William Kidd: Hunter then Hunted! Part I

The idea of sending a specially equipped and crewed privateer against the Madagascar pirates had actually originated with King William himself.

William understood very well the cost in wealth and influence to England if the East India Company should fail. He was not as insensitive to the company’s plight as he sometimes appeared to the directors. But he was a man with a mission. All his energies and all his powers of persuasion were directed toward one aim: the defeat of France and the curbing of the power of Louis XIV. With Dutch stubbornness and almost-fanatical commitment, he had pressed his war against Louis, excluding from his thoughts anything not relevant to that war. No amount of pleading from the wealthy men of the East India Company would cause him to alter his policy and dispatch elements of the Royal Navy to the East. The war against Louis came first. But there was a second factor that contributed to the king’s stubborn attitude: He genuinely doubted that warships were necessary to reduce the brigands of Madagascar. Pirates, the king was convinced, were mere thieves—a rabble that would scatter at the approach of the law. To deal with such scum, you did not need the navy, you needed only a few seaborne policemen. If some private gentlemen of means prepared such a police force—a well-armed privateer, for example—and sent it against the pirates of Madagascar, the king was certain it would quickly clean up that nest of thieves.

In making his suggestion, William had indicated that he himself might be willing to buy a share in such a privateering venture. But despite the fact that the privateer proposal had originated with the sovereign himself, the idea had borne no fruit. It would have required some enterprising individual with the ability to sell the scheme to men of influence and wealth to organize the venture and get it off the ground—and no such person had come forward. The king’s suggestion had languished.

Then, in August 1695, Thomas Livingston arrived in London from New York.

Livingston, forty, was a prominent landowner and merchant of New York, connected by marriage to many of the colony’s oldest and richest families. A broad, powerful man, Livingston possessed a tenacious will and a clever, conspiratorial mind. From humble beginnings he had risen high in the world, and like many men who claw their way to fortune, he had developed a hard, grasping, vindictive, and self-righteous character in the process. Born in Scotland of a poverty-stricken family, Livingston had emigrated to New York where he had found employment as a bookkeeper. Energetic and self-disciplined, he had saved his money until he had accumulated enough to invest in shipping ventures. By the time he was thirty, Livingston had amassed a considerable fortune. While attending to business, he had also devoted much of his energy to creating a position for himself in New York society. By virtue of a marriage that was as shrewdly thought out as any of his business deals, Livingston had formed marital ties with both the Van Rensselaers and the Schuylers, families that had long been prominent in New York. To go with his business success and social prominence, Livingston had acquired 160,000 acres of prime Hudson Valley real estate—and was the lord of a magnificent home known as Livingston Manor.

In the course of his business career, Livingston had somehow made an enemy of New York’s corrupt colonial governor Benjamin Fletcher. The pithy Fletcher liked to refer to Livingston as “the little bookkeeper,” adding that Livingston had “screwed himself into one of the most considerable estates in the province.”

Livingston despised Fletcher in turn. In fact, Livingston had even filed a lawsuit against Fletcher in London, claiming that the colonial governor owed him money for services rendered to the colony—and had refused to pay.

When Livingston learned that Lord Bellomont was to replace Fletcher, he was extremely gratified. He decided to sail to London in order to introduce himself to Bellomont—and to ingratiate himself with the new colonial governor. At the same time he would press his lawsuit against Fletcher.

For Lord Bellomont, dealing with the thousand-and-one details involved in arranging the affairs of his estates and business interests preparatory to taking up his new post across the Atlantic, it had been a very difficult summer. His gout had been acting up. His young wife seemed unhappy about the prospect of going to America. Almost every day reports of pirate depredations arrived from the East. Moreover, he was beginning to comprehend the full complexity of the task he faced in trying to suppress the trade in pirate contraband in America—a trade long established and generally approved by the colonials.

Further, the summer itself had been gloomy and full of portents. The weather had been wet and cold, more like November than August. Forged banknotes had been circulating throughout the town, making every shopkeeper suspicious of every customer. A wild-eyed soldier had appeared in the City, crying out that King William had died in Flanders, and snarling that he would shoot anyone who denied the news he had brought. The authorities had taken the poor man into custody, but not until he had spread panic in the streets. He was later found to be certifiably insane. The king, the City was assured, was alive and well, and as determined as ever to bring down Louis. But the crazy soldier, with his message of royal demise, had seemed to symbolize the gloomy strangeness of the summer.

In his fine London home, Lord Bellomont must have occasionally regretted his decision to forsake his comfortable Irish estates to accept the king’s commission.

Then, on August 10, Thomas Livingston came to call on the new governor.

The tough, self-made American merchant and the haughty, often-irascible Establishment peer discovered that they had much in common. Both were shrewd men of business. Both enjoyed good wines and good horses. And both loved intrigue.

As the two men discussed colonial affairs, the king’s idea of sending a privateer to the East came up. Livingston pounced on the proposal. There were great possibilities in such a project, he told Bellomont. In one stroke, he pointed out, and at little cost, Bellomont could please the king, give the East India Company the immediate action against the pirates that it was clamoring for, and show the American pirate brokers that he really meant to suppress the pirate trade. What better way for Bellomont to launch his career as governor? Furthermore, and not incidentally, said Livingston, the plan could bring considerable profit to investors.

Livingston suggested that Bellomont approach some of his powerful and wealthy friends in the British government to form a syndicate that would privately finance the “pirate killer” ship. Livingston suggested to Bellomont that he might point out to potential backers that the pirate killer would no doubt recover great piles of loot from captured vessels—and that most of this plunder would go to the backers of the enterprise. Bellomont, now fired with enthusiasm for the venture, felt confident that he would have no trouble finding investors in a plan that would accomplish the laudatory goal of reducing piracy while bringing profit and praise to its sponsors.

In the event, Bellomont brought four of England’s most powerful political figures into the syndicate. They were Sir John Somers, lord keeper of the great seal; the Duke of Shrewsbury, secretary of state; Sir Edward Russell, first lord of the admiralty; and the Earl of Romney, master general of ordnance. A wealthy London merchant, Edmund Harrison, was also allowed into the consortium in exchange for lending Bellomont enough cash so that the new colonial governor could buy into his own proposal.

The powerful men whom Bellomont had recruited into his pirate-killer syndicate were not only highly placed figures in the English government, they were also close personal friends of the king himself. All of them had been in the forefront of the parliamentary “bloodless revolution” of 1688 that had deposed the Catholic King James II and had brought William to England. The participation of such high-ranking men would have cloaked the project with a respectibility beyond dispute if the syndicate members had been willing to make their names public. However, Bellomont’s partners insisted that they must remain anonymous—a proviso to which Bellomont and Livingston readily acceded.

Although Bellomont and Livingston had quickly secured the necessary financial backing for their pirate killer, they still lacked the one component they deemed essential to the enterprise: a trustworthy and skilled commander. The captain of this very special vessel, Livingston felt, must not only be an outstanding seaman, he must also understand how pirates operated and—probably more important than any other requirement—he must be discreet enough to keep confidential the identities of his backers and sensible of the need for prudence and circumspection in carrying out his mission.

Livingston fretted that lacking a suitable captain, the venture that Bellomont and he had now set their hearts on might never come to pass.

Then, as if the fates were at work on his behalf, Livingston encountered an old acquaintance who had just arrived in London: a fellow New Yorker, a knowledgeable man of the sea, and a man of substance. Livingston was elated. This old colleague, he felt certain, would be the perfect man to captain the enterprise to the East. He was William Kidd, master of the merchant sloop Antegoa.

Kidd was then about fifty years old, not tall but solidly built, with wide shoulders and powerful, seaman’s hands. Broad-faced, blue-eyed, brown from the sun, he had a beak of a nose that gave his bluff sea-captain’s face an almost Roman look. Slow of speech and cautious in manner, he seldom smiled. He was never considered a clever man. But when he spoke, he spoke plainly and directly, holding to a seaman’s rather simple view of the world: fair or foul, full or empty, friend or foe, honest or false. He was an honest man, too, a man of good repute—and a man of courage. (Some thought him too easily led by others, however, and for all his outward tranquillity, he was capable, when provoked, of outbursts of rage.)

In 1695 William Kidd was one of New York’s most successful merchant captains, due in no small measure to his habit of plain speaking, his courage, and the simple integrity he brought to his dealings with others.

Born to poverty in Scotland, Kidd had gone to sea as a lad.2 Nothing is known of his early career, but in 1688, when he was about forty-three, he had risen high enough in the world to be the owner of his own ship and to buy a fine house in New York City.

Around this same time he had also become involved in the political affairs of New York, and the colony’s assembly had thought well enough of him to award him a purse of £150 in recognition of his services in helping to quell a short-lived political upheaval in the port.

The New York council also thought well of him. In a resolution the council had called him “gentlemanly,” and had gone on to say: “Neither in his domestic relations nor in his personal history…could aught be said against him.”

In 1691 William Kidd, ship captain, had taken a step that had transformed him from a respectable merchant mariner to one of New York’s leading citizens: he had married a young, beautiful—and very wealthy—wife.

She was Sarah Oort, widow of shipping magnate John Oort, who had been her second husband. Sarah, born Sarah Bradley in less than affluent circumstances, was described by all who knew her as “lovely and accomplished.” She had married her first husband, a city alderman named Cox, when she was only fifteen. Cox had died three years later, leaving Sarah well off. Subsequently Sarah had married the rich Mr. Oort, who had died on May 5, 1691, leaving Sarah all he possessed, which was considerable. Only eleven days after Mr. Oort’s demise, the grieving young widow had married Captain William Kidd.

Although the beautiful Sarah could neither read nor write, signing all her documents with her own peculiar “S.K.” mark, she owned some of the finest properties in New York, including a beautiful house on Pearl Street and a farm called Saw Kill Farm, overlooking the East River.

Thanks to Sarah’s fortune, Kidd was able to live in exceedingly comfortable circumstances. His tall, gabled house looked out over New York’s magnificent harbor. Sarah furnished the place luxuriously, with finely carved furniture and Turkish carpets for the floors, and saw to it that there was always plenty of good food and fine wine for the captain and his guests.

Kidd and his family became pillars of the church. It was William Kidd who donated the block and tackle with which Wall Street’s historic Trinity Church was built—and Kidd and his family had their own pew in the finished edifice.

But even though he had won the love of a beautiful wife, had earned the esteem of his community, and possessed a comfortable home, William Kidd was not a happy man. He yearned to fulfill a dream—a dream that seemed to belie his blunt practical nature—that seemed so fanciful and so obviously unattainable that it rendered him absurd in the eyes of those to whom he had revealed it.

William Kidd, merchant master, who had had barely enough education to write a comprehensible letter, longed to captain one of His Majesty’s men-of-war—hungered for the prestige and the dignity of a command in the Royal Navy.

Although he lacked virtually all the requirements necessary to attain such a post in that age of snobbery—social graces, political connections, and the proper background—Kidd would not allow such mundane considerations to dissuade him from his goal. He had convinced himself that he could become a captain in the Royal Navy—and he traveled to London in the summer of 1695 to persuade the Admiralty to grant him his heart’s desire.

Toward that end Kidd carried a letter of recommendation from James Graham, attorney general of New York, addressed to William Blathwayt, a political figure who had a reputation as a man able to obtain “favors” for friends. Unfortunately for Kidd, Blathwayt was away from London—in Flanders with the king—when Kidd arrived in the city. Consequently, Kidd found himself at loose ends in London. Then Thomas Livingston happened upon him.

To Livingston, Kidd seemed the ideal man for the privateer voyage he had in mind. He was a respected man of property, and a more than competent seaman, who had considerable experience dealing with the moneyed classes and whose discretion could therefore be relied upon.

There was still another, most important reason why Livingston considered Kidd the right man for the job. The New York captain had successfully commanded privateers in the past. With the outbreak of King William’s war with France in 1689, Kidd, in a sloop he had then owned—the Blessed William—had fought as a privateer auxiliary with the English fleet in the West Indies—and had participated gallantly in several actions. In fact, the fleet commander, Thomas Hewson, had later said of Kidd: “He was with me in two engagements against the French, and fought as well as any man I ever saw, according to the proportion of his men.” (Perhaps it was this experience with the professional fleet in the West Indies, plus Hewson’s praise, that had convinced Kidd that for all his lack of schooling and background, he did possess sufficient natural merit to realize his dream of a Royal Navy command.)

After action with the fleet, Kidd and Blessed William had put in at Antigua for provisions prior to returning to New York. While Kidd was conducting his business ashore, however, his crew, stirred up by the mate, Robert Culliford, had mutinied and sailed away with the ship. (Culliford eventually made his way to Madagascar and was elected captain of several pirate ships. The fate of the Blessed William is unknown.)

If this event embarrassed Kidd, at least it had cost him no financial loss. The British governor of the Leeward Islands, in recognition of his services to the fleet, had presented Kidd with a captured barkentine, the Antegoa, to replace the stolen Blessed William. Thereupon the grateful captain had sailed home to New York.

A few months later, the Massachusetts colony—mindful of Kidd’s good work against the French in the West Indies—had hired him to chase a notorious French privateer away from the American coast—and Kidd had succeeded in that mission.

Although the intriguing Livingston probably saw Kidd as the commander of his pirate killer from the first moments of their meeting in London, he was careful not to broach the subject of his eastern enterprise too abruptly. Instead, he concentrated on ingratiating himself with the bluff seafarer, succeeding so well that Kidd even testified on Livingston’s behalf in his suit against the retiring Governor Fletcher.

It is likely that Livingston encouraged Kidd’s preposterous conviction that he could become the captain of a Royal Navy man-of-war. In doing so, however, Livingston further excited in Kidd a hitherto-inconsequential propensity for self-delusion, which was a basic, if not obvious, aspect of the captain’s character. For there seems to have been in William Kidd a deep streak of stubborn fantasy, a penchant to believe a thing possible because he desired it, an inclination to regard something as true simply because he wanted it to be true. This tendency toward magical thinking, so clearly exposed in his dream of a Royal Navy command, seems to have operated by blinding Kidd to the reality of his situation when his deepest desires were engaged. It also seems to have led him often to misinterpret the intentions of others, as he had for example misinterpreted the character of the mate, Culliford, who had made off with his ship. It seems likely that this inclination toward wishful thinking also made it difficult for Kidd to see himself as others saw him. Thus, in his fantasy, he was able to envision himself with ease as the polished and dashing commander of one of His Majesty’s men-of-war.

Probably, in his rough world of privateers and cutthroat merchants, this facet of Kidd’s personality had not mattered very much. More than likely it was usually dismissed as a quirk, a rather laughable inclination of the captain’s to put on airs. It did not, in any case, interfere very much with his professional performance as either a self-employed privateer or as a merchant captain.

But for a project like Livingston and Bellomont’s, a commander was needed who was not only discreet and competent but also capable of acting on his own in remote waters, capable of weighing the reality of his situation, capable of making critical judgments under pressure. To put in command of such an enterprise a man whose view of reality might be determined by his desires was a prescription for disaster. Yet Livingston, although a shrewd man of experience, apparently failed to perceive this flaw in Kidd—or if he did recognize it, he did not believe it would adversely affect his enterprise, for he had now fixed on William Kidd as his captain.

Livingston waited for an appropriate moment—and then put forward his privateer proposition to his fellow New Yorker. Kidd professed himself uninterested. He had no wish to command a privateer, he explained to Livingston, even one with so lofty a mission as suppression of the Madagascar outlaws.

Livingston, however, refused to accept Kidd’s negative response. Perhaps, as a crafty salesman, he sensed that the bluff sea captain could be pressured or cajoled into accepting the post offered.

Perhaps Kidd himself created this impression in Livingston’s mind in order to retain Livingston’s friendship. Like many unsophisticated people with ambitions beyond their talents, Kidd often thought himself more clever than he really was. He probably believed that if he did not entirely close the door to Livingston’s project, he would be better able to cultivate Livingston and Bellomont, and perhaps even secure their help in obtaining his commission in the Royal Navy. In this sense Kidd himself opened the door to the pressure that, with single-minded tenacity, Livingston now exerted on him.

Livingston began his campaign by taking Kidd to see Lord Bellomont himself. The great man suggested to the duly impressed captain that perhaps the best way to achieve his life’s dream of a Royal Navy career would be to accept the special privateering commission he and Livingston were now offering to him. It was a mission, after all, that had been proposed by the king himself, Bellomont no doubt pointed out, and it had the backing of some of the most influential men in the realm, not the least of whom was himself, soon to be governor of Kidd’s own province and in a position to do him a great deal of good. On the other hand, Bellomont no doubt implied, to refuse such a service to the Crown might be construed by some as a disloyal act unworthy of a Royal Navy captain.

Even Kidd must have understood the message: Take the proposition offered to him by Bellomont and Livingston, and he would prosper; refuse, and his dream of a navy command might come to nothing.

The pressure on Kidd to accept immediately was enormous. But he did not buckle under. He pointed out that as an experienced privateer, he saw a number of major flaws in the proposed venture to the East.

Foremost among these flaws was the fact that even with a pirate-killer vessel, pirate ships would be most difficult to capture. Pirates were not only fast sailers, well armed, and crewed by tough fighting men, they were impossible to identify at sea unless they attacked or broke out a black flag. No pirate would be fool enough to willingly engage a fighting ship like Bellomont and Livingston’s privateer. Nor would any pirate ever be stupid enough to show his true colors to such a fighting ship.

Moreover, even if the pirate killer did manage to overtake a pirate on the high seas, there would be little likelihood of finding booty aboard her since it was not the pirate custom to remain long under sail after making a big score but rather to get quickly to some safe haven and there share out the plunder. As for rooting the pirates out of their bases on Madagascar, no single ship, no matter how well armed, could possibly accomplish that objective.

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William Kidd: Hunter then Hunted! Part II

Bellomont and Livingston brushed off these objections. They told Kidd that the commission they would arrange for him to receive from the king would also empower him to capture French ships, since England and France were at war. Thus, they assured their chosen captain, there would be plenty of opportunity for him to capture plunder even if pirate vessels eluded him.

It seems very clear that as his private conversations with Bellomont and Livingston proceeded, Kidd gained the distinct impression that he would be given great latitude in carrying out his mission. If he should find it necessary to commit any “irregularities” in the course of it, such as “requisitioning” supplies from the East India Company, the great men backing the project would protect him.

“Lord Bellomont assured me again and again,” Kidd later wrote, “that the noble lords would stifle all complaints.”

Whether Bellomont or Livingston deliberately fostered this impression in Kidd’s mind, or whether it was due to Kidd’s own propensity for fooling himself and for misconstruing the intentions of others, it is impossible to tell. It was probably a combination of Kidd’s fantasy and Bellomont and Livingston’s guile that created the perception that the mission would be carried out under special auspices and that the captain’s role in that mission would be a lofty one: He would be, in effect, the king’s own privateer.

With this fantasy before his eyes, Kidd consented to captain the enterprise.

On October 10, 1695, Lord Bellomont, Livingston, and Captain Kidd met to sign a final agreement covering their project. The contract called for Bellomont and his high-ranking partners to put up 80 percent of the cost of the venture. Livingston and Kidd would put up the rest, some £1,500. The document also spelled out how the booty was to be shared: 10 percent to the Crown; 55 percent for Bellomont and his backers; 22.5 percent to the crew; and 12.5 percent for Kidd and Livingston. If there should be no booty, Kidd and Livingston agreed to pay back all the money put up by their sponsors, retaining the ship as their own compensation.

There were other clauses as well: Kidd was to sign his crew on a “no prey, no pay” basis. He was to complete his cruise and report to Bellomont in Boston no later than March 20, 1697, with all his booty intact—at which time the spoils would be properly assessed and divided by an Admiralty court. Kidd was also required to put up a good conduct and performance bond of £20,000. A similar bond for £10,000 would be posted by Livingston.

