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“

DORNIER Do 217: Nighthawks of the Luftwaffe

The least known of the three big Luftwaffe bomber families of the war, the Do 17/215/217 in its later variants provided the basis for a powerful and well­ armed night fighter, and for capable bomber, reconnaissance and anti‑ship platforms.

0ne of the enduring puzzles of World War II is why the Do 217, an extremely capable bomber, should have remained apparently unknown to British intelligence despite the fact that the first prototype flew in a completely open place in August 1938. Subsequent prototypes cleared most of the surprising list of difficulties, and by December 1940 the Do 217E‑1 bomber was in production. The surmise stemmed from the fact that the 217 was merely a heavier and pore powerful version of the widely used Do 177.

To be frank the Do 17 was not the world’s greatest tactical somber, though it was nice to fly and had no limitations whatever unlike the He 111 and Ju 88). The 217 was obviously potentially much pore formidable, with BMW 801MA or MI, engines of 1179 kW 1,580 hp) for take‑off and a bombload of up to 2500 kg (5,511 lb). In practice the initial major version, the 217E‑2, entered Luftwaffe servicein 1941, long after the Battle of Britain had been lost. Dornier Werke GmbH were never people to sit on their hands and wonder what had gone wrong. In June 1941 Claudius Dormer made a formal proposal for a Do 217 night‑fighter, and it came at the right time.

Even at the time the existing 217 was recognised as not by any neaps an ‘ultimate’ aircraft‑ All versions were likely to weigh well over 13608 kg (30,000 lb) and probably more than 15876 kg 35,0()0 lb), and called for 1492‑kW­(2,ooo‑hp) engines that were not available. On the other hand the basic 217 was a proven aircraft which many crews liked very much, and which could obviously without changing the engines ‑ be converted into a night‑fighter. The original E‑series internal fuel capacity of 2956 litres (650 Imp gals) was unchanged; it was enough for interception missions with the NJG wings and enough for intruder missions over England. The original E‑series bomber had capacious bomb bays, and the nightfighter retained the rear bay to house (for example) eight SC 5oX bombs of 50 kg (110 lb) each. In the forward bay was installed a tank of 1160 litres (255 Imp gals), giving a handsome margin over what aircrews might have expected.

The main, and obvious, change in the 217J night‑fighter was the nose. Instead of a multi‑pane Plexiglas nose for a bomb aimer, the J‑I had a ‘solid’ nose in which were installed four 20‑mm MG FF cannon and four 7.92‑mm MG 17 machine‑guns. The E‑2’s aft defensive armament, comprising an MG131 dorsal turret and a hand‑aimed MG131 in the ventral position, was retained unchanged. The J‑1 was operational from February 1942. Crews liked its firepower and endurance, but found it a rather heavy brute which was sluggish when fast manoeuvres were called for (not often) and needed bigger airfields than most of those that were available. More serious was the lack of airborne radar, though in 1941‑42 most Luftwaffe nightfighter pilots were far from convinced that such new gimmicks were worth having.

Dornier has no record of the first flight of a 217J‑2, with FuG 202 Lichtenstein BC radar, but it was probably in the spring of 1942. The J‑2 was a definitive night‑fighter, not an intruder, the bomb bays being eliminated. The J‑2 was lighter than previous Do 217 versions, and despite the `mattress’ of radar antennas the flight performance was almost the same as before. Only small numbers were built, and few combat missions were flown before 1943.

This was because, despite the heavy armament, the 217J was never considered as anything but a stop‑gap. Except for Rudolf Schoenert, none of the night‑fighter “experten” even considered the 217, and Schoenert only had a soft spot for it because only this aircraft could accommodate his invention of oblique upward‑firing guns ‑ later called schrage Musik ‑ with virtually no extra drag. Schoenert’s original suggestion in 1941 was not proceeded with, but following tests with a Bf 110 and Do 17Z in 1942 the idea was resurrected. Schoenert managed to get three Do 217J‑1s converted for tests at Wittmundhaven and Tarnewitz. Results were promising, and in winter 1942‑43 the 2 Jagddivision had three more 217s converted at Diepensee with a more fully engineered installation of either four or (one aircraft) six MG151/20s. In early 1943 these were tested with increasing success by Schoenert’s 3/NJG 3. When Schoenert was given the command of II/NJG 5 (Bf 110s) he brought his own 217 with him. As a result, a standard Rustsatze (factory modification) R22, for installing four MG151s at an angle of 70° into either the Do 217J or Ju 88C was introduced. These were the first schrage Musik kits to be officially approved for general use.

Thus, in the matter of armament, the 217 led all the other nightfighters in 1942‑43, and it always had superior flight endurance. On the other hand its performance, as delivered by Dormer, was totally inadequate. None of the bomber’s equipment had been removed (apart from the bombsight), so the operational Gruppen (all of which used the 217J in a mix with other types, usually the 110) began removing as much as possible.

Flame‑dampers on the exhausts clearly had to stay, but the rear defensive guns, armour, dinghy, dive brakes and (in the J‑1) bomb carriers and release mechanism were all removed. This had a considerable beneficial effect, maximum speed at optimum height of 5200 m (17,060 ft) rising from 430 to 510 km/h (26 7 to 317 mph) (still slower than the E‑2 bomber) and time to climb to 5000 m (16,404 ft) being reduced from 35 to 24 minutes.

Meanwhile, from mid‑1941 the Dormer works had been developing a series of different 217 versions. Several remained on the drawing board, but two families were destined by 1943 to supplant the original E and J sub‑types as the standard production models. The first of these new series was the Do 217K, the first prototype of which (briefly fitted with a single‑fin tail) made its maiden flight on 31 March 1942.

In all essentials the resulting production 217K‑1, which began to come off production in about October 1942, was similar to the later E‑series, and it was likewise intended for night bombing. The only significant changes were fitting BMW 801D engines, giving a maximum power of 1268 kW (1,700 hp), and a redesign of the forward fuselage. There had been nothing particularly wrong with the original cockpit of the Do 17Z/215/217E, but Dormer ‑influenced by Junkers’ development of the Ju 88B/188 ‑ developed a nose similar to that of the He 177 and FW 191, with the front glazed part continued up to the top of the fuselage. This had the slight drawback of making the pilot look ahead through distant Plexiglas on which he tended to mis‑focus his eyes, especially when the panes reflected lighted parts of the cockpit. At first the K‑1 had MG81Z twin 7.92‑mm guns in the nose, two single MG81s firing to the sides/rear, an MG131 in the dorsal turret and another MG131 in the rear ventral position. Later two more MG81s were added firing to the sides. It was possible to fit the R19 installation of one or two MG81Z firing astern from the tailcone, but it was more common to have the R25 installation of a Perlon divebombing parachute. Not many K‑is were built, at least one being fitted with underwing racks for no fewer than four LT F5b torpedoes.

