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.

Lion of Lechistan at the gates of Vienna

By Michal Paradowski

Jan III Sobieski and Polish army in relief of Vienna in 1683

                        Polish army led by King Jan III Sobieski played crucial role in relief of Vienna in 1683, with famous winged hussars leading massive charge of allied cavalry at the battle of Kahlenberg. Previous Polish experience from war against Ottoman Turks in 1672-1676 made their contribution vital for coalition war effort. No surprise then, that Sobieski was chosen as commander of joint forces and that Poles deployed on ancient place of honour in army battle order  – on the right wing. There are many books available in English, describing siege of Vienna and relief action, unfortunately they tend to be full of errors and misconceptions regarding Polish army – its organisation, strength and activities during the battle. That’s why I came with idea for new volume for ‘Century of the Soldier 1618-1721’ series, focusing solely on Polish army led by King Jan III to fight Turks at the outskirts of Vienna in 1683. Many Polish researchers, like Jan Wimmer, Leszek Podhorodecki or Zdzisław Żygulski Junior (to name just few), wrote extensively  about the topic, unfortunately their works are not available in English. I think it is very important to present to English-speaking readers with Polish view on the battle and the role of Polish army in the battle.

Polish hussar using pistol after his ‘kopia’ lance was broken. Romeyn de Hooghe, 1687 (Rijksmuseum)

            Main aspect that I would like to focus on are first of all organisation and strength of the army that Jan III led to Vienna. There will be information about structure, weapons and equipment of the units, with large appendix describing each unit raised for the campaign. Polish ODB will be discussed at length, with estimates of the strength of cavalry regiments and infantry brigades created prior to the battle. Commanders leading the army, not only high ranking like King Jan III, Hetman Jabłonowski and Hetman Sieniawski, but also lower rank officers, especially in cavalry, will be focus of one of the chapters. Polish view of the battle, based on surviving relations of eyewitnesses, will be covered in another chapter. Despite title, book won’t focus solely on relief of Vienna though. Remaining of the 1683’s campaign will be covered as well, with both battle of Párkány and arrival of Lithuanian army. One chapter will also describe organisation and military actions of troops under command of Hieronim Augustyn Lubomirski, raised as Imperial auxiliary division in Poland. Volume will also contains some additional information about Polish and Cossack actions in Podolia and Moldavia, that was always in shadow of main events of 1683.

‘Karacena’ (scale armour) of Crown Grand Hetman Stanisław Jan Jabłonowski (Muzeum Narodowe w Krakowie)
 ‘Karacena’ (scale armour) of Crown Field Hetman Mikołaj Hieronim Sieniawski (Muzeum Narodowe w Krakowie)

            In overall, the book will aim to provide comprehensive and in-depth study of Polish army taking part in relief of Vienna. Based on numerous primary and secondary sources, accompanied with illustrations from period and colour plates depicting Polish soldiers, will hopefully be useful work for all those interesting in 17th century Polish warfare.

You can purchase We Came, We Saw, God Conquered: The Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth’s military effort in the relief of Vienna, 1683 here.

We Came We Saw God Conquered : The Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth's military effort in the relief of Vienna, 1683

You can purchase Despite Destruction, Misery and Privations: The Polish Army in Prussia during the war against Sweden 1626-1629 here.

Adventures in Historyland Interview with René Chartrand

Renowned historian René Chartrand joins Josh Provan on the Adventures in Historyland YouTube channel to talk about how Louis XIV turned France into a 17th century powerhouse and some of his most impressive Marshals. Other topics include the War of the Spanish Succession and his formidable enemies, Marlborough and Prince Eugene. 

Adventures in Historyland is a blog and online community focused on telling stories from history from the classical past to the 19th century.

https://adventuresinhistoryland.com/

IF YOU’VE GOT IT, DOMINATE EUROPE WITH IT. Louis XIV, & the Economy of War with René Chartrand
https://youtu.be/x_Rf57MVOYQ

The Greatest Marshals of Louis XIV with René Chartrand.
https://youtu.be/5AKmMHcccuQ

Buy The Armies and Wars of the Sun King 1643-1715 Volume 1 : The Guard of Louis XIV here.