As a veteran privateer captain Kidd must have realized that this agreement placed him in a dangerously vulnerable position: He had to find booty—or he would suffer grievous financial harm, since he and Livingston would have to make good any losses to their backers if the venture failed. Furthermore, if anything went wrong—if his crew mutinied, for example, or a friendly ship was attacked in error, he alone would be responsible.

Moreover, as a more than competent seaman, Kidd must also have recognized that it would be impossible for him to accomplish his mission by the deadline spelled out in the agreement. It was simply not feasible to prepare a ship, sail to the Indian Ocean, capture elusive pirates laden with spoil—almost all as well as or better armed than he would be—and then bring his prizes halfway around the world again to Boston—and do it all in fourteen months. Why, it would take at least two months just to reach the Cape.

What is more, it could not have escaped Kidd’s notice that because of King William’s War, much of France’s merchant fleet was concentrated in European waters and operating as privateers against the English. Potential French prey in the eastern seas would not be plentiful.

Finally, topping all these negative factors was one further reality: To finance his share of the expedition Kidd would have to sell his sloop, Antegoa. From Kidd’s point of view, the whole scheme seemed a poor risk indeed.

Nevertheless, he signed the agreement proffered by Bellomont.

Why did he accede to so dubious and unfair a contract? No doubt he felt trapped by Bellomont’s veiled threats against him, as well as flattered by the thought that he would be serving the king and the great men of the realm. He may also have been confident that the strictures written into his agreement would not apply in reality, and hopeful that completion of his mission to the East would bring that which he hungered after: a command in the Royal Navy.

Captain Kidd, it would seem, was blinded by the peculiar defect in his makeup that caused him to believe a thing true because he wished it so. There is no other way to explain Kidd’s acceptance of the deal offered to him by Bellomont and Livingston, except to say that he refused to acknowledge the reality of his situation.

Now, with Kidd signed up for the voyage, events moved rapidly. In December 1695 the Admiralty issued a commission to Kidd, empowering him to “apprehend, seize, and take the Ships, Vessels, and Goods belonging to the French King or his Subjects or Inhabitants within the dominions of the said French King; and such other Ships, Vessels, and Goods as are or shall be liable to confiscation.”

In January 1696 Kidd received a special commission signed by the king himself.

“To our Trusty and well-beloved Captain Kidd,” it began. It then instructed Kidd to seize pirates wherever he found them, but added: “We do hereby jointly charge and command you, as you will answer the same at your utmost Peril, That you do not, in any manner, offend or molest any of our Friends or Allies, their Ships or Subjects.”

During this time Kidd also had had audiences with the Earl of Romney and with Admiral Sir Edward Russell, the first sea lord. These great dignitaries, both investors in the privateer scheme, applauded Kidd’s mission. Their attentions no doubt further fed Kidd’s fantasy of present protection and future preferment.

As Kidd himself wrote later about his state of mind during this period: “I, thinking myself safe with a King’s commission and protection of so many great men, accepted, thinking it was in my Lord Bellomont’s power as Governor of New York, to oppress me if I still continued obstinate. Before I went to sea I waited twice on my Lord Romney and Admiral Russell. Both hastened me to sea, and promised to stand by me.”

For William Kidd the die was now cast.

He had already chosen his ship for the voyage. She was a 287-ton three-masted vessel named Adventure Galley that had been specially designed for speed, maneuverability, and armament. Ship’s carpenters at Deptford on the Thames, where she was being fitted out, had equipped her with special adaptations for her mission: oars, for example, to allow her to maneuver during notorious Indian Ocean calms, and an enormous spread of sail to give her extra speed. Under full sail Adventure Galley could make fourteen knots. Even becalmed, her forty-six oars would give her three knots of speed. Only 124 feet from stem to stern, she had been built flush-decked, adding to her nimbleness when under way and permitting her to carry a greater spread of sail. She carried thirty-four guns, and Kidd was confident that she would prove the equal of any vessel she was likely to encounter in the Indian Ocean.

Kidd chose his crew with great care. He wanted no potential mutineers, no officer who would, like Robert Culliford, seize Adventure Galley and go off “on his own account.”

Kidd carefully recruited 70 honest sailors, most of them married men with families in England. With this crew, less than half the ship’s full complement of 150, he intended to sail across the Atlantic to New York where he would settle his personal business, visit briefly with his family, explain his mission to associates, and recruit an additional 80 men.

At the end of February 1696, Adventure Galley slid down the Thames to begin her fateful voyage.

Matters went wrong from the start.

As Adventure Galley proceeded downriver she encountered a Royal Navy yacht near Greenwich. Kidd failed to dip his colors to the naval vessel as custom dictated. The yacht then fired a shot across Adventure Galley’s bow as a reminder of the respect that a privateer owed to any ship of the Royal Navy. Kidd’s crew then delivered an incredible insult to the naval vessel: They turned and slapped their backsides derisively in the direction of the yacht.

It was a stupid and gratuitous affront. It was probably traceable to Kidd’s delusion that his commission made him the equal of an officer in the Royal Navy, and Adventure Galley the equal of a Royal Navy man-of-war. Thus he did not consider it necessary to salute the yacht—and his crew’s insolent mockery had been no more than a sailor’s rude statement in support of his captain. The incident, however, was to cost Kidd dear.

When he later anchored, still in the Thames, a Royal Navy press gang, probably under specific orders, came aboard Adventure Galley and carried off more than twenty of Kidd’s handpicked crew. Furiously Kidd brandished his commission at the press-gang’s officer. Angrily he protested that he was on the king’s business and was not to be treated with such high-handed contempt. But the Royal Navy officer directing the press gang ignored all Kidd’s protestations. He had his duty—and no doubt he took great pleasure in discomfiting the arrogant privateer who had insulted His Majesty’s navy.

After the loss of his best men, Kidd, certain that his special commission exempted Adventure Galley from the ravages of a navy press gang, hurried off to complain to one of his powerful patrons, Admiral Russell. While he might not have agreed with Kidd that Adventure Galley was the equal of a navy frigate, Admiral Russell did order that Kidd’s abducted crewmen be returned to him. In the event, the Royal Navy delivered twenty seamen back to Adventure Galley—but they were not the same men whom Kidd had earlier lost to the press gang. Instead they were a score of hardcases and troublemakers whom the Royal Navy was glad to get rid of.

Realizing that he was not likely to get any satisfaction from the Royal Navy, Kidd set sail for New York. On the way he captured a French fishing boat, a lawful prize that he took to New York with him.

Arriving in New York in July, Kidd sold the French fishing boat and used the proceeds to purchase additional provisions for the long cruise to eastern waters.

Obtaining the additional eighty men he needed, however, turned out to be more difficult than Kidd had anticipated. New York was at that time a major port in the Pirate Round, a place where seamen were more interested in sailing as pirates than in sailing as pirate catchers. There was little interest in an expedition in which the crew’s share would amount to less than one quarter of whatever booty they took.

In order to attract new hands, therefore, Kidd—in conscious violation of his agreement with his backers and acting on his own authority—drastically revised the ship’s articles of Adventure Galley: The crew would now receive 60 percent of any profits rather than the 22.5 percent stipulated in Kidd’s agreement with Bellomont and Livingston. Probably Kidd convinced himself that he could explain away this arbitrary decision when the time came. Perhaps he also felt that as the king’s privateer, his mission was so important he was justified in changing the terms of his agreement with his backers in order to carry it out.

Eventually Kidd managed to sign on enough men to fill out his crew of 150. Many of them were the dregs of the New York waterfront: drifters, ex-privateers, deserters, and a variety of toughs. Benjamin Fletcher, who was still governor pending Lord Bellomont’s appearance in the New World, observed the new crewmen of Adventure Galley with a cynical eye. “Many flocked to him from all parts, men of desperate fortunes, and necessities in expectation of getting treasure,” Fletcher wrote of Kidd’s New York recruits. “It is generally believed here, that if he misses the design named in his commission, he will not be able to govern such a villainous herd.”

Although some observers, like Fletcher, suspected that there were outright pirates among Kidd’s New York enlistees—and that many of these had signed aboard with the secret aim of seizing the ship for piracy—there is no clear evidence that this was the case. It is hard to believe that Kidd, an experienced privateer and a New Yorker himself, would be taken in by a conspiracy of ordinary pirates. He was too old a hand for that. It is equally hard to believe that any cabal of semiliterate pirates, no matter how desperate, would choose to sign on with the king’s own privateer for purposes of fomenting a mutiny. There were far less risky ways to steal a ship.

Very probably Kidd knew full well that his New York crewmen were a bad lot. But he also must have known that there were no out-and-out brigands among them—and he must have felt confident of his ability to control them. In any case, he had no choice. He had to make do with the men available.

Throughout this period, while Kidd was provisioning Adventure Galley and signing up his new hands, he seemed to feel no urgency to get away from his home port and on to the task ahead. Instead he took advantage of this time to enjoy the company of his wife and children, spending many long summer days at the family’s farm overlooking the East River. It was as if Kidd, dreading the voyage ahead, wished to put off his departure as long as possible.

But July turned into August and August into September—and finally the day arrived when Kidd could no longer delay. On September 6, fully provisioned and with a full crew of 150 aboard, Adventure Galley slipped her cable and drifted on the tide out of New York harbor, under way at last for the East.

It was a nine thousand mile run to the Indian Ocean. Kidd’s course took Adventure Galley first due east across the Atlantic to Madeira off the northwestern coast of Africa. From there, by easy stages, Kidd sailed south along the west coast of the continent, slowly—almost reluctantly—making for the Cape of Good Hope. Now that the reality of the voyage was upon him, there must have been many times when Kidd confronted the chill secret knowledge that he carried deep within himself: His mission, so lightly agreed to in London, could not possibly succeed. But he must have just as often submerged that awful realization again, persuading himself that, somehow, he would find a way to bring it off. If his commission was a burden, it was also an opportunity. By accomplishing his task, even if only partially, would he not be proving to men of quality and power that he was indeed worthy of a Royal Navy command?

As the weeks passed, Kidd—with such thoughts no doubt boiling in his mind—brought Adventure Galley farther and farther south of the equator, closer and closer to the Cape. Then Kidd once again affronted the Royal Navy.

The incident began on December 12, 1696, when Adventure Galley encountered a squadron of four Royal Navy warships, under the command of Commodore Thomas Warren, off the western coast of Africa only one hundred miles north of Capetown. Kidd went on board Warren’s flagship, where he showed the commodore his royal commission and demanded that Warren provide him with new sails to replace sails that Adventure Galley had lost in a storm. When Warren refused, Kidd again brandished his commission, claiming that he had a right to the navy’s help. If Warren refused such help, Kidd would be forced to seize the sails he needed from the first merchant vessel he came across, but his actions would be Warren’s responsibility. Kidd’s high-handedness infuriated the commodore. Angrily, Warren informed Kidd that far from supplying him with sails, he intended to impress thirty of Kidd’s men the following morning to fill out shorthanded crews in his own squadron.

Chastened, Kidd pretended to agree to Warren’s demand for his men—and he returned to Adventure Galley. During the night, however, with the seas calm, Kidd used Adventure Galley’s oars to sneak away from Warren’s squadron. By morning he had an insurmountable lead over Warren’s ships and easily got away. But he had deeply offended the Royal Navy again and his arrogance had earned him a negative reputation even before Adventure Galley rounded the Cape into the Indian Ocean.

In February 1697, Adventure Galley, after sailing past the Cape and beating her way north through the Mozambique Channel, arrived at the island of Johanna to take on fresh water.

While she was anchored in the harbor of Johanna, a well-armed East Indiaman also arrived to take on water. The East Indiaman was flying a naval pennant—a circumstance that seemed to vex Kidd greatly. He demanded that the East Indiaman’s captain lower the pennant since he alone, as the king’s privateer, was entitled to fly a navy ensign. The captain of the East Indiaman did not know what to make of Kidd, but he was deeply suspicious of this oddly arrogant pirate catcher with his crew of New York wharf rats—and he kept his guns trained on Adventure Galley, letting it be known that if Kidd was not soon gone from Johanna, he would be attacked.

Chastened again, Kidd filled his water casks and then made for the nearby island of Mohéli in the Comoros, northwest of Madagascar in the Mozambique Channel. But the captain of the East Indiaman soon carried the word far out into the Indian Ocean about the insolent privateer, William Kidd, and his evil-looking crew. Thus, before she had even well begun her mission, Adventure Galley was regarded with suspicion among East India Company merchant captains as well.

It was now March 1697, and Kidd careened Adventure Galley on the beach at Mohéli in preparation for the long voyage still ahead. Kidd was now in the general area where he intended to operate, but it was more than a year since Adventure Galley had departed Deptford, and although Kidd could claim his tardiness had been due to events outside his direct control—such as the difficulty in recruiting crewmen in New York—the fact was that his supplies were beginning to run low and his men (not to mention his backers) were growing impatient for the plunder they expected to earn.

At this point some of the hardcases Kidd had recruited in New York began to mutter against their captain, grumbling that Adventure Galley ought to forgo her original objective and turn to open piracy, earning equal shares for those who actually sailed in her. Why, they asked, should they further enrich wealthy men in London with their labor? Why not go on the account, and be done with it?

Kidd heard the grumbling. But it seemed, so far at least, only the grousing of a disgruntled few—and he dismissed it.

While they were careened at Mohéli, plague struck the crew. Within a week Kidd lost fifty of his men.

Apparently regarding this loss as just one of the unavoidable hazards of life at sea, Kidd and his surviving crew returned to Johanna where Kidd recruited thirty men “off the beach” to replace those who had died. These new crewmen were genuine pirates, a far tougher and more brazen lot than Kidd’s New Yorkers.

Finally, with his crew replenished and his ship refitted, Kidd sailed northward in late April 1697 to seek the prey his commission entitled him to take: pirates or French shipping.

In July Kidd took up his station at the mouth of the Red Sea. Here, he knew, he would be well placed to intercept the pirates who preyed on the Moorish and East India Company ships that plied between the Arab port cities and India. Here he would also be in good position to attack any French merchants that might be in the area.

Day after day the Adventure Galley plowed back and forth at the narrow mouth of the Red Sea, fruitlessly seeking a prize. Every day now, with the new men aboard, the grumbling among the crew increased.

Kidd began to fret. Here, under the burning sun, looking out over an empty sea, the reality of his situation struck him with renewed force. How would he fulfill his financial obligations to his sponsors if—as seemed certain—he failed to find French or pirate shipping to attack? And how could he keep his increasingly mutinous crew in hand if he failed to find a ship? Was he justified, under the circumstances, in undertaking some illegal act, some act not permitted by his commission? But how could he reconcile such an act with his own vision of himself as Sailor of the King?

Then word reached Adventure Galley that a big convoy of some fourteen or fifteen ships, both Moorish and European, was forming up in the port of Mocha preparatory for the run to India.

Perhaps, the torn Kidd now thought, this convoy would provide the solution to his dilemma. Suppose he attacked one of the Moorish vessels of this convoy? Would such action, under the circumstances, really constitute a violation of his commission?

Now Kidd’s propensity to fool himself must have come into play again. Surely his sponsors on the other side of the world would understand if—to satisfy his mutinous crew and preserve his command—he took a Moorish prize. After all, no one in England really gave a damn about Muslim losses, did they? Surely his powerful backers would protect him from censure if he overstepped his commission out of necessity. Surely his partners in the enterprise would look past his deeds toward his motives. They had promised him as much, had they not? And was the taking of a Moorish ship true piracy, in any case? Did the Great Mogul of India really qualify as a “friend or ally” of the king of England—whom Kidd was forbidden by his commission to attack?

Such questions must have plagued Kidd continually as Adventure Galley patrolled the mouth of the Red Sea, waiting for the Mogul convoy to appear. Kidd must have prayed fervently that a suitable prize would materialize before the Mocha ships got under way so that he could avoid making the terrible decision their appearance would force on him.

But the convoy came into view first.

On August 14, 1697, lookouts spotted the fleet of fifteen ships moving slowly and ponderously down the narrows right toward Adventure Galley. The convoy appeared to consist mainly of merchant ships belonging to the Great Mogul. Three armed escorts were accompanying it. Two of the escorts, both flying Dutch colors, were sailing close to the merchant vessels, while the third, an East Indiaman, was running out ahead of the clustered cargo ships.

William Kidd: Hunter then Hunted! Part III

Now Kidd made the decision he must have dreaded.

He moved to intercept.

He ordered Adventure Galley’s topsails set and the crew to man the oars. Then, in an act that was certainly a gratuitous violation of his commission, he ran up a red ensign. Kidd certainly knew that among Eastern pirates, the red flag signified a demand for surrender—or no quarter given. Then Kidd flung himself in among the Mocha merchants like a wolf seeking a likely victim. Soon he picked out a slow Moorish merchantman as target and began maneuvering to come alongside her.

As other ships of the convoy became aware of Kidd’s presence in their ranks, scattered shots began to ring out. Kidd, ignoring the desultory firing, loosed a broadside at the Moorish vessel he had targeted as his victim. His cannon damaged the rigging of the merchant but did not halt her.

Now the big East Indiaman that had been running ahead of the convoy came about and began making for Adventure Galley. This was the Sceptre, under the command of Captain Edward Barlo, a tough old sea dog. Sceptre now hoisted English colors. She fired at Adventure Galley with her bow guns.

Kidd, realizing that it was an English ship bearing down upon him, now decided to break off the action. It was one thing to attack and rob a Moorish vessel, but it would not only be an open breach of his commission to engage an English ship, it would be treason as well.

Adventure Galley thrashed away from the scene in full retreat.

But aboard Sceptre, Captain Barlo wrote a report of the incident in his log. There was no doubt in his mind that Kidd had intended piracy against the convoy—and from now on Indian Ocean mariners would consider him no better than any other pirate.

For Kidd the aborted attack on the Mocha convoy only worsened his situation. It made it impossible for him now, or in the future, to call upon the East India Company for aid or provisions as he had planned. Despite his commission, the company would now regard him as an enemy. The incident also demonstrated to Kidd that capturing sufficient prey to pay off his backers would be even more difficult than he had thought. Even Mogul shipping, it seemed, could only be taken at the risk of a fight with English or Dutch escorts. And Kidd was not yet desperate enough to risk such an open violation of his commission.

But he had to get results somehow. It was now eighteen months since he had left England, and he had absolutely nothing to show for it. He was already six months overdue on his contract with Bellomont. Furthermore, after the ignominious failure against the Mocha convoy, his prestige among his crew was lower than ever. Talk of mutiny was spreading. Added to all these troubles, the ship was beginning to leak.

Kidd now decided that, whether it constituted a technical transgression of the king’s charge or not, he had no alternative but to widen his choice of prey to include Moorish and neutral ships as well as pirates and Frenchmen. He would just have to rely on his backers to put everything to rights later—after the successful completion of his mission.

Now Kidd headed Adventure Galley westward into the Indian Ocean.

Early in September he captured a small Moorish barkentine, captained by an Englishman. Kidd and his men got only a handful of coins, a bale of pepper, and a bale of coffee for their trouble.

Kidd now made for the Malabar Coast of India. But his luck continued bad.

He ran into two Portuguese warships near Goa. Although one of the Portuguese never got close enough to fire, the other fought Adventure Galley for most of a whole day. When the Portuguese warship finally drew off, Kidd had sustained eleven casualties—and his ship was splintered, her sails cut to ribbons.

Adventure Galley limped on. Tensions between Kidd and his crew seethed. Kidd seemed to be acting now without any clear purpose in mind. Nor did he seem to understand that by now all the traders on the Malabar Coast saw him as a pirate. At one point Kidd put in at the trading station of Calicut and—despite all that had happened—demanded that the local East India manager provide him with food and water. When the company representative refused the demand, Kidd imperiously informed the man that “he was sent out by the King of England.” The company man still refused to help.

