The Minute Book
Friday, 13 March 2015

The Orders of Lieut Bethune
Topic: The Field of Battle

The Orders of Lieutenant F.P Bethune

Fron a now-defunct version of the Australians at War website

On March 13, 1918, Lieutenant F.P. Bethune, commanding No. 1 Section of the 3rd Machine-Gun Company was instructed to post his guns at Spoil Bank. He considered this position to be suicidal and complained. Neverless, he lead his men there. Before he could get into position a runner reached him with new orders to move to Buff Bank. This was a good position, better than Spoil Bank, but without infantry nearby to cover them, the machine-guns were dangerously exposed. With the safety of that part of the line in his hands, Bethune decided his men should have written orders.

He therefore issued these orders:

1.     This position will be held, and the Section will remain here until relieved.

2.     The enemy cannot be allowed to interfere with this programme.

3.     If the Section cannot remain here alive, it will remain here dead, but in any case it will remain here.

4.     Should any man through shell-shock or other cause attempt to surrender, he will remain here dead.

5.     Should all guns be blown out, the Section will use Mills grenades and other novelties.

6.     Finally, the position, as stated, will be held.

F.P Bethune, Lieut.
O.C. NO.1 Section

Bethune and his squad survived the occupation of the post, holding it for 18 days. The position was held.

The Senior Subaltern

Posted by regimentalrogue at 12:01 AM EDT
Updated: Sunday, 15 February 2015 12:29 PM EST
Tuesday, 10 March 2015

Harass, Worry, and Bait Your Enemy
Topic: The Field of Battle

The Disaster at Koorn Spruit. the Royal Horse Artillery working their guns.
from: h. W. Wilson, With the Flag to Pretoria, 1902

Harass, Worry, and Bait Your Enemy

Ian Hamilton's March, 1900, as presented in Frontiers and Wars, Winston S. Churchill, 1962

Nevertheless, function or no function, it is war, and the way to win war. Harass, bait, and worry your enemy. Once he is more frightened of you than you are of him, all your enterprises will prosper.

Thus disturbed, I thought it might be worth while to walk up to the outpost line and see what was passing there. When I reached the two guns which were posted on the near ridge, the officers were in consultation. Away across the Sand River, near two little kopjes, was a goodly Boer commando. There were about 150 horsemen, with five ox-wagons and two guns. The horses were grazing, but not outsaddled. The men were lying or sitting on the ground. Evidently they thought themselves out of range. The subaltern commanding the guns was very anxious to fire — 'really think I could reach the brutes'; but he was afraid he would get into trouble if he fired his guns at any range greater than artillery custom approves. His range finders said '6,000'. Making allowances for the clear atmosphere, I should have thought it was more. At last he decided to have a shot. 'Sight for 5,600, and let's see how much we fall short.' The gun cocked its nose high in the air and flung its shell accordingly. To our astonishment the projectile passed far over the Boer commando, and burst nearly 500 yards beyond them: to our astonishment and to theirs. The burghers lost no time in changing their position. The men ran to their horses, and, mounting, galloped away in a dispersing cloud. Their guns whipped up and made for the further hills. The ox-wagons sought the shelter of a neighbouring donga. Meanwhile, the artillery subaltern, delighted at the success of his venture, pursued all these objects with his fire, and using both his guns threw at least a dozen shells among them. Material result: one horse killed. This sort of artillery fire is what we call waste of ammunition when we do it to others, and a confounded nuisance when they do it to us. Even as it was an opportunity was lost. We ought to have sneaked up six guns, a dozen if there were a dozen handy, all along the ridge, and let fly with the whole lot, at ranges varying from 5,000 to 6,000 yards with time shrapnel. Then there would have been a material as well as a moral effect. 'Pooh,' says the scientific artillerist, 'you would have used fifty shells, tired your men, and disturbed your horses, to hit a dozen scallawags and stampede 150. That is not the function of artillery. Nevertheless, function or no function, it is war, and the way to win war. Harass, bait, and worry your enemy. Once he is more frightened of you than you are of him, all your enterprises will prosper.

The Senior Subaltern

Posted by regimentalrogue at 12:01 AM EDT
Saturday, 28 February 2015

Bayonet Fighting
Topic: The Field of Battle

Bayonet Fighting

"I never saw a bayonet fight. And I never took part in one. I've walked a long way. I've been shot at with a variety of deadly weapons. And I was wounded in the Hitler Line. But I don't know anything about bayonet fighting."

The Long Road Home; The Autobiography of a Canadian Soldier in Italy in World War II, Fred Cederberg, 1984

For the next few days, with Scotty watching curiously, Albert and I hammered home our points. "One more thing," Albert said, "most of you guys think your weapon is your key to survival. Well, it isn't. And don't laugh when I tell it's your friggin' shovel. Don't go anywhere without it." He grinned crookedly when the seated men laughed. "Hell," he held it up, "it can be a weapon, if that's all you got."

"What about when you're bayonet fightin'?" a round-faced kid named Robbie Crawford asked in a high-pitched voice. "Whatta you do then? Just stick an' jab like the pamphlet says?"

I pointed to a sallow-skinned one-time Loyal Edmonton private whose thin lips barely masked a perpetual small grin. "You tell 'em about bayonet fighting, Alex, you came in with the Eddies 'way back in Sicily in July of '43."

Alex Greenwood, a thirty-one-year-old general store owner, father of three and graduate of the University of Alberta, laughed lazily.

"I never saw a bayonet fight. And I never took part in one. I've walked a long way. I've been shot at with a variety of deadly weapons. And I was wounded in the Hitler Line. But I don't know anything about bayonet fighting."

Canadian Army Battle Honours

Posted by regimentalrogue at 12:01 AM EST
Wednesday, 18 February 2015

Topic: The Field of Battle

October 1942: German officer with a Russian PPSh-41 submachine gun in Barrikady factory rubble. Many German soldiers took up Russian weapons when found, as they were more effective than their own in close quarter combat. "Bundesarchiv Bild 116-168-618, Russland, Kampf um Stalingrad, Soldat mit MPi" by Bundesarchiv, Bild 116-168-618 / CC-BY-SA. Licensed under CC BY-SA 3.0 de via Wikimedia Commons.


War on the Eastern Front 1941-1945; The German Soldier in Russia, James Lucas, 1979

Indeed the participation of very senior commanders became a feature of such operations and at Stalingrad it was accepted that general and field officers would take up machine pistols or rifles and act as infantry soldiers once their own commands had been destroyed or amalgamated.

… guidelines drawn up by the German Army for units which were encircled.

Three types of situation were catered for: the one where encircled troops stayed in position until a relieving force rescued them; the second, where they undertook a break out operation using just their own forces, or, thirdly, where the whole encircled body rolled, as a sort of mobile pocket, through enemy lines to regain their own main force.

