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"God-'elp-us" Appl

Boarding Pikes

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Hi, new member here with a question.

I'm collecting a army for a table top battle game and some units will have a "piratey" theme to them. One unit I'm thinking of using is some Pirates with pikes. I've heard that Pirates used a type of pike called a "boarding pike". I've search the 'net and wikipedia, but to no avail. Does anyone here know what they look like, how they were used, etc?

Thanks in advance for any help you can give,

Gibbon "God-'elp-us" Appleby

:lol:

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I’ve seen a 18th century British Spontoon. I think that is similar to a boarding pike. Boarding pikes were used in the Civil War as an infantry thrusting weapon. They could have been used to board ships as some have a hook, but I dunno.

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Check out Gilkerson's "Boarders Away" volume one (With Steel); there's an entire chapter on em. Not too many had hooks, because it got in the way when stabbing boarders thru the boarding nets. Most appear to be very slender and spikey and not ornate at all. Military records of the time refer to simply holding them in front and thrusting, and not moving the point off your target even a little, because once the enemy is past the tip ye'r screwed.

A lot of them are referrred to as half-pikes because when used on ship they were originally half the lenth of the land pikes, about 7 feet or less. there are references to quarter-pikes of 3 feet, but I don't think there are any surviving examples, just repros based on what they think was on board the Constitution.

Ye can get the Gilkerson books on Amazon for about $65 and they're worth evey penny!

:lol:

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I'm no expert, i suspect like any other pike...

the pointy end goes into anyone you want killed or maimed, only on a shorter scale...

(sorry, had to be the wise-a$$)

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Most of the descriptions and the few surviving examples seem to have been pretty crude, just an iron blade pinned to the end of a 7 or 8' spar. We made a couple of them using the lance heads we got at jas townsend and sons (www.jastown.com) which are pretty impressive looking, but I suspect would be on the high end of the real things. The pikes were apparently stored around one of the masts upright for quick deployment.

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As Monterey Jack said, they were used AGAINST boarders, not by them. Consider the difficulty of jumping aboard an enemy vessel with a 7-8 foot pike in yer hands!

:)

They were used defensively: drop the anti-boarding netting, stand back and jab at the boarders through the holes in the netting, as the boarders try to hack through to you with their axes and cutlasses.

Capt. William

P.S. Since I'm off work today, maybe I'll check Gilkerson.

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I have th' Gilkerson books... at home... tonite I'll dig 'em out an' see about transcribin' some o' th' details about Boardin' pikes... can't do pictures tho...

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OK, Dorian: I bet we're both off today: let's see if / either of us gets to Gilkerson first, AND posts about it! <_<

Capt. William

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OK, Dorian, looks like I got my a** in gear first! <_<

According to Gilkerson: the boarding pike, or sea-going spear, was used from primordial times into the 20th century. It had no role whatsoever as a tool (unlike the boarding axe). It was distributed just prior to anticipated use, and collected immediately afterwards. The first naval pikes were land pikes with shortened shafts, called "half-pikes", and minus the land pikes' sharpened butt shoes.

The only actual period quote on the use of naval pikes is as follows: in 1802, Lt. John Skynner of the Royal Navy wrote:

"...The pike well managed in the hands of a cool and resolute man is a very dreadful weapon. Armed with it, either for the attack or defence he is to keep it on his right side (or as in the charge of the muskets & bayonet) directed at the breast of the enemy, and to be ready to shorten it or lengthen it out by quickly slipping it thro' his hands, and actively to shift the ground if necessary: but never is he to lift its point or turn it the least possible direction either to the right or left from the body of the enemy: for at that moment he is lost, if his enemy armed with a shorter weapon should run in and close upon him the head of the pike ought therefore never to be lifted but when out of action."

Gilkerson says that "Skynner refers to its being used either for attack or defense, and indeed it was used for both purposes, but its primary role was a defensive one, as an anti-boarding weapon."

(...To be continued...)

Capt. William

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Damned if I remember what ship it was, Constitution maybe?, but I was on a warship of the 18th c and it had a rack of boarding pikes around the mainmast on the weather deck. Nothing fancy, maybe 7 foot long, just a short socketed head of about 6 inches in the blade and 4 inches in the socket. No langets, no butt cap.

Hawkyns

<_<

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HMS Victory has a very similar arrangement (though only on the foremast IIRC). Very simple pikes in a kind of cradle going round the mast.

Butler (1630s) suggests that pikes should be lashed to the ship's sides (presumably inboard), along with muskets.

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I have a Royal Navy boarding pike, probably 19th century. It's about 8" long, with its socket and langets beautifully inletted into the wood. Same with the butt cap, which has a bit of the wood protruding through it to fit into a socket, and to avoid marring the deck during drills. It's amazing the quality of workmanship that went into even these cheap weapons back in those days. It is part of a lot that was sold off when the Tower of London was clearing out a lot of rooms back in the late 60s or early 70s.

Pikes were used when boarding, when the pikemen were detailed to clear a space on the enemy rail so that boarders could get through. I've seen pics somewhere of pikes carried aboard a longboat heading out for a cutting-out expedition.

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Don't Know where to find that older boarding pike thread, so I'll post this here. From the USS Constitution Tech Drawings web site, a Boarding Pike.

iEF9E1ACF-F46B-47FC-9D9E-8E8B2FEDB896.jpg

A better view can be had at: USS Constitution Technical Drawings

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DId the pikes ever have a hook on the back of the blade? Gaff hook for pulling objects closer to the ship?

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DId the pikes ever have a hook on the back of the blade? Gaff hook for pulling objects closer to the ship?

From what I've seen, no; they were meant to stab and little else. Gilkerson doesn't show any with hooks between the 18th and 19th centuries, but I'm not going to go out on a limb and say it was never the case.

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Not that I've ever seen....

Pikes and Gaff hooks are two different animals...

Gaff hook is a tool, Pike a weapon... But that said, the Gaff hook would be a weapon of random mayhem...

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Not that I've ever seen....

Pikes and Gaff hooks are two different animals...

Gaff hook is a tool, Pike a weapon... But that said, the Gaff hook would be a weapon of random mayhem...

And interesting to spar against as well. Unlike the pike, where once you get inside the distance you have control, the gaff hook can be drawn back to catch your arm, back, or even hook your cutlass if you've maintained contact on the shaft.

:unsure:

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Ooh yeah! Gimme a boat hook over any other weapon any time!

There is a great reference to a boat hook being used as a weapon during the Battle of La Hogue in 1692. The remains of the French fleet which had been defeated at the Battle of Barfleur had taken refuge at La Hogue but were hemmed in by the English fleet. Fireships were sent in and a large number of French ships were destroyed. When seamen in boats were sent in to finish off the remaining ships the fighting was so close that the bowman of one of the English boats pulled a French cavalryman out of his saddle with his boathook! :lol:

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