Running a few weeks later in timing, the Do 217K‑2 was the heaviest of all production 217s, at 16850 kg (37,147 lb). It was specifically developed to carry the FX1400 radio‑controlled heavy bomb, the He 111H having been found not really suitable for the task. The massive bombs, also known as Fritz X, were slung on special racks under the inner wings. An extra fuel tank of 1160 litres (255 Imp gals) capacity was fitted into the forward bomb bay. To carry the greatly increased weight the outer wings were extended in span from 19 to 24.8 m (62 ft 4 in to 81 ft 4 in), and handling and overall performance remained satisfactory. Almost all K‑2s had the R19 fitting of twin MG81Z guns (four in all) in the tail, and some even had an MG81Z firing aft from the tail of each engine nacelle.

The K‑2’s greatest day was 9 September 1943. Maj Bernhard Jope’s III/KG 100, based at Istres, made a concerted assault on the Italian fleet as it sailed to join the Allies. The greatest battleship, Roma, took two direct hits, blew up and sank within minutes. Her sister, Italia, limped to Malta with 800 tons of water on board. Later the powerful bombs, each weighing 1570 kg (3,461 lb), crippled or sank many other ships. Some were launched by Do 217K‑3s, which instead of having the FuG 203a Kehl I/FuG 230a Strassburg guidance link, had the FuG 203c or 203d Kehl IV with which the bomb aimer could guide either FX 1400 or the smaller Hs 293A winged bomb.

The other production Do 217 family were the M bombers and N night‑fighters. Structurally these were similar to earlier versions; in fact the first 217M was merely a K‑1 fitted with Daimler‑Benz DB603A liquid‑cooled engines, each of 1380 kW (1,850 maximum horsepower). The M‑1 went into production almost straight away, being very similar to a K‑1 except for having slightly better performance at high altitude. Not many were built, the need for nightfighters being more pressing, but one achieved notoriety on the night of 23 February 1944 when it made a perfect belly landing near Cambridge (soon flying in RAF markings), the crew having baled out over 100 km (62 miles) away near London!

Despite its later suffix letter the corresponding night‑fighter, the Do 217N, flew as early as 31 July 1942, the DB603 engine installation having been designed in 1941. Production Do 217N‑1s began to reach the Luftwaffe in January 1943. By this time critical feedback about the 217J had been going on for many months, and the NJG crews were disappointed to find the N‑1 incorporated none of their mostly obvious recommendations.

This was largely because the RLM, and Erhard Milch in particular, disallowed any modifications that would reduce output or increase costs. By mid‑1943, however, Dornier had switched to the N‑2, and also produced the Ul conversion set with which existing night‑fighters could be modified. The chief changes were to remove the dorsal turret and lower rear gun gondola and add wooden fairings. The reduction in drag and removal of some two tonnes of weight raised flight performance to a useful level, maximum speed at medium heights exceeding 500 km/h (310 mph). With the devastating armament of four MGl51s and four MG17s firing ahead and four more MG151s firing at 70° upwards, the 217N‑2 was a vast improvement over the J‑1, and soon appeared with the FuG 220 Lichtenstein SN‑2 radar. By 1944 217Js and Ns were scattered over a vast area of Germany and the occupied countries, as well as I/NJG 100 on the Eastern Front. On the other hand no Gruppe was ever solely equipped with the Do 217, and various problems militated against it ever becoming a top nightfighter as did the Bf 110G and Ju 88G. In the case of the best subtype, the N‑2, the main problem was an enduring series of troubles and shortages with the engines, so that aircraft were continually being cannibalised. For example as early as July 1943 all 14 Do 217Ns of II/NJG 3 were lying around with damaged engines, leaving the Gruppe to carry on with just seven Bf 110s. The point could also be made that the same DB 603 engines powered the He 219, and this was not only nearly 200 km/h (124 mph) faster but it was also a superior night‑fighter in every way‑but endlessly dogged by its own problems and production difficulties.

Total production of Do 217Js and Ns amounted to a mere 364, terminating in October 1943. From April 1943 until Italy’s capitulation five months later small numbers of Do 217J‑2s served with the 59° and 60° Gruppi of the Regia Aeronautica. They saw little action and suffered severe attrition from accidents and other problems.

Various related aircraft which never entered service were all intended for flight at high altitudes. First to be started, as an entry in the 1939‑40 Bomber B requirement, was the Do 317. This was to be basically a 217 with DB604 engines, each with four banks totalling 24 cylinders and giving a maximum power of 1984 kW (2,660 hp) each, and with a four‑seat pressure cabin in the nose. In 1940 this was dropped and some of its features used to assist development of the Do 217P, which had a similar pressure cabin but was powered by two DB603B engines supercharged by a large two‑stage blower and intercooler in the rear fuselage, driven by a third engine, a DB605T. The first 217P flew in June 1942, and there were plans for a production Do 217P‑0 reconnaissance aircraft with almost the same extended outer wings as the K‑2 (raising service ceiling to an estimated 16154 m /53,000 ft), but this was abandoned.

Meanwhile, in late 1941, the Do 317 was resurrected, and in early 1943 the first 317 began flight testing. This was planned in two versions. The 317A was a broadly conventional high‑altitude bomber with DB603A engines, outwardly having much in common with the 217M apart from an odd tail with triangular vertical surfaces. The next‑generation 317B was to have extended wings of 26 m (85 ft) span, huge DB610 double engines each of 2141 kW (2,870 hp), and defensive armament comprising a remotely controlled 20‑mm MG151 in the tailcone and three twin‑gun turrets, two of them remotely controlled. Eventually the 317 also ground to a halt, but five of the 317A series prototypes were modified as unpressurised launch aircraft for the Hs 293A radio‑controlled missiles. Redesignated as Do 217Rs, they actually saw combat duty with III/KG 100 at Orleans‑Bricy in 1944. At 17770 kg (39,021 lb) they were the heaviest of the whole 2171317 family actually to fly, though had they gone ahead, the 317A and 317B would have been much heavier still.


Russian Civil War (1425-1453)

The Muscovite boyars pledge their support to the dethroned Vasily II.

