Appeasement = Delay in fighting Germany at least permitted investment in improved effectiveness?





The rise of Hitler, the collapse of the Disarmament Conference in 1934, and German rearmament, publicly announced in 1935, made the situation in Europe more menacing. German expansionism indeed placed the spotlight on Anglo-French preparedness. In 1938, when, in the Munich crisis, Hitler successfully intimidated Britain and France over the future of Czechoslovakia, the British service chiefs urged caution. Conscious of numerous global commitments, they warned about the dangers of becoming entangled in major military action on the Continent. There was particular concern about the likely impact of the German bombing of civilian targets. The major impact on public morale of German raids on London in World War One seemed a menacing augury. It was believed, in the words of the ex- and future Prime Minister Stanley Baldwin in 1932, that ‘‘the bomber will always get through.’’ Air Commodore L.E.O. Charlton developed these themes in War from the Air: Past- Present-Future (1935), War over England (1936), and The Menace of the Clouds (1937). Anglo-French fears of war with Germany may have been excessive, given the weaknesses of the Nazi regime, including a lack of enthusiasm among the German leaders, but there was a fear of causing a second ‘‘Great War.’’ Furthermore, the military was poorly configured for war with Germany. As the Deputy Chief of the Imperial General Staff noted in May 1939, ‘‘under the plan approved in April 1938, the Field Force was ‘‘to be organized primarily with a view to reinforcing the Middle East . . .The crisis in September 1938. . .focused sharply the fact that, even when the programme was complete, our forces would be inadequate for a major Continental war.’’

Delay in fighting Germany at least permitted investment in improved effectiveness. In response to the threat from German bombers, attention was switched in Britain from building up a bomber force to fighter defense, with the development of the Hawker Hurricane and the Supermarine Spitfire. These planes reflected the transition of fighters from wooden-based biplanes to all-metal cantilever-wing monoplanes with high-performance engines capable of far greater speeds, range, and armament. Alongside early warning radar, they were to be key to resisting the air assault that Germany launched in 1940. There were also improvements in naval readiness in the late 1930s. A large number of carriers, cruisers, and destroyers were laid down, while, after control over the Fleet Air Arm was transferred from the Royal Air Force (RAF) to the Admiralty in 1937, it was greatly expanded. Radar sets were installed in warships from 1938.

In opposing the Munich agreement, Churchill, then a Conservative backbencher, had told the House of Commons on 5 October 1938 that ‘‘the maintenance of peace depends upon the accumulation of deterrents against the aggressor, coupled with a sincere effort to redress grievances.’’ The buildup of British forces did not provide a deterrent to further German action, but it was to help strengthen Britain’s defenses. However, although Britain was allied to France, the Soviet Union was willing to ally with Germany in 1939, while the United States was not interested in becoming committed to action against appeasement. As the United States was the world’s leading industrial power, this gravely weakened the possible response to Fascist aggression. Indeed the lack of Anglo-American cooperation in the 1930s was a major feature in international relations, and one that affected Britain’s options.

The eventual German air assault on Britain in 1940 was to be the product of the collapse of Britain’s military and diplomatic system that year. Britain and France had declared war on Germany on 3 September 1939, in response to its invasion of Poland, whose security they had guaranteed, but the Anglo-French forces were unable to provide any assistance to Poland, not least by attacking German forces on the French frontier. The British forces sent to France in 1939 were small, short of equipment, particularly tanks, transport, artillery, small arms, and ammunition, and poorly trained for conflict with the Germans. Command and control systems were inadequate, and, due to the fiscal situation, there had been no large-scale army maneuvers for several years. The movement of the British force was too late to have any impact on the war in Poland. Churchill, who had become the First Lord of the Admiralty with the outbreak of war, advocated the dispatch of a fleet to the Baltic specially prepared to resist air attack, but this rash idea, which would have exposed the fleet to air attack in confined waters, was thwarted by his naval advisers.

Moreover, in the Battle of Britain of 1940, the German air assault was defeated. This was a key episode both in British military history and in the history of air power. It was the first major check experienced by the Germans, and one that was critical to the survival of Britain as an independent state, for the air attack was designed to prepare the way for Operation Sealion, the planned invasion, particularly by driving British warships from the Channel. British victory reflected both the deficiencies of the numerically superior German air force, and the capabilities and fighting quality of its numerically inferior British opponents. Radar also played an important role within an integrated air defense system. Initial German attacks on the RAF and its airfields, in what was an air-superiority campaign, designed to force the British to commit their fighters and then to destroy them, inflicted heavy blows on the British, especially on pilot numbers. By early September, Fighter Command, under remorseless pressure by larger forces, seemed close to defeat. However, fighting over Britain, the RAF benefited from the support provided by the ground control organization and could more often recover any pilots who survived being shot down. Furthermore, RAF fighting quality, which had been underestimated by the German planners, was seen in the heavy losses inflicted on the Germans, and the Germans did not appreciate the extent to which the RAF was under pressure.

Once the Germans switched in early September 1940 to bomb London and other cities (the Blitz), a strategy designed to put the German air force center-stage by bombing Britain into submission, the pressure on the RAF diminished. German bombers operating near the edge of fighter escort range provided a vulnerable target, which led the Germans to switch to night attack. There is controversy over losses, but one reasonable assessment is that between 10 July and 31 October, the Germans lost 1,733 aircraft in the Battle of Britain, the British 915. Although German deficiencies played an important role in their failure, British fighting quality, determination, and fortitude were crucial in making these deficiencies manifest, and thus in gaining an important defensive victory.

