The NATO Libyan Campaign in Perspective

NATO Post Libya

On Thursday, 27 October the UN Security Council voted unanimously for a resolution ‘ending the mandate for foreign military action at 23:59 Libyan time on 31 October’. During the military action the NATO-led coalition had flown 26,000 sorties of which 10,000 were labelled strike missions. Interestingly, the resolution was passed despite an eleventh-hour appeal from Libya’s NTC to continue the mission, arguing that it needed more time to assess its security needs.

For NATO the Libyan campaign was a success. However, as the leaders of the alliance meet in Chicago in May 2012, there will be some important lessons to be learned. The reliance on the United States for the backbone of the Command and Control system is one that will need to be addressed if other coalitions of the willing are to be deployed at short notice. The combination of low collateral damage, the replacement of the regime and the zero-casualty count for their own forces provides an outcome that political leaders entering any kind of war would dream about. The Libyan rebels paid the price in blood whereas the collation paid the price in treasure. The final debate as to the actual cost of the campaign will no doubt be the subject of some discussion as various media sources try and come up with a final and definitive answer. But, by any standard metrics of war, the campaign in Libya was a new form of conflict. One conducted principally from the air and with great precision. But is it one that can be replicated elsewhere?

The answer to that question is a resounding no. Libya had a number of quite specific aspects to it. These need to be appreciated before anyone suggests that suddenly a new form of casualty-free (i.e. painless) warfare can be carried out by NATO at locations across the world where they feel they need to intervene. The horrors of the humanitarian intervention in Somalia by President Clinton still beckon for anyone rash enough to believe that warfare can be painless.

That air power showed its huge flexibility in OPERATION UNIFIED PROTECTOR is not in doubt. Towards the end of October 2011, the RAF Tornados had flown over 1,400 sorties and amassed over 8,000 hours of flying time. The RAF Typhoons also flew 600 sorties and accumulated over 3,000 flying hours.

New tactics, flying Tornados and Typhoons together as a two-ship configuration, had also been developed. Warfare often sees tactical innovation and OPERATION ELLAMY was no different. The mix of the two aircraft, flown as a two-ship configuration, provided additional versatility in terms of the weapons payloads that were available on a single armed reconnaissance mission. The mix of the 1,000 pounds Enhanced Paveway carried on board the Typhoon and the Brimstone and other Paveway variants on the Tornado provided a huge level of flexibility to address emerging targets. During the campaign the RAF, RN and Army Air Corps (AAC) launched 1,470 guided weapons. The Paveway achieved a hit rate of close to 88 per cent. The bombs that fell outside the immediate designated area missed the target by a matter of a few meters.

Throughout the campaign the French Air Force and the RAF both undertook a large range of missions that showed the inherent versatility and flexibility that now exists in their weapons systems. In the course of the NATO operations over 26,000 missions had been flown. Many of those lasted a number of hours and required a number of visits to tankers to refuel. In the course of OPERATION ELLAMY over 30,000 tonnes of fuel were transferred from VC-10 and Tristar aircraft operating in support of the mission.

When deployed on armed reconnaissance it is hard to forecast the type of targets that might emerge. What appears from an orchard or emerges from the side of a street to threaten civilians, is hard to predict at the point the aircraft is prepared for a mission. Emergent targets were not always single units, such as a MBT, APC, Artillery piece or Pick Up Trucks (PUT). Complex targets also presented themselves in the form of troop concentrations at staging points, ammunition and fuel dumps and mobile command and control centres. Having a range of weapon systems at the disposal of the crews allowed them to be selective in their application of air power.

Being able to select an appropriate weapon system to attack an emergent target, whilst reducing the risk from collateral damage, is a hugely important capability. The Storm Shadows also proved their value working alongside the Tomahawk missiles launched in the course of the campaign by the RN. The RAF and the RN can be very pleased with their current inventory. The future prospects also look good, as the RN adds the Joint Strike Fighter (JSF) into its inventory in the future. Operating from a carrier offshore that ability to project air power will also add an additional level of versatility into the ability to conduct a range of possible intervention missions on a global basis.

That does not mean that lessons cannot emerge from the Libyan campaign that might suggest that Paveway and Brimstone might also have additional versatility built into their warhead designs. The ability to ‘dial a yield’ before a target is attacked would undoubtedly provide an additional element of versatility when attacking lightly armed vehicles.

The contribution of naval gunnery, an art that many will think must have gone out many years ago, is still something to be considered. As warships have tended to go for stealthy shapes the guns have always appeared to stand out. In an age of the missile system there may be those tempted to think that removing guns from warships is a good idea. For many the use of naval gunnery in the Falklands conflict is a distant memory. OPERATION ELLAMY was to highlight its enduring contribution to the littoral battle.

Any notion that naval gunnery is a capability that is no longer required should be rejected very quickly. Even though little was made of its use in the media, naval shore bombardment is not a capability that should suddenly be lost. In the course of OPERATION ELLAMY the warships HMS Liverpool, Iron Duke and Sutherland would fire 240 rounds from their guns. These varied from star shells that illuminated suspicious activity on the coastline to high explosive rounds aimed at destroying coastal artillery installations that had fired upon NATO warships.

On several occasions Libyan Special Forces who had tried to approach NATO warships in inflatable boats were chased away by star shells. Being illuminated at night when you are trying to operate covertly has a huge psychological impact. As the RN develops its thinking for the Type 26 Global Combat Ship, and its export potential, they would be wise to retain that capability.

Their collation colleagues also contributed to the overall effort providing a blend of air power that enabled strike missions to be shared out across many NATO countries. As always in such situations the Danish Armed Forces and the Norwegians made significant contributions, as did the Belgians.

For those in NATO seeking to use the campaign in Libya as a form of new approach to intervention on the international stage, a moment’s reflection might be in order. Colonel Gaddafi and his sons were not that difficult a regime to topple.

In order to take an objective view of the outcome it is vital for anyone to analyse the mistakes made by the Gaddafis. Had they played any one of these differently, the campaign may well have gone on long enough to make the international community tire of what would readily be characterised by the media as another failed and flawed attempt to intervene in an overseas country.

Gaddafi made several obvious mistakes. Many of these are reflective of an ego and personality that was deeply flawed. In part these contributed to his downfall. The list of mistakes is long and worth some detailed analysis and discussion. They include:

The regime appeared to be totally unprepared for war. It was as if Gaddafi had concluded that by making the right noises and gestures to the international community he would be allowed to survive. He dramatically underestimated the will of many of those, including David Cameron and Nickolas Sarkozy, to follow up on their rhetoric. This was a bad misjudgement and typical of a person who is unable to read the international hymn sheet that was being written at the time.

Gaddafi’s rhetoric, labelling of the rebels as members of Al Qaeda, was an attempt to sow confusion into the ranks of the international community. It barely raised an eyebrow in political circles. Certainly many so-called experts in international terrorism raised themselves from their armchairs to venture into the television and radio studios to echo his narrative. Many opined that the rebels had been infiltrated by Al Qaeda, with the implication that if Gaddafi’s regime were to fall woe betide the international community, especially European nations, whose southern flank would be exposed to an Al Qaeda-led government in Libya that their military action had installed.

Gaddafi should have played for time when the international community was debating establishing a no-fly zone. His offers of a ceasefire appeared opportunistic and insincere. His words and actions appeared out of kilter with each other. Given the degree of ISTAR coverage of Libya he should have known that he needed to visibly show a lessening threat to Benghazi as the second week of March came to a close. Had he done this, and played his long-established ties with Russia carefully, he could have dragged out the debate within the United Nations.

This mistake was repeated when progress on the campaign slowed to a halt in June. This is a crucial issue for NATO and one that is often overlooked. When conducting military operations of this type it is unlikely that the end game, whatever that means, will suddenly be reached. The 100 hours ground war that brought the Iraqi War in 1991 to an end is not representative. It had taken weeks of bombing to shape the battlefield so that, as the ground forces moved in, the Iraqis surrendered en masse. Gaddafi should have anticipated the stalemate and played for time when some members of the international community started to debate a possible end game where Gaddafi would have stayed in power. He should have seen this as a moment of weakness in the international community’s resolve and made gestures that would have seen him remain in some titular position. His intransigence at this point was crucial. It is axiomatic in international politics that delay and obfuscation creates opportunities. This was a lesson and insight that Gaddafi failed to appreciate. Had he played for time, offered a segregation of Libya and then played a longer psychologically-focused campaign, he may still be alive today.

Gaddafi’s employment of mercenaries showed from the outset how unsure he was about the loyalty of some parts of his military establishment. When a leader is so uncertain about such a fundamental point it shows that he is in a very bad situation. As events in Syria and Egypt have shown, when a dictator retains the loyalty of his armed forces it is difficult for a rebellion to gain the kind of traction needed to bring down a government.

One mistake Gaddafi and his henchmen was to make throughout the campaign was to underestimate NATO’s ISTAR capabilities, and the ways in which sensors could rapidly cue aircraft in to destroy emergent targets. All the NATO-wide experiments on sensor cueing that had been undertaken over a number of years suddenly all bore fruit. It was, and remains, an impressive capability and one that NATO should do all it can to maintain for the future. Despite the subordinate role played by the United States in the campaign, its ISTAR assets were essential to the precise nature of the way targets were attacked, helping avoid collateral damage.

Gaddafi failed to implement the full suite of asymmetric options that he could have done as the campaign unfolded. The efforts of the Libyan military in the maritime sphere were particularly derisory. Despite frequent attempts by Libyan Special Forces to mount operations at sea none were successful. Royal Navy submarines became adept at using their sonar systems to track the Rubber Inflatable Boats as they launched. Each mission was successfully intercepted. The Libyan Navy was almost ineffective and the half-hearted attempts to mine various harbours in Libya using a form of floating IED added little to the military effort. Had the Libyan Navy been able to confront and perhaps sink a NATO warship in Libyan coastal waters, with some loss of life, it may have placed what was an uneasy alliance under some increased pressure. Moreover had he been able to resort to cyberspace or to unleashing acts of terrorism in Europe – as he threatened to do at one point – he would have tested the political cohesion of the NATO alliance and a public wary of being drawn into yet another apparently endless campaign. A suicide bomb attack in London, Paris or any other national capital of a nation involved in the campaign, would have quickly created media comparisons with the backlash from the war in Iraq and its impact of Muslim communities in Europe.

Gaddafi’s harnessing of his terror weapons – the FROG and SCUD missiles – came to epitomise a military campaign that was flawed. The single time a SCUD was launched against the rebel forces it fell short and did not cause any casualties. By owning such weapons Gaddafi could well have terrorised the local people in Tripoli as the campaign moved into its end game. The way the Iraqis camouflaged and continued to fire their SCUD missiles in the 1991 war created huge problems for the coalition – causing the diversion of a great deal of military effort to detect and eliminate the launchers. In Libya on several occasions the launchers were discovered by ISTAR and quickly destroyed by attacks from the air. His failure to adopt the classic tactics of using human shields also missed an opportunity. The exceedingly low levels of civilian casualties during the war are a reflection of a huge effort put into targeting by NATO. But is also reflected the fact that Gaddafi was clearly no student of recent military history.

This catalogue of failures should be remembered and if necessary debated at length as people come to analyse the campaign in greater detail. It was Gaddafi’s ineptitude as a leader in a time of war, and the fact that he surrounded himself with family and sycophants, that led to his demise. Had he been more agile and flexible he could well have survived.

The Paradigm of Intervention

In the immediate aftermath of publishing its much-maligned Strategic Defence and Security Review (SDSR) the United Kingdom’s coalition government became embroiled in a military adventure in Libya. Somewhat unexpectedly this would shine an intense spotlight on the outcome of the SDSR. It would also provide an immediate opportunity to conduct a detailed assessment of its impact on the United Kingdom’s ability to project military power onto the world stage using the outcome from the campaign to validate the decision-making that took place in the SDSR.

