Friday, 21 September 2012

Wedge

In Poul Anderson's War Of The Gods (New York, 1999), Gangleri (Odin) teaches King Hadding's men a new battle array:

"He spread them on the field as a great wedge. Hadding and Gunnar made the first row...Four men behind them made the second row, eight behind these the third, and thus until the last...it clove into the disordered foe, scattering those it did not straightway overrun...the wedge of men lived on throughout Northern lands. It came to be known as the swine array, for it ripped through an unready host like the tusks of a wild boar." (pp. 194-198)

I have remembered and noted this detail only because it connected with something in my experience. Once, I saw British police suddenly forming themselves into a wedge and driving it through a mass picket line, thus dividing the pickets into two groups and pushing them apart and away from the picketed entrance. On another occasion, however, with a bigger crowd, the pressure of the crowd was so great that it pushed the wedge back and the police were forced to retreat. There is strength in tactics but also strength in numbers.

In a later battle, Hadding's chieftains formed "...the men into a wedge..." whereas "...the foe formed their straight ranks." (p. 210) The two big men in the front row smash with axes, the four men in the second row strike right, left and ahead and the weight behind presses them forward so that the swine array splits the enemy ranks. 

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