Siege Engines


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Photos: Events, Projects...

Photos below are from events and projects, most recent first. All photos by Bartholomew Baskin unless otherwise credited, with thanks to the respective crews and builders.


A mandel (mobile pavise, experimental) in use at Festival 2007. Photo by Andre de Montsegur.

The Southron Gaard Cannon for Festival '06

Edmund, Baron of Politarchopolis, has constructing a cannon for use by a Southron Gaard siege crew at Festival 2006. It is a single-barreled breech loader based on this deck cannon from the Mary Rose.

"Freya" - a trebuchet with a 4m arm

Thorald, James and Ryan, with help from Lord Nigel, have nearly completed Freya. On her first test outing, the counterweight came adrift and the throwing arm rotated into the ground, cracking it (a 1.2MB AVI of this unfortunate event can be found here.) The resulting pieces were just the right size to provide parts for a ballista on Lord Nigel's drawing board; meanwhile Freya will soon be getting a new arm and a more robust counterweight arrangement. Photo and movie: Freya crew.

August Siege Meeting -- Olaf's and Iarnulf's Trebuchets

Olaf with his man-powered trebuchet -- it just needs a hook and sling attachment, and a standalone base.
Breaks down fully for easy transport.

Iarnulfr's model trebuchet from several years ago. Though only a model, it gives a good idea of the structural requirements for a full-scale trebuchet.

A trebuchet named THOKK

Two shots of a trebuchet named THOKK, and its little brother. Thokk was made by Lord Dougal and
his crew in the Terra Rosa lands of Lochac. Thokk fires 4-tennis-ball caltrops. Photo: Thokk crew

Sebastian's Cannon Trigger Assembly

I have been experimenting with an alternative to the aluminium plugs. Its made from a home irrigation connector (it looks something like the first picture) made by Neta, a subsidiary of an Australian company PPI. The connector costs about $1.30 and is made to connect (duh!) a snap type hose fitting to a 19 mm hose irrigation setup. They seem to be available at all hardware stores. The valve is a standard car tubeless one, the longer of the two most tyre companies seem to use (its about 60mm long overall). Also you will need to adjust your bottles by cutting around the inside of the lip to a 45 deg angle, it helps the bottle slide over the o-ring.


To make:
  • Remove the o-ring carefully, and keep it (free o-ring!)
  • Cut off the excess as marked in picture two above so the valve will fit in
  • Pull the valve through (lube with washing up detergent) and put the o-ring on the other end and voila! Picture three (below)

In use, make sure the o-ring is rolled back down towards the barb each time. It will roll as it goes on, you will see it sitting about 6mm in front the barb when it's on. Picture four is not a very good cross section, but you can make out (just) the 45 deg fileting of the inside edge of the bottle.
I have once had one fail where the o-ring was forced back, and as the bottle was sitting a little away from the end it popped out the back releasing pressure (Dave got wet). As I haven't tested these with a pressure gauge I don't know what pressure it was under. A solution would be to put about 4mm of 19mm pipe on before the o-ring. Push the pipe to the end, so that the O-ring still has room to roll on, but cannot be forced out the end.
Right, hope that is understandable, and please let me know if anyone builds one how it work for them! Images courtesy of Sebastian and William.

Oskar's Latest Arbalest: Dragon

With Dragon, I'm aiming to include all the things I have learned in my previous three arbalesti. Points of interest include the multi leaved bow and the power adjustment slot in the forward stock. Also note the balance adjustment holes in the middle stock. With the steel in the prod moving back and forth when you adjust the power, the balance changes considerably.
There is also a ratchet system in the winch box so you can pause in the winching without the handles spinning out of control, and the whole thing is mounted on a pedestal mount, good for defensive and accuracy placements. Photos courtesy Oskar.

Dragon re-mounted on the mobile platform I call the Galloper. Basically a simple "field gun" version that is an excellent hunter-killer of other engines and crew. Fire a shot, move out from underneath counter fire, and shoot again... Photo courtesy Oskar.

Oskar's Dragon Firing Box Redesign

Above is the final assembly, open for inspection. Photos courtesy Oskar.

Steve Broren's Trebuchet

Shown just after it was built. In use it is guyed front and back. Doing this rather than the traditional heavy wooden structure makes it much easier to transport. It's not that clear from this picture, but it comes apart completely into 1.2m lengths. Photo courtesy Steve Brorens.

Festival 2005

A selection of siege engine photos from Festival 2005. (If you want to see movies of the cannon in action, firing 15 shots in 30 seconds, you'll have to pay Bartholomew a visit.)

