Here at LSOZI, we are going to take off every Wednesday for a look at the old steam/diesel navies of the 1833-1946 time period and will profile a different ship each week. These ships have a life, a tale all their own, which sometimes takes them to the strangest places.- Christopher Eger Warship Wednesday, Aug […]Warship Wednesday Aug 26, 2020: Hazard Pay — laststandonzombieisland
An excellent article on a little known subject.
It is often forgotten today that, like defeated Germany, Austria was split up into four occupation zones after WWII. Just like Berlin in Germany, the capital Vienna was split up four ways as well. When the country reunified in 1955, it’s new army was equipped with an interesting mix of WWII weapons; both Allied and Axis, and both Soviet and American.
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When war broke out, only two Ilya Muromets bombers had been completed, but by the end of 1914 the Imperial Russian Air Service had formed its first tenbomber squadron. Operations with the heavy bombers began on 12 February 1915 with a raid on German frontline positions. During the war, 73 Ilya Muromets were built and they performed daylight bombing, night bombing and photographic reconnaissance. Despite its slow speed and size, the Germans were often reluctant to attack the bomber because it was so well-armed, the rear gunner position being especially problematic. Operationally, the Ilya Muromets was known for its ability to withstand combat damage to the point that it reached almost mythical status as a bomber that could not be shot down. Once engaged, small fighters also found that they were buffeted by propeller wash. On 12 September 1916, the Russians lost their first Ilya Muromets in a fight with four German Albatros, three of which it managed to shoot down. This was also the only loss to enemy action during the war; three others were damaged in combat, but managed to return to base to be repaired.
The massive Ilya Muromets was the world’s first four-engine bomber-and a good one at that. In three years it dropped 2,200 tons of bombs on German positions, losing only one plane in combat.
In 1913 the Russo-Baltic Wagon Works constructed the world’s first four-engine aircraft under the direction of Igor Sikorsky. Dubbed the Russki Vitiaz (Russian Knight), it was also the first to mount a fully enclosed cabin. This giant craft safely completed 54 flights before being destroyed in a ground accident. In 1914 Sikorsky followed up his success by devising the first-ever four-engine bomber and christened it Ilya Muromets after a legendary medieval knight. The new machine possessed straight, unstaggered, four-bay wings with ailerons only on the upper. The fuselage was long and thin, with a completely enclosed cabin housing a crew of five. On February 12, 1914, with Sikorsky himself at the controls, the Ilya Muromets reached an altitude of 6,560 feet and loitered five hours while carrying 16 passengers and a dog! This performance, unmatched anywhere in the world, aroused the military’s interest, and it bought 10 copies as the Model IM.
The aircraft had a wingspan of nearly 100 feet and weighed more than 10,000 pounds. The most advanced model had a range of 5 hours and a ceiling of more than 9,000 feet. It carried a bombload of 1,000-1,500 pounds and was equipped with up to seven machine guns. Four 150 horsepower Sunbeam V-8 engines allowed the bomber to cruise at 75-85 mph. The rear fuselage possessed sleeping compartments for a crew of five, a washroom, a small table, and openings for mechanics to climb out onto the wings to service the engines during flight. More than 75 Ilya Murometses were deployed against the Central Powers along the Eastern Front from 1915 to 1918. These aircraft conducted more than 400 bombing raids against targets in Germany and the Baltic nations. During the war, only one bomber was lost to enemy action. In February 1918, many Ilya Murometses were destroyed by the Russians to prevent capture by advancing German forces.
After World War I commenced in 1914, Sikorsky went on to construct roughly 80 more of the giant craft, which were pooled into an elite formation known as the Vozdushnykh Korablei (Flying Ships) Squadron. On February 15, 1915, they commenced a concerted, two-year bombardment campaign against targets along the eastern fringes of Germany and Austria. The Ilya Muromets carried particularly heavy loads for their day, with bombs weighing in excess of 920 pounds. This sounds even more impressive considering that ordnance dropped along the Western Front was usually hurled by hand! The mighty Russian giants were also well-built and heavily armed. In 422 sorties, only one was lost in combat, and only after downing three German fighters. Operations ceased after the Russian Revolution of 1917, with many bombers being destroyed on the ground. A handful of survivors served the Red Air Force as trainers until 1922.
Although Russia was not as industrially advanced as the other European powers, it would enter the First World War with the world’s first four-engine aircraft, the Sikorsky Ilya Muromets. After achieving success with a number of smaller aircraft, Igor Sikorsky joined the Russo-Baltic Railroad Car Factory (Russko-Baltiisky Vagonny Zaved or R-BVZ) in the spring of 1912 and began designing a massive aircraft, the Bol’shoi Bal’tisky (the Great Baltic), which had a wingspan of 88 ft and a length of 65 ft. Sikorsky had originally intended to use just two 100 hp Argus inline engines. Although he managed to take off on 2 March 1913, the Great Baltic proved to be underpowered. Undeterred, Sikorsky added two additional motors, which were installed in tandem with the first two, thereby providing both a tractor and pusher configuration. Beginning in May 1913, Sikorsky made several test flights in the Great Baltic, after which he reconfigured all of the engines to be on the leading edge of the lower wing for a tractor design. This proved far more successful, as indicated by a 2 August 1913 flight in which he carried eight people aloft for more than 2 hours.
Sikorsky’s next version, which served as the prototype of the wartime versions, was introduced in December 1913. It was similar to the Great Baltic, but it had a much larger fuselage that could accommodate up to sixteen passengers. By the spring of 1914, Sikorsky had developed the S-22B, dubbed the “Ilya Muromets” after a famous medieval Russian nobleman, it successfully completed a 1,600-mile round-trip flight between St. Petersburg and Kiev in June 1914.4 With the outbreak of the war, the S-22B and a sister aircraft were mobilized for service. An additional five were constructed by December 1914 and organized as the Eskadra Vozdushnykh Korablei (EVK) or Squadron of Flying Ships.
