1066 and Warfare

Today, 14 October, marks 950 years since the Battle of Hastings and the Norman Conquest. 1066 saw a pivotal change for England and Western Europe, changing the course of our history forever. To celebrate the 950th anniversary, the Royal Armouries is hosting a special out-of-hours lecture and two day conference at the Tower of London – 1066: Interpreting the Norman Conquest in 2016.

The conference aims to present the huge changes that have taken place in the interpretation of the Norman Conquest, over the last fifty years in particular, bringing together distinguished scholars who are specialists in many fields. The conference will focus on both the history of the year 1066 itself and on the general significance of the Conquest for English, British, and French history.

In this special guest blog, Professor (Emeritus) John Gillingham, London School of Economics and Political Science, who will be speaking on day one of the conference, discusses the Battle of Hastings itself and warfare in 1066 and the questions we still have to answer…


1066 is a year like no other in English history. During its course, both York and London surrendered to an invader and two kings were killed in battle. War is at the heart of the story, and the historian of warfare is extraordinarily fortunate for the amazing survival of the Bayeux Tapestry, which offers a uniquely wide range of vivid scenes.

We see castle warfare in France.


We see – in some ways, most extraordinary of all – the routine of gathering supplies for a great army; logistical business too mundane to be described in written sources.


We see the landing at Pevensey; men and horses disembarking.


We see the invaders foraging and ravaging.


We see, of course, the Battle of Hastings itself: Norman cavalry against English shield wall.


We also catch glimpses of the horror of battle, for men and horses alike.


And, perhaps most signifcant of all, we see the battle’s climax: the death of King Harold. But how exactly was he killed?


And finally, as the tapestry breaks off, no longer complete, we see the English break in flight.


But what happened afterwards? Were prisoners taken or not? And if not, why not?

For all the Tapestry’s extraordinary vividness, these and many other questions remain. Even, most simply but still controversial, where exactly did the battle take place? And plenty more important questions too. How unusual was the scale of the slaughter that day? Was Hastings a typical ‘medieval’ battle? If, as is widely believed today, commanders usually tried to avoid battle – why were there three major engagements (Fulford Gate, Stamford Bridge and Hastings) within a few weeks in the autumn of 1066? If William, as the invader, wanted to bring a reluctant King Harold to battle, how did he manage it? Or did Harold also want a decisive battle? How important was the Norman cavalry? Did the Normans win because they were better trained and better equipped? Or was it just that on the day luck was in Duke William’s favour?

Professor (Emeritus) John Gillingham.


Professor (Emeritus) John Gillingham, London School of Economics and Political Science.


Medieval history: narrative sources, primarily in north-western Europe in the 11th to 13th centuries, as evidence for the perceptions and values that shaped war and politics.

Principal publications

From ‘Civilitas’ to Civility: Codes of Manners in Medieval and early Modern England, 2002
The English in the Twelfth Century. Imperialism, National Identity and Political Values (Woodbridge), 2000
Richard I, 1999
William II. The Red King, 2015
Christian Warriors and the Enslavement of Fellow Christians, 2011
Conquests, Catastrophe and Recovery. Britain and Ireland 1066-1485, 2014

1066: Interpreting the Norman Conquest in 2016

1066 and landscape change post-Conquest

This October, to mark 950 years since the Norman Conquest, the Royal Armouries is hosting a public lecture and a two day conference at the Tower of London to celebrate the anniversary – 1066: Interpreting the Norman Conquest in 2016 (14-16 October)   

The conference aims to present the huge changes that have taken place in the interpretation of the Norman Conquest, bringing together distinguished scholars; experts in many fields. The conference will explore the history of the year 1066 itself and the general significance of the Conquest for English, British and French history. 



On Day 2 of the conference, the Royal Armouries will be welcoming speaker Professor Robert Liddiard of the University of East Anglia, for 1066 and landscape change post-Conquest.

This special blog post, written by Professor Robert Liddiard, discusses his recent visit to Castle Hedingham in Essex, which got him thinking about the impact of the Norman Conquest on the landscape, and his upcoming paper at the conference…

It is a pleasure to be invited to speak at the Norman Conquest at the White Tower, but such invitations always draw my attention to the inadequacies of my image bank. As a late convert to digital technology most of the images I use comprise scanned old-fashioned slides, which increasingly show their age when used with modern projection equipment.

As a consequence I need no excuse to go to pleasant places on the pretext of getting superior pictures and as fieldwork took me to south Suffolk last week, I took the opportunity to nip over the border into Essex and visit Castle Hedingham. Not only was I able to replace the old slides with digital images, but the experience inevitably got me thinking about the impact of the Norman Conquest on the landscape and my paper at the conference.


Castle Hedingham, Essex © Robert Liddiard

Castle Hedingham is best known for its well-preserved keep, probably raised by Aubrey De Vere III, 1st Earl of Oxford about 1141, and possibly the building in which his investiture as Earl took place. Much has been written about it as a keep, but my interest lies more in the castle’s landscape context: by the thirteenth century, and probably much earlier, two deer parks (the great and little park) were attached to the castle and the adjacent village was originally connected to the castle by enclosing banks and ditches; the precise date of which are frustratingly unknown.

When put into its contemporary setting, the whole site was truly vast. In recent years landscape historians have been able to show that, as settlements, castles tend to reflect the characteristics of their wider regional landscapes, and in this respect the configuration of the various elements that made up medieval Hedingham is typically ‘Essex’ – the ‘nucleated’ settlement of the village lying in the river valley, with the castle parks situated between the more dispersed hamlets and farmsteads on the valley sides and tops.

But Hedingham is also important because, while it is a remarkable survival of a ‘Norman’ building, it has little to do with the events of 1066 per se; rather, it belongs to a different generation – one that did not experience the Conquest at first hand. At the time of the keep’s construction, England was sliding into civil war and its ruling French-speaking aristocrats were thinking of using their castles to fight each other; rather than for keeping down a hostile English population opposed to Norman rule.

Thinking about monuments in terms of generational change is a reminder that historians of landscape tend to emphasise longer term trends in their analyses and so often play down the significance of short-term events, especially political ones. Of course, it would be immensely foolish to do so when it comes to 1066, especially at a conference taking place within the walls of the Conqueror’s own trophy monument to conquest, but places like Hedingham draw attention to the fact that not all of what we call ‘Norman’ in the countryside was an immediate consequence of the battle of Hastings.