Muscovy succession dispute that led to a protracted power struggle. Throughout the Kievan and early Muscovite periods, the princes of Russia followed the custom of lateral succession. The throne passed from brother to brother, and when that generation died out, it passed to the eldest son of the eldest brother who had held the throne before. Sons whose father had died before holding the throne were excluded (izgoi) from the line of succession. This changed in the late fourteenth and early fifteenth centuries, when the grand princes of Moscow, after consolidating their power, at- tempted to adopt a policy of linear succession to keep power in Moscow, rather than allowing princes outside Moscow to gain the grand princely throne.

Dmitry Donskoi (r. 1359-1389) stipulated in his last testament that his second son, Yury, was to succeed Vasily I should Vasily die without male issue, but Vasily’s son, Vasily II, was born in 1415. In 1425, Vasily II succeeded his father. A regency council was set up consisting of Vasily’s mother, the Metropolitan Foty of the Orthodox Church, and Boyar I. D. Vsevolozhsky. Vasily’s maternal grandfather, Grand Prince Vytautas (Witold) of Lithuania, served as Vasily’s guardian.

Faced with this situation, Vasily’s uncle, Yury Dmitrevich, argued that in his testament, Dmitry had stated that Yury was to succeed Vasily I (ignoring the fact that this provision was to have no effect if Vasily had a son). Further, by the custom of lateral succession, he, Yury, was the rightful heir to the grand princely throne and refused to recognize Vasily II as grand prince. He was joined in this dispute by his sons, Vasily Kosoi and Dmitry Shemiaka.

The dynastic war of succession that ensued lasted for much of Vasily II’s reign. Yury refused to come to Moscow and swear allegiance to Vasily, but an outbreak of the plague, as well as Vytautas’s protection of Vasily, led to a truce. The deaths of Vytautas in 1430 and Foty in 1431 allowed Yury to renew his claim to the throne. Both Vasily and Yury appealed to the Tartar khan of the Golden Horde for resolution of the dispute, and the khan ruled in favor of Vasily. Yury, granted the principalities of Dmitrov by the khan, would not accept the decision and marched against Vasily, defeating the grand prince’s forces on the Klyazma River in April 1433. Yury marched into Moscow and made peace with Vasily but was unable stay in power and soon ceded the grand princely throne and his own principality of Dmitrov to Vasily. At this point, Vasily launched a campaign against his cousins, who had not been party to the agreement between Vasily II and Yury. The grand prince’s army was again defeated (September 1433). Soon afterward, Yury again attacked Vasily and defeated him yet again, in March 1434. Vasily fled, and Yury again occupied Moscow, where he died on 5 June 1434.

Contrary to the custom of lateral succession and the decision of the khan, Yury’s son, Vasily Kosoi, assumed the throne of the grand prince. (By the rules of lateral succession, Vasily II, as eldest member of his generation, was the rightful heir.) Despite his succession, Kosoi lost even the support of his brothers and was defeated, captured, and blinded by Vasily II in 1436. (Kosoi means “squint-eyed” in Russian, referring to this blinding.) Removed from the political scene, Kosoi died in 1447 or 1448. Following Vasily II’s return to power, tensions continued over the next decade between Dmitry Shemiaka and Vasily II. Also at this time, Vasily’s son Ivan (the future Ivan III) was born in 1440. Disputes over the distribution of inheritance, Shemiaka’s contribution to Vasily’s military ventures, and tribute to the Golden Horde never resulted in open warfare. An unrelated incident was the catalyst for renewed conflict. Khan Ulu-Muhammed, migrating with his horde from Crimea, clashed with Muscovite troops near Murom and remained in the area to pillage. Leading a small force, Vasily unexpectedly came upon Ulu-Muhammed outside Suzdal, on 7 July 1445 and was wounded and captured.

Dmitry Shemiaka, the next senior member of this generation, assumed the grand princely throne, but Vasily negotiated with the khan and was released in November 1445, on the condition that he pay a large ransom and a higher tribute than before. Rather than yield, Dmitry used the incident to renew the dynastic struggle. He seized Vasily’s mother and wife while Vasily was on pilgrimage to the Trinity Monastery north of Moscow and sent a force to arrest Vasily. Vasily was accused of showing favoritism to the Tartars as well as blinding Dmitry’s brother, Vasily Kosoi. In retaliation, Vasily II was likewise blinded. Shemiaka then released Vasily in September 1466, on the condition that Vasily renounce his claim to the throne and swear allegiance to Shemiaka. Vasily immediately made a pilgrimage to the St. Cyril-Beloozero Monastery, where the abbot absolved him of this oath. He then began gathering his supporters against Shemiaka. In the face of growing opposition, Shemiaka abandoned Moscow. Vasily returned in triumph in 1447 and continued the war, finally defeating Shemiaka. Fleeing to Novgorod, Shemiaka was poisoned there in 1453.

Moscow and Novgorod

During and immediately after the war Vasily II was also able to assert dominance over princes and lands beyond the territories attached to Vladimir and Moscow. In 1449, he concluded a treaty with the prince of Suzdal’, in which the latter agreed not to seek or receive patents for their office from the Tatar khan. His position became dependent upon the prince of Moscow, not the khan. When the prince of Riazan’ died in 1456, Vasily II brought his son into his own household and sent his governors to administer that principality. By that time Vasily had also entered into new agreements with the prince of Tver’, who while not acknowledging Vasily’s seniority, nevertheless pledged his co-operation in all ventures against the Tatars as well as their Western neighbours; Boris also recognised Vasily as the rightful grand prince and as prince of Novgorod.

Vasily also asserted his authority over Novgorod. In 1431, Novgorod had concluded a treaty with the prince of Lithuania, Svidrigailo, and accepted his nephew as its prince. But even though Svidrigailo was the brother-in-law of Iurii of Galich, Novgorod had been neutral during Iurii’s conflict with Vasily II. When Vasily II was engaged against Vasily Kosoi (the Cross-Eyed), he negotiated with Novgorod to enlist its support; he indicated a willingness to settle outstanding disputes over Novgorod’s eastern frontier. But after he had defeated Kosoi, he reneged on his agreement. He sent his officers to collect tribute and in 1440-1, after the Lithuanian prince had left the city, he launched a military campaign against Novgorod and forced it to make an additional payment and promise to continue to pay taxes and fees regularly. During the 1440s, however, Novgorod was at war with both of its major Western trading partners, the Hanseatic League and the Teutonic Order. The Hansa blockaded Novgorod and closed its own commercial operations in the city for six years. Novgorod lost commercial revenue. It suffered from high prices and also from a famine. In the midst of these crises Novgorod accepted another prince from Lithuania (1444). When Vasily II and Dmitrii Shemiaka took their conflict to the north and disrupted Novgorod’s northern trade routes, Novgorod gave support and sanctuary to Shemiaka.

