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A warning, this is not the usual semi-romantic dog walking adventure you may have seen on this site before.  It’s a grim reminder of a hopefully bygone era, today we are visiting the York Cold War Bunker. A retreat of safe haven in a time of unparalleled danger, in fact, it’s just the thing for surviving a nuclear blast. This has to be the ultimate man cave.  As a child of the 70’s and 80’s brought up in the paranoia of the cold war and superior governance of a decadent western ideology, the cold war was a sense of impending nuclear doom but at least we knew who the baddies supposedly were. In the mean time, we went MAD (mutually assured destruction) and stockpiled some of what they had, just in case.

York Cold War Bunker
York Cold War Bunker

The York Cold War Bunker was purchased by English Heritage and restored to operational condition to become the tourist attraction you see today.  This was the protected headquarters of The Royal Observer Corps No. 20 Group in York and one of 30 such bunkers across the UK.  The three-story subterranean site was built to withstand a 2 megaton nuclear bomb detonated from 8 miles away and designed to support up to 60 people for 30 days, in operation from 1961 to 1991.

A welcoming sign as you enter the nuclear bunker
A welcoming sign as you enter the nuclear bunker

The sloped, rectangular, reinforced and waterproof structure is built into the ground and covered over with an earth banking to protect its staff from nuclear blast effects and radiation. They would contact regional monitoring stations and collate information that would help to triangulate any nuclear blasts, determine Ground Zero, radioactive fallout etc reporting back to government bodies.  There were over 1500 monitoring stations in the UK and if you’re feeling a bit twitchy about Russian aggression or just twitching because you’re experiencing the effects of nerve agent poisoning, you can find a map of the monitoring stations here.

Post display plotter board in the Operations Room recorded nuclear bursts on the rotating boards and plotted on triangulation boards
Post display plotter board in the Operations Room recorded nuclear bursts on the rotating boards and plotted on triangulation boards.

Entering the blast proof door we get a view of life inside the bunker.  The sombre signs of Radiation Hazard on the door of the air filtration room and Attack State signs on the decontamination room greet you as you descend into the positively sealed bunker.

As the tour progresses, we venture through the plant room, two basic 10 bed dormitories where you would be hot-bedding i.e. sharing (20 beds for 60 people), the canteen where your sole entertainment would be the grim faces of other people in the packed bunker. There isn’t a radio provided, news is controlled so you would receive only good news i.e. you might not think there would be much point in going on after a nuclear strike if you find out your family has been vaporised, burnt to a cinder or rotting from radiation.

Maybe you’ll get some satisfaction from reading the Protect and Survive documents dotted around (or watch them on YouTube with that creepy jingle that’s played).

The Operations Room is a hub of activity.  Maps of triangulated positions with updates on fallout and blasts relayed from monitoring station are all coordinated here.  The vertical perspex boards details the type of blast and wind direction for fallout etc.

Cold war bunker Operations Room
Cold war bunker Operations Room

As the Cold War progressed, so did some of the technology with later additions of basic computers.  The bunker has basic technology as there is less to go wrong in a strike, nuclear bursts have an Electronic Magnetic Pulse (EMP blast) that can fry the electrical gizzards rendering it useless). The addition of AWDREY, Atomic Weapons Detection Recognition and Estimation of Yield computer was designed to detect nuclear explosions and indicate its estimates size in megatons.

Life below ground in the York Cold War Bunker would have been grim even with the colour scheme of green for calming and orange for work concentration. The AWDREY computer is not without fault, you would still have to have some poor soul go outside and replace the detecting paper, life above ground would be even grimmer, imagine popping outside to see god only knows what devastation.

Feeling thoroughly depressed, we drive home to the soundtrack of Deutschland 83 in the car.  Then its off home to watch something cheery like Threads, The Day After or perhaps a nice cartoon like When the Wind Blows. YouTube them if you really want to have nightmares.  Strangely, it doesn’t make me nostalgic enough to grab my old RAF gear and don my NBC suit (Nuclear, Biological, Chemical Warfare suit), my haversack my containing an S10 respirator, Atropine Combopens (for nerve agent poisoning) and the Survive To Fight booklet.