Because the first Ilya Muromets types had been designed primarily to carry passengers, once the war began Sikorsky started work on a slightly smaller version, the V-type, that could be used as a bomber. Introduced in spring 1915, the V-type Ilya Muromets had a wingspan of 97 ft 9 in. and a length of 57 ft 5 in. Because of Russia’s chronic shortage of engines, the R-BVZ was forced to rely upon a variety of engines for the V-type, including at least one that used different sets of engines; two 140 hp Argus and two 125 hp Argus inline engines. Of the thirty-two V-types produced, twenty-two were powered by four 150 hp Sunbeam inline motors, which provided a maximum speed of 68 mph. They had a loaded weight of 10,140 lbs, including a bomb load of approximately 1,100 lbs. Its crew of five to seven members were protected by free-firing machine guns. Three later versions were introduced during the war: the G-type and D-type introduced in 1916, and the E-type introduced in 1917. Of these, the E-type was the largest with a wingspan of 102 ft, a length of 61 ft 8 in., and a loaded weight of 15,500 lbs. Its four 220 hp Renault inline engines could produce a maximum speed of 80 mph. The E-type carried an eight-man crew, including two pilots, five gunners, and one mechanic. At least eight were constructed during 1917. The E-type went on to serve in the Red Air Force until 1924. The Sikorsky Ilya Muromets were sturdy, rugged aircraft.
Ilya Muromets Type S-23V
Wingspan: 97ft 9in (29.8m)
Length: 57ft 5in (17.5m)
Height: 13ft 1in (4m)
Loaded weight: 12,000lb (4,600kg)
Engine: 4 x Sunbeam Crusader
V8 engines of 148hp each
Max Speed: 68mph (110km/h)
Armament: Guns: Various combinations during the war.
Bombs: 1,100lb (500kg)
The German Gustloff Barnitzke light machine gun. Derived from the MG 42 by Karl Barnitzke, the weapon used an unusual delayed blowback action consisting of two flywheels in a rack and pinion arrangement. The flywheels were exposed to dust and mud, and were overcomplicated in design, and the gun remained a prototype only
The information on this gun is really really scarce, the only thing known about it is that it’s a prototype. It is a delayed blowback machine gun and to quote “during firing the bolt opening is delayed by the rotational inertia of two flywheels, which are driven by a rack and pinion arrangement on the bolt carrier”. Though similar to the MG-42 it was supposed to replace, its internal design differed greatly and the complexity of this weapon possibly led to no further development after WW2.
Other Rare MGs Mauser LMG Modell 1934, Wollmer LMG Modell 1926, Gustloff Barnitzke LMG, MG-131 Ground Version
During the war a number of companies produced the MG 42, although never in the numbers needed to keep up with the ever increasing demand. These included Gustloff-Werke in Suhl, Mauser AG-Werke in Borsigwald, Steyr in Vienna, Grossfuss in Dobeln, and Maget in Among them, 129 MG 42s were made each day from 1942 through 1945. More than 400,000 units were produced (17,915 in 1942,116,725 in 1943, 211,806 in 1944, and 61,877 in 1945).
Mark 3 – “Fat Man” plutonium implosion weapon (used against Nagasaki), effectively the same as the “Gadget” device used in the Trinity (nuclear test) with minor design differences. (21 kilotons, 1945–1950)
Mark 4 – Post-war “Fat Man” redesign. Bomb designed with weapon characteristics as the foremost criteria. (1949–1953)
Mark 5 – Significantly smaller high efficiency nuclear bomb. (1–120 kilotons, 1952–1963)
Mark 6 – Improved version of Mk-4. (8–160 kilotons, 1951–1962)
Mark 7 – Multi-purpose tactical bomb. (8–61 kilotons, 1952–1967)
Mark 8 – Gun-assembly, HEU weapon designed for penetrating hardened targets. (25–30 kilotons, 1951–1957)
At the end of World War II, the defeated Axis nations and many of the victorious allied countries were devastated, their economies and industrial capabilities unable to support even a peacetime society. In terms of war-fighting capability, the USSR possessed a large and well-armed ground force that could easily have overrun Western Europe, or possibly even China. The USSR was unable to sustain such a force, however, because of catastrophic conditions in the homeland, nor did it have a long-range air or naval capability to support an aggressive national strategy.
The prevalent strategic view in the Truman phase of the air “atomic age” (1945-53) was that long-range bombers carrying nuclear weapons against enemy cities or military forces could defeat any nation or force hostile to the United States and its interests. In this environment, the US Air Force was established as a separate service, and the Army and Navy were reduced essentially to “token” forces. These small ground and naval services would be required in future conflicts primarily to provide certain occupation and logistic forces to support the primary weapon: the long-range bomber.
On June 25, 1950, ground and air forces of Communist North Korea crossed the border into South Korea in an all-out assault to gain control over the entire Korean peninsula. The perceived US strategy was articulated by one Air Force Officer who, when told that US ground troops were to be committed to the war, is said to have remarked: “The old man [General MacArthur] must be off his rocker. When the Fifth Air Force gets to work on them, there will not be a North Korean left in North Korea.”
Only after three full years of conventional warfare, involving mostly US air, ground, and naval weapons of World War II vintage, was the Korean War finally brought to a conclusion. US forces had achieved their goal of maintaining the independence of South Korea without the employment of “tactical” or “strategic” nuclear weapons. Both uses were considered: tactical, in the sense of direct support to ground operations (against troop concentrations, bridges, and so forth); and strategic, against mainly factories and assembly areas in North Korea and Manchuria. President Truman apparently gave consideration to the use of nuclear weapons against the Soviet Union in this period. A journal kept in his own handwriting has an entry dated January 27, 1952, contemplating a threat of an “all-out war” against the Soviet Union as well as China: “It means that Moscow, St. Petersburg [Leningrad], Vladivostok, Peking, Shanghai, Port Arthur, Dairen, Odessa, Stalingrad, and every manufacturing plant in China and the Soviet Union will be eliminated.”
