Movements Without Arms

The following is taken from the Manuel du Chef de Section d'Infanterie ("The Manual of the Infantry Section Leader") dated January 1918 and the Livre du Gradé d'Infanterie ("Infantry NCO's Book") dated October 1915. The commands covered in this section remained essentially unchanged from those practiced in 1914.

A note on the text: Following the title of each command (the text appearing centered, in light gray and in capital letters) are the actual spoken commands. The preparatory command appears in Bold and Italicized. The execution command appears in BOLD and CAPITALIZED.

Note: For special instructions on how to execute the below movements while bearing arms, see bottom of page.




The heels are placed on the same line and are brought together as much as physically possible for the man taking up the position. The feet are spread open in a slight angle with each foot facing out equally, the knees relaxed, the body balance on the hips and leaning slightly forward, the shoulders pulled back, the arms hanging naturally, the hands open with the fingers joined, the little finger just behind the seam of the trousers, the head straight with the chin slightly raised, the eyes fixed directly in front of him.


("At Ease")


Rest in place observing silence, but without being at attention or immobile.


("Right Face. Left Face")

À droite (gauche),


Turn on the left heel a quarter-circle to the right (left), lifting slightly the point of the left and right foot. Next, bringing the right heel alongside the left and on the same line.


("Half Right Face. Half Left Face.")

Demi à droite (gauche),


Execute the movement of "Right (Left) Face" but only turn half of a quarter of circle.


("Cadenced Step.")

The length of the step is 75 cm (30") with an average cadence of 120 steps per minute. However, a well dressed troop will lengthen its step on easy ground to 80 cm with the candence unchanged. In this way, a troop can cover 4,800 meters (~3 miles), without fatiguing, in 15 minutes. "Candenced Step" is the default step when ordered to march unless commanded otherwise.

Slightly lean the body forward in order to facilitate the movement forward. Place the foot naturally, heel first. Do not keep the leg straight at the moment that the foot hits the ground. Avoid kicking the soil with the foot. Try to reduce the amplitude of oscillations of the body, the arms, and in general all movements which, with a full load, cause fatigue. Keep the head straight, the chest projected forward, in order to assist breathing.

En avant,

("Forward March")

Carry the left foot forward, placing it heel first 75 cm (30") from the right foot which lifts simultaneously. All of the body's weight is carried on the foot placed on the ground. Next, carry the right leg forward, placing the right foot at the same distance and in the same manner as the left foot was, and continue to march in this way, letting the arm swing lightly, the head always kept facing straight. (The French army march is essentially a quick-time marche.)

Note: When formed in a column (of fours, twos or ones), at the command of 'March', all those whose departure is delayed begin marking time at the respective cadence, starting off first on the left foot and then the right, and alternating until they are able to step off.

Section (Escouade),


Place the raised foot on the ground 75 cm (30") in front and bring that which is in the rear next to the other.

En arrière,

("To the Rear March")

Step back with the left foot, taking small steps until comanded to "Halt."


("Exercise Step.")

The length of the exercise step (the equivalent of a "double-time march") is 90 centimeters (35") and it's normal speed is 180 steps per minute for men not heavily burdened. With the weapon and field exercise load (full campaign order), the length of the step is 80 centimeters and the speed, 170 steps per minute. The exercise step is only carried out on exception when wearing full campaign order, and only for very short distances.

Pas Gymnastique,

("Without Cadence March")

At the command of Pas Gymnastique, incline the body lightly forward, the hands at the height of the hips and closed, the elbows just slightly to the rear, the head inclined in an extension of the chest. Seize hold of the bayonet scabbard, if present, with the left hand, the arm elongated.

At the command of Marche, bring the left leg forward, the knee bent lightly, the foot skimming off the ground, placing the left foot 90 centimeters from the right, the knee remaining bent. The right leg follows the same movement as the left and continue in this way, placing the weight of the body on the foot that is grounded, letting the arm oscillate in a natural movement and avoiding stiffness and jerkiness.

Section (Escouade),


At the command Section (Escouade, straighten up the top of the body and gradually slow the pace down. At the command of Halte, place the forward foot at it's correct distance, carrying the rear foot beside the other and let the hands fall into rank.

Pas de Course,

("Run Step March")

Similar to a "double-quick time," apply the principles of the exercise step while giving doing so at the fastest possible speed. Upon setting off, lean the body forward, straightening up during the first few steps, the trunk remaining straight during the course of the march. Bend the forward leg, the more so as the pace quickens. Push off with the rear leg as vigourously as possible as well. Lean the body back to come to a stop at the command of "Halt," or upon reaching the fixed location.