A King’s Army




Two days after his speech in Shropshire it was reported that the king’s army ‘increases beyond imagination.’ His appeal had struck a chord, and the small band of ex-officers of 1640–1 was soon diluted by the volunteers who clamoured for commissions to raise men and horse, often at their own expense. Recruits were from all regions, for the army was a more national one, reflective of society as a whole, than that of their opponents, raised mainly in London and Essex. The monstrous apparition identified as a Cavalier was replaced by a more complex image, because it was composed of many more numerous and varied elements. The majority of the English aristocracy supported the king, and he gave commands accordingly. His own family was involved. Three of his Stuart cousins were to die in the cause. He made his nephews, Rupert and Maurice, leading generals. His initial weakness, deprived of his revenues and military and naval establishments, meant that he had to depend on his wealthiest supporters and reward them appropriately. The earl of Newcastle, although a great courtier, a poet and dramatist with no military experience, was given command of the North. Politically influential figures, such as lords Hertford, Worcester and Winchester – the last two despite their Catholicism – made vital contributions in money, men and prestige. Within six weeks of his ban on recusant recruits the king had asked Newcastle to enlist them, and they proved to be important in the Northern counties.

At the regimental and troop level the typical senior officer was an amateur in military terms but usually a prominent local figure. In most counties beyond the reach of London, East Anglia and the South East the majority of the leading gentry, of greatest wealth and highest status, who customarily filled the bench of justices, and were deputies to the Lord Lieutenant, were sympathetic to the royal cause. It has been roughly calculated that of 1,630 field officers who had served in the royal armies, and claimed benefit of a reward in 1663, a thousand were of armigerous family. They included forty-four peers, fifty-six baronets and seventy-two knights. Thirteen peers and forty-two baronets and knights died in his cause. Such men were experienced administrators, and able to persuade tenants and servants to take up arms. Salusbury was elected Colonel of the Regiment of Foot in Denbighshire. The typical Cavalier officer needed guidance in arms, however, and was often advised by one of the swordsmen from foreign parts, or with at least Scots’ Wars experience.

The latter category of veterans had a crucial part to play in the compiling of the Military Orders by which the army being raised was to be regulated. These, consisting of eighty-two articles, were first printed at York in August, a whole month before those of the earl of Essex, perhaps reflecting the greater doubt in the minds of the parliamentarian leaders about their legal status, a matter that had lessened the generals’ authority in the Scots’ Wars. The Orders were read to the troops first mustered in Shropshire, and the king solemnly promised that he would severely punish any who disobeyed them. An oath of allegiance was then taken by all, no doubt designed to counter the Protestation oath that parliament had asked all adult males to subscribe to in early 1642. Like many of the swordsmen, the key articles of the Orders bore the stamp of earlier campaigns. They were based on the code produced for the army of 1640: some articles even possessed an Elizabethan ancestry. Machinery was created to enforce the orders, under a Provost Marshal General; every regiment was to have its own provost to punish and imprison as required. On the march in this first campaign of the war it is not known how effective this code was: if Hyde can be believed there was little indiscipline, and punishment was severe and exemplary when it occurred. The inhabitants of the country through which the king’s men passed, who hid their goods and were ready to resist – having believed the black propaganda of the London press, that the Cavaliers were ‘fierce, bloody and licentious’ – were evidently surprised at their good order. The king could afford to be merciful, resisting calls for the notoriously disobedient town of Birmingham to be punished. If the letters of Sergeant Wharton of Essex’s army are any guide it was the Roundhead forces which robbed and desecrated their way through the Midlands. Summer 1642 was a bad season for the deer of any ‘malignant’ landowners in the path of the army. It was obvious too that the parliamentarians had their fair share of the rogue element among the career soldiers employed as officers for this expedition.

It was not too farfetched to believe that, in their own eyes, with the ideals eloquently set forth, and the restraint displayed, the reputation of the king’s followers would be transformed. Certainly Edward Symmons, addressing the troops, claimed that the term Cavalier could be rescued from its ill fame. ‘A complete Cavalier is a child of honour . . . the only reserve of English gentility and ancient valour, and [he] hath rather chosen to bury himself in the tomb of honour, than to see the nobility of his nation vassalised’. Under its royal and noble leadership the army could not fail to be imbued with aristocratic values of generosity, unselfishness and mercy, and Christian virtue.

In the maintenance of these high standards, and the improvement of morals among his followers, royalist army chaplains would have a vital part to play. Those of the king’s officers who had served abroad in the Swedish forces knew the contribution made by Lutheran ministers to the Protestant crusade of the great Gustavus Adolphus. Charles had, as we have seen, an equal sense of the goodness of his mission, and its sacred character: his quarters would be a strong bulwark against the persecution of his loyal clergy. Oxford, as royal capital, welcomed ‘many great bishops, and learned doctors, and grave divines’. The king appreciated that recruiting active and eloquent clerics into his army would benefit his cause. He created a hierarchy of chaplaincy, headed by two Chaplains General, and required every regiment to appoint and pay for a suitably qualified person. The revised Military Orders included the daily reading of prayers for units not in the field, with compulsory attendance. The use of the Book of Common Prayer was enjoined. A special Soldiers’ Catechism was published in 1645, a direct response to that of Parliament, and several chaplains evidently worked hard at the improvement of their flocks.


But the plans of war rarely survive first contact with the enemy, and the idealized behaviour depicted – or hoped for – in the earliest sermons and speeches soon came adrift. The high command, after the first battle, Edgehill, was forced to publish royal proclamations to prohibit plundering by their troops. The printed Orders had forbidden it, but they had been ignored. The first real encounter of the war unhinged and dismayed many of the participants, not least the political leaders of parliament. No doubt surprised by the strong showing of the royalists, and horrified by the ensuing carnage, few had acquitted themselves well: they blamed their followers for desertion and cowardice. Lord Wharton acquired his nickname, it was alleged, by hiding in a sawpit. When Denzil Holles’s regiment was destroyed in the sudden and bloody attack on Old Brentford, the true nature of warfare was revealed. It confirmed their view, already formed, that they should retire from the fray and that ‘Scotch commanders’ would be more useful.

