Friday, November 6, 2015

Death of Knighthood

In Michael Crichton's book Timeline, there is a scene where two visitors from the present are at a medieval tournament, watching a joust.

AndrĂ© Marek says to  Chris Hughes that, "this entire way of life is about to be destroyed."

"By what?"  Hughes asks.

"That," Marek  says indicating some long bowman practicing in field.  He then goes on to recount the disaster of Agincourt that will come in fifty years. Where the flower of French knighthood will be destroyed by English Long bowmen There were also comments about how cannons were about end the usefulness of castles.

Very unusual in that it was clean miss for Crichton.

Yes, the French lost big time at Agincourt.  Yet in a generation the English couldn't even raise a company of long bowmen.  

In rest of Europe the bowmen never did become a force to be reckoned with.  They were generally the dregs of the army.  Armor was still in general use into the mid-17th century, long after the medieval period ended.

A medieval castle is in fact still tactically sound even today.

It just doesn't make any sense to build one.

Honestly, I could very easily hold this with a modern infantry company.
And you would have to bring in some fairly heavy equipment to dig me out.

The English Long Bow did not end the knight on horseback or the castle he rode out of.   Economics did.  The knight on horse back became impossibly expensive to field.  Equipping a knight was such an unbearable financial burden that young men eventually started going to extraordinary lengths to avoid knighthood.

The problem was technological in nature.

The knight had become so over specialized that they only thing he was really useful for was killing another knight.

This had evolved 

Into this

At the same time, simpler, cheaper methods of the defeating the armored knight came along.


The strategic economy that supported the armored knight, simply could not support a knight.  Particularly in the face of the easy to mass produce, cheap methods available to defeat him.

Think of it in terms of an American small town with a population of about 5,000.  When the Civil War broke out, the town would raise a company of it's young men and make the town mayor the Captain.  The town would pay for uniforms, guns and equipment.  It could do so easily.

What if this model was kept?

Lets move this model ahead a bit.  In WWI.  The town has tripled it's population and could still provide all of the above although some things were getting a bit more expensive.  The town company now needed a heavy weapons platoon.  Expensive but not back breaking.

On to WWII.  The population is now hovering at about 35,000.  The town is now required to field a tank company.  That is fourteen tanks and several trucks to support them in the field.  Plus two fighters and a B-17 bomber. Plus bullets, bombs, band-aids and worst of  This is the entire town's budget for about two years.

When this model of military finance arrives in the present.  It's service requirement of eight Abrams tanks, four Bradley IFVs, two Apache gunships and most back breaking of all one F-35A has broken the town financially.  The tax burden was so crushing that everyone moved out.

The town no longer exists.

Meanwhile across the border in Greenlandia, the small town there is having no trouble at all in meeting it's service requirements.

This called a "Technical" 

It is without question the most ironically named military vehicle in history

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