Cyrus the Younger – Bid for the Persian Throne


Route of Cyrus the Younger, Xenophon and the Ten Thousand.


Persian Immortals


Battle of Cunaxa – First phase of battle


Battle of Cunaxa – Second phase of battle

It all began with sibling rivalry. Darius II (r. 424-404 bc), Great King of Achaemenid Persia, had many children with his wife Parysatis, but his two eldest sons Arses and Cyrus got the most attention. Parysatis always liked Cyrus, the younger of the two, better. Darius, though, kept Arses close, perhaps grooming him for the succession. Cyrus he sent west to Ionia on the shores of the Aegean Sea, appointing him regional overlord. Just sixteen when he arrived at his new capital of Sardis, the young prince found western Asia Minor an unruly frontier. Its satraps (provincial governors), cunning and ruthless men named Tissaphernes and Pharnabazus, often pursued virtually independent foreign policies, and sometimes clashed with each other. There were also western barbarians for Cyrus to deal with. Athens and Sparta, now in the twenty-third year of their struggle for domination over Greece (today we call it the Peloponnesian War, 431-404 bc), had brought their fleets and troops to Ionia. The Athenians needed to preserve the vital grain supply route from the Black Sea via Ionia to Athens; the Spartans wanted to cut it.

The Achaemenids had their own interest in this war: after two humiliatingly unsuccessful invasions of Hellas in the early fifth century, they wanted to see Greeks lose. Hoping to wear both sides down, the western satraps had intermittently supported Athens and Sparta, but Darius desired a more consistent policy. That was one reason why Cyrus was in Ionia, to coordinate Persian efforts. He made friends with the newly arrived Spartan admiral Lysander. Persian gold darics flowed into Spartan hands; the ships and troops they bought helped put the Lacedaemonians on the way to final victory. In return, the Persians reasserted their old claims over the Greek cities of western Asia Minor. To safeguard their interests, Cyrus and the satraps relied on an unlikely source of manpower: Greek soldiers of fortune. Mercenaries were nothing new in the eastern Mediterranean, but by the end of the fifth century unprecedented numbers of Greek hoplites (armored spearmen) had entered Persian employment. Many of them garrisoned the Persian-controlled cities along the Aegean coast.

In the fall of 405 bc, as Sparta tightened its grip on Athens, Darius took ill. He summoned Cyrus home; the prince arrived at the fabled city of Babylon with a bodyguard of 300 mercenary hoplites, a symbol of what Ionia could do for him. On his deathbed, Darius left the throne to Arses, who took the royal name Artaxerxes II. The satrap Tissaphernes took the opportunity to accuse Cyrus of plotting against the new Great King. Artaxerxes, believing the charge, had his younger brother arrested. Parysatis, though, intervened to keep Artaxerxes from executing Cyrus, and sent him back to Ionia. Cyrus took the lesson to heart. The only way to keep his head off the chopping block was to depose Artaxerxes and become Great King himself. He set about making his preparations.

Across the Aegean, the Peloponnesian War was coming to a close. In May 404, Athens fell to Lysander. The city was stripped of its fleet and empire, its walls pulled down to the music of flute girls. For nearly a year following the end of the war a murderous oligarchic junta ruled the city, and with democracy restored the Athenians would begin looking for scapegoats; Socrates was to be one of them. The victorious Spartans faced other challenges. Having promised liberation from Athenian domination during the war, Sparta now found itself ruling Athens’ former subjects. The austere Spartan way of life provided poor preparation for the role of imperial master. Accustomed to unhesitating obedience at home, Lacedaemonian officials abroad alienated local populations with their harsh administration. Even wartime allies like Corinth and Thebes soon chafed under Sparta’s overbearing hegemony. Then there was the problem of Ionia. While their struggle with Athens went on, the Spartans had acquiesced in Persia’s expansionism, but now their attention began to turn eastward.

It was against this backdrop that, probably in February 401 bc, Cyrus, now an impetuous twenty-three-year-old, again set out from Sardis. His goal: take Babylon, unseat Artaxerxes, and rule as Great King in his brother’s stead. At the head of some 13,000 mostly Greek mercenaries along with perhaps 20,000 Anatolian levies, Cyrus marched east from Sardis across the plains of Lycaonia, over the Taurus Mountains through the famed pass of the Cilician Gates, through northern Syria, and down the Euphrates River valley into the heartland of Mesopotamia. Artaxerxes had been intent on suppressing a revolt in Egypt, but after being warned by Tissaphernes, he turned to face the new threat. Mustering an army at Babylon, the Great King waited until Cyrus was a few days away, then moved north against him.

In early August the two brothers and their armies met near the hamlet of Cunaxa, north of Babylon and west of present-day Baghdad. The heavily armed mercenaries routed the Persian wing opposing them, but to no avail: Cyrus, charging forward against Artaxerxes, fell mortally wounded on the field. In the days following the battle, the prince’s levies quickly fled or switched loyalties to the Great King, leaving the mercenaries stranded in unfamiliar and hostile territory. Their generals tried negotiating a way out of the predicament, but the Persians had other ideas. After a shaky six-week truce, Tissaphernes succeeded in luring the senior mercenary leaders to his tent under pretense of a parley; then they were seized, brought before Artaxerxes, and beheaded.

Rather than surrendering or dispersing after this calamity, though, the mercenaries rallied, chose new leaders, burned their tents and baggage, and embarked on a fighting retreat out of Mesopotamia. Unable to return the way they came, they slogged north up the Tigris River valley, then across the rugged mountains and snow-covered plains of what is today eastern Turkey, finally reaching the Black Sea (the Greeks called it the Euxine) at Trapezus (modern Trabzon) in January 400 bc. From there they traveled west along the water, plundering coastal settlements as they went. Arriving at Byzantium (today Istanbul) that fall, the soldiers then spent the winter on the European side of the Hellespont, working for the Thracian kinglet Seuthes. Finally, spring 399 saw the survivors return to Ionia, where they were incorporated into a Spartan army led by the general Thibron. In two years of marching and fighting, the mercenaries of Cyrus, the Cyreans, had covered some 3,000 kilometers, or almost 2,000 miles – a journey roughly equivalent to walking from Los Angeles, California, to Chicago, Illinois. Of the 12,000 Cyreans who set out with Cyrus, approximately 5,000 remained under arms to join Thibron. At least a thousand had deserted along the way; the rest had succumbed to wounds, frostbite, hunger, or disease.

The march of the Cyreans fascinates on many accounts. Cyrus’ machinations open a revealing window on Achaemenid dynastic rivalry and satrapal politics. His reliance on Greek mercenaries and Artaxerxes’ attempt to destroy them dramatically symbolize the convoluted blend of cooperation and conflict that characterized Greek-Persian relations between the first meeting of Hellene and Persian in mid-sixth-century bc Ionia and Alexander’s entry into Babylon some two centuries later. With its unprecedented mustering of more than 10,000 mercenaries, the campaign marks a crucial moment in the development of paid professional soldiering in the Aegean world.

The Armada – Failure Guaranteed?


Elizabeth I and the Spanish Armada; the Apothecaries painting, sometimes attributed to Nicholas Hilliard. A stylised depiction of key elements of the Armada story: the alarm beacons, Queen Elizabeth at Tilbury, and the sea battle at Gravelines.