On the king’s side too many of the untrained, poorly armed and badly led infantry ran away, leaving their squires-in-arms disheartened. Salusbury’s Foot, for example, may initially have shared their colonel’s high hopes, but at Edgehill they were largely unprotected – having only pikes and agricultural implements, few muskets – and were severely mauled. It must have been plain to the king and his generals that part-time soldiers could not be relied on, and that the work would have to be done by the experienced officers. The swordsmen were ‘a generation of men much cried up and of great worth’, and honoured among the king’s followers: they were men of ‘great esteem’. The leadership had to be strengthened, as well as the code of war. There was considerable doubt as to what was legitimate spoil following a successful encounter with the enemy, or the occupation of a hostile town. In early November, as his forces passed through the Thames valley – an area considered disloyal – his men took the law into their own hands. A prominent courtier thought that if the king’s orders were disobeyed, and essential supplies withheld, they could be forcibly distrained. This may explain, though not excuse, the action of an equally senior officer, Lunsford’s brother, on first entering Oxford, now the royal capital. With another field officer of the Lord General’s Foot, an elite regiment, and a file of musketeers, he threatened to blow up the house of a wealthy citizen, privileged of the university, unless he paid them all he had. He did so, and died three years later lamenting the fact. This theft took place within 400 yards of the royal apartments.

The Malayan Emergency – Last Colonial Victory?


Members of B Company 2 RAR about to go on a patrol in Perak in 1956. A Daimler Ferret armoured car has accompanied the patrol to its setting-off point in a rubber plantation. The patrol is responding to reports of communist guerrillas in the nearby jungle. Patrolling in search of guerrillas was the main task of the Australian Army during the Malayan Emergency. [AWM HOB/56/0751/MC]

In June 1948 a state of emergency was proclaimed in Malaya in response to Communist guerrilla activity. Problems had been developing for a considerable time. The British had imported Chinese and Indian labour to work in the tin mines and rubber plantations. They became a majority of the population – a fact deeply resented by Malays. The Chinese had suffered high unemployment in the 1930s, and had then been victimised by the Japanese after their conquest of Malaya. The Malayan Communist Party was in fact overwhelmingly (95 per cent) Chinese. They were determined to fight a restoration of British imperial power. The Communists’ main support was in the countryside. Barely scraping a living on the fringes of the jungle were perhaps 600,000 Chinese squatters. Their poverty and insecurity made them an ideal recruiting ground for guerrillas. Their strategy was simple – and potentially war-winning. They would paralyse the economy, by attacking rubber plantations and tin mines. The British would eventually cut their losses and leave.

But the fact that the guerrillas were Chinese shaped Britain’s response. Within China the Communists were in the ascendant, with the Guomindang regime collapsing. How great were their ambitions in Asia? Also, Communist inspired guerrillas were challenging colonial rule throughout the region. From London this all appeared part of a clearly orchestrated Communist strategy, intended to conquer all of Asia.

Guerrilla warfare in the jungle was a real challenge to British forces. They soon realised that air power had little value. Relying on bombs, napalm and defoliants was an exercise in futility. They could only harass the guerrillas. But ground operations would demand huge numbers of troops. Besides, every civilian killed by a stray shot would merely add to their enemies. Firepower, it was quickly recognised, was no solution. The guerrillas would have to be defeated politically.

The British developed a counter-insurgency strategy that eventually proved remarkably effective. Indeed Malaya was the only guerrilla war of its kind where the guerrillas were clearly defeated. Firstly a process of political reform, answering the demands of nationalists was introduced. This led, in 1957, to Malayan independence under a pro-western government. Also the British recognised that it was vital for them to be upholding the law. Emergency laws were drawn up which were drastic enough for the security forces to act effectively. But they were also clear enough so that the security forces were seen to act within the law themselves. Police work was seen as crucial. Good intelligence was more important than actually killing guerrillas. Generous surrender terms were offered. Cash rewards were available to those who surrendered weapons or offered information. Guerrillas could also surrender and request deportation to China without facing any questioning.

The most vital element in Britain’s counter-insurgency strategy, however, was their drive to win over the civil population. Winning ‘hearts and minds’, and depriving the guerrillas of popular support was a fundamental requirement of British strategy. The section of the population the British most urgently needed to win over were the 600,000 squatters who provided the guerrillas with most of their support. The strategy the British adopted to achieve this was both novel and ambitious. They decided to resettle the entire squatter population.

Separating the guerrillas from their supporters was an obvious step to make. It would deny the guerrillas supplies, recruits and intelligence. But the British did not consider any form of internment for the squatters. To win the squatters’ support they would have to provide very real material improvements in the squatters’ lives, far beyond anything the guerrillas could promise. The British provided rehousing, in new villages. Once there the squatters gained a degree of security of land tenure they had never before known. Citizenship rights were extended. In material terms they had luxuries such as electricity and safe water. Teachers and nurses were provided if they were available. Welfare officers, often Australian and New Zealander volunteers, protected their interests. The new villagers were given a degree of self-government, and, crucially, the protection of the security forces that allowed them to exercise it without fear of guerrilla reprisal. Eventually they could be given responsibility for their own protection.

By such tactics the areas in which the guerrillas could operate became ever more constricted. A band of guerrilla-free territory was driven across Malaya, leaving those in the south totally isolated. By the mid-1950s the guerrillas were clearly losing. They were never entirely destroyed. A safe haven in Thailand sustained guerrilla activity in the north. But they were no longer a serious threat. By July 1960 the emergency was declared over.

The British success was due to a number of factors. That the guerrillas were ethnically Chinese and had virtually no Malay support was one. More importantly was the very early recognition that firepower could not succeed alone. The British fought a political battle that was extremely expensive and required enormous patience to gain results. It also required the creation of a representative Malayan state that was responsive to popular needs. Success against Communist guerrillas was possible: but not a quick victory, and certainly not a purely military victory.





