About MSW

Forschungsmitarbeiter Mitch Williamson is a technical writer with an interest in military and naval affairs. He has published articles in Cross & Cockade International and Wartime magazines. He was research associate for the Bio-history Cross in the Sky, a book about Charles ‘Moth’ Eaton’s career, in collaboration with the flier’s son, Dr Charles S. Eaton. He also assisted in picture research for John Burton’s Fortnight of Infamy. Mitch is now publishing on the WWW various specialist websites combined with custom website design work. He enjoys working and supporting his local C3 Church. “Curate and Compile“

The Battle of San Jacinto – Santa Anna’s Folly

The Battle of San Jacinto-1895 painting by Henry Arthur McArdle (1836–1908)

The Mexican Province of Texas, 1836

In 1835 Santa Anna, one of the generals who had led the Mexican people in throwing out the Spanish, was elected president and almost immediately abolished the constitution, making himself a dictator. Like their neighbors to the north, many Mexicans felt strongly about their freedom and constitution. Within a year, the dictator Santa Anna Perez de Lebron reacted to the first resistance to his rule and his having abolished the constitution by leading an army into the formerly prosperous province of Zacatecas. It was an army that burnt, pillaged, and raped its way across the land until the province was both devastated and virtually unpopulated. Santa Anna then made sure that his statement “If you execute your enemies, it saves you the trouble of having to forgive them” was known to every person in Mexico. It was a stern warning, but also showed his total disregard for the “rights of man” and other freedoms lost when he abolished the constitution.

Now, if there was one part of all Mexico that was still willing to revolt against Santa Anna, it was Texas. It was far from the centers of the dictator’s power, and two-thirds of the thirty thousand citizens living in what was then the Mexican province of Texas were immigrants from the United States. The remainder were either established Mexican families with an independent spirit or men who had fled there when Santa Anna took over. The abolition of the constitution angered most Mexicans, and the “Texicans” more than most. Many of the men and officers who fought against Santa Anna, from the Alamo to San Jacinto, were of Mexican descent, and many risked lands that had been in their families for generations. By 1836, things had come to a head and a revolt started in Texas, with a few hundred ill-organized men easily driving out the local garrisons. So far this was all being done in the name of the abolished constitution. But revolution was revolution, and, having led a successful one against the French that freed all Mexico only a few years before, Santa Anna knew he could not allow another revolt to start, even in the distant and relatively poor province of Texas.

The population of Texas was only a tiny fraction of Mexico’s; the Mexican army itself was nearly as large as the entire population of the distant province. Santa Anna had beaten the French army and suppressed much larger revolutions, so it took him several mistakes in Texas to lose both the battle and a war. That he lost at all is more surprising, since Santa Anna was leading battle-tested veterans against men who had no more than a few months at best to train together, and were much more independent-minded and difficult to lead than good soldiers should be. So how did, as Texans so proudly point out, Texas win its independence rather than end up the wasteland that Zacatecas had become?

Santa Anna had been called the Napoleon of Mexico, and he quickly took the name to heart. He was confident, or, as we shall see, overconfident, in the face of any “rabble” in thinly populated Texas. Still, he decided to bring against Texas an army of six thousand of his best troops, most having taken part in devastating Zacatecas the year before. Public statements assured everyone in Mexico City that Texas would meet the same fate as Zacatecas, and that every former citizen from the United States would be killed or driven out of that province permanently. Like Napoleon, Santa Anna felt maneuver was a most important part of warfare. So he carefully directed each march and the routes of every column in his army. Unlike Napoleon, the Mexican dictator took little interest in supplying his army. Determined to put down the revolt before any effective opposition could organize, the dictator ordered his army to move north with forced marches. It being winter, the journey soon took its toll, and more resembled the retreat from Moscow than the start of a new campaign. By the time the army neared the Rio Grande, only about four thousand effectives remained. Two thousand men had fallen from exhaustion, had gotten sick, or had simply deserted during the hard march from the capital to the Rio Grande. These remaining troops were reinforced to slightly more than the six thousand-man army Santa Anna had started with by adding to them the survivors of the Texas garrisons. This meant that there was one Mexican soldier for every five men, women, and children in all of Texas. No one, not even those who wanted it to, such as the president of the United States, expected the Texican revolution to succeed.

The first opposition came on February 23 at the abandoned mission near San Antonio de Bexar, known as the Alamo. As with Zacatecas, Santa Anna quickly made it known that he would take no prisoners. The defenders fought with desperate courage, but by March 6 were unable to hold the large length of walls and were eventually overwhelmed. Those who did survive the assault may have been executed; evidence is mixed. But the final result was that no defender survived.

A few weeks later a mixed force of cavalry and horse artillery caught the largest single force of rebels under Colonel Fannin near Goliad. Trapped in the open, the Texans formed a defense position and drove off the first attacks by the horsemen. Then the horse artillery unlimbered and began punishing them with shot and grapeshot, packets of hundreds of musket balls fired from the cannon like a giant shotgun. Seeing his position was indefensible, Fannin negotiated a surrender. His men would lay down their arms in exchange for being able to return to their homes and the promise to never take up arms against Santa Anna again. These terms being accepted, the Texans surrendered. At this point, Santa Anna ordered that they all be executed. The officers who accepted the surrender protested and were sent away. On March 27, the Napoleon of Mexico forced the prisoners onto an open area and had his men open fire: 342 died, but 28 escaped to spread the tale.

Having destroyed both the only fortress occupied by the Texans and their largest single force, Santa Anna seems to have decided that the revolt was over. Sam Houston was desperately trying to organize what remained of the resistance, but this force of less than a thousand men (at its peak) was being constantly forced north away from the centers of population and their families. So Santa Anna split his force into a number of “flying columns,” which mostly meant they were just small enough to march fairly quickly and live off the land. These columns began to recreate in Texas the atrocities of Zacatecas. You could follow their movement by the smoke from the homes and towns they burnt.

Leading the largest column, about a thousand soldiers, Santa Anna pursued and eventually drove the rebel government completely out of Texas (onto a ship). He continued moving in the general direction of Sam Houston, more concerned with driving the former U. S. citizens out of Texas and burning every building he found than fighting a battle against an already defeated foe.

