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The image of the medieval fighter that springs to mind is of a man covered from head to toe in mail armour and with a close helm with a nasal extension. This image is mainly correct; as far as a knight was concerned, they were indeed covered total with mail. The reason for this is because the whole body was a fair target, from head to toe, if there was an opening, they would make the blow.
The mail was important (300170), but just as important was what was under it. The Normans wore a light linen or silk tunic with a heavy wool version over it and mail over the top. Mail can be sheared through by a square blow from a sharp sword, driving the split rings deep into a wound. This is where the silk tunic comes into play. Silk is very resistant and hard to cut, so it too would be driven into the wound. But with the silk backing mostly intact it was possible to “tease” or wiggle the mail ring pieces out of the wound in many cases.
Although a wool or silk tunic would help to pad a blow, the blunt trauma alone could badly damage tissue and break bone even if the mail rings were not split. It is argued that a death blow was preferred to a wound due to the poor medical care and deplorable conditions. You could easily be knocked out of commission and live quite a miserable disfigured life.
Windlass items used in this video: