The Channel Islands

The Death of Major Peirson by John Singleton Copley

The Battle of Jersey (6 January 1781) was an attempt by French forces to invade Jersey and remove the threat the island posed to French and American shipping in the Anglo-French War. Jersey provided a base for British privateers, and France, engaged in the war as an ally of the United States, sent an expedition to gain control of the island.

The Channel Islands – in Norman Îles d’la Manche, in French Îles Anglo-Normandes or Îles de la Manche – are an archipelago of British Crown Dependencies in the English Channel, off the French coast of Normandy. They include two separate bailiwicks, that of Guernsey and Jersey, with their respective capitals of St Peter Port and St Helier.

The main islands of the Channel Islands are Jersey, Guernsey, Alderney, Sark and Herm, the smaller inhabited islands being Jethou, Brecqhou (Brechou) and Lihou; all except Jersey are in the Bailiwick of Guernsey. There are also uninhabited islets: the Minquiers, Ecréhous, Les Dirouilles and Les Pierres de Lecq, also known as the Paternosters, part of the Bailiwick of Jersey; and Burhou and the Casquets, which lie off Alderney. These uninhabited islands can be visited but are a valued nature reserve and secure stopover point for migrating birds.

The Channel Islands were originally part of the Dukedom of Normandy; after 1066, when the Norman prince William conquered Anglo-Saxon Britain, the islands became part of this larger domain. With the passage of time, England won and lost portions of France but the islands remained secure, protected by the fast currents, rocky coastlines and difficult seas that surround them. The advent of steam power in the nineteenth century saw this protection diminished and, with France still the main enemy, forts, barracks and batteries were built to cover the harbours and protect the coastline.

War first came to the Channel Islands on 1 May 1779 when, in support of the American colonists then in rebellion against the British, the French attempted a landing on Jersey at St Ouen’s Bay. Early that morning, British lookouts sighted five large vessels and a large number of smaller craft 9 nautical miles off the coast, on a course that made it obvious that they were intent on making a landing. Cutters and small craft supporting the landing fired grapeshot at soldiers of the 78th Regiment Highlanders and Jersey Militia who, together with some field artillery that they had dragged through the sand, had arrived in time to oppose the landing. The defenders suffered a few men wounded when a cannon burst but prevented the landing. The French vessels withdrew, first holding off 3 nautical miles from the coast before leaving the area entirely.

They would be back.

Two years later, on 5 January 1781, a new, more powerful force set out for Jersey. It consisted of 2,000 soldiers in four formations loosely called ‘divisions’. Like later commando operations against the islands, the force commander, Baron Phillipe de Rullecourt, was relying on surprise. He held the rank of colonel in the French Army, but was seen in France as an adventurer and the sort of renegade that professional soldiers despise. However, the Baron knew that citizens and soldiers on Jersey would be off their guard celebrating ‘Old Christmas Night’ on 6 January.

French officers with a more rational approach saw an attack on Jersey as a waste of resources and believed that any lodgement on the island would be short-lived – there would be echoes of this in the assessment by the Chiefs of Staff of Admiral Mountbatten’s plans for landings by the British in the Second World War.

Despite this, King Louis XVI was keen to embarrass the British in any way possible and promised de Rullecourt that if he succeeded and captured St Helier he would be promoted to general and awarded the Order of St Louis – better known as the Cordon Rouge because of its distinctive red sash. His second in command was an Indian prince known as Prince Emir, who had been captured by the British during the Anglo-French wars in India. He had been sent to France as a repatriated prisoner of war and remained in French service. Reflecting the attitudes of the times, a British veteran recalled that: ‘He looked quite barbarian, as much as his discourse; if our fate has depended on him, it would not have been of the most pleasant; he advised the French General to ransack everything and to put the town to fire and to blood.’

What makes the expedition sound very modern was that it was not officially sanctioned by the French government, and so if it failed it was ‘deniable’. Though it had no official backing, funding, equipment, transport and troops were provided by the government. In order to conceal its involvement, the government went so far as to order the ‘desertion’ of several hundred regular troops to de Rullecourt’s forces.

It looked as if the plan might work when 800 men of the First Division landed undetected by the local guard post on the night of 6 January at La Rocque, Grouville. A subsequent trial by the British authorities found that the guards had deserted their post to go drinking. The First Division remained in place during the night awaiting reinforcements. Now the plan began to unravel; 400 men of the Second Division did not make landfall when their ships were lost among the rocks – in British accounts the ships were listed as four transports escorted by a privateer. The winter weather also played a part when the shipping for the Third Division – some 600 men – became separated from the main body and so was unable to land. However, the Fourth Division of 200 men landed early the next morning at La Rocque, bringing the total strength of the French force to only 1,000 – but they still had surprise on their side.

On the morning of 6 January the First Division moved stealthily into St Helier and established defensive positions while the population were still asleep. At 8 a.m. a French patrol entered Le Manoir de la Motte and captured the governor, Major (Maj) Moses Corbet, in bed. De Rullecourt tried to bluff the governor that the French were on the island in overwhelming strength, and threatened to sack the town if the governor did not sign a capitulation. Under the circumstances, Corbet showed considerable moral courage when he said that, as a prisoner, he had no authority and that any signature would be ‘of no avail’. However, under pressure from de Rullecourt he eventually signed.

The bluff looked as if it might work when, under escort, Corbet was then pressurised to order Captains Aylward and Mulcaster, the young officers in command at Elizabeth Castle, to surrender. If the castle was secured, St Helier would be under French control. However, not only would Aylward and Mulcaster not surrender, but they opened fire, causing two or three French casualties. The French withdrew.

Though the governor was a prisoner, 24-year-old Maj. Francis Peirson, in command of the garrison at St Peter’s Barracks, was beginning to build up a picture of the strength of the invading forces – in modern terminology the information was coming in from ‘Humint’, or human intelligence: what the locals had seen and heard. Peirson had joined the army in 1772 and was a veteran of the American War of Independence. As he assembled his force at Mont es Pendus (now known more prosaically as Westmount), he knew that his mixed force of regular soldiers and militia had grown to 2,000 men and outnumbered the French two-to-one. He would counter-attack.

In St Helier, the French had camped in the market and positioned captured British guns to cover the likely approaches. Though these guns were a valuable enhancement to their firepower, they had not located the British howitzers that were later to play a significant part in the Battle of Jersey.

Peirson worked fast. He sent the 78th Highland Regiment of Foot, who were part of the Regular Army garrison, to secure Mont de la Ville (now Fort Regent) to block any French withdrawal. When he reckoned they were in position, he ordered the main body to attack. Bluffing, and trying to play for time, de Rullecourt sent the governor to offer capitulation terms, with the threat that if the British did not sign in sixty minutes St Helier would be put to fire and the sword.

He had not reckoned with Peirson and Captain Campbell, commanding the Grenadier Company of the 83rd Regiment of Foot, who simply gave the French commander twenty minutes to surrender.

In Grouville, the 83rd Regiment of Foot had also refused to surrender, and in a somewhat overdramatic but prescient outburst, de Rullecourt is reported to have said: ‘Since they do not want to surrender, I have come here to die.’

The French were outnumbered, but would also be outfought. Though they were able to fire the captured cannon once or twice, the British howitzer crew in the Grande Rue directly opposite the market, in the words of an eyewitness, ‘cleaned all the surroundings of French’.

If men had not died in the action that followed, the Battle of Jersey would be remembered as a slightly farcical episode. It lasted about fifteen minutes. Many of the British soldiers were so confined in the streets of St Helier that, with no clear view of their enemies, they fired their muskets into the air. Finally, while some of the British regiments, such as the 78th Regiment, 95th Regiment of Foot and South-East, had obviously ‘British’ titles, the Battalion of St Lawrence and the Compagnies de Saint-Jean sound as if they should have been in the French order of battle.

