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“

Wickersham Land Torpedo (USA 1918)

The foundations then were laid for remote-controlled vehicles and weapons just as the First World War began. World War I proved to be an odd, tragic mix of outmoded generalship combined with deadly new technologies. From the machine gun and radio to the airplane and tank, transformational weapons were introduced in the war, but the generals could not figure out just how to use them. Instead, they clung to nineteenth-century strategies and tactics and the conflict was characterized by brave but senseless charges back and forth across a no-man’s-land of machine guns and trenches.

With war becoming less heroic and more deadly, unmanned weapons began to gain some appeal. On land, there was the “electric dog,” a three-wheeled cart (really just a converted tricycle) designed to carry supplies up to the trenches. A precursor to laser control, it followed the lights of a lantern. More deadly was the “land torpedo,” a remotely controlled armored tractor, loaded up with one thousand pounds of explosives, designed to drive up to enemy trenches and explode. It was patented in 1917 (appearing in Popular Science magazine) and a prototype was built by Caterpillar Tractors just before the war ended.

Suicide bombing, supply carrier

Operated by wire

Developer – Elmer E. Wickersham

Manufacturer – C. L. Best Tractor Company

Loading capacity – 50kg

Article translated from Russian [topwar.ru]

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Keren (1941) Part I

‘Am concerned at check developing at Keren. Abyssinia might be left, but had hopes Eritrea would be cleaned up’ – read the telegram to Cairo of a worried Winston Churchill on 20 February 1941. The mountainous escarpment of Keren formed a natural fortress barrier shielding the coastal province of Eritrea from the interior of Africa. Italy had annexed Eritrea in 1890 and from there Mussolini’s armies had overrun Ethiopia (Abyssinia) in 1935-6. Now, five years later, they had made Keren the bastion of II Duce’s East African Empire against British invasion from the Sudan. Keren was to be a soldier’s battle in the grimmest imaginable conditions and terrain and here as nowhere else in the Second World War Italian soldiers of all types were to belie the belief that they were a pushover in battle.

As early as August 1939, General Sir Archibald Wavell, British Commander-in-Chief in the Middle East, concluded that there were four things he must do in the event of Italy going to war alongside Germany. These were to secure the Suez Canal base by acting boldly in the Western Desert; get control of the Eastern Mediterranean; clear the Red Sea; then develop operations in south-east Europe. After Mussolini’s entry into the Second World War in June 1940 Wavell wrestled to achieve these objectives. What he had not foreseen was that he would be required to do all four simultaneously with inadequate resources. Yet in spite of some nasty shocks he managed the first of these tasks and was wholly, startlingly, successful in the third. It is of this campaign, the clearing of East Africa and the Red Sea, that Keren formed a part.

Wavell’s strategic dilemma is admirably depicted and the one bright spot on an otherwise dark canvas is suitably illuminated by his cable to Winston Churchill in the last week of March 1941, after Keren had been captured. It was in reply to a message from the Prime Minister expressing alarm at Rommel’s advance to El Agheila, and it helps to set the battle in its proper context:

I have to admit taking considerable risks in Cyrenaica after capture of Benghazi in order to provide maximum support for Greece . . . Result is I am weak in Cyrenaica at present and no reinforcements of armoured troops, which are chief requirement, are at present available . . . Have just come back from Keren. Capture was very fine achievement by Indian divisions. Platt will push on towards Asmara as quickly as he can and I have authorised Cunningham to continue towards Addis Ababa from Harrar, which surrendered yesterday.

Wavell had four campaigns on his hands — Cyrenaica, Greece, Eritrea and Ethiopia. It was essential to get the East African battles over and done with. Ethiopia had to be dealt with quickly in order to send the much-needed troops back to the Western Desert where the dangers were so much greater – point which Rommel was shortly to rub home. But before this could be done, before troops and stores could be sent via the Red Sea port of Massawa to Egypt and so on to Libya and Greece, the Asmara-Addis Ababa road had to be captured. And in the way stood the fortress of Keren.

On 19 January 1941, Lieutenant-General William Platt advanced from the Sudan into Eritrea, while a few days later Lieutenant- General Sir Alan Cunningham set out on his march from Kenya with African and South African troops. Platt quickly reached Keren but the battle for it, the most severe of the whole East African campaign, lasted nearly two months. After its capture Platt soon took Asmara and Massawa, thus opening the vital route to the north. Cunningham’s successes were equally astonishing in speed and distance. By 25 February he had taken Mogadishu together with a huge petrol dump, and a month later, having advanced 1,000 miles, reached Harrar. By 5 April he had captured Addis Ababa and then the two forces, Platt from the north, Cunningham from the south, converged on Amba Alagi.

It was here that the Duke of Aosta, Italian Viceroy of Ethiopia, had concentrated what was left of his armies. By 16 May all was over. The extent and totality of the victory were summed up by Wavell in his despatch: The conquest of Italian East Africa had been accomplished in four months … in this period a force of 220,000 men had been practically destroyed with the whole of its equipment, and an area of nearly a million square miles had been occupied. It was that rare thing – a complete victory, a battle of annihilation since none of the enemy escaped. The fighting was unlike any other in the war. Great mountain barriers had been stormed. In Ethiopia the operations, among which Orde Wingate’s Gideon force ranks high, had been largely guerrilla, and had succeeded in tying down large numbers of Italian troops which were thus unable to concentrate against the advancing British columns. Yet these columns had been small and this was their strength, since supply problems, although formidable, had been surmountable. Mobility had been everything, while for the Italians the very size of the huge Empire they tried to protect had paralyzed them. How did the situation appear to the Italian Viceroy?

Despite the Italians’ early and relatively insignificant successes of July 1940 when they captured frontier posts in Kenya and Sudan and invaded British Somaliland, Aosta’s strategy was essentially defensive. By the beginning of December 1940 he was already expecting British offensives from the Sudan against Eritrea, particularly from Kassala towards Keren, and from Kenya against Italian Somaliland and Ethiopia. Because of fuel and vehicle shortages it was difficult to ensure that his centrally held reserves would be sufficiently agile to reinforce a threatened area rapidly. He therefore decided to send some of these reserves forward, especially in the north towards Eritrea where he rightly thought that the first blow would fall.

In Eritrea itself he ordered the local commanders to organize areas of resistance which were to be firmly held while mobile reserves, mainly colonial brigades, would be prepared to operate between these areas and attack an advancing enemy’s flanks. Eritrea contained three colonial divisions and three colonial brigades plus garrison troops. These native troops, Askaris , would be peculiarly susceptible to reverses and their loyalty would be unlikely to survive serious setbacks. In the north, where Generale di Corpo d’Armante Luigi Frusci commanded, the Viceroy foresaw grave difficulties in countering the British mechanized forces which would advance across flat country near the Sudan-Eritrea frontier, and on 11 January 1941 he therefore sought Mussolini’s agreement to the evacuation of Kassala, Tessenei and Gallabat-Metemma. II Duce agreed. On the other hand, Aosta decreed that there would be no withdrawal from Agordat and Barentu, both south-west of Keren, and that Keren itself would be strengthened by a regiment of the elite Savoia Grenadier Division. In this way they would help `to close the gap absolutely.’ Such was the situation shortly before Platt began his advance. He had two very famous Indian Divisions under his command – the 4th (which Wavell had sent from Libya in January thereby taking the sort of risk he pointed out in his telegram to Churchill) and the 5th stationed in the Sudan since September 1940. These divisions were made up largely of Indian troops, ideally suited to the mountain warfare which they were about to wage, but there were British battalions and other units too. Platt had also formed the 1,000-strong Gazelle Force partly from units in 5th Indian Division, notably the renowned Indian cavalry regiment, Skinner’s Horse, and from the Sudan Defence Force. The group included machine-gun, artillery and supporting units and was commanded by the dashing Colonel Frank W. Messervy. While Platt was still on the defensive, Gazelle Force had been used to harass and ambush Italian troops in and near Kassala. So successful were they that the Italians withdrew from Kassala by mid-January.

