Discussion When a unit starts marching why is the first step with the left foot?

major bill

Brev. Brig. Gen'l
Forum Host
Joined
Aug 25, 2012
When a U.S. soldier starts to march they step off with their left foot. I do not think I have ever read why. Is the stepping off done by soldiers world wide or do some armies start marching with the right foot?

Note that when marching command are given, they command starts when the left foot hits the ground.
 

Scott1967

Sergeant
Joined
Jul 11, 2016
Location
England
Same in the British army or by the Left as I used to say , I took cadre course which included 2 weeks at Pirbright trying to be drill instructors or it was just 2 weeks of beasting us around cant remember now.

But it was always "By the Left , Quick March" so I would suspect The US military inherited this from the British but im not sure on other European nations they have some weird marches Bill.

As an interesting side note I originally was part of the Grenadier Guards , I did 6 months basic training when I was 17 and my Platoon Sergeant was a guy called Lance Sergeant Grassick , I left the 1st battalion after 2 years and transferred over to the Signals where I did another 7 years , When I went back to Pirbright on my cadre course guess who are Drill instructor was yep Sergeant Grassick and he wasn't pleased to see me in my Signals uniform , So I got the brunt of the **** he dished out all I remember was it was 2 weeks of pure hell heh.
 
Last edited:

DixieRifles

Captain
Member of the Year
Regtl. Staff Shiloh 2020
Joined
Mar 22, 2009
Location
Collierville, TN
Hah!
Ans: A soldier never questions his commander.
I thought I would know this. I was the drill team commander in ROTC. We did some fancy drill but always started on the left. In high school band, we performed half-time shows where individuals stepped off in sequence—- but always starting with Left foot on every even beat resulting in everyone in step.

I wonder if it has anything to do with you normally prop the rifle on your Right shoulder.
 

major bill

Brev. Brig. Gen'l
Forum Host
Joined
Aug 25, 2012
Hah!
Ans: A soldier never questions his commander.
I thought I would know this. I was the drill team commander in ROTC. We did some fancy drill but always started on the left. In high school band, we performed half-time shows where individuals stepped off in sequence—- but always starting with Left foot on every even beat resulting in everyone in step.

I wonder if it has anything to do with you normally prop the rifle on your Right shoulder.

Was never told why and have never heard why.
 
Last edited:

ucvrelics

Lt. Colonel
Forum Host
Regtl. Quartermaster Shiloh 2020
Joined
May 7, 2016
Location
Alabama
The fight stance is with the left foot forward which dates way back. All I can add is that during the CW it was Hay Foot, Straw Foot. :thumbsup:
 

major bill

Brev. Brig. Gen'l
Forum Host
Joined
Aug 25, 2012
Hah!
Ans: A soldier never questions his commander.
I thought I would know this. I was the drill team commander in ROTC. We did some fancy drill but always started on the left. In high school band, we performed half-time shows where individuals stepped off in sequence—- but always starting with Left foot on every even beat resulting in everyone in step.

I wonder if it has anything to do with you normally prop the rifle on your Right shoulder.

Right Step March starts with moving the right foot.
 

damYankee

1st Lieutenant
Joined
Aug 12, 2011
Always start with the left foot, unless your marching a large number of troops across a bridge of questionable quality. ,
It is a tradition that probably goes back to the Romans or earlier, when armies marched with a sword in the right hand and a shield in the left.
It was a safety measure, edged weapons and spears and such can get dangerous when maneuvering in formation, uniformity is safer
 

67th Tigers

1st Lieutenant
Joined
Nov 10, 2006
But it was always "By the Left , Quick March" so I would suspect The US military inherited this from the British but im not sure on other European nations they have some weird marches Bill.

The drill command refers to which flank the formation is dressing on. Usually it is "by the right" or "by the centre". You'd typically only dress on the left when left wheeling etc.
 

Llewellyn

Corporal
Joined
Feb 17, 2020
Location
Britain
Same in the British army or by the Left as I used to say , I took cadre course which included 2 weeks at Pirbright trying to be drill instructors or it was just 2 weeks of beasting us around cant remember now.