Using Corbet as an intermediary, de Rullecourt tried bluffing the British commander, saying that the French had two battalions of infantry supported by a company of artillery at La Rocque, only fifteen minutes’ march away. Through local intelligence, the British knew the true strength of the French forces. Forty-five elite grenadiers from the 83rd Regiment of Foot held off 140 French soldiers until reinforcements from the South-East Regiment arrived, and this proved to be the tipping point. The French broke, suffering thirty dead and wounded and seventy prisoners. Survivors fled through the countryside, trying to reach their boats, but many were caught.

The fight went out of the French when, through the clouds of gun smoke, they saw de Rullecourt tumble to the ground, hit by a musket ball. Some of the invaders threw down their weapons and ran, but others took up positions in the houses around the market and continued to trade shots.

For de Rullecourt, it was perhaps for the best that his fatal wish was granted and he died from his wounds on 7 January. Earlier, Maj. Peirson, leading from the front, had also been fatally wounded by a sniper in the battle in the square, but his troops, led by Lieutenant Dumaresq, had held their nerve and fought on. Peirson’s servant, Pompey, located the sniper and shot him dead. The British took 600 prisoners, who were shipped to England. British Regular Army losses were eleven dead and thirty-six wounded, among them Captain Charlton of the Royal Artillery, wounded while he was a prisoner of the French. The Jersey Militia suffered four dead and twenty-nine wounded.

To forestall similar attacks during the Napoleonic Wars, Martello Towers were constructed along the coast. Twenty were built on Jersey and fifteen on Guernsey. They were intended both as lookouts and gun platforms to prevent landings, and can be found at St Ouen’s Bay, St Aubin’s Bay and Grouville Bay on Jersey and the northern part of Guernsey. One tower, at L’Etacq on Jersey, was demolished by the German occupation force to give a better field of fire for more modern weapons.

Older fortifications were improved, among the most imposing of which is Castle Cornet on Guernsey, which covers the approaches to St Peter Port. The castle used to be the residence of the governor, and indeed during the last throws of the English Civil War, it was the final remaining Royalist stronghold, having in the process lobbed cannonballs into the town. Partly for that reason, apart from the town church, many of today’s buildings are of eighteenth-century origin. It was superseded by Fort George, which was completed in 1812, during the Napoleonic Wars.

The castle occupies such a tactically significant location that the Georgians built a barracks and battery close by and incorporated the castle into these defences. In surveying many of the existing fortifications in 1940, the Germans pronounced them tactically soundly positioned and went on to improve them further.


Equipment of lancer and reiter, also from Wallshavsen Art Militare a Cheval, 1616.

While the French and Spanish stuck with the lance as the weapon of choice of their heavy cavalry, the Germans changed over to pistols. These reiters (or schwartzreiters because of their habit of wearing black armour) became the usual sort of mercenary German horse hired by the various combatants in the wars. They developed the caracole, a system whereby a deep formation of pistoleers could deliver a continuous barrage of pistol fire against a stationary target (usually a pike block) – each rank firing in turn then moving off to the rear to reload. Each man carried up to three pistols, two in holsters and one in the right boot.

The Germans developed a new kind of cavalry armoured in a breastplate and high, heavy leather boots, and armed with three wheel-lock pistols. This new mercenary light cavalry, called Schwarzreiters or ‘black riders’ because of their black armour and accoutrements, attacked enemy formations using the revolving tactics of the caracole.

To execute the caracole, these reiters, as they were soon called, trotted toward their enemy in a line of small, dense columns, each several ranks deep and with intervals of about two horses’ width between files. In a tactic reminiscent of the Parthian shot, the reiters fired their three muzzle-loading pistols, then swung 180 degrees and filed to the rear to reload. Usually the caracole tactic was employed before a general advance as a means of disrupting enemy cavalry and infantry formations. But the time and awkwardness of reloading while mounted meant the caracole was a very difficult manoeuvre to carry out effectively, and, like light cavalry from the classical and medieval period, it was easily disrupted by an enemy heavy cavalry countercharge.

As the wheel lock’s distribution and production passed through Germany from northern Italy to the rest of Europe, the German Reiters (riders, or horsemen) recognized its potential and developed new tactics to exploit it. The wheel lock saw extensive use by all belligerents during the Thirty Years’ War, and demand for and the manufacture of wheel-lock pistols expanded rapidly during the period. The wheel-lock mechanism transformed the pistol into a compact, practical weapon suitable for mounted troops. The new pistol could be carried loaded, ready for instant use, and significantly extended the killing range. The advent of the wheel-lock pistol made possible the caracole, a military maneuver in which close-order waves of sword and pistol-armed cavalrymen rode within close range of infantry, fired their pistols, and then broke away, allowing successive waves to follow. The massed fire of the caracole proved effective against densely packed squares of pikemen and other formations of ground troops. Although short-ranged owing to their relatively short, smoothbore barrels, the wheel-lock pistols did reach significantly farther than the pike, and massed fire compensated for the pistol’s inaccuracy. The wheel lock also gave a similarly deadly advantage when used against cavalry armed conventionally with sword and lance.

German horseman with wheel lock Faustrohre pistols, about 1600.


The pistol emerged triumphant; its advantage was that it could be manipulated with one hand, the other being used to control the horse. It was not unknown for a pistol to fail to go off, which was why every man carried between two and six. Training to use a pistol also took less time than teaching a man to use the heavy lance, and smaller horses could be used by pistol-carrying units, as their armour was much lighter. On the other hand, the knights’ armour, though improved and strengthened, could no longer withstand the increased penetration of the firearms deployed by the infantry and light cavalry. Towards the end of the sixteenth century, heavily armoured cavalrymen stopped using horse-armour, and reduced their own, becoming cuirassiers. The tactics of the reiters were adopted by all cavalry forces. Owing to improved weaponry and training, the depth of battle formation decreased first to ten lines, and towards the end of the century to six or seven. Shallower formations using the same number of men meant wider fronts, which had to be controlled by discipline and training. The cavalry of the period was therefore a modern force, acting as an organized troop.

The armour used by the reiters was not uniform and could vary from just a mail shirt or cape, through corselet (often with mail sleeves), to threequarter armour. Helmets ranged from simple ‘iron-hats’ to burgonets or morions. They were armed with large pistols of the faustrohre type (faust – hand, rohre – barrel), thus named because they were as well suited for clubbing as for shooting the enemy. It had a barrel length of about 50 cm/20 in, weighed about 3 kg/6.5 lb and fired a 30 g/1 oz lead ball. The pistol could be aimed accurately from approximately 20 paces; unaimed fire could be effective up to 45 m/50 yds. However, it was effective against the most heavily armoured opponents only at a few paces.

Rise of Prussia 1740

Frederick William I, the eccentric King who collected a private army of Giants.

Prussia was also poorly endowed with economic resources. With the exception of the Westphalian territories – Cleves, Mark and Ravensberg – with their mixed and relatively prosperous agrarian economies and higher level of urbanization, the Hohenzollern lands were poor and backward, and contained little rural industry. Mostly subsistence agriculture, with small surpluses, prevailed throughout the central provinces of Brandenburg and Pomerania. Contemporaries styled Brandenburg `the sandbox of the Holy Roman Empire’, so wretched was its soil. The Kingdom of East Prussia, separated until 1772 from the Hohenzollern heartlands by several hundred miles of Polish territory, was little – if any – better, with equally poor soil and an inhospitable climate. Its commercial economy also provided an unpromising basis for great-power status. Grain and grain-based products were exported from East Prussia and, to a lesser extent, from the monarchy’s heartlands. But commercial activity was at a low ebb, and largely driven by the demands of the Prussian state, while poor internal communications meant that its territories were bypassed by the major continental trade routes. The urban sector was similarly underdeveloped, at least by western European and even western German standards.

The very list of the widely scattered territories ruled by the Hohenzollerns in 1740 highlights another major obstacle to Prussia’s political rise. Her possessions were exposed and scattered across half the continent: from enclaves in Westphalia through the heartlands of Brandenburg, Pomerania and Magdeburg in central Germany, astride the rivers Elbe and Oder, to distant East Prussia. The resulting problems of self-defence, in the face of threats from hostile neighbours and during a period when the acquisition of territory was the principal aim of all foreign policy, were considerable: the eastern border of East Prussia lay some 750 miles distant from the westernmost possessions in the Rhineland, a particularly great distance in an era during which communications were slow and unreliable. As Voltaire remarked, Frederick was really `King of the border strips’. All the great powers faced wide-ranging and dispersed political commitments, as a consequence of their territorial extent. W hat made Prussia’s position unique was the very limited resources available to support such wide-ranging involvement.

