Home Forums Historical Pike & Shotte Landsknechte

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    invisible officer

    Warlords Landsknechte are very tempting. So I would love you all to show your forces to make me start my own army.

    “She” has so much Hardware…..

    A friend had sent me some questions even before the warlord Forum was restarted. I did forces with 3 cm German flat Zinnfiguren so I had started research decades ago.

    For the old German historian it is interesting how many myths are around. And unfortunately some are wrong.
    A few are so that I can’t help to smile seeing that these “old friends” will not die. For example one of Warlord’s own pages tells us that the Black Band included 3.000 Bidenhänder men. At Marignano 1515 the band was 6.000 strong. Half armed with Bidenhänder?

    So let me start with the Bidenhänder myth. It was created in 19th century.
    We read very often that that super long sword was used to break into the enemies pike formation. The swordsmen cutting the pike heads away. A nice way for suicide. Imagine to be standing in front of some 6 + pikes. 2 -3 pikemen taking the same frontage you occupy. And normally more than two rows. You raise your monster sword over your head and try to cut a pike head. Your breast, …. and legs open to the thrusts of the pikes. OK, you have some armor. Good luck.

    Worse, for effect you have to cut in ca. 90° angle on the staff. Not 0 – 20 ° from the front. I’m sure we all have cut branches with knives. Last year I tried to clear brushwork with a machete. Hard work. The shape of the Flambard (sometimes Flamberg)/ flame bladed bidenhänder makes it no saw. It just looks more deadly.

    The Spanish sword and buckler fighter had a far better chance against pike. They had been trained to get the pikes out of the way with the shield and sword and killing the man, not the pike.

    We find very few contemporary illustrations showing Bidenhänder use in front of Pikemen. One is from 1548, it shows the battle of Kappel 1531. Three swordsmen. One does a flat swinging hit that would cut no pike. In the sketch for Schweizerschlacht Hans Holbein too has three, in front of painting a Katzbalger is used against one with a dagger. In both cases we see far more men with pike or halberd.
    A typical Fähnlein of 400 (on paper) had 300 pikemen and 100 Doppelsöldner (paid double). 50 of them with arquebus and 50 with Halberd or Bidenhänder. Two of the later served as Trabanten, Guards for the Hauptmann / Captain. The present number was normally much smaller. Frundsberg wanted 380 and regiments of 18 Fähnlein.

    A good Bidenhänder swordsman should have a Meisterbrief. The rules can be read in Frankfurter Fechter Ordnung of 1491 in Cod.I.6.2.5 (Universitätsbibliothek Augsburg, Germany) Most of the Meister training was sword against sword. Their job was to fight together with the Halberdiers behind the Pikemen in the “Geschiebe”, the close fighting. You should not have more than 10 % Bidenhänder men among your Doppelsölder. If you really love them 25% should be the absolute top number.
    We have no contemporary source that speaks of units of Bidenhänder men fighting in front of the Pike blocks. The Captain fought at the front and so his Trabanten stood there too. Part of the reason for the Bidenhänder myth. A lot of the Meisterbriefe had been fakes and not many really had the training. More and more it became a representation device. The papal guard use two still today at the oath.

    The best way to stop the advance of pikemen was an attack on the men at the flanks, or just the corners, of the block from the flank. They had to stop and form an Igel / Hedgehog, The snail attack (using men from rear ranks to bypass the own front and attack the enemies flank) is well shown in the action painting by Altdorfer, The Alexanderschlacht. There we also see the use of shirts over dress as sign in night attack.
    The best way to kill pikemen was artillery and arquebusiers, stop them and shoot them.

    Another myth is the wrong translation of Verlorener Haufen as forlorn hope. In old German verloren means open order and haufen crowd. Men fighting away from the main block being lost from it. In Dutch it is verlooren hoop and there is the reason for the wrong etymology. These units are drawn from the Fähnlein Doppelsöldner and served under the red Blutfahne.

    For those that like to try old German here a bit from Sebastian Franck’s Chronica des gantzen Teutschen lands, aller Teütschen völcker herkom(m)en, Namen, Händeln, Guten vn(n) (unn) bösen Thaten , 1539
    „Es ist durch die bank hindurch alweg und alzeit ein böss unnütz volk, nit wenige dann münch und pfaffen. Ist es im krieg, so ist under tausend kaum einer an seinem sold begnuegig, sunder stechen, hawen, gotslestern, huoren, spielen, morden, brennen, rauben, witwen und weisen machen, ist ir gemein handwerk und höchste kurzweil. Wer hierin küen und keck ist, der ist der best und ein freier landsknecht; der muoss vornen daran und ist würdig, das er ein doppelsoldner sei.“
    In short, Landknechte are killers, rapists and thieves and the best (or worst) are the Doppelsöldner. Sure, the pike is not ideal for looting etc. . If you do not want to go out of camp to visit the peasants with just the short Katzbalger sword go with the Doppelsöldner.

    The Doppelsöldner was normally a “beschossener Knecht”, one with fighting experience. Some of them brought their own arms. Men that knew the dark sides of warfare and had no restrains.
    The pike was given to the novices by the Obrist, cannon fodder. Not trusted to fight in open order. To get rid of the pike was the wish of all. Doppelsöldner halberd men paced behind them for stiffening.
    Well, back to the 3.000 Black band Bidenhänder men. The myth was created by a guy in 19th century that read that half of the men had been Doppelsödner. Not realizing that hand gunners and halberdiers had been Doppelsöldner. And like the Loch Ness myth that surfaces from time to time. That unit had more men that had” seen the elephant” and the French king was willing to pay for that.


    Now this is interesting! As I’m about to embark on grabbing the Landsknecht starter set, this is good information.

    invisible officer

    Thank you.
    Well, I hoped for hundreds 😉 of pics to make me buy Warlord Landsknechte.
    The problem are my boxes full with many many 3 cm flat German Zinnfiguren Landsknechte for Pavia 1525.

    The added pic shows Franz I. attacking Warlord Spaniards. A slight size problem.


    A wonderful thread – so much information! A big thank you!!!!

    This evening I will start assembling my landsknechtes……..

    Rough Rider

    I bought into the long overdue Landsknecht Kickstarter. Once those minis arrive I think I will look seriously at a big order from Warlord. Hopefully this thread won’t have disappeared into the fog of the internet…

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