“The quality of archers, their equipment, and their arrows played a critical role in determining the outcome of medieval battles.”Clifford J. Rogers, Professor of History at the United States Military Academy at West Point
Fletchers would typically set up their workshops near the army’s supply lines or within the army’s encampment, allowing them to easily transport and distribute their arrows to the soldiers. They would also accompany the army on marches and engage in on-the-spot repairs of arrows damaged during battles.
“Medieval warfare was a constantly evolving field, with new weapons and tactics being developed all the time. Skilled fletchers were essential to keeping armies equipped with the most effective archery gear.”Richard Abels, Professor of History at the United States Naval Academy
During battles, fletchers would often be positioned near the front lines, where they could quickly retrieve and repair arrows that had been damaged or lost by archers. This allowed the archers to continue firing without interruption and helped to maintain the army’s offensive capabilities.
Overall, fletchers played a critical role in medieval military campaigns, and their skills were in high demand. Without their expertise in crafting and repairing arrows, armies would have been severely limited in their ability to engage in ranged warfare.
Fletchers were responsible for making the arrows themselves, while the arrowheads were made by a separate group of craftsmen called the “arrow-smiths” or “bodkin-smiths”.
The process of arrow-making began with selecting and cutting shafts of wood, usually from ash, oak, or birch trees. The shafts were then straightened, sanded, and trimmed to the correct length and diameter.
Next, the fletcher would attach feathers to the back end of the arrow, which provided stability and helped the arrow to fly straight. The feathers were usually made from goose or swan feathers, which were stripped and shaped into the required size and shape.
“The success of a medieval army often depended on the ability of its archers to rain down a devastating hail of arrows on the enemy. Fletchers were instrumental in ensuring that the army had enough high-quality arrows to make this tactic effective.”Ian Heath, Historian and Author
Finally, the arrowhead was attached to the front end of the arrow. Arrowheads could be made from a variety of materials, including stone, bone, and metal. The arrowhead was attached using a process called “hafting”, which involved inserting the end of the arrow shaft into a socket in the arrowhead and securing it with glue and binding materials such as sinew or thread.
In terms of incorporation into armies, fletchers were often organized into guilds or companies and contracted by the military to produce arrows in large quantities.
They would typically work closely with arrow-smiths to ensure that the arrowheads were of the correct size and shape to fit the arrows they were making. The arrows would then be distributed to archers in the army, who would use them in battle.
+”The bow was one of the most important weapons of the medieval period, and fletchers played a key role in producing the arrows that made it so deadly.”Andrew Ayton, Emeritus Professor of Medieval History at the University of Hull.
Fletchers were crucial in most medieval battles that involved archers. Some of the most significant battles where fletchers played a vital role include:
The Battle of Crecy (1346) – This battle saw the English longbowmen, armed with arrows made by fletchers, decimate the French army and secure a decisive victory for England in the Hundred Years’ War.
The Battle of Agincourt (1415) – Similar to the Battle of Crecy, the English army, including skilled archers with arrows made by fletchers, defeated the much larger French army.
The Battle of Towton (1461) – This was the largest and bloodiest battle fought on English soil during the Wars of the Roses. Both sides employed archers, and fletchers were crucial in supplying the necessary arrows for the battle.
The Battle of Flodden (1513) – This battle saw the English army, led by archers with arrows made by fletchers, defeat the Scottish army and King James IV.
In addition to these battles, fletchers played an important role in many other medieval battles that involved archers.
“The Medieval Archer” by Jim Bradbury
“The English Longbowman 1330-1515” by Clive Bartlett
“The Great Warbow: From Hastings to the Mary Rose” by Matthew Strickland and Robert Hardy
“The Traditional Bowyer’s Bible, Volume 2” by Jim Hamm
“The Medieval Soldier: 15th Century Campaign Life Recreated in Color Photographs” by Gerry Embleton and John Howe
These books offer insights into the techniques, tools, and skills of medieval fletchers and their role in warfare, along with historical context and illustrations.