Moving 17th Century Soldiers

Order - in the Files

Order in the files, as with in the ranks, is the appropriate spacing for soldiers when assembling or receiving instruction from their superiors.  It can also work for maneuvering on the field but is tight.  It is not suitable, however, for marching and may be used in this situation only for out-of-the-ordinary circumstances.  For cleaner maneuvering and especially for marching, use Open Order in the files.

Drill instructors of olde found that the most convenient way to measure the distance was for a soldier in the file to stand almost to the tip of the sword of his file mate in front. 

Another way to determine the distance, especially good if the soldier in front has no sword or carries it awkwardly, is to measure by the length of the left arm with fingers extended for one person to touch or almost touch the shoulder of his file mate in front.  Regardless of the measuring method, the distance should be close to three feet or a tad less than a meter.

At this distance in the files, soldiers are not to have their weapons shouldered, rather, have them at order or at advance.

Colonel Barriffe provides commands for going to Order in the files and which depend on the initial status of the files:

  • "Ranks open forward (or backward) to your Order!" (if the initial status was Close Order)
  • "Ranks close forward (or backward) to your Order!" (if the initial status was Open Order or wider)
  • "Ranks open (or close) to front AND reer to your Order!" (instead of all shifting to the front or to the back, soldiers orient to the midline of their files.)

Some illustrated examples of distancing commands

(Remember, a file is 90 degrees to a rank and each file member is in a different rank.)