Buy The Armies and Wars of the Sun King 1643-1715 Volume 2 : The Infantry of Louis XIV here.

The Armies and Wars of the Sun King 1643-1715 Volume 3 : The Cavalry of Louis XIV here.

The Armies and Wars of the Sun King 1643-1715 Volume 4 : The War of the Spanish Succession, Artillery, Engineers and Militias here.

104th Anniversary of the Night Attack on the Passchendaele Ridge, 2 December 1917

(c) P. Dennis

Updated with new material, A Moonlight Massacre. The Night Operation on the Passchendaele Ridge, 2 December 1917: The Forgotten Last Act of the Third Battle of Ypres Second Edition is available from Helion & Company.

Overlooked by most campaign histories of the Third Battle of Ypres (31 July-10 November 1917), the Night Operation on the Passchendaele Ridge, 2 December 1917 remains a forgotten tailpiece to the controversial Anglo-French offensive. Based on an extensive array of British and German sources, many previously unpublished, and supported by numerous illustrations and maps, A Moonlight Massacre is the first full account of the tragic affair and an important re-interpretation of the discussion surrounding Third Ypres.

Don’t miss your chance to purchase this classic study of the real end of the Third Ypres campaign.

See link below for recent Western Front Association ‘Mentioned in Dispatches’ podcast interview with author Dr Michael LoCicero:

Victory over Disease

By Michael Hinton

My interest in the Crimean War was kindled when I discovered that one of my 2x great grandfathers served in the British Army during the whole conflict. My principal research interest at the time, as a member of staff of the University of Bristol, was infectious diseases and once I appreciated how many of his brothers in arms died of disease I decided to look into the matter in more detail when I retired in 1996. I was lucky enough to enrol at King’s College London to study for a second PhD, and after a long gestation a thesis finally emerged, and it is this that forms the basis for ‘Victory over Disease’.

The book provides a comprehensive assessment of several aspects of the provision of health care for the troops, and comprises eleven chapters. These cover, inter alia, the structure of the Army including the Medical Department, hospital facilities, transportation and evacuation of invalids, diseases and wounds and injuries, repatriation and discharge from the army, and the various commissions of enquiry.

Deaths from wounds and injuries during the Crimean campaign

I have concentrated as far as possible on primary sources as my aim was to produce an evidence-based account. There are thus plenty of tables, graphs, and footnotes, but these are intended to support the narrative and not to confuse the reader! However by taking this fresh approach and focusing on what took place in the main Army in the Crimea I found it necessary to question seriously the contributions made by the talented and well-connected Florence Nightingale and the suitably-qualified Sanitary Commissioners – who were sent by the government to investigate matters on the spot. This may prove an unexpected conclusion for some of Nightingale’s many admirers, but the evidence demonstrates conclusively that the mortality in the Scutari hospitals merely reflected the situation in the Crimea. The principal problems were at the front, and not in Turkey, and it was there where matters were rectified. The standards of living and health care were gradually enhanced and the strength and vigour of the men began to improve during the early months of 1855.

The historiography of the campaign has tended to concentrate on the disasters of the first winter and the perceived incompetence of the heads of department, while the contributions made by Nightingale and the Sanitary Commissioners have been over-emphasised. Inevitably this has established an unbalanced view of what actually took place. This has been distorted further by commentators who to have failed to consider events in the strict order of their occurrence, and who have confused matters further by applying the direful knowledge of hindsight. It is to be hope that my creative, and hopefully unbiased, assessment of the many contemporary documents associated with the war will result in a better understanding of what actually took place during those fateful years. In the event the ‘Victory over Disease’ was not due to the contributions of any one person, or even a group of individuals. Rather it represented the involvement in varying degrees of many people in many walks of life who worked, possibly unwittingly, for a common purpose, and with the gratifying result which is illustrated on the front cover of the book by a contemporary lithograph of the men of the 93rd Regiment, of thin red line fame, shortly after their return to England from the Crimea.

The Great Northern War and Wargaming it!