After having trained in this year after year, the novelty is about as much fun as radiation sickness.  The Survive To Fight manual is decorated with a plastic see through cover on the front and an olive green plastic cover on the rear. Easy clean plastic for any nuclear fallout although you’d be buggered if you dropped it face down when its nicely camouflaged against the ground.  On the front by a NBC suited soldier determinedly charging with his SLR and S6 respirator  It gives you pictorial advice on what to do when the instant sunshine drops, the Immediate Action Drills, information on the hazard types from an airburst, ground or subterranean nuclear strike and decontamination procedures from radioactive fallout. Lovely stuff.

If you can’t be bothered to read the manual, there is also the fun aide memoir fold out card dispensing helpful advice like ‘Be in time, mask in 9 (seconds)’ otherwise it kills you a couple of weeks later as you die coughing and spluttering in a convulsive nervous twitch.

For those of you reading this who might want to know the casualty rates and effects of a nuclear blast on your home town, then try heading over to NUKEMAP where you can do just that.  I’ve selected Nottingham as the nearest large city to me and detonated a single Cuban Missile Crisis era 2.42 megaton Russian R-12 SS-4 nuclear missile. Grim viewing.

Nuclear Nottingham
Nuclear Nottingham

Incidentally, I mention this only in passing, there are some that may suggest that its no coincidence that the day the Berlin Wall came down, that I was informed that I was to be posted to Germany, the front line, at RAF Laarbruch.  The Cold War was starting to thaw out.  Clearly, I had the Russians scared on the run.  Kind of glad that’s over.

Its an interesting tour, we had a blast.  Find out more about the York Cold War Bunker at the English Heritage site here.

nuke-tote-board

The King in the car park, what a way to be remembered, as if your reputation wasn’t bad enough already.  King Richard III was killed at the Battle of Bosworth in 1485, the last king of England to die in battle, not quite the end of the Wars of the Roses but marking the end of the Plantagenet reign and the beginning of the Tudor age.  In August 21012, an excavation took place in a Leicester council car park on the site of the long demolished Grey Friars Church. The archaeological excavation unearthed an unceremoniously dumped skeleton with a severe spinal curvature   The remains were confirmed as those of Richard III and we get to visit the King in the Car Park.

Richard III - The King in the Car Park
Richard III – The King in the Car Park

 

We are visiting the King in the car park nearly a year to the day he was reinterred and at the King Richard III Visitor Centre which now stands on the site of the car park.

Richard III Visitor Centre
Richard III Visitor Centre

 

Richard III was the King we love to hate, Shakespearian tales of a twisted and deformed hunchback, usurping his nephews, the “princes in the tower” Edward and Richard from the crown by locking them in the Tower of London for them to mysteriously disappear i.e. murdered.  His short reign of 2 years brought to a bloody end in battle at Bosworth against Henry Tudor.  The King Richard III Visitor Centre gives the story of his rise to power to his bloody demise, his hasty burial and quest by the “Looking for Richard” group led by the slightly bonkers Philippa Langley.

Richard 3 the king in the car park
The King in the Car Park. Richard III monument at Leicester Cathedral

 

Unfortunately there is very little in the way of medieval artefacts to note on display. It’s the story of the excavation with videos, a high-vis vest, pick axe and Wellington boots reeking of desperation.  It’s a little disappointing. The admission fee is a tad steep, they reckon the exhibition will take an hour and half, we managed it in 35 minutes dragging our heels. And that’s the problem, it’s not a museum, it’s a visitor centre, an attraction.  More cash cow than king like.

Alas, we don’t get to see the remains of the King in the Car Park, weak arguments about dignity and respect for the dead meant that Richard III’s remains were buried at Leicester Cathedral.  I’m sure they’d be horrified to see the skeletal remains of Glen Parva lady at the free-to-enter Jewry Wall museum down the road.

