The Star of Malta
Issue 7, Summer 2000
Published by the Autonomous Priory of
The Sovereign Military Order of St. John of Jerusalem
Sir John L. Harris, Jr., MD, KStJ, KM
Sotheby Square Number One
2151 Broadway SW Apt. #1
Roanoke, VA 24014-1754

ARMOR: Evolution of Protection with a View of a Particular Cultural Phenomena

By Eric J. Johansson, Archivist
Undoubtedly, the knights of the Order of St. John, founded in the 10th century in the Holy Lands, who faced the Turks at the famous Siege of Malta in 1565 who wore special armor; however this armor had both evolved and "devolved" over the ages to accommodate itself to the current needs of battle conditions.
It is interesting to see how the earliest armor that would have been worn by the knights in the 10th century both differed and in very many ways, matched what they would have worn in the mid-16th century.
For European, the earliest form of armor was merely a padded coat, stuffed with horse hair. This coat, later called a "Gambeson," was simple, being made of coarse white or gray cloth with a series of heavily cross hatched patterns of sewing. Internally, the pockets formed by this stitching would be filled by horse, goat, pony or cow fur. The only function of the Gambeson was to lessen the severity of a blow to the wearer. There would be no substantial protection against a thrust, but a side stroke with a sword would tend to result in a bad bruising as opposed to slicing.
The Romans introduced both a form of chain mail and plat armor in the equipment worn by the Legionnaires between 100 BC to 400 AD. This segmented armor that now covered the shoulders, chest and lower hips was called the "lorica segmenta" and though it was beyond the ability of the foes of the Empire to create, it did influence later armor in the following centuries.
Chain mail, often called "butted mail" was the natural successor to the Gambeson: it was made of thousands of inter-linked "chains" of thin iron which were butted or riveted together. It was both flexible and adjustable in that either sections could be added to it, or straps would allow the wearer to adjust it over a wool under-padding.
Chain mail shirts and even a form of rudimentary trousers were soon being produced. Most often the "shirts" were long sleeved with a closed neck which unlaced to allow the wearer to first slip the shirt over his head and then lace up the upper chest to protect it.
The earliest armor of the western knights, as at the battle of Hastings, 1066 AD, shows that the Normans and the English both favored the chain mail. The Bayeaux Tapestry, produced under the request of Duke William's brother, Bishop Odo, around 1080 AD, shows the wide acceptance of chain mail by knights. There are even illustrations of the dead being stripped of their mail: Iron was a precious commodity in the so-called "Dark Ages," and removal of armor from the dead was considered merely the spoils of war.
By the time of the founding of the Order of the Hospitallers, circa 937-1000 AD, most knights from Europe would have been equipped with chain mail. Small additions were added to the mail – knee protectors, called "poleyns" were readily molded to fit the knee and then directly affixed to the chain mail by an ingenious system of tie cords that protruded from the Gambeson. Additional protection would be offered by elbow guards, known as "copts," which also were similarly attached.
A conical closed helmet, known as a "Great Heume" would protect the head. Chain mail gloves were worn and a simple leather boot was worn over the foot where the chain mail ended at the ankles of the wearer.
For almost two hundred years, well in to the 12th century, the armor described above would have been worn by crusader knights in the Holy Lands. It was efficient, relatively light and, when covered with a burmouse or Arabic robe, was protected from direct sunlight.
By the beginning of the 13th century, the necessity to reinforce armor was clearly apparent. Swords, axes, maces and even projectile weapons were providing that the old combination of mail, Gambeson and small armor sections could not be counted on to protect the wearer. Indeed, by the beginning of the 13th century, almost tall holdings of the crusaders in the Outremer were being extinguished by resurgent Arabic nationalism under charismatic leaders.
For the Knights of Malta, heavier armor also came into vogue with the appearance of full protection to the chest as offered by the cuirass, a double front and back plate designed to enclose the chest cavity. Shoulders and upper arms war now protected by flexible armor plate known as a "Pauldron" which covered the upper shoulders and the "Upper Vambrace" which protected, in turn, the upper arm. It was naturally connected to the elbow guard and then, as advances continued, a lower arm guard that extended from elbow to wrist was introduced - the "Lower Vambrace." In contemporary literature they are often called "cannons," thus the full name of an element would be the "Lower cannon of the Vambrace."
