1660s drill, opens in a new window
restoration until the end of the War of the Spanish Succession
was a time of great change for the British army, both in terms
of equipment and drill. It saw the end of the use of the pike
and the widespread introduction of the bayonet, the arrival of
grenadiers and the replacement of the matchlock musket by the
flintlock. This led to changes in the drill used.
the Army of Charles II looked back much more than forward since
most of its officers were veterans of the English Civil Wars,
as were many of the rank and file. The fashionable cut of the
new army's uniform may have distinguished it from that of Cromwell's
New Model Army, but the organisation and drill was identical to
that of their predecessors. With a ratio of 2:1 in musket and
pike the regiments were little changed from those of the Civil
Wars. The musketeers were mostly equipped with matchlock muskets
and drilled to manuals that were straight reprints of those used
in the days of Charles I. Over the next forty years the flintlock
and bayonet gradually replaced the matchlock and pike.
official drill manuals were produced in the 1660's and it was up
to individual officers to decide on the drill of their regiments.
However, in 1661 a sixth edition of William Barriffe's 1635 drillbook
was produced, and this probably formed the basis of most regiment's
drill during the 1660's. In 1668 Richard Elton's 1650 drillbook
was also reprinted. These manuals, based largely on the Dutch system
of the early seventeenth century were familiar to veteran commanders
such as George Monck and Prince Rupert.
In 1671 George
Monck's 'Observations upon Military and Political Affairs' was
published. He had written this book in 1644 whilst a prisoner
of Parliament, and the ideas he put forward were based on his
experience in the 1630's Dutch Army and with the English forces
in Ireland. It is unknown how widely his ideas were actually adopted.
In 1672 'The
English Military Discipline' was published. This was basically
just a reprint of the 1638 'Directions for Musters.' The language
of the text was slightly updated, but the content was unchanged,
it even reprinted the original forty plates illustrating the movements
for handling matchlock musket and pike.
evidence for a new system coming into actual use came with Charles
II's first official drill manual, "An Abridgement of the English
Military Discipline.' This was first published in 1675 and then
with slight amendments and additions, it was reprinted in 1676,
1678 and 1682. This manual was originally produced for the Duke
of Monmouth's troops who were fighting alongside the French from
1672-1678, and may well have reflected French practice, although
it included a simple platoon firing system referred to as the
'Swede's Way', suggesting perhaps the inspiration for the new
drill was Sweden. Over the next decade little changed with the
1676 and 1678 Abridgment's being essentially carbon copies of
the 1675 abridgement. When it was again reprinted in 1682 a number
of new illustrations were added, but the text remained effectively
manual was the 1685 'An Abridgment of the English Military Discipline.'
Although it was longer than its 1682 predecessor, the basic drill
and formations were largely unchanged, although the 'Swede's Way'
was now omitted. It is interesting to note that although Grenadiers
were officially introduced into the English Army in 1677, it was
not until the 1685 Abridgment that a specific separate handling
and loading drill for their flintlocks was included. All previous
manuals spoke only of matchlocks despite the fact that many regiments
had included flintlocks alongside the matchlocks from 1661 onwards.
(or daggers as they are referred to) also make their first appearance
in the 1685 Abridgment, again in respect of Grenadiers, who, if
under attack and having given fire were to place 'daggers into
their Firelocks. Considering the Dunkirk and Tangiers Garrisons
had been issued with flintlocks and bayonets from 1658 and 1661
respectively, and grenadier companies had been introduced in 1677,
it had taken over twenty years for them to make an official appearance
in the drill manuals. It is interesting to note that the first
specific bayonet drill for combat was in fact the previous pike
drill, the bayonet tipped musket simply replacing the pike in
Abridgment was reprinted unchanged in 1686 with only the addition
of a 35 page 'Rules and Articles of War.' However, within five
years there was to be a radical change for the 'Glorious Revolution'
brought not only a political coup, but also the arrival of the
most up to date Dutch platoon firing systems.
of the Foot with Evolutions' differed little from the 1685 Abridgment.
However, a letter of the 29th May 1689 from the future Duke of
Marlborough, then commanding troops in the Low Countries, to the
Secretary of War, William Blathwayt, makes it clear a new drill
had arrived: 'I desire that you will know the King's pleasure,
whether he will have the Regiments of foot lern the Dutch Exercise
or else to continue the English, for if he will I must have it
translated into English.'
and contemporary accounts of battlefield practice show that this
did occur. In 1690 a short three-page booklet was published called
'Commands for the Exercisis of Foot, Arm'd with Firelock-Muskets
and Pikes; with the Evolutions. Not only did it illustrate that
both matchlocks and flintlocks were in service together, but it
finished with the direction, 'You are Referr'd for particular
Directions to King William's Exercise.' (In fact it was a regular
comment in manuals up to 1727 for them to refer as their authority
to 'King Wm's Book of Exercise.') In fact, the first surviving
version of this new drill is the 1693 edition of 'The Exercise'
published in Scotland and now in the British Library. This addition
had e revolutionary twelve page addition at the end: the 'Rules
of War for the Infantry,' written by General Mackay, whose own
account of the Battle of Killiecrankie in 1689 shows the basic
platoon firing system had already arrived.
next decade the platoon firing system was developed into the sophisticated
form found in 'The Duke of Marlborough's New Exercise of Firelocks
and Bayonets' first published in 1708. This short booklet simply
detailed the basic manual and platoon exercise which was to be the
foundation of the British Redcoats' linear, staggered fire tactics
for the next one hundred and fifty years. The actual evolutions
and drill continued to be that published in 'King Wm's Book of Exercise.'
& Discipline | Tangier
Social Life | Raising
a Regiment |
of Blenheim 1704 | Storming
of Schellenberg 1704 | War
of the Spanish Succession 1701-14
1670s | Gallery 1680s
1690s | Gallery
© N. Kipar 2003.
Contents Copyright © Ben Levick 1998. With permission by the