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The distribution of satrapies in the Macedonian empire after the Settlement in Babylon summer/fall 323 BC


Kingdoms of the Diadochi after the Battle of Ipsus, c. 301 BC.

Diadochi is the Greek word for “successors” and refers the successors of the empire of Alexander the Great. At first there was initial agreement to the unity of the empire, but this soon turned into wars between rival rulers. These included Macedon, Egypt under Ptolemy as Africa, and the Near East under Seleucus as Asia.


Alexander the Great died on June 11, 323 b. c. e., in Babylon. His leading generals met in discussion. Alexander had a half brother, Arridaeus, but he was illegitimate and an epileptic and thought unfit to rule. Perdiccas, general of the cavalry, stated that Alexander’s wife, Roxane, was pregnant. If a boy was born, then he would become king. Alexander had named Perdiccas successor as regent, until the child was of age. The other generals opposed this idea. Nearchus, commander of the navy, pointed out that Alexander had a three-year-old son, Heracles, with his former concubine Barsine. The other generals opposed this because Nearchus was married to Barsine’s daughter and related to the young possible king. Ptolemy wanted a joint leadership and deemed that the empire needed firm government and jointly the generals could assure this. Some thought that a collective leadership could lead to a division of the empire. Meleager, the commander of the pikemen, opposed the idea. He wanted Arridaeus as king to unite the empire. The final decision was to appoint Perdiccas as regent for Arridaeus, who would become Philip III, and if Roxane gave birth to a boy, he would take precedence and become King Alexander IV.

Alexander’s father, Philip of Macedon, had led his armies south and conquered all of Greece. Alexander was king of Macedon and Greece and had left a general there to rule. The Greeks saw that Alexander and his generals had taken on the customs of their hated enemies, the Persians. The people of Athens and other Greek cities staged revolts as soon as they heard that Alexander had died. Antipater led forces south and battled in what would became the Lamian War. Craterus arrived with reinforcements. Craterus led the Macedonians to victory against the Greeks at the Battle of Crannon on September 5, 322 b. c. e. As the Macedonians captured Athens, Demosthenes, the leader of the revolt, died by taking poison.


Perdiccas ruled as regent, and there was peace for a time. His first war was with Ariarathes, who ruled in Cappadocia in the central part of modern-day Turkey. The First Diadoch War broke out in 322 b. c. e., when Craterus and Antipater in Macedonia refused to follow the orders of Perdiccas. Knowing that war would come, the Macedonians allied with Ptolemy of Egypt. Perdiccas invaded Egypt and tried to cross the Nile, but many of his men were swept away. When Perdiccas called together his commanders Peithon, Antigenes, and Seleucus for a new war strategy, they instead killed him and ended the civil war. They offered to make Ptolemy the regent of the empire, but he was content with Egypt and declined. Ptolemy suggested that Peithon be regent, which annoyed Antipater of Macedon. Negotiations were held and succession was finally decided: Antipater became regent; Roxane’s son, who had just been born, was named Alexander IV. They would live in Macedonia, where Antipater would rule the empire. His ally Lysimachus would rule Thrace, and Ptolemy would remain satrap of Egypt. Of Perdiccas’s commanders, Seleucus would become satrap of Babylonia, and Peithon would rule Media. Antigonus, in charge of the army of Perdiccas, was in control of Asia Minor.


War was again initiated when Antipater died in 319 b. c. e. He had appointed a general called Polyperchon to succeed him as regent. At this, his son, Cassander, organized a rebellion against Polyperchon. With war breaking out Ptolemy had his eye on Syria, which had historically belonged to Egypt. There was an alliance between Cassander, Ptolemy, and Antigonus of Asia Minor, who had designs against the new ruler Polyper- chon. Ptolemy then attacked Syria. Polyperchon, desperate for allies, offered the Greek cities the possibility of autonomy, but this did not gain him many troops. Cassander invaded Macedonia but was defeated. During this fighting the mother of Alexander, Olympias, was executed in 316 b. c. e.

Polyperchon had the support of Eumenes, an important Macedonian general. Polyperchon attempted to ally with Seleucus of Babylon. Seleucus refused, and the satraps of the eastern provinces decided not to be involved. Antigonus, in June 316 b. c. e., moved into Persia and engaged the forces of Eumenes at the Battle of Paraitacene, which was indecisive. Another battle near Gabae, where the fighting was also indecisive, led to the murder of Eumenes at the end of the fighting. This left Antigonus in control of all of the Asian part of the former empire. To cement his hold over the empire, he invited Peithon of Media and then had him executed. Seleucus, seeing that he would no longer have control over Babylon, fled to Egypt.


Antigonus Monophthalmus was now powerful and had control of Asia. Worried about an invasion of Egypt, Ptolemy started plotting with Lysimachus of Thrace and Cassander of Macedonia. Together they demanded that Antigonus hand over the royal treasury he had seized and hand back many of his lands. He refused, and in 314 b. c. e. war broke out. Antigonus attacked Syria and tried to capture Phoenicia. He lay siege to the city of Tyre for 15 months. Meanwhile, Seleucus took Cyprus. On the diplomatic front Antigonus demanded that Cassander explain how Olympias had died and what had happened to Alexander IV and his mother, in whose name Cassander held rule. Antigonus made an alliance with Polyperchon, who held southern Greece.

Ptolemy sent his navy to attack Cilicia, the south coast of what is now Turkey, in the summer of 312 b. c. e. With his forces in Syria, Ptolemy worried that Egypt might be attacked and retreated. Seleucus, who was a commander in the Ptolemaic army, marched to Babylon and was recognized as satrap in mid-311 b. c. e.; the previous satrap, Peithon, was killed at Gaza.

Antigonus realized that he could not defeat Ptolemy and his allies. A truce was agreed to in December 311 b. c. e. Cassander held Macedonia until Alexander IV came of age six years later; Lysimachus kept Thrace and the Chersonese (modern-day Gallipoli); Ptolemy had Egypt, Palestine, and Cyprus; Antigonus held Asia Minor; and Seleucus gained everything east of the river Euphrates to India. The following year (310 b. c. e.), Cassander murdered both the young Alexander IV and his mother, Roxane.

Peace lasted until 308 b. c. e. when Demetrius, a son of Antigonus, attacked Cyprus at the Battle of Salamis. He then attacked Greece, where he captured Athens and many other cities and then marched on Ptolemy. Antigonus sent Nicanor against Bablyon, but Seleucus defeated him. Seleucus used this opportunity to capture Ecbatana, the capital of Nicanor. Antigonus then sent Demetrius against Seleucus, and he besieged Babylon. Eventually, the forces of Antigonus and Seleucus met on the battlefield. Seleucus ordered a predawn attack and forced Antigonus to retreat to Syria. Seleucus sent troops ahead, but with little threat from the West he attacked Bactria and northern India. When Antigonus attacked Syria and headed to Egypt, his column was attacked by the troops sent by Seleucus.