Greaves or armor for the upper and lower leg were methodically added to the knee cover and before long the exposed foot was covered in a "Sabaton," a shoeless foot cover that extended iron protection over the foot. These Sabatons in France and England (and also in Germany, Italy) were often decorated with the wildest designs. In the 14th century, turned up toe shoes became popular in court. Soon they were replicated in armor. They were totally useless as foot knights were easily tripped by vines and vegetation that caught in the turned up toes of their boots; horse cavalry soon adopted a heavy sabaton with iron spikes that could be used to kick a foot soldier in the face if he came too close to a mounted man.
Gauntlets went from simple chain mail to ornate iron articulated gloves, distinguished between "mitten" and "finger" types, depending on the whim of the owner.
By the beginning of the 16th century, armor was uniformly found to be too confining. It had grown in weight to the extent that a full suit of armor with helmet and all fittings to include sword, dagger, mace, etc. might weigh well over 120 lbs, a heavy load for the average European male who himself stood around 5'5" and weighed in at 200 lbs.
The advent of firearms and the natural tendency of armor to slow a man, making only a standing fortress, worked against the very principles that brought armor about. The English, by 1590, had already begun divesting themselves of what they considered to be "useless" armor. It is not uncommon to find in the official dispatches of the Tower, which was charged with providing armor to English forces in the field, that many troopers soon "lost" armor they thought to be burdensome. Many nobles of all countries, by 1600, openly advocated what was then known as "naked infantry," men without armor.
For the Knights of Malta, though they were somewhat distant from European courts, armor too began a devolution: That which was necessary, chest, shoulder and head armor, was kept. Other elements were dropped. Against an agile opponent, a heavily armored man found himself at a fatal disadvantage.
By the time of the Great Siege, armor was up to individual taste: Spaniards and French tended to favor thigh armor: Spaniards and French tended to favor thigh armor: English knights found it better to do without such protection. Indeed, on the continent, one of the most able of Queen Elizabeth I's knights, Sir Philip Sydney, was killed in 1590 shortly after he removed his thigh armor. A musket ball struck his leg, mortally wounding him. No one faulted his decision to remove the armor; they only mourned the loss of a great man!
For the knights, fighting against Turkish forces who wore traditional Ottoman armor (which was almost solely confined to necessary elbow and chest protection), heavy armor would have been a distinct liability. Both sides utilized extensive small arms formations in addition to heavier cannon and it had been proved, time over time, that even the strongest armor could not withstand a musket ball at close range.
The Knights at Malta were a very pragmatic band of warriors: They had been fighting the Moslems for more than five centuries and they had adapted a nice union of light and heavy armor, incorporating the best elements of both nationalities.
The slow loading firearms of the 16th century necessitated the use of swords and other weapons for close combat but the armor that greeted the blows of these weapons was far different from what had been there only a century earlier.
It is ironic that by the 16th century, many of the knights and their men-at-arms were fighting for their Cause in armor that would have easily been recognized by their ancestors five centuries before!
Oddly enough, the last organized use of armor would disappear in the 17th century. The great battles of the Thirty Year War (16198-1648) that destroyed Germany, the English Civil War of 1642-49 and skirmishes in northern Italy under the influence of the French king, Francis I, were the last major manifestations of armor in Europe. In the New World, the last armor came in the form of the cuirasses and morion helmets worn by the armed soldiers of the American colonies: They too died out by the time of King Phillip's War in the latter part of the 17th century. Armor would remain disdained, ignored and forgotten until the brutal battles of the First World War brought back the familiar silhouettes of the salades of flared helmets of the 15th century.