Territorial dispersal, together with the very limited demographic and economic resources, were always serious obstacles to Prussia ever securely establishing herself as a great power. Yet Frederick also inherited considerable assets when he succeeded his father on 31 May 1740. Foremost among these was an army unusually large for a country of its size and population. Successive Hohenzollern rulers, aware of the vulnerability of their possessions, had built up a large military force for self-defence. Its creation had shaped domestic developments since the Great Elector’s accession in 1640, and during Frederick William Fs reign it ordinarily consumed around 70 per cent of the state’s annual revenue in peacetime. At Frederick’s accession, this force was some 80,000 strong, impressive on the barrack square, but untested in combat. With the exception of some operations in the Rhineland in 1734, during the War of the Polish Succession, it had not fired a shot in anger since the siege of Stralsund in 1715. The last important Hohenzollern victory had been gained as long ago as 1675, when the Great Elector won an unexpected success over the renowned Swedish army at Fehrbellin, though Prussian contingents had fought impressively in the Allied armies during the War of the Spanish Succession.

This powerful army was supported, and to a considerable degree made possible, by a system of conscription, which had taken its final shape in 1733. The famous cantonal system enabled a first-class army to be maintained on the scanty available resources and contributed significantly to Prussia’s political emergence. An officer cadre was provided by the territorial nobility: under Frederick William I, the Junkers had come to dominate the military commands and, to a lesser extent, the civil administration. He also bequeathed to his son a war-chest (Staatsschatz) of eight million thalers in gold coin, wrapped up in sacks and stored in the basement of the royal palace in Berlin. Finally, Frederick inherited an admired and relatively efficient administrative system, the centrepiece of which was the General Directory, set up in 1723. Within the limitations of eighteenth-century government, this was relatively successful in extracting the men, money and agrarian produce needed to support the army and pay the other expenses of the Prussian state.

With the benefit of hindsight, it can be seen that the military and administrative foundations which had been laid by 1740, together with the degree of social integration achieved under Frederick William I, would provide a strong basis for Prussia’s eighteenth-century career as a great power. But these advantages, in the estimation of most contemporaries, were insufficient to overcome the drawbacks, above all Prussia’s territorial vulnerability and her basic poverty in people and economic resources. This was her Achilles’ heel, and it preoccupied Frederick the Great throughout his reign. Eighteenth-century Prussia always lacked the resources required to establish herself securely as a great power. The achievement of her rulers, and especially of Frederick himself, was to make her a first-class state on a material base more appropriate to a country of the second or even third order. Even by the king’s death in 1786 and after the important acquisitions of Silesia, East Friesland and West Prussia, the Hohenzollern monarchy remained only the thirteenth-largest European state in terms of population and the tenth in terms of its geographical extent, though its army ranked fourth (or even third) in size.

There was more to the status of a great power, however, than resources: these were only one factor in a complex equation. The eighteenth-century states-system was based upon a considerable degree of reciprocity. If established great powers treated a state as one of their number, then that country ipso facto became a member of Europe’s political elite. It thus resembled a British gentlemen’s club: election by the existing members was a precondition for admission. Prussia became a great power through her startling military and, to a lesser extent, political successes between 1740 and 1763, despite lacking the essential material base. Her eighteenth-century preeminence was thus founded upon sand. It was only after 1815 that the Hohenzollerns gained the resources to support the leading European role to which they aspired and which they would play after the middle of the nineteenth century. The territorial settlement established by the Congress of Vienna enormously enhanced Prussia’s demographic and economic power, and endowed her with a much stronger strategic position, after the loss of most of the eastern provinces gained by the three partitions of Poland-Lithuania during the eighteenth century and their replacement by substantial and wealthy territories in western Germany.

Mid-eighteenth-century Prussia had one additional advantage that proved decisive. This was the personality of her remarkable king, Frederick II (widely known as `the Great’ from the end of the Seven Years’ W ar onwards, if not actually earlier). Political leadership was always important and sometimes decisive within the competitive states-system of eighteenth century Europe, and never more so than where Prussia was concerned. Resources and external recognition were vital in the creation of a great power. But there was another essential quality, which existed at a conceptual and philosophical level. To become a member of Europe’s political elite, a state – or, rather, its ruler and the m onarch’s advisers – had to think and act like a great power.

In Prussia’s case, the crucial moment in this transition was Frederick the Great’s accession at the end of May 1740. His predecessor had accepted Prussia’s secondary political role, pursuing essentially limited objectives – such as the established Hohenzollern dynastic claims to the western German enclaves of Jillich and Berg (which were located next to the dynasty’s Rhineland possession of Cleves). Frederick William I had always operated within a relatively narrow and prescribed political framework and had usually been content to follow the lead of the Emperor, Charles VI. The contrast after his son’s accession was striking and significant. From his earliest days upon the Hohenzollern throne – indeed, from his days as crown prince – Frederick the Great thought and acted like the ruler of a first-class power, and within a quarter-century he had secured this status for Prussia. Believing that the political status quo was not an option and that territorial expansion was essential to overcome Prussian poverty and strategic vulnerability, the young king pursued the expansionist aims which he believed to be the logical conclusion of his father’s impressive domestic achievements. His political vision was far wider than that of his predecessors, encompassing the whole European diplomatic chessboard. This was apparent in an immediate enlargement of Hohenzollern aims – demonstrated in the invasion of Silesia at the very end of 1740, little more than six months after Frederick had ascended the throne – which transcended the purely dynastic and largely German objectives that had driven policy under Frederick William I. Central to this was Frederick’s determination that his state would be politically independent, rather than – as under his own father – subject to outside influences in the conduct of its foreign policy.

Prussia’s eighteenth-century trajectory as a great power is inextricably bound up with the career and reign of Frederick the Great. By his political vision, his military successes and his diplomatic skills, he made his kingdom into a first-class state, while all his life aware that Prussia lacked the resources to sustain this role and that it would prove to be transient. His decisive political leadership was the result of remarkable abilities and an ego to match.

It was facilitated by a silent revolution in Prussian government shortly after Frederick’s accession, which gave the new king complete control of Berlin’s diplomacy. Until 1740, day-to-day responsibility for Prussia’s foreign policy had been exercised by the Kabinettsministerium, under the king’s overall direction. 4 Set up in 1728, and known as the Kabinettsministerium after 1733, it was organized – like all Hohenzollern government – on a collegial basis. It embodied the assumption that two or more advisers should together discuss policy, meet diplomats, correspond with Prussia’s own representatives in other capitals and conduct negotiations, all directly supervised by the king. In the early weeks of Frederick the Great’s reign, these arrangements were altered. Confident in his own abilities and anxious to demonstrate them, and openly contemptuous of those who had served his father, whom he held responsible for Prussia’s political subservience during that reign, Frederick took over complete and direct responsibility for Prussian foreign policy, which he retained until the very end of his life. The experienced officials in the Kabinettsministerium and especially the leading adviser Heinrich von Podewils, found their status and responsibilities downgraded to that of mere secretaries. They were mostly excluded from the formulation of policy, at least towards the major states, and while they continued to hold audiences with foreign diplomats, these became largely formal in nature: their own ignorance of Prussian policy meant that there was nothing to discuss. Policy was instead drawn up and executed by the king himself, who conducted the bulk of correspondence with Prussia’s own diplomats and also negotiated personally with foreign representatives in Berlin. Since – in addition to acting as his own foreign minister – Frederick was also commander-in-chief of the army, there was an unusual degree of coherence and unity in Prussian decision-making, in contrast to the divided counsels which prevailed in the capitals of rival powers. Rapid and incisive decision making was to be one foundation of Prussia’s political rise.