Castle Hedingham, Essex  ©  Robert Liddiard

The period 1000-1200 was one of enormous changes to the landscape, not all of which were related to the activities of the Normans. The castles, churches, parks and warrens of eleventh- and twelfth-century England frequently owed their existence to more subtle and drawn out trends in the development of the English countryside. How we tease out what was genuinely new in the landscape after 1066 and how they related to ongoing processes is the subject of my paper at the conference.

After all, how, if at all, would we recognise the ‘Norman’ in a place like Hedingham if it didn’t have a castle…?

Professor Robert Liddiard


Robert Liddiard lectures in landscape history at the University of East Anglia in Norwich. His chief research interest is the landscape context of castles, but also in the wider impact of the Norman Conquest on the countryside. His publications include Anglo-Norman Castles (2003) Castles in Context (2005) and The Medieval Park (2007).

The Battle of Jutland: an eyewitness account of the largest sea battle in history

The 31 May/1 June marks the 100th anniversary of the Battle of Jutland. It was the only major First World War fleet action fought between the British Grand Fleet and the German High Seas Fleet, and the largest sea battle in history.

Our Archives and Records Manager, Philip Abbot, uncovers some of the details of this important battle through the journals of Gerald Slade, midshipman on HMS Inflexible.

Gerald Slade was born in Hong Kong in 1899, and entered the Royal Naval College, Osborne, Isle of Wight, as a cadet shortly before his thirteenth birthday. After completing his education and training he joined the battlecruiser, HMS Inflexible, as a midshipman on 8 September 1915.

HMS Inflexible

HMS Inflexible. Source: US Library of Congress. Public Domain.

During the Battle of Jutland he was stationed on the ship’s fighting top high up on the main mast, where he had an excellent view of the action. He left a personal account of his experiences in the form of a journal:


May 30th 1916

Proceeded from Scapa Flow ahead of Battle Fleet at 8.15.

May 31st 1916

3.0 PM closed up at action stations.

4.0 PM were given half an hour for tea. Heard that the “Lion” was engaging the enemy. The 5th B.S. Sqn Queen Elizabeth was with them. We were now proceeding at full speed (about 27 kts). It was 3.50 when the “Lion” reported that she was engaging the enemy.

5.29 heard the sound of firing right ahead + a short time later saw numerous gun flashes.

5.40 sighted enemy light cruisers and destroyers. These were all concentrating on the “Chester” + she was having a very hot time of it.

5.55 opened fire on enemy light cruisers + succeeded in sinking at least one. She blew up in a dense cloud of steam.

On the evening of 30 May 1916, the Third Battle Cruiser Squadron under the command of Rear Admiral Hood (flagship HMS Invincible) sailed from Scapa Flow, and steamed south westwards at high speed, followed at intervals by the rest of the British Grand Fleet.

The opening phase of the action was fought between the German battlecruisers under the command of Admiral Hipper (flagship SMS Lutzow) and their British counterparts under Admiral Beatty (flagship HMS Lion), supported by the 5th Battle Ship Squadron, consisting of the Queen Elizabeth class battleships (the most modern and powerful ships in either fleet). Two of the British battlecruisers, HMS Indefatigable and HMS Queen Mary, blew up with heavy loss of life, and a number of the German ships were badly damaged.

Shortly after 4.00 PM, Admiral Jellicoe (flagship HMS Iron Duke), in command of the Grand Fleet, ordered the 3rd Battle Cruiser Squadron to increase speed and join Beatty’s hard-pressed forces. HMS Chester, scouting ahead of the squadron, was engaged by four German light cruisers, and badly damaged. When the battlecruisers opened fire, the German light cruiser, SMS Wiesbaden, was quickly disabled, but despite Slade’s claim she remained afloat.

Additional entries in Slade’s journal describe the battle:

6.0 check fire. A Torpedo passed under our stern.

6.15 we are to starboard in order to avoid a Torpedo which passed about 10 yds away along out port side. We watched it from the Fore Top + could even see the propellers moving. The Torpedo Lieut was afraid that the Gyro would fail + she might turn + bump us.

6.20 openned fire on a Battleship of the “Kaiser” class. We landed one salvo on her fore turret + appeared to have flatenned it out.

6.35 the Grand Fleet openned fire on the enemy. It was a fine sight to see them. They were so formed as to be able to bring every gun to bear. Indom. [HMS Indomitable] and Inflex. [HMS Inflexible] formed astern of the B.C.s.

6.30 the “Invincible” was blown up. She went up in a tremendous cloud of yellow cordite smoke. She broke in half + bows and stern were left floating but I saw no survivors. Apparently a salvo pitched amidships + blew up her P + Q magazine. Huge pieces of steel + iron were falling everywhere but none touched us. We have heard that six were picked up after + I think were all part …

Several torpedos were fired at the British battlecruisers, but they managed to dodge them all. As the main body of the High Seas Fleet under the command of Admiral Scheer (flagship SMS Fredrich der Grosse) were enemy’s observed ahead, Hood ordered his ships to alter course to port, and opened fire at a range of about 8,000 to 9,000 yards. Inflexible’s Gunnery Officer later reported that the first salvo hit the target. The battlecruisers themselves came under heavy fire, and although Inflexible was not hit, Slade later admitted in a letter to his mother that “we had a good many shells bursting pretty close to us & we got a few splinters from one. Invincible was sunk with the loss of all but six of her crew of 1,032 officers and men. The Inflexible had to alter course to avoid the wreckage.


HMS Invincible exploding at the Battle of Jutland, 31 May 1916. Source: Fighting at Jutland: The personal experiences of forty five officers and men of the British Fleet, (London: Hutchinson and Co, Ltd, 1921). Image is available online at Internet Archive.

Battlecruisers were large ships designed to scout ahead of the main battle fleet and find the enemy, to protect the battleships from torpedo armed cruisers and destroyers, and to pursue the enemy fleet and use their guns to damage or slow opposing ships. They were armed with heavy guns (similar to those of the battleships) but were forced to compromise protection in favour of speed. The vulnerability of the battlecruisers combined with the practice of storing shells in gun turrets, ammunition hoists and other working areas to increase the rate of fire poor shell resulted in the loss of three battlecruisers at Jutland.


