Supplying the New Model Army

By Century of the Soldier author Andrew Abram

On 10 September 1645, less than a week after the bloody storming of Bristol by the new Model Army, Harcourt Leighton and Thomas Herbert, two Commissaries residing with the Army reported to William Lenthall, Speaker of the House of Commons, ‘The General has desired Colonel Pindar [Quartermaster General of the City of London] to speed to Lyme, Taunton and Bridgewater to furnish us here with what powder and other ammunition their magazines can spare for the dispatch of this business. Pray hasten money to pay the army’.

It has been suggested by various writers that 17th-century armies relied more upon plunder and free quarter than any organized system of supply. Continental forces usually travelled with large supply trains which permitted them to extend beyond their own central magazines. Even so, more recent research suggests that during the British Civil Wars there were increasing changes to this custom, particularly among some ‘centralized’ Parliamentarian forces. The formation, politics, religion, leadership, and military campaigns of Sir Thomas Fairfax’s army have drawn the attention of various writers. But one crucial area that has received little attention is logistics – the discipline of planning and carrying out the movement, supply, and maintenance of military forces. 

The result has been a lacuna in the understanding of the recruitment, victualling, ordnance, ammunition, clothing, arming, and transportation methods employed by the Committee of the Army in both the initial establishment of the New Model and its subsequent field operations. As events dictated, the methods of sustaining this army of around 17,000 men required the rapid development of a system which operated at an increasingly considerable physical distance from London, and the army’s headquarters and magazine at Reading. The prevailing view is that provisions (for soldiers and horses), for instance, were obtained from local sources (in other words local communities and householders) during 1645 and 1646, but in practice Fairfax’s regiments increasingly relied on an organized system of supply from London by commercial means. 

As the army was too big to rely on the local economy, and no evidence is known that it supplied its own victuals – other than bread/biscuit and cheese (iron rations) – it appears from rather slim evidence that a market followed in its rear. The assumption is that via a system of contractors and victuallers the soldiers obtained much of their foodstuffs.

Some writers have made casual assumptions about the army’s supply. According to Mark Kishlansky, ‘in its composition and organization as much as in its material condition of pay and supply, the New Model Army exhibited few dissimilarities from the old armies’. Similarly, Glenn Foard described Fairfax’s army in Northamptonshire as having been mostly supplied by the county committees from local resources, employing evidence from the Civil War Loss Accounts of parishes, though from early in the Naseby campaign. However, during the New Model’s advance from Oxford to Leicester requisitioning from the countryside proved largely unsuccessful as most provisions from Buckinghamshire had been assigned to the Parliamentarian garrison at Newport Pagnell. 

In sustaining Fairfax’s army, especially at long-distance, the development of a logistical system – established upon civilian transport networks and routes – ensured that supplies of clothing, biscuit, cheese, weapons and ammunition were procured and stored in magazines, such as Reading and Windsor, and transported via internal routes (roads and rivers) and by sea. By the 1640s the term ‘magazine’ was used to describe storage of bulk stores in garrisons. Hence, during the campaign of 1645-6 a series of these was established at key locations such as Portsmouth, Lyme and Bridgewater. These sent out convoys to supply troops at the right place and the right time, sometimes establishing ‘supply dumps’ ahead of the army’s march. Initially this was in support of the relief of Taunton, but it was continued as the New Model Army advanced deep into the Southwest. 

My current research project takes the form of a reassessment of how the New Model Army was provided with the ‘sinews of war, by closely examining the procurement, storage, and distribution of clothing, arms and ammunition, in addition to the recruitment and pay of Sir Thomas Fairfax’s fighting forces, support arms and officials. Via pay warrants and muster lists it is possible to piece together not only some of the details of the system of recruitment operated, with the identities of recruits and their conducting officers, but also which regiments benefitted from batches of soldiers. This is especially important when attempting to evaluate the strengths of the New Model infantry, whose numbers fluctuated in lines with battlefield losses, sickness and desertion. The breadth and detail of the primary source material, much of which remains unpublished, allows for a focused and systematic approach to the topic. Though supply contracts (some of which are haphazard and incomplete), for instance, need to be considered alongside treasury warrants and receipts, which record what the army in fact received from suppliers, in either full or part of contracts, and when they received them. 

Lists of stores, in addition to records detailing the means and destinations of their transport also place the army’s matériel in time and place, whilst providing evidence of the nuts and bolts of its logistical machinery. Pay records in the form of treasury warrants, muster rolls and pay schedules also cast light on the strength, composition and history of regiments, troops, companies and other military units, as well as allowing an understanding of the mechanics of recruitment. These add context and detail to narrative sources such as contemporary newsbooks and letters.

  1. Receipt from the Officers of the Ordnance Office, dated 1 April 1645, ‘into his Majesty’s stores [ …] for the supply of Sir Thomas Fairfax his army’ from John Freeman for 3 tons of English match @ £30 per ton and 1 cwt of Dutch match ‘made up the English way’ (TNA, SP28/29/1, fol. 120r.)
  1. Warrant, dated 21 July 1645, authorizing the payment of £503 17s. 8d. to Colonel Richard Ingoldsby’s regiment, being 14 days’ pay according to a muster of 12 June. (SP28/31/1, fol. 76r.)

Reading Magazine, bundles of clothing, forming a consignment of 3227 pairs of breeches, 3205 soldiers’ coats, 2413 pairs of stockings, 3874½ pairs of shoes and 3512 shirts to be sent from to the army. (SP28/126/1, fols 1r.-5r.) The list allows some insight into the storage and distribution system employed in supplying the NMA. Each pack is numbered: ‘B400’ = 400 pairs of breeches, C280 = 280 coats.

  1. ‘List of impressed soldiers for recruits for Sir Thomas Fairfax’s army under the command of Captain John Andrews, taken at Abingdon 9 April 1645’. (TNA, SP28/123/2, unfol.)

In Memoriam: Christopher Duffy (1936-2022)

Some thoughts from Dr Alexander S. Burns

The community of military historians has lost one of its best. On the morning of 16 November 2022, Christopher Duffy passed away after a short stay in Lewisham Hospital. Despite being active as a military historian for over 60 years, Christopher Duffy’s work still holds a special place of attention. His books have become the natural starting place for Anglophone scholars studying the military history of German Central Europe in the eighteenth century, as well as all scholars interested in the military history of the Jacobite 1745 Rebellion.

What is truly incredible about Christopher’s professional life, however, is not the way that he has connected with fellow scholars, but with the public. Christopher taught generations of British officers during this time at the Royal Military Academy Sandhurst from 1961 to 1996. In this period, teaching young officers alongside John Keegan, David Chandler, and Richard Holmes, Christopher thoroughly enjoyed work that he would have happily done for free. He retired as the Senior Lecturer in War Studies and spent the next several years as a research professor at De Montfort University.

Christopher Duffy was many things to many people. As the editor of his festschrift I’ve been asked to reflect on his life in a few places. Here, for Helion & Co, I want to reflect on him in the way that many of us thought of him: a historian for the wargamers. Over the last 60 years, professional academic historians have become increasingly disconnected from public life. Increasingly, historians write monographs, printed in very small numbers, designed to be included in a select few university libraries, and read only by other members of the historical professional. While these books give an ever more detailed and diverse understanding of the human past, the average member of the public may not be interested in a monograph about ‘violence and the image of the human body’ or ‘early modern militaries and the emotive landscape’.

