period. Of course.

I've heard the siren song of SAGA and been working on some dark ages terrain and a few test figures to try color schemes recently. I love the historical aspect of our hobby, so I've also been picking up Ospreys and pouring over articles and I've recently run into a few really interesting bits. "Behind the shield-wall: The experience of combat in late Anglo-Saxon England" is a masters thesis by Jordan Poss, written while attending Clemson University. What caught my attention was the paper's focus on the experience of the men in combat. What was it really like to march up the hill at Hastings, shoulder to shoulder with other soldiers, clutching a spear and shield before charging into battle?

Poss is an entertaining writer. He gives a general background of the political situations that lead to the set piece battles during the dark ages, explains the tactical challenges faced by the opposing armies at Maldon, Fulford Gate, Stamford Bridge, and Hastings and then tries to get into the head of the men fighting toe to toe. Looking beyond the arms and armor to explore the role of fatigue, terrain and morale in these case study battles. His description of the experience fighting amongst the slain and wounded warriors and their disemboweled horses really stuck in my mind.  I've read a bit about the various battles of the Conquest but it was nice to revisit them for another view of these ancient struggles.

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