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 Seventeenth Century: The Rise Of Navies

Scale of Royal and other State Navies (displacement tonnage 000s)

At the start of the century the commercial exclusivity upon the great waters attempted by Portugal and Spain was already gone. The determining race for power and mastery upon the seas had begun, with the Iberians already seen as the weakening participants in the race against the swiftly rising powers of England, Holland and France. Navy had not yet resolved into any firm concept of permanent standing navies. War at sea depended upon any existing warships being hastily supported by armed merchantmen.

Sea fighting itself remained in its brawling infancy still heavily influenced by galley fighting. Nowhere had there yet arrived any firmly defined tactical rules for sea battle manoeuvre, or set rules governing use of sail and wind in battle. Much less were there sustained ideas embracing grand oceanic strategy. Ocean was still too large a vision for comfortably adjusted existence in most Western minds, which were yet too obsessed with the religious convulsions of Europe to be seriously distracted by a goal still too abstract. Terrestrial conflict was the principal menace. Military power, land fighting and armies, therefore naturally remained the predominant concern, diminishing the role of navies and their professional evolution. But since the struggles on land were seldom far removed from the Atlantic coasts or the Narrow Seas of north-western Europe, the Channel and the North Sea, it was in those confined waters that Western naval development had to find its evolution.

All of Europe was convulsed by the last great surge of religious and dynastic upheaval at the heart of which burned the bitter enmity between Bourbon France on the one hand and the alliance of the Hapsburgs of Austria and Spain on the other. Europe was plunged into crisis, and from crisis into prolonged war. The conflict that raged from 1618 to 1648 became known as the Thirty Years War, more cruel and savage than anything so far.

Out of that bloody upheaval would emerge a new Europe, and with it new and different concepts of naval strategy. The Thirty Years War might well be regarded as the signal period that delivered naval strategy to the Western mind, bringing with it the concept that the deployment of naval power could seriously hamper or affect the battle fortunes of the land, and with it the fate of nations and the destiny of empires. And it restored the Mediterranean to a central role in Western maritime history.

It was with France, however, under Louis XIII’s chief minister, Cardinal Richelieu, that the strongest effort to restructure naval power was begun. He laid down a programme for a fleet of some forty major warships, half of them 34-to 40-gun ships. But Richelieu’s greatest contribution may have been his innovating establishment of the principle of a navy on two seas, with an Atlantic fleet at Brest and a Mediterranean force at the new naval base he established at Toulon. France’s own Mediterranean naval strategy was thereby set in motion, with dramatic impact when France finally entered the Thirty Years War in 1635.

Richelieu had seen his new base at Toulon as a key to defeat of the powerful Austro-Spanish armies that were fighting the Dutch in the Lowlands and the Germans east of the Rhine and would be fighting the French along their own German frontiers once France became fully involved. Richelieu’s surprising and original strategy centred upon Toulon as a means of cutting Spanish supply and reinforcement of its armies inside Europe. For Spain the shortest route for maintaining her armies inside the Continent was from Corunna up through the Narrow Seas to the Spanish enclave of Dunkirk and on to the Spanish Netherlands (modern Belgium). But that had become impracticable. The Dutch with their experienced and belligerent navy controlled the Narrow Seas.

Denied the direct supply route through the Narrow Seas Spain’s alternative route of reinforcement and supply had to lie through Genoa. From there they passed to Milan and thence through various Alpine passes to the valley of the Rhine. Toulon became Richelieu’s base for cutting communication between Spain and Genoa, thereby undermining the whole Spanish-Austrian campaign inside the Continent. That shift of the Brest fleet to Toulon initiated the great strategic deployment that would prevail in French naval policy in the future as it shifted fleets to match requirement: if not Brest to Toulon, then Toulon to Brest. Toulon became a name, a strategic determinant, to be coupled eventually with that of Gibraltar. The two were to become the opposing points of critical strategic command in the western basin of the Mediterranean. From the Straits to the Italian peninsula they would create a maritime reach of ‘transcendent importance’ where, in Mahan’s memorable words, preponderant naval power determined gigantic issues, swaying the course of history again and again in successive wars of that century and thereafter when ‘it was not chiefly in the clash of arms, but in the noiseless pressure by the navies, and largely in the Mediterranean, that the issues were decided’.

In the Thirty Years War the western Mediterranean thus assumed a new significance in the power struggles of Europe that it was never to lose.

In reply to the French example Charles I set out to match Richelieu’s naval construction programme, the controversial expense of which was to contribute to the circumstances that cost him his crown and his life. The British navy’s real future was moulded by his usurpers. For revolution, civil war and regicide in England were to deliver a wholly new concept of navy and naval administration. New ideas and new commitment were infused by the rigorous military minds that had come to control England’s reconstituted Commonwealth destiny.

For the British, Oliver Cromwell and his soldier-generals fathered the modern navy. Cromwell delivered to the quarterdecks of a new fleet of ships military commanders, colonels who were called generals-at-sea, some of whom were to establish themselves in the front rank of Britain’s greatest sailors. It was these soldiers who set the English navy on its evolutionary course towards its greatness in the century ahead, and who by deciding that universal supremacy at sea was the navy’s rightful goal helped to mould the particular prowess that went towards ensuring its achievement.

The unique distinction of Cromwell’s sailoring soldiers was that they were to combine pride of seamanship with drilled military efficiency and crisp tactical command, without imposing any distinction of land commanding sea, which remained the inclination of the French and the Spanish. With Cromwell there finally arrived the full commitment to a standing navy. The established tradition of composing a navy in an emergency by hurriedly arming merchantmen was abandoned. A standing navy meant ships built by the state and maintained by it only for naval purposes, the principal of which became defence of commerce. For Julian Corbett no change in English naval history was greater or more far-reaching than that. ‘It was no mere change of organisation; it was a revolution in the fundamental conception of naval defence. For the first time protection of the mercantile marine came to be regarded almost as the chief end for which the regular navy existed, and the whole of naval strategy underwent a profound modification in English thought…the main lines of commerce became also the main lines of naval strategy…what they were really aiming at was the command of the sea by the domination of the great trade routes and the acquisition of focal points as naval stations.’

The Dutch, with their command of Europe’s carrying trade and their expanding colonial empire across the world, had shown the way, notably with their seizure of the Cape of Good Hope. Their squadrons were protectively posted wherever their trade moved. And it moved everywhere, nourishing the wealth of their tiny state. The example was too powerful to be ignored.

A new class of warship had emerged, the frigate, small, fast-sailing, flush-decked ships that originated from the dockyards at Dunkirk where design was affected by the demands for the privateering vessels built and stationed there. Frigates were among the first ships ordered for the Commonwealth navy, whose reconstruction had passed from the hands of politicians to professionals. Aboard the new wooden walls pay and conditions for sailors were improved.

After the turmoil of the Thirty Years War the Dutch republic, the now wholly independent United Provinces, might have seemed to be the natural ally of the English military republic. But the mercantile strength and naval power of the Dutch had aroused both the ire and the envy of Cromwell’s Commonwealth.

Released from the burden of war, Holland was left free to concentrate upon the accumulation of wealth and power from its vast mercantile resources. Its merchant fleet totalled ten thousand vessels employing 168,000 seamen. England scarcely possessed a thousand merchantmen. The carrying trade of most of Europe, from the Baltic to the Levant, and including much of England’s, was with the Dutch. They now had the monopoly of the eastern trade, having seized many of Portugal’s Asian possessions. They held the monopoly of trade with Japan. Their colonial possessions in the East extended from India to include Ceylon and the whole of the Indonesian archipelago. They had colonies in West Africa, South America and, notably, held New Amsterdam in North America. In 1652 they seized the pivotal point of east–west trade, the Cape of Good Hope. Backing them was a strong navy led by experienced seamen.

All of this Cromwell was driven to challenge, despite a desire for a compact between the Protestant states as a caution against the rising power of France.

By 1653 England was at war with the Dutch, the first of three wars that would follow in quick succession before the end of the century. With Spanish sea power now in permanent decline, the English–Dutch wars represented the beginning of the final process of elimination between the three surviving naval powers, Holland, England and France, for command of the sea.

These Anglo-Dutch wars were radically different from any that preceded them, the real beginning of modern naval warfare. They changed the tactical and strategic character of naval war and rivalry, being sea war between equals, between sailors of the highest professional proficiency and commitment, and fought within a confined sea space that demanded exceptional tactical skill.

With these wars mercantilism had arrived in full, determining manifestation. It would be the motor of a new age of oceanic commercial rivalry dedicated to ruthless elimination of opponents. Mercantilism was the conviction that oceanic commerce compelled narrow self-interest, the need to overtake or drive out rivals in trade and colonial possession, and to deny access wherever profits were greatest, particularly in the East and the Caribbean. Mercantilism was the fever that had developed naturally and ever more rapaciously through the seventeenth century as sea power diversified and the Dutch, the English and the French as well as others began intruding upon Spain and Portugal’s attempts at global exclusivity. Elizabethan piracy and privateering had been mercantilism’s first offspring. Established naval power became the next.

This first of the Dutch wars was an uneven affair. It saw the rise of the foremost of the Dutch admirals, Tromp, de Ruyter and de Wit. They were opposed by the British commander in chief Robert Blake and a new general seconded to the navy, General George Monck. It was a war in which the English and the Dutch were evenly matched in strength and seamanship. But by concentrating on control of the vital approaches to the Dutch coast the English cut off Dutch trade and brought Holland near to ruin. It was left to Cromwell in 1654 to allow a generous peace, for fear of wholly ruining a potential Protestant ally against France.

The Western world had come to yet another point of pivotal change. Cromwell died in 1658. In 1660 Charles II was restored to the English throne. A wholly different Europe had arisen from the destruction of the Thirty Years War. The chaotic age of religious tumult and its savage wars was over. Spain, the source of so much of it, was in rapid and permanent decline. The power of the Austrian Empire too was crippled. Hapsburg Austria, humbled by the defeat of its overambitious lunge for Continental power, now found itself facing an ambitiously ascendant France to the west and to the east continuing assaults against its empire from the Ottoman Turks.

In France Louis XIV’s finance minister, Jean-Baptiste Colbert, set out to transform France’s naval power and character as profoundly as Cromwell had changed that of England. When Colbert took office in 1661 he visualized a huge navy of ships ranging from twenty-four to 120 guns. In 1664, as Colbert’s vast naval programme was being laid out, the Dutch and English were again at war. The English peremptorily seized New Amsterdam, or New York as we now know it. There was no quibbling about motive. General Monck laid it out bluntly: ‘What matters this or that reason? What we want is more of the trade which the Dutch now have.’ This short war stands as one of the most significant in naval history.

The circumstances were different from the last. The Commonwealth Navy was now Charles II’s ‘Royal Navy’, with his brother, the Duke of York, the future James II, as Lord High Admiral of England. Restoration had brought demoralizing factional tensions within the navy. But Monck, who had helped organize the king’s return from exile, was still afloat, commanding the larger division of the battle fleet, with Prince Rupert, the Duke of York’s cousin, the other division.

The war was fought in the Narrow Seas and essentially settled through three battles, which together defined basic naval tactics for the next hundred years. For it was this war that made visible, clearly and distinctly for the first time, that grand vision of two battle fleets passing parallel in strict line of battle while firing broadsides at one another: the Line. Naval warfare had so far lacked any clear directional control. In action the impulse was towards melee with the ships of the various squadrons breaking off into individual engagement. Clear, firm instructions covering the movements of a fleet in action were yet to emerge. But Cromwell’s soldier-admirals, with their rigorous military minds, had made the first serious effort to approach naval battle formation and tactical strategy as a matter of ordered, scientific procedure that required strict compliance. Their instructions were issued in 1653 during the first Dutch war. One of these was that ‘all the ships of every squadron shall endeavour to keep in line with the chief, unless the chief be…disabled…Then every ship of said squadron shall endeavour to keep in line with the admiral, or he that commands in chief next unto him…’ That battle code was amplified in 1666 by the Duke of York, who strengthened the instructions for keeping the line. But it was only towards the end of this second war that the line made its first full appearance before a surprised maritime world. It did so with one of the greatest battles in naval history: the Four Days Battle in the first week of June 1666.

Mahan described the battle as ‘the most remarkable, in some of its aspects, that has ever been fought upon the ocean’. Certainly nothing was ever to match it for horror and endurance: four days of near ceaseless fighting, seven thousand dead, nineteen ships lost. Only at Jutland in 1914 would Britain suffer as severely.

