Thursday, September 27, 2007

Armour Piercing Arrowheads

What quality metal was used on medieval arrowheads? Which types were used to pierce armor? This article from the Royal Armouries looks at the question.

Saturday, September 22, 2007

ORB’s September Survey and Baghdad Deaths

ORB has quietly revised the religion data in their survey of Iraq released earlier in September, but there are still strange things about the Baghdad results.

The gender demographics for Baghdad still seem to conflict with the reported violent death rate. 421 households, the weighted number for Baghdad, would have had about 2750 members in 2003, if their size was typical of Iraq, with about 700 adult males and a like number of adult females. According to both media reports collected by Iraq Body Count and those polls that asked the question, adult males represent about 90% of the violent deaths in Iraq since the invasion. It is plausible to estimate that of the 295 violent deaths reported in the weighted ORB poll, about 250 were adult males (18 or older), 15 were adult females, and the rest were children. The adult survivors would then be about 450 males and 685 females: 40% male and 60% female. Children coming of age since 2003 might reduce the imbalance slightly: to 42%/58%, assuming no sexual disparity in deaths among those who were 14-17 at the time of the invasion. This last is not necessarily a plausible assumption: 14-17 year old males are probably at higher risk than females of the same age.

ORB reported that their adult Baghdad respondents were 49% male. Plausible extrapolation of the reported violent death rate above, and the age and gender of reported victims of violent death in Iraq, suggest that given that death rate Baghdad adults should only be 40-42% male. That’s a significant conflict

There’s another reason to distrust the Baghdad death rate in the September ORB poll. In a poll they released in March, they asked a similar but broader question: had the respondent had a relative murdered in the past three years? 26% said yes: 31% said so in Baghdad, and 24 % in the rest of the country. In the September poll, 12% outside Baghdad has lost at least one household member. If we assume that the Iraq Body Count was a fairly consistent undercount during the preceding six months and use it to estimate the change in cumulative violent deaths, that would have been 10% at the time of the March survey. Outside Baghdad, the two polls seem in reasonable agreement: it seems entirely plausible that an extended family in Iraq is about 2.5 times the size of the immediate household.

But extrapolating the March Baghdad responses forward on the same basis predicts a household death rate of 15%: higher than the rest of Iraq, but less than a third of that reported for Baghdad in the September poll. Alternatively, projecting the September Baghdad results backwards implies that Baghdad extended families are only 25% larger than the immediate household living under one roof. That seems highly implausible.

So many Philip K. Dick movies. So few good ones

Philip K. Dick probably has had more of his works made into movies than any other SF author, but very few of the movies are much good, and most of the few that are aren’t very faithful to what Dick wrote. Dick had a lot of neat ideas that are apparently easy to pitch to preoccupied studio executives, but execution is the rub.

The first hitch is that most Dick movies started out as short stories, and need to be bloated with additional business to turn them into a feature length movie. The novels, on the other hand, are crowded with so many loopy ideas that a lot of them end up on the cutting room floor. It doesn’t help that a lot of Dick’s ideas are easier to get across in written narrative than to show economically on the screen. Blade Runner was a fine movie, but by the time it was done there wasn’t a lot of the original novel left.

The typical Dick protagonist isn’t very heroic: trudging wearily through life, teetering on the edge of insolvency, despair, impending heart attack, marital breakup or mental breakdown. A filmmaker that casts Arnold Schwarznegger as a Dickian protagonist is doomed before he begins.

Dick’s view of man’s relation to God is too central to make an atheist comfortable, and too unorthodox to make a fundamentalist comfortable. Hollywood tends to be allergic to scripts that deal with religious themes in a way that makes a wide swath of the potential viewers uncomfortable.

Dick’s stories seem to attract producers that like the pitch but don’t like the substance. Some of the most Dickian films made were written by other people: the 1980 version of Lathe of Heaven and Donnie Darko.

A Scanner Darkly was rare success as both as a movie and a faithful interpretation of Dick’s novel. The reason it worked was that the filmmaker didn’t need to spend a lot of time fleshing out an unfamiliar future. Scanner was essentially a mainstream novel about the recent past with some minor SF chrome riveted on. The audience didn’t need to be brought up to speed on radioactive dust, the extinction of toads, Mercerism, Penfield mood organs, and the social importance of pet ownership in the post-apocalyptic future, to name some of the Dickian details that didn’t make it into Blade Runner.

