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 Based on an extensive array of British and German sources, many previously unpublished, and supported by numerous illustrations and maps, A Moonlight Massacre is the first full account of the tragic affair and an important re-interpretation of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.

The Battle of Nördlingen 1634

By Alberto Raúl Esteban Ribas

The 17th century is an exciting time in European History. Throughout those 100 years in the Old Continent there were political and warlike events that shaped the countries throughout the following century and until the French Revolution: the decline of Spain as a world power and its replacement by the France of Louis XIV; the consolidation of Dutch independence and its mercantile power; the English Civil War and the bases of England’s expansion during the following century; the defense of the Holy Empire and the end of Ottoman expansionism.

I have always been passionate about military history, and since childhood I had always dreamed of studying and recreating the glorious episodes of the Tercios of Spanish Infantry. Their dominance on the battlefields for almost 150 years is a model hardly comparable in other armies, and despite this, they are relatively little known in European historiography, which generally imagines them as monolithic blocks of pike-armed infantry.

The reality, however, was quite different: the Tercio is an administrative unit and in battle escuadrones (squadrons) were formed, very versatile and versatile, with autonomous offensive and defensive capabilities. The Spanish learned and influenced their Dutch, French and English rivals, and the loss of their hegemony was not caused by the appearance of a superior tactical model, but by the numerical collapse of their armies, which could not follow the gigantic growth of the France of Louis XIV, and the enormous logistical difficulty of operating in distant war scenes (Flanders, Italy, Germany), where there was no territorial continuity to be able to send troops. I set out to investigate Spanish tactics and compare them with those of their enemies, analyzing the strengths and weaknesses of one and the other.

It was a great satisfaction for me that the prestigious publishing house Helion contacted me and offered me the possibility of explaining a battle as interesting as Nördlingen, where the armies of Sweden and their German allies fought against the Imperial troops, the Catholic League and Spain (formed by Spanish, Walloons, Italians and Germans troops).

The Spanish and Swedish military tradition were formed by various influences and events, perhaps under a single common nexus such as the fighting style of the Dutch, in their war of independence against Spain, which exported its deployment model in “battalions” and with companies with a lot of firepower and a very high proportion of officers. Although, it must be said that the continuous confrontations between the Spanish and Dutch infantry motivated innovations on both sides equally.

The Swedes stormed Germany in the 1630s with a highly professional, very experienced, well-equipped army with very high morale. The resounding victories of King Gustavus Adolphus II increased his power and aura of superiority.

The Spanish had been successfully fighting the French and their Swiss and German mercenaries since the end of the 15th century, combining pikes and arquebuses. In addition, they had a lot of experience and logistical capacity to send armies of thousands of men beyond their territories: since 1567 the Spanish Road was used, which allowed troops to be brought from Italy to Flanders. A proof of the strength of the Hispanic military machine was that both in 1633 and 1634 it was possible to recruit armies of more than 10,000 men to enter Germany: first the Duke of Feria, and later the Cardinal-Infante, were able to lead both armies in territories that the Spanish had not previously entered, and were able to face the Protestant armies successfully.

The Swedes were famous for their formation in squadrons, in T-shape, combining companies from the battalions of their regiments. This deployment, in which an important nucleus of pikemen was still maintained, had great firepower, and its musketeers had great fire discipline, which made them very effective on the battlefield. Furthermore, the introduction of regimental cannons was a real boost for firepower in close combat.

On the Spanish side, the constant struggles against the Dutch and the English caused them to understand from very early on the importance of firepower: the detachments of harquebusiers and musketeers, called mangas, which acted independently of the main detachment, or they could also deploy in front of its own Tercio, allowing great tactical flexibility to adapt to any circumstance. As happened in so many battles, and Nördlingen happened the same, the mangas of any Tercio were sent to support another unit, while the pikemen continued to maintain the formation and, therefore, on the defensive against any threat. This great flexibility allowed the Spanish high command to be able to send reinforcements to any point of the battle line, maintaining the general formation if it impaired security.

