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Paskal Supporting Member of TMP24 Jul 2022 3:16 a.m. PST

Hello everyone,

As you know, during the 7 Years War and long before, the British infantry used platoon fire and its 10 company battalions were then divided into 18 "sub-units" to shoot.

Please have a sketch representing this formation.

And the infantry of other nations, when did they adopt platoon fire?

Thank you

14Bore24 Jul 2022 6:44 a.m. PST

Dutch seem to have invented it, Prussians took it to its best it seems

BillyNM24 Jul 2022 10:30 a.m. PST

There's a good diagram showing platoon fire in the Battle of Falkirk article at the following link:

Royston Papworth24 Jul 2022 11:18 a.m. PST

14B, I've seen third hand comments about the Prussians being the tops at platoon firing, but never anything more. Most comments I've read that mention Prussian shooting generally fixate on their ability to move and fire from the hip, that's all, Simon not sure where it comes from..

dantheman Supporting Member of TMP24 Jul 2022 2:33 p.m. PST

Currently reading Duffy's book on the Army of Fredrick the Great (2nd ed). Prussians evaluated platoon firing early on.

Also, based on Duffy's book on the Austrian army Vol 1, the first volleys followed trained practice, but became general shortly thereafter.

General impression I get from Duffy, the first few volleys were controlled, but volley fire broke down under continuous action.

Paskal Supporting Member of TMP25 Jul 2022 1:13 a.m. PST


Thank you so much for the sketch, it's the one I had and had lost.

Well during the SYW everyone uses the platoon fire and in the same way as illustrated on this sketch?

Platoon fire only affects "réglée" infantry?( "Infanterie réglée" =Infantry that is neither light nor irregular).

Whirlwind26 Jul 2022 7:23 a.m. PST

Reid has (in Brown Bess and Charleville) British infantry largely having abandoned platoon firing by the SYW, preferring forms of alternate firing.

bobm195927 Jul 2022 3:43 a.m. PST

As I understand it platoon fire has two main aims:
1. There is no pause in firing when an opponent can opportunely decide to close…thereby with platoon fire you're setting up a prolonged firefight.
2. It had become prevalent to allow your opponent to fire first, the firer's morale being affected when his volley is not seen to send his opponent running. With platoon fire a unit can fire first…and just keep going with fire rippling up and down the line, thereby avoiding the moment when smoke clears and the opposition is seen resolutely lifting their muskets to their shoulders.

Paskal Supporting Member of TMP27 Jul 2022 8:28 a.m. PST


Abandoned platoon fire by the SYW, preferring forms of alternate fire?

What are alternate fire forms?

And what about the fire systems of the Prussians, Russians, Austro-Hungarians, French and others in the 7 year war?

No documentation above?

Whirlwind28 Jul 2022 9:37 a.m. PST

Abandoned platoon fire by the SYW, preferring forms of alternate fire?

What are alternate fire forms?

So by alternate platoons e.g. all the odd numbered platoons fire, then all the even; or by wing e.g. the platoons on the left, then on the right; or by division i.e. groups of platoons or companies.

Paskal Supporting Member of TMP28 Jul 2022 10:34 p.m. PST

Yes so we get a continuous fire as with the platoon fire?

And for the other armies of the SYW ?