Kidd also called at the East India Company post at Karwar. Here, too, he demanded—but did not receive—supplies. The company representative at Karwar later reported that at this time Kidd’s men still went in awe of him because of his special commission from the king, but that the crew “are a very distracted company, continually quarrelling and fighting amongst themselves, so it is likely they will in a short time destroy one another, or starve, having only sufficient provisions to keep the sea for a month or more.”

The situation aboard Adventure Galley had in fact become so tumultuous that Kidd was able to maintain such discipline as still existed aboard her only by going armed and threatening crew members into performing their duties. Screaming orders, using physical force, and—like a deranged man—forever flaunting his king’s commission, Kidd seemed to be nearing a mental breakdown.

It was now November 1697—almost twenty-one months since Adventure Galley had set out on her voyage—and the rich prizes so desperately needed still eluded Kidd.

Then one sultry day, as Adventure Galley cruised off India, a rich prize at last hove into sight. She was a large merchant ship traveling alone and evidently fully loaded, judging by how low she rode in the water.

Adventure Galley pursued. But when she overhauled the merchant, the ship proved to be English: the Loyal Captain. Kidd, desperate as he was, still could not bring himself to attack an English ship.

But all at once the tensions aboard Adventure Galley boiled into the open.

Some of Kidd’s men drew their pistols and leveled them at their captain. If Kidd would not take the English merchant, they would take her themselves.

Kidd, never lacking in courage, faced them down.

“I have no commission to take any but the King’s enemies and pirates,” he growled at the mutinous men who confronted him. “If you attempt to do any such thing, you will never come on board the Galley again. I will attack you and drive you into Bombay, and will carry you before the Council there.”

Kidd then disarmed the would-be mutineers. The English merchant ship sailed on. The brief uprising was ended, but not the rancor that seethed aboard Adventure Galley.

Only two weeks later, the hostility between Kidd and his crew again flared into the open.

A gunner named William Moore, one of the most disaffected of Kidd’s men and one of those who had wanted to take the Loyal Captain in spite of her English nationality, was sitting on deck grinding a chisel when the captain appeared.

Moore, who was surrounded by some of his sullen shipmates, suddenly called out to Kidd that they could have taken the Loyal Captain and “never been the worse for it.”

Kidd glowered at the gunner and his mates, fury building within him.

But Moore went on berating Kidd for his failure to take the Loyal Captain.

“You have brought us to ruin, and we are desolate,” cried Moore.

Now Kidd, furious, screamed back at Moore, calling him, according to one later account, “a lousy dog.”

Now it was Moore who became infuriated.

“If I am a lousy dog,” he shouted to the captain, “you have made me so. You have brought me to ruin, and many more!”

Now all the tension and anguish of the previous weeks and months seemed to erupt in Kidd. He trembled with rage at the insolent gunner who dared to upbraid him aboard his own ship. At that moment Moore must have appeared to Kidd the very embodiment of all his troubles.

“Have I ruined you, you dog?” Kidd howled at Moore.

Then he suddenly caught up an ironbound wooden bucket and smashed it against the side of Moore’s head. The gunner pitched over into the scuppers. His mates carried him below to the surgeon.

“Damn him, he is a villain,” Kidd cried after them.

When the gunner died the next day, Kidd was unrepentant. He told his surgeon that he did not fear legal reprisals for the death of a mutinous crewman, adding that he had “good friends in England that will bring me off that.”

Now, in the wake of the killing of the gunner, an uneasy stillness descended on Adventure Galley.

But it was soon broken by an incident that marked Captain Kidd’s first irrevocable descent into genuine piracy.

Adventure Galley was still sailing off the Malabar Coast at the end of November when her lookout sighted a sail.

Adventure Galley swept off after the potential prey. Kidd ran up the French flag as a subterfuge to encourage his quarry to show her own colors. As Kidd had hoped, the strange ship also ran up a French flag in answer to Adventure Galley’s pennant.

Adventure Galley now rapidly overtook the other ship. She was the Rouparelle, bound for Surat on the Malabar Coast. Her captain and officers identified themselves to Kidd as Dutch. Her crew were mostly Moors. The Dutch skipper came aboard Adventure Galley and explained to Kidd that the Rouparelle was owned by Moors and carried a cargo of baled cotton, quilts, and sugar. There were also two horses aboard her. The Rouparelle’s captain also produced a pass issued by the French East India Company—a fact that Kidd now seized on to claim that the vessel was French and therefore a legitimate prize according to his commission.

“By God, have I catched you?” he shouted, brandishing the pass. “You are a free prize to England!”

Despite his elated outburst, Kidd as an experienced ship’s master knew very well that his claim that the Rouparelle was French would not hold water. While it was true that her Dutch captain carried a French pass, he also carried a number of additional passes—issued by other countries trading in the area. It was routine for merchant vessels to obtain such passes as a means of facilitating their movement from port to port and from trading station to trading station.

Nevertheless, Kidd claimed the Rouparelle as a prize. He turned her Moorish crew out of her, putting them into the ship’s longboat. Then, with the connivance of her Dutch captain and officers, Kidd brought the Rouparelle’s cargo ashore where he sold it to traders who asked no questions. He then shared the proceeds among his crewmen, something his commission did not empower him to do but the normal procedure among pirates.

Kidd renamed his “French” prize the November, marking the month he had captured her. He then put a prize crew aboard her—and she sailed away with Adventure Galley.

Now, having at last committed an authentic act of piracy, the tortured Kidd seemed to lose all his inhibitions. Starting at the end of December 1697, he seized a number of Moorish and Portuguese vessels off the Indian coast. But the plunder from these ships amounted to very little—barely enough to keep his crew appeased.

Kidd began to hunt for larger game. Apparently still viewing himself as “an honest man,” still the “well-beloved captain” of his king, who had been forced against his will to engage in some minor piracy, Kidd clung to the belief that even at this late date he could satisfy his sponsors, win their promised protection, and even earn the gratitude of his monarch—if he could only find a rich, and legitimate, prize. (Clearly, despite all his setbacks, Kidd’s tendency to believe a thing possible because he wished it so was still operative—and was soon to lead him even deeper into the morass.)

On January 30, 1698, Adventure Galley sighted a ship off the Malabar Coast that carried a load of destiny for Captain Kidd.

She was the 500-ton Quedah Merchant, bound from Bengal and flying an Armenian flag. Adventure Galley gave chase and fired a warning shot across her bow, at which point the Quedah Merchant hove to and waited for Adventure Galley to come abeam of her.

The Quedah Merchant carried a rich cargo that included chests of gold, silver, jewels, silks, sugar, iron, saltpeter, and guns. Owned by Armenians, she was captained by an Englishman named Wright. As Kidd approached her, he hoisted a French ensign, as he always did to conceal his true identity and to induce any potential French prize to identify herself in turn.

But when Captain Wright of the Quedah Merchant saw Kidd’s French colors, he attempted a clever trick that backfired on both him and Kidd: In an effort to pose as French, which he supposed Kidd to be, he ran up his own French flag and he persuaded an old French gunner in his crew to pose as the captain of the Quedah Merchant. The old gunner went aboard Adventure Galley, where he showed Kidd a pass issued by the French East India Company. At this point, convinced by the French accent of the gunner and by the French pass that he had finally come across a legitimate French prize, Kidd ran up his English flag and seized the Quedah Merchant.

Now the two Armenian owners of the Quedah Merchant, who happened to be aboard her, offered to ransom their ship for £3,000. Kidd, however, spurned their offer. By this time he knew that Quedah Merchant was worth much more than that. In fact she was, he felt sure, the great prize he had been seeking.

Kidd sold some of Quedah’s cargo ashore for £10,000 and divided the proceeds among the crew to assuage their mutinous greed. Overjoyed with his good fortune, Kidd felt sure that having at last made a rich and lawful score, he would be able to satisfy his backers—and salvage his career.

Then, to his horror, Kidd discovered that the Englishman, Captain Wright, was the actual master of the Quedah Merchant. His joy turned to a ghastly fear. He had captured a ship under English command. He wanted to hand the Quedah Merchant back to her captain, pointing out to his crew that the “taking of that ship will make a great noise in England.” But the crew howled him down. After all their travail they were in no mood to surrender a ship full of treasure.

Kidd caved in.

With Quedah Merchant and November sailing in consort with Adventure Galley, Kidd made for the pirate’s haven of St. Mary’s Island. It was an odd destination for the king’s own pirate catcher to choose. It may be, however, that Kidd had no other choice available to him. Perhaps his men demanded that he take them to St. Mary’s. But it is possible that Kidd himself selected St. Mary’s as the only refuge open to him in the Indian Ocean where he might rest and refit for the long voyage home without fear of interference by warships or armed merchants of the East India Company. Furthermore, St. Mary’s lay along Kidd’s homeward route.

Whatever the case, Adventure Galley arrived at St. Mary’s on April 1, 1698. Quedah Merchant and November arrived a few days later.

While his little flotilla lay anchored in the harbor, a real pirate arrived at St. Mary’s loaded with spoils for sale.

She was the Mocha Frigate, a former East India Company vessel now under the command of Robert Culliford—the same man who had stolen Kidd’s own brigantine Blessed William eight years earlier in the West Indies.

Culliford, who had only forty men with him, took one look at the guns aboard the Adventure Galley and her two companions and decided that he was no match for Kidd. Like most of the Madagascar pirates, Culliford had heard of Kidd’s pirate-hunting expedition, and he did not intend to fall into Kidd’s hands. Furthermore, Culliford thought that Kidd would naturally want to take revenge for the Blessed William incident. Culliford, of course, could not know that Kidd—despite appearances—was in fact weaker than he. Adventure Galley was by now all but unseaworthy, and Kidd’s crew, though still aboard, were openly mutinous.

Ignorant of the true situation, Culliford and his men, rather than face Kidd, went ashore and took shelter.

In the meantime Kidd imagined that Culliford’s presence offered him a further opportunity to redeem his mission: If he could capture the Mocha Frigate, as his royal commission entitled him to do, he might still be able to claim that he had fully accomplished his task by taking both a French prize and a pirate loaded with plunder. Certainly the taking of the Mocha Frigate would help silence those who were calling him pirate.

But when he proposed seizing Culliford’s ship, Kidd’s crew laughed in his face, saying they would rather fire two shots at him than one at the pirate. The crew now also insisted on sharing out the spoils from the Quedah Merchant. Kidd could do nothing to stop them. Oddly enough, they stuck by the agreement they had made with Kidd in New York, taking 60 percent of the booty for distribution among themselves and leaving the other 40 percent for Kidd to dispose of as he wished. Supposedly, the share of the loot left to Kidd amounted to some 1,200 ounces of gold, 2,400 ounces of silver, several chests of precious stones, and bales of silks and other fabrics—a fortune.

After the share-out, ninety-seven of Kidd’s men joined Culliford, who had by now come out of hiding after discovering Kidd’s weakness. Kidd’s former crew burned the November and stripped both the Quedah Merchant and Adventure Galley of all arms, guns, gear, supplies, sails, and anything else they could move, transferring all this material to the Mocha Frigate. Warning Kidd that if he tried to make trouble for them, they would put a bullet in his brain, Kidd’s former crew now deserted entirely to the Mocha Frigate—leaving Kidd and thirteen honest crewmen holed up on the defenseless Adventure Galley.

During the ensuing weeks, Kidd endured a bizarre purgatory. In constant fear of his life, he remained locked in his cabin aboard Adventure Galley, with bales of goods barricading his door and loaded muskets at his side, while all around him the pirates of Madagascar, together with Culliford and his men and Kidd’s own former crewmen, indulged in an orgy of drinking and sex with native women.

Eventually Kidd must have recognized that he could not continue indefinitely under siege in his cabin. He must also have seen that Culliford was the dominant figure among the pirates—a circumstance that must have seemed to offer Kidd a chance to extricate himself from his little Hell.

In any event Kidd eventually emerged from his cabin and sought out Culliford, assuring his one-time mate that he had long ago forgiven him for the theft of the Blessed William. At one point Kidd gave Culliford a pair of pistols as a present—and went aboard Mocha with Culliford where the two enjoyed themselves, drinking and chatting like old friends.

Kidd even swore an oath of friendship with Culliford, “swearing that his soul might fry in hell-fire e’er he harmed his old comrade, and new found companion.”

Did Kidd behave this way because he was tempted by the freedom and license he saw all about him to renounce his previous life and become, at last, the pirate that honest men said he was anyway? Or was he playing possum to save his life and the lives of his few loyal crewmen?

In the end it appears Kidd made some sort of deal with Culliford, perhaps buying him off with part of his share of the Quedah Merchant, for the pirate captain allowed Kidd to keep for his own use both the captured Quedah Merchant and the no longer-seaworthy Adventure Galley—as well as his share of the Quedah booty.

In mid-June Culliford decided the time had come to put an end to the revelry of the previous weeks—and to get back to sea. Soon thereafter, Mocha Frigate—with most of Kidd’s former crew aboard and bristling with guns taken from Adventure Galley—sailed away from St. Mary’s, leaving Kidd behind with his two ships, his thirteen honest crewmen, and his fortune in loot.

With Culliford gone, Kidd resolved to return home as soon as possible. If he had ever been genuinely tempted during his revels with Culliford to go on the account, it was now forgotten. He stripped Adventure Galley, already half full of water, of everything useful, even burning her hull in order to get at her iron stays and spikes. He then recruited what additional seamen were available among the Madagascar gentry and did what he could to ready the Quedah Merchant for a transatlantic voyage.

In November 1698, having waited for the favorable monsoon winds, Kidd, in Quedah Merchant, set sail from St. Mary’s harbor, homeward bound.

No doubt he longed to be reunited with the beautiful Sarah and his children. And he yearned for his comfortable home in New York.

Clearly Kidd felt confident that in spite of everything, he would be able to explain away his questionable behavior, perhaps blame his crew for his troubles, call upon his sponsors to protect him for the sake of their own good names—and above all, be able to distribute sufficient spoils to quell any criticism.

What Kidd, in his wishful ignorance, did not know was that he was no longer in a position to excuse, or explain, or even buy his way out of trouble. For Kidd and his cruise had become the subject of a vicious political scandal in England.

As reports of Kidd’s depredations in the East had reached England over the past three years, it had become clear that Bellomont’s pirate-killer scheme had failed. Not only had piracy in the East not diminished, it was obvious from reports submitted by the East India Company and the Royal Navy that William Kidd had betrayed the king’s trust by turning pirate himself. Kidd was being portrayed in England as an archcriminal.

At this point, the names of Kidd’s aristocratic backers had become public. Suddenly these great men, among the highest dignitaries of the realm, became fat targets of their enemies in Parliament. If Kidd was the worst pirate in history, these parliamentary critics cried, his haughty sponsors were at least as bad.

The embarrassment of Kidd’s backers was profound. Washing their hands of William Kidd, they declared they were as determined as their enemies were to condemn the terrible pirate.

Kidd was declared an outlaw. The Royal Navy was ordered to capture him. The governors of the American colonies were also alerted to arrest Kidd and his crew in order that they might “be prosecuted with the utmost Rigour of the Law.”

Thus, even as Kidd was sailing confidently home, he had been proclaimed a criminal, a traitor, a wanted man.

In April 1699 Quedah Merchant made landfall in Anguilla in the Caribbean. Kidd and his crew discovered—to their horror—that they were wanted in every port in the New World.

Some of Kidd’s men panicked. They wanted to drive the Quedah Merchant against a reef and then flee as best they could. But Kidd refused. He still clung to his belief that ultimately he would be vindicated or, barring that, at least protected by his powerful friends. Furthermore, he did not really feel like a pirate. He had been forced to contend with extraordinary circumstances. He had had to quell a mutinous crew. And yet, had he not taken two French prizes? Did he not have in his possession their French passes to prove it?

He decided his best course would be to make for New York where he knew Lord Bellomont—his good friend—was now colonial governor. But first he had to rid himself of Quedah Merchant, now too clumsy and worn for his purposes.

Luckily he found a sleek fast ship—the Antonio—becalmed out at sea, and he bought her on the spot from her owner-captain. He then transferred mysterious chests—rumored full of gold, coins, and jewels—from the leaky old Quedah Merchant to the Antonio. After this he gave the former owner of the Antonio some money to sail the Quedah Merchant to a secluded spot in Hispaniola and to keep her there under guard for three months, or until Kidd should contact him.

Then, with only twelve men still willing to sail with him, Captain Kidd set out northward for New York.

Royal Navy Hunting Pirates

Woodes Rogers and Alexander Spotswood – Blackbeard’s Last Stand

After abandoning his flagship and most of his crew Blackbeard sailed north-east along the Outer Banks of North Carolina to Ocracoke Island. This was a remote and deserted place surrounded by shoals and sandbanks. The southern shores of the island faced the breaking waves of the Atlantic Ocean, but on the side facing the sheltered waters of Pamlico Sound was the narrow channel of Ocracoke Inlet. Here, in the summer of 1718, Blackbeard dropped anchor. For the next few months he used this as a base for his sloop Adventure. He also took a house in Bath Town, then a small settlement on the banks of a creek on the other side of Pamlico Sound. By the end of June he had secured a meeting with Governor Eden and had obtained the royal pardon for himself and his pirates. For about two months he seems to have lived a settled and respectable life, dividing his time between Bath Town and Ocracoke, but by August he had returned to plundering passing merchant ships. He was now in the sights of Alexander Spotswood, Lieutenant Governor of the nearby colony of Virginia.

Spotswood, like Captain Woodes Rogers, was a resolute and determined man with an interesting past. He was born in 1676, the son of an army surgeon serving in the English military garrison at Tangier. At the age of seven he came to England and was educated at Westminster School. He joined the army in 1693 and spent the next seventeen years as an officer. He served under Marlborough in Flanders, was wounded at the Battle of Blenheim and was captured but later exchanged at the Battle of Oudenarde. In 1710 George Hamilton, Earl of Orkney and one of Marlborough’s most able generals, was appointed Governor of Virginia. Not wishing to leave Britain, he selected Spotswood as his Lieutenant Governor with full authority to run the colony. Spotswood proved an energetic Governor. As we have seen earlier, he had warned the British Government of the growing danger to the American colonies posed by the pirates and he now decided that Blackbeard was such a threat that he must be hunted down. As he later wrote to the Council of Trade and Plantations, ‘I judged it high time to destroy that crew of villains, and not to suffer them to gather strength in the neighbourhood of so valuable a trade as that of this colony.’

There were two warships assigned to the Virginia station and they were currently anchored in the James River, not far from Williamsburg, the capital of Virginia. The largest of the ships was the 40-gun Pearl, commanded by Captain Ellis Brand. The other ship was the Lyme, 24 guns, commanded by Captain George Gordon. Both ships had orders from the Admiralty, ‘To correspond and act in concert against the pirates.’4 When Captain Brand and Captain Gordon were summoned to a meeting with Governor Spotswood and told that he wished to mount an expedition against Blackbeard they were happy to give him their support. The warships were too big to negotiate the shallows around Ocracoke, so Spotswood hired two local sloops, the Ranger and the Jane, and the navy provided the men – thirty-three from the Pearl and twenty-four from the Lyme. They were put under the overall command of Robert Maynard, the first lieutenant of the Pearl, and each sloop had a local pilot to guide them through the channels of the Outer Banks. Lieutenant Maynard’s log survives and his entry for Monday 17 November 1718 marks the day that the expedition set sail:

Modt. gales & fair Weather, this day I recd. from Capt. Gordon, an Order to Command 60 men out of his Majesties Ships Pearle & Lyme, on board two small sloops, in Order to destroy some pyrates, who resided in No. Carolina. This day Weigh’d, & Sail’d hence, with ye Sloops undr. my Command, having on board a month Proviso. Of all species, with Arms, & Ammunition Suitable for ye Occasion.