Having well-fed, trained and motivated troops are essential elements for victory, but they are not enough. The choice of terrain, the weather, the schedule of reinforcements, the evaluation of risks and unforeseen events, etc. they are elements that should always be valued. Napoleon Bonaparte said that “If the Art of War were nothing but the art of avoiding risks, Glory would become the prey of mediocre minds… I have made all the calculations; Fate will do the rest.” For this reason, it is necessary to take into account the “instinct” of the High command, a “psychological quality” that allows generals to know when the right moment has arrived, to execute a certain movement. And this is very difficult to apply…

From the perspective that allows us to analyze the battle four centuries later, we can assess the performance of the generals of the two armies: Gustav Horn was too cautious and conceived no other maneuver than a frontal attack; Bernard of Saxe-Weimar remained inactive too long, waiting for the decisive moment that never came, with the intention of gaining his own glory by the victory obtained by others. The Marquis of Leganés acted responsibly, sending the necessary reinforcements to maintain the defense of the Albuch hill and thus force the enemy to commit all his troops; General Gallas was patient and waited for Bernard’s attack, and then he knew that the time was right to respond with all his troops.

Without a doubt, the battle of Nördlingen constitutes an interesting lesson to learn about the Art of War of the 17th century, but also to learn about the mentality and personality of the people of that time and question whether the adage that “Audaces Fortuna iuvat”.

You can purchase The Battle of Nördlingen: The Bloody Fight Between Tercios and Brigades here.

War Effort

By Martyn Bennett

It seems extraordinary that after 35 years my thesis on the royalists (and to a lesser extent the parliamentarians) in the Midlands has seen the light of day outside of university libraries. I am pleased to say that it still has a contribution to make. In the popular imagination the civil wars were a battle between Oliver Cromwell and Charles I – two contending behemoths of our collective histories. That it was much more than this still seems to be missed by documentary makers and the writers of fictional accounts of the war. It is a mark of the how Cromwell only rose to prominence during the war itself that he hardly appears in this book at all. In the Midst of the Kingdom is not just a study of the first civil war in the North Midland counties but also a look at who fought it and who paid for it.

Henry Hastings, Lord Loughborough, commander of the royalist forces in the midlands throughout the first civil war.  (copyright M Bennett)

There are two central elements to the work, both of which I carried through into my later studies of the civil wars. I was keen to find out how the royalists managed to fight a war for so long, given the traditional perception that it was parliament, based in the great city and port of London which had the ace up its sleeve as far as resources went. Both sides had established financial structures to fund the war, somewhat belatedly – i.e. after the war had begun and exhausted loans and ad hoc funding. These organisations, with some modifications, would go on to be the basis of funding a standing army after the Restoration. The tentacles of these systems stretched further into the social strata than most methods of taxation which preceded them, and for many years, those that followed. We can see this effect through the eyes of the men and women responsible for the collection of resources needed for the armies. County-based committees collected taxation in the form of cash and goods from people like William Cullen and Jane Kitchen of Upton in Nottinghamshire using troops of horse as the collectors. Constables Cullen and Kitchen in turn levied the collections on their fellow villages purchasing everything from cash to beer and beds. The midlands proved a rich ground for surviving constables’ account books which recorded their work in minute detail enabling us to view the war from new perspectives.

A second major theme was identifying the royalist soldiers and administrators who comprised the royalist war effort. This involved prosopographical work – collecting as much detail as possible about the lives and war records of these activists – to explore who and what they were. Their social standing, their experience and war-time careers were analysed. This revealed that the royalists were a mixed bunch largely speaking, neither drawn from the upper social stratum nor the lowest. So many of them have disappeared into the darkness of history that I was surprised to conclude that the familial success which got them an officer’s appointment in the first place was so fragile that few if any records survive of a good number of them.