The fleets were huge, the English with some eighty ships, the Dutch with around one hundred. Fought in the Narrow Seas, in the waters bounded by Dover and North Foreland and Calais and Dunkirk, the action veered indecisively from one coast to the other over four days until it exhausted itself, with the Dutch admiral de Ruyter having the better of the English in the final action. The loss of the English over the four days was the greater of the two, with five thousand killed and three thousand taken prisoner. They lost seventeen ships. The Dutch lost two thousand men and two ships. The English had had the worst of it but it was de Ruyter who preferred to withdraw before carrying it into a fifth day.

The courage of the English was the more remarkable for the fact that the Royal Navy under Charles was in a poor state. There was no money. The sailors were hungry, rations were short. Pay was years in arrears. Maintenance aboard ship and on shore had been low. Those conditions had induced some three thousand English and Scottish sailors to sell their services to the Dutch. Shamelessly and derisively they had shouted their dollar price to their brothers from the decks of the Dutch ships.

What the battle would always stand for above everything else was its vivid display of the new tactic of line. General Monck had at the start signalled for ‘line of battalia’. The close-hauled ‘line’ thereafter was performed with a skill and perfection that hardly suggested its novelty. One French observer, the Comte de Guiche, marvelled at the admirable order of the English. Nothing equalled their order and discipline, ‘leading from the front like an army of the land’.

Line represented the final rejection of the lingering influences of galley fighting. Right into the Four Days Battle the Dutch, like all others, still preferred that for battle their ships should continue sailing in line abreast, as galleys did, with consequent melee. But with the English the primacy of the big gun had become established and they had come to put emphasis upon their broadsides, which for maximum effect meant that gunfire should be positioned directly opposite the enemy, a beam of it, that is, parallel to it, unloading shot at its rigging and into its sides.

Why would the seemingly obvious have taken so long to evolve? The idea of line was, nevertheless, old. The first suggestion of it had shown in fighting instructions prepared by Sir Edward Cecil, one of Sir Walter Raleigh’s commanders in the fleet Raleigh took to Guiana in 1617. Cecil suggested that in action the whole fleet should follow the leading ship ‘every ship in order, so that the headmost may be ready to renew the fight against such time as the sternmost hath made an end, by that means keeping the weather of the enemy, and in continual fight until they be sunk…’ But the concept received little favour. Fighting instructions for a fleet remained vague or absent. By 1618, however, it was plainly recognized that sea fighting had changed from all times before. A Commission of Reform had described the demise of galley traditions by reporting that ‘sea fights in these days come seldom to boarding, or to great execution of bows, arrows, small shot and the sword, but are chiefly performed by the great artillery breaking down masts, yards, tearing, raking, and bilging the ships, wherein the great advantage of His Majesty’s navy must carefully be maintained by appointing such a proportion of ordnance to each ship as the vessel will bear’.

There were sound reasons for line of battle by the time of the Dutch wars. The sizes of navies and of ships were both at a stage of rapid growth. Greater size of fleets brought forward the problem of battle confusion. The smoke and melee arising from a denser concentration of ships locked in battle than in former times made signals and instruction more difficult during action. Huge opposing fleets produced intensive close action on a scale never before experienced. This demanded order upon confusion.

The second Dutch war expired with a peace in which Britain acknowledged the supremacy of Holland in the East Indies but retained New York and New Jersey, thereby joining all her colonies along the eastern seaboard of North America. It was an outstanding prize for a war in which Britain could by no means claim to have been entirely victorious. The greatest gift of the war, however, was line, shared by all.

Although the rest of the seventeenth century was convulsed by the dynastic and military upheaval that accompanied the domineering ascent of Louis XIV, it offered nothing to naval development. France had now been raised to the height of the new power assembled for her by Colbert. Louis XIV wanted sea power, colonial empire and dominance of oceanic trade. France looked set for an eventual challenge to English ambition in all of that. But by focusing on the Continental domination Louis forfeited what Colbert was striving for on his behalf.

The final quarter of the sixteenth century saw Europe convulsed by its greatest sequence of dynastic wars, the last of which, the War of the Spanish Succession, changed the map of Europe and colonial possession.

The sickly Spanish king, Charles II, a Hapsburg, had died and in his will declared Louis XIV’s seventeen-year-old grandson Philip, the Duke of Anjou, to be his heir, possessing an undivided Spanish empire. Louis XIV began to rule Spain from Versailles on behalf of the adolescent Philip of Anjou, now Philip V of Spain. For England and Holland France’s command over all Spanish possessions became intolerable provocation. On 15 May 1702, England, Holland and Austria declared war on France. This war, like its immediate predecessor, was also to be a war of land battles, marked by an absence of notable naval action, except for a single battle at the very end.

The Duke of Marlborough, in charge of the combined English and Dutch forces, demanded a strong Mediterranean squadron to go out to seize Toulon. The response by Sir George Rooke, the admiral appointed to command the Mediterranean squadron, was obstructive. When early in 1704 Rooke unavoidably found himself in the Mediterranean his performance initially was dismal. He made no show at Toulon. The French fleet there under Admiral Comte de Toulouse had been reinforced by the fleet from Brest. Rooke felt that the combined fleet was too powerful for his squadron and retreated towards the Straits of Gibraltar where, peremptorily, as if to compensate for the lack of anything to show before he returned home, he seized Gibraltar, on 23 July 1704. That brought Toulouse with his Toulon fleet down in an effort to recapture the Rock. He met Rooke off Malaga. This, the only naval battle of the war, was hard but indecisive. The combatants drifted apart and made no further contact, which was just as well since Rooke had used up all his ammunition.

The Treaty of Utrecht concluded the War of the Spanish Succession in 1713 and, in addition, gave England the island of Minorca where Port Mahon provided a key base from which to operate against Toulon. England’s Mediterranean situation gained further advantage under Utrecht as Spain lost Sicily and Naples to Austria, with Sardinia going to another ally, Savoy. This meant further strategic limitation upon France and its navy within the Mediterranean. Austria acquired the Spanish Netherlands, which for England removed the fear of France on the Scheldt and the North Sea coast. As icing upon the cake of prizes England had Nova Scotia, Newfoundland and Hudson’s Bay ceded to her by France. The war had been as costly to Britain as to the others, yet she had emerged from it wealthier than before, her trade flourishing and her credit unsurpassed.

With France, however, the situation was bleak. Regardless of her immense domestic resources, she was in a state of ruinous depression. Reconstruction of the country’s naval and economic fortunes required a long peace. Holland was the worst off. Her naval strength and commerce had suffered badly from the war, the cost of which had drained her wealth. She would never recover the commercial supremacy of the past two centuries.

England had now become Great Britain: the union of England and Scotland in 1707 had made it so. Usage of ‘England’ would now begin to fall away in official though less so in common use. A new dynasty occupied the English throne. Queen Anne died in 1714 and was succeeded by the Hanoverian George I.

Britain could with much satisfaction review the evolution of her own maritime accomplishments after such a tumultuous century. A standing, professional navy was solidly established.

For all, a powerful new stream of history had begun to flow, and mingled with it a different sense of the underlying power and significance of naval strength.

WWI Air War: Balkans and Mesopotamia I

SMS Königsberg Reccon. Brian Withams; (c) Brian Withams, GAVA; Supplied by The Public Catalogue Foundation

Pilots and observers have consistently maintained the ever-changing fortunes of the day and in the war zone our dead have been always beyond the enemy’s lines or far out at sea. Our far-flung squadrons have flown over home waters and foreign seas, the Western and Italian battle line, Rhineland, the Mountains of Macedonia, Gallipoli, Palestine, the Plains of Arabia, Sinai and Darfur…

King George V to all RAF squadrons after the Armistice

‘Our far-flung squadrons… battle-line…’ Kipling’s ‘Recessional’ was evidently echoing in the unconscious of whoever drafted the King’s message. The poet’s anxious prayer to the ‘Lord of our far-flung battle-line’ embodied the worry that without His blessing Britain’s global empire represented vainglorious overstretch. ‘Far-called, our navies melt away…’ It was inevitable that the war in Europe should have had tentacles reaching overseas into the Balkans, Middle East and Africa since the major combatants – Britain, France, Germany, Russia, Austria-Hungary and Italy – all had empires or spheres of interest and influence far beyond the main European fronts. As usually happens in wars, well before the end men in suits were cooking up post-bellum deals, scheming how various frontiers might be redrawn and what colour the new maps should be. Among the more notorious of these deals was the secret Sykes–Picot agreement in which one Briton and one Frenchman decided how the entire Middle East should be carved up. The fallout from those arbitrary lines drawn across a map in crayon on a May day in 1916 has now persisted for a century and may yet become literal.

The political geography of the Middle East was considerably determined by the twin fading dynasties of Ottoman Turkey and Qajar Persia. The protracted struggle for the Ottoman Empire’s former possessions had already been a background factor of the Crimean War in the mid-nineteenth century. In 1914 Turkey sided with Germany and the Central Powers, which left the Entente – chiefly Britain, France and Russia – with regional wars on its hands, Britain fighting the Turco-German forces from the Balkans to Sinai and Palestine and on through Mesopotamia. It was above all vital for Britain to maintain its lifeline with the Empire via the sea route that included the Suez Canal and Aden, an important coaling station. But in view of the Royal Navy’s gradual switch from coal to oil at this time (the new Queen Elizabeth-class battleships were oil burners), it was equally vital to secure the Anglo-Persian Oil Company’s oilfields in Mesopotamia, and especially its huge refinery at Abadan in what is now Iran. In order to drive the Turks out of Palestine and elsewhere, Britain entered into an alliance with Sherif Hussein bin Ali of Mecca, who was leading an Arab nationalist movement that also wanted the Turks out of the Middle East. The British army officer under General Allenby’s command working with Sherif Hussein to free the Hejaz (the western coast of Arabia) was T. E. Lawrence, who gave this assessment of the Arabs’ campaign:

Of religious fanaticism there was little trace. The Sherif refused in round terms to give a religious twist to his rebellion. His fighting creed was nationality. The tribes knew that the Turks were Moslems who thought that the Germans were probably true friends of Islam. They knew that the British were Christians, and that the British were their allies. In the circumstances, their religion would not have been of much help to them, and they had put it aside. ‘Christian fights Christian, so why should not Mohammedan do the same? What we want is a Government which speaks our own language of Arabic and will let us live in peace. Also, we hate those Turks.’

The armies involved in the Middle East conflict were naturally accompanied by air support which, especially in desert landscapes with little cover, was useful for observing troop movements and bombing supply lines. As far as maintaining an air presence went, the British had an advantage over the Germans for purely logistical reasons. The merchant fleet, escorted by the Royal Navy, could reliably supply Britain’s protectorate, Egypt, via Alexandria and Port Said, whereas the Germans had to bring their aircraft, spares and equipment overland from Germany on the long and difficult haul down through the Balkans and Turkey.

Some RFC and RNAS squadrons were even further-flung than King George’s message-drafter knew, for they were also present in a minor way in East Africa and India. In India a few squadrons were based almost exclusively on the North-West Frontier in what today is Pakistan, dealing with the ‘troublesome tribesmen’ in Waziristan who were part of Britain’s continuing imperial headache, albeit one that was independent of the Great War. In Africa, though, the Kaiser’s colonial presence was fought with varying success in both German South-West Africa (Namibia) and German East Africa (today’s Tanzania).

Probably the most famous air action in the latter was the destruction of the German light cruiser Königsberg in 1915 after it had hidden some ten miles inland in the complex delta of the Rufiji river, temporarily immobilised by engine failure. The Königsberg had long been a menace to British shipping in the Indian Ocean and the Admiralty viewed her elimination as a priority. Royal Navy warships arrived off the Rufiji delta but failed to find the German vessel because its crew had camouflaged the ship with foliage cut from the surrounding forest. It was a clear case for aerial reconnaissance. A local pilot was hired, together with his privately owned Curtiss F. seaplane, but this did not survive many missions. Two G.III Caudrons and two Henri Farman F.27s were sent down from Dar-es-Salaam (the F.27 was essentially a ‘Rumpty’ with a bigger engine and without its ‘horns’: the curved skids on the undercarriage) but nor were these up to the task. The Navy then deployed two RNAS Sopwith ‘Folders’: Type 807 biplanes with folding wings for shipboard storage. However, their Gnome Monosoupape (single valve) rotary engines proved too weak in the hot climate even as their airframes came unglued in the tropical damp. Three of Short’s ‘Folders’ were then deployed that, while also suffering in the heat and unable to climb above 600 feet, did manage some useful photo-reconnaissance work and finally pinpointed the Königsberg’s position. Two shallow-draught monitors were sent whose guns fatally crippled the German ship, thereby removing a major threat to Allied traffic in the Indian Ocean.