The Prime Minister, David Cameron, perhaps tiring of all the criticism of the SDSR, seemed really keen to prove his doubters wrong. At the time of writing, as aircraft from many of the coalition partners involved in the Libyan campaign return home and the newly-recognised National Transitional Council (NTC) gets down to work to create a new Libya, the final outcome is far from certain.

For many commentators the outcome of the military campaign in Libya creates an opportunity to redefine the paradigm of intervention that has arisen since the events in America on 11 September 2001. Upstream activities in Iraq and Afghanistan have been hugely expensive, very complicated and difficult for member states with governments created from electoral mosaics across the political spectrum. As military campaigns they have had to learn whilst ‘in contact’ with our adversaries rather than lay out the doctrine of how to fight a war and then execute that approach.

For David Cameron this was not an approach that was sustainable. It is always difficult during wartime for a political leader to overtly criticize his armed forces. The ongoing military commitment of the United Kingdom provided a huge constraint on the Prime Minister’s freedom of manoeuvre. The general public would not wear any challenge to the military in the open. Cameron has insisted on at least one occasion that he has ‘robust’ discussions with the UK CDS – Sir David Richards.

What the nature of these discussions are one can only speculate, but it is not difficult to imagine that the Prime Minister has a specific set of views on the degree of overlap that exists between some areas of military capability. It is not hard to believe that one of the principles of David Cameron’s approach to defence matters is to imagine that the United Kingdom’s armed forces did have excess capacity that could be taken out. The question was how to do it?

Any leader who tried to place any blame for failure on the armed forces would pay a heavy political price. Cameron has instead not chosen to provide an audible criticism. He has chosen to be far more subtle. Through the mechanism of the SDSR he chose to take out capability that was felt to be redundant for the kind of balanced forms of warfare that he envisaged, with the ODA, the FCO and the MoD playing specific roles within an overall strategy by which the military instrument of power would be applied in the future.

It the heat of the SDSR, and given the speed with which is was undertaken, it is not difficult to imagine that the implications of the some of the decisions taken around the table were not discussed in any great depth. It was an assumed outcome that the force levels would be cut, the only issue was by how much.

Cameron’s doctrine for the United Kingdom’s armed forces has therefore been based on a covert recognition by some close members of the Cabinet that there was a little too much overlap built into the United Kingdom’s military capability. To state that view would have to receive the opprobrium of the press and the British public at large. To hold it covertly, only for its stealthy hand to be revealed in the wake of the SDSR, is a very different matter.

For David Cameron the outcome of the initial phase of the war in Libya will have reinforced his view that it’s now time for NATO to take similar ‘difficult decisions’ and to stop fielding equipment that sustains industries in countries that frankly cannot possibly get value for money out of the investment in equipment. What is needed is bulk buys of equipment from seasoned and expert suppliers. This will be at the heart of the next stage of the reformation on which David Cameron has embarked. It will prove a most difficult challenge. Resolving overlaps in the capabilities of the United Kingdom’s armed forces is one thing. Addressing the wider issues at a European and then NATO level is a very different matter.


AAC       Army Air Corps

AAG       Air-to-air Gun

APC        Armoured Personnel Carrier

AQIM     Al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb

ASaC      Airborne Surveillance and Control

AWACS  Airborne Early Warning and Control System

CIA         Central Intelligence Agency

CJEF       Combined Joint Expeditionary Force

COMUKTG Commander United Kingdom Task Group

COIN      Counter Insurgency

CSAT      Supreme Council of National Defence

FAC        Fast Attack Craft

FATA      Federally Administered Tribal Area

FEBA      Forward Edge of the Battle Area

GAINS    Global Positioning System Aided International Navigation System

GPS        Global Positioning System

IED         Improvised Explosive Device

ICC         International Criminal Court

IMINT    Image Intelligence

ISAF       International Security Assistance Force

ISTAR     Intelligence, Surveillance, Target Acquisition and Recognition

JFHQ      Joint Force Headquarters

JSF         Joint Strike Fighter

JSTARS   Joint Surveillance and Target Attack Radar System

MBT       Main Battle Tank

MANPAD   Man Portable Air Defence

MRLS     Multi-Rocket Launch System

MoD      Ministry of Defence

NATO     North Atlantic Treaty Organisation

NEOCC   Non-Combatant Evacuation Operation Coordination Cell

NSC        National Security Council

NTC        National Transitional Council

OAV       Other Armoured Vehicles

ODA       Overseas Development Aid

OV         Other Vehicles

ORBAT   Order of Battle

PUT        Pick-up Trucks

RAPTOR Reconnaissance Airborne Pod for Tornado

RFTG      Response Force Task Group

RAF        Royal Air Force

RN          Royal Navy

SAS        Special Air Service

SDSR      Strategic Defence and Security Review

SDR        Strategic Defence Review

SDT        Social Dominance Theory

SIS          Secret Intelligence Service

SPG        Self-Propelled Guns

TARDIS  Tactical Air Reconnaissance Deployable Intelligence System

TIW        Tactical IMINT Wing

TLAM     Tactical Land Attack Missile

TLC         Toyota Land Cruiser

UAE       United Arab Emirates

UN         United Nations

UNITAR United Nations Institute for Training and Research

UNOSAT  UNITAR’s Operational Satellite Applications Programme

UNSCR   United Nations Security Council Resolution


Russian arms exporter: S-400s delivery measures to Turkey completed.

All preliminary measures for the delivery of Russian S-400 missile defense systems to Turkey are complete, the head of Russia’s arms export company Rosoboronexport said on June 26.      

Russia received payment for the air defense missiles, manufactured the hardware and completed the training of the Turkish military personnel who would operate them, Alexander Mikheev said in an interview with Russian news agency Interfax.     

He confirmed Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan’s announcement on June 25 that delivery would begin in July.    

Tensions between the U.S. and Turkey have reached a fever pitch in recent months with Turkey set to begin receiving the advanced S-400 Russian surface-to-air missile system that Washington said will jeopardize Turkey’s role in the F-35 fighter jet program and which could trigger congressional sanctions.  

Foreign Minister Mevlüt Çavuşoğlu defied the United States’ sanction threats over Turkey’s purchase of Russian made S-400 missile defense systems, underlining that other international partners of the F-35 project have been annoyed by Washington’s decision to respond by halting training of Turkish pilots.

“No matter what sanctions decision, no matter which statement comes from the U.S., we have already bought the S-400s,” Çavuşoğlu told reporters at a joint press meeting with his Rwandese counterpart Dr. Richard Sezibera on June 24. “Now we are talking about when the S-400s will be delivered to Turkey. It is not possible for us to give up on the purchase of the S-400.”

Recalling recent U.S. steps to remove Turkey from the F-35 fighter jet program, Çavuşoğlu said the two issues are incompatible and other partners in the F-35 program do not support the U.S. steps.    

“All decisions should be taken by consensus,” the minister said, reiterating that Turkey is also a partner in the program and has made large contributions. Turkey is one of nine nations led by the United States that carries out the Joint Strike Fighter (JSF) project along with the United Kingdom, Italy, Canada, Australia, the Netherlands, Denmark and Norway.

Former acting U.S. Secretary of Defense Patrick Shanahan has informed his Turkish counterpart that Turkey’s participation in the F-35 program will cease on July 31 if Turkey deploys Russian S-400s on its soils.

“These kinds of steps taken by the U.S. are not compatible with the partnership agreement or the law,” Çavuşoğlu said, adding that Washington failed to agree with any of Turkey’s proposals to resolve the dispute.      

Çavuşoğlu also underlined that there is no guarantee of NATO protection in the event of an attack on Turkey, and the capacity of the alliance covers only 30 percent of Turkish air space at the moment. Furthermore, he said, NATO allies, especially the United States, Germany and the Netherlands; have withdrawn their Patriot missiles from along the Turkish border.

The top diplomat also thanked Italy and Spain for extending their air defense system deployment, adding that these extensions helped Turkey to defend its aerial domain.

“There is no guarantee that we can purchase Patriots tomorrow if we want to,” Çavuşoğlu said, elaborating on the ongoing talks with the United States for procurement of the American air defense system.

“We need to address our own needs. We would have liked to buy [air defense systems] from our allies,” he said, adding that U.S. President Donald Trump and Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan will discuss the matter.

“Trump understands the issue quite well, yet as always, different opinions rise from the U.S.,” he said.

Tensions between the two countries have escalated in recent months, with Turkey set to begin receiving the advanced S-400 Russian surface-to-air missile defense system, which Washington said will jeopardize Turkey’s role in the F-35 program and could trigger sanctions.      

U.S. officials advised Turkey to buy the U.S. Patriot missile system rather than the S-400s from Moscow, arguing the Russian system would be incompatible with NATO systems and expose the F-35 to possible Russian subterfuge.      

Turkey, however, emphasized that the S-400 would not be integrated into NATO systems and would not pose a threat to the alliance. Turkey has urged the formation of a commission to clarify any technical issues, but the United States has failed to respond to its proposal. 

Turkey made the decision in 2017 to purchase the S-400 system following protracted efforts to purchase air defense missiles from the U.S. with no success.

Admiral Hotham’s Action 12-14 March 1795

In March 1795, Admiral Hotham was in temporary command of the Mediterranean Fleet. On 8 March Hotham heard that the French Admiral Pierre Martin had sailed with fifteen ships-of-the-line from Toulon to protect a troop convoy intended for the invasion of Corsica. Hotham led his fourteen battleships in pursuit. Nelson himself described:

12 March. At daylight our fleet much scattered. At 6 A. M. Princess Royal made the signal for the enemy’s fleet, south. We endeavoured to join the Princess Royal, which we accomplished at 9. Light airs, southerly: the enemy’s fleet nearing us very fast, our fleet nearly becalmed. At 9.15, Admiral Goodall (in Princess Royal) made the signal for the ships near to form ahead and astern of him, as most convenient: Admiral Hotham (in Britannia) made the same signal. Our ships endeavouring to form a junction; the enemy pointing to separate us, but under a very easy sail.

They did not appear to me to act like officers who knew anything of their profession. At noon, they began to form a line on the larboard tack, which they never accomplished. At 2 P. M. they bore down in a line ahead, nearly before the wind, but not more than nine sail formed. They then hauled the wind on the larboard tack; about three miles from us, the wind southerly, Genoa lighthouse NNE about five leagues; saw the town very plain. At 3. 1 5 P. M. joined Admiral Hotham; who made the signal to prepare for battle; the body of the enemy’s fleet about three or four miles distant. At 4.6, signal to form the order of battle on the larboard tack: 4.30, signal for each ship to carry a light during the night. At 5.16, signal for each ship to take suitable stations for their mutual support, and to engage the enemy as they came up. Our fleet at this time was tolerably well formed, and with a fine breeze, easterly; which, had it lasted half an hour, would certainly have led us through the enemy’s fleet, about four ships from the van ship, which was separated from the centre about one mile. At 5.45, the fleet hoisted their colours. At dark, the wind came fresh from the westward. At 6.55, the signal to wear together. A fresh breeze all night: stood to the southward all night, as did the enemy.

