Thursday, July 31, 2008

Historical Military Units - Landsknecht

Landsknechts are German mercenary pike units reknowned for their colourful costumes. I'm particularly drawn to them because they're mercs but they're considered professional mercs and they fight wars for feudal lords in Europe in the medieval periods. They are primarily pike and spear units - drawing their tactics from Swiss pikemen who were some of the best in Europe during their heyday.

The most amusing units in a Landsknecht formation are the Doppelsoldner, or Double Soldier. These are more experienced soldiers who take the frontlines, hence the riskier jobs. For that they are paid double - hence the name Double Soldier. Their primary armament is the extremely large, 5 to 8 feet long Zweihander - or Two Handers. The romanticized version recounting the use of the doppelsoldners were that they charge in with the zweihanders breaking spearheads of enemy pike formations so the rest of the Landsknechts can break through. Truthfully zweihanders were probably a pain to handle on the battlefield - tossed away after the initial contact and drawing their common use sword - the Katzbalger - for close combat when the enemy lines are broken.

Find out more about the Landsknechts here

For now, here are the sketches.


Anonymous said...

Always happy to find somebody else who enjoys the landsknechts... and an artist to boot! Nice sketches.

Matt Bryant said...

As someone who has trained with the Bidenhander/zweihander using concepts of the Liechtenauer based German system, I can say that they were in no way unweildy. They were usually 5-6 feet in length and would weigh less than, or around, a pound per foot. So they were not terribly heavy. Also, I'm quite certain that they were an anti-polearm weapon but not because they could cut off pike heads (pikes had langets which would make this nearly impossible). Rather, the default way of using them was to grip the blunt part of the sword that is between the crossgaurd and the little spikes that would protrude from the side of the blade. Then you would use it as if it where a staff or polearm itself.

Also, a big reason the Doppelsoldner were paid double was because they were much more skilled than the pike wielding "regulars." They had to be certified in the use of the longsword by a professional fighting guild in order to get their rank. kind of like getting a technical degree so you can get a promotion at your job. So they really knew how to use their weapons quite well.

Just figured I would throw in my two cents. I really dig the illustrations.


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