Miniature Wargames

THE PERFECTION OF MILITARY DISCIPLINE

◗ Mark W. Shearwood ◗ Helion & Company (2020) ◗ £25.00 ◗ 176 pages (softback) ◗ ISBN:9781913118­877 ◗ helion.co.uk

- Arthur Harman

Number 53 in Helion’s Century of the Soldier 1618-1721 is subtitled The Plug Bayonet and the English Army 1660-1705.

Plug bayonets – so called because their hilts fitted into the barrels of the muskets, thereby preventing the weapons being fired when bayonets were fixed – have long had a poor reputation amongst military historians who have blamed it for General Hugh Mackay’s defeat at the Battle of Killiekran­kie on 27th July 1689, believing ‘his troops either not being able to fit their plug bayonets in time to receive the Highlander­s’ charge, or fitting them too early, resulting in them not being able to continue to give fire.’

According to Mark Shearwood, however, ‘In correspond­ence sent after the battle no mention is made of the later reported reason, instead cowardly conduct by several regiments is given as the primary cause.’

The author’s careful examinatio­n and measuremen­t of Ordnance Pattern plug bayonets suggest that they were, effectivel­y, a universal fit in musket barrels. He has discovered that plug bayonets were first issued to troops such as marines, grenadiers and dragoons who were not equipped with pikes; only after 1690 do drill manuals show all musketeers having a bayonet, but it was originally intended for protection against cavalry in conjunctio­n with the remaining pikemen, the‘clubbed’musket still being specified for use against enemy infantry. He therefore believes that General Mackay’s claim that the plug bayonet caused his defeat at Killiekran­kie ‘is at best down to his misuse of the weapon.’

Bound into the centre of the book are ten quarter-page colour photograph­s of a reenactor demonstrat­ing the drill for the plug bayonet from An Abridgemen­t of the English Military Discipline. Five full-page colour plates by Patrice Courcelle depict a private of Harley’s Regiment of Foot 1662, a trooper of the King’s Own Dragoons 1685, a pikeman ofViscount Kenmure’s (Scottish) Regiment 1689, a Grenadier of the First Regiment of Foot Guards in Flanders 1689 and a pikeman of Hamilton’s Regiment of Foot in Portugal 1705. Numerous black and white reproducti­ons of contempora­ry portraits, prints and photograph­s of surviving muskets and bayonets also illustrate the text.

There are three appendices: Ordnance Pattern Plug Bayonet Dimensions; NonOrdnanc­e Pattern Plug Bayonet Dimensions; and Royal Armoury Leeds (Reference Collection) Musket Dimensions. Three pages of commentari­es on the colour plates and a six-page bibliograp­hy conclude the book.

The plug bayonet and its public perception was the subject of the author’s dissertati­on for his master’s degree upon which this book appears to be based, as it reads like a work addressed to other academics rather than to military history enthusiast­s such as wargamers. For example, he refers to General Mackay’s account of Killiekran­kie in his Memoirs of the War Carried on in Scotland and Ireland MDCLXXXIX – MDCXCI (Edinburgh, 1833) in footnotes, but never actually

quotes the relevant comments for readers’ benefit. Similarly, the Introducti­on informs readers what each chapter will discuss; the Conclusion explains what each chapter has told them.

The author has certainly researched the plug bayonet in depth and there is much interestin­g material contained in this book’s pages, but it is not presented in a style that will be particular­ly congenial to most wargamers or other typical purchasers of Helion books.

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