After the Korean War ended in stalemate in mid-1953 the war in Indochina, between French forces and the Communist Vietminh, continued in a deadly struggle. A large French force was surrounded by the Vietminh at Dienbienphu, with the end of the Korean War freeing guns, munitions, and technical advisors for the fight against the French. By the spring of 1954 the situation at Dienbienphu was critical and the French asked for American air strikes, first conventional and then nuclear (under the code name Vulture). B-29s flying from the Philippines or carrier aircraft could have carried out the strikes. Although President Eisenhower, the Secretary of State, and four of the five members of the U. S. Joint Chiefs of Staff favored direct intervention, British opposition and French reluctance to accept American direction led to an end of Operation Vulture. Dienbienphu fell to the Communists on May 7, 1954. It was a severe military defeat for the French and-more importantly-led to a political end of the conflict.
At the time the same nuclear weapons would have been used against tactical targets (Korea and Indochina) and strategic targets (the Soviet Union and China). Although American scientists during this period were developing relatively small nuclear weapons, at the time of Truman’s journal entry the atomic bombs available were few in number and large in size. The Mk 3 and Mk 4 weapons then in the inventory were more than ten feet long, five feet in diameter, and weighed over five tons. Under normal circumstances, the bombs were not assembled; to put them together required a crew of trained technicians and almost a day.
As the Cold War increased in intensity, President Truman ordered an increase in nuclear weapons production. The American arsenal grew from perhaps seven bombs-or, more accurately, the components for seven- in mid-1947, to about 25 a year later, and to some 50 in mid-1949. Indications are that by mid-1950 production had provided an arsenal of at least 300, with approximately another hundred being added each year during the Korean War, and even more after that-possibly even totalling as many as 2,000 by mid-1955. Under the Truman Administration there occurred not only an increase in numbers, but a diversification of types: the Mk 5, which weighed only 3,000 pounds, had retractable fins, and was the first nuclear weapon that could be carried externally on an aircraft; the Mk 6 (8,500 pounds), which was the first to be mass produced; the small, 1,600-pound Mk 7 that could be used as a missile warhead as well as a bomb; and the Mk 8 (3,300 pounds), which was intended to penetrate hardened structures. All four weapons were produced from 1951-52 onward. Thus, after an initial period of possessing virtually no useable nuclear capability, by the early 1950s the United States was becoming a true nuclear power.
Subsequently, the Eisenhower-Dulles Administration (1953-61) enunciated the strategy that became known as “massive retaliation.” According to this doctrine, aggression against the United States or its allies would be deterred with the threat of massive retaliatory nuclear strikes; if deterrence should fail, the US would prevail against the Soviet Union in a general war. The doctrine, however, also called for conventional forces to deter or contain localized aggression without resorting to nuclear weapons. While the mix and balance of conventional forces and nuclear weapons were not specified in the major policy documents, the Army and Navy both sought to modernize and maintain large conventional forces. This, in turn, further reinforced proponents of nuclear weapons as a means of controlling defense spending through the use of a relatively small Air Force and Navy nuclear attack forces. In this period, the ability of the Soviet Union to attack the United States with nuclear weapons consisted of a few long-range Soviet nuclear bombers that would have to survive both the long flight to the United States (no bases in the Western hemisphere being available) and the expanding US warning and air defense system. Also, in the 1950s an active US civil defense program was in existence.
Although appointed to the lieutenancy of Normandy for three years in December 1446, Edmund Beaufort did not move there until early 1448. His own men took over from York’s Anglo-Normans during 1447, but the province was essentially leaderless during a period of great uncertainty about the peace policy launched in 1444. Charles VII had agreed to extend the two-year truce agreed at Tours, but Henry failed to follow through with a journey to meet him in France in 1446. The main reason was financial – he had exhausted his credit to pay for Suffolk’s two embassies and could not afford the magnificence the occasion demanded.
A greatly aggravating factor was Edmund’s insistence that he be compensated for the loss of his holdings in Maine before he would consent to handing over the county, as privately agreed by Henry in a letter to his ‘dear uncle of France’ dated 22 December 1445. The letter stressed entreaties by his ‘most dear and well-beloved companion the queen’, who had been assured by her father and Charles himself that the cession of Maine would lead to a lasting peace.
Finally Edmund obtained a settlement of 10,000 livres tournois [nearly £1 million], to be paid annually by the already hard-pressed Norman exchequer. Only then did he move to Rouen, perhaps to ensure he received the agreed compensation. Although he was supposed to share it with the Anglo-Normans who would also be dispossessed, he did not. Consequently a deputation of English knights and squires obstructed the negotiations for the handover, to the point that in February–March 1448 they were besieged at Le Mans and even bombarded by a French army commanded by Pierre de Brézé. The knights handed over the town on 15 March after Charles VII agreed to compensate them himself, but of course they never saw a penny.
Henry was so greatly relieved that on 31 March he recreated the dukedom of Somerset for Edmund. This was further salt in the wounds of the dispossessed Anglo-Normans, particularly those of Richard of York’s affinity, some of whom trickled back to England seeking his ‘good lordship’. The trickle became a flood in 1449–50, and was the reason York became such a determined enemy of Somerset; which, since Somerset enjoyed the unconditional support of the king, brought York into ultimately mortal conflict with the house of Lancaster.
Somerset’s performance of his duties as Lieutenant of Normandy was abject. When all the arguments about the inevitability of the outcome are weighed, the outstanding fact is that he made no serious preparation to resist French aggression. He appears to have shared Henry’s wishful thinking, in the teeth of abundant evidence that Richemont’s military organization was well advanced and could only have one purpose. Even if there might have been some doubt previously, there can have been none after the siege of Le Mans.
Possibly he thought the French would continue to nibble at the edges of Normandy through a process of armed negotiation. This would have granted him time to accumulate as much money as he could before returning to England, leaving his successor to deal with the consequences. The French did not oblige, and Somerset’s ruin would have been complete were it not for the king’s dogged loyalty to him, which may have been born in part of guilty knowledge that he should never have appointed Somerset to an office which required great personal wealth.
Another, stronger reason was that the collapse of the truce was precipitated by a personal decision made by Henry. During the night of 23/24 March 1449, the Aragonese captain known as François de Surienne, a Garter knight for his services to the English crown, took the Breton border fortress of Fougères in a daring escalade. The purpose was to force the Duke of Brittany to release Gilles of Brittany, Henry VI’s childhood friend, imprisoned since June 1446. Henry knew Gilles had been arrested in the first instance by French soldiers acting on the orders of Charles VII. He regarded it as a breach of the truce, and the seizure of Fougères as therefore justified.
