Bill (weapon)

A common variety of bill. Some variants have projections on the backs of the main blades.
A group of 15th-century re-enactors with Italian and English billhooks during a display at Cardiff Castle

Class of agricultural implement used for trimming tree limbs, which was often repurposed for use as an infantry polearm.

- Bill (weapon)
A common variety of bill. Some variants have projections on the backs of the main blades.

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Typical stance; the pouch at belt contains a whetstone

Scythe

[[File:Scythe.svg|thumb|right|Parts of a scythe:

[[File:Scythe.svg|thumb|right|Parts of a scythe:

Typical stance; the pouch at belt contains a whetstone
A modern scythe of a pattern common in parts of Europe
The occasional addition of a cradle aligns the seed heads and makes picking up and winnowing easier.
Men working in a field near Fort Frances, between 1900-1909.
Neolithic rock engraving depicting scythes, Norway
German peasant with scythe from 850 AD
Early Medieval scythe blade from the Merovingian site Kerkhove-Kouter in Belgium (collection number: RAMS00393)
1. Start of the stroke after stepping forward into the swathe. Mowing rye in 1945
2. Swinging left into the cut and deepening the swathe
3. Finish of the stroke and depositing on the windrow to the left
A peening jig anvil. Note the two colour-coded caps.
Peening a scythe blade using the jig
A typical ovoid honing stone soaking in a water-filled sheath
Setting up a burr on the outside of the blade by honing on the inside
Taking the burr off the outside of the blade by honing on the outside
The finished blade
Image from a 1945 rye harvest, showing a very long blade being honed on the job. Setting up the burr
Removing the burr on the outside face, ready to mow again
1817 illustration of a Polish peasant sharpening a scythe. (Drawn by Jan Piotr Norblin, engraved by Philibert-Louis Debucourt)
Death and the woodcutter by Jean-François Millet, 1859
Niittomiehet (Mower men), by Pekka Halonen, 1891
Swedish boy with scythe by Per Södermark, second part of 19th century
Winslow Homer, The Veteran in a New Field, 1865
A horse holding scythe in the coat of arms of Orimattila

An improvised conversion of the agricultural scythe to a war scythe by re-attaching the blade parallel to the snaith, similar to a bill, has also been used throughout history as a weapon.

A modern recreation of a mid-17th century company of pikemen. By that period, pikemen would primarily defend their unit's musketeers from enemy cavalry.

Pike (weapon)

Very long thrusting spear formerly used extensively by infantry .

Very long thrusting spear formerly used extensively by infantry .

A modern recreation of a mid-17th century company of pikemen. By that period, pikemen would primarily defend their unit's musketeers from enemy cavalry.
Re-enactment during the 2009 Escalade in Geneva.
First rank with pikes at "charge for horse" static defensive posture, ready to draw swords if needed. Second rank holding their pikes at "charge" for delivering thrusts.
First rank with pikes at "charge", second rank holding pikes at "port". In real action first 3 – 4 ranks will hold their pikes at "charge" (their points projecting forward from the formation front), and those behind will hold weapons at "port" (to avoid injuring front rank friendlies with their points).
Macedonian phalanx
Contemporary woodcut of the Battle of Dornach.
Swiss and Landsknecht pikemen fight at "push of pike" during the Italian Wars.
Pikemen exercising during the Battle of Grolle.
The Battle of Rocroi (1643) marked the end of the supremacy of the Spanish Tercios, painting by Augusto Ferrer-Dalmau picture.
An English pikeman (1668), with steel cap, corselet, and tassets.
American petty officers reenact boarding pike drills

Mixed formations of men quickly became the norm for European infantrymen, with many, but not all, seeking to imitate the Tercio; in England, a combination of billmen, longbowmen, and men-at-arms remained the norm, though this changed when the supply of yew on the island dwindled.

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Halberd

Two-handed pole weapon that came to prominent use during the 14th, 15th, and 16th centuries.

Two-handed pole weapon that came to prominent use during the 14th, 15th, and 16th centuries.

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Halberdiers from a modern-day reenactor troupe.
A member of the Swiss Guard with a halberd in the Vatican.
Chinese deity hold a yue.
Different sorts of halberds and halberd-like pole weapons in Switzerland
Citizens of Zürich on 1 May 1351 are read the Federal Charter as they swear allegiance to representatives of Uri, Schwyz, Unterwalden and Lucerne. One of the representatives carries a typical Swiss halberd of the period depicted (as opposed to the time the image was made, 1515).
Saint Wiborada is often (anachronistically) depicted with a halberd to indicate the means of her martyrdom.
Halberd-axe head with the head of a mouflon. Late 2nd millennium–early 1st millennium BC. From Amlash, Gilan, Iran.

Researchers suspect that a halberd or a bill sliced through the back of King Richard III's skull at the Battle of Bosworth.

A selection of polearms, mostly halberds

Polearm

Close combat weapon in which the main fighting part of the weapon is fitted to the end of a long shaft, typically of wood, thereby extending the user's effective range and striking power.