("Without Cadence.")

There is no designated length or cadence for this step. It is used when a cadenced step can not be maintained or will impose a useless fatigue upon the men.

Sans Cadence,

("Without Cadence March")

March with the head always kept alert to the orders of the leader, and without maintaining the cadence of the step.


("Route Step.")

There is no designated length or cadence for this step. The command for "Route Step" is given either before stepping off or while marching with:

Pas de Route

("Route Step March")


("Mark Step.")

Marquez le pas.


Simply mark the cadence of the step, lifting slightly one foot and then the other alternately. Resume marching on the command En avant, MARCHE.


("Right / Left March.")

À droite (gauche),


On the command MARCHE, which is made at the moment when the right (left) foot is placed on the ground, place the left (right) foot at its correct distance (without placing weight on it), turn the body on the right (left) foot in the new direction, and continue marching.





Make a half-turn to the right on the left heel and place the right foot at an angle, the middle of the foot about 10 cm (6") from the left heel. Next turn on both heels, lifting slightly the points of the feet, the lower legs taught. Face to the rear and then bring the right heel along side the left.



The section normally assembles in a line of two ranks (en ligne sur deux rangs) and in column of fours (en colonne par quatre). However, it can also be done in line of one rank or in column of twos or ones. It advances in column of fours, joined or dispersed by half-sections or occasionally by squads. The section, half-section, and squad can also on occasion advance in column of twos or ones (single-file).


The section leader having placed himself opposite the direction to which the men will form up, gives the order 'Rassemblement'. The men bring themselves quickly beside the section leader. The file from the center into the deployed line, or the men from the right of the head fraction into the column of fours, forming behind the section leader and four paces from him. Each soldier takes his normal place and lines up.

En Ligne Sur Deux Rangs:
("In Line of Two Ranks")

The men assemble from tallest to shortest, from the right to left, and are numbered from 1 to 4. The rear rank is 1 meter (3' 3") behind the first. The section leader stands two paces in front of the center of the section. The file-closers stand at 1 meter from the rear rank, behind the center of their troop. The corporals are in the first rank to the right or left of their squad, flanking the half-section. The section is formed in one rank in the same manner (en ligne sur un rang).

En Colonne Par Quatre: ("In Column of Fours")

The column of fours is composed of 8-men fractions of two ranks, with the two ranks separated by a distance of 1 meter (3' 3"). The section leader stands forward of the head of the column whenever the section is not preceded immediately by another unit. If another unit precedes it immediately, the section leader stands next to the head of the column, on the side opposite the file-closers. The file closers stand 1 meter away from the column on one of its flanks.

En Colonne de Route: ("In Marching Column")

The section marches on the roads in column of fours and, occasionally, in column of twos or ones. The section leader places himself where he deems best in order to observe the march. The file-closers form up into one rank and march 1 meter from the last rank of the section. The file-closer of the first half-section marches in front of the first rank, on the open side of the road, in order to regulate the speed of the march. When passing through habitations or special locations, the section leader and the file-closers occupy the places stipulated for the column of fours.


("Break Ranks")


Upon the command, the men disperse, taking their arms with them if stacks are not already formed.



Sur le centre OR à droite (gauche),


Align oneself with the new line, if necessary, shortening the last step and coming to a stop. Turn the head and eyes to the side of the base point, placing the left or right (depending on the alignment ordered) fist on the belt above the hip with the elbow set pointing out, taking little steps alongside the next man from which it is necessary to place so that the line of eyes and the line of shoulders is in the direction of the neighboring men to the side of the base. Lightly touch the seam of the next man. At the command of FIXE, face the head straight again and return to the position of 'Order Arms'.



Par rang,


Upon the execution command, starting with right-most man, the men count off by file "un," "deux," "trois," "quatre" (1, 2, 3, 4) and repeat in this manner until all men have count off into fractions of four files (8 men).

Special Instructions: Executing the Above Movements While Bearing Arms:

  • When executing movements while at the 'Order Arms', at the preparatory command the weapon is lifted slightly off the ground with the right hand. Return it to the ground when the movement is completed.
  • To march at 'Cadenced Step' while at the 'Order Arms', at the command of 'March', bring the weapon automatically to the 'Shoulder Arms'. Alternately when marching without cadence, before the command of 'Forward', go to 'Sling Arms'.
  • When marching at the 'Sling Arms', place the right hand (which is grasping the sling) at the height of the right nipple.
  • When marching at the 'Shoulder Arms', at the command of 'Halt' bring the weapon automatically to the 'Order Arms' upon coming to a stop. When at the 'Sling Arms', maintain the position as is.

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