Night attack and naval interdiction



Several squadrons of PBY-5As and -6As in the Pacific theater were specially modified to operate as night convoy raiders. Outfitted with state-of-the-art magnetic anomaly detection gear and painted flat black, these “Black Cats” attacked Japanese supply convoys at night. Catalinas were surprisingly successful in this highly unorthodox role. Between August 1943 and January 1944, Black Cat squadrons sank 112,700 tons of merchant shipping, damaged 47,000 tons, and damaged 10 Japanese warships.

The Royal Australian Air Force (RAAF) also operated Catalinas as night raiders, with four squadrons Nos. 11, 20, 42, and 43 mounting mine-laying operations from 23 April 1943 until July 1945 in the southwest Pacific deep into Japanese-held waters, that bottled up ports and shipping routes and kept ships in the deeper waters to become targets for US submarines; they tied up the major strategic ports such as Balikpapan that shipped 80% of Japanese oil supplies. In late 1944, their precision mining missions sometimes exceeded 20 hours in duration and were carried out from as low as 200 feet in the hours of darkness. Operations included the bottling up the Japanese fleet in Manila Bay planned to assist General MacArthur’s landing at Mindoro in the Philippines. Australian Catalinas also operated out of Jinamoc in Leyte Gulf, and mined ports on the Chinese coast from Hong Kong as far north as Wenchow. They were the only non-American bomber squadrons operating north of Morotai in 1945. The RAAF Catalinas regularly mounted nuisance night bombing raids on Japanese bases, earning the informal title “The First and the Furthest”. Targets of these raids included the major base at Rabaul. RAAF aircrews, like their US Navy counterparts, employed ‘terror bombs’, ranging from mere machine gunned scrap metal and rocks to empty beer bottles with razor blades inserted into the necks, to produce high pitched screams as they fell, keeping Japanese soldiers awake and scrambling for cover.




Standing on the Ugra River. 1480. Miniature in Russian chronicle. XVI century.

The decisive moment of the defensive campaign led by Ivan III against the horde of Khan Ahmad, in October-November 1480.

Relations between the Great Horde and Moscow entered a crisis in the 1470s. Ivan III refused to acknowledge the sovereignty of Akhmad or to pay him tribute. Entering into an anti-Muscovite alliance with the grand prince of Lithuania and the Polish King Casimir, Ahmad started to campaign in the late spring of 1480. Ivan III adopted defensive tactics: In July he marched to the town of Kolomna and ordered his troops to guard the bank of the Oka River, but Ahmad made no attempt to force the Oka; instead he moved westward to the Ugra River where he hoped to meet his ally, King Casimir. The latter, however, never came.

For several months both sides temporized, and only in October did fighting break out. Muscovite troops, led by Ivan’s III son Ivan and brother Andrew, repulsed several Tatar attempts to cross the Ugra. Clashes alternated with negotiations which, however, met with no success. Finally, on November 11, 1480, the khan withdrew, thus acknowledging the failure of his attempt to restore his lordship over Rus.

In Russian historical tradition this event is celebrated as the end of the Mongol yoke. The roots of this tradition date back to the 1560s, when anonymous author of the so-called Kazan History wrote of the dissolution of the Horde after the death of Ahmad (1481) and hailed the liberation of the Russian lands from the Moslem yoke and slavery. In modern historiography, Nikolai Karamzin was the first to link the liberation with the events of 1480. Later, Soviet publications echoed this view. Another judgment of the same events was pronounced by the famous nineteenth-century Russian historian, Sergei Soloviev, who ascribed the downfall of the yoke not to the heroic deeds of Ivan III but to the growing weakness of the Horde itself. The same argument was put forward by George Vernadsky (1959), who maintained that Rus freed itself from dependence on the Horde not in 1480 but much earlier, in the 1450s. In Anton Anatolevich Gorskii’s view, the liberation should be dated not to 1480 but to 1472, when Ivan III stopped paying tribute to the khan.

Military aspects of the 1480 event also remain controversial. Some scholars consider the battle a large-scale military operation and honor the strategic talent of Ivan III; but others stress his hesitations or even deny that any battle took place, referring to the events of 1480 as merely the “Stand on the Ugra River” (Halperin, 1985).


This is the Great Standing on the Ugra in 1480 Monument. The inscription on the monument reads: The Great Stand on the Ugra river was at this place and Tataro-Mongol yoke in Russia was ended here.

BIBLIOGRAPHY Halperin, Charles. (1985). Russia and the Golden Horde: The Mongol Impact on Medieval Russian History. Bloomington: Indiana University Press. Vernadsky, George. (1959). Russia at the Dawn of the Modern Age. New Haven, CT: Yale University Press

The German Perspective: Rommel’s ‘Longest Day’


Littry; one 4,7 cm Pak (t) Panzer- Kampfwagen 35 R (f) abandoned. This is a Czech anti-tank gun mounted on French Renault R35 chassis. It belonged to the Schnelle-Abteilung 517 of 716. ID; 20 June 1944.

On 23 June 1944 a detailed operations report was completed under the auspices of Oberkommando des Heeres on the actions of 716th Division on D-Day. This report drew on surviving operations logbooks, prisoner of war reports and interviews with survivors of the many small defensive battles along the seashore and inland at the gun batteries and resistance nests; the report gives a reasonably clear indication of German perceptions of how the battle unfolded and why the Rommel doctrine failed within this divisional area of operations.

On 6 June the 716th Coastal Defense Division had been at a normal state of readiness. No reports had been received from higher command indicating that an immediate invasion in the Normandy sector was to be expected. It was not until the forward positions in 716th Division began to raise the alarm about enemy air activity, parachute landings east of the Orne, and the attack on the bridges at Benouville (WN 13) that a full alert was ordered at 0110 hours. The report describes the response to the airborne and air-landed forces and then describes German perceptions of the seaborne assault. There is little doubt that Generaleutenant Wilhelm Richter was conscious of the implications of failure in Hitler’s regime. He would have chosen his words carefully taking into account the risks of failure for himself and his surviving subordinates. His report emphasised material shortages such as wire, mines, labour, and concrete that had prevented the construction of defences in depth. This had left his resistance nests ‘in the shape of a string of pearls’. Depth was provided by gun positions in the field of the division and by the reinforcement artillery and the communities, occupied by troops, which had been prepared for defense.’

