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 1942 Summer Offensive in Russia I

The Germans planned to strike on a 350-mile front but not all at one time. Bock had to command no less than seven armies (two allied), and more would join him later. (Normally, an army group would never control more than four armies at once. In 1944-1945, the Western democracies hardly ever had an army group command controlling more than three armies on their whole front of no more than 600 miles.)

To control the growing force and increasingly widespread operations, another headquarters, Army Group A, under Field Marshal List would take over Army Group South’s southern wing and conduct the advance south to the Caucasus. Army Group South, redesignated Army Group B, would handle the Don-Stalingrad flank.

The left wing of Army Group B, or “Group Weichs,” comprised Maximilian von Weichs’s Second German Army, the Second Hungarian Army, and the Fourth Panzer Army. According to plans, it would strike from east of Kursk to the Don and, probably, over the Don to Voronezh, an important road and rail hub five miles east of the river, while the German Sixth Army drove north and east from Belgorod to meet it and form a pocket around Stary Oskol. While the Sixth Army and the Hungarians cleared the pocket, the Fourth Panzer Army would turn south along the west side of the Don with Sixth Army on its right. The First Panzer Army would then strike east from the Artemovsk-Izyum area to meet the Fourth Panzer Army between the Don and Donetz Rivers. This strategy was a late and not promising alteration of the original plan. Originally the main thrust on the right was to have been based in the Taganrog area by the Sea of Azov, but the Germans decided that First Panzer Army was too weak to operate so far from the other enveloping force and had insufficient bridging equipment. The change shifted the right pincer almost 150 miles north, close to the center rather than the right of Bock’s front, and reduced the chance of cutting off the Soviet forces before they escaped over the Don.

Farther south, Group Ruoff, comprising the German Seventeenth Army and the Eighth Italian Army, would pin down the Soviets in the coastal region. Right before the First Panzer Army jumped off, Army Group A would take over Group Ruoff and the Eleventh Army, which by that point was expected to have come up from the Crimea to take over a sector of the main front. The Italians and the Seventeenth Army would advance on Rostov and the lower Don from the west and converge with the two panzer armies, which would then come under Army Group A. Then they would drive on Stalingrad, along with Army Group B’s Sixth Army. The northern flank secured, Army Group A could safely head south for the Caucasus and the oil fields.

This complex, step-by-step plan would come apart fairly quickly. The Soviets did not play into the Germans’ hands this time, while logistics problems and command conflicts hampered the Germans.

The attack of Group Weichs on June 28 tore a hole right through the Soviets’ Bryansk Front, and the Sixth Army attacked on June 30. On July 2 the Sixth and Fourth Panzer Armies met, encircling parts of the Soviets’ Twenty-first and Fortieth Armies. The Soviets desperately tried to block the road to Voronezh, believing that the Germans wanted it as a jumping off point for a deep encirclement of Moscow from the southeast. Hitler, however, could not decide whether to take Voronezh, as Bock wished. Hitler finally let Bock go ahead as long as he did not waste time or entangle panzer and motorized divisions in city fighting. On July 6, the city fell without much of a fight. Although the move helped confuse the Soviets, it may have been a costly diversion of effort at a critical moment. In a more serious development—which Bock perceived as early as July 3, but most Germans, including Hitler, missed—not many Soviet units were caught west of the Don. On July 6, while hastily reinforcing around Voronezh to block the threat from there, the Soviets had ordered the Southwest and South Fronts to start a strategic retreat farther south.

Bock’s tying up of forces around Voronezh helped prevent the encirclement of the Twenty-first and Twenty-eighth Soviet Armies. Army Group A now officially took over its sector and received control of the First Panzer Army, which attacked eastward that same day, July 7. But it was too late to destroy the Soviet forces west of the Don. First Panzer Army and Group Ruoff encircled only rearguards of the withdrawing Soviets.

On July 9 and 10 the Fourth Panzer Army’s drive south was spasmodic and hampered by fuel shortages. The first phase of the German plan had been completed, but they had taken only 30,000 prisoners. Any chance the Germans had had of success in the 1942 summer campaign was probably already gone.

Hitler, fast losing confidence in Bock, began intervening in the conduct of operations and issued orders affecting even the movement of the corps. His ideas were frequently erratic. Over the next few months, Hitler’s actions in the eastern campaign were often so odd that they constitute probably the best evidence for the otherwise highly improbable thesis, occasionally advanced (notably by Robert Waite in The Psychopathic God), that he subconsciously sought defeat.

On July 9, he decided to have the Eleventh Army cross from the Crimea to the Kuban in early August and drive east to the Maikop oil fields instead of taking up a front on the mainland north of the Sea of Azov. It was a good idea, but he aborted its execution. On July 12, Hitler again intervened. He ordered the First Panzer Army to attack toward Millerovo and Kamenets-Shakhtinsky (the first place on the main north-south railroad in the Donetz Basin and the latter, a crossing of the Donetz), while the Fourth Panzer Army headed for the same places to trap the Soviets. While Hitler and the General Staff expected the Soviets to stand and fight for those objectives, Bock did not, warning that this move would pile up armor uselessly around Millerovo. The Fourth Panzer Army should be directed much farther east, instead, at Morozovsk on the Rostov-Stalingrad rail line. Hitler may have begun to suspect that Bock was right, but he was fed up with him, blaming him for earlier mistakes. On July 13, he ordered the Fourth Panzer Army transferred from Army Group B to Army Group A and fired Bock, replacing him with Weichs. As Bock had predicted, however, the two panzer armies largely “hit air,” taking only a modest number of prisoners and producing a traffic jam. Hitler believed that the Soviets in force were still present north of the lower Don but were farther west around Rostov. He belatedly and partially adopted Bock’s plan. He ordered the First Panzer Army to turn south, cross the Donetz, and drive on Rostov from the north, while the Fourth Panzer Army should drive south to Morozovsk, to and across the Don, and attack west, parallel with the First Panzer Army north of the Don.

On July 14 Hitler moved his headquarters from East Prussia to Vinnitsa in western Ukraine, indicating his intention to take even closer control of the fighting. Bad weather and difficulties in transporting fuel delayed the Panzer armies’ move down the Don, while the Soviet South Front and Southwest Front were fast retreating out of danger. (The new Stalingrad Front replaced the Southwest Front on July 12. Three reserve armies, which were not in good shape, reinforced the new front.)

On July 17, Hitler changed his mind. He ordered the Fourth Panzer Army to stop crossing the Don and instead follow the north bank, and sent the Seventeenth Army to attack farther south than planned, a move that involved lengthy regrouping. On July 19, he belatedly decided to follow Halder’s advice and ordered part of the Fourth Panzer Army, four divisions, to cross the Don after all. He also ordered the Sixth Army to resume its advance on Stalingrad and transferred some units to it from Fourth Panzer Army. All this was unusually erratic even for Hitler. He may have suspected that the Soviets had already retreated out of range. On July 2021, the Seventeenth Army and First Panzer Army found Soviet resistance around Rostov weakening and took the city, a place nearly as large as Stalingrad, on July 23. In a remarkable feat, the Second Battalion of the Brandenburg Regiment (the German Army’s special force) and the SS Viking Division took the main bridge over the Don intact, making possible a quick drive for the Caucasus. But the Soviet forces had escaped south of the Don, largely unscathed.

Hitler’s Directive 45, issued the same day, probably ended any remaining chance of reaching the Caucasus oil fields. Although the Germans had only taken slightly more than a tenth of the 700,000-800,000 prisoners they had expected to capture west and north of the Don, Hitler had convinced himself that they had actually smashed the Soviets. In view of the small number of prisoners taken, he must have assumed that the Soviets had all along been much weaker than anyone had dared hope; he had already ventured to suggest that possibility as early as June 25. He seems to have clung to this idea for at least another six weeks. Directive 45 declared that “only weak enemy forces have succeeded in escaping encirclement and reaching the south bank of the Don.” Army Group A would now encircle them south and southeast of Rostov and then clear the Black Sea coast while, at the same time, driving on Maikop. Then an advance would take place toward Grozny and the most important oil fields at Baku. Wildly overconfident, Hitler had cancelled the plan to send the Eleventh Army into the Kuban, opting instead for a much smaller, delayed crossing of the Kerch Strait. The Eleventh Army and most of its German divisions, with the superheavy artillery, would go north to eliminate Leningrad and its population. (Only the German Navy dared to differ with this idea, squawking about the destruction of Leningrad’s shipyards.) The Eighth Italian Army was also switched from Army Group A to take over part of the defensive front along the Don south of the Hungarian Army. This transfer denied the Caucasus drive Alpine divisions, which would have been invaluable in the mountains. While Army Group A struck into the Caucasus, Army Group B would take Stalingrad, with which Hitler became increasingly fatally fascinated. (As late as July 17, however, he had not insisted on capturing it.)

The Germans had split their forces and sent them against two different objectives at right angles to each other. It would have been hard to supply either advance or give them sufficient air support. Moreover, the southward advance, originally supposed to be the main one, was itself split between two objectives—the Black Sea coast and the oil fields. In practice, the Caucasus advance would become more and more subordinate to capturing Stalingrad. Aside from other diversions, Hitler transferred the Grossdeutschland Division to the west, where he feared an Allied landing. in France. Directive 45 has much claim as the death warrant for Germany’s last chances of success in the east.


A decreasing fraction of the Axis forces in the east carried out the drive for the oil fields, supposedly the objective of the whole campaign; but it might not have been possible to supply stronger forces even had they been available. Already, in late July, as it started south of the Don, Army Group A was not well supplied and suffered serious fuel shortages. Just one railroad running south from Rostov supported the German advance, and only airlifts were able to get fuel to the spearhead divisions.

The Soviets were worried. On July 28, Stalin issued his “not a step back” order, which, with surprising frankness, recounted the loss of territory and resources the Soviets had suffered. He forbade further retreats, backing this command with horrendous threats of punishment. The order, however, does not seem to have applied in the great isthmus between the Black and Caspian Seas. There, the Soviets fell back, often in disorder, but evaded the planned encirclement south of the Don. On July 29, Field Marshal List had urged canceling the planned move, for the Soviets were retreating too quickly to be trapped.

At this stage, the Germans were in the rare position of actually outnumbering the Soviet troops in both men and equipment. The battered Soviet Southern Front was absorbed by Marshal Budyonny’s North Caucasus Front, which was backed up, to the south and east, by Gen. Ivan Tyulenev’s Transcaucasus Front. The North Caucasus Front numbered no less than eighteen divisions, but some were in bad shape. The Soviets frantically mobilized local resources, forming new units in the Transcaucasus, where they thought the population was relatively dependable, while ruthlessly rounding up and deporting Muslim Caucasian mountaineers like the Chechens. Although the Germans supposed that the Caucasus had been cut off from the rest of the USSR, the Soviets had made the region self-supporting except for tanks and planes. Contact was maintained by sea, and between August 6 and September the Soviets shipped two guards corps and eleven separate infantry brigades to the Caucasus from Astrakhan.

The drive to the Caucasus steadily lost resources and priority. On July 31, Hitler transferred the Fourth Panzer Army and most of its units to Army Group B, which drove northeast on Stalingrad. Army Group A also had to cede a Romanian corps; nevertheless, it made surprising progress at first. Field Marshal List, despite the failure of the encirclement south of the Don, was quite optimistic in early August about reaching Baku, 700 miles from Rostov. But Army Group A was badly spread out, with twenty divisions on a front growing to a length of more than 500 miles, and operating on two divergent axes—the Seventeenth Army south through Krasnodar to the coast and the First Panzer Army southeast toward Grozny and Baku. The Seventeenth Army itself was split between an effort toward Novorossisk in the northeast and an attack toward Sukhumi-Batum in the southwest over the higher mountains. The first German penetration into the mountains on August 12 struck lightly guarded passes and took the Soviets by surprise, but they soon pulled back to a shortened front in incredibly rugged terrain. The Germans found themselves inching along narrow mountain trails through dense forests. Their clothing and equipment were unsuitable. Only mules, caterpillar-tracked motorcycles, and Schwimmwagens (amphibious Volkswagens) could get up the trails. The First Panzer Army also lost momentum. The Army Group steadily lost more units and air support to Army Group B. Three Italian mountain divisions were diverted to join Eighth Italian Army on the Don, while a panzer division, a flak division, and two rocket launcher brigades left for Stalingrad, along with most of Richthofen’s supporting planes.

Supplying even the remaining units was difficult. Moving fuel to the front was especially arduous. The Germans even used camels. The truck columns bringing up supplies themselves ran out of gas. The Germans resorted to the expedient of running trains over short stretches of open track, loading the trains from trucks at one end and shifting the cargo back to trucks at the other.

By mid-August, the First Panzer Army was pessimistic, and both German armies were slowing to a halt. The Germans took the least important oil field at Maikop only to find it thoroughly demolished. As early as August 26, List warned that his forces would have to take up winter positions soon and that he needed reinforcements and more air support.

The First Panzer Army tried to cross the Terek River, which the Trans-caucasus Front’s Northern Group held. The Terek was a formidable obstacle, being both wide (500 meters) and fast, and bordered by swampy ground. In a difficult operation, the Germans crossed the river and seized a confined bridgehead, but they could not exploit it. Soviet night bombers then smashed their newly constructed bridge. They shifted their effort farther west but were soon stopped. On October 1, the First Panzer Army called a halt until reinforcements could arrive.

On September 6, the Seventeenth Army had finally taken most of Novorossisk against heavy resistance by the Soviet Forty-seventh Army but did not get much farther. The weather became worse and worse. Hitler had become increasingly irritated at List, who he thought had picked the wrong mountain passes to attack, and there was some confusion about what he wanted List to do. On September 9, he fired List for supposedly not following orders, but he did not name a successor, in effect, acting as commander of Army Group A himself. The Seventeenth Army ultimately stalled on the Maikop-Tuapse road in early October. By then, even Hitler accepted that the advance was over until reinforcements could arrive, that is, after Stalingrad fell.

The First Panzer Army did launch a local offensive on October 25, biting out a Soviet salient around Nalchik that had threatened its rear. At first it was successful, making a surprising advance, but it was stopped on November 4. The leading panzer division had to fight its way back out of a trap.