This overconfidence, and the general exhaustion from a long march and months of campaigning, led to a relaxation of procedures that the real Napoleon would have never tolerated. Pickets and scouts were used only occasionally, and orders were often sent by unescorted couriers.

Sam Houston’s scouts captured a courier riding to the dictator’s camp. The message told him two things. One was that the column Santa Anna led was much closer than he had thought, less than a day’s march away. The second was that in less than a week the Mexican column was to be strongly reinforced. With his own men more than restive, and some ready to mutiny due to inaction, Houston knew that it was finally time to act. He had already stopped running and was marching closer to Santa Anna. Seeing that the weeks of retreating were over, the Texican army’s spirits rose as they marched to meet the men who were burning their homes and towns. When they realized that the battle was imminent, they cheered.

Unknown to Houston, the Mexican reinforcements had arrived earlier than expected. Sam Houston had at most eight hundred men ready to fight, and the additional arrivals meant that Santa Anna had under his command over fifteen hundred experienced soldiers, including mounted lancers and several guns. This gave Santa Anna, already convinced he was merely completing a mop-up following his victories at the Alamo and Goliad, a false sense of confidence. His army was nearly twice as large as Houston’s and in a good defensible position. His men were professionals, and he had heard of the dissention Houston’s constant orders to retreat had engendered. The Texans would never dare to attack, and all he had to do was wait until desertions, already a Texican problem, and frustration eliminated the opposition for him. Even though he knew the Texans were close, the dictator’s confidence was such that he ordered his army to stand down for the afternoon, relaxing in camp rather than preparing for battle. He joined his officers sipping champagne under the shade of a large tree in the center of the camp and soon everyone but a few guards were enjoying their siesta.

When Houston formed his army for the attack, it numbered 793 men. All were ready for a long-awaited fight, but few had ever really been in a battle. The potential for disaster was great, but the chance to defeat and capture Santa Anna was too great an opportunity to pass up. This was probably Houston’s last and only chance for victory. The Texan commander understood that if he held his men from battle much longer they would certainly mutiny or simply desert. So the decision to attack was made, and soon the double line of Texans waited behind a ridge that hid them from the Mexican army’s camp. Upon Houston’s signal, they moved silently forward.

As the men moved toward the Mexican camp, everyone expected to be spotted and hoped they could gain the relative advantage of the top of the ridge before having to face the Mexican regulars. Amazingly, they approached the ridgeline and nothing happened. No one, especially Sam Houston, could believe their luck. When they finally came into sight of the camp, it was a bare two hundred yards away, and still no alarm was being given. Finally, as the entire double line of Texans came into sight, a few cannonballs were fired at their approaching line, sailing safely overhead but alerting the Mexican soldiers that something was happening. A few musket shots rang out from the camp and drums rolled as men struggled to wake up and form into units.

At this point, a small party of men that Houston had sent to check ahead joined the battle and yelled out that the Texans’ only line of retreat, Vince’s Bridge, was down. Every Texan now knew it was most certainly victory or death, in a most literal sense. Santa Anna never took prisoners, and there was no way to escape. Just as this cry went up, the army being a mere eighty yards from the edge of the confusion-filled Mexican camp, Colonel Sidney Sherman bellowed, “Remember the Alamo and Goliad.” It was both a warning and a rallying cry. “Remember the Alamo” was repeated and he then roared it out in Spanish as the advancing Texans opened fire from only a few yards from where Santa Anna’s officers were struggling to bring order to a now panicky army. The galling fire (most of the Texans were frontiersmen, so many shots hit home) broke the morale of the disorganized men. Resistance stopped except in isolated pockets, and most of the Mexican soldiers ran or tried to surrender. These were the same soldiers who had pillaged and raped their way across Texas for the previous three months, and the units that had taken the Alamo, leaving no one alive. Few surrenders were accepted and panic took over, Santa Anna’s officers and men fleeing for their lives.

The battle took less than twenty minutes. The revenge went on for over an hour as Texans pursued and killed the remnants of the column. Riflemen fired into milling mobs and their small cavalry unit was everywhere, slashing the routing soldiers and ensuring no one was able to reform and offer any resistance. It was not until some hours later that Sam Houston was once more in control of his army and some prisoners were taken. But he was worried. While they had broken the column, this was less than a quarter of Santa Anna’s total army, and the dictator had escaped. Thanks to Santa Anna’s overconfidence, Houston had a victory, but the war was far from won.

The next day, among a few straggling prisoners brought in to join those already under guard, was a dusty, dirty man with a torn shirt that, if anyone had bothered to look closely, was of far higher quality than those of the common soldiers. It was not until his own men began saluting and muttering his name that the Texans realized this prisoner was indeed Santa Anna Perez de Lebron himself. The stained and filthy shirt was, it was later realized, actually held together with diamond studs. Quickly brought before Sam Houston, who was suffering from an ankle shattered in the initial attack, the dictator began negotiating for his life and freedom. Many of the Texans, still desiring revenge for the Alamo and Goliad, wanted to hang Santa Anna right there. But Houston held him prisoner until a month later, when a treaty was signed and Texas became a nation. The deal was that Santa Anna could go free if he let go of Texas. He agreed and returned to Mexico City. After that no one called him the Napoleon of Mexico anymore.

Texas was a thinly inhabited frontier and the Mexican army was nearly as large as the population of the former province. The year before, a much more populous province had been easily turned into a wasteland. Furthermore, Santa Anna was leading battle-tested veterans against men who had no more than a few months, at best, to train and work together. So how did Texas win its independence rather than end up the wasteland the other rebellious province had become? There is one simple reason for this nation-forming defeat: Santa Anna’s overconfidence led to a dispersion of forces, and an overly harsh response that rallied opposition. His real failures were to not maintain local security around his camp or even bother to locate the enemy. It all came down to misplaced confidence and a gross underestimation of the Texicans.

John Tiller’s Mexican-American War


Viking berserkers

Individual Viking warriors known during the eighth through eleventh centuries for their ferocity.