Strategically, the determination of Spain’s Philip II to destroy his chief Protestant and maritime rival-Elizabeth I of England-made sense. The problems the Spanish faced in the Netherlands, where the Dutch were in revolt; in the Caribbean, where the English chipped away at Spanish strength; and in the contest for the souls of Europe’s rival Catholic and Protestant communities, could all seemingly be solved if England could be brought low.

Such a strategic goal necessitated an ambitious operational plan. “The Enterprise of England,” as the proposed invasion was known, had long been a subject of speculative discussion. The attractions of the concept were matched only by the difficulties inherent in the undertaking. But in 1587 a variety of events conspired to transform the “Enterprise” from a scheme into a plan. Suddenly an invasion of England seemed part of “God’s obvious design.”

At Philip’s behest, his two ablest commanders-Don Alvaro de Bazan, marquis of Santa Cruz, the foremost Spanish naval commander of the day; and Alessandro Farnese, duke of Parma, the commander of Spanish land forces in the Netherlands-produced estimates of the necessary forces and sketched out preliminary plans for an invasion. Santa Cruz’s proposal that he command a huge fleet of more than 500 ships, manned by 30,000 sailors, transporting 65,000 soldiers, ignored the financial and practical realities facing Philip. Parma’s suggestion that a force of 30,000 infantry and 4,000 cavalry, under his command, traverse the Channel in 700 or 800 small boats, without a covering fleet, depended upon complete surprise, a factor Philip himself labeled “Hardly possible!” With two such proposals in hand, Philip might well have dismissed “The Enterprise of England” as a worthy but impracticable idea. Instead, as Garrett Mattingly writes, “Out of the plans of his two ablest commanders Philip made a plan of his own.”

In the security of the monastery of San Lorenzo Escorial, Philip concocted a new scheme. He decided that a powerful naval armada, though one far smaller than that recommended by Santa Cruz, would sail from Spain with a small land force and enter the English Channel. There the armada would rendezvous with Parma’s army, less than half the size Parma had proposed, transported in small craft built or requisitioned in the Netherlands. The army would cross the Channel, disembark, and begin the conquest of England.

Several practical problems marred what Mattingly describes as “a complicated and rather rigid plan, without much allowance for mistakes or accidents.” The amalgamation of two impractical plans did not ensure a positive result. Philip’s design addressed neither Santa Cruz’s concern about the need for an overwhelming naval force nor Parma’s demand for troops and emphasis on the need for surprise. Philip skirted the problem at sea by urging his naval commander to avoid combat. But, without at least temporary Spanish control of the Channel, how could Parma transport his army in small craft to England? The navy could escort the army across, but that would be an exceedingly difficult task in the face of a strong English fleet. And how could Parma prepare such a large force for the crossing without alerting the enemy? The English and Dutch would certainly notice the assembly of hundreds of small craft and any movement of the army toward the coast. There also were critical questions concerning the rendezvous of the fleet with Parma’s flotilla. The Spanish possessed no deep-water ports where the Armada could safely join up with Parma’s transports. Thus Parma would have to make his own way into the Channel to effect the rendezvous. But he controlled no naval force of his own, and swarms of small, shallow-draft Dutch warships infested Flemish coastal waters.

Given these ambiguities and uncertainties, without an effective system of command and control of Spain’s naval and land forces, an invasion of England was unlikely to succeed. Moreover, the command structure outlined, by default, in Philip’s plan exacerbated the problems of command. Santa Cruz’s and Parma’s proposals, whatever their weaknesses, had at least embraced the principle of unity of command. Both men had envisioned a unitary invasion force, based in either Spain or the Netherlands, descending upon England under the direction of a single individual. Philip’s plan involved the movement of two forces-one mostly naval and the other mostly land; one coming from Spain and the other from the Netherlands-commanded by two men, neither of whom could command the other. Philip, in his spartan quarters in the Escorial, was both the head planner for the operation and the commander in chief, despite the fact that he was half a continent distant from Parma and would be just as far from his Armada as it entered the Channel. Since the king did not intend to accompany either Parma’s army or the Armada, there was no prospect of his actually directing the operation once it began. In his absence, the commanders would be left to their own devices. As David Howarth noted: “This was the intrinsic reason why the armada failed: the king’s belief that he could organize a huge operation of war without leaving his study, without consulting anyone, without any human advice, without allowing his commanders to discuss it . . . Especially, he did not understand seafaring or navigation-he had never embarked in a ship except as a passenger.”

Philip’s plan manifested a lack of clarity, not a lack of flexibility. The king had good reason to draft a design that was elastic enough to account for myriad unforeseen circumstances. His on-scene commanders could best judge the situation as it developed. But those same commanders, if they were to operate effectively together, needed a directive written clearly enough to be understood and to be interpreted by both in the same fashion. They also needed some secure and reliable means of communicating from ship to shore.

Unfortunately for Philip, the campaign unfolded with his subordinates confused and virtually incommunicado. The Armada’s commander- Alonso Pérez de Guzman (“El Bueno”), duke of Medina Sidonia, who reluctantly accepted the position when typhus carried off Santa Cruz in February 1588-sailed from Spain in May expecting to rendezvous with Parma’s force somewhere in the English Channel. Parma believed that Medina Sidonia’s Armada would meet the transports at the coast and shepherd the army along the entire route to England. At no time during the planning or execution of the operation were Medina Sidonia (or before him Santa Cruz) and Parma able to communicate with each other in a timely and effective manner. In the planning stage, both Parma and the Armada’s commanders communicated almost exclusively with the king, who alone understood, to the extent that anyone did, the entire situation. Medina Sidonia received only a single message from Parma, and that shortly before the Armada sailed. As Colin Martin and Geoffrey Parker commented: “Here was an extraordinary situation: the joint commanders of the greatest amphibious operation in European history were not in effective contact with each other.”

From the start, problems of command and control plagued the Spanish effort. The Armada, in a series of inconclusive but demoralizing running battles with the English, fought its way into the Channel. Medina Sidonia did manage to alert Parma to the approach of the fleet. But the Armada’s captain-general received little news from Parma, whose army was not yet prepared to strike out for England. As a result, when the Armada neared Calais and Parma’s coastal encampments, Medina Sidonia faced not only the threat posed by the English navy but also a communications debacle that guaranteed the failure of an overambitious and ambiguous plan. As Howarth wrote: “If the two dukes had met for ten minutes, they could surely have sorted it out and agreed how to make an attempt, if it was to be made at all . . . But twenty miles of sea still separated them, and an even wider gulf of misunderstanding. The misunderstanding was mutual, and the fault for it lay far away in the secret rooms of the Escorial; for the king had given each of them false information, or no information at all, about the other.” By the time Parma began what may have been a pro forma embarkation, the moment had passed. The Armada, weakened by battle, subjected to attacks by English fireships in an unprotected coastal anchorage, slipped its cables and headed eastward for the North Sea and hoped-for safety. Instead, the fleet’s epic return voyage around the northern extremes of the British Isles turned a defeat into a naval disaster.

The demise of the Spanish Armada cannot be attributed solely to problems of command and control. The tactical and operational efficiency and aggressiveness of the English fleet, its commanders, and its seamen played the major role in the campaign. But poor planning, questionable selection of senior commanders (namely Medina Sidonia, who considered himself ill-suited to the job), failure to appoint a commander in chief, nearly total lack of coordination, and poor communications contributed to the debacle. As Mattingly concluded: “It is hard to believe that even Horatio Nelson could have led the Spanish Armada to victory in 1588.” Even if the Spanish had fended off the attack of the English fireships at Gravelines, for practical and logistical reasons Medina Sidonia could not have kept his fleet in place long enough to await Parma, assuming the ground commander could even get his ill-fitted flotilla to sea past the Dutch. A failure of coordination would have brought “The Enterprise of England” to an ignominious conclusion.