Ashby de la Zouch Castle, the home of the Hastings family. In the first civil war the town and castle were transformed into the region’s royalist HQ. Original file ‎(3,648 × 2,736 pixels, file size: 4.53 MB, MIME type: image/jpeg); ZoomViewer

I used my experience of hunting out the costs of war in later work, when I expanded my studies across the British Isles, seeking out similar information for the rest of England, Wales, Scotland and Ireland, showing how neither the North Midlands nor England was alone in finding the material resources and money to support the civil wars. In many ways this confirmed what I had found in the Midlands, but it also expanded my understanding of how people coped and how they recorded their experience of paying for the war whilst trying to maintain local administration methods not to mention their property, income and even lives.

It was only in the early years of this century that I began to look at Cromwell; firstly for a biographical dictionary which I completed just as the American company that commissioned it cancelled all of its foreign contracts! Luckily Routledge asked me to write his biography so not everything was wasted although the dictionary still rests in a folder on my laptop. A second book on Cromwell proved to be one of those ‘more questions than answers’ experiences, as the more I found out about how he became a general –  the comparatively less I knew about the other generals. Thus I began a project to explore the histories/biographies of all the civil war generals – a project called Cromwell’s Rivals. At present, I am looking at 197 people, all but one of them men. I have returned to using prosopography to understand the backgrounds and experiences of these generals. It will be a long project and I have been helped along the way by enthusiastic students who have all made important contributions to the work. I want the project to have multiple outcomes. There will be a book, a database and magazine articles, etc. I also want the project to have some value for wargamers too. One of the aims is to understand military leadership and how it was exercised by these generals and how their contemporaries viewed success and failure. This could quite naturally be translated from both quantative and qualitative analysis into ‘fighting qualities’ for each and every one of the generals. In turn this might be used to interpret the capacities of wargames generals – special rules of staff rating – encompassed in many rulesets. At the very least it will introduce to a wider world a range of lesser and even unknown civil war general officers!

I haven’t given up on local and regional history on which I cut my teeth; I am still happy to discuss the civil war with local history enthusiasts, but wherever possible I bring into the discussion at least one of the 197 generals!

You can purchase In the Midst of the Kingdom: The Royalist War Effort in the North Midlands, 1642-1646 here.

The first campaign of the Royal Navy Submarine Service in the First World War

By Mark Harris

Harwich Submarines in the Great War has been published on the 120th anniversary of the Royal Navy Submarine Service. Submarine Boat Number 1 was launched on 2nd October 1901. As I write the nuclear-powered attack submarine Audacious has just been commissioned as the latest addition to the Royal Navy’s conventionally armed submarine force. Somewhere in the world’s oceans a nuclear-powered ballistic missile submarine is on patrol carrying the U.K.’s strategic nuclear deterrent.

Technology has changed out of all recognition since the Submarine Service first went to war in 1914, only 13 years after it was founded. However, the uniquely challenging environment in which submariners operate stays the same. In his foreword, Rear Admiral Westbrook writes:

… being underwater in a submarine is, and always has been, a hazardous activity. To keep safe and be an effective and deadly fighting capability certainly requires a technological superiority, but it needs more than that; it needs a certain type of person willing to master the risks, environment and hardships and exploit them to achieve the upper hand on an adversary.

I set out in this book to tell the story of how the crews of the Harwich Flotilla achieved the upper hand over the German Fleet in 1914. In doing so they made a decisive contribution to the successful outcome of the Royal Navy’s campaign in the North Sea.

British submarines were in almost constant contact with the enemy right from the first day of the war. The crews had to adapt to new operational challenges on almost every patrol. Within days of war breaking out, E.5 had fired the first torpedo to ever be used in action by a Royal Navy warship, at a German destroyer in the Heligoland Bight.