A sixth-century bronze matrix depicting berserkers. Berserkers were associated with shape changing or the wearing of animal skins, such as the wolf costume shown here.

The berserkers were the semi-mythological Viking warriors who foamed at the mouth and fought with a strength and frenzy that made their foes tremble with fear. It is the berserker that has given us the popular image of the Viking warriors. Some, however, dispute that they even existed. Still, stories about berserkers litter the Icelandic sagas, where they are both venerated as the most powerful of all Viking warriors, and also despised as ugly, unreasonable psychopaths.

The word “berserker” may stem from “bare of shirt”, for going into battle without armour, or “bear-shirt” because of the animal skins that they wore. In the sagas, berserkers were also often associated with shape changing, and could take the form of a bear or wolf, or at the very least assume the qualities of these beasts before they went into combat. In Haraldskvæði, a skaldic poem about Harald Finehair, his berserkers are called “wolf-skins” and in battle they “bear bloody shields and red with blood are their spears when they come to fight.”

Berserkers are often recorded as being immune to injury or having “weapons glance off them”. It is unclear if this is to do with the animal skins they may have worn or a greater tolerance to pain achieved by entering into a frenzied state. This state is often described as a fit of madness, a fury known as “berserkergang”.

Berserkergang seized men with a chill that caused shivering, chattering of the teeth, a hotheadedness and a red swelling of the face. The berserkers then entered a great state of rage, where they howled like animals, bit the edges of their shields and attacked anything that moved. A berserkergang warrior was scared of nothing and would cut down anyone who stepped in his way – friend, family or foe.

An incident where a berserker fails to recognize his family is told in Egil’s Saga. In the story, Egil’s father Skallagrim is taken by a berserkergang – called a “shape-strength” – as he played a ball game with his son and another boy, Thord:

Thord and Egil were set against Skallagrim in the game; and he became weary before them, so that they had the best of it. But in the evening after sunset it began to go worse with Egil and his partner. Skallagrim then became so strong and he caught up Thord and dashed him down so violently that every bone was broken and he died. Then he seized Egil. Now there was a handmaid of Skallagrim’s named Thorgerdr Brak, who had nursed Egil when a child; she was a big woman, strong as a man, and of magic cunning. Said Brak: ‘Dost thou turn thy shape-strength, Skallagrim, against thy son?’ Whereat Skallagrim let Egil loose, but clutched at her. She broke away and took to her heels with Skallagrim after her. So went they to the utmost point of Digraness. Then she leapt out from the rock into the water. Skallagrim hurled after her a great stone, which struck her between the shoulders, and she never came up again.”

– Egil’s Saga, translated by W.C. Green

According to Hrólf’s Saga, the great strength and immunity from pain experienced by the berserker was immediately followed by a depleted state, where the warrior was “so powerless that they did not have half of their strength, and were as feeble as if they had just come out of bed from a sickness. This lasted for about a day.” One way of killing a berserker, according to the sagas, was to wait until his fury had left and then attack him in the enfeebled state that followed. In the sagas, berserkergang was a condition that could seize men without warning. At other times it came over a warrior just before combat. There are many theories about how warriors harnessed the power of a berserkergang. Alcohol, hallucinogenic mushrooms or self-induced hysteria have all been suggested. It has also been hypothesized that warriors underwent a ritual, which included a sacrifice to Odin and the drinking of wolf or bear blood.

It is known that Harald Finehair used berserkers as shock troops within his army, and other Viking kings employed them as personal bodyguards. It may be that these elite warriors were able to induce berserkergang at the required moment through ritualistic means. Reports of berserkers in battle variously describe them as fighting naked, or dyed in blue or covered in bear or wolf-fur – the latter was known as ulfheðnar, or “men clad in wolf skins”. However valuable berserkers were within the theatre of conflict, outside of it they were often described as a blight on society. The Viking warrior code demanded loyalty and fidelity to one’s leader and comrades; berserkers, on the other hand, were known to turn indiscriminately on their friends and loved ones.

Outside of their role on the battlefield, the sagas often record berserkers as brutish murderers and sex offenders who lived outside the rules of Viking society. They are described as looking like trolls, with “black eyes and eyebrows joined up in the middle”, and being “more like monsters than men.” It is perhaps no wonder that as Viking Scandinavia converted to Christianity, berserkergang became unacceptable. In 1015, Erik Bloodaxe banned berserkers and made the practice of berserkergang punishable by outlawry. Later, the duels known as holmgang were also prohibited. This prevented berserkers challenging a warrior to a duel so he could take his property and women. The Icelandic Egil’s Saga records such an incident:

Gyda went to Egil and said: ‘I will tell you, Egil, how things stand here with us. There is a man named Ljot the Pale. He is a Berserk and a duellist; he is hated. He came here and asked my daughter to wife; but we answered at once, refusing the match. Whereupon he challenged my son Fridgeir to wager of battle; and he has to go tomorrow to this combat on the island called Vors. Now I wished, Egil, that you should go to the combat with Fridgeir’ … On the morrow Fridgeir made ready to go, and many with him, Egil being one of the party. It was now good travelling weather.

They soon came to the island… Soon came thither Ljot and his party. Then he made him ready for the combat. He had shield and sword. Ljot was a man of vast size and strong. And as he came forward on the field to the ground of combat, a fit of Berserk fury seized him; he began to bellow hideously, and bit his shield… Ljot sprang swiftly to his feet. Egil bounded at him and dealt at once a blow at him. He pressed him so close that he was driven back, and the shield shifted from before him. Then smote Egil at Ljot, and the blow came on him above the knee, taking off his leg. Ljot then fell and soon expired. Then Egil went to where Fridgeir and his party stood. He was heartily thanked for this work.”

– Egil’s Saga, translated by W.C. Green

There are few recorded accounts of berserkers from the mid-eleventh century onwards. Like all pagan traditions such as spell casting and shape changing, berserkergang was considered a dangerous heathen practice that had no place in Christian society. Berserkers, alongside the god Odin they were dedicated to, disappeared from view.