What made Christopher such a popular writer with wargamers, reenactors, and enthusiasts, and a figure of disdain in the elite university system is that he refused to capitulate to trends in academic writing. Christopher’s written work was always penned in a manner that could connect to a general audience. He endeavored to understand the past as it occurred, focusing on military structures that could be analysed, and military narratives that could be shared. Christopher was delighted his books found such a wide readership, which he often attributed to the dual analytical and narrative structure that his books so often employed.

Instead of following academic trends, Christopher immediately seized upon the utility and importance of wargaming as a way of exploring and experiencing the past. As a 12-year-old in the United States, years before I actual read Christopher’s work, I came to be aware of him as a result of repeated references to his scholarship in the book Wargame Tactics written by Charles Grant (Sr.).

As early as 1974, Christopher had developed a keen appreciation for wargamers. He was the editor of the ‘Historic Armies and Navies’ Series, whose dust jackets proudly proclaimed:

We have taken into account several important developments in the reading public: the military historian is at least coming to appreciate that he must place his subject in its political and social framework, while the general historian and devotee of “war studies” are less content than before to pile generalization upon generaliztion when they are talking about military affairs; most important at all we have had to recognize that the history of warfare has remained one of the fields where the serious professional researcher has kept contact with the “general public”[.]… Lastly we have borne in mind that the growing band of war gamers represents one of the most discerning and knowledgeable elements of our readership. We refer these individuals in particular to our maps and diagrams, and the lists of units and uniforms.

Even in the early 1970s, then, Christopher realized the importance of wargamers as a body of the reading public. In Fire and Stone, which appeared thin 1975, Christopher actually offered a brief wargame ruleset designed to encapuslate early modern siege warfare.

In addition to his voluminous writings, Christopher also kindly donated his time in the service of the interested public, taking on speaking engagements in the United Kingdom and the United

States for private associations dedicated to the study of military history. His long connection with the Seven Years War Association fostered the study of the European Seven Years War in the United States, and Christopher developed long friendships with many members, such as the late wargame designers Jim Mitchell and Dean West. Many of these interested individuals in the United States and the United Kingdom joined Christopher, as he led tours of eighteenth-century European battlefields. He has never been afraid to devote time to the public, smashing the perception that rigorous researchers are disconnected from ordinary life.

In addition to writing and teaching, Christopher worked extensively in the service of a number of professional and public organizations related to his interests. He has served as a founding member and the Secretary-General of the British Commission for Military History (which he immediately pushed me to join upon our meeting) and served as the vice-president of the Military History Society of Ireland. As befits a scholar with an abiding interest in Jacobite military history, he served as the Chairman of the 1745 Association. Far from providing administration for these societies, Christopher has been at the forefront of the fight in Britain to preserve battlefields. Over the past 20 years, he has worked tirelessly with the National Trust for Scotland in order to preserve the Culloden Battlefield for posterity.

The vision of Christopher that will linger long in my mind is him stalking the wargame hall at the South Bend meetings of the Seven Years War Association. There, he examined the tables set up by Ken Bunger, Tod Kershner, Jim Purky, Dean West, and Dale Wood, all wargame designers influenced by his writings. They brought the world that so captured his imagination to life in ways that inspired him.

Christopher’s unique talents make him difficult to replace. As I have already alluded to, many academics are not writing with the general public specifically in mind. This makes the work of publishing companies like Helion even more important. Christopher was particularly proud to publish with Helion, and of the wide and varied work appearing there on eighteenth-century topics. In 2017, he commented to me, ‘Helion [is] a fast-moving newcomer in the publishing world and [is] snapping up some of the best of the new military historical writing’. Although Christopher is gone, we can be confident that the tradition he pioneered: rigorous academic writing written for a popular audience, will remain secure as we move into the twenty-first century.

Listen to a short audio of an interview that was conducted with Christopher Duffy on the below button:

The Armies & Wars of the Sun King 1643-1715 Volume 5

By Author René Chartrand author of Helion’s ‘Wars and Armies of the Sun King’ books

This latest volume is very different than the previous four in that it concerns men and events in essentially tropical America, namely the West Indies and their adjacent mainland territories with some diversions farther away in Brazil and the Pacific shores of Chile and Peru. The Sun King did not come to America, but his ambitions regarding the ‘New World’ were great. He too wanted sizeable territories in the West Indies and South America, but the field was already largely occupied by the Spanish and the Portuguese since the late 15th century. The Dutch, British and French late comers appeared mainly from the second quarter of the 17th century. The British had successfully occupied Jamaica; Louis XIV was determined that France should have at least the same.

For France, the smaller islands of Martinique, Guadeloupe, Grenada, St. Kitts and other islands were somewhat settled from the 1630s with even the Order of Malta getting involved in settlement schemes with private monopoly companies that did not contribute enough soldiers to face indigenous and European enemies. In 1665-1666, royal army troops were sent to the West Indies and Guyana to secure them, but most were recalled or disbanded a couple of years later. In 1674, the incredible defence of Martinique where thousands of Dutch troops were routed by a handful of defenders spurred the Sun King to establish permanent garrisons of independent companies, eventually called “Compagnies franches de la Marine”, in the West Indies and Guyana. Details on their hitherto nearly unknown organisation, campaigns and material history is revealed. Thanks to archives documents, acclaimed artist Patrice Courcelle has recreated their dress and appearance, which is the first time such an accurate visual reconstruction has ever been done. 

Soldier, Compagnies franches de la Marine of the Islands, 1675-76

Buccaneers were quickly noticed by the Sun King who, from the late 1660s, even chose to send a buccaneering naval officer as governor of Tortuga as well as furnishing them with weapons. As early as the late 16th century, many French adventurers had ventured into the then unsettled part of what is now Haiti. They were soon hunted down by ruthless Spaniards who applied a near-genocidal policy inspired by the 1494 treaty that divided the  yet unexplored world between Spain and Portugal and a 1556 Spanish law that gave a licence to kill “any stranger of whatever nation” presumed to be a corsair or pirate caught in America in possession of “merchandise”. This was soon extended to anyone as shown in several rather sickening examples of wanton massacres described in the book. 

Soldier, Compagnies franches de la Marine of the Islands, 1678

The main result was to transform the buccaneers from wild hog and beef hunters in the jungles of Haiti into arguably the most fearsome warriors since the Vikings once they went to sea animated by a white-hot desire for revenge on Spaniards. They eventually had their own fleets that soon outclassed the Spanish warships. Their most notable raids are chronicled including those that had substantial help from the Sun’s troops and navy, notably at Cartagena de Indias (now in Columbia). 

Today, buccaneers are seen as being the same as pirates, but this was far from the case in 17th century reality. They were not against all flags and tables showing the nearly continuous European wars from the 16th century makes them out as more like corsairs. We relate their lifestyle, combat practices and armament, which includes their own “buccaneer” type of musket and appearance, which was nothing like what is eternally seen in Pirate movie productions. Actual descriptions and even sketches of buccaneers made by men who knew them are presented. Forget Johnny Debt’s pirate movies and Howard Pyle’s renderings; if you want to see the real thing, look at Patrice Courcelle’s beautifully recreated buccaneers showing for the first time their actual appearance. 