13 March. At daylight, the enemy’s fleet in the SW, about three or four leagues with fresh breezes. Signal for a general chase. At 8 A. M. a French ship of the line carried away her main and fore topmasts. At 9.15, the Inconstant frigate fired at the disabled ship, but receiving many shot, was obliged to leave her. At 10 A. M. tacked and stood towards the disabled ship, and two other ships of the line. The disabled ship proved to be the Ca Ira of 84 guns, 1,300 men; (the others were the) Sans Culotte, 1 20 guns; and the Jean Bart 74 guns. We could have fetched the Sans Culotte, by passing the Ca Ira to windward, but on looking round I saw no ship of the line within several miles to support me; the Captain was the nearest on our lee quarter. I then determined to direct my attention to the Ca Ira, who, at 10.15, was taken in tow by a frigate; the Sans Culotte and Jean Bart keeping about gunshot distance on her weather bow. At 10.20 the Ca Ira began firing her stern chasers. At 10.30 the Inconstant passed us to leeward, standing for the fleet. As we drew up with the enemy, so true did she fire her stern-guns that not a shot missed some part of the ship, and latterly the masts were struck every shot, which obliged me to open our fire a few minutes sooner than I intended, for it was my intention to have touched his stern before a shot was fired. But seeing plainly from the situation of the two fleets, the impossibility of being supported, and in case any accident happened to our masts, the certainty of being severely cut up, I resolved to fire so soon as I thought we had a certainty of hitting. At 11.15 A. M., being within one hundred yards of the Ca Ira’s stern, I ordered the helm to be put a-starboard, and the driver and after-sails to be braced up and shivered, and as the ship fell off; gave her our whole broadside, each gun double-shotted. Scarcely a shot appeared to miss. The instant all were fired, braced up our after-yards, put the helm a-port, and stood after her again. This manoeuvre we practised till 1 P. M., never allowing the Ca Ira to get a single gun from either side to fire on us. They attempted some of their after-guns, but all went far ahead of us. At this time the Ca Ira was a perfect wreck, her sails hanging in tatters, mizen top-mast, mizen topsail, and cross jack yards shot away. At 1 P. M. the frigate hove in stays, and got the Ca Ira round.

I observed the guns of the Ca Ira to be much elevated, doubtless laid for our rigging and distant shots, and when she opened her fire in passing, the elevation not being altered, almost every shot passed over us, very few striking our hull. The captain of the Ca Ira told Admiral Goodall and myself that we had killed and, wounded one hundred and ten men, and so cut his rigging to pieces that it was impossible for him to get up other topmasts.

As the frigate first, and then the Ca Ira, got their guns to bear, each opened her fire, and we passed within half pistol shot. As soon as our after-guns ceased to bear, the ship was hove in stays, keeping, as she came round, a constant fire, and the ship was worked with as much exactness as if she had been turning into Spithead. On getting round, I saw the Sans Culotte, who had before wore with many of the enemy’s ships, under our lee bow, and standing to pass to leeward of us, under top-gallant sails. At 1.30 P. M. the admiral made the signal for the van-ships to join him. I instantly bore away, and prepared to set all our sails, but the enemy having saved their ship, hauled close to the wind, and opened their fire, but so distant as to do us no harm; not a shot, I believe, hitting. Our sails and rigging were very much cut, and many shot in our hull and between wind and water, but, wonderful, only seven men were wounded. The enemy as they passed our nearest ships opened their fire, but not a shot, that I saw, reached any ship except the Captain, who had a few passed through her sails. Till evening, employed shifting our topsails and splicing our rigging. At dark, in our station: signal for each ship to carry a light. Little wind: south-westerly all night: stood to the westward, as did the enemy.

14 March. At daylight, taken aback with a fine breeze at NW, which gave us the weather-gage, whilst the enemy’s fleet kept the southerly gage. Saw the Ca Ira, and a line-of-battle ship, who had her in tow about three and a half miles from us, the body of the enemy’s fleet about five miles. 6.15 A. M., signal for the line of batde, SE and NW; 6.40, for the Captain and Bedford to attack the enemy. At 7 A. M., signal for the Bedford to engage close; Bedford’s signal repeated for close action. 7.5, for the Captain to engage close. Captain’s and Bedford’s signals repeated; at this time, the shot from the enemy reached us, but at a great distance. 7.15, signal for the fleet to come to the wind on the larboard tack. This signal threw us and the Princess Royal to the leeward of the Illustrious, Courageux, and Britannia. 7.20, the Britannia hailed, and ordered me to go to the assistance of the Captain and Bedford. Made all sail: Captain lying like a log on the water, all her sails and rigging shot away: Bedford on a wind on the larboard tack. 7.15, signal to annul coming to the wind on the larboard tack. 7.35, signal for the Illustrious and Courageux to make more sail. 7.42, Bedford to wear, Courageux to get in her station. At this time, passed the Captain; hailed Admiral Goodall, and told him Admiral Hotham’s orders, and desired to know if I should go ahead of him. Admiral Goodall desired me to keep close to his stern. The Illustrious and Courageux took their stations ahead of the Princess Royal, the Britannia placed herself astern of me, and Tancredi lay on the Britannia’s lee quarter. At 8 A. M. the enemy’s fleet began to pass our line to windward, and the Ca Ira and Le Censeur were on our lee side; therefore the Illustrious, Courageux, Princess Royal, and Agamemnon were obliged to fight on both sides of the ship. The enemy’s fleet kept the southerly wind, which enabled them to keep their distance, which was very great. From 8 to 10, engaging on both sides. About 8.45, the Illustrious lost her main and mizen masts. 9.15, the Courageux lost her main and mizen masts. At 9.25, the Ca Ira lost all her masts, and fired very little. At 10 Le Censeur lost her mainmast. 10.5, they both struck. Sent Lieutenant George Andrews to board them. By computation the Ca Ira is supposed to have about 350 killed and wounded on both days, and Le Censeur about 250 killed and wounded. From the lightness of the air of wind, the enemy’s fleet and our fleet were a very long time in passing, and it was past 1 P. M. before all firing ceased, at which time the enemy crowded all Possible sail to the westward, our fleet laying with their heads to South-east and east.

Hotham had captured two of the 15 enemy ships and thwarted the French attempt on Corsica. He told Captain Nelson:

We must be contented. We have done very well.

Nelson was angry and disappointed that they had not captured more of the French ships. Writing to his brother William, he said of the incident:

Had our good Admiral have followed the blow, we should probably have done more.

To his wife, Frances, he wrote:

I wish to be an Admiral and in command of the English Fleet; I should very soon either do much, or be ruined. My disposition cannot bear tame and slow measures. Sure I am, had I commanded our Fleet on the 14th, that either the whole French Fleet would have graced my triumph, or I should have been in a confounded scrape . . . Now, had we taken ten sail and allowed the eleventh to escape, when it had been possible to have got at her, I could never have called it well done.

By May 1795, Lord Hood had become ill and was allowed to go home on sick leave. At home, he complained about the weakness of the Mediterranean Fleet in such strong terms that he was dismissed from the command of the Mediterranean Fleet and ordered to strike his flag.

Meza Kaki – SS-Jagdverbände Ostland

15th Latvian SS division, 32nd company, 2nd batallion in parade in Riga.

Latvian independence, General der Waffen-SS und Polizei Friedrich Jeckeln,  Commander of SS and Police in Courland, promised that after the war Latvia would indeed regain its statehood. Nothing concrete came of these negotiations and over the next few days Jeckeln met with the obstinate Kurelian (named after General Jānis Kurelis group (the so-called “kurelieši”)) leaders several more times with nothing to show for his troubles. Having run out of patience, early on November 14 Jeckeln ordered German security forces to surround the main Kurelian camp. They disarmed and arrested nearly 600o men, including Upelnieks and Kurelis. On November 19 a military court in Liepaja tried a number of the captive Kurelian officers and sentenced Upelnieks and six others to death, a sentence carried out the following day. Jeckeln spared the aged Kurelis, since for many Latvians he had become a national symbol, and shipped him to Danzig instead. He then dispersed the rest of the Kurelians, except for 454 deserters whom he deported to Stutthof KZ. Eventually as many as 750 Kurelians were sent to Germany, of which thirty-four of the most incorrigible remained in Stutthof and most of the rest were assigned to the 15th Division, which at that time was regrouping in West Prussia.

Not all Kurelians surrendered without a fight. A battalion of some 400 men under Lt. Roberts Rubenis resisted the Germans, and a firefight erupted, continuing intermittently for several days, peaking on November 18-19. Many Kurelians fell, including Lt. Rubenis. The fleeing survivors skirmished with the pursuing Germans until December 9, when they finally scattered and melted into the woods. Some continued to resist as nationalist guerillas, another seventy to ninety joined the communist underground. In this engagement the Germans killed some 160 Kurelians, but they had also suffered casualties of their own. The clash between the Rubenis band and German security forces was the only significant instance of armed anti-German resistance by noncommunist Latvians One should add that it came unintentionally, a spontaneous response to German attempts to disarm and liquidate the unit, not as a planned uprising initiated by the Kurelians. It was this single, accidental incident that earned for the Kurelians inclusion in the annals of the Latvian anti-German resistance

Realizing the failure of the Kurelians to become a viable anticommunist partisan band, as early as October 1944 Jeckeln organized another group for that purpose, the SS-Jagdverbände Ostland (the Hunting Commandos), popularly known as the Meza Kaki, or the (Wildkatze) Wildcats . Trained and organized in the Reich under the watchful eye of Otto Skorzeny, the legendary SS commando officer whose daring raid rescued Mussolini from imprisonment, the Wildcats, unlike the Kurelians, remained under strict SD control. With many Baltic Germans serving alongside select Latvians, the Wildcats functioned as a counterinsurgency and intelligence- gathering band. Incredibly the first group of 150 Latvian recruits left for Wildcat training in the Reich on November 16, aboard the same ship that transported the hapless, captive Kurelians to incarceration at Stutthof Kz. The Wildcats launched operations in late 1944 and continued their anti-Soviet resistance into 1945 and even after the German capitulation in May. Just as some former Kurelians fought for the pro-Soviet under- ground, other Kurelians eventually came out of hiding and joined the Wildcats. Since the Wildcats clearly were a German fabrication, by no stretch of the imagination can they be regarded as part of the anti-German resistance. After the war some of them persisted with their anti-Soviet activities as part of the nationalist partisan movement known as the Meza Brali, the Forest Brothers.

The restoration of Latvian sovereignty was one of the constant points of interest for the Latvian operative staff of the Jagdverband Ostland (including the Wildkatze). The members of the staff positioned themselves as freedom fighters who are fighting for independence along with the armed forces of the Nazi Germany and that the leadership of the Latvian operative staff of the SS-Jagdverband should be the core of the restored Latvian state, meaning that the members of the operative staff were to take leading positions in the restored Latvian state. The Latvian National Committee (henceforth — LNK) was created by the representatives of the Latvian refugees, non-governmental organizations, soldiers at the front lines and representatives of Latvians in Germany with the backing of the Reichsfuehrer H. Himmler in Potsdam on February 20, 1945. The LNK became an operative interest for the Latvian operative staff of the SS-Jagdverband even before its official creation. The Wildkatze not only followed the creation of the LNK very closely, but also paid attention to the leading personnel, the selection criteria for the leadership of the LNK as well as its actions in Kurzeme. Special emphasis was put in monitoring the disposition of the residents and their attitude towards the newly created organization. The Wildkatze also made a thorough analysis of the LNK and included the information in their monthly intelligence reports. The disposition of local residents to the LNK was a major issue and usually made up to 40-50% of the intelligence reports. One can assume that the interest in the activities of the LNK was of interest for the Wildkatze was because the restoration of Latvian independence was perceived as the basis of their existence and the LNK was one of the ways to this goal and it was also a rival. The analysis of the LNK activities made by the Information unit of the Wildkatze, based on thorough analysis of the political situation and the disposition of local population reveals the weak points of the LNK — the pro-German character of the organization and the lack of support from the local populace. The Latvians residing in Kurzeme region were skeptical and negative towards the LNK. Most of the population of Kurzeme did not believe the LNK and are very cautious in their judgments (the main reason was their general lack of confidence in Germans and the LNK was a pro-German organization). The conclusion of the Wildkatze was that the LNK has come too late and that the Germans had already ransacked Kurzeme and scattered the population. The LNK is just a pawn in the international game started by the Germans and would be used by the Germans exploit the last reserves of strength of Latvian nation. One can conclude that the materials created by the analysts of the SS-Jagdverband are no different than the modern opinion on the lack of popularity of the LNK and are fairly objective historical sources. One must also note the courage it took for the Wildkatze to criticize the LNK project and to point at the imminent defeat of the Nazi Germany for the reports were sent to the highest leadership of the SS-Jagdverband and it was a well known fact that the penalty for popularization of defeatist ideology was death.

