Kiddie Bill Drill

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abaddon1974
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Kiddie Bill Drill

Post by abaddon1974 »

I am in the process of putting together a set of small wooden pole weapons to hopefully do some childrens bill drill with at local events. The problem is that as an archer I have no idea what the bill commands are. Can anyone point me in the direction of the correct commands for WOTR bill drill please, as I don't think the traditional re-enactors archery commands will work properly.

Cheers

Craig

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gregory23b
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Re: Kiddie Bill Drill

Post by gregory23b »

No one has an idea of what the commands were, or the tactics or real formations, the drills that WOTR uses are cobbled together from old ECWS style, some guesswork from Malory and mainly some need to have rigid lines of footsoldiers because that is what are used to, not to mention some sort of control over the men.

You may as well make one up yourself, but make sure there are clear instructions to do anything, ie some golden rules which are inviolable, eg stop/fast or whatever.
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Langley
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Re: Kiddie Bill Drill

Post by Langley »

Agreed no one knows the real commands but the generally accepted ones to avod chaos are:

Turn your faces to me to get them to line up in front of you when they have been marching in a straight line. Face that way accompanied by pointing - nice and simple! Knee bend to get them moving. No marching in step... Aventrail to point the weapons at the enemy. Aventrail aloft to have the second row lift the bills in the air first to avoid poking front rank. Thrang to step forward and thrust. Repeat to create a disciplined step by step advance poking the enemy as you go. Ground to drop bills onto the ground for resting. Carry to hold them underneath the bottom of the pole and walk with them upright. Shoulder to have them slanted back off the shoulder - held a bit above the bottom of the pole for balance. Overthwart to turn them sideways to go under brances, gateways etc. Wedge - accompanied by commander pushing someone forward - everyone else ofrms shoulder to shoulder on them. About your faces to reverse line of march. I think that is about all I can remember right now but should get you going and are nice and simple to get a body of kids moving in the right way. I have done this many times and it does work after the first few colisions. Practice all turning towards the staff first is a good idea. There will always be one who can never get the hang of that. (I.E, all turn clockwise).

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behanner
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Re: Kiddie Bill Drill

Post by behanner »

You might ask yourself if you want to re-enforce this anacronism. One of the italian visitors at the end of the 15th century wrote about kids playing with wooden swords.
If you do want to re-enforce it then definitly look at the instructions in the 1473 burgundian ordinance.

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Re: Kiddie Bill Drill

Post by Marcus Woodhouse »

Interesting-I doubt that the Burgundian drills would have even been known in England or how easily they would have been then put to use.
The greater part of the Burgundain army were made up of mercenaries who would be familiar to drilling, there are hardly any mercenaries fighting in the WOTR. (And those that are do not employ pikes.)
My own view on the Burgundain drills is that he is attempting (Charles that is) to copy the Swiss but unwilling to make use of those bothersome Flemish city contiengents who he dosen't trust even though they are the best foot soldiers in his army.
I also think that its another example of Charles needing to micro manage everything and over complicating affairs.
I really suspect that in England the commands would be very, very simple. Along the lines of pick it up,follow me, stand in a line (maybe), attack, run away.
I seriously doubt that in England you had forces arrayed together by weapon type and that men with bows, swords (although why a spear is seen as more difficult to carry than a mallet and a couple of stakes is beyond me), short pollxes, long polearms, all mixed in with each other under the same banner.
And even if Charles' way was the way to drill it clearly didn't do him any good. His army lost far more battles under his command than they ever won.
I do totally agree with you being very dubious about using what are essentially "medievlised" ECW/Sealed Knot drill. If only because whenever someone says "knee bend" I have to stop myself from singing the okeycokey.
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Sir Thomas Hylton
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Re: Kiddie Bill Drill

Post by Sir Thomas Hylton »

Marcus do i remember you telling me about an author to look up concerning just this sort of subject. The name of whom escapes me right now. I think you described him as being more useful than Talhoffer/ Lecküchner for the Bill.

Could this be something for the Poster at the start of the thread worth following up on. Not to mention, I want to look for the writings too.

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Colin Middleton
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Re: Kiddie Bill Drill

Post by Colin Middleton »

I know that some of the combat books have stuff on fighting with bills, but I don't know of any marching about stuff. Try "Polearms of Paulus Hector Mair" or "English Martial Arts" by Terry Brown for the how to fight stuff.
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Fox
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Re: Kiddie Bill Drill

Post by Fox »

Colin Middleton wrote:"English Martial Arts" by Terry Brown for the how to fight stuff.
Terry Brown's quarter staff stuff is particularly instructive, although mostly unusable in re-enactment.

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behanner
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Re: Kiddie Bill Drill

Post by behanner »

Marcus Woodhouse wrote:Interesting-I doubt that the Burgundian drills would have even been known in England or how easily they would have been then put to use.
The greater part of the Burgundain army were made up of mercenaries who would be familiar to drilling, there are hardly any mercenaries fighting in the WOTR. (And those that are do not employ pikes.)
My own view on the Burgundain drills is that he is attempting (Charles that is) to copy the Swiss but unwilling to make use of those bothersome Flemish city contiengents who he dosen't trust even though they are the best foot soldiers in his army.
You are reading history too backwards instead of reading it forward as it happened. There is no reason to think that an ordinance written in 1473 was heavily influenced by the Swiss when the strength of their tactics wasn't really realized until two years later. The Burgundian companies, like the French companies are modeled on English ideas of the late Hundred years war. A fighting force based on the idea of a man at arms and three archers. Charles seems to have wanted to take this to a new level that may have actually been based on English ideas for self reform. In the English way of war men at arms fought on foot. The Burgundians took this up when they fought with them during the HYW. Charles seemed to want to actually use his cavalry as cavalry so he needed a footsoldier to take the place of the man at arms in the fighting unit to prevent a cavalry charge. What Charles is describing is in no way a departure from convention of the time, putting forth the idea of drilling troops in garrison is why they are of note.

