A Halberd was a special kind of weapon which began to be used in parts of Europe in the 14th century and continued to be used until the 18th century. It had an unusual shape but it combined the elements of multiple weapons into a single weapon, making it highly effective and deadly in the hands of a good wielder. In shape, it was somewhat of a mix of a staff and an axe.
Halberd referred to a kind of weapon which comprised of a long shaft of wood at one end, like most typical pole weapons. At the other end of the shaft, the end pointed towards the enemy, a combination of three things existed. At one side of the shaft’s other end, an axe blade was fitted and at the back of the axe blade, a useful hook was provided which was used to dislodge horsemen during combat. The staff culminated in a sharpened pike which formed the third key aspect of the halberd.
The halberd weapon’s origins can be traced to the Swiss armies of the 14th and 15th centuries. Early halberd weapons were normally six feet in height and given the fact that they could be produced inexpensively, halberd were extensively used by all Swiss fighters, including peasants. Later, European armies started making use of halberd between 16th and 18th centuries. However, since the arrival of musket and gunpowder hand-weapons, its significance diminished from 16th century onwards.
A Halberd was based on a long wooden shaft which could vary in length. Initial halberds had a length of six feet. One end of the shaft was the blunt, solid end. On the other hand, a pool axe was fitted to the shaft so that on its back a hook was also attached. Finally, at this other end of the wooden shaft which was pointed towards the enemy was a sharp pike.
The medieval halberd weapons were made by blacksmiths who used iron and steel in forging these weapons. One of the key reasons why this weapon was popular was that it was very cheap to produce and at the same time, was very effective. In some cases, strips of metal were added to the wooden shaft so as to reinforce the strength of the shaft itself and to allow the wielder to strike the head with greater force. Different innovations on the original basic design of halberds took place in different parts of Europe.
The very first to use medieval halberds were Swiss soldiers. It was used not just by active Swiss fighters but also by any peasants who participated in a war. The use of halberd later spread to other parts of Europe as well. Most notably, German armies refined the halberd and started using it in combination with different side-weapons. By the 16th century, a number of European armies were making use of the halberd. A Halberd was specifically used by the foot soldiers. And it was effective in that it allowed foot soldiers to successfully confront mounted riders with the help of the pike, hook and axe of the halberd.
The Halberd weapon allowed the wielder to attack the enemy in many ways, given the versatility of the weapon. The pike at the other end of the halberd was used to confront the horseback enemy troops while it was also used to keep the enemy at a safe distance. The axe mounted on one side of the halberd shaft could be wielded with great power. Finally, the hook behind the axe was also used to pull the horsemen causing them to tumble from their horses. During the training of halberd use, the specific focus was the use of the weapon against mounted riders. Soldiers were trained to wield the halberd effectively and speedily in various ways to inflict damage on enemy soldiers and horses quickly. The success of the use of a halberd in the hand of a soldier depended on three things: agility, accuracy and strength.
Halberds had a number of advantages. Firstly, the length of the shaft allowed the axe mounted on it to be wielded with such strength that its blade could pierce metal, even the armour of the knights in many cases. The hook behind the axe was particularly effective when facing a charge of horseback attackers. In such a charge, the pike could be used to pierce and wound the enemy riders and the hook was effective in pulling them down from their horses. A good wielder who was an expert in using halberd was a particularly deadly foe.
One of the key disadvantages of the halberd was the fact that it was a pole arm and was effective only at a certain length. In closer combats, halberds were simply useless and had to be shed by the wielder who then had to resort to an alternate side-weapon. In the case of the Swiss soldiers, this side arm was a small dagger while German soldiers chose to use a small sword as the side-arm.
Another disadvantage of using a halberd was that the wielder could not use a shield at the same time, which was a problem if the combat turned to close quarters during the course of the war. Moreover, the halberd footman had to be organised and stand close to each other so as to minimise the possibility of enemies coming at close quarters. Any defect in this organisation could easily diminish the efficacy of halberds.
Halberd was a type of pole-arm weapon which was invented by the Swiss soldiers in the 14th century. The weapon was innovative for its age, effective and particularly cheap to produce. It combined an axe, a hook and a pike at one end of a long wooden shaft which was wielded by the soldier. Given its versatility, the halberd was a very effective weapon in the hands of someone who could use it with speed and accuracy. The use of the weapon spread from Swiss soldiers to German soldiers and eventually to other parts of Europe by the 16th century. From 16th century, its advantage as a weapon in the battlefield diminished and so, it became a less common sight on the battlefield.