General Platt’s task was clear. He must advance from Kassala into Eritrea and take Massawa, a distance as the crow flies of about 230 miles. There were only two ways of getting there and both routes led through Agordat to Keren. The northern route, a poor and narrow dry-weather road, was via Sabderat and Keru; the southern one was a better road but less direct and went through Tessenei and Barentu to Agordat. A well-surfaced road ran from Agordat to Keren and then on to Asmara and Massawa. The whole country was in one sense ideal for war. Except for the few towns, roads, railways and bridges, there was, as in the desert, little made by man to be destroyed. Yet curiously enough the place was alive with game. For the soldiers themselves it was less hospitable – mountainous, arid and rough. `The plains and valleys’, wrote Lieutenant-General Sir Geoffrey Evans, `were a mixture of jungle or open spaces dotted with outcrops of rock, stunted trees, palms near water and scrub, the mountains, strewn with boulders of immense size, spear grass and thorn bushes, were extremely arduous to climb in the heat, particularly when the troops were loaded with a full pack, ammunition and often an extra supply of water since there was none on the slopes.’

Fifth Indian Division was to advance to Agordat by Tessenei and Barentu, while 4th Indian Division with two of its brigades made for the same objective via Keru. The third brigade of 4th Indian Division was to move to Keren from Port Sudan. The whole advance began with Gazelle Force in the lead on the northern route. There was a certain amount of excitement before they reached Agordat. On 21 January, as a divisional history has recorded,

while Messervy was engrossed with the situation at Keru, a nearby patch of scrub erupted. With shrill yells a squadron of Eritrean horsemen, 60 in number raced on the gun positions in front of Gazelle Force Headquarters. Kicking their shaggy ponies to a furious gallop, the cavalrymen rose in their stirrups to hurl small percussion grenades ahead of them. With great gallantry they surged on, but the gunners brought their pieces into action in time to blow back the horsemen from the muzzles of the guns.

There could have been few such bizarre actions during six years of war. The intrepid horsemen, led in by an Italian officer on a white horse, left 25 dead and 16 wounded on the field of battle.

More serious business confronted Gazelle Force. The battle for the heights to the south of Keru Gorge required the combined efforts of 4th Battalion, 11th Sikh Regiment, Skinner’s Horse and 2nd Cameron Highlanders against firm Italian resistance. Even then it was more the danger of being outflanked and cut off from the south by 10th Brigade of 5th Indian Division than direct frontal pressure which caused the Italians to abandon their positions. By 25 January 4th Indian Division had closed up on Agordat, had cut the Barentu road and faced their first real obstacle. Meanwhile 5th Indian Division was ordered to take Barentu. Italian resistance there was stubborn, and just as 10th Brigade’s advance had helped 4th Indian Division to capture the Keru Gorge heights, so 4th Indian Division’s subsequent success at Agordat allowed the 5th to overrun the Italians at Barentu on 2 February.

The battle for Agordat resolved itself into a struggle for Mount Cochen, described by those who saw it as `a steep and involved ridge system which sprang to a height of 1,500 ft, its rugged barrier extending into the east until it ended above a defile four miles long through which the road to Keren passed. The Agordat and Mount Cochen position was held by the Italian 4th Colonial Division, which was then attacked by two brigades, the 5th and 11th, of 4th Indian Division. The gallant actions of Indian and British infantry were greatly assisted by four T (Infantry) tanks whose job it was to knock out the Italian armor. Lightweight Bren-gun carriers were used to lure the Italian tanks out of their hides. The bait was taken with a vengeance. Eighteen Italian tanks burst from cover and raced to destroy the flimsy intruders. Then the T” tanks barged into the open, their guns playing on their Italian adversaries at point-blank range. Six medium and five light tanks went up in flames. The survivors scuttled frantically into cover.

On the crests of Mount Cochen itself the final action had been dramatic and bloody. The Italian commander then had dispatched a company of Eritrean infantry to contain Indian troops advancing on the peak itself so that he could withdraw his main body to new positions. But the Eritreans encountered a covering force of some 40 Rajputana Rifles and Pathan Sappers and Miners who Tell on the Eritreans like furies, plying the steel and leaving a wake of dead and wounded behind them. The survivors scattered in frantic flight. Over 100 bodies were counted along the slopes after. No further resistance was met as 11th Brigade advanced along the heights and made good the eastern end of the Cochen ridge system overlooking the Keren road.’ It seemed at this moment as if the road to Keren itself was open. The cost had not been high. Fewer than 150 casualties had been suffered by Major-General Sir Noel M. Beresford-Peirse’s two brigades while the Italian 4th Colonial Division had disintegrated, losing over a thousand prisoners.

Keren (1941) Part II

The view from an RAF bomber as the mountainous terrain outside the town of Keren is attacked.

Yet the road to Keren was not open. Demolition of the Ponte Mussolini, a great bridge 12 miles east of Agordat on the Via Imperiali autostrada, plus heavy mining of the deviation, bought the Italian rearguards precious time. The retreating enemy were able to pass through the Dongolaas Gorge, 40 miles farther east, and then to prepare another far more formidable demolition. On 2 February the vanguard of 4th Indian Division, advancing along the Ascidera valley, were within two miles of the Gorge’s entrance:

From the canyon came dull booms, clouds of smoke and dust curled upwards in the still, hot air. The last Italian rearguards had passed through, and on a stretch of several hundred yards demolition squads were blowing away the retaining walls which pinned the road to the cliffsides. Two tanks crossed the valley to reconnoitre and reported the ravine to be blocked by barricades of huge boulders covered by anti-tank and machine guns. The eastern gateway of the Eritrean fortress was bolted and barred.

The Keren position, to those who first saw it, looked almost impregnable. Fifty-three days were to elapse before the fortress itself was passed by British troops. Either side of the Dongolaas Gorge 11 great peaks rose steeply to a height of more than 2,000 ft above the valley. To the west were Sanchil, Cameron’s Ridge, Brig’s Peak, Saddle, Hog’s Back, Flat Top and Samanna; to the east Fort Dologorodoc, Falestoh, Zeban, Acqua Col and Zelale (the Sphinx), overlooking what was ironically named `Happy Valley’. Sanchil and Brig’s Peak afforded observation of Keren itself and were therefore particularly important. On this naturally powerful position the Italians deployed the best part of 30,000 men, some 40 infantry battalions, supported by 144 guns. Most of the troops were colonial, but the regular Italian battalions included some of their finest fighters – Savoia Grenadiers, Alpini and Bersaglieri.