The Inflexible and Indomitable formed astern of the Beatty’s ships as the main body of the Grand Fleet finally appeared and engaged the enemy. Jellicoe ordered his squadrons to alter course in an attempt to bring all guns to bear (in a manoeuvre known as Crossing the ‘T’), and the High Seas Fleet was forced to turn away. Outnumbered and outgunned Scheer decided to break off the action.

… of their Fore Top’s crew (52 4 N, 6 6 E).

7.25 opened fire on a flotilla of German destroyers which were probably going to attack with Torpedoes. They were successfully driven off. Light cruisers + destroyers were now ordered to proceed at full speed + attack with Torpedoes.

7.45 a Torpedo passed 150 yds astern.

8.20 opened fire on Enemy Battle Cruisers + a Battleship of the “Kaiser” class. I think we made a few hits but the light was so bad + the mist so thick that it was extremely hard to see any fall of shot. As it was we were only firing at the flashes. We were not firing for very long. But the Indomitable carried on firing at something for about another 10 salvoes.

8.30 check fire. 3 ships appeared to be firing at “Inflexible”.

8.35 a Torpedo missed out bow by about 50 yds.

8.40 there was a violent shock felt under the ship.

8.45 a submarine broke surface? about 100 yds on the starboard beam. She may have been struck by the ship or the ship may have run on some submerged wreckage.

9.30 A/C south.

Was in the Fore Top until 10.15 then on the Bridge…

As the High Seas Fleet headed south at high speed under cover of a smoke screen the German light forces mounted a torpedo attack. The Inflexible had to alter course sharply to avoid being hit, and Slade admitted to his mother that they were “pretty lucky”. The British battlecruisers caught up with their German counterparts at dusk, and opened fire at 6,000 yards.

HMS Inflexible carried eight 12-inch guns mounted in four twin turrets, one forward (A), one aft (X), and two amidships on either side of the ship (P and Q). The guns fired shells weighing 850 pounds at a maximum muzzle velocity of 2,725 feet per second. They could be elevated to an angle of 13.5 degrees, which enabled a maximum range of 18,850 yards. The control of the guns was centralised under the ship’s Gunnery Officer in the Director Tower.



The 12-inch guns on HMS Indomitable. Source: US Library of Congress Bain Collection. Public Domain.

Powerful optical systems (9-foot coincidence range-finding equipment supplied by Barr and Stroud) were used to establish the range and bearing to the target. The results were then fed into a fire-control table (Dreyer table Mark I), a form of mechanical computer, which combined the Inflexible’s and the target’s courses, bearing and speeds, and presented a firing solution. The guns were then trained and elevated on the target, and fired together in a salvo.



Barr and Stroud Range Finder

9-foot Barr and Stroud Range Finder.

The fall of shot was observed (the shells caused huge splashes) and corrections made in the firing solution until the target was straddled. It was a complicated process, and made more difficult in action by poor visibility, rough seas, the ship’s own violent manouveres, and by the enemy’s fire. The Grand Fleet’s gunnery was much criticised after the battle.


… until 12.0. Managed to get 1/12 hours sleep + then closed up at action stations at 2.15 AM.

June 1st

3.15 AM Sighted a Zeppelin on the starboard quarter about 17-18000 yds away. The “Indomitable” fired two rounds of shrapnel at her but they did not burst anywhere near her. She then turned away + very nearly went out of sight but again turned + came towards us. A light cruiser squadron opened fire on her. Most of the shells were short except about two which burst just ahead of her. By the she was going full speed away.

11.45 passed the wreck of a big shop on the starboard side, Name unknown.

2.24 PM Passed a boat of German design marked “V29” (she is on of their latest destroyers).

2-30 – 2.50 passed through a large area of dead bodies (all German I think). Some of them had their part of the watch bade on their shoulders. All had cork life belts on. One lief buoy we passed had the letters S.M.S ____ pn it but a body was lying acorss the name of the ship.

2.45 passed the wreck of the Invincible again + a destroyer was sent to sink it.

3.15 we passed through a large track of oil which was probably from the Invincible + a large amount of wreckage probably from a destroyer.

Jellicoe was unwilling to risk a night action, and ordered his fleet to steer a course that would intercept the High Seas Fleet at dawn. However Scheer altered course during the night to cross the wake of the Grand Fleet, and although the British light forces made a series of torpedo attacks throughout the night, they failed to receive support from the main body. By daylight the High Seas Fleet had escaped.

Both sides claimed victory after the battle, but the result was inconclusive. The Imperial German Navy had hoped to surprise and destroy a portion of the British fleet, but although it inflicted heavier losses in both men and ships, Scheer was forced to withdraw. The Royal Navy had hoped for a decisive battle, but Jellicoe was unable to prevent the enemy from breaking off the engagement, and lost contact with the enemy during the night.

The Inflexible sustained no damage or casualties during the battle, other than a small indentation in the ship’s out skin cause by the collision with the underwater wreckage (Slade’s report of a submarine is not confirmed), and a crack in the right gun of “Q” turret, which had been caused during the gun’s calibration and was enlarged.

Gerald Slade continued to serve aboard the Inflexible until March 1918 when he volunteered for the submarine service. He served in submarines until 1935, when he became the Fleet Photographic Officer in the first the Mediterranean and then with the Home Fleet. He retired in 1944 with the rank of Commander.

Warrior Treasures: meet Dr Sue Brunning of The British Museum

British-Museum-Sue-BrunningThe Royal Armouries ‘Warrior Treasures: Saxon Gold of the Staffordshire Hoard’ temporary exhibition opens TODAY until the 2nd October 2016. To complement the exhibition, Royal Armouries is running a blog series providing behind the scenes details on how these fascinating items were discovered, conserved, and prepared for the exhibition. In this post Dr Sue Brunning of The British Museum talks about what about the Anglo-Saxons attracted her studies.

Find out more at our exhibition conference day, Saturday 11th June, see details on the Warrior Treasures exhibition website.

When I was growing up, fantasy movies were my thing. Something about these strange worlds of heroes, villains, magic and monsters captivated me – especially when legendary swords were involved. I spent hours in my garden trying to perfect my sword-swirling skills with a gardening cane, imagining I was Red Sonja or She-Ra. So when I went to study History at university, it was inevitable that the Anglo-Saxons would draw me in. Their way of looking at their world, as painted by Bede and Beowulf, echoed my beloved fantasy movies – but it was real! There were heroic kings like Edwin, terrifying warriors like Penda, monsters lurking in fens and – crucially for me – revered, ancient swords that seemed to have characters of their own. While I knew I was viewing these things through the lens of third parties, I grew determined to find out if such swords truly existed, or were just poetic motifs. The seeds of my PhD were sown.