List had ordered Kirchner’s LVII Panzerkorps to continue the advance towards Neftegorsk with the SS-Division ‘Wiking’ and Henrici’s 16. Infanterie-Division (mot.), while de Angelis’ XXXXIV Armeekorps was moving up with 97. and 101. Jäger-Division to reinforce them. Kirchner intended to conduct a pincer operation on the Soviet oilfields located between Khadyzhensk and Apsheronsk, with ‘Wiking’ advancing from Belorechenskaya in the west and Henrici’s division advancing from Maikop in the east. After the oilfields were occupied, German forces would advance towards the port of Tuapse along two routes: the Belorochensk–Tuapse rail line, and the Apsheronsk–Lazarevskoye road. Initially, Soviet resistance was light; Budyonny had transferred Kirichenko’s 17th Kuban Cossack Cavalry Corps to block ‘Wiking’ but arrived too late to interfere with its opening moves. Cherevichenko had the 12th Army deployed on the main route to Tuapse, but it had few infantrymen and little artillery. Assisted by infiltrators from the 7. Kompanie of Brandenburgers, ‘Wiking’ was able to capture an intact bridge over the Pshekha River on 11 August, enabling two battalions from the SS-Regiment ‘Germania’ and its Panzer-Abteilung to advance 50km in three days to overrun the oilfields at Kabardinskaya. However, the captured oilfields were all burning and Soviet resistance suddenly stiffened. Kirichenko’s cavalry began harassing ‘Wiking’’s exposed right flank, which forced SS-Gruppenführer Felix Steiner to divert one of his regiments to screen that area until that mission could be handed off to the Slovak Fast Division. Steiner’s division was very spread out and he only had a few battalions committed to the advance along a narrow axis towards Tuapse. The terrain was increasingly mountainous and heavily forested, which enabled the Soviet 12th Army to focus its defence at Khadyzhensk. The efforts made by ‘Wiking’ to break through this Soviet blocking position on 15–16 August failed.

Nor did Henrici’s 16. Infanterie-Division (mot.) achieve much success. South of Maikop, he sent Kampfgruppe Brede south on 12 August, trying to approach Apsheronsk and the Neftyanaya oil centre from the east. However, Brede had to approach along a narrow, heavily forested mountain road and encountered one of 12th Army’s blocking positions. Brede attempted a hasty attack, but this was repulsed with heavy losses, including himself. Henrici was forced to bring up more troops and mount a set-piece attack on 13 August, but gained little ground. By 15 August, de Angelis’ XXXXIV Armeekorps began to conduct a forward passage of lines through Kirchner’s LVII Panzerkorps and assumed the lead, while Henrici’s division was relieved and sent south to rejoin von Kleist’s spearhead. The two German light divisions – 97. and 101. Jäger-Division – now assumed the lead in the offensive towards Tuapse, but Kirichenko was beginning to exert real pressure on the Belorechenskaya–Kabardinskaya road, so both SS-Division ‘Wiking’ and the Slovak Fast Division were retained to protect de Angelis’ right flank; the commitment of these two mechanised divisions to a supporting role for the better part of a month was an absurd error on List’s part.


The 1942 Summer Offensive in Russia II

Generalmajor Erich Diestel’s 101. Jäger-Division was first into action and easily overran Apsheronsk on 15 August, then pivoted westwards to outflank the Soviet blocking positions at Khadyzhensk. Initially, Diestel’s Jäger made good progress, approaching the outskirts of Khadyzhensk by evening of 16 August. However, the lead elements of Polkovnik Mikhail F. Tikhonov’s 32nd Guards Rifle Division – transferred by sea from the Taman Peninsula – began to arrive in the area at the same time, which re-energised the 12th Army’s defence. By the time that Diestel began to organise a deliberate assault upon the town, the 32nd Guards Rifle Division was dug in around the train station and nearby railway tunnel. When 101. Jäger-Division began its attack upon Khadyzhensk on 18 August, supported by Stukas and corps-level 21cm Mörser fire, Tikhonov’s troops repulsed every German attempt to advance.

On de Angelis’ left flank, Generalmajor Ernst Rupp’s 97. Jäger-Division began a major attack southwards from Apsheronsk on 16 August with two regimental-size Kampfgruppen. The Jäger moved quickly through the rugged and heavily forested terrain, capturing Samurskaya on the first day. Soviet resistance was spotty and Rupp allowed his division to disperse, with individual battalions pushing forward as fast as possible. On 18 August, I./Jäger-Regiment 204 captured the Neftyanaya oilfield. Hauptmann Friedrich Höhne’s III./Jäger-Regiment 204 achieved a remarkable 25km advance in three days towards the Tuby Pass and overran a Soviet 15cm howitzer battalion. However, the Soviet 12th Army had merely retreated to more defensible positions on mountain tops further south and Höhne’s lone battalion boldly advanced along a narrow track into a classic ambush at the 50m-wide Wolf’s Gate Pass. Both sides of the narrow pass were flanked by steep, wooded ridges which were occupied by the Soviets. Höhne’s battalion advanced in a long column and was blasted from both sides as it entered the pass, destroying the vanguard. The Soviets had fortified Mount Oplepek (Gora Oplepen), which overlooked the Wolf’s Gate Pass and brought the German column under heavy fire while Soviet infantrymen manoeuvred through the hills to cut off their escape route. With great difficulty, Höhne extracted his bloodied battalion from the ambush at the cost of abandoning his wounded and heavy weapons and retreated 12km back to Samurskaya. The next day, Rupp tried an outflanking manoeuvre with II./Jäger-Regiment 207, but this too failed.

De Angelis’ XXXXIV Armeekorps offensive towards Tuapse had been halted after only four days by the increasing Soviet resistance and rugged terrain. Diestel’s 101. Jäger-Division brought up more artillery and attempted an ambitious double envelopment of the 32nd Guards Rifle Division between 28 and 30 August; the jaws of the two converging Jäger-Regiment almost closed around Tikhonov’s division, but ground to a halt just short of their objective. Tikhonov launched a counterattack that briefly surrounded II./Jäger-Regiment 228 before Diestel called off the offensive. West of Khadyzhensk, 198. Infanterie-Division had captured Goryachy Klyuch on 20 August, which offered the possibility of outflanking the Soviet position, but the offensive was called off. Instead, 17. Armee remained in a funk for the next month, slowly preparing for another offensive and drifting into command limbo after List was relieved by Hitler on 10 September.

While Ruoff’s army sat immobile, the Soviets used the respite to rush reinforcements to Cherevichenko’s Black Sea Group from the Transcaucasus. Kamkov’s 18th Army eventually absorbed the depleted 12th Army and assumed primary responsibility for defending the main avenue of approach to Tuapse; this army was rebuilt around six rifle and one cavalry divisions, and received substantial artillery reinforcements. On 23 August, the Military Council of the North Caucasus Front ordered the creation of a Tuapse Defensive Region (TOR), under the command of Rear-Admiral Georgy Zhukov – which would be subordinate to Kamkov’s 18th Army. Ryzhov’s 56th Army, with four rifle divisions, was ordered to defend Kamkov’s left flank and to tie in with Grechko’s 47th Army. The 5th Air Army also received another fighter division and more Il-2 Sturmoviks.

Ruoff’s 17. Armee was not able to resume the offensive until late September; he wanted proper mountain troops to conduct the operation, but none were at hand. Since the promised Italian Alpine Corps had not arrived, the OKH finally cancelled the operation by XXXXIX Gebirgskorps against Sukhumi and sent parts of both of its divisions, totalling five infantry and five artillery battalions, as Division Lanz to reinforce 17. Armee. Ruoff also received an infantry regiment from 46. Infanterie-Division. Altogether, Ruoff intended to hurl three German corps against the Tuapse defences, but the delay allowed the Soviets to regain their confidence. During the lull, on 6 September Soviet troops from the 395th Rifle Division managed to ambush and kill Generalmajor Albert Buck, commander of 198. Infanterie-Division, and wound his operations officer.

Ruoff’s offensive, dubbed Operation Attika, began on 23 September when LVII Panzerkorps committed 125. and 198. Infanterie-Division against the 56th Army’s 395th Rifle Division south of Goryachy Kluych. His intent was to penetrate through Ryzhov’s weaker defences and push down the Psekups Valley to reach Shaumyan, thereby enveloping Kamkov’s left flank. Kirchner’s two infantry divisions succeeded in making a modest 10km bulge into Ryzhov’s front and captured Fanagoriyskoye by 30 September, but were then stymied by tough Soviet resistance. In the centre, de Angelis’ XXXXIV Armeekorps concentrated both Jäger-Divisionen, reinforced by Infanterie-Regiment 72 from 46 Infanterie-Division, against Tikhonov’s 32nd Guards Rifle Division on 25 September; although they kept pounding for a week, they could not capture the main defensive positions. Despite support from Stukas, heavy artillery and assault guns, 101. Jäger-Division was repeatedly repulsed by Tikhonov’s division. The 97. Jäger-Division succeeded in pushing back the 236th Rifle Division and capturing Mount Lyssaya, but was fought out after just four days of combat.

It was Generalmajor Hubert Lanz’s ad hoc division of Gebirgstruppen that achieved the most success. Lanz did not launch his attack until 27 September and his battalions advanced across mountainous terrain that the Soviets regarded as nearly impassible. In just three days, Lanz’s Gebirgsjäger advanced 10–15km, capturing Mount Geiman and Mount Gunai. On 28 September, the remainder of 46. Infanterie-Division (two regiments) conducted a supporting attack on Lanz’s left flank and succeeded in capturing Mount Oplepek. Having broken through Kamkov’s centre, Division Lanz pivoted westward into the Gunaika Valley, intent upon outflanking Tikhonov’s 32nd Guards Rifle Division. Kamkov was forced to pull some of his units back to prevent encirclement. The 46. Infanterie-Division achieved a clear-cut breakthrough south of Mount Oplepek and advanced to seize Kotlovina on 3 October. De Angelis’ XXXXIV Armeekorps continued to pound on Tikhonov’s nearly encircled division and briefly cut it off by seizing Kurinskiy, but a rapid Soviet counterattack by 32nd Guards Rifle Division reopened the road.

By early October, the German advance towards Tuapse was bogged down, moving only occasionally in fits and starts. Ruoff could only jab in a few sectors – he lacked the resources to mount an all-out offensive. Short of infantry, Ruoff was forced to use Sicherungs-Regiment 4 in the front line to cover his army’s left flank. Kamkov received reinforcements from the 47th and 56th armies, enabling him to mount local counterattacks between 7 and 13 October, which succeeded in cutting into the flank of XXXXIX Gebirgskorps and recapturing Mount Oplepek. The weather was beginning to turn and would soon make offensive operations impossible in the mountains. Nevertheless, on 14 October Ruoff kicked off another offensive by all three corps. The 198. Infanterie-Division was able to break through the 56th Army’s defences, which finally caused Tikhonov’s 32nd Guards Rifle Division to evacuate its positions at Khadyzhensk and retreat towards Tuapse. The 101. Jäger-Division followed and captured Shaumyan on 17 October. Ruoff was confident that 17. Armee would make it to Tuapse before the weather closed in. Then it began to rain on 18 October, turning the mountain trails into untrafficable muck. Low cloud cover also interfered with the ability of I./StG 77’s Stukas to provide close air support.

Only Division Lanz continued to push forward slowly, while the rest of Ruoff’s army struggled merely to hold on to what they already possessed. Kampfgruppe Lawall, with all three battalions of Gebirgsjäger-Regiment 98, pushed on resolutely despite the rains that began on 18 October. Four days later, the Gebirgsjäger were able to capture the 1,016m-high Mount Semashkho, from which they could see the Black Sea in the distance.

However, furious Soviet counterattacks by the fresh 408th Rifle Division and 383rd Rifle Division brought the German advance to a halt and inflicted heavy losses on Division Lanz. Although the German effort to capture Tuapse would continue for two more pointless months, Ruoff’s offensive had peaked by late October 1942 and the front line settled into a static nature. Soviet counterattacks kept picking at the exposed German flanks throughout the next two months. The commitment of three German corps to capture a minor Black Sea port had proved to be a costly diversion in a campaign which had little margin for error.


The offensive against Tuapse had been weakened from the beginning by the OKH’s last-minute decision to send General der Gebirgstruppe Rudolf Konrad’s XXXXIX Gebirgskorps far to the south to advance down the so-called ‘Sukhumi Military Highway’ in order to seize several mountain passes in the High Caucasus Mountains and then capture the port of Sukhumi. Konrad argued for using his corps in the advance upon Tuapse, while von Kleist wanted to use the Gebirgsjäger to assist 1. Panzerarmee’s advance to Grozny, but both were overruled. As early as 5 August, Konrad was informed that in addition to seizing several key passes, he was to organise an expedition to occupy Mount Elbrus – the highest point in the Caucasus and in Europe. The powers back in Berlin, like Dr Joseph Goebbels, wanted a photogenic propaganda triumph which planting a Nazi flag on Elbrus would serve admirably, while ignoring the affect of this extravagant diversion on the overall operation.

Konrad knew that the Caucasus mountain passes would be closed by snow by September, so like a good soldier he forced-marched his two divisions 200km southwards as rapidly as possible, following in the path of von Kleist’s panzers. Amazingly, his vanguard – Kampfgruppe Lawall from 1. Gebirgs-Division – reached Cherkessk on 11 August and then stormed into Mikoyan-Shakhar (Karachayevsk). The ‘Sukhumi Military Highway’ turned out to be little more than a dirt road, which turned into an even narrower track as they approached the main Caucasus peaks. Meanwhile, Tyulenev’s ZKF (Transcaucasus Front) staff were completely unaware that Konrad’s troops were pushing through the mountains towards Sukhumi and did not even issue orders to defend the passes until 10 August. General-mayor Vasiliy F. Sergatskov’s 46th Army was assigned the mission of defending the Caucasus passes, but even Soviet sources are frank about condemning his lethargic effort to move units towards them. Sergatskov merely ordered General-mayor Konstantin N. Leselidze’s 3rd Mountain Rifle Corps to send company and battalion-size detachments from the 9th and 20th Mountain Rifle divisions and the 394th Rifle Division to observe the passes. One unit, the 1st Battalion, 815th Rifle Regiment from the 394th Rifle Division marched to the town of Teberda, where it was surprised and defeated by Kampfgruppe Lawall on 14 August. The German Gebirgsjäger pushed on, with a single picked battalion known as Kampfgruppe von Hirschfeld and seized the important Klukhor Pass on the evening of 17 August. Stalin was furious that the Germans had penetrated so deeply into the Caucasus and ordered his NKVD chief Lavrenti Beria, who had arrived at Tyulenev’s headquarters in Tbilisi, to relieve Sergatskov of command. Leselidze, a Georgian officer (Stalin and Beria were both Georgians) managed to survive this shake-up and demonstrated ability by rushing a reinforced regiment to the Klukhor Pass to block any further German advance towards the coast; Stalin gave him command of the 46th Army.