The tactics governing each of these types of operation differed but two tenets were fundamental to each; firstly the maintenance of morale and the second a strong command. Taking morale first: the Germans appreciated that men surrounded by enemy forces are subject to neurosis, a so-called Kesselfieber (encirclement fever), wherein are exhibited the two great fears of beleaguered garrisons. These are the loss of links with home and medical treatment or evacuation of the wounded. The question of adequate food supplies was found to be of a less concern than that of ammunition. Thus, the successful pocket was one which had an air strip on to which planes could land with supplies, fresh troops, ammunition and mail and from which wounded could be evacuated to the main line. Failing an air strip regular and frequent air drops, especially where the supplies included little luxuries, maintained morale at a high pitch. Propaganda was another important factor and the realisation that Red Army men deserted to encircled German troops helped to maintain the spirits of the invested army. Particularly was their morale high if they could know that their defence was causing the enemy huge losses and that its morale was suffering as a result. The bringing in, wherever possible, of fallen German dead and their formal interment was in direct contrast to the heaps of fallen Russian whom their comrades did not bother to remove and bury. Then, too, the growing mounds of Soviet dead were a reminder of how successful was the defence.

Strong command was vital and, depending upon the size of the pocket, the commanding general had a number of staffs directly responsible to him for various services within the invested area. Also, it was important, indeed essential, that the ordinary soldier should be aware that the staff and the senior commanders were undergoing the same privations that he himself was expected to bear. The presence of the senior commander in the front line had to be a common occurrence. Indeed the participation of very senior commanders became a feature of such operations and at Stalingrad it was accepted that general and field officers would take up machine pistols or rifles and act as infantry soldiers once their own commands had been destroyed or amalgamated.

The Senior Subaltern

Posted by regimentalrogue at 12:01 AM EST
Monday, 16 February 2015

Helicopter Assault
Topic: The Field of Battle

Helicopter Assault

A Rumor of War, Philip Caputo, 1977

Nothing matters except the final, critical instant when he leaps out into the violent catharsis he both seeks and dreads.

A helicopter assault on a hot landing zone creates emotional pressures far more intense than a conventional ground assault. It is the enclosed space, the noise, the speed, and, above all, the sense of total helplessness. There is a certain excitement to it the first time, but after that it is one of the more unpleasant experiences offered by modern war. On the ground, an infantryman has some control over his destiny, or at least the illusion of it. In a helicopter under fire, he hasn't even the illusion. Confronted by the indifferent forces of gravity, ballistics, and machinery, he is himself pulled in several directions at once by a range of extreme, conflicting emotions. Claustrophobia plagues him in the small space: the sense of being trapped and powerless in a machine is unbearable, and yet he has to bear it. Bearing it, he begins to feel a blind fury to-ward the forces that have made him powerless, but he has to control his fury until he is out of the helicopter and on the ground again. He yearns to be on the ground, but the desire is countered by the danger he knows is there. Yet, he is also attracted by the danger, for he knows he can overcome his fear only by facing it. His blind rage then begins to focus on the men who are the source of the danger--and of his fear. It concentrates inside him, and through some chemistry is transformed into a fierce resolve to fight until the danger ceases to exist. But this resolve, which is sometimes called courage, cannot be separated from the fear that has aroused it. Its very measure is the measure of that fear. It is, in fact, a powerful urge not to be afraid anymore, to rid himself of fear by eliminating the source of it. This inner, emotional war produces a tension almost sexual in its intensity.

It is too painful to endure for long. All a soldier can think about is the moment when he can escape his impotent confinement and release this tension. All other considerations, the rights and wrongs of what he is doing, the chances for victory or defeat in the battle, the battle's purpose or lack of it, become so absurd as to be less than irrelevant. Nothing matters except the final, critical instant when he leaps out into the violent catharsis he both seeks and dreads.

The Senior Subaltern

Posted by regimentalrogue at 12:01 AM EST
Sunday, 8 February 2015

A Cavalry Charge
Topic: The Field of Battle

A Cavalry Charge

Scarlet Fever; A Lifetime with Horses, John Cusack, MM, and Ivor Herbert, 1972

It was every cavalryman's ambition to get into a charge and use his sword. That was what I had been trained for, for nearly ten years, and here was a damned farrier getting into one instead of us. No wonder he felt so pleased with himself!

…I also found my old friend Farrier-Sergeant Bert Turp in a state of extreme happiness and excitement. He told us: 'I've just been in a cavalry charge!'

We all laughed at him, frankly disbelieving him, but it was perfectly true, and here, over fifty years later, is his own account of what happened:

…'Shortly before noon our patrols reported that German infantry were advancing from some woods about 500 or 600 yards away on our flank--a perfect cavalry situation, with infantry in the open.

'A major of the 10th Hussars gave us the order to draw swords and to hold them down along our horses' shoulders so that the enemy would not catch the glint of steel, and we were told to lean down over our horses' necks. A moment later, we wheeled into line, and then, with a loud yell, it was hell for leather for the enemy!

'We had of course been taught that a cavalry charge should be carried out in line, six inches from knee to knee, but it didn't work out like that in practice and we were soon a pretty ragged line of horsemen at full gallop. We took the Germans quite by surprise, and they faced us as best they could, for there can't be anything more frightening to an infantryman than the sight of a line of cavalry charging at full gallop with drawn swords. I cannot remember if I was scared, but I know that we were all of us really excited, and so were the horses. The Germans had taken up what positions they could in the open, and I remember seeing three or four machine guns, and each of them seemed to be pointing straight at me as they opened up!

'Men and horses started going down but we kept galloping and the next moment we were in amongst them. Oddly enough, at this moment of the real thing, I remembered my old training and the old sword exercise. As our line overrode the Germans I made a regulation point at a man on my offside and my sword went through his neck and out the other side. The pace of my horse carried my sword clear and I then took a German on my nearside, and I remember the jar as my point took him in the collarbone and knocked him over. As we galloped on, the enemy broke and ran and I gave a German a jab in the backside which couldn't have hurt him much but which sent him sprawling. We kept galloping and, circling the woods on the far side, we halted while some of the 3rd Dragoon Guards who had got round to the flank cleaned up what was left of the enemy.'

That was the closest I ever got to being in a cavalry charge myself and, frankly, I was jealous of Bert Turp. It was every cavalryman's ambition to get into a charge and use his sword. That was what I had been trained for, for nearly ten years, and here was a damned farrier getting into one instead of us. No wonder he felt so pleased with himself!

Canadian Army Battle Honours

Posted by regimentalrogue at 12:01 AM EST
Tuesday, 3 February 2015

Winter on the Somme
Topic: The Field of Battle

Winter on the Somme

The Roses of No Man's Land, Lyn MacDonald, 1980

In that winter's [1916-17] lull in the fighting along the vast frozen length of the line, the elements were the real enemy. It was worst of all on the Somme. After the Germans retired to the Hindenburg Line they left behind a frozen tundra—pock-marked with shellholes, scarred by a network of now-useless trenches, and devoid of any shelter but the concrete chill of old dugouts, which were swiftly occupied by squeaking packs of the outsize, blood-bloated rats that preyed on the corpses of long-dead soldiers. The few dreary encampments that marked the staging posts of the long haul through the wilderness to the new front line offered little in the way of comfort to the half-frozen infantry who trudged up to man it.