The cannon, unquestionably Bartholomew's favourite. Makes the best noise, is easiest to make, safest to use, and has the best rate of fire by far (until you run out of magazines and, even then, you can always have a back-up crew replenishing them). Note the following:
  • Four (yes, four) five-shot magazines; these guys were serious
  • Magazines slot into the base of the cannon, it takes only seconds to swap them
  • This cannon has vertical angle adjustment which can be pegged; horizontal aiming is done by nudging the wheeled base
  • Water container with tap for refilling, and funnel
  • Shot-stand for holding the bottles before they are loaded (see below)
  • Hand-operated pump (bottom right) for pressurising to 100psi (no powered pumps!)
  • These operators are not taking fire, hence are not in armour at this time
  • About 40m away, the target; effective range at 42 degrees (max) is between 60m and 80m, but accuracy suffers at higher elevations. Generally speaking, the cannon had fewer direct hits than ballistae, but it was within a couple of metres of the aiming point about as often as the ballistae were -- which is just fine if you're using it against troop concentrations.

The cannon, from the business end. The operators get wet, the target does not, and cannon shot hit somewhat less hard than ballista bolts. Much could be done to decorate the barrels, if you were so inclined.

Pressurising the shots in a cannon magazine to 100psi. The pump is a quality bike-pump with a low-diameter barrel (easier to pump as the pressure rises). The valves are car tyre valves, and the "shots" (more below) are held in place by keyhole cut-out triggers.

Cannon "shells". Each is a 600ml soft drink bottle on the business end of which is one layer of foam, one disk of sheet lead, one disk of plywood, another layer of foam and one half tennis ball. The metal-and-rubber piece at right is the most technical part of the entire device -- each bottle slides over one of these and is thus attached/sealed onto the tyre valve during pressurisation. The plastic tails (fins have been tried without much success) stabilise and direct the flight, and also make a neat whirring sound. Attempts have been made to add whistling devices but have not proven to be suitably awe-inspiring.

This ballista sits neatly on a wheelbarrow trolley which is also used to carry other equipment, ammunition etc. onto the warfield. Note the dismountable torsion box at the front, which is the key element of the device. Unlike cannons, ballistae and their cousins have catastrophic failure potential, so must be well spaced and well respected when active.

A ballista in action. The arms should bend very little; all of the power is provided by the rope bundles in the torsion box. Each ballista bolt is taped UPVC pipe with a punctured tennis ball taped to the front, and simple fins slotted in the back.

NB: There were no onagers (torsion rock-throwers) or trebuchets (counter-weight rock-throwers) at Festival, but see resources for links to more information and photos of such devices.

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Southron Gaard Siege Engine Challenge Rules (June 2005 From the Tower)

The Southron Gaard Siege Engine Challenge will be held from December 2-4, 2005 and will use the competition rules outlined below. They are published as a guide to the teams formed to design and build siege engines. Note: minor variations may be made to the rules before the Challenge at the discretion of the Baron of Southron Gaard, or on the day by the Rangemaster.

Competition Rules

The Challenge itself will be run by a Rangemaster: either His Excellency Bartholomew or someone designated by him who has the confidence of the Kingdom Siege Marshal. No weapon may be entered unless it has first been deemed safe by the Rangemaster, in accordance with the inspection and test-firing procedure in the latest published Lochac siege rules, and other rule-sets which they reference.

All decisions on the conduct and scoring of the competition rest solely with the Rangemaster.

There will be two competition types, with these targets:

A. For direct fire weapons: a full-sized human form with a large central hole and a smaller hole in the head, and a 1.5m deep x 2.5m wide rectangle defined on the ground around it to represent a shield wall or other large target.

B. For indirect fire weapons: A 3m wall of boxes or similar at least 1.5m high, with a target zone denoted by a 3m square laid out on the ground immediately behind it.

A weapon may enter both competitions if it is capable of doing so safely, and its combined score will count towards the Grand Prix (see below).

A. Direct Fire Competition

Both the "own pace" and "speed round" exercises below will be completed and scored at both 30m and 45m ranges. These figures may be varied somewhat on the day at the discretion of the Rangemaster, based on the distances the machines attain during test firing.

1. Own pace: Each crew will fire six shots at their own pace. The Rangemaster may stagger firing between machines as seems appropriate, safe and efficient.