Demetrius’ Agema fighting Ptolemy’s Companions at Gaza, 312 BC.


In 307 b. c. e. the Fourth Diadoch War broke out. Antigonus was facing a powerful Seleucus to his east and Ptolemy to the south. Egypt was secure with the protection of a large navy. Ptolemy attacked Greece, motivated largely by a desire to ensure that Athens and other cities did not support Antigonus.

Demetrius in a diversion attacked Cyprus and continued with his siege of Salamis. This pulled Ptolemy out of Greece, and his navy headed to Cyprus. Ptolemy lost many of his men and ships. Menelaus surrendered Cyprus in 306 b. c. e., once again giving Antigonus control of the city. Antigonus proclaimed himself successor to Alexander the Great. Antigonus did not view Seleucus as a threat, so instead marched against Ptolemy. His army ran out of supplies and was forced to withdraw. Demetrius had attacked the island of Rhodes, held by Ptolemy. Ptolemy was able to supply Rhodes from the sea, and so Demetrius withdrew. Cassander, then attacked Athens. In 301 b. c. e. Cassander, aided by Lysimachus, invaded Asia Minor, fighting the army of Antigonus and Demetrius, with Cassander capturing Sardis and Ephesus. Hearing that Antigonus was leading an army, Cassander withdrew to Ipsus, near Phrygia, and asked Ptolemy and Seleucus for support. Ptolemy heard a rumor that Cassander had been defeated and withdrew to Egypt. Seleucus realized that this might be the opportunity to destroy Antigonus. Earlier he had concluded a peace agreement with King Chandragupta II, in the Indus Valley, and had been given a large number of war elephants. Seleucus marched to support Cassander.

Hearing of his approach, Antigonus sent an army to Babylon hoping to divert Seleucus. Seleucus marched his men to Ipsus and joined Lysimachus. There, in 301 b. c. e., a large battle ensued. Seleucus, with his elephants, launched a massive attack that won the battle. Antigonus was killed on the battlefield, but Demetrius escaped. This left Seleucus and Lysimachus in control of the whole of Asia Minor. Seleucus and Lysimachus agreed that Cassander would be king of Macedonia, but he died the following year. Demetrius had escaped to Greece, attacking Macedonia and, seven years later, killed a son of Cassander. A new ruler had emerged, Pyrrhus of Epirus, an ally of Ptolemy. He attacked Macedonia and the forces of Demetrius. Demetrius repelled the attack and was nominated as king of Macedonia but had to give up Cilicia and Cyprus. Ptolemy urged on Pyrrhus, who attacked Macedonia in 286 b. c. e. and drove Demetrius from the kingdom, aided by an internal revolt. Demetrius fled from Europe in 286 b. c. e. With his men he attacked Sardis again. Lysimachus and Seleucus attacked him, and Demetrius surrendered and was taken prisoner by Seleucus. He later died in prison.

This left Lysimachus and Pyrrhus fighting for possession of Europe, while Ptolemy and Seleucus owned rest of the former empire. Ptolemy abdicated to his son Ptolemy Philadelphus. An older son, Ptolemy Keraunos, sought help from Seleucus to try to take over Egypt. Ptolemy died in January 282 b. c. e. In 281 b. c. e. Ptolemy Keraunos, decided that it would be easier to take Macedonia rather than to attack Egypt. He and Seleucus attacked Lysimachus, killing him at the Battle of Corus in February 281 b. c. e. Ptolemy Keraunos then returned to Asia, and prior to leaving for Macedonia again in 280 b. c. e., he murdered Seleucus.

By the end of the Diadochi wars, Antigonus Gonatas, the son of Demetrius, ruled Greece; Ptolemy II Philadelphus was king of Egypt; and Antiochus I, son of Seleucus, ruled much of western Asia. Ptolemy Keraunos held the lands of Lysander in Thrace. The Diadochi wars came to an end with the death of Seleucus, but wars between the kingdoms continued.

Further reading: Bosworth, A. B. The Legacy of Alexander the Great: Politics, Warfare and Propaganda under the Suc- cessors. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2002; Doherty, Paul. Alexander the Great: The Death of a God. London: Constable, 2004; Kincaid, C. A. Successors of Alexander the Great. Chicago: Ares, 1985; Paveley, J. D. Lysimachos, the Diadoch. Ph. D. thesis, University of Swansea, Wales, 1988.

Hyksos in Egypt


The Hyksos were foreign rulers of Egypt who seized power and ruled Lower (northern) Egypt. Contradictory dates and king lists, as well as gaps in the records, render their history elusive, but the Hyksos were most likely Palestinian. The combined efforts of Egyptian kings Seqenenre, Kamose, and Ahmose and their mothers forced out the last Hyksos ruler, Apepi, around 1530 b. c. e.

The Second Intermediate Period is the label given to the years of Hyksos power. At the end of the Middle Period of Egyptian history the breakdown of centralized authority and fragmentation of administrative control led to the neglect of Egypt’s borders. Areas may have fallen to the kingdom of Kush or to Nubia, and the eastern border also brought invaders. Immigrants called Aamu (usually translated as Asiatic) may have been entering for years, settling in the Nile Valley and assimilating into local villages. About 1650 b. c. e. a group of foreign chieftains with Semitic names took control of Egypt’s Delta and ruled from Memphis. Possibly, they simply took over existing posts and pushed out the local administrators. Egyptians referred to these kings as heka-kaswt (or hikkhase or hikau khausut), meaning “rulers of foreign lands.” Greek historians shortened that phrase to Hyksos.

A major source of our knowledge of the Hyksos is the Jewish historian Josephus, who wrote in the first century c. e. Josephus quoted the Egyptian priest Manetho, whose book of Egyptian history—now lost—was composed around 270 b. c. e., 1,300 years after the Second Intermediate Period. According to Josephus, the Hyksos came from the east and seized power without striking a blow, and then destroyed temples and cities and enslaved or killed the inhabitants. Their appointed king was Salitis; Bnon and then Apachman succeeded him. Josephus listed six Hyksos kings, and their reigns averaged 43 years each.

Sextus Julius Africanus, who wrote in the third century c. e., also quoted Manetho. He listed six Hyksos kings of the Fifteenth Dynasty, whose reigns totaled 284 years, followed by 518 years given to the Sixteenth Dynasty, also Hyksos. The Seventeenth Dynasty combined Hyksos and Theban kings, who ruled a total of 151 years. Other king lists are equally confusing and the dates unreliable, but most scholars accept that during these dynasties, kings ruled simultaneously in different parts of Egypt.

