Ukraine: Covering an Ongoing War

Written by Adrien Fontanellaz & Tom Cooper

During the early hours of 24 February 2022, Moscow launched its so-called "special military operation" in Ukraine, which was expected to stun the Ukrainians into submission in a matter of days thanks to the swift advance of multiple mechanized columns converging on the capital and other crucial areas, along with airborne assaults and decapitation strikes. To undertake its regime-change operation, the Russians had massed a staggering 127 Battalion Tactical Groups – in essence regular mechanized, airborne or tank battalions, each heavily reinforced with several artillery batteries and other support units – around Ukraine, controlled by at least nine combined arms or tank army commands, in turn attached to either the Western or the Southern Military District.

This was an arsenal of staggering proportions, and the very best the Russian Army could muster: more than 200,000 men, at least 12,000 armoured vehicles of all kinds, including main battle tanks (MBTs), self-propelled guns (SPGs), armoured personals carriers (APCs), infantry fighting vehicles (IFVs), mine-resistant ambush protected vehicles (MRAP) and a vast array of more specialized machines. The bulk of this arsenal consisted of either recent designs or heavily modernised older designs, such as the T-90 and T-72B3 tanks, BMP-3 and BTR-82 IFVs, or Pantsir air-defence systems to name a few. The Russian Aerospace Force (VKS) had mustered roughly 60 percent of its combat assets with hundreds of the dreaded state-of-the-art Su-35S, Su-30MS, Su-34 or heavily modernised Su-25, together with dozens of Mi-28, Ka-52 and Mi-35 attack helicopters lying in wait at their airbases located within striking range of Ukraine. The Russian Army was widely assessed as a deadly fighting machine, whose infamous "fire-reconnaissance complex” had not only savaged a series of Ukrainian Battalion Tactical Groups in the Donbass in 2014 and 2015, but also turned the tables in Syria from 2015 onwards by almost single-handily saving the Assadist regime.

But, and to the surprise of many, the entire Russian operation was derailed in just a few days. The Ukrainian army proved to be something entirely different to the underfunded, corrupt and ill-trained force so badly beaten in the summer of 2014 and reacted by offering from the onset, and despite some initial confusion, much fiercer resistance than anyone – primarily the top Russian commanders – expected. Gradually, it appeared that since 2014 Kyiv had not only massively expanded its army, but also entirely retrained it – thanks partly to intensive NATO support – and reshuffled its doctrine to integrate the lessons drawn from the 2014 defeat. Perhaps even more surprisingly is that in a matter of days, a number of NATO members, foremost the USA, began massive support to the Ukrainians by delivering weapons and unheard-of amounts of intelligence, thereby giving them a crucial edge. Thus began the fiercest conventional war to erupt in Europe since the Second World War, where almost all imaginable kinds of weaponry have been deployed, from decades-old tanks to the latest-generation laser-guided shells, cruise missiles, ATGMs and UAVs, with at least half a million troops from both sides fighting each other. 

Image taken at a front line position near Yasynuvata, Donetsk People’s Republic (May 2019). These fighters are local (from Donetsk) but refuse to be governed by what they describe as ‘fascists in Kiev’ hence why they decided to take up arms.

Photographer Dean Obrian

To be honest, the all-out Russian attack surprised number of us at Helion, as we thought that any attempt to invade Ukraine could only trigger a protracted conflict and that therefore, Moscow would never bet on such a high-risk gamble. Therefore, we understood the widely publicised Russian build-up during the preceding months as an exercise in muscle flexing and sabre rattling to coerce the Ukrainians into concessions on the diplomatic front. It was only a few days beforehand, when the Russians began to paint tactical markings on their vehicles, and mounted improvised cages on their tank turrets to counter top-attack missiles such as the Javelin, that we began to feel increasingly concerned. Even though we all felt stunned, almost depressed, on that infamous 24th of February, because the tragedy had begun and through studying conflict and warfare for most of our lives, we were all too familiar with the devastation which always comes, the waste of countless innocent lives, the ruin of crucial infrastructure and the immense suffering, hate and the grief that wars never fail to leave in their wake.

Almost instantly, several of us also felt we needed to cooperate even more intensively together, if only to be able to cope with and process the massive amounts of information and disinformation which almost continuously floods social and mass media, thus trying to sort out the proverbial needles from the haystack. We did it for a purpose; trying to publish as fast as we could a narrative of this ongoing war, as well as its origins. Of course, this will never be "exhaustive, "all-encompassing" or "definite" – this is already an impossibility when one works, as we do, on the subject of "unknown" or "little previously researched" wars that occurred decades ago, no to mention an ongoing conflict, but as always, we intend to do our very best to provide our readers with the best possible coverage and in the best Helion & Company fashion. Because, in the end, this is simply what we have always done; researching, collecting and assessing information, trying to make sense out of this and put it into writing, and hoping that by doing so, we make a valuable contribution to the understanding of the so-called "contemporary" history.

It is thus our privilege to announce our mini-series dedicated to the Ukraine wars, whose first two volumes will be dedicated to offering an in-depth study of the armed forces of the separatist republics, and of the first phase of the current war, from 24 February to 31 March 2022 respectively.

Ukraine War Volume 1 Coming Soon.

A Very Gallant Gentlemen

A Blog about the Thornhagh Book

I am often asked about how the research into the life and career of Frances Thornhagh began.  I have been researching and writing about the history of the Midlands, particularly the region during the seventeenth century, for over 30 years now.  The last decade or so, with my involvement at the National Civil War Centre at Newark upon Trent, I have particularly focussed on the period of the Civil Wars and Republic (1640-1660).  Over the course of my writing, both for publication and the media, I kept coming across a name that fascinated me – Colonel Frances Thornhagh.  It came to the point where I decided that I needed to find out more about this much-mentioned individual.  Normally in such situations my starting point for initial research is the Dictionary of National Biography but was shocked to discover that the individual does not even have an entry in that work.  The seventeenth century Memoirs of the Life of Colonel Hutchinson by Lucy Hutchinson therefore became the initial point of reference.

