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I see a lot of historical and fictional illustrations of walls that do not have wall walks. My understanding of medieval tactics is largely based on cinema and some wikipedia, so as far as I know a wall is mostly only good for standing on top of, to fend off attackers using ladders. In my mind, when I imagine a wall without a wall walk, I see people scaling the wall with ladders, with the defenders in a courtyard now in a lower vantage point as people pour over from above. This seems less than ideal, so I assume I'm missing something.

Does a wall without a wall walk only serve as a very preliminary defense, or a privacy screen, rather than a defense against a true raid or invasion (or anyone with a ladder)? Or is there some other tactical advantage that I'm missing?

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  • $\begingroup$ If you build a high and thick wall, I don't see why you wouldn't make a wall walk on top of that, for all the advantages you mentionned. But the main purpose of a defensive wall is to gather most of the ennemy's forces at one, easier to defend "weak" point : the gates. Do you have examples of the walls we're speaking of here ? $\endgroup$ – Zaa Oct 19 '18 at 16:02
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    $\begingroup$ Ladders aren't much of a challenge if you have a good moat in front of your wall, but you still need lookouts to make sure you know what your enemy is doing and archers to thin them while you still have the advantage of a fortified position. While well supplied wall towers could do both, a walkway so that you can immediately reinforce any part is a huge advantage, so I can't think of why you would not have one $\endgroup$ – nzaman Oct 19 '18 at 16:16
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    $\begingroup$ note most of the walls without walks had other means to observe and defend the walls, such as towers. also note many stone walls were topped with wooden structures which has since rotted away. $\endgroup$ – John Oct 19 '18 at 18:15
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    $\begingroup$ There are many types of walls, can you show some pictures of what you're talking about? $\endgroup$ – Carl Oct 19 '18 at 18:35
  • $\begingroup$ I join @Carl in being utterly confused by this question. Could you please pick a specific wall to illustrate the question? Because if by "wall walk" you mean a walkable pathway on top of the wall then there are lots and lots of defensive walls without such, its functions being either supplied by different structures or not applicable. For example, pallisades do not have walkways on top of them, and there have been many more pallisades than masonry walls. $\endgroup$ – AlexP Oct 19 '18 at 20:55
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It depends on who or what you are defending against.

If you are trying to defend against an army in an area where wood is common, I agree that you need a wall walk.

However, there are situation where just a reasonably tall wall is useful:

  1. You are just trying to keep out the local wildlife. The wall is enough to deter most of them.
  2. You only have to worry about small bands of bandits. The wall not only makes it harder for them to enter but then they have to get back over the wall with whatever they grabbed. It's not foolproof but it might get them to try for easier targets. Also, presumably, by the time you have enough to be a good target, you will have enough for a better wall.
  3. There is little wood around. In desert areas, it may be too expensive to build a large number of ladders.
  4. You are just interested in slowing down the enemy. If you have the high ground (the top of a hill), you can build walls on the hill that will slow down charges and give your archers more time to pick them off.
  5. To channel attacking infantry into kill zones. Somewhat an extension of the of the one above. The Japanese used these a lot, making infantry make several sharp turns to get to the gates, slowing down the charge and making them easier to deal with.
  6. Slow down siege equipment. If they need to breach walls to get their equipment to you, it gives you more time to prepare.
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