As a way in, I looked for evidence of ancient swords in the Anglo-Saxon archaeological record. I hunted physical signs of wear, repair and modification in the belief that these weapons had probably been around for some time if these changes had taken place. To my excitement, I found plenty of evidence. I saw lots of worn-down sword pommels (the fitting at the end of the hilt), often appearing in patterns that showed the sword’s owner had rested his hand on it when the sword was sheathed at his side. In a couple of cases the wear-patterns were so distinctive that I could make an educated guess as to whether the owner was right (usually) or left (rarely) handed.

Silver Gilt pommel

Silver and gilt pommel

I also found swords that had been modified over time by having fittings added to or removed from them. A few had differently-decorated fittings from different times, making them like visual timelines of their histories. Others had holes drilled into their pommels to attach a curious ring-type fitting. Experts think these rings were given to warriors when they swore an oath of allegiance to their lords. Empty holes on pommels show that some rings were removed later on. Had the sword’s owners broken his oath in some shameful incident? Or was the sword passed on after his death, its new owner not inheriting the same oath?

I felt I was building a picture of swords that could ‘live’ long lives, have many owners and maybe could become famous among those who encountered them. We can’t know for sure if the Anglo-Saxons thought their swords were really ‘alive’, but this long circulation, the building of memories and relationships, is a form of ‘life’. It becomes clearer if we think of our relationships with objects today. Own an object for long enough and it takes on a character of its own. Think of your car – do you talk to it? Do you curse and praise it depending on how it ‘behaves’? Have you given it a name? I’ve done this. When an HGV hit my car several years ago, the most upsetting thing was watching my faithful old friend, crushed and unrecognisable, being raised onto the recovery truck. All those memories, the trips taken together, the scratches and dents, and the stickers I’d put in the windows, were all gone. Black Shuck had done his job by protecting me so that I walked away uninjured, but I was devastated to have lost my companion.

Staffordshire Hoard - group shot

A selection of items of the hoard

I wonder whether the Anglo-Saxons had similar thoughts about their swords. Maybe they took on life because they were precious heirlooms linking owners to beloved ancestors or friends; they became a boast of oaths sworn, allegiances made; they protected you through rough adventures; they were literally attached to your side, proclaiming your standing and success. These ideas make my hairs stand on end when I think about what the torn-off sword fittings in the Staffordshire Hoard might represent. Imagine the owners of those swords, probably losers in battle, watching as their cherished swords were stripped of the fittings they knew so well, that had become worn down by their hand or added to mark some proud occasion. It would be a heart-breaking, demoralising experience. Perhaps the victors knew it would be, and that was why they did it – a way to inflict total and utter conquest upon an enemy: a soul- as well as a bone-crushing defeat.

When we visit the Staffordshire Hoard in the Royal Armouries Warrior Treasures exhibition (opens Friday 27th May), it’s easy to marvel at the craftsmanship of the individual fittings and be dazzled by the glittering precious metals and gemstones. But take a moment to look closer, and you’ll remember that these weapons once belonged to real warriors and carried so much meaning beyond their silver and gold. ‘Living’ swords were not limited to the world of fantasy movies – they existed in the hands of the Anglo-Saxons.

Gold Hoard Images created by BM&AG

K1497 – Decorative filigree mount from a sword hilt, probably in the shape of a horse.

All images © Birmingham Museums Trust unless otherwise indicated.

To find out more about the Royal Armouries upcoming exhibition ‘Warrior Treasures: Saxon Gold of the Staffordshire Hoard’ please visit our exhibition website http://warrior-treasures.uk/

Join our Warrior Treasures exhibition conference Saturday 11th June to hear from leading experts in the field, who will explore the many aspects of this remarkable Anglo-Saxon find and explain how it is adding to our understanding of the people that made, used and buried this magnificent hoard. Please see full details and purchase tickets viathe Royal Armouries website.

An exciting new library acquisition…

Stuart Ivinson, Assistant Librarian at the Royal Armouries, Leeds, writes about an exciting new addition to our literary collection. 

The library at the Royal Armouries in Leeds has recently acquired a rare and beautiful addition to it’s Special Collection of historical fencing manuals. The book in question is a first edition, published in 1765, of Domenico Angelo’s  The School of Fencing, with a General Explanation of the Principal Attitudes and Positions Peculiar to the Art. (London: Printed for S. Hooper.)


The book was first published in England in 1763 under the French title L’Ecole d’armes avec l’explication generale des principales attitudes et positions concernant l’escrime. The 47 engravings that illustrate the work were produced from original drawings by the artist James Gwynn (Royal Academy). The illustrations were taken from life, and Angelo himself was the principal model.  The 1765 edition is the first in English, and the only edition to have parallel English and French text on each page. It is also the only edition to be illustrated in colour; Gwynn’s illustrations being re-used and hand-coloured for the new edition.


Angelo (full name Domenico Angelo Malevolti Tremamondo) was born in Livorno, Italy in 1717, the son of a merchant. He probably began learning to fence in Italy, but later studied the French style under the fencing master Monsieur Teillagory in Paris, after being sent to study international trade by his father in about 1744. Whilst in Paris Angelo met and fell in love with the celebrated Irish Actress Margaret Woffington, who was then on tour, and travelled to London and then to Dublin with her in the early-1750s. After their affection came to an end Angelo moved back to London, where he met and married Elizabeth Johnson in 1755.

In London Angelo gained the patronage of the earl of Pembroke and quickly established a reputation as a fencing master and opened his own School of Arms in Carlisle House, Soho, in 1761. Such was his reputation that he numbered many wealthy gentlemen amongst his clientele, including several members of the Royal Family. With the great and good of the gentry as his pupils, Angelo’s place in society was assured. His school was also noted at the time for accepting female students, including actresses from the London theatres.

In 1763 he produced his great work L’Ecole d’armes. It was financed by subscriptions from over 200 of his wealthy clients, and dedicated to Princes William Henry and Henry Frederic (younger brothers to King George III), who were both pupils. The English translation, The School of Fencing, was produced in several editions, though none were as lavish as the first edition of 1765. It is thought that he was assisted in translating the text into English by his friend the famous French-English diplomat, spy, and transvestite the Chevalier d’Eon, another former pupil of Monsieur Teillagory.