Macchi C.202 Folgore (Lightning)

An early Macchi C.202 (no radio mast) of 81ª Squadriglia, 6° Gruppo, 1° Stormo CT; this photo appears to have been taken in Libya.

C.202 of Regia Aeronautica 168ª Squadriglia, 54° Stormo CT c.1943

Although a sufficient improvement over the Fiat CR.42 and G.50 to have warranted production as a stopgap fighter, the Saetta was barely a match for the Hurricane and no match for the Spitfire. A closer examination of the C.200’s airframe, however, revealed an essentially clean design with an excellent combination of stability and maneuverability. All it needed was a better engine.
With that in mind, Castoldi privately approached the Daimler-Benz A. G. and purchased a twelve-cylinder air-cooled DB 601Aa engine. He then commenced work on an aerodynamically refined adaptation of the C.200 airframe to accept the German engine, at the same time abandoning the C.201, another project to reengine the Saetta. The result of his efforts, which took to the air at Varese on August 10, 1940, restored the racy appearance of the Castoldi floatplanes to the basic C.200 design, as well as to its performance potential. So successful were its tests that the Ministerio dell’Aeronautica immediately ordered the new fighter into series production—not only at Macchi’s Varese factory but also at Breda’s plant at Sesto San Giovanni, near Milan. While more DB 601 Aas were ordered to power the first production batch, Alfa Romeo acquired a license to manufacture the engine as the R. A. 1000 R. C. 41-I Monsone (Monsoon), which was rated at 1,040 horsepower at 2,400 revolutions per minute. The Macchi C.202 Folgore (Lightning), as the new fighter was designated, had a maximum speed of 372 miles per hour at 18,370 feet, featured self-sealing fuel tanks, a molded armor-plate pilot’s seat, and an enclosed cockpit, although it lacked an armor-glass windscreen. Armament was initially the same as the C.200—two synchronized 12.7mm Breda-SAFAT machine guns—but ammunition capacity was increased from 370 to 400 rounds per gun. Later-production series Folgores added two 7.7mm Breda-SAFAT guns in the wings.
The first C.202s were delivered to the 4o Stormo C. T. at Gorizia in July 1941. After accustoming themselves with the new fighter’s characteristics, pilots of the wing’s 9o Gruppo, comprised of the 73a Squadriglia (Fotoricognitori) and 96a and 97a Squadriglie C. T., commenced operations against Malta from their base at Comiso on September 29, 1941. On the following afternoon, Italy’s new lightning bolt struck for the first time when five Hurricane fighter-bombers of No. 185 Squadron, escorted by six other Hurricanes, attacked Comiso. Three C.202s of the 97a Squadriglia scrambled up to intercept them, and in the running fight that followed, Tenente Iacopo Frigerio shot down Pilot Officer Donald W. Lintern, who was last seen bailing out near Gozo Island.
After returning to their base to refuel, five of the Hurricanes accompanied a Fairey Fulmar of the Kalafrana Rescue Flight in a search for Lintern. They never found him, but they did come under attack by the C.202s. Tenente Luigi Tessari and Sgt. Raffaello Novelli were jointly credited with downing an enemy fighter, which they reported to have fallen into the sea and blown up ten kilometers south of Cap Scaramia. Their victim was the Fulmar, but it ditched relatively intact, and its crew, Lt. D. E. C. Eyres and Sub-Lt. Bernard Furlong, were subsequently rescued by a Fairey Swordfish floatplane of their flight. One of the Hurricane pilots, Flt. Lt. Charles G. St. David Jeffries, claimed to have probably downed one of the unidentified enemy fighters, while Pilot Officer Peter J. B. Veitch and Flt. Sgt. A. W. Jolly each claimed to have damaged one; Tessari returned with numerous holes in his fuselage.
The 9o Gruppo carried the fight back to Malta on the morning of October 1, as Capt. Mario Pluda led seven C.202s to escort two C.200s on a reconnaissance mission. At 1150 hours, eight Hurricane Mark IIAs of No. 185 Squadron took off to intercept, but as they reached an altitude of 24,000 feet, thirty miles northeast of the embattled island, they were jumped by the Folgori. Capitano Carlo Ivaldi, Tenente Pietro Bonfatti, and Sergente Maggiore Enrico Dallari claimed two Hurricanes shot down and two probables in their first pass; but only one Hurricane was lost along with its pilot, Squadron Leader P. W. B. Mould—the same “Boy” Mould who, as a member of No. 1 Squadron, had scored the first confirmed Hurricane victory in France on October 30, 1939. Mould’s total account stood at eight, plus one shared, when he became one of the C.202’s earliest victims. The Italians did not get off scot-free, however. Sergeant Ernest G. Knight scored hits on Ivaldi’s main fuel tank, and he only just made it to Sicily before the last of his fuel drained away, force landing on the beach near Pozzallo.
The Folgore quickly demonstrated its inherent mastery over the Hurricane, and by the end of 1941, at least one of the 9o Gruppo’s pilots, Teresio Martinoli, had been credited with five out of an eventual personal total of twenty-two victories (one of them German while flying for the Allies in Italy’s Co-Belligerent Air Force), including Peter Veitch, whom he shot down and killed off Malta on October 4. The C.202’s numbers were too small to have a decisive impact over Malta in the late months of 1941, however. By the time it was available in significant quantities in 1942, Spitfire Mark Vs had arrived to engage the Italian fighters on roughly equal terms. Nevertheless, the C.202 gave a much-needed boost to the confidence of Italian fighter pilots and became the Regia Aeronautica’s fighter mainstay until Italy capitulated on September 8, 1943. A more potent variant with a license-produced version of the DB 605 engine and heavier armament, the C.205 Veltro (Greyhound), would continue to be a formidable fighter thereafter, in the hands of both Allied Co-Belligerent pilots and the diehard Fascisti of the Aeronautica Nazionale Repubblicana.