Konrad’s other division, 4. Gebirgs-Division, also initially made good progress towards the coast by marching on a parallel route, and its vanguard Kampfgruppe Stettner (two Gebirgsjäger-Bataillone and six 7.5cm mountain guns) seized several passes. Yet despite the apparent proximity of Sukhumi – just 30km away – Konrad never really had a chance to reach that objective. It began to snow in the mountains on 18 August and continued for several days, reducing the German advance to a crawl. The Sukhumi Military Highway petered out after the Klukhor Pass into trackless mountains. The OKH staff members who thought that Konrad’s Gebirgstruppen could advance from the Klukhor Pass to the southern segment of the Sukhumi Military Highway near the coast did not appreciate that this would require a corps to supply itself along a 90km stretch of trail that was only fit for mules; the nearest railhead was over 170km distant. It was not the Soviets that defeated Konrad, but a combination of the terrain and weather. Even if Konrad could somehow have reached the coast, he would have had to defeat the bulk of the 46th Army with a handful of battalions in order to seize Sukhumi – and then his lines of communications across the Caucasus would be severed by snow for the entire winter. If his corps was caught on the wrong side of the passes once winter arrived, it would eventually be destroyed. Neither the Kriegsmarine nor the Luftwaffe would be able to supply the Gebirgskorps in the Caucasus Mountains for an entire winter. Indeed, the entire OKH plan to push Konrad’s Gebirgskorps towards Sukhumi was a half-baked concept that ignored terrain and weather and which risked these elite troops becoming isolated and possibly destroyed, all for the sake of a tertiary objective.

After taking the Klukhor Pass, 1. Gebirgs-Division sent a hand-picked force to climb Mount Elbrus, which was accomplished on 21 August. Hitler was rightly furious when he heard about this frivolous expedition, which caused further friction with List. Konrad’s advance was now running up against serious opposition. Leselidze quickly shifted his 46th Army divisions along the coast road and received reinforcements from Tyulenev, while Konrad was on his own. Kampfgruppe Stettner was able to cross the Bsyb River on 28 August but was blocked by the 354th Rifle Division near the Achavkar Pass, while Kampfgruppe Lawall was blocked by the 304th Rifle Division. Konrad’s supply lines were a mess, requiring four days or more for mule convoys to reach Kampfgruppe Stettner. By late August, it was clear that the plan to seize Sukhumi had failed and List, Ruoff and Konrad met in Krasnodar to discuss options. It was decided that the Gebirgstruppe could be better employed in supporting Ruoff’s offensive towards Tuapse, rather than freezing to death in the High Caucasus. The Sukhumi front would become an economy of force effort, where the Germans left only enough troops to prevent Tyulenev’s forces from threatening von Kleist’s lines of communications. Gruppe von Le Suire, consisting of five battalions, was left to guard the passes. Consequently, Konrad pulled the rest of his corps back to reduce his supply problems and transferred the remaining units to Division Lanz, which was sent north to join in the second offensive against Tuapse.

What was supposed to be the advance intended to decide the whole war had stalled at Novorossisk, on the Terek, and in the mountains. There are indications that by early September, Hitler realized that the objectives in the east could not be attained and even that the war was lost. This defeat was the result of failure in the Caucasus and not Stalingrad, where he still hoped for at least a local victory.

“Sturmtiger” in Warsaw

Prototype Sturmtiger was then transported on August 12th of 1944 to Pruszkow and then moved to Warsaw to take part in the German attempt to contain the Polish Home Army’s Uprising. One of the projectiles which failed to explode is still on the display in Museum Wojska Polskiego in Warsaw. On August 28th, after successful debut, it was brought back to Alkett plant in Berlin-Spandau. In the early September of 1944, newly formed PzStuMrKp 1000, equipped with two Sturmtigers arrived in Warsaw. 

A little-known episode from the fighting during the Warsaw Uprising in August and September 1944, involved the operations carried out by 1000. Sturmtiger-Kompanie. A prototype of the Sturmtiger was sent to Warsaw and off-loaded at the station in Pruszków on August 15, 1944. This station was prepared for receiving and handling heavy vehicles like the Sturmtiger, the mortar “Karl” Gerät, and possibly railed artillery, and was equipped with two railway cranes with huge lifting capacity. Similar equipment was available at the station in Nasielsk where the Tiger-Battalions Schwere-Abteilung 505 and 507 were also sent, in order to then be deployed at the front outside Narwia. A second such vehicle was off-loaded on August 18. The status report from the 9th Army on August 20 (Krannhal’s op.cit. p. 378) confirms that 1000. Sturmtiger-Kompanie with two Sturmtigers was included among the units which fought in Warsaw. It was the first prototype-vehicle to arrive in Poland’s capital city, together with another such vehicle, sent out before being manufactured on a series production line, with an iron or light steel superstructure. Just such a vehicle had already been produced toward the end of 1943. This fact is confirmed by the army group Centre’s report 65004/7, with a notation written by Colonel-General Guderian.

“To the Army Group, for the purpose of its being put to use in Warsaw: – on August 14, dispatched: one Tiger, with a 38 cm rocket firing ramp (test model), which is not suitable for use against anti-tank forces, as it is made of light steel.”

The heaviest assault guns of the Sturmtiger type were equipped with launch systems for firing 380mm calibre rockets; model Stu M RW 61, with a range of 3,600 – 4,600 metres. There were no Sturmtigers deployed along the first combat line, where these heavy vehicles weighing 65 tonnes risked falling into bomb craters, and moreover, where the use of their strong-points, or positive characteristics, was not suited to a destroyed city, with various areas often isolated by barricades. The Sturmtiger was stationed in the area around Ulica Sucha and Ulica 6 Sierpnia (now Ulica Nowowiejska), on Mokotów Field and possibly on Plac na Rozdrożu (Crossroad Square), as well.

It’s difficult to establish which targets they fired on because the heavy 380mm projectiles’ explosions have more than once been ascribed to bomb explosions resulting from railway gun shelling or, quite simply, to rocket projectiles of a different type, called Werfer – also known as “closets” or “choirs” by Warsaw’s inhabitants. At that time, the Sturmtiger was an entirely unknown entity, and the vehicles that were captured in 1945 came as a complete surprise to the allied troops.

At the end of August, a Sturmtiger, firing from the ghetto area or Kerceli Square, pounded, among other areas, Ulica Zakroczymska and the National Mint on Ulica Sanguszka in the Old Town. One other vehicle shelled resistance fighter positions in the suburb of Sadyba. On September 8-16, Sturmtigers fired on the area around Ulica Przemyslowa, Ulica Fabrycna and Ulica Naczna in Powisle. On September 8, Sturmtiger projectiles fell on insurgent positions at the Lazarus Hospital on Ulica Książęca. General von Vormann, commander of the 9th Army, made a memorably worded, harsh assessment of the Sturmtiger and its battle-fighting capabilities, “They have only factory personnel (von Vormann was referring to the first vehicle, delivered on August 15) who can’t shoot.”

Sturmtiger, designated 38 cm RW 61 Ausf Stu Mrs Tiger. This 65 ton vehicle consisted of a 38 cm Type 61 rocket projector or mortar mounted as an assault howitzer on a modified Tiger E chassis. The Raketenwerfer 61 L/54 was originally developed as an anti-submarine weapon for the German Navy

The idea for a heavy infantry support vehicle capable of demolishing heavily defended buildings or fortified areas with a single shot came out of the experiences of the heavy urban fighting in the Battle of Stalingrad in 1942.

At the time, the Wehrmacht had only the Sturm-Infanteriegeschütz 33B available for destroying buildings, a Sturmgeschütz III variant armed with a 15 cm sIG 33 heavy infantry gun. Twelve of them were lost in the fighting at Stalingrad. Its successor, the Sturmpanzer IV/Brummbär was in production from early 1943, but the Wehrmacht still saw a need for a similar, but heavier armoured and armed vehicle. Therefore a decision was made to create a new vehicle based on the Tiger tank and arm it with a 210 mm howitzer.

However, this weapon turned out not to be available at the time and was therefore replaced by a 380 mm rocket launcher, which was adapted from a Kriegsmarine depth charge launcher.

In September 1943 plans were made for Krupp to fabricate new Tiger I armored hulls for the Sturmtiger. The Tiger I hulls were to be sent to Henschel for chassis assembly and then to Alkett where the superstructures would be mounted. The first prototype was ready and presented to Adolf Hitler in October 1943. Delivery of the first hulls would occur in December 1943, with the first three Sturmtigers completed by Alkett by 20 February 1944.

Due to delays, Hitler did not request production of the weapon until 19 April 1944; 12 superstructures and weapons for the Sturmtiger would be prepared and mounted on rebuilt Tiger I chassis. The first three production series Sturmtigers were completed by Alkett in August 1944. Plans to complete an additional seven 38 cm Sturmtigers from 15 to 21 September 1944 were presented to Hitler in a conference on 18-20 August 1944. Ten Sturmtigers were produced in September, along with an additional five in December 1944.

Hitler had laid great importance on the special employment of the Sturmtiger and believed it would be necessary to produce at least 300 rounds of ammunition per month.

These vehicles were heavily armoured and were intended for mobile assault against troop concentrations and fortifications. A small crane was fitted to the rear of the vehicle to load the projectiles of which 13 were carried, including one on the loading tray of the projector. An MG 34 was ball-mounted in the offside of the superstructure front plate. Being slow, cumbersome, and of limited tactical value they played no significant part in the closing months of the war; they were to have been used in ones and twos only, and were swiftly immobilised and captured when they put in an appearance.

The original role of the Sturmtiger was intended to be as a heavy infantry support vehicle, to help with attacks on heavily fortified or built-up areas. By the time the first Sturmtigers were available however, the situation for Germany had changed for the worse, with the Wehrmacht being almost exclusively on the defensive rather than the offensive.

Three new Panzer companies were raised to operate the Sturmtiger: Panzer Sturmmörser Kompanien (PzStuMrKp) (Armored Assault Mortar Company) 1000, 1001 and 1002. These originally were supposed to be equipped with fourteen vehicles, but this figure was later reduced to four each, divided into two platoons.

PzStuMrKp 1000 was raised on 13 August 1944 and fought during the Warsaw Uprising with two vehicles, as did the prototype in a separate action, which may have been the only time the Sturmtiger was used in its intended role. PzStuMrKp 1001 (commanded by Captain von Gottberg) and 1002 (commanded by Lieutenant Zippel) followed in September and October. Both PzStuMrKp 1000 and 1001 served during the Ardennes Offensive, with a total of seven Sturmtigers.

After this offensive, the Sturmtigers were used in the defence of Germany proper, mainly on the Western front.

Flying the Hump 1945

William Bond stayed in the United States through Christmas 1944, the first time he’d spent the holiday season with his wife and sons in six years. The war had forced so much hardship on his family; he was so tired of the long separations. Pan Am president Juan Trippe invited Bond to dinner at the house he kept on F Street in Washington, D.C., intending to discuss the looming contract negotiation and chart the course of CNAC’s future. Trippe was amazed with what Bond had accomplished, and he was delighted with Pan Am’s prospects in the Orient. The China National Aviation Corporation was ten times bigger than it had been before Pearl Harbor. In the United States, it would have been among the five largest carriers. Like most industry observers, Juan Trippe expected it to dominate Asia’s aerial commerce after the war, paying excellent dividends on Pan Am’s dozen years of investment and encouragement.

In light of what had happened to M. Y. Tong, William Bond now held exactly the opposite opinion. Tong’s execution had convinced him that Nationalist China was doomed, that CNAC would share its fate, and that right now was the time to extract whatever return Pan American could get. Ironically, it was a near-exact reversal of the positions they’d held during their fateful Cloud Club conversation in the summer of 1937, when Trippe had been prepared to write off Pan Am’s investment entirely and Bond had been determined to salvage it. Now, eight years later, Trippe wanted to retain all of it. Bond felt that Pan Am should sell most of its 45 percent share to the Chinese. True to form, the two men batted arguments back and forth without budging the other’s position. Unable to sway Trippe with reason, Bond played his last card. “Mr. Trippe, maybe you’re right, but you can’t make a success of something you don’t believe in. I’d be criminally disloyal if I didn’t oppose this with everything I’ve got. I’ll have to resign.”

Trippe scrutinized his China man for signs of bluff. “You feel that strongly about it?”

“If I didn’t feel that way, I wouldn’t say so. I like working for Pan Am and I need my job, but I’m not going to agree to do something I know will lead to disaster.”

Bond left dinner with permission to sell 35 percent of the airline for 2.5 million U.S. dollars, retaining a 10 percent stake in the reorganized company for Pan Am.

When Bond returned to Asia in early 1945, the Allies had essentially won the wars in both Europe and the Pacific. All that remained was the grim task of crushing the last fires of resistance from fanatic enemies, final bloodbaths in which tens of thousands would lose their lives. Hitler’s remaining forces were being crushed between armies advancing from east and west. In the Orient and the western Pacific, the Japanese fought with a tenacity that defied Western comprehension. Eventual victory seemed secure but still distant. Conventional wisdom expected Japan’s end to come sometime in 1946. President Franklin Roosevelt didn’t live to see either enemy’s defeat. He died on April 12, succeeded by Harry S Truman, and on the last day of the month Adolf Hitler committed suicide. A week later, on May 8, 1945, Germany surrendered unconditionally, ending six years of European war. British general Sir William Slim’s Anglo-Indian Army had spent the first half of the year ousting the Japanese from Burma, recapturing Mandalay and Rangoon. Overhead, the Air Transport Command delivered more than forty-six thousand tons to China in May, and the quantity was still growing. The Army had finally mastered the Hump—with airline-style operating procedures implemented by Brigadier General William H. Tunner, who had been installed in charge of the airlift in the middle of 1944. Every person in CNAC wondered what the Army might have accomplished if it had employed such commonsense techniques from the beginning.

Like Bond, Charles Ridgley Hammell, survivor of the epic 1943 trek out of the Mishmi Hills with Joe Rosbert, had spent a sizeable chunk of 1944 at home, and Hammell made good use of his time, romancing and marrying an attractive woman named Jean. Duty called, however, even to civilians working for CNAC, and Hammell returned to Asia, bringing with him a modern hunting rifle. He was working through the North East Frontier Agency to get it to the Mishmis who’d saved his and Rosbert’s lives. On May 9, 1945, the day after Germany’s surrender, Hugh Woods assigned Ridge Hammell to take a C-47 to China.