Charles, however, saw it as the opportunity he had been waiting for to conclude an explicitly anti-English alliance with Brittany, denounce the truce, and to declare war on 31 July. A year and a fortnight later, to the exhilarated satisfaction – and no small surprise – of the French commanders (among them Marguerite’s father, René d’Anjou), the last of Henry V’s and the Duke of Bedford’s conquests were in French hands.
Hardly any of the smaller fortified towns put up a fight. In most, the inhabitants opened their gates and welcomed the French armies or, as at Verneuil, helped them scale the walls. Most of the English garrisons that prevented this were persuaded to capitulate on generous terms. One such was Regnéville, a port on the coast of the Cotentin peninsula near Coutances, where the king’s stepfather Owen Tudor surrendered to the Bretons after six days. He was permitted to take ship to England with his men, their dependants and possessions.
Obdurate garrisons were bypassed, to fall like ripe fruit in due course. The outstanding example was Fresnay-sur-Sarthe, a small town on the border of Maine. Fresnay held out from September 1449, when the Duke of Alençon recovered his long-lost county in a whirlwind campaign, until March 1450, when the last hope of relief was extinguished. Somerset must have expected many more such hold-outs to buy him time, but Fresnay was held by Anglo-Normans dispossessed in Maine, who judged they had nothing more to lose. Somerset’s own fief of Mortain welcomed the French invaders with open arms, as did Évreux, the chief town of Richard of York’s appanage.
The English were vastly outnumbered. Not counting the Bretons, the four French armies numbered over 30,000 against 6,000–8,000 English in scattered garrisons. But the crowning humiliation was that they were defeated by equal numbers in the only pitched battle of the campaign. On 15 April 1450, about 4,500 men sent from England under Thomas Kyriell (the only knight banneret to respond to John Beaufort’s summons in 1443), joined by 1,500 drawn from the Cotentin peninsula garrisons, were routed at Formigny by two French armies totalling about 5,000. The French commanders were Richemont himself and the Duke of Bourbon, leader of the 1440 revolt against Charles VII.
There is a common belief that Formigny was the first battle won by field artillery, but its role was only indirect. It was an encounter battle in which neither side had been well served by scouts. Taken by surprise and outnumbered, Bourbon did employ a couple of light cannon: but his aim was to keep the enemy out of longbow range. After the English archers rushed the guns he was in serious trouble and was on the verge of defeat when Richemont, marching towards the sound of the guns, appeared on Kyriell’s flank. So, although the guns brought about the timely convergence of the French armies, it was tactical agility, supposedly the decisive advantage enjoyed by the English, which won the day.
The new French guns did, however, bring about the rapid capitulation of major fortresses that in former times had confidently withstood prolonged sieges. In 1414–15 the port of Harfleur held out against Henry V’s primitive bombards for over a year. It fell in three weeks in 1450. Massive Château Gaillard, built on an immensely strong position overlooking the Seine, resisted Henry V for a year in 1419. In 1449 it was battered into submission in less than two months, and was never rebuilt.
Accordingly, when in 1452 York accused Somerset of treachery for capitulating at Rouen after a siege lasting barely a week, and seven months later at Caen after twenty days, he could not argue that further resistance would have affected the final outcome. By convention a fortress commander would hold out while there was hope his own side might send an army to lift the siege, and there was no dishonour in seeking terms when there was no such prospect. It was Somerset’s haste and the terms he negotiated that York judged contemptible.
Somerset had thoroughly alienated the people of Rouen, probably because he needed to wring every penny out of his lieutenancy. Even though the Norman capital had much the largest garrison, commanded by none other than Somerset’s fearsome brother-in-law John Talbot, Earl of Shrewsbury, in October 1449 they abandoned the city to a popular uprising and pulled back to the enormous castle. The main French armies were elsewhere and their heavy guns were at Château Gaillard, so even the minimum precondition of an effective siege had not been met when Somerset capitulated.
Along with the castle, he surrendered the fortified towns of the Pays de Caux and the port of Honfleur on the southern bank of the Seine estuary, which would have isolated Harfleur, on the north bank. In addition, he agreed to pay a ransom of 50,000 Norman saluts d’or [£7,314,000] for himself and his family to travel to Caen. As a guarantee he left Talbot and four other officers as hostages.
Intriguingly, Talbot bore Somerset no ill will; indeed he and his sons were to support him against York in the following years. A hypothesis to fit these facts is that by becoming a hostage for Somerset’s debt Talbot avoided being held to ransom in his own right. What is generally judged to have been an exceptionally shameful act turns out, on closer examination, to have been probably an act of clever collusion between the two peers.
The captain of Honfleur refused to obey Somerset’s order and held out until after Harfleur surrendered, capitulating on 18 January 1450. Talbot remained a hostage until July, when Andrew Trollope, one of his retainers and captain of Falaise, one of the last Norman towns still in English hands, made his release a condition of capitulation. Talbot swore never to bear arms against France again, and was to abide by the letter of his oath. He was unarmed when killed three years later during the last battle of the Hundred Years War.
The Earl of Oxford’s son Robert Vere, commanding the Caen garrison, was able to prevent a revolt by the inhabitants. Besieged during June 1450 by an army led by Charles VII himself, he conducted an active defence of the city that may have included a bribe to Scots members of Charles’s bodyguard to kill him. This, at least, was the charge levelled against them in 1453. One of the illustrations in the 1487 Vigiles du roi Charles VII shows an English sortie against the French bombards (the modern guns had not yet arrived), which finally put a stone shot through the window of the room where Somerset’s duchess and children were sheltered.
Somerset immediately agreed terms of capitulation including an astronomical ransom of 300,000 écus d’or [£43,884,000], with 18 hostages as surety, to permit Somerset, his family and the garrison to evacuate by sea. The ransom was totally unrealistic – it would have wiped out both the Norman and English exchequers – and the hostages were later released for the derisory sums they raised themselves. Understandably uncertain of the loyalty of his troops or of the reception awaiting him in England, Somerset sailed separately to Calais.