crogge175729 Jul 2022 1:04 a.m. PST

The firing drill for the Prussian infantry is rather well documented. By the SYW, the preferred form of fire was the battalion general discharge when opposing enemy infantry. With this type of fire the battalions within a wing of 8 to 10 battalions would alter firing pretty much as with platoon fire while advancing. Such an attack is documented and confirmed for the battle of Kolin 18 June 1757. Must have been one of the first attacks. The officers of maréchal Dauns suite noted they would not have believed a fire with such regularity would be possible on a battlefield if they had not seen it with their own eyes (quoting from the official relation of the battle – written on the battlefield the other day). If opposing cavalry, platoon fire was advised instead. With 8 firings in a battalion each discharge would be at a rate of approx 15 seconds i.e. 6 out of 8 had fired a round by the end of a minute– which was considered quite excellent. The Prussian Grenadier-Garde arrived at a somewhat faster rate, just on the eve of the SYW. Most Prussian infantry would come with 10 firings with their 1757 augmented battalions (the 5 companies would each form as division at a ratio of 2 platoons per division). This alternate wartime formation was adopted also by the Allied Army's Hannoverians, Hessians, et. al. I think also the Brits simply made a company the platoon. Thats 8 or 9 firings (excl. the genadiers). Not sure if all 10 companies were sent to Germany. Possibly 1 remained in England for drilling the new recruits.
By April 1761, officer's of Kingsley's 20th Foot boasted that they would shoot faster then the Prussians! The story behind this bit is that general Kingsley must have purchased a Prussian regulation (French language in print since 1759 and available across Europe) Also available the famous coppers illustrating the manuals of the fire drill first published by a native Suisse veteran of the Prussian army at around 1756.
Kingsley must have managed to purchase those too. Now what the gentlemen of the 20th Foot did was they simply omitted 2 or 3 positions of manual, speeding up the loading process in the event. And, voilà, they now shoot faster.


Whirlwind29 Jul 2022 2:54 p.m. PST

Yes so we get a continuous fire as with the platoon fire?

Not quite continuous. With platoon fire you are supposed to get that rolling effect with musket balls continuously flying through the air at the target, whilst the others are a salvo every 10-20 seconds or so.

von Winterfeldt30 Jul 2022 12:04 p.m. PST

my view

To give some more food for thought some quotes form the German side of view :

The soldiers has a strong tendency to fire much and quickly, and when a so called Placker Feuer (fire at will) is established, so it is very difficult to stop this. The unit is unable to get an impulse for a decisive move and the commander has to wait for a chance by random. The fire at will, or the Bataillenfeuer (feux de bataille) where each soldier is shooting as soon as he has loaded is therefore to used with care and the fire according to commands will be mostly advantageous.
(Valentini, page 66)

An old Prussian Officer writes about the Prussians in the 7YW :

One started to fire with pelotons, two, three fired well, but then a common burning started and the usual fire where each who finished loading pulls the trigger, files and ranks are intermingling, the front rank is not even able to kneel down, even if they intended to, and the officers from below up to the generals cannot do anything any longer with this mass, but have to wait till they will move forward or backwards.
(Jany, page 47)

Gaudi, another eye witness writes about the Prussians of the 7YW :

Who will think back will have difficulties to remember that in a battle or action to have witnessed that at firing the first rank will have knelt down or did do this constantly, despite such a thing happens constantly on the drill ground, but they kept standing as the rear ranks. There one witnessed this at those troops who rightly were classed as being the best taught and disciplined, so the thought to kneel down in action must be un natural.
(Jany, page 47)

Tempelhoff another veteran writes :

The Bataillenfeuer (feux de bataille) as the fire at will was typically was called replaced in the hitherto battle in the end the drilled art. Then everybody fired who could fire and wanted to and everybody as often as he was capable without giving a damn about his neighbour or front man.
(Jany page 46 / 47)

Ein Veteran des Siebenjährigen Krieges , General v. Tempelhoff, bemerkt darüber : „Man feuert in einer Schlacht ganz anders als auf dem Exerzierplatz; denn die anrückende Infanterie fängt trotz allem dem, was man auf dem Exerzierplatze gelehrt und eingeprägt wird, oft schon auf 800 Schritt vom Feinde an zu feuern; doch wenigstens auf 600. Gewöhnlich glaubt man, daß ein solches Feuer nichts thut, allein hierin irrt man sich. Eine Kugel aus dem kleinen Gewehr tödet oder verwundet einen Mann, wenn sie nur trifft, ebenso gut, sie mag aus in einem Bogen oder horizontal abgeschossen werden.
(Jany, p. 38/39 (Gedanken des Generals v. Tempelhoff vom 11. April 1802, Beilage 13 zu Band II der Massenbachschen Memoiren, Amsterdamm 1809, S. 504)