The Memoirs are primarily concerned with the person of Colonel Hutchison, but they do contain enough information about Thornhagh, who was a lifelong friend and colleague of Hutchinson, to get my research started.  For the next two years other work was put to one side as I trawled through the Journals of both the House of Commons and the Lords to locate references and mentions of the subject.  Locating descendants of Francis Thornhagh still living in Nottinghamshire opened up another rich source of information both in the surviving family papers (now stored at Nottinghamshire Archives) and an impressive portrait of the colonel painted during his life time.  Finally the largest task of all proved to be working through the collection of newssheets produced by both sides over the course of the Civil War.  The joy of these rich veins of information wasn’t just that you found information about Frances Thornhagh; there were times when the actual voice of the man is recorded and reaches out to the researcher.  It is one of those rare occasions for a historian were you feel privileged to get a sense of what your subject was like as well as what he did.  My hope is that this experience will also become a reality for the readers of this now published research.  He truly was ‘a very gallant gentleman’ who went on to see service not only in his county but also across the region and the country until his premature death on the battlefield at the age of 31.   
Stuart B Jennings latest book can be purchased from Helion & Company Ltd

My Journey into the Heart of Darkness

By Rohan Saravanamuttu

Somebody asked me recently how I first became interested in the Napoleonic wars. I had to think back 50 years to when I was 12, when I was lent a book by a school teacher to do a project. It was a book by Christopher Duffy on Napoleon’s invasion of Russia in 1812.

A couple years ago I was attending a conference at Kings College London, and one of the speakers was Professor Christopher Duffy. Although now very old, he was in good voice and gave an interesting lecture with the provocative title, ‘Waterloo: Wellington’s Indecisive Victory,’ I went up afterwards to shake his hand and told him how his book had inspired me. He self-deprecatingly said that it was not a great book. Nevertheless, as a 12 year old, I was blown away by the scale of the Russian campaign and of its losses. It is a campaign that still fascinates and horrifies me. I just about understood why Napoleon invaded Russia but I was struggling to understand why 600,000 people followed him.

Duffy’s book had ignited my curiosity and I wanted to find out more about this charismatic character, Napoleon. My next stop was a beautifully illustrated book called Napoleon by David Chandler, which was essentially a slimed down version of his magnum opus, The Campaigns of Napoleon, which I read much later. I see now that the bibliography of Napoleon includes Duffy’s book.

Reading Chandler kindled an interest in Napoleonic strategy and tactics. I was also attracted to the colourful uniforms of the day and in my young teens I collected and painted the old Airfix plastic Napoleonic figures. I eventually found a copy of Bruce Quarie’s wargaming rules and started dabbling in wargaming.

When I went to the University of Kent I joined the wargames club, which mainly involved board gaming. I was studying Biochemistry but after a nasty experience in the lab with a giant chinchilla (I don’t like to talk about that), I decided to become a Chartered Accountant after graduating. The early years of hard work and study precluded any gaming, but after qualifying I moved to Birmingham where I joined the Birmingham Wargames Society where I made many friends who I still wargame with. One of the popular periods at the Society was Napoleonics and we had many trips to the Wargames Holiday Centre, then run by Peter Gilder in Scarborough.

The Wargames Holiday Centre was the inspiration for Geoff Eyles and I setting up The Big Battalions, where we hosted similar large-scale games a few times a year for several years. Doing the historical research for the scenarios was an enjoyable part of it.

After I retired from my career in finance, I did an MA in the History of War at the Department of War Studies at Kings College London. I initially pushed myself into areas that I was ignorant of, such as the Thirty Years War, and the economics of the Second World War, and I took the module on Sea Power given by Professor Andrew Lambert, one of Britain’s foremost naval historians. However, I found myself drawn back to the Napoleonic Wars for my dissertation which was on the Walcheren Expedition of 1809 (supervised by Professor Lambert). I also took Professor Phil Sabin’s module on Conflict Simulation in which students had to design and produce a board game. Mine was on the Battle of Borodino. One of my sources was, of course, Borodino: Napoleon Against Russia, 1812, by Christopher Duffy.

Register interest in Leipzig The Battle of Nations here.

Faces from the Front: Harold Gillies, The Queen’s Hospital, Sidcup and the Origins of Modern Plastic Surgery

By Dr Andrew Bamji MB FRCP

I am delighted that “Faces from the Front”, the story of the origins of facial surgery in the First World War, first published by Helion in 2017, sold out in hardback and is being re-released in paperback.  It was well-received, winning first prize in the “Basis of Medicine” category of the British Medical Association Book Awards in 2018, from a field of 13 books.

The book is the culmination of my research over a quarter of a century, based on my discovery of the surviving case files of the British and New Zealand sections of the Queen’s Hospital, Sidcup, now known as Queen Mary’s Hospital.  As a consultant rheumatologist at Sidcup, where plastic surgery first developed as a specialty from 1917 to 1925 led by Harold Gillies, I had a personal interest in bringing the story to a wide public.  This was not least because of the misconception that facial surgery originated in the Second World War under Archibald McIndoe; his management of the burns sustained by aircrew, and public knowledge of the Guinea Pig Club, has long overshadowed the earlier work by Gillies and his colleagues at Sidcup.  It is not commonly known that McIndoe was introduced to plastic surgery by Gillies in the late 1920s.

The book describes the establishment of the hospital at Sidcup and is illustrated by numerous cases, drawing on the photographs, pastels and watercolours from the case files. Gillies successfully integrated units from Great Britain and the Dominions, developing an effective multi-disciplinary approach involving not only surgeons and dentists but technicians, radiologists, artists, sculptors, photographers and nursing staff.  Rehabilitation facilities were extensive, allowing the retraining of men for suitable occupations.