With the Normandy debacle well under way, the Parliament summoned to vote emergency funds in November 1449 was in a vengeful mood. Driven by Lord Cromwell, the Tailboys impeachment segued into a full-scale parliamentary attack on Suffolk. The first notable rat to desert the sinking ship was Adam Moleyns, Bishop of Chichester, who in early December resigned the office of Lord Privy Seal, pleading ill health and a belated desire to attend to his neglected diocese, which he had visited only to be invested in 1446.
A month later, he was in Portsmouth delivering wages to the troops assembling for Kyriell’s expedition when a group of Normandy veterans seized him and announced he must die for his role in handing over Maine. He tried to save himself by accusing Suffolk of embezzling the money intended for the defence of Normandy, but was slaughtered regardless. The murder of a bishop was a deeply shocking act in itself; but for the royal household the more worrying aspect was that the killers were men who had served under York, who may have been avenging Moleyns’ attempt to blame him for the parlous state of Normandy’s defences.
Suffolk issued a statement denying Moleyns’ accusation at the opening of the new session of Parliament on 23 January 1450, but it backfired. The Commons cited his own words as proof ‘there was an heavy noise of infamy upon him’, which required he should be brought to trial. Suffolk’s response was worded in a way to imply that the murdered bishop was indeed to blame for the surrender of Maine. This was demeaning: everybody knew the king was personally responsible, but it was treasonable to say so. The feeling was that Suffolk, having profited so greatly from being the king’s chief minister, should now manfully accept his role as chief scapegoat.
On 7 February, the Speaker read out a very long indictment accusing Suffolk of a fantastical plot with the French king to depose Henry VI and to replace him with Suffolk’s son John, whom he had betrothed to his ward Margaret Beaufort to give him a claim to the throne. This and other wild accusations about dealings with the French were simply embellishments to the core charges, which concerned the alienation of crown lands and rights to himself and his affinity. The result, said the indictment, was that there was not enough left to support the king’s government, requiring the Commons to make good the deficit with taxation.
Suffolk was consigned to the Tower to await trial. When he was brought out on 9 March, he did the only thing he could and cast himself on the king’s mercy. On 17 March the king summoned the lords to his inner chamber. In their presence, Suffolk knelt before him to assert his innocence, and once again threw himself on his mercy. Henry made no judgement on the charges against him, but banished him for five years from 1 May. The intention, clearly, was to recall him when the heat had died down.
Suffolk departed for his home in Ipswich, heavily guarded against a London mob intent on lynching him in revenge for what they believed was his murder of ‘Good Duke Humphrey’ in February 1447. When he got home he put his affairs in order and wrote a loving valedictory letter to his young son. The second paragraph, couched as advice, gives us an insight into how Suffolk himself had won the unreserved confidence of the king:
Next [to God], above all earthly things, be a true liegeman in heart, in will, in thought, in deed, unto the King, our elder, most high, and dread Sovereign Lord, to whom both ye and I be so much bound; charging you, as father can and may, rather to die than to be the contrary, or to know anything that were against the welfare and prosperity of his most royal person, but that so far as your body and life may stretch, ye live and die to defend it and to let His Highness have knowledge thereof, in all the haste ye can.
Suffolk sailed from Ipswich on 30 April, bound for Calais. His two ships were intercepted by a flotilla led by the ‘great ship’ Nicholas of the Tower, flying the royal colours, which summoned him. He had himself rowed across without hesitation, perhaps believing the king had changed his mind, only to be seized, ‘tried’ for treason by the crew and his head hacked off with a cutlass. His torso was cast ashore at Dover.
Although Henry and Marguerite were devastated by the news, the circumstances of Suffolk’s death were not investigated. It was clearly not an act of piracy – there must have been collusion with the master of Suffolk’s ship for the interception to take place at all, and no pirate operated a ‘great ship’. One is inescapably drawn to the conclusion that the murder was the work of young Henry Holland, Duke of Exeter. As Lord Admiral, Exeter’s father had enjoyed a unique naval affinity, which made him, in practice, pirate-in-chief. The shamelessly corrupt Court of Admiralty was an extremely lucrative operation that provided his principal source of income, and continued to do so for his successors well into the seventeenth century.
When the older Exeter died, Suffolk added the Court of Admiralty to his own bag of offices. Without the income from the court the younger Exeter was decidedly poor. Not only did this give him reason to hate Suffolk, but he would also still have had contacts within the seafaring community made while his father was alive. The remaining members of the royal household would not have dared suggest to the king that a prince of his blood would be capable of such a thing, and the office of Lord Admiral now reverted to the psychopathic young man.
The household’s suspicion that Exeter had assassinated Suffolk would have been subsumed into a growing panic about what they believed was a greater threat. Their fear, which soon infected the king himself, was that the murders of Moleyns and Suffolk were the product of a conspiracy with Richard of York at its heart. Suffolk’s downfall had been initiated by Lord Cromwell, one of York’s councillors, and Exeter was York’s son-in-law. To their fearful minds it looked a lot like two plus two adding up to a deeply ominous four.
After the leader of the London riot against the release of Suffolk suffered the gruesome fate reserved for traitors, his quarters were sent to Coventry and Winchester, where there had been disturbances of the peace, and to Newbury and Stamford, where there had not. They were, however, boroughs owned by York. Further panicked by a lightning strike that severely damaged his favourite palace at Eltham, and by an outbreak of the plague, the king fled to Leicester. On his way there, another man earned a traitor’s death by lashing the ground in front of Henry’s horse, calling for York to do the same to the king’s government.
There is not the slightest evidence that York had anything to do with any of the shocks suffered by the court at this time. Barring the lightning strike, they were the result of a long period of misgovernment. This was not, however, an explanation the king and his household were prepared to contemplate. Much better to blame an external agency of infinite cunning and resource – the essential ingredient of every conspiracy theory throughout history.
Leopold von Dessau & Frederick Augustus Rutowsky
A map of the Battle of Kesselsdorf, fought on 15 December 1745 between the Prussian army, commanded by Leopold I, Prince of Anhalt-Dessau (1676-1747) and the Austro-Saxon army, commanded by Field Marshal Frederick Augustus, Count Rutowsky (1702-64), resulting in a Prussian victory. War of the Austrian Succession (1740-48). Oriented with north to top.