Usually forgotten are the many militiamen of the French Caribbean that were often involved defending their island and also quite active as part of raiding expeditions alongside soldiers and buccaneers. Many were Afro-Caribbean whose services, lauded in contemporary memoirs, have been somewhat forgotten until recently and we cite a few of these accounts. The arms and costumes of all militiamen were varied and there seems to have been no militia uniforms before the early 18th century.

Other topics in the book wondered what did actually happen to “Riches Beyond Comparison” found in America. Not easy to really know since a lot of it remained undeclared, hidden, was smuggled or might be captured. Once captured, there were rules for dividing riches before these golden doubloons vanished. To minimise risks, the Spanish had treasure fleet routes which were not totally safe so, after 1700, the French navy organised some convoys with their own warships. 

European events decided by the Sun King had an important influence in the New World. A sizeable French establishment appeared in Haiti while the other islands and Guyana were secured. The advent Louis XIV’s grandson as King Felipe V of Spain from 1700 totally changed the geo-strategic situation; Spain and France were thereafter allies thus ending the terrible 16th century inhumane policies. Indeed, the alliance heralded Spain’s ‘Age of Enlightenment’. And, even when hard pressed in Europe, the Sun King sent ships, weapons and advisors to secure the Spanish Indies. 

Insofar as the author is concerned, it was an amazing tale to relate with many unsuspected twists. Enjoy.

RC  

The Armies & Wars of the Sun King 1643-1715 Volume 5

Muehlhausen Exhibition in Germany

By Doug Millar the author of ‘The Army of The Swabian League, 1525’

I’m off to Muehlhausen in Thuringia in a month’s time for the opening of an exhibition organised by the Association of German Peasants’ War Museums. This is a touring exhibition which by the time it has done the rounds of the member museums (some 10 in all) should see the start of the 500-year anniversary of the war which was fought between 1524 to 1526 across most of Southern and Central Germany, the Rhineland and in the Tyrol.

The exhibition will consist of a series of beautifully designed information boards interspersed with a number of my dioramas and hopefully other (flat figure) models which have been drawn together from those museums which still commemorate one of the most momentous popular uprisings of the early modern era.

I have been making dioramas for the Association for over ten years now – mainly on commission – taken together with some new additions of mine they can tell the story in visual form of the way in which this conflict played out. I hope to make this available to Helion readers in the coming months as a downloadable file that will accompany my existing book (the Army of the Swabian League) and my forthcoming title the German Peasants’ War.

My interest in the War stems from my initial interest in the Landsknechts (See Osprey title of the same name) which was sparked when I engineered a placement at a German toy firm during my studies. The company famous for its Elastolin brand of plastic figures had some of these mercenaries in their range which was brought to life in dioramas by the late Josef Tonn – the in-house designer with whom I became a close friend. As they say, the rest is history. His best work in my opinion was his showpiece dioramas using 40mm scale Elastolin figures – something which has inspired me ever since. I began to create my own figures back in 2002 around about the time Osprey published my first book on the Peasants War and have become obsessed with the period ever since. The early modern era in the Holy Roman Empire is pictorially a very rich one – archive material unfortunately has remained somewhat one-sided since contemporary accounts were written by or on behalf of the nobility. Prisoner testimony – often extracted under torture – is the only record we have from the peasant side so there is much we still do not know. I’m hoping with the forthcoming book to plug some more gaps in the English reader’s understanding of this forlorn ‘revolution of the common man’.

Doug Miller 

October 22

The Challenge of Carolean Uniforms

By Author Michael Glaeser who is the Assistant Dean of the School of Arts, Sciences, and Education at Southern New Hampshire University. His book By Defeating My Enemies- Charles XII of Sweden and the Great Northern War 1682-1721 was published by Helion & Co in 2020.

Ask an enthusiast of the Great Northern War to describe the appearance of a Carolean soldier and you will get a distinct image- a man wearing a black three-sided hat laced with white, a blue coat with yellow facings, buff belts and straps, and yellow stockings. This is the classic uniform that has over the centuries seen service in paintings, statues, films, miniature models, reenactments, and books. However, if we travelled back in time to the start of the war in 1700, the Swedes charging through the snow storm at Narva would have seemed like an entirely different army with their lack of turnbacks, double vertical pockets, and karpus headwear. Many of Sweden’s early victories- Narva, Düna, Klissow, and Fraustadt- were fought in these older style uniforms. Why then was the classic uniform model embraced by posterity? * This question, among many others, reveals that the passage of time has a created a unique challenge in understanding the evolution and implementation of the Swedish uniform in the Great Northern War.

Using a macro view and subscribing to Höglund’s and Skallnäs’s assertion, there are three distinctive uniform models: older (1680s-1692), transitional (1694-1706), and younger (1706 onwards, the classic look)[1]. On paper this appears straightforward and tidy. In practice, however, there is no clear linear progression. As uniforms wore down due to the rigors of campaigning they had to be replaced, but as the war progressed and costs began to bite, kit was shipped piecemeal, some clothing kept its homespun grey color, older reserves were emptied, and new upgrades were delayed. The result was an incoherent look from one regiment to the next. One could thus be forgiven for making a mistake:

“Artillery should be in grey!”

“No, they wore blue at Gadebusch, look at this painting!”

“Where is the collar?”

“There should be 26 buttons!”

“No, 36 buttons!”

A booklet from 1990 entitled Swedish and Russian Armies of the Great Northern War starts with the author declaring that his first edition needed revision after a reader from California pointed out anachronistic illustrations and flawed details. Anyone, however well intentioned, can be susceptible.

A personal perusal of the internet revealed images of Carolean uniforms that span the decades and even centuries. Each focused on the classic model and each presented its own errors.


Bringing Home the Body of King Karl XII. Painting by Gustaf Cederström, original 1877/78, copy 1884 (Source: Swedish Nationalmuseum, public domain)

Cederström’s painting is romantic and anachronistic. Its ubiquitous nature has likely contributed to the spread of misinformation pertaining to uniforms (see image three below). The yellow plastrons of the two leading stretcher bearers were not yet the military fashion being far more notable in the mid and late 18th century. There is a surviving example of a model 1765 coat in the Swedish Army Museum’s collection which, among others, may have served as Cederström’s inspiration. The colors and turnbacks clearly show a lineage with the earlier Carolean coat albeit with nearly fifty years of separation.

Infantry coat, 1765. Armémuseum.

In this early photograph of a reenactment, the yellow plastrons make another appearance. Additionally, two of the coats and some of the riding boots appear shorter than usual.

Reenactment near Karlstad, 1912 (Source: Tailor and Arms Facebook)

These artillerymen look more like cavalry/ dragoons and are neither fully blue nor grey.

Carolean Artillery painted by Emil Åberg, pre 1940 (Source: wiki, public domain)

Getting closer! The cartridge boxes are slightly larger and the turnbacks overlap for a different look.

These artillerymen look more like cavalry/ dragoons and are neither fully blue nor grey.