DORNIER Do 217: Nighthawks of the Luftwaffe

The least known of the three big Luftwaffe bomber families of the war, the Do 17/215/217 in its later variants provided the basis for a powerful and well­ armed night fighter, and for capable bomber, reconnaissance and anti‑ship platforms.

0ne of the enduring puzzles of World War II is why the Do 217, an extremely capable bomber, should have remained apparently unknown to British intelligence despite the fact that the first prototype flew in a completely open place in August 1938. Subsequent prototypes cleared most of the surprising list of difficulties, and by December 1940 the Do 217E‑1 bomber was in production. The surmise stemmed from the fact that the 217 was merely a heavier and pore powerful version of the widely used Do 177.

To be frank the Do 17 was not the world’s greatest tactical somber, though it was nice to fly and had no limitations whatever unlike the He 111 and Ju 88). The 217 was obviously potentially much pore formidable, with BMW 801MA or MI, engines of 1179 kW 1,580 hp) for take‑off and a bombload of up to 2500 kg (5,511 lb). In practice the initial major version, the 217E‑2, entered Luftwaffe servicein 1941, long after the Battle of Britain had been lost. Dornier Werke GmbH were never people to sit on their hands and wonder what had gone wrong. In June 1941 Claudius Dormer made a formal proposal for a Do 217 night‑fighter, and it came at the right time.

Even at the time the existing 217 was recognised as not by any neaps an ‘ultimate’ aircraft‑ All versions were likely to weigh well over 13608 kg (30,000 lb) and probably more than 15876 kg 35,0()0 lb), and called for 1492‑kW­(2,ooo‑hp) engines that were not available. On the other hand the basic 217 was a proven aircraft which many crews liked very much, and which could obviously without changing the engines ‑ be converted into a night‑fighter. The original E‑series internal fuel capacity of 2956 litres (650 Imp gals) was unchanged; it was enough for interception missions with the NJG wings and enough for intruder missions over England. The original E‑series bomber had capacious bomb bays, and the nightfighter retained the rear bay to house (for example) eight SC 5oX bombs of 50 kg (110 lb) each. In the forward bay was installed a tank of 1160 litres (255 Imp gals), giving a handsome margin over what aircrews might have expected.

The main, and obvious, change in the 217J night‑fighter was the nose. Instead of a multi‑pane Plexiglas nose for a bomb aimer, the J‑I had a ‘solid’ nose in which were installed four 20‑mm MG FF cannon and four 7.92‑mm MG 17 machine‑guns. The E‑2’s aft defensive armament, comprising an MG131 dorsal turret and a hand‑aimed MG131 in the ventral position, was retained unchanged. The J‑1 was operational from February 1942. Crews liked its firepower and endurance, but found it a rather heavy brute which was sluggish when fast manoeuvres were called for (not often) and needed bigger airfields than most of those that were available. More serious was the lack of airborne radar, though in 1941‑42 most Luftwaffe nightfighter pilots were far from convinced that such new gimmicks were worth having.

Dornier has no record of the first flight of a 217J‑2, with FuG 202 Lichtenstein BC radar, but it was probably in the spring of 1942. The J‑2 was a definitive night‑fighter, not an intruder, the bomb bays being eliminated. The J‑2 was lighter than previous Do 217 versions, and despite the `mattress’ of radar antennas the flight performance was almost the same as before. Only small numbers were built, and few combat missions were flown before 1943.

This was because, despite the heavy armament, the 217J was never considered as anything but a stop‑gap. Except for Rudolf Schoenert, none of the night‑fighter “experten” even considered the 217, and Schoenert only had a soft spot for it because only this aircraft could accommodate his invention of oblique upward‑firing guns ‑ later called schrage Musik ‑ with virtually no extra drag. Schoenert’s original suggestion in 1941 was not proceeded with, but following tests with a Bf 110 and Do 17Z in 1942 the idea was resurrected. Schoenert managed to get three Do 217J‑1s converted for tests at Wittmundhaven and Tarnewitz. Results were promising, and in winter 1942‑43 the 2 Jagddivision had three more 217s converted at Diepensee with a more fully engineered installation of either four or (one aircraft) six MG151/20s. In early 1943 these were tested with increasing success by Schoenert’s 3/NJG 3. When Schoenert was given the command of II/NJG 5 (Bf 110s) he brought his own 217 with him. As a result, a standard Rustsatze (factory modification) R22, for installing four MG151s at an angle of 70° into either the Do 217J or Ju 88C was introduced. These were the first schrage Musik kits to be officially approved for general use.

Thus, in the matter of armament, the 217 led all the other nightfighters in 1942‑43, and it always had superior flight endurance. On the other hand its performance, as delivered by Dormer, was totally inadequate. None of the bomber’s equipment had been removed (apart from the bombsight), so the operational Gruppen (all of which used the 217J in a mix with other types, usually the 110) began removing as much as possible.

Flame‑dampers on the exhausts clearly had to stay, but the rear defensive guns, armour, dinghy, dive brakes and (in the J‑1) bomb carriers and release mechanism were all removed. This had a considerable beneficial effect, maximum speed at optimum height of 5200 m (17,060 ft) rising from 430 to 510 km/h (26 7 to 317 mph) (still slower than the E‑2 bomber) and time to climb to 5000 m (16,404 ft) being reduced from 35 to 24 minutes.

Meanwhile, from mid‑1941 the Dormer works had been developing a series of different 217 versions. Several remained on the drawing board, but two families were destined by 1943 to supplant the original E and J sub‑types as the standard production models. The first of these new series was the Do 217K, the first prototype of which (briefly fitted with a single‑fin tail) made its maiden flight on 31 March 1942.

In all essentials the resulting production 217K‑1, which began to come off production in about October 1942, was similar to the later E‑series, and it was likewise intended for night bombing. The only significant changes were fitting BMW 801D engines, giving a maximum power of 1268 kW (1,700 hp), and a redesign of the forward fuselage. There had been nothing particularly wrong with the original cockpit of the Do 17Z/215/217E, but Dormer ‑influenced by Junkers’ development of the Ju 88B/188 ‑ developed a nose similar to that of the He 177 and FW 191, with the front glazed part continued up to the top of the fuselage. This had the slight drawback of making the pilot look ahead through distant Plexiglas on which he tended to mis‑focus his eyes, especially when the panes reflected lighted parts of the cockpit. At first the K‑1 had MG81Z twin 7.92‑mm guns in the nose, two single MG81s firing to the sides/rear, an MG131 in the dorsal turret and another MG131 in the rear ventral position. Later two more MG81s were added firing to the sides. It was possible to fit the R19 installation of one or two MG81Z firing astern from the tailcone, but it was more common to have the R25 installation of a Perlon divebombing parachute. Not many K‑is were built, at least one being fitted with underwing racks for no fewer than four LT F5b torpedoes.

Running a few weeks later in timing, the Do 217K‑2 was the heaviest of all production 217s, at 16850 kg (37,147 lb). It was specifically developed to carry the FX1400 radio‑controlled heavy bomb, the He 111H having been found not really suitable for the task. The massive bombs, also known as Fritz X, were slung on special racks under the inner wings. An extra fuel tank of 1160 litres (255 Imp gals) capacity was fitted into the forward bomb bay. To carry the greatly increased weight the outer wings were extended in span from 19 to 24.8 m (62 ft 4 in to 81 ft 4 in), and handling and overall performance remained satisfactory. Almost all K‑2s had the R19 fitting of twin MG81Z guns (four in all) in the tail, and some even had an MG81Z firing aft from the tail of each engine nacelle.

The K‑2’s greatest day was 9 September 1943. Maj Bernhard Jope’s III/KG 100, based at Istres, made a concerted assault on the Italian fleet as it sailed to join the Allies. The greatest battleship, Roma, took two direct hits, blew up and sank within minutes. Her sister, Italia, limped to Malta with 800 tons of water on board. Later the powerful bombs, each weighing 1570 kg (3,461 lb), crippled or sank many other ships. Some were launched by Do 217K‑3s, which instead of having the FuG 203a Kehl I/FuG 230a Strassburg guidance link, had the FuG 203c or 203d Kehl IV with which the bomb aimer could guide either FX 1400 or the smaller Hs 293A winged bomb.

The other production Do 217 family were the M bombers and N night‑fighters. Structurally these were similar to earlier versions; in fact the first 217M was merely a K‑1 fitted with Daimler‑Benz DB603A liquid‑cooled engines, each of 1380 kW (1,850 maximum horsepower). The M‑1 went into production almost straight away, being very similar to a K‑1 except for having slightly better performance at high altitude. Not many were built, the need for nightfighters being more pressing, but one achieved notoriety on the night of 23 February 1944 when it made a perfect belly landing near Cambridge (soon flying in RAF markings), the crew having baled out over 100 km (62 miles) away near London!

Despite its later suffix letter the corresponding night‑fighter, the Do 217N, flew as early as 31 July 1942, the DB603 engine installation having been designed in 1941. Production Do 217N‑1s began to reach the Luftwaffe in January 1943. By this time critical feedback about the 217J had been going on for many months, and the NJG crews were disappointed to find the N‑1 incorporated none of their mostly obvious recommendations.

This was largely because the RLM, and Erhard Milch in particular, disallowed any modifications that would reduce output or increase costs. By mid‑1943, however, Dornier had switched to the N‑2, and also produced the Ul conversion set with which existing night‑fighters could be modified. The chief changes were to remove the dorsal turret and lower rear gun gondola and add wooden fairings. The reduction in drag and removal of some two tonnes of weight raised flight performance to a useful level, maximum speed at medium heights exceeding 500 km/h (310 mph). With the devastating armament of four MGl51s and four MG17s firing ahead and four more MG151s firing at 70° upwards, the 217N‑2 was a vast improvement over the J‑1, and soon appeared with the FuG 220 Lichtenstein SN‑2 radar. By 1944 217Js and Ns were scattered over a vast area of Germany and the occupied countries, as well as I/NJG 100 on the Eastern Front. On the other hand no Gruppe was ever solely equipped with the Do 217, and various problems militated against it ever becoming a top nightfighter as did the Bf 110G and Ju 88G. In the case of the best subtype, the N‑2, the main problem was an enduring series of troubles and shortages with the engines, so that aircraft were continually being cannibalised. For example as early as July 1943 all 14 Do 217Ns of II/NJG 3 were lying around with damaged engines, leaving the Gruppe to carry on with just seven Bf 110s. The point could also be made that the same DB 603 engines powered the He 219, and this was not only nearly 200 km/h (124 mph) faster but it was also a superior night‑fighter in every way‑but endlessly dogged by its own problems and production difficulties.

Total production of Do 217Js and Ns amounted to a mere 364, terminating in October 1943. From April 1943 until Italy’s capitulation five months later small numbers of Do 217J‑2s served with the 59° and 60° Gruppi of the Regia Aeronautica. They saw little action and suffered severe attrition from accidents and other problems.

Various related aircraft which never entered service were all intended for flight at high altitudes. First to be started, as an entry in the 1939‑40 Bomber B requirement, was the Do 317. This was to be basically a 217 with DB604 engines, each with four banks totalling 24 cylinders and giving a maximum power of 1984 kW (2,660 hp) each, and with a four‑seat pressure cabin in the nose. In 1940 this was dropped and some of its features used to assist development of the Do 217P, which had a similar pressure cabin but was powered by two DB603B engines supercharged by a large two‑stage blower and intercooler in the rear fuselage, driven by a third engine, a DB605T. The first 217P flew in June 1942, and there were plans for a production Do 217P‑0 reconnaissance aircraft with almost the same extended outer wings as the K‑2 (raising service ceiling to an estimated 16154 m /53,000 ft), but this was abandoned.