The two Indian divisions – and because of transport shortages it was impossible to maintain both divisions complete in battle simultaneously – were faced with the disagreeable prospect of a frontal assault. There was simply no other way to open the road through the Dongolaas Gorge and thus achieve the objective of reaching Asmara and then Massawa. The battle can be divided into three phases. The first phase from 3 to 7 February was conducted by Brigadier Reginald A. Savory with his 11th Indian Infantry Brigade. He attempted to capture Brig’s Peak and Sanchil. His troops reached both summits, but lost them again to Savoia Grenadier counter-attacks, while hanging on to Cameron’s Ridge, won by the Scottish regiment of that name. The great difficulty facing the British and Indian infantry was that to reach their objectives at all demanded intensive physical effort. Artillery bombardment could normally reach only the forward slopes and had to be lifted before a final assault. On reaching their objective the exhausted infantry, already depleted in numbers by casualties and by having to use as much as a quarter of each battalion as supply porters, were terribly vulnerable to immediate counter-attack by the protected defenders who were supported by accurate mortar fire.

In the next phase Maj-Gen. Beresford-Peirse used both 5th and 11th Brigades, this time attacking farther east against the Acqua Col where desertions by colonial Italian troops were encouraging, with a view to outflanking the more formidable defenses to the west and pushing straight down the track to Keren. In spite of great efforts by the 4/6 Rajputana Rifles who gained the objective, a counter-attack pushed them off again. Severe fighting by isolated units was the pattern of the battle as this account shows:

The leading Rajputana Rifle company had reached the haunches of high ground which rose on both sides of the entrance to the gap when heavy mortar and machine-gun fire opened. The company commander fell wounded, but Subedar Richpal Ram sprang to the front and headed the rush which carried the leading platoons over the crest. … In the next four hours five counter-attacks were smashed by the bombs, bullets and bayonets of this dauntless handful. An hour before dawn, their last cartridges expended, the gallant Subedar with nine survivors fought back through an enemy block in the rear and rejoined the main body of the battalion, which had dug in under the shelter of a low crest afterwards known as Rajputana Ridge.

Beresford-Peirse abandoned his plan. Next he decided to renew the attack on 10 February in both areas. It was a further story of great gallantry and prizes won only to be lost again. Eleventh Brigade was to capture Brig’s Peak and 5th Brigade Acqua Col. Brig’s Peak was taken twice, as were Saddle and Hog’s Back. None were held. Acqua Col was almost reached – Subedar Richpal Ram of the Rajputana Rifles won a posthumous Victoria Cross in the battle – but his battalion suffered 123 casualties. Such losses could not be sustained. Platt and Beresford-Peirse, while still acknowledging that their main effort must be made at Keren, began to cast about for means of diverting some of the enemy to deal with threats elsewhere.

Thus 7th Indian Infantry Brigade under Brigadier Harold Briggs made its way south from Karora and was supported by the Free French Brigade d*Orient made up of the 14th Foreign Legion Battalion (containing Italians who fought against their own countrymen) and 3rd Battalion of the Chad Regiment. Brigg’s force fought a successful engagement against the enemy on 23 February at Cub Cub which was only 45 miles north-east of Keren and began to distract Italian reserves from the Keren front.

Meanwhile, preparations for the next main assault, the third and final phase, went on. They were enormously assisted by British aircraft. Heavy air attacks were made on Italian airfields between mid-February and mid-March and so successful were they that the Italian air force was virtually inactive. By 22 March the Regia Aeronautica could only muster 37 serviceable aircraft in the whole of East Africa. Additionally the Italian defenses themselves received repeated attention. By the beginning of March Platt had completed his planning even to the point of briefing his commanders on a sand-model. Fourth Indian Division was to attack to the west of the Dongolaas Gorge taking all the peaks from Sanchil to Samanna, while Major-General Lewis M. Heath’s 5th Indian Division, fresh from a mountain warfare refresher course at Tessenei farther east, would capture Fort Dologorodoc and exploit to Falestoh and Zeban. Yet it was still 19 battalions against 42 defending and the attackers were slogging uphill in a temperature of 100°F. Meanwhile Briggs’ force, now only about 15 miles distant from Keren to the north-east, would advance.

On 15 March, with maximum air support from some 50 bombers and an artillery bombardment by 96 guns, 4th Indian Division attacked. The 2/5 Mahratta Regiment seized and held Flat Top while 1/6 Rajputana Rifles took Hog’s Back for the loss of half their number. But by 1600, after eight hours fighting and climbing, the Cameron’s three rifle companies were down to 30 fit men in front of Brig’s Peak, having lost 288 men in the effort to capture it. During the night these meager gains were just retained against three Italian counter-attacks. The following night 10th Brigade was thrown in against the two untaken peaks. Its two battalions were so savagely mauled that they were withdrawn to `Happy Valley’. By the time the attack was called off on the evening of 17 March the division had sustained 1,100 casualties in three days.

On the other flank 5th Indian Division had better luck, taking Fort Dologorodoc on the first night, principally because, unlike the other Italian defenses, it was not overlooked by a high ridge behind. Its capture proved to be a turning point, for the fort dominated the town and plateau of Keren behind the mountains, thus providing a superb artillery observation post for the British guns. Nevertheless, exploitation of the success to Falestoh and Zeban ended as so often before with the troops pinned down on the forward slopes; this time they even had to be air-supplied before being withdrawn at night.

The two-division offensive had one other positive result – it enabled engineers to examine the original Italian roadblock in the Dongolaas Gorge. They found that the boulders and craters extended back 100 yards, but estimated that a 48-hour clearance would enable tracked vehicles to get through. Furthermore on the west side of the block the railway line to Keren ran under Cameron’s Ridge through a barricaded tunnel. Once cleared this offered a covered way approach for armor to get through the Gorge and advance to Keren. No wonder General Heath declared, on receiving this information, that `Keren is ours!’ His division’s second effort was fixed for 25 March, giving a week for preparations and the resting of units.

Meanwhile, between 18 and 22 March, the Italians made seven desperate attempts to recapture Fort Dologorodoc during which they suffered many casualties. Among the dead was General Lorenzini, a bold inspiring leader, nicknamed by his men, the Lion of the Sahara. His 4th Italian Division of regular troops had been the mainstay of the defense.

By 20 March Italian units had lost a third of their strength. On 25 March the 9th and 10th Brigades of 5th Indian Division attacked on both sides of the Gorge and seized it, taking some 500 prisoners including many Bersaglieri and two batteries of artillery. The following afternoon Sappers and Miners had blasted a way through the road block. This meant that before long the 14 infantry tanks and 50 Bren carriers of Fletcher Force would get behind the main Italian positions. On the night of 26 March the Italians skillfully withdrew leaving only light covering forces. Next morning white flags fluttered from Sanchil and Brig’s Peak. Fourth Indian Division advanced and tanks entered Keren by 0800 on 27 March. Asmara, capital of Eritrea, fell on 1 April and Massawa, the Red Sea port, a week later.

