Skyfall or Guerrilla I

A wider and wider mass of young réfractaires and indeed all Frenchmen need to be brought into the immediate action of guerrilla warfare that we are waging.

(Charles Tillon to de Gaulle, 1943)

The tussles and conflicts between resisters in metropolitan France and between the Free French and Vichyites in North Africa were of very limited interest to the Allies. Their concern was the defeat of Germany and to that even the liberation of France was of secondary importance. Moreover the liberation of France, it was felt, could be delivered from the sky, in the shape both of Allied bombs and SOE agents parachuted in to work with select groups of French resisters. There was, however, another vision of resistance that was held by some resisters in metropolitan France and especially communists. This was modelled on the French revolutionary idea of the levée en masse, the people in arms who would rise up to free themselves from foreign oppression through guerrilla warfare. The battle between these two options began a long time before a second front was opened up and only intensified after D-Day.

Allied strategy was, in the first place, to bomb military-industrial installations in France that were contributing to the German war effort. Ideal from their point of view, they could prioritise military aims, exclude political considerations, and have nothing to do either with the internal French Resistance nor with the Free French. Bombing had considerable support from the population, at least in the early days, since the RAF benefitted from a heroic status gained during the Battle of Britain. That said, however precise it might be, it could not avoid inflicting civilian casualties, and this was mercilessly exploited by Vichy propaganda to turn public opinion against the Allies. An alternative Allied approach was therefore to organise the sabotage of military-industrial installations by agents who were parachuted into France to work with emerging resistance circuits. These circuits operated across wide areas but involved only an élite of French resisters on the ground. Weapons and explosives drops were guided in by agents and their radio operators and used to arm only select groups. At all costs it was felt necessary to keep weapons out of the hands of communist partisans. Yet the Resistance was independently gaining strength on the ground. The Armée Secrète had been developed as an army-in-waiting of people going about their normal lives but ready to support the Allied offensive when D-Day finally came. Free Corps or commandos were taking action to get comrades out of jail, take out collaborators and even kill Germans. Most important, the imposition of STO provided the raw material of the maquis, which planned to undertake guerrilla warfare against the occupying forces.

The first dramatic bombing raid of the Allies was on the Renault factories in Boulogne-Billancourt in the western suburbs of Paris on 3 March 1942. A Paris high-school student ‘who listens to you every day like most girls at my lycée’, wrote to the BBC in London:

I visited the vicinity of the Renault plant; that was great work! It is a pity that there have been some casualties among the civilian population. We mourn them but we do not blame the English. We know that they are doing it on purpose in order to deliver us.

Local people demonstrated their solidarity by burying downed pilots with full honours. A veteran of the Great War in Nantes told the BBC about the funeral of four British airmen there in 1941:

Their graves are covered in flowers. The first wreath laid on the airmen’s grave carried the inscription: ‘A group of metalworkers’. Every Sunday in the cemetery a large and reverential crowd processes in front of our dear English friends. Three-quarters of them are working-class people.

Not all Allied pilots who were brought down by German anti-aircraft fire died; many bailed out over in Belgium and northern France and, if lucky, were hidden by locals. Escape lines were organised by a few courageous local resisters to spirit these airmen to a neutral country so that they could resume the fight with the Allies. These circuits were purely military in purpose, to assist the Allied war effort. They had no political agenda and did not undertake political propaganda. Initially they functioned with very little Allied help, apart from diplomatic help in Spain or Switzerland, although in time Allied agents and servicemen linked up with the internal resistance.

The Comet line was originally devised by a young Red Cross nurse, Andrée de Jonghe, and her father Frédéric, a primary-school teacher from an industrial suburb of Brussels. They began by hiding and smuggling out British soldiers stranded in Belgian military hospitals after Dunkirk. Later they concentrated on airmen who had been brought down, escorting them first from the Brussels-controlled Forbidden Zone of the Nord/Pas-de-Calais into France – sometimes forced to swim across the Somme – then across France to the Pyrenees and to neutral Spain. There Andrée negotiated a deal with the British authorities in Bilbao to keep them out of Spanish prisons and get them to England. As British raids grew more intense and more airmen fell in France a turntable was created in Paris in the spring of 1942. It was a bourgeois Catholic network that included the Jesuit father Michel Riquet, a veteran of the Great War and chaplain to Catholic doctors, who was linked to Henri Frenay, and Robert and Germaine Aylé, who were in business and close to the Dominicans. The group organised safe houses and false papers for Allied pilots in transit. Stanislas Fumet, who had moved to Paris from Lyon, dined at the Aylés’ flat with Riquet, ‘a joyful and most friendly evening’, one Friday in June 1943 four days before the Aylés and Frédéric de Jongh were arrested. Frédéric de Jongh and Robert Aylé were shot at Mont Valérien on 28 March 1944. Germaine Aylé was deported, as was Andrée de Jonghe, who had been arrested in the Pyrenees in January 1943; both survived.

After these arrests the Comet operation was organised on the Belgian side by an industrialist of aristocratic stock, Baron Jean de Blommaert, and on the French side by Philippe d’Albert Lake, a publicist for P&O whose mother was English, and by his American wife, Virginia, from Dayton, Ohio, who went to France to avoid having to teach at her mother’s private school and married Philippe in 1937. They had a flat in Paris and a country cottage at Nesles-la-Vallée, 40 kilometres north-west of the capital. She recalled an autumn evening in 1943 when the local baker drove up to ask them to help with three American airmen who had been shot down:

The dark-haired, slanting-eyed Willy was from Hawaii. He was an oculist. There was serious, love-lorn Bob from California and Harry, a jolly factory worker from Detroit. They seemed so happy to be able to relax for a few hours and to talk with us who spoke and understood English.

She decided there and then to ‘work for the Underground’, hiding airmen in their Paris flat or walking arm-in-arm around the Trocadéro Gardens, under the noses of sightseeing Germans, before it was time to take the train. When from the end of May 1944 Allied bombing disrupted the rail network they took airmen to a maquis in the Fréteval Forest near Châteaudun, the ‘Sherwood’ plan masterminded by Colditz escapee Airey Neave, who worked for MI9. About 150 airmen were hidden there by mid-August 1944. Unfortunately, Virginia was arrested near there with a downed airman on 12 June 1944 and deported to Ravensbrück, which she survived.

The Comet line ferried Allied airmen to Spain via the Free Zone, but after the Germans occupied the whole of France in November 1942 the South lost its attraction and escape routes via Brittany were organised. The Shelburn network, active from 1943, escorted airmen to the Breton coast from which they were picked up at night by a British boat. The meeting-point was the Café de Biarritz on the Boulevard Saint-Michel, run by Georges Labarthe, a veteran of two wars from south-west France, and his wife. They had links to resistance organisations such as Libé-Nord and ORA, although they did not see themselves as ‘members’. The café was frequented by young men from the nearby École Polytechnique, Saint-Cyr, École Navale and the École de l’Air, so that Allied military men passing through were less likely to be recognised. At first the Labarthes advised them on how to get to the demarcation line, then teamed up with Mme Labarthe’s dressmaker and organised their own escape line. Marie-Rose Zerling, a young Alsatian woman and science teacher who knew Jean Cavaillès at Libé-Nord, organised accommodation for escaping airmen, who were then taken in small groups by courier, boarding the night train to Brittany from the Gare Montparnasse. Arriving at the last moment in order to avoid undue attention, they often encountered hostility from passengers in crowded trains obliged to vacate seats booked for the airmen but the latter were unable to give themselves away by talking. One of the couriers learned the trick of warning grumblers, ‘These gentlemen are Todt engineers. They are pretending not to understand but I’m sure that at least one of them does.’

Once at the station of Saint-Brieuc the key contact on the north coast of Brittany was Georges Jouanjan. An escaped POW, he hoped to find a way to join the Free French in Britain by talking to pilots shot down in aerial combat. When a Halifax crashed after bombing Lorient on 13 February 1943 he and a local miller sheltered half a dozen surviving airmen and got them taken off the coast. One of the airmen, Gordon Carter, who subsequently married Jouanjan’s sister, was debriefed by British secret services, which sent in an agent to make contact with the Breton group and set up a regular escape line. This was Vladimir Bouryschkine, an American basketball champion of Russian origin who went under the name of Val B. Williams. As the trainer of the Monaco basketball team, he had begun his resistance career by persuading the local Italian commander that Allied POWs at the nearby Fort de la Revère had a right under the Geneva Convention to enjoy one afternoon of sport per week. In this way he spirited fifty-three men away by boat to Gibraltar. Having met Jouanjan, he went to Paris to establish a link there, which he did via Marie-Hélène Lefaucheux’s OCM.

Back on the north Breton coast, the villagers of Plouha gathered at the café-tobacconist shop of François Le Cornec and organised the ferrying of airmen from the local train station to villagers’ houses. Then, in response to a BBC message, ‘Tout va bien à la Maison d’Alphonse,’ they were walked to a small house on the cliff-top, the same Maison de l’oncle Alphonse, and thence onto the beach. They used a creek, the Anse Cochat, from which signals were flashed to British ships but could not be seen by German lookouts. They were taken off on a launch bound for Dartmouth commanded on a regular basis by corvette captain David Birkin. Sixteen airmen were packed off on the night of 28–29 January 1943 and 128 altogether – including ninety-four Americans and thirty-two British and Commonwealth servicemen – until the Germans left the area early in August. Unfortunately, back in Paris, the Gestapo came for the Labarthes on 5 June. Georges got away but his wife and daughter were deported and did not return from the camps.

Allied bombing of military targets in France was generally supported by French public opinion until 1943, when the US Air Force joined the bombing campaign and regularly bombed from high altitude by day, much less accurately than the RAF. Civilian deaths rose to about 60,000 – about the same number as British victims of German air raids. Those who worked in shipyards and factories that were harnessed to the German war effort were potential targets, as were civilian populations in the same ports and cities. In Brittany the port of Lorient was attacked in January and February 1943, Saint-Nazaire in February and March 1943 and Nantes on 16 and 23 September 1943. Over 800 were killed and 1,800 were injured in the first raid, while 1,300 were killed in the second. A high-school student from Nantes who had witnessed the bombing and managed to make his way to England was debriefed in February 1944. He said that the raids had killed 3,000 people and another 3,000–4,000 were missing. He said that:

He himself was not particularly bitter about these raids, one of which did a great deal of damage to the docks. He had, however, seen a good deal of bitterness among his fellow-citizens […] people might not have been so bitter, he thought, if the BBC or rather the Allied Air Forces through the BBC had said just one word of excuse […] instead of pretending that the raid had been 100 per cent successful, when everyone in Nantes could see that this was not so.

After these disasters, Vichy claimed alone to be protecting the lives and interests of French people. An alternative strategy was to sabotage military-industrial installations on the ground, avoiding the downside of collateral damage. This might be undertaken in the first place by small numbers of French resisters fed up with the political infighting of resistance who wanted only to contribute to military solutions. It was also undertaken by SOE agents parachuted into France and making contacts with resisters on the ground. Their ideal profile was that they were bilingual and while totally loyal to the Allies could pass for French men or women.

A prime example of the first kind of resister was Jean Cavaillès. A brilliant mathematician and friend of Lucie Aubrac, he was one of the founders of Libération in Clermont-Ferrand in 1941. Appointed to a post at the Sorbonne, he very soon went to Paris and became involved in Libé-Nord, along with the likes of Christian Pineau. When Pineau went to London in March–April 1942, he persuaded de Gaulle that the Free French must become more political, but in return Colonel Passy asked him to set up his own intelligence network called ‘Phalanx’ in the Free Zone and ‘Cohors’ in the Occupied Zone. Cohors was entrusted to Cavaillès, who built up his network from Belgium to Brittany around two very different groups: first, young teachers such as his former pupil Jean Gosset, who had taught at the lycées of Brest and Vendôme, and second, an artistic ‘society’ of former students of the École du Louvre, such as Mme Tony-Robert and her former teacher and curator there, Robert Rey. Mme Tony-Robert’s tall, shy and bespectacled nephew, who was ashamed to have been invalided out of the army, redeemed himself by becoming Cavailles’ personal courier. Gosset, like Cavaillès, used the vaults of the Louvre as a hiding place in Paris and also returned to Brittany to set up a network with a friend, Yvonne Queffurus, who was bursar at the college of Quimperlé, which reported on the movement of German troops and ongoing work on the Lorient submarine base.

