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Thread: who decided who stood where in a line

  1. #1

    Default who decided who stood where in a line

    i'd want the back line but really how did it work?


    veterans second line to front. recruits at front?
    to catch a fish,so juicy sweeeeeet

  2. #2

    Default Re: who decided who stood where in a line

    While things could be done differently, in the British system it was tallest to smallest from the ends of the line to middle, with the rear rank being made up of slightly taller men than their front rank filemate.

  3. #3

    Default Re: who decided who stood where in a line

    If I recall correctly, with the Russians and Prussians the third rank was (theoretically) composed of the best shots and would act as skirmishers if the occasion required

    I imagine most non-specialized positions were basically just numbers. So it'd be the luck of the draw.

  4. #4

    Default Re: who decided who stood where in a line

    Hhaha its not like british line was alwayes 2 men deep. On the paper it was 3 men deep and often on the field as well.

  5. #5
    Prince of Essling's Avatar Napoleonic Enthusiast
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    Default Re: who decided who stood where in a line

    See "Line Infantry" section on page 22 of Nafziger's "Imperial Bayonets"

    "When infantry formed up it was a universal practice that this was done in three ranks. The British two-rank (and French exception) will be discussed later, but it should be noted that even in their regulations right through to 1815, specified that they should be formed up in a three-deep formation. In all armies the tallest men were placed in the front rank. They were ranked from right to left in most armies, but the British ranked them from the flank to the centre. The next tallest were placed in the third rank and the shortest were in the middle or second rank.

    This might seem illogical, because it would have short men trying to fire over the heads of taller men, but this was not the case. In this period very tall hats were worn, and the fire was between the front rank's soldiers, not over their heads. By placing the shorter men behind them the muskets of the second rank would be as far as possible from the ears of the tallest front rank men. The idea of having a musket detonate next to one's ear is enough to cause one to flinch with anticipated pain, so logic would suggest that if the men were not to suffer ear damage, and if they were to hear the commands of their officers, the noise of the firing needed to be kept as far away from their ears as possible."

    I have paraphrased the next bit - page 45 in section dealing with "Two versus Three ranks" Nafziger says British regulations like every other European nation specifically directed that infantry should be organised in 3 ranks.If the company strength fell below a specific number then the third rank was to be incorportaed into the front rank to maintain frontage. These two regulations help explain why the British universally used a 2 rank line. Regulations set the minimum frontage of a platoon at 5 files which means a company with 2 platoons would have a minimum of 10 files for a total of 60 men if in 3 ranks, so minimum strength to meet fully the 3 rank requirement would be 600 men (Nafziger gives 660 cut off) ; while a battalion with less than 400 men would have to deploy into 2 ranks to meet the frontage requirements. Nafziger argues that 2 rank line was forced on the British by battalion strength & need to comply with regulations rather than by design.
    Last edited by Prince of Essling; September 04, 2010 at 04:41 PM. Reason: spelling! plus expansion

  6. #6

    Default Re: who decided who stood where in a line

    Quote Originally Posted by Totalwar462140 View Post
    i'd want the back line but really how did it work?
    veterans second line to front. recruits at front?
    Generally speaking the position you stood was dictated by your height.

    In most armies the tallest men stood in the front rank, the next tallest in the middle, and the shortest in the rear. The tallest of each rank of a platoon being on the right, the shortest on the left.

    The reason for this was purely functional as it was better to have the shorter men in the rear rank because when they presented and fired the flash and bang from the frizzen of their musket was not level with the ear of the man in front of them but slightly lower, thus reducing the chance of injury.

    The French also had a special system which allowed men to volunteer to be in the front rank during assaults. These men were paid extra money for opting to take this risky position, and it was a bit of a gamble as if they were lucky they could draw the extra pay and never be expected to deliver on the promise. However, they were referred to by their colleagues as 'les enfants perdu' (The lost children).

    As the Prince has already said, 'the thin red line' was not the regulation depth for the British Infantry. Dundas specified a standard three rank system based on the Prussian model. However, there were practicallities that had to be taken into account. The Dundas system also expected battalions in line to occupy a minimum frontage and many British regiments were so severely understrength, particularly in America that this could only be achieved by sacrificing the third rank.

    It was also noted by officers with experience in America that the two rank line did not sacrifice much in terms of firepower, and so there was an ongoing conflict between those officers who adhered to regulations and those with the experience of America who opted to go with their own judgement.

    In any event the third rank was always sacrificed in order to maintain the units frontage as the alternative would have been to leave dangerous gaps in the battle line. At Waterloo we are told that most regiments actually began the battle ranged four ranks deep, as the frontage available to deploy the brigades was so limited. However, by the end of the battle many battalions had lost so many men that they were deployed in a single rank to cover the same area they had started with in the morning.
    Last edited by Didz; September 08, 2010 at 10:39 AM.

  7. #7
    Rotaugen2009's Avatar Vicarius
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    Default Re: who decided who stood where in a line

    Quote Originally Posted by Didz View Post
    Generally speaking the position you stood was dictated by your height.