Close combat weapon in which the main fighting part of the weapon is fitted to the end of a long shaft, typically of wood, thereby extending the user's effective range and striking power.

A selection of polearms, mostly halberds
Evolution of various European polearms
Shang dynasty polearm weapon
Triple dagger-axe ji, Warring States period
Two ge, two ancient ji, two Song dynasty ji

Because their versatility, high effectiveness and cheap cost, polearms experimentation led to many variants and were the most frequently used weapons on the battlefield: bills, picks, dane axes, spears, glaives, guandaos, pudaos, poleaxes, halberds, harpoons, sovnyas, tridents, naginatas, bardiches, war scythes, and lances are all varieties of polearms.

The Flodden Memorial on Piper's Hill, overlooking the site of the battle

Battle of Flodden

Battle fought on 9 September 1513 during the War of the League of Cambrai between the Kingdom of England and the Kingdom of Scotland, resulting in an English victory.

Battle fought on 9 September 1513 during the War of the League of Cambrai between the Kingdom of England and the Kingdom of Scotland, resulting in an English victory.

The Flodden Memorial on Piper's Hill, overlooking the site of the battle
Sketch of Edinburgh in 1544 looking south, detail showing the Netherbow Port
Norham Castle, which fell to the Scots on 29 August after a six-day bombardment by James's artillery.
James IV captured Ford Castle from Lady Heron
A view of Flodden Hill which shows its steep gradient. The crest of the hill was without trees at the time of the battle.
Twizell (or Twizel) Bridge, which allowed the English artillery to cross the River Till and outflank the Scottish Army.
A map published in 1859, showing the features of the battlefield at Flodden.
A diagram published in 1859, showing the arrangement of opposing forces at the Battle of Flodden. An error is that Edward Stanley's force is shown incorporated into the left of the English line, when in fact he arrived on the Scottish flank late in the battle.
The western side of the battlefield, looking south-south-east from the monument erected in 1910. towards Branxton Hill on the skyline. The Scottish army advanced down the ploughed field, the English down the grassy field in the foreground. The modern boundary between the two fields marks the position of the marsh encountered by the Scots.
An early 16th century depiction of pikemen in close combat with halbediers; the fighting at Flodden must have had a similar appearance.
An 1873 artist's impression of the hand-to-hand fighting at the height of the battle.
English bill, reputed to have been used at Flodden.
Thomas Howard, 2nd Duke of Norfolk was given an augmentation of honour to commemorate the Battle of Flodden
The Flodden memorial cross, erected in 1910, contemplated by the Tudor historian David Starkey.
On the 500th anniversary of the battle a minute's silence for the town's dead was observed at the Mercat Cross in Edinburgh

The English infantry were equipped with traditional polearms, mostly bills which were their favoured weapon.

The siege of Nice by a Franco-Ottoman fleet in 1543 (drawing by Toselli, after an engraving by Aeneas Vico)

Italian War of 1542–1546

Conflict late in the Italian Wars, pitting Francis I of France and Suleiman I of the Ottoman Empire against the Holy Roman Emperor Charles V and Henry VIII of England.

Conflict late in the Italian Wars, pitting Francis I of France and Suleiman I of the Ottoman Empire against the Holy Roman Emperor Charles V and Henry VIII of England.

The siege of Nice by a Franco-Ottoman fleet in 1543 (drawing by Toselli, after an engraving by Aeneas Vico)
William, Duke of Jülich-Cleves-Berg (engraving by Heinrich Aldegrever, c. undefined 1540). William allied himself with Francis I, marrying Jeanne d'Albret, but was defeated by Charles V.
Suleiman the Magnificent (painting by a member of the Venetian school, 16th century)
Battles and sieges in northern France and the Low Countries during the war
Ottoman depiction of the siege of Nice (Matrakçı Nasuh, 16th century)
Portrait of Alfonso d'Avalos, Marchese del Vasto, in Armor with a Page (oil on canvas by Titian, c. undefined 1533). D'Avalos was defeated by the French at the Battle of Ceresole, but won a later victory at the Battle of Serravalle.
Thomas Howard, 3rd Duke of Norfolk (oil on wood by Hans Holbein, 1539). Sent to France by Henry VIII, Norfolk commanded the English troops during the unsuccessful siege of Montreuil.
Portrait of Claude d'Annebault (school of Jean Clouet, c. undefined 1535). Despite having no experience in naval warfare, d'Annebault commanded the French invasion fleet during the expedition against England.
The French fleet attacks the Isle of Wight (unknown artist, 16th century)
Ratification of the Treaty of Ardres by Henry VIII (1546)
Charles V enthroned over his defeated enemies (Giulio Clovio, mid-16th century). From left, the figures represent Suleiman the Magnificent, Pope Clement VII, Francis I, the Duke of Cleves, the Duke of Saxony and the Landgrave of Hesse.

By western continental standards, the army was obsolescent; it had little heavy cavalry and a shortage of both pike and shot, the bulk of its troops being armed with longbows or bills.