By Per Boden

One of my fondest childhood memories is my Dad’s stories about the Great Northern War (1700-1721). He would tell me those stories with so great passion and intensity that I always felt like I was there; feeling the smell of gunpowder, hearing the sounds of battle, the cannons firing, the musket volleys, the horses, the clashing of steel, the drumbeats and the sounds of trumpets.  It created a life-long fascination for the history of the period and those battles.

When I rekindled with the wargaming hobby in my thirties I wanted to recreate those amazing battles on the tabletop and I still remember Dad’s look on his face when I presented the Klissow 1702 game (a game that came to feature on the cover of Miniatures Wargames). Sadly, he would not see the three games covering the Russian Campaign in 1708/09 that Nick Dorrell, I and others from the Wyre Forest Wargaming club presented at Joy of Six 2017 to 2019, and at Salute this year with the Poltava 1709 table.

The Russian Army in the Great Northern War 1700-21 : Organisation Material Training and Combat Experience Uniforms

The Great Northern War was a period that was previously poorly served by English language sources and many of these were outdated and some frankly not very good from a wargamers perspective. However recent publications in the form of the two volumed Great Northern War Compendium by THGC Publishing and the many books by Helion has really helped to plug the gap and long may it continue. In terms of wargaming rules I have tried and I am still playing a wide range or rules that covers the period and the battles that were fought, directly or indirectly including Twilight of the Sun King, Polemos: Great Northern War, Maurice, Might and Reason (using the Sun King module), Gå-På and Under the Lily Banners. For Skirmish level engagement I have used Sharp Practice, Donnybrook and Pikeman’s Lament.  There are now miniatures in most scales to recreate the battles and skirmishes of the period. Perhaps, surprisingly the most complete GNW range is offered by Baccus in 6mm.

The war is really the beginning of the end of Sweden as a Great Northern European Power, a status brought by several successful wars led by the Kings Gustavus Adolphus the Great and Charles X resulting to dominions in what is today Northern Germany (Pomerania and Bremen), Livonia, Estonia, Ingria (where St Petersburg was later built by Tsar Peter).

The Great Northern War started in 1700 when a coalition formed by the Peter the Great of Russia, Frederick IV of Denmark-Norway and Augustus II the Strong of Saxony-Poland attacked Sweden. The coalition were formed following the death of the Swedish King Charles XI and the belief was that the new and very young King (Charles the XII was 15 when his father died) would not be able to put up an organised fight.  Their motives were mainly to retake lost territories, limit Swedish economic dominance and in Russia’s case also gain access to the Baltic Sea.

However, the King turned out to be a skilled warrior and leader of men and the preparedness, quality and efficiency of battle methods of the Swedish army built up by his father was second to none during this era. However, the King was less able in term of overall under strategic thinking and his stubbornness would eventually be a significant contribution to the overall disastrous outcome of the war.

The King quickly pacified Denmark and a Peace Treaty was signed in Travendal 1700. The Russians were routed at the Battle of Narva in 1700 but then the King turned his attention to Saxony-Poland and Augustus, seeing the Kurprinz Augustus as a bigger problem than Tsar Peter.  It took the King 6 years to defeat the Saxon-Polish and force the abdication of Augustus the Strong from the Polish crown (1705 Treaty of Warsaw and 1706 Treaty of Altranstädt).  This following a decisive Swedish Victory at Fraustadt 1706.

It was time to address the Russian problem once and the King decided to march on Moscow in 1707. The campaign failed following clever scorched earth tactics, and a successful attack leading to loss of the supply column at the Battle of Lesnaya 1708, and a very hard winter 1708/09. On top of this the Russian army had been reorganised by the Tsar through a series of reforms and from experience from the smaller campaigns in the Baltic and Finland during Charles XII focus on Augustus. The Russian army facing the Swedish March towards Moscow was far better led, trained and experienced than the one that routed at Narva in 1700.  It culminated at the battle of Poltava in 1709, the biggest Swedish military defeat ever and most of the Army was lost. After this there was the King’s adventures in Bender trying to convince the Ottoman Sultan to wage war on Russia, the unsuccessful bid by Denmark to take back Scania and the Battle of Helsingborg 1710, and the final great victory at Gadebusch in 1712 having lost most Dominions to the South of the Baltic Sea. The rest sees the stubborn King desperately and erratically seeking alliances to win back what had been lost. In 1718 Charles XII who had now returned to Sweden, invaded Norway and it was here he was hit by a bullet in the head whilst inspecting the enemy fortifications at Fredriksheld. It was fatal and the following 3 years would see a number of peace treaties being signed resulting in the loss of most of the dominions previously in Swedish possession.