Facial reconstruction of the King in the car park Richard III
Facial reconstruction of the King in the car park Richard III

 

Instead there is a 3D printed replica of his skeleton.  We are clearly able to see the curvature of the spine from scoliosis, not quite the hunchback as depicted by the victorious Tudor disinformation team.  History might very well be written by the victors but it might not be correct. The printed replica shows the wounds that Richard received and the fatal blows to the back of the head delivered as a final coup de grâce.  The number of wounds inflicted at the time of death and those after, certainly seem like overkill.  Not a romantic vision of the Wars of the Roses, Battle of Towton anyone?

Richard III Medieval Stormtrooper
Richard III Medieval Stormtrooper

 

There is a facial reconstruction, not sure how accurate these are supposed to be and the white replica armour on display makes Richard III look like a medieval Stormtrooper.  Conclusive proof that he was evil by wearing the Empire’s colours. We veer towards the exit but not before pausing over the dig site of the King in the car park with his projected image outline of the skeletal remains in his grave.

Richard III remains on the left and the projected image on the right as the grave now stands.
Richard III remains on the left and the projected image on the right as the grave now stands.

 

Finally we pop over the road to Leicester Cathedral where Richard III was reinterred in a lavish ceremony after an unholy courtroom battle for those who wanted him to be reinterred in York. Perhaps they should have taken better care of him in the first place.  Allegedly free to enter, we were soon accosted by the god squad to “donate” £3 as their eyes burned into my wallet.  Viewing the opulent fossil stone tomb where Richard III resides in his final resting place cannot be done in place, another member of the church persists in staying close to the tomb.  Clearly no rest for the wicked.

Richard III tomb
Richard III

Once again, we’re visiting the ancestors of Caveman Cook at the limestone gorge of Creswell Crags located on the Nottinghamshire and Derbyshire borders, this time to tour the largest cave on the site, the Robin Hood cave.

The Robin Hood Cave Horse, previously known the Ochre Horse found at Creswell Crags in 1876.
The Robin Hood Cave Horse, previously known the Ochre Horse found at Creswell Crags in 1876.

This was the most northerly point in the world during the last ice age which was habitable for only a few weeks each year where Neanderthal ancestors used to visit.  The gorge, split by a modern-day lake, is also home to Britain’s only ice age rock art which is on the north facing Nottinghamshire side, and on the suburban south-facing sunny Derbyshire side we have where our caveman friends used to live.  Definitive proof that people from Derbyshire are Neanderthals while confirming Nottinghamshire’s status as the bohemian capital of the midlands.

Britain at this time, was connected to the rest of Europe, called Doggerland, which is very different from dogging land which allegedly happens in the nearby woods, allowed nomadic humans to follow migrating woolly mammoths, rhinoceros, hyenas and bisons as evidenced by remains in the Robin Hood cave.  To access this cave tour,  we have to don a cavers helmet and torch looking like some sort of manic miner ducking through small passageways to reach the four main chambers.  Its pretty dark in here with illumination only from your head torch (sounds like dogging again) and its pretty cool at a constant 8 degrees but with the overhanging magnesium limestone cliff face helping to enforce the natural protection from the cold, it’s still warmer than outside in the ice age.

The Victorian archaeologists in their eagerness to excavate the cave and its deposits were frustrated by the hard flowstone and used dynamite to help dig through, probably destroying more artifacts than they found.  A wide range of artifacts have been found including tools left by Neanderthals between 60,000 and 40,000 years ago.  Amazingly, they have a genuine Neanderthal hand axe you can touch and pass round the tour group.  Even more amazing is that I didn’t drop it.  The hand axe is made from flint that is not local to Creswell and thought to be from nearer Kent. Other tools found were flint scrapers, leaf points and ribs that were made into spear tips.