The battle was best summed up by General Platt, talking to his officers on 14 March before the final phase started: `Do not let anybody think this is going to be a walk-over. It is not. It is going to be a bloody battle: a bloody battle against both enemy and ground. It will be won by the side which lasts longest. I know you will last longer than they do. And I promise you I will last longer than my opposite number.’ That Platt was right about the bloodiness of the action needs but statistics and the memory of those present to endorse. The British lost 536 killed and 3,229 wounded. Three thousand Italians, according to their commander, General Frusci, were killed.

Without the determination, devotion to duty and sheer bravery of the regimental soldiers, the battle could not have been won. The magnificent efforts of the logistic planners and producers were also vital, for no troops, however courageous, can win without food, fuel, ammunition and water. The Italians on Mount Sanchii had a piped water-supply – their assailants had to carry two-gallon petrol tins up the heights. Major-General G. Surtees, then a Brigadier in charge of administration for the campaign, did much to win what he called the `Q* (Quartermaster’s) war. He recorded that speed, simplicity, common-sense, improvisation and imagination were the watchwords. But, Surtees continued, none of these would have been any good without the men who carried out the plans – driving the vehicles, humping the stores and evacuating the wounded. `British, Indian and Sudanese’, Surtees wrote, `grumbling, cursing and laughing, swept by sand storms, soaked in tropical rain, they sweated it out in the heat, they froze in the heights. Unexciting, if not uninteresting, was much of their back area toil, often imposing endurance and struggle against shortage of sleep. At any heroics on devoted service to the fighting men, they would have scoffed and sworn. Yet the urge was there.’

So too was the will to win in the higher commanders. Wavell, despite all his lack of resources and mounting commitments, had had the foresight and boldness to commit the right troops to the right place at the right time. After Keren, 4th Indian Division hastened back to the Western Desert. Eritrea gone, the Duke of Aosta concentrated his dwindling strength in one more great fortress at Amba Alagi. There he was stalked and harried and, eventually, forced to surrender by the converging columns of Platt and Cunningham. Mopping up, interrupted by the rainy season, finished in November 1941. Of all the East African battles Keren was the bloodiest and longest. It had been besieged for nearly eight weeks and was held by nearly four divisions of Italian troops. It was a battle partly won by the skill and perseverance of the British, Indian and French troops and partly lost by the Italians in their reckless but valiant attempts to retake Fort Dologorodoc. The Italians could rightly be proud of their record at Keren, even though, as Brigadier Savory said, `No enemy but the Italians would ever have allowed us to take the place. It was practically impregnable and even with Italian defenders we suffered heavily and at times began to wonder if we ever would succeed.’ For the great 4th and 5th Divisions of the British dominion of India, the battle remains a shining star in their histories.

BMPT-72 ‘Terminator’

A Russian military combat vehicle rolls during a military exercise at a training ground at the Luzhsky Range, near St. Petersburg, Russia, Monday, Sept. 18, 2017. The Zapad (West) 2017 maneuvers have caused concern among some NATO members neighboring Russia, who have criticized a lack of transparency about the exercises and questioned Moscow’s real intentions. (AP Photo/Ivan Sekretarev)

Mainly targeted at the export market, the BMPT-72 Terminator II was designed around the ageing T-72 platform. Unlike its predecessor the Terminator I, this new version was formatted as a retrofit package, which means it’s available purely as an upgrade for existing T-72 hulls. not as a stand-alone vehicle. The BMPT-72 armament allows it to be used for the suppression of enemy positions (and against light armour), but also for engaging vehicles with four turret-mounted Ataka (NATO Spiral-2) anti-tank guided missiles.

 

The Terminator 2 is designed to prevail in the modern urban battleground providing support to MBTs or by themselves as they are fully armed to attack both heavy armoured vehicles or softskins and infantry. The BMPT-72 terminator 2 uses the T-72 hull and substitutes the turret for a new one armed with twin 30mm 2A42 guns, four 130mm 9M120 Ataka-T anti-tank guided missile, two AG-17D 30 mm grenade launchers and one 7.62 mm PKTM machine gun and is protected with the latest ERA and “Relikt” explosive reactive armour which is claimed to be 3 times more effective than the older Kontakt system.

Tank support combat vehicle

In theory, mechanized infantry, self-propelled artillery and armored forces are mutually supporting. Artillery rains destruction to the front and flanks as infantry personnel carriers and dismounted infantry protect tanks from enemy anti-tank systems and enemy infantry. Simultaneously, tanks protect the personnel carriers and dismounted infantry from enemy tanks and strongpoints. In practice, personnel carriers have problems keeping up with fast-moving tanks; their armor protection is too thin to survive at the point of the attack; and battle drills between tanks and mechanized infantry frequently break down due to the lack of sufficient team training prior to combat. Artillery fire may be on or off target, or too early or too late. The bottom line is that there is often too great a gap between the tanks and the mechanized infantry at the crucial point, and artillery may not bridge that gap.

The proliferation of RPG-7 anti-tank grenade launchers and anti-tank missiles has complicated the task of tanks and mechanized infantry working together. An example of this is when the Russians entered the Chechen city of Grozny Dec. 31, 1994. The first unit to penetrate the city center was 131st “Maikop” Brigade. Russian forces initially met no resistance when they entered the city at noon. They drove their vehicles straight to the city center, dismounted and moved into the train station. Other elements of the brigade remained parked along a side street as a reserve force.

Then the Chechens attacked with RPGs. They first destroyed the Russian lead and rear vehicles on the side streets, trapping the unit. The tanks could not lower their gun tubes far enough to shoot into basements or high enough to reach the tops of buildings. Infantry fighting vehicles and personnel carriers were unable to support their tanks. Chechens systematically destroyed the column from above and below with RPGs and grenades. Other Chechens surrounded the force in the train station.

The commander of the Russian unit waited until Jan. 2 for reinforcements, but they never arrived. Part of his decimated unit broke out. By Jan. 3, 1995, the brigade had lost nearly 800 men, 20 of its 26 tanks and 102 of its 120 armored vehicles.

The Russians decided that the tactical gap between tanks and mechanized infantry is almost inevitable. The battle in Grozny on New Year’s Eve 1994 provided the impetus to develop a heavily armored close-combat system. The Russians discovered that the thinly armored ZSU 23-4 self-propelled anti-aircraft gun was the optimum system for tank support in city fighting, but its vulnerability offset the efficiency of its four 23mm automatic cannons. To ensure the survivability of tanks, they needed a new system that was built like a tank but provided mutual close- combat support. The new system should provide protection against enemy anti-tank weapons, infantry, strongpoints, helicopters and fixed-wing aviation. The new system needed to be an integral part of the armored unit, but it could not be a modern T-35 with five turrets and multiple weapons.

The Russian answer was the BMPT tank-support vehicle. It was not a BMP, and the Russians were not discounting the value of mechanized infantry in the combined-arms team. They were recognizing that mechanized infantry may not be at the critical point at the critical time to support tank operations in traditional and urban combat roles.