The centralisation of plastic surgery services in Britain was a very different approach to that on the continent, where in France, Germany and Italy facial surgery was dispersed among many separate units.  Centralisation meant that the large number of surgeons could learn from each other, and from each other’s mistakes.  As a result, technical advances surpassed those seen elsewhere, where surgeons often worked in isolation.  Furthermore the concentration of patients had great benefits; later arrivals could observe the successful surgery on their predecessors and understand that reconstruction could take a long time, and require many operations – but that it would be worthwhile.  Patients were given sets of photographs showing the stages of surgery from initial disfigurement to final appearance.  The accepted narrative of patients’ depression, despair and sense of hopelessness – which had been expected, even anticipated – was false.  My archive website led to many family enquiries for patient details from which I learned that the majority of injured men went on to live happy and fulfilled lives.  This was perhaps my most unexpected finding.

I think that people will be very surprised by the sophistication of surgery, and the remarkable results, from 100 years ago.  The illustrations in the book may not always be easy viewing but I have also always believed that the true horror of war cannot be understood unless some of the graphic images are in the public domain. I have been encouraged by individual responses to the book and to a major exhibition “Faces of Battle” at the National Army Museum in 2007 and it is offered to many plastic surgery trainees as a reminder of the specialty’s history.  I have lectured widely in the UK and abroad, including presentations in Paris to the Union des Blessés de la Face et de la Tête (the “Gueules Cassées) and to a commemorative plastic surgery conference in Auckland, New Zealand.


“The pioneering work of Harold Gillies is legendary, and this magnificent book showcases his work and dedication in a quite remarkable and extraordinary way. (Books Monthly)

“This book is absolutely engrossing and has made full and good use of the resources to which it has access. … highly recommended.” (Muster, National Army Museum)

“It is a book that I found wholly inspiring.” (Chris Baker, The Long, Long Trail)

“This book has been fully and lovingly researched and covers a much broader area than previous works on this topic… I would recommend Faces from the Front to historians of the Great War, the military medical service and of course plastic surgery.” (Jonathan Goddard, British Society for the History of Medicine)

“The fact that its publication coincides with a campaign by a leading charity for facial equality will only increase its relevance outside historical circles.” (Jonathan Reinarz, Social History of Medicine)

“This fascinating and important book deserves a wide audience.” (Stand To!)

“The book is well illustrated throughout but, more importantly than this, it is written with sensitivity, feeling and a clear passion for Gillies and his work.” (Amazon Review)

“About as vital and alive as History gets” (Amazon review)

“A well written account and highly recommended.” (Luke Perry, Amazon review)

Now retired, I live in Rye, East Sussex, where I look after our 16th century church clock and assist in tourism management for the church.  I have continued writing.  My book “Mad Medicine”: Myths, Maxims and Mayhem in the National Health Service” describes many of the lessons learned in my medical career.  I am currently writing a diary of the coronavirus pandemic and have embarked on the first follow-up to my novel “Anything for a Quiet Life”. When not writing I enjoy gardening with my wife Liz and antique-hunting.

The 2022 Century of the Soldier Conference – the original and still the best!

By Charles Singleton

Saturday 14 May 2022 sees the return of the annual Century of the Soldier Conference. Following the hiatus brought on by the pandemic, we are back with a bang at a new venue, Worcester Cathedral. The day will be held in the recently furnished Undercroft Learning Centre, the location for holding prisoners after the Battle of Worcester in 1651.

The theme of this year’s conference is ‘1648 and all that. The Scottish invasions of England, 1648 and 1651’. We are very fortunate to have with us arguably some of the best-known names in the study of the period who will be presenting papers on the day.

We also hope to have some new publications available at the conference, and the Century of the Soldier team will be on hand to chat to and answer any questions you may have.

Tickets are £30 and that includes a buffet lunch and drinks available throughout the day.

Buffet menu: Selection of sandwiches, sausage rolls, quiche and fruit basket 

Although the final list of speakers is to be finalised, here is a list of what to expect.

Ronald Hutton Keynote speaker – Introduction to the day’s papers

Stuart Jennings – Colonel Francis Thornhagh and the Battle of Preston, 1648

Thornhagh’s death at the age of 31 during the Preston campaign robbed Parliament of a rising commander of men and a very active member of the Commons. Thornhagh had become familiar with the Scottish army over the seven-month siege of Newark-on-Trent between 1645 and 1646, when as one of the senior officers under Poyntz he helped coordinate actions between the English and Scottish armies around the town. He had served alongside Cromwell at the battle of Gainsborough (1643) and under him in the Welsh campaign in early 1648. After the battle at Preston, Cromwell promoted him to take charge of the horse in pursuit of the Scottish army, while the commander followed with the foot. In a skirmish near Chorley, a rash cavalry charge against the Scottish horse brought Thornhagh into contact with mounted lancers, which he had never fought against before, and he was killed, though the English horse performed well and won the encounter. This paper explores the military career of Thornhagh and his interactions with the Scots both as allies and as foes.

Stuart Jennings

Peter Gaunt – A Tale of Two Risings: Was the second civil war in England and Wales primarily pro-royalist or anti-parliamentarian?

This lecture explores, compares and contrasts the origins, initial stages and ensuing course of two of the biggest English and Welsh elements of the so-called Second Civil War of 1648, namely the rising in Kent, which spread to parts of Essex, notably Colchester, and in Pembrokeshire, which spread across much of South Wales. Focusing especially on the various declarations, manifestoes and other documents issued by the leaders of these two risings designed for wider public dissemination and consumption, it re-examines the central question of whether these two home-grown risings were predominantly pro-royalist or anti-parliamentarian in origins, nature, and direction, and it suggests that in this area there were significant differences between the two.