Legacy –Total English Failure!

In England, the boost to national pride lasted for years, and Elizabeth’s legend persisted and grew long after her death. The repulsing of the Spanish naval force may have given heart to the Protestant cause across Europe and the belief that God was behind the Protestant cause. This was shown by the striking of commemorative medals that bore variations on the inscription, “1588. Flavit Jehovah et Dissipati Sunt” – with “Jehovah” in Hebrew letters (“God blew, and they were scattered”), or He blew with His winds, and they were scattered. There were also more lighthearted medals struck, such as the one with the play on the words of Julius Caesar: Venit, Vidit, Fugit (he came, he saw, he fled). The victory was acclaimed by the English as their greatest since Agincourt.

However, an attempt to press home the English advantage failed the following year, when the Drake–Norris Expedition of 1589, with a comparable fleet of English privateers, sailed to establish a base in the Azores, attack Spain, and raise a revolt in Portugal. The English Armada, led by Sir Timothy Walter, raided Corunna, but withdrew from Lisbon after failing to co-ordinate its strategy effectively with the Portuguese.

In 1596 and 1597, two more armadas were sent by Spain but were scattered by storms.

The Spanish Navy underwent a major organisational reform that helped it to maintain control over its trans-Atlantic routes. High-seas buccaneering and the supply of troops to Philip II’s enemies in the Netherlands and France continued, but brought few tangible rewards for England.


Cold War – Diesel-Electric Submarines


HMAS Ovens – Royal Australian Navy

Diesel-electric submarines, which were also known as ‘conventional’ submarines, played a significant role in the Cold War from the very start. When NATO became operational in the early 1950s the Soviet surface fleet was generally considered to be of minor importance, since it had achieved little of strategic significance during the Second World War and by the late 1940s most of its ships were obsolescent, if not obsolete. The Soviets were outnumbered in every category, and had no ships at all to match the West’s aircraft carriers and amphibious shipping. There was, however, one area in which they were believed to pose a significant threat: that of attack by diesel-electric submarines on Allied sea lines of communication across the Atlantic. With the memories of the German U-boat attacks in the north Atlantic still fresh, this perceived Soviet threat became one of the driving influences in NATO fleet development and deployment throughout the Cold War.

Fortunately for the Allies, the revolutionary new German submarines, the ocean-going Type XXI and the coastal Type XXIII, were only just entering service as the war ended, but there was no doubt as to their excellence. Both were real submarines, whose natural habitat was below the surface and which surfaced only when forced to do so. Compared with its predecessors, the Type XXI had a stronger and much more streamlined hull, a larger battery and new control systems which enabled it to fight underwater, and its snorkel tube enabled it to recharge its batteries while remaining submerged. Its underwater speed of 17 knots made it faster than most contemporary ASW ships, especially when there was bad weather on the surface. The Type XXIII was a smaller, coastal equivalent; it too was fast and capable, although its value was limited by its ability to carry only two torpedoes.

At the war’s end, the victorious Allies shared forty U-boats between them, with top priority being given to the Types XXI and XXIII; they then scuttled the rest. On receipt of these prizes, only the French and the Soviets put a few Type XXIs into service, while the Americans and British, after very careful examination and trials, used the design innovations, first to adapt their existing submarines, of which both had very large numbers, and subsequently as the basis for new designs.


The US navy found itself in 1946 with a vast stock of very recently built and virtually identical Second World War submarines, and a wide variety of conversions was made to these between 1946 and the mid-1950s. Most were modified under the Greater Underwater Propulsive Power (the so-called ‘Guppy’) programme, in which they were streamlined, given much more powerful batteries, and fitted with sonars and snorkel tubes. These conversions remained in service with the US navy until the early 1970s, and many were transferred to overseas, navies, within NATO in particular, where for some (e.g. Greece and Turkey) they formed the backbone of the submarine service for the remainder of the Cold War.

Numbers of Second World War submarines were also converted for special roles. These included radar pickets, which were fitted with large radars to enable them to give mid-course guidance corrections to carrier-launched bombers and, later, to the Regulus submarine-launched cruise missile. Some were converted to troop transports to deliver covert parties to hostile shores, and others as seaplane refuellers.

One development in early US Cold War naval strategy was a plan to prevent Soviet submarines leaving their home ports in war by positioning large numbers of specially-developed ‘hunter/killer’ ASW submarines outside the ports. In 1951–2 three such submarines (Barracuda class) were commissioned. These were intended to be prototypes for a large class which would have been built during a future mobilization process, but the whole scheme was dropped in 1959. Meanwhile, a new class of attack submarines was built (Tang class), which incorporated the design lessons of the German Type XXI. Only six were built, followed by three of the more advanced Barbel class, before the US navy abandoned diesel-electric submarines altogether in favour of nuclear propulsion.


IN 1945 THE Soviet navy operated some 285 submarines, all of Soviet design and manufacture, of which 159 were ocean-going and 126 coastal types. These were, however, all of pre-war design and lacked modern refinements such as streamlined hulls and snorkel tubes, having been, like the submarines of other Allied navies, outdated at a stroke by the German Type XXI.

Soviet submarines were supplemented in 1945–6 by a number of ex-German submarines. Twenty Type XXIs were found incomplete when the Red Army captured Danzig, and it was assumed by Western intelligence that these were completed and pressed into Soviet service. With the knowledge available at the time, this was a reasonable conclusion, but it has since come to light that they were scrapped, still incomplete, in 1948–9. In addition, four serviceable Type XXIs and one Type XXIII (plus four Type VIIc and one Type IXC) were handed over to the Soviet navy in 1945–6 from the stock of captured U-boats administered by the British on behalf of the Allies, and all served in the Baltic Fleet until the mid-1950s. The Soviet navy also received two Italian submarines as part of the peace settlement with Italy.

Design of the first post-war submarines began in 1946, and these, based on earlier Soviet designs, entered service in the early 1950s, quickly building up in numbers. The early versions of the two larger classes, Whiskey and Zulu, were armed with deck guns but did not have snorkels. Contemporary Western intelligence assessed that these types were Soviet adaptions of the German Type XXI, but this was incorrect: they were developments of previous Soviet designs, but incorporating a few German ideas.

Western intelligence was convinced that the Soviet navy was intent on repeating the German U-boat war on the NATO sea lines of communication across the Atlantic, and the large-scale production programmes for the Whiskey and Zulu classes appeared to reinforce this theory. There was therefore some surprise when the production of both types ceased in 1957–8, and this was thought to be a prelude to production of the first Soviet SSNs, until it was discovered that a new conventional submarine was in production: the Foxtrot class.

The Foxtrot design was larger, and was in fact the first Soviet design properly to incorporate all the lessons of the Type XXI. Sixty-two were produced for the Soviet navy, and the type became the workhorse of the fleet, being found in every ocean of the world. A second, and very similar, class, the Romeo, was produced by another design bureau, but presumably the Foxtrot proved the better boat, as production of the Romeo finished with the twenty-first unit. The Romeo was, however, exported and the design and tooling were sold to China, where it was built in large numbers.