The Evolution of Russian Military Doctrine

Syria a Russian “hybrid armed conflict” 

The two common features of the Russian Military Doctrines of 1987, 1993, 2000, 2010 and 2014 is their defensive nature and the growing attention paid to the so-called Revolution in Military Affairs (RMA) phenomena. Despite widespread belief in the West, the key thesis of Russian Doctrine is to avoid conflicts and manage disagreements peacefully. In cases where a conflict cannot be prevented, the Doctrine states that Russia localize and neutralize military threats. Political, diplomatic and other non-military settlement is defined as preferable at both global and regional levels.

The current Russian Military Doctrine can be traced back to documents of the late Soviet era, and particularly to the military strategy that was outlined by Mikhail Gorbachev in 1988. A key component of this is Russian reliance on its status as a leading nuclear weapons power to contain aggression against itself and its allies – the CSTO states (Belarus, Armenia, Kazakhstan, Tajikistan and Kyrgyzstan) as well as Abkhazia and South Ossetia. There are also informal security guarantees that Russia provides for Transnistria and Donbass.

Among its highest priorities in international relations, Russia sees ensuring equal dialogue on European security with the EU and NATO, and supporting construction of a new security model in the Asia-Pacific based on the principles of collectivity and nonalignment. Local border conflicts are considered the main causes for use of Russian military forces. Indeed, as Russian Joint Staff Head Valeriy Gerasimov has pointed out: “Large-scale wars may not be denied, and we cannot afford to be unprepared for them. But today the highest threat for the country is coming from conflicts in our neighbourhood.”

The distinguishing feature of Russia’s understanding of defense in the last twenty years has been the realization of the existing asymmetry of capabilities between itself on the one side and NATO states on the other. For this reason, Moscow has been consistently, and notwithstanding any circumstances, modernizing its strategic nuclear forces, allowing for the ability to deter a potential conflict between Russia and the West. The maintenance of strategic parity with the west, and particularly the US, is the key element of the Russian Military Doctrine. Accordingly, recent efforts by the US and its allies to pursue and build regional antimissile defense systems or to implement the concept of (a potentially disarming) Global Strike program are perceived with real concern and strong resistance in Russia.

The contemporary Russian military concept is rooted in the Military Doctrine of the Warsaw Pact states of 1987.9 This document took shape in conditions of roughly equal parity in military capabilities between NATO and the Warsaw Pact. However, unlike previous Soviet doctrines, it proclaimed the renunciation of confrontation, reflecting the international political environment at that time, as well as the commitment of the Soviet leadership of Mikhail Gorbachev to “new political thinking,” which called for fundamental revision of the problem of war. In 1985 the Soviet-US negotiations on limiting nuclear and space weapons met with great success, which encouraged the two states, first, to restrain and then – to bring an end to the arms race. Later, in 1986, during the 27th convention of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union, Gorbachev’s initiative on creating a universal system of international security was also received with strong support. In these circumstances the Soviet leadership proposed the complete abolition of nuclear weapons. The 1987 Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty was a step towards this goal.

With the ongoing decrease in the intensity of confrontation between the Western and the Socialist blocs the objective of reaching a strategic balance at the lowest level possible was set. The 1987 Soviet Military Doctrine for the first time stressed its defensive character – unprecedentedly, it lacked the term “potential enemy.” It also set as its main objective “to prevent war.” The text read that under no conditions would the Warsaw Pact states initiate a war against any other state or a group of states, unless they themselves become a victim of military aggression. Additionally, the Warsaw Pact states declared their commitment to not using nuclear weapons first. International disputes were to be settled peacefully and by political means exclusively.

Soviet military defense was established on the principle of “sufficiency” to prevent leaving a nuclear attack unpunished. The “sufficiency” principle for conventional weaponry involved having military forces and equipment in sufficient quantity and quality to ensure collective security. The limits of “sufficiency” were set by the US and NATO actions. The Warsaw Pact states did not seek more security than NATO, however, they did not want to put up with any less security than that of NATO and opposed any military superiority over themselves. The Doctrine stated that the strategic military parity remained the key factor in preventing war.

In the 1970’s and 1980’s, Soviet scholars were the first ones to identify that a new range of technological innovations presents a fundamental discontinuity in the nature of war. In the USSR this phenomenon was labeled Military-Technical Revolution. Later, the Soviet approach to these transformations in military affairs would be analyzed by the US, becoming the intellectual inspiration for the Revolution in Military Affairs concept. Soviet and Russian strategists thus had an unparalleled advantage in reviewing the 1991 Gulf War and the American talk of a RMA.

A new Russian Military Doctrine was adopted in 1993 – two years after the collapse of the Soviet Union. The document was a product of a different epoch, when Moscow started showing its first signs of dissatisfaction with the results of the way the Cold War had ended. The international environment, as well as the internal conditions in Russia, went through fundamental and largely negative changes. Most notably, by 1993, Moscow’s hopes for equal participation in the major apparatus of international security regulation slowly faded away, and the Russian leadership returned to considering its military forces as an instrument for implementing policy. Russia was left alone to face an escalation of local conflicts in its neighborhood – in Abkhazia, South Ossetia, Transnistria, Nagorno-Karabakh and Tajikistan.

However, the 1993 Doctrine was still based on the key principles of Gorbachev’s 1987 Doctrine; for instance, the term “potential enemy” was not used. Moreover, shortly before the adoption of the 1993 Doctrine, Russia and the US signed the Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty (START) I and START II nuclear arms control treaties. The focus of the new Russian Military Doctrine shifted towards internal threats with nationalist and separatist organizations, whose actions aimed at internal destabilization. The 1993 document, the same as the current Military Doctrine, stated that the key threats for international peace and stability are local and armed conflicts. Another threat mentioned in the Doctrine was the enlargement of military blocs and alliances to the disadvantage of Russian military security. In other words, Russian disapproval of NATO expansion was explicitly mentioned for the first time.

Still Russia intended to respond to these challenges by means of preventing war. The 1993 Doctrine retained the defensive nature proclaimed in 1987 and made clear its intention of not starting military actions first, and instead taking the first hit from an adversary on its territory. Apart from that, Russia’s regional priorities, which would later become far more important, were set for the first time. These were, namely, “securing stability in the Russian neighborhood … and in the world in general.” Meanwhile, the Doctrine abandoned the nuclear no-first-use principle and proclaimed its right for a first nuclear strike should such a need arise. Nuclear weapons were seen not as an instrument to be used in military actions, but as a political containment tool against the growing threat from the West. Still the “reasonable sufficiency” principle remained – the Doctrine claimed the need to maintain the military potential on the level that could allow Russia to adequately react to the existing and developing threats.

Seven years later – in 2000 – a new edition of the Military Doctrine was approved. The document preserved its defensive character, but at the same time reflected Russia’s growing concern over its vulnerability in the face of emerging conflicts within its immediate neighborhood. For the first time Russia stated its position on RMA, which Moscow had been observing for some time from afar, particularly since the 1991 Gulf War. The unfavorable international and internal environment was weighing heavily on the country’s leadership. With the First Chechen War lost and a new one beginning, Russia was struggling to prevent the state from collapsing. In the meantime, NATO started its expansion and launched a military operation in Yugoslavia, which was strongly opposed by Moscow with the Russian leadership experiencing for the first time what it is like to be an object of Western aggression. Nonetheless, as Vladimir Putin came to power, Russia initiated a number of proposals on cooperation with NATO. It started to look like – at least for a short time – Russian membership or at least greater participation in the Alliance was a likely possibility. Indeed, the 2000 Military Doctrine remained essentially defensive in character. It read that, Russia

… is consistently committed to peace, however, [the country] is prepared to take decisive measures to secure its national interests and guarantee military security for the Russian Federation and its allies.

The key objectives for ensuring Russia security, according to the Doctrine, were in prevention, localization and neutralization of military threats with political, diplomatic and other non-military instruments. The document reiterated Russia’s right of the use of nuclear weapons in response to the use of nuclear and other weapons of massive destruction against itself and its allies, in addition to a large-scale aggression carried out by means of conventional weapons “if it poses a threat to the national security.”