For the last three years, company freight pilots had been left entirely to their own devices from the time they were released from Dinjan control until they came under the command of the traffic controllers at Kunming. They picked their own routes and altitudes, flying alone or in loose company with one or two of their brethren. Not so in the spring of 1945. The skies between Assam and Yunnan had become so jammed with transport aircraft that the brass hats in the Air Transport Command established prescribed airways to contain the traffic, and they insisted that CNAC flights join the general pattern. To get into it, airplanes leaving Dinjan actually began their flights heading west, away from China, passing at prescribed altitudes over radio beacons that guided them through a long, climbing U-turn and into the proper air corridor. The new procedures required the radio operators to switch frequencies shortly after takeoff, and as usual, the airline was shorthanded. The freight pilots were rationed either a Chinese radioman or a copilot, and they preferred the radio operators, who were well trained and spoke passable English. Not so the Chinese copilots the airline enlisted late in the war. Woefully undertrained, most weren’t fit to do much besides respond to commands like “Wheels up!” and “Flaps down!” and Ridge Hammell had one such “hydraulic secretary” in his right seat on the morning of May 9. After takeoff, he circled the field, climbed to three thousand feet, and set the autopilot, not trusting his right-seater with the controls. Hammell clambered out of his seat into the radio compartment to tune in one of the upcoming air-traffic-control stations. It was all hunky-dory until one of the engines failed. A well-trained copilot would have handled the emergency, but Hammell’s wasn’t, and didn’t, and the airplane tipped into a spin. Centrifugal force pinned Hammell against the wall of the radio compartment.

Pete Goutiere and the other pilots on the Dinjan airfield doing preflight checks stood paralyzed by the high-pitched whine of Hammell’s plane. It whoomped into the ground a few miles from the airport and burst into flames. Goutiere couldn’t bear to visit the crash site. So many of his friends had died. He buttoned the agony and kept flying. They all did. Ridge Hammell had flown the Hump more than four hundred times. Joe Rosbert got word in Los Angeles, California, where he’d parlayed the Hollywood connections of his actor uncle, Elmer Goodfellow Brendel, known onscreen as comic actor El Brendel, into a job at Paramount Pictures advising development of a motion picture about the Hump. He was working on one of Paramount’s Marathon Street soundstages when someone got his attention. “Ridge went in.”

Rosbert grimaced and heard the particulars. “That’s a damn shame,” he said, blowing out a long breath. There wasn’t much more to it. He was a pilot, and it was 1945. Friends died all the time.

Hammell’s mascot Elmer the bear came to an end just as ugly. Fearing foul luck, few pilots would fly her after Ridge got his. They kept Elmer chained to a pole outside the airline’s Kunming hostel, and the bear grew so much that her metal collar dug into her neck. Discomfort made her ornery, and she lunged at those who dared approach. One day, the bear disappeared. That night, the men ate a delicious sweet-and-sour dish vastly more meaty and satisfying than their normal Kunming fare. A pilot asked the cook what it contained. “Elmer,” the cook said with a grin. The pilots pushed back and digested the information, put off their appetites. On second thought, it seemed a shame to waste the bear’s last service. Most cleared their plates.


When Ridge Hammell was killed, William Bond was in China, in the thick of contract negotiations. Like much Chinese business, many of the exploratory maneuvers were social, and he was invited to a party with CNAC’s Chinese directors by General Yu Fei-peng, Chiang Kai-shek’s porcine cousin and rapacious “chief of supply,” newly installed as Kuomintang minister of communications. Copious alcohol consumption was de rigueur at such events, and General Yu and the others ganged up on Bond. “Gom-bey, gom-bey”—“Bottoms up”—they toasted Bond in succession, each iteration requiring Bond to empty his glass. To do otherwise would be to lose face with his corporate peers. Unless he could divert their purpose, Bond had a face-first date with the floor. He saved himself with a matchbox drinking game remembered from his younger years. Taught the rudiments, Yu Fei-peng roared with delight, and Bond’s meticulous flips stood the matchbox on end time and again. Minister Yu howled and guzzled the required whisky. Before long, Bond had the minister pie-eyed, and he focused on his other companions. Most were soon just as soused. When it was over, Yu Fei-peng’s aides had to summon four coolies and a sedan chair to get their “old water buffalo” downstairs. Bond’s hangover seemed a small price to pay for the great face he’d made with his fellow directors, the very men with whom he was negotiating the reduction of Pan Am’s stake in the airline, and the means by which Bond envisioned getting Pan Am’s investment—and himself—out of China.

After breakfast, Bond met with T. V. Soong and General T. H. Shen, a relatively new managing director. It was a delicate dance. For years, the Chinese had made clear their expectation that the 1945 contract renegotiation would make the airline “more Chinese” by reducing the American share. Bond put on a façade of great regret and reluctance, stressing everything Pan Am had done to nurture the company since 1933 and the aviation community’s expectation that CNAC would become exceptionally profitable after the war and that it would be grossly unfair to squeeze out Pan Am on the verge of such success. General Shen gave his estimate of the company’s value. Bond examined Shen’s asset and liabilities sheet and pointed out several omitted items. Shen raised his appraisal. They went back and forth over a few other aspects of the valuation until Dr. Soong cut in and ended the dispute—Bond had been met more than halfway. Bond uncapped his pen, leaned forward, and signed. He pushed the papers across to General Shen and watched him do likewise. They forwarded the signed agreement to Minister Yu for approval, and with Dr. Soong’s sponsorship there was little doubt that it would be accepted. Bond smiled reluctantly. Inside, he backflipped with joy. The exact mechanics of the sale weren’t yet settled, but the deal was shaping up to be much better than the one Juan Trippe had authorized him to negotiate. All Bond needed to finalize the sell-down was for Pan Am’s corporate attorney to come to Chungking and sign the contract. He’d been promised the lawyer’s prompt appearance. He pestered Bixby, but he heard nothing in return, and the silence had him sick with worry. Days ticked by, then weeks, and the Chinese started chiseling on price. Bond was terrified that the deal would collapse. Fully a month passed without word from Pan Am. A persistent cold nagged Bond’s throat and sinuses. Stomach troubles stopped him from eating. He couldn’t sleep.

Bond never did hear from New York. Another ventricular tachycardia attack waylaid him instead. He was in Calcutta, unconscious for more than an hour, and the attack derailed his work on the new contract. He recuperated slowly, and it remained unsigned. The July 8 expiration date came and went and the airline continued operations without a formal arrangement between the two partners, a state of uncertain flux that did little to lessen the strain on the airline’s indispensable China man.

China’s economic malaise had continued to worsen, black-market exchange rates ballooning to three thousand to one. To help quench the inflation, the United States had promised tens of millions of dollars of financial assistance. The Chinese government continued to insist on a large chunk of it in gold. The Treasury Department had dithered since the Cairo Conference, frustrated with China’s war effort, internal corruption, and hard-line official/unofficial exchange rate bargaining for payment of American incountry construction costs, but Secretary of the Treasury Henry Morgenthau, Jr., finally authorized gold shipments in May 1945. The United States dispatched an oceangoing freighter from New York with a generous allotment of precious metal in a secure hold. It docked in Calcutta on July 17, blanketed by heavy security. Armed guards escorted a gold-bearing truck convoy to Dum Dum Airport. The gold came stowed in little barrels resembling beer kegs. CNAC employees rolled the kegs into ten transports and lashed them in the cargo cabins in two rows on either side of the center line, three tons of it per plane, each load worth about $2.5 million (some $96 million in modern dollars). Pete Goutiere and nine other reliable pilots flew the gold to Dinjan, refueled inside another tight security curtain, and took it over the Hump to China, required to make position reports every thirty minutes. They landed at Ku Long Po, the dusty military airstrip outside Chungking where a near-collision had come close to killing the Generalissimo in 1943. There was no security at all in China, nothing. Coolie gangs rolled the gold-stuffed barrels to the airplane doors and dropped them onto receiving beds of worn-out tires. Other teams rolled the barrels up ramps into the beds of open trucks. Pete Goutiere sat on a fuel drum, watching dust whip from the truck wheels as they drove the gold off the airfield. It looked to him like the Chiangs had just conned the United States out of thirty tons of gold. “Americans,” he muttered, “the rubes of Asia.”

Goutiere climbed off his perch and flew back to India. Since the end of 1942, he’d flown the Hump more than 650 times.

In August, the maharaja of Bamra invited several airline personnel and some Army officers on a hunting expedition in the forests of his princely state in central India. Chuck Sharp and Pete Goutiere were among those who attended, along with two generals in the Army’s Service of Supply. They hunted antelope and sambars from tree stands, but they weren’t bagging much game, and after about a week of hunting the group was enjoying an afternoon soiree in the raja’s palace garden, trying to fathom the nature of the atomic bombs just dropped on Hiroshima and Nagasaki. President Truman said they were powered by the same force that fired the sun. A plane buzzed low overhead and dropped a packet, trailing a small parachute. Bearers fetched the package, which contained a note. Chubby General Hackett peered at it through spectacles and looked up. “Gentlemen, the Japs surrendered,” he announced, beaming. “The war is over.


The Duc de Villars, a marshal of France, leading his troops during the Battle of Denain in 1712.

Map: Europe in 1700

The year 1683 represented the high-water mark of French hegemony in Europe. ‘Not a dog barks in Europe unless our king says he may’, was the hubristic boast of one French diplomat. There is good–if not conclusive-evidence that Louis was hoping (and expecting) to see the Turks defeat the Austrians, capture Vienna and annex the Habsburg Monarchy. That would allow him to step forward as the champion of Christendom and, more specifically, as the only possible defender of the Holy Roman Empire. He encouraged the Turks to begin their invasion, discouraged the Poles from intervening, and declined a request from the Pope to rally to the Christian cause on the grounds that crusades were no longer appropriate and that he would not risk French commercial interests in the Levant. By means of agreements with the Electors of Saxony, Bavaria, Brandenburg and Cologne, he had already paved the way for the election of himself or a member of his family as the next Holy Roman Emperor.

It was not to be. John Sobieski of Poland did bring an army south, the Turks were defeated, it was Leopold I who emerged as the champion of Christendom and the Holy Roman Empire, and it was Leopold’s son Joseph who was elected ‘King of the Romans’, thus guaranteeing him the imperial succession. At least part of Louis’ response was, first to bully the Huguenots into converting to the true faith and then, in 1685, to revoke the Edict of Nantes which had permitted freedom of worship for Protestants. Despite an official ban on emigration, around 200,000 refugees then gave the lie to Louis’ claim that his forcible conversion campaign had succeeded. Protestant Europe was outraged. It was not just universal monarchy that Louis now seemed to be seeking but a religious dictatorship too. What he had done to the Protestants in his own country, he might very well do to their co-religionists outside it. At the very least, it can be said that it made the task of the hawks easier in constructing an anti-French coalition. In Brandenburg, Frederick William the Great Elector abandoned his long-standing alliance with Louis. More crucially, in the Dutch Republic, William III now found it much easier to persuade the towns of Holland of the need to pursue a forward policy. The English envoy noted in October 1685, ‘they beginne to exclaime very loudly here against the usage which the French Protestants have in France and a day of humiliation and fasting is to be appointed throughout these provinces by reason of that persecution’. That cry of execration could only gain in strength as around 60,000 French refugees poured into the Dutch Republic. In August 1687 the Dutch in effect abrogated the commercial clauses of the Peace of Nyjmegen and resumed a trade war with France. By the early summer of 1688, the French envoy was reporting that the Dutch were convinced that Louis was seeking ‘to destroy their religion and especially their commerce’. On 10 June 1688 the birth of a healthy son to James II of England not only dashed the hopes of his daughter Mary and her husband William III of succeeding, it raised the awful spectre of a permanently Catholic England in alliance with an aggressively Catholic France. So when shortly afterwards ‘the immortal seven’ English grandees invited William over to liberate them from the Jacobite yoke, he was able to win the support of the States of Holland without which he could have done nothing. The French threat that a Dutch landing in England would be regarded as a declaration of war was ignored.

This marked the beginning of the ‘Second Hundred Years War’ which was to end only on the battlefield of Waterloo 127 years later. The first phase was dominated by James’s attempt to regain the throne he had abandoned so precipitately in November 1688. The decisive battle was fought in Ireland on the River Boyne north of Dublin on 12 June 1690, when William III’s multinational force defeated James II’s French and Irish troops. Among the casualties was Frederick Schomberg, once a marshal in the army of Louis XIV, until his refusal to abandon his Protestant faith sent him into exile and the service of William III, who made him a duke in the peerage of England. Meanwhile Louis XIV had embarked on what he hoped would be a limited war on the Rhine but which turned out to be a world war lasting nine years (and variously known as the Nine Years War, the Ten Years War, the War of the League of Augsburg or the War of the Grand Alliance).

By the late 1680s Louis had become increasingly alarmed by the continuing run of success enjoyed by the Habsburg Emperor Leopold I in the east. On 2 September 1686 Buda fell to an Austrian assault, bringing to an end 145 years of Turkish rule; on 12 August the following year, a Turkish counter-attack was crushed by an Austrian army commanded by Prince Charles of Lorraine at Mohács on the Danube, at a cost of 30,000 Turkish dead–a victory all the more sweet because it had been at the same place in 1526 that a Turkish victory had established their domination of Hungary; also in 1687 Transylvania recognized Austrian sovereignty; in 1688 the Hungarian Parliament recognized Leopold’s son Joseph as his heir to the Hungarian throne; and on 6 September Belgrade fell to an imperial army commanded by the Elector of Bavaria. With Austrian influence now extended deep into the Balkans and the Turks cowed for the foreseeable future, Louis might reasonably fear that Leopold would turn west and exact retribution for the reunions. Such a step had been prepared diplomatically in 1686 by a league formed at Augsburg by Austria, Spain, Sweden and several German princes.

Louis now committed what John Lynn has called ‘the great miscalculation’. He believed that, with William III preoccupied by events in England and almost certain to come to grief there, a short sharp campaign of intimidation on the Rhine would be sufficient to persuade the Emperor and the German princes to turn the truce agreed at Regensburg in 1684 into a permanent settlement. In the event, he had the worst of both worlds. His own move to the east allowed William III a free hand in the west, where far from coming to grief he had succeeded in deposing James II by the end of the year, while his intended Blitzkrieg turned into a prolonged war of attrition. However, one sinister aspect of the war does need to be identified, because of its far-reaching consequences. The manifesto of 24 September 1688 announcing the French war aims stressed their moderation. All Louis was seeking, it was stated, was formal recognition of the reunions, compensation for abandoning French claims to the Palatinate (where a cadet branch of the Wittelsbachs had just succeeded) and to make a protest against the election of Joseph Clement of Bavaria as Elector of Cologne.

As far as it went, that was a not entirely disingenuous summary. French policy and strategy can indeed be described as defensive from now on. The means adopted were quite a different matter. The same brutal scorched-earth tactics adopted during the Dutch War were now employed again, but magnified to the power of ten. The two men responsible for advising Louis on military policy–the marquis de Chamlay and the marquis de Louvois persuaded him to authorize the physical destruction of western Germany on such a scale that a buffer-zone of devastation would be created. As a bonus, it was believed, the other princes would be so intimidated as to offer no further resistance to French demands. At the very start of the campaign, Louvois instructed General Montclair to pillage Württemberg systematically, while Chamlay proposed to go further. In a letter to his colleague of 27 October 1688 he wrote: ‘I would dare to propose to you something that perhaps will not be to your taste, that is the day after we take Mannheim [in the Palatinate], I would put the city to the sword and plough it under.’ Mannheim was indeed levelled to the ground ‘like a field’ (Chamlay) the following March. When the inhabitants declined to help by destroying their own homes, peasants were conscripted to do the job for them. This was a policy dictated from the top, as Louvois revealed when he wrote to Montclair on 18 December 1688: ‘His Majesty recommends you to ruin completely all the places that you leave along the upper and lower Neckar so that the enemy, finding no forage or food whatever, will not try to approach there.’ The King gave his express approval to Louvois’ list of communities earmarked for eradication, exempting only certain religious buildings.