The numbers are difficult to reconcile, but historians believe that the Hyksos rulers never tried to unseat the Egyptian kings in Upper Egypt. There, the Thirteenth Dynasty of Egyptian kings continued, probably paying taxes to the Hyksos. The Sixteenth and Seventeenth Dynasties were Egyptian and centered in Thebes. Concurrently, the Fourteenth and Fifteenth Dynasties of Hyksos kings ruled from either Memphis or Avaris in the northeast Nile Delta.

The Hyksos may have brought unique weapons with them and possibly introduced horses, chariots, the vertical loom, the lyre, and other innovations to Egypt, but overall they adopted Egyptian ways and culture. The greatest Hyksos king, Apepi, employed many scribes during his long reign; their work indicated just how Egyptian the Hyksos had become. Apepi waged war with the Theban king Seqenenre Taa of the Seventeenth Dynasty. Seqenenre was killed in battle; his mummy has been identified and is riddled with brutal blows. Seqenenre’s nephew, Kamose, continued the fight, though he did not live long. Kamose’s younger brother Ahmose is credited with finally removing the Hyksos and its last king Khamudi, and uniting Upper and Lower Egypt again. Stele praise the mother of Kamose and Ahmose, Ahhotpe, who guarded Egypt and expelled the rebels, and Seqenenre’s mother Tetisheri is also given credit. The final conflict between Hyksos and Theban kings lasted for 30 years.

Further reading: Bourriau, Janine. “The Second Intermediate Period.” In Ian Shaw, ed. Oxford History of Ancient Egypt. New York: Oxford University Press, 2000; Gardiner, Alan. Egypt of the Pharaohs. New York: Oxford University Press, 1961.


Hyksos chariotry vs. Middle Kingdom Egyptian infantry

A formation of Hyskos chariots falls upon a (Middle) Egyptian force patrolling the eastern frontier. The Egyptian army at this time was composed of infantry brigaded into units differentiated by their arms: spearmen, axemen and bowmen; there were no chariots in the army of the Middle Kingdom. Most of the infantry would be massed by unit into close order formations for battle. In the absence of rough terrain or somesuch to anchor their flanks, the Egyptian units are fully exposed in the open. The primary arm of the Hyksos army was the chariotry, comprised of 2-horse light chariots, bearing a driver and an archer, either or both of whom may be armoured; for simplicity’s sake, throughout the following text the chariot archer bears the designation, maryannu, which term is less generic than this use would imply.

The Hyksos would be expected to maneuver around the Egyptian battleline, focussing their attention on the flanks. One would observe squadrons of chariots setting up mere yards from the Egyptians, and methodically pumping aimed shots with their very powerful composite bows, at near point blank range, into targets of choice — file leaders, standard bearers and rank closers. The best Egyptian countertactics would be twofold: counterfire by massed bowmen, and ad hoc counterattacks (rushes) by groups of (elite) warriors. In the first case, success would be fleeting at best, primarily because (i) it is assumed the Egyptian bowmen were not trained to shoot as individual marksmen, and (ii) the Egyptian bowmen would be unable to bring volleys to bear upon their tormentors, who would be expected to utilize their mobility to maneuver out of, or better yet, under the firing arcs.

Once they had passed under the firing arc of the footbows, the Hyksos could quickly and ruthlessly outshoot the exposed fronk rankers still able to return fire and intrepid enough to do so. On a technical note, the phrase passing under the firing arc refers to the chariot warriors moving through the zone of optimal effectiveness of the footbow’s indirect, plunging fire and into the direct fire zone immediately in front of the foot; this direct fire zone is deep enough to give the chariots the 15+ yards they need to maneuver. Most of the footbows in a massed formation cannot fire directly at a target, rather they arch their shots over the heads of the comrades in the front rank(s); it is exceedingly difficult for a back-ranker to place a shot on a target 15 yards away via indirection. Wargamers have gotten used to the idea that bowfire is more effective at shorter range than long, but as noted wargamer and songmaster George Gershwin pointed out long ago, “it ain’t necessarily so”; for the direct fire of the heavily armoured Hyksos maryannu, peppering the unarmoured Egyptian foot bow at short range, it is; for the ineffective mixture of scattered direct and indirect volley fire returned by the latter, it ain’t.

There is a remote possibility that the Egyptian footbows could stand up to the maryannu, despite mounting casualties, and eventually bring their greater number of bows to bear, but the bet here is the Egyptian morale breaks as soon as the Hyksos move in for the kill.

As for rushing the chariots, one would expect no more than an occasional (isolated) success, provided the Hyksos were careful about rotating their squadrons and resting their horses; besides, mounting casualties to Egyptian officers would soon make any organized action unlikely. It may be safely argued that the Egyptian infantry, cowering behind their shields (those who had them), unable to bear so much pressure, would soon skedaddle.

The Battle of Winchelsea


A depiction of medieval naval combat from Jean Froissart’s Chronicles, 14th century.

Edwards Cog thomas

King Edward’s flagship, Cog Thomas.

In 1350, King Edward III of England was at peace—with Scotland, after capturing King David II at the Battle of Neville’s Cross in 1346, and with France, after a decisive victory at the Battle of Crécy in the same year. For many years, however, trouble had been brewing with Castille—a Spanish kingdom whose navy had taken to raiding English ships in the Channel. A chance for restitution came when news reached Edward that a Spanish fleet had sailed to Flanders to trade wool. “We have for a long time spared these people,” he announced, “for which they have done us much harm; without amending their conduct; for on the contrary, they grow more arrogant; for which reason they must be chastised.” He resolved to intercept the fleet as it returned to Castille—a feasible operation in the narrow waters of the English Channel.

Edward assembled a fleet of 50 ships by the usual means of conscripting merchantmen and outfitting them for war, and issued a summons to his lords and knights. At least 17 lords and more than 400 knights responded, creating a top-heavy command structure on board ship; at the time, the title of “captain” was essentially a military one, and it was held by the lord or knight who commanded the troops on board. The fleet gathered off Winchelsea, then a significant harbor on the south coast and one of the Cinque Ports, which were obliged to maintain ships for the Crown in case of need. Edward’s warrior son, the Black Prince, and the 10-year-old John of Gaunt were among the troops, as was Robert of Namur, Edward’s favorite knight, who took charge of the Salle de Roi, which carried the King’s household.

Meanwhile, the Spanish fleet of 47 ships had loaded up with linen at Sluys, in Flanders, where the English had sunk most of the French fleet 10 years earlier. Don Carlos de la Cerda, the Spanish commander, had heard of Edward’s plans and armed his ships accordingly; as many cannons as he could find were lifted aboard, and the wooden “castles” atop the ships’ masts were stocked with stones and iron bars to drop on the English vessels. When they raised anchor, the ships, according to the Flemish chronicler Jean Froissart, were “so beautiful, it was a fine sight to see them under sail.”