Meanwhile, in late 1941, the Do 317 was resurrected, and in early 1943 the first 317 began flight testing. This was planned in two versions. The 317A was a broadly conventional high‑altitude bomber with DB603A engines, outwardly having much in common with the 217M apart from an odd tail with triangular vertical surfaces. The next‑generation 317B was to have extended wings of 26 m (85 ft) span, huge DB610 double engines each of 2141 kW (2,870 hp), and defensive armament comprising a remotely controlled 20‑mm MG151 in the tailcone and three twin‑gun turrets, two of them remotely controlled. Eventually the 317 also ground to a halt, but five of the 317A series prototypes were modified as unpressurised launch aircraft for the Hs 293A radio‑controlled missiles. Redesignated as Do 217Rs, they actually saw combat duty with III/KG 100 at Orleans‑Bricy in 1944. At 17770 kg (39,021 lb) they were the heaviest of the whole 2171317 family actually to fly, though had they gone ahead, the 317A and 317B would have been much heavier still.

Russian Civil War (1425-1453)

The Muscovite boyars pledge their support to the dethroned Vasily II.

Muscovy succession dispute that led to a protracted power struggle. Throughout the Kievan and early Muscovite periods, the princes of Russia followed the custom of lateral succession. The throne passed from brother to brother, and when that generation died out, it passed to the eldest son of the eldest brother who had held the throne before. Sons whose father had died before holding the throne were excluded (izgoi) from the line of succession. This changed in the late fourteenth and early fifteenth centuries, when the grand princes of Moscow, after consolidating their power, at- tempted to adopt a policy of linear succession to keep power in Moscow, rather than allowing princes outside Moscow to gain the grand princely throne.

Dmitry Donskoi (r. 1359-1389) stipulated in his last testament that his second son, Yury, was to succeed Vasily I should Vasily die without male issue, but Vasily’s son, Vasily II, was born in 1415. In 1425, Vasily II succeeded his father. A regency council was set up consisting of Vasily’s mother, the Metropolitan Foty of the Orthodox Church, and Boyar I. D. Vsevolozhsky. Vasily’s maternal grandfather, Grand Prince Vytautas (Witold) of Lithuania, served as Vasily’s guardian.

Faced with this situation, Vasily’s uncle, Yury Dmitrevich, argued that in his testament, Dmitry had stated that Yury was to succeed Vasily I (ignoring the fact that this provision was to have no effect if Vasily had a son). Further, by the custom of lateral succession, he, Yury, was the rightful heir to the grand princely throne and refused to recognize Vasily II as grand prince. He was joined in this dispute by his sons, Vasily Kosoi and Dmitry Shemiaka.

The dynastic war of succession that ensued lasted for much of Vasily II’s reign. Yury refused to come to Moscow and swear allegiance to Vasily, but an outbreak of the plague, as well as Vytautas’s protection of Vasily, led to a truce. The deaths of Vytautas in 1430 and Foty in 1431 allowed Yury to renew his claim to the throne. Both Vasily and Yury appealed to the Tartar khan of the Golden Horde for resolution of the dispute, and the khan ruled in favor of Vasily. Yury, granted the principalities of Dmitrov by the khan, would not accept the decision and marched against Vasily, defeating the grand prince’s forces on the Klyazma River in April 1433. Yury marched into Moscow and made peace with Vasily but was unable stay in power and soon ceded the grand princely throne and his own principality of Dmitrov to Vasily. At this point, Vasily launched a campaign against his cousins, who had not been party to the agreement between Vasily II and Yury. The grand prince’s army was again defeated (September 1433). Soon afterward, Yury again attacked Vasily and defeated him yet again, in March 1434. Vasily fled, and Yury again occupied Moscow, where he died on 5 June 1434.

Contrary to the custom of lateral succession and the decision of the khan, Yury’s son, Vasily Kosoi, assumed the throne of the grand prince. (By the rules of lateral succession, Vasily II, as eldest member of his generation, was the rightful heir.) Despite his succession, Kosoi lost even the support of his brothers and was defeated, captured, and blinded by Vasily II in 1436. (Kosoi means “squint-eyed” in Russian, referring to this blinding.) Removed from the political scene, Kosoi died in 1447 or 1448. Following Vasily II’s return to power, tensions continued over the next decade between Dmitry Shemiaka and Vasily II. Also at this time, Vasily’s son Ivan (the future Ivan III) was born in 1440. Disputes over the distribution of inheritance, Shemiaka’s contribution to Vasily’s military ventures, and tribute to the Golden Horde never resulted in open warfare. An unrelated incident was the catalyst for renewed conflict. Khan Ulu-Muhammed, migrating with his horde from Crimea, clashed with Muscovite troops near Murom and remained in the area to pillage. Leading a small force, Vasily unexpectedly came upon Ulu-Muhammed outside Suzdal, on 7 July 1445 and was wounded and captured.

Dmitry Shemiaka, the next senior member of this generation, assumed the grand princely throne, but Vasily negotiated with the khan and was released in November 1445, on the condition that he pay a large ransom and a higher tribute than before. Rather than yield, Dmitry used the incident to renew the dynastic struggle. He seized Vasily’s mother and wife while Vasily was on pilgrimage to the Trinity Monastery north of Moscow and sent a force to arrest Vasily. Vasily was accused of showing favoritism to the Tartars as well as blinding Dmitry’s brother, Vasily Kosoi. In retaliation, Vasily II was likewise blinded. Shemiaka then released Vasily in September 1466, on the condition that Vasily renounce his claim to the throne and swear allegiance to Shemiaka. Vasily immediately made a pilgrimage to the St. Cyril-Beloozero Monastery, where the abbot absolved him of this oath. He then began gathering his supporters against Shemiaka. In the face of growing opposition, Shemiaka abandoned Moscow. Vasily returned in triumph in 1447 and continued the war, finally defeating Shemiaka. Fleeing to Novgorod, Shemiaka was poisoned there in 1453.

Moscow and Novgorod

During and immediately after the war Vasily II was also able to assert dominance over princes and lands beyond the territories attached to Vladimir and Moscow. In 1449, he concluded a treaty with the prince of Suzdal’, in which the latter agreed not to seek or receive patents for their office from the Tatar khan. His position became dependent upon the prince of Moscow, not the khan. When the prince of Riazan’ died in 1456, Vasily II brought his son into his own household and sent his governors to administer that principality. By that time Vasily had also entered into new agreements with the prince of Tver’, who while not acknowledging Vasily’s seniority, nevertheless pledged his co-operation in all ventures against the Tatars as well as their Western neighbours; Boris also recognised Vasily as the rightful grand prince and as prince of Novgorod.

Vasily also asserted his authority over Novgorod. In 1431, Novgorod had concluded a treaty with the prince of Lithuania, Svidrigailo, and accepted his nephew as its prince. But even though Svidrigailo was the brother-in-law of Iurii of Galich, Novgorod had been neutral during Iurii’s conflict with Vasily II. When Vasily II was engaged against Vasily Kosoi (the Cross-Eyed), he negotiated with Novgorod to enlist its support; he indicated a willingness to settle outstanding disputes over Novgorod’s eastern frontier. But after he had defeated Kosoi, he reneged on his agreement. He sent his officers to collect tribute and in 1440-1, after the Lithuanian prince had left the city, he launched a military campaign against Novgorod and forced it to make an additional payment and promise to continue to pay taxes and fees regularly. During the 1440s, however, Novgorod was at war with both of its major Western trading partners, the Hanseatic League and the Teutonic Order. The Hansa blockaded Novgorod and closed its own commercial operations in the city for six years. Novgorod lost commercial revenue. It suffered from high prices and also from a famine. In the midst of these crises Novgorod accepted another prince from Lithuania (1444). When Vasily II and Dmitrii Shemiaka took their conflict to the north and disrupted Novgorod’s northern trade routes, Novgorod gave support and sanctuary to Shemiaka.

In 1456, as Vasily II was asserting his authority over other Russian principalities, he also launched a major military campaign against Novgorod and once again defeated it. Novgorod was obliged to accept the Treaty of Iazhelbitsii. According to its terms, it had to cut off its connections with Shemiaka’s family as well as with any other enemies of the grand prince. It was to pay taxes and the Tatar tribute to the grand prince; it was to accept the grand prince’s judicial officials in the city; and it was to conclude agreements with foreign powers only with the approval of the grand prince. It was obliged, furthermore, to cede key sectors of its northern territorial possessions to the grand prince.

The dynastic war ended in victory for Vasily II. It resolved in his favour the issues of succession and of the prerogatives of the grand prince. The outcome of the war left Vasily II with undisputed control over the grand principality and its possessions as well as the territories attached to the principality of Moscow. His relatives, who had shared the familial domain when he took office, had all died or gone into exile or been subordinated. Only one cousin, Mikhail of Vereia, retained an apanage principality. The remainder of the apanage principalities, which had been the territories of Vasily’s Iurevich cousins, of Ivan Andreevich of Mozhaisk, and of Vasily Iaroslavich of Serpukhov, along with their economic resources and revenues had reverted to the grand prince.

Vasily’s post-war policies towards his relatives and neighbouring princes also provided the grand prince with more secure military power. Although he still relied on them to supply military forces, they had become subordinate to him or had committed themselves by treaty to support him. Vasily, furthermore, established his Tatar ally, Kasim, on the Oka River. The Tatars of the khanate of Kasimov became available to participate in the military ventures of the Muscovite grand princes. Vasily II thus ensured that the grand prince would not be as militarily vulnerable as he had been when the wars began. His policies gave him access to larger forces than potential competitors within north-eastern Russia without being dependent on support from independent princes and the khans of the Great Horde and emerging khanates of Kazan’ and Crimea.  

Vasily II emerged from the war as the strongest prince in north-eastern Russia. Shortly after he recovered Moscow, Vasily asserted his sovereignty by using the title `sovereign of all Rus” on newly minted coins. In late 1447 or early 1448, he also named his young son, Ivan, his co-ruler; coins then appeared with the inscription `sovereigns of all Rus”. While thereby making it more difficult for co-lateral relatives to challenge his son’s succession, Vasily II also confirmed a vertical pattern of succession for the princes of Moscow. When Ivan III assumed his father’s throne in 1462, no other prince within the house of Moscow had the resources or the status to mount a military challenge for the throne, as Iurii Dmitr’evich and his sons had done. The Tatar khans also lost their decisive influence over succession. Vasily II had appealed to Khan Ulu-Muhammed for a patent to hold the throne of Vladimir. But it was his own military victory over his uncle and cousins that confirmed the replacement of the traditional lateral pattern of succession with a vertical one. Vasily II was able to leave the grand principality as well as his Muscovite possessions to his son without acquiring prior approval of a Tatar khan. Ivan III, followed by his son and grandson, would expand those core territories to build the state of Muscovy.

The Parthian wars of Septimius Severus

Having served c. AD180 as legatus of Legio IV Scythica at Zeugma, Septimius Severus returned to Syria in 194 to confront Pescennius Niger who had proclaimed himself emperor at Antioch in the previous year. 107 It seems that the kings of Osrhoene and Hatra had supported Niger, and the Parthians had taken advantage of the civil war to strengthen their influence in the region. These were the motives for Severus’ campaigns in Osrhoene and Mesopotamia, and later against Hatra. Severus took control of Syria quickly and in 195 successfully campaigned against the Parthians in Mesopotamia where forces from Osrhoene, Adiabene and the Arabians (probably Hatra) had begun to besiege Nisibis. It seems that the Edessan king in particular had conspired to rid the kingdom of Roman control by taking advantage of the civil war between Septimius Severus and Pescennius Niger. The siege of Nisibis indicates that it was under Roman military control at this time, but it is difficult to estimate how much earlier this had taken place.

The result of Severus’ first Parthian campaign was the conversion of part of the kingdom of Osrhoene into a Roman province and the retention of a client-kingdom at Edessa based on a much reduced portion of the former kingdom. Severus prosecuted a second and more significant war against the Parthians in 197-198 in response to an attack on Mesopotamia in which Nisibis had almost fallen. Once successful in Mesopotamia, Severus invaded Parthia, marched down the Euphrates and captured Babylon and Seleucia-Ctesiphon. The emperor attacked Hatra on his return from Parthia late in 198 or early in 199, and again in 200; but he was unsuccessful in both cases.