The School of Fencing primarily teaches the use of the small-sword and fencing foil, with brief sections on the use of weapons for the off-hand, including dagger, cloak and lantern. There is also a section on the use of the small-sword against the military sabre (or broad sword, as Angelo terms it). In its day the book was recognized as a clear and concise guide to fencing, and the author was lauded for his emphasis on fencing being a gentlemanly exercise and accomplishment, as well as a skill of self defence. Indeed, so good was the work deemed to be, that Denis Diderot used it – in its entirety (with redrawn engravings in black and white) – as the fencing section of his famous Encyclopedie.

In 1780 Domenico Angelo handed over the running of his school to his eldest son Henry and retired to Eton, where he died in 1802. Our copy of his book was purchased From Peter Harrington’s Bookshop, Chelsea, London, and is now available to view in the library at the Royal Armouries Museum in Leeds (alongside a copy of the second English edition of 1787). Considering its age, the book is in very good condition. The colours of the engravings are as bright as when they were made, although a couple of them have pencil marks added; suggesting that at least one reader in the past has thought that the postures depicted in some of the illustrations aren’t quite right!

Henk Pardoel’s work Fencing: a bibliography, (2005) cites only seven other known copies of the first English edition in public collections world-wide, with only one other in Great Britain (at the Bodlean Library, Oxford).

To book an appointment to visit the library in Leeds, please contact enquiries@armouries.org.uk, or call 0113 2201832.

Meet the jouster: Marc Hamel #TeamFrance


Age: 481601053_1514833208766122_7985907317710951760_n

Weight: 84kg

Height: 1.8m  (5′ 9)

Jousting since: 2006

Team: France

Personal best/highlights:

Team Champion of the Lys d‘argent (Quebec,Canada) 2012

Honour of Chivalry of the King John III (Poland) 2013

Champion of the Revel (California,USA) 2014

Motto: “Allons-y” meaning “Let’s go”

Strength: Honour

Weakness: Caring for opponents

By Day: Veteran of the Canadian Armed Forces, armourer and sculptor

By Knight: Participated in over 20 international tournaments in Belgium, France, England, Poland,Italy, USA and Canada.

“In jousting like in life, I pride myself to have honour over victory. I am known to be gallant and very friendly, but once my visor is down I give all the best in me, to be safe for my opponent and his horse and give a solid blow. My weakness is that I care for people, so I would rather miss than make a bad break, which costed me a few victories. I see the practice of this sport as a gift and a privilege, and every man that I encounter on the lyst becomes a good friend and a brother.”

To see Marcus in action buy your tickets to the Royal Armouries Easter Tournament here, and use the hashtag #RATournament to join in the conversation. Visit our Facebook Page Royal Armouries Tournaments for all the latest updates!


Marc’s motto is “Allons-y” meaning “Let’s go”


10624934_1478803722369071_1778640167742821596_n_© Eric Dubé 2014



SPECTRE: The weapons of secret agents

Secret Agent Weapons, Evening Talk on 4 November 2015

Secret Agent Weapons, Evening Talk on 4 November 2015

Like many of you, we at the Royal Armouries are eagerly awaiting the latest Bond movie, SPECTRE. On November the 4th in our talk ‘Secret Agent Weapons’, we’ll be telling some of the real stories behind the weapons used in the Bond movies over the years, as well as those designed for real life secret agents (see this link for details).

The most important Bond gun, of course, is that carried by 007 himself. Here are a selection of those he’s carried over the years…

The traditional Walther PPK.

PPK – ‘The’ Bond Gun

Although we don't know what weapons the real Secret Intelligence Service might have used, we do know that during the Second World War, German spies did use the PPK. This example was intended for a Nazi party official.

Although we don’t know what weapons the real Secret Intelligence Service might have used, we do know that during the Second World War, German spies did use the PPK. This example was intended for a Nazi party official.

An iconic weapon, Bond’s PPK has been with him since the very first movie, though not the first Ian Fleming novel. In his first Bond book (Casino Royale, 1953), Fleming drew from his own wartime experiences in Naval Intelligence, and equipped 007 with the small Beretta 418 in the small .25 ACP cartridge. It was a sensible enough choice for a secret agent. After all, if a real spy has to draw his or her weapon, something has gone wrong! Fleming even had Bond remove the grips to make the pistol as slim and concealable as possible; important to prevent unwanted bulges when wearing a tailored suit or tuxedo!

As the novels progressed however, and Bond began to develop into the action hero we know today, Fleming received a letter from a fan that would forever change the Bond universe. In 1956, firearms expert and Bond fan Major Geoffrey Boothroyd wrote to Fleming to suggest that the Beretta that he had carried for Fleming’s first five stories was ‘a lady’s gun’. He also criticised his choice of holster as not quick enough to use, and his reliance upon silencers, which he thought weren’t quiet enough relative to the loss of power they caused. Boothroyd’s suggestion was a revolver, the Smith & Wesson Centennial Airweight, which Fleming incorporated as a sort of ‘guest star’. However, for Bond’s main sidearm he stuck with a compact self-loading pistol, the Polizei Pistole Kriminalmodelle (short police pistol). The legendary Bond PPK was born.

Again drawing from wartime experience, Fleming created the fictional ‘Q’ Branch, based upon the real-life wartime SOE Station IX and named after the military term ‘Quartermaster’. This team would from now on furnish Bond with not only his PPK, but a range of other weapons and gadgets. In honour of Boothroyd’s good-natured nitpicking, he named the his new head of ‘Q’ Branch ‘Major Boothroyd’, dubbed him ‘the greatest small-arms expert in the world’, and wrote a scene in which Bond’s pistol was replaced by the PPK. This was later recreated in the first Bond movie, 1962’s ‘Dr. No’. In reality, the pistol used in this movie was the larger Walther PP, perhaps because the diminutive PPK would have appeared too small in Sean Connery’s hands.

LINKS- You can read more about the Boothroyd story here:

The PPK’s original calibre was 7.65x17mm (.32 ACP), but was later produced for the larger 9×17mm (.380 ACP) cartridge. Bond has carried both, sacrificing one extra shot (7 vs 6 rounds in the PPK) in exchange for more potent ammunition. Today, .380 is regarded as the minimum for practical self-defence purposes, so Bond’s recent use of the .380 variant makes sense. Due to American import restrictions on foreign firearms (and possibly the larger hands of some Bond actors), the PPK is sometimes replaced in the movies by the PPK/S, which is the short slide and barrel of the PPK fitted to the larger PP frame.