This ghastly process is usually referred to as ‘the devastation of the Palatinate’, but in fact it embraced a much more extensive swathe of German territory on both the left and the right banks of the Rhine. About twenty substantial towns were destroyed, including Bingen, Oppenheim, Worms and Speyer, and untold numbers of villages. Predictably, resistance and retaliation on the part of the wretched inhabitants unleashed a second, less organized but even more terrible wave of atrocities. Heidelberg had been targeted for destruction in March 1689, but the enterprising townspeople had made preparations to extinguish the flames, with the result that only about 10 per cent of the buildings were destroyed. It was to no avail, for the French came back in 1693 and this time made no mistake. They then advertised their achievement by striking a medal bearing the motto ‘Heidelberga deleta’ (Heidelberg obliterated), thus paraphrasing the demand with which Cato famously ended all his speeches in the Roman senate: ‘Ceterum censeo Carthaginem esse delendam’ (Furthermore it is my opinion that Carthage must be destroyed). Needless to say, those on the receiving end reciprocated with a flood of pamphlets and visual images recording French barbarism and calling for retribution. It was from this episode that German demonization of France as the ‘hereditary enemy’ (Erbfeind) dated and was utilized by Leopold I, for example in his submission to the Reichstag in 1689 which led the Holy Roman Empire to declare war: ‘Germans, arm yourselves against France…all Germans, Catholic and non-Catholic alike, have the most pressing reason to resist the French, as the common enemies of all Germans, with united hearts, means and weapons.’ This was no longer a war against Louis XIV and his armies but a war of German against French. The diabolic image of the French was to have a long future. That the events of 1689 lingered powerfully in the German collective memory was shown by the centenary, which occurred just before the fall of the Bastille, and was commemorated by a flood of pamphlets. Travelling through the Rhineland in the mid-1770s, John Moore wrote of the devastation of the Palatinate: ‘the particulars of that dismal scene have been transmitted from father to son, and are still spoke of with horror by the peasantry of this country, among whom the French nation is held in detestation to this day’.

In the war against soldiers, the French achieved the same success they enjoyed against civilians, at least on land in the four main theatres of the Spanish Netherlands, the Rhineland, northern Italy and Catalonia. The war became a dreary succession of indecisive battles, sieges, manœuvres and counter-manœuvres, from whose narrative only the most dedicated military historian can derive much pleasure. It was now that the great dual necklace of fortresses around northern and eastern France constructed by Vauban proved its mettle. Suffice it to say that by 1693 it was clear that neither side would be able to land a knock-out blow and that some sort of compromise would have to be arranged by means of diplomacy. In one respect only was it decisive, but that was important enough. The battle of the Boyne really did put an end to James II’s attempt to impose a Catholic and absolutist regime on England and it really did lead to the imposition of a Protestant ascendancy on Ireland and the expropriation of its Catholic landowners. Across the water in London, the English were developing the political, administrative and, above all, financial institutions that would enable them to offset their demographic weakness in dealing with the French threat, founding a National Debt in 1693 and the Bank of England in 1694. It was during these years that the foundations of the English ‘military-fiscal state’ were laid. With Louis XIV committed to a Jacobite restoration, Anglo-French hostility became as much an axiom of the European states-system as did Franco-Dutch and Franco-Habsburg.

In negotiating a peace, Louis was greatly assisted by the mutual jealousies and resentments that naturally flourished in the enemy ‘grand coalition’ after so many years of indecisive warfare. The first to crack was the Duke of Savoy, extracted from the war by the generous terms of the separate Peace of Turin of 29 August 1696. That prompted the Austrians and Spanish to conclude a truce in Italy to protect their now dangerously exposed position there, thus allowing the French to move 30,000 troops to what became the main front in the Low Countries. This additional pressure increased William III’s determination to bring the war to an end. He had no qualms about abandoning his Austrian allies, for Leopold I had devoted most of his attention and resources to the war in the east against the Turks. All combatants, it need hardly be said, were by now so exhausted financially and economically that they were under pressure from their long-suffering subjects to settle. Once Louis XIV had decided to swallow the bitter pill of recognizing William III as King of England, the necessary treaties were signed at Ryswick in September and October 1697. France retained Alsace and Strassburg but was obliged to give up the rest of the ‘reunited’ territory and the Rhenish fortresses, to restore Lorraine to its duke and to evacuate the territory conquered in Spain. Although not obvious at the time, recognition of French sovereignty over Saint Domingue in the Caribbean opened the way for the development of the most profitable sugar-island in the region.

Did this rep resent a French victory? The marquis de Dangeau was in no doubt: ‘The king gave peace to Europe on conditions which he wished to impose. He was the master, and all his enemies acknowledged this and could not forbear from praising and admiring his moderation.’ Certainly Alsace and Strassburg were now more firmly part of France, but whether that was enough to justify nine years of ruinously expensive warfare is a different matter. Derek McKay’s summary of the French response suggests that Dangeau was whistling in the dark: ‘The peace was very unpopular in France, where it was difficult to understand why territory had been returned when France had not suffered military defeat.’ Leopold I was disgruntled too, for he had failed to return France to the frontiers of 1648, but he could draw consolation from his continuing success in the east. On 11 September 1697, or nine days before the first of the Ryswick treaties was signed, an Austrian army of about 50,000, commanded by Prince Eugène of Savoy, defeated a Turkish army twice that number and commanded by Sultan Mustafa II in person, at Zenta in central Hungary. So crushing was the victory–one of the most complete in the history of European warfare–that it effectively ended the centuries-old struggle between Habsburg and Turk for the domination of Hungary. By the Treaty of Karlowitz of January 1699, the Turks ceded Transylvania and all of Hungary except for the Bánát of Temesvár. Symbolic of its definitive nature was the fact that this was the first time that the Turks had agreed to make a peace rather than a truce with a non-Muslim power. For the next two centuries, Hungary was to prove a thorn in Austrian flesh, but its sheer size–much greater that the present-day state of that name–ensured that the Austrian Habsburgs had finally emerged from the shadow of the senior Spanish branch to become a truly major European power in their own right.

The Nine Years War undoubtedly marked a shift by Louis XIV to a more defensive strategy. The sudden death of the arch-hawk Louvois in 1691 may have contributed to this, as may Louis’ advancing age–he was now in his fifties and entering old age by contemporary standards. During the early stages of the war he still campaigned personally, as his war artists dutifully recorded, most sumptuously in Jean-Baptiste Martin’s painting of Louis directing the siege of Namur in 1692. But that proved to be his swan-song, for in the following year he formally announced that he would no longer command his armies in person. Yet if his youthful thirst for gloire was now sated, his concern to promote the interests of the house of Bourbon burnt no less intensely. This was revealed by his actions over the long-festering but now critical question of the Spanish inheritance. Although Charles II had surprised everyone by living so long, by the late 1690s it was becoming clear that he could not last much longer. The following much-simplified family tree reveals the conflicting claims of French Bourbons and Austrian Habsburgs.

As neither side could tolerate the entire Spanish inheritance passing to the other, and both sides were anxious to avoid yet another major war after the exertions of the Nine Years War, the obvious solution was to agree to a partition. In 1698 the first such treaty found what looked like a viable compromise by allocating the lion’s share–Spain itself, the Spanish Netherlands and the colonial empire to one of Philip III’s numerous great-great-grandsons, Joseph Ferdinand of Bavaria. France would get Naples, Sicily and some fortresses in Tuscany, while the Austrian Habsburgs would get the Duchy of Milan. Unfortunately, the Bavarian prince died the following year. Attempts to find another compromise foundered as the two main claimants in turn dug their heels in. First, the Austrians refused to consider an agreement reached by France and the Maritime Powers that would have given Leopold I’s second son, the Archduke Charles, the whole Spanish inheritance apart from the Italian possessions, insisting that they must have everything. Under this scheme, France hoped to obtain Lorraine and Savoy in exchange for Milan and Naples. When Charles II died on 1 November 1700, it was the turn of Louis XIV to reject a compromise. Anxious above all else to preserve the territorial integrity of his empire, the late king had left a will bequeathing everything to Philip duc d’Anjou, great-grandson of Philip IV and the younger of Louis XIV’s two grandsons. It did not take Louis long to make up his mind whether to stick to the partition agreement already reached with William III or va banque. He was encouraged to opt for the latter by the knowledge that if it was declined for Philip, the Spanish envoy bearing the invitation had orders to go straight on to Vienna to offer it to the Austrian candidate, the Archduke Charles. News of the death of the Spanish king reached the French court on 9 November; a week later, Louis presented the duc d’Anjou to his court with the words: ‘Messsieurs, before you stands the King of Spain. His birth has called him to this crown; the whole nation wished it and asked me for it without delay, and I granted it to them with pleasure. It is the command of Heaven.’

Take in Family Tree

War was not yet inevitable. In the wake of the Nine Years War, none of the weary combatants wished to sally forth yet again. In both England and the Dutch Republic, William III was restrained by constitutions that gave peace a voice. The Austrians had plenty on their hands in the east, digesting the enormous gains secured by the Peace of Karlowitz and nervously awaiting the expected reaction from the Hungarians. Whether Louis XIV’s subsequent actions should be regarded as a series of blunders depends on how one assesses his overall objective. If it were simply his intention to see his grandson peacefully installed as King of Spain, then he could hardly have been more ham-fisted. He declared that in principle the new King of Spain could also become King of France if the senior Bourbon line were to fail; Spain received not just a new king but a whole team of French experts too, thus advertising its satellite status; French troops were sent to take possession of the Spanish Netherlands and to expel Dutch garrisons from the ten ‘barrier fortresses’ established with Spanish agreement in 1698; the new King of Spain granted the fabulously lucrative right to supply the Spanish colonies with slaves–the asiento–to French merchants; and on the death of ex-King James II in September 1701, Louis recognized his son as the legitimate King of England, Scotland and Ireland as James III.

By then war really was inevitable. It followed with the declaration of war on France by England, the Dutch Republic and the Habsburg Monarchy on 15 May 1702. The War of the Spanish Succession had begun. The campaigns of the 1660s and 1670s had shown that in military terms, the French were predominant; the campaigns of the late 1680s and 1690s showed that in military terms the two sides were now more or less evenly balanced; the campaigns of the 1700s showed that the allies had now achieved a decisive military advantage. This was partly due to the superior quality of the respective high commands. Following the retirement or death of the three French generals acknowledged by military historians to be of exceptional ability–Condéin 1674, Turenne in 1675 and Luxembourg in 1695–the next generation proved to be sadly lacking in enterprise, although Villars did prove capable of effective direction, as he demonstrated in 1711–13.

On the other side, Prince Eugène for the Austrians and the Duke of Marlborough for the English demonstrated repeatedly a degree of energy, enterprise and aggression that their opponents could not match. Ironically, Eugène had first sought to enter the service of Louis XIV. It was only when he was rebuffed, in 1683, that he went to Vienna, arriving just in time to grab the opportunity offered by the Turkish siege to catch the imperial eye. Rewarded for his distinguished service with the command of a regiment of dragoons, he was a field marshal before he reached the age of thirty. His meteoric career well illustrates the cosmopolitan nature of the Habsburg army; nothing indeed could sum it up better than his trilingual signature: ‘Eugenio von Savoie’. His three great building projects–the winter palace in the old city of Vienna, the summer palace ‘Belvedere’ just outside it and his hunting lodge Schlosshof–provide three-dimensional evidence of the riches that could be accumulated by the gifted and the lucky. It was said that Eugène had arrived in Vienna with just twenty-five gulden in his pocket but that when he died in 1736 he left an estate worth twenty-five million.

Not the least of Prince Eugène’s merits was his ability to establish a good relationship with allied commanders, most notably the Duke of Marlborough, who deserves similar credit for his diplomatic skills. Their most important joint achievement was the victory at Blenheim on 13 August 1704, when they routed a Franco-Bavarian army, taking 14,000 prisoners, including the French commander the comte de Tallard, and inflicting 20,000 casualties. As the first major land victory (part-) won by an English army since Agincourt nearly three centuries earlier, its importance has been consistently overrated by English historians. Yet, if it did not open to England ‘the gateways of the modern world’, as Marlborough’s descendant Winston Churchill claimed, it did have a major impact on the course of the War of the Spanish Succession. With Hungary and Transylvania in revolt, there was every danger that the French, supported by their Bavarian allies, would be able to march on Vienna and knock the Habsburg Monarchy out of the war. Blenheim put a stop to that potentially decisive initiative, turned Bavaria into an Austrian dependency for the duration of the war, and forced the French to adopt a defensive strategy.

The allied victories kept coming. On 23 May 1706 Marlborough, commanding 62,000 allied troops, defeated a slightly smaller French army under the duc de Villeroi at Ramillies, south-east of Brussels in the Spanish Netherlands, and then spent the rest of the campaigning season seizing one city after another. On the Italian front, on 7 September Prince Eugène with an Austro-Piedmontese army defeated the duc d’Orléans at Turin, with the result that the French signed a convention the following March by which they withdrew from northern Italy altogether. After inconclusive campaigning in 1707, Marlborough and Eugène together inflicted another heavy defeat on the French at Oudenarde on 11 July 1708 which led to the conquest of most of the Spanish Netherlands. The last great set-piece victory was at Malplaquet near Mons on 11 September 1709, but it was bought at so great a cost that it hardly deserves to be called a victory. As the French commander, the duc de Villars, reported to his King: ‘if God gives us the grace to lose another similar battle, your Majesty can count on his enemies being destroyed.’

After this Pyrrhic victory, the war became a stalemate. French forces had been ejected from northern Italy and the Spanish Netherlands, but the allies had neither the military means nor the political will to deliver a knock-out punch to metropolitan France. In Spain, the war had become a messy civil conflict between Castile, supporting Philip V, and Catalonia, Aragon and Valencia supporting the Archduke Charles, with neither side able to achieve a decisive advantage. All parties were beginning to scrape the bottom of the financial and demographic barrel, not least due to poor harvests and, in 1708–09, one of the coldest winters in recorded history. Peace negotiations were long overdue, but so much was at stake for so many that they took a long time to get going and even longer to reach a conclusion. An important step in the right direction was taken in England in the course of 1710, when Queen Anne freed herself from the ‘duumvirs’, the Earl of Godolphin and Marlborough (and his wife Sarah), and called an election which brought a Tory landslide. Both the dominant figures in the new administration, Robert Harley (Earl of Oxford from 1711) and Henry St John (Viscount Bolingbroke from 1712) were keen to bring the war to an end. Their enthusiasm was strengthened by the sudden death of the Emperor Joseph I in April 1711, leaving his younger brother, the Archduke Charles, as his sole heir. This created the prospect of a Habsburg hegemony in Europe no more appealing to the English than the Bourbon version against which they had been fighting for so long.