Pineau and Cavaillès were due to go to London to discuss their intelligence network and perhaps become more involved in sabotage. However they were arrested during the night of 5–6 September 1942, while trying to get off the French coast at Narbonne to a waiting submarine. Although they were acquitted by a Vichy military court at Montpellier, they were immediately interned by the prefect as undesirables in the Saint-Paul d’Eyjeaux camp near Limoges. Pineau managed to escape from the train on the way there and Cavaillès escaped from the camp on 29 December 1942. In January orders came from London that Cavaillès should split Cohors between an intelligence arm and a sabotage arm, to be headed up by Gosset. Cavaillès finally got to London from the Breton coast via a fishing boat that took him to a British launch. His sister recorded that:

He admired the calmness with which the British people accepted the danger of bombing raids. But he was quickly deceived by contact with the Free French. The soldier he remained was shocked by the triviality of the gossip – what he disdainfully called ‘the émigré mentality’ – the cliquishness of the Gaullist clan, women even wearing the cross of Lorraine on their hats, and above all the machinations, the ambitions and the politicking that ended up with the Committee in Algiers.

Yves Farge observed a similar change in Cavaillès on his return to France. The young man was disillusioned by the tensions between the Free French in London – about to move to Algiers – and the metropolitan resistance and by the amount of energy that was taken up by politics rather than defeating the enemy. He decided to work on sabotage with the Allies far from the world of political intrigue:

Cavaillès came back from London a disappointed man. When I recall what he said I believe that he picked up astonishingly early the drama that is evident in French politics today that set the internal resistance against the external resistance. In my mind’s eye I see him nervous. He needed explosives. This clear-thinking Huguenot always gave me the impression that he carried a great sorrow in his breast.

Cavaillès resigned from the leadership of Libé-Nord and devoted himself entirely to military action. He had been given two missions in Brittany, one to destroy German radio beacons on the Brittany coast which could be used to detect Allied bombers and the other to sabotage the infrastructure of U-boat bases. This last task he entrusted to Jean Gosset, who – as fiction aped extraordinary reality – is believed to be the model for Philippe Gerbier in Joseph Kessel’s Armée des ombres. Gosset investigated the possibility of sabotaging the Lorient U-boat base with the help of a New Zealand commando team. Cavaillès went to Lorient at Easter 1943 and managed to get inside the base in overalls with the help of a local man who worked there with a German pass. He confirmed that sabotage was a better option than bombing, if they could find a landing ground for the New Zealand commandos. The mission, however, was never accomplished by Cavaillès, who was arrested in Paris on 28 August 1943. He was interrogated by the same Abwehr officer who he imagined to be responsible for the death of his comrade René Parodi, found hanged in his prison cell at Fresnes on 16 April 1942. Questioned as to why he had become involved in such desperate resistance, Cavaillès riposted that it was to avenge the death of Parodi. Cavaillès was himself shot in the fortress of Arras on 17 February 1944.

Skyfall or Guerrilla II

The sabotage work was taken over by Jean Gosset, who duly destroyed pylons near Hennebont on 21–22 September 1943, the railway from Hennebont to Lorient, and transformers at the Lorient submarine base on 14 October. Gosset then went to London for two months’ training, where he was described by the commanding officer as ‘a nervous and rather intellectual type. He has very poor physique, making him awkward at weapons training. His great interest seems to be Demolitions’ – i.e. explosives. He was parachuted back on 30 December 1943 to head Cohors, now called ‘Asturies’, and undertook successful sabotage operations both in Lorient and on the Hotchkiss-Borsig and Timken ball-bearing factories in Paris. He was arrested in Rennes on 25 April 1944 and deported to Neuengamme, where he died on 21 December 1944.

More common in the work of sabotage were British agents with French backgrounds who were trained for SOE work back in France. These were generally officers who had fought in 1940 but women were often involved too. The latter were recruited into the auxiliary services and started as couriers but sometimes took over command roles when their commanding officer was arrested. Agents worked with small groups of French resisters on sabotage, which required the parachuting-in of weapons and explosives, extreme care being taken that they did not fall into the wrong hands.

Maurice Southgate was British but had been educated in France, was married to a French woman and ran a luxury upholstery business in Paris. He fought in France in 1940 and was one of the survivors of the Lancastria, which was evacuating British troops to England when it was sunk by the Germans off Saint-Nazaire on 17 June, a disaster that the British government attempted to cover up. He trained with SOE and was parachuted into the Auvergne on 25 January 1943 with courier Jacqueline Nearne. She recorded the initial confusion and panic of their landing:

I saw three shadows, of which one was pointing a revolver at me. I thought that my mission was already finished. A few moments later I realised that one of the shadows was my boss who had been parachuted in with me and whom I had not recognised. The other two shadows were trees. As we went along we met a peasant on a bicycle and twice my companion asked him the way in English.

Southgate’s instructions were to ‘undermine the Hun in every way possible, with the least inconvenience for French people. Avoid all contact with French political groups (this was an absolute dogma for our minders in the UK; they had a real thing about it)’. He put together a sabotage circuit which had two main regional leaders. In the Indre, near Châteauroux, he worked with Auguste Chantraine (Octave), the former mayor of the village of Tendu who had been dismissed because he was a communist. Chantraine commanded a group of Francs-Tireurs et Partisans with whom SOE would not normally have worked, but did so because of their effectiveness. In the Pyrenees, near Tarbes, Southgate worked with a former POW, Charles Rechenmann (‘Julien’), who had been released by the Germans as a Lorrainer on condition that he lived in annexed Lorraine or Germany, which he promptly fled. His group was made up former POWs like himself, on whom he could rely. Their sabotage successes included the Hispano-Suiza aircraft factory at Tarbes, a foundry at Bergerac, and a bridge-making factory at Châteauroux. SOE chief Maurice Buckmaster described Southgate as ‘the uncrowned king of five large departments in France’.

That September Pearl Witherington arrived to act as Southgate’s courier. She tried to persuade the management of the Michelin factory in Clermont-Ferrand, which was working for the Germans, to undertake sabotage onsite or to suffer Allied bombing. Unfortunately the Michelin bosses refused to believe that they would be bombed so Pearl cabled back, ‘I hate to suggest the bombing of Michelin but […] I think it would teach the management a lesson and force their hand if Clermont-Ferrand were bombed.’ More successful as a case of sabotage to avoid bombing was that undertaken at the Peugeot works at Sochaux, on the Swiss border, by Harry Rée. Born in Manchester to a Danish-Jewish father whose business had been in Hamburg, he was educated at Shrewsbury School and Cambridge and was teaching modern languages at Beckenham County School when war broke out. Left-wing and a conscientious objector, he nevertheless realised that the war was ‘much more than a capitalist business’ but an ‘anti-Jewish business’ too and volunteered as an anti-Nazi rather than an anti-German. His trainers at SOE described him as ‘highly strung and nervy’, worried about his ‘school standard’ French, and as ‘uncompromising […] very tactless and hates authority as such’. In April 1943 he was dropped near Tarbes, and met by Southgate who was alarmed by Rée’s accent. He was taken by courier Jacqueline Nearne to Clermont-Ferrand to attempt once again to sabotage the Michelin factory; when that did not work out he set to work on the Peugeot factory at Sochaux, which was making tracks and engines for German tanks. This had been bombed by the RAF on 14 and 16 July 1943, killing 110 and seriously injuring 154. Harry Rée made contact with Rodolphe Peugeot, who was keen on sport and pro-British, and persuaded him that sabotage within the factory would be preferable to the RAF returning. Between 3 and 5 November key workers recruited to the circuit used plastic explosives that had been parachuted in to blow up the turbine compressors and electricity transformers. It was, reflected Rée, ‘a wonderful job for an ex-conscientious objector to stop bombing by blowing up machinery’.

Even more dramatic were the SOE activities of Michael Trotobas, who undertook sabotage in northern France. With a French father and Irish mother, his unstable childhood was spent variously in Brighton, Dublin and the Toulon area. He worked in turn as a cook, waiter, electrician and debt collector, and thought about joining the French Navy before volunteering for the British Army in 1933. Wounded at Dunkirk, he was commissioned and joined SOE. Described by his trainers as quick-thinking but hot-tempered and liable to depression, he was parachuted in in November 1943 to organise sabotage in the heavily industrialised Lille area, ‘the Hell of the North’. He made contact with French colleagues, including a Denise Gilman, who became his liaison agent and a police officer who gave him a police identity. Known as ‘Capitaine Michel’, he organised a series of commando raids such as that of the night of 26–27 June 1943, which virtually destroyed the huge locomotive factory of Fives-Lille. In October he undertook a series of train derailments, a train carrying aircraft oil was blown up at Roubaix station on 5 November and another carrying dynamite and munitions exploded between Lille and Valenciennes on 23 November, which also put the line out of action. Unfortunately a parachute team coming in to lend support was captured by the Gestapo and information extracted led to Trotobas’s lodgings. At 7 a.m. on 28 November, it was reported:

Michel was up and ready to go out, dressed in police uniform. Finding himself confronted by Germans, he immediately knocked down the lieutenant in charge of the detachment. The soldiers retaliated with machine-gun fire. In the ensuing brawl, Captain Michel and a young girl belonging to the organisation who was there [Denise Gilman] were killed, along with another German soldier.

Trotobas was recommended for the Victoria Cross but did not receive it as his death was not witnessed by a senior officer, but Buckmaster noted that ‘his heroic death has become legendary’.

This sabotage activity in urban and industrial sites ignited a certain number of fireworks but it did not deal with the reality that the forced labour draft (STO) had driven young men of military age into the wilds of forest and mountain to escape going to Germany. Some simply lay low while others joined camps of maquisards. These were initially concerned with finding food and shelter and frequently acquired a bad reputation when they raided farms for food, town halls for false papers and tobacconists for cigarettes. However, they formed a reserve army that could be called upon to act behind German lines when the Allies finally landed on French soil. Until then they were beset by three fundamental problems: lack of weapons, lack of training and lack of leadership.

Since the Resistance had failed to persuade the disbanded Armistice Army to part with its hidden weapons, and German weapons could only be acquired by force in unequal combat, the only other source of arms was the sky. This source was limited and skewed. Limited because the Allies only had so much to offer and skewed because they did not want weapons to fall into the wrong hands, by which they meant those of communists. Key relationships were formed between SOE agents and small groups of non-communist resisters often commanded by former officers of the Armistice Army.

In November 1942 SOE agent George Reginald Starr was landed from a felucca on the south coast of France. He had trained as a mining engineer in Scotland before learning French while working on the Belgian coalfield at Liège. Originally supposed to go to Lyon, he heard that it was infested by police and went to Agen in Gascony. He set up his headquarters in the village of Castelnau-sur-l’Auvignon and recruited a team from among refugees from Alsace-Lorraine in order to receive parachute drops. This became the Wheelwright Circuit, which had tentacles from the Pyrenees to Vierzon. Unfortunately he was without regular radio contact with London until the arrival in August 1943 of Yvonne Cormeau, whose father was a Belgian consular official, and who had decided to continue the war fought by her husband when he was killed in an air raid in London in 1940. Under the code name ‘Annette’ she worked as Starr’s radio operator, travelling widely to avoid detection, and orchestrated the delivery of 147 arms drops to the circuit. SOE agent Harry Despaigne, usually known as Major Richardson, made a similar impact on south-west France, into which he was parachuted in September 1943. Born in London to a French father and a Belgian refugee from the 1914–18 German occupation of Belgium, he worked for a shipbroker before the outbreak of war in 1939, when he joined the Light Infantry. Recruited to SOE he was described as having ‘a curious and enigmatical personality and is altogether rather a dark horse’. In Toulouse he met Roger Mompezat, who had fought in the colonial infantry in 1918 and been a civil servant in Madagascar between the wars. Together they organised the parachuting of weapons into the Ariège, Aude and Tarn, and in April 1943 set up the Montagne Noire Free Corps. Heavily armed and highly effective, this group attracted the envy and hostility of less well-provided maquis, who regarded them as little better than mercenaries working for the Allies.

Even more significant than the south-west as an area of maquis activity were the foothills of the Jura and Alps. It was there that two of the most famous maquis formed on the Glières and Vercors plateaux, but the help of SOE agents was crucial. Richard Heslop was dropped into the Ain, north-east of Lyon, in September 1943. Born in France but brought up in England after his father’s death, he was educated like Rée at Shrewsbury and at London University before going into the shipping business. A lieutenant in the Devonshires in 1940 he joined SOE and, dropped into France, became the second-in-command of Major Henri Petit, a veteran of the Great War and of 1940, known in the Resistance as ‘Romans-Petit’. In January 1944 Heslop reported that Romans-Petit had ‘3,500 fully trained and armed men under his direct orders’. This made an impact symbolically long before it did militarily. On 11 November 1943 a group of well turned-out maquisards processed down from the Jura hills to lay a wreath on the war memorial of the small town of Oyonnax. Homage was rendered to the heroes of the First World War by those who aspired to be the heroes of the Second. More important, it was the staging of the liberation of a French town, designed to counter the image of the maquisards as outlaws, and to dramatise their fitness to receive weapons. Romans-Petit recalled that ‘the magnificent appearance of our young men, the guard of honour in white gloves, bore witness to the facts that were not looters but soldiers. The underground press all talked about it and we received many congratulations. The British, American and Canadian press dedicated long columns to it and carried photographs of the procession.’