Although there was little fighting in the winter wastes, and little was expected before the spring, it was not possible to withdraw large numbers of men to the comparative comfort of billets in the rear and to garrison the line with a skeleton force. Forty-eight hours were as much as a battalion could be expected to remain in the open trenches, and large numbers of troops had to be frequently rotated if the fighting force was not to succumb en masse to exposure, pneumonia or trench-feet. As it was, the large numbers of men sent down the line suffering from trench-feet caused the army such anxiety that special orders were issued. Every man must carry a spare pair of dry socks at all times. At least once a day every man must remove boots and stockings and rub his feet with whale-oil, and every platoon officer was to be held responsible for seeing that this was done.

But it was not easy to persuade a shivering soldier to divest his icy feet of what little protection they had. When the trenches were merely frozen hard the problem w as less acute. When the sun came out or when the thermometer rose a degree or two above zero and the icy ground began to thaw, the soldiers sank up to their knees into a layer of icy slush. In such conditions it was physically impossible to carry out the whale-oil-rubbing, foot-inspection drill. Frozen and wet, stiff and numb, with no means of exercising to restore the circulation already impeded by tightly-bound wet puttees, the feet of the unfortunate infantrymen turned into one vast and excruciating chilblain. In the worst cases, men were literally unable to walk. In the face of mounting casualties, GHQ grumbled and roared, threatened and sent demands for explanations to corps, to brigades, to battalions and to companies in the line, warning dire consequences if the situation did not improve.

The exasperated CO of the 16th Battalion, the Highland Light Infantry, driven to distraction by the continuous badgering, eventually wrote to Brigade, 'I have given you every explanation that is humanly possible. If you are not satisfied, I must refer you to God Almighty.' He heard no more.

Researching Canadian Soldiers of the First World War

Posted by regimentalrogue at 12:01 AM EST
Sunday, 7 December 2014

A French Tank Company at Dunkirk
Topic: The Field of Battle

A French Tank Company at Dunkirk

The Miracle of Dunkirk, Walter Lord, 1982

"I am counting on you to save everything that can be saved—and, above all, our honor!" [General Maxime] Weygand telegraphed [Admiral Jean] Abrial. "[General J.G.M.] Blanchard's troops, if doomed, must disappear with honor!" the General told Major Fauvelle. Weygand pictured an especially honorable role for the high command when the end finally came. Rather than retreat from Paris, the government should behave like the Senators of ancient Rome, who had awaited the barbarians sitting in their curule chairs.

This sort of talk, though possibly consoling at the top level, did not inspire the poilus in the field. They had had enough of antiquated guns, horse-drawn transport, wretched communications, inadequate armor, invisible air support, and fumbling leaders. Vast numbers of French soldiers were sitting around in ditches, resting and smoking, when the 58th Field Regiment, Royal Artillery, passed by on May 28. As one of them explained to a French-speaking Tommy, the enemy was everywhere and there was no hope of getting through; so they were just going to sit down and wait for the Boches to come.

Yet there were always exceptions. A French tank company, separated from its regiment, joined the 1st Royal Irish Fusiliers at Gorre and proved to be a magnificent addition. The crews bristled with discarded British, French, and German weapons and were literally festooned with clanking bottles of wine. They fought with tremendous élan, roaring with laughter and pausing to shake hands with one another after every good shot. When the Fusiliers were finally ordered to pull back, the tank company decided to stay and fight on. "Bon chance!" they called after the departing Fusiliers, and then went back to work.

The Senior Subaltern

Posted by regimentalrogue at 12:01 AM EST
Monday, 24 November 2014

The Camel Charge
Topic: The Field of Battle

The Camel Charge

Seven Pillars of Wisdom, T.E. Lawrence, 1926

My camel, the Sherari racer, Naama, stretched herself out, and hurled downhill with such might that awe soon out-distanced the others. The Turks fired a few shots, but most only shrieked and turned to run: the bullets they did send at us were not very harmful, for it took much to bring a charging camel down in a dead heap.

I had got among the first of them, and was shooting, with a pistol of course, for only an expert could use a rifle from such plunging beasts; when suddenly my camel tripped and went down emptily on her face, as though pole-axed. I was torn completely from the saddle, sailed grandly through the air a great distance, and landed with a crash which seemed to drrive all the power and the feeling out of me. I lay there, passively waiting for the Turks to kill me, continuing to hum over the verses of some long-forgotten poem, whose rhythm something, perhaps the prolonged stride of the camel, had brought back to my memory as we leaped down the hill-side:

For Lord I was free of all Thy flowers, but I chose the world's sad roses,
And that is why my feet are torn and mine eyes are blind with sweat.

While another part of my mindthought what a squashed thing I should look when all that cataract of men and camels had poured over.

After a long time I finished my poem, and no Turks came, and no camel tread on me: a curtain seemed taken from my ears: there was agreat noise in front. I sat up and saw the battle over, and our men driving together and cutting down the last remnants of the enemy. My camel's body had lain behind me like a rock and divided the charge into two streams: and in the back of its skull was the heavy bullet of the fifth shot I had fired.

The Senior Subaltern

Posted by regimentalrogue at 12:01 AM EST
Saturday, 9 August 2014

Bayonets in Basra
Topic: The Field of Battle

Bayonets in Basra - A Case Study on the Effects of Irregular Warfare

Prepared by the Urban Warfare Analysis Center, by Edwin Halpain and Justin Walker, 27 Jan 2009


See the orginal report.

About the Urban Warfare Analysis Center

The Urban Warfare Analysis Center produces innovative research and analysis of irregular warfare conducted in urban environments. We bring together personnel from diverse analytical disciplines – including science and technology, social sciences, linguistics, and military studies – to create unique insights across the full range of military operations. The UWAC serves clients in the Department of Defense, Intelligence Community, and broader national security arena. For additional information, please see the UWAC website at

The Argyll and Sutherland Highlanders

The Royal Regiment of Scotland

The Argyll and Sutherland Highlanders are an infantry regiment of the British Army with a rich history. It is one of Scotland's oldest fighting forces. It is best known for forming the legendry "thin red line" at the Battle of Balaklava in the Crimean War against Russia in 1854. It later fought with distinction in World War I and World War II, including intense jungle warfare in Malaya. After Iraq, it served in Afghanistan before returning home in 2008.

Motto Nemo Me Impune Lacessit
No One Assails Me With Impunity

Executive Summary

In May 2004, approximately 20 British troops in Basra were ambushed and forced out of their vehicles by about 100 Shiite militia fighters. When ammunition ran low, the British troops fixed bayonets and charged the enemy. About 20 militiamen were killed in the assault without any British deaths. The bayonet charge appeared to succeed for three main reasons. First, the attack was the first of its kind in that region and captured the element of surprise. Second, enemy fighters probably believed jihadist propaganda stating that coalition troops were cowards unwilling to fight in close combat, further enhancing the element of surprise. Third, the strict discipline of the British troops overwhelmed the ability of the militia fighters to organize a cohesive counteraction. The effects of this tactical action in Basra are not immediately applicable elsewhere, but an important dominant theme emerges regarding the need to avoid predictable patterns of behavior within restrictive rules of engagement. Commanders should keep adversaries off balance with creative feints and occasional shows of force lest they surrender the initiative to the enemy.