However, the Königsberg’s menace did not end there because most of its crew went to join an extraordinary guerrilla force led by a true genius in the art of bush warfare. This was General Paul Emil von Lettow-Vorbeck who was the officer in charge of all military forces in German East Africa. Between 1914 and 1918, living off the land and with a mere 14,000 men – German and local African – he managed to tie down and harry 300,000 Allied troops, remaining uncaptured at the time of the Armistice. It is pleasant to record that ‘The Lion of Africa’ survived until 1964. He was the only German commander ever to invade British imperial territory in the First World War, and his four years of improvised bush tactics mark him as probably the greatest-ever exponent of this form of warfare.

It was against Lettow-Vorbeck and in support of General Smuts that 26 Squadron flew reconnaissance missions in their B.E.2cs and ‘Rumptys’ (by that time the sort of antiquated aircraft most easily spared from the Western Front). But theirs was a tiny contingent and the task proved hopeless since little could be observed in thick bush from the air. Apart from that the African climate proved too much for fragile wooden aircraft designed for northern Europe, susceptible to wood-boring pests and warping as well as to weakened adhesives. No airman is much comforted by the thought of termites in his airframe and still less by the possibility that at any moment it might come unglued in the air. Thirty years later in the Second World War this same problem had to be addressed when the wood-framed de Havilland Mosquito was deployed in the Far East. By then new formaldehyde-based adhesives had been devised that seemed mostly to work; occasional airframe failures were attributed to sloppy assembly in de Havilland’s factories at Hatfield and Leavesden.

King George’s reference to Darfur in his message was significant for the way in which it related to the wider picture of the British campaign in the Middle East. Since the turn of the century the Sudanese sultanate of Darfur (the land of the Fur people) had effectively been independent under its ruler, Ali Dinar. From its geographical position of sharing frontiers with Italian-administered Libya and the French-administered district of Chad (then part of French West Africa), Dinar felt himself drawn into the wider conflict, being already estranged from Sudan’s British administration ever since Kitchener had ordered the mass killing of wounded Mahdists after the Battle of Omdurman in 1899. Instinctively, the Sultan sided with Libya’s politico-religious Senussi tribe, who were waging their own anticolonial war against the Italian occupation. He believed Turkish and German propaganda that promised the creation of an Islamic state in North Africa after the war was over and the Italians, the French and the British had all been driven out.

Ali Dinar’s rebelliousness led to British intervention in 1916, motivated half by needing to keep the peace in Sudan and half by macro-political considerations. Four B.E.2cs flew observation and reconnaissance missions over remote Darfur territory as well as dropping propaganda leaflets on the town of Al Fashir, Dinar’s stronghold. After fierce ground battles between the British Army and Dinar’s men Lieutenant John Slessor in his B.E.2c bombed the Fur troops retreating to Al Fashir, during which he was hit in the thigh by a bullet. Shortly afterwards all four aircraft and Lieutenant Slessor himself were withdrawn to Egypt for repair and the Darfur campaign ended with Ali Dinar’s death in November 1916. Many years later John Slessor was to become Air Marshal Sir John and finally a hawkish Cold War Chief of the Air Staff in the early 1950s.

It is shaming to see how quickly Europeans betrayed their promises to the Middle-Eastern allies they had so assiduously cultivated during the First World War. The Libyans’ faith in Turco-German visions of an Islamic state in North Africa was shattered when the Italians not only stayed on after 1918 but began importing Sicilians en masse to displace local Arabs and turn the country’s sole fertile coastal strip into ‘the garden of Italy’. The Arabs’ faith in British promises of a pan-Arab state from Aleppo to Aden was likewise destroyed once it was clear the Sykes–Picot agreement had secretly broken the promises even before they were made. The hopes of young nationalistic Egyptians were similarly dashed when the British stayed on in their protectorate after the war with a military occupation of the Canal Zone that included a considerable RAF presence. And the Ottomans’ faith in the Germans likewise came to naught. To this day the malign ghost of these and other betrayals haunts Middle East peace talks as an unbidden but ever-present delegate.


On the other side of the Mediterranean fighting had become general ever since the abortive British and French Gallipoli campaign that began in April 1915 at the western end of the Dardanelles – the narrow strait separating Europe from Asia. It was across this bottleneck that German lines of supply to the Middle East had to run. They came south-eastwards through the Austro-Hungarian Empire, through Bulgaria (which had finally sided with the Central Powers in September 1915) and thence through Turkey. Both the British and the French badly underestimated the fighting abilities of the Turkish troops defending the Dardanelles. This was curious, considering that before the war the Turkish army had been reorganised by the Germans, their navy by the British, and their air force by the French. It is hard to see how these military advisers could have overlooked the Turkish forces’ combined competence on their own terrain. Nevertheless they did; and after a campaign that cost the French and the British and their Anzac divisions dear, the Entente armies withdrew to Egypt and Salonika in January 1916 to lick their wounds.

Among the survivors was the 22-year-old W. E. Johns, who had taken part in the Gallipoli fiasco as Private Johns of the Norfolk Yeomanry. He was well aware how lucky he was to have survived since he had left half his regiment behind in mass graves. Many had been killed in action but the great majority had died of dysentery, malaria or simply of exposure in the lethal late autumn blizzards. Once in Alexandria Johns was deployed for the next six months to various outposts of the Suez Canal defences, often in remote desert locations that he could not have guessed would prove extremely useful to him in twenty years’ time as the setting for several of his Biggles stories. In September 1916 he was transferred from the Norfolk Yeomanry to the Machine Gun Corps, sent back to England on a brief leave and promptly dispatched once again by troopship, this time to Salonika.

This Greek seaport, more properly Thessaloniki, was some fifty very rough miles due south of Lake Doiran on the border between Macedonia and Bulgaria. In late 1915 the French general Maurice Sarrail had led a joint French and British force in an attempt to go to the aid of Serbia using the rail link that ran past this lake, but he left it too late. Bulgaria had just thrown in its lot with the Central Powers and its troops cut the railway line that Sarrail and his men were relying on and he had to turn round and withdraw south to Salonika. The port promptly became the main base for Entente troops in the so-called Macedonian theatre. In true Balkan style Greece’s political position was equivocal since the country was split between royalists who, like King Constantine, favoured the Germans, and those who sided with the revolutionary Prime Minister, Eleftherios Venizelos, who favoured the Entente. It was not until June 1917 that Constantine abdicated after a coup supported by General Sarrail, to be succeeded by his son Alexander who endorsed the Prime Minister, and Greece as a whole (now often referred to as ‘Venizelan’ Greece) finally came down firmly on the side of the Entente powers.

That was in the future, however. Greece was still on the edge of civil war when in mid-1916 General Sarrail tried again to advance beyond the Macedonian frontier, meeting the German Eleventh Army from the west and the Bulgarians from the east. In support of this effort the RFC’s 17 Squadron was sent to Salonika in July. It came fresh from flying in Sinai, the Western Desert and Arabia and for a short while was the only RFC unit in Macedonia. The squadron comprised twelve B.E.2cs and three Bristol Scouts (both pre-war designs) plus two D.H.2s, the resilient little single-seat fighter that was even then helping to end the ‘Fokker Scourge’ over Flanders and France. Soon 47 Squadron was also sent to swell the RFC’s presence on the Macedonian front.

By the time Johns arrived at the front with the Machine Gun Corps in October 1916 the British trenches ran through formidable country from Lake Doiran (‘that fever-ridden sewer’ as he later called it) south-westwards along the Macedonian border. It was the tactical stalemate of that terrible winter that confirmed Johns’s views about politicians and the military, as well as of war in general. He wrote later of the ‘lies and lies, and still more lies that made it impossible for men to stay at home without appearing contemptible cravens’:

I helped to shovel eighteen hundred of them into pits (without the blankets for which their next-of-kin were probably charged) including sixty-seven of my own machine gun squadron of seventy-five, in front of Horseshoe Hill in Greek Macedonia. We were sent to take the hill without big guns. Oh yes, they sent guns out to us, but when they got to Salonika there wasn’t any tackle big enough to lift them out of the ships. At least, that’s what we were told. Later, when we took the hill and the guns afterwards appeared, there wasn’t any tackle powerful enough to haul them up the hill. So back we came again.

By early 1917 there was an increasing German presence in the air over the Macedonian front, and in February they humiliatingly bombed the headquarters of the British XII Corps in Salonika, the Yanesh Hotel. An eyewitness lamented that the Entente’s air defences were no match for the German machines and that all they could do was get into the air to avoid being bombed on the ground. It would have taken them twenty minutes to climb to meet the Germans, by which time the attackers would be landing back at their base at Drama. This can’t have been good for morale, particularly with such a wide variety of potential witnesses of the raid, Salonika having become the port where all the Entente’s troops and supplies for their Balkan armies were landed. At any one time the town was a polyglot jumble of British, French, Italian, Russian, Serbian, Venizelist-Greek, Indian, Algerian, Annamese and Senegalese troops.

During this year Lance-Corporal Johns, like so many thousands of others, finally went down with malaria and was hospitalised in Salonika. During his long recuperation he decided he had had his fill of the infantry. He applied for a transfer to the RFC, obtained his discharge from the Machine Gun Corps and in September 1917 was commissioned as a 2nd lieutenant in the RFC and sent home to be taught to fly. ‘I was learning something about war,’ he wrote later. ‘It seemed to me that there was no point in dying standing up in squalor if one could do so sitting down in clean air.’ It was an impeccably Bigglesian sentiment.

WWI Air War: Balkans and Mesopotamia II

The importance of Salonika and the Macedonian front to the Entente meant that such air activity as there was became increasingly well organised. The Germans’ Fliegerabteilung (Air Force Detachment) 30 was attached to the Bulgarian and Turkish armies, with an important base outside the Greek town of Drama, some forty miles north-east of a British airfield on the island of Thasos, itself along the coast to the east of Salonika. At that time Drama was not yet part of Venizelan Greece and the German machines regularly made reconnaissance flights from it over Salonika. However, the British had set up a chain of wireless-equipped observation posts along the front and any enemy aircraft crossing the line were reported to Salonika and Thasos, from where scouts were scrambled to meet the Germans.

Although aircraft on both sides were regularly shot down, there must have been something about the terrain and general conditions that reawakened a spirit of comradeship among the opposing airmen. The countryside which they daily overflew in their small biplanes was extremely daunting, and they knew that if they suffered engine failure or were shot down and injured rather than killed their chances of rescue were slender indeed among the thickly wooded mountains, ravines and coastal marshes, none of which offered a road or landing place for miles. At least in France with its open fields there was the chance of either rescue or capture, unless one fell in no-man’s-land and the aircraft became an artillery target. The weather, too, was unpredictable in this area between the Aegean and the mountainous interior. Storms blew up within minutes, accompanied by violent winds and down-draughts that caused a German observer, unnoticed by his pilot, to be flung out of his cockpit over these same mountains. At any rate both sides regularly dropped message bags with streamers on each other’s airfields with notification of an aircrew’s fate, and even with invitations. On one occasion a British pilot dropped a note that read:

As we have met so often in the air and peppered one another, we should also be very pleased to make the personal acquaintance of the German airmen of Drama. We therefore make the following proposition. Give us your word of honour that you will not take us prisoners, and we will land a motor boat on the eastern shore of Lake Takhino to meet you.

‘Unfortunately,’ the German pilot who recounted this added,

we had bad experiences with that sort of fraternisation not long before on the Russian front, and so an order was issued forbidding us to go in for anything of that kind – and I’m still heartily sorry about it for I should have been ever so pleased to shake hands with those Tommies.

Their refusal was understandable given the reference to the Russian front, long since a byword among German airmen for duplicity and barbarities of every kind. Not only was there a short film doing the rounds of captured men being crucified, but wounded aircrew were frequently butchered, then stripped and robbed of everything including all documents, so identification of the naked and dismembered corpses was often impossible.

In Macedonia, on the other hand, opposing airmen often did their best to preserve the niceties. When Lieutenant Leslie-Moore from the RNAS squadron at Thasos was shot down he was brought to Drama and welcomed in the Staffel’s mess, as was normal. After a celebratory dinner his captors shamefacedly apologised for only being able to offer him tea since coffee had become virtually unobtainable. Leslie-Moore said this was no problem if he might be allowed to pencil a note to his commanding officer that the Germans could drop over Thasos. This read:

Dear Major,

I have just dined with the German Flying Corps. They have been very kind to me. I am going up to Philippopolis [Plovdiv] tomorrow. The Germans have asked me to ask you to throw them over some coffee on Drama which they want in [the] mess here. Good luck to all, A. Leslie-Moore.

It was a shame that when a British pilot obliged, the German diarist noted regretfully that ‘they could not catch the streamer he dropped because a strong wind carried it away into the mountains. But we were gratefully convinced that it contained the coffee we desired. I can only hope that it did not agree with the dishonourable finder,’ a remark that probably reflected a degree of disenchantment with the locals, whether Greek, Turkish or Bulgarian. The Germans generally found their allies amiable enough, but language and cultural barriers often proved insurmountable and there was a complete lack of the rigorous Prussian army-style honesty and efficiency they were used to.