It was then expected in the West, once again, that the Soviet navy would follow the US lead and build only nuclear-powered submarines in future, but this too proved to be erroneous, and twenty Tango-class boats were built between 1971 and 1982. Displacing 3,900 tonnes, these were the largest diesel-electric submarines to be built during the Cold War and were intended to contribute to the ASW defences for the SSBN bastions. Significantly, although all other Soviet diesel-electric submarines were exported, no Tango-class submarine was ever passed to another navy.

Construction of diesel-electric submarines continued with at least twenty-four Granay-class (NATO = ‘Kilo’) boats built from 1979 onwards for the Soviet navy. A very similar but less sophisticated design, the Washavyanka class, was designed for the export market, particularly for Warsaw Pact navies.

The Soviet navy also experimented with unconventional, but non-nuclear, air-independent propulsion systems. Thirty Quebec-class boats were built in the 1950s which ran on a Russian-developed ‘Kreislauf’ system, using liquid oxygen, while the German Walter hydrogen-peroxide system was tested in the single Project 617 submarine. Neither type proved successful, but intelligence reports of the existence of the Walter project caused some alarm in the West.

Perhaps the greatest significance of the Soviet submarine fleet was that throughout the first twenty years of the Cold War its strength, capabilities and intentions were consistently overestimated by Western intelligence. This was partially due to the imposition of an information blackout by the Soviets themselves, which led to Western naval experts taking the worst-possible view (from the Western aspect) of Soviet capabilities and production, as was their wont. These estimates were reinforced by debriefings of repatriated German prisoners of war and scientists who were abducted to the USSR in 1945 and returned in the 1950s. These men gave reports which were frequently incorrect or exaggerated, or were based on the knowledge of just one element of a large programme. Western intelligence, alarmed by other elements of the Soviet threat, extrapolated from these and all too often came up with conclusions which were widely wrong. The Soviets, of course, did nothing to contradict the Western estimates.


In 1945 the British had the third largest submarine fleet and, as in the USA, early post-war efforts were devoted to converting Second World War boats. The hulls were streamlined, new and more powerful batteries were fitted, and new sensors were installed – all of which enabled these boats to serve until the 1960s and 1970s.

The British pursued the Walter hydrogen-peroxide design (and even used the services of Dr Walter from 1945 to 1948), mainly because they thought that the Soviets had a similar design and they required fast underwater boats with which to train their ASW forces. One ex-German Type XVIIB was trialled, and two British-designed boats were built. The Walter system proved to be very hazardous in service, however, and (to the great relief of the crews involved) further development was dropped.

Another British idea was to deliver 15 kT nuclear mines to the entrances to the main Soviet ports, such as Kronstadt, using specially built mini-subs, designated ‘X’ craft. These would have been towed to the vicinity of their target by a larger submarine, as had happened during the war in attacks such as that on the German battleship Tirpitz. Although four of these mini-subs were completed, the project was cancelled in 1956.

Despite developing nuclear-powered attack submarines, the British did not follow the US example by ceasing to construct diesel-electric submarines, since they considered the conventional boats to have continuing roles in the hunter/killer role (e.g. in the Greenland–Iceland–UK gap) and in clandestine operations. Accordingly, they built the eight-strong Porpoise class between 1956 and 1961, the twelve-strong Oberon class between 1957 and 1967, and, after a long gap, the four-strong Upholder class between 1983 and 1992.fn3


In 1946 France operated a small number of pre-Second World War submarines and received five ex-German U-boats in the Allied share-out, only one of which was a Type XXI. Study of the latter boat led to the Narval class, six of which were built between 1951 and 1960 and remained in service to the late 1980s. A class of four smaller boats was built at the same time, the Arethuse class; these were enlarged and much heavier-armed versions of the German Type XXIII, designed to prevent Soviet submarines attacking French convoys between North Africa and France in war. Two more classes, the Daphne class (eleven boats, 1958–69) and the Agosta class (four boats, 1972–8), completed the post-war rehabilitation of the French navy’s submarine arm.


Germany was banned from constructing U-boats after the Second World War, but when the Federal Republic entered NATO it was decided to create a new submarine service, whose mission would be to defend the Baltic and North seas in co-operation with other NATO navies. Whereas the German surface fleet was restarted using foreign ships, the submarine service used entirely German-designed and -built boats. To start with, three sunken Second World War U-boats were raised, repaired and returned to service: two Type XXIIIs in 1956 and a single Type XXI in 1958.

All post-war U-boats for the West German navy have been relatively small, with the largest, the Type 206, displacing only 500 tonnes. Twelve boats were originally to have been constructed of the first post-war design, the Type 201, but the hull was constructed using non-magnetic steel, which suffered from severe corrosion, and a new type of steel had to be developed, resulting in the Type 205. This was succeeded by the Type 206, eighteen of which were built between 1971 and 1974, and which then served as the navy’s main submarine for the rest of the Cold War.

The German submarine industry, however, remained extremely healthy, owing to orders for some seventy-three boats from overseas customers, both within NATO and from some twenty customers in South America and Asia. The main NATO customer was Norway, which purchased fifteen Type 207s, followed by six of a new design, the Type 210, for service in the fjords and the Norwegian Sea.


Other NATO navies started their post-war submarine arms using American Second World War boats supplied under the Mutual Defense Assistance Program. Italy, which had the world’s largest submarine fleet in September 1939, subsequently produced its own submarines in small numbers, as did Denmark. Greece and Turkey both opted for the German export submarine, the Type 209, with the former buying complete boats from Germany, while the latter bought a few boats direct and then undertook its own production at the navy yard at Gölcük. Spain and Portugal both bought French designs. The Netherlands produced their own, very sophisticated submarine designs, albeit in small numbers.

Thus, although the largest navy ceased to build diesel-electric submarines, the type remained very active in other navies. All Warsaw Pact members with navies operated them, as did all NATO navies except that of Belgium.

Italian-occupied Corsica WWII

Frankreich, Italienische Offiziere und Soldaten

Italian-occupied Corsica refers to the military (and administrative) occupation by the Kingdom of Italy of the island of Corsica during World War II. It lasted from November 1942 to September 1943.

After an initial period of increasing control over Corsica, Italian forces started losing territorial control to the local Resistance, and in the aftermath of the Italian capitulation to the Allies various units took different sides in the battle between newly landed German troops, on one hand, and resistance fighters and Free French Forces, on the other hand.


On 8 November 1942, the Allies landed in North Africa. In response, Nazi Germany formulated Operation Anton, as part of which Italy occupied the island of Corsica on November 11 (Italian operation codename: “Operazione C2”), and some parts of France up to the Rhone river.

The Italian occupation of Corsica had been strongly promoted by the Italian irredentist movement during Italy’s Fascist period. The occupation force initially included 30,000 Italian troops and gradually reached the size of nearly 85,000 soldiers (reinforced in June 1943 by 12,000 German troops). This was a huge occupation force relative to the size of the local population of 220,000.

The VII Army Corps of the Regio Esercito was able to occupy Corsica, which was still under the formal sovereignty of Vichy France, without a fight. Because of the initial lack of perceived partisan resistance and to avoid problems with Marshal Philippe Pétain, no Corsican units were formed under Italian control (except for a labour battalion formed in March 1943). Corsican population initially showed some support for the Italians, even as a consequence of the irredentist propaganda.

The Italian troops grew to encompass two Army Divisions (the “Friuli” and the “Cremona”), two coastal Divisions (the Italian 225 Coastal Division and the Italian 226 Coastal Division), eight battalions of Fascist Militia, and some units of Military Police and Carabinieri. In July 1943, after Benito Mussolini’s fall, 12,000 German troops were sent to Corsica.