Edward sailed in the Cog Thomas, commanded by Robert Passelow, and the fleet cruised between Dover and Calais. He enjoyed himself as he waited for the Spanish, encouraging Sir John Chandos, his tactician at the battle of Crécy, to sing with the royal minstrels. Eventually, late in the afternoon of August 29, the lookout caught sight of the Spanish. “I see two, three, four, and so many that, God help me, I cannot count them,” he cried. The minstrels were silenced and the king offered wine to his knights, who drank and put on their helmets. Always conscious of his image, Edward stood at the prow of the ship, dressed, according to Froissart, in a black velvet jacket and a beaver hat, “which became him very much.”

The Spanish had the wind behind them and could have declined battle (they had more to lose with valuable cargoes on board) but “their pride and presumption made them act otherwise.” The king shouted to Passelow, “Steer for that ship for I want to joust with her,” since he loved tournaments and had recently revived the Arthurian ideal of chivalry. Normally the master of the ship had the right to advise on such matters, but in this instance he remained silent:

The sailor did not want to disobey his orders because it was the King who desired it, even though the Spaniard came on at speed sailing on the wind. The King’s ship was strong and manoeuvrable, otherwise she would have split; for she and the great Spanish vessel struck with such force that it sounded like thunder and as they rebounded the castle of the King of England’s ship caught the [top]castle of the Spanish ship in such a way that the mast levered it from the mast on which it was fixed and it fell in the sea. All those in the castle were drowned and lost.

But the Spanish ship was not the only vessel damaged in the collision. The seams between the planks of the Cog Thomas opened and she began to take on water. The knights pumped and baled, but did not dare to tell the King, who looked at the ship alongside the one he had “jousted” with and called out, “Grapple my ship to that one; I must have her!” One of the knights exclaimed, “Let her go, you’ll get a better!” and soon another vessel drew near and the knights snared it with grappling hooks and chains:

The English royal knights made strenuous efforts to take the ship they had grappled with because their own… was in danger of foundering as she had taken in so much water. At last the King and his crew fought so well that the Spanish ship was taken and everyone on board her was thrown over the side. Then they told the King of his peril from the sinking ship and that he should go on board the prize vessel. The King took this advice and went on board the Spanish ship with all his men leaving the other empty.

The battle raged around the English as they drew close to the Spanish, who shot arrows and pelted them with iron bars. Night was falling and the English were anxious to reach a conclusion, but the Spanish were “people well used to the sea and with large well-equipped ships.” The Black Prince soon became embroiled in a fight of his own as his ship grappled a large Spanish vessel. His ship was holed in several places, perhaps by the iron bars, and was beginning to sink when the Duke of Lancaster came alongside in his own ship. The old crusader called out “Derby to the rescue!”—since he was also the Earl of Derby—and boarded the Spanish vessel. He was victorious, and again the captured enemy prisoners were thrown overboard.

The Salle de Roi was grappled by a large Spanish ship, which hoisted its sails and tried to drag her off. As the two ships passed the Cog Thomas, members of the royal household aboard the Salle de Roi cried for help, but there was no response. One of Robert’s followers, called Hanekin, then leapt into action:

With his naked sword in his hand, he leapt on board the Spanish ship, reached the mast, and cut the halyard and the sail collapsed and didn’t draw any more. And then with great effort he cut the four mighty shrouds which supported the mast and sails so that they fell on the ship and the ship stopped and couldn’t go any more.

Robert’s men boarded the ship with swords drawn, and, according to Froissart, “fought so well that all on board were killed and thrown overboard, and the ship taken.” It was the end of the battle—an indisputable victory for the English, who captured 20 Spanish ships at the cost of only two of their own.

In spite of Edward’s success, however, Winchelsea was only a flash in a conflict that raged between the English and the Spanish for over 200 years, coming to a head with the defeat of the Spanish Armada in 1588. It was a typical naval battle of the late-medieval period, both harking back to the ram-and-board tactics of classical times and straining toward the early modern period, in which vessels with designated gun decks were developed. It proved yet again that merchant ships were ill-suited to housing cannons, and effectively became hand-to-hand battlegrounds when they met each other in combat. Little would change until the 16th century, when the first true warships in the modern sense were built, heralding an age in which ships could fire at each other from a distance, and battles could be won or lost without boarding.

Kwantung Army


Kwantung Army Headquarters



Kwantung Army’s defense plan prior to Soviet Invasion (1945), based on Glantz’s maps in Levenworth Paper No 7 – Feb 1983

Japan’s military presence in and domination of Manchuria in northwestern China received a major victory with the end of the Russo-Japanese War in 1905. Under the Treaty of Portsmouth, Japan was required to withdraw its troops from Manchuria proper but gained a leased territory of the Liaotung (Liaodong) Peninsula in southern Manchuria, renamed the Kwantung Leased Territory, which included the fortress and port of Port Arthur. The army unit assigned to garrison the area and the Japanese-owned South Manchurian Railway (SMR), as far as Changchun, was named the Kwantung Army. From this date this army became the spearhead of Japanese imperialism in China.

With the railway administration working as a colonial power, running ports, harbors, tax collection, mines, and utility companies, the SMR turned the railway zone into a semiautonomous state, and the Kwantung Army was its security and police arm.

After World War I, Japan gained control of former German holdings at Tsingtao in China’s Shandong (Shantung) Province and deployed 70,000 troops from the Kwantung Army to Siberia to support the Whites in the Russian Civil War. The Japanese sought to expand their empire in Siberia, failed to do so, and withdrew in 1922.

In 1927, when Chiang Kai-shek’s troops were marching on Shandong to break the power of local warlords in the Northern Expedition, Japanese troops were sent to Shandong (Shantung). Soon Chinese and Japanese troops were clashing. Chiang withdrew his forces from the city of Tsinan, but the Kwantung Army attacked it the next day, killing 13,000 civilians.

Chiang turned his troops away from confl ict with Japan. Tokyo, however, supported the Kwantung Army, issuing warnings to Chiang and Manchurian warlord Zang Zolin (Chang Tso-lin) not to attack Japanese forces or civilians. However, the new commander of the Kwantung Army, General Chotaro Muraoka, had other ideas, moving his headquarters in May 1928 from Port Arthur to Mukden, Manchuria’s main city, and preparing his troops to take control of the region.

Ready to move, Muraoka and his troops waited, fi ring telegrams to Tokyo asking permission to move. When Prime Minister Giichi Tanaka refused, the Kwantung Army’s officers were stunned. Muraoka decided to kill Zang Zolin, blasting a bridge as the warlord’s train crossed it on June 4, 1928. The Kwantung Army reported to Tokyo that Zang had been killed by Manchurian guerrillas. The truth came out anyway, and Tokyo could do seemingly little to control the insubordinate army and its officers, who had a lot of support in Japan.