Terminator developer Uralvagonzavod created the first version of its combat support vehicle in the late 1990s based on the experiences of the Soviet Afghan and Chechen wars.

To provide fire support to tank and infantry units, the tank support combat vehicle BMPT-72, a version of the BMPT tank support combat vehicle derived from the T-72 tank, has been developed. This vehicle offers protection similar to that of a tank and an armament suite capable of effectively detecting and destroying pinpoint concealed targets. With its advanced target search and acquisition aids, an automated fire control system, a lethal multi-channel automatic armament suite and all-round crew protection, the BMPT-72 can effectively provide fire support to units in all types of combat in difficult geographical areas, against any enemy, day and night.

The BMPT-72 is made by converting decommissioned T-72 tanks. Those outdated T-72 tanks can be converted into BMPT-72, in which armament repair and modernization are impractical due to obsolescence and unserviceable condition. Revamping the T-72 into the BMPT-72 includes the removal of the turret and its replacement with a BMPT’s overhead weapon station with remote-controlled weapons (automatic guns, machine gun and missiles). The weapon station is placed in a superstructure located outside the crew compartment. In addition, repair and optional modernization of the chassis are carried out. Revamping the T-72 tanks into the BMPT-72 can be done at customer production facilities.

The BMPT-72’s fire control system with gunner and commander multi-channel sights makes it possible to detect and engage targets with two 30mm 2A42 automatic cannons using high-explosive and armor-piercing shells in bad weather, day and night. The ammunition load is 850 rounds in two belts.

A guided missile system includes two launchers with four supersonic guided missiles carrying HEAT and thermobaric warheads which can be fired at the halt and on the move, day and night. A coaxial 7.62mm machine gun is used as secondary armament.

The gunner’s station is equipped with a multichannel sight with optical and thermal imaging channels, a laser rangefinder, a built-in laser missile guidance channel and independent two-plane FOV stabilization. The commander’s sight is panoramic, combined with TV and thermal channels, a laser rangefinder and independent two-plane FOV stabilization.

As a tank derivative, the BMPT-72 features a high level of protection and can operate in the same battle formations with tanks under enemy fire.

Multilevel protection of the BMPT-72 is provided by: low observability due to small dimensions and disrupting painting; armor protection; integral ERA; automated smoke-screen laying system; additional bar armor.

Small dimensions and disrupting painting make the BMPT-72 low observable on the battlefield in any terrain. Its automated smoke-screen laying system provides protection against semi-active, laser-guided ATGMs and artillery projectiles as well as countermeasures against laser rangefinders used in artillery systems.

Armor protection of the BMPT-72 is shell-proof, multi-layered and comparable to that of an MBT, but, unlike the latter, it has no weakness zone in the frontal plate due to the lack of a gun port.

Equipping assault units with a set of well-protected vehicles (tanks and BMPT-72s) makes it possible to build a military formation balanced in terms of missions and materiel.

Current Terminator-2 operators include Russia and Kazakhstan, with Algeria set to receive several hundred starting in 2018, and other countries, including Azerbaijan, Peru, and Syria showing interest.

First BMPT tank support vehicle delivered in 2018 to Russian army

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Russia Tests BMPT-72 (Terminator-2) in Syria

El Moungar

The Dangers to a marching column are illustrated by the French defeat at El Moungar, in Morocco, on 2nd September 1903. A convoy of 3,000 camels carrying supplies for the fortified post at Taghit was divided into three echelons, in an attempt to minimise the risk if they were attacked. Captain Vauchez led the second echelon of 600 camels escorted by his mounted company of the 2nd Legion Etrangere. It left El Morra at 2am and reached the convoy halt of El Moungar at 9.30. As the Legionnaires began breakfast they were attacked from a line of dunes by some 5,000 Berbers and Shaamba Arabs. The camels and mounted company’s mules stampeded, splitting the column into three isolated groups of men. Vauchez was mortally wounded; Lt Selchauhansen formed an improvised square. Rifle fire was picking off his soldiers, so he led them in a charge to clear the dunes, but fell with half of his twenty men. Badly wounded, he directed the fire as a sergeant rallied the square to beat off another attack. For eight hours the remnant of the company held out; at 5.30 the third echelon was sighted and the Moroccans withdrew with their booty. Commanded by QM-Sgt Tisserand, the surrounded force endured continual firing and attacks that came to hand-to-hand, and by the time Capt de Susbielle reached them late that afternoon only 30 men led by Corporal Dietz were unwounded. Of 113 legionnaires, 34 were killed and 47 wounded: both the officers died the following day.

A two-company fort like Taghit the medical officer had only a small sickroom, and quite inadequate supplies to treat a large influx of wounded. When the 49 casualties from El Moungar arrived there in the early hours of 4 September 1903, the resident Dr Boulin was himself suffering from an eye infection. He, Drs de Lignerolles and Mazellier from the relief columns, and the fort’s two company orderlies did what they could, soon helped by the famous missionary Father de Foucauld, who rode over from Beni Abbes. The Danish Lt. Selchauhansen died on the first day; most of the other wounded had to be laid out on piles of dried grass on the hard floors of various storerooms. Five more orderlies with medical supplies arrived from Ain Sefra soon afterwards, but, given the standard of care that was possible, it was still extraordinary that only one more of the ten most serious cases died of his wounds.

The Shaamba got away with the enormous booty of 90-plus loaded camels, 25 Lebel rifles and 5,000 cartridges. The subsequent enquiry placed the blame, justly enough, on Capt. Vauchez’s tactical failings; he was an officer with a history of underestimating the tribesmen. Quartermaster-Sergeant Tisserand was given a battlefield commission, Sgt. Charlier was admitted to the Legion of Honour, and eight other survivors were awarded the Military Medal.

This virtual wiping out of a 100-strong Legion unit caused uproar in Paris, and in October 1903, at the urging of Governor-General Jonnart, command of Ain Sefra Subdivision passed to the newly promoted BrigGen Lyautey.

DEFENCE OF TOULON, 1707

In October 1707, Association, commanded by Captain Edmund Loades and with Admiral Shovell on board, was returning from the Mediterranean after the Toulon campaign. She was lost in 1707 by grounding on the Isles of Scilly in the greatest maritime disaster of the age.

This was a highly successful combined operation against Toulon with the total elimination of France’s Mediterranean fleet thanks to an Anglo-Dutch naval bombardment which was combined with a siege by Austrian and Piedmontese forces. The siege was stopped when it appeared clear that the city would not fall speedily and, instead, could resist until the arrival of overwhelming French forces. During the siege, the Anglo-Dutch fleet played a key role in supporting the siege, providing cannon, supplies and medical care. The Toulon campaign indicated both the growing importance of amphibious operations and the extent to which the key issue was not the seizure of territory, but the achievement of particular strategic goals in the shape of destroying the fleet.

In 1707 the Duke of Marlborough during the War of the Spanish Succession, proposed an assault from north and south. In the north he could depend on Belgian bases, but in the south Toulon had to be seized and made into a depot for an advance up the Rhone. There were delays before the Emperor could be coerced into any operation. Eugene advanced along the Provençal coast aided by Shovell’s fleet. The land operations against Toulon failed (July-Aug. 1707) but Shovell destroyed the naval base with the French fleet in it. The threat was enough to bring the French back from Germany and Spain, but the failure was an expensive strategic defeat.