Staging a symbolic liberation was not the same thing as carrying it out militarily. On the Vercors plateau the situation did not look good down to the end of 1943. The Italians extended their zone of occupation in November 1942 to cover the Vercors, and on 27–28 May 1943 surprised a lorry carrying petrol to the maquis. This led to the arrest of twenty men, including Aimé Pupin: ‘The maquis are disorganised, communications have been cut and funds are not getting through,’ reported Pierre Dalloz, who went underground and escaped from France to Algeria via Barcelona and Gibraltar that November. The maquis was reorganised and a second organising committee was set up in June 1943, headed on the military side by Alain Le Ray, who had escaped from Colditz, and on the civilian side by Eugène Chavant, a Great War poilu and former socialist mayor in the Grenoble suburbs. Together they celebrated a festival of unity of the plateau on 10 August 1943. On 6 January 1944 an Allied mission, code-named ‘Union’, landed on the plateau to help train and organise the growing maquis. It was composed of Henry Thackthwaite, a British former schoolteacher, Peter Julien Ortiz, an American marine with a French father who had earlier served in the French Foreign Legion, and a French wireless operator. They found a maquis about 3,000 strong, of whom only 500 were properly organised into groups of ten and armed with Sten guns. Four RAF pilots – who bailed out of a Halifax on 7 February and were sheltered for seven weeks by the Vercors maquis – were impressed by the bravado of Ortiz, who drove around in his marine’s uniform, in a car stolen from the Gestapo and ‘practically lives on benzedrine’. However, they expressed concern about the ‘poor quality’ of the maquisards, some of whom were only fifteen or sixteen, and were ‘willing enough to fight the Milice but the majority were scared of the Germans, who used all kinds of weapons against them, such as armoured cars, tanks and mortars’.

One way of ensuring the efficacy of the maquis while maintaining outside control was to develop the idea of a local rising co-ordinated with airborne troops. Under the ‘Plan Caïman’ or ‘Alligator Plan’ devised by Free French General Billotte, maquisards would be mobilised in the Massif Central with outside support to pin down the Germans in the South while landings got under way on the Channel coast. The plan was not adopted by the Allies, partly because of its impracticality, partly for fear of encouraging national insurrection. Nevertheless SOE leader Maurice Southgate contacted the charismatic resistance leader in the Auvergne, Émile Coulaudon (‘Gaspard’), on 15 April 1944, and asked him, ‘Could you hold a position for a few days in an area of the Massif Central to be decided on and control the access roads? In that case we could parachute in semi-heavy weapons and also commando forces to lead your corps francs.’ Gaspard agreed for the four departments under his control, and this was approved both by London and by a meeting of the Regional Liberation Committee called to a farm in the Haute-Loire by Henri Ingrand, the commissaire de la République-in-waiting. Unfortunately Southgate was arrested by the Gestapo in Montluçon on 1 May 1944. Coulaudon nevertheless went ahead on 20 May, publishing a call to a levée en masse that resulted in 2,700 individuals in fifteen companies gathering on Mont Mouchet by the end of the month.

Well into 1944 supplies of weapons from the air were limited and restricted to non-communist fighting groups. This of course infuriated the communists, who increased pressure on the Free French to intercede with the Allies on their behalf. In London Fernand Grenier went several times a month in the summer of 1943 to see Colonel Passy to request weapons for the FTP but without success; he also wrote a pamphlet on the glorious achievements of the FTP but Soustelle at the Information Ministry gave him no money to publish it and he had to turn to British communists for help. Charles Tillon, head of the Francs-Tireurs et Partisans (FTP) in France, who later described the BCRA as ‘driven by the narrowest anti-communist mentality that was entirely contrary to the interest of the Resistance’, wrote directly to de Gaulle in Algiers in August 1943. He underlined the significance of the flux to isolated areas of réfractaires, who with a little help could be trained by the communists in a whole new strategy of guerrilla warfare:

You know that for two years the FTP have conducted an armed struggle against the invader. They are part of the Armée Secrète and without qualification they are under your orders and those of the CFLN […] A wider and wider mass of young réfractaires and indeed all Frenchmen need to be brought into the immediate action of guerrilla warfare that we are waging […] But we lack the necessary weapons, food coupons and money to provide security and material existence to the Francs-Tireurs and réfractaires for whom we are responsible.

Tillon reinforced his point by sending a delegate to London early in September 1943 to discuss the question of parachuted weapons with both the BCRA and the Allies. The delegate was interrogated for a week by the British secret services and asked to reveal the names of his leaders, which he refused to do for their protection. Eventually he got to see Colonel Passy only to be himself persuaded of the ‘corrupt milieu of the BCRA’. He also saw British and American officers who expressed surprise that the Francs-Tireurs were receiving no weapons. Free French and Allies each blamed the other for failure to support them: ‘According to the Allies it was the BCRA that wanted to deny us weapons while for the BCRA it was the Allies who were refusing to give them to us.’ In truth, neither the BCRA nor the Allies wanted to arm the communists lest the national insurrection they desired became a communist revolution. The communists nevertheless did not give up. Waldeck Rochet, one of the twenty-six communist deputies who had been held at the Maison Carrée of Algiers in 1941–3, travelled to London to lobby for the French communist position. He was well connected with Tom Bell and Harry Pollitt of the Communist Party of Great Britain and, in the rather vain hope of persuading the British establishment, attended the Armistice Day celebrations of 11 November 1943 in the ranks of the ‘Français de Grande Bretagne’ and gave fortnightly talks on the BBC.

Skyfall or Guerrilla III

Artist’s impression of a meeting of the PCF (Parti communiste français) central committee at Longjumeau, 1943. Left to right: Benoît Frachon, Auguste Lecoeur, Jacques Duclos and Charles Tillon.

Although the travails of the communists were obvious, other elements of the internal resistance were also frustrated by London. Pierre Dalloz, architect of the original plan to use the Vercors as a natural fortress to pin down the Axis, who arrived in Algiers in November 1943, wrote a report on the Vercors project which, he claimed, had been endorsed by both Jean Moulin and Delestraint. Like the communists he could garner no interest from Colonel Passy. He found the BCRA ‘strongly infiltrated by fascists and Cagoulard elements’ who thought that ‘French people arriving from France were hotheads’ and were convinced that the only viable resistance was that organised by themselves.

Some difference was made by the appointment of Emmanuel d’Astier as commissar for the interior. For him, the interior meant a metropolitan France that was destined to be a major force in the liberation. The ‘French army of the interior’ would enable the French to ‘acquire a strong, patriotic and popularly based government headed by the man who at first was only a symbol but is now the leader of the Fatherland in toil’. He realised that arms drops were only going to circuits under the direct control of British officers, greatly demoralising most maquisards. The conclusion might legitimately be drawn that ‘the British government does not wish to arm the French Resistance.’

D’Astier embarked on a mission to persuade the British to arm that resistance. At a press conference in Algiers on 15 November 1943 he announced that only 4,000–5,000 out of 30,000 maquisards in the former Free Zone were armed. In December 1943 he was in London and met Waldeck Rochet, who extracted a promise that if d’Astier managed to persuade the British to make more arms drops, some of them would go to the FTP. Flying back to North Africa d’Astier managed to arrange an interview on 14 January 1944 with Churchill in Marrakech. Churchill was surrounded by the likes of Harold Macmillan, the diplomat Duff Cooper (biographer of the devious Talleyrand), and the beautiful Lady Diana Cooper in ‘a straw hat with a veil, as seen in Egypt’. Churchill received him in his bedroom, and appeared to d’Astier less like a bulldog than like ‘a newborn child that has aged’. After Churchill had complained how difficult de Gaulle was – ‘how can we get on with each other? He hates England’ – he told d’Astier that ‘We must make war. We will help you,’ and invited him to a meeting of the War Cabinet in London. D’Astier was privileged enough to attend this meeting on 27 January 1944. In the teeth of objections from Lord Selborne, Minister of Economic Warfare, and Sir Charles Portal, Chief of the Air Staff, that the British simply did not have enough planes to drop arms to the French, and to d’Astier’s argument that ‘If air support is not stepped up rapidly, it will be too late,’ Churchill ruled that as he was supplying Tito he would now supply weapons to enable south-east France to become a second Yugoslavia.

Arms drops did increase but they did not in themselves lead to greater military success. On 14 February 1944 a first supply of fifty-four containers of weapons was parachuted onto the Glières plateau. This had a practical aim, to pin down the Germans away from the landing beaches, but also a symbolic one, as a demonstration that the French Army, humiliated in June 1940 and November 1942, was now rising from the ashes. On 6 February 1944 Maurice Schumann on the BBC ordered members of the Armée Secrète in waiting to join the maquis while at the same time workers went on strike and resisters sabotaged railways. To counter this Philippe Henriot, the new strident voice of Radio Paris, attacked ‘terrorists’ who were fomenting civil war. Vichy and German forces closed in during the night of 9/10 March. The raw recruits were soon rounded up. Jacques Beges, the réfractaire from Lyon, admitted to the police having taken part in an attack by about 150 maquisards in a hotel in Entremont, where Vichy police were holed up – an attack in which their leader Tom Morel was killed. A final Vichy-German offensive was launched on 23 March as calls went out in vain for more parachuted weapons and a bombing of German positions. On 25 March the order came to disperse. Captured maquisards, such as Pierre Pelletier from Vanves and Yves Jeudy from the Var, denied they had fired a shot, and claimed that as soon as Vichy and the Germans launched their offensive the maquis leaders disappeared. These stories were to save their own skins but the real significance of the Glières was hotly debated. Vichy propaganda mocked it as a military disaster but the BBC fought back early in April, creating a legend that 500 men had held off 12,000 Germans and had ‘brought Bir Hakeim to France’.

These events gave grist to intense debates that went on among French resisters and the Free French about the best strategy for the French to adopt. For the Free French who worked closely with the Allies, arms drops were payments on account while awaiting D-Day. Weapons were to be squirreled away until the moment came to attack the enemy rear; to move too soon was simply to invite brutal repression and reprisals. For others in the internal resistance, especially communists, such thinking was a manifestation of attentisme, of wait-and-see, which would do nothing to energise or galvanise the people of France, who had suffered occupation for nearly four years and wanted nothing more than to be up and at ’em. Their strategy was one of immediate action, on however small a scale, gearing up to what was imagined as national insurrection and guerrilla warfare after the Allied landings.

One platform for the communists to develop their strategy was the National Council of Resistance (CNR) and above all of its military committee, the COMIDAC (or COMAC as it became on 15 May 1944). The driving force on the National Council was the leader of the Front National, Pierre Villon. One resister reported back to Interior commissar Emmanuel d’Astier, that Villon’s fanaticism in the cause of popular insurrection gave him a charismatic authority. He was ‘the real mouthpiece of the Party and the communist wing of the CGT […] a proponent of direct action, he emphasised the need for national insurrection, which attracted a great many supporters and gave him a very strong position’. Against Colonel Touny of the OCM, who argued that the FFI should simply execute Allied orders, Villon had a plan of immediate action and secured a formal condemnation of attentisme by the National Council on 15 March 1944. Villon was also the driving force of COMAC, whose other permanent members were Maurice Kriegel for the Southern Zone and Jean de Vogüé for the Northern Zone. That gave a balance of two communists to one non-communist, who seemed increasingly to side with them. Lecompte-Boinet, who returned to Paris from Algiers in February 1944, was shocked to hear from General Revers, who sat on COMAC as a technical advisor without voting powers, that Jean de Vogüé, Lecompte’s former colleague in Ceux de la Résistance, ‘is finding it difficult to stand up to the communists, who are gaining the upper hand’. Villon, on the other hand, took the view that the non-communists had only themselves to blame. Revers, he said, ‘never expressed any opinion or offered any advice. More than once he simply fell asleep in his armchair.’