I. Overview of Bayonet Charge

On 21 May 2004, Mahdi militiamen engaged a convoy consisting of approximately 20 British troops from the Argyll and Sutherland Highlanders 55 miles north of Basra. A squad from the Princess of Wales regiment came to their assistance. What started as an attack on a passing convoy ended with at least 35 militiamen dead and just three British troops wounded. The militiamen engaged a force that had restrictive rules of engagement prior to the incident that prevented them from returning fire. What ensued was an example of irregular warfare by coalition troops that achieved a tactical victory over a numerically superior foe with considerable firepower.

Atmosphere Preceding the Attack

After a period of relative calm, attacks escalated after coalition forces attempted to arrest Shiite cleric Muqtada al-Sadr. British soldiers in southern Iraq said they were "stunned" by the level of violence near Basra. In particular, Mahdi militiamen conducted regular ambushes on British convoys on the roads between Basra and Baghdad. Frequent, uncoordinated attacks inflicted little damage, although precise data is unavailable in open sources. Since the Scottish and Welsh troops arrived in Basra, Shiite militias averaged about five attacks per day in Basra.

The Bayonet Charge

The battle began when over 100 Mahdi army fighters ambushed two unarmored vehicles transporting around 20 Argylls on the isolated Route Six highway near the southern city of Amarah. Ensconced in trenches along the road, the militiamen fired mortars, rocket propelled grenades, and machine gun rounds. The vehicles stopped and British troops returned fire. The Mahdi barrage caused enough damage to force the troops to exit the vehicles. The soldiers quickly established a defensive perimeter and radioed for reinforcements from the main British base at Amarah – Camp Abu Naji. Reinforcements from the Princess of Wales's Royal Regiment assisted the Argyles in an offensive operation against the Mahdi militiamen. When ammunition ran low among the British troops, the decision was made to fix bayonets for a direct assault.

The British soldiers charged across 600 feet of open ground toward enemy trenches.6 They engaged in intense hand-to-hand fighting with the militiamen. Despite being outnumbered and lacking ammunition, the Argylls and Princess of Wales troops routed the enemy. The British troops killed about 20 militiamen in the bayonet charge and between 28 and 35 overall. Only three British soldiers were injured.8 This incident marked the first time in 22 years that the British Army used bayonets in action. The previous incident occurred during the Falklands War in 1982.

II. Why the Bayonet Charge Was a Tactical Success

The bayonet charge by British troops in Basra achieved tactical success primarily because of psychological and cultural factors. It also shows that superior firepower does not guarantee success by either side. In this case, the value of surprise, countering enemy expectations, and strict troop discipline were three deciding characteristics of the bayonet charge.

Surprise as a Weapon

The Mahdi fighters likely expected the British convoy to continue past the attack. Previous convoys of British vehicles had driven through ambush fire.10 British military sources believe the militiamen miscalculated the response of the convoy and expected the Scots to flee.

lthough the raid is a well-honed tactic practiced by jihadist and Arab irregulars, the A surprise raid has been an effective tool against Arab armies, both regular and irregular. Irregular fighters usually are not trained in the rigid discipline that professional counterparts possess, and the surprise attack exploits this weakness.

I wanted to put the fear of God into the enemy. I could see some dead bodies and eight blokes, some scrambling for their weapons. I've never seen such a look of fear in anyone's eyes before. I'm over six feet; I was covered in sweat, angry, red in the face, charging in with a bayonet and screaming my head off. You would be scared, too.

Corporal Brian Wood
Princess of Wales's Royal Regiment

Enemy Expectation that Coalition Troops Would Avoid Combat

Propaganda by Sunni and Shiite jihadists regularly advertised the perception that American and British soldiers were cowards. Similar rhetoric increased after the battles of Fallujah in April 2004, perhaps to steady the resolve of militia fighters in the face of aggressive coalition attacks.13 In addition, British convoys did not engage significantly during previous ambushes, which probably validated the narrative for many Mahdi militiamen. Because many of the Mahdi fighters were teenagers, it is also likely that the Mahdi army used these ambushes for training and recruiting. The attacks were an opportunity for young fighters to use weapons in combat with little risk of serious reprisal.

In short, the bayonet charge not only surprised the Mahdi militiamen, it also debunked the perception that coalition troops were reluctant fighters seeking to avoid conflict.

There was a lot of aggression and a lot of hand-to-hand fighting. It wasn't a pleasant scene. Some did get cut with the blades of the bayonet as we tumbled around, but in the end, they surrendered and were controlled. I do wonder how they regard life so cheaply. Some of these Iraqis in those trenches were 15 years old – against trained soldiers.

Colonel Mark Byers
Princess of Wales's Royal Regiment

Strict Discipline

A crucial distinction during the bayonet charge was the professional discipline of the British troops in contrast to the disunity and confusion of the militia fighters. Irregular militia often fight with passion and benefit from knowledge of the local terrain. Professional soldiers, however, formally trained in tactics and squad unity can often overcome these and other obstacles. During the bayonet charge, the soldiers rarely lost their nerve and not a single soldier lost his life. Many of the militiamen fled.

Discipline is a tool that can be leveraged in irregular warfare against troops that lack professional training. The individual commander needs to recognize which tactics capitalize on troop discipline and then exploit the enemy's weakness in this area.

III. Conclusion

In irregular warfare, Western military forces have options beyond just superior firepower. The bayonet charge in Basra by British troops showed the value of spontaneous surprise attacks under the right conditions. The attack also refuted the jihadist narrative in the area depicting coalition troops as cowards afraid of tough combat, probably swinging the psychological advantage back to coalition troops.

Other nonconventional means of fighting could achieve similar results as the bayonet charge. Drawing from "lessons learned" across areas of operation and from historical case studies could produce multiple options for small unit tactics with minimal changes to operational structure. All irregular warfare methods, however, must be carefully studied for possible second-order consequences.

For example, the use of attack dogs by coalition troops could provoke fear among some militia fighters, but also infuriate local public opinion by giving the impression that U.S. soldiers care more about their dogs than other human beings.

At the least, this case study suggests the importance of changing tactics and procedures to keep enemy fighters off balance. Even within restrictive rules of engagement, commanders should seek periodic "spike" actions that prevent coalition procedures from becoming routine and easily predictive.

Sometimes actions as simple as unexpected changes in appearance or shows of force can regain the initiative. At the same time, commanders must weigh all operational actions in the larger context of persuading the local civilian population to support the consistent, constructive, and stabilizing actions of the coalition as a whole.

The Senior Subaltern

Posted by regimentalrogue at 12:01 AM EDT
Wednesday, 16 July 2014

Tips From the Front 1943
Topic: The Field of Battle

A PIAT (Projectile Infantry Anti-Tank) in action at a firing range in Tunisia, 19 February 1943. Imperial War Museum image NA 756. Photographer: No 2 Army Film & Photographic Unit; Loughlin (Sgt).