But Tanaka was determined to punish the officers responsible for the assassination plot and recommended so to Emperor Hirohito, who agreed. But when the army as a whole objected, Tanaka temporized. He fired Muraoka and told the public that there was no evidence the Kwantung Army had been involved in the plot. Then Tanaka resigned. The Kwantung Army’s officers had defied Tokyo and gotten away with it.

As the Great Depression wore on, the Japanese economy continued to crumble. Many Japanese army officers, angered by the economic situation, joined secret societies like the Cherry Blossom League, and a group of officers plotted to use the Kwantung Army to seize Manchuria for its rich resources. One of the key men was Colonel Doihara Kenji, who prepared a “Plan for Acquiring Manchuria and Mongolia.”

Chiang Kai-shek, meanwhile, had succeeded in unifying China under the Kuomintang, and Zhang Xue- liang (Chang Hsueh-liang), Manchuria’s new warlord, supported the Nationalist, or Kuomintang, government. In 1931 clashes broke out between Korean farmers who were Japanese subjects and Chinese farmers over water rights.

Doihara went to Manchuria and determined that a Japanese attempt to seize Manchuria would result in international condemnation. An “incident” had to be manufactured to make a Japanese occupation of Manchuria seem China’s fault. In 1929 the Kwantung Army began to plot an incident under their new boss, Lieutenant General Shigeru Honjo, with Doihara as mastermind.

Japan’s civilian leaders did nothing to control the insubordinate Kwantung Army. The emperor, however, ordered Major General Yoshitsugu Tatekawa to bring a message from him on September 15, 1931, ordering the Kwantung Army not to take any unauthorized action. Unfortunately for Hirohito, Tatekawa’s assistant, Colonel Kingoro Hashimoto, was among the plotters, and he sent a message to officers of the Kwantung Army to let them know that Tatekawa was coming with imperial orders. When Tatekawa arrived in Mukden on September 17, Kwantung Army officers took the general to a party, where he became drunk.

That night Kwantung Army officers blew up a section of track on the South Manchurian Railway 1,200 yards from a Chinese army that failed to derail the night express. Kwantung Army troops then attacked and shelled the Chinese barracks, killing many soldiers. By 10:00 a. m. on September 18, 1931, Mukden was under Japanese control, Chang’s headquarters were ransacked, and his banks and government offices were occupied, as were a dozen other cities in southern Manchuria in a coordinated attack by Japanese units. Some 12 hours after their blast, Kwantung Army officers displayed to Western reporters the “proof” that the Chinese had tried to destroy the railroad, which was bodies of Chinese soldiers shot in the back lying facedown, supposedly cut down while fleeing the scene. The world was outraged by the political adventurism, and Tokyo was stunned. The emperor reminded Prime Minister Reijiro Wakatsuki that he had forbidden such action, and the foreign and finance ministers also objected. But Wakatsuki did not overrule his generals and colonels. The attack and subsequent conquest of Manchuria were accepted as a fait accompli.

From October to December 1931, the Kwantung Army, now empowered by Tokyo and advised by units of the Japanese army in Korea, expanded conquest of Manchuria, even plotting a coup in October to overthrow the civilian government in Tokyo. This attempted coup was ended when the leading plotters were secretly arrested. In December Wakatsuki resigned. Ki Inukai became the new prime minister, but General Araki, leader of the Kodo Ha faction, became war minister, effectively providing the military’s endorsement to the Kwantung Army’s actions. The Kwantung Army now became an occupation force in Manchuria, and its officers became heroes for all of Japan.

The Kwantung Army continued to seize Chinese territory, taking Rehe (Jehol) province in 1933 and Chahar province in 1934. Officers of the Kodo Ha movement were assigned to the Kwantung Army, strengthening its radicalism; among them was Hideki Tojo, who would become Japan’s prime minister during World War II.

In February 1936, the Kwantung Army showed its powerful influence when a group of Kodo Ha officers attempted a coup d’état in Tokyo. It failed, the ringleaders were shot, and the civilian leaders regained some control over the Kwantung Army.

Leaving Chinese unity under Chiang Kai-shek’s leadership, the Kwantung Army set to create an “incident” between Chinese and Japanese forces on July 7, 1937, at a railway junction near Beijing (Peking) in northern China, called the Marco Polo Bridge Incident. This led to the outbreak of the Sino-Japanese War, in which Japan committed unspeakable attrocities, such as the Rape of Nanjing. It became World War II in Asia. The Kwantung Army promised Tokyo victory in three months.

As World War II began and dragged on, the Kwantung Army remained in occupation of Manchuria, “Asia’s Ruhr,” against Soviet invasion. Over time, the army was stripped of most of its equipment and men, which were needed on other battlefronts.

When the Soviet Union declared war on Japan on August 8, 1945, and invaded Manchuria, the Kwantung Army had 1 million men under arms equipped with 1,155 tanks, 5,360 guns, and 1,800 aircraft. On paper, this was a match for the Soviets’ 1.5 million men, but the Soviets also fielded 26,000 guns, 5,500 tanks, and 3,900 planes. In addition, the Kwantung Army was short of gasoline, ammunition, and transport.

Yet some of the Kwantung Army’s hotheaded leaders refused to surrender when Japan surrendered to the Allies on August 14, 1945. Commanding general Otozo Yamada refused to obey the Imperial Rescript to surrender, summoned his officers to his headquarters at Changchun, debated the news from Tokyo, and by a majority vote chose to go on fighting.

In the end, the Kwantung Army did obey an imperial command and surrendered to the Soviet Army. Several of its leaders, including Doihara and Tojo, were tried, convicted, and executed at the Tokyo International Court.

Further reading: Harris, Meirion, and Susie Harris. Soldiers of the Sun. New York: Random House, 1991; Hoyt, Edwin P. Japan’s War. New York: Da Capo, 1986; Toland, John. The Rising Sun. New York: Random House, 1970; Tuchman, Barbara W. Sand against the Wind: Stilwell and the American Experience in China. New York: MacMillan, 1970.

Marine Craft Section (MCS) at Dunkirk 1940


HSL 102 is currently berthed at the Portsmouth historic dockyard.

On 10 May 1940 Winston Churchill, a long-time supporter of the RAF, became Prime Minister and on the very same day the Germans broke through the Ardennes, assaulting western Europe with fifty-four divisions. The Allies’ situation rapidly deteriorated and despite many courageous rearguard actions, the Germans swiftly overran France. By 20 May it was clear that the British Expeditionary Force (BEF) and other Allied personnel in the vicinity of the Channel ports would need to be evacuated. It was agreed by the War Office that non-essential personnel should be evacuated immediately in order to safeguard supplies for frontline troops. With effect from 20 May, 2,000 men would need to be evacuated each day and on 22 May a further 15,000 should be made ready. Early in May 1940 the Royal Navy had begun its requisitioning of cross-channel ferries, steamers, trawlers and other vessels. Some had been converted into hospital ships, minesweepers or escorts. A list had also been drawn up of all privately owned vessels. The intention was to be able to use various harbour craft and other vessels for non-essential work, freeing up the naval vessels. Although these early preparations probably did not have anything to do with the subsequent Dunkirk evacuation, foundations were in place that would prove invaluable.