Once the English paymasters had decided to settle, their allies had no option but to follow suit, although the Austrians in particular did so very slowly and reluctantly. Indeed, they declined to sign the Peace of Utrecht when England, France, the Dutch Republic, Savoy, Philip V of Spain, Portugal and Prussia did so on 11–12 April 1713. Only after Villars had captured Landau and Freiburg in Breisgau later that year were they finally convinced that they could gain nothing further and might lose a lot if they continued the war alone. So peace was concluded between France and the Habsburg Monarchy on 7 March 1714 at Rastatt. In effect, the Utrecht–Rastatt agreements amounted to a new partition treaty. Louis XIV secured his primary war aim by gaining international recognition of his grandson Philip V as King of Spain. But there was no question of Philip or his descendants ever succeeding to the French throne. This was less academic than it might seem, for between April 1711 and March the following year, a rash of fatalities in the house of Bourbon had carried off Louis XIV’s son, grandson and eldest great-grandson, leaving just one legitimate heir, born in 1710. The Treaty of Utrecht stated categorically that, if this senior line were to fail, succession would pass to the descendants of Louis XIV’s brother, the duc d’Orlèans. Moreover, Philip V did not succeed to the entire Spanish inheritance, only to Spain itself and its overseas possessions, and was obliged to recognize the English conquest of Gibraltar and Minorca. Louis might console himself, however, with the thought that he had retained Alsace and Strassburg and had only had to give up a few towns in Flanders, a result which compared very favourably with the catastrophe that had threatened in 1709.

For all their mutterings about English perfidy, the Habsburgs had done very well, becoming a major force in western Europe by the acquisition of the Spanish Netherlands, and the dominant force in Italy by the acquisition of the Duchy of Milan, the enclaves in Tuscany known as the ‘Stato dei Presidii’, and the Kingdom of Naples. Sicily and a royal title went to the Duke of Savoy. Of the two ‘Maritime Powers’, the Dutch certainly achieved a greater degree of security by the restoration of the ‘barrier fortresses’ in what should now be called the Austrian Netherlands. The Austrians were also obliged to confirm their adhesion to the clauses of the Peace of Westphalia relating to their new possessions, including the continued closure of the River Scheldt. This modest return for a decade of exertion was made no more palatable by the knowledge that the British (as the English should be called following the Treaty of Union with Scotland of 1707) had negotiated the peace with France without reference to their Dutch allies. Another bone of contention was their failure to win British support for their claim to Gelderland, most of which passed to Prussia. That the latter now had its feet firmly under the top table of European powers was confirmed by French recognition of its status as a kingdom and its inheritance of the principality of Neuchâtel in Switzerland.

Such was the ‘rage of party’ in Great Britain that the Peace of Utrecht was bound to be divisive. This was not helped by the accession of George I in August 1714, for he was known to regard the treaty as a betrayal of the Protestant cause, indeed the French were even afraid that he might abrogate it altogether. Responding to his first speech from the throne, the new Whig-dominated Parliament lamented ‘the reproach brought on the nation by the unsuitable conclusion of a war, which…was attended with such unparalleled successes’. Oxford went to the Tower and Bolingbroke went into exile. Yet not too much hindsight should have been required to see that Utrecht marked a major step on England/Great Britain’s march to world-power status. Louis XIV was now obliged, not just to recognize the Protestant succession but to expel James II’s son, the ‘Old Pretender’, from France. While France was still the dominant power in Canada, recognition of Britain’s possession of the Hudson Bay territory and the return of Nova Scotia and Newfoundland had obvious political implications as well as immediate economic benefits. The same might be said of the cession of St Kitt’s in the Caribbean. The acquisition of Gibraltar and Minorca made Britain the dominant power in the western Mediterranean. The transfer of the asiento from French to British merchants was lucrative in its own right and also symbolized the defeat of the threat that Spain would become a French satellite. On the European continent, the best possible result was achieved: Louis XIV’s bid for hegemony had been finally defeated; the Low Countries were now buffered against French pressure; and a balance of power had been achieved. More generally, the peace treaties established the British objective of a continental ‘balance of power’ as the goal of the European states-system.


Hitler intended to take his own life when the time came, rather than suffer the humiliation of capture by the Russians. Propaganda minister Josef Göbbels intended to do the same with his wife and children. The only other Nazi leader in the bunker was Martin Bormann, who had no intention of dying and was planning to make his escape at the earliest opportunity. The rest of the leadership was scattered far and wide across the country. Like Himmler, most were still desperately hoping that they could somehow find a way out of the disaster they had brought down on their own heads.

Grand Admiral Karl Dönitz had spent much of the day on the road, returning from the same Wehrmacht conference as Himmler to his own headquarters at Plön, near Kiel. Setting off soon after dawn, he had driven a hundred and fifty miles westward along roads crowded with refugees and strafed continually by Allied aircraft. Dönitz had watched in despair as the farmers in the fields abandoned their ploughs and ran for cover every time an aircraft appeared. It was obvious to him that the war was lost and could not last more than a few days longer at most.

That being so, his primary concern now was to help as many Germans as possible to escape from the east and flee westward before the Russians arrived. The German navy was doing its best to help, but Dönitz was bitterly aware that its few remaining vessels were desperately short of fuel and very vulnerable to attack. His job, as he saw it, was to keep the fight going and hold a corridor open until all the refugees had escaped to the west, either by land or sea, where they could safely surrender to the Anglo-Americans rather than the Russians. But he knew that it was a formidable task, with the countryside in chaos and the Wehrmacht visibly disintegrating with every hour that passed.

Dönitz had worked himself into a state of despair by the time he got back to Plön. He called immediately for his son-in-law, Günther Hessler, a U-boat ace who had once sunk fourteen Allied ships on a single patrol. Taking Hessler aside, Dönitz told him in strictest confidence that he had come to a momentous decision. With the war lost and no hope of a negotiated peace, he intended to surrender the German navy as soon as further resistance became impossible and then seek his own death in battle. He wanted Hessler to know in advance, because he would have to take care of Dönitz’s wife and daughter after he was gone.

Hessler was shocked. Seeking death in battle was a very German idea, but a very foolish one, too, in his opinion. He tried to talk Dönitz out of it, arguing that the country was going to need him in the difficult times that lay ahead, pointing out that a leader of Dönitz’s stature would be far more use to his country alive than dead.

But Dönitz refused to listen. Mulling it over on the way back from the Wehrmacht conference, he had decided that he much preferred death to dishonor. In his view, it was far better to fall in battle than to live with the shame of surrendering his beloved navy to the enemy. If nothing else, Dönitz knew that he would be following his own sons, both of whom had already fallen for the Fatherland at sea.


Dönitz’s headquarters were at Plön because it was one of the few remaining places in the north of Germany not immediately threatened by British or Russian troops. It was also very close to the Baltic coast, just a short ferry ride to the safety of neutral Sweden. As such, the town was full of high-ranking Nazis who were converging on it in ever-increasing numbers as their enemies advanced, much as men on a sinking ship converge on the highest point because they have nowhere else to go.

Albert Speer, the minister of armaments and war production, had been in Plön since April 25. He was camping in the woods overlooking Lake Eutin, living in a pair of construction trailers that had been set up for him among the trees. He was protected by troops from a tank regiment, who stood guard around the clock while Speer kept a low profile and waited for events to unfold elsewhere.

Speer had been one of the last Nazi leaders to leave Berlin before the Russians completed their encirclement of the city. He had had a long meeting with Hitler on the evening of April 23, an awkward farewell in the bunker with an abstracted Führer who had treated his once-favorite architect with an indifference bordering on contempt. Afterward, Speer had been summoned to Eva Braun’s room to say goodbye to her, too. They had sat up until the small hours, two old friends speaking with the candor of people who knew they would never see each other again:

We were able to talk honestly, for Hitler had withdrawn. She was the only prominent candidate for death in this bunker who displayed an admirable and superior composure. While all the others were abnormal—exaltedly heroic like Göbbels, bent on saving his skin like Bormann, exhausted like Hitler, or in total collapse like Frau Göbbels—Eva Braun radiated an almost gay serenity. “How about a bottle of champagne for our farewell? And some sweets? I’m sure you haven’t eaten in a long time.”

Speer had been touched by Eva Braun’s concern. In his view, she was the only person in the bunker capable of any humanity, complaining to him about all the killing, asking why so many more people had to die unnecessarily. He had been sorry to leave her when the time had come for him to go.

He had spent a few minutes in the Chancellery before he left, admiring the remnants of the building that he himself had designed. The electricity had gone, so it had been impossible to see much in the dark. Speer had stood in the Court of Honor for a while, trying to picture the splendid architecture above his head. He knew that it lay in ruins, like so much else in Germany. He was worried that there would be very little of the country left, if Hitler in his madness ordered the destruction of the remaining infrastructure before the war’s end in order to deny it to the enemy.

Unknown to Hitler, Speer had secretly made a radio recording in Hamburg a few days earlier. The recording urged the German people to ignore any order from Hitler requiring them to destroy everything before surrendering. Speer considered that enough damage had been done to Germany already. Any more would simply increase the German people’s misery without achieving anything useful. He had decided that Hitler would have to be overruled if he ordered further destruction as a last act of defiance before killing himself

I wanted to issue a call for resistance, to bluntly forbid any damage to factories, bridges, waterways, railways and communications, and to instruct the soldiers of the Wehrmacht and the home guard to prevent demolitions “with all possible means, using firearms if necessary.” My speech also called for the surrender of political prisoners, including the Jews, unharmed to the occupying troops, and stipulated that prisoners of war and foreign workers should not be prevented from making their way home. It prohibited Werewolf activity and called on villages and cities to surrender without a fight.

The speech had been recorded at Hamburg radio station in conditions of utmost secrecy. Two radio engineers had made a gramophone record of it, worrying Speer with their noncommittal expressions as they listened to the treasonable content. The speech had not yet been broadcast and was not going to be until the last possible moment. The dilemma for Speer was to decide when that moment should be.

Hamburg’s Gauleiter, the local Nazi leader and a personal friend of Speer’s, had offered to have the speech broadcast at once. After seeing Hitler for the last time, however, Speer could not bring himself to give his assent. Still mentally in thrall to the Führer, he had come to the conclusion that there was nothing to be done for Germany and the drama across the country would just have to run its course. Rather than make speeches to the nation, Speer had taken himself off to Plön instead, where he sat now, waiting in his trailer for the announcement of Hitler’s death that must surely come in the next day or two.


Joachim von Ribbentrop’s movements were uncertain, but he, too, was somewhere on the way to Plön, traveling by road from Berlin. Like Speer, he had left the city on April 24, just before the Russians arrived. Unlike Speer, though, Ribbentrop had left reluctantly; he would have much preferred to stay behind and share the Führer’s fate in the bunker. But Hitler had refused to allow it. He had no further use for his foreign minister, a man whose advice over the years had rarely been less than disastrous.

The other Nazis had no use for Ribbentrop, either. All the important party members had forsaken him long ago. Dim and pompous, insufferably overbearing, he had made few friends as German foreign minister and had no one to turn to as he headed for Plön. He was so desperate not to be cast out that he had tried to return to Berlin at one point, urgently seeking an aircraft to fly him back to the capital. But his request had been refused, and he had been abandoned to his own devices, no longer the central figure he had once been in the affairs of state.

He had little idea of what to do next as he traveled north. Hitler had told him to make contact with the British and propose an alliance against the Bolsheviks, but his chances of success were almost nonexistent. Hitler had probably only suggested the idea to get rid of him.

Ribbentrop’s immediate plan was to join Dönitz at Plön and wait there until he could contact the British. If all else failed, he was thinking of going to ground in Hamburg after the fighting had stopped, living anonymously in a rented flat for a few months until the dust had settled and he could show his face again. The British were talking of hanging Nazi leaders after the war, but Ribbentrop couldn’t believe they were serious. Hanging was not for people like him. It was for criminals and murderers, not the leaders of a nation. Ribbentrop had never done anything wrong, by his own reckoning. All he had ever done was carry out his orders, and his orders had been given to him by Adolf Hitler.

Hermann Göring had just arrived in Austria, a prisoner at his family castle in Mauterndorf. He was being watched over by the SS, who had orders to shoot him as soon as Berlin fell to the Russians.

Unlike the other Nazi leaders, Göring had gone south after leaving Berlin, heading initially for Berchtesgaden, Hitler’s mountain retreat in Bavaria. He had expected Hitler to join him there, only to discover later that the Führer intended to die in Berlin instead. Disconcerted, Göring wondered if this meant that he was supposed to succeed Hitler as Führer in accordance with the decree of 1941 that required him to take over if Hitler’s freedom of action were restricted or if he were in any other way incapacitated.

Unsure of his ground, Göring had telegraphed Hitler on April 23 to find out:

My Führer! Following your decision to remain in the Berlin fortress, do you agree that I should take command of the Reich, as stipulated in the decree of 29 June 1941, with full powers, both internal and external?

If I receive no reply before 2200 hours, I shall assume that you no longer enjoy freedom of action and I shall act on my own initiative.

Unfortunately for Göring, his telegram had been intercepted in the bunker by Martin Bormann, perhaps his bitterest enemy among the other Nazis. Bormann had wasted no time in persuading Hitler that Göring was plotting to overthrow him and seize power. He had urged Hitler to have Göring shot at once. But Hitler had demurred, responding instead with a telegram to Göring insisting that he, Hitler, remained in full control:

Decree of 29 June 1941 is rescinded by my special instruction. My freedom of action remains total. I forbid any move by you of the kind you have indicated.

Hitler’s telegram had been followed by another, drafted by Bormann, who had ambitions to become Führer himself if anything happened to Hitler:

Hermann Göring. Your action represents high treason against the Führer and National Socialism. The penalty for treason is death. But in view of your earlier services to the party, the Führer will not inflict this supreme penalty if you resign all your offices. Answer yes or no.