A Few "Tips From the Front" (A.T.M. 4-5)

Canadian Army Training Memorandum, No 29, August 1943

Here is a letter from a Platoon Commander on the Tunisian Front to a friend now training at home. He explains in vivid detail precisely how a Platoon Commander should get down to his job if he and his Platoon are to stand up to the test of action.

Finally, remember that "there are bad officers but no bad troops". This is horribly true. We have often seen it out here—indifferent men fighting magnificently under a first-class officer, and vice versa. It does make you realize what a vitally important job you've got. Motto: "It all depends on me."

Dear Tom:

You asked in your letter for a few "tips from the front". The answer is that we have learnt precious little from actual fighting that is not taught in the normal battle school type of training, but, of course, the penalty for breaking the rules is direct and unpleasant, so one learns a bit more quickly and permanently than in England.

In attack, get your platoon going on location of fire, observation, and intelligent use of what information you have got. Our tendency earlier on (and it wasn't altogether the platoon commander's fault) was to rush into the attack without a really thorough recce, and without going through with the NCOs every bit of information we had about the enemy's positions. Once you're in it, it's hell's own game trying to see where the bullets are coming from, unless you have a fair idea where the swine ought to be. Even then it's not so easy.

We have lost a lot of officers through platoon commanders being too eager and moving right up with their leading sections. You can fight your platoon a darned sight better by staying in a position from which you can manoeuvre your reserve (i.e., your two rear sections), when you have seen what fire is drawn by the leading section. The same, of course, applies to company commanders. Practise lots of frontal attacks—pepper pot, etc. Boche positions are so invariably mutually supporting that platoon flanking attacks are damned hard, especially as the bloke you are after is probably supported by MMG fire from somewhere out of range of your LMG.

Approach marches are important. You nearly always have several miles to cover, probably in the dark, before you reach the place from which the attack starts. The condition in which your men reach that assembly area is going to make a whole lot of difference to their performance when the big moment comes. If the march has been a scramble, and they are rushed into the attack as soon as they arrive, morale will be low. If the march has been orderly, with plenty of time to check up on everything and rest the men at the assembly area, they will start off confident and know what they are playing at.

How to Hit Back

Defence took rather a back seat at home—we were supposed to be "Assault troops"—but, assault troops or not, 95 per cent of your time will be spent in defence, because whenever you are not actually attacking you have to be in a position to defend yourself. So it is well worth studying. The Boche are cleverer at it than we are.

However huge an area of country you are given, in placing your troops imagine You have only three-quarters of your platoon. Put your spare quarter aside as a mobile reserve; then forget all the books and put the rest wherever your common sense and your knowledge of Boche habits tells you. Whenever possible, you want to be on reverse slopes—any movement on forward slopes brings the shells down, and it is not easy to stay still all day. If the ground forces you to take up forward slope positions, keep the absolute minimum at battle posts to observe, and the rest in cover until you are attacked. It is then that your fire control comes in. The first time, unless you drum it in daily, everyone will blaze off at any range at the first Boche to appear, giving all your positions away. It is much more satisfying to let the Jerries come up a bit and catch them in numbers on some open patch. If by chance they knock out one of your posts and start getting in among you, then you thank God for that quarter you kept in reserve and nip in your counter-attack straight away. If you have got a counter-attack properly rehearsed with supporting fire, etc., for each of your posts, you should be able to get it in almost as soon as they arrive, or, better still, get them in a flank as they advance.

In defence by night, the section sentry wants to be manning the Bren in the same trench as the NCO. On the side of the trench he has the section commander's tommy gun, a couple of grenades, and a verey pistol with plenty of cartridges—so he is ready for anything. If a Boche patrol attacks, they will let off lashings of automatic fire at random, to draw yours, and when they retire it will be under cover of mortars. The answer is—stay still and hold your fire until you can pick a certain target. At Djebel Abiod we were attacked by a patrol some fifteen strong. They fired literally thousands of rounds without causing a casualty. We fired about twenty rounds, and lolled an officer and two O.Rs. I do not think it is worth chasing a retiring patrol—they want you to leave your trenches, so as to catch you with their mortars. You could possibly guess their line of retreat and chase them with your own mortar fire.

How to Patrol

The best patrolling troops we have come across are the Moroccan Goums, whose success as compared with any Europeans is quite phenomenal. Even against the best of the Germans they never fail. Why are they better than us? Firstly, because they are wild hillmen and trained as warriors from birth, but also because the preparation of their patrols is done with such detailed thoroughness. No fighting patrol is sent out until its leaders have spent at least a day watching the actual post they are after, and recceing exact routes, etc. And if they are not satisfied at the end of the day they will postpone the patrol and spend another day at it. We are rather too inclined to think of a patrol at teatime and do it the same night. It is not so easy as that. To be worth a candle, a fighting patrol must start off with an odds-on chance of two to one, not six to four or evens, but a good two to one bet. To make this possible, your information has got to be really good and up to date. As regards composition of fighting patrols there is a wide divergence of opinion, but in this battalion we go on the principle of maximum fire power with minimum man power, and our patrols have usually consisted of an officer, an NCO, and nine men, i.e., an assault group of an officer, three bombers, three tommy gunners, and a support group of an NCO and three Bren gunners. The type of recce patrol that has produced the best result is the officer or serjeant, and two who go out by night, lie up, and observe all day and return by night.

Slit trenches deserve a paragraph all to themselves. A few days after we landed we spent literally a whole day at Tabarka being dive-bombed and machine-gunned from the air. This went on intermittently all the following week at Djebel Abiod, plus more than enough shelling. Since then the men have dug slit trenches automatically, even if they arrive at a place soaking wet at three in the morning—and they are a full 5-ft deep, too. Anyone will tell you tales of miraculous escapes due to slit trenches—shells landing a couple of feet away without hurting the bloke inside, etc. I do not think you could ever shell this battalion out of a position, if only because they know they are safer in slit trenches than out of them.

Incidentally, machine-gunning from the air is perfectly bloody—worse than bombing or shelling. The accuracy of it is something I never imagined. An unopposed fighter can guarantee to hit a solitary car. But, again, if you have got slit trenches, casualties from it are "nix" and you find that, after all, the noise was the worst part of it.

The Boche does much more air recce than we do. Every morning "Gert and Daisy" take a look at us, and if camouflage is bad I suppose a photo of our positions goes into the album. You can almost tell how long a unit has been out here by looking at its camouflage.

It is worth learning something about anti-tank mines. There are usually plenty to be had, and if all your men can lay them you are ready for the tanks almost as soon as you get into a new position. If you have to wait for the REs to lay them, you may never be. All our men carry Hawkins grenades.

A Strict Routine

Somebody once said, "Warfare consists of boredom punctuated by odd moments of excitement". This is absolute rot. When you're living out in shocking weather with nothing but a gas cape over your head and thirty men look to you to censor their letters, dish out NAAFI stuff, make the best of the rations, get them kit from the "Q" there's too much to do to get bored. When you in turn have got to see they are always ready to fight, that they are in good heart, that they are clean and healthy, and that the NCOs are doing their jobs, you may get browned off but never bored. Discipline is the hardest and most important thing to keep going. You and the NCOs are 24 hours a day with the men, and it's almost bound to slacken off if you're not on your guard. I find the best way is to keep a strict routine however shocking the conditions, i.e., washing and weapons clean by ? hours, meals at ? hours, etc. If you keep a firm hold on the men over these small day-to-day things, you'll find you've got them right under control when the trouble starts.