HMS E.6, underway on her diesel engines off Portsmouth shortly before the war (US Naval History and Heritage Command NH 54964)

The work was dangerous and difficult. All of the technology was new and untried in war. A mechanical failure or a lapse in drill could cause the loss of a boat and the entire crew. Collision on the surface in poor visibility or darkness was always a risk. The weather in the North Sea could inundate the exposed bridges of the boats, washing crew overboard to never be seen again, or smashing control gear. Any of these factors could be the reason why D.2 never returned from her last patrol. Both British boat D.7 and the French boat attached to the flotilla, Archimède, endured terrible beatings from North Sea storms and barely made it back to port. Mines became an increasing hazard over time and sank D.5 with the loss of most of her crew. The threat from the enemy was ever present. E.3 became the first submarine to be ambushed by another submarine and was lost with her entire crew.

Each crewmember endured the hazards and hardships for different reasons. For some it was the better pay that they received – ‘hard lying’ money. For others it was the chance to be part of a small crew away from the hierarchy and spit and polish of the big ships. Many of the officers were attracted by the adventure and risk of commanding a vessel filled with cutting edge technology. It was no accident that submarine captains were often keen enthusiasts of the new sport of motorcycle racing, or had taken up flying.

The story of the campaign is told from the perspective of those who took part, on both sides, using patrol reports, log entries, diaries, letters, and memoirs. The text is supported by charts, compiled from the reports, logs and chart traces of the vessels involved. Contemporary photographs of the boats, crews and ships support the text. British, German, and French records have been cross-referenced to confirm not just what really happened, but also the impact on British and German tactics and strategy.

The bridge and crew of HMS D.7, showing just how exposed to the weather it was. (US Naval History and Heritage Command NH 54984)

The prominent role played by the Flotilla was due in no small part to the leadership of Commodore Roger Keyes. Together with his friend and ally, Commodore Reginald Tyrwhitt, who commanded the Harwich Destroyer Flotillas, Keyes was a driving force behind the offensive operations by the Navy in the North Sea during 1914. Behind both was Winston Churchill, then First Lord of the Admiralty, the political guiding force of the Navy and a vocal champion for the use of new technology, including submarines. The book charts the command intrigues and differences of opinion that surrounded the evolution and execution of British operations in the North Sea in 1914, focussing on the key role that both Keyes and 8th Flotilla itself played in shaping them.

Success also brought fame to a few, most prominent amongst whom was Lieutenant-Commander Max Horton of E.9. Horton torpedoed the first warship to be sunk by a Royal Navy submarine, the scout cruiser Hela. He quickly followed up by sinking the destroyer S.116. In celebrating each of his victories Horton also instituted a Submarine Service tradition; flying a Jolly Roger on return to port to mark a successful attack.

There were also frustrations and failures on the steep learning curve of these early patrols. Some captains would later rise to fame after the early disappointments, whilst others would face moves to less challenging commands or out of the Submarine Service entirely.

The book sets out to give a complete picture of every patrol of the Flotilla in 1914. The aim is to give a real insight into the story of each boat in the Flotilla, and how each crew met the different challenges that they faced. The way the patrols were planned and executed and the impact on tactics, strategy and the individuals caught up in the events are all explored. The real impact created by the unit was much greater than that of the warships it sank, playing a critical role in British intelligence gathering, operational planning and denial of the use of the Heligoland Bight to German surface forces.

British submarine operations have perhaps been overshadowed by the scale of the German campaign against commerce in both world wars. In writing this book I wanted to throw a new light on an unjustly neglected aspect of the First World War and the Royal Navy’s Submarine Service. I have also set out to tell the story in a way that should appeal to readers who are already very familiar with the naval side of the war, who will find much that is new to them, as well as tell a story that will appeal to those who have never read about the naval war in 1914.

The Flotilla maintained its fighting edge in the face of significant losses over this campaign during the first five months of the First World War. It held together through the professionalism, camaraderie and courage of the crews.