There have been many noteworthy attempts at cataloging Swedish uniforms for the interested reader. Alf Åberg’s venerable Karoliner from 1976 should have a spot on any shelf even if one cannot read Swedish. The Great Northern War 1700-1721 Colours and Uniforms by Lars-Eric Höglund and Åke Sallnäs provides a chronological uniform guide for each regiment both horse and foot. A recent work, Karolinska Uniformer Och Munderingar Åren 1700-1721, by Anders Larsson has been met with acclaim. Sergey Shamenkov’s new release, Charles XII’s Karoliners, launches a special series for Helion’s “Century of the Soldier”. His illustrations have graced numerous publications and his book promises to be a wealth of knowledge for the enthusiast and reenactor alike.

* As to the original question regarding the popularity of the classic model, I present one of a few suggestions.  Only three Swedish uniforms from the Great Northern War survive: those of King Charles XII, Prince Fredrik, and Lieutenant Drakenhielm. All of them come from the waning years of the conflict with two belonging to men who both died at the siege of Fredriksten Fortress in 1718. By this point the younger model was in use and distinguished by the pleats on both sides of the coat and the turnbacks. A surviving uniform gives artists and researchers something to physically observe and reproduce and so these articles of clothing served as a model for later generations.

By Defeating My Enemies By Michael Glaeser

Europeanisation of the Sikh Army

By Author Gurinder Singh Mann tieing into his book The Rise of the Sikh Soldier

The Sikh army had developed through various centuries and in the eighteenth century had proved its mettle under strong leaders like Jassa Singh Ahluwalia (1718 – 1783) and the development of the Sikh Confederacy or Misls. The fight for survival in the Panjab of the Sikh faith and subsequent conquests around Hindustan showed the warriors of Guru Gobind Singh were equipped to deal with larger and more powerful armies. The Afghan contingents which had desecrated large parts of India under Ahmed Shah Abdali (c.1722-1772) were sent marching back to Kabul. The once mighty Mughal Empire was vanquished in 1783 under the military leader and statesman Baghel Singh of the Karorasinghia Misl leading to taxation rights with the Mahrattas, Rohillas, and left the East India Company (EIC) watching in awe. Female leaders also played their part wielding the Khalsa axe, with notable woman like Sahib Kaur (1771–1801) of Patiala and Sada Kaur (1762–1832) of the Kanhaiya Misl demonstrating their military prowess.

The Sikhs reliance on cavalry as their primary mode of battle exposed their need for better military tactics and improvement in weaponry. With the advent of Maharajah Ranjit Singh’s Sikh Empire there was a movement towards the greater employment of infantry and artillery. Whilst researching for the book, I consulted the Khalsa Durbar Records (KDR), some of which had been compiled a century earlier. Initially, Purbias, a small number of deserters from the EIC, as well as Sikhs formed this branch. Examining the payrolls of the KDR from 1813 the bulk of the infantry consisted of Hindustanis, Gurkhas, and Afghans. This changed by the year 1818 when the Sikh recruitment expanded amongst this branch and became predominant. In a similar manner the main recruits were Purbias and Muslims to the artillery. The Sikhs took to and adopted the new measures relatively easily, and the introduction of matchlocks proved popular.

Ranjit Singh still felt the need of various military improvements within the empire. At the same time the reports of his conquests were now becoming known throughout the world.  This led to many Europeans looking for employment in his every expanding Panjab.  In 1822, after passing various tests and providing letters, Generals Jean-Francois Allard (1785–1839) and Jean-Baptiste Ventura (1794–1858) entered the service of the Sikh Empire. In 1827 there was the employment of Claude Auguste Court (1793–1880), and then Paolo Di Avitabile (1791–1850). Overall, there was in excess of 60 foreigners, or Ferengi, who would provide military service for Ranjit Singh. This resulted in a host of various military innovations including the raising of regiments of Dragoons, improvements in cannon technology, the import of weaponry (cuirass and guns) from France, and overall improvements in the drills of the soldiers. Allard and Ventura had military manuals translated from French into Persian and commands were ushered in French also. A tri-colour flag added to these changes together with the adoption of European uniforms.

Ranjit Singh and his courtiers (left), the Ferengi contingent (right). G.W. Osbourne, The Court and Camp of Runjeet Singh (London: Henry Colburn, Publisher, 1840).

By 1825, the Fauj-i-Khas (infantry, cavalry, and artillery) based in Anarkali, Lahore had reached the number of between 5,000-6,000 strong. This elite force of soldiers became pivotal in many campaigns at Peshawar, Derajat, quelling the jihad of Sayyid Ahmad Barelvi (1786–1831), and securing the border of Jamrud. The elite force was also responsible for the Anglo-Sikh border along the Sutlej, and the  Fauj-i-Khas undertook patrols from the Himalayas down to Hari-ka-Pattan. This was an important job ensuring border security, not only from infringement by the Akali Nihangs but also from the threat of the British.

One of the important aspects which came out whilst writing the book was the genius of Maharajah Ranjit Singh with regards to how he absorbed their service into the burgeoning Sikh Empire and, if anything, the innovations of military expertise were synthesised with the traditional Sikh soldiery from the Misl period. This is why the old methods of warfare were not dispensed with and instead the European trained units were added on. The notable hardened Sikh warriors like Akali Phula Singh (1761 –1823) and Hari Singh Nalwa (1791–1837) were synonymous with the major conquests around the Afghan regions.  Military and technological innovations by Lehna Singh Majithia (d.1854) surprised the Europeans. Yet the disciplined system of the Ferengi proved pivotal in many campaigns in which they all participated.

Military drill from The Military Manual of Maharajah Ranjit Singh. (1822-30). Maharajah Ranjit Singh Museum, Amritsar: Acc.No:1035. Photo courtesy of Jean Marie Lafont

After the death of Ranjit Singh in 1839, and the army imploding, most Europeans left the service of the empire, yet their tactics were still deployed, often to the surprise of their adversaries. The Fauj-I-Khas general Shaikh Basawan was praised when he unfurled the Khalsa Flag in Kabul whilst supporting the EIC in restoring Shah Shuja to the throne in 1839. More importantly the European drills and infantry and artillery innovations proved their worth in the Anglo Sikh Wars of 1845-1846 and 1848-1849. With a handful of Europeans remaining the Sikh tactics of defence and using their guns effectively gave a bloody nose to the EIC but the treacherous miliary leadership exhibited during this time let the Sikh Empire down.

To this day the contribution of the Ferengi is recognised all round the world not just by the Sikhs but also by the descendants of the European soldiers.  In 2016 Maharajah Ranjit Singh’s Fauj-i-Khas received renewed recognition in the fashionable resort of St Tropez on the French Riviera. A bust of Maharajah Ranjit Singh, General Allard, and his wife Pan Dei was unveiled. This was undertaken by the great-grandson of Allard, Henri Prevost-Allard, the Mayor of the City.

The Rise of the Sikh Soldier

The Sikh Warrior through the ages, c1700-1900

Richard Knötel, The Father of Uniformology and Grosse Uniformenkunde

By Author Stephen Ede-Borrett

Richard Knötel was not the first uniformologist.  Before he began his publication at the end of the Nineteenth Century there had been a great many artists who had produced and published plates of military uniforms.  These artists had customarily painted uniforms that were contemporary, or near contemporary, to them and had most commonly restricted their subjects to the uniforms either of their own Nation or those that they had personally seen.  This is certainly true of a large number of manuscripts of uniforms of the Eighteenth Century and Napoleonic Wars, but none of the plate series were truly a systematic study of the subject.  What put Richard Knötel (1857-1914) into a category of his own is that he was the first to begin to systematically illustrate the uniforms of all European Armies (there were very few non-European studies in his publication) since the general introduction of military uniforms in the latter part of the 17th Century.  His groundbreaking series has since his death been copied or imitated only a handful of times; even with today’s Internet it would be a mammoth task!