Peter Gaunt

Martyn Bennett – Crisis in command. Engagements, alliances, and hard choices: the creation of a new Scottish army in 1648

The leadership of the invasion forces in 1648 was somewhat confused. The signing of the Engagement with Charles I by Loudon and others took much of Scotland by surprise, and it can be argued that it was a done in a panic as a rushed response to the bare-bone proposals – the Four Bills – offered by Westminster. The result was confusion, as most of the leaders of the Scottish armies of 1639, 1640, 1641 and 1643–46 opposed such a vague treaty. The Scottish government, which itself was uncertain about the Engagement, had to create a new command structure and construct unpleasant alliances to do so. It can be argued that it was an ambitious plan involving English royalist forces from Ireland and a new army.

This paper explores the consequences of the decision-making process on leadership command and the campaign of 1648.

Martyn Bennett

Ronald Hutton – Charles II as a General

We hardly think of the ‘Merry Monarch’ as a soldier. It clashes with his general reputation as a lounge lizard and party animal, and indeed he was too young to take part alongside his father in the Great Civil War while the conflicts of his own reign were all waged on the high seas, and naval battles were too dangerous to risk a monarch in them. However, this reputation ignores his role in the Scottish invasion of England in 1651, in which he functioned very much as an effective as well as a titular commander-in-chief. Not only was he prominent in the decision-making which led to the invasion in the first place, but he fought personally in all of its actions, dominated the councils of war which decided each phase of his army’s activity, inspected the camp guards nightly, and generally led from the front. This talk is designed to examine this phase of his career and suggest what it tells us about Charles as a man and a ruler. Does it make us look at him differently?

Ronald Hutton

John Callow – ‘Men do Ever Fight for Peace’: James, 7th Earl of Derby and the Battle of Wigan Lane, 1651

This chapter will look at the raising of a Manx army by James, 7th Earl of Derby in order to assist the invasion of England by Charles II in 1651, the Earl’s attempts to reoccupy his former position as the centrifuge of power in Lancashire – through the winning over of disaffected Presbyterian gentry to the Royalist cause – and his generalship during his all too brief final campaign. James’s actions and motivations have often been overlooked or obscured by the reputation of his wife, the Countess Charlotte, and by the Royalist hagiography that swiftly built up around his martyrdom on the scaffold at Bolton. However, James was neither so politically and militarily inept as has often been thought, nor was he as unquestioning in his service and sacrifice for the Crown. This chapter will contrast his refusal to embroil himself in the Scottish invasion of 1648 with his own landing on the Lancashire coast just three years later, and will examine both the human and political costs of his preparedness to militarise Manx society to an unprecedented extent and his ‘eleventh hour’ decision to reinject violence into the life of the North West of England.

John Callow

Andrew Lind – A Lost Cause? Montrose’s Final Expedition, 1649–1650 (Skype)

This paper examines the final expedition of the royalist captain-general, James Graham, Marquis of Montrose. Montrose’s forces occupied Orkney in September 1649 in the first stage of a new royalist offensive against the Scottish covenanting regime. However, unable to replicate the series of stunning royalist victories of 1644–1645, Montrose’s army was utterly routed at the Battle of Carbisdale on 27 April 1650. Because of this defeat and Charles II’s subsequent disownment of the venture, Montrose’s final expedition has often been disregarded as forlorn, misguided and ultimately a lost cause. Using previously underutilised local records, this paper examines the level of support Montrose and his men were able to harness over the course of their brief campaign and considers the reasons behind individuals’ choices to support the royalists’ efforts.

Andrew Lind

Ed Furgol – Three armies into one? Scottish Engager military organisation in 1648 (Skype)

In December 1647 three Scottish nobles signed a treaty with Charles I, requiring them to mobilise a Scottish army. The objective was to defeat the New Model Army in England and to free Charles. They had at their disposal two armies, one in Ulster and another in Scotland, and needed to produce a parliamentary act of levy for a third. Uniting these forces would give the Scottish Engagers the military strength to achieve their objectives. From May 1648 the usual Scottish coordination for levying men between the national government, local authorities and the church faltered, when the latter objected to the treaty’s clause establishing Presbyterianism in England and Ireland for only three years. In June the Engagers decided to leave troops in Scotland and substantial garrisons in northern England. Equally debilitating, no effort was made to secure veteran units for English field service. In early August 1648 George Monro’s Ulster Force (1,900 men) became independent of the Duke of Hamilton’s army in England. By mid August the Engagers had six forces: one in Scotland, another in Ulster, English garrisons, Monro’s, Callendar’s–Middleton’s Horse and Hamilton’s–Baillie’s Foot, severely reducing the possibility of success. The paper will examine the creation and organisation of the Engagers’ forces and how the latter negatively impacted their military efforts.

Ed Furgol

More speakers and papers will be confirmed.

Tickets are available online now here.

Getting to the conference

Address: 8 College Yard, Worcester
Postcode for Sat Nav: WR1 2LA

The Cathedral is in Worcester City Centre. It is a 10-15 minute walk from Worcester Foregate Street and Crowngate Street Bus Station.
The Cathedral is a short 20 minute car journey from Junctions 6 and 7 of the M5 motorway.

Car Parking in Worcester

There are disabled parking spaces which are for use by Blue Badge holders on a first come first served basis.
However, there are several public car parks within easy walking distance of the Cathedral. 
We would recommend parking opposite the Cathedral, in Cathedral Square where there is a pay and display NCP multi-storey car park. Alternatively, Copenhagen Street car park is located to the West of the Cathedral off Deansway, and to the East, King Street car park, off Edgar Street, all within a 5-minute walk of the main visitor entrance. 

More information on carparking in Worcester can be found here.

(c) Google Maps

Forthcoming Titles in our From Reason to Revolution 1721-1815 Series

With our planned releases for the second half of this year now listed on the Helion website, From Reason to Revolution series editor Andrew Bamford reviews the offerings for those interested in the period 1721-1815.