Wednesday, September 19, 2007

Why Democracies Fail

A paper by Andrew Enterline and J. Michael Greig looks at the history of imposed democracies and the implications for Iraq and Afghanistan. I don’t think it necessarily helps to look only at that narrow subset of new democracies; I think the risk factors are similar for indigenous ones like the first French Republic. In any case, as Steve Muhlberger points out, Enterline and Greig’s criteria seem a bit daft: Canada and New Zealand imposed democracies? I don’t think so.

The paper looks at Polity IIId rankings as a tool to track the states. Eyeballing those ratings, some factors seem plausible to me.

How close to liberal democracy were previous regimes over the preceding hundred years, including not just elections, but an independent judiciary, rule of law, strong property rights, etc.? If the previous regime was colonial rule, how democratic was the ruling state, and how much local autonomy did the colony have? Much of the Philippines’ colonial history was under relatively illiberal Spanish control, while India got over a century of British rule. I think that mattered.

How much of the local economy is based on the extraction of resources like gold or oil? If it is, a predatory government can have a pleasant lifestyle while not paying a lot of attention to the general welfare of the citizens.

Finally, does the country have a meritocratic civil service, and is that institution well established? I don’t think this factor is generally given the importance it deserves. When civil service jobs are distributed by competitive written examination, on a model that goes back to Imperial China, they cease to be spoils to be fought over, and the incumbents have a vested interest in keeping it that way. (The ability of the exams to measure anything more than the candidates' fitness to write about, say, classical poetry seems to be largely secondary.) And a meritocratic civil service can exist regardless of whether or not the current regime is democratic.

A meritocratic civil service does seem to be a common factor in many of the new democracies that survived the transition from autocracy or colonial rule: countries as otherwise disparate as Germany, Japan, India, Malaysia, South Korea, Taiwan and Turkey.

Tuesday, September 18, 2007

Baghdad Now 60% Christian

ORB, a British polling group, has recently released a poll they took in Iraq in August that suggest that there have been more than a million Iraqi violent deaths because of the invasion, (and about 800,000 of those in Baghdad, based on 206 interviews in that city.)

This is newsworthy if true, and ORB has issued a press release to that effect. They’ve missed an even bigger story. Based on the same 206 interviews, in theory selected entirely at random from the Baghdad population of about six million, Baghdad is mostly Christian: 37% Orthodox, 13% Catholic, 9% Protestant and 1% Christian (page 46).

One possible explanation is that the ORB interviews were entirely random, and that the Baghdad population is actually about 60% Christian, plus or minus random sampling error.

Another, which I prefer, is that it is very difficult to do a true random sample when your next planned interview is on the other side of a checkpoint manned by heavily armed locals with a dim view of outsiders who want to ask possibly inconvenient questions.

This would explain another puzzle in the ORB results. They imply that almost one in two Baghdad households have lost a family member. Both media reports and previous polls have indicated that the Iraqis being killed are overwhelmingly adult males: they are both more likely to be targeted and more likely to be exposed to attack. Iraq Body Count estimates that 90% of the civilian deaths are adult males, and including soldiers and insurgents would make the ratio even more extreme. Iraq is also a young country, with about half the population under eighteen. One would expect that if the Baghdad households sampled are like typical Iraqi households, those deaths would significantly impact the ratio of male to female adults answering the poll. This does not occur in the Baghdad poll results.

It seems likely that something decidedly unrandom has happened to the Baghdad sample. Or some Baghdad respondents are using an expansive definition of household that includes, say, everybody in their apartment building. Or both. Or there was an error in coding the results.

Update: ORB issued revised data, dated 9/20/2007, that gives changed results for all religion categories in Baghdad while leaving other data unchanged. Christians are now reduced to 3% of the city’s population. Although no explanation has been offered on their website, it seems likely that many of the Baghdad responses on religion were originally entered incorrectly.

The gender demographics for Baghdad still seem to conflict with the reported violent death rate.

Sunday, September 16, 2007

How Bad Is It in Iraq? (II)

ORB, a British polling group, has just released the results of a poll it took in Iraq in August that suggests that over a million Iraqis have died violently since the US invasion. However, it’s important to understand the level of uncertainty involved in the estimate. It is very, very hard to quantify what’s happening in a place as chaotic as Iraq.