I love this period of history and it is a fantastic subject for wargaming and these are some of the reasons why.

(i) The end of the 17th century saw the development of properly uniformly dressed soldiers with more or less uniform colourful coats with regimental colours on big floppy cuffs. Not as intrinsic as your Napoleonic uniforms or as much lace as later during the Seven Wars period, but still as striking painted up on the battlefield. This type of uniforms was worn by the Saxons, Swedes, Danes and the Russian (and later the Prussians). But there were so many other types of more exotic units like the Polish-Lithuanian forces that in essence where Renaissance type of armies that even fielded Winged Hussars. The Russian always had a large contingent of Cossack and Kalmycks serving as light cavalry. This gives the opportunity to create some rather spectacular battles like the Battle of Kalisz 1706 (where both sides had Polish-Lithuanian Contingents) or Klissow 1702 (with the Polish-Lithuanian main army present, well at least for a while).

(ii) Up to Poltava in 1709 most Russian and Swedish Infantry battalions would carry pikes, the Saxons and Danes fought like “traditional” armies of the period with varying fire drill and bayonets. For any wargame the pike elements add an extra level of flair and was used at great effect in a defensive role against the high concentration of horse units and in the Swedish Shock tactics.

(iii) As mentioned above the fighting styles varied, between the nations and over time, and therefore it creates some interesting clashes. For example, the use of shock tactics by the Swedish Army, both by the infantry (with late firing then charging in with pikes, swords and musket in the reverse) and cavalry (with naked steel and wedge formation charges). These attacks focusing on speed and aggression took advantage of the, still, relatively low firing rates and expectation that the enemy would waiver and flee, which indeed happened on many occasions.

(iv) Some of the most famous battles were fought in winter and with snow present on the battlefield, the victory at Narva in 1700 was helped to at least some degree of the fact that a snow storm blew up that swept towards the Russians. At Fraustadt 1706 the Saxons had been standing in their Battle Iines on a frosty field waiting for the Swedes for the whole night and this would not have been helpful for the overall morale. This gives the opportunity to create some alternative games set on a winter and snowclad battlefield.

Anyway, I am more than excited about getting hold of the latest book from Helion Waking the Bear – A guide to Wargaming the Great Northern War and Turkish Campaigns 1700-1721 (coming soon).

Edward Doyley: The unsung hero of early English Jamaica

By Paul Sutton

Sketch map of the battlefield at Rio Nuevo, the site of Edward Doyley’s great victory over the Spanish on Jamaica in 1658. Source: Archivo General de Indias MP-SANTO_DOMINGO,59

The English (and later British) Empire can boast a pantheon of commonly recognised imperial heroes, such as Raleigh, Clive, Livingstone, Rhodes, and a host of others besides. However, very people would count the name of Edward Doyley amongst this list of individuals and yet Doyley was arguably the first great imperial hero of the State-sponsored expansion of Britain’s empire of the mid-17th century in the West Indies.  For it was Doyley, who never even held a formal appointment as colonial governor for most of his tenure in the nascent colony of Jamaica, who saved Oliver Cromwell’s dream of expansion and who, almost single-handedly, turned disaster into victory and by whose efforts laid the foundations of the later prosperous Jamaican colony.

The second volume of my series of books on the Anglo-Spanish War 1655-1660 focuses on the struggles of the English to survive on Jamaica after the leaders of the expedition, sent by Cromwell to topple the Spanish in the Americas, had fled to England in late 1655. The English were racked by starvation and disease, lacking regular supplies from England and under attack from a growing Spanish military resistance on the island but they overcame these hardships and by 1660 the colony was beginning to thrive.  The English survival had much to do with the tenacity and determination of the unassuming Edward Doyley, for without him the enterprise would surely have failed, and the remnants of the ragged army would have returned home, shattering Cromwell’s imperial dreams and perhaps even changing the course of world history.