Flagship of our autumn schedule, if you’ll forgive the pun, is Albert C.E. Parker’s two-volume history of naval warfare during the 1740s. As the Anglo-Spanish War of Jenkin’s Ear merged into the wider conflict over the Austrian Succession, warfare spread across the globe with actions in the Atlantic, Mediterranean, and Pacific. Product of over a decade’s research and constantly challenging outdated assumptions by drawing on the accounts of all nationalities involved, All the Seas of the World promises to be the definitive work on this topic. Staying with the 1740s, last year saw us hold the delayed conference intended to mark the 275th anniversary of the Jacobite Rising of 1745. Now we are pleased to present the published proceedings as a volume in the series, with the prolific Albert Parker providing a chapter on the naval operations associated with the Rising along with chapters by other contributors on the armies and personalities involved, medical and surgical aspects, and the course of the campaign.

Thereafter, our coverage takes a bit of a jump, for once skipping over the wars of the 1750s ‘60s, and ‘70s (all topics well represented in our catalogue for the first portion of the year, however, and with more to come in 2023) and picking up again in 1786 to follow the British Army through some of its leanest years with Vivien Roworth’s account based around the story of her ancestor’s service with the 44th Foot. Another topic that picks up in the 1780s, and which may equally be deemed to have been forgotten or overlooked, is the story of the Garde Nationale 1789-1815. Pierre-Baptiste Guillemot provides a detailed history, and don’t be fooled by the placeholder cover – the finished book will be lavishly illustrated by the great Patrice Courcelle.

Moving on to the Napoleonic Wars, we have two translated works covering aspects of the Russian army’s campaigns during this era. Following on from the first volume due out in the early summer, the second part of Levin Bennigsen’s memoirs of the 1806-1807 campaign pick up after the spring thaw and follow events through to their conclusion at Friedland. Dropping back a couple of years, meanwhile, Peter Philips offers us the first instalment in a new project to translate the Russian official histories of the Napoleonic Wars, beginning with the campaign of 1805 and the Battle of Austerlitz.

Our Napoleonic coverage extends to the Peninsula too, with Carole Divall taking a detailed look at the Fifth Division of Wellington’s army in Wellington’s Unsung Heroes. This not only sheds new light on a formation that has often been overlooked in favour of the glamorous Light Division or Picton’s ‘Fighting Third’, but also explores just how an Anglo-Portuguese division was organised and commanded through four years of conflict that saw it participate in major actions including Bussaco, Salamanca, and Vitoria as well as the bloody sieges of Badajoz and San Sebastian. Had Carole not got there first, the ‘unsung heroes’ soubriquet might also have been usefully appropriated by Sérgio Veludo Coelho for his study of the Portuguese army during the Peninsular War. Despite making up over a third of Wellington’s forces, and despite much of the first half of the war taking place within Portugal’s borders, English-language studies of this army have been lacking – Wellington’s Other Army will hopefully redress that balance.

Lastly, something a little different. The saying once went that Officers have Ladies, Sergeants have Wives, and Soldiers have Women, but however denominated the British Army had its female followers through the great wars with France and David Clammer tells their story in this detailed and thoroughly-researched study.

Tutorial Figure Painting

By Artmasterstudio

Step 1: Clean and prime your figure. Before painting we need to remove any excess metal from the molding process. You can scrape away mold lines etc with a hobby knife. Once you’re happy take the figure and run its base along a metal file. This will remove any lumps and make it nice and smooth so it adheres well to a base. Here we have stuck it to a 25mm MDF circle with a tiny bit of super glue. Once the glue is dry we sprayed the whole figure with Matt Black Car primer. Always spray outside and wear a mask. After that’s had time to dry take it inside and paint over any exposed metal that the spray didn’t quite reach with a black paint.

Step 1

Step 2: Applying base coats. At this stage we will be applying thin coats of acrylic paint to all the areas that will be a colour that’s not black. For the most part the colours will be fairly dark as we will layer lighter highlights over the top of these. Below is a list of colours used for each area. Try and be quite neat to save time later. Go up to the edges of each piece of clothing without spilling over onto previously painted areas.

Flesh = Vallejo Flesh Base

Coat = Vallejo Red

Stockings, waistcoat, coat lining = Vallejo Night Blue

Sash = Vallejo Black Red

Hair = Vallejo Dark Grey

Wood = Vallejo Beige Brown

Gloves = Vallejo US Field Drab

Silver = Vallejo Chainmail

Hat Lace = Vallejo Light grey

Step 2

Step 3: Washing/Shading. Once the base coat paints have dried it’s time to apply a wash layer to the Flesh, hair and metal. A wash is a thinned dark paint that will pool into the creases and folds giving a smoother transition of shadows. It’s particularly useful for these areas. For the flesh we used Games Workshop Agrax Earthshade and for the metal and hair we used Games workshop Nuln Oil.

Step 3

Step 4: 1st highlight. This is where we apply a lighter colour to all areas. Otherwise known as the mid tone. Paint each colour on the raised areas that would naturally catch the light leaving the basecoat showing in the crevices and places concealed in shadow such as under the rim of his hat. You can leave as much or as little of the basecoat showing as you like. Work with it and you will soon find a look that suits you. You can paint long streaks or lines on the pole to create a wood effect or more wavy lines through the hair.

Flesh = Vallejo Flesh Base

Coat = Vallejo Vermillion

Stockings, waistcoat, coat lining = Vallejo Imperial Blue

Sash = Vallejo Red

Hair = Vallejo Basalt Grey

Wood = Vallejo Brown Sand

Gloves = Vallejo Green Ochre 

Black areas = Vallejo Dark Grey

Lace = Vallejo German cam black brown

Step 4

Step 5: Eyes. Before highlighting the face I like to put the eyes in. I do this first as it’s easier to tidy up mistakes before you’ve painted a lovely face. I used a very thin 5/0 brush to paint in each eye solid. I then took some Vallejo Dark Rust to put the pupils in with a fine dot or line down the centre of each. If the eyes are too large you can also tidy up the top and bottom with this brown to make them smaller. Try and get each pupil central.

