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THE PIKE

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GOT MAIL?

WE’VE GOT MAIL

Wednesday, 4 February 2015

We are selecting objects for a new permanent display of metalwork on the first floor (Lower Gallery). Whilst searching through the museum’s reserve collections at our off-site storage facility  we found this wonderful board mounted with different types of mail armour. Mail is often referred to as ‘chain mail’ – terminology introduced by Sir Walter Scott in his 1822 novel “The Fortunes of Nigel”.

This assemblage was collected – and possibly arranged – by General Pitt-Rivers himself. Pitt-Rivers collected from many sites in London during the 1860s, often as part of early ‘salvage archaeology’ excavations during groundworks for civic construction projects such as the London Underground and the Victoria Embankment.

C17th-centruy mail with rounded jumped (butted) rings and f
lat, welded rings. 1884.31.41. 5 © Pitt Rivers Museum

The pieces of mail are described in an early catalogue of 1874 as “Twenty fragments of Chain armour. European and Oriental”. The hand-written labels date some of them to the XVII (17th) century, and several are recorded as being recovered from the “Thames Embankment”. The board has clearly been put together as an exhibit rather than a cataloguing or storage device. We have no record of whether it was ever displayed at the Pitt Rivers Museum but it may well have been displayed in Bethnal Green Museum (now the V&A Museum of Childhood) and South Kensington Museums (now the V&A) where the General’s archaeological and ethnological collection was first shown to the public in London from 1874-1878 (Bethnal Green) and from 1878-1882 (South Kensington), before being donated to the University of Oxford in 1884.

The board was arranged to show a variety of different types and gauges of linkage variations within the single category of ‘mail armour’ – a neat demonstration of Pitt-Rivers’s concept of ‘typological’ arrangements. Some samples are of butted or ‘jumped’ mail, arranged in alternating rows with solid welded rings. Butted rings were the cheapest type of mail to make and buy, though the most vulnerable to a well-placed thrust from a sword or spear. Each ring is linked to four others in the European ‘4-in-1’ style.

There were also examples of what seemed to be imitation rivets – perhaps to give the illusion of quality or strength – plus large-gauge hooked mail with spiral links, which may have been worn by horses in conjunction with solid barding armour.

Mail with possible imitation rivets (left) and hooked mail, possibly for horses (right)
1884.31.41. 15 and 1884.31.41. 13 © Pitt Rivers Musuem

The different pieces of mail were fixed to the painted wooden board with metal staples. Many of the metal rings were suffering from corrosion and rust and some links were missing. When the items were sent to our Conservation lab, our conservator Andrew rearranged tangled links and cleaned the metal with a sponge and stiff brush.

Of the twenty small pieces, a handful demonstrating the different mail types were chosen for the new Metalwork display. One substantial piece of fine mail was arranged flat on the left side of the board, rather like a half-folded T-shirt, but in fact consisted of a tube that opened out into a flat piece. Perplexed, we consulted the experts. Staff at the Royal Armouries were very helpful and Thom Richardson, Keeper of Armour and Oriental Collections, suggested it was part of C17th-century pajama zereh (mail trousers), worn by an Indian Mughal warrior.

Half riveted mail armour, identified as being part of Indian pajama zereh (mail trousers), India. 1884.31.41. 3
© Pitt Rivers Museum

Next, Andrew considered how to create a mount that would both support the mail for display and illustrate how it would be positioned on the body. Using a template from the armour, and based on his own leg, he made a liner out of calico, and filled it with polyester wadding. After padding it out to form a rough leg shape, he then tacked the mail to the calico with cotton thread. Research indicated this is not too dissimilar to how the armour would have been worn, as it would originally have been sewn to fabric trousers. Mail armour can adjust to many shapes and is very heavy, so this mount should support most of the weight and hopefully help visitors understand how it was worn.

Andrew at work in the Conservation lab making a new display mount for the pajama zereh leg armour
© Pitt Rivers Museum

You can see just how much work has to go into preparing just a few objects. You will be able to see the mail armour, alongside up to 200 other objects, in the new Metalwork display on the first floor this summer. In the meantime, you can still find examples of full mail shirts, plus various other armours (plate, lamellar, brigandine) upstairs on the Upper Gallery or here on our Arms and Armour site.

