Pikemen's armour

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Pikemen made up about one third of the infantry at the beginning of the English Civil Wars wore a armour made up of a helmet or pot, a breastplate, a backplate, a gorget to protect the neck and a pair of thigh defences called tassets. A pikeman’s armour weighed about 11 kg and cost £1-2-0d.

The pike was 16 feet long, about 4.5 metres, and tapered towards the end, which had a sharp steel head with long steel cheeks or langets that were strips of steel nailed to the pike to reinforce it. Pikes cost about 4/- each.

Pikemen also carried swords. Armour was quickly given up at the beginning of the war because of its weight and there is no evidence that any was even made after 1640.

In battle the pikeman formed up in six ranks, shoulder to shoulder. If they were fighting other infantry they would level their pikes at shoulder height, holding the last few feet, and march forwards to thrust the pike into the enemy, which was known as push of pike.

If they got too close to use the pike they would throw it at the enemy and then use their swords. Against cavalry they sometimes braced the end of the pike against the right foot and, almost kneeling, lowered the point of the pike to the same level as a horses chest.

Did you know?

A flash in the pan

This expression originates with the misfire of a flintlock or similar gun. The powder in the pan was supposed to ignite the main charge in the barrel. Sometimes only the powder in the pan flashed without firing the main charge.