Step 5

Step 6: Highlighting the face. Although this is technically part of the 1st highlighting stage I thought it best to provide a more detailed explanation here of how I paint faces. Start by applying the Flesh base paint to the nose and cheeks. The top lip should join up with the chin in a circle but leave a line between that and the cheeks. Don’t worry about the bottom lip for now. The eyebrows are also important to paint on with a thin line above the eyes.If you’re feeling confident you can paint in some lines beneath the eyes and a dot either side of the nose for added definition. 

Step 6

Step 7: 2nd Highlight to the face. For the second highlight I mixed a 50/50 mix of Vallejo Flesh Base and Vallejo Flat Flesh. You can use Flat Flesh on it’s own but I like the face to have a more subtle gradient with each layer as it’s the focal point of the model. Apply the paint to nearly all areas of the face with the 1st highlight and leave a bit showing around the edges. You can keep adding brighter layers leaving a bit more of the beneath layers showing each time until you’re happy with how it looks. For the Lip I used Games Workshop Wazdakka Red. If you want some stubble you can apply a layer of Games Workshop Nuln oil to the chin. Keep it subtle as it dries more noticable than you would think.

Step 7

Step 8: 2nd Highlights. Now it’s time to apply a second layer of highlights. Make sure the 1st layer is fully dry. Paint on each colour on top of the 1st highlight leaving some of the colour below showing at the edges. This will create a gradient that is pleasing to the eye from both close up and far away. It’s important to get the contrast of your colours right as too much and it will look sloppy and harsh but too little it will look flat and boring. You can see where I have applied the gold paint to the lace. I have left a small bit of brown showing around the edge. This helps it stand out more as a defining feature of the uniform.

Flesh = Vallejo Flat Flesh

Coat = Vallejo Orange Red

Stockings, waistcoat, coat lining = Vallejo Prussian Blue

Sash = Games Workshop Wazdakka Red

Hair = Vallejo Light Grey

Gloves = Vallejo Buff

Black areas = Vallejo Basalt Grey

Lace = Games Workshop Retributer Armour

Hate Lace = Vallejo Offwhite

Silver = Vallejo Aluminium

Step 8
Step 8 rear view

Step 9: Basing and Varnishing. Once you’re happy with your figure it’s time to base it. A well based figure can completely change the look of the model. Here we have used some Brown Ballast for the earth and 2mm static grass with a silflor grass tuft. The base edge is also painted brown to blend in with the earthy base.  You can varnish your figure with a gloss, satin or matt varnish. We prefer to protect the figure with a gloss spray varnish and then use a matt spray varnish over that once dry.

Step 9

The Cavalry Charge, A Singular Object of Study

By Frédéric Chauviré

“It can be argued that the rider is naturally courageous. The example made a singular impression on him. It is unusual to see a horseman flee from the middle of a troop. The one whose own courage would not be strong enough to keep it there stays there and follows the troop as the others go; he fears shame, that’s enough. […] If unfortunately, his leaders show him a bad example, if it happens that a considerable part is dragged, the rest flees without remorse, because he no longer sees a shame in imitating the great number and that nature, which is loath to to its destruction, then takes over the prejudice”. [1]

 This quote from a manuscript memoir from the middle of the 18th century seems to me to be a particularly good example of the depth of this somewhat singular object of study, the cavalry charge. It first questions the representation of officers, very often noble, on the value of simple horsemen. The position of the author, the Chevalier de Chabo, testifies from this point of view of an evolution towards more nuance and complexity, moving away from a form of contempt considering courage as an aristocratic virtue, a legacy of the chivalrous ethos.

It then contains objective and pragmatic considerations emphasizing a good knowledge of the moral forces which drive the soldier and his motivation in combat. From this point of view, the evocation of shame, of the gaze of others, and therefore of the bonds that unite soldiers among themselves within units is quite interesting. It offers an introduction to the psychological and cultural mechanisms that allow a better understanding of man in combat.[2]

We can add another contemporary testimony on the handling of weapons, showing the possible contributions of a reflection based on material culture: “With no matter how hard a sharp blow is given, it seldom kills; defensive weapons often guarantee it, or bones prevent it from penetrating, instead of the point sunk with only two fingers making a fatal or very difficult to heal wound”. [3] This is to understand the constraints related to the use of weapons, the effects produced on the body. This aspect is essential if we want to get into the heart of the fight.

These few testimonies allow us to understand that the cavalry charge constitutes a global historical object, at the crossroads of tactical, technical, cultural and anthropological issues. It is quite relevant for analyzing warlike practices and the culture of war – seen as the set of practices and representations of man at war, in the theater of war.

In The New Knights I wanted to focus on a very important period in the evolution of battle cavalry: from the mid-16th century to the early 18th century. We observe the passage of a cavalry made up of men at arms, mostly gentlemen, direct heirs of chivalrous combat, to a cavalry more open socially and fighting in completely different ways. This transformation is essentially linked to the widespread use of firearms. This is why it seemed to me that the charge constituted a very suitable analytical grid for understanding the dynamics involved in this evolution. By studying the main principles on which the charge is based (the weapons, the pace, the shock) it is possible to apprehend the changes taking place, to understand their springs and their implications. Thus the choice to have the cavaliers fight with the wheel-lock pistol has obvious repercussions on recruitment. This relatively easy-to-use weapon allows the recruitment of more riders and of lower social origin.