Göring had not had time to reply before the SS arrived to arrest him. More than a hundred soldiers had surrounded his house at Berchtesgaden, confining Göring to his room at gunpoint and refusing to let him see his wife and daughter. The men almost certainly had orders from Bormann to shoot Göring out of hand, but were reluctant to comply. Instead, they had contented themselves with keeping him under close arrest, as his wife bitterly recalled:

Armed SS men invaded the house and I had to go to my room. I sat down, almost paralysed, unable to collect my thoughts. For the second time that day I had the impression of dreaming and of having left reality behind me. Some twenty minutes went by. Unable to bear it any longer, I tried to rejoin my husband but a guard was standing in front of the door of his study and prevented me from entering. After about an hour, Hermann came out to dine with us, under the watchful eyes of the SS. It hardly needs to be said that none of us were able to swallow a mouthful. But at least we were still together. From my seat at the table I could see the photograph of Adolf Hitler hanging on the wall. I had a sudden desire to tear it down and throw it out!

A day later, Berchtesgaden had been bombed by the Allies. Escorted by U.S. Mustangs, Lancasters of the Royal Air Force had appeared shortly after first light, targeting Hitler’s house at the Berghof. They had flown so low that Flight Sergeant Cutting, a rear gunner on one of the Lancasters, had seen the flash of the bombs as they hit the Berghof, and Flying Officer Coster had watched the neighboring SS barracks going up in smoke. Göring’s house had been damaged, too, the roof collapsing and the stairs giving way as he and his family huddled together in the cellar. Emmy Göring had prayed without success for a direct hit to kill them all and put them out of their misery.

The damage had been so extensive that it had proved impossible to remain in Berchtesgaden after the raid. Göring had persuaded the SS to move them to Mauterndorf instead, fifty miles away in Austria. He owned the castle there, which he had inherited from his Jewish stepfather. Formerly the summer palace of the archbishops of Salzburg, it stood on a promontory high above the town, heavily restored in medieval style by his stepfather.

The move had been traumatic. One of the SS had discreetly advised Emmy Göring to insist on traveling in the same car as her husband for the journey, to prevent him from being executed on the way. A chauffeur had taken charge of her jewel case, only to abscond with it en route. Other people had deserted too, quietly abandoning the Görings to their fate. The castle itself had been cold and forbidding when they arrived, a cheerless place that Emmy Göring had never liked. It was said to have a secret passage that led underground to the market square in Mauterndorf, but that was little comfort to the Görings with an SS guard gazing unblinkingly at them from every corner.

The Görings were waiting on events now, in common with everyone else. The SS had orders to shoot Göring in due course, but their orders might easily be overridden by developments in Berlin. The SS were in several different minds about what to do. The Luftwaffe was a factor as well, outraged at the idea of its erstwhile commander being murdered by a gang of thugs. The Luftwaffe had little time for Göring, but even less for the SS.

There was talk, some of it encouraged by sympathizers in the SS, of the Luftwaffe making an attack on the castle to rescue Göring and protect him from his captors if the worse should come to the worst. But that was a bridge they would only cross when they came to it.


For Rudolf Hess, far away in South Wales, there were no bridges to cross anymore. Following his dramatic flight to Scotland in 1941, he had been a prisoner at Maindiff Court, an outpost of Abergavenny’s mental hospital, since June 1942. Hess had spent the day in his room, as usual, hard at work on his memoirs. He had been writing all afternoon, covering sheet after sheet of foolscap with his ramblings, pausing only at half past six to call for a hot water bottle to ease the stomach pains, perhaps imaginary, that were causing him so much distress.

It was a race against time for Hess. He knew the war was almost over. He had known it ever since the American army crossed the Rhine at Remagen, using specially trained Jews to hypnotize the Germans and prevent them from defending the bridge. Hess was determined to get his memoirs down on paper before the end came. It was most important that he did:

I had been imprisoned for four years now with lunatics; I had been at the mercy of their torture without being able to inform anybody of this, and without being able to convince the Swiss Minister that this was so; nor of course was I able to enlighten the lunatics about their own condition …

Outside my garden lunatics walked up and down with loaded rifles! Lunatics surrounded me in the house! When I went for a walk, lunatics walked in front of and behind me—all in the uniform of the British army.

Hess kept scribbling until it was time for dinner. He ate a hearty meal and then began writing again immediately afterward. He continued writing far into the night. It was the only agreeable occupation that remained to him, now that the lunatics had taken over the asylum.

Scottish Mercenaries: Russia and the Netherlands, 1700–1751

Patrick Leopold Gordon

Patrick Gordon fathered three sons and two daughters. Of the lads, the eldest succeeded to the lands of Auchleuchries but the other two followed their father’s path into the Russian army. His eldest daughter, Katherine, married a German officer but was widowed in 1692 when her husband lost his life in an accident with fireworks. In 1700 she married again, this time to a kinsman of her father, Alexander Gordon. The latter came to Russia in 1696 after a spell in the French army, no doubt enticed by the success and status of Patrick, and stayed on to rise to the rank of major-general.

After securing his position on the throne of Russia, Peter the Great embarked on a drive to make his backward nation a powerful and significant force in Europe. At the start of his reign Russia’s only direct access to the open sea was through the cold, distant port of Archangel, and the temptation for Peter was to establish outlets on the Black Sea and the Baltic. It was an ambition, however, that brought him into conflict with the Ottoman Empire and Sweden. In 1697 Karl XII had succeeded to the throne of the Vasas and almost at once had to contend with troublesome neighbours: as well as Russia, Poland and Denmark were itching to recover lost territories. In 1698, all three formed an alliance to combat Sweden. Karl got his blow in first, capturing Copenhagen in 1700 and forcing a surrender on Denmark, before switching his attention to the east, defeating the Russians at Narva and Riga, and occupying Courland. In 1701 the Swedes moved into Poland and then on into Saxony. Karl, however, was stretching his resources dangerously thin, and it could only be a matter of time before he would meet a reverse. It came at the siege of the fortress of Poltava in Ukraine in July 1710: in the battle the Swedes lost almost 16,000 men as casualties or prisoners and, although Karl himself escaped with a handful of followers, it marked the end of Sweden’s dominance of the Baltic. Among the prisoners taken by the Swedes at Narva was Alexander Gordon. Back in Russian service, he defeated his former captors at Kysmark and went on to defeat the Poles at Podkamian. He died at Auchintoul in 1751.

The Gordons – Patrick and Alexander – stand out as examples of Scots in the service of Peter the Great, but there were several more of their kinsmen and their countrymen in prominent military positions. For example, take George Ogilvy. A grandson of James Ogilvy of Airlie and son of an Ogilvy who became governor of Spielberg in Moravia, George was born in 1648 and rose to the rank of major-general in the service of the Habsburgs before Peter the Great spotted him in Vienna in 1698 and invited him to join the Russian army. His work in training and modernising Peter’s forces brought him to the rank of field marshal. He later switched to the service of Poland and died in Danzig in October 1710. Then there were the brothers James and Robert Bruce, whose father, William, had been a colonel in Russian service. James followed an interest in the natural sciences, including chemistry, and Tsar Peter put him in command of artillery. He also apparently showed a talent for shady financial dealing but this did not prevent him playing an important role in the Peace of Nystadt in 1721 when Russia finally acquired Estonia, Livonia and the lands around the head of the Gulf of Finland from Sweden. James was rewarded with an estate, where he died in 1735; he was buried in the Simonoff Monastery in Moscow. His titles were inherited by his nephew Alexander, who also achieved the rank of major-general and fought against the Turks.

John Graham of Claverhouse, later Viscount Dundee

Among the many Scots who distinguished themselves under the different flags of Europe it is worth noting a few who are remembered for exploits on their home soil but who had their first taste of armed conflict abroad. John Graham of Claverhouse, Bonnie Dundee himself, travelled to France after he graduated from St Andrews in 1668 to be a volunteer in the service of Louis XIV. He moved four years later to the Low Countries to a commission as a cornet in one of the Prince of Orange’s troops of horse guards. His arrival coincided with the outbreak of war between the Netherlands and France, when William of Orange was able to form an alliance with, among others, the Habsburgs. On 11 August 1674, a joint Spanish–Dutch force under William’s command was attacked by a strong French army at Seneffe near Mons and forced into retreat. During the desperate confusion, William might have been captured when his horse foundered in a marsh had not John Graham dismounted to give his commander his saddle, an act for which he was promoted to captain. Perhaps Graham presumed too much on the prince’s good will for he was passed over when he later applied for promotion to lieutenant-colonel of one of the Scots regiments in Dutch service and was aggrieved enough to quit the Low Countries, returning to Scotland at the end of 1676.

Hugh Mackay (c. 1640 – 24 July 1692) was a Scottish military officer who settled in the Netherlands and spent most of his career in the service of William of Orange (later William III of England).

Graham of Claverhouse’s life ended in the battle on the braes of Killiecrankie in July 1689, falling in his moment of greatest triumph. It is perhaps typical of the twists of Scottish history that his opposing commander that day, Major General Hugh Mackay, had been a colleague in arms at Seneffe fifteen years before. Hugh Mackay was born in Scourie in the west of Sutherland in around 1640; an uncle had been killed fighting for Gustavus Adolphus at Lützen and his father had been a Royalist officer in the Civil War, and it was entirely natural that he also should pursue a military career. In 1660 he became an ensign in Dumbarton’s Regiment and went to France with it. In 1669, he was among a number of officers who volunteered to fight for Venice in an attempt to drive the Turks from Candia (now Iraklion), the capital of Crete, an ultimately unsuccessful campaign in which he nevertheless distinguished himself. Now a captain, in 1672 he served in France’s invasion of the Netherlands, where the horrors of the war struck him with such impact that he seriously thought of resigning to go home to his native braes. Fate, however, took a strange and happy turn. In Guelderland he was quartered in a widow’s house and so impressed his hostess, Madame de Bie, with his grave manner that she decided she could safely bring her daughters back from the refuge whither they had been consigned to keep them from the eyes and hands of rapacious foreign officers. Mackay became as one of the family, playing chess and reading with the widow and her daughters, and it was perhaps inevitable that the serious young officer should feel attracted to the eldest, Clara. She turned down his first proposal of marriage but changed her mind when Mackay made it clear that, like many Scots before and since, he liked the Dutch and was willing to leave French service to find employment under their flag. The transfer was completed, Hugh and Clara married, and Hugh now became a captain in the Scots Brigade.

He fought at Seneffe, where Graham of Claverhouse brought himself to princely attention, and at the siege of Grave in October 1674, and it was Hugh Mackay who was chosen to fill the post of lieutenant-colonel in preference to Graham. By 1680 Mackay was a colonel and not long after a brigadier. Implementing the terms of a 1678 treaty between Britain and the Netherlands, under which the British monarch could call on the three Scottish and three English regiments in Dutch service, James II summoned the help of the Scots Brigade to combat the rebelling Duke of Monmouth in 1685 and, although it saw no action before it returned to the Netherlands a year later, the king was so impressed by its appearance that Mackay was promoted to major-general. As James II’s power unravelled and relations with the Dutch deteriorated over the next two years, the brigade and the three English regiments in Dutch service were faced with the threat of divided loyalty. The Dutch government refused to allow the ordinary soldiers to respond to James’s call for them to be sent back to Britain but officers were permitted to choose the course to follow. Only a quarter of them opted to offer their swords to the British monarch. Mackay stayed with the majority in Dutch service, and he commanded a division of English and Scots troops in the subsequent landing in Britain by William of Orange and the successful ousting of James. Mackay was appointed as commander in chief in Scotland in 1689 and was set on the course that would lead to the confrontation with Graham of Claverhouse, once his companion in arms.

John Leslie succeeded his father as the twelfth baron of Balquhain in 1638 only to inherit a patrimony much burdened with debt and reduced to a castle and a farm. To support himself and possibly regain some wealth and honour, John took to soldiering under his kinsman Alexander Leslie during the Civil War and in 1647 left Scotland, as so many of his forebears had done, to see what fortune held for him in Europe. He ended up in Russia, where he became a colonel of cavalry but was killed at the storming of Igolwitz on 30 August 1655 when Russia invaded Poland. His cousin James Leslie had better success in the service of the Holy Roman Empire, where he inherited the title and lands of their uncle, Count Walter Leslie, the assassin of Wallenstein, when the latter died childless in 1667. James was in Habsburg service in 1683 when the Turks launched a major assault from the east, driving into southern Poland and up the Danube to lay siege to Vienna itself. In the fighting to recover the city, James Leslie played a conspicuous and gallant part, at one point managing to break through the enemy lines to reinforce and replenish the besieged citizens. He went on to command in further campaigns against the Ottomans in Hungary in 1684 and 1685 until ill-health forced him into retirement. James’s younger brother Alexander followed his sibling into Habsburg service and reached the rank of lieutenant-colonel, before being mortally wounded during a sally against the Turks.

James Francis Edward Keith

James Francis Edward Keith (in later years Jakob von Keith; 11 June 1696 – 14 October 1758) was a Scottish soldier and Generalfeldmarschall of the Royal Prussian Army. As a Jacobite he took part in a failed attempt to restore the Stuart Monarchy to Britain. When this failed, he fled to Europe, living in France, and then Spain. He joined the Spanish and eventually the Russian armies and fought in the Anglo-Spanish War and the Russo-Swedish War. In the latter he participated in the conquest of Finland and became its viceroy. Subsequently, he participated in the coup d’état that put Elizabeth of Russia on the throne.

He subsequently served in the Prussian army under Frederick the Great, where he distinguished himself in several campaigns. He died during the Seven Years’ War at the Battle of Hochkirch. He received the Black Eagle Order and is memorialized on the Equestrian statue of Frederick the Great.

The overthrow of James II and the subsequent attempts of the exiled Jacobites to restore the Stuart dynasty led to many Scots seeking refuge on the Continent. Several of these ‘attainted’ political exiles found a living through military service, and a prime example of the breed was James Keith. Born in June 1696 at Inverugie Castle near Peterhead, Keith came from a privileged and honourable background. For centuries the Keiths had been the hereditary earls marischal of Scotland, and James’s elder brother George was the tenth to bear the title. George served in the British army under Marlborough but on the death of Queen Anne he stayed loyal to the Stuarts and joined the Jacobites. The brothers were both present in 1715 at the shambolic defeat of the Earl of Mar’s rising at Sheriffmuir and both had to flee the country. In May 1716 they stepped ashore at Paul de Leon in Brittany. James went to Paris to seek service with the exiled king, the would-be James III, but, as he was just seventeen years old, he was told by the king’s mother to stay in Paris to complete his education, for which the exiled royal household would pay. Unfortunately, nothing came forth from the treasury for some time and James Keith, too proud to borrow from friends, had to get by through selling ‘horse furniture . . . and other things of that nature which an officer commonly carries with him’. At last, however, the Stuart promise was fulfilled and James began his studies. A plot in 1717 for the king of Sweden to invade Scotland on behalf of the Jacobites brought James a commission as a colonel of horse before the scheme was abandoned. In June 1717 Peter the Great visited Paris and James tried in vain to secure a post in his service: ‘I thought it high time (being about 20 years old) to quitte the Academy, and endeavour to establish myself somewhere, where I might again begin my fortune.’

