The ‘Companions’ are a group of longbow enthusiasts. We shoot outdoors; using equipment based on traditional designs and materials as far as is practical. We promote the use of traditional medieval shooting techniques. There are no aiming marks or sighting aids and if you are doing it right, there is no possibility of sighting down the arrow as you will have drawn the arrow back to your ear or beyond, so using a medieval longbow is all about instinctive shooting.
There are four main type of shooting you can do with a bow (there are however many variations of those four main types).
Target Shooting Shooting at relatively short distances at target faces, usually made up of a number of concentric circles, much like the modern recurve archery that you would see in the Olympics (but without the high scores). Medieval variations would be Wand Shooting and Butt Shooting.
Flight Shooting The aim here is simply to shoot the greatest distance you can. In medieval battles it was about engaging the enemy at a distance.
Roving Marks One of the oldest forms of competitive archery, as practiced by Henry VIII. The archers shoot to a "mark" then shoot from that mark to another mark. A mark is usually a post or flag but can be a natural mark such as a prominent clump of grass. The marks are shot at varying distances; some shots may be in excess of two hundred yards This was good practice for medieval battles as shooting distances changed according to how the battle progressed.
Field Shooting This is all about recreating a hunting environment. It is illegal to hunt with a bow in this country, so the animals we shoot at are made of rubber. This means you can have a good natter whilst ‘creeping up on them’. Despite the title, field shoots usually takes place in woodland. Medieval archers would have hunted for the pot.
We make up games and targets to ensure shoots are an enjoyable mix of the four types of shooting. We do keep score but nobody takes it too seriously. In fact the only thing we take really seriously is safety. After that it is all about having fun. There is always lots of friendly banter and conversation and help and advice is always available. Without the use of a camera you cannot watch yourself shoot, so a phrase often heard on the shooting line is “watch what I’m doing and tell me what you think”. After initially being told you should probably give up archery, you will get lots of helpful advice and tips on how you might improve your shooting. I am sure the camaraderie between archers today is much the same as it would have been in the days of Agincourt and Cercy.
The longbow played a major part in shaping the history of Great Britain. In skirmishes in 13th century on the Welsh borders, the Welsh archers demonstrated the tactical use of the longbow to the English. The English (and Welsh) archers then became a key part of English armies throughout the 14th and 15th centuries. The major conflicts of this period were the Hundred Years War with France and the Wars of the Roses between the houses of York and Lancaster. The longbow continued to be an important weapon well into the Tudor period. It was last used on mass in the English Civil War at the battle of Tippermuir in
1644. However Lieutenant Colonel John Malcolm Thorpe Fleming Churchill also known by the shorter names of Fighting Jack Churchill and Mad Jack used one (along with a basket-hilted Scottish broadsword) in WW2. This was probably the last time a longbow was used in battle.
There was little hard evidence for the size, shape and power of medieval longbows until the raising of Henry VIII’s famous warship, the Mary Rose, the artefacts found on board have given us our greatest insight into the weapon that has come to be known as the English Warbow and of the men who used it to such devastating effect.