Little is known about Doyley’s background, but he had certainly served in the Parliamentary armies during the Civil War.  He was lieutenant-colonel of Robert Venables’s own regiment when it left England in 1654 and then commanded the Barbados regiment when it was raised the following year. After Venables fled to England after the occupation of Jamaica in 1655 Doyley was the second most senior army officer after Richard Fortescue, who had taken over command of the English forces when Venables left during the summer. However, Fortescue quickly died and Doyley, by default, was left in command of the ravaged forces. Nevertheless, he quickly showed decisive leadership by instilling a firmer discipline within the army and by managing their meagre supplies more efficiently. Within weeks a new commander, Robert Sedgwick, arrived from England and he subsequently took over the fledgling colonial administration, relegating Doyley to the role of commander of the army. But when Sedgwick died in early 1656 Doyley once again was thrust into the role of overall commander of the colony. He quickly reacted to the first Spanish incursions and redeployed the army to protect the embryonic colony based between Spanish Town and the sea. But again, his tenure was cut short when yet another new commander, William Brayne, arrived in early 1657 and Doyley was again removed from the role as leader of the colony. Predictably perhaps, Brayne also died within a few months and for the third time Doyley was elevated to the role of commander of the colony.

For the next four years Doyley remained commander of all the English forces in Jamaica and de facto governor of the island, though never formally recognised by the home government as such before 1660. He reorganised the army, he oversaw the effective creation of the plantations that grew the food the English needed to survive, and he reorganised the distribution of supplies from home (when they came). He managed the arrival and settlement of civilian settlers that came to make Jamaica their new home, he dispensed justice on land and at sea and established a functioning (and self-sufficient) colonial administration. He invited French settlers from Tortuga to the island to hunt the wild cattle to provide more food for the islanders and he established a force of privateers that preyed upon Spanish ships at sea as he took the war to the Spaniards. He repulsed two Spanish invasion attempts to re-conquer the island, whilst his warships attacked the Spanish Main in their search for the elusive Plate Fleets. In 1660 he was faced with mutiny from disgruntled elements and characteristically reacted quickly and decisively and was unafraid to execute the ringleaders to maintain order.

For much of this time he was ignored in London as his pleas for assistance fell on deaf ears, especially after the death of Oliver Cromwell in 1658.  When news arrived in the autumn of 1660 of the Restoration, he promptly acknowledged the change of political circumstance and worked with new regime for the good of the colony. But Doyley was smart enough to know his days were numbered, despite finally being officially appointed governor of the colony by the new king in late 1660.  In 1662 a royal governor was appointed, and Doyley was unceremoniously removed and sent to England without so much as grateful thanks for the work he had done for his country.

Doyley kept his head when the challenges he faced would have overwhelmed lesser men. He did not shirk from the responsibilities he never sought in the first place. He proved himself an able administrator and an effective leader of men. Perhaps his greatest moment was his victory at the Battle of Rio Nuevo in 1658 which encapsulated his skills of organisation and military daring. It might have been a small battle in terms of numbers involved but it was a great victory, nonetheless.  The Spanish lost the will to continue the fight and soon evacuated the island. The rest of Europe saw how Doyley had humiliated the mighty Spanish empire when the captured Spanish flags were displayed in London. The English defeat at Hispaniola in 1655 had been avenged and the vengeance was Doyley’s.  There can be little doubt that it was Doyley’s tenacity that prevented disaster in the years after the occupation and it was his refusal to give up that saved the colony from ruin. Despite never getting the recognition he deserved in life he was surely the unsung hero of early English Jamaica. The forthcoming book charts the establishment of the Jamaica colony from later 1655 until the introduction of civilian rule in 1662 but the story is as much the story of a single man, Edward Doyley, as it is the story of a new colony.

