A question about the Battle of Stamford Bridge.

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A question about the Battle of Stamford Bridge.

Postby LordRamsay24 » 27 Oct 2016 23:09

For those of you who do not know, The Battle of Stamford Bridge was a key victory for the English in 1066. The Norweigen Vikings were caught completely by surprise, and were ill-equipped to deal with the Anglo Saxons. An Anglo Saxon record states that a single Viking (most likely armed with a Dane axe) held the Bridge all by himself, and held back the English army on the bridge for just long enough for the Norweigens to regroup, and form a shield wall slaying 40 men. He apparantly was slain only when a spearman floated on a barrel under the bridge, and speared the Viking by stabbing between the wooden planks.The Anglo Saxons still won decisevely, but how realistic is this? Couldn't a few archers have just shot him? I also find it unlikley that he could have killed 40 men without getting tired. 10-20 men I could understand but 40 seems like a little much as most people would get fatigued by this point, even a strong Viking. Basically my question is, based on what you know about the weapons how realistic is the account. (I would think that a few archers could have just lined up and shot him but maybe they were out of ammo.)
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Re: A question about the Battle of Stamford Bridge.

Postby Lidsman » 31 Oct 2016 08:14

Most likely this story is just a story. They are many tales about a single man holding back an army. A late example from Swedish history is a poem about the war of 1808-1809 when a young soldier by the name Sven Dufva (who is described as "not the brightest soldier in the Swedish army") holds a bridge against the Russians long enough to let his comrades regroup.

Here is a contemporary picture:


About the archers. In a battle its not so easy to withdraw the infantry (when involved) and line up some archers.
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Re: A question about the Battle of Stamford Bridge.

Postby tea » 31 Oct 2016 19:02

On the other hand, this story turns up in the English sources, who are perhaps the people least likely to want to tell it if it's a myth.

Fighting 40+ bouts back to back is hard, but not impossible. People do it as a challenge these days. On a narrow bridge where your opponents can't just surround you, it's also less of a faff because you don't need to run around so much.

Regarding archery, between a shield (possibly) and a mail coat, you're not impervious to arrows but you have a pretty good chance. It's also quite possible that the English didn't turn up with a large (or pretty much any) archery contingent: the sort of force Harold will be taking on the march to Stamford bridge is mostly going to be relatively elite, most of whom will be melee fighters.
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