In 1456, as Vasily II was asserting his authority over other Russian principalities, he also launched a major military campaign against Novgorod and once again defeated it. Novgorod was obliged to accept the Treaty of Iazhelbitsii. According to its terms, it had to cut off its connections with Shemiaka’s family as well as with any other enemies of the grand prince. It was to pay taxes and the Tatar tribute to the grand prince; it was to accept the grand prince’s judicial officials in the city; and it was to conclude agreements with foreign powers only with the approval of the grand prince. It was obliged, furthermore, to cede key sectors of its northern territorial possessions to the grand prince.

The dynastic war ended in victory for Vasily II. It resolved in his favour the issues of succession and of the prerogatives of the grand prince. The outcome of the war left Vasily II with undisputed control over the grand principality and its possessions as well as the territories attached to the principality of Moscow. His relatives, who had shared the familial domain when he took office, had all died or gone into exile or been subordinated. Only one cousin, Mikhail of Vereia, retained an apanage principality. The remainder of the apanage principalities, which had been the territories of Vasily’s Iurevich cousins, of Ivan Andreevich of Mozhaisk, and of Vasily Iaroslavich of Serpukhov, along with their economic resources and revenues had reverted to the grand prince.

Vasily’s post-war policies towards his relatives and neighbouring princes also provided the grand prince with more secure military power. Although he still relied on them to supply military forces, they had become subordinate to him or had committed themselves by treaty to support him. Vasily, furthermore, established his Tatar ally, Kasim, on the Oka River. The Tatars of the khanate of Kasimov became available to participate in the military ventures of the Muscovite grand princes. Vasily II thus ensured that the grand prince would not be as militarily vulnerable as he had been when the wars began. His policies gave him access to larger forces than potential competitors within north-eastern Russia without being dependent on support from independent princes and the khans of the Great Horde and emerging khanates of Kazan’ and Crimea.  

Vasily II emerged from the war as the strongest prince in north-eastern Russia. Shortly after he recovered Moscow, Vasily asserted his sovereignty by using the title `sovereign of all Rus” on newly minted coins. In late 1447 or early 1448, he also named his young son, Ivan, his co-ruler; coins then appeared with the inscription `sovereigns of all Rus”. While thereby making it more difficult for co-lateral relatives to challenge his son’s succession, Vasily II also confirmed a vertical pattern of succession for the princes of Moscow. When Ivan III assumed his father’s throne in 1462, no other prince within the house of Moscow had the resources or the status to mount a military challenge for the throne, as Iurii Dmitr’evich and his sons had done. The Tatar khans also lost their decisive influence over succession. Vasily II had appealed to Khan Ulu-Muhammed for a patent to hold the throne of Vladimir. But it was his own military victory over his uncle and cousins that confirmed the replacement of the traditional lateral pattern of succession with a vertical one. Vasily II was able to leave the grand principality as well as his Muscovite possessions to his son without acquiring prior approval of a Tatar khan. Ivan III, followed by his son and grandson, would expand those core territories to build the state of Muscovy.

The Parthian wars of Septimius Severus

Having served c. AD180 as legatus of Legio IV Scythica at Zeugma, Septimius Severus returned to Syria in 194 to confront Pescennius Niger who had proclaimed himself emperor at Antioch in the previous year. 107 It seems that the kings of Osrhoene and Hatra had supported Niger, and the Parthians had taken advantage of the civil war to strengthen their influence in the region. These were the motives for Severus’ campaigns in Osrhoene and Mesopotamia, and later against Hatra. Severus took control of Syria quickly and in 195 successfully campaigned against the Parthians in Mesopotamia where forces from Osrhoene, Adiabene and the Arabians (probably Hatra) had begun to besiege Nisibis. It seems that the Edessan king in particular had conspired to rid the kingdom of Roman control by taking advantage of the civil war between Septimius Severus and Pescennius Niger. The siege of Nisibis indicates that it was under Roman military control at this time, but it is difficult to estimate how much earlier this had taken place.

The result of Severus’ first Parthian campaign was the conversion of part of the kingdom of Osrhoene into a Roman province and the retention of a client-kingdom at Edessa based on a much reduced portion of the former kingdom. Severus prosecuted a second and more significant war against the Parthians in 197-198 in response to an attack on Mesopotamia in which Nisibis had almost fallen. Once successful in Mesopotamia, Severus invaded Parthia, marched down the Euphrates and captured Babylon and Seleucia-Ctesiphon. The emperor attacked Hatra on his return from Parthia late in 198 or early in 199, and again in 200; but he was unsuccessful in both cases.

The important outcomes of Severus’ campaigns in the 190s included the formation of the province of Mesopotamia, the establishment of the province of Osrhoene and the creation of the dependent kingdom of Edessa. Important also was the division of Syria into the two provinces of Coele Syria and Syria Phoenice. The northern half of the old province of Syria constituted Coele Syria and it was in this new, smaller province that the stretch of the Euphrates from Samosata to Dura Europos flowed. The city of Palmyra, more closely linked with the Euphrates through cities such as Dura Europos in Coele Syria, actually became a part of the province of Syria Phoenice. It has also been argued recently that the kingdom of Hatra formed an alliance with Rome soon after the unsuccessful Severan attempts to capture it, but the evidence for such an alliance is not clear until the 230s.

The province of Mesopotamia occupied the area of northern Mesopotamia. It lay to the east of the new province of Osrhoene and the client-kingdom of Edessa, across the Khabur river and as far east as the upper Tigris. The inclusion of much of the Khabur river in the province of Mesopotamia in the third century AD is indicated by a papyrus of 245 from a village thought to be near modern Hasseke, located just to the west of the Khabur. The papyrus is a petition from a villager to Julius Priscus who is named as Praefectus Mesopotamiae, indicating that he had jurisdiction over this section of the Khabur. This is thought to reflect the situation at the time of the province’s formation 50 years earlier.

The province of Mesopotamia was created by 198 and received two of three newly raised Parthian legions. Both legions seem to have been established there after the first war of 194/195, I Parthica at Singara and III Parthica probably at Nisibis. The coloniae and major cities/fortresses of the new province were Nisibis, Singara and Rhesaina. The province was governed by a praefectus of equestrian rank, and its garrison of two legions – the same number as Coele Syria – demonstrates the military and defensive role it was designed to play. The formation of the province took Roman administration and a permanent military presence further east than it had ever been before. It is true that Trajan had established a short-lived province of Mesopotamia approximately 80 years earlier, and from the mid-160s Mesopotamia perhaps experienced a Roman military presence, but Severus’ establishment of the province was a long-term undertaking. According to Dio, Septimius Severus said that he had gained this territory in order to make it a bulwark for Syria. Dio’s report of Severus’ claim is telling with regard to the longer-term significance of Mesopotamia following its formation. Increased power and authority in Syria resulted in the third century. This is the context in which the Roman military presence on the middle Euphrates and Khabur rivers needs to be considered. Dio was ultimately critical of the move because Rome had taken control of more territory that had been traditionally Parthian and this led to the empire becoming even more embroiled in wars and disputes with its eastern neighbour.