It was not known whether Blackbeard was on his sloop at Ocracoke or was staying in Bath Town, so while Maynard’s sloops sailed down the James River and along the coast, Captain Brand led an overland expedition to Bath Town. He had around 200 men under his command, including sailors from the warships and a company of Virginia militiamen. As it happened, Blackbeard was at Ocracoke with twenty-five of his pirates. (Israel Hands and the rest of his crew were across the Sound in Bath Town.) When Lieutenant Maynard arrived on the seaward side of Ocracoke Island on the evening of 21 November there was a local trading sloop anchored in the channel near Blackbeard’s Adventure. Samuel Odell, the master of the local sloop, and two or three of his crew were being entertained by Blackbeard and his men. Maynard decided to delay his attack till the next morning.

At dawn on 22 November Maynard commenced his approach. The sea was calm, the sky overcast and there was only the lightest of breezes to help them on their way. A boat was sent ahead with a sailor taking soundings. If heavy casualties were to be avoided it was essential to surprise the pirates because Maynard’s sloops had no guns and his men had weapons suitable only for a boarding action: muskets, pistols, cutlasses and boarding axes. The Adventure was armed with nine carriage guns which could do a great deal of damage before the attackers were within musket shot of the pirates. Although the various accounts of the action differ in many respects it seems that the element of surprise was lost because the pirates spotted the attackers while they were still some way off and fired a shot in their direction. A shouted exchange took place between Maynard and Blackbeard with Maynard telling the pirate that he intended to board him.

‘Teach understanding his design, told him that if he would let him alone, he would not meddle with him; Maynard answered that it was him he wanted, and that he would have him dead or alive; whereupon Teach called for a glass of wine, and swore damnation to himself if he either took or gave quarters.’6 Blackbeard ordered several of his carriage guns to be fired at the approaching sloops. These apparently did less damage than a discharge from a swivel gun loaded with swan shot, nails and pieces of old iron. The attacking force was decimated. Midshipman Hyde, commanding the sloop Ranger, was killed instantly and twenty other men were either killed or wounded. According to Maynard, the Ranger, having no one to command her, fell astern and took no further part in the action until it was almost over.

Blackbeard had cut his anchor cable and was intending to sail out of the channel but the attackers managed to shoot away the jib and fore halyards of the Adventure, which drifted on to a shoal and grounded. To save further casualties Maynard hid most of his men below deck as he approached the pirate sloop, so that Blackbeard, ‘seeing so few on the deck said to his men, the rogues were all killed except two or three and he would go on board and kill them himself’. It is not clear whether the final battle took place on board the Adventure or the sloop Jane, but what is in no doubt is that Blackbeard and Maynard engaged in a hand-to-hand fight as the rest of the British sailors swarmed on deck and took on the pirates. Maynard attacked Blackbeard with his sword but bent it on the pirate’s cartridge box. When Blackbeard’s sword broke the naval officer’s guard and wounded his fingers Maynard was forced to step back and use his pistol. His shot found its mark but had no immediate effect on Blackbeard, who was now surrounded by Maynard’s men. According to Captain Johnson’s vivid account of the action, ‘he stood his ground and fought with great fury’. The final blow came from a Scottish Highlander who struck Blackbeard with such force that he cut off his head.

There were several black Africans in Blackbeard’s crew and one of them had remained below, ready to blow up the ship if the order was given. He was prevented from doing so by two of the men from the trading sloop who had also remained below during the fighting. Blackbeard’s death marked the end of action. His headless body was thrown overboard and those pirates who were still alive surrendered. Every account of the action gives different figures for the casualties but it is evident that the fighting was exceedingly fierce and the deck must have been running with blood. According to Maynard, ‘I had eight Men killed and 18 wounded. We kill’d 12, besides Blackbeard, who fell with five Shot in him, and 20 dismal Cuts in several Parts of his Body. I took nine prisoners, mostly Negroes, all wounded.’

Maynard took command of the Adventure and, with Blackbeard’s head hung from the bowsprit, he sailed back to Virginia to rejoin his ship and report on the success of his mission. He reached the James River on 3 January 1719. It was a fine winter’s day with a light breeze. The warships Pearl and Lyme were still lying at anchor in the river. Lieutenant John Hicks of the Pearl recorded the occasion in his logbook, ‘Little wind & fair weather. Tache ye Pyrate Sloop commanded by Lieut Maynard anch’d here & Saluted us with 9 Guns we Answ’d with ye same number he brought Tache ye pyrates head undr his Bowsprette.’

Displaying the pirate’s head so prominently as a war trophy was an unusual action for a British naval crew but it was in line with the custom of displaying the dead bodies of notorious highwaymen, thieves and pirates in prominent public places as a warning to others. And Maynard needed to bring back the head of the notorious pirate as proof of his death and to enable him and his men to claim the reward. Back in November Governor Spotswood had issued a proclamation to encourage the capture or killing of any pirate or pirates within the vicinity of Virginia or North Carolina:

for Edward Teach, commonly called Captain Teach, or Black-beard, one hundred Pounds, for every other Commander of a Pyrate Ship, Sloop, or Vessel, forty Pounds; for every Lieutenant, Master, or Quarter-Master, Boatswain, or Carpenter, twenty pounds; for every other inferior Officer, fifteen pounds, and for every private Man taken on board such Ship, Sloop, or Vessel, ten pounds.

Political considerations and bureaucratic delays held up the payment of the rewards for several years. There was less delay in the trial and execution of the pirates. Captain Brand had rounded up Israel Hands and one or two others in the vicinity of Bath Town and on 12 March 1719 sixteen men were put on trial in the Capitol building at Williamsburg. Samuel Odell, the captain of the trading vessel which had been anchored alongside Blackbeard’s sloop, was acquitted. Hands was allowed the benefit of the royal pardon, probably because he had agreed to testify against his shipmates. According to Johnson, writing in 1724, Hands ‘was alive some time ago in London, begging his bread’. The fourteen remaining members of Blackbeard’s crew, including five black Africans, were hanged on the road leading out of Williamsburg.

These executions, together with the executions of Stede Bonnet and his crew at Charleston, and the executions at Nassau, were significant events in the campaign against the pirates but they did not relieve the pressure on Rogers. His reports and letters to London indicate the many problems he was facing. He had been so ill for weeks after arriving in Nassau that he had had difficulty in carrying out some of his duties. The local inhabitants continued to prove lazy and so unproductive that it was hard to find sufficient provisions to feed the soldiers of the garrison. But his chief concern was the withdrawal of the naval ships which had accompanied him to the Bahamas. In a letter to Secretary James Craggs he pointed out that the lack of a ship of war was likely to have grave consequences ‘by encouraging the loose people here and even some of my own soldiers’. He had uncovered a plot ‘to seize or destroy me and my officers and then deliver up the fort for ye use of the pirates’. He had dealt with the ringleaders of the plot by having them severely flogged but he continued to worry that the former pirates in the community would turn against him.

He was equally concerned that the absence of a warship in the harbour left the settlement extremely vulnerable to an attack by the Spanish. There had been growing hostilities between Spain and the other European powers throughout the summer of 1718 owing to the territorial ambitions of King Philip V of Spain and his forceful Italian wife Elizabeth Farnese. A Spanish expedition sent to conquer Sicily prompted the British to send a powerful naval force to the Mediterranean under the command of Sir George Byng. Although there had been no formal declaration of war Byng attacked the Spanish fleet off Cape Passaro on 31 July 1718. The Spanish were outnumbered and outmanoeuvred and by the end of an extended action stretching over several days twenty-two of their warships had been captured, burnt or sunk. War was officially declared on 17 December. Known as the War of the Quadruple Alliance, it pitched Spain against Britain, France, Austria and the Netherlands. Brief as it was the war had repercussions in the West Indies and the American colonies. By February 1719 Rogers had received news that the Spanish intended to attack and conquer the Bahamas. In May a Spanish invasion fleet sailed from Cuba. With four warships, eight sloops and around 3,000 troops this posed a formidable threat to New Providence, where the fortifications were still incomplete and there was only the Delicia and a few armed sloops to defend the harbour. Fortunately the Spanish fleet was diverted to Florida because the French had seized a strategically important fortress at Pensacola. Not till the following year did the Spanish make an attempt on the Bahamas, by which time Rogers was in a much stronger position.

When the invasion force arrived off Nassau on 24 February 1720 Rogers had at his disposal 100 soldiers and nearly 500 local militiamen; the fort was armed with fifty mounted guns and the 10-gun eastern battery had been completed; and in addition to his 40-gun guardship Delicia, there was a naval warship in the harbour – HMS Flamborough, 24 guns, which happened to be paying a visit. The logbook of the Flamborough recorded the first sighting and approach of the Spanish fleet: ‘at 6 AM saw 12 Sail in the Offing standing for the harbour mouth, We made ’em to be 3 Ships, 1 Brigantine and the rest Sloops, At noon the Ships anchored off the Bar and the Brig & Sloops sailed to the E end of Hogg Island & there anchored, They all hoisted Spanish Colours.’

Later information revealed that the Spanish invasion fleet was led by the flagship San José of 36 guns; she was accompanied by the San Cristóforo, 20 guns; a third ship of 14 guns; a 12-gun brigantine; and eight armed sloops. They were carrying a military force of between 1,200 and 1,300 men. In theory the Spanish were considerably superior in ships and men to the British defenders, but an amphibious invasion force was invariably at a disadvantage when faced with well-manned forts and gun emplacements; and on this occasion the Spanish also had to contend with the weather. For some reason the Spanish admiral decided against launching an immediate attack but waited until the next day. And the next day a strong north wind built up during the morning so that the fleet found itself on a lee shore with waves breaking on the shoals and reefs off the harbour entrance. By 3 p.m. the situation had become so hazardous that the vessels in the fleet cut their anchor cables and headed for the open sea. The three ships never came back but at around eleven that night the brigantine and the sloops returned and, according to the Flamborough’s log, ‘attempted to land their men but two Negroes firing into their Boats they put back again to their vessels’. That was the end of the invasion. Some of the sloops remained off the coast for the next few days but on 1 March they headed back to Cuba. Several weeks later Rogers received a letter from two Englishmen in Havana who had been informed that the Spanish fleet had been hit by a storm two hours after arriving off Nassau and had been forced to lose their anchors and bear away. The Englishmen had some doubts about this version of events and reported that most of the ships ‘have all returned again to their safe harbour whether it was distress of weather or fear (which we are more apt to believe) that hath thus baulked their attempt we doubt not …’. However, the danger from the storm was very real because on the return voyage the San Cristóforo was wrecked on the Bahama Banks.

Having successfully prevented a Spanish invasion and having expelled the pirates from New Providence, Rogers had every reason to expect a favourable reaction to the reports he sent home. He also deserved a sympathetic and practical response to his requests for the reimbursement of the money he and the copartners had spent on defending the island. Instead he heard nothing and received nothing. There was no response from the Council of Trade and Plantations to his first detailed report, and no replies to the many letters he wrote to Secretary Craggs updating him on progress. It is little wonder that the opening sentence of his second report to the Council, written two months after the abortive Spanish invasion, revealed his sense of abandonment: ‘My Lords, Its about twenty one months since my first arrival here attended with as great disappointments, sickness and other misfortunes as almost can be imagined of which I have continually advised in the best manner I could, and I have yet no account from home what is or will not be done for the preservation of this settlement.’ He went on to point out that ‘having no news of my bills being paid at home I am forced to run into too much debt and its with great difficulty that I have hitherto supported myself and the garrison’. In December of the previous year Samuel Buck, on behalf of the copartners, had sent a petition to their lordships pointing out that they had already spent £11,394 on the fortifications, and further sums on the seamen’s wages for the guardship Delicia and on commissioning the sloops and crews which had been despatched to track down the pirates. The total sum to date was more than £20,000 and he humbly besought their lordships to present the estimates to Parliament for payment.

During the summer of 1720 an incident took place which was minor in itself but revealed the tensions which Rogers was under. On the evening of 10 July the sentry on the eastern bastion challenged a boat which had set off from the shore and was heading across the harbour. The sentry challenged fifteen times without receiving an answer, and was therefore ordered by Rogers to fire two shots at the boat. The crew promptly yelled back that they were from the Delicia. Rogers immediately summoned Captain Wingate Gale, the commander of the guardship, to come ashore. When Gale refused to do so, Rogers collected his Provost Marshal and twelve soldiers and went out to the ship with a warrant to put its commander under arrest. Rogers’ justification for this was that Gale had disobeyed his commands and ‘I was driven to apprehend him myself by force to prevent the mischievous consequences of his ill example, or his raising a mutiny against me.’ According to one witness, Captain Gale armed his men in order to resist the soldiers coming on board but several other witnesses denied that the captain or his men were armed and that Captain Gale ‘offered no resistance until Governor Rogers called him a rascal and struck him with his pistol upon the head’. Rogers ordered Gale to be put in close confinement all night and the next morning called a Council, which agreed that if Gale gave his word for his future good behaviour he could be released from custody.

The incident gives added credence to the remarks of Dr Thomas Dover, who, it will be recalled, noted several instances of Rogers’ hot temper and his violent threats to those who opposed him. But it is clear from Rogers’ correspondence that it was not the Spanish, or problems with his Council or his colleagues, which were proving an intolerable burden. It was his grave concerns about the finances of the islands, and his own ever-increasing debts, which were making him ill. Soon he would be driven to seek leave of absence in order to recover his health. Before he did so the pirates caused another diversion. It was a diversion which had its origins in the Bahamas but would reach its much publicised conclusion on the island of Jamaica.

The First Crusade

There was curiously little pacifism in the High Middle Ages. St Augustine, already by the fourth century, had formulated a theory of just war (bellum justum), and subsequent clerics interwove his theory into a wider ideology of Christian kingship. The ideal Christian king tried to avoid war or, if war was unavoidable, tried to find honourable ways to re-establish peace (‘Blessed are the peacemakers: for they shall be called the children of God’, Matthew 5:9). The Christian prince whose lands were invaded without legitimate reason or whose subjects were imperilled by the forces of a rival prince or by rebellion would necessarily use war as an instrument of policy and could do so legitimately.

War had rules – in time this elaborate set of rules became known as chivalry. In the late eleventh century, it was widely accepted in elite circles that non-combatants were not licit targets, unless they were spies or harboured or supplied the enemy. Under special protection were those considered as the most vulnerable non-combatants: women and children in general, but especially widows and orphans, as well as priests, monks, nuns, the aged and the infirm.

The just wars of the biblical past, for which the book of Joshua provided textual proof, openly received the blessing of God. Had He not made the sun stand still so that Joshua’s victory might be assured? (Joshua 10:12). In the most extreme statement of the case, it was said that wars against non-believers who had attacked the people of God were waged by the direct will of God. Apart from direct illumination from the Almighty, how better to determine the will of God than to have a priest, preferably the high priest, sanctify the war?

Jesus’s rebuke to Peter, who tried to defend him when he was being taken prisoner in the Garden of Gethsemane on the eve of his crucifixion, was the proof here: ‘Put up thy sword into the sheath’ (Matthew 26:52). The sword of physical retribution was not to be wielded by the spiritual descendants of St Peter – the clergy – but lordship over the sword still remained with the clergy: ‘Put up thy sword.’ It therefore rested with the Church, according to some ecclesiastical theorists, to determine how and under what conditions secular rulers could legitimately unsheathe and wield the sword of physical retribution. This was not in conflict with the older ‘doctrine of the two swords’ – one, spiritual (humiliation, malediction, excommunication, interdict), to be employed by the Church to coerce open but recalcitrant sinners; the other, temporal (physical force), to be employed by secular rulers. Rather, it clarified the traditional doctrine of the two swords by explaining the Church’s superintendence of temporal authority.

There was a centuries-old liturgy of war that emphasized certain other aspects of the intimate relationship between the clergy and righteous military violence. Ideally there was general fasting before battles were waged, and the clergy present in the entourage of the army celebrated votive masses, asking for victory and promising eternal devotion to God. The priests blessed the commanders and their troops and gave sermons of exhortation, the spiritual equivalent of the secular commanders’ harangues. They led the faithful in hymns and responsive readings like Psalm 20 (Vulgate 19), with the famous verse, ‘Some trust in chariots, and some in horses: but we will remember the name of the Lord our God. They are brought down and fallen: but we are risen, and stand upright.’

Also drawing on the stories in the biblical Book of Joshua of the conquest of the Promised Land, the clergy and the commanders commemorated victory, suggestive if not self-evident testimony, when and if it came, of the justness of their cause. They did so in part by following the example of the ancient Hebrews, who, at God’s command, despoiled their beaten enemies during the conquest of the Promised Land (e.g., Joshua 8: 26–27). They also obliged the army to hear mass, to rededicate itself to the vows of devotion with which the soldiers had prepared for battle, and to honour the weapons of war in the cult of military relics.

So, already in the eleventh century elite thinkers and other high-born people knew what a just war was and how it should be fought, even if they did not live up to their ideals. The Peace and Truce of God had done much to disseminate and popularize some of these ideals, but a particular set of events in the late eleventh century helped to create a more remarkable type of just and holy war – the crusade.

There was, it has been argued, a significant strain of millenarian feeling in eleventh-century western European society. This was perhaps slightly more characteristic of the earlier part of the century, but it may be that millennial and apocalyptic movements of a more or less popular character were in train throughout the century. The idea of a decisive colossal confrontation between the forces of good and the servants of evil was at the prophetic centre of several of these movements.

Jerusalem and its liberation, and more particularly the deliverance of the Holy Sepulchre, the Tomb of Christ, from pagan domination, loomed large in apocalyptic discourse. (In the eleventh and into the twelfth century Christians in northern Europe tended to regard Muslims as pagans.) Jerusalem was being used as a first name for girls in the West (Riley-Smith, 1997, p. 33), evidence of the penetration of its image into popular consciousness; and pilgrimages to Jerusalem from the West, relatively uncommon from the seventh to the tenth century, began to increase in frequency in the tenth. They became fairly common in the eleventh and also on occasion enormously large. In 1054, one band of such pilgrims numbered 3,000. Seven thousand Germans are said to have joined together to make the Jerusalem pilgrimage in 1064–5.

Reports of various Muslim victories over Near Eastern and Spanish Christians and of the gestures that sometimes followed fuelled the smouldering hatred and desire for vengeance by western Catholics. In October 1086, the Muslim victors at the battle of Sagrajas in Spain had the heads of the Christian victims gathered up into wagons and in a gruesome procession the wagons made their way down the peninsula and thence through North Africa with their rotting trophies. Pope Gregory VII himself, a decade or so before, seems to have envisaged the papacy’s retainers, the fideles of St Peter, as a possible army, to be accompanied by him, for delivering eastern Christians from the onslaught of their Muslim enemies and also for redeeming Jerusalem. Because of the Investiture Controversy and perhaps lingering doubts about the appropriateness of direct papal involvement in fighting, the fantasy never became reality, and important features of genuine crusade ideology, such as the penitential vow of the troops, were lacking in his vision, but Gregory’s musings helped inspire and sustain other images of a just war of liberation in reform circles.

After his election in 1088, and being obliged to vie with the imperial anti-pope Clement III for backing, Pope Urban II cast about for support in numerous ways. In part owing to the Peace Movement a close relationship had emerged between local aristocracies and a number of powerful monasteries, especially in France. Focusing on prayer – the prayers of the monks for the ancestors and living members of these aristocratic lineages – the relationship implicitly and sometimes explicitly raised the hope of these aristocrats’ salvation because of the good work they did in protecting the monastic life, the highest form of the Christian life and, by extension, Christendom in general. In practice, protection was ordinarily achieved by persuasion or the threat of force rather than by the actual use of force against would-be malefactors. But when persuasion and threats failed, the application of force against those who attacked monks and other vulnerable Christians was believed to be righteous in itself.