The important outcomes of Severus’ campaigns in the 190s included the formation of the province of Mesopotamia, the establishment of the province of Osrhoene and the creation of the dependent kingdom of Edessa. Important also was the division of Syria into the two provinces of Coele Syria and Syria Phoenice. The northern half of the old province of Syria constituted Coele Syria and it was in this new, smaller province that the stretch of the Euphrates from Samosata to Dura Europos flowed. The city of Palmyra, more closely linked with the Euphrates through cities such as Dura Europos in Coele Syria, actually became a part of the province of Syria Phoenice. It has also been argued recently that the kingdom of Hatra formed an alliance with Rome soon after the unsuccessful Severan attempts to capture it, but the evidence for such an alliance is not clear until the 230s.

The province of Mesopotamia occupied the area of northern Mesopotamia. It lay to the east of the new province of Osrhoene and the client-kingdom of Edessa, across the Khabur river and as far east as the upper Tigris. The inclusion of much of the Khabur river in the province of Mesopotamia in the third century AD is indicated by a papyrus of 245 from a village thought to be near modern Hasseke, located just to the west of the Khabur. The papyrus is a petition from a villager to Julius Priscus who is named as Praefectus Mesopotamiae, indicating that he had jurisdiction over this section of the Khabur. This is thought to reflect the situation at the time of the province’s formation 50 years earlier.

The province of Mesopotamia was created by 198 and received two of three newly raised Parthian legions. Both legions seem to have been established there after the first war of 194/195, I Parthica at Singara and III Parthica probably at Nisibis. The coloniae and major cities/fortresses of the new province were Nisibis, Singara and Rhesaina. The province was governed by a praefectus of equestrian rank, and its garrison of two legions – the same number as Coele Syria – demonstrates the military and defensive role it was designed to play. The formation of the province took Roman administration and a permanent military presence further east than it had ever been before. It is true that Trajan had established a short-lived province of Mesopotamia approximately 80 years earlier, and from the mid-160s Mesopotamia perhaps experienced a Roman military presence, but Severus’ establishment of the province was a long-term undertaking. According to Dio, Septimius Severus said that he had gained this territory in order to make it a bulwark for Syria. Dio’s report of Severus’ claim is telling with regard to the longer-term significance of Mesopotamia following its formation. Increased power and authority in Syria resulted in the third century. This is the context in which the Roman military presence on the middle Euphrates and Khabur rivers needs to be considered. Dio was ultimately critical of the move because Rome had taken control of more territory that had been traditionally Parthian and this led to the empire becoming even more embroiled in wars and disputes with its eastern neighbour.

It is difficult to be precise about the territory encompassed by Mesopotamia as precision seems not to have existed in antiquity. Roman texts referring to Mesopotamia before the last years of the second century do not always mention the area that would become the province of Mesopotamia from Severus’ reign. In the second half of the first century AD, for example, Pliny the Elder located what he called the Prefecture of Mesopotamia in the western portion of what was then the kingdom of Osrhoene, containing the principal towns of Anthemusia and Nicephorium. Singara, which would form an important legionary base in the province of Mesopotamia under Septimius Severus and later emperors, was described in the same passage by Pliny as the capital of an Arabian tribe called the Praetavi. The province of Mesopotamia in the early third century comprised quite different territory to the earlier descriptions, but it probably bore similarities to its definition under Trajan. Lucian of Samosata, however, complained that contemporary writers in the 160s were so ill-informed about Mesopotamia and where it lay that they made serious errors in locating it and the cities it contained. Some precision, however, can be established. The area that comprised the province was focused on the important cities of Nisibis, Singara and Rhesaina, and part of the Khabur river lay within the province.

In the years between Septimius Severus’ reorganization of the eastern provinces and events late in the reign of Severus Alexander, the most significant developments relevant to Coele Syria, Osrhoene and Mesopotamia took place in the reign of Septimius Severus’ son Caracalla. In 212/213, the client-kingdom of Edessa was itself abolished and became part of the province of Osrhoene, with the city of Edessa becoming a Roman colonia. The provincial reorganization set in train following the territorial gains of Septimius Severus was for now complete. There were two provinces across the Euphrates and one of them lay on a section of the upper Tigris.

In 216, Caracalla, like his father, resolved on a Parthian campaign. This took him across the Tigris to Arbela before his murder near Edessa in 217. Caracalla’s short-lived successor Macrinus met with defeat at the hands of the Parthian king Artabanus V at Nisibis, but Mesopotamia remained under Roman control. The growing Sasanian challenge to the Parthians was developing, which may be reflected in the inability of Artabanus to press his victory in Mesopotamia. It was not until after the Sasanian overthrow of the Parthians was complete that Roman power in Mesopotamia and on the middle Euphrates would be seriously challenged.

Battle of Nisibis

After Caracalla’s assassination, his successor Macrinus (217-18) immediately announced that his predecessor had done wrong by the Parthians and restored peace. In 218, after a battle fought at Nisibis during which both sides suffered heavy losses, a treaty was signed. According to Herodian, the Roman emperor Macrinus was delighted about having won the Iranian opponent as a reliable friend.

Near the city of Nisibis in Mesopotamia, an army led by Parthian King Artabatus V clashed with the legions of Emperor Macrinus. Following a skirmish between opposing troops over control of a water source, the two armies assembled for battle. The Parthian host consisted of large formations of heavy cavalry – both clibanarii and cataphracti – light mounted bowmen and a contingent of armoured camel riders called dromedarii. Macrinus readied his army for battle across the plain: the legions deployed in the centre, with cavalry and Moorish troops placed on the flanks. Arrayed at intervals within the central formation were Moroccan auxilia. Once battle was joined, the Parthian heavy horse and mounted archers inflicted severe casualties on the Roman infantry, while the legionaries and light troops proved superior in all hand-to-hand action. As the contest wore on, the Romans found themselves increasingly at a disadvantage against the speed and manoeuvrability of the enemy cavalry. In an effort to disrupt these incessant attacks, the legions feigned retreat at one point so as to draw the horsemen onto ground littered with caltrops and other devices designed to cripple the horses. Fighting continued unabated until dusk. Battle resumed the next morning and lasted all day, but again ended at nightfall with no clear victor. On the third day, Artabatus attempted to use his superior numbers of cavalry to encircle the Roman formation by means of a double envelopment, but Macrinus extended his battle-line in order to thwart the Parthians’ efforts. Toward late afternoon, the Roman emperor sent envoys to treat for peace, which was readily granted by the king. Artabatus afterward returned to Persia with his army, and Macrinus and his forces withdrew to the city of Antioch in Syria. To deter a resumption of hostilities, Macrinus presented the Parthian ruler with gifts amounting to 200 million sesterces.

Camel Cataphracts

Like most Parthian armies, the forces under Artabanus consisted mostly of cavalrymen and archers. On the other hand, the Parthian army at Nisibis was unique in that it contained a contingent of a rare cataphract–type of warriors who were mounted not upon horses, but rather camels instead. In his History of the Roman Empire, Herodian first mentions the distinctive troops in the events leading up to the battle:

Artabanus was marching toward the Romans with a huge army, including a strong cavalry contingent and a powerful unit of archers and those cataphracts who hurl spears from camels.

The camel cataphracts fought with either spears or lances, and both riders and mounts wore extensive armour like the traditional cataphracts who rode horses. Along with the legionaries, the Roman army also included contingents of light infantry and Mauretanian cavalrymen. The fighting between the two ancient superpowers was brutal and lasted for three long days. Herodian recorded how deadly the Parthian warriors, including the camel cataphracts, were on the first day of the fighting, yet he also described how the Romans eventually managed to gain the upper hand:

The barbarians inflicted many wounds upon the Romans from above, and did considerable damage by the showers of arrows and the long spears of the cataphract camel riders. But when the fighting came to close quarters, the Romans easily defeated the barbarians; for when the swarms of Parthian cavalry and hordes of camel riders were mauling them, the Romans pretended to retreat and then they threw down caltrops and other keen–pointed iron devices. Covered by the sand, these were invisible to the horsemen and the camel riders and were fatal to the animals. The horses, and particularly the tender–footed camels, stepped on these devices and, falling, threw their riders. As long as they are mounted on horses and camels, the barbarians in those regions fight bravely, but if they dismount or are thrown, they are very easily captured; they cannot stand up to hand–to–hand fighting. And, if they find it necessary to flee or pursue, the long robes which hang loosely about their feet trip them up.

However, with the coming of night and no clear victor to the battle, the two armies retreated to their camps to rest for the night. The second day of the fighting ended in a stalemate as well. The third day of the battle, however, decided the outcome when the Parthians changed their tactics to try and fully envelope the numerically inferior Roman force. In response to the encircling attempts of the Parthian soldiers, the Romans extended their own lines to compensate for the extended Parthian front. However, the Parthians were able to exploit the weakened thinner lines of the Romans and achieve a great victory. Knowing he had lost the battle, Emperor Macrinus retreated and, soon after, his men fled to the Roman camp as well. Although the Parthians won the Battle of Nisibis, it was a Pyrrhic victory for Artabanus; the losses were heavy for both sides. Since the Parthian emperor desired peace almost as much as Macrinus, Artabanus accepted only a substantial payment in return for a cessation of hostilities, as opposed to the territory he previously demanded.

Although Emperor Macrinus was quickly defeated, executed and replaced by one of his rivals, Elagabalus (r. 218-222), in 218, the Roman Empire continued to persist for centuries following its defeat at Nisibis. The Parthian Empire, on the other hand, became even weaker after its conflict with Rome and continued on its steady decline. Revolts from within the empire continued to plague Artabanus so he could not sit back and enjoy his success over the Romans. In 220, the leader of the Persians, Ardashir, managed to break free from Parthian rule and exploit the weakness of the empire to extend his control over more and more land. By 224, Artabanus met Ardashir on the field of battle and lost more than his life; the Parthian Empire collapsed shortly after his fall. In place of the Parthians, a resurgent Persian state arose known as the Sassanian Empire. As the new supreme empire of the east, the armies of the Sassanians had some of the greatest warriors of the ancient world. Like its Parthian predecessor, the elite heavy cavalry of the Sassanian Empire were also cataphracts.


Emperor from 217 to 218, and a one-time PREFECT OF THE PRAETORIAN GUARD under Caracalla, whose death he masterminded. He was born to a poor family in Caesarea, in Mauretania, and many details of his life have not been verified, but he apparently moved to Rome and acquired a position as advisor on law and finances to the Praetorian prefect Plautianus. Surviving the fall of the prefect in 205, Macrinus became financial minister to Septimius Severus and of the Flaminian Way. By 212, Macrinus held the trust of Emperor Caracalla and was appointed prefect of the Praetorian Guard, sharing his duties with Oclatinus Adventus. Campaigning with Caracalla in 216 against the Parthians, Macrinus came to fear for his own safety, as Caracalla could be murderous. When letters addressed to the emperor seemed to point to his own doom, Macrinus engineered a conspiracy that ended in early 217 with Caracalla’s assassination near Edessa.

Feigning grief and surprise, Macrinus manipulated the legions into proclaiming him emperor. To ensure their devotion and to assuage any doubts as to his complicity in the murder, he deified the martially popular Caracalla. Meanwhile, the Senate, which had come to loathe the emperor, granted full approval to Macrinus’ claims. The Senate’s enthusiasm was dampened, however, by Macrinus’ appointments, including Adventus as city prefect and Ulpius Julianus and Julianus Nestor as prefects of the Guard. Adventus was too old and unqualified, while the two prefects and Adventus had been heads of the feared FRUMENTARII.

Real problems, both military and political, soon surfaced. Artabanus V had invaded Mesopotamia, and the resulting battle of Nisibis did not resolve matters. Unable to push his troops, whom he did not trust, Macrinus accepted a humiliating peace. This, unfortunately, coincided with plotting by Caracalla’s Syrian family, headed by JULIA MAESA. Macrinus had tried to create dynastic stability, but mutiny in the Syrian legions threatened his survival. The Severans put up the young Elagabalus, high priest of the Sun God at Emesa, as the rival for the throne. Macrinus sent his prefect Ulpius against the Severan forces only to have him betrayed and murdered. He then faced Elagabalus’ army, led by the eunuch Gannys, and lost. Macrinus fled to Antioch and tried to escape to the West but was captured at Chalcedon and returned to Antioch. Both Macrinus and his son DIADUMENIANUS, whom he had declared his coruler, were executed.