You can purchase The Anglo-Spanish War 1655-1660 Volume 2: War in Jamaica here.

The Jacobite Rising of 1745 – 275th Anniversary Conference

By Andrew Bamford

After a two-year Covid-enforced hiatus in live events, and 13 months after it was originally scheduled to take place, the From Reason to Revolution conference to mark the 275th anniversary of the ’45 Jacobite Rising was held on 23 October 2021 at the Town Hall in Prestonpans, a short distance from the site of the Jacobite victory of 21 September 1745. The hall is in the process of being redeveloped into an interpretation centre by our partners in the event, the Battle of Prestonpans (1745) Heritage Trust, and this was the first major event to be held at the new venue. The event was also sponsored by the Society for Army Historical Research and the British Commission for Military History; wargames manufacturers Flags of War were also in attendance with a stall selling figures and artwork.

Some 50 or so attendees heard a total of eight papers during the course of the day, all of them (bar one for reasons which will become apparent) followed by a question-and-answer session, and the day concluded with a plenary discussion of more general points relating to the topic.

Opening the morning session was Jenn Scott, whose paper looked at the Jacobites of Aberdeenshire and the surrounding area, analysing over 150 officers to look at the backgrounds of these men and their fates in the aftermath of the Rising. She was followed by Iain Macintyre, whose medical background as a surgeon allowed him to offer a fascinating insight into the medical issues faced by both armies, highlighting in particular the role of typhus and other camp diseases in weakening the ranks of the Government regiments and stressing the surprisingly high level of medical support available to the Jacobites. Perhaps most importantly, Iain’s paper also emphasised that connections made while playing golf can prove very useful in a sticky situation! Completing the morning’s session, series editor Andrew Bamford and his wife Lucy gave a joint paper looking at the Jacobite occupation of Derby: as they explained, this started life as an attempt to mine local eyewitness accounts for details of the dress and accoutrements of the Jacobite Army, but quickly revealed a fascinating variety of responses to the occupiers, from repulsion and pity, through sympathy, to apparent collaboration.

After a buffet lunch provided by the Prestonpans Gothenburg, proceedings resumed where the morning had left off, with a paper by Keith McLay examining the reasons behind the Jacobite decision to turn back from Derby rather than press on to London. Unfortunately, unlike the Jacobites, Professor McLay was detained in Derby by University business and so obliged to pre-record his paper which sadly prevented a question-and-answer session taking place. This does, however, mean that it is possible to share this paper with a wider audience: https://youtu.be/9okJqyeY5s8. Rather than looking purely at the military situation, the paper examines the political background to the decision and argues for a combination of causes combining to force the choice to retreat.

Returning to live speakers, the two remaining papers of the first afternoon session each looked at a personality from the events of 1745-1746, one from each side. Jonathan Oates began with a look at Captain Caroline Scott, whose unsavoury reputation precedes him. As Jonathan argued, though, Scott was a hero to his own side thanks to his active and successful defence of Fort William, while at least some of the ill-favour with which he is regarded can be traced to Jacobite propaganda. Roger Collins then followed up with an account of the life of James Maxwell of Kirkconnell, Jacobite soldier and author of an early history of the Rising. Having acquired some of Kirkconnell’s family letters, Roger is hoping to produce a new edition of his Narrative of Charles Prince of Wales’ Expedition to Scotland in the Year 1745.

After a short break, the final session began with Albert Parker speaking via video link from the USA about the naval aspects of the Rising. As befits someone working on a monumental two-volume history of the naval side of the War of the Austrian Succession, Albert’s paper placed the Rising very much in the international context. An interesting contrast was made between the success, or otherwise, of the efforts of France and of Spain, and between the initial wave of French shipments and those that followed in 1746: had the latter been as successful as the former, the Jacobites might have gained several hundred reinforcements in time for Culloden. Lastly, we heard from our hosts in the person of Arran Johnston, Executive Trustee of the Battle of Prestonpans (1745) Heritage Trust and author of, amongst other works, On Gladsmuir Shall the Battle Be!, a detailed history of the Prestonpans campaign. Arran drew both on material from his book and from his work with the trust to look at the legacy of the battle, how it has been remembered in popular culture, and how this has shaped the memorialisation of the battlefield itself. As was brought out in the question-and-answer session, might today’s Outlander novels and TV series have the same effect on popular perceptions of the ’45 that Scott’s Waverley did two centuries ago?