A veteran of the 7YW, General v. Tempelhoff notices about (range of firing and hitting HKW) ; "One is firing total differently in a battle than on the drill ground, despite what was learned and taught on the drill ground – the advancing infantry often opens fire at 800 paces distance from the enemy – at least however at 600. Usually it is believed that such a fire is useless, however this is an error. A small arms ball kills or wounded a man as long as it hits regardless of being short in an arc or horizontally.
(Jany, p. 38/39 (Gedanken des Generals v. Tempelhoff vom 11. April 1802, Beilage 13 zu Band II der Massenbachschen Memoiren, Amsterdamm 1809, S. 504)

A British officer wrote about the 1st Foots Guards at Dettingen,

They were under no command by way of Hide Park firing, but the whole three ranks made a running fire of their own accord. … The French fired the same manner, without waiting for words of command and Lord Sinclair [the allied commander] did often say he had never seen many a battle, and never saw the infantry engage in any other manner."
Muir page 77

Paskal Supporting Member of TMP31 Jul 2022 2:56 a.m. PST

@crogge1757: Thank you and well done!

So the Prussian infantry shooting practice was the general discharge of the battalion when it opposed enemy infantry?

But it is the salvo fires so often decried, because considered inferior in effectiveness to platoon fire!

With this type of fire, the battalions of an 8-10 battalion wing would alter fire much like with platoon fire while advancing.

So each battalion fires, one after the other, but only one at that time ?

The Prussian "platoon fire" was 8 shots in a battalion of 5 companies?

So each discharge consisted of how many "platoons"?


Then you write that most of the Prussian infantry would come with 10 shots with their 1757 increased battalions (the 5 companies would each form a division at the rate of 2 platoons per division).

This alternative wartime formation was also adopted by the Hanoverians, Hessians, etc. of the allied army.

I also think the British just made one company the platoon.

It's 8 or 9 shots (excluding grenadiers).

But when were the grenadiers shooting?

Well now if the companies replace the "firings", they should have done that at the beginning of the 18th century, rather than creating "firings" for shooting.

And to conclude if there were 10 platoons for the Prussians, Hanoverians, the Hessians, 2 per company, the fire was carried out per group of how many "firings"?

Both from the same company? Because at the time when the British infantry had battalions organized in 18 "firing" (formation which no longer existed among the British at the time of the SYW), they fired in groups of 6, so in three salvos, all the battalion had fired except the soldiers in the first rank who reserved their fire.

And the French, Austro-Hungarian and Russian use what types of shooting?

And the other types of infantry, such as the light or the border corps, used what types of fire?

crogge175701 Aug 2022 4:30 a.m. PST

For the individual nations battalion organization I recommend turning to the kronoskaf SYW project.
Prussian fire drill is discribed here:

For the Austrians see my article at
I think this will answer most questions.


Paskal Supporting Member of TMP01 Aug 2022 8:12 a.m. PST

OK, thanks …

Mark J Wilson20 Aug 2022 5:33 a.m. PST

@ Paksal

I think the key point here is not the minutiae of the methods attempted but the fact that they all tended to break down into a general individual 'fire as fast as you can', by which time the battalion is effectively out of its officers' control. The key point of which is that it will no longer move forward. This is not salvo firing, which also requires control, unless like Gustavus Adolphus' Swedes you fire one salvo and charge.

Rod MacArthur22 Aug 2022 8:56 a.m. PST

I have some diagrams showing the theory of platoon firing on my website:


However I do agree that this theory may well have dissolved into uncontrolled firing by individuals.


comte de malartic Supporting Member of TMP29 Oct 2022 3:54 p.m. PST

I agree with von Winterfeldt and Mark Wilson talking about the breaking down of platoon firing systems. Uncontrolled "battle fire" is what usually took over. The French as far back as Turenne felt that individual skirmisher fire was the most effective. The French experimented with attacks in column usually led by their grenadiers and picquets in skirmish order.

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