The Origin of Bow and Arrow

The English longbow, also called the Welsh longbow, is a powerful type of medieval longbow  about 6 ft (1.83 m) long used by the English and Welsh for hunting and as a weapon in medieval warfare.

English use of longbows was effective against the French during the Hundred Years' War, particularly at the start of the war in the battles of Crécy (1346) and Poitiers (1356), and most famously at the Battle of Agincourt (1415). They became less successful after this, with longbowmen taking casualties at the Battle of Verneuil (1424), and being completely routed at the Battle of Patay (1429) when they were charged before they had set up their defensive position.

The term “English” or “Welsh” longbow is a modern usage to distinguish these bows from other longbows, though in fact identical bows were used across northern and western Europe; indeed a very large proportion of yew bowstaves were imported from Spain from the fourteenth century onward, if not earlier.

The earliest longbow known from England, found at Ashcott Heath, Somerset, is dated to 2665 BC, but no longbows survive from the period when the longbow was dominant (c. 1250–1450 AD), probably because bows became weaker, broke and were replaced, rather than being handed down through generations.

More than 130 bows survive from the Renaissance period, however. More than 3,500 arrows and 137 whole longbows were recovered from the Mary Rose, a ship of Henry VIII's navy that sank at Portsmouth in 1545.

- Bow of War

English use of longbows was effective against the French during the Hundred Years' War, particularly at the start of the war in the battles of Sluys (1340), Crécy (1346), and Poitiers (1356), and perhaps most famously at the Battle of Agincourt (1415). They were less successful after this, with longbowmen having their lines broken at the Battle of Verneuil (1424), and being completely routed at the Battle of Patay (1429) when they were charged before they had set up their defensive position.

Rising to prominence during the reign of King Edward I (r. 1272–1307), the longbow became a defining feature of English armies for the next three centuries. During this period, the weapon aided in winning victories on the Continent and in Scotland, such as Falkirk (1298). It was during the Hundred Years' War (1337–1453) that the longbow became legend after it played a key role in securing the great English victories at Crécy (1346), Poitiers (1356), and Agincourt (1415). It was, however, the weakness of the archers, which cost the English when they were defeated at Patay in (1429).


- Dress

To maintain the advantage of speed by not overloading their horses, they used only very light protective armor: mail shirt, hard leather helmet, and their hair (braided into two ponytails on each side of their necks to protect the main arteries). Their armorers manufactured their slightly bent sabers, short spears and hatchets, while each fighter made his own bow and arrows. They could hit a target with deadly accuracy as individual archers, yet they preferred to shover the enemy with arrows in the form of modern salvos. Still, naturally inferior as they were to a heavily-armored knight-army attacking in phalanx formation, especially in hand-to-hand combat, they kept their distance from the heavily armored cavalrymen until the phalanx broke up under a shover of arrows or because of the terrain. Only did they try to overpower the individual knights, attacking them at once from every direction.

- Bow

Traditional longbows were constructed from yew wood which was dried for one to two years, with it slowly being worked into shape over that time. In some cases, the process could take as long as four years. During the period of the longbow's use, shortcuts were found, such as wetting the wood, to speed up the process. The bow stave was formed from half of a branch, with the heartwood on the inside and the sapwood to the outside.

This approach was necessary as the heartwood was able to better resist compression, while the sapwood performed better in tension. The bow string was typically linen or hemp.

England Bow

One of the simpler longbow designs is known as the self bow, by definition made from a single piece of wood. Traditional English longbows are self bows made from yew wood. The bowstave is cut from the radius of the tree so that the sapwood (on the outside of the tree) becomes the back two thirds and the belly, the remaining one third, is heartwood.

Yew sapwood is good only in tension, while the heartwood is good in compression. However, compromises must be made when making a yew longbow, as it is difficult to find perfect unblemished yew. The demand for yew bowstaves was such that by the late 16th century mature yew trees were almost extinct in northern Europe.

In other desirable woods (such as Osage orange and mulberry) the sapwood is almost useless and is normally removed entirely.

Longbows, because of their narrow limbs and rounded cross-section (which does not spread out stress within the wood as evenly as a flatbow’s rectangular cross section), need to be less powerful, longer or of more elastic wood than an equivalent flatbow.

In Europe the last approach was used, with yew being the wood of choice, because of its high compressive strength, light weight and elasticity. Yew is the only widespread European timber that will make good self longbows, and has been the main wood used in European bows since Neolithic times.

More common and cheaper hard woods, including elm, oak, ash, hazel and maple, are good for flatbows. A narrow longbow with high draw-weight can be made from these woods, but it is likely to take a permanent bend (known as “set” or “following the string”) and would probably be outshot by an equivalent made of yew.

Wooden laminated longbows can be made by gluing together two or more different pieces of wood. Usually this is done to take advantage of the inherent properties of different woods: some woods can better withstand compression while others are better at withstanding tension.

Examples include hickory and lemonwood, or bamboo and yew longbows: hickory or bamboo is used on the back of the bow (the part facing away from the archer when shooting) and so is in tension, while the belly (the part facing the archer when shooting) is made of lemonwood or yew and undergoes compression.

Traditionally made Japanese yumi are also laminated longbows, made from strips of wood: the core of the bow is bamboo, the back and belly are bamboo or hardwood, and hardwood strips are laminated to the bow's sides to prevent twisting.

