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”Borrowing” the enemies armors!

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  • ”Borrowing” the enemies armors!

    Tonight I watched a TV-program hosted by some of Sweden’s foremost expert on history etc.
    Among them was a professor of military history. During the program, the question regarding the ”borrowing” of armours from both dead and captured enemy soldiers, came up.
    During the early 17th century, Europe was involved in a war named the 30-years war. I took place between 1618-1648 and was fought mainly where todays Germany is located. One of the great powers at that time was Sweden.
    Up until the 17th century, the most expensive piece of kit for a standard soldier (not including kings and his closest generals) was the horse. But with improved armours and weapons, by the time of the 30-years war, the combined cost of the above-mentioned armours and weapon, had risen go equal the cost of a good war-steed.
    This fact, of course, encourage the standard soldier of the line, to whenever possible, upgrade his kit. This was all good for the individual soldier, but it became somewhat of a problem for the commanders. Soon the different armies consisted of a motley crew of domestic as well as forreign mercenaries.
    The Swedish king, solved this problem, by ordering all men under his command, to prior a great battle, to add a small twig to the helmets or other head gear. That broken-off twig was apparently the only thing that differed between soldiers from different sides of the battle field.
    A turf of grass was another way to decorate the helmet.
    The above story made my think about the samurai. We know they also enjoyed a more personal touch in order to stand out during battle.
    Apart from the presence of a sashimono-flag fitted to the back of the armour, I guess the imagination was the only thing holding back the creativity of the samurai.
    But it makes you wonder; imagine during a fierce battle, soldiers covered in blood and dirt, what happened when the twig fell off in Europe, or the sashimono was ripped to pieces.
    Must have been a lot of ”friendly fire” going on...

    Jan - Sweden

  • #2
    Jan, A couple of points that add to your thread. Firstly, The Royal Armouries Museum has a great number of breasts and backplates captured by the English from a French ship that was being sent to troops besieged on the Ilse de Re in 1627. What is most interesting is that some were an older pattern that swelled out in a curve to fit over the hips, whilst others had this hip protection cut off to the waist line. Some, when held up to the light show small diamond shaped holes caused by a pike (?) thrust that had dented the metal and just penetrated, the damage having been repaired by being hammered flat. One that was even more spectacular had been shot through just below the right shoulder by a ball about 4cm diam, that has had a patch of much thinner metal hammer welded over the hole and polished so it didn't show. What appears to have happened is that the besieged troops needed armour and a batch of cuirasses that was being updated was sent, only some of which had been finished.

    As for the samurai, somewhere is a painting of a battle that shows one side having a strip of white cloth tied around their left kote. There were also sode jirushi which were very simple bits of cloth with a distinguishing mark painted on in ink. I have one of white hemp cloth about 30cm square rather roughly sewn onto a bamboo strip along the top and fitted with a string tie. It is painted with a diagonal line that swells in the middle done in ink. It was given to me by Mr. Chigura at Ki no Kunia when I asked if it was a sode jirushi. On my way out of his shop he called out 'It might be a luggage label'.
    Ian Bottomley
    Ian Bottomley - UK


    • #3
      Borrowed in more senses than one.....

      There was a BBC TV "World About Us" documentary about the Soma Noma Oi way back in the 1980's, there was a short sequence where an armour owned by a local Soma region family had been minus its helmet and the head of its owner since the Sengoku Jidai.

      As I recall, It was reunited in the 1970's by a knowledgeable dealer (The helmet that is.....).

      I've tried to find a link on T'Internet, but no luck as yet.

      I've found a reference to it in the BBC Archive as " A Samurai from Twickenham" - Series Producer Tony Salmon
      Last edited by Malcolm; 09-11-2019, 06:16 PM.
      Pip Pip Cheerio



      • Jan Pettersson
        Jan Pettersson commented
        Editing a comment
        A reunited helmet minus head, now that’s what I call a TV-program worth watching.

    • #4
      As far as i recall to my knowledge they had stripes of fabric with certain patterns on their sode also.