Background information on
battering rams
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Information to support research on battering rams
Key materials needed
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Key materials needed to build a battering ram
large amounts of timber
animal hides or skins (to cover the roof)
large tree trunk
metal to cap the trunk
rope, chain or twine
Battering rams were made to try and break down the
strong doors of the castle. These battering rams consisted
of a very long, thick log that was rigged up on a mechanism
with wheels. This allowed the attackers to push the
battering ram along the ground and to hit the door of the
castle, in the hope of smashing it in. Often the end of the
battering ram would be covered in tar and set alight in the
hope that this would do more damage to the castle's strong
wooden doors.
Source: History on the net
The thick stone walls of the stone keep castles were difficult for men to
knock down. Although pickaxes could be used against castles with
thinner walls, it would take a very long time to knock a hole through a
castle with very thick walls. The battering ram was particularly useful
since the weight of several men would be put behind it. This would
make it a considerable force that could seriously weaken and possibly
destroy doors or walls.
Another favoured weapon employed during sieges was the battering
ram. They were most often made from the trunk of a large tree and if
time allowed, a mighty bronze head in the shape of a ram was added.
Using chains and/or ropes, it was then suspended from a wooded
framed with a roof, which was covered to protect against boiling oil and
fire. Once ready, it would be wheeled to the gate of the castle and used
to batter it down. Sometimes the defenders used hooks to try and catch
the head of the ram or lower mattresses to cushion the blows.
Source: History on the Net website
Battering rams are devices used to break through fortification walls or
doors. They have been in use since ancient time. The simplest form
of a battering ram is a large heavy log carried by several attackers to hit
the fortress or castle door or wall. The objective is to do enough damage
to the wall or door to allow the attackers inside.
A more efficient design of the battering ram was to use a wheeled frame
to carry it. The battering ram was suspended by ropes or chains which
allowed the ram to be much larger and be swung more easily. The sides
and roofs of this improved type of battering ram were sometime covered
with protective materials to keep them from being set on fire and to
protect the attackers.
Some battering rams were not suspended by ropes or chains but were
placed on rollers instead. This would allow the ram to gain much higher
speed and thus inflict much more damage.
To defend themselves from a battering ram the defenders would drop
obstacles in front of the battering ram or use grappling hooks to
immobilize the ram or set the ram and/or its frame on fire. Another
defense was to simply launch an attack on the ram as it approached
Source: website
Source: Medieval Warfare website
The battering ram is the oldest of the siege engines, used to attack the
weakest part of a stone fort, the wooden gate. The men moving and
operating the ram are protected by a sturdy wooden housing. There
are a couple of designs for a battering ram. The first would be a huge
log mounted on wheels, when at the target the ram would be pushed
back and forth. The second and probably the easier one to operate
would be the log suspended from a frame which swung freely, they
would wheel the ram up to the target and then swing for victory.
The castle defenders could burn the ram down with fire arrows or fire
pots so the wooden housing would, like the siege tower, also be
covered in the rawhides of mule or oxen. The castle defenders may
also lower a mattress over the target area to absorb the impact.
Another defence against the ram consisted of a metal hook which was
lowered from the battlements underneath the ram. Then the hook
would be raised and then the ram would be rendered useless.
Source: Medieval Warfare website
Further information (continued)
The battering ram was the siege engine used to break
down a huge gatehouse door or even smash a castle wall.
This was so that the army did not have to risk losing a large
amount of soldiers using ladders, towers or by tunneling.
The ram would be built close to the castle so that it did not
have to be moved a long distance. Firstly, the carpenters
would build a covered shed which could be moved on large
wheels to make the soldiers as safe as possible from attack
from above. Castle defenders tried to burn the shed down
by firing flaming arrows or dropping burning materials onto
it therefore the attackers covered the shed with damp
animal skins or earth to make it fireproof. Once the shed
was built a thick tree trunk would be hung on chains from
the top of the structure, this allowed it to be swung
backwards and forwards and smashed into the wall or door.
Source: Medieval Warfare website
Carpenters tapered the trunk into a blunt point and capped
it with iron to make it as hard as possible. The soldiers
would send someone forward to find a suitable place on
the castle to attack and the ram would be wheeled slowly
into place. The slow forward movement as the battering
ram was wheeled toward the castle wall earned it the
nickname ‘tortoise’.
The soldiers would concentrate the blows on one point
hitting it again and again so that a weak point would be
made. After a long period of striking the wall or door they
would hope to break through. After this, the fighting would
begin. Using the battering ram was a battle of time, the
attackers needed to break through as quickly as possible
whilst the soldiers defending the castle needed to repel the
attackers before they were over-run.
Source: Medieval Warfare website
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• Slide 4 and 5: Text & battering ram illustration from ©
Copyright H Y Wheeler, Used with kind
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• Slides 7-10:Text and Image of Roman battering ram taken from © Copyright Used with kind permission.