Helen Adams
VERVE Project Curator

HOW YA REALLY DO IT

A FEW THINGS I HAVE LEARNED OVER THE YEARS PLAYING STAR FLEET BATTLES/STAR FLEET COMMAND

A few principles I have learned in playing SFBs, but many are also widely applicable to both numerous other wargames and to Real Life.

Missiles are always the most effective weapons. They track, they force the enemy to consume resources on defensive countermeasures, their range is the effective greatest of any weapon, they consume little power to prepare, and they do not degrade over distance as far as their destructive power. Their only real limitations are speed of movement (in some cases) and interceptability – otherwise they are a near ideal weapon system

Obtain and use the fastest and most powerful missiles even if they cost you far more – they are worth the expense

Save your attacks against enemy tractor beam defenses until after they are damaged – that is to say punch through enemy shields first and let them intercept your missiles then close in and cripple their tractor beams defenses only after they are in missile holding mode

Always use probes to gather better Intel on operating capabilities/conditions and damage to enemy ships

Carefully time your boarding actions but use them freely

Do not deploy your fighters either defensively or offensively until you have sufficiently damaged or crippled the enemy – your fighters are too easy to kill and are wasted in the initial stages of an engagement, but if the enemy is crippled they are truly lethal

Use missiles as a stand-off weapon against multiple enemy ships so they cannot close and flank you all at once

Prepare all counter-measures (such as wild-weasels) at the beginning of an engagement, a counter-measure is useless if it is unprepared

The Gorns are paper tigers, so are the Romulans if you simply stay out of range and time your defenses properly

The Klingons mean business and fight like hell – short of enemies like the Vagr they are your most dangerous opponents

Hydran fighters are extremely dangerous in squadrons, but Hydran weapons are hit and miss at best – Hydran ships can’t take a punch

The Lyrans are knife-fighters, avoid close contact, if you have to get close then kill immediately

You don’t like the Kzin/Kzinti – liquidate on contact with extreme prejudice

Throw combinations, and often

The optimum range for almost all weapons is point-blank – however that’s probably not the optimum range in which to operate

Constantly rotate your shields and your firing arcs – become excellent at coordinating defensive and offensive actions simultaneously

Maneuver is your friend, but you have to earn his friendship

Your ship will be destroyed if you get too close to the enemy as he dies – let the enemy die at a distance

If you can capture an enemy ship then do so, if you have to destroy him then do so, but never let him escape

The unknown works in both directions

Assume every alien/unknown entity is a potential hostile, but do not force them to be such

Unless your ship is specifically designed for stealth operations then Electronic Counter-Measures are far better employed in a defensive fashion

Place transporter bombs where they will do the most damage – place them strategically, because sometimes that’s the whole battle right there

Once your enemy is afire then press your attack

It is better to cripple or destroy enemy systems than to attack hull or kill crew

Do not give the enemy an opportunity to undertake useful damage control efforts

Never hesitate at your own repairs – employ damage control and repairs efforts as needed and immediately

Withdraw whenever necessary

Steal enemy repair goods with your transporters and use them for your own or simply deprive the enemy of necessary resources – he can’t repair what he doesn’t have

Good Intel and proper sensing is a Weapon – short of main weaponry your most effective one

Sensing passively and running silently does not disclose your location – so get good at it

Scan at all times unless there is a very good reason not to

Limit your enemy’s ability to maneuver

Do not Cross Your T’s, rather dog-leg your firing arcs

Become superb at precise targeting

Fire first if you must, and if you must, fire often and with sure aim

Screw the Prime Directivelet the lawyers sweat over that crap

Yellow or Secondary Alert is the most useless nonsense ever invented, don’t ever bother with it, you’re either on real alert or you’re not, so, always be on real alert

Use the environment (planets, asteroids, gravitational fluctuations, nebulae, etc.) to your advantage