Variants and production
Like its predecessor C.200, the C.202 had relatively few modifications, with only 116 modifications during its career, most of them invisible, externally. The total series production ordered was 1,454: 900 to Breda, 150 to SAI Ambrosini, 403 to Aermacchi. The amount produced was actually 1,106 and not 1,220 as previous stated. Breda built 649 (Series XVI deleted, Series XII and XV partially completed caused the difference); Aermacchi made 390 examples, SAI only 67.
One of the differences between prototype and series production was the lack of radio antenna and the retractable tailwheel (these differences resulting in a slightly higher top speed); the difference in speed was not so great and so, the series version had the fixed tailwheel and the radio antenna. The support for the engine, originally steel, was replaced with a lighter aluminium structure.

Starting with the Serie VII, the fighter had a new wing with a provision for two 7.7 mm (.303 in) Breda-SAFAT machine guns and an armored windscreen (previously, only the armored seat and the self-sealing tanks were provided). Serie IX’s weight was 2,515/3,069 kg with the 7.7 machine guns seldom installed.

Dust filters for operations in North Africa (AS – Africa Settentrionale, North Africa); they little affected the speed and so, almost all Folgores had them and thus were in C.202AS standard; finally, starting with Serie XI there was a provision for two 50, 100 or 160 kg bombs, small bombs clusters (10, 15, 20 kg) or 100 l drop tanks. These underwing pylons were rarely utilized, as Folgores were needed in the interceptor roles.

Underwing hardpoints for bombs or drop tanks (CB – Caccia Bombardiere, Fighter-Bomber)

probably meaning Esperimento Cannoni, it was another link between Veltro and Folgore. One aircraft (Serie III, s/n MM 91974) was fitted with a pair of gondola-mounted 20 mm cannon with 200 rounds each (it flew on 12 May 1943); later it was turned into a C.205V. Another four examples were so equipped, but, despite the good results in the trials (aimed to boost the Folgore’s firepower), there was no further production, because the cannons penalized the aircraft’s performance. There was, in the Folgore, no room to mount them inside the wings or the nose, so the MC.205V/Ns was developed. Nevertheless, the XII series could have introduced a new wing with MG 151 provisions. This is not well documented, as this series was produced by Breda after the Armistice, and was interrupted with the devastating USAAF bombings, together with many other aircraft; among them, also Macchi 205 production and the 206 prototype (30 April 1944; in five days, the USAAF destroyed both Fiat and Macchi facilities, eliminating all of Italy’s fighter production).

Equipped with cameras for photo-reconnaissance missions (R – Ricognizione, Reconnaissance), very few produced, later the recce role was covered by Veltros.

Prototype with a revised radiator, under the nose, similar to the P-40 (s/n. MM 7768)

C.202 AR.4
at least one was modified as “drone director” (coupled with S.79s), and it was planned to use Folgores also as ‘Mistel’, with an AR.4 “radiobomba” (a sort of remote-control kamikaze bomber).
C.202 with DB 605 and other engines
Macchi MC.202 with DB 605 were initially known as MC.202 bis; later as the C.205 Veltro. Macchi C.200, C.202 and C.205 shared many common components. The MC.200A/2 was a MC.200 with Folgore wings (MM.8238). After the Armistice, Aeronautica Sannita or the Co-Belligerent Italian AF began MC.205 modifying C.202s with DB 605s. These aircraft were known also as Folgeltro. Around two dozen were made. Another Folgore was modified with DB 601E-1 (1,350 PS) in summer 1944, but this hybrid with Bf 109F technology crashed on 21 January 1946. The MC.204 was a version with a L.121 Asso (1,000 hp); proposed early in the war (28 September 1940), but all the effort continued only with DB 601 engines. Early Folgores had original DB 601s, while from the Serie VII, RC.41s were available.
After the war, 31 C.202 airframes were fitted with license-built Daimler-Benz DB 605 engines and sold to Egypt as C.205 Veltros, with another 11 ‘real’ MC.205s (with MG 151 cannons in the wings).



2S4 Tyulpan [SM-240(2S4)]

The Soviet forces used the 240mm 2S4 self-propelled Tyulpan [tulip] mortar for the first time in combat in Afghanistan. It is a particularly accurate weapon when it fires the laser-guided Smel’chak [daredevil] round.

Introduced in 1970, the 2S4 mounts a 240mm breech-loading mortar on a tracked vehicle based on the GMZ minelayer chassis. The mortar, complete with baseplate, lies along the length of the vehicle when in transit. To deploy, the mortar is rotated around a hinge at the rear of the vehicle, so that it comes to rest facing away from the vehicle to the rear, with the baseplate on the ground. Elevation is from +45° to +80°, with 8° of traverse.

Four men are carried in the vehicle, though a total of nine are required to load and fire the mortar. Twelve mortar bombs are carried in the vehicle, and a small hand-operated crane is fitted to the rear to facilitate loading. The mortar has a rate of fire of around one per minute, and can fire HE, chemical, and nuclear rounds. The 240mm mortar was the first artillery piece to be equipped with nuclear ammunition.

The chassis for this was a modified version of that used in the SA-4 ‘Ganef’ surface-to-air missile system. The vehicle hull has welded steel armour, with the driver at the front left and the engine to his right. The hull of the 2S4 gave the crew protection from small arms fire and shell splinters. To the rear of the driver is the commander, who is provided with a raised cupola, on which is mounted a 7.62mm PKT machine gun. The vehicle provides NBC protection for the crew while they are inside, though they have to exit the vehicle to operate the mortar. The 240mm smoothbore mortar was transported complete with its base plate on top of the hull in a horizontal position. The mortar could be hydraulically lifted by remote control to the rear of the vehicle so that in its firing position it faced rearward. Some forty mortar bombs were carried in two drum magazines which are off-loaded via a hatch in the roof. The mortar could fire conventional high explosive fragmentation bombs or an HE FRAG rocket-assisted projectile, which had a range of 18,000m. Only about 400 2S4s were built and some were supplied to the former Czechoslovakia, Iraq and Lebanon.