It is difficult to be precise about the territory encompassed by Mesopotamia as precision seems not to have existed in antiquity. Roman texts referring to Mesopotamia before the last years of the second century do not always mention the area that would become the province of Mesopotamia from Severus’ reign. In the second half of the first century AD, for example, Pliny the Elder located what he called the Prefecture of Mesopotamia in the western portion of what was then the kingdom of Osrhoene, containing the principal towns of Anthemusia and Nicephorium. Singara, which would form an important legionary base in the province of Mesopotamia under Septimius Severus and later emperors, was described in the same passage by Pliny as the capital of an Arabian tribe called the Praetavi. The province of Mesopotamia in the early third century comprised quite different territory to the earlier descriptions, but it probably bore similarities to its definition under Trajan. Lucian of Samosata, however, complained that contemporary writers in the 160s were so ill-informed about Mesopotamia and where it lay that they made serious errors in locating it and the cities it contained. Some precision, however, can be established. The area that comprised the province was focused on the important cities of Nisibis, Singara and Rhesaina, and part of the Khabur river lay within the province.

In the years between Septimius Severus’ reorganization of the eastern provinces and events late in the reign of Severus Alexander, the most significant developments relevant to Coele Syria, Osrhoene and Mesopotamia took place in the reign of Septimius Severus’ son Caracalla. In 212/213, the client-kingdom of Edessa was itself abolished and became part of the province of Osrhoene, with the city of Edessa becoming a Roman colonia. The provincial reorganization set in train following the territorial gains of Septimius Severus was for now complete. There were two provinces across the Euphrates and one of them lay on a section of the upper Tigris.

In 216, Caracalla, like his father, resolved on a Parthian campaign. This took him across the Tigris to Arbela before his murder near Edessa in 217. Caracalla’s short-lived successor Macrinus met with defeat at the hands of the Parthian king Artabanus V at Nisibis, but Mesopotamia remained under Roman control. The growing Sasanian challenge to the Parthians was developing, which may be reflected in the inability of Artabanus to press his victory in Mesopotamia. It was not until after the Sasanian overthrow of the Parthians was complete that Roman power in Mesopotamia and on the middle Euphrates would be seriously challenged.

Battle of Nisibis

After Caracalla’s assassination, his successor Macrinus (217-18) immediately announced that his predecessor had done wrong by the Parthians and restored peace. In 218, after a battle fought at Nisibis during which both sides suffered heavy losses, a treaty was signed. According to Herodian, the Roman emperor Macrinus was delighted about having won the Iranian opponent as a reliable friend.

Near the city of Nisibis in Mesopotamia, an army led by Parthian King Artabatus V clashed with the legions of Emperor Macrinus. Following a skirmish between opposing troops over control of a water source, the two armies assembled for battle. The Parthian host consisted of large formations of heavy cavalry – both clibanarii and cataphracti – light mounted bowmen and a contingent of armoured camel riders called dromedarii. Macrinus readied his army for battle across the plain: the legions deployed in the centre, with cavalry and Moorish troops placed on the flanks. Arrayed at intervals within the central formation were Moroccan auxilia. Once battle was joined, the Parthian heavy horse and mounted archers inflicted severe casualties on the Roman infantry, while the legionaries and light troops proved superior in all hand-to-hand action. As the contest wore on, the Romans found themselves increasingly at a disadvantage against the speed and manoeuvrability of the enemy cavalry. In an effort to disrupt these incessant attacks, the legions feigned retreat at one point so as to draw the horsemen onto ground littered with caltrops and other devices designed to cripple the horses. Fighting continued unabated until dusk. Battle resumed the next morning and lasted all day, but again ended at nightfall with no clear victor. On the third day, Artabatus attempted to use his superior numbers of cavalry to encircle the Roman formation by means of a double envelopment, but Macrinus extended his battle-line in order to thwart the Parthians’ efforts. Toward late afternoon, the Roman emperor sent envoys to treat for peace, which was readily granted by the king. Artabatus afterward returned to Persia with his army, and Macrinus and his forces withdrew to the city of Antioch in Syria. To deter a resumption of hostilities, Macrinus presented the Parthian ruler with gifts amounting to 200 million sesterces.

Camel Cataphracts

Like most Parthian armies, the forces under Artabanus consisted mostly of cavalrymen and archers. On the other hand, the Parthian army at Nisibis was unique in that it contained a contingent of a rare cataphract–type of warriors who were mounted not upon horses, but rather camels instead. In his History of the Roman Empire, Herodian first mentions the distinctive troops in the events leading up to the battle:

Artabanus was marching toward the Romans with a huge army, including a strong cavalry contingent and a powerful unit of archers and those cataphracts who hurl spears from camels.

The camel cataphracts fought with either spears or lances, and both riders and mounts wore extensive armour like the traditional cataphracts who rode horses. Along with the legionaries, the Roman army also included contingents of light infantry and Mauretanian cavalrymen. The fighting between the two ancient superpowers was brutal and lasted for three long days. Herodian recorded how deadly the Parthian warriors, including the camel cataphracts, were on the first day of the fighting, yet he also described how the Romans eventually managed to gain the upper hand:

The barbarians inflicted many wounds upon the Romans from above, and did considerable damage by the showers of arrows and the long spears of the cataphract camel riders. But when the fighting came to close quarters, the Romans easily defeated the barbarians; for when the swarms of Parthian cavalry and hordes of camel riders were mauling them, the Romans pretended to retreat and then they threw down caltrops and other keen–pointed iron devices. Covered by the sand, these were invisible to the horsemen and the camel riders and were fatal to the animals. The horses, and particularly the tender–footed camels, stepped on these devices and, falling, threw their riders. As long as they are mounted on horses and camels, the barbarians in those regions fight bravely, but if they dismount or are thrown, they are very easily captured; they cannot stand up to hand–to–hand fighting. And, if they find it necessary to flee or pursue, the long robes which hang loosely about their feet trip them up.