The larger Walther PP, as the L47A1, was issued to RAF aircrew for escape and evasion purposes.

The larger Walther PP, shown here in British service L47A1 form. These pistols were issued to RAF aircrew for escape and evasion purposes.

The outdated PPK, first produced in 1931, remains in production today. This is due in large part due to its iconic status as the ‘Bond gun’. Yet it was replaced for a time in the movie series from ‘Tomorrow Never Dies’ until Daniel Craig’s first outing in ‘Casino Royale’, by the much larger and more modern-looking polymer-framed Walther P99. Though harder to conceal, the P99 has much better sights, a longer barrel, and 15 round capacity as standard. Given the number of gunfights Bond finds himself in, this move made a lot of sense. But the PPK would not be kept down. In keeping with Skyfall’s ‘back to Bond’s roots’ approach in 2012, the PPK (in PPK/S form) reappeared, this time with a set of high-tech biometric palm-print reading grips that of course featured in a key action scene.

In the new movie SPECTRE, Bond again ignores a range of more useful modern ‘concealed carry’ pistols (including the modern Walthers), in favour of his old PPK. As in other areas of Bond’s character, nostalgia has overcome ‘realism’.

Beyond the PPK

Interestingly, in the continuation novels written after Fleming’s death in 1964, the PPK is abandoned far sooner. The PPK is actually withdrawn from MI6 service by the time of ‘Licence Renewed’ (1981), based upon a real-life incident where the pistol used by royal bodyguard DI James Beaton jammed as he tried to protect Princess Anne and Captain Mark Phillips from a would-be kidnapper. In reality, the PPK is no more prone to stoppages than any other pistol, and there would have been no need to withdraw it from SIS service as it had never entered it!

In any case, Bond for some reason opts instead for the even older FN M1903. This is followed by the space-age but wholly spy-inappropriate Heckler & Koch VP70 (seen in the movie ‘Aliens’), and then the H&K P7, Hans Gruber’s pistol of choice in ‘Die Hard’ (1988). The remainder of the John Gardner novels settle on an excellent period choice; the Smith & Wesson ASP. The ASP, based upon the S&W Model 39 self-loading pistol, was created specifically for the type of covert work we read about in the Bond books. It’s small, slim, and has an unusual channel cut in the slide instead of conventional sights. The idea was to allow the shooter to quickly align his sights in the sort of close-range gunfight that a spy might actually partake in. It also featured transparent grips to show how many rounds were in the magazine.

From the Internet Movie Firearms Database.

From the Internet Movie Firearms Database. The ASP pistol, originally designed by American gunsmith Paris Theodore. This pistol was also featured in the Cold War special operations-themed game ‘Call of Duty: Black Ops’ (2010)

From 1997, the novels (now written by Raymond Benson) mirrored the guns seen on screen, with the PPK giving way in ‘Tomorrow Never Dies’ to the P99. However, they part company later in the 1990s, with Bond switching between the two pistols. This of course prefigures Bond’s much more recent return to the PPK in the movies.

Opening Shots

As memorable as Bond’s PPK is the classic opening ‘shot’ of the movies, with its bullet’s-eye-view of Bond in the sights of a bad guy’s gun. You might be surprised to learn that a real gun barrel was originally used to film this scene. A revolver (supposedly a Smith & Wesson .38) was purchased from a shop in Piccadilly, and a pinhole camera aimed down the bore at stuntman Bob Simmons (presumably the barrel was removed to achieve this). This amazing but simple practical effect was replaced with CGI from ‘Goldeneye’ (1995) onwards.

From the Internet Movie Firearms Database

From the Internet Movie Firearms Database. Maurice Binder, creator of the famous opening titles.

The shooting stance used in these scenes looks strange, even silly to those of us today used to ‘tactical’ two-handed shooting techniques seen in modern films and TV series. However, it was actually based on real Second World War combat shooting techniques that emphasised speed over accuracy. Recognising that most pistols were used at very close range, military instructors William Fairbairn and Eric Sykes taught Commandos and Special Operations Executive agents to rely upon instinct. The shooter would adopt a half-crouch for stability and to make themselves a smaller target for return fire. The non-firing hand would be held out to one side for balance. A variation on this, known as ‘hip-shooting’, had the firer simply point the pistol without actually aiming with the eye. The use of these techniques in the movies reflects Fleming’s real-life military experience and the era in which the classic novels and films were produced. Another Fleming nod to realism also appears in ‘The Spy Who Loved Me’ novel (1962), where he explains that firing a sub-machine gun from the hip is the ‘correct way’ to fire an automatic weapon. This is still basically true today, because most firearms will climb and pull to the right on a long burst (although it is possible with some weapons to fire quite accurate bursts from the shoulder).

From ‘Kill or Get Killed’ by U.S. Army Colonel Rex Applegate (1943). This expanded upon skills outlined in ‘Shooting to Live’ by Fairbairn and Sykes (1942).

Combat shooting as illustrated in ‘Kill or Get Killed’ by U.S. Army Colonel Rex Applegate (1943). This expanded upon skills outlined in ‘Shooting to Live’ by Fairbairn and Sykes (1942).

We’ve already seen a range of weapons in the SPECTRE trailers, from the old favourite PPK to the latest from German makers Heckler & Koch and Arsenal firearms of Bulgaria. Watch out for the first big screen appearance of the bizarre Arsenal AF2011 Dueller Prismatic; essentially two Colt 1911 type pistols melded into one, firing two shots for every pull of the trigger! A future classic ‘bad guy’ gun if ever there was one.

To find out more about the weapons of Bond and their real origins in WW2 secret agent activities, visit our talk with curator (and author of the above) Jonathan Ferguson Wednesday 4 November – see this link for more details.

Agincourt 600: Transporting the battle

English archers behind their defensive stakes

English archers behind their defensive stakes

As part of the museum’s commemoration of the 600th anniversary of the battle of Agincourt, the Royal Armouries is exhibiting a unique collection at the Tower of London from 23 October until 31 January. For this special exhibition, the museum commissioned a bespoke diorama of the battle with David Marshall, model maker of MMDioramas, along with the Perry brothers of Perry Miniatures.