Marlborough’s year of victory was followed by a year of disappointment. Louis XIV tried to open peace negotiations, but the triumphant Allies were having none of it, unless the French abandoned all dynastic claims to Spain. During 1706 the Imperialists had won a victory at Turin, which effectively cleared the French from much of Northern Italy. Plans were laid to build on this success in 1707 by staging an invasion of Provence, supported by an Anglo-Dutch fleet. Prince Eugene was sent to Italy to lead the offensive, and consequently Marlborough was starved of the German troops he needed to campaign effectively in Flanders. In the end Eugene advanced as far as Toulon, where a combination of disease and French reinforcements caused him to lift the siege and withdraw to Italy.

Toulon in 1707 was a well-fortified town with a modern earth wall with 7 bastions. They were well-armed with cannons from disarmed ships of Toulon squadron. There were two gates, one (St. Lazare) between Minims & St. Bernard bastions, & the other (New) between Royal & Arsenal bastions.  

Toulon fortifications (see above):

A – Mimins bastion

B – St. Bernard bastion

C – St. Ursule bastion

D – De la Fonderie (Foundry) bastion

E – Royal bastion

F – Arsenal bastion

G – Du Marais a Gauche

H – batteries at New Dock

I – batteries at Old Dock

J – Ponche-Rimade bastion

K – earth redoubt at Minims bastion

L – entrenched field camp

The War at Sea, 1701-1714

Opposing navies had resumed their familiar game on the high seas as soon as war broke out. The French resumed the guerre de course their Navy had practiced during the second half of the Nine Years’ War, prosecuting it to great effect. The privateers of Dunkirk alone brought in nearly 1,000 Allied or neutral prizes. The French effort was so effective Parliament passed the “Cruisers and Convoys Act” in 1708, specifically assigning additional warship escorts to convoy duty along the Western Approaches and off major British ports. This forced French cruisers and privateers to hunt in the West Indies, off the coast of Africa, and in other less well-defended waters. The Allies also practiced cruiser warfare and privateering against French convoys and individual merchantman. This forced the French to use some warships to escort Spanish convoys across the Atlantic and led to squadron-on-squadron fighting in the Caribbean in August 1702. Unlike the French, who cleaved to a strategy of guerre de course throughout the war, the Allies also sought to utilize their clear advantage in battlefleets to outflank the French operationally and strategically. The Allies suffered early failures at sea, however, notably their inability to take Cadiz through amphibious assault during August-September 1702. The troops were put ashore too far from the city, the officers were inept and lost control, and most of the expedition got drunk and began looting and desecrating Catholic churches (perhaps consciously recalling the tradition of Francis Drake). On the return journey, English escorts surprised the Spanish silver fleet and their French escorts at Vigo Bay (October 12/23, 1702). The Allies missed most of the silver, but captured or destroyed 12 rated French warships and 19 Spanish vessels. The outcome of the fight and the prospect of more amphibious assaults into Iberia helped persuade Portugal to switch to the Grand Alliance. The next year, England formally detached Portugal from its French alliance, signed the Methuen Treaties, and secured at Lisbon a base of operations for the Royal Navy in the Mediterranean.

An Anglo-Dutch amphibious operation failed to take Barcelona in June 1704. On its return journey, it took Gibraltar instead. That led to the only fleet action of the war, off Velez-Malaga (August 13/24, 1704). Although the French won a tactical victory, operationally the battle blocked them from retaking Gibraltar, thereby inflicting a major wound. Afterward, the French Navy and privateers cleaved to an effective and lucrative guerre de course: in the last decade of the war, the French took over 4,500 Allied prizes on the high seas, and sank or burned hundreds more Allied or neutral ships. French squadrons, usually under War of the Spanish Succession private loan if not privateer command, also raided and extorted various overseas outposts from West Africa to the Caribbean (and later, against Rio de Janeiro in 1711). An English squadron attacked a Spanish treasure fleet in the West Indies in 1708, intercepting or sinking the equivalent of £15 million of bullion.

Meanwhile, the Allies moved troops by sea into the Mediterranean from the north, as dominance at sea enabled them to sustain armies fighting in Spain. In 1704 an Anglo-Dutch fleet escorted 8,000 Redcoats and 4,000 Dutch to Spain, where they joined 30,000 Portuguese fighting Philip V ostensibly for the Grand Alliance. An Anglo-Dutch fleet parked off Barcelona for two years after an amphibious operation finally captured that city on September 28/October 9, 1705. The French Mediterranean squadron and fortified city of Toulon was bombarded, burned, and besieged from July 28-August 22, 1707. The French sank or burned 15 of their ships-of-the-line at anchor rather than see them captured or burned by Allied bombardment. However, the blockade had the principal effect of provoking an even large French commitment in Iberia. By 1708 Parliament authorized, and the Royal Navy transported, 29,395 men to campaign in Spain. That did not prevent a decisive defeat of the British at Almanza in April 1707. Sardinia fell to Allied marines in August, providing a potential naval base in the western Mediterranean close to France. Minorca was taken shortly thereafter, along with its superb harbor at Mahon. Once the Allied naval blockade of Barcelona was lifted at British behest, the end came into sight for Archduke Charles in Spain. Among the last significant actions involving sea power was a failed British expedition to take Québec mounted in 1711. It was a poorly planned disaster.

SHOVELL, Sir Cloudesley or Clowdisley (1650-1707), seaman, cut out the corsairs at Tripoli (1676) and cruised against the Barbary pirates until 1686. He was Rear Admiral in the Irish Sea in 1690 and 2-in-C at Barfleur (1692), where he broke the French line. He was C-in-C in the Channel in 1686-7, became M. P. for Rochester from 1698 and was Comptroller of Victualling as well as C-in-C in the Channel from 1699 to 1704 when, with Rooke, he captured Gibraltar and fought the B. of Malaga. Next he co-operated with Peterborough at Barcelona (1705) and with the Austrians and Savoyards before Toulon (1707), where he destroyed the French Mediterranean Fleet. His brilliant career ended abruptly in a shipwreck on the Scillies when he reached the beach exhausted and a woman murdered him for his ring.

The Iroquois and the European North American ‘empires’ I

The character of the French and British North American “empires” differed greatly. Although the French did war against the Iroquois, Natchez, Fox, and other tribes, they did not “conquer” New France; they merely paid very high tolls to the Indians for the privilege of exploiting it. Beyond their narrow ribbon of settlement between Quebec and Montreal, or ports like New Orleans and Mobile, the New France “empire” largely consisted of several scores of ramshackle trading posts, often isolated from one another by hundreds of wilderness miles and resentful Indian tribes. None of those tribes thought themselves French subjects and would have been incensed had it been suggested that they were. Nor did they think of the annual goods dispensed by the French traders as “gifts.” Of the goods received from the French, some were exchanged for “rent” and others for furs. The several hundred voyageurs, marines, and missionaries scattered across that wilderness understood clearly that their survival depended on nurturing Indian hospitality and greed, and they became quite adept at doing so by immersing themselves in Indian tongues, customs, marriage, and ambitions.