But as W. E. Johns had discovered in both Gallipoli and Macedonia, the real problem everybody faced in the Balkans was not bullets so much as microbes. Typhus felled thousands, malaria tens of thousands. One British Army officer later wrote: ‘When we went to Macedonia, we knew it was a fever country. But no-one was able to realise the full extent of the deadliness of – for example – the Struma plain. Our people sank under the malaria like grass-blades under a scythe. One infantry battalion dwindled from its strength of 1,000 to one officer and nineteen men.’

An incident tangential to the Macedonian front but still worth mentioning on account of its fame was the attempt by a German airship in the autumn of 1917 to take medical stores and other badly needed supplies from Bulgaria to East Africa (where the RFC’s 26 Squadron’s B.E.2cs and Farmans were flying patrols against General von Lettow-Vorbeck’s guerrillas). It was a feat that merely confirmed Germany’s supremacy in airship technology. The heavily laden Zeppelin L.59 took off from Yambol in Bulgaria, crossed the Mediterranean, flew obliquely across Egypt and down through Sudan to the confluence of the Blue and White Niles south of Khartoum. It was little more than halfway to its destination when it was recalled by wireless on account of a false rumour that the German garrison in East Africa had been evacuated and abandoned. Captain Bockholt simply turned the L.59 around in mid-air and headed back to Yambol, where in due course he landed uneventfully, having been in the air for ninety-six hours and flown 4,200 miles. It was an epic flight.


The Italian Front also offered airmen the challenge of forbidding terrain, and this at first without adequate maps. The Austrian maps of the Julian Alps, in particular, proved useless for military purposes, being too small-scale. In late September 1917 the German General Staff urgently needed to relieve the pressure on the Austro-Hungarian troops in Trieste, but couldn’t advance its own divisions without reliable large-scale maps. German squadrons were called in to make a complete photographic survey of the region on both sides of the lines. This involved flying fifty miles each way over impassable mountains, itself a nerve-racking enterprise with the prospect of surviving a crash-landing small and of being rescued smaller still.

After the catastrophic Italian defeat at Caporetto in November 1917, the RFC rushed three Camel squadrons and two squadrons of R.E.8s to the Italian front. Air activity over the front became constant but by now, as in Macedonia, the Germans and Austro-Hungarians found themselves badly outnumbered, especially as the Italian fighter forces were becoming seasoned and effective. Even so, Austro-Hungarian aircraft still managed to bomb Padua, Treviso, Mestre and Venice in December, causing the usual terror and destruction. In fact the air war over the north of Italy had from the first been predominantly one of bombing. The Italian military visionary Giulio Douhet had elaborated his ideas of air warfare well before the war, and he continued his warnings via the press. On 12th December 1914 he wrote in a Turin newspaper:

To be safe from enemy infantry it is sufficient merely to be behind the battlefront; but from an enemy who dominates the air there is no safety except for moles. Everything that is to the rear and keeps an army alive lies exposed and threatened: supply convoys, trains, railway stations, powder magazines, workshops, arsenals, everything.

Today this might seem like stating the obvious, but in 1914 the military on all sides needed to be reminded of their vulnerability to air attack. Immediately after Italy’s May 1915 declaration of war on Austria-Hungary, until so recently its prewar ally, Austro-Hungarian airmen vengefully bombed Venice and Ancona, following up with a further raid on Venice in October. The Italians retaliated by bombing Austrian railways and aerodromes with their impressive tri-motored Caproni heavy day-bombers. Douhet had inspired Gianni Caproni to design this big machine and then ordered by him to go into production with it, an order Douhet had no authority to give and for which he was imprisoned. He was later pardoned thanks to the intervention of the poet, patriot and national hero Gabriele d’Annunzio, who had long been a friend and champion of Caproni’s. Whatever else might be said about d’Annunzio’s egomania, affectations and philanderings, there was no doubting his outstanding physical courage. Despite having lost an eye and been rendered nearly blind in an air crash in 1916 he was not only given the command of a squadron of Caproni’s bombers but flew with them on raids, such as one in August 1917 when, at the age of fifty-four, he led a fleet of thirty-six aircraft to bomb Pola in the south of the Istrian peninsula. So far all the Italian Army’s smaller scout and observation aircraft had been imported from France; but by the end of the war Italy had developed a lively and efficient aviation industry of its own that Mussolini went on to foster with great enthusiasm. In Italy, at least, aviation and Fascism had begun to be close bedfellows, as Mussolini’s biographer Guido Mattioli would observe.

For their part the Austro-Hungarians kept up their own bombing campaign, which in its way was as impressive as the Italians’ effort since they were mostly flying single-engined aircraft on long sorties. Even though by the end of the war Austro-Hungarian air raids on northern Italy – including several on Venice and at least one on Milan – had killed upwards of 400 civilians, and Italian air raids had probably killed a similar number of Austro-Hungarians (the exact number is not known), the most decisive effects of the air war in that European theatre probably came from what the combatants learned for future use in terms of organising an aero industry and the military deployment of aircraft generally.

This was certainly true where recognising the potential of fighter aircraft was concerned. The top Italian ace, Francesco Baracca, fell in flames in June 1918 with a total of thirty-four victories. An inspirational figure, he flew French machines exclusively, mainly Nieuports and SPADs, painted with his personal emblem of a prancing horse: the cavallino rampante. Many years after his death, when Baracca was an enshrined national hero, his mother presented a copy of this emblem to Enzo Ferrari who adopted it as his company logo and on whose cars it can be seen to this day.

WWI Air War: Balkans and Mesopotamia III

However, the theatre of war outside France and Belgium that had the gravest long-term consequences was that of Palestine and Mesopotamia. It is easy enough to see now why the Turco-German attempt to gain the Suez Canal, hold Palestine and Baghdad and retain the Turkish grip on Mesopotamia was doomed. Their lines of supply from the north were far too long, too shaky and critically affected by adverse weather in the winter months, with terrible roads and the incomplete rail link easily washed out or undermined. The steam trains hauling the goods could also not rely on supplies of coal, wood or even water along this increasingly desert route. It was some 900 miles by rail and road from Constantinople [Istanbul] down through Palestine to Beersheba, their base for the Canal campaign. Added to that, in the northeast Russian troops began crossing the Ottoman border from around the Caspian, marching south to harass the Turks holding Baghdad. Yet in the early months of 1916, following the humiliating rout of the Entente forces in Gallipoli and the Dardanelles, it is understandable that the Germans and Turks fancied their chances of success.

The Germans began their Suez campaign in early 1915 and soon acquired an aerial presence with fourteen two-seater Rumpler C.1s, ‘tropicalised’ for desert use as best they could be with enlarged radiators. They were facing the British Canal defence forces, some of whom (like W. E. Johns) had been withdrawn there after the retreat from Gallipoli, and others who were fresh reinforcements. Compared to the Germans, reliant on their creaking rail-and-road link, the British were well supplied. They were already laying a railway with a twelve-inch cast-iron water pipe running beside it from Ismailia across Sinai up towards Palestine, and had reached Bir Qatia. Meanwhile, Colonel Kress von Kressenstein had moved his men and two observation aircraft to El Arish, only about ninety miles from the Canal, and carried out a brilliant lightning raid on Bir Qatia, taking prisoner twenty officers and 1,200 men. The Turks had been counting on the Libyan Senussi to divide the British effort by attacking Egypt from the west at the same time, but the attack never took place and Bir Qatia was as near as the Turco-German forces ever came to menacing the Suez Canal directly. From now on, their story turned into one of steady northward retreat. Nevertheless, one of their Rumplers did achieve an astonishing morale-boosting coup by flying the 600-mile round trip from El Arish to Cairo, where the crew bombed the railway station and took various aerial photos, including one of the Pyramids at Giza.

Despite the setback at Bir Qatia, the British went on building the railway across Sinai at the rate of over 700 yards a day and reached El Arish just before Christmas 1916. They were soon in Khan Yunes and threatening Gaza, at which point the German forces must have realised they would do well if they could hold on to Palestine. They regularly sent observation machines back over the long haul to Suez, taking photographs of the British supply chain and doing what they could to harry the troops. By now the military on both sides were learning the techniques of desert survival, including camel riding, and were well aware of the logistical problems involved in desert warfare, the primary one being, of course, water. Any deployment had to be planned with reference to known wells. Aircraft presented problems of their own, including the need for large supplies of petrol and oil as well as spare parts. The airframes were drying out, the wood warping and cracking, while the sand in the air abraded propellers, stripped the dope from the wings’ leading edges and blasted windscreens opaque. Both sides managed to maintain a very high level of intelligence using spies and double agents often landed by air and robed à la Lawrence of Arabia, sneaking hither and yon through the desert on various clandestine escapades. This was to become the setting for one of W. E. Johns’s most exciting early novels, Biggles Flies East (1935), which has Biggles based first in Al Qantarah in the Canal Zone but flying for a German Staffel as a double agent. The narrative is full of the details of a desert campaign that Johns would have gleaned first-hand during his seven months in Egypt in 1916, spiced up with facts about flying in such unforgiving country that he briefly experienced in 1924 when he was in the RAF and spent time in both Iraq and Waziristan on India’s North-West Frontier.

Meanwhile, 700 miles to the northeast in Iraq, one of the most humiliating defeats in British military history was imminent as Major-General Charles Townshend’s contingent of largely Indian troops was bottled up in the town of Kut al Amara by the Turkish Army’s XVIII Corps. Kut was a hundred miles south of Ottoman-held Baghdad, and the defenders had been trapped there since December 1915. In the following four months various attempts to relieve them had failed in a series of battles the British Army had lost. In April 1916 30 Squadron RFC carried out daily drops of food and ammunition over Kut, possibly the earliest example of supply by air. At the time 30 Squadron contained an Australian ‘half-flight’ that had been recalled from India to help in Mesopotamia, but it is hard to see what on earth the wretched airmen could have been expected to do with the aircraft they were given. They had two ancient Maurice Farman ‘Rumptys’ and an even more veteran Maurice Farman ‘Longhorn’: the hideous pusher-engined contraption with enormous upward-curving wooden skids in front of its wheels to which a forward elevator was attached. What anybody was hoping such ludicrous museum pieces might achieve in a Middle Eastern battle zone is beyond conjecture. They not only had an absolute top speed of 50 mph in an area where desert winds frequently blew a good deal faster, but the machines’ antique wing design lost most of its lift in the hot air, to the extent that above certain temperatures neither type could even take off, let alone fly missions.

The Turkish besiegers were not much better supplied and were uncertain of being able to defend Baghdad at all costs. At this point Turkish Fokker E.III monoplanes arrived and began to bomb Kut. A German Staffel also arrived in Baghdad. One German pilot, Hans Schüz, shot down three RFC machines over Kut in short order and brought to an end the British supply drops. This, together with the Turks’ daily bombing of the town, led to a collapse of morale among Major-General Townshend’s mainly Indian troops. He finally surrendered the garrison and his men to the Turkish commander, having failed to negotiate an abject cash deal for their release using T. E. Lawrence as an intermediary. It was a resounding triumph for the Turco-German forces, and the Germans in Baghdad treated it as being on a par with their victory in the Dardanelles. However, the rejoicing was short-lived because it was here that the Germans’ own lines of supply began to break down badly. Aircraft and spares were not getting through on the long haul from Constantinople and, thrown back on its own resourcefulness, the Staffel in Baghdad was forced to become inventive.

After petrol, one of the biggest necessities for maintaining aircraft in the desert was a supply of propellers. At that time these were all made of wood that was laminated, glued and pressed before being accurately carved into the final complex shape. In the extreme desert heat the glue softened, the wood dried out and the laminations began to open up. The German airmen in Baghdad were reduced to making their own propellers from scratch even though they lacked the proper equipment. Improvisation was the order of the day, and they scoured the workshops of Baghdad for anything they could use. They even built an entire aircraft that they later claimed flew remarkably well. Some also taught themselves to distil petrol and to make bombs out of cast-iron pipes.

Their Turkish allies were now being threatened from the other direction by Russian forces advancing down through Persia. Soon the Staffel in Baghdad was reduced to a ratty handful of old aircraft plus a single new one that had managed to get through. It was a copy of a British R.E. type, and the RFC airmen stationed behind the British lines noted this with glee. One day they dropped a parcel of spare R.E. parts on the Staffel’s base with a note that read: ‘We congratulate the newly arrived bird upon its success. Herewith a few spare parts which, no doubt, will soon be required.’ This was only one of a series of jocular notes dropped by the airmen of both sides, echoing those in Macedonia that betokened mutual esteem and a joint recognition of the dangers and hardships that operations in such extreme landscapes offered. Hans Schüz, who ended the war with ten victories after flying an Albatros D.III in the retreat through Palestine, observed:

The limit was reached one day when the English airmen proposed that we should all land at some neutral spot to meet over a cup of tea and exchange newspapers and gramophone records. However, we were unable to see eye to eye with them in this conception of warfare. Those who know the English are aware that, in spite of events like this, they would always fight in the air with the greatest determination and keenness. No doubt our machine guns and bombs provided them with plentiful antidotes to boredom.