During the early hours of the morning on 6 June General Marcks had alerted his higher Headquarters at 7th Army in Le Mans. He realized that the airborne operations being reported from the Cotentin to the River Dives east of Caen represented the initial stages of a larger, probably amphibious, operation. Thereafter, 7th Army notified Army Group Band OB West. During this critical period Rommel, was absent from his headquarters at La Roche Guyon. He was actually in Stuttgart where he was celebrating his wife’s birthday before going on to meet Hitler at Berchtesgaden on 6 June to fight his case for more resources and greater control of the Panzer arm in France.

Hans Speidel

Generalmajor Hans Spiedel.

The Generalfeldmarschall did not learn of the invasion until 1015 hours when his Chief of Staff, Generalmajor Hans Spiedel – an opponent and plotter against Hitler – informed him by phone. His response was to question Spiedel as to the status of OB West’s armoured reserves. Hearing that Hitler had not as yet released them, he simply stated ‘How stupid of me,’ and set about returning to France. At the strategic level Adolf Hitler had responded to the news of the invasion with total assurance that his plans and preparations were complete. When his Chief of operations, General JodI, had finally notified him of the landings he declared, with a radiant smile on his face, ‘It’s begun at last,’ an attitude reflected in the German press. During the early hours of 6 June, JodI had not even bothered to wake Hitler from his drug-induced sleep to present the fateful report from OB West. By doing this JodI imposed several hours delay on the release of the panzer reserves to the operational and tactical commanders in France. Having accepted the news with total sang-froid, Hitler then went to a reception for the new Hungarian Prime Minister in Salzburg.

Throughout OB West the German response was confused, inappropriate and piecemeal. This was due in part to the Bodyguard operations drawing the eyes and thoughts of the German high command to the Pas de Calais. It was also due to a combination of factors that created enormous frictions in the gears of OB West. As Carl Von Clausewitz wrote in his thesis On War over a century earlier:

‘Four elements make up the climate of war: danger, physical exertion, intelligence and friction, are the elements that form the atmosphere of war and turn it into a medium that impedes activity.’

The friction referred to by Clausewitz is present in any human activity but most particularly in war. In 1944 the German high command had managed to further impede the ability of its local commanders in Normandy to make effective decisions and execute optimal plans in a timely manner. The absence of any concept of joint operations was particularly evident when the Luftwaffe and German Navy failed to co-ordinate their defensive plans and integrate their command structures with Army Group Band OB West. This weakness was highlighted when they failed to intervene in any significant manner before and during D-Day.

Oberrhein, Befestigung am Isteiner Klotz

Generaloberst Friedrich Dollmann, Commander of 7th Army. Hitler would hold him responsible for the failure of the German forces to repel the invasion. He suffered a heart attack upon hearing that he was to be made the subject of an official inquiry.

Even within the German land component itself there was a disunity that could only contribute to the Allied cause. Information was not passed throughout the commands as the threat emerged in the early morning of 6 June. German coastal stations had detected and reported activity at sea east of Cherbourg and north of Caen by 0250 hours yet no detailed assessment reached Corps then or later. It was not until 0900 hours that General Marcks at 84th Corps notified Army HQ that major landings were taking place. The naval bombardment being reported in the Cotentin Peninsula to Army Group B was assessed as being part of a diversionary operation. The Corps staff believed that the situation was more threatening to the north of Caen. Rommel’s headquarters endorsed this analysis.

The situation in the Caen-Orne-Ouistreham sector caused much concern. Further west, at 1800 hours, the 352nd Division reported the grim situation with some accuracy. Allied forces were reported infiltrating through gaps in the belt of coastal strongpoints and armour had now reached a line from Colleville, Louvieres and Asnieres. The objective of this attack was assessed as being the historic city of Bayeux. On the 352nd Division’s eastern flank British forces were reported pushing inland from Le Hamel and la Riviere (Gold Beach) successfully overrunning defensive positions and threatening the Caen-Bayeux road. As a result of so much inaccurate reporting and with inadequate mobile reserves, the Germans focus of attention remained in the east of the lodgment area. Defeating the threat to Caen remained the priority.

In his 1947 post-war interview with the US Army Military History Institute while still in captivity, General Wilhelm Richter, commander 716th Division, commented on the British performance west of the Orne. He wrote:

‘The choice of the divisional sector west of the Orne for attack with its very favorable terrain for landings and attack towards the south was tactically correct as well as the covering east of the Orne, in order to prevent a German attack from the east.

‘The tactics of troops during the first landing were good and showed very good cooperation between all three British branches of the armed forces, based on many years preliminary practice and putting to use all combat experiences gained in Asia, Africa and Italy… The attack after the landing and the push towards the south were not launched with the same power. Despite the rapid advance of numerous enemy tanks, putting German artillery out of action, the follow-up by the infantry was, in my opinion, relatively slow.’

In a related interview in 1947, General Max Pemsel was asked to comment on Richter’s statement. Pemsel responded by saying:

‘The reason for the waiting attitude of the British after their great initial success, an attitude which the author [Richter] is wondering about, was the necessity for consolidation of the wide beachhead in expectation of a German counter-attack with Panzer divisions.’

Fortunately for 3rd Division during the early hours of the 6 June the 21st Panzer Division had been launched piecemeal towards the airborne forces astride the Orne. Later in the day, after hours of wasted effort responding to order and counter-order, two Kampfgruppe of the 21st Panzer Division were launched into the gap between Juno and Sword sectors north of Caen. Marcks personally supervised the attack and launched its commander, Oberst Von Oppeln-Bronikowski, into battle with his now famous, if dire warning: ‘Oppeln, if you don’t succeed in throwing the British into the sea, we shall have lost the war.’ The assault was quickly smashed against an exceptionally well-sited 3rd Division anti-tank screen and a perfectly positioned armoured regiment in support, on the high ground from Beuville northwards along the Periers Ridge.