One measure of the level of uncertainty is that the weighted estimate of violent death is about 50% higher than the raw figures would suggest. ORB asked Iraqis a number of questions, including whether one or more people living under their roof had been killed violently since the invasion. If the sample is randomly chosen, the margin of error should be fairly predictable.

One of the key challenges is a random sample. You can pick phone numbers at random: this works well if almost everyone has a phone, and is equally likely to answer it. If not, you can adjust for the difference between those that answer phones and those that don’t, if you can.

Or you can send out polling teams in a way that insures that everyone has about the same chance of being polled. This requires that you have a good idea of who is living where. This can work well under quite bad conditions. If a large share of the population is living in squalid refugee camps, and you have a good idea how many are living in each camp because a relief agency is handing out rations, and the residents have been thoroughly randomized by panicked flight from murderous militias, you can get a good random sample this way, at least for the people in the camps.

Iraq fits neither condition. Having completed their initial survey, ORB concluded they needed to massage the numbers. Did they undersample Baghdad? If so, they should adjust those numbers, assuming they have a good estimate of the current total population, and whether their sample was proportionate to the current population of the neighborhoods they sampled.

There’s a dilemma here. If the government is functioning adequately, you don’t estimate violent deaths by survey: you ask it to tabulate the corpses in the morgues, or the ration card holders that have stopped eating. On the other hand, if it has lost count of the corpses, then they are probably even less capable of telling you the current population of a specific neighborhood or region net of massive refugee flows.

Massaging polling numbers is a tricky business. Your poll may capture a surprisingly low number of Sunni Arab adult males. This might be sampling error, best dealt with by re-weighting the sample. On the other hand, it may reflect the fact that a large number of the expected Sunni Arab adult males are, in fact, dead. If that’s the case, re-weighting the sample will only distort the truth.

Something along those lines seems to be reflected in the recent ORB poll. Looking at the raw, un-weighted responses, 7% of Iraqi Kurds have lost a household member to violence since the invasion, and 6% of those that identify themselves as Shiites. Many Iraqis refused to claim a particular sect for the pollsters, and simply called themselves Muslims. 9% of these lost a household member. This group included some Kurds, and backing those out at the Kurdish death rate suggests that Arabs that identified themselves as “Muslim” rather than a particular sect had a household violent death rate of about 10%. This group includes both Sunni and Shiite Iraqi Arabs.

The group that identified themselves as “Sunni” had a 32% household violent death rate in the un-weighted ORB poll. However, most Kurds are Sunni, but reported much less violence. Backing them out at the average rate of reported violence for Kurds suggests that Sunni Arabs reported household violent death since the invasion at about 38%.
If the poll results are remotely in the right ballpark, Arabs that identify themselves as Sunni are suffering much worse losses than other groups in Iraq: the sort of casualties that knocked Russia and the Central Powers out of World War I, and drove the French army to the edge of mutiny.

Since the poll makes no effort to isolate civilian casualties, one plausible explanation of at least part of the disparity is that Sunni insurgents are being killed in large numbers.

While this poll will be taken by some as confirmation of Burnham et al (2006) published in the Lancet, they do contradict each other in one important sense. According to Burnham et al, Baghdad’s level of violence was about average for Iraq. According to ORB, Baghdad is about twice as deadly as Iraq as a whole.

Saturday, September 15, 2007

A Most Excellent Horse

An amazing display of what a splendidly trained horse and skilled rider can do, regardless of what your opinion might be of the morality of bullfighting.

Tuesday, September 11, 2007

Building a Sword for Rattan Combat

Building a rattan sword that can be used safely in simulated combat, but that closely follows an actual medieval sword in weight, balance, handling and, ideally, appearance is a challenging process. It’s made more so if it must meet all SCA standards for blade and thrusting tip diameter. Still, care and careful construction will produce a weapon that much more closely approximates the feel of an actual sword.

Weight, Balance and Inertia

An unshaped stave of rattan is essentially a simple rod. A medieval sword is a much more complicated beast. It doesn’t balance at the midpoint, but typically at a point much nearer the hilt. In making earlier swords I naively assumed that I could simulate the proper handling with a pommel heavy enough to shift the balance point to the correct position, but this is not sufficient. The typical medieval sword has significant distal taper, that is, it is much wider and heavier near the hilt than near the tip. This is particularly pronounced in the acutely pointed blades that became increasingly popular with the widespread use of plate armor from the 14th c. on. Even without a hilt fitted, such a blade will have a balance point closer to the hilt end of the blade than a simple rod would.