In assessing their achievements, perhaps the last word on the Flotilla and the strategic impact they had in this opening campaign should go to the commander of the German Fleet in 1914, Admiral von Ingenohl:

The submarine has entirely altered the conditions in our operational base in the German Bight, bringing constant danger and surveillance to this confined area, which we have no means of avoiding. In favourable weather conditions the German Fleet will be literally blockaded in the estuaries by enemy submarines unless it is prepared to expose itself to the risk of significant losses.

You can purchase Harwich Submarines in the Great War here.

Feversham’s Cravat and the Science of Arms

By Steve Carter

It is unfortunate that overtime myths, like weeds in a lawn, take over our understanding of military history. They start as seeds in the form of gossip, or propaganda, but quickly spread once there is no longer a living memory of an event. Typically, this is feed by some desire to elevate one side over another or to raise an individual above their peers. These myths then quickly flower to emerge in secondary sources. It is here that they find fertile ground, to spread rapidly, as they are repeated, and reproduced, until they are transformed into reality. After this there is no way to stop their spread across the fertile ground of general history. After which these myths flower to spread even further into our consciousness.

Unfortunately, the Monmouth Rebellion is full of these myths, all repeated as facts across the general histories.  One of these immensely popular myths is the constant story that Government commander at the battle of Sedgemoor, the Earl of Feversham, was asleep.[1] To find a repetition of this story we need to look no further than the opening pages of Saul David’s, All the King’s Men. In this otherwise good work, we read ‘it was the rebels’ particular misfortune that, with Feversham still asleep in quarters nearby, the senior royal officer in camp at this moment was 35-year-old Major-General Lord Churchill…’[2] One can forgive Saul David because this perspective is  stated as fact in many recent books and across the internet. This myth is normally expanded with the notion that Feversham was an incompetent, vain and inexperienced officer. In part, this is because Feversham’s second-in-command was Lord Churchill, the man that would become the Duke of Marlborough, after constantly defeating the French twenty years later.

Therefore, as Churchill was on the scene, it stands to reason that he must have won the battle, especially if Feversham was asleep during the encounter. This theory is occasionally supported by a quote from Oldmixon’s[3] History of England,  ‘the Alarm reach’d Weston, where Feversham was safe a-bed, and made not so much haste into the field, as to forget setting his Cravat string at a little paltry looking glass in one of the cottages.’ The immediate reaction for the reader, is that any general, worth his salt, would have thrown aside his useless cravat and raced to the battlefield in a dishevelled state. Therefore, with Churchill on the field, everything written about Feversham’s incompetence by Saul David and others must be true. But is it?

To answer this, we need to understand the mindset of the late 17th Century general. We know that Feversham, Churchill and the Duke of Monmouth all learnt the art of war in France under the great Comte du Turenne. It was here that they acquired useful battlefield experience and read the many French treaties on the art of war. These works covered more than weapon exercises, in truth they included everything from running a campaign to fighting a Battle, even detailing the duties of everyone from the General to lowest Lanspesade.[4] It is within these forgotten manuscripts that we find the clarity needed to read between the lines within Oldmixon’s History of England and understand why Churchill was still in the Government camp, rather than asleep.

There are several late 17th Century treaties on the science of arms to explain the actions of Feversham and his ‘cravat’. One is called ‘Traite de la Guerre, ou Politique Militaire[5] and this details how a general should act and dress. It states that ‘it is not enough that the General excites the ardour of his soldiers by his speeches and by his joy, he must also excite them by the richness of his clothes, so that his exterior ornament stops the eyes of his troops on him. This gives his men a manner of admiration, that he proposes an extraordinary and magnificent adjustment. He must pass this day of the tumult on the battlefield, with the solemnity of Triumph.’ Therefore, far from being a sign of vanity and indifference to the situation, by checking his cravat, Feversham was demonstrating an understanding that he must always appear unflustered, calm and in control. Otherwise, his soldiers would fear the worst.