A second platform of the communists, which became increasingly more important, was the Paris Liberation Committee (CPL). Its OCM representative, Marie-Hélène Lefaucheux, warned that the ‘ferocious reprisals’ inflicted by the Waffen SS and Vichy’s police and Milice after risings like the Glières setback forced a reconsideration of immediate action. The communist lobby took the opposite line, demanding that guerrilla war should continue and if necessary move from the Alps to Paris. Georges Marrane for the PCF ‘demanded that the provisional government in Algiers support the maquis and réfractaires effectively so that from now on war could waged against the Hun as in Yugoslavia’. For the Front National Villon ‘intervened to underline the need to arm patriots and mobilise the masses in the Paris region’. A few weeks later André Tollet, chair of the Paris Liberation Committee and leader of the organised workers in the capital, proclaimed that ‘in the armed struggle we must rely on unionised and non-unionised workers and on réfractaires, both for immediate action and for D-Day.’

To counterbalance this communist surge in resistance organisations the provisional government in Algiers tried to reinforce the effectiveness of its own agents both military and civil. It was still trying to catch up and realise the union between internal resisters and Free French that had snapped when Jean Moulin was arrested almost a year earlier. The presence of the internal resistance was necessary to demonstrate to the Allies how much support de Gaulle had, but at the same time it was necessary to clip the wings of a national insurrection that might be exploited by the communists for their own ends.

The first piece of this jigsaw puzzle was the new delegate-general of the provisional government from March 1944. Alexandre Parodi was a key member of the Comité Général d’Études of experts who were choosing the new rulers of France. Since the arrest of Jean Moulin the provisional government had struggled to find a single, effective and dutiful delegate-general to do its work but in Parodi it had a solution. This was not a complete remedy to the situation. On 6 May 1944 Jacques Bingen, who was sent to the former Free Zone to represent Parodi, wrote a long letter in which he accused London and Algiers of not supporting delegates in the field like himself. For six months, he said, he had received no personal letter and no official or unofficial encouragement. He complained of ‘scandalous and inhuman shortcomings’ in London and Algiers and of ‘castration in the field’ that was provoking the arrest of too many agents. Without wishing to criticise Parodi he regretted the recall of Serreulles, who ‘alone knew something about something’, and warned de Gaulle about the quality of ‘establishment’ advisers with whom he was surrounding himself: ‘Beware of docile loyalists who are only ambitious, crafty devils of no value. They could easily topple him.’ Less than a week later, on 12 May, Bingen was himself arrested by the Gestapo on Clermont-Ferrand railway station and swallowed his cyanide capsule rather than talk under torture. Another key intermediary between the internal and external resistance had been lost.

A second piece of the puzzle took the form of military delegates sent to work with local and regional resistance chiefs, in order to keep them on side. When they had first arrived in September 1943 they had too little backing, too few weapons to distribute, and encountered major catastrophes. Between March and May 1944, however, nine new military delegates arrived in France. The increased tempo and volume of Allied arms drops, over which the military delegates had some control, gave them much greater authority vis-à-vis resistance chiefs in desperate need of weapons. To cap the hierarchy a national military delegate was sent in. This was Jacques Chaban-Delmas, a young Inspecteur des Finances who had been working as a mole in Vichy’s Ministry of Industrial Production and had been proposed by Jacques Bingen. Although only twenty-nine years old and a sub-lieutenant in 1940 he was given the rank of general in order to have the necessary military authority. This team was given the full support of General Koenig, the hero of Bir Hakeim, who, on 4 April 1944, was appointed delegate of the provisional government to the Supreme Allied Command in London and chief of the internal resistance forces, which in theory established a direct line of command from the Allies to the maquis.

The effectiveness of this command depended on the degree to which resistance forces on French soil were brought into some kind of unified army of the shadows. In the lead up to D-Day, the internal resistance suffered not only from a lack of weapons, training and leadership but from deep divisions that were political and generated by different views of what resistance might be. At one extreme were the communist-led Francs-Tireurs et Partisans, which had undertaken armed struggle since June 1941 and were committed to national insurrection, and yet who felt marginalised, even ostracised, by the other forces of resistance and by the Allies. At the other extreme was the Organisation de Résistance de l’Armée (ORA), which was Giraudist if not Pétainist except in its refusal to accept Germany’s violation of the armistice in November 1942. In the middle were the Mouvements Unis de la Résistance, composed of Combat, Libération and Franc-Tireur, which in February 1944 broadened out into the Mouvement de Libération Nationale (MLN) to include a wider non-communist front, including Défense de la France, which had long nurtured the idea that Pétain would turn patriotic, together with Combat’s branch in the Occupied Zone, Ceux de la Résistance.

The first task of the MLN was to bring together all the military forces under its control – the Armée Secrète, the Free Corps and the various maquis units – in something called the Liberation Free Corps (CFL). It was easier to undertake this kind of unification in theory than on the ground. Serge Ravanel was only twenty-four years old and, though a Polytechnician, had not actually fought in 1940. He was nevertheless sent by night train to Toulouse on 7 April 1944 with orders from Alfred Malleret, chief of the Liberation Free Corps’ general staff, to unify the rival resistance military units there. There was a standoff between Aubier, the Armée Secrète leader, who was not a local man, and the maquis leader, a petty Tarn nobleman called Albert Sarda de Caumont, who lacked the common touch. Neither Aubier nor Sarda commanded a majority and the MLN was powerless to decide between them. To break the deadlock, Ravanel eventually suggested himself as the provisional leader. He took the train back to Paris, fully expecting to be dressed down by Malleret. Instead, Malleret said with ‘a naughty look, “What you have done is very smart.”’ Ravanel’s provisional leadership of the CFL in Toulouse was accepted and soon became permanent.

The second stage was to bring together the Liberation Free Corps, the Francs-Tireurs et Partisans and the ORA in the French Forces Françaises de l’Intérieur or French Forces of the Interior (FFI) that were set up in February 1944 in order to complete this work of unification from extreme left to extreme right. This involved dealing with both communists and former soldiers of the Armistice Army. In the Toulouse area a Free Corps had been put together after November 1942 by a former officer in the Armistice Army, Major André Pommiès. He had not been able to assemble all former soldiers in the Armistice Army, since many preferred to join the Army of Africa, which was more conventional and less risky, or ‘wanted to ignore everything that was happening beyond the narrow horizon of family life’. By May 1944 the Free Corps nevertheless boasted about 9,000 men who were well supplied with weapons and vehicles belonging to the former Armistice Army and by parachute drops from the Allies. Pommiès stuck to what he called the ‘hard line’ of purely military activity, sabotage and harassment of the Germans, refused to have anything to do with what he called politics and rejected any orders that did not come from a hierarchical superior. He would thus take no orders from Ravanel, whom he saw as his hierarchical inferior and a political animal to boot, and was surprised to find himself criticised as a Giraudist, Vichyist, royalist or even fascist. Despite his military efficiency, Ravanel thought that Pommiès ‘never understood that because the Resistance had to fight against Vichy it had to use political arguments and get involved in politics’. Equally difficult to contact and manage were the Francs-Tireurs et Partisans, with their ‘iron Bolshevik discipline’. Ravanel tried to use Jean-Pierre Vernant, who commanded the CFL in the Haute-Garonne, and was a communist but with the MLN, as a bridge to the FTP. He and Vernant were both graduates of grandes écoles and Ravanel was moving to the left politically, but was unable to persuade the FTP leader who came from a different class and culture. Ravanel reflected that the FTP leader had ‘a terrible inferiority complex’ based on a sense of being excluded by the Allies and Free French. Moreover, he said patronisingly, ‘I had an education that he lacked. He was always a prole. He was not at ease with me, he thought that he was going to get screwed over.’

What was going on in a region like Toulouse was one thing, but what really mattered was the national command of the FFI and the extent to which it shared a vision with and obeyed orders from London and Algiers. The first national commander of the Forces Françaises de l’Intérieur, Pierre Dejussieu (‘Pontcarrel’), a professional soldier, was arrested in May 1944 and deported to Buchenwald. It would have been ideal for the provisional government if this command had been in Koenig’s gift, but in this instance the Conseil National’s military committee, COMAC, held the reins of power. It decided to appoint Alfred Malleret (‘Joinville’), a communist and head of the Liberation Free Corps general staff. This gave communists the power to appoint men they favoured to regional FFI commands. Political considerations would triumph over conventional military concerns, youth would triumph over age and communists would defeat non-communists. The FFI regional chief of the Paris region, Pierre Lefaucheux, who had come from Renault and OCM, was not to the taste of the communists. He was questioned by COMAC on 17 May for hostile comments he was alleged to have made about the Paris Liberation Committee, on which his wife struggled to defend a non-communist viewpoint. In June Lefaucheux was fortuitously arrested by the Germans, which laid the way open to his replacement by a communist, Henri Tanguy, now known as ‘Rol-Tanguy’. He would play a critical role in the liberation of Paris two months later.

As D-Day approached, the tension between two models of liberation had yet to be decided. The model favoured by the Allies and the provisional government was for the internal resistance to be entirely subordinated to the Allied landings and strategic priorities, in order to avoid the sudden release of pressure that might generate a national insurrection and possible communist seizure of power. The model favoured by the communists was that the landings must indeed provoke a national insurrection and that this must be supported by the provisional government and the Allies. It was not clear whether the plan involved a communist seizure of power but it certainly envisaged an embrace of power by the people and the sweeping away of old élites and institutions in some kind of brave new world. Which model would triumph would be shaped by the storm of forces at work in the weeks after D-Day.

2nd U.S. Regiment of Artillery, 1812-1813

At the outbreak of the War of 1812, the artillery of the Regular Army consisted of the Regiment of Artillerists and the Regiment of Light Artillery. The former unit was organized into five battalions of four companies each, all serving as foot artillery or infantry. The Light Artillery Regiment included ten companies, all serving as infantry. To meet the needs of the expanding wartime army, Congress on January 11, 1812, authorized the establishment of the 2nd and 3rd artillery regiments, each with two ten-company battalions. The Regiment of Artillerists was redesignated the 1st Regiment. Captain George Izard of the Regiment of Artillerists was ap¬ pointed colonel of the 2nd Artillery; Captain Winfield Scott of the Light Artillery was named its lieutenant colonel. Scott later commanded the 2nd Regiment of Artillery from March 1813 until his promotion to brigadier general on March 8, 1814.

The dress of the three foot artillery regiments was specified early in 1812. This uniform, with its chapeau bras and long-tailed coat, was worn by the 1st Regiment, which continued to call itself the Regiment of Artillerists until well into 1813. The two new regiments, however, were required to accept the light artillery felt cap, with the infantry-type band and tassel in yellow cord, in place of the chapeau bras.

The artillerymen in this plate are shown with their coattails shortened, as authorized late in 1812. They still wear yellow welts, or cording, on their overalls, although this feature and the gaitered effect at the ankles were both abolished that same year. Undoubtedly, the uniforms worn by companies in the new regiments varied greatly because of clothing shortages and supply problems. The cap plate illustrated is one of several excavated in the northeast bastion of Fort Erie, which was blown up during the British attack on August 14, 1814.

The gun crew shown here is loading the piece. The matross at the far left holds a lighted portfire; he will use it when ordered to fire the gun. Next is the 1st cannoneer: once the gun is loaded, he will thrust a steel pick through its vent to pierce the powder bag and then insert a priming tube. That completed, he will lay the gun on a target designated by the officer standing behind him. The 2nd cannoneer is “thumbing the vent”-keeping it closed with his thumb while the gun is sponged and loaded, to prevent a premature discharge. As soon as the matross on the far right has finished inserting the cartridge into the mouth of the gun, he will assist the matross holding the rammer staff in ramming the cartridge home. The other members of the crew are not shown; they would be engaged in bringing ammunition to the gun or in shifting the gun’s trail, as directed by the 1st cannoneer, to help him lay the gun on target.

The matrosses wear bricoles, shoulder straps of heavy leather, with attached drag ropes, which have been looped up out of the way. The combination made a man harness, used in manhandling guns into position or in helping the gun teams drag them across difficult ground. Each man carries a musket, the first type of the Model 1812, slung over his left shoulder. In a more stabilized position, the muskets would have been stacked to the rear of the gun. There is no indication that these artillerymen carried swords, as did their successors of a later period.

The gun shown is a bronze 12-pounder field piece. Its carriage has been painted in the color used by the French artillery of this time, since the 1812 correspondence of Colonel Decius Wadsworth, the newly appointed Chief of Ordnance, indicated that French carriages were being used as models for those he was having manufactured.

The lot of the foot artilleryman of this period was not an easy one. Field repairs were made by the artillerymen themselves. Manuals of the period provided detailed specifications for replacing damaged parts of the carriage and even for the manufacture of its parts. A good many companies were employed largely as infantry throughout the war. However, despite a lack of experience, the American artillery performed well. Elements of the 2nd Regiment saw action at the capture of Fort George, the battles at Fort Erie and Stony Creek and in many other minor engagements.