This presents a problem. Suppose we set out to simulate a particular medieval sword, and have made an unshaped rattan stave for the blade and shaped the grip for a comfortable fit. We use leather, rattan or hose for the cross of the hilt, and by coincidence it duplicates the mass of the thinner but denser steel cross of the original sword we are trying to model. We add a pommel heavy enough to move the balance point to the correct place, and find the total weight close to that of the original. Do we have a good simulation of our original?


Because our rattan blade is a simple rod, without fittings it balances further from the hilt than an actual blade. The pommel must be heavier than on the original, and there isn’t enough mass at the strong or forte of the blade, between its midpoint and the cross. There’s too much inertia in the pommel, and not enough in the strong. The sword balances correctly but behaves differently as it is swung.

A metal cross can help the problem somewhat. The society requires a one inch minimum diameter for the tips of a cross, and even in aluminum a cross with these dimensions is more massive than a medieval one with a similar span from tip to tip. A cast aluminum cross like those offered by Windrose Armories can add mass near the place where we would want to add it. A wire wound grip can also add significant mass. It isn’t quite the ideal location, but it’s better than a pommel that’s too heavy.

Another way to add mass to the forte would be to strap lead sheet to the blade at the ricasso. I haven’t tried this, but it should have the desired effect.

16th c. blades for German longsword fencing did something similar. To keep the blades flexible they had minimal taper for most of their length, but suddenly widened to a very broad “schild” or shield resembling a very wide ricasso just forward of the hilt. Presumably at least part of the intent was to get mass distribution more like a fighting sword, and it certainly would have had that effect

Blade Shape.

While simply adding some weight to the ricasso of an unshaped rattan blade would make the mass distribution and balance more like a medieval sword, the result would lack defined edges and sides, as well as the visible distal taper of a real blade. An oval cross section feels somewhat more like a real sword than a round stave does when binding or winding against another similar weapon, and also moves through the air more easily, again more like a real blade. I prefer to start with heavy rattan, plane the sides, and give it a distal taper as well.

Overall Construction

For my last three swords I used cast aluminum crosses, and aluminum or bronze facetted scent stopper pommels, secured by lag screws. I like scent stopper pommels because they are appropriate for the period I am recreating, are comfortable in the hand when the fighting two-handed, and it isn’t a big issue if they rotate. This can be a problem with wheel pommels and the like on rattan swords because they are secured with a circular screw rather than the square or rectangular tang of steel swords. Currently available bronze pommels can be quite massive. I chose to have the hole in the bronze pommel for the grip bored deeper on a lathe, which made the weight more appropriate for the length of sword I was building. I wrap the grip in either twine or twisted wire. This gives a good grip and helps prevent the lag screw from splitting the rattan. You can cover the twine with an additional layer of thin leather if you wish. Once you have chosen a pommel and decided whether or not you will have a thrusting tip, you can subtract the length these add from your intended overall dimensions to determine the length rattan you need.

Shaping the Blade

I start with a honking thick stave of rattan, perhaps 1 ¾” in diameter, and shave it down to 1 ¼” in thickness with a hand plane. I usually build the blade width up a bit near the cross with two strips of 1/8” vegetable tanned leather glued to the cutting edge, which I thin down to bare rattan with a grinding wheel or Surform tool towards the point. Vegetable tanned leather is much more easily shaped with the same tools I use to shape wood or rattan than other types of leather. Because of the curve of the rattan cross section, the edges of the strips will project a bit once glued down, and will require some work with grinding wheel or Surform tool to produce a smooth transition to the rattan. The strips range from 4-10” in length, and may not be symmetrical if I’m compensating for rattan that isn’t perfectly straight. Using the hand plane, I tapered the width of the blade from 1 ¾” at that point to 1 ¼ at the tip.

One could use longer strips and additional layers of leather or thicker leather to give a distal taper and more oval cross section to thinner rattan. For example, one might layer leather strips equal to 85%, 60% and 30% of the blade length and smooth them down to an even taper. I don’t think this would be as resistant to breaking as a shaped piece of thicker rattan, but you would presumably get some benefit if the construction allowed you to avoid removing the outer skin of the rattan stave, since the skin seems to be tougher than the core fibers.