This topographical map, with its green woods and blue streams, the carmine-coloured buildings, does not convey the icy terrain of 15 December 1745. Dresden, on the eastern margin of the map, was to be the venue for the talks which led to the Treaty of Dresden, 18 December 1745, recognising the transfer of Silesia from Austria to Prussia. The defense of the city was entrusted to Count Rutowski with his Saxon army, with, theoretically, the 46,000-strong Austrian army led by Prince Charles of Lorraine. In the event, the conflict was between Prince Leopold’s Prussian army, which had advanced from the west, and Count Rutowksi’s forces. The loss of life was substantial.
The Battle of Kesselsdorf was fought on 15 December 1745, between the Kingdom of Prussia and the combined forces of the Archduchy of Austria and the Electorate of Saxony during the part of the War of the Austrian Succession known as the Second Silesian War. The Prussians were led by Leopold I, Prince of Anhalt-Dessau, while the Austrians and Saxons were led by Field Marshal Rutowsky. The Prussians were victorious over the Royal Saxon Army and the Imperial Army of the Holy Roman Emperor.
Two Prussian columns, one led by Frederick, the second by the Leopold the ‘Old Dessauer’ were converging on Dresden, the capital of Saxony, which was then an Austrian ally. Interposed between Leopold and Dresden was Rutowsky with an army of Saxons. Rapidly marching towards Dresden and Rutowsky was prince Charles who hoped to be able to reinforce both. Leopold moved slowly and deliberately forward entering Saxon territory on 29 November and advanced on Rutowsky at Leipzig, whereupon Rutowsky retired towards Dresden. By 12 December, Leopold reached Meissen and joined with a corps under Lehwaldt. Rutowsky was reinforced by some Austrians under Grünne and took up a position at Kesselsdorf, 5 miles west of Dresden, that covered Dresden while leaving him closer to the advancing Charles than Leopold was to Frederick. The Saxons deployed along a ridge that ran from Kesselsdorf to the river Elbe and that was fronted by a stream and marshy ground. The 7,000 Austrians under Grünne formed on the right near the Elbe. The line was long and there was a considerable gap in its center between the Saxons and the Austrians. On the fifteenth, Leopold finally came up. There was much snow and ice on the field.
The Prussians were slightly outnumbered 35,000 to 32,000. Additionally, the Saxons and Austrians had the advantage of the ground. Dessauer, a long experienced general now sixty eight years old, perceived that by taking the town of Kesselsdorf the enemies flank could be turned and concentrated his efforts against the Saxon portion of the army. The Saxons had the town defended with twenty-four heavy cannons,  their engineers and carpenters enhancing its defensibility. Leopold made dispositions for an attack by an elite force of infantry and grenadiers, however the ground was very difficult and the first attack was repulsed with considerable loss, including the officer leading the attack, General Hertzberg. A second, reinforced attack was made and this too failed with the Prussians fleeing in disorder. The Prussians had suffered some 1,500 casualties from the attacking forces of 3,500.
The Saxon grenadiers seeing the flight of the Prussians left their strong defensive position and made an impetuous pursuit of the Prussians which exposed them to a massed charge by the dragoons of the Prussian cavalry. The shock of the charge sent the Saxons tumbling back and through their former position in Kesselsdorf, driving them from the field. At this same time, Leopold’s son, Prince Moritz, personally led an infantry regiment which broke through the Saxon center. The regiment, although isolated, held its ground while other Prussian regiments attempted but failed to link up with it due to the stubbornness of the Saxon defence. Eventually, Leopold’s success in taking Kesselsdorf bore fruit and the Saxon flank was turned causing the Saxon line to collapse and their army to flee at nightfall.
The Prussians’ losses amounted to over sixteen hundred killed and more than three thousand wounded, while the Saxon losses were less than four thousand killed and wounded with almost seven thousand Saxons taken prisoner as well as forty-eight cannon and seven standards.  During the battle, the Austrians on the right never fired a shot, while Charles, who had reached Dresden and could hear the cannon, failed to march to the aid of his ally.
The Saxons fled in a wild panic into Dresden. There, despite the presence of Charles and his army of 18,000 and the Austrians’ willingness to renew battle, they continued to flee. Leopold then linked up his forces with those of Frederick, who was so delighted by the victory that he embraced Leopold personally. The Saxons then abandoned Dresden, which Fredrick and Leopold occupied on the eighteenth after demanding its unconditional surrender. The Austrians subsequently began to negotiate the peace of Dresden immediately, ultimately ending the Second Silesian War and leaving Prussia’s ally, France, to conduct the rest of the war of the Austrian Succession alone.