These Italian troops were commanded by General Mondino since the occupation until the end of December 1942, then by General Carboni until March 1943 and later by General Magli until September 1943.

Some Corsican military officers collaborated with Italy, including the retired Major Pantalacci (and his son Antonio), colonel Mondielli and colonel Simon Petru Cristofini (and his wife, the first Corsican female journalist Marta Renucci). Cristofini, who even met Benito Mussolini in Rome, was a strong supporter of the union of Corsica to Italy and defended irredentist ideals. Indeed Cristofini actively collaborated with the Italian forces in Corsica during the first months of 1943 and (as head of the Ajaccio troops) helped the Italian Army to repress the Resistance in Corsica before the Italian Armistice in September 1943. He closely worked with the famous Corsican writer Petru Giovacchini, who was named as the potential “Governor of Corsica” if the Kingdom of Italy should have annexed the island.

Rise of the Resistance

The French Resistance was initially limited, but it started taking shape immediately in the aftermath of the Italian invasion. This initially led to the development of two movements:

A network operating under the codename mission secrète Pearl Harbour (mission Pearl Harbor), which arrived from Algiers on 14 December 1942 aboard the Free French submarine Casabianca, the elusive Phantom Submarine. Under chief of mission Roger de Saule, they coordinated various groups that merged in the Front national. Communists were most influential in this movement.

The R2 Corse network was originally formed in connection with the London-based forces immediately under General de Gaulle in January 1943. Its leader Fred Scamaroni failed to unite the movements and was subsequently captured and tortured, committing suicide on 19 March 1943.

In April 1943 Paulin Colonna d’Istria was sent by Charles de Gaulle from Algeria and united the movements.

By early 1943, the Resistance was organized enough that it requested arms deliveries. The Resistance leadership was reinforced and the movement’s morale was boosted by six visits by the submarine Casabianca carrying personnel and arms, and it was later further armed by Allied airdrops. This allowed the Resistance to increase its activities and establish greater territorial control, especially over the countryside in summer 1943. In June and July 1943 the OVRA (Italian fascist police) and the fascist Black Shirts paramilitary groups started a large-scale repression. According to General Fernand Gambiez, 860 Corsicans were jailed and deported to Italy. On 30 August, Jean Nicoli and two French partisans of the Front national were shot in Bastia by order of an Italian Fascist War Tribunal.

Liberation of Corsica

Following the imprisonment of Benito Mussolini in July 1943, 12,000 German troops came to Corsica. They formally took over the occupation on 9 September 1943, the day after the armistice between Italy and the Allies. While their leaders were ambivalent, most of the Italian troops remained loyal the Italian King Victor Emmanuel II and some fought (mainly at Teghime, Bastia and Casamozza) alongside the French Resistance against the Nazi troops until the liberation of Corsica on 4 October 1943. Meanwhile, the French resistance aimed to establish control of the mountains in the island’s center, with the goal of preventing the occupying forces from moving from one coast to the other and thus facilitating an Allied invasion.

The liberation of Corsica began with an uprising ordered by the local Resistance on 9 September 1943. The Allies did not initially want such a movement, preferring to focus their forces on the invasion of Italy. However, in light of the insurrection, the Allies acquiesced to the landing of elements of the reconstituted French I Corps on Corsica in September 1943, starting with one division of elite French troops being landed – again – via submarine Casabianca at Arone near the village of Piana in the North West of Corsica. This prompted the German troops to attack Italian troops as well as French resistants in Corsica. The Corsican and French Partisans and the Italian 44 Infantry Division Cremona, 20 Infantry Division Friuli engaged in heavy combat with the German Sturmbrigade Reichsführer SS and 90th Panzergrenadier Division, supported by the Italian 12th Parachute Battalion of the 184th Parachute Regiment), which came from Sardinia and retreated through Corsica from Bonifacio towards the Northern harbor of Bastia. On 13 September elements of the Free French “4th Moroccan Mountain Division” were landed in Ajaccio to support the efforts to stop the 30,000 retreating German troops. During the night of 3 to 4 October the last German units evacuated Bastia and left for northern Italy, leaving behind 700 dead and 350 POWs.


Major-General Sir Andrew Russell


Major-General Sir Andrew Russell, GOC the NZ Division in France. This driven perfectionist succeeded in forging his division into an elite fighting force; but although he was superior to Gen Godley as a fighting commander, he was little warmer as a personality – he was very sparing with praise, and refused to recommend any deserving officer for a Victoria Cross. After an excellent performance in the planning and execution of the Messines Ridge attack in June 1917, he was judged to have let his men down at Passchendaele that October. Aware that his troops were exhausted, and would have insufficient artillery support, he failed to advise his superiors or to seek a postponement of the attack. The losses suffered threatened to break the morale of the `Silent Division’, but after being rebuilt it performed excellently in 1918.

Andrew Russell (1868-1960) was the first New Zealand-born commander of the NZ Division, and proved to be its most effective. He had been born into a military family, and after education in England at Harrow and Sandhurst he was commissioned into a British regular battalion, serving in India and Burma. He later resigned from the regular army to take up sheep farming on the family estate in New Zealand. He became active in the Volunteer and Territorial forces, eventually being selected by Godley to command the 2nd (Wellington) Mounted Rifle Bde in 1911. He declined a regular commission in the NZ Staff Corps prior to the war, but sailed with the Main Body of the NZEF in October 1914 as the highest-ranking Territorial officer, as the brigadier commanding the NZ Mounted Rifle Brigade.

At Gallipoli, Russell earned a reputation as a professional and competent commander. His brigade disembarked on 13 May 1915 at Anzac Cove, where it was employed as infantry in the northern section of the beachhead. Russell established his HQ only 25 yards from the support trenches, on a plateau that became known as Russell’s Top; it was here that his men repelled a large Turkish attack on 19 May, securing the area for future operations. In the August offensive Russell’s brigade seized the formidable foothills of Chunuk Bair, allowing the infantry to assault the strategic summit. Australian war correspondent C. E. W. Bean proclaimed this action to be a `magnificent feat of arms, the brilliance of which was never surpassed, if indeed equalled, during the campaign.’ For such feats Russell was knighted, and he assumed command of the ANZAC division in November 1915. His performance as one of the few commanders to establish a favourable reputation on the peninsula made him the obvious choice to command the New Zealand Division when it was later formed in Egypt.

Leading the NZ Division on the Western Front, Russell was determined to produce the best fighting division in France, and developed his command from a raw and inexperienced formation into an elite veteran force. He was ruthlessly efficient in ensuring that the troops were led by competent officers, and that the men received the appropriate training before any offensive. This was especially true after the division suffered heavy casualties when thrust ill-prepared into the Somme fighting in September 1916. Russell was a hard task-master; he sent back to New Zealand officers who had not performed to the required level, and he regularly made unheralded inspections of front-line units to promote discipline and efficiency.

Russell showed high moral courage in rejecting Field Marshal Haig’s plan for the capture of Messines Ridge, formulating his own, which involved weeks of preparation and full-scale rehearsal over similar ground. This resulted in the rapid capture of Messines village and the ridge with minimal losses. However, Russell was not at his best at Passchendaele, which proved to be New Zealand’s worst military disaster. With only a few days available to prepare for the offensive, Russell failed to apply his usual attention to detail, and on 12 October 1917 the NZ Division suffered over 3,000 casualties. As a perfectionist, Russell drove himself to the point that he was continually ill throughout 1918. However, his relentless drive ensured that the New Zealanders were a key formation in the defeat of the German offensive of March 1918, and in the triumphant counteroffensive later that year that led to the Armistice.