    In most armies the tallest men stood in the front rank, the next tallest in the middle, and the shortest in the rear. The tallest of each rank of a platoon being on the right, the shortest on the left.

    The reason for this was purely functional as it was better to have the shorter men in the rear rank because when they presented and fired the flash and bang from the frizzen of their musket was not level with the ear of the man in front of them but slightly lower, thus reducing the chance of injury.

    The French also had a special system which allowed men to volunteer to be in the front rank during assaults. These men were paid extra money for opting to take this risky position, and it was a bit of a gamble as if they were lucky they could draw the extra pay and never be expected to deliver on the promise. However, they were referred to by their colleagues as 'les enfants perdu' (The lost children).

    As the Prince has already said, 'the thin red line' was not the regulation depth for the British Infantry. Dundas specified a standard three rank system based on the Prussian model. However, there were practicallities that had to be taken into account. The Dundas system also expected battalions in line to occupy a minimum frontage and many British regiments were so severely understrength, particularly in America that this could only be achieved by sacrificing the third rank.

    It was also noted by officers with experience in America that the two rank line did not sacrifice much in terms of firepower, and so there was an ongoing conflict between those officers who adhered to regulations and those with the experience of America who opted to go with their own judgement.

    In any event the third rank was always sacrificed in order to maintain the units frontage as the alternative would have been to leave dangerous gaps in the battle line. At Waterloo we are told that most regiments actually began the battle ranged four ranks deep, as the frontage available to deploy the brigades was so limited. However, by the end of the battle many battalions had lost so many men that they were deployed in a single rank to cover the same area they had started with in the morning.
    Finally, an advantage to being 5'8"!
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  8. #8
    'Gunny's Avatar Überrock über alles
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    Default Re: who decided who stood where in a line

    And I always thought being 6'1 as an advantage

  9. #9

    Default Re: who decided who stood where in a line

    Quote Originally Posted by Rotaugen2009 View Post
    Finally, an advantage to being 5'8"!

    same here... lol

  10. #10
    Icewolf's Avatar Senator
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    Default Re: who decided who stood where in a line

    6"4 here... this is not good news.. :O

  11. #11

    Default Re: who decided who stood where in a line

    Ouch! Front rank man Grenadier company leading the assault.

  12. #12

    Default Re: who decided who stood where in a line

    I do not know about that, but in the macedonian phalanx there was the bravest men in the front, guys they could trust not to break and when you when braver and better you would advance in the lines of the phalanx.

  13. #13
    ReignTerror's Avatar Master of Hyperbole
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    Default Re: who decided who stood where in a line

    harder to be brave when projectiles fly at you that you can't really see... I myself would prefer the outside of the line... i'd assume the fire would be directed towards the bulk in the middle of the line

  14. #14

    Default Re: who decided who stood where in a line

    Yes, the most dangerous spot was said to be close to the Colours as they tended to attract attention and were easily visible through the smoke.

    As for the Macedonian phalanx I'm a bit puzzled as the idea of the bravest at the front poses a number of questions such as:

    - who decided who was braver than who, or was it more a case of the guys with the biggest mouth's and largest ego's got put in the front?

    - also wouldn't it make more sense to have the bravest and most experienced warriors at the back to make sure the noobs and cowards didn't turn tail and run. That was actually what the Roman's did, the more experienced soldiers getting place to the rear.

  15. #15
    AUSSIE11's Avatar Semisalis
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    Default Re: who decided who stood where in a line

    point 1... im 6'6" so i'd be really screwed... maybe i'll try for cavalry... also keeping veterans at the back would also make sense in that you would limit their casualties, cause veterans are harder to replace than raw recruits. also you would not limit their battle effectiveness because they would still help the newbies and be close enough to the action to be able to be deployed quickly to any weak points...
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  16. #16

    Default Re: who decided who stood where in a line

    Like Icewolf, you'd be a definite candidate for the front rank of the Grenadier company. Not a good place to be in an assault. Fortunately I'm quite short 5' 7.5" so I'd be tucked in somewhere less exposed.
    Last edited by Didz; October 26, 2010 at 03:06 AM.

  17. #17
    AUSSIE11's Avatar Semisalis
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    Default Re: who decided who stood where in a line

    maybe i'l just follow tradition and let daddy buy me a cornetcy in the life guards... better chance there...
    The eight most terrifying words in the english language... I'm from the government, I'm here to help.

  18. #18

    Default Re: who decided who stood where in a line

    An excellent plan and a sound investment to boot, if you can raise the few hundred pounds necessary.

  19. #19
    AUSSIE11's Avatar Semisalis
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    Default Re: who decided who stood where in a line

    Life Guards at the time might not be too good an investment... lifestyle would've been pricey...
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  20. #20
    Prince of Essling's Avatar Napoleonic Enthusiast
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    Default Re: who decided who stood where in a line

    Also you would have been expected to set an example - a good old stiff upper lip! There could be no no ducking or moving position when cannonballs and bullets were flying around.....

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