Combat

In Viking times battle and warfare was an everyday occurrence. Most disputes were settled by combat and death was commonplace. All freemen knew how to fight with a weapon of some sort simply to defend their home. Some weapons were modified from household tools, others were more specialised. Here are a few that we use to re-enact Viking battles:

Weapons


Scramaseax: A general-purpose knife, most freemen would have one about their person for every day use. Sizes varied and larger heavier ones were made specifically for battle.

Dagger: These were expensive and therefore rare. They could possibly have been made from parts of a broken sword but few have been found in a Viking context.

Sword: A prized possession that could cost as much as a house. Few men could afford a sword and those who could would pass it down from father to son.

Hand Axe: Using far less metal than swords, axes were more affordable and were the most common weapon used by freemen after spears.

Boarding Axe: A modified hand axe, it had a flat headed, hook-like (bearded) head designed to catch onto the side of ships and aid the warrior boarding it.

Dalcassian Axe: This is a larger two-handed version of the boarding axe . Again this type of axe could be used to board ships. It is an Irish weapon and gets its name from Dalcassian warriors who carried it.

Dane Axe: A mighty weapon carried by the warrior elite. A large blade set on a five-foot haft capable of inflicting massive injuries, The Dane axe was a greatly feared weapon.

Javelin: Short pointed spears designed for throwing at a foe. A fairly close range weapon.

Spear: A seven-foot ash pole tipped with a lethal steel blade. It was fast, lightweight and easily wielded. As it used little metal it was the most affordable and therefore one of the most commonly used weapons.

Bow & Arrow: Arrowheads come in various shapes to take advantage of a foes armour and inflict maximum damage, Their range meant even a couple of archers could greatly influence which side would win.

Club: A heavy stick, sometimes with metal studs. A lower class weapon. a thrall fighting for his master may have used a club.

Mace: This is the upper class version of a club. A heavy metal head on a short haft commonly used against heavy armour to inflict bone-shattering wounds by sheer force alone. Some ornamental maces have been found and it is thought that they were a sign of rank.

Tactics

Though fairly un-regimented the Vikings had a few formations to help gain the advantage in combat.

The shield wall: The warriors would first stand shoulder to shoulder in a line. When the ‘shield wall’ command was given all the warriors overlapped the edges of their shield with their neighbours locking them together. This formed a much stronger defense and was difficult to break through. The one disadvantage of the shield wall was that it took vital seconds for warriors to disengage if threatened from behind.

The boar snout: On a march the armoured warriors formed a wedge which lighter, un-armoured warriors packed into. The pace then quickened to a charge and the enemy shield wall was rammed to punch a hole in it. At this point the armoured warriors pushed outwards to form a path for the others to pour through and attack the enemy from behind.