Finally, remember that "there are bad officers but no bad troops". This is horribly true. We have often seen it out here—indifferent men fighting magnificently under a first-class officer, and vice versa. It does make you realize what a vitally important job you've got. Motto: "It all depends on me."



The Senior Subaltern

Posted by regimentalrogue at 12:01 AM EDT
Friday, 6 June 2014

Canadians sink four German warships
Topic: The Field of Battle

A Universal Carrier of The Lake Superior Regiment, Cintheaux, France, 8 August 1944. Photographer: Ken Bell. MIKAN Number: 3396172. From the Library and Archives Canada Faces of the Second World War Collection.

Canadians sink four German warships with fire from tanks and infantry weapons

The Maple Leaf; 10 November, 1944
By: Capt. Jack Golding

Canada's soldiers have been credited with many bizarre accomplishments in their scrapping throughout France, Belgium and Holland but one of the most unique operations to date happened very recently when men of the Lake Superior Regiment and the 28th CAR (British Columbia Regiment) engaged four naval vessels in the little harbor of Zijpe on Duiveland, east of Steenbergen, and sank them with tank and infantry weapons.

They licked the Jerry patrol ships on their own home waters in one of the most lustrous actions f the Canuck fight along the uncomfortable Dutch front. All this happened amid the wild acclaim of a liberated and cooperative Flemish population at St. Phillipsland, where an old world atmosphere of costume and custom made the incident seem like a nebulous tale from Henty, the Arabian Nights or Edgar Allen Poe.



Personnel of The Lake Superior Regiment (Motor) with a captured German flag, Friesoythe, Germany, 16 April 1945. (In the group): Privates G.A. Visseau, T. Janakas, A.J.L. Poirier, E.H. Kanarr, G.A. Zeigel, G.E. Horn, Captains C.J. Crighton and E. Howe. Photographer: Alexander Mackenzie Stirton. MIKAN Number: 3229352. From the Library and Archives Canada Faces of the Second World War Collection.

A company of the Lake Superiors with some BCRs had finished their push to Bruges. They had been engaged in infantry work, uncommon to their role, and were assigned the task of moving out the St Phillipsland isthmus to take a look-see.

St Phillipsland they found to be a quaint Dutch village, bubbling with hilarity at liberation.

Here it was learned that German gunboats were across a 1,300 yard stratch of water opposite the tiny town of Sluis a bit farther up the isthmus. So Lieut Buck Wright, Kenora, was sent ahead by Capt Roy Styffe, company commander, Port Arthur.

Wright found a water tower at Sluis and clambered up to do a bit of O-pipping. To his amazement he saw men in German naval uniforms walking about blandly, Nazi ensigns flapping and leisurely activity in progress. He couldn't see all the scene for the little harbor was in two parts, divided in the center.

He reported back with the dope but his comrades thought the story a little tall. Finally they checked again and moved up a scout platoon, a troops of tanks, two six pounders and two three inch mortars. There weren't many men involved but the firepower was potent. The balance remained in Phillipsland.

Sgt Curley McLean, Fort William, and Sgt Reg Bullough handled the six pounders and mortars and Lieut Dusty Gopele of the BCR's growled his tanks into position. They estimated ranges and let go!

Plenty of stuff crossed the water to the Jerry navy for five minutes, then reprisal began. They poured it back in a hurry, for each of the four boats there, one like a small corvette and the other three converted landing craft, carried two 88's, two 20 centimeter guns, plenty of machine guns and were manned by 50 to 60 men apiece.

The Canadian regrouped their tanks behind dykes; used indirect fire on corrected ranging and kept the barrels hot for 10 minutes.

Then the enemy stopped suddenly.

All that night the Canadians kept the sky alight with mortar flares for they didn't want the pint-sized flotilla to escape. No move to depart eas in evidence. The boys thought they had gone, however, for they received a civilian report to that effect.

Capt Styffe decided it was time to investigate matter so he, Lieut Bernard Black, Fort William, and Lieut Tommy Henderson, Winnipeg, plus 40 men set sail on their own private invasion in three small boats. One was a cutter, one a fishing schooner and the other a police boat. They needed the latter for there weren't enough Mae Wests to go around.

Capt Styffe had a radio aboard and he kept contact with Wright and Gopele on the front at Sluis. They landed to the left of Zijpe; slipped around toward the back of the harbour under covering fire by Henderson and his men at the beach head and kept their fingers crossed.

On entering the town the first place they struck was the naval commander's billets. Warm food was on the table and there was every evidence of a hurried departure. They ran into four Jerries in the street and relegated them to their forefathers. They thought they saw some masts sticking up at the outer part of the harbor, shielded from view of the force near Sluis.

Black, Cpl M.M. Shaw, Chatham, Ont., and Cpl T.E. Mitchell, Toronto, got a rubber dinghy and paddled out. It was cold and wet and a high November wind whipped the water into a choppy surge. It was true! The three converted landing craft were sunk and the corvette was afire. No-one would believe this. The just had to get proof.

Ensigns as Evidence.

So the intrepid three sailed the bumpy water and grabbed some Nazi ensigns. Then the assault force returned to St Phillipsland with the tale of their success.—and the white hooded Dutch women and their husbands were delighted.

Lieut Blackwas itchy the next day and he persuaded his OC to let him go back again. This time he took Cpl Mitchell, Pte R.A. Cox, Saskatchewan, and Pte L.M. Seeley, Snowden, Sask. What they didn't find wasn't worth finding. Fire had reached the ship's magazine and shrapnel was flying about.

The corvette type craft yielded full length leather suits, silk underwear and champagne. Twenty Germans had been killed and 80 wounded. The rest had flown to the nethermost part of the island. It had been an "Iron Cross" ship with a kill to its credit. The citizens rounded up five Hun sailors and two collaborators.

Another of the patrol vessels had two aircraft to its credit.

Captain's Body Found

At 1,300 yard the Canuck mortars, six pounders and 17 pounders had smacked their targets on the button. The tank fire had sunk the boats. One shell went through four and a half inches of steel and a half inch of concrete on the bridge of the larger vessel to kill the captain. His body was found lying in the wheelhouse with his hands still in his pockets. It was the AF 92.

Prisoners told the Canadians that they, too, had seen them early in the show when neither side knew the other was near. They had reported seeing Allied soldiers but were "pooh poohed" and told they were Nazi paratroopers. They claimed not to like the Nazi regime, but were reported to be well trained men.

The Canadians didn't have a single casualty.

When Capt Styffe received the ship's log, he made the last entry: "Gersunken by Lake Superior Regiment—Canadian Army."

