A British soldier gives a “two-fingered salute” to German POWs captured at the Second Battle of El Alamein, Egypt, 1942 –

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Thomas Elmham, an English chronicler who traveled with Henry’s army to France, wrote this about Agincourt:

> “When [Henry] addressed the army, earlier, ‘in a loud, clear voice’, telling them of the justice of their quarrel, reminding them of their families at home, **he also told them of the French boast to cut off three fingers from the right hand of every archer taken, so that he would never shoot again at man or horse**”

> *Hardy, R: Longbow: a social and military history p.115 (PSL, Cambridge 1976)* [my emphasis]

There are a number of points to note regarding this quote, however:

1) Is Henry relaying a genuine French boast, or was this was merely propaganda to stir up the troops?

2) It does not necessarily follow that the archers would decide to wave two fingers at the French (why not all three…?).

3) If they did decide to use two fingers, they may have employed a previously existing gesture of contempt (i.e. although it might have achieved a certain notoriety at Agincourt, the two finger salute need not have originated there).

4) Hardy is not the most rigorous of authors and does not reference his sources very tightly, so it is hard to check whether Elmham’s account is reported accurately.

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