The main military threats for Russia in the new Doctrine were essentially a restatement of the theses of the 1993 document. The most prominent of these being the enlargement of military alliances’ that endanger Russian military security (i. e. NATO) as well as the activities of extremist, nationalist, religious, separatist and terrorist movements and organizations. The US and NATO policies towards European security were criticized and defined as destabilizing factors. In particular, Moscow saw the NATO operation in Yugoslavia as an effort to weaken the existing mechanisms for ensuring international security, namely the UN and the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE), and to ignore the universally accepted principles and norms of international law – the notion that later became the leading idea in Russian foreign and defense policies.

The 2000 Military Doctrine was the first one to give a detailed overview of the Russian stance on RMA. It stated the current international trend of enhancement of means and instruments of armed fighting, its increasing spatial scope and spread into new spheres. In this context, new threats were identified that consisted of aggressive actions aimed at hindering the functioning of strategic nuclear capabilities, and the building of missile warning, missile defense and space control systems. In addition to this, the term “information aggression” was introduced. These ideas became an integral part of the Russian Military Doctrine that would be developed in other later military documents.

In order to counter these threats, the 2000 Doctrine set the priority of implementing a complex program of military reform that would concentrate on the introduction of innovative command and control systems, as well as precision-guided munitions and mobile non-nuclear weaponry. Russia’s commitment to its sovereignty in weapon production and its intention to strengthen its scientific, technical and resource independency in developing and producing major types of armaments were also reflected in the Doctrine.

The contemporary Military Doctrine was adopted in 2010 and then specified in parts in 2014. These two documents belong to the period of revival for Russian military forces and their first use in twenty years, which happened in the Georgian-Ossetian conflict in 2008. This war provided another painful experience for the Russian military since the brief conflict showed many shortages in military organization, equipment and outdated concepts of warfare. In fact, 2007, when the Russian military first started to receive new armaments, is considered to be the date of reference for the new epoch, but in 2008 the impact of this change was still to be fully felt. Previously, the only equipment the military received were intercontinental ballistic missiles – the step aimed at maintaining combat-ready Russian strategic nuclear forces for the last resort containment of possible conflicts.

The gradual increases in Russian military capabilities did not change the defensive nature of its military doctrine, even as the focus of the new documents shifted towards unconventional threats and new ways of responding to them by means of the RMA-type thinking. The sources of these unconventional threats are both terrorist activities and acts of aggression, including latent forms of these on the part of unfriendly states.

The new Doctrine points out that military dangers and threats are likely to emerge primarily from the information space and within Russian territory itself. At the same time, the list of military threats proposed by the 2014 edition of the Doctrine remains almost unchanged, and includes the classic theses on aggravation of the military-political situation in the neighboring states and the hindering of state and military control systems and strategic nuclear forces. Special attention is drawn to the main characteristics and distinguishing features of the modern military conflict largely influenced by RMA. The Doctrine argues that today’s wars are waged with the complex use of military, political, economic, information and other non-military instruments, including the use of the protest potential of the population and special operations.

Among the main features of military action, the documents mention massive use of precision-guided munitions, hypersonic weapons, electronic warfare, and weapons based on new physical principles, comparable to the nuclear weaponry in its effectiveness, as well as unmanned aerial and autonomous marine machines and controlled robotic weapons and military equipment. The doctrine clearly states its priority in the sphere of military building, which is strengthening centralization and automation of military command and transforming the exclusively hierarchical system of command into universal network automated control systems.

The 2010 and 2014 documents for the first time state Russia’s readiness for “hybrid armed conflicts” and the use of indirect and asymmetric modes of action. For instance, they point out the potential of creating permanent war zones on the territories of adversary states and the participation of irregular armed groups and private military companies. The Doctrine also mentions the phenomena of the widespread use of political groups and social movements financed and controlled from outside among the main characteristics of the modern conflict.

The concrete military threats for Russia are seen in the US policies of realizing the Global Strike concept, Washington’s intention to place weapons in outer space, in addition to the deployment of strategic nonnuclear systems of precision-guided weapons. Moscow considers these actions as damaging to global stability and the existing balance of power in the missile and nuclear field.

The Color Revolution experiences in the post-Soviet space are also reflected in the documents. The Doctrine states that there is a possibility of the use of information and communication technologies for political and military causes in order to undermine the sovereignty and territorial integrity of states. Among the listed threats, the documents mention establishing unfriendly regimes in the Russian neighborhood in the result of toppling legitimate authorities of states.

The latest 2014 edition of the Military Doctrine for the first time includes the term “non-nuclear deterrence,” which implies measures to prevent aggression against Russia by means of non-nuclear instruments and, mainly, the use of precision-guided munitions. At the same time, it points out that mutual nuclear containment and strategic parity have not lost their urgency. Russia reiterates its right for the first nuclear strike in response to the use of nuclear and other weapons of massive destruction against itself and its allies, as well as aggression carried out with the use of conventional weaponry in cases when “it poses a threat to the existence of the state.”

The Doctrine has the most detailed overview in twenty five years of the Russian approach to military development and the modernization of military forces guided by the notions of “a new face” and the RMA. The technological independence of Russia in the sphere of arms production, the preservation of state control over the defense industry and its objects of strategic importance, development of military and civil critical technologies that will encourage technological breakthroughs to create fundamentally new kinds of weapons – are set as priorities.

Covenanters Arise! Part I

The death of Oliver Cromwell, Lord Protector of the Commonwealth on 3 September 1658 left England leaderless; his successor, son and heir, Richard Cromwell, was a much lesser man than his father. Oliver was a big act to follow and it soon became clear that Richard was not up to the responsibilities he had inherited. As a result the army tightened its grip on the country to the point of ignoring parliament, itself dominated by militant republicans like Sir Arthur Hesilrige who with his filibustering coterie blocked every attempt by the legislature to enact laws. Eventually, Richard Cromwell decided to dispense with parliament which he dismissed on 22 April 1659. Thereafter, the army was in complete control, a situation that deeply dismayed General George Monck to the point of distrust and even abhorrence. Monck, now Governor of Scotland, made his base at Coldstream, the township in the Borders from which his own elite regiment of foot guards took its name.

Monck was determined to reinstate parliament and so he began his famous march south on 2 January 1660 with an army of 4,000; at least he enjoyed the support of his old and trusted friend, Major General Thomas Morgan, his subordinate during the Highland campaign of 1655. In taking this action, Monck had sought the approval of the Speaker of the House of Commons, William Lenthall, who informed him that the Rump parliament had returned to power1 and that Monck would be welcome in London with his small army. It had become clear to Monck that the only alternative to the Cromwellian Republicans was the restoration of Charles II. To this end, he began to make preparations to smooth a path for the King’s return. However, he first had to make England secure; his support for parliament earned him the appointment of Commander in Chief of the armed forces in England, Scotland and Ireland; Monck was also made a member of the Council of State, a General at sea, with the manor and Palace of Hampton Court settled on him and £20,000 for his public services. On 22 March 1660, Monck declared for Charles II, to which parliament acceded; Monck personally greeted the King at Dover. The Restoration of Charles II would turn out to be one of the most pitiful and dismal chapters in Scotland’s history.

On Charles’s return, exactly a century had passed since Scotland had rejected Roman Catholicism for Presbyterianism. During the period 1561 to 1649, two of the three Stuart monarchs who had challenged the new religious form of worship had not only lost their thrones but their lives – Mary, Queen of Scots and Charles I. However, Scottish people entertained hopes that lessons had been learned from these traumatic tragedies and welcomed the return of Charles in 1660. For his part, from the outset of his reign (1660 – 1685), Charles’s attitude was unequivocal; he would make no compromise with the Covenanters on the matter of episcopacy. This policy was hardly reflected in his choice of appointments to the Privy Council, the executive arm of the Scottish parliament. Charles was acutely aware that many of the officers of state had been and continued to be unreconstructed supporters of the National Covenant. The Royalist William, 9th Earl of Glencairn who raised the Royal Standard for Charles during the Cromwellian Commonwealth period was appointed Chancellor of Scotland; John, 6th Earl of Rothes, who had been one of the leaders of the revolt against Charles I, was made President of the Privy Council, a position of considerable power; and John, 2nd Earl and Duke of Lauderdale, champion of the Covenant, was made Secretary to the Privy Council. Charles’s intentions were obvious; it was his way of mollifying the strong Presbyterian following among the nobility, if not the common people. However, Charles intended to stamp his authority on Scotland one way or another through his instruments and representatives, the Episcopalian bishops. Charles acted precipitously, implementing his policy towards the hard line Covenanters in the most direct way.

