Pike Drill - Flodden Field

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Stuart Quayle
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Pike Drill - Flodden Field

Post by Stuart Quayle »

Just expanding on my first question. Could anybody tell me please what pike drill (fighting) commands might have been given to the Scots army of James IV training for the forthcoming invasion of England? Leading up to Flodden. Was it their lack of training which let them down on the day, or the wet and muddy conditions?

At the risk of showing my ignorance on the matter, would the pike drill of the Scots troops at Flodden bear any resemblance to the pike drill of the New Model Army a century later? or were they two completely different animals.

I understand that the German Landsknechts favoured holding their pikes in the middle of the haft (tips angled downwards) for better close quarter control, whereas the Swiss held their pikes low down at the bottom of the haft (tips pointing upwards towards the approaching enemy).

I wonder who trained the Scots and what methods they employed. Any help most gratefully appreciated as I want to get this right.

Thanks :)

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Post by Phil the Grips »

A couple of trainers came over with the pikes from the continent but the main problem was not enough time to train the local lads in their use properly combined with marshy land which disrupted the cohesion that is essential to pike formations (there's a reason they worked best on the large open plains of Greece in the Classical era ;)).

Some more leads here-
http://www.gaddgedlar.com/army_of_james_iv.htm

Lindsay and Alan F from that group both post here
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Pike drill.

Post by Stuart Quayle »

Cheers Phil

Just had a read through the Gaddgedlar site page - very impressive indeed.

Alan F or Lindsay if you are reading this could I please ask what your group's pike drill moves consist of, for the Flodden period.

Were there many set pike drill commands in Britain the early 16th century? Would 17th century pike drill have been much different?

I have just been looking at a contemporary illustration of a slightly later period, taken from Henry Hexham's 'Principles of the Art of Militarie' - as practised in the Warres of the United Netherlands 1637'. The pike drill manouvres shown in that treatise appear to consist of:

1. Advance pike 2. Order pike 3. Shoulder pike 4. Port(?) pike 5. Charge pike and 6. Shoulder pike.

These moves would appear to cover - marching with the pike, resting the weapon, and 'charging' the weapon to receive cavalry.

Most grateful for any further information on tudor period pike drill.
Thanks
Stuart

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Post by Phil the Grips »

Off the top of my noggin there is no manual for the use of the pike in the C16th (there is a bit for doing stuff as an individual for one on one combat by DeGrassi and in Meyer)but massed battle ain't my area of knowledge.

Most of it would likely be in the Instructor's head which is why they would be employed- only as the weapon became the norm did folk feel the need to write the stuff down, though what you have given seems to be sound.

Gordon ( very sound horsey mad Yank) has some some photos and illustrations as well as a few articles that may be of use on his site- looks like the sort of event I'd love to put a team of footloons together for :)
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Post by Nigel »

AS phil says The french sent over c 200 german captains to assist the Scotts and reading their letters post battle is a jolly thing they basically say the scotts couldnt get it right so its not our fault

It basically boils dowwn to the fact that its easy to teach an individual to use a pike I used to train em to a good standard in 20 minutes admitledly my methods are not touchy feely :D

BUT the problem exists when you need to put a lot of individuals together and make em manouvre. Once we really started workign at it the fiel leaders commenced drill at 8.30 for half an hour and we did this for 4 years until we ahd a machine that was perfect BUT we only were doing this 6-7 weekends a year.

If you allok at contempory swiss accoutns apprentices who formed the majority of the pikemen were up and drilling in the streets of Bern at 5.30 before work and they were good
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Pike drill.

Post by Stuart Quayle »

Many thanks Phil and Nigel, very interesting summaries :D

Phil, that is a very good point. In the very early 16th century the pike in Britain was a 'new weapon of war' and until it came into regular use with the local militias or Trayned Bands, no commander would have thought it necessary to write down a system of drill commands and pike postures.