The Dunkirk evacuation, known as Operation Dynamo, began in earnest at 1857 hours on Sunday, 26 May 1940. The Luftwaffe had pounded Dunkirk harbour and the town; storage tanks were in flames, the quays were wrecked and only the west mole was capable of taking berthed vessels. As luck would have it, the BEF and their French allies managed to disengage from the advancing German divisions and the subsequent two-day pause in German land operations proved to be vital in evacuating many thousands of men. The speed at which the Germans had overrun France and had scattered the BEF and the French had taken Hitler by surprise, he faced complete victory and at the crucial moment was unsure how – or even whether – to press home his advantage.

Before 26 May 1940 some 28,000 men had already been evacuated from the Channel ports of Boulogne, Dunkirk and Ostend. On the first full day of Operation Dynamo (27 May), 8,000 men made it back to Dover. Despite having been severely damaged, the east mole was put into service on 28 May. Other vessels were coming in close to the shore and taking men straight off the beaches at Malo-les-Bains, Bray Dunes and La Panne. Indeed 6,000 of the 18,000 men rescued that day were taken from these beaches. A further 50,000 were evacuated the following day, but by now the Germans had resumed offensive land operations and La Panne was no longer safe. Elements of the BEF and the French doggedly held the shrinking perimeter around Dunkirk. Adverse wind conditions prevented men from being picked up from the beach and all the while there was the constant bombing and strafing from the Luftwaffe. None the less, 54,000 men were lifted from Dunkirk on 30 May.

On the night of Wednesday, 29 May the MCS was put on standby to assist in the evacuation. At Calshot, one pinnace and five seaplane tenders left their moorings at 0430. HSL 120 would proceed to Dover on June 3 and return to Calshot the following day. In all some six launches, Pinnace 32, seaplane tenders 243, 254, 276, 291 and AMC 3 (which belonged to the Civil Aviation Authority) began making for Dunkirk. Pinnace 32 headed for Ramsgate, but a fouled propeller meant that she would play no part in Operation Dynamo. The five seaplane tenders were towed out of Dover shortly after dawn on 31 May, but strong winds and rough seas meant that they had to proceed under their own power. They approached to within 12 miles (19 km) of the French coast and they then were engaged in ferrying troops off the beach to larger vessels out to sea. Throughout the entire operation they were under continued attack from German aircraft. It was estimated that the five seaplane tenders managed to save around 500 men.

Tender 254, with four crew members, was the first to be lost when she got in too close and was virtually capsized by the number of men attempting to clamber aboard. She was incapable of movement and had to be abandoned. AMC 3, with three crew members, including Corporal C. Webster, suffered a different fate. An army officer’s clothing got caught in the propellers and Webster was forced to cut the engines. The waves swept the boat around and it hit the beach and was holed.

Despite the fact that the seaplane tenders were unsuitable for work so close to the beach because of their underwater fittings (propellers, rudders, etc), they still made for the lines of men patiently waiting, sometimes up to their necks in the sea. Despite having lost ST 254 and AMC 3, the three remaining craft, which had all suffered underwater damage, continued to ferry men backwards and forwards. ST 276 and 291, after suffering significant damage, began to be towed back to Dover by a French vessel. ST 243 remained in the vicinity of Dunkirk for so long that it was only just able to return to Dover with the fuel it still had.

On 1 June, with the crews feverishly trying to repair and cannibalise their vessels, they were told that they would no longer be required. But by the early morning of the following day, two of the vessels had been made serviceable and in the event it was just as well because they were told to take a naval berthing party into Dunkirk harbour. The crews quickly collected extra fuel and requisitioned two Lewis guns, which were lashed to the boats with broken tow bars and an engine’s starting handle. With two boats and three crews, volunteers were asked for. Corporal Flower, Leading Aircraftmen Clarke and Wooton and Aircraftman White manned ST 276, whilst Corporal Lawson and Leading Aircraftmen Hunt and Lockwood and Aircraftman Kernohan crewed ST 243. Their passengers were twelve Royal Navy personnel, including a senior officer, who was accompanied by Pilot Officer Collins in command of the MCS party aboard ST 243.

According to the account given by Flower (who later became a Group Captain), the two vessels got underway at 1430 hours on 2 June. By 1700 hours they were around 8 miles (13 km) off Gravelines. No sooner had they come within hailing distance of one another in order to finalise how they would proceed into Dunkirk harbour than three Junkers 88 Stuka dive-bombers attacked them. Whilst Flower and Lawson took evasive action, three sticks of bombs and heavy machine-gun fire was unleashed against the two vessels. Wooton and Lockwood, the two crafts’ fitters, began to return fire with the Lewis guns. They both blazed away at the German aircraft as they circled for another attack. When it came a near miss on ST 243 split the vessel from stem to stern along the keel. It was only a matter of minutes before the seawater engulfed the engine and even as the launch sank, Lockwood continued to fire back. ST 276 swerved and turned in order to avoid the attacks.

The Germans made five more attacks on the little vessel, which was weaving at 18 knots. Wooton continued to return fire, but one of the attacks damaged the starboard engine and knocked out some of the controls in the wheelhouse. Amazingly nobody was hurt and as the German aircraft disappeared into the distance, ST 276 spun round to try to help the survivors of 243. None of the crew or passengers had been wounded, but they were suffering from skin burns from the petrol in the water and were finding it difficult to breathe because of the fumes. ST 276 had to make the difficult decision to abandon the survivors, otherwise there would have been no chance that the naval berthing party would have reached their destination at Dunkirk harbour. Indeed, according to Flower, the senior Royal Navy Officer, who was floating in the water with the other survivors, adamantly ordered them to head for Dunkirk. Flower promised to return to pick them up.

ST 276 was only capable of around 7 knots and as a result did not reach Dunkirk harbour until 1900 hours. She pulled alongside a Royal Navy motor torpedo boat and a senior naval officer, under German artillery fire, told Flower that he should scuttle the ST 276 and return to Dover aboard a destroyer. Flower refused; he had promised the survivors of ST 243 that he would come back to pick them up. A compromise was quickly reached and at sunset, with a Royal Naval Volunteer Reserve lieutenant on board, they headed back along the coast to try to find the position where they had last seen the men floundering in the water. Darkness was closing in, but Flower and his crew continued their fruitless search until they were forced to give up. At 0730 on Monday, 3 June ST 276 moored in the inner submarine basin in Dover harbour. Of the people aboard ST 243, only Aircraftman Kernohan survived; the others were all lost.