The Archery Contest

- Scorton Arrow

The oldest extant archery tournament is the Ancient Scorton Arrow, which was founded in Yorkshire in 1673. In about 1790, the Royal Toxophilite Society was formed with the aim of promoting and advancing the sport in the United Kingdom. The Grand National Archery Society was introduced in 1844, and has governed all major archery competitions in Great Britain since.


- Longbow Tactics

Though deadly from a distance, archers were vulnerable, particularly to cavalry, at close range as they lacked the armor and weapons of the infantry. As such, longbow equipped archers were frequently positioned behind field fortifications or physical barriers, such as swamps, which could afford protection against attack. On the battlefield, longbowmen were frequently found in an enfilade formation on the flanks of English armies. By massing their archers, the English would unleash a “cloud of arrows” on the enemy as they advanced which would strike down soldiers and unhorse armored knights.

To make the weapon more effective, several specialized arrows were developed. These included arrows with heavy bodkin (chisel) heads which were designed to penetrate chain mail and other light armor. While less effective against plate armor, they generally were able to pierce the lighter armor on knight's mount, unhorsing him and forcing him to fight on foot. To speed up their rate of fire in battle, archers would remove their arrows from their quiver and stick them in the ground at their feet. This permitted a smoother motion to reload after each arrow.


- An Expert Archer

Lieutenant Colonel Jack Churchill (also known as a “Fighting Jack Churchill” and “Mad Jack”) was a British soldier who fought throughout the Second World War armed with a longbow and a Scottish sword. He used to say that “any officer who goes into action without his sword is improperly dressed.” When he ambushed a German patrol near L'Epinette, France, along with his regiment, he gave a signal to attack by shooting the enemy sergeant with an arrow.

Horace A. Ford (1822 - 1880) was an archer from Unite Kingdom and is considered as one of the greatest target archers of all time. Starting from 1849 he won eleven consecutive championships, and his high score of 1271 remained a record for over 70 years.

- Robin Hood

England Robin Hood

Once upon a time, in the 15th century, was a famous and legendary man, living in the sherwood forest near Nottingham. Nothingham which was rulled by a sheriff named William Brewer and his followers, one of them named Sir Guy of Gisbourne.

My story begins with a highly skilled archer and swordsman, who is known for “robbing from the rich and giving to the poor”. Those events happend in the village lead by the sheriff whose job and mission was bringing down outlaws.

His name was Robin, Robin Hood and he was the leader of the outlaws band called Merry men. He also had a lover called Marian.

With the help from his followers and his friends Robin managed to defeat many enemies of his and of his country.

It is believed that Robin was poisoned at a monastery by the highest priestess and a nobleman called Sir Roger de Doncaster.Before he died, he told Little John where to bury him. He shot an arrow from the Priory window, and where the arrow landed was to be the site of his grave

Legend has it that Robin Hood was an outlaw living in Sherwood Forest with his 'Merry Men' - but did he really exist?

There are several versions of the Robin Hood story. The Hollywood one is that of an incredibly handsome man - Errol Flynn - clothed in garments of Lincoln green, fighting and outwitting the evil Sheriff of Nottingham.

England Robin Hood

However, the first known literary reference to Robin Hood and his men was in 1377, and the Sloane manuscripts in the British Museum have an account of Robin's life which states that he was born around 1160 in Lockersley (most likely modern day Loxley) in South Yorkshire.  Another chronicler has it that he was a Wakefield man and took part in Thomas of Lancaster's rebellion in 1322.

One certain fact is that he was a North Country man, with his traditional haunts as an outlaw in Sherwood Forest and a coastal refuge at Robin Hood's Bay in Yorkshire.

One well known story about Robin that places him in Whitby, Yorkshire, is about him and Little John having a friendly archery contest. Both men were skilled at archery and from the roof of the Monastery they both shot an arrow. The arrows fell at Whitby Lathes, more than a mile away. Afterwards the fields where the arrows landed were known as Robin Hood's Close and Little John's Close.

Robin became a popular folk hero because of his generosity to the poor and down-trodden peasants, and his hatred of the Sheriff and his verderers who enforced the oppressive forest laws, made him their champion. Some chroniclers date his exploits as taking place during the reign of Edward II, but other versions say the king was Richard I, the Lionheart.

England Robin Hood

All versions of the Robin Hood story give the same account of his death. As he grew older and became ill, he went with Little John to Kirklees Priory near Huddersfield, to be treated by his aunt, the Prioress, but a certain Sir Roger de Doncaster persuaded her to murder her nephew and the Prioress slowly bled Robin to death. With the last of his strength he blew his horn and Little John came to his aid, but too late.

Little John placed Robin's bow in his hand and carried him to a window from where Robin managed to loose one arrow. Robin asked Little John to bury him where the arrow landed, which he duly did.

A mound in Kirklees Park, within bow-shot of the house, can still be seen and is said to be his last resting place. Little John's grave can be seen in Hathersage churchyard in Derbyshire.


- Welsh Field Archery Association

The Welsh Field Archery Association (WFAA) is the governing body of field archery in Wales. The WFAA is affiliated to the world governing body, the International Field Archery Association (IFAA) which is a member of the leading World Sport for all association TAFISA. The WFAA manages all aspects of the sport in Wales, including governance, national teams, organisation and administration of national and international tournaments.