Other notable finds include hippo and narrow nosed rhinoceros bones from before the last ice age when this area was as warm as Africa is today and a tooth from a lesser scimitar cat which was extinct long before the ice age.  Evidence for upper paleolithic hunters camping here 12500 years ago come in the form of flint and bone objects that include the only known engraving of a horse on a fragment of rib clearly showing the head and neck facing to the right.

You may also like this previous post on Creswell Crags Ice Age Rock Art Tour.

You can find out more about Creswell Crags here.

York, the wild northern frontier nestling on the river Ouse is a popular and busy place. Battered by Brigantes, rampaged by Romans and harried by Norsemen, its had its fair share of long stay visitors, some are on an extended stay at the Jorvik Viking Centre.  Today, it is thronging with tourists, pounding the pavement and treading the tourist traps. But beneath their feet is a hidden world and the buried remains of the Viking settlement of Jorvik.

Jorvik viking toilet
A Viking taking a….poo. This tourist attraction insists you get up close and personal.

In 1976, before construction work in the centre of York where the Coppergate Shopping centre now stands, the York Archaeological Trust unearthed Viking age timbers and other Viking age artefacts in unprecedented numbers in the damp conditions that helped to preserve the finds. Whether they were raiders and/or traders, or perhaps just wanted better farming land or weather etc is still open to debate.  One thing for certain is that my wallet was raided and credit card assaulted by the fee to enter the Jorvik Viking Centre.  But at least you can visit as many times as you’d like within the year.

Jorvik Skull of male aged 16-25 showing battle injuries.
Skull of male aged 16-25 showing battle injuries.

Today the Jorvik Viking Centre stands on the exact site where the remains had been found.  Inside, you step on a glass floor with an accurate reconstruction of what the Coppergate dig would have looked like below your feet.  Most of the items are reconstructions of discarded objects except the animal bones and shells.  Considering they dug up 5 tons of animal bone, there appears plenty to go around.  There are maps provided to show you what’s beneath the glass floor but you can’t read them because it’s so dark.  I’m guessing Vikings didn’t have street lights, so that makes it authentic.

Builder on the Jorvik ride
Builders taking a break from chucking mud at wattle to build viking housing. Nothing has changed in a 1000 years…

Then it’s onto a ride taking you back to the 10th century Viking settlement, a street and market place with historically houses, clothes, tools and smells.  Animatronics waxwork dummies with faces based on reconstruction of Viking age skulls, speaking the languages of old Norse and old English.  It’s a bit like a PG rating of Westworld without Yul Brynner running wild. Nearing the end of the ride, we are err… lucky enough to see, hear and smell, a Norse chap taking a dump, spared only by a wicker screen to protect his modesty and our blushes. It stinks and there is rubbish everywhere. This, dear readers, is what Scandinavian life has to offer you.  Then again, I suppose it’s easier to accept it at the end of a pointy sword thrusting at your belly.  Disappointingly, not one Viking is wearing a helmet with horns and we do not see anybody having a blood eagle.

Female skeleton discovered in the excavations at Coppergate. She was around 46 old and 5ft 2in, robustly built and possibly used crutches.
Female skeleton discovered in the excavations at Coppergate. She was around 46 and 5ft 2in, robustly built and possibly used crutches.

The last third of the exhibition has associated collections of 800 artefacts from the 40,000 that were found.  Bone and antler working to make combs, leather for making shoes etc.  Of course, any Viking experience is not complete without battle and you now get a  chance to see a few weapons and the injuries these can cause on the battle-scarred skeletons on display.  The weapons are not that good and better examples are on display in the Derby museum from the Vikings when the Great Heathen Army camped over winter at Repton or those on display in the Leeds Royal Armouries.  The skeletons however are a grim reminder of diplomacy on the receiving end of an axe edge.

Battle skeleton at Jorvik with 16 visible injuries. Its possible he died at the Battle of the Standard near Northallerton.
Battle skeleton at Jorvik with 16 visible injuries. Its possible he died at the Battle of the Standard near Northallerton.