The reign of Macrinus was important in that it was the first time that a nonsenator and a Mauretanian had occupied the throne. Further, he could be called the first of the soldier emperors who would dominate the chaotic 3rd century A. D. As his successors would discover, the loyalty of the legions was crucial, more important in some ways than the support of the rest of the Roman Empire.


A strategically important city in Mesopotamia, between the upper reaches of the Tigris and Euphrates rivers. Nisibis was for many centuries the capital of the district of Mygdonia, situated on the Mygdonius River. Few cities were so bitterly involved in the conflicts between Rome and the empires of PARTHIA and PERSIA. Any advance into Mesopotamia from Armenia would aim for the occupation of Nisibis to allow a further attack against the Tigris or south into Mesopotamia and the Euphrates satrapies. In his campaign against Parthia, Emperor Trajan captured Nisibis in 114 but then lost it in the revolt of 116 that killed his general Maximus Santra. The reliable Moor, Lusius Quietus, was unleashed, and he retook Nisibis as well as EDESSA. Emperor Septimius Severus suppressed an uprising of the Osroene in 194 and created a colony at Nisibis, providing it with a procurator. Upon his return in 198, Severus decreed MESOPOTAMIA a province, with Nisibis as its capital and the seat of an Equestrian prefect who controlled two legions.

Throughout the 3rd century A. D., Nisibis was buffeted back and forth as Rome and Persia struggled against one another. Following the crushing defeat of King NARSES in 298, at the hands of Emperor Galerius, Nisibis enjoyed a monopoly as the trading center between the two realms. In 363, Julian launched an unsuccessful Persian expedition; his successor Jovian accepted a humiliating peace with SHAPUR Nisibis became Persian once again.


Versatile bomber, nightfighter, recce-plane which also carried the first guided aerial weapon.

The Dornier 217 was the first new German reconnaissance bomber to enter large‑scale service with the Luftwaffe after the beginning of World War II. It began its operational life during the last months of 1940 flying clandestine reconnaissance missions deep into Russia‑with which Germany was, at that time, ostensibly still on friendly terms. During 1942 and 1943 the Do 217 inflicted most of the damage caused by German air attacks on Britain. At the same time, a few of these aircraft operated as night fighters against the RAF night attacks on the Reich.

In the summer of 1943‑as the performance of the Dornier was beginning to fall short of what was required by frontline units‑the type underwent a new lease of life. It was modified to carry radio‑guided missiles. These were the first such weapons ever launched operationally from aircraft. In its new role the Do 217 scored some spectacular early successes. Finally, however, the overwhelming Allied fighter superiority on all fronts caught up with the bomber units operating the Do 217. From the beginning of 1944 almost all attempts to operate these aircraft against worthwhile Allied targets‑by day or by night, with or without missiles‑resulted in the same debilitating losses. By late summer 1944, after 1,887 examples had been delivered, the Do 217 had been all but discarded from front‑line service in the Luftwaffe.

A twin‑engined high‑winged monoplane with twin fins and rudders, the Dornier 217 was of conventional all‑metal construction. It carried a crew of four‑pilot, observer, radio operator/air gunner and ventral gunner. The observer, as well as navigating the aircraft, was responsible for bomb aiming and firing the nose‑mounted flexible gun on the rare occasions it was used. The positioning of the crew close together in the nose made for efficiency. During operations, a lot of information could be conveyed by signs or by pointing. This minimized the distractions caused by ‘intercom natter’.

The most used variant of the Do 217 was the E model. The forward‑firing gun armament usually fitted was a fixed 15mm cannon and a flexible 20mm cannon. The former was fired by the pilot and the latter by the observer. For defense there was a 13 mm machine‑gun in the power‑operated dorsal turret, four rifle‑calibre machine‑guns firing from the side windows of the crew compartment. Another of these weapons (later replaced by a 13mm gun) was mounted in the ventral position. Four 500kg bombs, or four containers each with 140 1‑kg incendiary bombs, or two 1,000kg sea mines were the typical loads carried in the bomb bay. There was also provision for the plane to carry a single F5B torpedo internally. But it seems that the aircraft never carried this weapon operationally.

Like other German bombers, the crew positions in the Do 217 were well protected with armor. The pilot had an 8.5mm‑thick steel plate shield behind his seat, 5mm‑thick steel under his seat pan and a further 5mm‑thick plate above and behind his head. Behind the crew compartment was a semi‑circular transverse armored bulkhead 8.5mm thick, with 5mm plates at the sides. As was normal German practice, the compartment for the inflatable life raft in the rear fuselage was protected with 5mm plate at the sides, top and bottom, and 8.5mm plate at the rear.

Also, as was usual for German bombers, self‑sealing fuel and oil tanks were fitted in the Do 217. This was a vital safeguard. The ignition of petrol or oil leaking from tanks caused major aircraft losses during World War II. The standard German self‑sealing tank comprised an inner shell of compressed cellulose fibre around which was a layer of thick leather, a layer of thick crude rubber, two layers of thin rubber sheet and an outer layer of thick vulcanized rubber. Altogether, the wall of the tank with its self‑sealing layer was about half‑an‑inch thick. When bullets or shell fragments hit the tank they usually punched their way clean through the walls and out the other side. But when the petrol or oil leaked out of the holes and reached the crude rubber a chemical reaction was set up. This caused the crude rubber to swell‑sealing the holes. During the sealing process a small amount of crude rubber was dissolved into the petrol. This caused some contamination, but not enough to seriously affect the engines. They continued to function with little loss of efficiency.

A further factor which helped reduce the vulnerability of the Do 217 was the fitting of air‑cooled engines. Because there was no coolant to leak away, air‑cooled engines were about half as likely to be stopped by battle damage as were liquid‑cooled engines. The 1,580hp BMW 801 14‑cylinder radials of the Do 217E employed direct fuel injection‑a useful feature because the engines continued to operate under negative‑G conditions. This was in contrast to the float‑type carburetors fitted to British fighters during the early war period. These cut out when their pilots tried to follow German aircraft bunting over into a dive.

Pilots who flew the Do 217 recall that it was a stable machine with good handling characteristics at the medium and high-speed ends of its performance range. Due to its high wing loading, however, the landing speed was also high. And the undercarriage frequently proved unable to take the demands made on it during a heavy landing.

With a maximum all‑up weight of about 17 tons, a range of 1,430 miles and a top speed of 320mph, the Dornier 217E’s closest equivalent was the American B26 Marauder. This had a similar weight and performance and was also designed with a high wing loading.

The Dornier 217 was designed as a replacement for theearlier Do17 medium bomber. The new plane was to have a higher performance and be able to carry a heavier bomb load, and it had to be stressed and equipped for dive-bombing attacks. The first prototype of the Do 217 made its maiden flight in August 1938. But its handling characteristics were bad and the prototype crashed the following month, killing both members of the test crew. By early in 1939 three more prototypes were flying. The problem of improving the basic handling characteristics of the Do 217 proved relatively simple to overcome. But that of making such a large aircraft into an effective dive-bomber proved beyond solution. Following lengthy trials with different types of air brake, during which some aircraft were lost and others overstressed during the pull‑out maneuver the dive-bombing attack was deleted from the aircraft’s repertoire.

The first Do 217 to enter service with the Luftwaffe was the E variant. Late in 1940, 10 of the first production aircraft were issued to the Second Staffel of Fernaufklaerungsgruppe 11‑a long‑range reconnaissance unit which soon afterwards became involved in the clandestine high‑altitude flights over Russia. During these missions the Dorniers carried two vertically‑mounted long‑focal‑length cameras. They took the photographs of the Soviet defenses which were to play an important role when the Germans invaded Russia in June 1941.

The first bomber unit to receive the Do 217 was the Second Gruppe of Kampfgeschwader 40, based in France, which received its complement (a Gruppe had a nominal strength of 30 aircraft) during the spring and summer of 1941. At first the aircraft were employed on minelaying missions against British harbors and shipping lanes and, less often, in direct attacks on shipping. Later in 1941 the three Gruppen of Kampfgeschwader 2 moved to France, also equipped with the new bomber.


By this time, large‑scale German air attacks on Britain had come to a halt with the transfer of the bulk of the bomber force to the Eastern front. Do 217s concentrated on anti‑shipping work. However, this quiescent period came to an abrupt halt following the powerful RAF attack which destroyed much of Lübeck on 28 March. Hitler demanded retaliation and in the month that followed German bombers, for the most part Do 217s of KG2, launched two sharp attacks on Exeter and two more on Bath. On the very night that Bath was under attack, however, the RAF was engaged in a series of four destructive raids on the German town of Rostock. Hitler was apoplectic at this affront and in an impassioned speech he spoke of taking a copy of Baedeker’s guidebook and marking off each British city as it was razed to the ground. Because of this the series of attacks became known in Britain as the Baedeker Raids. During the late spring of 1942, Bath, Norwich, York, Cowes, Hull and Poole, Grimsby and Exeter, all suffered varying degrees of damage. But the German bombers had to penetrate the increasingly powerful British night fighter and gun defenses, and suffered heavy losses. The series of attacks ended with three raids on Birmingham and one on Hull at the end of July, which cost the Luftwaffe 27 aircraft and caused only minor damage.

Following this battering Kampfgeschwader 2, which was now the only bomber unit operational with the Do 217, was withdrawn from operations over Britain to make good the losses suffered. But the respite was to prove short lived. On 19 August Allied forces launched the large‑scale seaborne raid on Dieppe and virtually all operational Luftwaffe units in France and Belgium went into action in defense of the port. Operating by day, the Dorniers came up against powerful standing patrols of Spitfires. The Germans suffered catastrophic losses. Out of a total of about 80 planes committed by KG2‑many of them flown by trainee crews‑20 were shot down. Having started the year with an average strength of 88 trained crews, by September 1942 KG2 was down to 23.

KG2 took little part in operations for the rest of the year. At the end of 1942 two improved versions of the Do 217 entered service‑the K and the M. Both of these had more powerful engines and a redesigned low‑drag nose profile. The K model was fitted with the new BMW 801 D radial engine developing 1,700hp, while the M employed the similarly powerful liquid‑cooled Daimler Benz 603 in‑line. The two new variants were about 20mph faster than the earlier E model. In addition to their greater speed the new Dorniers had the advantage of carrying tail‑warning radar to reduce the chances of surprise fighter attack at night, and radio altimeters to make possible a low‑level penetration of defenses at night or in poor visibility.

With these technical improvements the revitalized KG2 recommenced its operations over Britain early in 1943.

During these night attacks the Do 217s exploited every possible stratagem to avoid the attentions of the defenses: a low‑level approach, climbing to medium level to bomb then letting down to low level for the withdrawal; a high-level approach, bombing during a shallow descent and making the withdrawal. Since the bombers’ targets were rarely more than 50 miles inland, these methods helped a lot to keep the German losses down. Even so, the defenders were able to take their toll. During March 1943 alone, Kampfgeschwader 2 lost 23 complete crews.

Typical of the German raids on Britain in the summer of 1943 was that by 91 planes on Portsmouth, on 15 August. The Dornier 217s of the First and Third Gruppen of KG2 operated from St Andre and Dreux respectively, both near Paris. After take‑off the bombers funnelled together over Cap D’Antifer near Le Havre and headed NW across the sea flying at an altitude of 200ft, beneath the prying beams of the British radar. At a point 24 miles south of Brighton the bombers commenced their climb, aiming to arrive over Portsmouth at 15,000ft. The actual attack was delivered soon after 0100 on the morning of the 16th. It lasted about 10 minutes. Afterwards the bombers turned to port and withdrew along the route they had come. Such a low‑level approach to a coastal target should have given the raiders the advantage of surprise. But the RAF night‑fighters proved their alertness by shooting down five of the attackers ‑all Do 217s. Four of the bombers fell to the Mosquitoes of No 256 Squadron, based at Ford near Bognor, Sussex.

