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I'm thinking of an elite stealth forces consisting of a handful of soldiers from the medieval times with the sole purpose of carrying out sneak attack on enemy camp especially to destroy important infrastructures such as tall tower, I need them to be extremely mobile and agile to be able to scale walls and jump over trenches or barricades and sabotage the enemy base. They must be willing to self sacrifice for the success of their mission objectives and since speed is the essence of war I wonder if pole vaulting would be useful in situations like this? I imagine 2 to 3 soldiers could pull the long pole into vertical position so that it would act like a catapult to hurl 1 soldier over a tall wall.

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    $\begingroup$ For a pole to act as catapult, you need a special material and huge draw force. $\endgroup$ – Alexander Feb 6 at 2:43
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    $\begingroup$ is this during siege warfare or a surprise sabotage or infiltration attempt ? if its during siege some unit carry ladder its still risky from getting shoot since you need to come near also getting breaking/pull or knock down by enemy defense its probably same problem with pole jumping but more more risky and unreliable for multiple man to use at once and its not like theres a soft matres to soften the fall or make it not lethal anyway they probably got a broken bone and why not just straight up using catapult anyway, siege warfare probably carry catapult or trebuchet or minimal ladder at best. $\endgroup$ – Li Jun Feb 6 at 5:33
  • $\begingroup$ @LiJun: they are like today's commando, move in unnoticed and cripples enemy defence. I'm also thinking they can pole vaulting trees to trees in the jungle canopy. $\endgroup$ – user6760 Feb 6 at 5:38
  • $\begingroup$ if it surprise sabotage or infiltration long pole will just tell the guard your location and awkward to carry around, also will give attention/suspicion to people, its ok if its a walking stick length but i dont think it can be use to help in jumping over a tower, and some location will make pole a hindrance you better use climbing tool or straight up barehand climbing if you want stealth while climbing the wall, unless the pole is retractable, but i dont know how retractable pole mechanism can be use as jumping pole. $\endgroup$ – Li Jun Feb 6 at 5:42
  • $\begingroup$ i kinda doubt for jungle tree since it has a lot of branch and weird or mismatch shape and you need to be lucky to not fall on small/weak branch when jumping with some force and precise accuracy to land, human has some weight to deal with compare to their other tree ape swinger cousin, outside of getting scratch or slap by multiple leaf branch or so, although i can see the possibility in first jump, how they carry the pole for the second jump and running to get the momentum to the next tree anyway ? i think jumping directly or using rope to swing over is more possible for jungle forest. $\endgroup$ – Li Jun Feb 6 at 6:11
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Not really, no. Just put steps to the sides of the pole and you'll have a nice quick ladder. You might even design some endcaps for them to be stackable.

To expand on this: further advantage of these ladders is that you can more easily carry more and more encumbering equipment needed for this mission: huge hammers for demolishing mechanisms, burning lanterns for immediate access to fire for burning things or signaling allies. You also lose a lot less speed if you have only one of these per two people, you don't need as much width of the object you want to climb (or again loose less speed if going over it consecutively. It is easier and faster to train with these ladders and probably also easier to manufacture them due to easier materieal requirements. And they also offer you a way down the obstacle without having to awkwardly keep a hold of the stick and pull it up after the jump.

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Pole vaulting sticks can barely take an almost naked human 6m up (~20ft, also that's about the current olympic record). Armor and other heavy gear would not only making the jump harder, it would decrease its height. So at best you could propel some dude with a knife or dagger up a low window. That could work for assassinations, but assassins must be stealthy, and running around with a 6m stick is the opposite of that.

If you can find a magic material that is sturdy enough to propel heavier weights (in the 1+ ton range), while being light enough to carry on the arms, you could have suicidal knights. The kinectic delivery of human + horse + armor for both should be provide the same lethality as a catapult shot, but will be much more accurate and harder to dodge.

A pole joust Source: Truck Bearing Kibble, a discontinued webcomic.

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    $\begingroup$ If they stick the landing, they still are landing on hard ground, not a soft pole vault pit. $\endgroup$ – KorvinStarmast Feb 6 at 17:51
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    $\begingroup$ @KorvinStarmast If they vault on top of the wall, or into a tower window, they won't have to deal with a fall on the other end. $\endgroup$ – Nuclear Wang Feb 6 at 19:05
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    $\begingroup$ @NuclearWang I agree, but that's not what's depicted in the illustration. :-) $\endgroup$ – KorvinStarmast Feb 6 at 20:44
  • $\begingroup$ while I agree that full plate armor and a horse would add weight, making the jump impossible, you don't have to come to an extreme withh "only knife or dagger". A sword weight much less than what some fiction shows, and a propper gambeson is quite good to protect you, keeping good mobility. Both combine wouldn't exceed 5 kilograms. $\endgroup$ – Kepotx Feb 7 at 7:22
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I see one place where pole vaulting (as it was done, say, 200 years ago, with poles that were no more flexible than a quarterstaff and only about three meters long) might be useful in combat.

Long ago, poles weren't used to vault high so much as they were used to extend a broad jump. You'd run up to a canal or fairly narrow stream (even one too deep or swift to wade safely), plant your pole either in the middle of the water (for a canal, which would have a rather slow current) or just at the near shore, and, with a rise of only a meter or so, let the pole's arc carry you across the water. Instead of stopping and feeling your way, you'd barely slow down, and if you managed to hang onto the pole, you'd be able to recover on the run and do it again in fifty meters or so if needed.

This could be used, not just for streams and canals, but for crossing trenched earthworks, clearing (low) berms, and doing it all at a run. Clearly not for heavily armored knights, but they have horses and need to stay out of that kind of terrain. This would be, tactically, useful for getting behind an enemy that has concentrated their defense on the opening in their earthworks or for crossing ground they may think impassable because it has too many watercourses for cavalry or regular infantry.

Done in the ancient world, this might even lead to legends of an army that can fly!

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Pole vaulting would be a viable method for getting over certain castle walls based on the following statistics:

  • Your typical medieval castle wall was 10-40 ft tall.
  • A well trained pole vaulter can achieve heights of 10-20 feet.
  • A well-trained athlete with a good tuck-and-roll can routinely do falls from 15-20 feet onto solid ground without any injury. (This discussion has a lot of good info on falling)

Vaulting over a castle wall is not exactly a stealthy maneuver, but it is much faster than climbing a ladder or rope or tunneling under it. In a typical siege, the defending force is going to be a lot smaller than the attacking army which is offset by the fact that it is so hard to kill people who are on the walls; so... the best way to defeat them is to get them off of the walls.

Now getting soldiers to get off the walls when they are fighting to keep their wives and kids safe is not easy... unless their wives and kids are in fact not safe at all.

You can not exactly vault onto the walls with a full armement of stuff and in a battle ready formation, but if the wall is short enough you might be able to go over the walls with short swords strapped to your backs. If just a few of these volters can survive the barrage of arrows and make it over the walls, then they can draw their swords and start murdering every defenseless civilian they find. Seeing what is going on, the defender's priorities will very quickly shift resulting in them breaking rank and climbing down to deal with the volters.

In this moment when the walls become mostly deserted, it becomes much easier for the main force to storm the parapets. The volters will likely all be killed, but the total loss of life will be much smaller for the attackers if they don't have to deal with so many of those arrows and people pushing their ladders over.

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