It was a repeat of the RFC’s proposal for a get-together in Macedonia, the sort of gesture soldiers tend to make only when they suspect they have the upper hand. Thereafter the decline in conditions for their German opponents in Iraq accelerated. The Staffel’s few remaining aircraft managed to photograph evidence that the British Army was preparing for an attack on Baghdad in the shape of new encampments beside the Tigris and increased steamer traffic on the river. Unfortunately, the heat tended to melt the chemicals on the photographic plates, which were anyway in short supply, and the results of these flights were not always commensurate with the risks. Captain Schüz’s retrospective narrative began to show signs of sheer frustration:

One request for more aeroplanes and the necessaries of war followed on another; but it was a long way to Constantinople. In vain did the handful of Germans endeavour to accelerate the arrival of supplies. All such demands were rendered nugatory by that peculiarity of the Turkish temperament about which we have already complained. If it should be Allah’s will that we should be victorious, then victory shall be ours, even without new aeroplanes; but if Allah hath ordained otherwise, then nothing can help us. Kismet! All is fate!

By the time the British finally attacked towards Baghdad in December 1916 the remaining German aircraft were barely airworthy. Their wings were warped, instruments were missing from the cockpits and the wheels no longer had tyres, the rubber having perished. The aircraft had to take off and land on wheels whose rims were bound with wired-on rags. (It would not be long before rubber was in such short supply back home in Germany that training aircraft were shod with wooden wheels.) Baghdad at last fell to the British and after a hectic retreat the Turkish army reassembled in Mosul only sixty or seventy miles from the Turkish border. Captain Schüz went back to Germany to demand fresh supplies in person and returned in April 1917 with nine new scouts:

In order to confound the English by the unexpected appearance of a new type, I covered the 300-odd miles from the railhead of the Baghdad line to the front in one day. But even this rapidity was of no use. On the same day an English machine appeared at a great height and dropped a tin of cigarettes with the following message: ‘The British airmen send their compliments to Captain S. and are pleased to welcome him back to Mesopotamia. We shall be happy to offer him a warm reception in the air. We enclose a tin of English cigarettes and will send him a Baghdad melon when they are in season. Au revoir. Our compliments to the other German airmen. The Royal Flying Corps.’ The English secret service had again done a brilliant piece of work.

For the next sixteen months the Germans and the Turks were steadily pushed back as British and Indian troops moved northwards, having already taken Gaza and Beersheba on the way to Jerusalem. They were supported by RFC squadrons under their GOC Palestine, General Sefton Brancker, the man who in 1914 had flown a B.E.2c hands-off from Farnborough to Netheravon. (Brancker was to survive the war only to die in the crash of the R.101 airship in 1930. He was last heard from via a spirit medium in a séance, describing himself as ‘rather busy’.)

In December 1917 General Allenby secured Jerusalem after several battles. The following September he finally defeated the Ottoman army at the Battle of Megiddo and was free to march into Damascus. After making heroic efforts in the air, the remaining German Staffeln retreated to Aleppo and thence flew northwards in stages across Turkey to Samsun on the Black Sea. By then they knew the war was lost and their efforts in the blazing sands of the Middle East had been in vain. News was coming in from Germany of increasing unrest and mutiny there as, inspired by the Russian Revolution and utter disenchantment with the men who had led the country to ruin and defeat, Communists and anarchists fomented social unrest. It must have been a bitter moment for the airmen on the shores of the Black Sea, looking back on the hundreds of hours they had spent in the air, wobbling in the thermals above the endless camel-coloured landscapes of rock and sand and dried-up wadis beneath which they had left so many of their former comrades. Retrospectively, the desert must have seemed to them as Mount Everest does today: a locus of pointless travail. At the same time they were no doubt looking forward with a mixture of relief and apprehension to being back in a changed Germany they might scarcely even recognise as their homeland.

They certainly had no monopoly of bitterness. Prince Feisal, Lawrence and his victorious Sherifian forces were in Damascus when Allenby arrived and had already announced a provisional Arab government. Lawrence had to translate for the Prince as Allenby informed him that this might not be recognised. Seventeen months later, shortly after he had proclaimed the independent Kingdom of Syria, Feisal was abruptly told that this was null and void and Damascus was to be handed over to the French. Sykes–Picot had triumphed. By then Lawrence was back in Britain on leave, sick with forebodings of the betrayal he knew was in store for his Arab comrades.


That story had a curious sequel. In 1920, and with some difficulty after the wholesale demobilisations that followed the war, W. E. Johns had managed to get himself reinstated on the RAF’s active list. With the recently established rank of Flying Officer he was posted to the deskbound job of an Inspector of Recruiting in London. The new downsizing RAF was keen to reinvent itself with fresh volunteers, and F/O Johns was under strict instructions not to enlist former officers of the RFC, RNAS or RAF. He was based in offices in Covent Garden and was deeply affected by the pathetic sight of jobless ex-servicemen living rough in the city. One day a former pilot from 110 Squadron, who had been in Landshut POW camp in Germany with him, walked into the office, having survived a week of sleeping in the crypt of St Martin-in-the-Fields with a single penny bun to eat each day. Forbidden to wangle him a job, Johns could only give the man some of his own cash and send him away. The anger and disgust he felt at the way neglect was being lavished on these men who had risked their lives for their country came out in a story he later wrote about an ex-RFC pilot who decided to live a postwar life of crime in order to give the proceeds to needy ex-servicemen. So much for Lloyd George’s ringing promise of ‘a land fit for heroes to live in’. Johns’s mistrust and contempt for politicians became yet more deeply ingrained.

One day in August 1922 a potential recruit walked in to whom Johns took an instant dislike. He was thin, pale-faced and somehow arrogant. He gave his name as Ross but failed to provide a birth certificate so Johns sent him away to get the necessary documents and meanwhile contacted Somerset House. This check confirmed that the man’s identity was false, so when Ross returned Johns quite rightly rejected him. He came back within an hour in the company of a messenger from the Air Ministry bearing an order for Ross’s enlistment. Reluctantly, Johns sent him upstairs for the obligatory medical inspection, but one look at the scars on Ross’s back was enough for the doctor to turn the man down on medical grounds. He was all too plainly not of the calibre needed for the rejuvenated RAF, since apart from anything else he was already thirty-four. This time the Air Ministry sent its own doctor to the Covent Garden depot to sign Ross’s medical form. Furious at this high-handed treatment, Johns complained to his own CO who simply told him that he had just rejected Lawrence of Arabia, so he might as well shut up if he wished to keep his job. There was nothing anybody could do. The Chief of Air Staff, Sir Hugh Trenchard himself, had facilitated the whole process of smuggling Lawrence into the RAF disguised as Aircraftsman Ross, and that was that.

Johns never forgot this lesson in military realpolitik. Together with his wartime experiences it no doubt accounted for the deep scepticism of his later editorials in Popular Flying and elsewhere when commenting on official pronouncements by service chiefs and politicians. In some ways his belligerent advocacy for a properly prepared British air response to Germany’s rearmament in the 1930s had something in common with Noel Pemberton Billings’s denunciations and warnings in the House of Commons during the First World War. Though vastly different in character, both ex-pilots were unafraid of men in gold braid and had admirably clear vision and opinions when it came to understanding air power and its consequences.

The 38cm S.K. L/45 ‘Max’ railway gun

The 38cm S.K. L/45 ‘Max’ was Germany’s largest-calibre railway gun. It could fire from the rails as a rolling mount, but only when the barrel was elevated less than 18 degrees. This gun was captured by the Belgian Army.

For long-range fires the German 38cm S.K. L/45 ‘Max’ operated from a fixed ground platform. Here, the carriage is raised on its jacks with the rear bogies removed. After the front bogies are taken away, the crew will lower the carriage and bolt it to the platform.

German Turntable Mount for 38cm S.K. L/45 ‘Max’. German firing platforms permitted railway guns to rotate on the mount, providing a wide field of fire and, in some cases, all-around fire. The most sophisticated of these mounts was a structural steel turntable mount built for the 38cm S.K. L/45 ‘Max’ and later used by the 21cm Paris Gun. Because nearly three weeks were needed for installation, the platforms were constructed well before a railway gun arrived at the position.

In the winter of 1917–18, Krupp built several new models of E.u.B. railway guns for the German Army’s upcoming spring offensives. Most of the barrels used for the guns came from fixed platform artillery or decommissioned warships. Four 24cm K. L/30 ‘Theodor Otto’ guns were made by mounting old 24cm cannons onto the ‘Theodor Karl’ carriage design adapted to accept the older model barrel, and six 28cm K. L/40 ‘Kurfürst’ guns were built by placing old 28cm cannons onto a new carriage design. Both ‘Theodor Otto’ and ‘Kurfürst’ had ‘K.’ barrels, which had a slower rate of fire than the fast-loading ‘S.K.’ cannons of other railway guns, but the difference did not appreciably affect performance. Krupp also converted five 21cm cannons, used by the navy as fixed foundation guns since 1915, into railway pieces designated as the 21cm S.K. L/45 ‘Peter Adalbert’. Despite design differences, all these railway guns were functionally similar, having lifting jacks and a pivot mechanism for attaching the gun to its ground platform. The guns also had an equivalent range of about 18,500m.

Krupp also constructed eight 38cm S.K. L/45 ‘Max’ railway guns, which were much larger in calibre and size than its other railway artillery pieces. The genesis of these guns dated back to 1915, when the army successfully employed 38cm ‘Lange Max’ naval cannons on fixed foundations at Verdun, the Somme and in Flanders. At the end of 1917, when construction of several battleships was deferred in favour of U-boat production, a number of 38cm naval cannons became available for use as either ground or rail-mounted artillery. Krupp put eight of these barrels on E.u.B. mounts and delivered the first gun in January 1918. The 38cm ‘Max’ was the largest-calibre railway artillery gun fielded by the Germans and was employed by both the army and the navy. When fired from railway tracks it had a range of 24,000m, but from a ground platform the maximum range was 47,500m. Because of its weight – 273 tons – ‘Max’ needed a different ground platform than those used for the smaller 21cm, 24cm and 28cm railway guns. Instead of a pivot mechanism, the platform for ‘Max’ had a steel turntable. The first platforms had concrete foundations for the turntables. Later, by May, a more versatile all-steel platform that could be removed and installed at another firing site was provided for the guns.

In 1913, the German shipbuilding industry began construction of Bayern type battleships. In total, it was planned to build four such ships, distinguished by powerful protection and weapons. Two battleships were completed and transferred the fleet, while the third and fourth ships were only launched. Soon it was decided to stop construction, which, among other things, led to the release of a large number of various equipment and weapons. The main caliber of ships in the form of 38-cm guns, it was decided to use on land as weapons of special power.

According to some reports, for the first time, 38 cm SK L / 45 tools were used in the interests of the ground forces at the beginning of 1916. For this purpose, quite complex firing positions were equipped, equipped with massive concrete pedestals and corresponding means of guidance. Such a complex made it possible to attack targets in the entire allowable range of firing ranges, but was extremely difficult to operate. The construction of the stationary artillery complex took several weeks.

The characteristic flaws of the existing system have led to the emergence of a new proposal. An idea emerged to significantly improve the mobility of guns through the use of rail transportation systems. It was originally planned to use the railways only to deliver the gun to the position, but later it was found that a conveyor could be used as a mobile unit capable of firing from the wheels. According to various sources, work on the rail version of the artillery system began no earlier than 1916-17.

A promising railway cannon project was given a designation similar to that used with other developments in this field – 38 cm SK L / 45 (“38-cm fast reloading cannon with a barrel of 45 gauge”). The project was also given the additional name Max (“Max”) or Lange Max (“Long Max”). It should be noted that only an additional name allows to distinguish the railway version of the gun from the base ship. The development of the project was entrusted to the concern Krupp

Transportation of a large and heavy gun was quite a challenge, which required creating an entirely new conveyor with the appropriate characteristics. It was decided to use the already developed version of the transportation and deployment type Bettungsgerüst. In this case, a special complex with a dismantled artillery installation was to be moved along the railways. The undercarriage was required only for delivery to the place of combat work, after which the gun had to be deprived of it. This architecture provided all the required characteristics, but at the same time it allowed to accelerate the process of deploying weapons to the position in comparison with a full-fledged fixed installation.