Shape the grip with the same tools. Remember that a twine or wire wrapping will add bulk to the finished grip while you are shaping the rattan core of the grip. Make the rattan slim enough so that the finished grip will be a comfortable shape in your hands, but not so slim that you compromise its strength.

Fitting the Cross

Once I achieved a smooth transition from the blade to the intended grip I saw that it would not fit through the pre-drilled circular hole in the cross. I chose to enlarge it to an oval hole with files. While laborious, that insured that the cross could not rotate, and that the strength of the rattan would be weakened as little as possible at that point. Once the hole is distinctly oval, try it for fit. Remove additional material from the cross or rattan until the cross can be driven snugly into position.

From now on, I always will describe the hilt with pommel up and the sword tip down. The hole in the cross can widen a bit from halfway down to its bottom opening, as this will keep it from slipping down. It should also widen a bit from the halfway up, since wooden wedges can be driven down for a snug fit, and the shape of the hole will then help keep the cross from sliding the other way. While widening the hole in this way remove material from the long ends of the oval, not the sides. Removing rattan so the cross can be driven into position may leave the cross sitting on a rattan shelf, if so, this will also help keep the cross in position. Once you are satisfied with the shape of the grip you can drill a snug pilot hole for the lag screw. Don’t wedge the cross in place yet, but try the pommel and see if the overall balance is likely to be right once completed. If not, you can consider changes to improve the balance: wire wrap vs. twine, a different pommel, lead inside the pommel or on the ricasso, and so on.

Note to the Makers of Sword Fittings.

Adjusting sword balance would be a lot easier if pommels came with deeper holes for the grip, with enough space to pop in lead washers as needed to get the weight we wanted. It would also be good if the pommel had a countersunk hole on the end, wide enough to take the head of the appropriate socket wrench for the lag screw. I had mine retrofitted with that after my gauntleted finger got driven into the exposed head of the hex screw and required six stitches.

While we’re at it, can we have the option of oval holes in the cross? And perhaps some where the arms transition to an octagonal cross section rather than square? For the same 1’ minimum diameter you’d get something less bulky.

Wrapping the Blade: First Layer

Once satisfied, proceed. If you like, you can remove the cross while you work on the blade

I wrap the blade in filament tape, longitudinal and spiral. Alternatively, I have also used a length of sheet or shirt weight cloth a little wider than the circumference of the blade, glued down with white or yellow carpenters glue with the overlap running down one cutting edge.

Securing the Cross

When you are ready to put on the cross for good, drive it into position. Drive in glue coated wedges from above, and cut away any excess that protrudes above the cross with a sharp knife.

If you later find that the wedges did not fix the cross in place securely enough you can drill a hole through the cross from one side to the other for a press fitted steel pin. The pin should be thick enough to do the job, but no thicker, since the larger the hole drilled, the greater the chance of splitting or weakening the rattan at that point.

Covering the Grip.

If you are using twine or cord, first coat the grip with a thin layer of white or yellow carpenter’s glue. Start at the cross and keep the twine under constant tension as you wrap it around the grip from the cross to the end, with each new spiral snug against the one below it. You can use it as is or cover it with thin leather.

I used thin pigskin, soaked to make it pliable with a skived overlap joint. I coated the twine with white glue, and wound the leather with another spiral of twine while it dried so that the texture of the twine wrapping below could still be seen and felt when the grip was complete

The wire wrapping used a double strand of brass wire wound about itself in a spiral. After a test section was produced, cord of similar thickness was wound around the grip to determine how much would be needed. A double length of brass wire of the appropriate length was secured at one end, stretched across the work area and chucked into a drill. It was then wound into a spiral strand. Since it became work hardened in the process, it was annealed in a kiln before being used to wrap the hilt.

I used an awl to drive a channel down from the top of the cross between it and the rattan, into which I could press one end of the wire to hold it taut. It was then wound tightly around the hilt in the same way as the twine.


Check the pommel for balance, using a dowel loosely slid into the pilot hole to hold it in position if needed. If everything is satisfactory secure the pommel with a hex headed lag screw.