2. Speed round: This will be followed by a speed round of sixty seconds for each machine.

In the speed round, each machine may start fully loaded and ready to fire, but multi-barrelled weapons may not employ swappable magazines of pre-pressurised shells once they have discharged their original magazine. However, single-shot cannon may do so, and there is no restriction on the use of crank-operated arbalests or similar machines whose design permits a high rate of fire.

Scoring in all rounds is as follows:

  • 1 point if the area around the target is hit, regardless of where the missile comes to rest
  • 3 points for a direct hit
  • 4 points if the missile goes through the centre hole in the target
  • 5 points if the missile goes through the head of the target

Note: a weapon firing a multi-shot load may score no more than 5 points per discharge.

B. Indirect Fire Competition

As for the Direct Fire competition, two ranges such as 30m and 45m will be set by the Rangemaster on the day and both rounds below will be shot at each range.

1. Own pace: Each crew will fire six shots at their own pace (the Rangemaster may stagger firing between machines as seems appropriate, safe and efficient).

2. Speed round: This will be followed by a speed round of sixty seconds for each machine.

The same initial-loading etc. rules apply for the speed round as for the Direct Fire competition.

Scoring in all rounds is as follows:

  • 1 point for a hit on the wall, regardless of whether or not any damage is done
  • 3 points for a hit in the target zone behind the wall, regardless of where the missile comes to rest

Note: a weapon firing a multi-shot load may score no more than 3 points per discharge.

C. Crew Points

In addition to the target competition results, Crew Points will be applied to help determine the winner of each competition type, and the Grand Prix. These will be calculated as follows:

a) 1 point for each crew member wearing at least Lochac light- standard combat armour during the firing phases of the competition

b) 2 additional points for each crew member resident in Southron Gaard who meets requirement (a) and who has never previously taken the field as a fighter in a war scenario at Canterbury Faire

c) 2 additional points for each crew member meeting requirement (b) who has authorised or is able to authorise on the day in at least one other war-legal weapon form, e.g. bow/crossbow, heavy

The Rangemaster shall have full discretion in applying the above, including determination of who is, or is not a "crew member"; the chief determinant being involvement in the loading, aiming and/or firing of the machine during the firing phases of the competition.

D. War Points

If time and numbers allow, the Rangemaster may elect to arbitrarily divide the machines and crews and engage in one or more field war scenarios. These may include use of non-siege weapons and fighters, but be aware that no heavy fighting may take place within 10m of a machine. A machine on the winning side of any scenario will receive two War Points.

E. Appearance/Authenticity Points

The Rangemaster may consult with as few or as many people as desired (e.g. the Kingdom Siege Marshal, if present) to give each machine a score of up to 5 "Appearance Points" as they see fit. They may take into account the documentation, design, construction and decoration of the machine, and also the general appearance, behaviour and knowledge of the crew.


Three prizes will be awarded based on the above scores:

Direct Fire Competition Prize: The machine with the highest sum of A+C+D+E. Ties will be resolved by a countback elminating first E, D, C and then the speed round until there is a clear winner.

Indirect Fire Competition Prize: The machine with the highest sum of B+C+D+E, ties as above.

GRAND PRIX: The machine with the highest sum of A+B+C+D+E, ties as above.

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Original Siege Engine Challenge Announcement (April 2005 From the Tower)

In order to greatly strengthen the defences of Southron Gaard, the Barony is issuing a challenge to all interested groups and households to build the best and most effective siege engine for the field of war.

Because this is a major and potentially costly undertaking, the challenge will be run in three phases:

  1. By Yule in late June, entrants should produce a set of plans which closely fit the requirements of the challenge, outlined below. The best three sets of plans will be awarded a letter of credit with a local supplier of construction materials, to assist their future work.

  2. At Spring Tourney, all weapons completed or under construction at that time will be displayed, and their heraldic and naming rights auctioned off among the populace. The funds raised in each case will be given to the construction crew to help defray their costs.

  3. Late in the year, there will be a contest held between the completed weapons, with the winners securing a handsome prize.

Challenge Criteria

Details of how the siege weapons will be ranked against each other in the final challenge will be developed in consultation with interested parties and published in the May or June issue of From the Tower. But the following points will be paramount:

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The Event

A three-day encampment including a face-off of mighty siege engines, A&S workshops, a high feast, a ball, war scenarios, tourneying, revelry, and all manner of other enticements and phantasies to occupy the time, titillate the taste-buds and exercise the bodies of participants.

