Nursery Rhymes

The Battering Ram

Middle Ages - Lords and Ladies

The Battering Ram
A weapon used during the Middle Ages ( Medieval period ) in siege warfare. The Medieval Battering Ram was used to batter, pound, punch and shake down gates, doors and walls.

Battering Ram Description
The Battering ram was one of the most famous of all Medieval weapons! Closely associated with Viking raids it was also used in siege warfare of the Middle Ages.

The Battering Ram was used to literally batter, pound, punch and shake down gates, doors and walls of Medieval castles, fortresses and towns! Huge tree trunks were used to construct a battering ram which were often fitted with a metal head and supported by metal bands.

Building and Design of the Battering Ram
Battering Rams were made of tree trunks - oak, ash or fir were preferred. The design of the Battering Ram could also serve as a bridge across a defensive moat or ditch! When a wall had been breached the ram could be used as an access route to the castle. No two rams were the same. They were designed to gain the maximum effect when attacking the defences of the castle.

Battering Ram History
Battering Ram history dates back to antiquity. The Battering Ram is believed to be an ancient war engine and variations of the battering ram were used in China and by the Romans and Greeks. The History of the Battering ram illustrates the changing design of the Battering Ram which increased its effectiveness. The size of the rams varied in size according to the materials available and the target which needed to be destroyed and ranged from 20 to 120 feet! The Battering ram was first powered by sheer muscle, then a sling was added and finally wheels assisted in moving the ram to the target.

Battering Ram History and Development
The history of the Battering Ram saw its development as follows:

  • Simple Log Battering Ram
  • Suspended in Slings
  • The Head of the Battering Ram was Flat (which cracked surfaces)
  • The Head of the Battering Ram was reinforced with bronze or iron
  • The Body of the Battering Ram was reinforced with bands of metal
  • The Head of the Battering Ram was fashioned into the crude representation of a ram's head
  • It was suspended by ropes or chains from a frame fixed over it
  • The Battering Ram was mounted on wheels
  • The Battering Ram was covered by a roof to protect the operators from missiles - this was called the Penthouse
  • The Ram was suspended by chains or ropes from the Penthouse ceiling
  • A series of levers, ropes, rollers, pulleys, and winches were included to enable the Penthouse and Ram to be manoeuvred against the target

Battering Ram History - Development of the Bore
The Battering Ram was modified and the metal head was designed like a drill to break and gouge out stone castle walls. The Bore was often smaller than the ram, resembling a pole, and could be used in more limited spaces. The Bore often featured a spiked head. Continuous 'boring' would result in the castle wall crumbling. Once the wall had been breached men gained access to the castle and the next stage of attack would be made.

Names given in Battering Ram History
Various different names were given to different types of battering rams. The design of the head was shaped to resemble that of a ram. It consequently looked like an animal butting, or in the case of the Bore, gnawing against its target. This typical movement gave rise to many nicknames which included the Cat, the Sow, the Mouse and the  Tortoise - the slow movement of a covered battering ram approaching the target and the movement of the tortoise head in and out of its shell gave rise to this particular battering ram nickname.

Attacks using a Medieval Battering Ram
Attacks had to be well coordinated when using a Medieval Battering Ram. Foot soldiers swung the tree trunk back and forth battering its target. Considerable organisation was required to use the battering ram. Up to 100 soldiers might be involved and skill was required in timing the rhythmic movement, the swing and twist of the ram in the sling. The Medieval Battering Ram was most effective against wooden gates and doors. However, a Medieval Battering Ram of the Middle Ages also proved effective against stone castles
 - particularly when they were aimed at the castle corners. The design of the Battering Ram was modified and a war machine, called a 'Bore' was developed to compliment the Battering Ram.

The Battering Ram Penthouse
The foot soldiers who powered the Battering Ram were under constant attack from the enemy. A timber shed, or roof, was developed to shelter the soldiers - which was called the Penthouse. The word 'Penthouse' is derived from its sloping roof and taken from the French word 'pente' meaning 'slope'. The Battering Ram or Bore was suspended by chains or ropes from the penthouse ceiling. The Penthouse was often covered by wet hides as protection against fire and also braced with iron plates as defence against arrows and other missiles. The Battering Ram, its wheels and the soldiers were all completely covered by the Penthouse. Positioning the Penthouse and its battering ram against the desired target required the use of levers, ropes, rollers, pulleys, and winches. The wheels of the Penthouse were usually removed to stabilize the whole structure of the Battering Ram.

Building a Medieval Battering Ram
Building a Medieval Battering Ram required limited design and building skills. Siege weapons, such as the Medieval Battering Ram, were made to order! They were far too cumbersome to move from one place to another. In a siege situation the commander would assess the situation and the siege weapons design requirements to break a siege. Soldiers worked on the construction and building of siege weapons such as the Medieval Battering Ram. 

Siege Weapons
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