Later it was decided to recycle the conveyor in accordance with the concept of Eisenbahn und Bettungsgerüst. Now the gun could not only shoot from a previously prepared stationary position, but also be used on any part of the track. In general, this installation option could solve all the tasks, however, it differed with some features. First of all, he had to have serious restrictions on the angles of guidance and firing range associated with the design features of the weapon and associated units.

Artillery installation “Max” was to be built on the already established scheme. Four trucks with four and five wheel pairs on each became its basis at once. Trolleys were locked in pairs and equipped with pivots for connection with the central element of the conveyor. The latter was a large and solid beam of complex shape and design, having all the necessary devices to be placed on the position and installation of the gun. The central beam of the conveyor was a unit of frame construction with a gap between the side elements. This space was proposed to be used for partial placement of the instrument in certain circumstances.

Due to the large mass and power, the gun was proposed to be equipped with a combined recoil damping system. The barrel was to be connected to hydropneumatic recoil devices, which, in turn, were placed on a movable cradle. The latter had the ability to move along the central beam of the conveyor and partially extinguished recoil. On the swinging cradle suspended between the side elements of the beam, placed a large and heavy counterweight. Used long-barreled gun had a tendency to lower the barrel. The installation of equilibrators was considered inexpedient, which is why a counterweight appeared over the trunk, next to the trunnions. It was made of two separate halves, pinned pivotally. In the transport position, they lay on the upper surface of the trunk; in the combat position, they converged and formed a rectangular structure.

As part of the new artillery installation was used naval gun 38 cm SK L / 45. It had a rifled barrel caliber 380 mm long 16,1 m. The total mass of the gun in the ship’s performance reached 80 t. Used wedge gate, moving in the horizontal plane. The gun was charged separately using a variable propellant charge. The latter consisted of a sleeve with the main charge and the required number of additional cards. The gun could accelerate the projectile to a speed of more than 1000 m / s and send it to a distance of 55 km. At the same time, the railway implement could have some limitations on the range characteristics.

380-mm gun could use shells of several types. The largest and heaviest was a fragmentation total weight of 750 kg. It contained 67 kg of explosive and could leave the barrel at a speed of 800 m / s. The firing range of such a projectile reached 32,4 km. Maximum speed and range were achieved using ballistic-cap munitions.

Due to the large mass of projectile and liner, the Max project involved the use of cranes and special vehicles. With their help, the ammunition was fed under the conveyor, behind the breech of the gun, and climbed the dismounting line. Depending on the firing position used, different devices could be used to work with projectiles.

Concern “Krupp” developed two options for the combat use of railway guns, differing from each other in equipping the firing position. The first, Bettungsgerüst, implied a long position preparation, which required up to three weeks. During this time, builders had to dig a pit with a diameter of 22 m and a depth of 3,5 m, and then build a special concrete structure in it. After this, a cylindrical pedestal for the instrument appeared on the position, surrounded by a stepped wall. On the pedestal there was a shoulder strap for mounting a gun mount.

Upon arrival, the calculation of the railway implement, using additional tracks and cranes, was to hang the conveyor platform over the constructed position, and then lower it onto the epaulet. Next, the carts were removed, the cranes were removed, and some other operations needed to start the combat work were performed. In particular, transport carts for projectiles were installed on the corresponding rail tracks.

The 38 cm SK L / 45 Lange Max gun in the Bettungsgerüst version could show the highest possible performance. Tumbovaya installation and epaulet allowed to direct the gun horizontally in any direction. The installation was raised above the bottom of the excavation, so that the elevation angles could vary from 0 ° to + 55 °. The maximum rise of the barrel allowed attacking targets at ranges over 45-50 km. Thus, the full potential of the gun could only be revealed at the cost of lengthy preparation of the firing position.

Work on the method of Eisenbahn und Bettungsgerüst was not so difficult and did not require lengthy preparation. For such shooting, one had only to arrive at the firing position, put the boots under the wheels and prepare the weapon for firing. For horizontal pickup when shooting from the railroad, a special mechanism was used, placed on the front carts. The presence of a movable support connecting them with the central beam, as well as a hinge connection with the rear carriages, allowed the transporter to move within the sector width 2 °. At the same time there were serious restrictions on the angles of vertical pickup: no more than + 18 ° 30 ‘. This restriction was introduced because of the length of the rollback, since at high elevation angles the breech could hit the way. The German military considered it inappropriate to disassemble the rails and cut a hole in the embankment: this method of increasing the pickup angles did not allow the complex to quickly leave the position. By reducing the maximum elevation angle, the firing range dropped to 22,2 km.

Complex Max turned out large and heavy. The total length of the system in the transport position reached 31,6 m. Mass – 268 t, without taking into account various additional means, such as ammunition, trucks for them, transport, cranes and, of course, building materials for the preparation of the position.

The assembly of the first transporters for a new type of railway complex began in 1917. Krupp companies delivered eight ship guns to fulfill the order. Initially, these guns were made to install on new ships, but the construction of carriers was canceled, which forced the commanders to look for a new use for them. The number of rail systems planned for construction was limited by the number of guns available.

In the winter of 1917-18, the army received the first samples of new weapons. In the same period, the construction of future fixed positions began. Flanders was chosen as the first theater of war for the new guns. The weapons were proposed for use in the course of the future Spring Offensive. Preparation of positions had to begin in advance, given the long construction time of concrete structures. Such structures were built until the end of the spring 1918, when a new version of the Bettungsgerüst installation appeared. Now some elements of the position had to be made not of concrete, but of metal, which made it possible to speed up construction work.

For the first time, 380-mm naval guns were used on land in February 1916, at the beginning of the Battle of Verdun. Complexes “Long Max” went to war only two years later. Interestingly, only one such system was transferred to the army, while the others formally remained naval. Nevertheless, despite such an organizational structure, the navy helped the ground forces in their battles. The operation of special-power weapons was conducted only on land as part of army operations.

Due to the high firing characteristics and the available power of the 38 cm SK L / 45 Max shells, they could show the required efficiency even without mass use. Usually no more than 2-3 guns acted on one front. Among other things, this made it possible to disperse railway artillery into several remote areas and use it in various operations. The presence of only a few railway guns on a stationary or mobile base made it possible to cause serious damage to the enemy at great depth without serious risk of destroying the guns by a retaliatory strike. However, only a few months remained until the end of the war, because of which special power tools simply could not participate in a large number of operations.

Probably for this reason, in November 1918, one of the guns was on the territory of Belgium, where it was captured by local troops. The remaining seven units were previously assigned to Germany, where they were planned to be transferred to the coastal defenses. At these places, eight guns met a truce, which accordingly affected their future. Seven guns, planned for the transfer of coastal artillery, could not be saved from disposal: they were dismantled in accordance with the conditions of the Versailles peace. The eighth gun went to Belgium and therefore did not go for recycling.

For several years, the Belgian troops studied and used the captured sample, after which it was decided to sell this instrument to France. In 1924, the only remaining “Max” changed owner. French specialists conducted full-scale tests, during which all the main characteristics of the gun were established. After testing the gun was sent to storage. As far as is known, it was not used by the army. In 1940, Nazi Germany attacked France, and she soon capitulated. Together with other available weapons and equipment, the German troops got the 38 cm SK L / 45 Max complex. Probably, the German troops were glad of such a trophy, but the operation of the captured gun was not planned. The subsequent fate of the sample is unknown.

In 2014, the Lange Max Museum was opened in Belgium, dedicated, as its name implies, to the Long Max tool. The museum exhibits a preserved instrument, dismantled from its installation. In addition, not far from the buildings of the museum is one of the surviving firing positions with a concrete base for the gun.

As part of the 38 cm SK L / 45 Lange Max project, the designers of the Krupp concern were tasked with creating a conveyor belt for transporting existing 380-mm ship guns. As in the case of other similar projects, this task was successfully solved, and the armed forces received the required equipment. Nevertheless, it happened late – in 1917-18, which is why new tools of special power could not have a noticeable impact on the course of the war as a whole, although they showed their capabilities in individual battles. But the late appearance did not allow Germany’s most powerful railway cannon to reach its full potential.

Sea Kings and Commandos

Westland Sea King HC.4 above and 1 above

The helicopter most identified with U. S. long-range SAR operations in SEA first entered service as an ASW helicopter with the U. S. Navy. On March 11, 1959, Sikorsky Aircraft Corporation test pilots lifted off in the S-61, or H-3 Pelican, later known as the Sea King. The twin-engined, all weather Pelican became operational with the U. S. Navy in June 1961. The H-3, although designed primarily to detect, classify, track, and destroy enemy submarines, rapidly became a multipurpose ship or land-based aircraft with Navy, Marine, and USAF units. Powered by two GE T58-GE-10 1,250- horsepower turboshafts, soon upgraded to 1,400 horsepower, the H- 3 cruised at an airspeed of 120 knots to a maximum range of 542 nautical miles and reached a service ceiling of 14,700 feet. The H-3 had a maximum gross takeoff weight of 21,000 pounds, with the capability of a 6,000-pound slingload on some models.

Of conventional design, the Sea King’s five-bladed main rotor system measured 62 feet and its fuselage 54 feet, 9 inches. Designed for overwater flights the H-3 possessed emergency amphibious capabilities. The H-3 carried a crew of four and up to twenty-eight passengers in its transport configuration. For ASW operations the helicopter crew usually consisted of two pilots, two to three sensor operators, and up to three passengers. Dubbed the “Jolly Green Giant” by rescued aircrewmen, the USAF SAR version of the HH-3 usually carried two pilots, a door gunner, a parajumper (PJ), and a flight engineer who doubled as the rescue hoist operator. In 1967 two USAF Air Rescue and Recovery Service (ARRS) HH-3s demonstrated the viability of air refueling of helicopters by self-deploying from the United States to France in a flight of almost thirty-one hours (Pember 1998, 49).

Sikorsky produced two basic models of the S-61, the original with a watertight hull, which Navy personnel called “Big Mother,” and later, the elongated version with aft cargo doors and a loading ramp for larger cargo. The United States, Great Britain, Canada, Japan, Italy, Spain, Egypt, and Malaysia used several variants of the Sea King: search and rescue HH-3 and SH-3D also used to pluck U. S. Apollo astronauts and their space vehicles from the ocean after splashdown, ASW SH-3, tactical transport CH-3, mine sweeping RH-3, VIP transport VH-3 (used by the U. S. Marines to transport the president), special operations MH-3, and commercial transport helicopter. Armament included a dipping sonar, sonobuoys, magnetic anomaly detectors, two MK 46 torpedoes for ASW, and at least two 7.62-mm door-mounted miniguns on SAR helicopters for self-protection. The aircraft contained cockpit instrumentation for all-weather operations, including both search and weather radars. Later models included Doppler radar navigation systems. In the early 1990s many Sea Kings received upgraded T-58-GE-402 1,500- horsepower engines and global positioning systems (GPS). The USCG HH-3F had the capability to fly 300 miles, hover for twenty minutes, and return to base with fuel in reserve.

Sikorsky built more than 1,100 S-61s, while Westland, Mitsubishi, and Agusta manufactured over 400 versions of the H-3 under license. Westland installed a pair of Rolls Royce Gnome H. 1400 turboshafts and a Louis Newmark Mk 31 automatic flight control system in the British Sea Kings. The RN initially ordered fifty-six HAS1 Sea Kings, with 700(S) Squadron receiving the first for test and evaluation in August 1969. Testing resulted in the more powerful HAS2, and the HAS5 with a longer cabin to accommodate the Sea Searcher radar. Westland provided the Egyptian Air Force with a twenty-one-seat Sea King utility transport, minus the external floats, called the “Commando.” The British Royal Marines also ordered this version as the HC4, which conducted extensive combat operations in the Falklands War.

The last half of the 1960s provided additional milestones for Westland. On October 1, 1966, the company reorganized under the name Westland Helicopters Ltd. On the 8th of the previous month, under a licensing agreement, Westland began manufacturing the Sikorsky SH-3D Sea King as the HAS Mk 1, 2, 5, and 6, and the HAR Mk 3. Westland’s modifications included equipment upgrades to improve the Sea King’s utilization as an ASW platform and subsequent adaptations for SAR, commando insertions, and airborne electronic warfare (AEW). Westland’s Sea King rotor diameter measured 62 feet, and the helicopter 72 feet, 8 inches in length. Two Rolls-Royce Gnome 1400 1,500-horsepower turboshafts powered the aircraft to a speed of 114 knots; it had a maximum gross weight of 21,400 pounds. The ASW version carried a pilot and three system technicians, while the Commando version carried two pilots and up to twenty-eight troops to a maximum range of 600 nautical miles without refueling. Westland built a total of 330 of all versions.

