First off I’d like to apologize for the lack of content the past few days. I’ve been pretty sick and I couldn’t really face much of anything the past few days. Anyhow, on to the post.
The first time I heard about the Iron Troops was from Age of Empires III. It is a very little known bit of Chinese history and as such there is little online about them. I will do my best to bring a concise look at these awesome troops.
It all started when the Chinese invented lamellar armor during the Ming dynasty. This consisted of strips of metal joined to provide flexibility and protection from attacks. However this produced a suit of armor weighing 50 pounds or more. When you consider that the average Asian during this time was only 5’3 or so with a frame to match this would have been too much to fight in. Therefore the Chinese government wanted nothing to do with it. But, one general, Gam Hui, had a brilliant idea. To get warriors able to fight in this armour you have to train them hard! Crazy, right? Prepare yourself because this next part will knock you off your chair.
Gam Hui put his troops on a ridiculous training regime. To start you had to train with sandbags tied to each foot. Can you imagine how agile you’d feel once that was taken off? To even be considered as an Iron Troop you had to be able to move a 400 pound stone around the training field 3 times in a day! Not much is known about the specifics of the rest of their training but we can guess it was equally brutal.
As you can guess this training produced terrifying soldiers. The weapons of the day could not pierce their armor and they strode into battle in an utterly fearless manner. During the battles for Formosa the Dutch troops were terrified of the Iron Troops and other Chinese warriors simply wouldn’t fight them, thinking they were gods.
Their armour was, as I said Lamellar, scales of metal placed over each other and riveted in place. Think of chain mail and plate armour mixed.
Modern Reenactor, I’m assuming. This was the best picture I could get. There are less pictures of actual Iron Troops than articles. Anyhow, you can see the kind of armor I’m talking about here.
They used Zhan Man Dhao, a large sword, as there main weapon. This giant sword could chop through practically anything and added an extra level of terror to demoralize the enemy. They also used different bows, knives, spears and shields although the Zhan Man Dhao was there favoured weapon.
But don’t think these guys were just brutes in armour. They were amazingly coordinated and could retreat from the battlefield in a couple of seconds to let the artillery decimate the ranks of enemies.
Overall the Iron Troops are too little known for their awesomeness. But, then so are a lot of different aspects of Asian military history. Look it up you’ll be surprised how interesting it is.