On 8 July 1660, the Covenanter Archibald Campbell, 1st Marquis of Argyll who had travelled to London to seek an audience with the King was arrested and imprisoned in the Tower of London. At the same time, a Royal Warrant was issued for the apprehension of Archibald Johnston of Wariston, one of the co-authors of the National Covenant in 1638; Wariston was obliged to seek refuge in France where he remained in exile for the next three years. The Kirk of Scotland split into two factions. The majority party became known as the Resolutioners who somewhat unrealistically hoped that Charles, having sworn to uphold the National Covenant and the Solemn League and Covenant in 1650, would favour them. The minority party, known as the Protesters, had distrusted Charles from day one; the Protesters felt justified in their opposition when on 24 August 1660 on the instructions of the King, the Committee of Estates of the Scottish parliament (which had thus far not met in session) issued a proclamation banning ‘all unlawful meetings … without His Majesty’s special authority’.

This proclamation alarmed Resolutioners and Protesters alike until on 3 September the Resolutioners received a letter from the King which calmed some but made others uneasy: ‘We do also resolve to protect and preserve the Covenant of the Church of Scotland, as it is settled by law, without violation.’ Of course what Charles failed to state was that the episcopacy introduced by his grandfather James VI and I the rule of the bishops would continue. Bishops were the King’s representatives in Scotland; any disobedience shown to a bishop was considered insubordination to the monarch. The Resolutioners had to swallow their pride; the Protesters were even more determined to resist the King. On 1 January 1661, the Scottish parliament convened after an interval of nine years, Cromwell having dissolved it in 1652. The man chosen to represent Charles II was John Middleton, now elevated to Earl of Middleton, the former Covenanter who had supported Charles at Worcester in 1651 and again in the Highland Rising of 1654 when he had been defeated at Dalnaspidal by Thomas Morgan, Monck’s able subordinate. Middleton’s parliament passed no fewer than 393 legislative measures – acts which included the issue of copper coins for the benefit of the poor and stringent penalties on those who profaned the Sabbath by swearing and drinking excessively. These were minor matters; what Middleton’s obsequious parliament imposed on the people of Scotland was an affirmation of Charles II’s right to appoint officers of State, the right to summon and dissolve parliaments at will and make war and peace as he saw fit. Charles was declared the supreme governor and sole arbiter over all persons and causes in Scotland. Charles was, in effect, made a dictator. Worse still, Middleton’s parliament voted Charles an annual grant of £40,000 sterling (£480,000 Scots, a massive sum for a relatively poor nation) which was both unwelcome and unnecessary.

That year, the over-mighty Marquis of Argyll, staunch supporter of the Covenant, while lacking the respect of both Resolutioners and Protesters, gained some esteem in the closing moments of his life. Sent from the Tower of London to Edinburgh’s Tolbooth, Argyll was led out to face execution on 27 May 1661. That day, Argyll made some restitution for his lack of moral and physical courage. As he went to his beheading at the Maiden (an early form of the guillotine), his last words were reputedly thus:

I could die as a Roman [Catholic] but choose to die as a Christian.’

What was important about Charles’s proclamation that the Church of Scotland would continue as it had been settled by law meant the continuation of the episcopacy imposed by his grandfather and confirmed by his father. The Scottish parliament of 1661 re-affirmed this law, although the Members quarrelled with each other, Middleton heading one faction, Lauderdale the other. Two acts sponsored by Middleton were aimed at discrediting Lauderdale. In one of the measures it was made compulsory for every person holding an office of State to declare that the two Covenants were unlawful, even seditious. Lauderdale continued his support for these, cynically announcing that he would sign a cartload of such oaths to that effect so long as he remained in office. The second of Middleton’s measures backfired on its sponsor; his Bill of Indemnity proposed that twelve persons in the Privy Council should be declared incapable of holding office, the twelve to be determined by a ballot of parliament. Middleton had Lauderdale in mind, no doubt conducting a scurrilous campaign against him and cajoling parliament to include him. A clumsy manoeuvre, when Middleton’s Bill of Indemnity reached Charles in London to receive the royal assent, Lauderdale had already informed the King of Middleton’s absurdity and enormity; Charles agreed with Lauderdale and, in 1663, Middleton was dismissed from his position. Charles believed he was master of his northern kingdom – well almost; there were troublemakers in the wings, biding their time to challenge his authority. These men were diehard Covenanters.

As government intentions towards the Covenanters in the early years of the Restoration became increasingly clear, a substantial minority felt they had been cheated of the right to worship in the way Charles II had promised. To those men and women, the Marquis of Argyll and others were seen as martyrs to the cause. Matters grew worse when in 1663, bishops took up the offices they had abandoned in the previous decade in Scotland; this led to a mass exodus of Covenanter ministers who began to hold their services not in churches but in barns and the open air; these meetings were known as Conventicles and were declared illegal gatherings. In 1663 the scale of Conventicles had increased to such an extent that the government felt compelled to pass laws imposing fines on people who failed to attend worship in their parish churches. Under normal local arrangements these fines should have been levied and collected by the church heritors, the ennobled landowners, gentlemen farmers and property owners who contributed to the upkeep and running of churches; however, they too were subject to a rising scale of fines according to their means. Many landowners were sympathetic towards the nonconformists who applied a new name to these laws; they became known as the Bishops’ Drag-Net.

In 1638 practically the entire nation had supported the National Covenant but by 1663 only a minority of nobles and commoners subscribed to it, the majority of the landowning class opting to serve the King and thereby fatten their purses through royal pensions – a particularly lucrative source of income – as well as developing their commercial interests through royal patronage and increasing their political power. About two-thirds of the Scottish clergy had reneged on their support for the Covenant for much the same reasons. Another blow to the nonconformists came in 1663 with the blatant kidnapping of Archibald Johnston of Wariston in France by Charles’s agents. Seen as a dangerous incendiary Wariston, now a sick man rapidly losing his faculties, was brought back to Scotland to stand a form of trial. An uncompromising opponent of Charles I and Charles II as well as his own people, Wariston hated the Engagers who had supported Charles I in 1646. The sick man was found guilty of treason, even if he was never formally charged with that offence; his continuing existence was seen as a threat to the principles enshrined in the Restoration, so he suffered the same fate as Argyll, the only difference being that Argyll, a noble, was beheaded, whereas Wariston faced the gallows, as befitted a commoner. It is not clear whether Wariston’s passing was universally mourned but his death was seen as martyrdom by the nonconformists.

Although some of the disaffected clergy continued to hold services in their churches, the seat of unrest was at its hottest in south-west Scotland – Dumfries, Galloway and Kirkcudbright. By 1666 armed rebellion was not far away. Repressive measures by the Privy Council in Edinburgh against the nonconformist recusants increased which had the effect of building up a head of steam among the faithful. Among the military commanders who enforced the government’s edicts was Sir James Turner; thrice between March and November 1666 Turner marched his forces into the south-west, levying fines as well as billeting his troops in the homes of the dissenters at their expense. During his third foray, Turner was lodging in Dumfries when a party of Galloway dissidents made him their prisoner on 15 November. The men were desperate although they had no wish to shed Turner’s blood; certainly, they had no plans to mount a rebellion but having gone this far they could hardly turn back. On their return to Galloway, the dissidents apparently paused at the market cross of Dumfries to drink the King’s health!