The Forgotten General – New Zealand’s World War I Commander Major-General Sir Andrew Russell

Napoleon’s Escape from Waterloo


As the column of seven Guard battalions in a “dark waving forest of bear-skin caps,” seventy-five men abreast, supported by two batteries of horse artillery, advanced, they divided-apparently by accident-into two separate columns. While General Friant’s grenadiers in the front part of the column continued forward, the chasseurs under General Morand peeled off to the left. They immediately came under heavy fire by Allied guns and Chasse’s 3rd Division of Dutch-Belgian infantry, as the main body continued forward where most of Wellington’s troops still lay concealed once again behind the banks of the Ohain road, just ahead of them. Meanwhile, to their left the chasseurs unexpectedly found themselves facing General Adams’s light brigade, as it emerged abruptly from the cornfield before them, while Colonel Colborne’s 52nd fell upon their left flank with a stinging fire, startling and momentarily halting the entire French advance. Taking advantage of the moment to rise from the concealed embankment, Wellington in his blue coat, white buckskin breeches and gold Spanish sash, waved his hat, signaling the Allies all along the front to counterattack.

Less than sixty yards away, some 40,000 Allied troops appeared as if out of nowhere, firing a steady stream of lethal volleys into the exposed front ranks of the astonished Imperial Guard, and then shouting, charged with bayonets as the remaining two brigades of Allied cavalry under the command of Generals Vivian and Vandeleur swept across the road. Despite Ney’s repeated orders to advance and the Guard’s drummers rolling out the “pas de charge,” the marshal’s troops and frontline Imperial Guard broke and fled for their lives.

A desperate Napoleon hurriedly formed his last three Guard battalions into squares in the very path of his fleeing troops, but even he could not stop the massive flight, and all gave way as this immense wall of humanity poured forth, their cries of “Vive l’Empereur,” now replaced by “Sauve qui peut!” [Everyone for himself.] At the same time on the other side of the Bruxelles-Charleroi highway, the Young Guard managed valiantly to hold on to Plancenoit under a heavy Prussian barrage for another couple of hours, thereby covering the escape route to Charleroi for the precipitous retreat of the Armee du Nord.

With the Old Guard’s withdrawal completed by 8 P. M., a dazed and gloomy Napoleon Bonaparte himself turned away from the battlefield of Waterloo and his extraordinary defeat, and “entirely disappeared,” as Ney put it, without having notified him or the other field commanders of his plans. The crush of the troops in their southerly retreat became overwhelming as the imperial coaches and Napoleon’s famous dark blue and gilt berline were seen fleeing the scene. “A complete panic at once spread throughout the whole field of battle,” reported one official version of the battle, as the greatest army in the world broke and fled in “great disorder” before the “issue funeste de la bataille” [“fatal outcome of the battle”].

“In an instant the whole army was nothing but a mass of confusion . . . and it was utterly impossible to rally a single unit,” Ney admitted. Napoleon had abandoned his army in Egypt and in Russia and now again at Waterloo. “All was lost by a moment of terrifying panic. Even the cavalry squadrons accompanying the Emperor were overthrown and disorganized by these tumultuous waves,” said the official Army report. And Ney, much bruised from his last fall and limping painfully, covered in mud and exhausted-with not even one of his staff officers willing to help or offer him a mount-now followed on foot swallowed up in the mob. “I owe my life to a corporal who supported me on the road, and did not abandon me during the retreat,” that marshal acknowledged.

Meanwhile, with some British and Prussian cavalry units already hard on their heels, it took Napoleon and his staff an entire hour just to clear the bottleneck over Genappe’s narrow stone bridge spanning the Dyle, where artillery limbers, caissons, carts and horses were locked together holding back the entire French army. Indeed, with the sudden blare of Prussian cavalry trumpets and the rush of Gneisenau’s dragoons, Uhlans and Pomeranians around the imperial cortege, Napoleon himself barely escaped capture, as he leapt from his berline onto his waiting horse. Leaving behind a fortune in gold, bank notes and diamonds, including his sister Caroline’s 300,000-frane necklace, personal papers and hat, he galloped off down the Charleroi road followed by Drouot, Bertrand and his staff.

But upon reaching Quatre Bras, instead of finding Girard’s reserve division (ordered earlier from Ligny) waiting for him, he came upon over three thousand French soldiers, long dead, in immense rows, completely stripped of their clothing and possessions by scavenging French and British soldiers and local Belgian inhabitants, their white bodies bruised, mutilated and streaked in dry blood, rigid and refulgent in the June moonlight. With no organized French units left around him, nor word of Grouchy, and Gneisenau’s troopers again fast approaching, a tearful Napoleon mounted his horse and continued to lead the French retreat from Waterloo.

The frenzy and confusion Napoleon had found earlier at Genappe was now repeated at Charleroi, where he arrived at five o’clock in the morning of the nineteenth, as bands of fleeing soldiers mixing with the stream of the first convoys of the wounded and the twenty-one pieces of captured Prussian artillery blocked the sole bridge crossing the River Sambre there, some bursting its wooden parapets and plunging into the rainswollen waters below. Food, clothing, weapons, ammunition, overturned carriages and carts lay before them. And then with the tocsin sounding again to alert them to a possible Prussian approach, the soldiers turned, not to protect the column, but to plunder the Army’s treasury wagon as they hacked with swords and bayonets to grasp the heavy sacks containing 20,000 gold francs each. In the words of historian Houssaye, “Tout fut pille.” (“Everything was pillaged.”)

But as tired as he was, the dismal sight was too much for Napoleon, who, setting out an hour later, reached Philippeville at 9 A. M. (the nineteenth). Here at least he hoped to find some semblance of order and see his army units regrouping. Instead he found unabated confusion and only 2,600 men from a dozen different regiments. But at least his staff and commanders began to drift in, and he soon had with him Bertrand, Drouot, Dejean, Flahaut, Bussy, Bassano, Fleury, Reille and Soult. For the first time since the end of the battle Napoleon was able to dispatch orders to commanders he had abandoned, as well as to nearby garrisons, where he hoped to assemble his cavalry, artillery and infantry. In addition he now dictated two letters to Fleury for Joseph Bonaparte, acting as Regent in his absence: one for his ministers, the other personal. Explaining briefly what had transpired at Waterloo, he said-“I believe the Deputies will be made to understand that it is their duty to join me in saving France . . . All is not lost by a long chalk. . . . I shall call up one hundred thousand conscripts. The federes and the National Guard will provide another one hundred thousand men. . . . I can call up a levee en masse in Dauphine, at Lyons, in Burgundy, Lorraine and Champagne. . . . I shall soon have three hundred thousand soldiers under arms with which to face the enemy! . . . Then I’ll simply crush them once and for all!” Still in this defiantly optimistic mood he appointed the lukewarm Soult to take over command of the Army concentrating at Philippeville, and commandeering three of that marshal’s carriages, Napoleon and his staff set out for Laon.