Specifications: 2S4 Tyulpan

Crew: 4 + 5 in ammunition carrier

Combat weight: 30 tonnes

Length: 8.5m

Width: 3.2m

Height: 3.2m

Ground clearance: 0.46m

Maximum road speed: 50km/h

Maximum road range: 500km

Gradient: 65%

Vertical obstacle: 1.1m


1x 240mm mortar (12 rounds)

1x 7.62mm PKT MG

Armour: 15-20mm

Phönix D I

Whereas Austria-Hungary had developed one of the world’s first successful reconnaissance aircraft-the Etrich Taube-it lacked the financial resources and industrial infrastructure to see substantial increases in aircraft production until the last 2 years of the war. One reason for its problems was that its overreliance upon Lohnerwerke GmbH before the war had left Austria-Hungary without a strong domestic industry, forcing it to allow German firms (Albatros, Aviatik, and Deutsche Flugzeug Werke) to establish subsidiary divisions within the country, something it had been reluctant to do before the war. In addition, Austria-Hungary allowed the somewhat unscrupulous financier Camillo Castiglioni to obtain a virtual monopoly over the aircraft industry when he purchased Igo Etrich’s Brandenburg company (later known as Hansa-Brandenburg) and gained controlling interest in Phönix Flugzeugwerke A. G. and the Ungarische Flugzeug Werke AG (UFAG). Compared with their German counterparts, Austro-Hungarian firms were far less efficient, with approximately twice as many workers being required to build an airplane in 1918. As a result, Austria-Hungary had no choice but to import aircraft from Germany to meet its wartime needs. Nevertheless, the Austro-Hungarian aircraft industry did produce one of the war’s better fighters in the Phönix D. I, but it unfortunately came too late.

The Phönix D. I biplane was intended as a replacement for the Hansa-Brandenburg D. I. Although it was produced in smaller numbers (120 D. I, 45 D. II, and 48 D. IIa fighters) than the Aviatik D. I and did not begin entering service until October 1917, the Phönix D-series fighters are generally considered the best fighters designed and produced in Austria-Hungary.

Previously, the Phonix Flugzeug-Werke firm had been contracted to produce the Hansa-Brandenburg D I fighter under license. When it became apparent by 1917 that the infamous Star-strutter could not be developed further, the company embarked on a new aircraft. The design eventually incorporated a fuselage similar to the D I and also sported wings of unequal span that ended in rounded wingtips and swept-back leading edges. It was also considerably more powerful than the earlier machine, being propelled by a 200- horsepower Hiero engine. One interesting innovation was locating the armament within the engine cowling. This enhanced streamlining but placed the guns beyond the pilot’s reach if they jammed. The resulting craft was faster in level flight but somewhat unstable and slow-climbing. The Austrian government, hardpressed on all fronts, nonetheless ordered the new craft into immediate production. In the spring of 1918 it entered service as the Phonix D I and was deployed with army and navy units.

The new machine was far from perfect, but it represented a dramatic improvement over the earlier Star-strutter. In capable hands the D I proved more than a match for the Italian Hanriots and SPADs. The D. II series was lightened by approximately 100 lbs and featured a more aerodynamic wing design, resulting in improved maneuverability. The D. IIa was powered by a 230 hp Hiero inline motor, which increased maximum speed to 115 mph and slightly improved its rate of climb. All versions featured twin-synchronized Schwarzlose machine guns, but they were placed within the engine cowling, which denied the pilot access in the event of a jam. Nevertheless, it proved to be a match for Allied fighters.

The new D II model had introduced balanced elevators and other refinements, but the craft was judged too stable for violent acrobatics. On this basis, a few machines were fitted with cameras to pioneer single-seat high-speed reconnaissance work.

An improved model, the D. III, was entering production just as the war ended, but none saw service. Sweden purchased twenty-one Phönix D. III fighters after the war and later produced an additional seventeen after obtaining the license rights. It remained in service with the Swedish Army Air Force until 1933.

Phonix then concocted the D III model shortly before hostilities concluded. It featured a more powerful engine and ailerons on all four wings, which greatly improved all-around maneuverability. The war ended before the D III could be deployed, but 158 examples of all versions were delivered.

After the war, Sweden expressed interest in obtaining several copies of the D III along with manufacturing rights. Seventeen were ultimately constructed, and they rendered useful service until 1933.

Type: Fighter

Dimensions: wingspan, 32 feet, 2 inches; length, 21 feet, 9 inches; height, 9 feet, 5 inches

Weights: empty, 1,510 pounds; gross, 2,097 pounds

Power plant: 1 x 230-horsepower Hiero liquid-cooled engine

Performance: maximum speed, 117 miles per hour; ceiling, 22,310 feet; range, 217 miles

Armament: 2 x 7.92mm machine guns

Service dates: 1918-1933

Hansa-Brandenburg D. I

The first purely Austro-Hungarian fighter to enter production was the Hansa-Brandenburg D. I biplane, which was designed by one of the German firm’s top engineers, Ernst Heinkel. Although approximately fifty were produced at the German plant, they were used exclusively by the Luftfahrtruppen (LFT). An additional seventy were produced by Phönix1 in late 1916 and began entering service in early 1917. The Hansa-Brandenburg D. I was a rather compact fighter with a wingspan of 27 ft 10.5 in., a length of 20 ft 8 in., and a loaded weight of 2,112 lbs and its 185 hp Austro-Daimler inline engine was capable of producing up to 115 mph. Nevertheless, pilots complained about its unstable flight characteristics and the poor forward visibility caused by its raised engine cowling, which made landing hazardous.

Its most unique characteristic was the use of a star-strutter system, suggested by Austrian engineering professor Richard Knoller, in which four struts attached to the top wing and four struts attached to the bottom wing converged together in a central housing approximately midway in the gap between the wings, giving it the appearance of two pyramids joined together at the points. Although this provided a strong support system for the wings, the added weight and drag may have contributed to the aircraft’s unwieldiness. The Ufag and Phonix companies tried improving the craft with modified tail configurations, with little success. Another problem of the Hansa-Brandenburg D. I was that (with the exception of some of the last produced by Phönix) it lacked a synchronized machine gun, relying instead upon a Schwarzlose mounted to the top wing-a firing system that was outmoded by the time it entered service in late 1916 and early 1917.

Although approximately fifty were produced at the German plant, they were used exclusively by the Luftfahrtruppen (LFT). An additional seventy were produced by Phönix in late 1916 and began entering service in early 1917.