Westland also produced a completely self-contained SAR helicopter that carried a crew of four, nine stretchers, a weather/search radar, smoke and flare dispensers, a flight director system with an auto hover mode, and folding blades for shipboard storage. The RAF made use of this version as the HAR Mk3 and the West German Navy as the Mk 41.

Westland exported Sea King variants to India, Norway, Belgium, Pakistan, Australia, and Qatar.

In 1967, Agusta opened another profitable line of helicopters by producing Sikorsky helicopters under a separate license agreement. The Italian Navy ordered twenty-six of the Agusta-manufactured Sikorsky Sea King (AS-61A-4) ASH-3Ds equipped with the AN/APN-195 radar installed in a nose radome and the APQ-706 Marte missile guidance radar mounted in a pod under the fuselage.

Agusta also produced two ASH-3D/TS VIP versions for the Italian government and the papacy. Agusta built a total of eighty Sea Kings, with sales to Libya, Peru, Iran, and Saudi Arabia.

Additionally, Agusta manufactured the Sikorsky HH-3F Pelican in search and rescue versions for the Italian military. The 15th Stormo received twenty of the aircraft and stationed them at bases along the Italian coast. SIAI also produced the HH-3F and the AB 205, AB 212, and, in the 1980s, the AB 412.


Sea King HAS.1

    The first anti-submarine version for the Royal Navy, with Gnome H.1400 engines, a five-bladed tail rotor, a Plessey Type 195 dipping sonar and MEL ARI 5995 search radar in a dorsal radome. The Westland Sea King HAS.1 first flew on 7 May 1969.[111] 56 built, many of which were converted to HAS.2.

Sea King HAS.2

    Upgraded anti-submarine version for the Royal Navy, based on Australian Mk 50. More powerful Gnome H.1400-1 engines, six bladed tail rotor and upgraded avionics (including new Type 2069 dipping sonar), and improved navigation and communications equipment; 21 new build aircraft plus conversions from HAS.1s. Some were later converted for AEW (Airborne Early Warning) duties.

Sea King AEW.2

    Conversion of Sea King HAS.1 or HAS.2s into AEW aircraft after lack of AEW cover was revealed during the Falklands War. Fitted with Thorn EMI Searchwater radar in inflatable radome, with sonar removed. Normally flown with three person (pilot and two observers) crew compared with four-person crew for ASW Sea Kings. Nine converted.

Sea King HAR.3

    Search and rescue version for the Royal Air Force. Fitted with relocated rear cabin bulkhead giving greater cabin length, extra fuel and additional observation windows; 19 built.

Sea King HAR.3A

    Improved search and rescue version of the Sea King HAR.3 for the Royal Air Force. Fitted with upgraded avionics; six built.

Sea King HC.4 / Westland Commando

    Commando assault and utility transport version for the Royal Navy, with simplified undercarriage, and lengthened cabin. Capable of transporting 28 fully equipped troops; 42 built.

Sea King HC.4X

    One aircraft first flown on 10 April 1989 for the Empire Test Pilots’ School.

Sea King Mk.4X

    Two helicopters based on the HC.4 for trials/test beds at the Royal Aircraft Establishment at Farnborough. Fitted with various nose and/or dorsal sensor installations.

Sea King HAS.5

    Upgraded anti-submarine warfare version for the Royal Navy, with longer range MEL Super Searcher radar in enlarged dorsal radome, new AQS902 acoustic processing system with provision to use sonobuoys. Entered service in June 1981; 30 new build aircraft plus about 55 converted from earlier versions. Some later converted into the HAR.5 for Search and Rescue.

Sea King HAR.5

    Conversion of HAS.5 to search and rescue role for the Royal Navy, with ASW equipment removed but retaining Sea Searcher radar.

Sea King AEW.5

    Four Sea King HAS.5s were converted into AEW helicopters for the Royal Navy.

Sea King HU.5

    Surplus HAS.5 ASW helicopters converted into utility role for the Royal Navy.

Sea King HAS.6

    Upgraded anti-submarine warfare version for the Royal Navy. fitted with improved avionics, with new sonar processor, improved tactical displays and better communications equipment; five new build aircraft plus conversions.

Sea King HAS.6(CR)

    Five surplus HAS.6 ASW helicopters converted into the utility role for the Royal Navy. The last of the Royal Navy’s HAS.6(CR) helicopters was retired from service with 846 NAS on 31 March 2010.

Sea King ASaC7

    Upgraded AEW2/5 for the Royal Navy with Searchwater 2000AEW replacing original Searchwater radar.

Sea King Mk.41

    Search and rescue version of the Sea King HAS.1 for the German Navy, with longer cabin; 23 built, delivered between 1973 and 1975. A total of 20 were upgraded from 1986 onwards with additional Ferranti Seaspray radar in nose and capability to carry four Sea Skua Anti-ship missiles.

Sea King Mk.42

    Anti-submarine warfare version of the Sea King HAS.1 for the Indian Navy; 12 built.

Sea King Mk.42A

    Anti-submarine warfare version of the Sea King HAS.2 for the Indian Navy, fitted with haul-down system for operating from small ships; three built.

Sea King Mk.42B

    Multi-purpose version for the Indian Navy, equipped for anti-submarine warfare, with dipping sonar and advanced avionics, and anti-shipping operations, with two Sea Eagle missiles; 21 built (one crashing before delivery).

Sea King Mk.42C

    Search and rescue/utility transport version for the Indian Navy with nose mounted Bendix search radar; six built.

Sea King Mk.43

    Search and rescue version of the Sea King HAS.1 for the Royal Norwegian Air Force, with lengthened cabin; 10 built.

Sea King Mk.43A

    Uprated version of the Sea King Mk.43 for the Royal Norwegian Air Force, with airframe of Mk.2 but engines of Mk.1; single example built.

Sea King Mk.43B

    Upgraded version of the Sea King Mk.43 for the Royal Norwegian Air Force. Upgraded avionics, including MEL Sea Searcher radar in large dorsal radome, weather radar in nose and FLIR turret under nose. Three new-build plus upgrade of remaining Mk.43 and Mk.43A helicopters.

Sea King Mk.45

    Anti-submarine and anti-ship warfare version of the Sea King HAS.1 for the Pakistan Navy. Provision for carrying Exocet anti-ship missile; six built.

Sea King Mk.45A

    One ex-Royal Navy Sea King HAS.5 helicopter was sold to Pakistan as an attrition replacement.

Sea King Mk.47

    Anti-submarine version of the Sea King HAS.2 for the Egyptian Navy; six built.

Sea King Mk.48

    Search and rescue version for the Belgian Air Force. Airframe similar to HAS.2 but with extended cabin; five built, delivered 1976. Retired in 2018.

Sea King Mk.50

    Multi-role version for the Royal Australian Navy, equivalent to (but preceding) HAS.2; 10 built.

Sea King Mk.50A

    Two improved Sea Kings were sold to the Royal Australian Navy as part of a follow-on order in 1981.

Sea King Mk.50B

    Upgraded multi-role version for the Royal Australian Navy.

Commando Mk.1

    Minimum change assault and utility transport version for the Egyptian Air Force, with lengthened cabin but retaining sponsons with floatation gear; five built.

Commando Mk.2

    Improved assault and utility transport version for the Egyptian Air Force, fitted with more powerful engines, non-folding rotors and omitting undercarriage sponsons and floatation gear; 17 built.

Commando Mk.2A

    Assault and utility transport version for the Qatar Emiri Air Force, almost identical to Egyptian Mk.2; three built.

Commando Mk.2B

    VIP transport version of Commando Mk.2 for the Egyptian Air Force; two built.

Commando Mk.2C

    VIP transport version of Commando Mk.2A for the Qatar Emiri Air Force; one built.

Commando Mk.2E

    Electronic warfare version for the Egyptian Air Force, fitted with integrated ESM and jamming system, with radomes on side of fuselage; four built.

Commando Mk.3

    Anti-ship warfare version for the Qatar Emiri Air Force, fitted with dorsal radome and capable of carrying two Exocet missiles. Eight built.

Specifications (Sea King HAS.5)

General characteristics

    Crew: 2-4

    Length: 55 ft 10 in (17.02 m) [148]

    Height: 16 ft 10 in (5.13 m)

    Empty weight: 14,051 lb (6,373 kg)

    Gross weight: 21,000 lb (9,525 kg)

    Max takeoff weight: 21,400 lb (9,707 kg)

    Powerplant: 2 × Rolls-Royce H.1400-2 Gnome turboshaft engines, 1,660 shp (1,240 kW) each

    Main rotor diameter: 62 ft 0 in (18.90 m)

    Main rotor area: 3,020 sq ft (281 m2)

    Blade section: NACA 0012[149]


    Cruise speed: 112 kn (129 mph, 207 km/h) (max cruise at sea level)

    Range: 664 nmi (764 mi, 1,230 km)

    Rate of climb: 2,020 ft/min (10.3 m/s)


    4× Mark 44, Mark 46 or Sting Ray torpedoes, or 4× Depth charges

    Provision for a door mounted machine gun of various calibers


A pictorial of Panhard Crab in an urban scenario. Light, well protected and heavily armed, the new Panhard vehicle is the company answer to the needs of the near future.

The Crab unveiled at Eurosatory 2012 carries a number of very special features and, apart from its 25mm CTI turret which makes it one of the most heavily armed light armoured vehicles, can move sideways like a crab.

This picture shows the three crew members positions in the Panhard Crab and the Thales Vsys-net vetronic system.

Two sets of solar cells are installed over the Crab in order to increase the onboard available power and the batteries endurance when the engine is not running.

As part of the Phase 2 of the Scorpion programme (Synergie du Contact Renforcé par la Polyvalence et l’Infovalorisation) that will bring the French Armée de Terre into a new era, is a light vehicle with peculiar mobility and firepower characteristics known as the VBAE (for Véhicule Blindé d’Aide a l’Engagement). This will not only cover the scout mission needs of heavier vehicles such as the Leclerc main battle tank, but also provide means for cavalrytype missions such as screening, flanking and so on, missions that require both a high level of mobility and sufficient firepower. The role of this new vehicle thus well exceeds that of the VBL (Véhicule Blindé Léger) introduced by Panhard over 25 years ago and which currently provides the “eyes” to French Army armoured formations. Based in Marolles (south of Paris), the firm which incidentally became Panhard General Defense in 2006, unveiled its proposal for the VBAE programme at the last Eurosatory exhibition and named it the Crab (Combat Reconnaissance Armoured Buggy).

In its initial version the Crab will have a three-man crew, the same as the VBL, but similarities end here. First of all its combat weight is nearly thrice that of the original VBL’s, which was set at three tonnes for air-transportability purposes. In the configuration shown at Eurosatory the Crab tipped the scales at 8.5 tonnes, but the automotive components could cope with an inflation to 10 tonnes without impairing mobility (that is a lesson learned from the VBL where the increased combat weight had reduced the original vehicle’s mobility). Mobility is an integral part of the Crab global survivability, which also combines protection and stealthiness.

One of the key elements of mobility is power-to-weight ratio. Currently Panhard is considering two different engines for its Crab, both ensuring a minimum of 35 hp/t for an 8.5 tonne combat weight, which means an output of about 300 hp. Horses can be increased when needed thanks to a 400-Amp starter-alternator that can not only provide an additional shove when needed, but also enable the Crab to silently creep over short distances using the electric energy stored in its batteries (two solar cell panels are installed on the two sides on the rear of the vehicle to assist recharging the batteries in daylight). The Crab’s stealthiness is further increased by the reduced shape of the vehicle, its height being a mere 1.8 metres over the roof. The cabin shape has also been engineered to minimise radar reflection, with angled surfaces contributing to both a lower RCS and a higher protection against ballistic threat.

Turning back to mobility, the Crab has a permanent 4×4 drive, but while both its axles steer they can do so either in opposition to generate a turning circle of less than 10 metres, or in unison, hence heading in the lateral same direction (albeit at a limited angle), to enable the vehicle to “drift” sideways like a crab! Moreover a rear-looking camera and a two-ratio reverse gearbox enable the Panhard vehicle to quickly back away in yet another configuration where only the rear wheels are allowed to steer. As for suspensions, these are derived from those adopted by the Panhard VBR 4×4, which features independent oleo-pneumatic suspensions and adjustable ground clearance (standard ground clearance being set at 450 mm). A noteworthy point is that the Crab adopts tyres of similar dimensions as those of the VBR.