Meanwhile, Grouchy’s right wing, down to 25,000 men, which had been fighting General von Thielemann’s 17,000 Prussians at Wavre and Limale, on learning of the defeat the next day (the nineteenth), ordered a swift and brilliant withdrawal for his army via Namur and Givet. Having defeated the pursuing Prussians in two sharp if minor battles, Marshal Grouchy’s forces reached Philippeville on the twentieth, and were then taken over by Soult, giving him a grand total of just 55,000 troops-as opposed to Blucher’s approaching 66,000 and Wellington’s 52,000 men. But “Old Nick” Soult (as his officers and men facetiously referred to him), as cold, uncommunicative and solitary as ever, personally felt the situation following the debacle of Waterloo was utterly hopeless. He only wanted to escape while he still could, and giving orders to evacuate Philippeville, he continued with the French Army on its retreat for Soissons where, a few days later, pleading “ill health,” he in turn would hand over supreme command to Grouchy and in the best Napoleonic tradition abandon them all.

By the time Napoleon himself reached Laon, after six o’clock on the evening of the twentieth, he had changed his mind again. He would not stay to rebuild the Army after all, he would go to Paris. He had to go to Paris to save the nation . . . and his throne. After traveling throughout the night from Laon, the dust-covered Emperor emerged from the caleche in the courtyard of the Elysee at 5:30 A. M. on 21 June, where he was greeted by a grim Foreign Minister Caulaincourt. “If I return to Paris,” Napoleon had told General Bertrand at Philippeville, “and I have to get my hands bloody, then I’ll shove them in right up to the elbow!” Was that his solution, after having left 64,600 French casualties-25,000 dead and seriously wounded just at Waterloo and tens of thousands of horses and 220 cannon behind him in the fields of Belgium-was he now bent on bringing down the apocalypse on France as well?

BATTLE OF MA WEI, (August 23, 1884)


The Foochow Arsenal under construction, between 1867 and 1871. Three albumen prints joined to form a panorama.


The Chinese flagship Yangwu and the corvette Fuxing under attack by French torpedo boats No. 46 and No. 45. Combat naval de Fou-Tchéou (‘The naval battle at Foochow’), by Charles Kuwasseg, 1885

The naval battle off Ma Wei, a small town at the mouth of the Min River on the east bank opposite the city of Fuzhou, was the opening of hostilities in the Franco-Chinese War. At the time of the battle, China had more than 50 ships in its navy, including German- and American-built gunboats and cruisers. About half of the ships were constructed in China, some at the Fuzhou Dockyard, near where the battle was fought. However, China had not organized its ships into a national fleet. Instead, they were controlled by regional governors-general appointed by the Qing dynasty.

The governor-general of Canton (Guangzhou) had constructed a series of fortifications along the Fujian Province coast, including along the Min River. The Fuzhou Dockyard superintendent was He Ruzhang, who had overall responsibility for the Fuzhou fleet. However, the tactical control of the fleet’s ships was the responsibility of Zhang Cheng, the captain of the fleet’s flagship, the Yang Wu.

The French fleet in Asia was dispersed off the South China and Indochina coast under the control of Admiral Amende A. P. Courbet. Although no formal state of war was declared, there were serious disputes between the French and the Chinese over control of the northern part of Vietnam (Cochin China) and the surrounding waters. The French fleet in the area in July 1884 was led by Courbet’s flagship, the Volga, and consisted of four other warships. By August 22, 1884, the French naval presence off the Min River had grown to eight warships, all anchored in the approaches to Fuzhou in the Ma Wei roads. The ships all had armor-clad hulls and were considered modern for the time. The Chinese had a fleet of 11 wood-hulled ships with modern armament at Fuzhou. In addition there were seven steam-driven launches and 12 armed junks used for troop transport. After a dispute over unimpeded access to the river for the purpose of trade, which had gone on since early July, the French initiated action against the Chinese fleet on the afternoon of August 23, 1884.

There are different accounts of whether there was any declaration of war on the part of the French before hostilities commenced. As a minimum, it seems likely that some Chinese official, if not the governor-general in Canton himself, was notified that the French would attack if a blockade of the Min River by the Chinese was not lifted. Perhaps an official of the Fuzhou Dockyard was given an ultimatum by Courbet. In any case, within about 12 minutes of the commencement of action by the French at about 2:00 P. M. on August 23, they had sunk almost the entire Chinese fleet. Varying accounts of the battle say that all 11 Chinese warships were sunk; others say that as many as 22 Chinese ships of different classes were sunk. Only five Chinese ships were reported to have gotten under way from the Fuzhou Dockyard, and only two of these escaped upriver unscathed. Command and control signals for the Chinese fleet were poor, whereas only two French ships suffered minor damage from fire.

China declared war on France on August 26, 1884.


The Fuzhou Dockyard was one of several regional weapons arsenals and shipyard facilities established in China by local officials with foreign equipment or assistance. Other arsenals and dockyards were established in Shanghai (Jiangnan), Suzhou, Nanjing, Tianjin, and Jilin. The Fuzhou Dockyard was established primarily with French assistance after two Frenchmen who had helped raise armies during the Taiping Rebellion, Prosper Giquel and Paul D’Aiguebelle, signed a contract with Zuo Zongtang to operate the dockyard. The contract was signed in 1866, and the dockyard was actually established under contract to build 16 ships in 1867.

In fact, the contract with Zuo Zongtang called for more than ship construction. Giquel and D’Aiguebelle were also supposed to establish a naval engineering school and a navigation school at Fuzhou, all within a five-year period. The dockyard was to be operated by Chinese natives after the expiration of the contract. The Fuzhou Dockyard launched its first ship June 1869, the Wan Nian Qing (Ten Thousand-Year Qing Dynasty), a steam-powered, 238-foot ship with six guns, powered by a screw propeller rather than paddle wheels. By 1873, 11 warships of various classes, from corvette to gunboat, had been produced by the dockyard. The final four ships constructed at the Fuzhou Dockyard were merchant ships built to haul passengers and cargo. Three of these, the Chen Hang, Yong Bao, and Da Yu, carried troops from Li Hongzhang’s Anhui Army to Taiwan during the Formosa Crisis of 1874 with Japan.

Between 1874 and the Franco-Chinese War (1884-1885), the Fuzhou Dockyard launched an additional seven ships, which were of composite, iron frame wooden skin construction. But the dockyard was continually hampered by financial problems and, in fact, supported partially by opium taxes. After the Franco-Chinese War, the dockyard’s financial situation improved, but it had to begin procurement from sources other than France, turning primarily to England and Germany.

REFERENCES John L. Rawlinson, China’s Struggle for Naval Development, 1839-1895 (Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 1967); Bruce Swanson, Eighth Voyage of the Dragon-A History of China’s Quest for Seapower (Annapolis, MD: Naval Institute Press, 1982). Li Hong Chang, Memories of Li Hong Chang, ed. William Mannix (Boston: Houghton Mifflin, 1913); Prosper Giquel, The Foochow Arsenal and Its Results: From Commencement in 1867 to the End of the Foreign Directorate on 16 February, 1874, trans. H. Lang (Shanghai: 1874); John L. Rawlinson, China’s Struggle for Naval Development, 1839-1895 (Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 1967).

Austria’s Opening Disasters – WWI









Austria’s decision for war against Serbia was not a product of fatalism, fecklessness, or incompetence. Whether to preempt any possibility of a solution to the south Slavic question within Habsburg borders, or from murkier motives with domestic roots, Serbia, by not repudiating the assassination of Archduke Franz Ferdinand, had offered the Dual Monarchy a mortal challenge. Serbia had also overplayed its military hand. The state was still assimilating the territories acquired in the Balkan Wars of 1912-13, while the army was recovering from the costs and losses of those conflicts. The Austrians even had the advantage of tactical surprise, putting elements of two armies across the Sava and the Danube Rivers on August 12 and compelling the evacuation of Belgrade without a fight.

