Tag Archives: Military

Warfare for Writers - Officers

Warfare for Writers - Officers covers commissioned and non-commissioned officers, different from the days when one could buy a rank. From a Timons Esaias lecture.

Non-commissioned officers - sergeants and corporals and rarely sergeant-majors - are the foreman of the military.

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Commissioned officers lead companies, or their equivalent, and up. Officers are the quarterbacks of the team, they tell everybody else what to do and are responsible if they don't get it done. If officers work well together, they combine their strengths. If they squabble, they make their weaknesses prominent. Think plot conflicts!

An overwhelming concern for officers in most armies in history, is seniority. Armies, since ancient Rome, have had strict rules on who gets what job based on seniority down to minutes and seconds. If a higher ranking officer shows up, based on seniority, even in the middle of a battle, he assumes command and he can change the battle orders. If your character is an officer in a civilized military, this needs to be on their mind. If your character is a knight in a feudal military, then he is concerned about honor and precedence becoming more important, more complex, and more vexing.

Confusion for writers - in addition to names and official ranks there are positions and brevets. Positions are the jobs officers do, adding meanings to their rank with titles such as: executive officer, quartermaster, master, commander, first mate, officer of the day, and so on. Brevets or field commissions are acting ranks usually awarded doing wartime, giving the power of the rank without postwar privileges and pensions.

The one absolute SIN of an officer in the field, if he commands a unit, is not to reconnoiter his position. (Which is, to find out where other units are, and the nature of the surrounding terrain.) This sin is all too common and is utterly inexcusable!

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Warfare for Writers - 5

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Warfare for Writers - 5 is another in the series graciously permitted by Timons Esaias for distribution by me from his lectures.military cloumn

What is a "line" ? 

In army terms, a line is a formation in which each soldier, or artillery piece, or horse or chariot is facing forward, and the other members of the unit are side-by-side. If a second line of soldiers/horses/guns is behind the first, this is called a double line or a two-man line. There can be triple lines, and so forth, but the nature of a line is that it is wider than it is deep. In the old days, when most military vessels were oared (galleys) and their major ship-to-ship weapon was the ram, a naval line was the same as an army line, vessels shoulder-to-shoulder, facing forward. We now call this formation line abreast. With the invention of the cannon, however, the business end of the ship was actually its sides, so the "battle line" got turned 90°, and ships moved nose to tail. So now a line on land is the opposite of a line at sea.

What is a "column" ??

The column is the "opposite" formation from a line, and can be created simply by having everyone in a line formation turn 90° to the right or left, in place. In the part-wrestling-match that is close combat, this formation is used to break through the enemy, or at least push them around, by piling up against them. If people in the front are killed, they can be replaced by folks immediately behind, without stopping to reorganize.  A column is generally deeper than it is wide, though starting in a solid square was quite common. The column also applies more "peer pressure" on the troops in it to stay in formation. (It takes more discipline to stand steady in a line than it does in a column, because there are fewer folks behind you to make you stay.) Each line in a column or in a multiple-line formation is called a rank, and the rows of guys from front to back are called files. Since these formations are made up of the most common soldiers, this is where our expression "rank-and-file" (meaning the grunts who do the real work) comes from.

Which flank is which?

The "right" and "left" of a unit is judged as you would a person, as they face forward. When arrayed for battle one generally faces the enemy. Your right will be to your right, and opposite your right will be the enemy left.

Enemy Right              Enemy Center                        Enemy Left

Your Left                    Your Center                             Your Right