In contrast, the British had brutally conquered their empire between the Atlantic and the Appalachians with endless streams of settlers armed with muskets, diseases, and ploughs. By 1750, Britain’s 1.25 million American subjects had elbowed aside or eliminated the local tribes and towered over New France’s 80,000 white inhabitants. The British advantage went beyond raw numbers of settlers. British goods were better made, more abundant, and cheaper than those dispensed by the French. With such overwhelming power, the British could afford to be more assertive and less sensitive toward Indians. In doing so, they fired the hatred of most tribes against them, and even the smoldering emnity of erstwhile allies like the Iroquois and Cherokee.

Throughout the 17th century, the conflict between the French and English was waged primarily through competition for the alliances and trade of various Indian tribes. But as New France and the various English colonies expanded in territory and population, their merchants, soldiers, and privateers increasingly skirmished with each other on forest trails and the high seas. The French and English fought five wars for North America-Huguenot (1627-1629), League of Augsburg or King William’s (1689-1697), Spanish Succession or Queen Anne’s (1702-1713), Austrian Succession or King George’s (1745-1748), and Seven Years’ or French and Indian (1754-1763). It was the final war, of course, that proved to be decisive. The last French and Indian War cannot be understood apart from the century and a half of imperialism that preceded it.

Dutch Imperialism

Dutch imperialism split the English colonies. Perhaps no nation has risen from obscurity into a great power more rapidly or struggled for independence longer than the Netherlands, which achieved both simultaneously. From 1569 to 1648, seven provinces of the Spanish Netherlands fought a bloody, seemingly endless war for independence. During those same decades, Dutch merchant and war ships grew ever more powerful along the world’s ocean trade routes. The Dutch established colonies on East and West Indian islands, and on enclaves dotting Africa’s coast. Perhaps the greatest coup occurred in 1628 when a Dutch fleet captured that year’s Spanish treasure fleet and 200,000 pounds of silver. Amsterdam emerged to rival London as Europe’s most vigorous commercial center, and Paris and Rome as a cultural capital.

Like the other great powers, the Dutch increasingly eyed North America as a potential source of wealth and power. In 1609, Henry Hudson sailed up the river that now bears his name, in search of the Northwest Passage to Asia. What he found instead was direct access to the rich fur country of central New York States. Dutch ships annually visited the Hudson River country between then and 1614 when the New Netherlands Company received a three-year monopoly to exploit the region. The Company promptly established Fort Nassau at present-day Albany. When the monopoly expired, the free-for-all among ambitious merchants resumed until the Dutch West Indian Company received a monopoly to the region in 1624. The Company established Fort Orange near Fort Nassau’s ruins. Two years later, in 1626, it founded New Amsterdam on Manhattan Island at the mouth of the Hudson River. Over the next four decades, Dutch settlements spread not only up the Hudson River valley but were also planted in the lower Delaware and Connecticut river valleys where they competed with Swedish and Puritan settlements, respectively. Although the Puritans succeeded in squeezing the Dutch from their Connecticut settlements, their 1643 attempt to found a settlement in the Delaware valley failed. The Dutch finally absorbed New Sweden in 1655.

The Iroquois

In 1608, Samuel de Champlain sailed up the St. Lawrence with three ships and established a trading post at Quebec. Only eight of his 28 men survived that first winter. Reinforcements the following spring saved Quebec from extinction. As important to the French outpost’s survival was the mysterious vanishing of the Iroquois who had inhabited the St. Lawrence valley from Stadacona (Quebec) to Hochelaga (Montreal), and had so stymied Cartier. Their fate remains unknown. Most likely disease devastated them, and the remnants fled Algonquian and Huron attacks to take refuge among the Iroquois of New York. Despite their retreat, the Iroquois continued to contest the region, sending war parties against the confederation among the Montagnais at Tadoussac and the Huron and Algonquian tribes north of the upper St. Lawrence and Lake Ontario.

To promote his tiny colony’s trade and safety, Champlain joined the anti- Iroquois alliance. Confident of Quebec’s security, in the summer of 1609 Champlain traveled by canoe with three French and 60 Huron and Montagnais warriors up the St. Lawrence and Richelieu rivers and into Lake Champlain. On July 30, they met a war party of 200 Mohawk from the Iroquois tribe near the later site of Fort Frederic. The French remained behind a line of their allies. With arrows notched in their bows, the Mohawk advanced. Neither side fired its arrows. When the Mohawk got within 30 yards, the Huron and Montagnais parted to reveal Champlain and the other French pointing their arquebus. The Mohawk must have stood astonished and fearful-they had never before seen a firearm or a European. The French fired, killing three Mohawk chiefs and scattering the rest. Champlain’s small victory solidified French friendship with the St. Lawrence valley tribes. But those and subsequent killings fired an animosity that would rage through a series of bloody wars between the French and the Iroquois for the rest of that century.

In 1615, the Huron invited Champlain to journey to their homeland in western Ontario. There Champlain, Recollect Father Joseph Le Caron, and several other French visited palisaded villages of the Huron confederation’s four tribes, as well as nearby Ottawa and Neutral tribes, and learned of distant tribes scattered around the Great Lakes basin. The Huron convinced Champlain to join another war party against the Iroquois. This one was a disaster. The Iroquois repelled a Huron assault on one of their palisades and wounded Champlain, thus shattering the spell of French superiority set seven years earlier.

Fort Orange’s establishment in the heart of New York would shift the regional tribal power balance. Until then neither the Five Nation Iroquois nor Four Nation Huron confederacies could prevail in their perennial struggle to defeat the other. The Iroquois recognized that if they could get Dutch guns the balance would tip in their favor. But before the Iroquois could defeat the Huron, they had to dominate the Dutch trade. In 1624, the Iroquois agreed to a truce with the French and Huron in order to defeat the Mahican, who controlled the lands surrounding the upper Hudson valley and Fort Orange. In 1628, the Mahican fled into the Lake Champlain region, abandoning their land to the eastern-most Iroquois tribe, the Mohawk. To Fort Orange, the Iroquois carried an ever greater amount of furs; between 1628 and 1633 alone, the number of skins brought to Fort Orange rose from 10,000 to 30,000.

The tranquility of those colonies lasted until 1675 when Indian wars again tore apart both New England and Virginia. In 1675, the Narragansett had recovered enough from their defeat three decades earlier to re-challenge English rule. That year they withdrew to an island in the Great Swamp, began raiding English settlements, and called on other tribes to join them. Unable to penetrate that flooded, jungle-like maze, the English had to delay retaliation until those waters froze over. In December, Governor Josias Winslow led a 1,150-man expedition against the Narragansett, including 517 militia from Massachusetts, 315 from Connecticut, 158 from Plymouth, and 150 Pequot and Mohegan. Those men finally overran the camp, slaughtering 97 warriors and between 300 and 1,000 women and children, while suffering 70 dead and 150 wounded. The survivors fled to join King Philip (Metacom) and the Mahican. Philip retaliated with raids that devastated the English colonies, killing hundreds of settlers. Later that year, New York Governor Edmund Andros forged an alliance with the Mohawk and got them to attack Metacom’s village that winter and raid the Algonquians throughout the following year. The war sputtered to a close as Philip’s Indians ran out of gunpowder and Philip himself was hunted down and killed in August 1676. No Indian war in American history was more destructive than King Philip’s war-over 3,000 Indians and 1,000 colonists died in the fighting.

