Drill displays

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The drill display – an introduction.
By Paul Stinton

The drill display is an integral part of the activities of the Fairfax Battalia and is performed at the majority of our events. It is an opportunity to demonstrate the skills and postures (movements) required to handle the weapons of the period, as well as the foot drill required for a company of foot (infantry) to operate on the battlefield.


The display usually takes between 25 and 30 minutes, and is performed in a display area, separated from the audience by a safety barrier (the “crowd barrier”).

The Battalia will form up as a body a short march away from the display area, and will march into the display area before starting the display.

The drill display will usually be described by a commentator, explaining the postures and movements made, and giving some background to the period and weaponry. This means that the display may include some pauses between orders whilst the commentator finishes explaining a point.

Whilst the drill display may seem daunting to new members, and there may seem to be an awful lot of movements to remember, training, often on a one-to-one basis, will always be given to new members prior to taking part. The important things to remember are that we all had to learn at some point, practice makes perfect, and the audience are there to enjoy the display, not to criticise the display or any individual.

Remember, if you are not certain about any part of the display, or any of the postures, just ask, and any of our experienced members will be more than happy to help you.


Drill column of Division.jpg
  • The drill display will start with the body of soldiers marching on, led by the Commanding Officer.
  • The body will halt in “Line of Division” (divisions in line-abreast) in front of the audience.
  • The musketeers will troop out to line the crowd barrier, commanded by the Musket Sergeant
  • The musketeers will demonstrate loading and firing their muskets “By Instruction” (step-by-step) under the orders of the Sergeant.
  • The musketeers will demonstrate loading and firing their muskets as on the battlefield.
  • The musketeers will troop back to reform their body
  • The pike division will troop forward and begin their display, under the command of the Ensign
  • The pike division will troop back to their position.
  • The Commanding Officer will call forward one or more Drummers to play the 6 “Calls of War” (drum beats)
  • The Drummers will return and the Commanding Officer will call forward the Ensign to “Flourish the Colour” (display the flag)
  • The Ensign will return, and the Commanding Officer will march the company off in Line of Division
  • The company will perform manoeuvres used on the battlefield, such as:
    • Firing by ranks maintaining ground
    • Firing by ranks gaining ground
    • Firing by Salvee
  • The musketeers will then be ordered to “Club” their muskets (turn the muskets round to use them as a club), and the pike ordered to Charge their pikes
  • The company will be given the order to “Troop” (march forward in line abreast)
  • The company will then be given the order to “Fall On!”, wherein all soldiers charge the audience (trying not to skewer any members of the audience).
  • The Drummers (positioned with the Ensign behind the body) will sound “The Call”, wherein all soldiers run to reform the body, regaining their previous positions.
  • The Company will then march forward in Line of Division under the command of the Commanding Officer before halting in front of the audience
  • The command will be given to “Give General Salute”
    • Commanding Officer and Ensign bow to the audience
    • The Drummers play a roll in a crescendo
    • The muskets present their arms
    • The pike will Port their Pikes
    • When the Drummers finish their roll, the muskets will fire over the audience
  • The order will be given to “Recover” before the Company is marched off in Column of Division
  • Back to the campsite for tea and medals!