News of Turner’s capture reached Charles in London and those nobles in Scotland who were loyal to him declared they would not allow this insult to the King to go unpunished. Among these was General Thomas ‘Tam’ Dalziel (Dalyell) of the Binns, scion of a West Lothian gentry family. Dalyell was a Royalist through and through; he had vowed never to trim his beard after the execution of Charles I, had fought for Charles II at Worcester in 1651, then served in the Polish wars of the Russian Tsar Alexei I, which earned him the title The Muscovite Beast. General Tam is also remembered for raising a cut-glass regiment, the Royal North British Dragoons in 1681, the first dragoon regiment in the British Army. The regiment was also known as the Scots Greys – not because they rode grey horses (which they did) but because they wore Russian field-grey greatcoats, a fact confirmed by Kathleen, Dowager Lady Dalyell of the Binns in the 1970s.

The Turner incident – no more than a protest against military oppression – was seen by officialdom as nothing short of outright rebellion. On 21 November a proclamation denouncing the uprising was issued; it made no mention of clemency for any who might choose to surrender. The leaders of the ‘rebellion’ appealed for support from their brethren; the result was disappointingly poor although by 22 November the dissidents had managed to cobble together an army of sorts numbering 3,000. The motley band was commanded by an experienced soldier, Colonel James Wallace of Achens, near Troon, Ayrshire who had served in the foot guards in the parliamentary army during the English Civil War. At Lanark the poorly armed Covenanters took the desperate decision to march on Edinburgh to present their grievances to anyone who would listen to them.

Covenanters Arise! Part II

Rullion Green 1666

The prevailing conditions during the march from Lanark were appalling; it was the onset of winter with incessant freezing rain which made the dirt roads almost impassable. Not surprisingly, there were defections along the way, especially when James Wallace learnt that General Tam Dalyell was close on his heels. Vague promises were made; if the rebels laid down their arms, their lives would be spared. The Covenanter leaders had been led to believe that the townspeople of Edinburgh and the surrounding district were favourably disposed to their grievances which, sadly, was very far from the truth; the countryfolk on the outskirts of Edinburgh were at best sullen, at worst aggressive. Reaching Colinton Village about three miles west of Edinburgh, the dissidents conceded defeat; their only safe retreat to Ayrshire lay by way of the Pentland Hills, an area of bleak, inhospitable moors and boggy terrain. On 28 November they camped at Rullion Green; it was a frosty day and snow had fallen the night before. Wallace had intelligence that Dalyell was advancing from the west; messengers from the Duke of Hamilton arrived, pleading that Wallace and his men should surrender; Wallace responded, copying his reply to Dalyell saying that that he would surrender but only on condition that the Covenanters’ grievances would be addressed. Nothing was agreed. By now Wallace commanded only 900 wet, hungry and dispirited men, many of them lacking proper weapons. He formed his force to withstand Dalyell’s attack, expected at any minute; the horse were deployed on each wing, the right commanded by himself, the left by a Major Learmont. The largely unarmed infantry were placed in the centre. With this meagre force how could Wallace hope to defeat Dalyell’s 3,000 well armed, well disciplined and well fed men? Then suddenly Dalyell appeared, forming his dragoons up for the attack.

Hunger and the appalling weather had already sapped the strength and morale of the dissident Covenanters. Wallace had placed his men on Bell’s Hill, a favourable position to confront Dalyell’s troops; Major Learmont managed to repulse the first cavalry charge on the left wing, then a second. Fresh troops were brought up and Dalyell advanced steadily, then he ordered simultaneous attacks on both wings which were successful, bringing his troopers face-to-face with Wallace’s dispirited infantry. The outcome was never in any doubt; as that dreary November day drew to a close, the Covenanters broke and fled, leaving at least fifty dead on the field with about the same number taken prisoner. Dalyell’s losses were negligible. Many of those who escaped death or capture never made it home; some perished in the treacherous Pentland Hills bogs, others were reputedly despatched by the local peasantry. There is a single grave monument which might be said to refute the latter accusation. Near Cauldstane Slap, about twelve miles from Rullion Green, a solitary tombstone existed in 1913 bearing the following inscription:

Sacred To the memory of A Covenanter Who fought and was wounded at Rullion Green November 28, 1666 And who died at Oaken Bush the day after the battle And was buried here by Adam Sanderson of Blackhill.

The site of Rullion Green is commemorated by a single small stone fashioned in the shape of a common and popular seventeenth century headstone; known as the Martyrs’ Stone, it marks the last resting place of ‘fifty true Covenanter Presbyterians’.

Dalyell led the sorry survivors of Rullion Green to Edinburgh where his troopers combed the streets for sympathizers; those who paused to watch the captives being led into the High Street Tolbooth no doubt did so in silence lest they might be implicated and taken into custody. The prisoners were subsequently brought before the High Court of Justiciary where they were interrogated by two formidable lawyers, Sir George Lockhart and Sir George Mackenzie (later known as ‘Bluidy Mackenzie’). Mackenzie put a case for clemency on that occasion as the captives had been granted quarter at Rullion Green. Mackenzie argued that if clemency were denied, no one would ever again trust a promise of quarter. He was overruled on the grounds that the Rullion Green prisoners were not participants in a war, but guilty of an act of sedition. This manipulation of the facts was deliberate on the part of the prosecution which demanded nothing less than blood; the Pentland Rising, the alternative name for Rullion Green, had been proclaimed a rebellion, now it was reduced to a seditious act, punishable by imprisonment and even death. The argument was that the rules of war were inappropriate in this case. Ten of the prisoners were hanged on 7 December 1666; another five shared the same fate on 14 December. After execution the victims’ right arms were cut off, these being the arms with which they had saluted the Covenant at Lanark; the severed limbs were sent to that town for public exhibition. During the subsequent witch-hunt, another twenty-five men were hanged – four in Glasgow and a large number in Ayr. A further fifty were transported in prison ships to Barbados. Rullion Green only served to stiffen resistance; the slaughter on a dismal November morning of men who had followed the dictates of their conscience would not be forgotten.

Even Charles II, the implacable enemy of Scottish Presbyterianism in general and the ‘irreconcilable’ Covenanters in particular, admitted that the Pentland Rising had been clumsily managed; the cruelty meted out only served to create martyrs. So the King made concessions to those who resided in the centre of anarchy in south-west Scotland; prayer meetings could be held as long as they were conducted indoors. Charles hoped that this concession would bring back the stray sheep to a church run by bishops subservient to himself. The hard-core radicals refused to comply. The open air Conventicles increased in number and size until they took on the appearance of military musters rather than prayer meetings. Charles was incensed by this flagrant disobedience; he was determined to bring the irreconcilables to heel with force. Between 1666 and 1673 several of the ringleaders, hellfire preachers like Alexander ‘Prophet’ Peden, minister of the parish of New Luce in Galloway, refused to sign Charles’s Oath of Allegiance to the bishops and by extension the King himself. (The concept of ‘loyal opposition’ had not yet become accepted.) Of the 1,000 Presbyterian ministers preaching in Scotland, Peden and 260 others refused to comply. Peden was obliged to take to the heather, always one step ahead of his pursuers until he was captured in 1673 and thrown into the dank dungeon on the Bass Rock, off North Berwick, East Lothian. In time the Rock would become a prison for others of the same stamp, men like John Blacader, or Blackadder, who died on the Bass Rock for his principles.

At least one positive result from Rullion Green was the appointment of the Earl of Lauderdale as virtual governor of Scotland in 1667; Lauderdale replaced the bitter enemy of the Covenanters, James Sharp, Archbishop of St Andrews known as Judas Sharp to the irreconcilables. Lauderdale pursued a more conciliatory policy towards the irreconcilables and for the moment, peace was restored. However, in 1667, a propagandist book entitled Naphtali was published in support of the Covenanter cause. (Naphtali was the son of Jacob; in the Book of Genesis, he is described as ‘a hound let loose; he giveth goodly words’.) The book listed all the fines that the government’s agent Sir James Turner had exacted from the dissidents; not surprisingly, Turner disputed the facts. Although the author of Naphtali was our old friend Anonymous, the book was written by two men – James Goodtrees, son of a former Edinburgh provost and James Stirling, a Paisley minister. The book was immediately banned and publicly burned. Anyone caught in possession of a copy was subject to a fine of £10,000; it was described as ‘a damned book that came to Scotland from beyond the sea’. Naphtali so incensed Andrew Honeyman, Bishop of Orkney, a prelate in the same mould as Archbishop Sharp that he was moved to publish a counter-blast. In 1668 Honeyman and Sharp were shot at in their coach in Edinburgh; Sharp escaped unscathed, Honeyman was wounded. Their would-be assassin, the Reverend James Mitchell, a minister who had taken part in the Pentland Rising walked away free; he would remain at large until 1678.