However, with the coming of night and no clear victor to the battle, the two armies retreated to their camps to rest for the night. The second day of the fighting ended in a stalemate as well. The third day of the battle, however, decided the outcome when the Parthians changed their tactics to try and fully envelope the numerically inferior Roman force. In response to the encircling attempts of the Parthian soldiers, the Romans extended their own lines to compensate for the extended Parthian front. However, the Parthians were able to exploit the weakened thinner lines of the Romans and achieve a great victory. Knowing he had lost the battle, Emperor Macrinus retreated and, soon after, his men fled to the Roman camp as well. Although the Parthians won the Battle of Nisibis, it was a Pyrrhic victory for Artabanus; the losses were heavy for both sides. Since the Parthian emperor desired peace almost as much as Macrinus, Artabanus accepted only a substantial payment in return for a cessation of hostilities, as opposed to the territory he previously demanded.

Although Emperor Macrinus was quickly defeated, executed and replaced by one of his rivals, Elagabalus (r. 218-222), in 218, the Roman Empire continued to persist for centuries following its defeat at Nisibis. The Parthian Empire, on the other hand, became even weaker after its conflict with Rome and continued on its steady decline. Revolts from within the empire continued to plague Artabanus so he could not sit back and enjoy his success over the Romans. In 220, the leader of the Persians, Ardashir, managed to break free from Parthian rule and exploit the weakness of the empire to extend his control over more and more land. By 224, Artabanus met Ardashir on the field of battle and lost more than his life; the Parthian Empire collapsed shortly after his fall. In place of the Parthians, a resurgent Persian state arose known as the Sassanian Empire. As the new supreme empire of the east, the armies of the Sassanians had some of the greatest warriors of the ancient world. Like its Parthian predecessor, the elite heavy cavalry of the Sassanian Empire were also cataphracts.


Emperor from 217 to 218, and a one-time PREFECT OF THE PRAETORIAN GUARD under Caracalla, whose death he masterminded. He was born to a poor family in Caesarea, in Mauretania, and many details of his life have not been verified, but he apparently moved to Rome and acquired a position as advisor on law and finances to the Praetorian prefect Plautianus. Surviving the fall of the prefect in 205, Macrinus became financial minister to Septimius Severus and of the Flaminian Way. By 212, Macrinus held the trust of Emperor Caracalla and was appointed prefect of the Praetorian Guard, sharing his duties with Oclatinus Adventus. Campaigning with Caracalla in 216 against the Parthians, Macrinus came to fear for his own safety, as Caracalla could be murderous. When letters addressed to the emperor seemed to point to his own doom, Macrinus engineered a conspiracy that ended in early 217 with Caracalla’s assassination near Edessa.

Feigning grief and surprise, Macrinus manipulated the legions into proclaiming him emperor. To ensure their devotion and to assuage any doubts as to his complicity in the murder, he deified the martially popular Caracalla. Meanwhile, the Senate, which had come to loathe the emperor, granted full approval to Macrinus’ claims. The Senate’s enthusiasm was dampened, however, by Macrinus’ appointments, including Adventus as city prefect and Ulpius Julianus and Julianus Nestor as prefects of the Guard. Adventus was too old and unqualified, while the two prefects and Adventus had been heads of the feared FRUMENTARII.

Real problems, both military and political, soon surfaced. Artabanus V had invaded Mesopotamia, and the resulting battle of Nisibis did not resolve matters. Unable to push his troops, whom he did not trust, Macrinus accepted a humiliating peace. This, unfortunately, coincided with plotting by Caracalla’s Syrian family, headed by JULIA MAESA. Macrinus had tried to create dynastic stability, but mutiny in the Syrian legions threatened his survival. The Severans put up the young Elagabalus, high priest of the Sun God at Emesa, as the rival for the throne. Macrinus sent his prefect Ulpius against the Severan forces only to have him betrayed and murdered. He then faced Elagabalus’ army, led by the eunuch Gannys, and lost. Macrinus fled to Antioch and tried to escape to the West but was captured at Chalcedon and returned to Antioch. Both Macrinus and his son DIADUMENIANUS, whom he had declared his coruler, were executed.

The reign of Macrinus was important in that it was the first time that a nonsenator and a Mauretanian had occupied the throne. Further, he could be called the first of the soldier emperors who would dominate the chaotic 3rd century A. D. As his successors would discover, the loyalty of the legions was crucial, more important in some ways than the support of the rest of the Roman Empire.


A strategically important city in Mesopotamia, between the upper reaches of the Tigris and Euphrates rivers. Nisibis was for many centuries the capital of the district of Mygdonia, situated on the Mygdonius River. Few cities were so bitterly involved in the conflicts between Rome and the empires of PARTHIA and PERSIA. Any advance into Mesopotamia from Armenia would aim for the occupation of Nisibis to allow a further attack against the Tigris or south into Mesopotamia and the Euphrates satrapies. In his campaign against Parthia, Emperor Trajan captured Nisibis in 114 but then lost it in the revolt of 116 that killed his general Maximus Santra. The reliable Moor, Lusius Quietus, was unleashed, and he retook Nisibis as well as EDESSA. Emperor Septimius Severus suppressed an uprising of the Osroene in 194 and created a colony at Nisibis, providing it with a procurator. Upon his return in 198, Severus decreed MESOPOTAMIA a province, with Nisibis as its capital and the seat of an Equestrian prefect who controlled two legions.

Throughout the 3rd century A. D., Nisibis was buffeted back and forth as Rome and Persia struggled against one another. Following the crushing defeat of King NARSES in 298, at the hands of Emperor Galerius, Nisibis enjoyed a monopoly as the trading center between the two realms. In 363, Julian launched an unsuccessful Persian expedition; his successor Jovian accepted a humiliating peace with SHAPUR Nisibis became Persian once again.


Versatile bomber, nightfighter, recce-plane which also carried the first guided aerial weapon.

The Dornier 217 was the first new German reconnaissance bomber to enter large‑scale service with the Luftwaffe after the beginning of World War II. It began its operational life during the last months of 1940 flying clandestine reconnaissance missions deep into Russia‑with which Germany was, at that time, ostensibly still on friendly terms. During 1942 and 1943 the Do 217 inflicted most of the damage caused by German air attacks on Britain. At the same time, a few of these aircraft operated as night fighters against the RAF night attacks on the Reich.