The U. S. Army in 1812

 Whether the United States could fulfill its high expectations depended less on lofty aspirations than on the actual strength of its military forces, and here there were reasons for concern. In 1811, the U. S. Army consisted of a small corps of engineers; seven infantry regiments; and one regiment each of rifles, dragoons, artillery, and light artillery. The light artillery regiment was to be a mobile formation, but as a cost-saving measure, the government had sold its horses in 1808. The rest of the Army also suffered from a chronic manpower shortage, having just fifty-five hundred men under arms with another forty-five hundred positions vacant.

As the prospect for war grew imminent, Congress enacted several expansions. By June 1812, the authorized strength of the Army had grown to 35,603 men organized into twenty-five regiments of infantry, four of artillery (including the now remounted regiment of light artillery), two of dragoons, the rifle regiment, six companies of rangers, and various engineer and ordnance troops. In actuality, only 6,744 soldiers were on active service, scattered mostly in small detachments along the extensive frontier at such places as Fort Mackinac, on a small island at the straits of Lakes Michigan and Huron; Fort Dearborn, near present-day Chicago; and at trading centers such as Fort Osage, Missouri Territory, and Fort Hawkins, Georgia. In order to fill the ranks, the government offered a signing bonus of $16 for a five-year term of service, but few were willing to enlist for such a long time. Desperate to attract recruits, Congress reduced the length of service, added more financial incentives, and banned the practice of flogging. Despite all of these measures, the government failed to bring the desired number of men into the Regular Army.

One of the reasons that the Regular Army failed to draw recruits was that many men preferred the shorter enlistments and the attractive financial incentives offered by their home state militias. The War Department estimated that 719,449 militiamen were available for active service. In the spring of 1812, Congress authorized the president to ask the states to provide 30,000 federal volunteers for one-year’s service drawn from their militias. It also permitted the president to call on the states to mobilize as many as 100,000 militiamen for up to six months of federal service. The numbers were impressive but deceiving, for most of the militia was poorly trained and equipped. Militia leadership was equally haphazard, with many state officers owing their rank to social status, political patronage, or popularity, as some units elected their officers. In short, the militia was a weak foundation upon which to base a national mobilization.

Issues of regionalism and politics also affected mobilization. The strongest support for the war came from those areas with the fewest resources to sustain it, namely, the South and the West. States in the Northeast were better situated for the conflict, but their support was less than wholehearted. When Republican President Madison issued his call for militia, several of the New England states, where the Federalist Party was strong, refused to supply troops on the grounds that Madison’s intended purpose did not meet the missions authorized in Article 1, Section 8, of the United States Constitution “to execute the Laws of the Union, suppress insurrections, and repel invasions.” Some state courts ruled that the federal government did not have the authority to require militia to cross international borders to fight outside the United States, reserving that decision exclusively to the commander of a state’s militia. As a result of these legal challenges, the federal government would experience difficulty in raising militia forces from the Northeast throughout much of the war.

Getting men into the ranks was only the start of the government’s problems. Feeding, equipping, training, and moving the Army like- wise posed daunting obstacles, particularly given the rudimentary transportation network that existed along the frontier with Canada. Nor did the Army have the bureaucratic infrastructure to wrestle with the burgeoning issues of mobilizing and sustaining a wartime force. In 1812, the entire War Department consisted of Secretary of War William Eustis and eight clerks. Eustis had been a surgeon during the Revolutionary War and was later elected to the House of Representatives. President Thomas Jefferson had ap- pointed him secretary of war in 1809 because he was a staunch member of the Republican Party. His military and bureaucratic skills were limited.

In March 1812, Congress attempted to rectify some of the Army’s administrative deficiencies by establishing the positions of quartermaster general and commissary general of purchases. Then in May, the legislature created an Ordnance Department to develop weapons and equipment and to address the deplorable condition of military stores. As many as one in five of the Army’s weapons were inoperable, and much of its ammunition had been procured in 1795. Shortages of everything from tents and shoes to medicine and other items likewise existed. Unfortunately, without central direction, the quartermaster general, commissary general, chief of ordnance, and various contractors would often compete for the same resources, adding further chaos to the Army’s primitive logistical system.

The Army’s senior officer in 1812, Maj. Gen. Henry Dearborn, had a stellar record of service during the Revolutionary War, serving in all major battles in the northern theater, including Bunker Hill, Saratoga, Monmouth, and Yorktown. He had aligned himself with the Republican Party, and when Jefferson had become president in 1801, he had appointed Dearborn as secretary of war. Dearborn, who had served in that office until Eustis replaced him in March 1809, had been thoroughly involved during his tenure with reducing Army force structure under Jefferson’s Military Peace Establishment Act of 1802. Although considered the nominal commander of the U. S. Army, Dearborn lacked the statutory authority and the staff to fully oversee Army operations, and, like Eustis, he was overwhelmed by the crush of responsibilities incumbent with mobilizing and guiding the national war effort.

As for the officer corps, it was as unprepared for what lay ahead as the rest of American military establishment. If most militia and volunteer officers were rank amateurs who owed their posts to their political and social connections, then the officers of the Regular Army were not much better. The nation’s small Regular Army was a back-water in American society that did not necessarily attract the finest talent, while the Jefferson and Madison administrations had often applied a political litmus test in selecting officers. A glimmer of professionalism existed among a few individuals, but these were the exceptions to the rule. Perhaps the Army’s best hope for the future, the U. S. Military Academy at West Point, New York, was by 1812 barely ten years old and had produced just 120 graduates, of whom 99 would serve in the war, mostly in junior positions. As for the rest, one of the nation’s more gifted military leaders, Lt. Col. Winfield Scott, claimed that the older officers had “very generally sunk into either sloth, ignorance, or habits of intemperate drinking,” while the new officers were for the most part “course and ignorant men . . . swaggerers . . . decayed gentlemen, and others-`fit for nothing else,’ which always turned out utterly unfit for any military purpose whatever.”

Schmale Blendenausführungn – Rheinmetall

Original Panther II turret: “Turm Panther 2 (schmale Blendenausführung)” H-SKA 86176 dated 7 Nov 1943. (Source: Panzer Tracts No.5-4)

Panther I turret designed after Panther II cancellation: “Turm-Panther (Schmale Blende)” H-SK 88517 dated 1 Mar 1944. (Source: Germany’s Panther Tank, The Quest for Combat Supremacy”

Rheinmetall had been tasked with designing the Panther II turret. This new turret was named ‘Turm Panther 2 (schmale Blendenausführung)’ (English: ‘Turret Panther 2 (narrow mantlet variant)’). The cancellation of the Panther 2 project came in May 1943, but Rheinmetall continued their work, with their turret now destined for the original Panther.

Rheinmetall’s progress was sluggish, as 1 year later, they had not yet progressed beyond the drawing stages as evidenced by drawing H-Sk 88517 “Turm – Panther (schmale Blende)” (English: ‘Turret-Panther (narrow mantlet)’). New requirements were drawn up for a new iteration of the regular Rheinmetall-designed Pantherkampfwagen V Panther turret. An Entfernungsmesser (English: ‘rangefinder’) was to be incorporated into the turret and the gunner’s sight was to be changed to a periscope in the roof. Rheinmetall’s design incorporated the Entfernungsmesser in the turret, but this created a huge hump in the turret roof.

It appears this design, combined with the long time already used with no practical results, prompted Wa. Prüf. 6 to move responsibility for designing a new turret from Rheinmetall to Daimler Benz. It seems about nothing from the Rheinmetall’s Turm – Panther (schmale Blende) design was used by Daimler Benz for their Schmalturm design. By 20 August 1944, the first Versuchs-Schmalturm was mounted on a Panther Ausf. G chassis.

The development of that turret was continued after the Panther II got canceled, as a upgrade to the normal Panthers, and it’s pretty obvious it’s a predecessor for the Schmallturm.

Merlin’s Prophecy I

  The Eagle of the broken covenant …

  Shall rejoice in her third nesting.

—Geoffrey of Monmouth, “The Prophecies of Merlin”

They found the tomb deep in the earth between two stone monuments erected so long before that no one could remember what they signified or what the words inscribed upon them meant. Digging deep, as the king directed, they at last encountered a wooden sarcophagus of great size, which they carefully drew up and opened. There they discovered two sets of bones—the huge ones of a man and, at his feet, the smaller and more delicate bones of a woman. Word spread quickly. The bodies of King Arthur and his queen, Guenevere, had at last been found.

From the outset, accounts of the discovery differed. Neither of the two men who first chronicled the event—Ralph of Coggeshall and Giraldus Cambrensis—was present at the scene, although Giraldus visited soon after. A monk named Adam of Domerham wrote of the exhumation a full century later, but he seems to have drawn upon eyewitness testimony. Adam was a monk of Glastonbury, the abbey in Somerset where King Arthur’s body was discovered and where details of the marvelous find must have been told and retold long after. Their very own abbey, the “glassy isle” that in the Saxon tongue had become “Glastingeburi,” had turned out to be the legendary isle of Avalon.

Yet according to legend, Arthur—who was a special hero of the Celts—had not died at all and would someday return in messianic fashion to lead his people to victory over all their enemies. Quite probably in response to this legend, as well as to the widespread Celtic unrest that simmered along his kingdom’s borders, England’s Henry II had set out to find Arthur’s remains and settle once and for all any question of the ancient king’s return.

The result was the remarkable discovery at Glastonbury. Almost as remarkable was the fact that it was Henry who told the monks where to dig. According to Giraldus Cambrensis, the king “had heard from an ancient Welsh bard, a singer of the past, that they would find the body at least sixteen feet beneath the earth, not in a tomb of stone, but in a hollow oak.” Giraldus then goes on to describe the dramatic scene of exhumation. Opening the coffin—wooden, although Giraldus specifically calls it a hollow oak—the monks discovered the bones of a man and a woman, the man’s of remarkable size. The woman’s hair still glinted gold, but when an overeager monk reached out to touch it, the hair crumbled to dust in his hand.

There could be no doubt about the contents. Above the coffin lay a lead cross bearing the words, “Here lies buried the renowned King Arthur with Guenevere his second wife in the Isle of Avalon.”2 Rejoicing, the abbot and monks of Glastonbury bore the precious bones into their abbey church, where they placed them in a marble tomb before the high altar. There, according to John of Glastonbury’s fourteenth-century account, they remained until 1278, when King Edward I and his queen opened the tomb and confirmed its contents with their seals and an accompanying inscription.

It is of course quite possible that the monks of Glastonbury, in response to pressure from the king or simply a desire for renown (and the wealth that a flood of pilgrims would bring), had successfully passed off a couple of old skeletons as Arthur and Guenevere. Even Edward I’s seal did no more than certify that the tomb’s contents were plausible; the king had no way of knowing for sure.

Bogus or not, the news of the Glastonbury discovery created a sensation. Henry II, however, did not live long enough to be gladdened by the news, for he died in 1189, shortly before King Arthur was found. Many had already taken due note of the relevance of some of Merlin’s prophecies to current events. Henry’s death brought to pass one of Merlin’s most famous prophecies: that the eagle of the broken covenant—which the twelfth century understood to mean Henry’s queen, Eleanor—would rejoice in her third son, or nesting. The broken covenant referred to her first marriage, to France’s King Louis VII, which ended in divorce. As for rejoicing, she certainly had cause. Upon the death of Henry II, who was her second husband, their third son—Richard Lionheart—became ruler over all the vast Plantagenet realms.

Richard was the apple of his mother’s eye. Born in 1157, two years after Prince Henry and a year after the death of three-year-old William, Richard from childhood was singled out as Eleanor’s designated heir, the future ruler of Aquitaine and Poitou.

He seems to have been a handsome lad, muscular and deep-chested like his father, but tall and long-limbed, with red-gold hair and a ruddy complexion. Named for his Norman forebears, he embraced his remarkable heritage with enthusiasm, devoting himself with rigor and single-mindedness to the pursuits of war. Without question, Richard loved nothing better than a good fight. By the time he was sixteen, he was a blooded warrior, and while his older brother, Prince Henry, contented himself with tournaments, Richard seems to have been dissatisfied with anything less than the real thing. Fierce and single-minded when focused on warfare (which he generally was), he soon mastered the combatant’s skills and moved on to the commander’s, absorbing the larger lessons of siegecraft and assault, fortress-building and defense, to such remarkable effect that—as Giraldus was quick to point out—scarcely a castle could hold out against him. The roll call of fortifications that crumbled to Richard, generally in record time, constituted one of the marvels of the age.