Canadian Army Battle Honours

Posted by regimentalrogue at 12:01 AM EDT
Monday, 26 May 2014

An "Uncle" Shoot
Topic: The Field of Battle

Personnel of the 1st Field Regiment, Royal Canadian Horse Artillery (R.C.H.A.) with a 25-pounder Howitzer field gun during field exercises, Barham, England, 10 April 1942.
Photographer: C.E. Nye. Mikan Number: 3397506.
From the Library and Archives Canada virtual exhibit "Faces of War."

An "Uncle" Shoot

Artist at War, Charles Comfort, 1956

Just as night was closing in on us again, … an "Uncle" barrage, eighty-one rounds, charge three. … a Divisional shoot, every available gun … The first fifteen minutes would be a concentration, the second a timed creeping barrage.

I selected a vantage point and waited for the order. At 1730 hours, in the almost complete darkness, the night was cracked open with fire and super thunder. Never had I heard or seen such infernal theatre. There were moments of continuous arc-like brightness under the black sky. Oratino, on its crag, was side-lit like Klingsor's castle in a Gordon Craig setting. At one instant the image of its sky-line registered black on the retina, the next it was white like a photographic negative. The valley seemed like a garden of blinding flamejets, rocked by the deafening volcanic crashes of creation. The muzzle-brake on the guns split the flame of the burning propellant into long fiery tridents, blue-white tongues of flame. This indeed was the mad, reckless energy of war … a percussion cacophony of death that outstripped any other audible experience. The gunners worked like demon puppets, no word of command passing between them, only a continuous dance of galvanic action. Passing ammunition … locking and opening the breach … ramming home the charge … jerking the trigger lanyard … all done in the dark or by the flash of neighbouring guns. No language sacred or profane had power or force in the situation. Command Post officers watched every movement. The command had been given; there was nothing to do but wait for it to be carried to its completion. … At 1800 hours, as suddenly as it started, the violence ended. The de profundis silence which followed was like a numbed vacuum, the sort of dark sepulchral silence that must have preceded the happenings in Genesis. But gradually distant voices swam into the field of consciousness again. Gunners laughed and lit cigarettes. Sergeants counted spent shell cases and reported expenditures. The "Uncle" shoot was over.

Gunners of the 2nd Medium Regiment, Royal Canadian Artillery (R.C.A.), loading a 5.5-inch gun, Netherlands, 2 April 1945.
Photographer: Colin Campbell McDougall. Mikan Number: 3209132.
From the Library and Archives Canada virtual exhibit "Faces of War."

Canadian Army Battle Honours

Posted by regimentalrogue at 12:01 AM EDT
Friday, 18 April 2014

Reinforcing Dien Bien Phu
Topic: The Field of Battle

Reinforcing Dien Bien Phu

The Damned Die Hard, Hugh McLeave, 1973

But for every man lost [at Dien Bien Phu], the French had two or three volunteers stepping forward to take his place. Lieutenant Colonel Maurice Lemeunier, with a safe Hanoi billet, heard that his friend Gaucher had died. He went to General Cogny, in charge of the Dien Bien Phu operation in Hanoi. "Mon ge'ne'ral, I'm the oldest legionnaire in Tonkin. Gaucher's place should come to me."

"But Lemeunier, if I said yes, how do we get you there?"

"I jump."

"Why, you don't know one end of a parachute from the other."

Nevertheless, Lemeunier jumped—and at night with only a flare to indicate the dropping zone. And Staff Captain Jean Pouget left his safe seat in General Navarre's headquarters to take his first jump. And hundreds of others, including Sergeant Chief Janos Valko, a legendary Hungarian NCO, made their first parachute jump in the dark. De Castries, now a general, Langlais, Lemeunier, and Major Vadot were playing bridge in the "Subway" (nickname for the headquarters tunnel system) when a thump shook the roof. "That one didn't go off," said Vadot, who had been in Gaucher's dugout. They heard footsteps crunch; a giant legionnaire appeared, still entangled in the chute he was wearing for the first time. Unabashed by all the gold braid, he accepted and drank half a pint of Vinogel from the general. Those first-time paratroopers revised military thinking about airborne operations. More than seven hundred dropped and had no more broken bones than the 2,300 regular paratroopers who jumped alongside them. One had a harrowing experience; after crash-landing in the dark, he groped for his bearings; his fingers encountered one icy face, then another. He had landed in the morgue. It took half a pint of brandy to bring him around.

The Senior Subaltern

Posted by regimentalrogue at 12:01 AM EDT
Saturday, 8 March 2014

Rogers' Rangers at Trois-Rivieres
Topic: The Field of Battle

Tresrevere (sic), i.e., Trois-Rivieres

From: The Military Guide for Young Officers, by Thomas Simes, Esq., Philadelphia, 1776


From: The Military Guide for Young Officers, by Thomas Simes, Esq., Philadelphia, 1776

Tresrevere, a fortified town between Montreal and Quebec, stands about 200 miles from Crown Point, on the north side of the river St. Lawrence. Opposite to this place was a village in which 300 armed Indians had taken up their residence; these General Amherst was desirous to cut off, and therefore issued the following order to that famous partisan Major Rogers; who accomplished his purpose by means so very different to common practice, that I cannot avoid paying a compliment to his abilities for carrying on a war against this barbarous people; of which art we were totally ignorant when General Braddock, at the beginning of our late dispute with the French, lead his troops to unthought of destruction.

Order from Sir Jeffrey Amherst to Major Rogers:

"You are this night to set out with the detachment as ordered yesterday (viz. Of two hundred men) and proceed to Missisquery Bay, from whence you will march and attack the enemy's settlements on the south-side of the river St. Lawrence, in such a manner as you shall judge most effectual to disgrace the enemy, and for the success and honour of his Majesty's arms.

"Remember the barbarities that have been committed by the enemy's Indian scoundrels, on every occasion where they had and opportunity of showing their infamous cruelties on the King's subjects; which they have done without mercy; take your revenge; but do not forget that though those villains have dastardly and promiscuously murdered the women and children of all ages , it is my orders that no women of children be killed or hurt.

"When you have executed your intended service, you will return with your detachment to camp, or to join me wherever the army may be.

"Yours, &c.
"Jeff. Amhrest.

"Camp at Crown-Point,
September 13, 1759."

Pursuant to the above orders. The Major set out with 200 men, in battoes, down Lake Champlain. The fifth day after his departure, when encamped on the eastern banks of Lake Champlain, a keg of gunpowder accidentally took fire, which wounded Captain Williams of the Royal Regiment, and several of the men, who were sent back to Crown Point with some men to row them, which reduced the part to 142, Officers included.

The Major proceeded on his journey, and landed on the 10thh at Missisquey Bay. Here he concealed his boats with provisions sufficient to carry him back to Crown Point, and left two trusty rangers to lie concealed near the boat, with orders to stay till the return of his party, unless the enemy should discover the boats; in which case they were to pursue the track of the party with all possible speed, to give the Major the earliest intelligence. The second evening after this, the two rangers overtook the party, and informed the Major that 400 French and Indians had discovered and taken possession of the boats,which they sent away with 50 men; and that the remainder were pursuing on the track of the party; but this intelligence was privately given him, so that none knew of what passed; and he immediately ordered Lieutenant McMullen, with eight men and these two rangers, to proceed to Crown Point, to inform the General of what happened, that he might send provisions to Cohoas, on Connecticut river, by which the Major proposed to return; so that the two rangers had not an opportunity inform the party that they were pursued, it being believed that they were sent not to Crown Point, but to reconnoitre some place for an attack.