Some friends advised James in 1718 to offer his services to Spain, said to be about to invade Sicily in a war with the Holy Roman Empire, but now he had a reason to be reluctant. ‘But I was then too much in love to think of quitting Paris, and tho shame and my friends forced me to take some steps towards it, yet I managed it so slowly that I set out only in the end of that year, and had not my mistress and I quarrel’d, and that other affairs came to concern me more than the conquest of Sicily did, it’s probable I had lost many years of my time to very little purpose, so much was I taken up with my passion.’ Early in 1719 George and James Keith took a ship from Marseilles to Palamos on the Catalan coast, only to be arrested by the local commandant on suspicion of being agents of the French enemy. The confusion was sorted out with the help of the Duke of Liria, none other than a fellow Jacobite, James Fitzjames, an illegitimate grandson of James II. The Keith brothers now became intimately involved in the planning for a Jacobite invasion of Britain via the Highlands, the enterprise we know as the 1719 Rising, and James sailed with the invasion force. The mixed force of Spaniards and Scots reached Loch Duich in mid-April 1719 and set up their headquarters in Eilean Donan Castle. For the Jacobites the campaign came to an inglorious end after a skirmish in Glen Shiel, on the back of which the Spanish surrendered and the others had to look to their own safety. ‘As I was then sick of a feavour,’ wrote Keith, ‘I was forced to lurck some months in the mountains, and in the beginning of September having got a ship I embarcked at Peterhead, and after 4 days landed in Holland.’ A perilous journey through France, then at war with Spain, followed for the Keith brothers before they reached safety in Madrid.

There now ensued a string of unsatisfactory years for the younger Keith, when he found that a bureaucratic mix-up seemed to have deprived him off his commission in Spain and he had to kick his heels and rely on the sympathy of friends. He thought of going home but was advised it would be unsafe to return to Britain. Instead he went to Paris and stayed for two years, pretending to be still receiving treatment for a tumour he had had removed from his shoulder, making half-hearted attempts to join French service, and, it seems, having another love affair. When hostilities erupted in 1726 between Britain and Spain, his offer to join any invasion force was turned down; but he did take part in the siege of Gibraltar in 1727 before he concluded that no further advancement in Spanish service was possible for a Protestant. Hoping for promotion to the command of a regiment of Irish mercenaries, Keith ‘received the answer I expected: that His Majesty assured me that howsoon [as soon as] he knew I was Roman Catholick, I shou’d not only have what I asked, but that he would take care of my fortune’. The Duke of Liria, newly appointed as the Spanish ambassador to the Russian court, agreed to help him and successfully obtained for the young Scot an offer of a post from Tsar Peter II. At the beginning of 1728, Keith set off across Europe to a bright new future.

Reaching Moscow in October, he ‘received orders from the Felt Marechall Prince Ivan Dolgorusky to take command of two regiments of foot belonging to his division, but being as yet entirely ignorant both of the language and manner of service, which I already saw was very different from that of other countries, I desired a delay of three months in which I might inform myself both of the one and the other, which he readily granted me.’ The Russian court was as full of intrigue as it had ever been but, as a newcomer, Keith stayed clear of close involvement with the cabals and cliques, a wise stance in view of the constitutional upsets that took place soon after his arrival. Peter II, the grandson of Peter the Great, fell ill and died, probably of smallpox, in 1730, at the young age of fifteen, and was succeeded by Anna, the Duchess of Courland. The powerful Dolgorusky family hoped to retain the power behind the throne but underestimated the mettle of the new tsarina. Anna won over the loyalty of her troops, and the leading Dolgoruskys were banished to Siberia. Not long after these changes, Keith was surprised to receive a letter one evening informing him that Count Levenwolde, the adjutant general of the army, wanted to see him. ‘I reaved all night what cou’d be the meaning of such a message . . . I concluded I might have some enemy at court.’ The interview, in fact, was to offer Keith the rank of lieutenant-colonel in a new guards regiment, a post he accepted ‘in an instant’. ‘All Mosco was as surprised as I was myself’, recalled Keith, ‘I received hundreds of visits from people I had never seen nor heard of . . . who imagined that certainly I must be in great favour at Court, in which they were prodigiously deceived.’

Early in 1732 he received further promotion, being appointed as one of three inspectors of the army under an inspector-general. Assigned the frontier districts along the Volga and the Don and part of the Polish frontier at Smolensk, he set out on a long journey, travelling more than ‘1,500 leagues’ to visit around thirty-two regiments. He arrived in St Petersburg at the New Year to find everything ‘in mouvement’ because the king of Poland had died and the supporters of the claimants for the elected monarchy were competing for Russian support. The candidates were Augustus, the Elector of Saxony and son of the late king, and Stanislaus Leczczynski, the father-in-law of Louis XV of France; the majority of the Poles favoured the latter but the Russians preferred Augustus and mobilised the army to ensure his ascendancy to the throne. Keith was ordered to lead 6,000 foot soldiers to Ukraine to be ready to cross the frontier. In August, with the election likely to go against Russian desires, troops under the command of the Limerick-born soldier Count Peter Lacy headed for Warsaw. Stanislaus departed from the capital for Danzig, where Lacy hemmed him in. Keith moved to combat pro-Stanislaus forces in the province of Volinia, now the west-central region of Ukraine. In mid-December he led his troops, which now included 4,000 Cossacks, across the frozen Dnieper and spent ten fruitless days in search of the enemy before the Cossacks captured a troop of cavalry on Christmas Eve. Rumours that the Volinian force was increasing in strength prompted the transfer of command to Lieutenant-General Prince Schahofski, who had orders to disrupt the province. Keith found dishonourable the prince’s instruction to ruin the enemy’s estates and tried in vain to avoid such action. ‘In my march I assembled some thousands of cattel, and some hundreds of miserable bad horses, which I sent immediately to the army, and at the same time reported to him [the prince], that the whole inhabitants were abandoning their villages, and most of them retiring into Moldavia; that if he continued to ravage the country it wou’d very soon become a desert, and our own troops wou’d be in hazard of dying of hunger.’

At the end of January the army advanced to Vinnitz on the Bug river. Keith was lodged in the village of Litin when word came in that the enemy was in camp about 12 miles away and preparing to confront the Russians when their westward march brought them through the forest near a place called Latitchef. According to Keith, Prince Schahofski dismissed this warning brought by a spy and refused to countenance a change in the order of the march to meet the threat. In the event, the Poles sprang the ambush too soon, attacking a quartermaster’s party moving ahead of the main army. This allowed Keith to lead some Cossacks and dragoons to the attack and, finding the enemy numbers much lower than feared, routed them for the loss of only twenty on their own side. Prince Schahofski was now recalled to the Ukraine to attend to internal business and command reverted to Keith.

Advancing to Medziboz, Keith was invited to enter the castle where, he was assured by the governor who had met him outside the town, everything had been prepared for his arrival. Leaving his army to make camp and with only twenty-four dragoons as an escort, Keith accepted the invitation. The castle garrison was on parade with drums beating and colours flying. ‘I soon perceived the folly I had committed,’ wrote Keith, ‘but it was too late to retreat, and my only way was to put a good face on the matter.’ He sent his adjutant to bring in his equipage in all haste and to mix grenadiers among the wagons, and then waited fretfully until they came. Ironically, as he had only light artillery, he could not have taken the castle if the garrison had shut the gates in his face, but now he was able to turn the tables on the foe and order the protesting governor to march his garrison out.

Keith’s memoir goes on to describe a series of manoeuvres and small battles across the plains and woods of Ukraine until the text peters out at the end of 1734, with the army going into winter quarters. The War of the Polish Succession came to an end in 1736 and by then Keith’s reputation had grown in stature, bringing a promotion to lieutenant-general. Russia now embarked on another war with the Turks. Keith had a narrow brush with death or at least disability; wounded in the knee at the siege of Ochakov on the Black Sea on 2 July 1737, he was saved from undergoing amputation of the shattered limb only by the intervention of his brother George, who hurried to his aid and brought him away for better treatment than army surgeons could provide. This was good news for the Tsarina Anna, who is reputed to have said she would rather lose 10,000 of her best soldiers than Keith. A two-year convalescence gave the Scot the opportunity to visit Paris and London where, to his surprise, he was acclaimed a hero and received by George II, his Jacobite youth clearly forgiven if not forgotten. He returned to Russia to be the governor of Ukraine.

During peace negotiations with the Turks in 1739 there occurred an incident that has acquired some legendary status in the annals of the Scots who fought in Europe. At the end of a session of talks conducted through interpreters, the Turkish vizier bowed and, taking the astonished Keith by the hand, said in a broad Scots accent that it made him ‘unco happy’ to meet a fellow countryman so far from home. The vizier was the son of a bellringer in Kirkcaldy.

The death of Anna in October 1740 let loose the usual intrigues and attempts to establish power until Elizabeth, the youngest daughter of Peter the Great, emerged the winner in November 1741. Keith at once declared his loyalty to her. By now he was once more in the field, commanding in the war that had broken out against Sweden. At the siege of Willmanstrand he came across an orphan prisoner called Eva Merthens. It was an odd way in which to meet a lover but Keith’s mistress is who Eva became, and to her and their children he left what little wealth he managed to accrue. She died in 1811. Once hostilities with Sweden ended, Keith was appointed to head a military-diplomatic mission to the former foe. Honours now came his way in dizzying fashion: ceremonial swords from Sweden and Russia, the Order of Saint Andrew and an estate in Livonia among them. The former Jacobite ignored the 1745 Rising back home.

By this time, however, dissatisfaction was beginning to cloud the mind of the general. Once again there was an animus against foreigners in the Russian government. George Keith, still seen as a Jacobite, was refused permission to enter the country to visit him and James’s letters to his brother seem to have been intercepted. He should not have been surprised that his position at Elizabeth’s court invited jealousy and resentment – the tsarina paid him a great courtesy when she reviewed the troops at Narva in 1746 – but he felt aggrieved when he sensed he was being passed over and was falling out of royal favour. There was a rumour that the plump, attractive monarch had amorous desires for her general, a delicate problem for Keith, for if he refused her advances he might find himself travelling to Siberia. At last, in 1747, he obtained permission to leave Russian service.

His fame had preceded him and he was at once welcomed into the service of the ruler whom Elizabeth viewed with most suspicion: Frederick II of Prussia. Left broken and wasted at the end of the Thirty Years War, the economy, prestige and administration of Prussia had been restored by the energetic Hohenzollern ruler Frederick William to such an extent that it had become a major power in northern Europe. In 1675 the Prussian army, trained under French officers, had even defeated the more powerful Swedes at Fehrbellin. Frederick William’s skilful foreign policy had extended his rule over East Prussia, and his son Frederick I consolidated the advance by making Prussia a kingdom in 1701, encompassing most of northern Germany and extending east beyond Königsberg, much to the concern of the Holy Roman Emperor. Frederick II showed every inclination to build on the achievements of his father and grandfather to extend Prussia’s reach. In 1740 he ordered an invasion of Silesia, then part of the weakened Habsburg Empire. Other European leaders took their cues and their sides, and the result, the War of the Austrian Succession, lasted on and off for eight years. It was thoroughly natural that the bellicose Frederick should wish to draw James Keith into his circle of advisors. With the newly conferred rank of field marshal, and comfortable with a monarch he found affable and polite, James wrote to his brother George, then in Venice, to join him in Berlin, where both began to participate in the cultural and social life of the Prussian capital. In 1749 James became governor of Berlin; he is also credited with the invention of the Kriegsschachspiel, or war-game, as an exercise.

The war with Austria came to an end. Silesia remained in Prussian hands and Austria, fearing Frederick would now descend on Saxony, sought an alliance with France. Prussia formed an alliance with Britain. The flurry of diplomatic shadowboxing and alliances resulted in the Seven Years War, which broke out in 1756 with Prussia’s expected attack on Saxony. Frederick was in a precarious position, with France, Austria, Russia and Sweden ranged against him, but he had, as well as senior officers of Keith’s calibre, an extremely well-drilled, fiercely disciplined army, practised, for example, in a manoeuvre labelled oblique order that allowed the troops to march across the enemy’s front, wheel and exert increasing pressure on the enemy flank. The Prussian fusiliers could fire between three and seven rounds per minute, and the cavalry could sustain a charge over a great distance. These attributes enabled the Prussians to overcome the Saxons in the autumn of 1756 and invade to Bohemia to lay siege to Prague in the following spring. The Austrian army, equipped with new artillery, held them at Kolin in central Bohemia in June 1757 and a few weeks later near Königsberg the Russians overcame the Prussians and swept west along the Baltic coast. Frederick showed that he still had to be reckoned with when his army defeated the advancing French at Rossbach in November 1757, wheeled about and dealt a blow to the Austrians a month later at Leuthen, 250 miles to the east near Wroclaw. In the following year the Russians were checked at Zorndorf on the Oder.

At the beginning of October 1758 Frederick had his army positioned in an elongated formation stretching over 4 miles of countryside in eastern Saxony, facing the Austrians. The central command post lay at the village of Rodewitz. The end of his right flank, 2 miles to the south, under the command of Keith, rested in the village of Hochkirch, a small place huddled on a hilltop around its church. Densely wooded hills, now taking on the colours of autumn, stretched away to the south. ‘The Austrians deserve to be hanged if they don’t attack us here’, Keith is reported to have said. Frederick recognised his vulnerability and intended to move to stronger ground as soon as possible. This proved to be the coming Saturday, the fourteenth. On the night of the thirteenth, however, the Austrians launched a bold and effective move. Cutting a route through the woods during the dark hours, they managed to insert infantry around Hochkirch, ready to attack before five in the morning. The Prussians were caught unawares but they responded quickly and a firefight ensued in thick mist and semi-darkness. The struggle swirled around the churchyard in Hochkirch. In the confusion Keith had mounted his horse, shouting desperately for his aides to assist him to regain control of their predicament, when shots hit him in the right side. Then, as a cannonball knocked him from the saddle, a final fatal bullet struck his heart and he fell into the arms of his servant, an English cavalryman called John Tebay. By 7.30 the Austrians had Hochkirch and Frederick was pulling back. Keith was buried on the following day in the village churchyard with full military honours. Some months later Frederick had the remains brought to Berlin to lie in the crypt of the garrison church, but a memorial urn was placed in the village church in 1776 by the general’s kinsman, Robert Keith, who was British ambassador to Vienna at the time. If one had to summarise the character of all the Scots who sought their fortunes as soldiers in Europe, then perhaps James Keith or Sir Alexander Leslie would emerge as the embodiments of the best.