Meanwhile, in Virginia a dispute over a hog between a farmer and the Doeg tribe led to former’s murder. Fearing retaliation, the Doeg fled. The Virginia militia pursued them into Maryland where they attacked a friendly Susquehannock village in July 1675. The unprovoked attack sparked a war in which over 300 colonists and hundreds of Indians would eventually die. A civil war then broke out within the Susquehannock war. Virginia’s leaders split over whether to seek peace or continue war with the Indians, with Governor Berkeley heading the peace faction and Francis Bacon the war faction. When Berkeley had Bacon removed from the council for warring against the Indians, Bacon led a rebellion against the governor. Berkeley’s troops crushed Bacon’s Rebellion by January 1676 and the Indians later that year. Under the Treaty of Middle Plantation, the Indian survivors ceded most of Virginia to the English and agreed to settle on reservations.

These two wars dramatically shifted the power balance among Indian tribes, particularly in New England. The Algonqians’ defeat allowed the Mohawk’s resurgence, thus posing yet another threat to the English colonies. In 1680, Governor Andros tried to create a counterweight to the Mo- hawk by inviting the remnants of the defeated Algonquians of New England along with the Mahican and western Abenaki to settle at Schaghticoke 20 miles northeast of Albany. Andros also encouraged the Susquehannock survivors to journey north to settle in the Susquehanna River where they be- came known as Conestogas; others outright joined the Iroquois.

While various civil and international wars engulfed England and its col- onies, New France struggled to survive decades of war with the Iroquois. After regaining New France in 1632, Versailles redoubled its efforts to strengthen it. Trois-Rivieres was founded in 1634 and Montreal in 1642. In 1632, Cardinal Richelieu expelled the Recollets from New France, thus allowing the Jesuits to dominate. New religious orders arrived, including the Ursulines and Soeurs Hospitalieres in 1639 and Company of the Holy Sacrament in 1642. More seigneuries were granted to encourage more settlers. The fur trade was opened to all in 1645.

The European demand for furs rapidly depleted the supply and provoked wars among the tribes. Having wiped out their own fur-bearing animals, the Iroquois stole pelts from others. In 1635, the Iroquois once again began raiding the French and their Indian allies along the St. Lawrence valley. At first, the Iroquois merely attacked convoys of fur-laden Huron canoes paddling down the Great Lakes toward New France. In the 1640s, these raids gave way to a series of “Beaver Wars” against first surrounding and then ever more distant tribes. The Iroquois objective in these wars was to destroy their rivals and capture their fur-rich lands. Hundreds of Dutch muskets gave them the means to do so. Year by year, village by village, Iroquois war parties burned enemy fields and homes, killed hundreds, and herded the survivors back to their own longhouses. The Iroquois virtually exterminated the Huron by 1649, the Petun by 1650, the Neutrals by 1651, the Erie by 1657, and the Susquehannock by 1660. The remnants of those tribes fled either to French missions along the St. Lawrence or to tribes further west; the Susquehannock headed south to Maryland and Virginia. Many of the Iroquian-speaking Huron and other tribes eventually formed a new tribe called the Wyandot, whose villages dotted Lake Erie’s southwestern shore. Not every war ended in an Iroquois victory; a war against the Abenaki in the 1660s ended in stalemate. During these decades, the Iroquois also raided French settlements and killed French missionaries such as fathers Joques in 1642, Bressani in 1644, and Brebeuf and Lalemant in 1649. In all, 153 French died and 144 were captured between 1608 and 1666. Small- pox meanwhile accomplished what their enemies had failed to do-plagues in 1634 and 1661 ravaged the Five Nations. The furs looted from these wars swelled Fort Orange’s warehouses, to New France’s loss; in 1656 the number of furs reaching Fort Orange peaked at 46,000.

The war drastically changed both the Iroquois and New France. The adoption of hundreds of captives transformed Iroquois society. Mission Indians brought with them Christianity and pro-French sentiments. However well they were treated by the Iroquois, adoptees were not inclined to raid their former nations. Captives brought with them their tribal stories, beliefs, crafts, languages, and rituals that at once enriched and diluted traditional Iroquois culture. New France would soon exploit these Iroquois weaknesses.

In Paris, Minister Jean-Baptiste Colbert determined to transform New France into a self-sufficient, diversified colony that filled rather than drained Versailles’ treasury. In 1663, Colbert revoked the private company’s charter and imposed direct royal rule over New France. The first objective was to stabilize the colony’s security by sending it French troops. In 1664, a company from each of four regiments, the Poitou, Orleans, Lalliter, and Cham- belle regiments, arrived in Quebec. Those troops were reinforced the following year with 20 companies from the Carignan-Salieres regiment, creating a combined force of 1,200 regulars commanded by Lieutenant General Alexandre de Prouville. Curiously, those troops were the first French units ever to wear uniforms-brown coats lined with grey or white. 30 In 1665, Colbert sent two energetic leaders to New France, Governor Daniel de Remy de Courcelle and Intendant Jean Talon. In 1668, Colbert ordered Talon to have each parish organize its able-bodied men into militia companies. The intendant would appoint each company’s captain, who was often a retired regular officer or soldier. New France’s population now totaled 3,035, of which one-third were regular soldiers while nearly all other men were in the militia. The much more reliable flintlock musket replaced the slow-firing arquebus. In addition, the French built three forts to guard the north end of Lake Champlain and the Richelieu River valley to wall off the St. Lawrence valley from Iroquois raiders. Colbert also invested royal funds into lumberyards, shipyards, and tarworks, and offered more seigneuries to encourage settlement. New France’s population rose to 10,977 by 1685. Wheat production not only kept pace with the new mouths to feed, but most years actually rose to a surplus that could be exported to France.

With these measures, the military power balance shifted from the Iroquois to the French. The mere threat of a French invasion was enough to induce peace from most of the Iroquois. Exhausted from their own endless wars and a series of smallpox epidemics, by 1665 four of the Iroquois tribes accepted peace-only the Mohawk kept to the warpath. Courcelle was determined to crush the recalcitrant Mohawk. In January 1666, he led 600 French troops down the Lake Champlain and Hudson rivers in a hellish struggle to reach and attack Mohawk villages. En route, 300 died of exposure and the survivors sought shelter in Schenectady. Another 100 died as they trudged home. In October 1666, eager to overcome the previous winter’s disaster, Courcelle mustered 1,300 men, including 600 regulars, 600 civilian volunteers, and 100 Huron and Algonquians, and led them toward the Mohawk villages. Although the Mohawk slipped away before Courcelle’s men, the French burned four villages and destroyed their food stores. Those Mohawk who survived the winter sued for peace the following year. In 1667, the French and Five Nations signed a treaty ending war between them and opening the latter to missionaries and traders.