In the summer of 1943‑as the performance of the Dornier was beginning to fall short of what was required by frontline units‑the type underwent a new lease of life. It was modified to carry radio‑guided missiles. These were the first such weapons ever launched operationally from aircraft. In its new role the Do 217 scored some spectacular early successes. Finally, however, the overwhelming Allied fighter superiority on all fronts caught up with the bomber units operating the Do 217. From the beginning of 1944 almost all attempts to operate these aircraft against worthwhile Allied targets‑by day or by night, with or without missiles‑resulted in the same debilitating losses. By late summer 1944, after 1,887 examples had been delivered, the Do 217 had been all but discarded from front‑line service in the Luftwaffe.

A twin‑engined high‑winged monoplane with twin fins and rudders, the Dornier 217 was of conventional all‑metal construction. It carried a crew of four‑pilot, observer, radio operator/air gunner and ventral gunner. The observer, as well as navigating the aircraft, was responsible for bomb aiming and firing the nose‑mounted flexible gun on the rare occasions it was used. The positioning of the crew close together in the nose made for efficiency. During operations, a lot of information could be conveyed by signs or by pointing. This minimized the distractions caused by ‘intercom natter’.

The most used variant of the Do 217 was the E model. The forward‑firing gun armament usually fitted was a fixed 15mm cannon and a flexible 20mm cannon. The former was fired by the pilot and the latter by the observer. For defense there was a 13 mm machine‑gun in the power‑operated dorsal turret, four rifle‑calibre machine‑guns firing from the side windows of the crew compartment. Another of these weapons (later replaced by a 13mm gun) was mounted in the ventral position. Four 500kg bombs, or four containers each with 140 1‑kg incendiary bombs, or two 1,000kg sea mines were the typical loads carried in the bomb bay. There was also provision for the plane to carry a single F5B torpedo internally. But it seems that the aircraft never carried this weapon operationally.

Like other German bombers, the crew positions in the Do 217 were well protected with armor. The pilot had an 8.5mm‑thick steel plate shield behind his seat, 5mm‑thick steel under his seat pan and a further 5mm‑thick plate above and behind his head. Behind the crew compartment was a semi‑circular transverse armored bulkhead 8.5mm thick, with 5mm plates at the sides. As was normal German practice, the compartment for the inflatable life raft in the rear fuselage was protected with 5mm plate at the sides, top and bottom, and 8.5mm plate at the rear.

Also, as was usual for German bombers, self‑sealing fuel and oil tanks were fitted in the Do 217. This was a vital safeguard. The ignition of petrol or oil leaking from tanks caused major aircraft losses during World War II. The standard German self‑sealing tank comprised an inner shell of compressed cellulose fibre around which was a layer of thick leather, a layer of thick crude rubber, two layers of thin rubber sheet and an outer layer of thick vulcanized rubber. Altogether, the wall of the tank with its self‑sealing layer was about half‑an‑inch thick. When bullets or shell fragments hit the tank they usually punched their way clean through the walls and out the other side. But when the petrol or oil leaked out of the holes and reached the crude rubber a chemical reaction was set up. This caused the crude rubber to swell‑sealing the holes. During the sealing process a small amount of crude rubber was dissolved into the petrol. This caused some contamination, but not enough to seriously affect the engines. They continued to function with little loss of efficiency.

A further factor which helped reduce the vulnerability of the Do 217 was the fitting of air‑cooled engines. Because there was no coolant to leak away, air‑cooled engines were about half as likely to be stopped by battle damage as were liquid‑cooled engines. The 1,580hp BMW 801 14‑cylinder radials of the Do 217E employed direct fuel injection‑a useful feature because the engines continued to operate under negative‑G conditions. This was in contrast to the float‑type carburetors fitted to British fighters during the early war period. These cut out when their pilots tried to follow German aircraft bunting over into a dive.

Pilots who flew the Do 217 recall that it was a stable machine with good handling characteristics at the medium and high-speed ends of its performance range. Due to its high wing loading, however, the landing speed was also high. And the undercarriage frequently proved unable to take the demands made on it during a heavy landing.

With a maximum all‑up weight of about 17 tons, a range of 1,430 miles and a top speed of 320mph, the Dornier 217E’s closest equivalent was the American B26 Marauder. This had a similar weight and performance and was also designed with a high wing loading.

The Dornier 217 was designed as a replacement for theearlier Do17 medium bomber. The new plane was to have a higher performance and be able to carry a heavier bomb load, and it had to be stressed and equipped for dive-bombing attacks. The first prototype of the Do 217 made its maiden flight in August 1938. But its handling characteristics were bad and the prototype crashed the following month, killing both members of the test crew. By early in 1939 three more prototypes were flying. The problem of improving the basic handling characteristics of the Do 217 proved relatively simple to overcome. But that of making such a large aircraft into an effective dive-bomber proved beyond solution. Following lengthy trials with different types of air brake, during which some aircraft were lost and others overstressed during the pull‑out maneuver the dive-bombing attack was deleted from the aircraft’s repertoire.

The first Do 217 to enter service with the Luftwaffe was the E variant. Late in 1940, 10 of the first production aircraft were issued to the Second Staffel of Fernaufklaerungsgruppe 11‑a long‑range reconnaissance unit which soon afterwards became involved in the clandestine high‑altitude flights over Russia. During these missions the Dorniers carried two vertically‑mounted long‑focal‑length cameras. They took the photographs of the Soviet defenses which were to play an important role when the Germans invaded Russia in June 1941.

The first bomber unit to receive the Do 217 was the Second Gruppe of Kampfgeschwader 40, based in France, which received its complement (a Gruppe had a nominal strength of 30 aircraft) during the spring and summer of 1941. At first the aircraft were employed on minelaying missions against British harbors and shipping lanes and, less often, in direct attacks on shipping. Later in 1941 the three Gruppen of Kampfgeschwader 2 moved to France, also equipped with the new bomber.


By this time, large‑scale German air attacks on Britain had come to a halt with the transfer of the bulk of the bomber force to the Eastern front. Do 217s concentrated on anti‑shipping work. However, this quiescent period came to an abrupt halt following the powerful RAF attack which destroyed much of Lübeck on 28 March. Hitler demanded retaliation and in the month that followed German bombers, for the most part Do 217s of KG2, launched two sharp attacks on Exeter and two more on Bath. On the very night that Bath was under attack, however, the RAF was engaged in a series of four destructive raids on the German town of Rostock. Hitler was apoplectic at this affront and in an impassioned speech he spoke of taking a copy of Baedeker’s guidebook and marking off each British city as it was razed to the ground. Because of this the series of attacks became known in Britain as the Baedeker Raids. During the late spring of 1942, Bath, Norwich, York, Cowes, Hull and Poole, Grimsby and Exeter, all suffered varying degrees of damage. But the German bombers had to penetrate the increasingly powerful British night fighter and gun defenses, and suffered heavy losses. The series of attacks ended with three raids on Birmingham and one on Hull at the end of July, which cost the Luftwaffe 27 aircraft and caused only minor damage.