On December 4th, 1999 an investiture service was held in Bellingham, Washington. At the service two New Knights of the Order took their Oath of a Knight. The two inductees were Brian Christopher Beckman of Seattle, Washington and Stuart Francis Beckman of Bellingham, Washington. Both are the sons of Sir Henry Beckman a long time member of the Order. The Knighting was held at the Sacred Heart Roman Catholic Church in Fairhaven/Bellingham, Washington. The Parish Priest Fr. Jay DeFalco assisted Sir Glen F. Stinson, Commander in the ceremony. Renowned organist John Evans supplied the music for the occasion. Also in attendance and assisting in the knighting were fellow Knights Sir Wayne Mills of Kansas City, Missouri, Sir John Sheppard of San Diego, California, and Sir Henry Beckman of Bellingham, Washington. Following the service the knights and guests gathered at the Local Hotel for refreshments and food. Short biographies on the new Knights appear on this page.

Brian Christopher Beckman was born in Cooperstown, New York the 10th of August 1957. His parents are Lady Cheryl Beckman, now deceased, and Sir Henry Beckman of Deming, Washington. He currently resides in Renton, Washington. He attended St. Victor's Grade School and graduated from Daniel Murphy High School in 1974. He earned his Bachelor of Science Degree from the University of Southern California in 1978, graduating magna cum laud. He went on to earn his Masters Degree and his Doctorate Degree at Princeton University in Astrophysical Sciences. He finished his formal education in 1983. Brian Beckman is of the Roman Catholic Faith. Upon finishing his education, Brian entered the computer field. In 1990 he was awarded the Director's Research Achievement Award by the Jet Propulsions Laboratory and in 1990 he received the R&D Magazine 100 Award. He was employed by the Jet Propulsion Laboratory from 1982 to 1992. He then joined Microsoft Corporation and is currently a Software Architect with that firm. Highly respected in his field, he has had credits in twenty-two publications and has made 12 conference presentations.

Stuart Francis Beckman was born on June 30, 1961 in South Laguna, California. His parent are Lady Cheryl Beckman, now deceased, and Sir Henry Beckman. He currently resides in Deming, Washington. Stuart attended St. Victor's Grade School in Hollywood, California, graduating in 1974. He graduated from Daniel Murphy High School in Los Angeles, California and attended the University of Southern California. He graduated in 1982 having earned a Bachelors Degree in Cinema and TV. Stuart is of the Roman Catholic Faith. He is a member of the Brotherhood Rally of All Veterans Organizations. He is a member of the USC Alumni Association, The USC Cinema/TV Alumni Association and the Noble Alumni Association. H ran a TV Production Company for 10 years. Since 1992 he has been brokering, buying and selling vintage comic boos and original comic book art.

On April 15, 2000, a round table meeting was held in Kansas City, Missouri. All knights of the Order were invited to attend for the purpose of gathering ideas for projects and to establish close fellowship with each other. Attending the Roundtable Meeting were twenty persons including knights and their guests. Knights present were Sir John Sheppard, Sir Carlton Philpot, Sir Wayne Mills, Sir Harold Keck, Sir Mark Stinson, Lady Donna Seip, Sir Luke Stinson, Sir Erick Johansson, and Sir Glen Stinson. Sir Carlton gave a presentation about the "Buffalo Soldier" and the experience of heading up the group that brought the establishment of the monument to completion. He established the fact that Good seeks us out for such activities when we are ready to accept the responsibility of doing it. The need of additional new members was discussed and members are reminded that this organization depends upon its members bringing new knights to the order. A financial report was given to those present. The books are open to anyone that wishes to review them. Another are Round Table Meeting will be held on the East Coast as soon as it can be planned. Distance is one factor with which we have to content. Holding one in the eastern part of the country will make attendance by those living there more convenient. The event included a cocktail hour and a dinner. A good time was had by all!