Time is part of your environment – at all times use time to your advantage

Never assume an ally will make a smart tactical decisionalways assume your ally will screw up and be prepared accordingly

Develop new technologies constantly

Study enemy capabilities constantly

Always be open to superior ship designs and refits

Speed is better than power, power is better than toughness, especially when you’re talking high-energy weaponry

Don’t be there when the weapon strikes –avoid rather than absorb

Always be ready to take advantage

Have a battle plan prior to engagement

Be fluid and flexible, but mostly be much faster than the other guy

Make all of your decisions before you have to

Imagine you’re going to be crippled and nearly killed – now you’re that much better prepared for it

Each enemy is different, with different capabilities and liabilities, know your enemy

Out-thinking your opponent is the best way to prove your superiority

He who can recover and re-attack fastest will probably win

There is no virtue and no advantage in absorbing attacks

Wait until the proper moment then cut loose with all hell – do not hold back in combat

The enemy has weaknesses – observe and exploit them

An unstable or untrustworthy alliance is a point of leverage

You can beat multiple opponents at once, but you must be prepared with a plan of action and combat

There is no shame in escape, but there is destruction in defeat

Be prepared for the Trap

Be proficient at Setting the Trap

Anticipate, and avoid

Whether your win or lose and whether your crew lives or dies depends entirely upon you

Communications are vital – unless you have a death wish, and in that case do whatever the hell you want, because you’re an idiot anyhow

Sneaky works – be very, very sneaky

Victory is far better than heroics

The fast kill is the best and saves the most lives – by far

Be unpredictable

There are far more ways to kill the ship chasing you than the one approaching you

Always destroy approaching probes and hamper enemy efforts at gaining information on your ship and capabilities

Disinformation and misinformation – disinformation and misinformation – disinformation and misinformation – don’t make me repeat it again

The Federation has, by far, the most well-rounded and multi-capable ships – that gives you a huge overall set of advantages – use them

In-game targeting systems for photon torpedoes suck, what in the hell is the point of having great ordinance you cannot reliably deliver to the target? Think about it

Smarten all of your weapons, and then make them so efficient in operation that even a dumb-ass could use them effectively

Invention is the Mother of (Power) Projection

Constantly train your crew

Constantly train yourself

The last battle is the one you lose, the next battle is the one after you win

THE HAMMER AND COMBAT

Actually I much prefer the hammer to the mace, and as this video demonstrates you have a far greater variety of handling options with the hammer.

Now I actually use hammers to fight with and have for a long time, not Medieval Warhammers but all metal modern hammers with specially designed heads and claws. Which achieve the same hooking and percussive abilities of the warhammer, but since no one today wears armor the hammer is actually far better for breaking fingers, hands, feet, elbows, ankles and various other bones and joints, for clawing (or hooking) hands and limbs and shoulders, and crippling opponents.

Hammers are quite effective close in (my preferred method of fighting), are hard to take from you (if you know how to hold them) and against unarmored opponents (almost all people nowadays unless you count ballistic vest opponents) are about as effective as knives, but they have a greater range and more kinetic force. (Though it is the well placed stab that always immediately ends the fight.)

Since studying Medieval combat treatises (in the past four or five years) I have found several new ways to make my (combat) hammers much more effective, by applying knife and short sword techniques to hammer and hatchet fighting (another favorite weapon of mine). Plus, both hammers and hatchets are nearly as fast as large knives once you get used to using them. I also like hammers with small hatchet blades on the reverse side. There’s a reason though he doesn’t show the mace as a choke or leverage weapon because the head is too bulky, clumsy, and unwieldy for that (they are really only a weapon for use against slow and armored men – can crackers), whereas the handle of a hammer and the head itself makes it an excellent leverage weapon as I have found over the years. Plus, if you practice with the right hammer then they make excellent and effective short range throwing weapons, similar to a throwing hatchet. Something the mace could never really be effective at.

Anyway I thought some of you might enjoy this video on the Hammer and Mace.

Personally I’ve never much cottoned to the mace. In my opinion the hammer is superior in almost every way.

 

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