The Crab is built around a citadel hosting the three-man crew, with access through two vertical clamshell doors – the lower clam embedding a step to facilitate ingress and egress given the Crab floor height. Panhard proposes its new vehicle with ballistic protection of between Level 2 and Level 4 to meet customer needs. As for mine protection the company has tested underbelly armour solutions up to Level 3a, although the vehicle has some growth potential also in that field. It is to note that the underbelly does not have the typical deep “V” shape: in the middle the bottom is flat while only the sides are rising, maximum protection being obtained thanks to a triple floor that absorbs most of the energy. Wings (fenders in American) are made of light material, which in the event of a mine detonation will vent out most of the energy and thereby reduce the height at which the Crab would be heaved by the explosion and conversely reduce the subsequent “landing thump”. Energy absorption seats further reduce injury risk for the crew, but nevertheless ensure maximum ergonomics when the Crab moves at high speed over rough terrain.

The driver faces three multifunction colour screens, while commander and gunner have two. To ensure maximum situational awareness the Crab is equipped with a six-camera 360° vision system. The front windscreen is made of three elements and is angled to ensure optimal upward direct visibility, a vital necessity in urban terrain. Thales purposely developed for the Crab an innovative vetronic system (systronic) known as the Vsys-net that improves the overall system performance in terms of mobility, observation, protection and firepower. Based on an open and modular non-proprietary architecture it allows easy interfacing with electronic systems of various origins. The Crab systronic includes a battlefield management system and a radio system that allows its integration into the Scorpion digitised scenario. The Vsys-net allows full rerolling of the three combat positions in order to optimise the workload in the various moments of the mission. Although the commander maintains his prerogative, the hunter-killer function can be redistributed to all three positions. The intercom can also be used by a dismounted crew-member (standard range is around 300 metres but a onekilometre option can be installed on customer demand). The Vsys-net allows to distribute all imagery produced by weapons, on-board sensors and local situational awareness systems to each crew station, while image processing for alert and analysis is also integrated. An ultra-compact inertial and GPS location system provides high accurate geolocation as well as the link to a target designation system, while the availability of terrain profiles increases mobility.

Turning now to its armament, the Crab can host a variety of remotely controlled turrets equipped with weapons up to 30 mm in calibre. The version shown at Eurosatory was equipped with a Cockerill Maintenance & Ingénierie turret armed with a 25mm Bushmaster M242, the overall mount weighing around 800 kg. Although lighter than most Mrap-type vehicles currently in service, the Crab can withstand such a 40 kN recoil level weapon because of its very low centre of gravity, whereas Mraps are limited by their top-heavy configuration that makes them rather unstable. The CMI weapon station has been purposely adapted to the Crab to optimise turret/chassis coupling and has been equipped with a hatch that allows the vehicle commander to have a direct view of the surroundings, which is a French Army requirement. The turret features a stabilised panoramic sight with a 60° elevation (the cannon’s elevation range is -10°/+45°). A dual feed system allows to use two types of ammunition, the overall number being 150 rounds.

An open bottom allows reloading and maintenance operation to be carried out from under armour for maximum crew safety. Guided missiles are another armament choice for the Crab, as well as lighter turrets that include smaller calibre weapons and target designation systems. Due to its low shape and limited dimensions, precise figures were not provided but by rule of thumb the Crab is 5 metres long and 2.5 metres wide. It can be loaded onto a C-130H, a C-130J will take two and a A-400M three, meaning that the latter is able to land a ready-to-operate platoon.

According to company sources the Crab positively impressed the French Army Staff as well as the General Armaments Direction when the vehicle was illustrated to the officials. Its dimensions perfectly match the Army’s requirements, although these are still in the definition stage, a beyond line-of-sight role being envisaged for the VBAE.

When developing the Crab Panhard General Defense did not exclusively eye the domestic market; according to the company there is a market for light vehicles equipped with medium armament since that niche is currently devoid of competitors. Systems such as the Panhard AML and Sagaie or the Engesa Cascavel, as well as light tracked vehicles like the Scorpion do not have successors, therefore their missions could well be taken over by the Crab equipped with adequate weapon systems. Africa, Latin America and the Middle East are the geographical areas where such systems are still currently in service and where the new Panhard vehicle might find its new customers. Besides the technical aspects that make it a considerably flexible system, the Crab features another important marketing plus – its price. A price-oriented rather than a capability-oriented design was followed by Panhard engineers, the company being well aware that Western armies budgets are shrinking while in the rest of the world it often has to compete against wares coming from less developed countries, thus with lower prices. Obviously Panhard is not revealing its figures (the Crab is not yet industrialised anyhow), but it is clear that its aim is to maintain it at more than competitive levels. When the Crab will be available depends very much on when the first customer will materialise, the French Army VBAE programme being still quite away although things might change in relatively short time.



Battle of Kirchholm 1605

The Battle of Kircholm, one of the major battles in the Polish-Swedish War, was fought on September 27, 1605, (or the 17th according to the Old calendar then in use in Protestant countries). The hussars launched a devastating charge against the enemy which ended the battle in the decisive victory of the Polish-Lithuanian forces. It is remembered and celebrated to this day as one of the greatest triumphs of the Polish Hussars.. The battle was decided in all of 20 minutes!

On the eve of battle Swedish forces and that of the Commonwealth assembled near the town of Kircholm (which is about 18km SE of current day Riga, Latvia). The Swedish forces under the command of Charles IX numbered 10,800 men and 11 cannons, and were reinforced by several thousand German and Dutch mercenaries, as well as a few hundred Scots, greatly outnumbering the Commonwealth forces.

The Polish-Lithuanian army, led by the Great Hetman Jan Karol Chodkiewicz, consisted approximately of 1,300 infantry, that is, 1,040 pikemen and 260 musketeers, in addition to 2,600 cavalry, and only 5 cannons. Incidentally, the Polish Crown refused to finance its army, the funds having been obtained from the personal fortune of Chodkiewicz.

Even with numerical superiority the Swedes were at a severe disadvantage. Their troops were less well-trained (though armed with pistols and carbines), had a poorer breed of horses, and were tired after having marched throughout the night in torrential rains.  Other the other hand, the Polish-Lithuanian forces were well-rested, confident that their cavalry was superbly trained and were heavily armed with lances.  Most came from the Grand Duchy of Lithuania and about 200 from the Polish Crown, the remainder of which were either mercenaries or close personal allies of Chodkiewicz.  Among these forces were also a small number of Tatars and Polish-Lithuanian cossack horses used mostly for reconnaissance.

The Swedish soldiers were deployed in a checkboard formation in which infantry assembled into 7 or 8 widely spaced blocks, with intersecting fields of fire while the flanks were covered by Swedish and German cavalry, and cannons positioned ahead of the cavalry. In contrast, the Polish-Lithuanian forces were deployed in the traditional format: the left wing, commanded by Dabrowa, was significantly stronger, while the right wing under the leadership of Pawel Jan Sapieha consisted of a smaller number of Hussars while at the centre were 300 Hussars led by Chodkiewicz, as well as a powerful formation of reiters dispatched by the Duke of Courland. 

Despite the 1:3 disadvantage of Chodkiewicz forces, he used a feint to lure the Swedish forces from their high position. Thinking that the Commonwealth forces were retreating, the Swedish army was ordered to attack and began to give chase, spreading out their formations as they advanced. This is precisely what Chodkiewicz had planned and at the precise moment, the Commonwealth infantry launched a full-blown attack on the approaching enemy. At this point the Hussars assumed battle formations and charged on the Swedish left flank. At the same time about 300 Polish-Lithuanian Hussars charged the Swedish infantry in the centre  to prevent them from interfering with their cavalry action on both of their flanks. Chodkiewicz then ordered his left wing and all reserves to attack the opposing right flank of the enemy.

The Swedish reiters were driven back on both wings and the infantry in the centre was attacked from three sides simultaneously. The Swedish forces turned and ran off in a panic, their whole army having collapsed. It was at this point that the Swedes had suffered their heaviest casualties. Defeat was devastating and complete. Swedish forces had lost more than half, and perhaps as much as two-thirds of their men. Their largest number of losses occurred while retreating in the dense forests and marshes: 8,000 dead or wounded, and 500 captured. The Poles and Lithuanians were fierce warriors and spared few opponents. Commonwealth losses were only about 100 dead and 200 wounded, though the Hussars had lost many of their trained battle horses. That they suffered fewer casualties was largely due to the incredible speed of their victories, not to mention that their horses had also been a shield and protection to the riders.

The Swedish king henceforth abandoned the siege of Riga, relinquished his control of northern Latvia and Estonia, made a complete withdrawal and sailed back to Sweden across the Baltic Sea.  Irregardless, the Commonwealth was not capable of exploiting their victory to the fullest owing to the limited financial resources at hand. There was not enough money for military supplies, and for incidentals such as food and fodder for their horses, nor to replace the many horses killed in battle. As a result their military campaign faltered.  In 1611 a truce was signed, but by 1617 war broke out again and four years later Gustavus Adolphus, the new Swedish king, succeeded in retaking the city of Riga after a brief siege.

First Polish-Swedish War for Livonia, (1600–1611)

Long an area of contention among Sweden, Poland, and Russia, the Baltic became the locus of fighting yet again when Sweden invaded and occupied most of Estonia and Livonia in 1600. They were halted by the Poles at the fortress city of Riga, where Herman Jan Karol Chodkiewicz (1560-1621) launched a counterattack, driving the Swedes out of most of Livonia with victories at Dorpat (Tartu) and Revel (Tallinn), but failing to secure complete control over the disputed region.

Then, in 1604, Charles IX (1550-1611), the newly declared and ambitious Swedish king, landed a fresh army of 14,000 in Estonia and marched on Riga to try his fortunes against Chodkiewicz. The two armies met at the battle of Kirchholm, where the Poles mustered only some 3,500 men-although 2,500 of them were horsemen in Poland’s heavy cavalry, hailed as the best in Europe. They mounted a savage, reckless charge that swept the Swedes from the field and themselves forever into Polish history. They not only won the battle, they came very close to capturing Sweden’s warrior king himself, and Polish chroniclers would soon be claiming that the bodies of some 9,000 Swedish soldiers littered the abandoned battlefield. Afterward, the war fizzled, and continued only in sporadic fighting until ended by truce in 1611.

Polish-Lithuanian Forces

Polish-Lithuanian Constitutional development ground to a halt. The extreme libertarian position of the nobility was not redressed. The great Rokosz of 1606-9 ended in a stalemate. The King could do nothing to enlarge his powers. The problem of the succession was not resolved. Although Zamoyski failed to limit the succession to certain named candidates, so, too, did all subsequent attempts to arrange it vivente rege. The elections of 1632 and 1648 were unmemorable. The great officers of state were awarded lifelong tenure. Finance remained firmly in the purview of the nobility.

Some changes were made in military organization. Although the traditional use of massed cavalry brought some success, particularly at Kirchholm in 1605 and at Klushino in 1610, the prestige of the Swedish example led to important modifications designed to increase the army’s firepower. In 1618, the kwarta tax was doubled in order to support improved gunnery, which in 1637 was organized in a separate Corps of Artillery with its own General. The army was divided into two separate formations. One, the so-called ‘National Contingent’, included regiments of Hussars, Cossacks, and Tartars, and was drawn from private retinues and from the noble ‘comrades-in-arms’. The other, the Foreign Contingent, included the regiments of infantry, dragoons, and rajtars, and was freely recruited ‘by the drum’, that is, by colonels who paid and equipped the men themselves. The over-all size of the infantry was much increased, the traditional ‘Hungarian-style’ regiments armed with muskets and halberds being supplemented with new and larger ‘German’ regiments of musketeers and pikemen. In peacetime, the standing army made up of the Royal Guard, the Registered Cossacks, and the Kwarciane numbered some 12,000 men. In wartime, it could be quadrupled without difficulty. Much work was done on fortresses especially at Zamosc in the Italian style, at Danzig, Brody, and Wisnicz in the Dutch style, and at Kudak on the Dnieper by the French engineer, Beauplan. A school of theoretical writing flourished, associated with the names dell’Aqua, Freytag, and Siemienowicz. In Stanistaw Zolkiewski (1547-1620), Crown-Hetman from 1613, Jan Karol Chodkiewicz (1560-1621), Lithuanian Hetman from 1605, and Stanislaw Koniecpolski (1593-1646), Field Hetman of the Crown from 1618 and Grand Hetman from 1632, and Stefan Czarniecki (1599-1665), the Republic saw its most brilliant generation of field commanders. The Royal Fleet, never of much significance, was liquidated in 1641.

Further reading: Norman Davies, God’s Playground: A History of Poland, 2 vols. (New York: Columbia University Press, 1982); O. Halecki (with additional material by A. Polonsky and Thaddeus V. Grommada), A History of Poland, new ed. (New York: Dorset Press, 1992); W. F. Reddaway, et al., eds., The Cambridge History of Poland, 2 vols. (reprint, Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press, 1971).