Prussian Forces – Battle of Kesselsdorf
15 December 1745
Commanding Officer: Prinz von Anhalt-Dessau
Advanced Guard Division:
Soldan (Braun) Hussar Regiment
8th Hussar Regiment
Bonin Dragoon Regiment
Alt-Anhalt Infantry Regiment
Munchow Grenadier Battalion
Anhalt-Dessau Grenadier Battalion (10/22)
Aulack Grenadier Battalion (46/47)
Right Wing Cavalry Division:
Alt-Mollendorf Dragoon Regiment
Holstein-Gottorp Dragoon Regiment
Jung-Mollendorf Dragoon Regiment
Liebgarde Cuirassier Regiment
Stille Cuirassier Regiment
Bredow Cuirassier Regiment
Schoning Grenadier Battalion (8/30)
Prinz Leopold Infantry Regiment
Anhalt Dessau Infantry Regiment
Prinz von Preussen Infantry Regiment
Bonin Infantry Regiment
Bredow Infantry Regiment
Hertzberg Infantry Regiment
Prinz Moritz Infantry Regiment
Leps Infantry Regiment
Jeetze Infantry Regiment
Polentz Infantry Regiment
Prinz Ferdinand Infantry Regiment
Alt-Württemberg Infantry Regiment
Jung-Darmstadt Infantry Regiment
53rd Infantry Regiment
Left Wing Cavalry Division:
Buddenbrock Cuirassier Regiment
Prinz Friedrich Cuirassier Regiment
Rochow Cuirassier Regiment
Kyau Cuirassier Regiment
Stosch Dragoon Regiment
Bayreuth Dragoon Regiment
Total: 33 Bns infantry = 21,000 33 cannon
93 sqns cavalry = 9,000
Saxon Army – Battle of Kesselsdorf
15 December 1745
Commanding Officer: General Graf Rutowsky
Division: Generallieutenant von Birkholz
Brigade: Generalwachtmeister von Milkau
Sonderhaus Dragoon Regiment (2)
Rechberg Dragoon Regiment (2)
Königlicher Prinz Dragoon Regiment (2)
Division: Generallieutenant Graf Gru”nne
Brigade: Generalwachtmeister Wallbrunn (Austrian0
Hohenzollern Cuirassier Regiment (7)
Brigade: Generalwachtmeister Elberfeld (Austrian)
Wurmbrand Infantry Regiment (2)
Waldeck Infantry Regiment (2)
Keuhl Infantry Regiment (2)
Division: Generallieutenant Graf Renard
Brigade: Generalwachtmeister von Grankenberg
Allnpeck Infantry Regiment (2)
Bellegarde Infantry Regiment (2)
Brigade: Generalwachtmeister O’Meaghr
Cosel Infantry Regiment (2)
Rochow Infantry Regiment (2)
Division: Generallieutenant von Diemar
Brigade: Generalwachtmeister von Pirch
Brühl Infantry Regiment (2)
Weissenfels Infantry Regiment (2)
Brigade: Generalwachtmeister von Neubaur
Königin Infantry Regiment (2)
2nd Guard Infantry Regiment (2)
Leib-Grenadier-Garde Infantry Regiment (2)
Division: General Chevalier de Saxe
Brigade: Generalwachtmeister von Rex
Leibkurassier Regiment (2)
Karabinier Regiment (4)
Garde du Corps Regiment (1)
Brigade: Generalwachtmeister von Pol”tz
Plötz Dragoon Regiment (2)
Arnim Dragoon Regiment (2)
Brigade: Generalwachtmeister von Münch
Grenadier Battalions (4)
Brigade: Generalwachtmeister von Allnpeck
Grenadier Battalions (3)
Division: Generallieutenant von Rochow
Brigade: Generalwachtmeister von Minkwitz
Rutowsky Dragoon Regiment (4)
Bentheim Dragoon Regiment (4)
Brigade: Generalwachtmeister Bethlehem (Austrian)
Bethlehem Regiment (4)
Stolberg Regiment (2)
Brigade: Generalwachtmeister von Wilster
Brigade: Generalwachtmeister Graf Bellegard
Niesmeuschel Infantry Regiment (2)
Franz Pirch Infantry Regiment (2)
N. Pirch Infantry Regiment (2)
Anonciade Cuirassier Regiment (4)
Ronnow Cuirassier Regiment (2)
Minkwitz Cuirassier Regiment (2)
Prinz Karl Chevauxleger Regiment (4)
Division: von Sybilsky
Bledowsky Uhlan Pulk
Rudnicky Uhlan Pulk
Ulan Uhlan Pulk
Bertuczewsky Uhlan Pulk
Warasdiner Grenz Regiment (1,000)
Sybilsky Chevauxleger Regiment (4)
Schuster & Francke, Geschichte der Sachsischen Armee fon deren Errichtung bis auf die Neueste Zeit
There are some basic concepts that are almost universal across all ancient battles, and certainly across the period of the 3rd through the 2nd centuries BC that we’re examining. In order to properly understand the breakdowns of the battles that follow, it’s important to understand these fundamentals. Any officer, commissioned or non-commissioned, will have learned these basics in academy, and most wargamers pick them up as they simulate battles and see them play out on the table top. But for those of you who are neither wargamers, nor prior service members, we’ll review them here. Please keep in mind this is grossly oversimplified, and deliberately so, as I’m trying to convey basic ideas to the reader as efficiently and simply as possible.
Before we launch into this, I want to make sure readers understand the terms “rank” and “file,” as they’ll be used frequently. Most readers are probably familiar with the terms, but just to be sure, files refer to lines of soldiers arranged front-to-back of a formation. Ranks refers to the lines from side to side. So a single line of 16 men standing one behind the other would be a single file with 16 ranks. A line of the same men standing shoulder to shoulder would be 16 files and only one rank.
The battle line, frontage and flanking maneuvers
Ancient battles usually revolved around battle lines. A battle line is exactly what it sounds like – a bunch of soldiers or warriors all lined up, more or less shoulder to shoulder, usually laterally, providing as much “frontage,” or left to right distance, as possible.
More frontage is good, because this increases the chance of an “envelopment” or preferably a “double-envelopment.” An envelopment occurs when a battle line overlaps the enemy’s, allowing your line to curl around it and attack your opponent’s line from both the front and the side, which is commonly called the “flank” by both modern militaries and military historians. This envelopment, and the striking of the enemy’s battle line from the flank, is commonly called “outflanking” or “turning a flank.” A double-envelopment occurs when your line overlaps the enemy on both flanks, allowing you to curl in around both sides of the enemy line at once, as the famous Carthaginian general Hannibal Barca did at the Battle of Cannae in 216 BC.
Troop types – heavy infantry, light infantry and cavalry
Battle lines are almost always composed of “heavy infantry.” This term is used to mean different things, sometimes referring to the weight of the soldiers’ weapons and armor, and sometimes referring to the tightness of their formation. A Greek or Hellenistic (Hellenistic refers to the cultural descendants of the Greeks, such as the Macedonians and the successors of Alexander the Great) phalanx, a Roman legion, a Celtic warband, a line of Persian levy spearmen, are all examples of heavy infantry in a battle line. The heavy infantryman’s primary job was close or “shock” combat, fighting with hand weapons like swords or spears, toe to toe with the enemy.
The battle lines would line up facing one another, and then close to clash together. The opposing forces usually had one of three goals:
•To break through the enemy line, causing it to collapse
•To outflank the enemy line and attack the enemy from two directions at once.
•To get units behind the enemy’s battle line, said to be in the enemy’s rear or “backfield,” and attack the enemy units from the rear.