Nigel - fascinating account of the German captains writing back home, I bet they make a good read. Good point about it being fairly easy to train an individual to learn the pike postures, but much more difficult to train a group of pikemen to manouvre as one. Hence the introduction of regular pike drill and the creation of military treatise on the subject.

BTW Phil - have now checked out Gordon's site - The School of the Renaissance Soldier and found a whole page on pike postures as originally written down by Jacob de Gheyn in 1608. Superb stuff - many thanks Sir :D

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Post by Alan_F »

Nigel wrote:AS phil says The french sent over c 200 german captains to assist the Scotts and reading their letters post battle is a jolly thing they basically say the scotts couldnt get it right so its not our fault

It basically boils dowwn to the fact that its easy to teach an individual to use a pike I used to train em to a good standard in 20 minutes admitledly my methods are not touchy feely :D

BUT the problem exists when you need to put a lot of individuals together and make em manouvre. Once we really started workign at it the fiel leaders commenced drill at 8.30 for half an hour and we did this for 4 years until we ahd a machine that was perfect BUT we only were doing this 6-7 weekends a year.

If you allok at contempory swiss accoutns apprentices who formed the majority of the pikemen were up and drilling in the streets of Bern at 5.30 before work and they were good
Matters weren't helped in the Scottish army by the instructors not having a common language with the locals: Alan Gault told me the story of the instructors trying frantically to be understood and the Scots not understanding a word that was said to them.

Stuart, I'm using the ECW drill book at the moment, but am happy to change to the French system if anyone has a copy of it.
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Post by Stuart Quayle »

Hi Alan

Many thanks for your imput, fascinating stuff. Yes, I can imagine the language barrier cannot have helped matters.

Wouldn't it be good to get hold of the 16th century French/German drill commands. There must be groups in Europe doing this period, the hard part is locating them.

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Post by Dathi »

Stuart

To be honest I don't think there's going to be that much difference in drill across most of Europe in the late 16th/early 17th Century. I suspect that all De Gheyn was doing was finally drawing and printing what had been going on for at least 20-30 years by 1608.

I suspect strongly that the Dutch drill of the 80 Years war had some differences to earlier drill based on the fact that the dutch had moved to shallower formations in comparison to the spanish, who were using pike in pretty much the same style as the Swiss and Germans. Massive, deep formations intended to crash home and roll over the enemy. I have seen some cracking prints of swiss and germans locked in very brutal combat with far more signs of pike being used to thrust and fence with so I'd suggest that any work by Paulus Hector Mair or Joachim Meyer on polearms may help in how to fight with pike. However this will be as an individual, as a body, stick with De Gheyn for now...!

I have seen somewhere a list of commands from the Privy Council issued in the 1580's to ALL Counties detailing the words of command to be used, so there was some attempt at standardisation. Just can't think where right now!!
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Post by Phil the Grips »

http://www.paladin-press.com/detail.aspx?ID=1616
As if by magic this was published this very day! Only problem is that getting Paladin Books over here is tricky as Amazon don't seem to like carrying them- maybe have to order direct. If you do let me know as I want a copy.

As for a trip to the US- I have the promise of a redcarpet reception if I can get a team of footloons together, I just need to find the time to get there!
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Post by Stuart Quayle »

Many thanks again Dathi and Phil for some more really fascinating info. Keep it coming please :D

Dathi, I wonder what advantage the Dutch got from employing shallower rank formations for a 'push of pike'? I guess loads of different experiments were tried in this respect. Yes, I will stick with the de Gheyn treatise for now - thanks;

Phil, wow that new book by David James Knight and Brian Hunt on Paulus Mair looks like a 'must have' for anyone seeking contemporary information on Renaissance fighting techniques with polearms. It looks like Mair drew his knowledge from many different sources. This book is most certainly on my wishlist for some point in the future. Cheers for the link.

