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M. Eversberg II




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PostPosted: Fri 30 Oct, 2009 11:03 pm    Post subject: Polearms and a tighter formation         Reply with quote

Here is to hoping I can express this clearly!

During the 14th century, the spear had fallen out of fashion amongst the infantry in Europe. In its place, we begin to see pole arms like the bill, volgue and the like. But how precisely do you use such things in a formation without either:

A) Wacking your mates to the left and right
B) Getting caught up in your mates to the left and right
C) Opening the formation enough to make it less of a formation

With spears, you can stay close together and still cause wounds; combining it with the shield makes you harder to attack (I am assuming a single handed spear and a shield was more common than a spear by itself for much of the earlier middle ages). With pole arms, are the formations still tight, sans shield (or even with the shield)? Most, if not all, of the pole weapons have a point, so that in mind do the crushing/cutting portions only come into place when both formations have broken?

So by extension, how much room do you think there are between men in the age of pole arms?

M.

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Matthew Fedele




Location: Auburn, NY USA
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PostPosted: Sat 31 Oct, 2009 8:45 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

I've done pike and halberd drills and imagin if you fight with them like in a pike formation, you can keep it very tight. The weapons you've mentioned are designed for thrusts, hooks, and downward hacks which are basically the moves you're limited to in a tight formation. You wouldn't use the moves you see in the fight books, but you have a buddy or two behind you and to each side of you.

Movement, formations, and fighting are accomplished by drilling. Everyone marches in step to the drum and when a command is given it is executed by everyone on the signal (be it drum, fife, etc.) Creativity is discouraged by the officers with the truncheon.

Long sidearms do create a problem with entanglement in a tight formation, and the solution to that is a dagger or short sword as a sidearm. In fact it's better to just drop your pole if an opponent has it trapped and pull your sidearm because it's a bad spot to be in.

Arms length when marching is a good distance, and when you engage you tighten up as much as possible, sometimes with the guy's weapon in the rank behind you nearly on your shoulder.

Cheers,
Matt
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James R.Fox




Location: Youngstowm,Ohio
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PostPosted: Tue 03 Nov, 2009 10:09 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Sirs- The old Roman Legion dealt with this problem by using the quincux formation, that is, the men stayed a yard apart, and formed in rhree lines,with the second line covering the gaps in the first line and the third line covering the gaps in the second line.This meant that each 5 men formed a pattern like the 5 on a dice.They then proceded to crush every pike formation they fought Since this was the standard formation of the Greek armies,the Greeks didn't last long.It's just that the medieval soldier took a lont time to figure out that giving the men a space to move in beats a tight line The Spanish tercio did this first, I think, with the light-armed sword and shield men alternating with pike men, and Arquebusiers at the corners of the square.At least, the literature on the French and Spanish wars in Italy seem to mention that the tercios beat the Swiss pikemen that the French used regularly.
Ja68ms
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Matthew Fedele




Location: Auburn, NY USA
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PostPosted: Tue 03 Nov, 2009 3:52 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Yeah, the tercios figured out how to efficiently defeat the pike square, but really all you have to do is get past the point of a pike or spear and the sword is the tool for that job. I think the really clever thing about their strategy is that they would charge in low and quick making a small target for the shot sleeves and going under the pikes. The pike squares were designed to defeat cavalry and they exploited that weakness. I don't imagine they would have enjoyed the same success against a wall of bills or halberds though.

How long were those Greek spears and were they using iron heads yet? A 16' pike can get you 4 (or is it 5) ranks of guys with a point forward, but it's such a cumbersome and bouncy weapon it's not good for much else.

Cheers!
Matt
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Greg Coffman




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PostPosted: Tue 03 Nov, 2009 8:25 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

I don't think the spear had gone out of fashion in the 14th century at all. If anything the shield, and thus the sword and shield wall, went out of fashion as the heavily equipped fighters were wearing more protection and carrying less. This allowed two hands on the spear, or whatever weapon. A spear, two handed, fights in much the same was as a sword at halfsword. For instance see:
http://thearma.org/arttalk/at61.htm

Also, without shields to space fighters apart, I think they may have grouped up even closer. Swinging up and down with pole weapons still works fine in tight quarters.

Seems like the Spanish Tercio was a pike square. And from what I understand, the ability of the rodeleros to defeat the Swiss was more a matter of breaking up the Swiss formations through obstructions on the field. The pike formations of the Swiss was great at fighting everything, not just cavalry, and they had plenty of bills and halberds in their formation too.

For the word of God is living and active. Sharper than any double-edged sword, it penetrates even to dividing soul and spirit, joints and marrow; it judges the thoughts and attitudes of the heart.
-Hebrews 4:12
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Greg Coffman




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PostPosted: Tue 03 Nov, 2009 8:28 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

In fact, I only have to go to wikipedia to find this:
Quote:
When the Spanish adopted the Colunella (the first of their mixed pike and shot formations), they used small groups of Sword and Buckler men to break the deadlock of the push of pike, as the Swiss and Germans used halberdiers. At the Battle of Ravenna in 1512, they proved to be deadly at this tactic; however, when facing a fresh, undisordered pike square, they could be rolled over, such as at the Battle of Seminara. They were also very vulnerable to attack by cavalry.

The weaknesses of the Rodoleros were ultimately seen by the Spanish to outweigh their strengths, and they were dropped as a troop type when the Spanish infantry were reorganized into Tercios in the 1530s.

For the word of God is living and active. Sharper than any double-edged sword, it penetrates even to dividing soul and spirit, joints and marrow; it judges the thoughts and attitudes of the heart.
-Hebrews 4:12
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Lafayette C Curtis




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PostPosted: Wed 04 Nov, 2009 5:24 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

James R.Fox wrote:
They then proceded to crush every pike formation they fought Since this was the standard formation of the Greek armies,the Greeks didn't last long.