Force in the service of retributive justice (the bellum justum) was carefully distinguished from the fury and chaos attending ‘petty’ disputes among lords, the acts of internecine violence (guerrae, the origin of our modern word ‘war’) that had plagued the Central Middle Ages and helped excite the Peace Movement in the first place and which were still thickly woven into the fabric of social life in the late eleventh century. But Urban II or one of his advisers, drawing on the legacy of Gregory VII and inspired by pleas for help from eastern Christians, took another decisive step in the development of the idea of the crusade. The same lords who protected monks could protect Christendom east and west by directing their violence against the Muslim invaders and conquerors of the eastern Mediterranean, including the Holy Land.

There is some uncertainty as to the rewards the pope promised these would-be soldiers in his famous sermon at the Council of Clermont in southern France on 27 November 1095. But there is no doubt that the idea of fighting to regain the Holy Sepulchre or to help fellow Christians in the east was in the air and met a genuinely enthusiastic response. Although the mutual excommunications of pope and patriarch of Constantinople in 1054, emphasized so much in traditional interpretations, had exacerbated tensions between the western and eastern churches, they had not set them in malignant combat or reduced all mutual feelings of respect to nothing.

At the Council of Clermont shouts went up of ‘God wills it! God wills it!’ in response to the pope’s words. He appealed to lords and lordlings to put aside their petty strife, which would lead them to hell, and instead to take up the Cross, to offer their lives to save threatened Christians. Would there be sin in killing their enemies in what was clearly conceived of as a just and holy war? No. Would there be remission of sins in some wider sense, a wiping clean of the slate or immediate entrance into paradise if one died in the effort? The pope might have been carried away and uttered ambiguous words on this occasion or on any of the many subsequent occasions on which he gave similar speeches in favour of an expedition to the east. Certainly some of his audience that first day and many others later on believed that faithfully fighting in such an expedition would be rewarded with full forgiveness of all past sins and that death in such fighting was equivalent to martyrdom. Although learned churchmen understood and stressed the penitential nature of crusading, they were far more insistent on the limited nature of the forgiveness that joining or dying on a crusade might entail.

The pope recognized from the moment he addressed the crowds in Clermont that he had touched a well-spring of militant devotion. He continued in future sermons to make the same plea and to urge those lords who responded to make firm plans for an expedition in the spring of 1096. It may well be that some of the enthusiasm at subsequent councils and rallies in late 1095 and early 1096 was scripted, with supporters of the pope’s plan strategically planted in the crowds to get the chanting of ‘God wills it!’ started. It may also be the case that the genuine enthusiasm of the moment sometimes ebbed in the weeks that followed, as lords came to recognize the dangers and expense of the long and otherwise unpredictable journey they were going on. Fear of dying in a far-off place when one’s expectation had been to be buried in the choir of the family church, or at least in Christian soil, troubled their souls. It would later be stipulated that the flesh could be buried but the bones of dead crusaders had to be brought back for separate burial in their native lands.

All these apprehensions notwithstanding, the crusading movement, once started, grew exponentially in territories like France, the southern Low Countries, and those parts of Italy where the legitimacy of Urban’s pontificate was recognized. And, given its later successes, attributed to the intervention of God (He simply worked through the Franks), it raised disturbing questions about the evident lack of imperial sponsorship for the project. Emperor Henry IV was well aware of this, for at one point he offered to join the crusade himself. But as he would not yield on the point of lay investiture, his offer came to nothing.

Pope Urban II encouraged those who took the vow to prepare conscientiously, and the principal leaders, including many Flemish, Rhine-land, northern French and Provençal barons – though in the end no king – ultimately settled on 15 August 1096, the Feast of the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin, as the date of departure. However, it was difficult to co-ordinate and control efforts that were taking place all over northwestern Europe, and what is sometimes known as the Peasants’ Crusade or Popular Crusade – the expeditions of several dispersed groups under the leadership of various itinerant preachers and knights – set off in the late spring. A small group at Rouen in Normandy helped set the violent and almost anarchic tone of these early expeditions by massacring several Jews in the city. Another of these groups, somewhat better commanded by a knight known as Walter the Penniless (Sansavoir), left France and travelled through Germany and Hungary, making it to the outskirts of Constantinople by July. A third group, led by the charismatic preacher, Peter the Hermit, arrived there by the end of July, but on their way these poorly disciplined troops provoked any number of bloody and, for them, humbling skirmishes with Hungarian and Byzantine soldiers.

Many of the earliest crusaders never made it, even to Constantinople. The disorder and depredations of one group, whose leader was a priest by the name of Gottschalk, provoked the Hungarians, through whose lands they were marching, to destroy them. An otherwise unknown preacher named Volkmar led his followers to a similar fate in Nitra on the Hungarian border with Bohemia, but only after they had violently attacked the Jews of Prague. The most notorious of the bands was led by the Swabian Count Emich of Flonheim. He and his followers, inspired in part by the desire to loot but mainly, it seems, to force the Jews’ conversion, carried out a series of violent attacks in the Rhineland, repercussions from which would reach down the centuries.

Before they left Germany on their way to the east and were themselves cut down by Hungarian forces, Emich’s men and other bands ravaged the Jewish communities of Speyer, Worms, Mainz, Cologne, Trier, Metz and Regensburg. In some cases, like Mainz, the entire Jewish population of these towns was annihilated; at others (Regensburg is an example) nearly every Jew was forced to convert to Christianity. Even where Christian authorities, especially bishops, intervened to protect the Jews, the situation continued to be ferociously dangerous. Occasionally, for example, Jews were dispersed into the countryside to prevent the crusaders from besieging them en masse, but search parties hunted down the refugees in villages and hamlets. On other occasions, churchmen promised protection at the price of conversion. Most arresting, perhaps, was that in several places Jewish resistance to the crusaders’ demands for conversion assumed the form of voluntary suicide. Many Jewish women led the way, urging the men of their communities to take their own lives rather than convert. Parents also slaughtered their children as a supreme act of devotion.

There had been rare instances of mass suicide earlier in the history of Judaism, but in 1096 and later years rabbis were troubled as to the moral legitimacy of the suicides. In the end, they came to accept them and subsequent ones as legitimate responses to the threat of forced conversion, and generations of poets would celebrate the heroism of the martyr suicides and the martyred children. Many of their names would be inscribed in memorial lists. The poetry celebrating their sacrifice entered the liturgy of the synagogue, so that the memory of the events of 1096 and of the martyrs and victims in later crusades and at other crises would never be forgotten.

Oh, how the children cried aloud!

Trembling, they see their brothers slaughtered;

the mother binding her son, lest he profane the sacrifice by shuddering;

the father making the ritual blessing to sanctify the slaughter.

Compassionate women strangle their own children;

pure virgins shriek bitterly;

brides kiss their bridegrooms farewell –

and all rush eagerly to be slaughtered.

Almighty Lord, dwelling on high,

in days of old the angels cried out to You to put a halt to one sacrifice.

And now, so many are bound and slaughtered –

why do they not clamour over my infants?

(Carmi, 1981, pp. 372–3)

Relations between Christians and Jews were affected in at least one other way by the horrendous incidents of 1096. A fissure developed in the Jewish community between those who seem to have developed a more restricted understanding of proper Jewish life and those who went back to the way of life they knew before. It is probably unfair to see the movement or sect attributed to these hasidim or pietists of the Rhineland only as a reaction to the crusade massacres, but that slaughter must have had an enormous impact in sustaining the rigorous beliefs of those survivors who insisted on a more pious way of living and an even greater avoidance of social and religious contamination by contact with non-pious Jews, let alone Christians. The sect disappeared in time; its ideas, embedded in an important body of texts, especially the Sefer Hasidim (‘Book of the Pious’), have repeatedly inspired revival movements among European Jews.

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Although most of the contingents of the Peasants’ Crusade never reached Constantinople, those commanded by Walter the Penniless and Peter the Hermit did. The Byzantine emperor, Alexius, and his commanders were suspicious of these rag-tag troops and, rather than have them bivouac for a protracted length of time on the outskirts of the imperial capital, they transported them across the straits to Asia Minor on 6 August. There the crusaders split into several groups, largely along linguistic lines. A few early raids were successful, but a large band of German crusaders was isolated and defeated near Nicea and forced to convert to Islam and be deported eastwards or, if they refused, to die. By 21 October, the main body of crusaders, chastened by the slaughter of their comrades but still not coordinating their operations competently, and with relatively ineffective military intelligence, came face to face with overwhelming Turkish forces and were annihilated.

Meanwhile, back in Europe, the Princely Crusade was in the final stages of preparation. Powerful aristocrats commanded the various units, and in each case the commander knew that his retinue had honed their skills in battles at home. Long-standing and strong personal loyalties bound many of the units as well. It is a myth that the crusaders were composed of landless young knights; they tended to be mature and experienced men who left considerable properties behind. The prominence of loyalty among these warriors did not mean that there was always harmony within the units or that the various units themselves coordinated their efforts effectively. Nevertheless, there was a military ethos that informed the Princely Crusade in a way that it did not the Peasants’ Crusade. Moreover, the new units were relatively better supplied than their predecessors. Partly this was because the great aristocrats had much more cash and credit at their disposal to buy equipment and other supplies. Partly, however, it was a matter of timing: having departed at a later date, the new crusaders had more liberty to plan, while also having the opportunity to benefit from the harvests of 1096.

The chief princes and their crusader retinues began to arrive in Constantinople in November and continued to arrive until May 1097, and were steadily ferried across the Bosporus in anticipation of engagement. Most of the commanders promised that, if they were successful, those lands they conquered which had once been part of the Byzantine Empire would revert to the Empire, a necessary concession if Byzantine troops were to complement their efforts, as in fact they did for a time. According to the best estimates, the crusade could count on more than 40,000 troops.

This enormous army appeared at Nicea on 19 June and overawed the Turkish garrison, which surrendered to the Byzantines. A week later, the crusaders set out for the interior and on 1 July defeated additional Turkish forces at Dorylaeum. Forty-eight hours later they resumed their march, traversing city after city of interior Asia Minor in the weeks that followed, but eventually encountering another major Turkish force at Ereghli in early September. Here, too, the crusading army crushed their enemies and sent the remnants packing.

Two of the leading commanders, Baldwin of Boulogne and a mercurial baron, Tancred, the son of Robert Guiscard, then took contingents eastwards and south-eastwards, where they accomplished the reconquest of the coastal cities of Anatolia, including Tarsus, which they knew as St Paul’s birthplace. Baldwin followed up this success with the conquest of Edessa and, after supplanting its Armenian prince, he set up the first crusader principality there. Pressure was then put on the temperamental Tancred to rejoin the main crusader army, which was engaged in the long siege of Antioch from 21 October 1097 until June 1098.

The successful conclusion of the siege, with only the Muslim garrison of the citadel still holding out, led to the occupation of Antioch, but a few days later a large number of Turkish reinforcements arrived and surrounded the occupied city. At this point, a Byzantine army in reserve a few miles from Antioch and under the direct command of Emperor Alexius might have saved the situation, but the emperor’s military intelligence overstated the size of the Turkish forces and the significance of their early successes. The Byzantines therefore withdrew.

Out of this desperate situation arose the first great sequence of events that would mark the crusade – in the crusaders’ minds at least – as undeniably God’s work. Visionaries among the besieged claimed to have received comfort and inspiration personally from Jesus. The Blessed Virgin’s appearance was reported, as were the appearances of St Andrew and St Peter. And, miracle of miracles, thanks to a poor peasant, a lance was found under the floor of the Cathedral of Antioch which was said to be, though not everyone at first credited the tale, the lance with which the centurion had stabbed the dead Christ on the Cross (John 19:34). The Holy Lance, regarded as a relic, was interpreted as a sign for the crusaders to abandon the relative safety of Antioch’s defences and confront the Turks directly. On 28 June, they did just that. Completely surprised and unnerved by the crusaders’ daring, the Turks fled. Equally surprised by the failure of the Muslim army, the citadel garrison, which until that moment had courageously held out, also surrendered to the crusaders. Antioch, where the followers of Jesus were first called Christians, was now entirely in crusader hands.

The crusaders believed that such success, like finding the Holy Lance itself, was a sign from God, but success also bred strife. The treachery of the Byzantine emperor, as some of the crusaders conceived it, relieved them of the necessity of honouring their promise to return all conquered lands to his authority. Other commanders demurred at forswearing their solemn oaths. Presently disease afflicted the army, felling some of its most gifted commanders and decimating the ranks. But despite this, the bickering persisted: as they continued to debate future plans, what was and was not pleasing to God became painfully and dangerously uncertain.

By January 1099 many of the rank and file were rallying around lesser lords, who intended to bring order to the army by compelling dissident commanders, by force if necessary, to put aside their disagreements and resume the march. Force was necessary, it turned out (in the guise of an attack on the fortifications of Raymond of Saint-Gilles, who favoured holding to the agreement with the Byzantines), but it was followed by a sobering rededication to the expedition. By February most of what was left of the army was on the move, traversing Lebanon and reaching Palestine in May. On 6 June Tancred conquered Bethlehem, the birthplace of Jesus, and on 7 June the bulk of the army began the siege of Jerusalem. There were now approximately 15,000 troops left to do so.

They moved more quickly than they had at Antioch to end the siege, storming the city on 15 July. The frenzy of the assault and the slaughter were of epic proportions, as the crusaders took control.

Many of the Saracens [Muslims] who had climbed to the top of the Temple of Solomon in their flights were shot to death with arrows and fell headlong from the roof. Nearly ten thousand were beheaded in this Temple. If you had been there your feet would have been stained to the ankles in the blood of the slain. What shall I say? None of them were left alive. Neither women nor children were spared. (Fulcher of Chartres, 1969, pp. 121–2).

A week later the victors elected Godfrey of Bouillon as ruler – not king – of Jerusalem: Jesus was king. But they had learned something from the experience at Antioch. The Muslims would undoubtedly send another force to try to retake Jerusalem, and indeed an enormous Egyptian force invaded Palestine in August. But on the twelfth of the month, crusader forces surprised the Egyptians near Ascalon, on the Mediterranean coast about fifty miles west of the Holy City, and utterly destroyed them.

The First Crusade had reached its emotional high point, and it is customary to claim that the crusade more or less ended at this moment. The setting up of principalities and the evolution of political and religious life proceeded apace, but these hardly appeared to be aspects of the crusade itself. In fact, the crusade was far from over. For the next twenty years, men streamed into the Holy Land and fought any number of actions in the extraordinary attempt to stabilize, expand and territorially consolidate the Crusader States. These actions were the necessary coda of the more spectacular conquest of Jerusalem and are properly considered part of the First Crusade. What this almost continuous warfare ensured was that the political institutions and social arrangements of the Crusader States would be skewed. What has sometimes been said of Spain in the era of the Reconquest can be said even more accurately of the Crusader States: they constituted a society organized almost solely according to the exigencies of war.

One of the more distinctive features of this society was the presence of military orders, well-organized associations of devout Christians who cared for and provided protection for pilgrims, nursed the sick, and ultimately took an active part in the military defence of the Crusader States. Groups of people dedicated to the nursing of pilgrims probably existed before 1099, but there were dramatic increases in the numbers of Christian pilgrims to the Holy City from the time of the Christian reconquest onwards. Pilgrims to Jerusalem characteristically, if not exclusively, were aged or sick; they came to the city not for miraculous cures but in order to die where Christ had died. It was in part due to the pressure of such numbers that the people ministering to them organized themselves into formal orders. The earliest of these seems to have been the Order of St John of Jerusalem, known more familiarly as the Hospitallers. The Order of the Temple of Solomon or Knights Templars came into being in 1119–20, originally to guard the pilgrimage routes.

The Hospitallers ran the great pilgrim hospital in the Holy City, sometimes employing Jewish and Muslim physicians to help minister to the sick. The hospital accepted both Muslims and Jews who needed care. Orphans of war and abandoned children were taken in and put in the charge of female nurses; when they came of age they were invited to join the Order. But, as was typical of the military orders, the Hospitallers, while never losing their original function, came more and more to be identified as a fighting force. The Order’s great hospital, perhaps 1,000 beds or more, was often filled with the wounded from its own battles.

The military orders, in their mature form, came to be composed of knights who took monastic vows and vowed celibacy, priests who carried out the spiritual functions of the order, sergeants from lesser social backgrounds, and nuns who helped nurse women and children and who prayed for the success of the Christian mission. They were international orders who owed direct obedience to the pope and were supported by houses established throughout Europe which both sent funds to the orders in the Holy Land and provided venues for the retirement of older members of the orders. Their work, in the heroic age following the conquest of Jerusalem, was deeply admired. To St Bernard, who wrote in praise of the Templars, they represented a new order of Christian knighthood. King Alfonso I of Navarre and Aragon (d. 1131) wanted to give one-third of his kingdom to the Hospitallers to carry on their work.

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The news in Christendom of the fall of Jerusalem and the good work of devoted Christians confirmed, more than almost anything else could, the spirit of renewal that had been articulated in the efforts at papal and popular reform. Of the crusaders who lived and returned home to Europe, few came back rich, and the difficult local conditions that had arisen on their estates during their absence often demanded extraordinary efforts at peacekeeping and restoration on their part. All of these men had lost kinsmen and good friends in great numbers in the deserts and plains of the Near East. Nonetheless, those who returned relished recalling their adventures – stories of their suffering and courage that grew in the retelling into wondrous tales of inspiration for generations to come.

Those who had failed to go on the expedition felt all the more need to prove themselves as time went by. But the specialness of having gone on the First Crusade was never lost. Families assiduously preserved the memory of the participation of their ancestors. Other families who could not count an ancestor on the expedition found it difficult to explain why this was so, since nobility and the defence of Christendom were so closely related in the aristocratic imagination. As time passed, some of these lineages ‘invented’ ancestral participants in the First Crusade by clever misreadings, whether deliberate or inadvertent, of original chronicle reports (Murray, 1998, pp. 38–54). Surely, it might be said, if the family of so-and-so had gone off to war in the East with a great entourage, and this family was closely connected to one’s own, then it was only natural and right to suppose that in that entourage one’s own kinfolk could be numbered. To have served Christendom in this, allegedly the most righteous of its wars, was the crowning achievement of nobility.

Campaign Against the Pirates, 66-67 BC

The lembos (Lat. Lembus, Plautus, Mercator, I, 2,81 and II, 1,35) was an Illyrian fast ship, probably originally used in piracy and very important for the Romans for its carrying capacity of men, equipment and booty. It could be open and aphract, with a strong ramming capacity and rowed at two levels (biremis). From this the liburna was developed.

Pompey, ordered to clear the seas of pirates, had full authority over the entire Mediterranean and Black Seas, and all land within 80km (50 miles) of the sea. He raised 500 ships, 120,000 soldiers and 5000 cavalry. He then divided this force into 13 commands. The only area left (deliberately) unguarded was Cilicia. Pompey took a squadron of 60 ships and drove the pirates from Sicily, into the arms of another squadron. Then he swept down to North Africa, and completed the triangle by linking up with another legate off the coast of Sardinia, thus securing the three main grain-producing areas that served Rome. Pompey then swept across the Mediterranean from Spain to the east, defeating or driving pirates before him. The remnants duly gathered in Cilicia, where Pompey had planned a full assault by both land and sea. A few pirate strongholds were destroyed, and there was a final sea battle in the bay of Coracesium, but thanks to Pompey’s clemency, most pirates surrendered easily.