The next days would be characterized by an increasingly desperate attempt to bring up the 1st SS Panzer Corps and mount a co-ordinated armoured counter-attack in the Caen sector. As the German land line communications, network collapsed under air, naval bombardment and resistance operations radio communications increased allowing the Ultra organization at Bletchley Park to take a more active role in monitoring and identifying the move of the critical reserves towards Normandy.

In the days following D-Day one of Ultra’s most significant contributions to the success of NEPTUNE-OVERLORD was the identification of Headquarters Panzer Group West at a critical moment when it was about to co-ordinate a significant armoured thrust at the beachheads. In a near perfect example of a reconnaissance-strike operation, Geyr Von Schweppenburg’s command group was detected, recognized and identified and within hours attacked by Mitchell bombers and rocket firing Typhoons. At 0920 hours on 11 June the telephone log at German 7th Army Headquarters recorded:

‘G-3 ‘[probably 7th Army] informs G-3 Army Group B that… the Panzer Group West has been knocked out by a direct hit on its Headquarters. Command has been given to the First [SS] Panzer Corps.’

The Rus and Vladimir I


By the tenth century the Pechenegs were dominating the steppe. Rus relations with them were complex. On the one hand, trade relations developed between these two peoples, whose economic activities complemented one another. The Rus found the horned cattle, horses, sheep, and other livestock raised by the nomads useful for food and clothing, for hauling and transport, and for a variety of secondary products such as leather goods. Horses were also particularly important as mounts for warriors. The grain raised by Slav agriculturalists, on the other hand, provided a desirable supplement to the Pecheneg diet of meat and dairy products. The mutual benefit to be derived from trade provided a basis for peaceful relations. From the early tenth century the Primary Chronicle presents an image of relatively tranquil relations between the two peoples; the Pechenegs even joined the Rus in 944 in a campaign against Byzantium.

Peaceful relations with the Pechenegs were important to the Rus not just for the opportunity to exchange their goods directly. They were also essential for the princes to conduct their trade with the Byzantines. Initially, the Norsemen had exchanged their booty at the Byzantine colony of Cherson. Rus offensives against Constantinople in 911 and 944 resulted in treaties that gave Rus merchants the right to trade in Constantinople as well, and also outlined their commercial rights and privileges. But to reach either Cherson or Constantinople the Rus had to cross the steppe controlled by the Pechenegs. Emperor Constantine recorded that after the Kievan prince made his rounds to collect tribute from the Slav tribes, he assembled a fleet of river boats, manufactured in Novgorod, Smolensk, Chernigov, and other towns, loaded his goods into them, and conducted this flotilla down the Dnieper River and along the western coast of the Black Sea to sell the products in Constantinople. Emperor Constantine emphasized that this practice depended upon peaceful relations between the Rus and the Pechenegs. Well aware of the potential dangers posed by the Pechenegs, who had on occasion attacked Cherson, he observed that these nomads had similarly raided Kievan Rus and were quite capable of inflicting considerable damage on it. He went on to note:

Nor can the Russians come at this imperial city [Constantinople] . . . either for war or for trade, unless they are at peace with the Pechenegs, because when the Russians come with their ships to the barrages [rapids] of the [Dnieper] river, and cannot pass through them unless they lift their ships off the river and carry them past by porting them on their shoulders, then the men of this nation of the Pechenegs set upon them, and, as they [the Rus] cannot do two things at once, they are easily routed and cut to pieces.

Shortly after the disintegration of Khazaria in the second half of the century, Rus–Pecheneg relations became more hostile. Pechenegs raided the frontier of Kievan Rus, seizing crops and captives who were then sold as slaves. They also, as Emperor Constantine had worried, attacked Rus commercial caravans descending the Dnieper or crossing the steppe on their way to and from Byzantine markets. In 968, Pechenegs attacked the Rusinterior for the first time and laid siege to Kiev. Vladimir’s father Sviatoslav, who had not been in Kiev at the time, was later killed during another encounter with the Pechenegs, who “made a cup out of his skull, overlaying it with gold, and . . . drank from it.”

The deterioration of Rus–Pecheneg relations became even more critical after Vladimir adopted Christianity. The consequent establishment of closer ties with Byzantium put a premium on the maintenance of security along the transportation routes that crossed the steppe and gave priority to a policy of neutralizing the Pechenegs, who were becoming more aggressive. In response, Prince Vladimir constructed a series of forts on the tributaries of the Dnieper, near and below Kiev, to guard the southern frontier; they were defended by Slovenes, Krivichi, and Chud transferred from the north. Almost immediately afterward, just as communication and interaction between Byzantium and Rus took on heightened importance, war broke out; it was highlighted by a series of Pecheneg attacks on Rus territory (992, 995, and 997). In one battle (996), which ended in a humiliating defeat, Vladimir personally avoided capture or death only by hiding under a bridge. Afterward, again relying on interregional cooperation, he collected another army in Novgorod and brought it south to continue the war, which persisted through the remainder of his reign. Just before his own death (1015), Vladimir sent his son Boris to lead a campaign against the Pechenegs; on his return Boris was killed by his brother Sviatopolk, who thereby launched a bloody succession struggle.

The net result of Vladimir’s defensive policies, however, was a success. The Pechenegs were driven deeper into the steppe away from Kievan Russettlements; the width of the “neutral zone” was doubled from the distance covered in one day’s travel to two. Pecheneg auxiliary forces, which began to be regarded as more effective than Varangian foot soldiers, participated in the war of succession fought by Vladimir’s sons after his death. But independent Pecheneg attacks on the Rus lands relaxed.