By 2 June the situation around Dunkirk had deteriorated to such an extent that operations were now restricted to the hours of darkness. Throughout the 2 and 3 June evacuations continued, plucking another 52,000 men from certain capture. On 3 June, HSL 120, commanded by Pilot Officer R. G. Spencer, arrived in Dover. After just two hours to refuel and rest she was underway again at 1900 hours, headed for Dunkirk. Bizarrely they were accompanying an Admiral’s launch, which was under the command of Lieutenant C. W. S. Dreyer. Dreyer’s vessel, MTB 102, was on its eighth return trip to Dunkirk. Two days before she had come alongside the sinking HMS Keith and rescued Admiral Wake-Walker. The following day they had saved General Alexander. HSL 120 and MTB 102 were to escort Admiral Wake-Walker back to Dunkirk, where he was to supervise the embarkation of the last French troops.

When they approached Dunkirk harbour the water was littered with all manner of floating hazards. The crew also discovered that they had two stowaways on board, a pair of wireless operators from the Sunderland flying boats that had been moored at Calshot. They had been refused permission to accompany the vessel and after suffering from severe seasickness finally showed themselves. HSL 120 managed to make it back to Dover and on the morning of 4 June the last British vessel, a 40 ft (12 m) MTB commanded by Lieutenant J. Cameron, left Dunkirk harbour. By that stage, some 338,226 men had been extricated from either death or captivity. The immense effort to save these men was to prove decisive in the future and would ensure Britain’s ability to continue to wage war against Germany.

Air Sea Rescues (ASR) Services – Battle of Britain



Crew Dinghy


Single Dinghy

In the immediate aftermath and chaos of the evacuation from Dunkirk, Britain faced seemingly overwhelming aerial assaults from the Luftwaffe. It had not been envisaged that Britain would be the front line against the Germans; it was assumed that the bulk of the troops and airfields would be based in France. Therefore, when the Allies were driven from the continent it became obvious that air operations would now need to cross the sea, but the preparations for dealing with ditched crews was rudimentary at best.

Air Chief Marshal Sir Hugh Dowding had jealously held many of his Fighter Command squadrons out of the fight in France. He had realised that there was every possibility that his airmen would have to fight a defensive war over Britain and around her shores. As a result, by July 1940, he could muster around 800 aircraft. Two hundred of these were Spitfires and a further 400 Hurricanes. At the height of what would become known as the Battle of Britain, between mid-July and the end of October 1940, some 537 of his aircrew were lost. Of this number 215 were killed or missing after having ditched in either the English Channel or the North Sea. At this stage Britain’s ability to find and rescue ditched aircrew was underdeveloped. Civilian fishing vessels, merchant ships, the RAF, the Royal Navy and the regular lifeboat service (the RNLI) all retrieved downed aircrew. At this stage, however, the chances of being found and surviving in the water were slim.

The fighter crews were issued with Mae West lifejackets, but they lacked dinghies and survival kits. Their heavy engines meant that the aircraft sank extremely quickly. In some cases the pilots had a matter of seconds to get out and very little chance to indicate their position in order to aid their search and rescue.

During the Battle of Britain thirteen high-speed launches were available. Just ten covered the North Sea and the English Channel, and at any one time at least three were non-operational. The engines had to be changed or refitted after just 360 hours of running. If nothing else this alerted the RAF to the fact that although the 100 Class launches were a vast improvement over what had been available before, the engines at the very least were not the easiest to maintain in peak condition.

Losses mounted and on several days casualties on either side were such that the chances of being rescued were reduced to virtually zero. Between 20 and 21 July 1940, twenty-one British and German aircraft were shot down and crashed into the sea. Of the forty men involved, just six were recovered and one of these was picked up by the German rescue service. Most crews that were nursing a damaged aircraft would attempt to make it back to a friendly coastline. Crash landing or baling out over territory held by their own forces immeasurably increased their chances of survival. During the Battle of Britain, however, crews from both air forces, who were forced to ditch over the sea had approximately a 20 per cent chance of returning to their squadron.

The most successful air sea rescue day during the Battle of Britain was 26 August 1940. Two Spitfires were shot down near Dover, another off the Sussex coast; two Hurricanes and two Defiants were lost over Herne Bay. Of these, all but one Spitfire pilot and two Defiant gunners were saved.

The chances of being picked out of the water were increased if the pilot could ditch in the Thames estuary. By September this was where the main action was taking place; massed RAF squadrons intercepted German aircraft as they made their turn, using the estuary as a navigational aid. It has been estimated that RAF craft, including the HSLs, picked up around forty British aircrew over the course of the Battle of Britain. To this figure needs to be added all the crew picked up by the other civilian and military services. It is certain that the total number of pick-ups proved to be a small, but decisive factor in returning experienced pilots to their squadrons to continue the fight.

During the last twenty-one days of July 1940, the RAF lost 220 aircrew killed or missing over the seas. The high fatality figures shocked everyone, but by October a further 260 had been lost. In August the Sea Rescue Organisation was set up to coordinate the picking up of aircrews that had baled out or ditched in the North Sea or the English Channel. Most of the responsibility for this fell to Coastal Command.

By comparison, the German rescue service was far better equipped; it had also been integrated into the Luftwaffe at an early stage in the war. German aircraft were fitted with one-man dinghies and the bomber crews had portable radios. The Germans tended to rely on He 59 floatplanes for sea pick-ups, although a large number of crew were picked up by E-boats of the German navy.

The Germans also set up a string of sea rescue floats from around October 1940. These peculiar-looking craft were moored virtually in the middle of the English Channel and consisted of a floating refuge that had no power of its own and had a 250 ft (75 m) line trailing in the current to help people clamber aboard. The float had a central tower; the craft was painted yellow and there were red crosses on the tower. Having clambered down the steps from the tower, the downed crew would find four bunks, food, clothing, water, blankets, lamps, a bucket and distress flares. Later the British designed their own rescue float of a broadly similar pattern.

The British cast about for a way to increase the life expectancy of downed crews in the water. Standard dinghies were really only capable of protecting them for a matter of hours, yet in many instances men were afloat in them for days. Two solutions were the Thornaby bag and the Bircham barrel. The Thornaby bag was invented and first used in 1940 by RAF Thornaby. It consisted of a bag constructed out of parachute fabric, with kapok pads from Mae West jackets. Inside was a survival kit consisting of first-aid equipment, tins of food, drink and cigarettes. It could be dropped close to downed aircrew but, except in calm conditions, it tended to burst open.

An alternative came from RAF Bircham Newton and was, in effect, a cylindrical container, often the tail container of a 250 lb bomb. It had a reinforced frame and a canvas bag inside to make it watertight. As with the Thornaby bag, the exact contents differed from station to station. Generally, however, it would have a first-aid kit, food, water and distress flares. The main purpose of both devices was to help the aircrew sustain themselves until a vessel could pick them up.

