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Attacking a Castle

Castles could be attacked using a variety of weapons:
  • a longbow could fire arrows almost a metre long and could penetrate armour at a range of 200m – it needed a lot of skill and training to use;
  • a crossbow fired short arrows called bolts and sometimes had a windlass to help wind back the bowstring – it was very easy to use and needed little training;
Crossbow (PSF)
  • a trebuchet was like a giant catapult that could hurl rocks and stones over the ramparts;
Stirling Warwolf Trebuchet
  • a mangonel could fire drums of burning oil over the castle walls;
Greek and Roman Ballista Catapult
  • a battering ram could be used to hammer on the castle gate until it broke.

If a castle could not be captured in a battle, the attacking army would hold a siege where they would surround it so no one could get out until they surrendered. This often took a few months however and lasted until everyone inside ran out of food or became ill. 

The attackers would: poison the water supply, shoot in fire arrows to burn barns containing food, cause disease by throwing over dead animals and bribe the guards to let them inside. The people being besieged sometimes ended up eating rats to stay alive and would try to smuggle in food and send messages out to their friends.