POMPEY THE GREAT DEFEATS CILICIAN PIRATES, 66 BC It was Pompey the Great who was to crush the Cilician pirates and give freedom and security to the waterways of the Roman Republic. To do this, Pompey received from the Senate, after long debates, extraordinary powers in 67 BC: the proconsular power (Imperium Proconsolare) for three years throughout the Mediterranean basin to the Black Sea with the right to operate up to 45 miles inland. Fifteen legates were put under him with the title of propraetores and 20 legions (120,000 men) and 4,000 riders, 270 ships and a budget of 6,000 talents. In a rapid and well-organized campaign he defeated the pirates. Two months sufced to patrol the Black Sea and root out troublemakers; then it was the turn of Crete and Cilicia (App., Mithridatic War, 96). The pirates were destroyed in their own territories and they surrendered to Pompey a great quantity of arms and ships, some under construction, some already at sea, together with bronze, iron, sail cloth, rope and various kinds of timber. In Cilicia 71 ships were taken for capture and 300 for surrender. This scene shows an amphibious operation of Pompey the Great’s fleet against the pirates. The main Roman ship is a `Three’. The burning Cilician ships are two myoparones.

The early period of Roman expansion was marked by a succession of wars with neighbours near and far. First there were the other states in Italy and then Carthage. When Carthage was beaten, the Rome turned its gaze to the east. Macedonia, Greece and then Pontus (modern Asiatic Turkey) fell to Rome over a number of years. But it was while Rome was focused on these wars that piracy raised its head in the eastern Mediterranean.

For many years, the island of Rhodes had used its navy to suppress piracy in order to protect her position as a transit port in the lucrative east-west trade. However, Rhodes fell foul of the Macedonian kingdom and appealed to Rome, who sent a force of quinqueremes to defend her ally. The combined force compelled the Macedonians to sue for peace. Under the treaty, the Romans gained the small island of Delos, which they returned to Macedonia on the condition that it was run as a free port with no taxes or dues on goods entering or leaving. Unfortunately for Rhodes, the presence of this offshore tax haven undermined the revenues from her trade and the island and her navy went into long-term decline. With Rhodes no longer able to police the waters of the Mediterranean, the pirates spread their depredations beyond the eastern Mediterranean. Ports and coastal towns were sacked, shrines desecrated and cargoes, crews and ships taken at sea. The goods, ships and their crew were then sold off at various markets. Wealthy captives were held to ransom.

The ordinary merchants of the ancient world sailed in ships far simpler in design than the warships of the period. Such ships could not afford the expensive oarsmen of the warship and had to rely instead on the single main mast and single square sail with the optional refinement of bowsprit and second, smaller square sail. Later ships added a triangular sail above the main for extra propulsion. The merchant ships could be as much as 60m (200ft) in length, possibly with more than one mast, but were more usually just 30m (100ft) long and 8m (26ft) in beam, drawing just 3m (10ft) of water and carrying loads of around 100-150 gross tons. Built for capacity rather than speed, they were not fast – perhaps 5-6 knots if the wind permitted. Crews were kept to a minimum since they ate into the profits: 10-15 men were usual on a medium-sized ship; less on a smaller ship and more on a larger one.

While the sail-powered merchantman was dependent on the wind for speed, the oarpowered warship or pirate ship was unhampered by head winds or rough seas. Since the square sail meant the merchantman would sail fastest heading down wind, the pirate tactics were simple: cruise into the wind so that any prey coming the other way would find it next to impossible to escape. Alternatively, the pirates would lurk behind headlands for a quick spurt to catch any passing trader. Fear and intimidation were the best weapons to induce a quick surrender. Faced by a pirate ship apparently bristling with armed men and with no way to escape, most merchant ships would be forced to capitulate. The pirates could then use their oars to spin the ship around and bring their bows up to the victim’s stern, where it was safe to board. The crew would be bundled below and well trussed up and the pirates would install their own crew to sail the prize for home.

So widespread and powerful did the pirates grow that when the rebel leader Spartacus and his army of ex-slaves became trapped in the toe of Italy in 72 BC they negotiated with the pirates to evacuate the whole army – some 90,000 men, women and children – by ship. The pirates were then paid even more by the Roman politician Crassus not to fulfil the contract. The problem with piracy reached such a pass that two Roman Praetors, together with their staff, were captured by the pirates. Another squadron attacked Rome’s port at Ostia and sacked other towns in the region.

Pompey’s Appointment

In many ways, the Roman elite benefited from the pirate’s activities. For those who could afford to buy, piracy kept the price of slaves low and supply plentiful. On the other hand, it did interrupt trade. So the wealthiest classes in Rome, who needed to buy slaves to work their estates, benefited while the lower, merchant classes and their workers suffered. In 69 BC, however, the pirates excelled themselves and plundered the island of Delos. It comes as no surprise, then, that the consul Metellus was voted an army to reduce the pirate base in Crete. He headed off and set about his task, rounding up some pirates and settling down to besiege others in the main pirate base on the island.

In 67 BC, the Roman tribune Aulus Gabinus presented a bill to the Peoples’ Assembly to appoint the most famous general of the age, Pompeius Magnus – better known as Pompey – to sweep the pirates from the seas once and for all. The ramifications were enormous. Clearing the Mediterranean of the pirates would greatly ease the lot of the ordinary man. Indeed, prices in the markets of Rome fell significantly simply at the presentation of this bill. The Roman citizens, the plebs, were right behind the idea. However, the wealthy ruling classes, the senators and, to a lesser extent, the knights were almost universally against the bill. The one notable exception was Julius Caesar. Ever the populist, he supported the motion. It was passed.

Pompey had already enjoyed a very distinguished military career. He had first been appointed commander of an army at the age of 24, supporting Sulla’s side in an earlier civil war. Although he was occasionally accused of cruelty, he proved so successful during campaigns in Sicily and in Africa that he was acclaimed ‘Great’ by Sulla. He even asked for and was granted a triumphal procession that should not have been permitted given his youth and junior rank. No sooner had Sulla died than another civil war loomed and Pompey found himself in Spain, leading an army against Sertorius. Although he was supported by a second army under Metellus, it was Pompey who gained a second triumph. It was a truly remarkable achievement.

The resources initially proposed for Pompey in this next task were huge. They comprised some 200 ships plus oarsmen, sailing crew and marines totalling over 40,000 men. He was to be given 15 legates (military commanders), an unlimited treasury, and unlimited powers over the whole of the Mediterranean and up to 7km (4.5 miles) inland. However, the vote was postponed for a day and when the final amended version was passed the Assembly voted through an even bigger force. This consisted of no less than 500 ships, 120,000 infantry and 5000 cavalrymen, 24 senior military commanders and a pair of quaestors (magistrates responsible for military finances). Against this, however, the pirates were reputed to have 1000 ships at their disposal and bases both large and small all around the Mediterranean.

Pompey versus the Sea Pirates 67 BC

The pirates needed to avoid contact with more powerful military elements so that they could continue to extract plunder from less well defended ports and communities in the Mediterranean, while the Roman squadrons sought to round up the pirates and bring them to a very rudimentary justice. Pompey chose to divide the Mediterranean into discrete areas and conquer each in turn, starting in the far west off the coast of Spain. This drove the pirates steadily towards the southern shore of Turkey and the final bloody confrontation happened near Soli, in modern-day southern Turkey. There, Pompey’s assault routed the pirates, destroying their strongholds in the area. Although hailed as a great victory Empire, it was not successful in the long term. Just a few years later in Sicily, Anthony and Octavian had to combine to combat Pompey’s son, who had turned to piracy.

Planning and preparation are key to the success of any enterprise and Pompey’s orders were decisive. The Mediterranean was divided into 13 areas and each one was allocated a commander and a force appropriate to the threat in that area. Pompey retained direct control over a reserve of 60 of his best ships – almost certainly quinqueremes with well-trained crews. Starting with the waters west of Italy, the local commanders restricted the seaborne movements of the pirates and forced them ashore, where they were destroyed. It took only 40 days to sweep these seas clean of the menace. Those pirates that escaped, made their way back to bases along the inhospitable Cilician coast in what is now Turkey.

The greatest threat to Pompey’s success came from inside Rome. The general’s wide powers were both envied and feared, especially by those who benefited most from the activity of the pirates. The consul Piso, safe within the walls of Rome, went so far as to countermand Pompey’s orders, paying off some of the ships’ crews. While Pompey’s fleet sailed south around the foot of Italy to tackle the pirates in the Adriatic, Pompey himself hurried back to Rome. There, his friend and supporter Gabinius had already started the process of dismissing Piso from his position as consul. This would have been a dreadful and permanent stain on his family honour and reputation. Having got his crews back, however, Pompey had the bill withdrawn, and thus Piso lwas let off. Meanwhile, Rome had been transformed – the markets were full of foodstuffs from all over the Mediterranean and prices were almost back to normal. From Rome, Pompey made his way to Brundisium on the east coast of Italy and took ship for Greece and the final part of the war.

Some of the more cut-off pirate squadrons surrendered to Pompey, who confiscated their ships and arrested the men. He stopped short of having the pirates crucified – the normal form of execution for such a crime (all the survivors of Spartacus’ rebellion had been crucified). Thus encouraged, a large number of pirates also sent a message of surrender from Crete, where they were sitting out a siege by Metellus. Pompey accepted their surrender and despatched one of his own commanders, Lucius Octavian, with instructions that no one should pay heed to Metellus but only to Octavian. Mettelus was understandably livid and continued the siege. Octavian, following Pompey’s orders, now masterminded the defence of the city on behalf of the pirates. Eventually the city – and Octavian – were forced to surrender. Metellus humiliated his rival in front of the assembled army before sending him back to Rome with a flea in his ear.

Pompey’s rehabilitation worked. Around 20,000 former pirates were eventually settled in underpopulated inland areas like Dyme in Achea, on the northern coast of the Peloponnese, and Soli, in what is now Turkey. However, a substantial body of the miscreants occupied the mountain fastnesses of Cilicia with their families. The inevitable battle with Pompey’s men took place at Coracesium in Cilicia in 67 BC. That there was a battle and that the pirates lost it is about all that is known. Pompey’s victory was not surprising, however. The trained and experienced men of Pompey’s army and navy, with their proper equipment, were more than a match for the undisciplined pirates. It is worth recording that among the spoils of war after that last battle were 90 ships equipped with bronze-headed rams.

Croatian Air Force WWII Part I

Of the several Frankenstein monsters created by the mad political scientists of Versailles after World War I, Yugoslavia was among the most horrific. A hopeless mishmash of ethnically, culturally, spiritually, even linguistically disparate populations, they agonized under a facade of “the self-determination of peoples:” By its 10th anniversary, Yugoslavia had degenerated into an open tyranny, when the Serb monarch dissolved and replaced parliament with a centralized, highly repressive dictatorship under the motto, jedan narod, jedan kralj, jedan drzava, or “One Nation, one King, one Country.”

Nothing could have been further from reality. Instead, this pressure-cooker of mutually antagonistic minorities-Serbs, Croats, Slovenes, Bosnians, Montegrins, Macedonians, Hungarians, Germans, Austrians, and Albanians, with Catholics, Orthodox Serb Christians and Muslims thrown into an incandescent brew-seemed guaranteed to ignite another European conflict in the same region. Throughout the 1920s and 1930s, as various folkish and religious groups jostled one another to maintain their identity and bare survival, Yugoslavia was torn by the same kind of violence that characterized the Balkans until at least the last decade of the 20th century.

None of these much-abused peoples yearned more than the Croats to break free from Belgrade’s iron heel. Their moment finally arose with the sun on April 6, 1941, when Hitler’s Wehrmacht invaded Yugoslavia. His troops were not opposed as conquerors but more often welcomed as liberators. The Royal Yugoslav Air Force’s 3rd Bomber Regiment (Bombarderski Puk) had been obliterated on the ground by attacking Messerschmitt fighters and Stuka dive-bombers, because the Croatian commanding officer deliberately allowed his aircraft to sit in the open as inviting, unprotected targets.

At the same time, another commanding officer, Major Mato Culinovic, defied orders by refusing to fly his 205. Bombarderska Eskadrilal63.BGI3. BP en masse to Greece. Three days prior to the invasion, it was importantly aided by a Croatian defector, Colonel Vladimir Kren, who landed his Potez Po.25-a French single-engine reconnaissance biplane-in Austria, where he turned over sensitive intelligence information about the Royal Yugoslav Air Force to the Luftwaffe. Before German forces reached Zagreb, its residents proclaimed the Nezavisna Drava Hrvatska, the Independent State of Croatia (NDH), on April 10.

Almost simultaneously, the Zrakoplovstvo Nezavisna Drava Hrvatska, or “Air Force of the Independent State of Croatia” (ZNDH), was formed and became operational almost at once. On the afternoon of that same day, Cvitan Galic, a narednik voclnikll klase (flight instructor) in the Royal Yugoslav Air Force, landed his biplane trainer at an airfield that had been just seized by the rebels. They hastily replaced the Bucker Jungmeister’s despised red-white-blue roundels with the ZNDH insignia-a black-leaf trefoil in a white cross-and Galic took off before the engine could cool to complete the new air arm’s first sorties, a few reconnaissance missions over territory still held by the Jugoslovensko Armija.

His single-place Bucker Bü.133 had never been intended for military operations of any kind. Its fabric-covered wood and tubular steel frame mounted a Siemens Sh 14A-4 radial piston engine rated at 160 hp to give the “Young Master” a 311-mile range at 124 mph, hardly performance enough to save itself from even the mostly obsolete fighters of the Royal Yugoslav Air Force. With that polyglot country’s collapse after 11 days of resistance, a few pilots fled to the Soviet Union or the Middle East, but most joined the ZNDH, headed by the same Colonel Kren who had defected to the Germans prior to their invasion.

His first task was collecting all aircraft, spare parts, machinery, and support equipment from the defeated Royal Yugoslav Air Force that had survived the recent Blitzkrieg. These comprised British handme-downs, such as a few dozen Bristol Blenheim light-bombers and worn-out Hawker Hurricane fighters, plus Yugoslavia’s own Rogozarski IK-3 and Ikarus IK-2 fighters. The former was a relatively modern, low-wing monoplane with retractable landing gear, but the Ikarus was a synthesis of Poland’s gull-wing PZL P.8 and Czechoslovakia’s Avia B.534 biplane, both superior warplanes. The reliable, stable, if slower Ikarus actually proved itself more useful for antipartisan missions than the five faster but outdated Rogozarski IK-3s. The original four IK-2s soldiered on against knots of homegrown insurgents into late 1944, when the last Ikarus was destroyed by Allied interceptors.

Other indigenous aircraft included more than 200 Zmaj Fizir light aircraft manufactured before and during World War II. Variants of the rugged, 85-hp biplane served a multitude of roles, from trainer, reconnaissance, and liaison, to amphibian ambulance and guerilla fighter. Italian contributions to Croatia’s new air force included the CANT Z.1007, Fiat BR.20, and Caproni Ca.310. The Z.1007 Alcione (“Kingfisher”) suffered from poor directional stability that rendered it a marginally effective medium-bomber at best. Its three Piaggio P.XI RC 40 radial engines were maintenance-plagued and resulted in poor power-to-weight ratio, providing just 1,100 hp each, for an unimpressive maximum speed of just 285 mph. Although defended by three 12.7-mm Isotta-Fraschini Scotti and two Breda-SAFAT 7.7-mm machine-guns, and crew positions were protected with five- to eight-mm armor shields, the Z.1007’s all-wood construction was prone to catch fire. Not for nothing was the Acione known nonaffectionately by both Italian and Croat pilots as “the flying barn door.”

More popular was the Fiat BR.20. Obsolete before the war began, it was an under-powered, under-defended medium-bomber that nonetheless served admirably in anti-insurgency operations, where enemy interceptors were infrequently met. A more stable bombing platform than the larger Alcione, a pair of Fiat A.80 RC.41 18-cylinder, radial engines enabled a pleasant-to-fly Cicogna, or “Stork;’ to cruise at 211 mph-adequately fast to spoil groundfire but slow enough to carry out the kind of pinpoint accuracy required by attacks against mobile partisans.

A lone Caproni Ca.310 operated by the Croats likewise excelled against “Communist bandits;’ due to its slow-flight characteristics, cruising at just 177 mph, and lack of aerial opposition. The sleek, twin-engine Libeccio, or “Southwest Wind;’ was valued for its reconnaissance capabilities. More ancient were several dozen Fokker F.VII and IX passenger planes from Holland. These part wood/part fabric-covered, high-wing tri-motors could barely top 100 mph, but in their time, they achieved historic results. Richard E. Byrd was the first to fly over the North Pole in a F.VII on May 9, 1926, beating Roald Amundsen aboard his airship Norge by just a few days. In June 1927, a Fokker made the first flight from California to Hawaii. The following year, another F.VII was the first airplane to cross the Pacific Ocean from the United States to Australia.

Although used by the ZNDH as transports throughout 1941, some Dutch tail-draggers were assigned to the 1 Padobaranski Lovacki Sat, or Croatia’s 1st Light Infantry Parachute Company, in January 1942. Forty-five men equipped with rifles, submachine guns, light-machine guns, and light mortars made their first mass-jump from three F.VIIs to demonstrate their completed training on July 6, 1943, at Zagreb’s Borongaj airfield. Four months later to the day, three brigades of the 1 Padobaranski Lovacki Sat-10 paratroopers per Fokker-staged a surprise attack on a partisan stronghold near the border with Hungary.

Supported by artillery, the paratroopers took Koprivnica after three days of bitter fighting. They were redeployed in June 1944 to Zagreb’s Borongaj airfield, where an additional three companies resulted in their expansion and redesignation as the 1 Padobranska Lovacka Bojna, or 1st Light Infantry Parachute Battalion. They continued to jump from Fokker F.VIls and IXs against insurgents, but also took over Borongaj’s ground defense. Outstanding paratroopers were honored with ceremonial guard duties for government officials at the Croatian capital.

During 1941, Colonel Kren’s top priority was modernizing the ZNDH in anticipation of up-to-date machines due to arrive from the Reich. Beginning in July, the German Luftwaffe began training Croat volunteers at a flight school opened in Zagreb. Graduates were sent to Furth, outside Nuremberg, for advanced instruction. In October, the first 21 airmen left directly from Furth for the Ukraine, where they were formed into a pair of air force fighter squadrons, the 10th and 11th Zrakoplovno Lovacko Jato (ZLJ).

At Poltava, the 10th ZLJ was redesignated the 15th Koatische.I JG (Croatian Jagdgeschwader, “fighter squadron”) 52, under the Luftwaffe command of Major Hubertus von Bonin. Since radio equipment was scarce, Luftwaffe Chief Hermann Goering sent the Croats 25 Benes-Mraz Be-50 Beta-Minors-nimble Czech two-seater, low-wing, prewar monoplanes with transmitters/receivers-to liaison between squadrons. Fighters, too, were in short supply, and until more became available, the new pilots had to make do with only 10 Messerschmitt Bf.109Es and a single Bf.109F.

Although the former was no longer the world’s leading fighter by late 1941, it was still superior at the time to anything in the arsenal of the Red Air Force. The Bf.109F, or “Friedrich;’ however, was then regarded as the most formidable warplane in the sky, a significant improvement over its immediate predecessor. Armed with a pair of 7.92-mm MG 17 machine-guns above the engine and two MG 17s in the wings, “Emil” had a maximum speed of 348 mph, thanks to its 1,159-hp Daimler-Benz 601Aa engine. It was with this slightly elder version of the most famous Messerschmitt that the Croats achieved their first “kills” on November 2, when Hauptmann (Captain) Ferencina and Leutnant Baumgarten each destroyed a Polikarpov 1-16 fighter near Rostov.

Two weeks after the Croats scored their first aerial victories, Baumgarten, Oberleutnant (First Lieutenant) Starc and Stabsfeldwebel (Sergeant Major) Boskic shot down a trio of Rata fighters. On November 20, Baumgarten claimed a fifth 1-16 to become an ace, dying in a mid-air collision with his victim. Twelve days later, an R-10 was downed by Cvitan Galic, the same former flight instructor (now likewise a Stabsfeldwebel), who carried out the ZNDH’s first operations eight months before.