The charge also raises the question of the weight of the cavalry on the battlefield. It is in fact often admitted that from the beginning of the 16th century the cavalry played only a very secondary role on the battlefield. It would almost be relegated to a spectator role by the domination of infantry. The study of the charge, this time considered at the scale of the battlefield, offers the possibility of measuring the real weight of the cavalry. It’s about seeing how the general employs the cavalry, how charges are conducted, coordinated, and for what results. From this point of view it appears that, for this period, the idea of an obliteration of the cavalry must be at the very least reassessed.

Reiters against men-at-arms, the Battle of Dreux (1562). Engraving by Jean Jean Perrissin, 1570.

You can purchase The New Knights: The Development of Cavalry in Western Europe, 1562-1700 here.

[1] Archives of the Château de Vincennes. S.H.D. /D.A.T., 1MR 1730, « Mémoire du chevalier de Chabo sur la cavalerie », 1749.

[2] On issues of combatant motivation, see recent work by Ilya Berkovich: Motivation in War (Cambridge, 2017).

[3] D’Authville, Essai sur la cavalerie tant ancienne que moderne, Paris, Jombert, 1756, p.257.

Addendum To Jet Age Man

From Lt Col UAF (Ret.) Earl J. McGill

B-47 Structural Failure

Milk Bottle Modification

Prior to 1960 the principal deterrent to nuclear war was the Strategic Air Command’s fleet of B-47 bombers. In the spring of 1958 a series of structural failures grounded the entire fleet. To restore our first line of defense, project “Milk Bottle” was launched to identify and correct B-47’s structural deficiencies.

 The B-47 was the first swept-wing jet bomber manufactured in quantity. Three companies (Boeing, Douglas, and Lockheed) built 2,041 from 1947 to February 1957. Its radically new design, with six jet engines mounted beneath a thin, flexible swept-back wing, permitted the bomber to outperform almost every contemporary fighter. Designed as a high altitude bomber, the prototype B-47 ‘s had a gross weight of 125,000 pounds and was powered by six 4,000 pound thrust jet engines.

Pre-production tests showed that the B-47 would support 150 %t of its design limit load, but due to structural strengthening, equipment changes, and additional fuel capacity, gross weight grew with each new variant, reaching 206,700 pounds for the B-47E. Engine thrust was also in­creased to 6,000 pounds with additional boost from engine water-injection and rockets. Aircraft modifications, however, added stress to the fuselage and wings while new tactics worsened the problem.

In late 1957 the Soviet threat to high altitude bombing forced SAC to develop low level tactics for the B-47. One maneuver, called LABS, required the pilot to approach the target at low altitude, pop-up and perform an Immelmann, releasing the bomb so it lobbed upward before falling back to the target. LABS allowed the aircraft to escape the blast; however, the consensus among the bomber pilots was that they weren’t trained to perform the maneuver without exceeding aerodynamic and structural limits. Turbulence below 1,000 feet also imposed additional strain on the airframe and increased fuel consumption, thereby requiring additional air refueling. To stay within the allowable envelope during refueling required control inputs that imposed additional loads on the aircraft. Repeated training takeoffs and landings added to overall airframe stress. Unfortunately, the structural loads imposed by these effects were nearly impossible to measure.

On 13 March 1958 two B-47s broke up in midair in separate incidents. A B-47B disintegrated when its center wing section failed three minutes after takeoff from Homestead AFB, Florida. The other, a TB-47B, broke up at 23,000 feet over Tulsa, Oklahoma when its left wing separated from the fuselage. Both aircraft had less than 2,500 flight hours. On 21 March a B-47E disintegrated in midair near Avon Park, Florida. On 10 April a B-47E appeared to explode just prior to a refueling rendezvous near Langford NY. Five days later, another B-47E took off into a storm from MacDill Air Force Base, Florida, and disintegrated shortly afterwards. All three B-47E aircraft had less than 1,500 hours.

Stopgap measures allowed limited use of the B-47 until formal restrictions were issued on 25 April. Except for takeoff and landing, low level flight was banned. Limits were imposed on gross weight, angle of bank and G force. Indicated air speed was redlined at 310 knots, with continuing restrictions on stalls, buffet, flight through turbulence, touch-and-go landings and air refueling. Operating under these restrictions, SAC continued training and operational missions.

Aircraft inspections were initially based on the investigations of the two 13 March crashes but rescinded after investigation of the 10 April crash showed that the cause was fuselage failure. Temporary measures kept most of the B-47’s flying. Fittings were reamed out to accommodate oversized bolts and pins. The aft wing-to-body fittings pin weighed about 25 pounds and its shape resulted in the name “Project Milk Bottle.”

Project Milk Bottle did not assure SAC that the B-47 was immune to future fatigue problems. To tackle this issue, it was decided to cyclic-test the B-47 at three different locations: the Boeing plant at Wichita, Kansas, Douglas at Tulsa, Oklahoma and the NACA laboratory at Langley, Virginia.

One month of accelerated tests uncovered new fatigue danger points. On 8 August, after 1,275 equivalent flight hours, both upper fuselage longerons failed during a 90 percent limit load test. The failure came as a surprise, mainly because the aircraft had accumulated only 3,442 hours. The fuselage was replaced and the cyclic test restarted. Eight days and 2,156 hours later, a longeron crack reappeared. On the same day a service B-47 with 2,900 hours was also discovered to have longeron cracks. Meanwhile, crack detection wires prevented complete failure of the Douglas aircraft.[1]

The decision was to replace both upper fuse­lage longerons on the Boeing and Douglas aircraft. In early November, the Boeing wing failed after 5,872 total hours. Tests resumed on 4 December and by mid month a 27 inch crack appeared in the aircraft skin. Boeing replaced the damaged skin panel and continued testing until the aircraft had logged 6,922 actual and simulated flight hours.