The next development came from Group Captain Waring, the Station Commander at RAF Lindholme. He and his colleagues invented a device to drop an inflatable dinghy, clothing, food and a first-aid kit in a series of containers. The original invention consisted of five, the largest of which contained the dinghy, which were dropped in the tail unit of a 500 lb bomb case. The dinghy inflated automatically when it hit the water. The four smaller containers, in 250 lb bomb cases, held clothing, water and food. The five containers were strung together with ropes so that once the crew had got into the dinghy they could pull the other containers towards them.

RAF bomber crews at least had dinghies, but fighter pilots’ only means of staying afloat were their Mae Wests. The Ministry of Aircraft Production looked at ways in which a single-seat dinghy could be attached to a fighter pilot’s harness. Initially they rejected the idea, but when a German single-seat dinghy was examined it was decided to copy this model and put it into production.

The experience of the Battle of Britain proved beyond doubt that the sea rescue service needed to be both improved and expanded. It was generally agreed by all the services that something needed to be done. The retrieval of RAF aircrew was of paramount importance and it was suggested that an air commodore be given responsibility as the Director of Air Sea Rescue Services.

An expansion of the service was one thing, but what was of equal importance was a considerable improvement in communication and coordination between the services. Any effective air sea rescue service needed to know, with a certain degree of precision, where they needed to search and for what. Simply having HSLs on standby or on station was not going to be sufficient to improve the survival rate of downed aircrew in the sea. A radical re-examination was required of how information was passed from Fighter Command, Bomber Command, or indeed any other service operating aircraft.

Provisional approval for the appointment of a new director was given on 24 January 1941. Initially he would operate for six months and then a review would be undertaken. At that point it would be decided whether it was working and whether it still needed to maintain a separate identity. The responsibility for the new directorate would be given to both the RAF and the Royal Navy. Subsequently Group Captain Croke was appointed as the first Director of Air Sea Rescue Services and his deputy was a Royal Navy Captain, C. L. Howe. It was decided that the directorate would be called Air Sea Rescues (ASR) Services, in order to avoid confusion with the already existing Naval Sea Rescue Services. The new directorate would be set up at Coastal Command headquarters.

El Cid


El Cid (Original) by Roger Payne

(c. 1043–1099) medieval Spanish warrior

The title El Cid was given to a Spanish early medieval war- rior called Rodrigo (or Ruy) Díaz de Vivar, also known as El Campeador (“the Champion”). After his death, he became a folk hero with many Spanish ballads written of his rise from obscurity to lead the Castilians against the Moors. He was born at Vivar, near Burgos, in the kingdom of Castile; his father a minor Castilian nobleman, but his mother was well connected and ensured that from a young age he attended the court of King Ferdinand I as a member of the household of king’s eldest son, Sancho. When Sancho succeeded his father as King Sancho II of Castile, he appointed the 22-year-old Rodrigo Díaz de Vivar as his standard bearer as he had already achieved a reputation for valor in battle, taking part in the Battle of Graus in 1063. When Sancho attacked Sargasso in 1067, Rodrigo accompanied him and took part in the negotiations that led the ruler of Sargasso, al-Muqtadir, to acknowledge the overlordship of Sancho.

In 1067 Sancho went to war with his brother Alfonso VI, who had been left the kingdom of León. Some ballads portray El Cid as unwilling to support this invasion, which went against the will of Ferdinand I, but he was likely a willing participant. During the following five years El Cid was a vital military leader on behalf of Sancho. Sancho was killed when laying siege to Zamora. Alfonso, deposed from León, was the heir, and the new king found himself in a difficult political position. Count García Ordóñez, a bitter enemy of El Cid, became the new standard bearer, but El Cid was able to remain at court, as Alfonso did not want such a tough opponent. It was probably Alfonso who planned the marriage of El Cid to Jimena, daughter of the count of Oviedo. They had a son, Diego Rodriguez, and two daughters. In 1097 Diego was killed in battle in North Africa.

Castilians who had supported Sancho were naturally nervous about Alfonso’s becoming king, and these simmering resentments began to be expressed through El Cid, who served as a conduit for them. In 1079 El Cid was sent to Seville on a mission to the Moorish king. Coinciding with this trip, García Ordóñez aided Granada in their attack on Seville, but El Cid defeated the forces from Granada at Cabra, capturing García Ordóñez. His easy victory gained him enemies at court. When El Cid attacked the Moors in Toledo (who were allied to Alfonso), the king exiled him, and although he returned some years later, he was never able to remain for long.

El Cid went to work for the Moorish king of Sargasso, serving him and his successor for several years. This gave him a better understanding of Muslim law, which would help him in his later career. In 1082 he led the forces of Sargasso to victory over the Moorish king of Lérida and the count of Barcelona; two years later, undefeated in battle, he defeated the forces of the king of Aragon, Sancho Ramirez. When the Almoravids from Morocco invaded Spain in 1086 and defeated Alfonso’s army, the two were briefly reconciled but soon afterward El Cid returned to Sargasso and did not help prevent the Christians from being overwhelmed.

Instead El Cid focused his attention on becoming the ruler of Valencia. This required political machinations and El Cid had to reduce the influence of other neighboring rulers. The importance of the counts of Barcelona came to an end when Ramon Berenguer II’s forces were decisively defeated at Tebar in May 1090 by El Cid’s Christian and Moorish forces. El Cid then utilized loopholes in Muslim law when Ibn Jahhaf killed al-Qadir, the ruler of Valencia. He besieged the city, which was controlled by Ibn Jahhaf, and when an Almoravid attempt to lift the siege in December 1093 failed, the city realized it could not hold out for much longer, and in May 1094 it surrendered.

El Cid then proclaimed himself the ruler of Valencia, serving as the chief magistrate and governing for both Christians and Muslims. In law El Cid still owed fealty to Alfonso VI, but in practice he was totally independent of the king. El Cid’s victories encouraged many Christians to move to Valencia and a bishop was appointed. El Cid ruled Valencia until his death on July 10, 1099. Had El Cid’s only son survived him, there would have been a dynasty, and possibly a new royal house. However that was not the case, and Valencia was ruled by Muslims again until 1238. As he had never been defeated in battle, the story of El Cid, with increasing literary license, became a great ballad for Christians, who overlooked his years working for Moors and hailed him as the hero for the “Reconquista”—the retaking of Spain from the Moors.

Further reading: Barton, Simon, and Richard Fletcher. The World of El Cid. Manchester: Manchester University Press, 2000; Clissold, Stephen. In Search of the Cid. London: Hod- der & Stoughton, 1965; Fletcher, Richard. The Quest for El Cid. London: Hutchinson, 1989.