The benefits of flanking and rear attacks are plain. If you only have to worry about the enemy in front of you, you can focus your full attention on that enemy. This is why battle lines are so strong everywhere but the flanks. If you have a friendly soldier to either side of you, your flanks are covered, and all you have to do is deal with the enemy straight ahead. If you have a shield, you only have to cover your front, and all your attacks will be in one direction. If you have an enemy on your front and your flank, you’re in trouble. Now, you have to fight in two directions at once. You move your shield to defend against a spear thrust coming from the enemy in front of you, and the enemy to your flank has an open shot at your ribs. You shift your shield to cover your ribs, and the enemy in front of you puts his sword through your face. Being attacked from the rear is a veritable death sentence, since you can’t defend at all, and turning to face the enemy to your rear necessarily exposes your rear to the enemy who was previously to your front. In this instance, the only hope you have is your armor.
So covering the flanks, and therefore the rear, of the battle line was critical. Many generals used terrain, anchoring the flanks of their battle lines on marsh, or mountains, or deep rivers. The idea was that the enemy couldn’t turn a flank, because he couldn’t pass the terrain to do it. But, assuming that terrain wasn’t available, ancient generals usually stationed troops on the flanks who had the double role of both protecting their battle line from envelopment, and also turning the enemy battle line’s flank if they could.
This job was most often performed by cavalry, whose speed made them ideally suited for the task. Let’s say you defeat your enemy’s flank guard and now have an opportunity to get into their backfield to attack their units from the rear. You want to be able to get there as quickly as possible, to put your enemy in the pinch where they are attacked from both front and rear before they can do the same to you. Mounted troops are ideal for this work. Because they are the fastest troops on the field, they can also take the lead in running down “routing” troops. Routing troops are running away with no effort to keep fighting, as opposed to “retreating,” which means you are leaving the battle in good order, fighting as you go.
Another troop type was commonly seen in ancient battles – light infantry, sometimes referred to as “skirmishers.” These troops usually fought in dispersed order. Think of a cloud of gnats or a school of minnows. This formation is very different from the shoulder-to-shoulder ordered ranks of the heavy infantry described above. Skirmishers were usually lightly armored, and in many cases had no armor at all. They were often armed with missile weapons, such as the javelin, the sling or the bow. Heavy infantry moved more slowly, both on account of their equipment and because of their need to keep in formation or else risk the flank and rear attacks I just described. More often than not, heavy infantry had no missile weapons of their own, which made them vulnerable to skirmishers, who could run up, shower them with missile fire, then run away before the heavy infantry could charge them. Not all light infantry were skirmishers, and not all heavy infantry lacked missile weapons (most notably, the Roman legionary), but the distinction between heavy and light infantry and their respective shock and missile delivery roles was the general rule on ancient battlefields.
Of course, skirmishers were vulnerable to cavalry, who could easily catch them, and often were armed with missiles themselves (usually javelins), but if the cavalry stopped to fight hand to hand with skirmishers, they in turn would be vulnerable to being charged by the heavy infantry.
Skirmishers usually deployed out in front of the battle line, and their main role was to “soften up” the enemy battle line with missile fire, causing wounds, deaths and damage to equipment that would impair the enemy’s ability to fight in the close combat to come when the battle lines clashed. When that clash appeared imminent, the skirmishers would “retire” either by rushing back through the ranks of the heavy infantry (who would open to admit them), or rushing around the flanks of their own battle line to get out of the way.
Unit cohesion and morale
Two more things to note here: “cohesion,” the ability for military formations to stay in formation even when they’re moving and fighting, is critical to this sort of combat. Since each soldier in a formation protects the flanks of the soldiers next to them, if the cohesion of a battle line fails, individual soldiers suddenly become susceptible to flank and rear attacks. Keeping cohesion was a constant challenge when you consider that most ancient formations consisted of thousands of people. Everything, from marching straight ahead, to backing up, to inclining or “wheeling” or something as simple as opening up enough to let the retiring skirmishers through risked the spread of disorder, creating gaps in the line as some soldiers marched more slowly than others, or stumbled, or bumped into the men around them. This disorder could lead to exposure to flank and rear attacks, and sow confusion in the ranks. And it was all complicated by the lack of advanced communications technology such as radio or loudspeakers, and with many of the soldiers wearing helmets that made it hard to hear. Relaying commands that might help control disorder was very difficult. Ancient battles were, at their heart, attempts to control chaos. The legion and the phalanx, like all military formations, were an effort to provide this control, ordering soldiers for mutual defense, to make the best use of their particular equipment, and to instill the heart and discipline necessary to keep it together in the midst of the nightmare of battle.
For both legions and phalanxes, constant drill was the best way to ensure that cohesion was maintained. This is still true in militaries today. In the chaos of a fight, where seconds become critical, this ability to act instantly can be the difference between life and death.
Confusion in the ranks lowered morale, which is the pivotal element in ancient battles. The vast majority of casualties in any ancient battle did not occur during the fighting, but during the rout, when one side’s nerve broke and they abandoned any semblance of cohesion for a full-scale flight, with every man for himself, trying to escape with his life.
Bringing the enemy to this panic point was the primary goal of most ancient generals. Many factors play into morale: training, unit pride and esprit de corps, quality of equipment, physical health, rest and food, the inspiration of leaders and the belief in a just cause. In tight formations and on battlefields where communication was spotty and difficult and with most of the soldiery deeply superstitious, panic was a constant risk. The sight of one unit fleeing might indicate a tiny setback in one limited portion of the battlefield, or it might mean the defeat of the entire army, and it was up to the individual soldier to judge, moment to moment, whether it was worth it to stay in the fight or to look to his own life. Every single battle examined in this book eventually ends when the level of panic overwhelms the discipline of one side, and they finally turn to rout, and the carnage of the pursuit begins.
Even today, the critical importance of standing firm in the face of the enemy is underscored by Article 85 of the Uniform Code of Military Justice, the system of law that governs military members in the United States. Anyone who “… quits his unit, organization, or place of duty with intent to avoid hazardous duty or to shirk important service” may be punished under the article.
The penalty, in time of war, is death.