The Dornier 217 was involved in the resurgence of air activity over Britain in early 1944. But the units operating the type represented less than a fifth of the force involved. By that time the performance of the Do 217 was not good enough to enable it to survive without heavy losses in the face of the powerful defenses.


During 1942 and 1943 a total of 364 J and N nightfighter versions of the Dornier 217 were delivered to the Luftwaffe. In addition to Lichtenstein radar equipment with a range of 21 miles, these aircraft carried a forward‑firing armament of four 20mm cannon and four rifle‑calibre machine‑guns. The High Command thought that the long endurance of the Do 217 would make it a useful addition to the German night fighter force. But it proved unpopular with the front‑line units. It was too heavy on the controls and had too low a rate of climb to be very effective against the RAF night bombers. After a short time the majority of the Do 217 night fighters were relegated to training units. About 30 were turned over to the Italian Air Force.

In the summer of 1943 some Dornier 217s were modified to carry air‑launched guided missiles‑the first such weapons ever to be used in action. There were two quite different types of missile, though subsequent accounts have frequently confused them or treated them as one.


The first of the guided missiles to enter service was the Henschel 293 glider‑bomb. This weapon looked like a small aeroplane with a wingspan of just over 10ft. Prior to launch it weighed a little over 2,000lb, 1,100lb of this being the warhead. After release from the parent aircraft the rocket motor under the missile fired‑carrying the weapon to a speed of about 370mph. Then the motor cut out and the missile coasted on in a shallow dive, accelerating slowly towards its target. The range of the missile depended upon the altitude of the parent plane at the time of release. A typical operational range was five miles, for which the aircraft needed to be at 4,500ft. In the tail of the missile was a bright tracking flare. This allowed the observer in the parent aircraft to follow its movements. The observer operated a small joy‑stick controller, the movement of which fed the appropriate up‑down‑left‑right impulses to the guidance transmitter, which in turn radiated them to the missile. Here, they were converted into control movements for the ailerons and elevators. The observer only had to steer the tracking flare until it appeared to be superimposed on the target and hold it there until the missile impacted. The Henschel 293 was a low‑speed weapon compared with a normal‑gravity bomb and as a result had little penetrative ability. It was intended mainly for use against merchant ships and more lightly armored warships.

The glider bombs were used in action for the first time on 25 August 1943.Fourteen Do 217s of the Second Gruppe of Kampfgeschwader 100 attacked a Royal Navy U‑boat-hunting group off the NW tip of Spain. An observer on the sloop HMS Landguard later reported, after the aircraft had formed up off her starboard quarter at a range of about six miles


‘A pall of smoke forming into a streamer appeared from the leading aircraft. At the time of firing the aircraft were on a reciprocal course to the ships, well out on the beam. The projectile was seen for some time apparently near the aircraft, but this was probably due to the fact that it was coming towards the ship at a constant bearing. Flashes were seen coming from the aircraft at about the time of the firing (almost certainly this was due to the tracking flare lighting up) but neither smoke nor flame from the projectile during the later stages of its run . . .. The projectile then banked exactly like an aircraft and set course towards the ship, descending at an angle of about 15° or 20°. When about two cables from the starboard quarter the bomb appeared to be pointing straight at the ship. Then it banked to starboard and lost height rapidly, falling in the sea one hundred yards off Landguard’s starboard quarter and exploding on impact.’

Two further bombs were aimed at Landguard, both of which exploded clear of her.

The only damage inflicted during the action was to the sloop HMS Bideford. A near miss caused splinter damage to her port side, holing her stores, Asdic compartment and forward mess deck and causing some flooding. She was able to continue in action, but was later in dock for a month being repaired.

Two days later‑27 August‑the Dorniers again attacked British warships off the NW tip of Spain. This time the victims belonged to the 1st Escort Group comprising the destroyers Grenville and Athabaskan, the frigates Jed and Rother and the sloop Egret. Soon after 1200 the force of 18 bombers was sighted coming in from the north. The warships were heading southwards in a line‑abreast formation searching for U‑boats. The commander of the force, Captain Godfrey Brewer in Egret, immediately ordered ‘Repel Air Attack’. All ships went to action stations and ‘ increased speed. The ships swung into two columns of two ships in line ahead‑with two miles between columns. With her powerful AA armament of eight 4in guns, Egret was to move across the rear to support whichever column was threatened.

The attack began with four Dorniers flying along the ships’ port side. When they came within gun range Athabaskan and Egret opened fire. But the bombers held their course and each launched a glider bomb at Athabaskan. ‘ The first three missiles fell harmlessly into the sea, but the fourth continued on and struck and destroyed near the base of her ‘B’ gun turret. The bomb smashed straight through the superstructure, shedding its wings and body in the process. The warhead finally detonated just clear of the ships’ starboard side abreast the forward end of the bridge. The explosion caused severe splinter damage. ‘B’ turret shell‑room, two fuel tanks, the torpedomen’s mess and lower power and gyro room were all flooded. The blast caused the fires in the boilers to flash back into the boiler rooms. This resulted in a minor oil fire. Athabaskan’s engines stopped. She slid to a halt.


Meanwhile the German bombers were forming up on the starboard side and Egret departed to support the column there. But her gallantry was to bear bitter fruit. It was on her that the German crews now concentrated their attack. Within a short time seven glider bombs were streaking towards the sloop. The commander of Egret, Commander John Waterhouse, reported afterwards:

Several rocket bombs were now heading for Egret and I increased to full speed and put the wheel hard to starboard in an endeavour to point them and present the smallest possible virtual target. Two bombs passed close astern and a third was either hit by Oerlikon fire or else fell into the sea within thirty feet of the starboard side amidships.

After this escape a report was received from the engine room that all was well below and I assumed that any damage sustained was superficial. The ship was momentarily steadied on a west‑north‑westerly course with her main armament engaging the enemy, when two more bombs were reported approaching from just before and just abaft the starboard beam. I did not see the one approaching from aft, which I believe missed, but I was able to observe carefully the behaviour of that before the beam. Swinging fast under full starboard rudder the ship would normally have brought the bomb, which was flying level about fifteen feet above the water, within 30° of the ship’s bow and the bomb should have passed down the starboard side. In the event the bomb banked sweetly and turned smoothly to starboard like a well‑piloted fighter aircraft and so continued to head straight for the bridge . . ..

The missile struck Egret near her forecastle deck, and the warhead continued on into the ship before detonating. The resultant explosion, whose force was probably compounded by the detonation of one of the ship’s magazines, almost certainly blew out a large area of plating on Egret’s port side.

She listed badly to port. Within about 40 seconds of the explosion she had capsized completely. She floated bottom up for over an hour before sinking. Only 36 men survived out of a complement of 188. So it was that Egretgained thedubious distinction of being the first ship ever to be sunk by an air‑launched guided missile.

The crew of Athabaskan were able to effect temporary repairs to their engines and the destroyer returned to Britain under her own steam. Permanent repair work kept her out of action for over two months.

From German records it would seem that Leutnant Paulus and Hauptmann Vorpahl, respectively, had captained the Dorniers which sank Egret and damaged Athabaskan. It must be said, however, that the total of only two hits for an expenditure of 25 glider bombs during the attacks on 25 and 27 August was hardly impressive. During a subsequent investigation into the causes of the missile failures‑held at the bombers’ base at Bordeaux/Merignac‑‑it was discovered that several of the Dorniers had had their missile control transmitters sabotaged in a very cleverwayso thatnormal ground tests did not reveal the fault. The SS conducted a full investigation, but the culprit was never found.

While the Second Gruppe of Kampfgeschwader 100 was operating with its glider bombs, the Third Gruppe was preparing to go into action with a quite different type of missile. This was the Fritz‑X guided bomb‑‑a high‑velocity weapon designed to pierce the heaviest armor. In appearance the Fritz‑X resembled an ordinary bomb, except that it carried four stabilizing stub‑wings mid‑way along its body. It weighed 3,100 lb and was unpowered. Released from altitudes around 20,000ft, it fell under gravity to reach an

impact velocity close to that of sound. In the tail of the bomb was a tracking flare, and after release the missile was guided down to its target in a similar way to the glider bomb. Since the Fritz‑X had to be released from high level if it was to reach the necessary impact velocity, III./KG 100 received the high‑flying K2 version of the Dornier 217. This model was similar to the normal K type‑except that its wingspan was 19ft wider.

For the Third Gruppe of Kampfgeschwader 100 the big chance came on 9 September. The Italians capitulated and their battle fleet made its dash to Malta to surrender. The main body of the fleet sailed from La Spezia in northern Italy and included the modern battleships Roma, Italia and Vittorio Veneto. Early that afternoon Major Bernhard Jope, the commander of Kampfgeschwader 100, led a striking force of eleven Dorniers off the ground at Marseilles/Istres. Each aircraft carried a single Fritz‑X under its starboard wing, close to the fuselage.

The bombers caught up with the Italian warships off the Straits of Bonifacio‑between Sardinia and Corsica. The German crews broke formation and attacked individually–aiming their missiles at the ships twisting below. After releasing the Fritz‑X each pilot throttled back his engines and climbed through 1,000ft. This brought the aircraft in line with the missile and the target during the final stage of the missile’s trajectory. It was now possible to guide the Fritz‑X on to the target. Apart from being essential for the control of the missile, this maneuver produced the useful bonus of throwing off predicted AA fire from below.

One of the first bombs scored a near miss on the Italia, temporarily jamming her rudder. A few minutes later another scored a direct hit on Roma, on her deck near the starboard side abeam her after funnel. The missile punched its way straight through the ship and exploded immediately underneath the hull, wrecking her starboard steam turbines and causing some flooding. Severely shaken, Roma’s speed fell to 16 knots and she began to list to starboard. A little later a second bomb struck Roma. This was almost certainly released from the Dornier flown by Oberleutnant Heinrich Schmetz with Feldwebel Oscar Huhn as observer. This missile hit the ship squarely just in front of her bridge and pierced deep into her vitals and then detonated. The explosion‑its effects worsened by being confined inside the armored structure‑knocked out the remaining steam turbines and started an uncontrollable fire which raged through to the forward magazine. With a violent explosion the battleship snapped in two like a jack‑knife, and sank. Only 622 officers and ratings survived, out of her crew of nearly 2,000.

Shortly after the second bomb hit Roma, Italia took a Fritz‑X on her bow, which blew a large hole. She took on about 800 tons of water. In spite of this, the battleship was able to limp to Malta unaided.

In the months that followed, the Dornier 217s of Kampfgeschwader 100 scored other successes. A direct hit and two near misses with Fritz‑X bombs on the battleship HMS Warspite put her out of action for seven months; a single Fritz‑X hit on the cruiser HMS Uganda, which required repairs lasting over a year. At the same time, Henschel 293 glider bombs sank the cruiser HMS Spartan and several destroyers. But the Allies proved able to take the measure of the new threat. Strong fighter patrols were maintained over all future concentrations of shipping. From the spring of 1944 it was rare for the missile‑carriers to reach their targets. They usually suffered debilitating losses whenever they tried. During the invasion of Normandy in June 1944 the Allied shipping not only enjoyed powerful fighter cover, but some of their number carried special transmitters which emitted jamming on the German missile‑control frequencies blotting out the radio command signals. As a result of these countermeasures, the missiles were virtually useless.

The German failure to contain the Allied invasion of Normandy coincided with the success of the Allied strategic bombing offensive against the German oil industry. This led to a crippling shortage of aviation fuel. One result of this was that the Luftwaffe bomber force was reduced to a shadow of what it had been. Most of the units were disbanded, their men being sent to the fighter units or into the army. A few Dornier 217s continued in use until the end of the war; but the majority of those that survived their bomber units ended their days in aircraft parks, where they swelled the scores of strafing Allied pilots.