So far in our blog series on making the model…

  • David Marshall has given an overview of how the project took place – see this link
  • The Perry brothers have detailed how they produced the bespoke figures for the battlefield – see this link
  • David has detailed how he shaped the terrain of the battlefield – see this link. 
  • Rob Henson (Painted Wargames) and Aly Morrison have taken us through how they painted the armies of Agincourt – see this link.
  • and how the figures were placed into battle formation, with the help of Professor Anne Curry – see this link.

Possibly the trickiest element of this project was going to be it’s transportation to the Tower of London. Here, model maker and project manager David Marshall writes on the highs – and challenges – of the model’s journey.

3A1DD2E4-2A74-41AB-A260-222B128FF721Right at the beginning I quickly identified that the packing and delivery of a 4m x 2m diorama would be the most challenging and unpredictable part of the whole project. The model had resided in my workshop for the last two years in a controlled safe environment, but as soon as the model left the building into the big wide world anything could happen!

I contacted a supplier of purpose built crates as early as the tender-stage of the project, to price up and advise on the best way of packing the finished diorama to deliver it safely to the Tower of London, and later to the museum in Leeds. I also checked at this point that I could hire a van big enough to contain the model – as I was determined I would drive it down myself rather than hand it over to a courier company! Call me paranoid but I wanted to make sure I had done everything in my power to get the model safely to the Tower after two years intense work.

When it was time to order the crates for the model, the Perrys and I discussed how they should be designed, how we would get the boards out of the boxes and other practical things like that. We decided we would go with an ‘upside down box’ approach, as recommended by the company. The ‘lid’ was the base of the model and once the diorama piece was sitting on this lid we would then slide the sides and top over it – which avoided lifting the pieces in.


In the process of ordering the boxes I double checked on the size of the van. The original design of the crates made them 2.25 metres long each. It was a good job I checked as the longest van I could get was 4.25 metres long. I had intended to lay two crates end to end, which meant the van was by 25cm short!  Fortunately, we were able to amend the crate size to 4.15metres long. Crisis averted!

When the crates were delivered, I hired an extra-long transit van for an hour just as a final belt and braces test to make sure everything fitted… and it did.The diorama was due to be delivered and installed into the White Tower on the 22nd September, but before this could happen the model needed to be framed in a special case ready for the general public. This meant the model had to be close to complete sign off well before that date.

The final meeting at Loughborough with me and the team from the Royal Armouries came in early August, and I expected it to be one of the most nervous days of my life – two years work came down to this meeting and their final approval. The Perrys and I had worked very closely with the Royal Armouries throughout the model’s development, but even so when it came down to D-Day I was expecting some serious nerves.

I decided to do a big reveal, so as everyone arrived I ushered them into a meeting room until the whole party was present so I could show everyone at once for a (hopefully positive) big reaction. Whilst we waited for the whole party, we chatted with cups of coffee and enjoyed a batch of my wife’s home-made cookies (Frances had baked regularly for the team over the last two years and had deservedly gained legendary status amongst them for her delicious treats).

It was at that moment I realised I was completely confident that the Perrys and I had done a great job on the diorama, so I wasn’t nervous at all! I was confident it was going to be well received which was a fantastic feeling. My instinct was thankfully rewarded as the model was met with an abundance of ‘wows’ and ‘greats’ which was such a thrill, with only a few final amends to organize before the big move. I arranged the final additions to take place whilst I was away, so I could go off on holiday a happy man.

When it came to moving the model for its journey to Redditch, to be encased ready for the exhibition, I arranged for a friend to help with the loading.


We learnt a lot very quickly! It turned out that two people really wasn’t enough to move the crates safely – the diorama and crates weren’t very individually heavy but together suddenly they were hard to lift. Also, and this was a big one, not all extra-long transits are the same length! We got one crate into the van and it became obvious there wasn’t enough depth to get another crate in. Disaster was looming but a quick call to the van hire company and we were able to swap it over for the van I did the dry run with. After collecting the new van we headed back to the studio, picking up my friend’s son Ben on the way – who at 23 was the perfect addition to the loading/unloading team.

Now we had the right sized van and enough people for the job – so after a false start we got the other 3 crates in the van quite smoothly. That morning was tricky but I’m glad we could work those issues out before shipping the model to the Tower, when timings were very tight indeed. The lessons learnt that morning made the move to the Tower go without a hitch.


The Hub in Redditch, where the model would be fitted with its case, was about an hour away from me in Loughborough so a nervy drive later we arrived and the van was empty in no time as there were 4 or 5 people to help.

Soon after that, the full team met at the Hub with the Royal Armouries for the last project meeting I would attend. I was there really to answer any questions about the diorama and be ready to sort out any unforeseen problems. As it turned out everything was fine so I could just enjoy finding out how everything else was going. Before I left I arranged with The Hub when the model would be packed away ready for its journey to the Tower, as I would collect it on route down to London.

As I drove home to Loughborough that day I realised that my model-making role was complete (until installation on the 22nd September). It meant that for the first time in two years I didn’t have to think about Agincourt…. for just over a week anyway!

Coming up – the final ‘making the model post’ on installing the model in the White Tower.

To see the model visit the Royal Armouries’ Agincourt exhibition at the White Tower of the Tower of London from Friday 23 October until the 31 January. For more details please see this link.

Agincourt 600: Shaping the battlefield, with David Marshall

As part of the museum’s commemoration of the 600th anniversary of the battle of Agincourt, the Royal Armouries is exhibiting a unique collection at the Tower of London from 23 October until 31 January. For this special exhibition, the museum commissioned a bespoke diorama of the battle with David Marshall, model maker of MMDioramas, along with the Perry brothers of Perry Miniatures.

So far in our blog series on making the model David Marshall has given an overview of how the project took place (see this link), and the Perry brothers have detailed how they produced the bespoke figures for the battlefield (see this link). Here, David will take you through how he made the terrain of Agincourt for this extremely detailed diorama.


When we started the project in January 2013 we had an outline of what the battlefield would look like and its size, but the details and final decisions were still to be made. The first few months were taken up with working out these elements until we had a final design concept.

The completed diorama would be 4m x 2m in size, with woods flanking on either side comprised of a selection of autumnal trees and evidence of coppicing.

(Coppicing is a traditional English term for a method of woodland management, which takes advantage of the fact that many trees make new growth from the stump or roots if cut down. In a coppiced wood, young tree stems are repeatedly cut down to near ground level. In subsequent growth years, many new shoots will emerge, and, after a number of years the coppiced tree, or stool, is ready to be harvested, and the cycle begins again.)