Completing the Blade

Finally, using contact cement I glue a length of 1” leather down one cutting edge, over the thrusting tip, and back down the other, butting as necessary. This adds a little extra shape to the blade and protects the rattan from damage. If the leather is too heavy the blade will be heavy and slow. I find dress belts from a thrift shop ideal if I split apart a belt made from two layers of leather and use one. This leather also has a suitable cross section: thicker at the center but thinner at the sides.

You may want to use more robust leather over the thrusting tip. Under that but over the foam of the thrusting tip use an additional strip of 1” leather, about 8” long, at right angles to the strip along the cutting edge. I taper the ends of the strip to 90 degree points for a smoother transition to the sword than if I cut them off square. Wrap this with filament tape over the rattan, but not over the foam portion of the thrusting tip. The two strips of leather will hold the foam in place, but the tip will compress more easily than if it was entirely wrapped in tape.

I then cover the blade with four strips of duct tape, parallel to the long axis of the sword, taping the sides of the sword first and then the cutting edges. If the leather strip is in good condition I sometimes omit the duct tape on the cutting edge and leave the leather exposed to mark the edge.

For a truly fine and medieval appearance, you can use thin leather painted silver instead of tape. The leather should be as thin as possible to avoid an excessively heavy blade, and if you can get it a light steel grey or silver will minimize the visibility of scuffs. Glue down the leather with contact cement and run a butt joint down one cutting edge. For a very precise butt joint, start with leather that overlaps slightly and cut through both layers at once with a sharp knife. You will want to leave a strip about an inch wide down this cutting edge uncoated with contact cement until this operation is complete. I find it easier to start with leather that is slightly overlong and trim it to fit at the cross once it is in place.

Electric Sheep Still Missing

I recently bought the director’s cut of Blade Runner. I’m happy with the removal of the original stupid happy ending. The original voice-over never bothered me much, so eliminating it wasn’t a big deal. I can see how some viewers who hadn’t seen it before or read the book could have a harder time understanding what was going on. New scenes play on the Dickian theme of mournful lonely androids who don’t know they are androids, although they violate Dick’s portrayal of Deckard’s character in the book.

Still missing are many of the loopier and more touching elements of Dick’s original book, Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep:

Robotic Sheep: “The alleged sheep contained an oat-tropic circuit; at the sight of such cereals it would scramble up convincingly and amble over”.

Mrs. Deckard. An android bounty hunter is an interesting idea. (Hunter of androids for bounty payment, as opposed to an android who hunts down criminals for bounty payment, which is also an interesting idea, now that you mention it.) It takes a man like Philip K. Dick to create an android bounty hunter with a strained marriage and a robotic sheep on the roof: a man who gets into arguments with his wife about which electronically induced mood they will dial next. Including but not limited to #888, the desire to watch TV, no matter what’s on it.

Malevolent android talk show hosts with android guests broadcasting 46 hours a day.

Mournful lonely androids with an appetite for golden age SF. “”Mars not as it is, but as it ought to be: with canals, instead of omnipresent dust.”

Android sibling rivalry. How do androids feel about multiple copies of themselves running around? “Happy day! I have a twin sister I never knew about!” Perhaps not.

Divine Intervention. Unless the Edward James Olmos character is a human manifestation of a merciful and omniscient god, which sort of works but probably isn’t what Ridley Scott had in mind.

Monday, September 10, 2007

Over 10,000 Served

When I returned from vacation, my sitemeter tracker told me that this blog has had over 10,000 visits since I installed it. That doesn't count those of you who read it by RSS feed. Woohoo!

Saturday, September 08, 2007

How Sir Jacques de Lalaing did arms in Scotland; and of many other particulars in the house of Burgundy. (1449)