When: Friday Dec 2 (noon) to Sunday Dec 4, 2005 (6pm). See Programme below for details.
Where: Rimu Park Scout Camp, Yaldhurst, State Highway 73, Christchurch, New Zealand (see map)
What: See Programme below for details. Three-day encampment including:
    Friday: A&S, authorisations, siege engine inspection, shared pot-luck dinner, campfire stories/songs/revelry
    Saturday: Siege Engine Challenge (10am), A&S, Challenge Feast (6pm) and Ball (8:30pm)
    Sunday: Tourney (10:00am), Rondel practise (11:00am), War Scenarios (1pm), Closing Court (4:30pm)
General revelry throughout! See Programme below for details.

How much:
    Full event attendance, including porridge b/fasts, lunches, excluding Challenge Feast: $18 Adult, $10 Child.
      BOOK NOW
    Day attendance (no meals): $8 Adult, $4 child per day, booking optional
    Challenge Feast (requires Full- or Day-attendance also): BOOKINGS FOR THIS ARE NOW CLOSED
      BOOK before November 25 -- see "Bookings" below.
    Child rates apply for 5-12 year olds, under-5s free.

Accommodation: A space to pitch your tent or pavilion is available at no extra charge, as are shared hall alcoves for those who prefer to sleep indoors; you'll just have to bring a pad and sleeping bag for the latter.

Other support: Billeting is available for those visiting from outside Southron Gaard. To arrange billeting, or for any other special need you might have, please contact the Steward.

Bookings: Please use this Booking Form (Word) -- at this late stage, those requiring a full-event booking must email it in immediately and pay on arrival. Note: Challenge Feast bookings are now closed. Day attendance does not require a booking -- just turn up and pay on arrival! Rates given above are for SCA members and include Kingdom levy but not the $2 event membership fee required for non-members (see the booking form).

Steward: Bartholomew Baskin, PO Box 19-760, Christchurch

Event Programme

Friday December 2nd, 2005

  • midday: Site opens, setup (steward and volunteers)
  • 3pm: Dance practise
  • 4pm onwards: Authorisations1
  • around 7pm: Shared pot luck feast (bring food to share)
  • 7:30pm: Introduction to alcove A&S activities
       also: Authorisations cont'd. (if necessary)
  • late evening: Campfire reading, singing and stories
[1] "authorisations" includes siege engine inspection and trials. There is some time available for fighter authorisations later in the event also, for those who are not present on Friday.

Saturday 3rd

  • 8am: Porridge
  • before 9:30am: Final siege engine setup to be completed
  • 9:30am: Opening Court
  • 10:00am: Siege Engine Challenge following Court
  • 1pm: Lunch (day-visitors please bring your own lunches)
  • 1:45pm: Meeting for those interested in dancing for the Rondel at Canterbury Faire
  • 2pm: Newcomer's workshop
  • 3pm: Boffer-making workshop (Lord Fulk de Cherbourg)
    &nbsp   also: Dance class for More Than A Ball
  • 4:00pm: Children's quest
  • 4:30pm: Archery (also available during the Tourney on Sunday)
  • 6:00pm:Challenge Feast (outside, weather willing)
  • 8:30pm: More Than A Ball (in the hall -- dance list here)
  • late evening: Campfire readings, singing and stories

Sunday 4th

  • 8am: Porridge
  • 9am: Children's boffer tourney
  • 9:45am: Tourney lists close
  • 10:00am Heavy Tourney commences -- Grand Melee followed by double elimination
  • 11:00am Dance practice for those wishing to dance for the Rondel at Canterbury Faire
  • midday: Lunch
  • 1pm: Agincourt run (archers can fire blunts at armoured fighters)
          then: War scenarios
  • 4:30pm: Closing Court and awards
  • 5:00pm: packup commences
  • 6pm: site closes

Day visitors most welcome -- $8/day for adults, $4/day for children 5-12 years old.

Go on, you know you want to!

Dance List for More Than A Ball

There will be a practise at 3:00pm Saturday for these dances.

Set one: Bransles:
Mimed -- Candlestick (with candles), Maltese, Washerwomens, Pease, Hermits, Clogs, Horses
Saracen's (SCA Maltese)

Set two: English Country:
Gathering Peascods
Sellenger's Round
Heart's Ease
Cuckolds all a Row

Set three: Processionals:
Earl of Essex Measure
Lorrayn Alman
Black Alman
Pavan (SCA Known World Pavan)

Set four: Italian:
Ballo del Fiore (with candles)
Saltarello la Regina (SCA)
Peti Riens
Contentezza d'Amore

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