Far narrower in his interests than his father, whose talents lay in governance as well as war (and who preferred the former), Richard seems to have been bored by administration and little intrigued by the realm of ideas. Had he been born in the tenth or even the eleventh century, he would have bathed his steps in blood and never bothered to wash for dinner. Instead, under Eleanor’s tutelage, he became something far more complex—a very model of chivalry.

Eleanor adored him.

Bernard of Clairvaux had never much liked Eleanor. The saintly monk had never liked Henry, either, but he had a particular aversion to Eleanor and her family, the house of Poitou. Although renowned for his obliviousness to the things of this world, Bernard seems to have had a sharp eye when it suited him. He understood the appeal of Cluniac art and architecture, even as he rejected it, and he just as clearly noticed and understood the appeal of Louis’ first queen. Bernard did not necessarily speak for all ecclesiastics, as the Church had never been a seamless whole, whether in the exercise of power or opinions. Even as bishop jostled bishop and Cistercian took on Cluniac, Bernard did not sit well with all higher prelates, including the powerful Abbot Suger, whom Bernard had once scolded for worldliness. Always the politician and statesman, and ever devoted to the house of Capet, Abbot Suger tried to keep Eleanor—and her vast lands—by Louis’ side. But Bernard, who had early concluded that Eleanor was a bad seed descended from evil stock, pressed Louis to free himself from her influence. At length—after Suger’s death—Louis reluctantly did as Bernard urged.

For once, although for vastly different reasons, Eleanor and Bernard were in agreement. Still, her subsequent marriage to Henry of Anjou must have confirmed whatever evil the saintly monk believed of them both. She and Henry began married life in mutual defiance of Louis, with the bright overtones of sexual as well as political triumph. The thirty-year-old countess pleased her nineteen-year-old husband, and just as important, he pleased her. Both were passionate and strong, dangerous as well as attractive to the opposite sex. Henry had the more legalistic mind, while Eleanor was the more romantic—but neither gave place to the other in intelligence or wit.

Eleanor bore this lion of a husband eight children, five during the first six years alone—something of a record given the two children she had managed to conceive during her fifteen years with Louis.6 Even more remarkably, all but one of this strong brood survived infancy. Between them, she and Henry founded a dynasty.

In December 1166 or early 1167, at the age of forty-five, Eleanor gave birth to her last child, John. Henry had by this time taken firm hold of his empire, consolidating control over England and his extensive Continental domains—stretching from Normandy and Anjou down through Poitou and Aquitaine—as well as extending Plantagenet authority over Brittany. He also managed to put down rebellions in Wales, while preparing to bring Ireland and Scotland into the fold. It was an enormous undertaking, and Henry held his far-flung territories together by sheer tenacity; he was constantly in the saddle as he rode the considerable length of his strung-out domains.

Given Henry’s constant wars and travels, he and Eleanor had never seen much of one another—although the time they did spend together appeared to be productive, as Eleanor conceived little Plantagenets with remarkable regularity. Yet by the late 1160s, Eleanor’s childbearing years had come to a close. She had lived up to and even exceeded all expectations for a medieval queen, for Henry certainly required no more sons. The larger question, in fact, appeared to be how best to provide for them all.

Henry’s solution emerged early in 1169, at Montmirail, where he announced his intention of dividing his realm. His eldest, Prince Henry, who was heir to England, would receive his father’s own inheritance. In recognition of this, the young prince now did homage to Louis VII for Normandy and Anjou—his father’s lands, but subject to the French crown. Richard, as expected, bent the knee for Eleanor’s vast lands in southwestern France, while Geoffrey, the third living son, paid homage to Prince Henry—and through him, to the French king—for the English king’s recent conquest, Brittany. These youngsters—aged thirteen, eleven, and ten, respectively—now held the titles to go with their expected inheritances. The following year, Henry even had his eldest son crowned king. This was not an unusual procedure, as the Capetians and others had been doing it for years to secure the succession. The problem lay in the homage that these heirs of Henry II had now paid to Henry’s hereditary rival, Louis VII of France.

Exacerbating this potentially explosive situation was the inevitable question of when Henry’s sons would receive the lands, revenues, and responsibilities to go with their titles. To Henry, the answer was obvious: upon his own death. Yet in the following years, as the boys grew to manhood, they became restless under the restrictions their father imposed. Even Richard, who as duke and count of his mother’s lands had considerably more independence than the rest, was held on a tight leash. But it was Henry’s oldest, the duly crowned young king, who chafed the most, for by 1173 he was eighteen years old and a married man. To his mind, his father was treating him like a child.

Henry the Younger (or the Young King), as this young man was known, was the handsomest of all the Plantagenet brood, a striking fellow with an engaging manner and easy ways. A spendthrift and something of a dandy, he was surrounded by friends and hangers-on who urged him to claim what was rightfully his.9 After all, hadn’t his father received Normandy from his father, in fact as well as in name, when he was still in his teens? Marriage to Princess Marguerite of France only worsened the situation.

This remarkable union had taken place many years earlier, after Louis VII’s second wife most disappointingly gave birth to yet another daughter. Contemplating the English king’s growing brood of male children, Louis set pride aside and—looking to the future—proposed a marriage alliance with his erstwhile rival. If a Capetian son did not seem destined to rule over France, then perhaps a grandson could rule over France as well as the vast Plantagenet realms. Sweetening the deal, Louis offered an especially strategic piece of property between French and English crown lands called the Norman Vexin, which he had extracted from the Plantagenets some years before. The outcome was the betrothal of baby Marguerite to three-year-old Prince Henry, with the all-important Norman Vexin as her dowry. Marguerite, aged six months, went to be raised in the court of her future husband, as was the custom, while Louis sat back, prepared to retain control over the entire Vexin until Marguerite and her young prince reached marriageable age.

He failed to appreciate the wiliness of the elder Henry, who quickly outmaneuvered him, marrying off the youngsters—by now two and five years old, respectively—and reeling in the Norman Vexin before Louis could sit up and take notice. It was a brazen move, made possible only because a pope in dire need of Henry’s support was willing to overlook the extreme youth of the bride and groom and cast his blessing on the marriage. Louis himself, thoroughly preoccupied in the tumult surrounding the unexpected death of his second wife (while giving birth to yet another girl) and his almost-immediate remarriage to Adele of Champagne, did not catch what Henry was about until it was too late.

King Henry II of England had thus most grievously jeopardized relations with his Continental overlord, the king of France, on the heels of yet other causes for hostility (a tedious list for the reader, but not for the French king). It was hardly surprising that Louis’ animosity now grew increasingly open, as his marriage to Adele of Champagne so clearly signaled. Certainly neither Adele nor her brothers—the powerful Theobald of Blois and Henry of Champagne—were friends of the Plantagenets.

More than this, in the year 1165, Adele at long last presented Louis with a son.

It was a sweltering August night, and twenty-year-old Giraldus Cambrensis—drawn to Paris like other young students of his time—had retired from the heat to his room in the Cité. A zealous student (by his own account), he had remained up studying until well past midnight. At last, thoroughly exhausted, he collapsed upon his bed. But no sooner had he fallen into slumber than a great commotion of clanging bells awakened him. Fearful that a great fire had broken out, he dived toward his window and leaned out. The city was ablaze with bonfires, and people rushed westward toward the king’s palace, lighting the narrow streets with torches as they went.

“What is it?” he cried out as two old crones hastened by.

Recognizing from his accent that he was English, the one called out, “This night a boy is born to us, who by the blessing of God shall assuredly be a hammer to your King!”

At long last, at the age of forty-five, Louis VII had fathered a son. They named him Philip, but they called him Dieudonné (God-given), for God had finally answered their prayers. Bolstered by the event, Louis seems to have developed more sprightliness. He now took it upon himself to stir up flames of rebellion wherever they appeared within his rival’s vast empire, whether in Wales or Scotland, Aquitaine or Brittany. Most particularly, he offered asylum to Thomas Becket, archbishop of Canterbury, who had recently evolved from the English king’s closest friend into his bitterest enemy. Henry countered by marrying off his eldest daughter, Matilda, to the powerful Henry the Lion, duke of Saxony, and threatened to join with the German emperor in supporting a rival pope. It was at this moment that Louis decided to raid the Norman Vexin. Henry replied with a brilliant sack of Louis’ heavily fortified arsenal on the French side of the border, at Chaumont-sur-Epte. Louis in turn sacked the nearby town of Andely.

Thirty years later, Richard Lionheart would choose Andely as the site on which to build his magnificent castle, Château-Gaillard. But for now, Henry and Louis called a truce. This was the occasion that brought Henry and his three eldest sons to Montmirail in early 1169. And this was the place where Henry proposed to divide his realm, while Louis agreed to betroth the youngest of his four daughters, a princess by the name of Alais, to young Richard. Just as her older sister had brought the invaluable Vexin to Henry as her dowry, Alais promised to bring portions of the equally significant borderland of Berry into Henry’s hands. Louis, in turn, received homage from Henry and his sons, plus the promise of eventual joint Capetian-Plantagenet rule over the greater part of Henry’s realms. Both sides had reason to be pleased.

Yet Louis had reason to be wary as well. Becket, whose case figured large at Montmirail, warned the French king that Henry was not to be trusted, and Henry’s subsequent actions only heightened Louis’ concerns. Once again, the rivalry between the king of England and the king of France exploded into war, only this time—the year was 1173—there was an astonishing difference.

This time, in an amazing turn of events, Henry’s queen, as well as his three oldest sons, allied with Eleanor’s former husband, the king of France.

Sometime during the late 1160s and early 1170s, the dazzle faded and the remarkable marriage between Eleanor of Aquitaine and Henry II took a dismal turn. Eleanor left Henry and established herself at her court of Poitiers. Henry’s biographer, W. L. Warren, concludes that Eleanor was aggrieved because her marriage to Henry had brought “neither the power nor the influence she—a duchess in her own right, and a queen before she married Henry—thought to be her due.” This possibly accounts for it, for in Poitiers, Eleanor—with her favorite son and heir by her side—proceeded to establish herself in charge of her vast and turbulent lands to a degree quite impossible had she remained with Henry. Still, the acrimony that continued to grow between Eleanor and Henry has encouraged speculation that something more was afoot. Had Eleanor been merely dissatisfied or even aggrieved with her role as Henry’s queen, her years at Poitiers, in control of her own lands and court, should have brought her a measure of peace and satisfaction. Instead, Henry now was her mortal enemy, and marriage—all marriage—was a sham. Eleanor—still strong and beautiful, still the recipient of troubadours’ sighs—was behaving like a woman scorned.

If Giraldus can be trusted, it was not Henry’s infidelity per se that sent Eleanor packing, for over the long years of her marriage, Eleanor must have known what everyone else knew. Fidelity in a husband in those times was unusual—in Louis’ case, possibly even boring—and Henry was often far from her side. His many casual liaisons would have been beneath her contempt, and for years she seems to have successfully ignored them. Yet Rosamond Clifford was different.

The shock would not have been that Henry had taken a mistress; what seems to have been unique, and devastating, was how he loved this one, treating her as if she were his queen. In the fair young daughter of Walter de Clifford, the unsophisticated offspring of a simple knight, Eleanor of Aquitaine had most unexpectedly met her match.

The affair was a long one, lasting from around 1166 to Rosamond’s death in 1177, but Eleanor probably learned of it in its first bloom, while in England to give birth to John. This would explain, at least in part, the bitterness of the estrangement that arose between her and Henry following John’s birth, including Eleanor’s subsequent departure for her own court in Poitiers. Under her guidance, Poitiers became the most brilliant court in Western Christendom, as well as a hotbed of intrigue. Here, encouraged by Eleanor, troubadours sang of romantic love, knights learned courtly chivalry, and Eleanor’s four surviving sons learned to hate their father.

It was not a difficult task. A crafty and unreadable man of sudden and violent temper, Henry demanded total loyalty and utter dependency. Giraldus says that he was a kind father during his sons’ youth and childhood, “but as they advanced in years looked on them with an evil eye, treating them worse than a stepfather.” Giraldus, who himself harbored considerable resentment of Henry, having been denied a much-coveted bishopric, nevertheless could be perceptive: “Whether it was that he would not have them prosper too fast,” he ruminated, “or whether they were ill-deserving, he could never bear to think of them as his successors.”

