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"What substances found in a medieval town could be used" Topic

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Tango01 Supporting Member of TMP16 Oct 2020 8:39 p.m. PST

… for chemical warfare?

"There is a small medieval town under siege by a much larger force. The town militia stands no chance at repelling the invading army, but the besiegers are in no rush to conquer the place. Instead of storming the town, they've decided to set up a perimeter and choke it – cutting the townspeople off from all supplies and waiting until they crack.

During this siege, one cunning townsfolk decides to take matters into their own hands. They decide to fight back with a bit of subterfuge, sabotage, and a lot of toxic substances.

This person sneaks into the invading army by pretending to be a sympathizer. They then plant several casks of chemicals, they poison several officers meals, they set chemical fires, etc. They use as much hazardous, toxic or poisonous substances as they can find from the town…"
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Warspite117 Oct 2020 7:22 a.m. PST

It is THE chemical weapon of the ancient and medieval world and VERY nasty. It is the equivalent of WW1 Mustard gas.

Every town or castle would have it in quantity as it was used to make cement/lime mortar as well as limewash/whitewash for the walls inside and out. It may also have industrial applications in soap making and leather tanning, I think.

While castle guides have talked to me about boiling oil and molten lead being dropped from the walls or from murder holes in gateways, I always retort that quicklime requires no heating, no preparation and would be easily available. Just take the bucket, barrel or bag and tip it out.

As a fine powder it can be inhaled as well as penetrating armour, chainmail and under most clothing. The effect on contact with moist eyes, mouths, the lining of the lungs, sweaty skin, etc, is severe and incapacitating burns. Not for nothing is it used to destroy infected cattle during foot and mouth epidemics. A lungful of quicklime would be fatal, in the eyes would probably lead to permanent blindness.

Barry (Lance and Longbow Society)

Warspite117 Oct 2020 7:26 a.m. PST

And it appears that Sharpe thinks the same as myself on the subject.

YouTube link

Go to 2.25 and note the care that Sharpe's men take to cover their own faces while throwing the quicklime. Clearly there was some very good historical advice on this scene.


Thresher01 Supporting Member of TMP17 Oct 2020 7:27 a.m. PST


Warspite117 Oct 2020 7:36 a.m. PST

On its own sulphur is expensive and has little effect. As an additive to other things or set on fire it might have some noxious effect but quicklime is very cheap, available in quantity and easy to make by heating limestone.

Wiki notes:

I should also point out that it was used ship-board in the medieval period thrown from mastheads or deck to deck along with blazing fat to make the decks slippery or pose a fire risk. There are also suggestions that some longbowmen fired arrows tipped with pottery vessels containing quicklime but I am not sure how effective this would be.


Tango01 Supporting Member of TMP17 Oct 2020 12:29 p.m. PST



Warspite117 Oct 2020 4:59 p.m. PST

You are more than welcome!


Tango01 Supporting Member of TMP18 Oct 2020 3:36 p.m. PST



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