And when Sir Jacques saw that he could find nothing more to do there he returned and found the good Duke of Burgundy in his city of Lilles where he received him full lightly and with a great heart. But it was not long before he took leave of the Duke, and took himself by sea to the realm of Scotland. And he was accompanied by Simon de Lalaing, his uncle, and Herves de Meriadet and many other good people. And as I understand Sir James Douglas, brother of the Earl Douglas, and the said Sir Jacques de Lalaing had formerly agreed to do the will of one against the other and each sought each other to meet together, and so Sir James Douglas arranged that a battle would be done before the King between him and Sir Jacques de Lalaing. But the matter increased and multiplied so that a battle to the outrance was concluded, for three noble Scotsmen to meet with Sir Simon de Lalaing, Sir Jacques de Lalaing and Herve de Meriadet, and that they would all do arms at one time for the King of Scotland. And when the day came for the battle, the King received them in the lists most honorably. And because I was not there at that feat of arms I must omit certain ceremonies which occurred, for example in times to come But there were three memorable things in the battle, which was very fiercely fought on one side and the other. The first was that when the three were being armed at the lodgings of the Duke of Burgundy, each one with his coat of arms on his back and about to leave to go to the battle, Sir Jacques de Lalaing spoke to Sir Simon de Lalaing, his uncle, and to Meriadet and told them “My lords and my brother, in this fine day of battle you know that it is for my enterprise that we have come into the realm and that the battle has been put together by agreement with Sir James Douglas, and although each one of us is able to aid his companion, I pray and require of you that whatever happens to me today neither of you come to me or rescue me , because it will seem that you have crossed the sea and entered into this battle only to help me, and that you do not hold or know me as a man to sustain the assault and the battle of a single knight, and holding a low account of me and my chivalry.”

And after that request the champions left their pavilions armed and equipped with axes, lances, swords and daggers, and they were able to either throw or push with the lances as they pleased. The two knights, James Douglas and Jacques de Lalaing were in the middle to encounter each other as they did; and on the right hand was sir Simon de Lalaing, who was to encounter the Scots squire, and Meriadet to encounter with a very powerful and renowned knight ; but they found themselves in the opposite position so that the knight was on the end with Sir Simon. And so Meriadet who desired to meet with the one that he intended , without having regard or thought of the his fame, crossed to put himself before the said Sir Simon to meet with his man. But the good knight with coolness and assurance turned himself towards Meriadet and said to him “Brother let each one hold with the one that he meets and I will do well, if it please God” And the said Meriadet returned before his man and that is the second thing which I wish to recount.And the champions took themselves to march the one against the other, and for this the three of the party of Burgundy doubted that the place was suitable for the lances, and they all at one time threw their lances behind them and that is the third matter of my tale, and taking their axes and running against the Scots, who came to the push of the lance; but it profited them nothing, and while they all fought at one time, I am only able to speak of their adventures one after the other.

The two knights, James Douglas and Jacques de Lalaing approached each other and pressed each other so closely that they had no weapons remaining to them neither the one not the other except for a dagger that the Scotsman held; and the said Sir Jacques held him by the arm near the hand in which he held the said dagger, and he held him with the other hand beneath the elbow, so that they turned themselves around the lists by the strength of their arms, and that went on for along time.

Sir Simon de Lalaing and the Scots knight were two powerful knights and there was no doubt of the subtlety of their axe play, and like two valiant knights and hardy, they so sought each other and found each other so often that in a little while they damaged the visors of their bassinets and their weapons and their harness with the strokes that they had given and received, and they gave up little ground to each other.

And on the other part came Herves de Meriadet and the Scotsman came to hit Meriadet with a push of the lance; but Meriadet turned aside the blow with the handle of his axe, so that the lance fell out of the hands of the Scotsman and Meriadet followed up so vigorously that before the Scotsman was able to unsling his axe he entered within, and with a throw carried him to earth. And Meriadet stepped back to let the Scotsman rise who was quick, light and of great courage, and he lifted himself quickly and ran under at the said Meriadet for the second time, and Meriadet who was a man who was one of the most redoubted squires of his time, strong, light, cool and dexterous in arms and in wrestling, received the Scotsman coolly and with great watchfulness and soon after made an entry on the Scotsman. And with that entry he gave such a great blow that he carried him to earth with a stroke of the axe, and quickly the Scotsman sought to lift himself, but Meriadet put his palm and knee against the back of the Scotsman, and again made him fall and kiss the sand. And despite the request that Sir Jacques de Lalaing had made of him, the said Meriadet, seeing the two knights wrestle together went to aid the said Sir Jacques, but the King of Scotland threw down his baton and had them parted with the said Meriadet free in his battle to rescue his companions at his pleasure . And because this was done against my order I have written of this battle without personally having seen it. I have written the truth according to the report of the Scots and those of our party, so that I was able to recount it without error, because I would charge to sir Jacques the enterprise of this fine adventure and others came about.

Oliver de la Marche, Memories Paris 1884 II. 105 Translation copyright Will McLean 2007