XIII 60
Plate No.60 from volume XVIII of Grosse Uniformenkunde, the last plate of the original series.

Richard Knötel was born in Glogau, then in Germany, in 1857, and is known to have taken lessons in drawing and painting from his art teacher father, August.  In 1880 Richard entered the Berlin Academy of Fine Arts, and it was around this time that he appears to have begun collecting works on European Military History and uniforms and began to establish a network of correspondents with similar interests.  At the time of his death, Knötel is reputed to have amassed a library of between seven and nine thousand works.

1806 – The Death of Prince Louis Ferdinand of Prussia at the Battle of Saalfeld, 10th October 1806.  From Die Königin Luise in 50 Bildern für Jung und Alt.

Glogau is one of those towns that seem to wander from Country to Country without itself moving.  In 1506 it was in Bohemia, during the Thirty Years War it was held for a while by Sweden before returning to Habsburg control in 1648.  In 1871 it became part of the new German Empire, until 1919 when it became part of Poland.  In 1939 it went back to Germany and then in 1945 back to Poland again.  At the time of writing (August 2022) it is still in Poland – in Polish the city is Głogów.

In 1890 Knötel began to publish the work with which he will be forever identified – Grosse Uniformenkunde.  This is not, and was never intended to be, a book; instead, each ‘volume’ of Grosse Uniformenkunde is a collection of plates accompanied, from Volume 3 (published in 1892) onwards, by sheets of notes on uniforms, usually of four pages – unusually for the period these notes often included colour sections. Volumes 1 and 2 of the series each contain fifty plates, thereafter the volumes contained sixty plates.  Each volume came in a solid folder with the plates themselves measuring approx 17 cm x 25.5 cm. Approximately is the right term here since individual plates, even within a volume, could vary in size by up to 1.5 cm, both in height and width – in no examples that I have seen are all of the plates in a volume exactly the same size, and today it is impossible to tell how many surviving examples have been trimmed.

The notes accompanying the plates are interesting in their own right.  They do not always reflect the information or even the subjects on the plates in that particular volume but list facing colours and details that are not included when that uniform does appear on a later plate, even if that is in a later volume.  Some folders of notes refer to uniforms for which there never was a plate – although whether such plates were intended is unknown.  These notes were, I understand, although I cannot state this for certain, available without the plates.

Glogau is one of those towns that seem to wander from Country to Country without itself moving.  In 1506 it was in Bohemia, during the Thirty Years War it was held for a while by Sweden before returning to Habsburg control in 1648.  In 1871 it became part of the new German Empire, until 1919 when it became part of Poland.  In 1939 it went back to Germany and then in 1945 back to Poland again.  At the time of writing (August 2022) it is still in Poland - in Polish the city is Głogów. 
Folder – At left is an original folder from 1890.  The 1990s reprint folder is at right, an excellent facsimile.

Perhaps quite naturally the majority of these plates, there are 1,060 in all, are of German subjects although the percentage of German, especially Prussian, subjects in each volume decreased as the series progressed.  Although very few plates illustrated a single figure the vast majority shows anything up to six figures, each clearly identified and with the briefest of notes below. 

The last volume of the series, XVIII, appeared in the Spring of 1914 around the time of Richard’s death; he was then living at Luitpoldstrasse 27, Berlin.  He is buried in St Matthew’s Cemetery in the City.

Although Grosse Uniformenkunde is primarily the work of Richard’s own researches he corresponded widely with others throughout Europe and beyond.  Sometimes there are small mentions of help given, sometimes even the source can be seen and you can judge the meticulousness of his work – as is the case for the Battaglione Guardia Alla Città di Milano (The City if Milan Guard Battalion) which appears on plate III/45.

Grosse Uniformenkunde is, without exaggeration, a masterpiece.  There are very few studies of uniforms since that do not either draw upon Knötel’s work and / or reproduce one or more of his plates, and that includes my own books for Helion & Co.  You can also see a lot of Knotel’s work reflected in the books by the Funckens (which is in no way to cast any aspersions or to attempt to downgrade their magnificent volumes).   One of the reasons for their common use though is that many of the plates (although far from all) are available free of charge from the New York Public Library, and are online if you want to check.

I 01 – Plate No.1 from the first volume of Grosse Uniformenkunde, the very first plate of the series.

The plates have been reprinted, in part or in full at least four times; a facsimile set in the 1950s, an A4 reprint with translations of the text in English and French on the back in the 1970s, and a full reprint again with translations in English and French on the back in the 1980s (not the same translations I would add, there are numerous differences from the 1970s set’s translation) in facsimile and available only in the same sets/volumes as the original, sadly the notes were not produced in any of these reprints.  Finally there was a reprint that began in the early 2000s when the plates, again without the text booklets, were produced in book form – publication only got as far as volume 4.

Original plates from the series, that is not the reprints, can fetch up to £25 each and complete sets commensurately more.  As mentioned it is rare to find the booklet of notes but if you do manage to get hold of a booklet you will find the information as fascinating as the plates themselves.  I believe that these notes are, however, now being reprinted in Germany, in booklets separate from the plates.

XIX 35
Plate 35 from Herbert Knötel’s ‘Neue Folge’ relaunch.  The difference in quality of artwork from Richard Knötel’s original series is obvious.

Whilst working on Grosse Uniformenkunde Knötel also collaborated with Carl Röchling to produce, in 1895, Der Alte Fritz in 50 Bildern fur Jung und Alt (The Old Fritz in 50 pictures for young and old) Paul Kittel, Berlin, 1895.  This must have been a commercial success since in the following year they collaborated on a follow-up Die Königin Luise in 50 Bildern für Jung und Alt. (Queen Louise in 50 pictures for young and old), Paul Kittel, Berlin 1896.  This latter is attributed to Carl Röchling alone although many plates are by Knötel.  Reprints of both of these are again widely available although originals can fetch up to £700!  Throughout the period he also produced several other studies of uniforms of Germany, Prussia and the German states pre 1871 as well as battle scenes.

For more on this one see The Army of the Kingdom of Italy 1805-1814: Stephen Ede-Borrett.  Helion & Co, Warwick 2022, pp 42-43, 113, 142-144. Click Here

There is a great deal of confusion between the work of Richard and his son Herbert; Herbert is frequently credited with Richard’s work and Richard is sometimes credited with Herbert’s.  To compound the confusion, it is worth noting that the famous Handbuch Der Uniformenkunde was originally published by Richard in 1896 but an ‘updated’ edition was published by Herbert in 1937.  Handbuch…, or Uniforms of the World as the English translation is titled, is a ‘must’ for anyone interested in military uniforms and has gone through a number of reprints (not editions since there have been no changes) and still remains widely available.  The reprints incidentally are always of the 1937 Edition not of Richard’s 1896 original.
IX 26 – Plate No.26 from volume IX of Grosse Uniformenkunde

Footnote, Herbert Knötel:

In 1936 Richard’s son Herbert (1893-1963) attempted to continue Grosse Uniformenkunde with the subtitle ‘Neue Folge’ and a Volume 19 appeared, based at least partly, on Richard’s researches and again containing sixty plates.  Probably as much from war weariness as anything else, although see below regarding artists, this ‘relaunch’ did not succeed; when Volume 20 was published in 1937 it contained only eighteen plates and no further volumes ever appeared.  These latter two volumes are, probably because of the lack of uptake, the rarest of the volumes to find plates from and, oddly, have never been reprinted. 