The Langley aircraft developed fuselage skin cracks at 4,243 total hours. After repairs, this B-47 held up until cracks appeared in the steel splice plates at 5,468 hours and again at 5,818 hours. Seen as a major failure, the Langley test was ended.

The Douglas B-47 piled up 6,425 hours before three cracks were discovered in the web of a wing rib. These cracks were stop-drilled to keep the cracks from spreading. At 7,145 hours, cracks similar to those which had ended the test life of the Langley B-47 appeared. These cracks would have produced wing failure if they had not been stop-drilled. At approximately 10,000 hours fatigue testing the rightwing lower skin panel failed and ended the cyclic testing in February 1959.

The test aircraft had, to a degree, proved the reliability of the wing modification and the longeron repairs. It seemed that a guarantee of 3,000 hours was certain, and that evaluation of the test results might boost this figure to 5,000 hours. Although there was a possibility of extending the B-47s useful life beyond 5,000 hours, it was decided that such a gain might not be worth the effort.

Data obtained from “History of the Aircraft Structural Integrity Program” dated June 1980, published by the Air Force Flight Dynamics Laboratory, WPAFB, Ohio.

[1] Today’s airliners are expected to accumulate at least 100,000 hours before retirement.

The Tudor Arte of Warre

By Jonathan Davies

I have done a lot of things to do with history over my life, some dangerous, some enterprising, some dull and quite a few just plain daft.  I began well enough with conventional O and A Levels and read History at Cambridge.  Among my supervisors were Jonathan Riley-Smith and R C Smail, who were experts on crusading warfare.  I thought it would be fun to go and look at castles in Syria (NOT Crusader Castles as the Crusades were separate events).  With a bunch of friends, we bought an ex-RAF ambulance and drove the route of the First Crusade.  We were stopped on the way by numerous police forces and various armies.  We visited a lot of castles and sites that sadly have recently been comprehensively smashed up. We actually did some useful architectural analysis and surveying of one castle in particular, but that is another story.

After that I descended into the peculiar world of pedagogy, teaching some very bright boys and girls in some very weird establishments.   I eventually ended up in one of the large Edwardian establishments in the Midlands where I settled and soon got bored.  I still hankered after ‘doing’ history as well as teaching it.   I had learnt to shoot the longbow and was headhunted by a medieval/Tudor re-enactment group.  Things got worse after that. 

I took my son along to events to keep me out of trouble.  This did not work out well.  We shot a lot of arrows, mostly at people and sometimes each other.  We learnt to manage a musket, push a pike and swab a cannon barrel and spent three years learning stage combat, in order to kill and die with panache.  We found ourselves shivering under soaked canvas and sweltering in shade free moats.  I was beheaded at Framlingham when impersonating the Duke of Northumberland, and as John Knox I castigated and condemned sinners at Bolsover.  We hid from poursuivants, garrisoned Device forts and on one memorable occasion dissolved a Monastery to the boos and jeers of a very hostile audience. We had a lot of frights but a lot more laughs.  We eventually found ourselves being blown up at Dover castle, where we were also seriously haunted, which was by far the most frightening part of the whole weekend.

I thought that what my school needed was its own re-enactment group.  I started one without asking anyone’s approval, because of course if I had done so they would have obviously said ‘no!’  By the time the powers-that-be noticed, it was too big and successful to stop.  It also attracted the brightest and most individualistic of the kids.   We had twenty years of fun, involving a phenomenal amount of hard work by them and by me for approximately 200 public events.  In 2007 we began working regularly for Historic Royal Palaces at the Tower of London as well as designing and building a big trebuchet for English Heritage and Cadw events, which won two English Heritage siege competitions.

I visited the Danish Middle Ages Centre in 2007 to write an article for Skirmish magazine and the next year took twenty of my kids there for a fortnight.   They helped run the tournament, manned the full-scale siege machines, loaded and fired cannons (we had two of our own by then), handled horses and made fires, lots of fires.  It would have been a health and safety nightmare but for them being enormously sensible.  If you expect children to be gormless and unsafe at any speed, then they will be.  If you train them well and expect them to do a job properly, then surprise, surprise, they respond brilliantly.   I discovered this out for myself when the RAF taught me to fly solo in a wood and canvas glider when I was 16.  We went back to Denmark every two years after 2008, until I finally retired in 2018.

I now faced the possibility of prolonged boredom.  With my son’s expertise and advice, we designed and managed the casting of a bronze falconet, together with its carriage, loading tools etc. We started a new Tudor re-enactment group made up of ex-staff and pupils from the old one.   I also found time to write a book for Osprey on The Medieval Cannon.  Covid then intervened which brought re-enactment to a halt, but gave me the opportunity to take on my current baby, The Tudor Arte of Warre (1485-1558).  I have been planning to write this for nearly thirty years.  As I have taught and examined the subject at A level since at least 1485 and published many papers and articles on the way, it was time to put it all together.  

Re-enactment has taught me a lot of relevant lessons.  Getting twenty-five people to a venue a hundred miles away, with kit that equated to the contents of a large flat, made me appreciate that just getting to a battlefield or a siege was probably the hardest part of the job. As Omar Bradley and many others might have said: “Amateurs talk strategy. Professionals talk logistics.”   On one memorable occasion, I had to train and command a block of sixty pike and shot, in the manoeuvres of an Elizabethan company.  This is not something that can be readily taught out of a book, as some seem to think!   I have taught children and adults to shoot with bows and guns, and I know how long it takes to master the bow and I am still learning.  I thus know their capabilities and the degree of skill required in their use.

I have spent decades teaching, writing, cogitating and living Tudor history. I hope my book will have a new perspective and present new insights on a topic that has been much misunderstood.   It is a period in military history that deserves greater attention and a more generous interpretation than it has received in the past.

You can purchase The Tudor Arte of Warre Volume 1: The Conduct of War from Henry VII to Mary I, 1485-1558 here.