As to the reason why Churchill was in the camp, we need to turn to another French manual called the Art de la Guerre et la Maniere.[6]  This invaluable work formed the basis of the Abridgement of English Military Discipline,[7] which was introduced into the British Army by Monmouth when Captain-General. Within these pages we find the military duties of the Major-General and learn that it was Churchill’s responsibility to ‘go every evening to take the orders from the general…and to distribute [these] to the majors of the cavalry, infantry and dragoon brigades to regulate the guards.’  It is, therefore, not Churchill’s superior generalship that puts him in the camp but his basic duty as Major-General and by Feversham’s direct command.

Once we look beyond the myth and understand the mind of the 17th Century general, rather than being lazy, incompetent, and asleep, it was Feversham’s actions and military discipline that won the battle. The incident with the cravat shows that when we recognize the duties of officers, we gain a fresh perspective on the battle of Sedgemoor. As if to underline the importance of these military treaties, when Monmouth was captured after Sedgemoor, he was found ‘to have his George, forty gold guineas and four books. The Duke’s pocketbook, a list of the Governments land and sea-forces, a manuscript on Fortifications, and a book on the Military Art.’[8] Clearly, Monmouth valued the science of arms enough to carry it with him, even when on the run.

In this pocketbook,[9] Monmouth tells us that he read Traite de la Guerre, ou Politique Militaire[10] in the months before the invasion. However, was this book the one on the military art that was found on the Duke, or was it the 1677 edition of the Art de la Guerre et la Maniere; or an original New method of Fortification;[11] or an early French edition of De Werken van Mars of de KONST des OORLOGS;[12] or may even have been Les Functions du Capitaine de Cavalerie, Les Functions de Tous les Officiers de l’Infanterie et Pratique et Maximes de la Guerre[13] from 1675? We will never know, but Feversham’s cravat is just one example of how these books can remove the weeds that surround military history. To gain a new appreciation of the events of 1685, I have tracked down the military treaties read by Monmouth, Feversham, Churchill and the rest. The result is my next book to be published by Helion & Company, entitled Science of Arms. This new work will give the student of 17th Century warfare fresh insight into eyewitness accounts, news reports or battle maps. By using the original French and English texts, Science of Arms will enable the reader to understand the mind and training of every soldier, from the general to the musketeer, in the age of Monmouth from 1673 to 1685.

You can purchase Fighting for Liberty: Argyll & Monmouth’s Military Campaigns against the Government of King James, 1685 here.


[1] He received a message from Oglethorpe at around 12:45 in the morning, and the alarm was raised about 30 mins later. See Fighting for Liberty, Helion Publishing & Co 2020.

[2] Saul David, All the Kings Men, Penguin Books 2013, p.5

[3] Oldmixon, the History of England, p.703 (1720 edition)

[4] Today’s Lance Corporal

[5] There are two editions of this work by Paul Hay, Chevalier Marquis of Chastelet, both printed in 1678. The first was published in Paris, the second and cheaper version was the Dutch copy printed in Amsterdam.

[6] This work by Louis de Gaya was first printed in Paris in 1677 and updated in 1678.

[7] The first edition was printed in London in 1678, to be reprinted with only the weapon exercises. By the 1684 edition it had been expanded to cover, matchlocks and flintlocks, and the 1685/6 version has grenadier drills.

[8] Harleian miscellany 1745 Vol. 6, p.295

[9] British Library, Egerton MS 1527

[10] Monmouth read the was the Dutch edition

[11] This work by Vauban was first published in Paris in 1677 with the title Veritable Maniere de Bien Fortifier

[12] This set of three volumes was printed in Amsterdam in 1686, but it was based on a French book called Les Travaux de Mars, ou L’art de la guerre by Allain Manesson-Mallet, which was first published in Paris in 1673 and updated in 1684. An English edition was published in 1688.

[13] This work originally by Captain De Lamont, Chevalier De La Valiere, was first publish in 1675 and revised and reprinted in 1693.