As a result of his foreign policies, Vladimir secured his borders as well as the trade routes running through his lands. He was thus able to sell the products he and his sons had collected as tribute from the Slav tribes to the Pechenegs and to merchants at Bulgar and Constantinople. At the other end point of the Rus trading network were the Scandinavian markets on the Baltic coast. The Rus retained close ties with their Scandinavian compatriots. Vladimir had sought refuge among them when he felt threatened by Iaropolk. He had been able to raise a Varangian force to assist him when he returned to overthrow his brother. Kievan Rus similarly offered sanctuary to exiled Scandinavians. One example of this reciprocal arrangement is reflected in the legend of the great Viking, Olaf Trygveson. After his father had been murdered, Olaf was trying to escape to the safety of Vladimir’s court, where his uncle held high rank; while en route, however, he was captured by pirates. In addition to exchanging exiled princes, the lands of Rus and Scandinavia also traded a variety of goods. By the time of Vladimir’s reign, silver coins, silks, glassware, and jewelry from Muslim and Byzantine lands as well as native Slav products were reaching Scandinavian market towns via the lands of Rus. Some of these items were brought back by Varangian mercenaries, who had been hired by the Rus princes. But much of it arrived as the result of commercial exchanges that took place, mainly at Novgorod, for a variety of European goods, including woolen cloth, pottery, and weapons.

The achievements of Prince Vladimir, who died in 1015, were notable. He overcame competing Varangian dynasties (Polotsk) and thus secured the right of his dynasty to rule exclusively in the lands of the eastern Slavs, Kievan Rus. He also adopted Christianity for the peoples dwelling in those lands. He thus established the two enduring institutions, dynasty and Church, that would give definition not only to Kievan Rus, but also to its successor states.

Vladimir prevented rival neighboring states from encroaching on his realm, and he gained recognition and legitimacy for his dynasty from the powerful Byzantines and European Christian powers. With the latter he maintained generally cordial relations. The main exceptions had occurred early in his reign when he directed campaigns against the Poles for control of Cherven, located southwest of Kiev (981), and against the Lithuanian tribe of Iativigians on the Neman (Niemen) River to the northwest (983). After that, his relations with the central European states of Poland and Hungary as well as his Scandinavian neighbors were peaceful. They demonstrated their respect and acceptance of the Riurikids by intermarrying with Vladimir’s children. Sviatopolk married the daughter of King Boleslaw of Poland, while his half-brother Iaroslav wed the daughter of the Swedish king Olaf.

In conjunction with consolidating his personal and his dynasty’s position in Kievan Rus, Vladimir also successfully defended his realm from external aggression. He placed his sons with their retinues on the borders, he built forts to defend the southern frontier, and he forced the most aggressive foe of the Rus, the Pechenegs, to retreat. By the end of his reign transit across the steppe was safer and the Pecheneg threat to Kievan Rus was reduced. Vladimir’s administrative and defensive measures also enabled him and his sons to collect the revenue necessary to maintain the armed forces, required for both internal stability and external defense, and to continue commercial exchanges with the great empires of the region.

Vladimir’s policies accomplished more than the minimum necessary for his immediate political goals. The distribution of his sons around the country displaced tribal leaders and laid the groundwork for the formation of a political organization based on joint dynastic rule. The adoption of Christianity and dissemination of clerics who accompanied his sons focused the entire population of his country on a single set of religious principles, which also lent ideological support to his political authority, while the establishment of closer ties to Byzantium and simultaneous maintenance of trade relations with the Muslim East kept Kievan Rus open to a diverse array of cultural influences and material goods. The transfer of personnel from the north to man the southern forts protecting Kiev reflected an ability to mobilize resources from all over his lands for a single purpose and thereby encouraged a process of social integration. Vladimir’s policies thus laid the foundation for the transformation of his domain from a conglomeration of tribes, each of which separately paid tribute to him, into an integrated realm bound by a common religion and cultural ties as well as the political structure provided by a shared dynasty.



The first ever air-cushion vehicle L-1 before trials, the Pleshcheyevo Lake, Russia, October 1935.


Pilot house cross-section of the L-9 fast attack craft, 1939.


Performance trials of the L-5 fast attack craft, the Gulf of Finland, 1937.


Assault hovercraft proposed by V. Levkov in 1935.

The British engineer, Christopher Cockerell, is popularly considered to be the founding father of air-cushion vehicles. In June of 1959, his experimental hovercraft successfully crossed the English Channel between the ports of Dover and Calais. This historical event was given great publicity by the world press, however, it failed to acknowledge that the first hovercraft was actually launched in the Soviet Union long before Cockerell’s maiden voyage.

In Russia, development of these unusual vehicles is associated with the name of Vladimir Levkov who was born in the industrial city of Rostov-on-Don in 1895. In the summer of 1921, Vladimir Levkov graduated from the Donskoi Polytechnic Institute (DPI) in Novocherkassk. Eight years later he was appointed professor at the Applied Aerodynamics Department.

How did the young Levkov come up with the radical notion for air-cushion vehicle? Unfortunately, history does not provide us with any definite answers. He might have been inspired by Tsiolkovsky’s work, Air Drag and Express Train which was published in Kaluga in 1927 and immediately sent to the DPI library where Levkov spent much of his time.

The young researcher set for himself a simpler and more realistic task. In 1927, he began research into the dynamics of air-cushion vehicles by testing a symmetric model, circular in plane, with a diameter of only 700 – 800 mm. His miniature model was built according to what is now referred to as a chamber configuration design.

In 1932, trials of a new air-cushion vehicle model began. The new model featured an elongated, oblong shape, rather than circular one, and handsomely equipped with two prop engines—one mounted in the nose section and the other in the aft section of the hull. Tests of this model were also a success. Work was immediately begun for the construction of a larger model of craft which was about 2.5 m long.