Oh well. Pyrrhus and his (at least two) victories would certainly like to have a word about that. The Roman legions seemed to have consistently lost--albeit slowly, and not in such a dramatic manner as the Renaissance rodeleros steamrolled by a Swiss pike charge--when they faced Macedonian-style pike phalanxes on open ground. They only managed to win when the phalanxes pursued into rougher terrain and got broken up, creating gaps that the more flexible legionary formations could exploit (such as at the last battle against Pyrrhus, and at Pydna against Philip V) or when they managed to slam into the flank of the pike formation (like the detached cohorts at the battle of Kynoskephalai/Cynoscephalae).
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James R.Fox




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PostPosted: Wed 04 Nov, 2009 11:25 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Sors The Greek Phalamax was armed with the sarissa,introdiced by Alexander the Great's father, Phillip. The whole point of the legion vs the phalanx was that the phalanx could't move in many situations. That is how Phyric Victorys got their name, Even when King Phyrus won, which he did twice,it cost him roo much in trained officers and men. Phillip V had the same problems, and lost the war, just like king PhyrusThe Romans concentrated on grinding down the enemy with their legions and so winning wars. The diciplined, mobile Legion could always bring overwhelming force to bear somewhere, and so generally won the battle and always the war,for centuries.
Ja68ms
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Elling Polden




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PostPosted: Wed 04 Nov, 2009 3:00 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

I have fought quite a lot with polarms, both daneaxes and glaives, in reenactment combat.
Polearms don't really require that much space. They have long poles and lots of leverage, and as such can deliver pretty hard blows without being swung in very large curves.
As such a polearm man can make do with about the same space as sword and shield man. This is still a bit more than spearmen, that can stand practically packed together, as they do in tripple rank pike formations.
However, a polearm can perfectly well stand in double ranks and still be efficient.

"this [fight] looks curious, almost like a game. See, they are looking around them before they fall, to find a dry spot to fall on, or they are falling on their shields. Can you see blood on their cloths and weapons? No. This must be trickery."
-Reidar Sendeman, from King Sverre's Saga, 1201
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Zac Evans




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PostPosted: Wed 04 Nov, 2009 3:11 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

You'd be surprised at how close you can fight with polearms. When facing larger blocks my brother and I go so close together there is hardly a gap between us, and it works really well. If either of us gets locked down it means the other can attack the enemy, or block any other incoming attacks. We've never been locked down by each other. It works in larger groups too, but I think the key with all formations is that you need to all be working together and ready to react to anything.
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M. Eversberg II




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PostPosted: Thu 12 Nov, 2009 11:52 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

I've seen a few references to sword and shield formations, but I am unaware of those being used outside of Rome's legions (which to this day sort of blows my mind to be honest).

I guess I can see how one could fight in close order without smacking each other (I'm guessing not a whole lot of the pole is kept behind your rear hand). The difficult bit would be the actual combat (from my untrained perspective). A charging (or slowly advancing) unit or line of pole arm men moving towards a like-armed group would have what I'd perceive as a very short amount of "fight time" before the front lines are together (as in the pole weapons are too long and it's time for your side arm). If I'm in the front line of the advance, I can't possibly hope to stop men behind me so I can try to engage the man across from me.

I would see such a melee making it hard for the second lines to engage (hard to see past the first line of brawlers) without hitting their allies or nothing at all, especially if it begins as a large group of men who are very close together. Makes me wonder if these quickly became a morass of men fighting without ranks (where you have more mobility and could thusly employ your pole arm because you can actually control the distance between you and your target), or if sidearms were really the "real" weapon and the pole arm had a short "use time".

M.

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Lafayette C Curtis




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PostPosted: Fri 13 Nov, 2009 6:36 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Actually, considering the behavior I've seen in a couple of real-world hand-to-hand combat incidents (student brawls that I fortunately didn't participate in) and the formation combat sessions I had in civil defense riot squad training, I'd expect two polearm formations facing each other to largely stop when they're just within range of each other's weapons and "fence" at this range. However, if one formation has the morale to take the damage while passing this range and slamming right into bodily contact with the other, the formation that received the charge (the "defenders") would likely have been unnerved and might have been swept away in the charge.

Of course, even if the "defending" formation didn't break, polearm combat is far from impossible. Just imagine holding your halberd at a very sharp angle downwards with one hand just below the head and the other somewhere near the middle of the shaft. You can deliver some really terrible blows from this position--so much that I don't think an average soldier with average morale really wants to get that close.
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Elling Polden




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PostPosted: Fri 13 Nov, 2009 9:26 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Lafayete has good points.

A daneaxeman or helbardier only has to move his hands a few inches to deliver deadly force at the other end of the weapon. His main problem in a real would fight is not getting stabbed in the face or arms by enemy spearmen, as he has inferior reach. Consequently, two handed weapons are as a general rule used in combination with extensive defenses. A helmet is essential. A shield slung on the shoulder helps a lot too. However, two handed weapons do not become truly popular until armour became heavy enough to provide efficient protection against spears.
Apealing as it is, the image of the viking age twohanded axeman might be an exageration. In a battlefield enviorment where EVERYBODY has spears and/or javelins, standing in a battle line without a shield is pretty much suecide.

When things get up close and personal, polearm men either fight with their pole if they have room, or go to a backup solution, like sword or dagger. Their main defence, however, is their buddies, who can quickly cross strike to death any foe that steps out of the enemy line.

"this [fight] looks curious, almost like a game. See, they are looking around them before they fall, to find a dry spot to fall on, or they are falling on their shields. Can you see blood on their cloths and weapons? No. This must be trickery."
-Reidar Sendeman, from King Sverre's Saga, 1201
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