As a result, only a few experienced pilots, such as Austro-Hungarian ace Godwin Brumowski, enjoyed success in the Hansa-Brandenburg D. I. Most pilots derisively referred to it as a flying coffin, which was an indictment against its lack of firepower as well as its tendency to enter deadly spins.

Type: Fighter

Dimensions: wingspan, 27 feet, 10 inches; length, 21 feet, 10 inches; height, 9 feet, two inches

Weights: empty, 1,482 pounds; gross, 2,073 pounds

Power plant: 1 x 150-horsepower Daimler liquid-cooled engine

Performance: maximum speed, 111 miles per hour; ceiling, 16,404 feet; range, 260 miles

Armament: 1 x 7.92mm machine gun

Service dates: 1916-1917



Syracuse Hoplites

Beneath the top tier of the diadochi–the senior Macedonian military commanders who had carved up the great empire between them–was a jostling group of minor princes, junior officers and other adventurers, many with the most tenuous connections to Alexander. Self-conscious about their peripheral position on the fringes of this gilded world, some ardently desired to be included in the dazzling club of A-list Hellenistic monarchs. Such a figure was Agathocles, a dashing cavalry commander with a shady past that included spells in exile and as a mercenary captain, who had risen to autocratic power in Syracuse in the 320s through popular demagogy and military thuggery.

The conscious connection that had been made by Alexander between his great victories in the East and the earlier Persian invasion of Greece (at first he mooted his campaigns in Asia as a revenge mission) also breathed new life into the perennial conflict between Carthage and Syracuse. Once more the totally erroneous but seductive idea that the Sicilian wars were a western extension of the age-old struggle between the civilization of Greece and the dark forces of the barbarian East would have renewed capital. Throughout a long and eventful career, Agathocles consistently chose to present himself as the western heir to Alexander. His coinage, like that of other post-Alexander Greek leaders, self-consciously reproduced the motifs favoured by the Great King of Macedon and self-styled Lord of Asia.

However, Agathocles’ talent stretched to more than an ability to present himself as the heir to Alexander in the West. Carthage’s long sojourn on Sicily meant that many Sicilian Greeks had a very good knowledge of Carthaginian military institutions. Indeed, one of Agathocles’ most potent weapons was his understanding of Carthage and his awareness of the tensions that existed between the city and its army in Sicily. Carthage’s use of mercenaries to fight its wars engendered a feeling of suspicion towards its generals, and the ruling elite in particular felt threatened by the perceived unconstitutional ambitions of the men who were sent to command the Carthaginian armies. During the fourth century BC it appears that Carthage’s generals, particularly in Sicily, had acquired a wide range of powers that allowed them to operate with a certain amount of autonomy while on campaign, including the authority to negotiate for peace and to form alliances (although it is likely that these agreements then needed to be formally ratified by the Council of Elders, who also approved the resupply of armies). Indeed, such was their mandate for independent action that the fourth-century-BC Athenian politician Isocrates was moved to comment that the Carthaginians were ‘ruled by an oligarchy at home, by a king in the field’

Faced with this desperate situation, Agathocles would decide upon a course of action so bold and indeed reckless that he caught the Carthaginians completely by surprise. He would take the war to the Carthaginians where they least expected it: in the Punic heartlands of Africa. Once more Agathocles showed a sound understanding of Carthage and its people. He knew that most Carthaginians had no experience of war. Their armies were made up largely of mercenaries, and as yet they had never been forced to fight any major conflicts in their North African homeland. By launching a surprise attack there, he would be able quickly to acquire supplies and booty, and thus pay his troops from land that had, unlike Sicily, been spared the ravages of war. He was also hopeful that the Libyans, for so long discontented by the treatment that they had received from the Carthaginians, would rise up and join with him. Faced with such a crisis at home, he reasoned, Hamilcar and his forces would quickly be compelled to evacuate Sicily.

Agathocles quickly recruited Syracusan levies, mercenaries and even slaves to serve in his army. Money for the expedition was acquired by murdering his surviving aristocratic opponents and confiscating their property, pillaging orphans’ inheritances, appropriation of temple offerings and women’s jewellery, and compulsory loans. After assembling a fleet of 60 ships and a very modest force of 13,500 men, Agathocles managed to slip through the Carthaginian blockade. Carefully disguising their route to ensure that the Carthaginians remained oblivious to the real objectives of the mission, in 310 the Syracusan flotilla landed on the Cap Bon peninsula a mere 110 kilometres from Carthage, after six days at sea. Knowing that he was finished if this venture failed, Agathocles set fire to the ships so that any thought of escape was discounted. He dedicated them to the goddesses Demeter and Core–surely as a way of propagandizing this campaign as Sicilian Greek revenge for previous outrages committed by the Carthaginians on their island. After a final exhortation to his troops, they moved against and captured with ease the towns of Megalopolis and Tunes (Tunis).

Buoyed by the ease of these successes, Agathocles’ army then pitched camp not far from Carthage, whose citizens started to panic because they wrongly assumed that Agathocles’ presence in Africa meant that the Carthaginian forces in Sicily must have been totally destroyed. Male citizens were now drafted into the army under the joint command of two political rivals, Bomilcar and Hanno. The campaign opened disastrously for the Carthaginians, with a heavy defeat in which their most able commander, Hanno, was killed. Bomilcar, seeing this as an opportunity to seize autocratic power for himself, retreated to Carthage with his troops.

Diodorus recounted how, with their city under siege and their best general far across the sea in Sicily, the Carthaginians sent a large sum of money and expensive offerings to the temple of Melqart at Tyre, in the belief that their present misfortunes were due to the god being disgusted with the miserly nature of their recent tithes. Now the terrified Carthaginians were also supposed to have tried to appease their vengeful gods by offering up 200 high-born children for sacrifice. Later another 300 citizens, who were thought to have particularly offended the gods, were reported to have voluntarily sacrificed themselves in the fire. In perhaps a further sign of the Carthaginians’ fears of having provoked divine anger, an inscription dated to around this period refers to the construction of new temples to the goddesses Tanit and Astarte, replete with decorations, gold statuary and furniture. Tellingly, the inscription also refers to the construction of fortification walls around the sanctuary, and probably also around the hill where it was sited.

