Friday, August 08, 2008

Le Baux de provence 07/08/08

Les Baux is a medieval citadel on a rock. Most of the fortifications were pulled down at the order of a King who was sick of having uppity barons defiantly sitting on impregnable hilltops, but what remains is pretty impressive. However the main attraction of the site is it's collection of reproduction siege engines including trebuchets which they fire off two of 4 times a day in summer.

The biggest trebuchet is a bit bigger than mine, but not much. They throw a 150mm diam plastic ball full of water about 80m in the demo. The machine could clearly do better but they have downpowered it for safety reasons. It's a pretty good looking machine & has some nice features. The winches are very neat - they get 6 volunteers to wind it up. They have a cunning method of avoiding the issue of reconnecting the winch rope each time. After cocking, they unreel the winch & loop the rope around a pin on top of the arm so it is launched with the missile, but tied to the top of the arm, it drops back. This loses some efficiency as energy is sucked up accelerating the rope, but for their purposes efficiency doesn't matter, while the ease of use does.
They also fired their traction treb. It didn't fire the missile far - partly because of inexperienced crew, but also it is not a well designed traction treb - far too heavy in construction - they should be very lightweight - their purpose is rapid fire anti-personnel, so they don't have to be heavy.

There were a couple of other small scale trebs they didn't fire off - toys really. Their battering ram looked pretty good. They also had a ballista of sorts - made from an 18th century engraving combining a crossbow with torsion action. It looks good but it's rubbish - the dreaming of an academic with no idea about what makes engines work. The machine clearly has never worked - the torsion mechanism is far too flimsy to do anything.

Unfortunately, the trebuchet operator's Anglais was on a par with my Francais and we were not able to enter into a productive discussion.

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