During the next three years, Lauderdale’s lenient policy towards the recalcitrant Covenanters grew harsher. Open air Conventicles had become more numerous; what was worse, those who attended them had begun to carry weapons as well as their Bibles. This produced an understandable knee-jerk from Lauderdale; every year of his administration of Scotland from 1670 was marked by ever-increasing severity towards the irreconcilables. For this and other achievements, Lauderdale was elevated to the rank of Duke in 1672. No matter, Conventicles spread from the south-west to Fife, the coastal farmlands of Moray and Easter Ross as well as East Lothian and Berwickshire. In 1677 the Privy Council ordered a half-company (about thirty troopers) of the Earl of Linlithgow’s Regiment to be quartered at Dunbar ready to act against Conventicles being held in the vicinity.

In 1678 the would-be assassin of Archbishop Sharp, James Mitchell was brought to justice. Lauderdale would have spared Mitchell but Sharp insisted that Mitchell be despatched on the gallows in Edinburgh’s Grassmarket, a demand which was duly carried out, making another martyr for the cause of the Covenanters. By way of revenge for Mitchell’s execution Sharp was murdered on 3 May 1679 at Magus Muir, two miles from St Andrews. This episode brought a dismal close to Lauderdale’s administration and caused yet another armed conflict between the government forces and the Covenanters.

The Miniature Armoured Train

This ‘thirteenth’ train was built for use on the 40cm gauge line of the Romney, Hythe and Dymchurch Railway (RH&DR), once this line had been requisitioned by the army on 26 July 1940. Work had already begun on 16 July on converting the locomotive originally chosen, a diesel shunter, but it became immediately obvious that the additional weight to be carried could not be supported by the bogie and the two driven axles. A steam engine was therefore selected for conversion, the famous 4-8-2 Hercules of the RH&DR. The work of fitting the armour took one month, and protected the whole engine except for the driving cab, which was left open at the rear. The two armoured wagons, former mineral wagons, were coupled in front of and behind the engine. Each wagon was armed with a Boys anti-tank rifle and a coaxial Lewis LMG mounted behind a shield on a ring at one end, with a second Lewis on an anti-aircraft mounting in the central compartment, but without a shield.

For all its reduced dimensions, with its four Lewis Guns the Miniature Armoured Train was credited with one victory, a Heinkel III, and one probable, a Messerschmitt Bf 109 on 7 October 1940.


Livens Flame Projectors at Breslau Trench

Livens Flame Projector

British objectives for 1 July 1916 with front sector allocated to XV Corps.

The Livens Flame Projector was one of the most horrific weapons of the war, instilling terror and amongst those that faced it. It was deployed along the sector held by the 55th Brigade opposite Breslau Trench. Invented by Captain William Livens from the Royal Engineers these weapons were meant to shake the confidence of and terrorise the enemy. The aim was to keep German troops below the parapets long enough to enable British infantry to cross No Man’s Land and get into their trenches without being fired upon. Livens was in command of a secret unit known as Z Section, Royal Engineers, which focused its energies on designing long-range flamethrowers.

The Livens Flame Projector required seven men to operate and these devices were buried underground in shallow tunnels – Russian saps – where they would project burning oil from a nozzle a distance of 300 feet across No Man’s Land into the German trenches. At fifty-six feet in length and weighing two-and-a-half tons it was a logistical challenge getting this device in positions underground within shallow confines of these Russian saps. The weapon was powered by air pressure. Once the pressure had reached a certain level the nozzle attached to the tanks was pushed through the ground above the surface and then the diesel and kerosene mixture was ignited, shooting flame towards the enemy like a mechanical dragon. It took 300 men to assemble this weapon, then once underground the tanks had to be filled with oil. These horrific killing machines had to be assembled in secret to preserve the element of surprise for the moment they were unleashed on the enemy.

Z Section, Royal Engineers left Southampton in two troopships at 18:00 hours on 24 June 1916, bound for Le Havre. Lieutenant Bansal with another officer and sixty-six men accompanied four Livens Flame Projectors aboard SS Hunslet, while Captain Livens with nine officers and 153 men sailed on SS Copenhagen. After an overnight crossing of the English Channel they reached Le Havre at 09:00 hours on 25 June and spent the day transferring the weapons and equipment from these troopships to nearby trains that would take them to the Somme sector.

They reached Corbie the following day and then they had to make their way to the frontline where the weapons would be deployed. Under the supervision of Lieutenant Bansall the four Projectors were loaded onto three-ton lorries at Bronfay Farm, near Bray, on 27 June, together with large supplies of oil and compressed gas. They arrived at Ludgate Circus close to Mametz at 22.00 hours that night where they were met by a 200-strong party from the Devonshire Regiment which was detailed to assist them in carrying this equipment to the front line.

This process was delayed when at 02:00 hours on 28 June as they were moving through a communications trench named 71 Street German artillery opened up a strong barrage on this trench. Parts of the Livens Flame Projectors that was designated for use at Sap 14, positioned between Bois Français and Mansell Copse, were dropped as the Royal Engineers and Devons took shelter. When the bombardment stopped at 05:30 hours they collected parts of the flamethrower and assembled them in Sap 14. Thirty minutes later the German guns resumed their bombardment and a shell burst directly above Sap 14, burying parts of the Projector beyond recovery.

Three other Livens Flame Projectors were taken from Bronfay Farm and taken to the Montauban sector where they were to be installed in Sap 7, 10 and 13 dug by 183rd Tunnelling Company. The Projector intended for use at Casino Point from No 13 Sap was installed but was then damaged by enemy shellfire and was used for spare parts for the remaining two operational projectors.

These two remaining Projectors were to be used on the 55th Brigade’s sector in between the Carnoy Crater and east of the Carnoy–Montauban Road. They were positioned close to each other and would engulf Mine Trench with deadly flames of burning oil. The device could only be fired three times emitting projections of burning oil for ten seconds.

At 07:15 hours, fifteen minutes before Zero Hour, the Projectors at Saps 7 and 10 discharged their deadly rain of burning oil across No Man’s Land into the German frontline Mine Trench held by soldiers from the 6th Bavarian Reserve Regiment, who had recently been transferred here from Verdun for a rest. The Royal Engineers, Special Section War Diary reported:

One shot was fired from each gun in No 7 and No 10 saps; the flames reached well over the enemy’s trenches in each case. The moral effect on the enemy undoubtedly was very pronounced, for whom the infantry attack took place, the casualties were very much less in the width of front covered by the flame than in the flanks.

Clouds of black smoke and flame rose a hundred feet into the sky before descending upon the unfortunate Bavarians. It was a horrific death for those German sentries in Mine Trench who were incinerated by these jets of burning oil. Their charred remains were later found.

2nd Lieutenant R.W. Stewart, Royal Engineers, reported that soon after the Livens Flame Projector (here using the German term for these weapons) was deployed, fifty German soldiers immediately surrendered:

The large flammenwerfer on the west of the craters proved a great success and very little resistance was met on that side. Had there been another flammenwerfer on the East, possibly the assaulting party would have been able to get in equally easily.

The Livens Projector was used again in Belgium during 1917, but the weapon proved too cumbersome to use. It required large resources of labour in bringing the weapon to the front line and assembling it underground. There was also a great risk that it would be damaged by shellfire or buried underground before it could be used. Loading it with kerosene and diesel underground was dangerous and after all the effort of installing this weapon, it could only be used three times before being emptied. The use of this projector was abandoned and Livens and his team diverted their attention to the creation of the Livens Gas Projectors which was used in large numbers later in the war.