Here is the section of that ordinance.

Furthermore, my lord [the duke] ordains that, in order that the said troops, may be better trained and exercised in the use of arms and better practiced and instructed when something happens, when they are in garrison, or have time and leisure to do this, the captains of the squadrons and the chambres are from time to time to take some of their men-at-arms out in the fields, sometimes partly, sometimes fully armed, to practice charging with the lance, keeping in close formation while charging, how to charge briskly, to defend their ensigns, to withdraw on command, and to rally, each helping the other, when so ordered, and how to withstand a charge. In like manner they are to exercise the archers and their horses, to get them used to dismounting and drawing their bows. They must learn how to attach their horses together by their bridles and make them walk forwards directly behind them, attaching the horses of three archers by their bridles saddle-bow of the page of whose man-at-arms they belong; also to march briskly forwards and to fire without breaking rank. The pikemen must be made to advance in close formation in front of the said archers, kneel at a sign from them, holding their pikes lowered to the level of a horse's back to that the archers can fire over the said pikemen as if over a wall. Thus, if the pikemen see that the enemy is breaking rank, they will be near enough to charge them in good order according to their instructions. The archers must also learn to place themselves back to back in double defense, or in a square or circle, always with the pikemen outside them to withstand the charge of the enemy horse and their horses with the pages enclosed in their midst. The conducteurs can begin by introducing this way of doing things to small groups and when one of these groups is practiced and instructed, they can take out others. While doing this, the conducteurs are to keep an eye on all their people every day so that none will dare absent themselves or be without horse and armour, because they will not be sure on which day the conducteurs will want to take them out on exercises. Thus each will be constrained to learn to do his duty.

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Colin Middleton
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Re: Kiddie Bill Drill

Post by Colin Middleton »

Fox wrote:although mostly unusable in re-enactment.
Isn't that true about most WMA training? :D
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Marcus Woodhouse
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Re: Kiddie Bill Drill

Post by Marcus Woodhouse »

Strangely enough I would say that the Burgundians were well aware of the Swiss effeicency with the halbred and pike by 1473.
Thye had afterall given the Austrains and Milanese numerous bloody noses and had done the same while fighting for Burgundy against France in the 1440's, in fact they had so impressed the French that every effort was made to secure that the Swiss fought for France from that point on.
I'm familiar with the quote you gave it doesn't really describe drill (which I think is fine as I don't believe there was much attempt to, in some ways i suspect re-enactors are probably better at drilling with bills then were the soldiers who actually used them, at least in England where there was no trained army).
I still stick to my belief that Charles the Rash, and his army, were far more impressive on paper than they were in the field.
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Langley
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Re: Kiddie Bill Drill

Post by Langley »

Interesting that the ordinance refers to Archers "firing". Isn't the conventional wisdom that archers shoot. You can only fire anything after gonnes were in much more common use? Does that cast doubt on the dating of the document? (I merely ask - I am not familiar with it). As to doing bill drill, in modern re-enactment drilling is useful purely from teh safety point of view. As Mark Vance says, if you don't all turn the sasme way at the same time when you are playing wiht sharps there are ears and noses all over the place. As to whether it actually happened. Hmm. Perhaps in the better trained households. There are I think (don't ask me to find the reference right now) discussions of captains being told off for not exercising their men and letting them get slack and unable to fight as a team. Using bills is certainly most efficient when the body of mem fight together watching out for each other and attaqcking targets of opportunity to either side of them. I suspect professional mediaeval soldiers must surely have done such practice. I gave examples of the commands which have been used in WOTR groups for these reasons. I do think drilling is worth whiloe and most likely accurate even if we have to extrapolate a little.

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gregory23b
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Re: Kiddie Bill Drill

Post by gregory23b »

I bet that is a modern transcription/translation, given that the ordinances would most likely be in French anyway Langley.

Modern historians will more often than not substitute shoot or loose with 'fire'.
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behanner
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Re: Kiddie Bill Drill

Post by behanner »

Marcus, its an Oakham's razor. Do you look to what makes simple sense or do you look for an interesting explanation.
Did the Swiss exist before they became really important, yes. Same is true with the Spanish whose tactics defeated the Swiss tactical ideas existed before that happened.

Swiss units in the mid-15th century were more or less mixed 1:1 pikes and halberds with some crossbows and gonnes thrown in. That is a radically different setup then 3 archers and a pikeman.

And I think you misspoken when you said it isn't a drill. It is a drill but your right it isn't a set of commands.

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Re: Kiddie Bill Drill

Post by Marcus Woodhouse »

I think we will end up agreeing to disagree here Behanner, but before anything else I'd like to say how I'm really pleased to have (met) someone who looks at the source material and works from it and isn't just talking rubbish. So while I might not agree with you your viewpoint(s) force me to go back and reappraise what I think I "know".
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