On December 3rd, 1999 a meeting of the Board of Directors of the Autonomous Priory of the Sovereign Military Order of Saint John of Jerusalem, Knights of Malta in Bellingham, Washington. Present at the meeting were Sir Glen F. Stinson, Commander of the Americas and Europe, Sir Wayne Mills, Executive Secretary, Sir Henry Beckman, Director, and Sir John Sheppard, Director. One member of the Board of Directors, Sir John Harris, was not in attendance due to illness. A general discussion was had, reviewing the Order and its needs. It was concluded that the membership has not fulfilled its instructions to recruit new members into the ranks of the Order. It was concluded that we could only remind the membership of the need and the responsibility of bringing new member to the Order. Financial support to manage and run the organization stems from new membership. A discussion was held on the manner of payment that new knights could use to pay their passage fee into the order. It was decided that plans for payment could be tailored to the needs of the postulate. It was reported that the efforts of Sir Owen Williams had been successful in bringing needed funds to the Order on a voluntary basis. His request of his fellow knights to voluntarily donate funds had relieved the Order of its financial needs. A discussion of the inactivity of the Proctor of the Order was had. It was decided that no action would be taken due to circumstances of health and age. The books of the Order were examined and found to be in order. The meeting was then adjourned.

Massing of the Colors
For the past fifteen years there has been an event in Roanoke, Virginia, called the Massing of the Colors. For the pat five years, due to the efforts of Sir John Harris, the Knights of Malta have participated in the event. The presence of the Knights of the Order have added color to the event when Knights, wearing their red capes move along the procession.
This year the Knights present were Sir Irving Stanton, Lady Edith Stanton, Sir Carl Linkenhoker, and Lady Sandy Linkenhoker. Sir John Harris and Lady Catherine Harris were present in the audience but were not able to march in the procession.
The Massing of the Colors is sponsored by the Military Order of the World War, Roanoke Chapter as a part of the Military, Civic and Patriotic Organization of Virginia. Maryland and the District of Columbia. A letter of appreciation for the participation in the Massing of Colors was received by the Order from Captain Norman Jasper.

Submarine Centennial
This year marks the one hundredth anniversary of the U.S. Submarine Service as a part of the Armed Forces. In celebration of the occasion, Admiral Richard M. Mies, USN, Commander of the STRATCOM at Omaha, Nebraska invited those interested in the event to a Centennial Ball on April 8th, 2000.
Congressman Terry of Nebraska and Mayor Ryan of Omaha, along with a number of flag officers and other guests were guests of Admiral Mies.
Your Commander of the Knights of Malta, Sir Glen Stinson, Carol Stinson, and Lady Donna Seip were among those invited to attend. Sir Glen served aboard submarines during World War II.

Invitations have been sent out for a Knighting that will take place on June 24th, 2000 in Roanoke, Virginia. The Knighting will be held at the St. Thomas of Canterbury Anglican Catholic Church.



The large Knight's Seal Ring worn by members of the Order are again available. A very limited supply of solid gold rings have been obtained and are for sale. These gold rings weighing about 38 grams of 10 carat gold sell for $650.00 each and have been appraised by jewelers at a price of over $1,000.00 each.
Currently three rings are available and may be obtained by contacting Sir Glen Stinson at P.O. Box 1141 Platte City, Missouri, 64079.


Again the Priory has been able to obtain a supply of our regular beautiful colored blazer patches for the membership. These patches are of very high quality and were made by the same company who manufactured them for us originally.
Blazer patches are appropriate for wearing by both Knights as well as Dames of the Order. They really stand out and identify the wearer that he/she is a part of a very special group and may be worn on jackets, coats, or sweaters.
These patches may be obtained for the price of $15.00 each which includes shipping costs, by ordering them from the Knights of Malta, P.O. Box 1141 Platte City, Missouri, 64079.

Opinions expressed and published in this Newsletter do not necessarily reflect the opinion of the Editor/Publisher or the Priory Board.
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