One skeletal chap on display has 16 visible injuries including an axe shaped wedge wound to his upper leg, two stab wounds to the pelvis penetrating the abdomen and two execution style wounds to the back of his head. He was aged between 18-25 and was one of a group of 30 skeletons all showing blade injuries that had not healed.  They were discovered in the cemetery at the Church of St Andrew in Fishergate so it is unlikely they died in the famous clashes at the Battle of Fulford, a Viking victory, or the Battle of Stamford Bridge where Harald Hardrada and Tostig Godwinson (half-brother of King Harold) was killed by the English army of King Harold before he marched down to Hastings to face William Duke of Normandy, heralding the end of the Viking age in Britain.

Learn more about the Jorvik Viking Centre here.

Being a self-confessed and unashamed geek, I am compelled to drag the clan (man, woman – try saying it in grunts like a caveman) across the land hunting and gathering geek interest.  This time to Creswell Crags, a limestone gorge of stone age caves occupied during the last ice age between 50,000 – 10,000 years ago on the Nottinghamshire & Derbyshire border.  I always knew there were knuckle dragging cave dwelling troglodytes around here.  I see him in the mirror, Cro-Magnon caveman Cookie.

Ice Age rock art at Creswell Crags
Ice Age rock art at Creswell Crags

creswell-crags-stag-outline-church-hole

Today, we’ve managed to see Britain’s only ice age rock art.  I’ve also managed to touch it and not ruin it.  Quite eerie considering you stand in the same spot, your finger tracing the outline of the carving as they may have done.  The Church Hole cave at Creswell Crags is the home of Britain’s only cave art with Palaeolithic etchings and engravings on the walls and ceiling approx 14,000 years old.  This rock art was only discovered in 2003.  A steel floor was erected at the cave’s original height as it would have been years ago.  The Victorians excavated the cave using that precise very method of dynamite.  They chucked out a load of rubble and god only know what other artifacts and this lowered the floor level.  As a result, this left the faint engravings and etchings high up out of view.

There are over 80 drawings in church Hole cave with bas-relief carvings using natural features in the rock to enhance.  Some engravings are clearer than others, it may not look like much in my photo, but there is definitely a stag there and part of its shape is easily visible.  You can also see a bison and a bird although you may need an expert to guide you.  It’s possible that some of the carvings may have had colour at some point, ochre was found outside of the cave.  Today the inside of the cave is wet in places, particularly over the bison carving, so colour may not have lasted long.

Now some of the engravings need more imagination than others.  Apparently there are engravings of women and triangle shapes.  These are supposed to be, or represent vulva i.e. ladies bits.  Now I’ve seen more imaginative drawings on toilet walls before, some incredibly detailed but never in the shape of the caveman porn these cave dwellers carved.  I have some doubts.  Not a pair of boobies to be seen.  Give a man a pencil and ask him to draw a woman, you’ll get boobies.  Maybe the woman he was drawing was flat chested, maybe he ran out of flint.

Some of the animal etchings were not native to the area at the time e.g. the Ibis bird carving on the ceiling, we know that the cavemen used to be nomadic seasonal visitors, the first being Neanderthals, couldn’t stop here all year round as it was too cold.  This was the most northern habitable edge.  The gorge was somewhat different in the past, Britain was part of a larger landmass called Doggerland.  The limestone gorge did not have trees, definitely no boating lake but a small stream separating the two sides, one side predominantly for shelter.

Other findings include, flint tools, knife-blades, a prehistoric hyena den occupied by Neanderthals and bone engraved figures – The Robin Hood Cave Horse (also known as The Ochre Horse) and Pinhole Cave Man. Robin Hood’s cave also has evidence of hunting woolly rhinoceros.  We’ll be visiting this cave next time.  You can see some of the amazing tools in the exhibition, including 50,000 year old Neanderthal handaxes,  120,000 year old Hippopotamus jaw and a fine bone needle with the needle eye just 2mm across.  You can see more items at Derby Museum and Art Gallery including flint leaf-tip spear points 38-35,000 years old.

Creswell Crags
Creswell Crags

Visitors have been going to Creswell Crags for 50,000 years says the tag line.  You can too, you wont need to grab your bullwhip and fedora hat though, the rock art is very near the entrance to the padlocked Church Hole cave, but you will need to pay to enter via a guided tour.  We managed to visit the Rock Art Cave Tour on its first day of opening this year, its worthwhile phoning up beforehand and pre-booking your visit.  You can also come back and revisit with your ticket within the year.  Learn more about Creswell Crags, the Rock Art Cave Tour and the Robin Hood Cave Ice Age Tour here.

 

Living midway between two large East Midlands towns, I can count on one hand the times I’ve been to Derby. It doesn’t sound like the most appealing place, yet another homogenised high street but full of Derby County supporters with an alarming affection for sheep.

Viking sword from Repton at Derby museum
Viking sword from Repton at Derby museum

But I thought it may worth a look, after all, the Great Heathen Army (not Derby County fans this time – even if they are the great unwashed), that band of Vikings, decided to stop in nearby Repton for Winter in 873 AD. Turns out that some of them stayed far longer, 249 were found in a mass grave at Repton Church. Derby can do that to people.

Several graves were found, one, the Repton Viking Warrior, was 6 foot tall, aged 35-40 and killed in battle, he may quite possibly be Ivar The Boneless.  Buried with his sword and other items after dying from spear wounds on his skull and a massive cut to his upper thigh which may have removed his genitals.  Buried with things he needs for the afterlife, including his sword, jewels and a necklace with Thor’s Hammer.  Also in the grave was a boar’s tusk placed between his legs, a substitute for his penis to make his body complete for his trip to the viking afterlife in Valhalla.

Thor's Hammer and bead necklace from the Repton Viking Warrior's grave
Thor’s Hammer and bead necklace from the Repton Viking Warrior’s grave

He’s also had a facial reconstruction. You can find out more about this reconstruction and the Repton Viking’s by watching the BBC documentary ‘Blood Of The Vikings’ on YouTube. Granted, I now know more about swords and other stabbing weapons than is probably healthy for a man. Among the other items at Derby museum: a gold noble coin from Codnor Castle found when Time Team filmed there, The Repton Stone, flint arrowheads and tools dating back 300,000 – 40,00 years old, Egyptian mummies and the bronze age Hanson log boat. All to see for free.

Links:

Derby Museum

Great Heathen Army

Trip to York and the Battlefield of Towton.

A long weekend but no lazy days for us. Time to pound the pavement with a visit to the wild barren northern frontier, or York as most call it. Rampaging Romans, bearded Vikings, Norman knights, conquest castles, whippets, flat caps, York has it all. Even got their own gallows at Tyburn on the Knavesmire. Just the place to hang Scottish rebels, horse thieves (Dick Turpin) and other rapscallions. So with shield-maiden Sam in tow, we trudge around York’s tourist traps. Just hope the locals have already had their fill of pillaging, plunder and bloodletting.

Firstly, lets talk about York Minster, that famous house of God but with some unholy prices. Suffice to say we didn’t stick around. You’ll find many places in York where you wont stick around, not because of Viking warlords or rampaging Romans but pretty ridiculous prices putting you off. This includes the dungeon, minster, castle, museum, all as guilty as Dick Turpin, but at least he wore a mask when he robbed people. Perhaps the heads of these attractions should be exposed on the city walls at Micklegate Bar. Nice to see they’ve removed the heads that were put up there in the past, it might have put visitors off.

So we trundle along to Coppergate and the Jorvik museum. Step inside to see a reconstructed excavation of exposed 1000 year old timbers and other artefacts below your feet. Dirty lot these Vikings. Then onto the ride for the reconstruction of a smelly street of the age complete with realistic creepy life-like animatronic waxworks. Its a bit like Westworld without Yul Brynner running wild. Now you’ve got a chance to view some skeletons, one male and one female from the Coppergate dig. There are also skeletal remains with battle wounds to see how viciously men can slay each other. Yes its short, sweet and not cheap but at least you get a years entry with your ticket.

