Trebuchets in action at a siege During the Middle Ages, the trebuchet was one of the largest and most powerful weapons in a siege army's armoury. It was a huge catapult, capable of flinging objects with great force and deadly accuracy from distances of up to 300 metres (1000 feet). As well as hurling rocks at the castle walls, it could also lob various other sorts of missiles into the castle itself, including firepots, dead animals or even human heads. Rocks could cause severe damage, but the others could harm or kill people inside the castle, start fires or even spread diseases.
Here, a trebuchet is being prepared for firing. The operators turn the winding gear to lower the sling end of the arm. At the...Read More >>Here, a trebuchet is being prepared for firing. The operators turn the winding gear to lower the sling end of the arm. At the same time, the counterweight is cranked up and the ammunition loaded into the sling. When the order is given to fire, an operator aims his mallet at the trigger to release the mechanism.
How it worked
The trebuchet was usually erected on-site and at some distance from the castle, before being brought up closer. A screen, made of wooden mantlets, was erected in front of it to protect the operators from arrows.
The trebuchet had a long arm with a sling at one end and a heavy counterweight at the other. Turning the winding gear lowered the sling end of the arm while operators loaded the sling with ammunition. The arm was locked in place at ground level by a trigger.
When the trebuchet was ready to fire, another operator released the trigger by striking it with a heavy mallet. The counterweight dropped rapidly, causing the arm to fly upwards. The missile, contained by a guide chute to stop it falling out of the sling, was hurled on its way. Fire! The trigger is released, the weight drops and the trebuchet’s arm flies high into the air. The sling hurls its deadly...Read More >>Fire! The trigger is released, the weight drops and the trebuchet’s arm flies high into the air. The sling hurls its deadly missile towards the target. Immediately the operators set about winding the arm back into position for the next volley.
Ammunition for use in a trebuchet included: heads of executed prisoners (1), dead animals (2), firepots (3), rocks and rubble (4)...Read More >>Ammunition for use in a trebuchet included: heads of executed prisoners (1), dead animals (2), firepots (3), rocks and rubble (4) and disease-ridden bodies (5). Sharp wooden poles, darts, burning sand or dung can also be used as missiles.
The largest trebuchets could fling rocks weighing up to 1500 kg (3300 lb), although the average weight of missiles was normally between 50 and 100 kg (110–220 lb).
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