It is worth noting that whereas the first eighteen volumes were drawn and painted exclusively by Richard Knötel, the Neue Folge had plates by Herbert Knötel and no less than ten other artists including Henri Boisselier and Fritz Kredel.  The quality of artwork in the Neue Folge is, with some exceptions, not of the quality of Richard Knötel’s original volumes (Herbert himself is, imo, nowhere near as good an artist as his father), and this may also have contributed to the relaunch’s failure. 

Notes
Example of the notes published from Volume 3 – these rarely survive. At least partly because the sets are often broken up and sold individually (For what it is worth this is similar to the reason that the notes to Rene North’s sets of ‘Paint Your Own Cards’ are even rarer that the cards themselves – see Blog entry for ‘Rene North’)

It is worth noting that whereas the first eighteen volumes were drawn and painted exclusively by Richard Knötel, the Neue Folge had plates by Herbert Knötel and no less than ten other artists including Henri Boisselier and Fritz Kredel.  The quality of artwork in the Neue Folge is, with some exceptions, not of the quality of Richard Knötel’s original volumes (Herbert himself is, imo, nowhere near as good an artist as his father), and this may also have contributed to the relaunch’s failure. 

Signature
Richard Knötel’s signature from a letter of 1912
For those interested here is a complete listing of all of the first XVIII volumes of plates.  The list is in English but, of course, the plates themselves are titled in German.

BattleFields of the Peninsular War

By Reason to Revolution author Marcus Cribb

From Reason to Revolution author Marcus Cribb reports on a long-awaited trip to the battlefields of the Peninsular War. The focus was on Porto, subject of his forthcoming title on Sir Arthur Wellesley’s brilliant forced river crossing of 12 May 1809, but he and his father found time to visit several other key sites.

View over the Douro, Porto, from the monastery that acted as Wellesley’s headquarters to the seminary

Recently I visited a small selection of Peninsula War battlefields in both Portugal and Spain, a historical calling many feel, this one was especially poignant as it had been planned in 2018/2019 but postponed many times due to the global pandemic.

Flying from London Gatwick directly into Porto (Oporto as Wellington’s troops would have known it) gave a great first aerial view of Portugal’s Second City and a Napoleonic battlefield, seeing two battles in 1809, the capture then pillaging on the 19 March 1809 by Marshal Soult’s forces, followed by the daring but risky river crossing which led to the liberation of Porto on 12 May 1809. I can tell everyone I was peering out of the TAP Air window, looking down at the might Douro River until I spotted a certain large white building which was the focus of much of Sir Arthur Wellesley’s plan, letting out a shout of triumph at just seeing this building after so many years of reading about it.

Porto Airport is well serviced by public transport, which was essential for us as I was travelling with my father, who is partially sighted as a multiple stroke survivor – he enjoys walking but it is not wise to do long distances and take some rest into consideration, for context this is important that we did not push too hard to see more than we did in a single visit.

From the direct train into the heart of Porto, we walked a short distance to our hotel: lots of cobbled streets and – given that Porto is built along a river – there are a fair amount of hills to conquer. After settling in I was chomping at the bit to explore, but we unpacked and went for an early dinner, on the way a diversion to see the river, looking across the Serra do Pilar Monastery, another feature of the Second Battle of Porto, which is beautifully illuminated at night.

On the first full day, it was into Porto to explore the city and start seeing what is an important battlefield within a UNESCO World Heritage Site. The many Portuguese churches and old city walls make it a wonderful city break despite the Napoleonic history which was our specific draw. Down at the northern quayside, we stopped to enjoy a coffee where the third crossing took place, led by the Guards; today it looks out on the warehouses of many port and wine brands which are household names in Britain. From there to Museu Nacional de Soares dos Reis, now an art museum, small Euro charge to enter, but in 1809 it was Soult’s headquarters. The cool and tranquil gardens are especially nice to see. It was there that Soult reportedly dismissed the British crossing and went back to bed; later his meal was enjoyed by British officers after he fled the city. On the corner, opposite a large city hospital is a bust of the ‘Duque de Wellington’, a rare thing to see Wellington, as Arthur Wellesley was ennobled, in statue form outside of the UK.

Porto is a pleasure to walk, if a little steep from riverside to the top, but we had good shoes on, as we approached the southern bank over another bridge, a feature of the modern city, I was reading aloud first-hand accounts of the terrible atrocities witnessed by British officers in 1809, first by the French on the civilian population, then by the locals upon the occupying French as reprisals: it helped sober us to the reality of the Peninsula War.

Part of the Serra do Pilar Monastery is an active Portuguese Military barracks. Without wanting to try my MOD ID card, we went into the main building (free on that particular day), where there was a small exhibition about UNESCO, but it is a great spot to reflect that this was Wellesley’s headquarters. It was here that Wellesley overlooked Porto and the Douro, placing his guns with great lines of fire that would have covered the main crossing point as well as the riverbank of the city, then reportedly ordering ‘Let them cross’ in an uncharacteristically laconic manner when told that the wine barges had been secured for the crossing by Colonel Waters and his local volunteers.

The next stop was the Seminary itself, the focus of the crossing, high atop a rocky riverbank and quite imposing from the south. In modern Porto style, we reached it by walking back across a bridge; next to it, now closed is a steel bridge constructed by Monsieur Eiffel of tower fame. Rather strangely the Seminary is now a school, the expansion of the playground and the modern bridges with railways lines have torn away the remains of the steps that the Buffs, followed by Hill’s Brigade would have scrambled up, as is the courtyard that the first defenders, two companies of the Buffs and a lone German Rifleman of the 5/60th saw off the initial attacks by the occupying French troops.

Behind the Seminary is a large cemetery, by walking through here you can reach the Porto Military Museum. We found this a mixed experience, we received a warm welcome, obviously some of the only if first visitors of the day: downstairs were some nice exhibition rooms which covered the Napoleonic wars through Portugal’s civil wars and the First World War, they were small but had interesting items. Upstairs was an eclectic collection of toy soldiers, mostly unrelated to anything you could imagine, it was confusing and did not seem a good use of space to us. We almost missed a small side door that lead to a courtyard, with a few cannons, followed by twentieth-century artillery pieces, behind which was a hanger, repurposed as a large exhibition space focusing on both World Wars, with a trench dugout and many items, on the upstairs mezzanines level were many more cabinets, of particular interest was a pike and arms drill for the Ordenanças, Portuguese militia, who faced the French Imperial Army with very little training or equipment. I cannot say that the museum is a must-see, but if you have time, it is good to support these smaller museums.