According to Giraldus’s contemporary, Walter Map, Henry acquired this particular trait by training as well as by instinct, for his mother, Matilda, had taught her son to “spin out all the affairs of everyone, hold long in his own hand all posts that fell in,” and “keep the aspirants to them hanging on in hope.” She supported this Machiavellian observation with the analogy of an unruly hawk: “If meat is often offered to it and then snatched away or hid, [it] becomes keener and more inclinably obedient and attentive.” Map thought this teaching offensive, but concluded that it explained Henry’s less attractive qualities. Certainly Henry, who was an avid hawker, seems to have readily taken to it, baiting his filial as well as other relationships with hunger, and holding the choicest tidbits just out of reach.

Henry Plantagenet was thus a difficult and even dangerous man. Not surprisingly, his sons showed similar promise, although on a meaner scale. Young Henry, the heir, was handsome and a general favorite but, in the end, weak and pathetic. Geoffrey was a schemer, with a talent for behind-the-throne manipulation. John, the baby, was shamelessly crooked, with neither the talent nor the interest to disguise it. Richard, Eleanor’s favorite, was also flawed. Yet of the four sons who survived infancy, Richard showed the greatest promise, and Eleanor showered her affection on him.

It should therefore have come as little surprise when the discontented older sons, aided by their bitter mother and her former husband, Louis of France, led a general uprising against Henry of England. But even before this, Eleanor had carried on her own form of rebellion in Poitiers. There she not only turned Henry’s offspring against him, but undertook to turn the scruffy, blood-soaked sons of the nobility into gentle knights in the service of love, beauty, and fair womanhood.

Merlin’s Prophecy II

Although historians now question whether Eleanor’s famed court of love ever existed, the ideals behind courtly love were unquestionably held in high esteem at the court of Poitiers. Key to the concept was a new role envisioned for women, in which the suitor became his beloved’s vassal in love, learning to please her in any way she chose—from nicer table manners and gentler speech to more sophisticated and refined methods of courtship. Rugged young knights, accustomed to rowdy camaraderie and the smell of the stables, could be persuaded to clean up and behave if such sacrifice promised something interesting in return. Under sufficiently enticing circumstances, their more courteous and chivalrous behavior might become long-term or even permanent.

Behind it all lay the assumption—reinforced by the typical marriages of the time—that marriage had little to do with love. Everyone knew that marriages were essentially political or economic mergers, moves on the great chessboard of life. From there, it was but one step to the extreme statement, made by Andreas Capellanus, that love and marriage do not mix. Andreas put these scandalous words into Eleanor’s mouth in his treatise on the art of courtly love, and although there is nothing to indicate that she ever spoke them, there also is nothing to indicate that she would have found them repugnant. Indeed, the role of women in courtly love represented but another aspect of Eleanor’s striving in the personal and political realm for independence and power.

The fashions of Poitiers spread rapidly throughout the courts of Western Europe. Yet for all of their influence, it is questionable whether they accomplished any substantive change in the relationship between the sexes. Beneath the more colorful and civilized surface they encouraged, attitudes and relationships appear to have remained pretty much the same. The troubadour warrior, Bertran de Born, who had a particular interest in inciting Henry the Younger to war against his father, enthused about the joys of seeing castles besieged and smashed. His poems extolled the sound of trumpets and the flourish of pennants, which for him were rousing reminders that the world was good. Unquestionably, it still was a man’s world, and men continued to live for war.

Henry Plantagenet may have thoroughly enjoyed discussions with men of letters, but he could not be troubled with an elaborate code of etiquette or the sophisticated lifestyle it entailed. Furthermore, the barely masked subversiveness of Eleanor’s court at Poitiers was accompanied by outright treason. With some difficulty, Henry brought the great rebellion into check, granting surprisingly lenient terms to his sons. But toward Eleanor he was not in the least magnanimous. Swiftly Henry closed down her court at Poitiers and brought the totally unrepentant queen back to England and imprisonment.

There she remained for fifteen years, until Henry’s death.

Following Henry’s victory over all his enemies, he sent Richard, now aged seventeen, to subdue the insurgency that still raged throughout Aquitaine. Richard was not yet the warrior his father was, as Henry had made abundantly clear when he roped him in at the rebellion’s end. Still, the teenager took on his military duties with enthusiasm, razing castles and cowing his unruly subjects so convincingly that he won a lasting reputation for military prowess and savagery.

Peace now extended throughout Henry’s vast realms, giving him the appearance of invincibility. His sons subdued, the French king defeated, and even the German emperor shattered by the Lombards, Henry had no real rivals either at home or abroad. With all his other troubles for the moment resolved, he now took steps to rid himself of his queen.

Henry’s grounds for divorce were solid: certainly treason would do, if consanguinity would not. Yet he had no intention of allowing Eleanor to remarry. And so Henry now seems to have sought the pope’s help in agreeing to a divorce, followed by the queen’s permanent retirement from the world as the Abbess of Fontevraud. Over the years, Fontevraud had become wealthy and fashionable, a most suitable final destination for a former queen. Even more to Henry’s purpose, Fontevraud was located on the border between Poitiers and Anjou, near his castle of Chinon. He could readily keep an eye on Eleanor there.

Yet Eleanor was not about to be bundled off to Fontevraud—not even as an alternative to imprisonment. She protested mightily, and her sons promptly took their mother’s side. Adding to the furor was the persistent rumor that Henry had plans to remarry, repudiate his ungrateful sons, and father a new and better lot. By 1177, after fair Rosamond’s death, rumor even had a name for Henry’s new choice as queen: his son Richard’s betrothed, the French princess Alais.

Alais and Richard had been betrothed for many years but had not yet wed—a surprising omission, given the bride’s rank and the fact that she was now seventeen (almost an old maid by medieval standards). Why, court gossips wanted to know, had Henry put off marrying her to his now twenty-year-old son? Given Richard’s inclination to find his way to Paris, in his older brother’s footsteps, an obvious answer was that Henry was reluctant to provide yet another tie between his difficult progeny and the French king. But gossips soon had another and far more titillating answer: Henry had decided to wed the young princess himself. Indeed, tongues wagged that Henry, seeking solace for the dead Rosamond, had already made Alais his mistress. It was even said that Alais bore Henry a daughter, who did not survive.

Louis now complained to the pope and demanded that Richard marry Alais, as originally agreed. Henry (whose appeal to Rome for a divorce had come to naught) temporized and finally said the marriage would take place, but only if Louis gave up the city of Bourges as well as the French Vexin (Princess Marguerite’s dowry had included only the Norman portion). Louis did not accept—indeed, could hardly be expected to accept—and said nothing further about Alais or her marriage to Richard.

More than this, the Church (which had ordered Henry, under threat of interdict, to wed Alais to Richard or return her to her father) now grew remarkably quiet on the subject. Henry retained custody over Alais, and there was no interdict. Since it could not be expected that the pope would “openly countenance, much less use the authority of the church to enforce, a marriage between a man and his father’s concubine,” the Church’s sudden silence underscores the distinct possibility that the rumors were true. Certainly, from this point on, the pope’s interest in Alais’ fate came to an abrupt halt.

Meanwhile, Philip, heir to the French throne, was growing up. With his knightly training well under way, he could look forward to his kingly consecration, which Louis planned for August 1179. On that date, Louis’ dearly beloved son would turn fourteen.

Louis himself was ready to turn over the reins of government to Philip as soon as possible. Almost sixty, he had never possessed Henry Plantagenet’s restless energy or strength, and his long battles with the Plantagenets had taken their toll. A gentle man, he now napped frequently and seemed to be slipping toward a more permanent repose. One much-cited scene finds him sleeping virtually unprotected in the palace garden. When discovered, his courtiers admonish that he has placed his life and kingdom in considerable jeopardy. To which Louis mildly replies that he could hardly be in any danger, for he has no enemies.

It was true. Even Eleanor, who despised him, did not hate him, and Henry’s wrath seems to have fallen upon his own sons rather than upon the French king. Thus it was that when young Philip became severely ill just prior to his coronation, Louis did not hesitate on his course. In a dream, he beheld a vision of the martyred St. Thomas Becket beckoning him to pray for Philip’s recovery at Canterbury. Despite dire warnings from his barons, Louis donned a pilgrim’s habit and departed immediately for England. Steeling himself for the Channel crossing, he landed safely at Dover just as the king of England hove into sight, having ridden all night to meet him.

There never was a question of Louis’ safety on this his only visit to England. Henry accompanied him to Canterbury, where Louis gave copious gifts and prayed. Then, still in Henry’s company, Louis returned to Dover, where he once again set sail for France. There, to his infinite relief and joy, he learned that his only son had recovered.

Louis himself could not attend the coronation for which he had risked his life. En route home he became severely ill and spent his remaining months as an invalid. In September of the following year, he died, garbed in the modest robe of a monk.

He left a fifteen-year-old to rule as king.

It is possible that had Henry II been born eight centuries later, he would have made just as memorable a leader of a modern government as he did of his medieval realms. Personally unostentatious, with a talent for administration and an energy so boundless that he virtually wore out everyone around him, he was a creative ruler, a man of thought and action, a charismatic leader who—according to Giraldus, a longtime member of his household—never forgot a face.

Left to his own devices, this dynamo might have spent the 1180s in subduing, binding together, and providing the building blocks of government for his vast empire. But Henry had enemies, made over a lifetime of molding others to his will, and so he spent much of the last years of his life at war—with his barons, with his sons, and with the king of France.

Unlike Louis VII, who had begun his reign under the auspicious circumstances of civil war in England and a German empire in disarray, young Philip found himself pitted against the wiliest and most powerful ruler of his time. Heavily outmatched, he bided his time, poking a little here and a little there until at last he found the agent for his devices—Henry the Younger, the dissatisfied heir to the English throne.

Bored and aggrieved, young Henry took no interest in the government of those realms he would someday inherit and instead looked with envious eyes at his brothers, especially Richard, who had a realm of his own and warfare to occupy him. Young Henry, feeling sadly out of pocket and misused, drifted southward from a glittering but evanescent season of tournaments and soon found men eager to claim his leadership on behalf of their own causes. Brother soon fought brother, with Geoffrey taking the elder brother’s side against Richard, count of Poitou. Philip, watching closely, sent his own mercenaries to keep the pot boiling.

At length, fearing that his sons would tear each other as well as the Plantagenet empire apart, the elder Henry entered the fray on the side of the beleaguered Richard. Young Henry wiggled and squirmed, desolating the land and its religious sanctuaries as he tried to keep to the field and desperately sought to avoid defeat.

The end came suddenly, in the small town of Martel. There, young Henry fell into a fever and died. He was twenty-eight years old.

Suddenly Richard, Eleanor’s favorite, stood to inherit a crown. His father, looking for a way to provide for John as well as to contain Richard—who was far more of a threat than young Henry had ever been—now seems to have carved up his realm according to a different plan. Richard would inherit England and Normandy as well as Maine and Anjou, but John would receive Poitou and Aquitaine. At this, Richard—who had made Poitou and Aquitaine his business for years—became incensed. He had no intention of losing one iota of what he thought due him, nor had he any intention of assuming his dead brother’s empty titles and thankless role.

Philip of France was most interested by what he heard. Yet it was not Richard but Geoffrey who first bolted for Paris. Geoffrey still retained the promise of Brittany, but he had been denied additional territory and was bitter about it. Geoffrey, who was perhaps the brightest of the family, was also the most devious. He had, Giraldus commented, “more aloes than honey in him,” while his tongue was “smoother than oil.” Geoffrey was above all a master at persuasion, with a “sweet and persuasive eloquence” and an extraordinary talent for dissimulation. It was Geoffrey whom Giraldus suspected of being the mainspring behind young Henry’s revolt, and it was Geoffrey who now repaired to Paris, where Philip received him like a brother, carefully nurturing his grievances.

Still, despite his calculation, Philip could not foresee all events. In the summer of 1186, Geoffrey’s sojourn in Paris abruptly ended with his death—probably from wounds received in a tournament. Soon it would be Richard’s turn to visit Paris and seek Philip’s friendship. In the mean-time, Philip demanded the return of the Norman Vexin (his widowed sister Marguerite’s dowry) as well as the marriage of Alais to Richard.

It was a reasonable demand. Marguerite’s husband, young Henry, was dead, and Alais had been betrothed to Richard for more years than anyone cared to remember. Yet Henry Plantagenet resisted, on the grounds that the French monarchy had lost any right to the Norman Vexin when Marguerite and Henry the Younger originally wed. At length, with Marguerite on the verge of marrying a second time (to King Béla III of Hungary), Philip agreed to leave the Norman Vexin with the king of England in return for a hefty yearly monetary payment to Marguerite as well as Henry’s solemn oath that Alais and Richard would soon wed.

It is unclear whether or not the Norman Vexin now became Alais’ dowry. But from this point on, her fate and that of the Vexin would be intertwined.