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Post by Alan_F »

I wonder if it would be right to proceed with the idea that, if the Scots didn't 'get' the idea of pike drill, they reverted to type and used the pikes in the same way that they used their spears when in a schiltron?
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Post by Dathi »

Two words Stuart

Tactical Mobility. The Spanish Terico of some 3,000 men at full strength was one massive block of 1,000 pike, winged by smaller bodies of shot. The Terico just simply couldn't turn on the battlefield. The smaller Ducth armies used smaller shallower blocks that could run rings around the terico. The intent was not always to let the terico get to grips until such time as the shot had thinned the block.

Mair was probably the earlist Collector of Fechtbuch in the German tradition.

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Post by Mark »

Hi all,
At Flodden,the Scots were forced (against their battle plan) to advance down Branxton hill after losing the artillery duel.
They advanced in Swiss echelon formation designed to hit the enemy at different times increasing the pressure as each Pike formation hit home. Where the slope was least severe the Scots made good progress and almost broke the English right wing but for desperate defence and reinforcement by the reserves led by Lord Dacre.The Scots and English fought each other to a standstill in this sector with neither playing any further part in the battle.
In the rest of the field the Scots formations were disrupted by shot,arrow and the boggy ground at the base of the hill.
The English took full advantage of the opportunity to get amongst the stalled and fustrated Pike blocks with their much shorter Bills and caused havoc and chaos amongst the invaders.
Perhaps the Scots in the Pike blocks didn't have enough support from the Halberdiers,two handed swordsmen,handgunners and crossbowmen that the Swiss seemed to have? Their French advisors under D'Aussi with his fifty expert men at arms and forty captains would surely have put all the components of the Swiss style into operation? On the day,a determined,well commanded old style Bills & Bows and light artillery army won out against a massive,well supplied modern force.
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Last edited by Mark on Tue Jan 01, 2008 8:15 am, edited 4 times in total.

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Pike drill.

Post by Stuart Quayle »

Hi Alan

Now that's a great theory, it certainly 'holds water' for me. The Scots found the Schiltron formation highly effective at Bannockburn, rolling over the English cavalry and infantry and backing them into the gorge. They were well trained in manouvring as a schiltron, my guess is it would have been instinctive for them to fall back into this type of formation in the confusion of Flodden.

Hi Dathi

Fascinating stuff, thanks for that - yes that makes perfect sense.! Yes, I can imagine someone like Count Maurice (Nassau) instructing in his treatise that the Dutch artilliary to use enfilading fire against the Spanish tericos, shooting diagonally through the huge massed pike block, so that the smaller Dutch blocks of pike could pick them off piecemeal.

Cheers guys

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Post by Nigel »

Mark wrote: Perhaps the Scots in the Pike blocks didn't have enough support from the Halberdiers,two handed swordsmen,handgunners and crossbowmen that the Swiss seemed to have? Their French advisors under D'Aussi with his fifty expert men at arms and forty captains would surely have put all the components of the Swiss style into operation? On the day,a determined,well commanded old style Bills & Bows and light artillery army won out against a massive,well supplied modern force.
Oggie (Buckinghams Retinue)
This is actullay the gist of the German captains justifcation that unlike their style of fighting the scotts did not have the intgral light troops to back up the pike blocks so onc ethe blocks were stopped there was nothing they could do.

Alan given with a few notable excetions the schiltron was a static formation I would suggest not. The scotts did at least seem to get that the key to usiing the pike is rapid movement
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Post by Allan Harley »

There are also a couple of other major factors to take into account for Flodden
1: Howard outmanouvered the Scots and forced them to attack his position, whereas normally the Swiss forced their enemies in a tactically weak position
2: The hedge/fence/burn at the bottom of the slope disrupted the formations of pikemen. meaning that they didn't hit as a solid travelling mass and breaking their enemies morale.
3: All the best equipped men/nobles were in the front ranks and near to the king - so whilst this block managed to seriously disrupt the English to begin with the natural leaders were left surrounded and isolated - easy targets for the billmen and S&B men