But it was always "By the Left , Quick March" so I would suspect The US military inherited this from the British but im not sure on other European nations they have some weird marches Bill.

As an interesting side note I originally was part of the Grenadier Guards , I did 6 months basic training when I was 17 and my Platoon Sergeant was a guy called Lance Sergeant Grassick , I left the 1st battalion after 2 years and transferred over to the Signals where I did another 7 years , When I went back to Pirbright on my cadre course guess who are Drill instructor was yep Sergeant Grassick and he wasn't pleased to see me in my Signals uniform , So I got the brunt of the **** he dished out all I remember was it was 2 weeks of pure hell heh.

"By the left" is nothing to do with which foot you step off with, Scott. It tells the formation which is the directing flank, that is to say from which flank you take your dressing/alignment. The preparatory commands "By the right" or even "by the centre" can just as easily be given prior to the executive command "Quick/Slow/Double March."
 

Llewellyn

Corporal
Joined
Feb 17, 2020
Location
Britain
The drill command refers to which flank the formation is dressing on. Usually it is "by the right" or "by the centre". You'd typically only dress on the left when left wheeling etc.
The directing flank, when a formation is marching in column of threes, is that flank which would have constituted the front rank when the formation is in line.
Imagine: a formation of men in three ranks standing in line. For purposes of illustration there are 30 men, so there are ten files of three, viz. a frontage of ten men.
The formation is given "Right Turn" - the formation is now in column of threes and what was the front rank of ten men is now on the left vis a vis the direction the men are now facing, and so normally that will be the directing flank, and the order to march will be preceded by, "By the Left." If they had turned left, then the directing flank would be on the right, etc.
If the marching column (now dressing by the left) is given the command to about turn on the march, then the directing flank is now on the right, and immediately after executing the about turn manouevre the command "By the Right" is given.

The command to dress by the centre is an option when a formation advances in extended line, rather than in column.

None of which explains why a formation always steps off with the left foot ! It has to be one or the other - maybe some Roman centurion flipped a denarius, heads for right foot, tails for left . . . . . who knows ?
 

Saphroneth

Major
Joined
Feb 18, 2017
According to one source I found (without confirmation) it's because the phalanx had a fighting stance of left foot forwards (the shield was in the left arm) and pressing the attack was left foot first.
 

Scott1967

Sergeant
Joined
Jul 11, 2016
Location
England
"By the left" is nothing to do with which foot you step off with, Scott. It tells the formation which is the directing flank, that is to say from which flank you take your dressing/alignment. The preparatory commands "By the right" or even "by the centre" can just as easily be given prior to the executive command "Quick/Slow/Double March."

I cant remember now your probably right it was 35 years ago , That bit of Drill I did on my Cadre course was the first drill id done since I had transferred to the Signals which was 1985 so long time ago , One bit of drill I could never do was changing step I had a nightmare with that always got it wrong.
 

rebelatsea

1st Lieutenant
Joined
Mar 30, 2013
Location
Kent ,England.
Do you know, it's something I have never thought about, My mate ex Royal Artillery, Military Police (Redcaps), and Fire and Rescue Service says He never experienced a right foot start in his time, and he went all over the world.
 

Saphroneth

Major
Joined
Feb 18, 2017
I believe the reason it's standardized is because it's simply easier to have a standard than to not, because if there's no standard then people from different units can't be plugged in together as easily.
 

DixieRifles

Captain
Member of the Year
Regtl. Staff Shiloh 2020
Joined
Mar 22, 2009
Location
Collierville, TN
know our daughters' high school marching band always did everything on the right foot, and it pained me to watch.
While marching, a command is given when the Left foot hits the ground. "Squad, By the Left Flank. . . . Harch!" And in most cases, the response is carried out on the Right Foot. I think there are some exceptions but I think only a few. If you give a command of "Right Flank" then of course you have to pivot on the Left foot. As I recall, you still give the command on the Left foot.
Example; a "Counter March" is carried out on the Right Foot after the command is given on the Left.
I'm not sure if this is what you mean.
 

Similar threads

Top