At the outbreak of hostilities Serbia’s chief of staff, Radomir Putnik, was taking the waters at an Austrian spa, and had taken with him the keys to the safe containing Serbia’s war plans. Briefly interned, he was released – policy in 1914 was still implemented by gentlemen – and returned to find his subordinates had blown open the safe and begun mobilization without him. All the advantages, moral and military, seemed to lie with Austria. But Putnik was a shrewd planner and a ruthless fighting man. Willing to sacrifice territory for the sake of position, he drew the invaders deep into a Serbia whose broken terrain and undeveloped road network played havoc with Habsburg logistics and coordination. The Serbs held, then counterattacked, driving the Austrians back to the frontier and reoccupying Belgrade in a week of fighting as heavy as anything experienced in the Balkan Wars.

Conrad’s decision to allow the use of his reserve in Serbia only until August 20, when it began disengaging for transportation to Russia, compounded the initial tactical misjudgments of Austrian theater commander Oskar Potiorek. Those in turn were balanced by Putnik’s decision to invade Bosnia in the hopes of inspiring revolt among the province’s Slavic elements. The revolt failed to materialize, and Potiorek slowly forced the now overextended Serbs back into their central mountains. On both sides disease and privation took a heavy toll of regiments already reduced by casualties as the onset of winter added to the difficulties of supply, maneuver, and combat. Belgrade fell to the Austrians on December 2. The next day Putnik, his army partly re-supplied by France and Britain, counterattacked an enemy trapped by its own advances on the wrong side of the flooded Kolubra River. It took almost two weeks for the Austrians to fight their way out and the Serbs to reoccupy their capital.

Both armies, exhausted, established winter quarters in a countryside so devastated that its recovery arguably required the rest of the twentieth century. On both sides ethnic, cultural, and religious differences were stoked into mutual hatred by the horrors of high-tech battlefields and the privations of devastated rear areas. Combat zones were constantly shifting: civilians could neither run nor hide, nor establish stable relationships with military occupiers. Material damage – burned houses, slaughtered farm animals, devastated fields – was only the tip of the resulting iceberg. A growing climate of “no quarter” on the battlefields spread to an indiscriminate use of firing squads behind the lines. Local infrastructures collapsed as labor forces disappeared and family systems disintegrated. Random violence and brutality became ways of life in an environment of everyone for themselves that had no pity on the weak and the helpless. By 1918, such conditions would encompass most of the Balkans.

Conrad’s initial commitment of his reserve against Serbia had no effect on his decision to order a general advance into Russian Poland. The war plan of March 1914, which formed the basis of Habsburg operational planning five months later, provided for an immediate attack northwards from Galicia, aimed at overrunning and destroying a substantial part of the Russian forces in that area before they could complete their concentration. Without a simultaneous German attack across the Narew River toward Warsaw, however, Conrad’s initiative invited dismissal as a voyage to nowhere in particular. Habsburg apologists have made much of Germany’s alleged failure to mount that attack, even though its general staff had urged an Austrian offensive as recently as May. In fact the initial balance of forces in the Austro-Russian sector made offensive operations imperative by the standards of 1914, no matter what the Germans did. To sacrifice the initiative, to allow Russia to complete its concentration and choose its lines of advance was, according to conventional wisdom, to create a risk approaching certainty of being overrun in the field, trapped in the fortresses of Lemberg and Przemysl, or hammered back against the Carpathian Mountains.

Austria enjoyed an initial marginal superiority in men, and only a slight inferiority in guns. To the officer corps, decisive action seemed the best way to confirm allegiance in a multiethnic, polyglot empire. Colonel Alexander Brosch, commanding a regiment of the elite Tiroler Kaiserjaeger, hyperbolically praised the “iron calm, energy, and consequence” with which Austria had gone to war. “Bismarck and Moltke together” could not have managed the affair better: “all at once one could be really proud of his fatherland and its leaders.” “Indolence, carelessness, and cowardice” had been banished; Austria had replaced America as “the land of limitless possibilities.”

On August 16 four Habsburg armies, almost 800,000 strong, began moving forward – including Colonel Brosch, whose own appointment in Samarra awaited him on September 7. To meet them the Russian high command initially deployed two armies north of Galicia and two more on the southeastern Russo-Austrian frontier, a total of around 700,000 men. As Habsburg forces advanced deeper into Galicia, the Russians sought to counter by driving forward, enveloping their flanks, and threatening or severing their lines of retreat. With cavalry and air reconnaissance providing little useful information to either side, the result was a series of brutal encounter battles. On the Austrian left, the First Army drove the Russians in front of it 20 miles back toward Lublin. The neighboring Fourth Army hammered the Russian Fifth Army at the battle of Komarow.

Determined to exploit these victories, Conrad pressed forward, ignoring his right, where the Third Army was caught in the open and crushed by 20 divisions of the Russian Third and Eighth Armies. The Second Army, Conrad’s strategic reserve, was still detraining far from the front lines. Nevertheless Conrad responded by taking the fight to the Russians. Like Adolf Hitler in 1941, he believed any retreat would turn into a rout. Better to go for the throat and hope for the best. As the armies grappled with each other the front was characterized everywhere by mutually vulnerable flanks. Victory, Conrad insisted, would go to the side first able to impose its will on events. But his tool broke in his hands. After three weeks the Austrian soldiers were exhausted and their officers bewildered. Close-order assault tactics had cost thousands of lives. There were too many Russians in too many places. By September 1, his army on the verge of dissolution, even Conrad accepted retreat as the only alternative to annihilation.

Austria’s correspondingly desperate appeals to Germany brought the Hindenburg/ Ludendorff team south. Using the superb German railway network, they deployed four corps from Prussia into Poznan, then attacked into the Russian rear, toward Warsaw, on September 28. The Germans were confident that they could easily replicate their earlier victories on a larger scale. This time, however, the Russians traded space for position, retreating, concentrating, and counterattacking as rain, then snow and bitter cold immobilized guns and supply wagons on both sides. A surrounded German corps cut its way back to its own lines, bringing out most of its wounded and 16,000 prisoners. After two months of vicious see-saw fighting the front stabilized, with the Russians holding Warsaw and most of Poland, devastated by mutual policies of scorched earth that left more than 9,000 villages destroyed and over 200,000 homeless.

For a while Austria seemed on the threshold of disaster, despite German intervention. The fortress of Lemberg surrendered without a fight. Przemyśl was left to stand a siege, with enough supplies to last until spring. But Conrad was able to match the German initiative with an offensive of his own. Mounted with what remained of the army’s prewar resources, it briefly relieved Przemyśl, sputtered, and then collapsed as a Russian counterattack drove deep into the Carpathians before outrunning its supplies. As the year ended, the combatants paused – but only to regroup. In Galicia too, a civilian economy barely above subsistence level in peacetime was devastated – and not only by the presence and the demands of the armies.

In Austrian Galicia, Russian occupying authorities sought to Russify the province by an early form of ethnic cleansing. Germans, Ukrainians, and Jews were murdered, imprisoned, driven into Russia by hundreds and thousands, their property destroyed, confiscated, or simply allowed to fall into ruin.