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Set of Military Tokens for Demonstrating Battalion Firing, English, c. 1700

preview image for Set of Military Tokens for Demonstrating Battalion Firing, English, c. 1700
Inventory Number: 50368
Object Type:
Place Created: England United Kingdom Europe
Accession Number: 1925-43
Brief Description: A set of brass English military scales or counters in an oak box with spring catch. Unsigned and undated; c.1700.

The purpose of this set of nine rectangular brass plates was long unclear. Thomas Wright in his catalogue of the Orrery Collection (1731) described the set thus: "A Small Box wh 9 pieces of Brass I believe Relating to Gunnery". Gunther suggests that as four of the plates are marked "Grenadiers", the set may have been used for plotting the positions of Companies or Battalions, perhaps for estimating the areas that a given number of men will cover. The Earl of Orrery's uncle Roger wrote a Treatise on the Art of War, 1677, and this set may have belonged to him.

Their most likely purpose was in displaying and demonstrating a scheme of volley-fire by an infantry battalion. Although a precise match is not known there are close parallels with the account given in J.A. Houlding, Fit For Service: The Training of the British Army, 1715-1795 (Oxford, 1981), 318-321 (Addendum: Platoon Fire and Alternate Fire). The plates would be set up in a line to display the arrangement of the battalion into divisions of 3 platoons (unless the "angles" are a fourth), with the grenadiers divided into half the size of the divisions and placed at the end of the line. The most complex plate may show the sequence of fire from each end inwards, with grenadiers at the ends of the line and with "C" in the centre, presumably for the colour party of commanding officers. (See also the section "Evolving the Platoon Fire System" on http://warfarehistorynetwork.com/daily/military-history/fire-by-volley-european-musketry-at-war/ for the general arrangement.)

Note that the sub-numbering of the 2nd and 3rd divisions seems to have been inadvertently switched.
Primary Inscriptions:
Provenance: Lent by Christ Church, Oxford in 1925.
Collection Group: Orrery Collection
Material(s): Brass


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