Soon disastrous news arrived in Carthage from Sicily. Its general Hamilcar had been captured and killed while attacking Syracuse, with the result that the Carthaginian army in Sicily had fragmented into several warring factions. Agathocles was said to have carefully displayed Hamilcar’s head, which had been sent over from Sicily, within sight of the already demoralized Carthaginians.

On the brink of a great victory, it is perhaps hardly surprising that Agathocles’ Alexander complex became ever stronger. Certainly his coins from the period clearly aped those of the Macedonian king, especially in their use of the thunderbolt as a motif. His troops, however, mutinied, upset by their general’s pretensions and increasingly high-handed behaviour and, more importantly, by his failure to pay them. The Carthaginians now quickly seized on Agathocles’ difficulties and offered the leaders of the mutiny enhanced pay and a bonus if they brought the Sicilian Greek army over to them. Agathocles, whose troops still held him in great esteem, only just managed to save the situation by theatrically threatening to commit suicide.

After once more bolstering his position by defeating a Carthaginian force, Agathocles, distrusting the local Libyans and Numidians, cast around for an additional ally with whom to deliver what he believed would be the final victory. He successfully enticed Ophellas, the ruler of the Greek city of Cyrene and a man with a real Alexandrian pedigree (he had served in the army of the Macedonian king), to join the campaign with the promise of all the Carthaginian territory in North Africa if they were successful. However, true to form, Agathocles quickly murdered his new ally and incorporated his large and wellequipped army into his own forces. Yet the greatest danger to Carthage would come from those whom it had entrusted with its own defence.

The Carthaginian general Bomilcar, who had long held autocratic ambitions, at last judged the time had come to act. First he sent out a force made up of many of Carthage’s most distinguished citizens to fight against the Numidian tribes, thereby removing from the city many of those who might oppose his coup. He then mustered his troops, made up of citizens and mercenaries, in an area of Carthage called the New City. Diodorus left a vivid account of what occurred next:

Dividing his troops into five groups, he sounded the attack, massacring those who opposed him in the streets. Since an extraordinary disturbance broke out everywhere in the city, the Carthaginians at first thought that the enemy had broken in, and that the city had been betrayed. When however the true situation became known, the young men gathered together, formed groups, and moved against the tyrant. However, Bomilcar, slaughtering those in the streets, moved quickly into the marketplace. Discovering many unarmed citizens there, he killed them. The Carthaginians, however, took over the tall buildings around the marketplace, and hurled down missiles which struck the rebels. Hard-pressed, the plotters closed ranks and forced their way through the narrow streets of the New City, all the time being struck by objects thrown from the houses that they passed by. Once they had occupied higher ground, the Carthaginians, who had now mustered all the citizens, rallied their forces against the rebels. At last, sending older citizens as envoys, and offering an amnesty, terms for surrender were agreed. Against the rebels they demanded no restitution, on account of the dangers presently facing the city, but Bomilcar himself was cruelly tortured and then put to death, with no attention being paid to oaths that had been given. Thus, in this way, the Carthaginians, having faced the gravest danger, saved the constitution of their forefathers.

Diodorus, whose sources were ever hostile to Carthage, could not resist the temptation of highlighting the treachery of the Carthaginians at the end of this account, although on this occasion the victim was a traitor. There is, however, no reason to dispute his account of the attempted coup.

Although he now found himself in control of a huge swathe of Carthaginian territory in North Africa, Agathocles now received alarming news of renewed conflict in Sicily, where several vassal cities had decided to take advantage of the lengthy absence of the Syracusan army to declare their independence. Agathocles was forced to return to try to retrieve the situation, leaving his son Archagathus, who had inherited little of his father’s political or military talents, in command of his army.

The Carthaginians, clearly re-energized by the defeat of the coup and the absence of their talismanic opponent, intelligently refocused their military strategy away from set-piece battles, in which they had fared so badly. They now split their forces into three combat groups with explicit areas of operation: the coast, the interior and the deep interior. Faced with this fresh challenge, Archagathus made the catastrophic decision to match this move by dividing his own forces in the same way. Soon the two battalions that had been sent into the interior to hunt down their Carthaginian foes were ambushed and cut down.

Deserted by his fickle Libyan allies, Archagathus rallied the remainder of his forces at Tunes, and sent messages to his father requesting urgent help. Although Agathocles did return, he found the situation irretrievable. A further defeat at the hands of the Carthaginians was followed by a terrible conflagration, which Diodorus–surely fancifully –states was started by the Carthaginians incinerating the fairest of their Greek captives as sacrificial victims to their gods. Many Sicilian Greek troops were killed, which led the Syracusan general to decide to leave Africa. Knowing that a large-scale evacuation would quickly come to the attention of the Carthaginians and lead to an attack, after one failed attempt to flee, Agathocles eventually managed to slip away, leaving his army and at least two of his own sons behind. This last detail, probably taken from Timaeus, whose loathing of Agathocles made him want to portray him in as poor a light as possible, may well have been false. A Roman account, clearly using other sources, related that Agathocles tried to take Archagathus with him, but they became separated during the night and the latter was captured and brought back to the Syracusan camp.

After killing their erstwhile general’s progeny, Agathocles’ deserted army swiftly negotiated surrender with the Carthaginians. The latter offered them generous terms: all the army received cash donatives, and those who wished to be were co-opted into the Carthaginian army; the remainder were transported to Sicily and allowed to settle at the Punic city of Solus. Those who, out of misguided loyalty to their old leader, refused to cooperate were set to work to restore the lands which as soldiers they had laid waste. The most recalcitrant were crucified.

After settling with his troops, the Carthaginians then concluded a peace with Agathocles himself, which superficially offered surprisingly generous terms. Carthage agreed to pay Agathocles a large amount of gold and grain, in exchange for which he would recognize Carthage’s rights over all the territory that it had previously controlled in Sicily.

Sicilian Wars (409-307 BC)