Entrance to Porto Military Museum

That was more than enough miles covered by foot for one day, so we collected an arranged hire car for the next stage of the adventure. The next day we left, trying our best with a few contemporary accounts and the best use of Google Earth to find the heights of Grijo, a relatively small two-day action, where Wellesley’s troops attacked up a French-held ridge, a reverse of his reputation. We believe we were roughly in the right area, but the rural villages merged into each other, and coupled with its status as an almost forgotten battle we decided to move on after spotting a walking loop past Café Militia which might have been a clue we were in the right area.

Over a one-hour drive south, is Bussaco. Located atop a Sierra this mountainous position is an almost unbelievable location for a battle. Worth noting that the Palace Hotel, in 1810 a convent is within a National Park, where there is a small fee to enter, but it felt well worth the small charge. The grounds are beautiful, with lots of woodland walks to enjoy, they emerge on viewpoints that help frame the defensive nature of the ridge on Wellington’s campaign. The main hotel building is an imposing structure, very quiet when we visited, there are rooms to stay in, for quite a costly figure apparently. There is a small café on site and the whole area is lovely to explore as a tourist.

Buccaso Palace, now a luxury hotel, formerly Wellington’s headquarters

The real highlight of Bussaco, besides the scenery, is the small military museum. Small but wonderfully put together, it is a rare thing for a local museum that seems to have not been curated for a few decades. Despite some amusing translations, it is really well done, with lots to see, items from the era, nice recreations and brilliant dioramas which would make even the most enthusiastic modellers gawp. For just a few Euros it is certainly worth the visit.

Buccaso military museum, main gallery

After the museum, a short (but steep) walk or drive up the Sierra, is the memorial column, from here there are spectacular views, it is astonishing to imagine the French divisions attacking up this geographic feature. Nearby are further walks and surviving windmills that witnessed the battle: for those wanting to explore, a great location.

The walls of Cuidad Rodrigo

The following day we set out early, heading to the Spanish border and, just beyond it, Cuidad Rodrigo. The first of Wellington’s great Peninsula War sieges, which have become infamous for the aftermath of the attacking troops. The walled city makes for a stunning destination, with a town centre filled with restaurants, but it is the walls themselves that many will want to come to see. Here the breaches which the Anglo-Allied forces stormed, the greater breach is visible from a distance, where repairs have been made after the hellish attack, with the lesser breach just a little distance away. Inside the city is the cathedral, the western façade especially bears so much scaring from the siege guns (presumably a few from Ney’s attack of 1810). All of the walls can be easily walked, giving great views over what was a heavily contested town.

Cuidad Rodrigo is also a good starting point for a long day’s battlefield exploration. Only a stone’s throw away, straddling the boarder is Fuentes de Onoro, one of Wellington’s closest victories. The village itself feels very sleepy, like it has hardly changed in 200 years.

Cannon atop the section of wall where the greater breach was situated during the storming of Cuidad Rodrigo.

The dry-stone walls of rough rock hemmed in the fighting men of both sides as they clashed in the village. The face of the village church is iconic, featuring in many pieces of art, but there is little to mark the battle except a memorial in the town square to the allied side only.

It was at this time my father declared he was feeling the fatigue a little bit, so after taking my photos/videos we left the village, stopping to appreciate the land from the small ridge near Wellington’s position.

The main square and churche of Fuentes de Oñoro

Located only a short drive into Portugal is Almeida, a stunning fortification, with an approach road that is hard to forget in a hurry. What is really striking is this star fort is very quiet and shady, full of locations to cool off, even in the spring sun, the middle of the day can get very warm. We chose to sit outside a small café with a cold drink before walking, first the historic town, then the walls. There are so many features to the fortifications, including the roofs of the amazing gateways, tunnels, cannon and the citadel, that few will leave unimpressed with this site. Although not a large town, it is a must-see, especially with the siege history.

Following the road out of Almeida down the valley is the Coa river. From the town to the river was the Light Division’s action, when General Craufurd almost lost control, but a successful rearguard held the medieval bridge. The distance from Almeida but also Fuentes de Onoro and Ciudad Rodrigo make it an appealing site, despite the difficulty parking nearby (we just managed to pull the small Fiat hire car onto the trackway without beaching it). But the site makes up for it. Ignoring the modern road which ruins pictures from one angle, it is breath-taking, with jagged rocks falling down into the gorge, which is serene with running water: framing it is rough scrub, which would be perfect for skirmishing troops to use as cover.

View over the Côa River

The medieval bridge that acted as a funnel during the Combat on the Côa.

In the distance, a modern memorial, erected for the bicentenary, complete with a viewpoint. It was easy to spend lots of time here, with no other souls around, walking back and forward across this battlefield.

That was our main takeaway from these sites, how even with one of us have done lots of research, the other none, we could enjoy the history and geography, but how easy they were to explore.
The restaurants in Porto, our base, were incredibly welcoming, and we spent several more good days seeing this city.

Further walks, along with details of the history of the battle, Wellesley’s gamble across the Douro, will be the foundations of my upcoming book for Helion, where I am building upon these with many first-hand accounts to show what a dangerous risk it was, but what an exciting story it makes today.

Author at the Douro crossing point, where Hill’s Brigade, led by the Buffs, crossed the river the liberate Porto, 12 May 1809.

Victorian Crusaders

By Author Nick Schofield

Victorian Crusaders might seem to cover a rather obscure subject – British and Irish volunteers in the Papal Army during the 1860s – but it was big news at the time. Italian Unification was a highly popular cause in Great Britain. The Italian or Roman Question consumed much space in the newspapers. Garibaldi, who was something of a popular hero, even received the support of a significant number of British volunteers.

What is less well known is the British and Irish opposition to Italian Unification, especially among the growing Catholic community. The Pope, after all, was still a temporal ruler, his kingdom spanning not just the Vatican but much of Central Italy. Any attack on his territory was seen as an attack on his office and his person. Throughout the 1860s Catholics from Europe and beyond not only organised collections and petitions to support him but travelled to Rome to join his army. In addition to the usual motives for military service – adventure, opportunity, earning a living – they were largely motivated by religious faith. Many saw themselves as participating in a wider ‘crusade’ that could be traced back to the changes unleashed by the Enlightenment and the French Revolution: a defence of faith, tradition and legitimacy in the face of rationalism, liberalism and revolution.

The book focuses on two units within the Pontifical Army: the exclusively Irish Battalion of St Patrick, which operated during the Piedmontese campaign in Umbria and the Marche in 1860, and the glamourous Zouaves, which attracted many foreign volunteers between its foundation in 1861 and the fall of Rome in September 1870. 

Why did I write the book?

Well, I first became interested in the Pontifical Zouaves when I was a student at the Venerable English College in Rome during the late 1990s. Every day I walked past a monument to one of two English soldiers killed during the campaign of 1867: Julian Watts-Russell, who at the time was regarded as a Catholic hero and martyr. At first, my interest was somewhat superficial – the exotic uniforms (with Arabesque baggy trousers) and the bizarre name, ‘Zouave,’ which always seems to raise a smile and is, incidentally, good to have up your sleeve while playing Scrabble. It also seemed incongruous that as late as the 1860s the pope still had an army – and one which didn’t merely mount guard at the Vatican but actually fought battles. I always intended to find out more.