The Major resolved to outmarch his pursuers, and cut off the Indian town at St. Francois, before they should overtake him; and accordingly continued his march for several days, till, on the 4th of October, at eight o'clock in the evening, he came within sight of the town, and about two hours after he took two Indians, whom he had with him, who could speak the language of the inhabitants of St. Francois, and also dressed himself in the Indian manner, and went to reconnoitre the town. He found the inhabitants in a high frolick, or dance; and at two o'clock in the morning he returned to his detachment, which he marched in about an hour to the distance only of 500 yards from the town.

About four o'clock the Indians broke up their dance, and retired to rest; but at break of day, when they were asleep, the Major surprized them by a vigorous attack in several parts of the town performed in every part, that the enemy had not time to recover themselves, or make any considerable resistance.

Out of 300 of the enemy, 200 were killed on the spot:, and 20 taken prisoners; the Major also retook five Englishmen who were prisoners in the town; secured what provisions was there, immediately set it on fire and this reduced it to ashes. At seven o'clock in the morning the affair was completely over, when the Major assembling his men, he found that one was killed, and six slightly wounded. After refreshing the party for an hour, the Major began his march homeward, leaving the dead to be buried by his pursuers; but was harassed on his march, and several times attacked in the rear, till, being favoured by the dusk of the evening, he formed an ambuscade upon his own track and attacked the enemy when they least expected it; after this he was suffered to continue his march without further annoyance by the enemy, and arrived safe at No. 4, with the loss of only a few men.

The Senior Subaltern

Posted by regimentalrogue at 12:01 AM EST
Updated: Saturday, 8 March 2014 10:39 AM EST
Tuesday, 25 February 2014

Quebec, 1759; and the events which followed
Topic: The Field of Battle

Quebec, 1759

From: The Military Guide for Young Officers, by Thomas Simes, Esq., Philadelphia, 1776


From: The Military Guide for Young Officers, by Thomas Simes, Esq., Philadelphia, 1776

Quebec, the capital of Canada, in North America, lies at the confluence of the river St. Lawrence, has a castle on the brow of a hill, about forty fathoms above the town, but irregularly built and fortified, having only two bastions, without a ditch towards the city. It has also another fort on Cape Diamont, a solid rock, 400 fathoms high, with only some few works, and redoubts commanding both it and the town; but the place owes its strength more to mature than art. It lies 300 miles northwest of Boston, in New England. Latitude, 47.35. north; longitude, 74.10. west.

In 1759, the British army and navy came before it, when the Commanders made excellent dispositions for reducing it, but were baffled by the caution of General Montcalm, the strength of the place, and the insurmountable difficulty of the troops landing to attack it; so well was nature assisted by art, that even the undaunted Wolfe despaired of success, and after being checked and repulsed the enemy. However, by a train of stratagems, a landing was at last effected, but under greater disadvantages than any other upon record, by being obliged to drag their artillery up a steep and dangerous ascent; but having, by incessant labour, gained the top of the hill, September 13, immediately formed.

Montcalm was now compelled to risque a battle on the plains of Abraham, in which the English were victorious, but lost their brave Wolfe, who died on the field, and General Monckton was dangerously wounded. The honour of completing the victory fell on Lord Townsend, who drove the enemy from every part, with the loss of only 500 men, though that of the French exceeded 1500. Five days after this, September 18th, the city surrendered to the British troops. Though Wolfe has immortalized his name, whilst the glorious conquest of Canada illustrates English annals, yet all must allow, glorious as this victory was, and important in its consequences, that it was too dearly purchased by his death. Officers may be formed by attention and experience; but the loss of so great a General, Christian, and soldier, is irretrievable. He was an honour to his King, a friend to to his country. and an ornament to society and his profession. Montcalm was killed on the spot, and the next General in command so dangerously wounded, that he died in a few days.

After this victory, General Murray, was appointed Governor of Quebec, and the garrison supplied with such stores and provisions as could be spared out of the fleet; which leaving Quebec, and the enemy knowing no ships of war were left to outfit the garrison in case of danger; and sensible that they were greatly reduced in numbers, by sickness, &c., and the fortifications in a bad state of defence; with this striking appearance of success, Monsieur de Levi was encouraged to attempt its recovery ; and therefore determined upon a regular siege, in the spring of 1760, before the place could receive succour from the English fleet.

Monsieur de Levi, having assembled an army of 13,000, took the field on the 17th of April, being well provided for a siege. He sent his provisions, ammunition, and heavy baggage, down the river St. Lawrence under the protection of six frigates, from twenty-six to forty-four guns, by which he entirely mastered the river; and after ten days march, his army appeared on the heights near Quebec.

General Murray had now only two things to determine on; to stand a siege within the ruined works of Quebec, or to march out and give battle to the enemy; he, therefore, with equal spirit and resolution to a variety of unpleasing circumstances, which surrounded him, chose the latter; and marched out at the head of 3000 brave men, with about twenty field pieces, resolved to attack the enemy, leaving a sufficient number to keep the inhabitants in awe, and the gates open. This daring scheme struck the enemy with surprise; their troops were posted beneath some woody eminences; but before they could be in regular order of battle, their van, which was also posted upon eminences, was so furiously attacked, as to be driven into the utmost disorder, with great loss, upon the main body, which was drawn up in the valley below, formed in columns, and received the troops with so hot a fire, that they were staggered in the pursuit; and nothing but the intrepidity of the General, and that of those under him, could have preserved them and their garrison, the enemy being above four times their number. Further resistance would have been imprudent, as they had lost some hundreds of men, and the French upwards of 2000. General Murray after returning into his garrison, was judged irretrievably undone, no ships being sent to assist him; yet his courage was unshaken; his ardour redoubled by his difficulties, and, by diligence and penetration, compensated for the weakness of his fortifications and troops.

The French opened trenches that same night against the place; but it was the 11th of May before they could bring two batteries to bear; and their fire even then was ill plied; this gave the garrison time to prepare for its defence, and upwards of 100 pieces of cannon were mounted on its ramparts. On the 9th of May, two days before the batteries were opened, a vessel arrived in the basin, with an account that Lord Colville, with a small squadron, had entered the river St. Lawrence, and would sail in a few days to their relief. On the 15th, a ship of the line, and two frigates arrived; which frigates were immediately sent against the French squadron, that lay above the town, and in a very few hours either took or destroyed them; upon which Levi raised the siege with the greatest precipitation, abandoned all their immense stores, their standing camp, baggage, &c. Many prisoners were taken in the pursuit.

The Senior Subaltern

Posted by regimentalrogue at 12:01 AM EST
Updated: Wednesday, 19 February 2014 4:57 PM EST

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