18th Century Living History

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The Manual Exercise

In drill, ryedale folk museum on February 21, 2011 at 4:32 pm

In the run up to our Drill Session at Ryedale Folk Museum, we have decided to add a couple of articles about the nature of drill in the 18th century. Following on from where we left off last time, our recruits tells us he was ‘soon dismissed from the school of walking, and was put to learn the use of the firelock to face the monsieurs’.

As discussed in our previous post we draw of drill from three sources the 1759 Treatise by Humphrey Bland, Cumberland’s Exercise of Foot 1757 and the Platoon Exercise 1757.

The Manual Exercise is the exercise each soldier was expected to learn to enable him to move a firelock effectively. The First 26 consist of the positions each soldier would be expected to learn including the Shoulder, Rest, Poise etc. Each movement was governed by either the beat of the drum or a count of 1,2.

It was only during the manual exercise that the ranks and files were to be opened. The distance between ranks being ‘6 feet or 3 paces distant and 1 pace or 2 feet distant in file spacing’ allowing the man to carry out the exercise unhindered.

The 2nd part of the exercise was that of the Platoon Exercise, this exercise was perhaps the most important for in learning the platoon exercise recruits would learn to load and fire the firelock. Each movement again is to be carried out with a 1,2 timing. The quick and correct loading of the firelock being of utmost importantce in the heat of battle. It not being unheard of new recruits to load muskets repeatedly without firing a round only for the weapon to explode.

Bland even highlight the importance of the Platoon Exercise

This dexterity of carrying out these movements becomes clearer when consdiering the manual also states that in firing the files are to be drawn shoulder to shoulder and the ranks are to be one pace distant.