Self-yew English longbow, 6 ft 6 in (1.98 m) long, 470 N (105 lbf) draw force.

English longbow

Powerful medieval type of bow, about 6 ft long used by the English and the Welsh as a weapon of war, and for hunting.

Powerful medieval type of bow, about 6 ft long used by the English and the Welsh as a weapon of war, and for hunting.

Self-yew English longbow, 6 ft 6 in (1.98 m) long, 470 N (105 lbf) draw force.
A late 15th century illustration of the Battle of Crécy. English longbowmen figure prominently in the foreground on the right, where they are driving away Italian mercenary crossbowmen.
Self (bottom) and laminated (top) bows for comparison

Infantry (usually dismounted knights and armoured soldiers employed by the nobles and often armed with pole weapons such as pollaxes and bills) in the centre.

Glaives (from Handbook of Weapon Knowledge: Weaponry in Its Historical Development from the Beginning of the Middle Ages to the End of the 18th Century by Wendelin Boeheim, c. undefined 1890)

Glaive

European polearm, consisting of a single-edged blade on the end of a pole.

European polearm, consisting of a single-edged blade on the end of a pole.

Glaives (from Handbook of Weapon Knowledge: Weaponry in Its Historical Development from the Beginning of the Middle Ages to the End of the 18th Century by Wendelin Boeheim, c. undefined 1890)
Image taken from the Morgan Bible (Folio 10 Verso – top). Notice the Warbrand in the forefront slicing into a mounted soldier.

According to the 1599 treatise Paradoxes of Defence by the English gentleman George Silver, the glaive is used in the same general manner as the quarterstaff, half pike, bill, halberd, voulge, or partisan.

16th-century keep and gun platform at Pendennis Castle

Device Forts

The Device Forts, also known as Henrician castles and blockhouses, were a series of artillery fortifications built to defend the coast of England and Wales by Henry VIII.

The Device Forts, also known as Henrician castles and blockhouses, were a series of artillery fortifications built to defend the coast of England and Wales by Henry VIII.

16th-century keep and gun platform at Pendennis Castle
18th-century engraving of a 1588 map showing the mutually reinforcing defences along the River Thames, including Milton and Gravesend blockhouses (top), and East Tilbury and West Tilbury blockhouses (bottom)
Reconstruction of life amongst the 16th-century garrison at St Mawes Castle
Reconstruction of a 16th-century cannon and gun crew at Pendennis Castle
Sketch of the Gravesend Blockhouse, by Cornelis Bol, mid-17th century
Little Dennis Blockhouse in 2008
The South Blockhouse (centre) and Castle (right) at Hull, viewed from the sea, by Wenceslas Hollar, mid-17th century
St Mawes Castle (centre) and Pendennis (left) depicted by J. M. W. Turner in 1823
The Duke of Wellington's room in Walmer Castle; the Duke was captain there between 1829 and 1852
Hurst Castle seen from the east, showing the 16th-century defences (centre) flanked by extensive mid-19th century additions
6-inch (152 mm) Mark 24 gun in the Half Moon Battery at Pendennis Castle, dating from the Second World War
Sandgate Castle, damaged by coastal erosion and converted into a private house during the 1970s

Many forts also held supplies of bows, arrows and polearms, such as bills, pikes and halberds.

The castle seen from the south-east

Hurst Castle

Artillery fort established by Henry VIII on the Hurst Spit in Hampshire, England, between 1541 and 1544.

Artillery fort established by Henry VIII on the Hurst Spit in Hampshire, England, between 1541 and 1544.

The castle seen from the south-east
Plan of the 16th-century castle. Key: A – north-west bastion; B – north-east bastion; C – keep; D – south bastion
Gun embrasure in the 16th-century castle
Depiction of the 18th-century castle
Hurst Castle in 1840, with the Hurst Tower (centre) and High Lighthouse (right)
Hurst Castle, depicted in 1862, showing the new eastern gun battery (right) and redesigned 16th-century fortifications
12.5 inch, 38 ton (317 mm, 39,000 kg) rifled muzzle-loading (RML) gun and shell in the West Wing
The theatre in the West Wing, with surviving original wall paintings from the Second World War
Damage to the eastern wing due to partial collapse on 26th February 2021
Modern plan; A – site of old battery; B – position finder cell / battery command post; C – 12-pounder QF emplacements, Bofors gun position and searchlight tower; D – West Wing; E – 6-pounder QF emplacement and the Director Tower; F – searchlight tower; G – Metal light and Low Light; H – ferry; I – railway line, actual and disused; J – High Light; K – 12-pounder battery; L – 16th-century castle; M – East Wing; N – 6-pounder QF emplacement; O – Bofors gun position; P – gun directing position
The castle seen from the east of Hurst Spit

A 1559 survey commented that Hurst Castle was essential for sending reinforcements from the mainland to the island, and noted that it was equipped with eleven brass and iron guns, with nine further broken guns, along with handguns, bows and arrows, pikes and bills.