Moving 17th Century Soldiers

Open Order - in the Files

Open Order in the files is the preferred spacing for the march.  With sufficient distance between one soldier and the next in front, there is room for the butt end of a shouldered pike to be near the ground and not trip the person in front.  For musketeers, the muzzle of a shouldered gun is not inches from the face of the following soldier.  All can view more ground immediately ahead of each step than with Order, which is a consideration on rough ground.

There are three ways to determine distancing in files for Open Order.  For all methods, the result should be slightly less than two meters or approximately six feet between soldiers.

Open-order distance in a file may be measured by:

  1. Double the length of the left arm with fingers extended to reach toward the shoulder of the file mate in front (shown below) or
  2. Double the distance of almost to the sword tip of the soldier in front or
  3. Butt of the pike held about a foot off the ground and behind the ankles of the soldier in front (but with the pike butt to the right of those ankles)


Colonel Barriffe provides commands for going to Open Order in the files and which depend on the initial status of the files:
  • "Ranks open forward (or backward) to your Open Order!" (if the initial status was Order or closer)
  • "Ranks close forward (or backward) to your Open Order!" (if the initial status was wider than Open Order)
  • "Ranks open (or close) to front AND reer to your Open Order!" (instead of all shifting to the front or to the back, soldiers orient to the midline of their files.)  By the way, "reer" is Barriffe's spelling.

Note: the only difference between these commands and the ones for Order is the addition of one word in each: "Open." All soldiers should listen closely to their superiors in order to catch this little addition.

Some illustrated examples of distancing commands

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