The R-10 was the Soviets’ standard light-bomber and observation aircraft (“R” stood for razvyedchik, “reconnaissance”), a low-wing monoplane with retractable landing gear and a respectable range of 802 miles. It was armed with a 660-pound payload, two 7.62-mm ShKAS machine-guns in the wings, and a single ShKAS in a rear turret. The airplane’s designer, Josef Neman, had been arrested by the NKVD, Stalin’s secret police, on December 11, 1938, because more difficulties, for which he was held criminally liable, were encountered with the early design than had been anticipated. The R-10’s plywood-covered construction combined with a maximum speed of just 240 mph provided by a 730-hp Shvetsov M-25 radial engine made it an easy target when undefended by fighters.

In Galic’s case, he was able to dispatch a pair of protective Ratas, claiming two more three days later, when his squadron comrade, Feldwebel (Warrant Officer) Jure Lasta, destroyed an 1-16 during the same mission. The Red Air Force was markedly inferior to its opponents in terms of tactics and quality equipment, to say nothing of the low morale and worse training of air crews. With few exceptions, all the Soviets had going for them was the sheer weight of numbers, against which the Croats and every other Axis ally scored notable successes.

A case in point was something that began as routine escort duty undertaken on October 25, 1941, by Oberstleutnant (Lieutenant Colonel) Franjo Dzal and Feldwebel Veca Mikovic. They were assigned to rendezvous with a Henschel Hs.126 flying reconnaissance near Matveyev Kurgan, but, unbeknownst to them, bad weather had grounded the parasol-wing observation plane. While patrolling on station, they encountered a formation of three Ratas and five Chaikas, or “Seagulls.” Another Polikarpov design, the 1-153, was among history’s worst military aircraft; a deeply flawed biplane issued to operational units on June 16, 1939, long after the close of the Double-Decker Age, but in time to be massacred by Japanese fighters later that summer during the Nomohan Incident.

Among the Chaika’s long catalog of unresolved deficiencies was the absence of any firewall separating the fuel tank mounted between the cockpit and engine. In the event of an onboard fire, a powerful draft blasted the interior of the fuselage through the wheel wells, instantaneously incinerating the pilot and engulfing the entire machine. It was not for nothing that aircrews descriptively referred to the “Seagull” as the Kometi, the “Comet” Additionally given to chronic instability, exceptionally poor visibility, and powered by an 800-hp Shvestov M-62 radial engine with just a 60-hour service life, the 1-153 was nevertheless pushed through production to become one of the most numerically significant warplanes in the Red Air Force, which was equipped with 3,437 examples.

Soviet officers rarely pointed out the obvious to their superiors. In a justifiably paranoid system where constructive criticism was regarded as treason, according to aviation historians Dragan Savic and Boris Ciglic, “any attempt to show initiative or criticize how the air war was being run could lead to immediate transfer to punishment squadrons, the first rows of infantry trenches or, worse still, NKVD death-squads:”

The Croatian Messerschmitts were more than 80 mph faster than the stubby Chaikas, which dumped their payload in fright on Soviet territory after Oberstleutnant Dzal set one of them alight. Red Air Force policy forbade returning to base with unused bombs or ammunition. Pilots were required to expend their entire ordinance at the enemy, even at the risk of repeated, sometimes unnecessary passes over a target area, thereby increasing the Russians’ already prodigious attrition.

The Soviet “Seagull” did not usually carry bombs, but Dzal’s encounter revealed that his opponents perhaps represented a ground-attack version, the I-153Sh, equipped with 5.5-pound anti-personnel fragmentation bombs. In any case, they and their Rata companions fled from the outnumbered Croats, until the sudden arrival of 10 more 1-16s. In the resulting melee with 18 enemy fighters, both Dzal and Mikovic were able to fight their way out and return with minimal damage to base.

The following April, Mikovic tangled with a more modern enemy in the skies over Dyakovo village. With a maximum speed of 398 mph and an outstanding service ceiling of 37,700 feet, the Mikoyan-Gurevich MiG-3 was faster than any Axis counterpart and the best fighter available to the Red Air Force, despite its numerous faults, especially oil and fuel pressure inadequacies that spoiled its performance at altitude. Feldwebel Mikovic had little difficulty shooting down his first MiG.

Another aircraft widely employed by the Soviets was the Il-2 Shturmovik Notwithstanding its unique claim to fame as the single most produced military aircraft design in all aviation history-with 36,163 examples constructed between 1941 and 1945-the Ilyushin was a preposterous monstrosity. Standing empty, the single-engine, two-seat ground-attack plane weighed just under 10,000 pounds. More than 15 percent of its gross weight-some 1,540 pounds-was made up of armor protection for crew, radiators, and a fuel tank. The pilot sat in a kind of tub 5-12 millimeters thick that additionally surrounded the 1,720-hp Mikulin AM-38F, liquid-cooled V-12 engine. Naturally, the aircraft could absorb a phenomenal amount of punishment and was not easy to shoot down.

But a ponderous performance executed at very low altitudes rendered the “Flying Tank” or “Cement Bomber,” as the Germans called it, more vulnerable than Stalin believed to ground fire, while Luftwaffe fighter pilots learned early to aim down into the cockpit and wing roots of the less-than-impenetrable Zementbomber. Its underside, non-retractable oil cooler was yet another Achilles’ heel exploited by Axis interceptors. The Luftwaffe’s Otto Kittel specialized in hunting Ilyushins, so much so, he was renowned as “the Annihilator of Shturmoviks;’ accounting for 94 of the ground-attack warplanes. South of Shadishemskaya, the 15th Koatische./Jagdgeschwader’s own Cvitan Galic shot down an Il-2 piloted by Lieutenant Grigoriy K. Kochergin, later a “Hero of the Soviet Union:”

While the Ilyushin’s steel envelope could deflect small arms’ fire and even glancing blows from larger-caliber rounds, rear gunners were not equally protected, and suffered about four times as many casualties than pilots. Nor were they provided with parachutes. These unfortunate crew members usually came from penal companies composed of politically unreliable “enemies of socialism” or “enemies of the people” who were attached to every Soviet airfield on probation. They were required to serve nine consecutive missions. Should they survive-an unlikely prospect-they were supposed to be granted their freedom, but were, in fact, transferred indefinitely to mine clearing or similarly hazardous duty. Attrition among Ilyushin gunners was so high, Marshal of the Air Forces A. E. Golovanov had installed in the cockpit rear of each Shturmovik a special, spring-driven device that kept the 12.7-mm Berezin UBT machine-gun pointing downward after its operator was killed, as a ruse to convince attacking Axis fighter pilots that the dead gunner was still alive.

The Shturmovik’s RS-82 anti-tank rockets were, moreover, so wildly inaccurate, they were usually fired only in the general direction of a target, rarely hitting it, and then entirely by chance. To compound matters for the Il-2s, Soviet flak gunners often mistook them for German aircraft, and many were brought down by friendly fire, although precise figures for these misidentification incidents do not appear to have been kept.

Stalin was so taken with his “Flying Tank;’ he was convinced it alone could crush any Nazi attempt to attack the USSR. Over the objections of Ilyushin engineers, who pointed out that their new aircraft had not yet been produced in sufficient numbers for squadron strength, and pilot training was virtually non-existent, he rushed the first few machines to Western bases, where the Axis invasion was expected to begin. The first Il-2s were stationed with the Red Air Force in Poland, but ground personnel were unable to service or rearm them for lack of instruction, while insufficiently trained flight crews, who had never fired their machine-guns, could only take off and land.

When Hitler’s Operation Barbarossa broke over the Soviet Union on June 22, 1941, most of the 249 Il-2s at the front were wiped out in a matter of days. One squadron, ShAP, lost 55 of its 65 Shturmoviks by July 10. Stalin’s love affair with the Cement Bomber was undiminished, however, although he failed to understand that the burdensome armor provisions did not lend themselves well to rapid mass production. In a personal telegram he sent to the aircraft manufacturers, Shenkman and Tretyakov, the Premier raged, “You have let down our country and our Red Army! You have the nerve not to manufacture Il-2s until now! Our Red Army now needs Il-2 aircraft like the air it breathes, like the bread it eats. Shenkman produces one Il-2 a day, and Tretyakov builds one or two MiG-3s daily. It is a mockery of our country and the Red Army! I ask you not to try the government’s patience, and demand that you manufacture more Ils. This is my final warning!!!”‘

When deployed in large numbers, nonintercepted by Axis fighters, or opposed by anti-aircraft artillery under 20 millimeters, the Shturmovik could be devastating. It often attacked when lighting conditions were dim, especially after sundown, at low altitude, confounding German flak gunners, and carried 1,320 pounds of armor-piercing bombs quite capable of demolishing Panther and Tiger I tanks. A Soviet staff publication reported that during 1943’s Battle of Kursk, `on 7 July, enemy tank attacks were disrupted in the Kashara region (13th Army). Here, our assault aircraft delivered three powerful attacks in groups of twenty to thirty aircraft, which resulted in the destruction and disabling of thirty-four tanks. The enemy was forced to halt further attacks and to withdraw the remnants of his force north of Kashara.”

On that same day, Il-2s surpassed this score byknocking out 70 tanks from the German 9th Panzer Division in just 20 minutes. Outstanding Shturmovik pilots were Senior Lieutenant Anna Yegorova (260 missions), decorated posthumously, presumed killed in action, when she had actually survived the destruction of her “Flying Tank” to become an inmate of a prisoner-of-war camp; and Georgi Beregovoi (185 missions), who went on long after the war to become a cosmonaut aboard the Soyuz 3 spacecraft in 1968. But the DB-3F (or the Ilyushin Il-4, as it was known from 1942) was ponderously weighed down by its plates of heavy armor protection surrounding the gunners, which availed them naught against the 20-mm cannon fire of Zlatko Stipcic’s Bf.109 on May 20, 1942.

A month later to the day, Croats on the Eastern Front completed their 1,000th combat mission, with 52 confirmed kills for the loss of three pilots wounded and, by the end of July, two killed; one of them, Veca Mikovic. He was shot while attacking a Petlyakov Pe-2. The Petlyakov’s rearward defense combined twin 7.62-mm Berezin UB machine-guns in the dorsal turret with another in a ventral hatch and a single ShKAS machine-gun able to alternate between port and starboard mountings in under a minute. It was this formidable return fire from a Pe-2 that holed Mikovic’s Messerschmitt. Lacking sufficient fuel to reach the safety of his lines, he crashed near Rostov in no-man’s-land. He was flying one of the new Bf.109Gs, replacements for the doughty Emits.

With this improved version, Axis pilots substantially widened the technological gap between themselves and their Red Air Force opponents. The Gustav’s 1,475-hp Daimler-Benz DB 605 AM, 12-cylinder inverted Vee piston engine gave it a maximum speed of 385 mph at 22,640 feet. Armament was upgraded to twin 13-mm MG 131 machine-guns installed above the engine, and a single MK 108 cannon firing 30-mm rounds through the propeller shaft. Pilots of the 15th Koatische. /JG soon put their new mounts to good use, shooting up enemy shipping in the Black Sea and downing 13 Reds on July 9 and 10 with no losses to themselves.

Early the next month, Galic and Oberleutnant Albin Starc destroyed one each of five aircraft engaged over Novo Pokrovskoye. Both victims were LaGG-3s, like MiG-3s, among the better fighters available to the Soviets. While its design was fundamentally sound and capable of improvements, the LaGG-3 was badly underpowered, a dilemma designers sought to alleviate by drastically lightening the airframe and installing less heavy armament. Instead, they succeeded only in weakening the warplane and pulling its teeth. Poor-quality wood-laminate construction led pilots to observe that “LaGG” was less appropriate as an acronym for the design team of Lavochkin, Gorbunov, and Goudkov, than a match for the aircraft’s description as lakirovannygarantirovanny grob, a “guaranteed varnished coffin:” Indeed, the wood frame shattered under high explosive rounds fired from a Gustav’s nose cannon.

To execute a complete circle, LaGG-3s needed a full 20 seconds, by which time, however, they were more often shot down. The two destroyed by Galic and Starc were followed on August 8 by the unit’s 100th victory, when machine-gun fire from Hauptmann Josip Helebrant’s Messerschmitt roasted a DB-3 bomber in the vicinity of Armavir. But a few weeks later, the Croats lost their youngest pilot after an Ilyushin Il-2 fell to the guns of Stjepan Radic. Hit by flak, the Gustav’s ruptured glycol tank lost too much fuel, and the 20-year-old Feldwebel was forced to crash-land in enemy territory, where his aircraft hit some treetops and exploded. A few hours later, Helebrant claimed another Shturmovik.

Croatian Air Force WWII Part II

Messerschmitt Bf.109G-14 Unit: 2. Lovacko Jato, 1. Zrakoplovna Skupina Zagreb-Lucko, April 1945. On 16th April 1945 Josip Cekovic defected to Falconara region (Italy) 12 kilometers westward of Ancona. This airplane was captured by Americans.

Dornier Do.17Z-2 Unit: 19. Bombardersko Jato, 1. Zrakoplovna Skupina Zagreb, spring 1945.

Breguet Br.19-8 Unit: 6 Sqn ‘Anti-guerilla’, 2 Group Circa 1943.

Macchi MC.202 Serie XII Unit: 2./Kro.JGr 1 Pilot – CO of 2./Kro.JGr 1 Capt (later Maj.) Josip Helebrant.

From late August through early September 1942, bitter fighting along the Novorossiysk front involved the 15th Koatische. /JG as never before, with its pilots averaging 20 escort missions every day. On September 3, Starc and Oberfelclwebel (Sergeant Major) Stjepan Martinasevic were flying cover for an Fw.189, when they were bounced by eight Ratas. Two of the attackers were damaged and the rest driven off. The twin-engine, twin-boom, three-place Focke-Wulf-189 was the war’s finest reconnaissance aircraft, able to execute a circle so tight that Allied interceptors could not follow it. Although armed with five 7.92mm MG 17 machine-guns, more often than not, the Uhu, or “Owl; simply out-ran its pursuer. The Fw.189 was also extraordinarily rugged, sometimes returning to base from the thick of combat minus an entire tail.

Three days after escorting this “Flying Eye” of the German Army, Starc and Helebrant were assigned anti-shipping duty over the Black Sea. There, they strafed a 100-ton tanker, blasting it with concerted cannon fire, until the vessel erupted into a flaming inferno, capsized, and sank in minutes. On September 8, Helebrant was back over the Novorossiysk front with Martinasevic, when they intercepted a reconnaissance aircraft escorted by 11 Chaika fighters. Martinasevic dispatched a Soviet “Seagull;’ then joined Helebrant in destroying the Polikarpov R-5. As some indication of Soviet military obsolescence, this 680-hp, wood double-decker from 1930 was the standard reconnaissance model of the Red Air Force, which equipped over 100 of its regiments with the antique airplane into 1944.

What the Russians lacked in quality, they strove to compensate with quantity, as four Croatian pilots observed while patrolling the road between Gelendzhik and Novorossiysk. During their clash with 5 Chaikas and 14 Ratas, Oberstleutnant Dzal destroyed one of either type, while Fähnrich (Officer Candidate) Tomislav Kauzlaric shot down an 1-16. On October 24, Helebrant and Starc each brought down a pair of Lavochkin fighters over the Tuapse area, raising their unit’s score to 150 confirmed “kills:” In November, the pilots were returned to Croatia for extended rest after a full year of virtually non-stop flight operations. These comprised 3,698 sorties-2,460 of them combat missions-for the confirmed destruction of 178 enemy aircraft, plus 33 “probables.” Six Croatian pilots had been lost in action, together with five ground crew men in Soviet raids.

During mid-February, the men of 15th Kroatische./Jagclgeschwacler 52 returned to the Eastern Front in the company of fresh recruits and new planes. But the situation had changed dramatically over the previous three months. The Axis initiative that had rolled irrepressibly across Russia since the first day of Operation Barbarossa had stopped at Stalingrad, where Croatian casualties were very heavy. And U.S. aid to the Soviets was now apparent in the appearance of American aircraft. On April 15, 1943, Oberleutnant Mato Dukovac fired on a Bell P-39 fighter that “flamed like a torch before abruptly falling away.”

The Aircobra’s streamlined, aerodynamically efficient design had been occasioned by placement of a 1,200-hp Allison V-1710-85, liquid-cooled, V-12 engine behind the cockpit. This peculiar arrangement enabled a 37-mm M4 cannon to fire 30 rounds of high-explosive ammo through the propeller hub at the rate of 140 rounds per minute. It was supplemented by a 12.7-mm machine-gun installed in each wing; two more were mounted in the upper engine cowl. Regardless of this formidable armament, the rear-mounted engine proved to be vulnerable to attacks from above and behind. Almost any hit on the fuselage from an attacking enemy fighter was virtually guaranteed to disable the cooling system, destroying the engine. In crash-landings, the pilot was liable to be crushed by the hot, heavy engine falling forward on his back.

The all-metal fighter’s unconventional layout allowed no space in the fuselage for a fuel tank, which was transferred to a necessarily smaller tank in either wing, thereby restricting the P-39’s operational radius. Moreover, its single-speed supercharger confined optimal performance to beneath 12,000 feet, a serious limitation, as modern aerial combat took place at increasingly higher altitudes. By 1942, virtually all bombers carried out their runs far beyond the Aircobra’s reach. Performance was further compromised by 265 pounds of armor plating, which was appropriate for a ground-attack role, but detracted from Bell’s original fighter conception. An innovative tricycle undercarriage and hinged “automobile doors” on either side of the cockpit contributed to the aircraft’s unorthodox design.

Despite its numerous drawbacks, the P-39 was just 10 mph slower than the Messerschmitt-109, handled very well, and was the best fighter available to Soviet pilots, who referred to it affectionately as Kobrastochka, “dear little cobra:” Aleksandr Pokryshkin, the Allies’ second highest-scoring ace, accounted for 58 Axis aircraft in a P-39, the highest score ever gained by any pilot with a U.S.-built aircraft. The 4,773 Aircobras President Roosevelt sent to beleaguered Soviet pilots critically helped them make up the severe losses they suffered since June 1941.

Five days after Dukovac’s first encounter with an American Kobrastochka, he was escorting German Stuka dive-bombers and Ju.88 medium-bombers in the company of three other Gustavs, one piloted by the redoubtable Cvitan Galic, when they ran into 25 Soviet fighters and gigantic flying boats. In the engagement that ensued, Dukovac downed a LaGG-3, as Galic went after a Chyetverikov MDR-6, with its 63-foot, 7.75-inch wingspan. Only 27 of the big, twin-engine, highwing flying boats had ever been built, so Galic felt privileged to claim this rara avis, which disintegrated in flames toward Novorossiysk. Continuing escort duty produced more residual “kills” on May 8, when Dukovac and his wingman, Felclwebel Bozidar Bartulovic, each destroyed a LaGG-3 while protecting a Fieseler Storch.

The Fi.156 was famous for its unprecedented STOL characteristics, making it the war’s outstanding liaison and medivac aircraft. Its very low landing speed combined with a long-legged undercarriage containing oil and spring shock absorbers that compressed about 18 inches on landing enabled the “Stork” to set down in a variety of otherwise impossible terrain. It could hover in place, almost like a helicopter, or even fly backwards against a head wind. Under normal conditions, the Fi.156 took off in less than 150 feet and landed in 60. Wings could be folded back along the fuselage, allowing it to be transported by trailer, aboard covered trains, or towed behind a vehicle. Flying their high-performance Messerschmitts, the Croatian pilots found escorting the 100-mph Storch a challenging, but rewarding experience.