If you add this to the lack of training and support troops - ouch!
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Post by Alan_F »

Nigel wrote:Alan given with a few notable excetions the schiltron was a static formation I would suggest not. The scotts did at least seem to get that the key to usiing the pike is rapid movement
So it would be more acurate for them to be seen as handling the pikes well in some cases (such as the attack by Lindsay's men) but awkwardly in others, or is it just a case of bad luck brought on by a poor recce of the battlefield?
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Post by m300572 »

Now that's a great theory, it certainly 'holds water' for me. The Scots found the Schiltron formation highly effective at Bannockburn, rolling over the English cavalry and infantry and backing them into the gorge. They were well trained in manouvring as a schiltron, my guess is it would have been instinctive for them to fall back into this type of formation in the confusion of Flodden.
I don't think this argument holds up - the two battles were two hundred years apart, near as get out. Would the military tradition of the schiltron have lasted over that time. Given that Scotland was importing drill masters to teach a 'new' weapon I would think that it hadn't.
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Post by m300572 »

Fascinating thread though, like most Scots I know of the legends of Flodden but its great to get the details of why and wherefores in the tactics and use of weapons.
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Re: Pike drill.

Post by Nigel »

Stuart Quayle wrote:Hi Alan

Now that's a great theory, it certainly 'holds water' for me. The Scots found the Schiltron formation highly effective at Bannockburn, rolling over the English cavalry and infantry and backing them into the gorge. They were well trained in manouvring as a schiltron, my guess is it would have been instinctive for them to fall back into this type of formation in the confusion of Flodden.
Cheers guys
Sorry stuart now to let out your bath water Bannockburn is unique as the scotts had time to train together on the field they were going to fight on and indeed sculpt the ground to suit them

They were also faced by a not well eld English army

You wil note we made the same mistakes at Bannockbunr we alter punisjhed the Frewench for

the scotts needed to be able to manouvre as divisions which the time allowed enabled them to do but as for rolling over english cavalry simply did not happen they stopped them yes but did not troll over em
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Pike and schiltrons.

Post by Stuart Quayle »

Fair enough chaps - always ready to stand corrected by someone better informed - :)

Now I find myself wanting to know more about how a schiltron was formed and used. Was there a set pattern of moves - defensive and offensive? Grateful for any clues on this question.

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Post by Alan_F »

m300572 wrote:
Now that's a great theory, it certainly 'holds water' for me. The Scots found the Schiltron formation highly effective at Bannockburn, rolling over the English cavalry and infantry and backing them into the gorge. They were well trained in manouvring as a schiltron, my guess is it would have been instinctive for them to fall back into this type of formation in the confusion of Flodden.
I don't think this argument holds up - the two battles were two hundred years apart, near as get out. Would the military tradition of the schiltron have lasted over that time. Given that Scotland was importing drill masters to teach a 'new' weapon I would think that it hadn't.
The problem is, that the Scots don't seem to have developed the schiltron idea any further - Harlaw in 1411 has the Aberdeen Militia forming a schiltron and holding out against the repeated attacks of the Highlanders, later in the same century the Scots are using the Schiltron in the French Wars, but this time supported by archers and crossbowmen.
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Schiltron.

Post by Stuart Quayle »

Many thanks Alan.

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Post by Mark »

Allan Harley wrote:There are also a couple of other major factors to take into account for Flodden
1: Howard outmanouvered the Scots and forced them to attack his position, whereas normally the Swiss forced their enemies in a tactically weak position
Hi Allan,
This Flanking march which put the English army behind the Scots on Flodden hill and between them and Scotland ranks to me in imagination,skill and pure courage alongside the Wars of the Roses version of Arnhem... Cliffords suprise attack and holding of Ferrybridge in 1461.
Oggie (Buckinghams Retinue)

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