As if to emphasise the point about slaying each other with sharp swords and stuff, on the way to York we pass the battlefield of Towton. On Palm Sunday in 1461, during Wars of the Roses between the houses of York and Lancaster, the largest and bloodiest battle ever fought on English soil resulted in the reported deaths of 28,000 men. Any romantic visions of the Wars of the Roses should be dismissed as men fleeing over the fields at Cock Beck and Bloody Meadow were slaughtered in the rout. If you’ve got any doubts about the lack of chivalric niceties, check out the BBC documentary Secrets of The Dead – Blood Red Roses (easily found on YouTube) that shows you the coup de grâce delivered to some unlucky victims. Brutal.

Links:

Jorvik Viking Museum

You Tube – Secrets of the Dead, Blood Red Roses, Towton 1461

 Towton Battlefield Society

Leeds Royal Armouries – They’ve got knives, knights, sharp sticks, boomsticks, falchions, flintlocks, helmets, habergeons, mail and men-at-arms. Or as the Royal Armouries at Leeds say themselves, examples of arms, armour and artillery. The Hall of Steel displays 2500 pieces of mainly 17th century armour including steel breast plates, pikes and poleaxes to 19th century military equipment.

Horned Helmet, a gift to Henry VIII from the Holy Roman Emperor Maximillan 1 in 1514. This, as part of a suit of armour, was purely ceremonial, it never saw battle.
Horned Helmet, a gift to Henry VIII from the Holy Roman Emperor Maximillan 1 in 1514. This, as part of a suit of armour, was purely ceremonial, it never saw battle.

Do you remember from school history that our Henry VIII was more of a lover than a fighter, chicken drumstick in one hand, the other up his next wife’s skirt? Well, his striking Horned Helmet is here, a gift to Henry VIII from the Holy Roman Emperor Maximilian in 1514. This, as part of a suit of armour, was purely ceremonial, it never saw battle.

Henry VIII's foot combat armour which was originally to be worn at the Field of Cloth of Gold tournament in 1520, but a change of rules meant this was never used. However, it did come in handy for the space program when NASA examined this all enclosing armour when they were developing spacesuits.
Henry VIII’s foot combat armour which was originally to be worn at the Field of Cloth of Gold tournament in 1520, but a change of rules meant this was never used. However, it did come in handy for the space program when NASA examined this all enclosing armour when they were developing spacesuits.

Step into the War Gallery and you are immediately confronted by a stunning one piece Corinthian (Greek) bronze helmet from 650 BC. A Roman Gladius, a short stabbing sword for a Roman foot soldier, Viking axes that may be a little rusty but still have a very sharp edge. No wonder people rather paid tribute with Danegeld. The Early Middle Ages, or The Dark Ages, were certainly gruesome for those on the receiving end of the axe.

Now we’re looking at medieval warfare and the Middle Ages, things are starting to improve for protection, chain mail and padded haubergeon for us serfs and for well to do knights and men-at arms, plate armour (Gothic style armour on the image to the left). If you’re fighting at Agincourt or in the Hundred Years war, it best pays to be equipped when you’re in the midst of action. Even horses could get armour. Didn’t see any longbows, but you could see arrowheads and bodkins designed to penetrate armour and mail. The sheer range of edged swords and blunt weapons is staggering, Rondel daggers, bastard swords, hand-and-half swords, war hammer’s and mace’s.

Turns out that spacesuits and armour have a common connection. In the Tournament Gallery is Henry VIII’s foot combat armour which was originally to be worn at the Field of Cloth of Gold tournament in 1520, but a change of rules meant this was never used. However, it did come in handy for the space program when NASA examined this all enclosing armour when they were developing space suits and looking to help provide solutions in astronauts mobility. Never seen a cod piece on a spacesuit like that though. Nice to see all those centuries of warfare finally came in handy for something good.

Links:

Royal Armouries at Leeds

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