The plan and terrain of the fields of Agincourt where the battle took place was then decided on, and a contour map supplied of the area for reference. The terrain of the battlefield would be muddy as a result of the trampling armies (think Glastonbury festival), but there would also be evidence of ploughing and planting in areas less touched by the action. There would be no roads and no buildings.

As the model would have to be installed into the top floor of the White Tower in the Tower of London via crane through a 1.2 meter wide window (the Normans weren’t big on wide access stairs or lifts), the whole model had to be split into four smaller sections of 2m x 1m. This dividing of the model also made the diorama easier to work on.


Making the terrain of the diorama – shaping the field of battle:

The contour map of the battlefield was converted into a series of profiles so a carpenter could use them to make four wooden carcasses. Each one was 2m x 1m and was the foundation of the whole diorama.

Once I had these delivered back, I filled each one with polystyrene and weighted them down and left them to dry for a week or so. This keeps the weight down but still gives me a firm base to add all the texture and figures later on.

3CAE359E-2E41-45D9-9545-363FA34A164CThen I shaped the polystyrene with a hot wire cutter and sandpaper until it resembled the right shape. This job turned my workshop into a snow storm as the polystyrene went everywhere!

3C4517CD-6507-417A-BCF5-0A871CFD8AFBAlthough I had used sandpaper the surface was still quite rough, so I then skimmed it with a thin layer of tile grout before putting another thicker layer on top, so it would be strong enough to support the figures later.

Up until now it was just hard work with no creative touches. Now the fun could begin, starting with a layer of Artex. Most have heard of this used to create texture on ceilings, but it is great for model making. It is a powder that you mix with water to the thickness needed. The result was I could use a more watery mix for the areas that were very muddy and firmer for the ploughed areas. It also takes ages to dry, so I was able to work a long time on it as it set.

The trampled area needed hundreds of small footprints added so it looked like an army had walked all over it. I found a piece of resin that resembled a small footprint so I just set to pushing this into the Artex until the whole area was covered in tiny footprints! This process was rather time consuming so I wasn’t sorry to finish it!EF5DB256-38C2-402F-8CC9-CC40F193C973

For the ploughed areas, I ran a small trowel repeatedly over it in a series of straight parallel lines until the field was covered in furrows.IMG_0626

I left that to dry for a week or so and then painted the whole battlefield a special mix of brown wall emulsion paint that I selected to match the sample of Agincourt earth I had been given by the Armouries.AF702946-C3DB-41D3-986E-3D303F42D6F4

82849A75-5BB6-441A-AC76-9C7AFFC4554DA single coat of brown paint gives a very dull and uninteresting finish, so I then diluted raw umber acryllic paint and splashed that all over the brown base. This ran into all the footprints and furrows adding extra colour and tone to the whole field, which started to bring it to life.FFF49013-D0D7-4AC3-B263-787DDA45DB47

The final paint job was to dry brush a cream paint all over it. Dry brushing is the technique where you add paint to a brush, wipe as much of it off as you can and then very lightly draw the brush backwards and forwards over the field. The cream paint stays on the peaks of all the footprints and furrows highlighting all the detail and adding more contrast and life to the field.1DA7CC97-08C9-4C9B-87DD-8F62C8238769

Months before I had ordered the trees and coppicing from Realistic Modelling Services. We had long discussions about the colour of autumnal foliage on the trees and worked very closely with the Royal Armouries to get the coppice looking authentic. It was worth the effort when all the trees were planted.

Then I had to add the grass where the English army was deployed. I used a series of coloured ‘flock’- different shades of green, brown and cream of finely chopped foam and static grass. I counted 7 different layers and shades by the time I had finished.5404C27C-ED47-4653-9A70-EAFB1B32F027

Finally, I needed to add a few puddles where water hadn’t drained away. It made sense to use the low areas of the field where water would collect and just left to slowly drain away. The field’s high point runs along the middle of the field and then slopes away to each of the woods on both flanks so the puddles were added near the woods. I remember it fooled a number of people who thought we had had a water leak. Very satisfying!

The finishing touches on the battlefield occurred was once the model had been safely craned into the White Tower. We needed to fill the gaps between each section with Artex, once this was done the final footprints or furrows could be added and finally painted with the same colours as the rest.

All of this, of course, was the canvass to display the battle involving 4,500 figures…..that is another story….

Next up – painting the armies of Agincourt.

To see David Marshall and Perry Miniatures stunning diorama in the flesh, be sure to visit our Agincourt exhibition at the Tower of London, running from October 23 until the 31 January.

Find out more about how the model was made and the figures made in the posts below.

For more details about the Royal Armouries’ Agincourt exhibition please click this link.

New to Fort Nelson, a stunning composite Drake gun

Fort Nelson has recently received a donation of a composite drake gun sometimes known as a minion drake. The gun is believed to be Dutch, possibly originating from Amsterdam. Dutch patents of 1627 and 1633 cover this kind of construction. According to the inscription behind the vent, it weighs 260 Amsterdam pounds and was produced in the mid 17th century.

Drake blog 1

The gun was found in inshore waters off the Kent coast by divers Paul Aaronovitch, Vince Woolsgrove and John Webb.

Drake blog 2

This gun is a light version of a minion or roughly 3 pounder, built up of copper alloy and iron, and probably soldered using lead alloy. The copper alloy has been decorated with bands of interlace from the muzzle (head) of the gun down to cascabel (rear) – where arresting ropes are tied to limit the gun’s movement due to recoil when firing. The handles located on the mid-section of the gun have been cast in the form of dolphins which was common for guns of this type

A labelled cross-section of a gun

The gun will be on public display in a desalination tank which will be used to wash the chloride ions out of the gun and to keep it underwater to prevent rapid corrosion until the conservation treatment is completed. This process will take several years in the Artillery Hall at Fort Nelson. Fort Nelson Conservator Matthew Hancock said “Fort Nelson is delighted to be able to add this fine and rare gun to the collection, although it presents some conservation challenges.  It is impossible to put a precise timescale on the project as the amount of chloride ions in the gun cannot be calculated. The process is further complicated by the reactions of the different metals in the gun.  The public will be able to view the gun during the conservation treatment as the gun will be on display in its tank in the Artillery Hall.”

Drake Blog 3

The Royal Armouries would like to thank the Receiver of Wreck for their assistance with this donation.