In retrospect, it seems that Levkov specifically pursued his air-cushion hovercraft to be used as a fast «flying» naval ship, for example, an attack torpedo craft. In May 1934, Vladimir Levkov was transferred to the Moscow Aviation Institute (since at that time the Novocherkask Aviation Institute was closed) where he became a professor of experimental aerodynamics. In December of that year Professor Levkov was put in charge of a specialized technical department at the MAI; here Levkov and his team began preparing blue-prints for the L-1 air-cushion vehicle. The first hovercraft was built at the Institute’s workshops and prepared for trials by the summer of 1935.

The first prototype was a very simple design which consisted of two small wooden catamarans that were powered by three prop engines. Two M-11 radial aero-engines were installed horizontally in the funnel-shaped wells on the plat- form which connected the catamaran hulls together. The third engine, also an air-cooled M-11, was placed in the aft part of the craft on a removable four-strut pylon. Air cushion was produced by the horizontally-placed engines.

On October 2, 1935, state trials of the L-1 air-skimmer (this was the official term adopted for the craft) began on the Pleshcheyevo Lake (the Jaroslavl Region, Russia). The tests lasted for 10 days.

At that time nobody had experience in operating such vehicles. Overwater runs were performed using either two horizontal engines (with the pylon- mounted engine shut down) or all three engines running simultaneously. Trials were conducted in calm and windy weather, crosswind and downwind, over flat shore and swampy areas covered with sedge. Once the hovercraft’s engines failed and the vehicle landed in a deep swamp. However, soon the engines were restarted, the boat ascended and recovered itself from the swamp. The maximum speed of the first hovercraft was approximately 60 knots when powered by three engines, and 38 knots when powered by two. Trial results of this first prototype hovercraft were acknowledged as satisfactory. It was indicated in the report that the «principle for air-cushion vehicles has been proven feasible.» This report was approved by the Deputy People’s Commissar of Defense, M. Tukhachevsky. He wrote that the 1936 Prototype Construction Plan should encompass the production of two such skimming boats: one to be used as a fast attack torpedo craft and the other as a marine landing craft.

Building on previously gained knowledge, a full-metal (duralumin) fast torpedo craft, designated L-5, was built in 1937. The craft had a good shape, glazed cabin, turret machine-gun mount and large tail fins. This was truly a unique naval boat.

In the midship area there was a streamlined pilot house/cabin for the pilot and mechanic followed by a troop compartment and then by a turret equipped with a ring for a twin machine-gun mount. Torpedo attachment points were arranged under the center section in the dome space. The hovercraft could also carry eight depth charges. Over a distance of one mile, this hovercraft accelerated to a speed of over 70 knots (about 130 km/h).

In December 1938, M. Frinovsky, the People’s Commissar of the Red Navy, reported to the Chairman of Defense Council, V. Molotov, that the Chief Military Council of the Red Navy had dis- cussed the results of trials of the fast attack craft built according to Professor Levkov’s design. Frinovsky wrote: «The trial results indicated that the tactical and technical characteristics of this new attack craft significantly surpassed those of fast torpedo craft in service with the Red Navy… To introduce this type of fast attack craft into service, the Chief Military Council of the Red Navy considers it necessary to build the first prototype series of nine such craft and distribute them among all fleets to train personnel and develop techniques of tactical employment of this new weapon system…»

On March 11, 1939, by the order of the People’s Commissar of the Ship- building Industry, I. Tevosyan, Professor Levkov was appointed Head and Chief Designer of the newly established TzKB-1 (Central Design Bureau #1). Plant #445 in Tushino near Moscow, previously involved in glider production, was chosen as the new hovercraft production facility.

Following the commencement of construction of combat craft, a need for the manufacture of training boats emerged. A training boat, designated L-9, soon appeared. It was designed for the training of its commanders, pilots, mechanics and gunners, and could also be used for liaison, patrol, ASW and troop landing missions.

Despite apparent success, Vladimir Levkov realized that his hovercraft had some serious shortcomings. Both good and discouraging reports were coming from the Baltic Fleet, which had already received about a dozen of various types of air-cushion vehicles. The discouraging reports stated that pressure under the craft was low due to air escape through the vessel’s open extreme ends which reduced the craft’s load-carrying capacity; sprays produced by the powerful engines limited visibility; vessel’s operation was limited to sea state 4; the impact of the craft with waves changed the set- ting of louvers and occasionally damaged them. However, the main problem involved the aeroengines. In varying maritime conditions, they often sputtered and stalled when water penetrated into the exposed carburetors. And since the engines were positioned horizontally, they were not sufficiently air-cooled and would subsequently overheat if run for long periods of time. Arrangement of water-cooled engines in a row required the introduction of angled reduction gear units to drive propellers. Designers worked on these units, but the task turned out to be too complicated for the time.

Finally, it was World War II which ultimately brought Levkov’s ambitious project to the ground. In October 1941, as enemy forces penetrated Russia, Levkov’s Design Bureau and Plant #445 were evacuated to Alapayevsk an old city in the Urals. Levkov was appointed Chief Engineer of the plant which was ordered to produce troop- carrying gliders.

Hovercraft built before the war were assigned to the Baltic Fleet. In 1941, as the German forces continued their advance, all of these craft were transferred to the Kronshtadt’s Litke base and remained there until 1947. In 1947, they were considered obsolete and subsequently scrapped. The same sad fate took the only six-engine hovercraft. An attempt to transport it from Moscow to Gorky unfortunately failed. As fierce fighting approached Moscow, the unique craft was destroyed.

From 1944, Vladimir Levkov held one of his positions at the Hydraulics Department of Moscow Food Industry Institute (MTIIP). In May 1952, he left the shipbuilding industry to start working permanently at the MTIIP as a professor, remaining a consultant of the Central Design Bureau involved in the development of hovercraft. On the eve of 1954, Levkov suffered an apoplectic attack at his institute and two days later, on the 2nd of January, he died of a haemorrhage of the brain. Vladimir Levkov was buried at the Golovinskoye cemetery in Moscow.

This was just the time when Christopher Cockerell began experimenting with his first elementary hovercraft models.