My interest remained for years and was fanned by the few books written in English on the subject: Charles Coulombe’s panegyric The Pope’s Legion (2009), David Alvarez’s comprehensive The Pope’s Soldiers: A Military History of the Modern Vatican (2011), Mary Jane Cryan’s interesting study of The Irish and English in Italy’s Risorgimento (2011) and Gabrielle Esposito’s useful Osprey volume on Armies of the Italian Wars of Unification, 1848-70 (2018). Nevertheless, I felt more could be said – especially on the British Zouaves. I began gathering material for the book in 2019 and then made it my lockdown project (at the same time as running a busy London parish!). It is great to see it finally complete and I thank Helion for their excellent production standards!

The subject raises some interesting themes. It reminds us that, in the last decade of the Pope’s Temporal Power, the Papal Army was the focus of much reform and modernisation, thanks to the work of Generals Lamoricière and Kanzler, and Monsignor Mérode. If the Pope was to remain a ruler in the nineteenth century he needed an up-to-date army. And it was involved in some significant actions, including the 1867 battle of Mentana – best known for the debut of the Chassepot rifle by the French, although this has overshadowed the involvement of the Pope’s troops. The book also tries to shed light on the phenomenon of ideological volunteering. Although, especially in the British context, this is often associated with liberal causes, the cause of Papal Rome shows that it existed on all sides of the political and religious spectrum. 

Many papal volunteers saw themselves as fighting for their ‘nation’ – to be a Catholic was to be a spiritual citizen of Rome and of Christendom, which was then facing so many threats. The Irish, meanwhile, saw the defence of the Pope not only as a matter of faith but as a way of indirectly fighting the British, who were strongly in favour of the Risorgimento. The contradiction, of course, was that they were fighting Italians who shared their same aspiration of independence from a foreign power.

In the end, of course, this is a narrative of heroic failure. Despite its best efforts, the Pontifical Army was unable to stand alone in its fight for independence and survival. Rome became the capital of a united Italy after it walls were breached in 1870; the Pope withdrew to the Apostolic Palace and regarded himself as a ‘prisoner’ until the Lateran Treaty of 1929, which established the Vatican City State. The book is, I hope, a monument to the volunteers and to a forgotten bit of our history. I hope it inspires more interest and research into the subject – and perhaps even the odd wargame!

Nicholas Schofield

Victorian Crusaders- Now Available!

Air Power and Arab World Mini-Series Volume 6

Written by Tom Cooper

At a time when multiple wars are raging across much of the Middle East and Africa, it is almost forgotten that it was Abu al-Qasim Abbas Ibn Firnas Ibn Wirdas at-Takurni – an Andalusian inventor, physician and engineer – who was the first person to undertake experiments in flying with any degree of success. Abbas Ibn Firnas died in 887 A. d., but not, if should be noted, as a result of his attempts to fly: in fact, his flying device had feathers and an apparent frame with wings large and flexible enough for him to glide a significant distance after jumping from a cliff: actually, he returned to – more or less – his starting point. That was back in the 9th Century A. D. An earlier, carved wooden ‘model aeroplane’ in the shape of a dove, found by archaeologists and dated back to the 3rd or 4th century A. D. context in Egypt, might be dismissable

Nigh on a thousand years later, the Arab World’s critical strategic location made it almost inevitable that these regions would be drawn into the imperial rivalries of the leading powers, no matter from where. Several balloon ascents by Italians and others in Constantinople (Istanbul) of the late 19th and early 20th Centuries, and then the first flight made by a Belgian pioneer aviator, Baron Pierre de Catres in his Voisin from Abbasyia – in the outskirts of Cairo, on 15 December 1909 – rose enthusiasm for the new science of flight. Already in February 1910, the Heliopolis Air Meeting was organised in the north-eastern outskirts of the fast-expanding Egyptian capitol.

To say this got the things rolling would be an understatement. Except for inspiring plenty of Egyptians into purchasing aircraft and learning to fly, the Heliopolis Air Meeting was followed, less than a year, by the next, dramatic, yet largely forgotten development.

An Etrich Taube of the Italian Army as seen in Libya of September or October 1911. Sottotenente Guillio Gavotti is seen in the centre of the aircraft from which he dropped the first four small bombs to fall from a heavier-than-air machine. (Maggiori Aeornautica photograph)

In 1911, Italy invaded the Ottoman-controlled North Africa: the area nowadays within territory of Libya. Right after securing Tripoli, the Italians brought two of their Aerosplane Squadrons to the country they named the Tripolitania. Their Etrich Taubes, Bleriots XI, Nieuport IVMs and Henri Farmans were originally meant to fly reconnaissance. However, as the Italians encountered much more fierce resistance than expected, they were deployed in combat before soon.

This is how it happened that on 1 November 1911, Sottotenente Guilio Gavotti became the first pilot to fly an air strike, when dropping four small, spherical bombs calibre 2kg in attack on insurgents in Ain Dara. Although the weapons used were not very reliable, and soon replaced by modified Swedish-made Haasen grenades (seized when the Italian Navy stopped a Greek sailing ship Amphitrite, smuggling these), the Italians pressed on. Their pilots flew numerous additional air strikes over the following weeks, thus de-facto giving birth to aviation as a new military science.

Tragically, over the last 110 years, the air power played a constantly growing role in the affairs of the Middle East and Africa – to the degree where the British developed it into a doctrine of controlling the local populations best known as ‘air policing’. Tragically, hardly any other part of this area has seen more application of air power than Libya since 1970, and especially since 2011, as the country remains a matter of dispute between the locals, Italians, Turks, French, Egyptians, and so many others. Tragically, ‘air policing’ remains a matter of life and death in large parts of the Middle East and Africa of our days, too – even if the means are nowadays entirely different, and primarily consisting of unmanned aerial vehicles, or supersonic fighter-bombers.

Despite all of this, the application and air power in the Arab World remains a much under-researched discipline – except when it comes to its deployment by Western military powers, especially the United States of America, or by Israel. Indeed, the establishment and build-up of Arab air forces remains one of most obscure topics in contemporary military history.

Because of this it is precisely this – the story of first Algerian, Egyptian, Iraqi, Libyan, Syrian, Moroccan, and Yemeni military aviators – is the core of the project Air Power and Arab World, authored by Dr. David Nicolle and Air-Vice Marshal Gabr Ali Gabr.

A reconstruction of the Etrich Stahltaube (built by Lohner and powered by an Austro-Daimler engine), flow by Sottotenente Guillio Gavotti of the Corpo Aeronautico Militare into the first-ever air strike, on 1 November 1911. (Artwork by Tom Cooper)

Launched in 2019, this mini-series published within the Middle East@War books-series is enjoying constantly growing popularity, and we have released its Volume 6, few days ago. It is largely focusing on operations of the Royal Iraqi Air Force during the Anglo-Iraqi War of May 1941, and efforts to rebuild this service immediately after. Another of its chapters is covering the Royal Egyptian Air Force during the period 1941-1945. Of course, we are working hard on preparing additional volumes of this mini-series: 7, 8, and 9 are already in the making – for release later this-, and early the next year. They are going to cover the period after 1945, with special emphasis on the First Arab-Israeli War of 1948.

Air Power and the Arab World 1909-1955 Volume 6 – Now Available!