The proceedings of the conference, co-edited by Andrew Bamford and Arran Johnston, are to be published in the second half of 2022.

You Can’t Always Blame the French

By Andy Copestake

Author Andy Copestake’s book in our From Reason to Revolution series tracks the rise and fall of professional armies on the Indian subcontinent during the late eighteenth century; as he explains here, though, contemporary Britons saw these forces as being inspired not by local concerns but by a French plot for dominance…

When researching for and writing ‘Their Infantry and Guns will Astonish You’, one of the things that became apparent was British paranoia with regard to India and especially regarding the supposed underhand machinations of the French. Never mind Napoleon’s snide remarks regarding Perfidious Albion, Sepoy Generals and Shopkeepers, Britannia’s paranoia concerning her overseas territories was never far from the surface from the middle of the eighteenth century until the end of the Second World War and for much of that time the major portion of British ire was directed firmly towards Paris.

It is not hard to see why this should be so. The British and the French fought a series of wars throughout the eighteenth century which at times spanned the globe – including what would become ‘The Jewel in the Crown’ for the British, the Indian subcontinent. These wars would not end until the Battle of Waterloo in 1815.

To read some British historians of a certain vintage, such as Fortescue or Malleson, you would think that the history of India in the eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries was merely the history of Britain and France in conflict albeit in a rather warmer climate with assorted natives supplying the extras to the drama with, of course, the French being cast as the villains of the piece. This is, at best, a massive oversimplification probably designed to excite the readership and confirm later nineteenth century prejudice.

The facts, as I discovered, were a little different.

The appointment of Richard Wellesley as Governor-General of the British East India Company’s Indian territories in 1798 saw a distinct shift of British policy. Previous Governors had been content, more or less, to follow the policy of the East India Company in its relentless drive for profit. Wellesley took a more ‘Imperial’ line, not infrequently ignoring the ‘guidance’ of the Leadenhall Street headquarters of the HEIC. Again the reasons are obvious, Britain was at war with revolutionary France and France ‘devil a doubt’ was sticking her fingers into Britain’s Indian pie which from Wellesley’s point of view could not be allowed.

(Credit: Giorgio Albertini)

There was some evidence for his paranoia. Tipu Sultan of Mysore had French advisors bolstering his armies. The Nizam of Hyderabad has some 13,000 Frenc-trained regular infantry who even had Tricolour flags, and in the north of India, French mercenary General Pierre Cuillier Perron, in the service of  Maratha Prince Daulat Rao Scindia, commanded an army of over 30,000 regular infantry with the most powerful artillery train in the subcontinent, in what, in Wellesley’s mind, was the ‘French State ‘ of Hindustan. Of course, this was all the fault of the French who were plotting to seize India with Indian rulers being mere puppets… or that is what Wellesley would, it appears, have had you believe.

In the event Tipu was defeated when Seringpatam was stormed in 1799, the Nizam’s regulars had already been disarmed without a fight to be immediately replaced with troops under British control, and Perron fled after a mismanaged skirmish outside the city of Koil at the beginning of the Second Maratha War.

(Credit: Giorgio Albertini)

Wellesley did not need to exercise his paranoia to convince Leadenhall Street. He struck the most telling blow at his mythical ‘French State’ when he declared that any European Officer who left Maratha (and therefore Perron’s) service could be assured of a pension equal to their pay in that service. Several dozen mercenary officers – mostly of British extraction –immediately came over to the British leaving the Maratha regular forces to fight without their direction.

So the ‘French Plot’ and the ‘French State’ might have served Wellesley’s propaganda purpose but basically neither existed they were both mere manifestations of Britian’s never-far-from the surface desire to blame the French!

You can purchase ‘Their Infantry and Guns will Astonish You’: The Army of Hindustan and European Mercenaries in Maratha Service 1780-1803 here.