Despite the debacle at Stalingrad, Axis morale held firm. There was no rout, and the Eastern Front stood badly dented, but unbroken. Positions from the vicinity of Leningrad in the north, down through Smolensk and Taganrog to the Sea of Asov in the south stiffened, frustrating all Soviet attempts to break through, while the Red Air Force lost more than 2,000 warplanes in combat above Kuban. These defensive successes were generally regarded as prelude to a renewed Wehrmacht offensive that would regain the initiative in summer. But news of the Italo-German loss of North Africa in early May struck some observers as the Axis death knell. On the 14th, two pilots of the 15th Koatische.I JG 52 defected to the Soviets, setting down their Bf.109s behind enemy lines at Byelaya Glina airfield, northeast of Krasnar.

A month and one day later, another Croatian pilot landed at Byelaya Glina. Over the next two years, defections took place in direct ratio to the decline of Axis fortunes. While much has been made of them by Allied historians, the actual number of deserters from the unit represented a small fraction of its total strength. Most who defected simply wanted to end the war on the winning side, and were largely indifferent to ideological concerns. Those who did give political consequences any thought had been deceived by Communist propaganda promises of a free Croatia or, in the case of Slovenian airmen, an independent Slovenia. These trusting souls were to be sadly disappointed with the postwar fate of Eastern Europe, and many fled to the West after the Iron Curtain fell on their respective homelands.

A case in point was the first Balkan airman, Nikola Vucina, who flew over to the Soviets on May 4,1942. Horrified by the bloodshed and slavery visited upon Yugoslavia by the Red Army, he fled in an ancient Polikarpov Po-2 Kukuruznik (“Corn”) trainer to Italy in 1946.

Mato Dukovac, Croatia’s top-scoring ace with 45 kills, lived to regret his defection by flying to Italy in another biplane, a stolen British De Havilland “Tiger Moth;’ less than a year after his September 20, 1944 desertion. Dukovac became increasingly anti-Jewish after his wartime experiences, so much so, he volunteered to fight the newly created state of Israel as a captain in the Syrian Air Force, flying American T-6 Texan trainers outfitted with ground-attack rockets and 110-pound bombs during the Arab-Israeli Conflict of 1948.

The attitude of most Croatian pilots was summarized in June 1944, when one of their officers, Oberst Franjo Dzal, offered them the alternatives of fighting on, going to Germany for advanced training, or joining the partisans. According to Savic and Ciglic, “His words were greeted by whistles and shouts of disapproval’s”

The Croatian airmen continued to enjoy the clear-cut superiority of their Bf.109Gs throughout most of 1943. In early November, however, they began encountering growing numbers of an opponent with serious claims on the Messerschmitt’s predominance. This was the Lavochkin La-5, the Soviets’ first and only up-to-date fighter. While its performance fell off above 12,000 feet, the La-5 excelled at lower altitudes. It executed a smaller turning radius and higher roll rate than the German Gustav. Ivan Kozhedub, the leading Red Air Force ace, scored most of his 62 kills flying the La-5. With more of these dangerous machines filling Russian skies, outnumbered pilots of the 15th Kroatische. /JG 52 were hard pressed.

On November 7, Unteroffizier (Senior Corporal) Vladimir Salomon was shot down by a combination of Aircobras and La-5s. Successfully bailing out of his stricken Bf.109, he froze to death after parachuting into the Sea of Azov. Two weeks later, Felclwebel Zdendo Avdic and Dukovac were battling six LaGG-3s, when Avdic received a particularly painful wound in the right arm. He was horrified to observe that his severed hand still gripped the control column, which he manipulated with his left to make a perfect landing, albeit barely conscious from a prodigious loss of blood, five miles inside friendly territory. German grenadiers carried Avdic to a field hospital, where he eventually recovered.

By then, the unit had been stationed at Karankhut airfield, where adverse weather conditions grounded its pilots until early 1944, save on rare occasions. When conditions cleared in February, they faced greater numbers of enemy aircraft-many of them La-5s and P-39s-than ever before encountered. Flying against impossible odds, the squadron was decimated, and the 15th Kroatische./JG 52 disbanded, its survivors returning to Croatia in mid-March. During the previous five months, flying through foul weather and against overwhelming adversaries, five of the airmen were killed, and four had been seriously wounded. But between them they scored 77 confirmed “kills” and 8 “probables.”

In July, survivors joined the newly formed Hrvatska Zrakoplovna Skupina, the Croatian Air Force Group, for homeland defense against increasing incursions by Anglo-American bombers. The HZS was also no less preoccupied with quashing the various Communist and nationalist insurgent groups running rampant through the countryside. Fighting these rebels was nothing new. As long before as June 26, 1941, pilots of its predecessor, the Air Force of the Independent State of Croatia (Zrakoplovstvo Nezavisna Drava Hrvatska), had carried out the earliest anti-partisan raids in Herzegovina and suffered its first loss the following day, when an aged Potez Po-25 biplane was brought down by rebel ground-fire.

Increasingly fortified with Soviet arms, supplies, and propaganda, the Yugoslav underground movement grew steadily throughout 1941, when 15 aircraft were lost to the partisans. In June 1942, they absconded with a pair of French bombers-a Brequet-19 and Potez Po-25-from the Zegreb headquarters. The Yugoslav Royal Air Force had purchased its first Breguet-19s as far back as 1924, thereafter license building another 300 examples. Most of these were destroyed during the German Blitzkrieg of April 1941, but enough survived to flesh out the new Croatian Air Force. While randomly machine-gunning the residents of Banja Luka, the bandit Breguet was brought down by flak outside the village of Kadinjani. Its pilot committed suicide, while his gunner was shot trying to escape.

ZNDH commanders were deeply alarmed by the brazen theft of this World War I-style sesquiplane with cloth-covered wings and open cockpits, and spent all their energies searching for its companion. Meanwhile, the elderly Po-25 raided four towns in as many days, successfully eluding all efforts to intercept it, until the pokey Potez was finally spotted by the Luftwaffe pilot of a Focke-Wulf Fw.58. On July 7, his twin-engine Weihe (“Harrier”) trainer doubling as a reconnaissance-attack plane used its two MG 15 machine-guns to shred the stolen aircraft while parked near Lusci Palanka.

In summer, the ZNDH mounted its first, concerted offensive against the burgeoning insurgency with warplanes left over from the defeated Royal Yugoslav Air Force. All were antiquated and worn out, but the most useful among them were 7 Avia BH-33Es remaining from 38 destroyed while resisting the invading Germans, back in 1941. The 1927 Czech biplane’s physical appearance was somewhat strange for its upper wing, being shorter, for reasons never entirely understood, than the lower. An otherwise reliable, if entirely mediocre fighter, the Vickers machine-guns and low speed provided by its 580-hp Skoda L engine made it ideal for strafing partisans. They were themselves hamstrung by conflict between the Soviet-backed Narodnooslobodilacka Vojska Jugoslavije (“People’s Liberation Army of Yugoslavia”) and royalist-nationalist Chetniks, from the Serbian word seta for a “military company.”

According to Savic and Ciglic, “Often, groups of insurgents were at each others’ throats, rather than attacking their common enemy. There was even collaboration with the Axis on both sides.”

Shortly after the Wehrmacht conquest, the several resistance movements began to coalesce into a general insurgency until the Chetnik leader, Draza Mihailovic, realized that Josip Tito’s NVJ only wanted to “burn the country and the old order to the ground to better prepare it for Communism. This is the fight that the Communists wage, a fight which is directed by foreign propaganda with the aim of systematically annihilating our nation:” He was likewise mistrustful of the Anglo-Americans, whose “sole aim was to win the war at the expense of others:”‘ Favorably impressed by Germany’s invasion of the USSR, Mihailovic hoped to create a Greater Serbia in the manner of the Independent State of Croatia, when he learned that Hitler’s postwar intentions for the former Yugoslavia was its division along ethnic lines into various, similarly autonomous states. In the resulting civil war between Communists and Chetniks, the Croatian airmen sought to annihilate them both.

Mussolini sent their ZNDH its first modern aircraft in the form of 10 Fiat G.50 fighters, during late June 1943. Although eclipsed by other designs by then, the Freccia, or “Arrow,” could still intercept enemy bombers or ground-attack insurgent forces with success. Following the Duce’s overthrow in September, the ZNDH received something of a windfall when 60 Italian aircraft of various types were found at Mostar and Zadar airfields. They included three “Arrows” and six Fiat CR.42 biplanes no longer fit for aerial combat, but very effective in anti-partisan warfare.

While the rebels lacked any aircraft of their own, they took their toll on ZNDH men and machines through ground-fire and espionage. On October 7, the Commanding Officer of 1. Air Group, Mato Culinovic, an ace with a dozen “kills” to his credit, perished with his crew aboard a Dornier Do.17K medium-bomber that exploded while attacking insurgent forces west of Zagreb; saboteurs had installed a detonator activated when the bay doors were opened.

Shortly thereafter, 38 Morane-Saulnier M.S. 406c-1s from France’s defeated Armee de /Air arrived from Germany. It was with this inadequate fighter that ZNDH pilots were expected to intercept growing numbers of U.S. heavy-bombers protected by huge swarms of P-51 and P-47 escorts. Croat airmen were additionally hampered by a wholly inadequate early warning system and usually scrambled only as the enemy was overhead. Whenever the defenders did get airborne, they invariably found themselves hideously out-numbered by mostly superior aircraft.

From the close of 1943, USAAF and RAF bombers repeatedly violated Croatian airspace with impunity, as they overflew the Balkans on their way to targets in Austria. The ZNDH lacked sufficient strength to oppose these Allied intruders, until interceptor units of the Hrvatska Zrakoplovna Legija (Croatian Air Force Legion) were formed with Luftwaffe assistance on December 23. A month later, Mussolini’s Salo Republic contributed 12 new specimens of the Macchi M.C.202 Folgore. At 372 mph, the sleek “Lightning” lived up to its name. Croat pilots loved the Macchi for its superb handling characteristics and 3,563-feetper-minute rate of climb, but found that the two 7.7-mm Breda-SAFAT wing guns lacked punch. Only its twin 12.7-mm machine-guns in the engine cowling were effective by contemporary standards.

But HZL crews had little immediate opportunity to put the Folgore through its paces, because Allied raids on Austria by way of the Balkans fell off for the first quarter of 1944. They used the lull to gain additional training experience until April 1, when the unit was redesignated 1./Jagdgruppe Kroatien. The next day, an immense bomber stream of the 15th U.S. Air Force passed over Croatia on its way to attack the Austrian industrial city of Steyr. The ZNDH’s early raid alert system had not improved during the previous four months, and only two interceptors could be scrambled in time to confront the Americans returning from their mission. With hundreds of 12.7-mm M2 Browning machine-guns firing at them, the Folgore pilots dashed unscathed among the flight of B-24 heavy-bombers, one of which fell burning out of the sky.

In hopes of better positioning themselves to meet the foe, several dozen Croatian fighters were relocated from the unit’s base at Lucko to Zaluzani airfield outside Banja Luka. British intelligence learned of the move, and Numbers 1, 2, and 4 Squadrons in the South African Air Force’s Number 7 Wing were alerted. Their Spitfire Mk.IXs, some carrying a pair of 250-pound bombs apiece, appeared without warning over Zaluzani in a low-level attack that overtook the defenders on April 6. Twenty one ZNDH aircraft were destroyed on the ground, including a Folgore and all save 1 Morane-Saulnier, together with 16 Luftwaffe warplanes.

Of greater loss was the death of Cvitan Galic, who perished when the M.S.406, under which he took shelter during the raid, exploded and collapsed on him in full view of his horrified comrades. With 38 confirmed and 5 unconfirmed aerial victories, he was Croatia’s second-highest scoring ace. Yet another 21 ZNDH machines were caught parked in the open and destroyed by bomb-laden Spitfires six days later.

Despite these appalling losses, the 1./Jagdgruppe Kroatien dispatched two pairs of Morane-Saulniers and Fiat Freccias to patrol for damaged or separated B-24s. Instead, they were attacked by two Mustangs 6,500 feet above Zagreb. The decidedly inferior MS.406s and G.50s were no match for state-of-the-art P-51s, which shot down one each of the older French and Italian fighters in short order. If anything, it is to their credit that the other two pilots were able to successfully elude their technologically superior pursuers.

When provided with better aircraft, the Croatians went over eagerly to the offensive. They had always been outnumbered by their enemies, so a numerical advantage possessed by the Anglo-Americans meant little to them. Before the end of April, Unterofizier Leopold Hrastovcan flew his Macchi past escorting Mustangs to blast a four-engine Liberator that crashed outside the village of Zapresic. Several days later, Unterofizier Jakob Petrovic’s Folgore closed in on a British de Havilland DH.98 Mosquito fighter-bomber famous for its laminated plywood construction. “The Timber Terror;” as it was also known, fell trailing thick smoke toward the sea.

Petrovic and another comrade were evenly matched against two USAAF P-38s on May 1, when one of the “Fork-Tail Devils” was shot down and the other driven off, badly damaged. While pilots of the 1./Jagdgruppe Kroatien continued to score against Anglo-American intruders for the rest of spring and throughout summer, war on the homefront was spreading across the Balkans.

In mid-summer, 15 long-distance R-series Stukas were dispatched to Croatia, where they pounded Red Army columns at the southeastern border. They joined eight Ju.87D-5 dive-bombers delivered to the Antiteroristicka jedinica Lucko, an antiterrorist unit based near Zagreb, at Lucko, the previous January. In an unexpected assault on September 20, partisans captured Banja Luka, over-running the airbase at Zaluzani airfield. Thinking fast, many ZNDH crews jumped into their Dornier bombers, engines started just after propellers cleared hangar doors, to machine-gun waves of partisans, and got away at the last, possible moment. Once airborne, they circled back around to provide suppressive fire, enabling their comrades’ escape. A few days later, the city and airbase were recaptured in a powerful counterattack launched by Croat and German troops.

Further Croatian requests for specialized aircraft from the Luftwaffe were answered in mid-September with the arrival of a dozen Fieseler Fi.167A-0s. They were indeed purpose-built, but not for any antipartisan role. The big biplane had been originally designed in 1938 to serve aboard the German Navy’s projected aircraft carrier for reconnaissance and torpedo bombing. Graf Zeppelin was never completed, however, and the few examples already produced were put to use flying coastal patrols in Denmark before being transferred to the ZNDH. Like its more famous Fieseler, the Storch, the Fi.167 was endowed with extraordinary STOL characteristics, capable of landing almost vertically anywhere. With a maximum take-off weight of 10,690 pounds, its short-field and outstanding load-carrying capabilities made it an ideal transport flying ammunition, food, medical supplies, or evacuating wounded to and from Croatian Army garrisons besieged by Tito’s insurgent armies.

On October 10, while on a mission to a Croatian position near Sisak, a lone Fi.167 flown by eight-kill ace, Bozidar “Bosko” Bartulovic, was jumped by five P-51 Mk IIIs of the RAF’s 213 Squadron. Bartulovic’s rear gunner, Mate Jurkovic, used his 7.92-mm MG 17 machine-gun to score a lethal hit on one of the attacking Mustangs before the Fieseler, too, was destroyed by the other four, thereby achieving perhaps the last and certainly most remarkable aerial victory in biplane history. Both Bartulovic and Jurkovic parachuted to safety. Some of the remaining Fi.167s were installed with a single 2,200-pound bomb used effectively against otherwise impenetrable rebel positions.

Beginning in December 1944, things began looking up for the Croats. As a measure of the high regard with which he held them, Goering equipped two ZNDH squadrons with the Luftwaffe’s best piston-driven fighter. The Kurfurst, or “Elector Prince;’ was the last and fastest in a long operational line of the Messerschmitt Bf. 109 series, which had begun 10 years earlier. Optimized for high altitudes, a nine-foot-wide chord, three-bladed VDM 9-12159 propeller converted the 1850/2000 PS output of the new Messerschmitt’s DB 605DB/DC power plant into thrust. As such, the fully loaded aircraft was able to top 445 mph at 22,500 feet, while enjoying an extraordinary rate of climb at 4,820 feet per minute. Armament comprised twin, 13-mm MG 131 machine-guns in the nose with 300 rounds each, plus a single, engine-mounted MK 108 cannon firing 65 30-mm rounds.

Thus equipped with the Kurfurst, ZNDH pilots evened the playing field against their Western opponents. What the Croat interceptors still lacked in numbers, they made up for with a fighter at least the equal of the American Mustang or British Spitfire, and a highly effective bomber-buster, the K-4’s real function. Both German and Croat fliers took advantage of the airplane’s high performance to avoid enemy escorts and go after the USAAF B-17s and B-24s.

The ZNDH also made do with much older machines. On December 31, a Dornier Do.17E paid a surprise New Year’s Eve visit to the RAF’s 148 Squadron base at Grabovnica near Cazma, where the old medium bomber dropped its 1,100-pound payload on the airfield, causing numerous casualties among partisan defenders. Supply dumps were wrecked, and a four-engine Handley-Page Halifax heavy-bomber was destroyed.

On March 24, 1945, ZNDH aircraft grounded at Lucko airfield, for lack of petrol, were incinerated during a napalm attack delivered by RAF Mustangs of Numbers 213 and 249 Squadrons. Defensive flak shot down a P-51 from the former Squadron, but three Messerschmitts, one Morane-Saulnier, and a Focke-Wulf 190 were ruined. Several other aircraft were damaged. The day before, the Croats won their last aerial victories, when Mihajlo Jelak and 15-“kill” ace, Ljudevit Bencetic, flying Bf-109G-10s, claimed two British P-51s between them. Jelak was hit by enemy fire but managed to safely crash-land his wounded Gustav. With Communist forces overrunning Zagreb, Bencetic addressed his crews at Lucko airfield for the last time. They had performed their duties splendidly, he said, and flying with them was the greatest personal honor he had ever known, but they were released now from their loyalty oath and at liberty to return to their homes.’

As Bencetic returned the final salute of his men, a pair of aged Rogozarski R-100 trainers flown by Lieutenants Mihajlo Jelak and Leopold Hrastovcan were attacking a railway bridge spanning the Kupa River with 50-pound bombs. Destroying it would delay the enemy’s advance toward Karlovac, allowing time for the city to be evacuated. As Hrastovcan’s biplane circled for another pass, it was hit by ground fire and crashed near the foot of the bridge, where he was dragged from the wreckage and shot to death.

Fighting against 12-to-1 odds, Croat airmen continued to score hits on the enemy. Their final flight operation occurred on April 15, 1945, when a Dornier Do.17Z medium-bomber, covered by a pair of Messerschmitt-109Gs, raided the partisan airfield at Sanski Most, destroying two Communist warplanes, damaging several others on the airfield, and machine-gunning ground personnel to escape with damage.

The last ZNDH remnants in the 1st Light Infantry Parachute Battalion had joined up with the Croatian Army’s Motorized Brigade as early as the previous January, from which time they were in constant action south of Zagreb against an advancing partisan army. The few surviving paratroopers were still fighting in Austria a week after the German surrender, refusing to lay down their arms until May 14, 1945.

During the immediate postwar period, Tito assumed a magnanimous pose, extending “general amnesty” to all opponents. But his apparent generosity was a ruse luring war-weary servicemen to their doom. Every ZNDH airman the Communists could lay their hands on was imprisoned and tortured, often for many years. Bozidar Bartulovic, the Fieseler biplane pilot, whose rear gunner shot down an attacking Mustang, had bailed out when a 0.50-caliber bullet partially shattered his skull and shot away his right eye. After long-term recovery at a Zagreb hospital and later graduation from officers’ training school, he was arrested and sent to a POW camp until his release in 1946, then rearrested and sentenced to 15 years imprisonment. Upon his release, Bartulovic fled to Munich, Germany.

Many of his comrades fared far worse. All high-ranking ZNDH officers were rounded up and shot.