With Geoffrey’s death, Henry was left with two sons, the elder of whom he did not trust. Richard, Eleanor’s pet, was a formidable warrior, but John—still in his teens—had yet to impress anyone on any grounds whatever. Rude, prone to vice, “more given to pleasures than to arms, to dalliance than to endurance,” he was the least as well as the last of all Henry Plantagenet’s sons. Henry—believing that he would outgrow these traits—now pinned all his hopes on him. Although John had proven a disaster in Ireland, where Henry originally planned to set him up as king, Henry now intended to use this unpromising lad to keep Richard in line.

By this time, Philip had reached his early twenties and was showing a thought-provoking willingness to assert the prerogatives of the French crown. Demonstrating that he understood the importance of protecting and enhancing his growing capital city, he went to the considerable expense of paving the streets of Paris as well as constructing a wall around the city’s new outskirts. And then, bolstered by the birth of a son and heir, he once again confronted the English king.

Alais and the Norman Vexin remained the outstanding issues. Alais still was not married to anyone, and Philip, tired of Henry’s evasions, wanted both the princess and the property back. Henry, despite a demonstrated willingness to pay homage to his French overlord for his French territories, had little inclination to let this young whippersnapper tell him what to do. The Norman Vexin was his, by God, and he was going to hold on to it. Philip thought about this briefly and then presented his answer to this powerful yet disobedient vassal: he invaded that other source of contention between the two kings, the disputed territory of Berry.

Henry responded, as was his wont, with massive force, but Philip did not back down as Louis would have. Perhaps judging his young rival in a new light, Henry now agreed to a truce. What he did not anticipate was this determined and calculating young king’s next step. Coolly assuming the initiative, Philip now undertook to turn Richard against his father.

Richard soon found his way to Paris, where Philip treated him as a brother—or, as some have recently contended, as a lover. They ate from the same dish—a common-enough indication of friendship, for trenchers generally were shared—and slept together in the same bed. Again, such accommodations may simply have amounted to a sign of close friendship, without necessarily implying sexual overtones, for beds were scarce and frequently joint-tenanted. Still, there would have been beds aplenty for the king and his royal guest, should they have chosen to sleep separately, and in light of Richard’s subsequent behavior, it seems possible that Philip calculatedly accommodated him.

It is possible that Philip previously had a similar relationship with Geoffrey as well, for their friendship appears to have been unusually intense, even for the emotion-laden twelfth century—where men readily cried, and a gift for tears was a valued asset. Philip seems to have been so overcome with grief at Geoffrey’s death that he could scarcely be restrained from hurling himself into his friend’s grave. In any case, whether or not fraught with sexual overtones, Philip and Richard’s relationship seems to have been a close one, and Richard left the court of the French king persuaded that his father was on the verge of disinheriting him in favor of John. Philip even hinted that Henry planned to marry John to the much-abused Alais.

Upon Henry’s urgent appeals, Richard at length returned. But young Lionheart fretted that his father remained decidedly mum about the succession. News from the Holy Land added urgency to Richard’s concerns, for he had recently taken the Cross and longed to be off on crusade. Yet he was understandably reluctant to leave while John stood ready and waiting to step into his place.

For a time, Richard’s attention was taken in fighting off rebellion in Aquitaine (which Henry may have instigated to keep his son diverted), while Philip continued to prowl and prod along the most vulnerable of Henry’s borders. Henry, feeling up to whatever Philip was inclined to dish out, was in a feisty mood when the two once again met in the summer of 1188 along the banks of the Epte, near Gisors.

In the shade of a giant elm, under which the dukes of Normandy and kings of France had traditionally conducted business, Philip returned to the question of Alais’ marriage and the Norman Vexin. Henry, however, refused to discuss anything but Philip’s most recent incursions into what he considered Plantagenet property. At loggerheads in the sweltering heat, the two sides almost came to blows. At last, driven beyond endurance, the French fell in a fury upon the giant elm under which they had parleyed, hacking it to pieces. As a symbol of where relations stood between the two houses, this sudden act of violence could hardly have been more pointed.

Henry now renounced his vassal’s allegiance to the king of France and went to war. The conflict promised to be drawn out and expensive, leading the two kings once again to meet. With considerable concern, Henry heard Philip offer to withdraw from Berry and allow Richard to retain disputed lands in Toulouse if Henry would only marry Richard to Alais and have his barons swear fealty to Richard as his heir. Furious, Henry flatly refused.

And now Richard suddenly stood forth. As Henry and his lords watched, thunderstruck, young Lionheart removed his sword and knelt before Philip, openly doing homage to the French king for all the Continental domains he claimed by inheritance, and swearing fealty to him “against all men.”

At last it had come to this.

Little happened for a time, as frantic intermediaries unsuccessfully sought to avert the inevitable. But at length, with the end of Lent, the open season for war arrived.

Repeated efforts to avert the upcoming tragedy met with repeated failures, while the last attempt—at La Ferté-Bernard, just over the border into Henry’s territory of Maine—gave clear evidence of just how hopeless the breach had become. Philip demanded that Alais marry Richard and that Richard’s inheritance be acknowledged. Richard added that, for his own security, he would not go on crusade unless John went with him. Henry flatly refused and, according to Roger of Howden, introduced the highly delicate subject of marrying Alais to John.

Ever since, people have wondered exactly what game Henry was playing. Had he indeed decided to disinherit Richard for John, as Richard now so plainly believed? Or was he merely “trying to discipline Richard by keeping him in uncertainty,” and then was caught in the coils of his own deviousness? Henry never could forget his eldest son’s rebellion after being crowned successor. But neither could Richard forget the abrupt way his father had removed Aquitaine and Poitou from his inheritance and given it to John.

The tragedy now proceeded to its grueling conclusion. Philip and Richard fell upon Le Mans, where Henry had taken refuge, and soon flames enveloped the entire town. Henry managed to escape, but Richard pursued him. Only the timely intervention of William Marshal, one of Henry’s most renowned warriors, saved the king from capture—or worse.

Instead of fighting his way back to Normandy, where he could mount an army or set sail for England, Henry fled to his great Angevin fortress of Chinon, high above the river Vienne. The old lion was defeated and he knew it. His body, which he had relentlessly pushed for years, no longer could be willed into action. Deathly ill, he awaited his end in the summer heat.

Castles and towns now promptly fell to Philip and Richard, suggesting that their inhabitants sensed which direction the wind was blowing. Even the city of Tours fell into Philip and Richard’s hands. At that body blow, Henry agreed to come to terms.

Henry consented but was so ill he could scarcely ride. Even Philip was moved to pity when he saw him. But Henry would have none of it, refusing the seat that Philip offered and remaining bolt upright in his saddle—supported by attendants—as he listened to the victors’ terms. These were rugged. He was to renew his homage to the king of France and pay a heavy indemnity for Philip’s trouble. He was to acknowledge Richard as his heir, and call upon his barons to swear homage to his eldest remaining son. Alais was to be turned over to a guardian of Richard’s choosing, who would keep her in safety until Richard wed her, upon his return from crusade.

As Henry listened, a roll of thunder broke forth. He nodded his assent, and yet another roll of thunder burst from the heavy summer sky. But perhaps the worst blow was yet to come. For when he sent for the list of names of those who had gone over to Richard, the first name on the list was that of his youngest son, John.

After that, death came quickly. In anguish, Henry “cursed the day on which he was born, and pronounced upon his sons the curse of God and of himself.” And then, knowing that he was sick unto death, he ordered that he be carried into the chapel, where he received communion and absolution before wearily drawing his last breath.

While Roger of Wendover reported a sedate funeral, with Henry lying in state in appropriately royal splendor, William Marshal (who was present) described a far more humiliating scene. According to the Marshal, Henry’s attendants stole his belongings, leaving the body naked until someone took pity and covered it with a cloak. With panicked courtiers tending to their own welfare, it was difficult to find anyone to enshroud the body or prepare it for funeral and burial. According to Giraldus, no one could even find an appropriate ring for the dead king’s finger, let alone a scepter or a crown.

Giraldus, keen to report the fall of the great, may have embroidered or exaggerated, but his dramatic account of Richard’s last encounter with his father is corroborated by both Roger of Wendover and Roger of Howden. When Richard, who had pursued Henry to the end, approached the body, all present were stunned to see blood suddenly burst from the dead king’s nostrils. An omen of the first order! they whispered among themselves. A curse on the living from the dead!

Yet Richard, a Plantagenet through and through, remained unshaken. He now was undisputed lord of England, as well as the vast Plantagenet holdings in France, and the future was his.

Merlin’s prophecy had indeed come to pass.

German AFVS Berlin 1945

General Helmuth Weidling, the commander of the LVI Panzer Corps, looked rather like a professorial version of Erich von Stroheim, only with hair.

On the morning of 23 April, Weidling rang the Führer bunker to report. General Krebs replied ‘with conspicuous coldness’ and informed him that he had been condemned to death. Demonstrating a remarkable moral and physical courage, he turned up at the Führer bunker that afternoon. Hitler was clearly impressed, so much so that he decided that the man he had wanted to execute for cowardice was the man to command the defence of the Reich capital. It was, as Colonel Refior observed, a ‘tragi-comedy’ typical of the regime.

Weidling’s LVI Panzer Corps was considerably reduced. Only fragments remained of the 9th Parachute Division. The Muncheberg Panzer Division was reduced to remnants, and although the 20th Panzergrenadier Division was in better shape, its commander, Major General Scholz, had committed suicide shortly after entering Berlin. Only the Nordland and the 18th Panzergrenadier Division remained in a relatively battle-worthy condition. Weidling decided to hold back the 18th Panzergrenadier Division in reserve for counter-attack. The other formations were distributed around the different defence sectors to act as ‘Korsettstangen’ — ‘corset-stiffeners’.

Weidling found that he was supposed to defend Berlin from 1.5 million Soviet troops with around 45,000 Wehrmacht and SS troops, including his own corps, and just over 40,000 Volkssturm. Almost all the sixty tanks in the city came from his own formations. There was also supposed to be a Panzerjagd battalion equipped with Volkswagens, each of which was fitted with a rack for six anti-tank rockets, but nobody could find any trace of it. In the central government district, Brigadeführer Mohnke commanded over 2,000 men from his base in the Reich Chancellery.

The most immediate threat which Weidling faced on the afternoon of 23 April was the assault on the east and south-east of the city from the 5th Shock Army, the 8th Guards Army and the 1st Guards Tank Army. That night, armoured vehicles which were still battle-worthy were ordered back to Tempelhof aerodrome to refuel. There, amid an expanse of wrecked Luftwaffe fighter planes, mainly Focke-Wulfs, the armoured vehicles filled up at a depot by the huge administration building. They received an order to prepare to counter-attack south-eastwards towards Britz. They were reinforced with a few King Tiger tanks and some Nebelwerfer rocket launchers, but the main anti-tank weapon of this force was the ‘Stuka on foot’, a joke name for the panzerfaust.

German Units identified at the Battle of Berlin. April-May 1945.

56th Panzer Corps:

20th Panzer Grenadier Division

18th Panzer Grenadier Division

9th Fallschirmjager Division

Muncheberg Panzer Division

11th SS Panzer Grenadier Division ’Nordland’

15th SS Grenadier Division’Latvian No 1’ (SS Volunteers)

33rd SS Grenadier Division’Charlemagne’? (SS Volunteers)

Sturmgeshultz Brigades; 249, 243, Stug-Lehr-Brig.I, II, III.

Guard Regiment’Grossdeutschland’ (2 Battalions)

SS Chancellery Guard Battalion-this unit designated either Wachtbattalion (mot) ‘Leibstandarte Adolf Hitler’ or SS Fuhrer Begleit Kommando ‘Liebstandarte Adolf Hitler’

Some small units from the Naval School- ‘Gross Admiral Donitz’ Marine Battalion

Various Volksturm units. (92 battalions)

Total numbers.

24,000 regular troops.

60,000 Volksturm men.

6 plus Tiger II Tanks

Some French Tanks either Somua and/or H-35, One Russian T-35

Some Panthers and Pz IVH/J, with some Tiger I

StuG IIIG and StuH IIIG, with some JgPz IV

Estimate of German forces.

LVI Pz Kps as 13-15,000 men, the equivalent of two (2) divisions, Waffen-SS forces under Mohnke as half (1/2) a division, and the remaining miscellany of units as equating to some two (2) to three (3) divisions, a total of four (4) to five (5) divisions in all, with about 60,000 men and some fifty (50) to sixty (60) tanks.

1966 Estimate: 44,630 soldiers, 42,531 Volkssturm, 3,532 Hitlerjugend, RAD and Org Todt on the 23rd April.