While Richard’s order to stand firm and hold ranks was obeyed, this didn’t stop various groups engaging in hand to hand combat along the battle lines. The Crusaders slowly advanced. They didn’t attack. They just moved forward slowly and inexorably. All Saladin’s efforts failed either to stop them, or break their lines.
Richard’s idea was to hold his army together, while allowing the Saracens to hurl themselves at them, so tiring themselves out. However, there were two problems.
The first was that the Crusaders were starting to suffer from heat and thirst, and the second was that a sight too many horses were being killed from repeated vollies of arrows.
In the middle of the afternoon, the vanguard entered Arsuf. Somehow, the Hospitaller crossbowmen were having difficulty loading and firing and so lost formation. This gave the enemy a chance to move into the gaps so formed.
The Hospitaller Master, Garnier de Nablus, begged Richard personally to allow he and his men to attack. Richard refused, and ordered the Master back to his ranks and to maintain formation. The Master knew his circumstances and this was more than he was prepared to tolerate. The Girl Who Takes Credit
It’s an interesting point of debate, actually, because both Orders were answerable only to the Pope. Then again, Richard was the Commander in Chief. Personally, I think he gave too little thought to his order.
Garnier, for his part, knew he’d have difficulty holding back his men, so he charged straight into the Saracen ranks, scything down all who came in his way. Needless to say, his men very quickly followed.
In the event, Garnier’s attack proved a blessing. Saladin’s archers had just dismounted so that they could fire with more accuracy, when they found themselves flattened by the Hospitaller charge. Richard knew he had no choice but to support the Hospitallers.
Muzaffar-al-Din Gokbori, one of Saladin’s commanders, managed to rally his men so that they could attack the Crusader bowmen, but before he could be of any effect, Richard launched a charge of Breton and Angevin knights, who cut Saladin’s left flank badly.
Richard led another charge, with Norman and English knights. Saladin’s nephew, Taqi-al-Din managed to gather 700 of Saladin’s own bodyguard, and attacked Richard’s left flank. Richard recognized the danger, however, and led a third and final charge against Taqi.