Following this battering Kampfgeschwader 2, which was now the only bomber unit operational with the Do 217, was withdrawn from operations over Britain to make good the losses suffered. But the respite was to prove short lived. On 19 August Allied forces launched the large‑scale seaborne raid on Dieppe and virtually all operational Luftwaffe units in France and Belgium went into action in defense of the port. Operating by day, the Dorniers came up against powerful standing patrols of Spitfires. The Germans suffered catastrophic losses. Out of a total of about 80 planes committed by KG2‑many of them flown by trainee crews‑20 were shot down. Having started the year with an average strength of 88 trained crews, by September 1942 KG2 was down to 23.

KG2 took little part in operations for the rest of the year. At the end of 1942 two improved versions of the Do 217 entered service‑the K and the M. Both of these had more powerful engines and a redesigned low‑drag nose profile. The K model was fitted with the new BMW 801 D radial engine developing 1,700hp, while the M employed the similarly powerful liquid‑cooled Daimler Benz 603 in‑line. The two new variants were about 20mph faster than the earlier E model. In addition to their greater speed the new Dorniers had the advantage of carrying tail‑warning radar to reduce the chances of surprise fighter attack at night, and radio altimeters to make possible a low‑level penetration of defenses at night or in poor visibility.

With these technical improvements the revitalized KG2 recommenced its operations over Britain early in 1943.

During these night attacks the Do 217s exploited every possible stratagem to avoid the attentions of the defenses: a low‑level approach, climbing to medium level to bomb then letting down to low level for the withdrawal; a high-level approach, bombing during a shallow descent and making the withdrawal. Since the bombers’ targets were rarely more than 50 miles inland, these methods helped a lot to keep the German losses down. Even so, the defenders were able to take their toll. During March 1943 alone, Kampfgeschwader 2 lost 23 complete crews.

Typical of the German raids on Britain in the summer of 1943 was that by 91 planes on Portsmouth, on 15 August. The Dornier 217s of the First and Third Gruppen of KG2 operated from St Andre and Dreux respectively, both near Paris. After take‑off the bombers funnelled together over Cap D’Antifer near Le Havre and headed NW across the sea flying at an altitude of 200ft, beneath the prying beams of the British radar. At a point 24 miles south of Brighton the bombers commenced their climb, aiming to arrive over Portsmouth at 15,000ft. The actual attack was delivered soon after 0100 on the morning of the 16th. It lasted about 10 minutes. Afterwards the bombers turned to port and withdrew along the route they had come. Such a low‑level approach to a coastal target should have given the raiders the advantage of surprise. But the RAF night‑fighters proved their alertness by shooting down five of the attackers ‑all Do 217s. Four of the bombers fell to the Mosquitoes of No 256 Squadron, based at Ford near Bognor, Sussex.

The Dornier 217 was involved in the resurgence of air activity over Britain in early 1944. But the units operating the type represented less than a fifth of the force involved. By that time the performance of the Do 217 was not good enough to enable it to survive without heavy losses in the face of the powerful defenses.


During 1942 and 1943 a total of 364 J and N nightfighter versions of the Dornier 217 were delivered to the Luftwaffe. In addition to Lichtenstein radar equipment with a range of 21 miles, these aircraft carried a forward‑firing armament of four 20mm cannon and four rifle‑calibre machine‑guns. The High Command thought that the long endurance of the Do 217 would make it a useful addition to the German night fighter force. But it proved unpopular with the front‑line units. It was too heavy on the controls and had too low a rate of climb to be very effective against the RAF night bombers. After a short time the majority of the Do 217 night fighters were relegated to training units. About 30 were turned over to the Italian Air Force.

In the summer of 1943 some Dornier 217s were modified to carry air‑launched guided missiles‑the first such weapons ever to be used in action. There were two quite different types of missile, though subsequent accounts have frequently confused them or treated them as one.


The first of the guided missiles to enter service was the Henschel 293 glider‑bomb. This weapon looked like a small aeroplane with a wingspan of just over 10ft. Prior to launch it weighed a little over 2,000lb, 1,100lb of this being the warhead. After release from the parent aircraft the rocket motor under the missile fired‑carrying the weapon to a speed of about 370mph. Then the motor cut out and the missile coasted on in a shallow dive, accelerating slowly towards its target. The range of the missile depended upon the altitude of the parent plane at the time of release. A typical operational range was five miles, for which the aircraft needed to be at 4,500ft. In the tail of the missile was a bright tracking flare. This allowed the observer in the parent aircraft to follow its movements. The observer operated a small joy‑stick controller, the movement of which fed the appropriate up‑down‑left‑right impulses to the guidance transmitter, which in turn radiated them to the missile. Here, they were converted into control movements for the ailerons and elevators. The observer only had to steer the tracking flare until it appeared to be superimposed on the target and hold it there until the missile impacted. The Henschel 293 was a low‑speed weapon compared with a normal‑gravity bomb and as a result had little penetrative ability. It was intended mainly for use against merchant ships and more lightly armored warships.

The glider bombs were used in action for the first time on 25 August 1943.Fourteen Do 217s of the Second Gruppe of Kampfgeschwader 100 attacked a Royal Navy U‑boat-hunting group off the NW tip of Spain. An observer on the sloop HMS Landguard later reported, after the aircraft had formed up off her starboard quarter at a range of about six miles


‘A pall of smoke forming into a streamer appeared from the leading aircraft. At the time of firing the aircraft were on a reciprocal course to the ships, well out on the beam. The projectile was seen for some time apparently near the aircraft, but this was probably due to the fact that it was coming towards the ship at a constant bearing. Flashes were seen coming from the aircraft at about the time of the firing (almost certainly this was due to the tracking flare lighting up) but neither smoke nor flame from the projectile during the later stages of its run . . .. The projectile then banked exactly like an aircraft and set course towards the ship, descending at an angle of about 15° or 20°. When about two cables from the starboard quarter the bomb appeared to be pointing straight at the ship. Then it banked to starboard and lost height rapidly, falling in the sea one hundred yards off Landguard’s starboard quarter and exploding on impact.’

Two further bombs were aimed at Landguard, both of which exploded clear of her.

The only damage inflicted during the action was to the sloop HMS Bideford. A near miss caused splinter damage to her port side, holing her stores, Asdic compartment and forward mess deck and causing some flooding. She was able to continue in action, but was later in dock for a month being repaired.

Two days later‑27 August‑the Dorniers again attacked British warships off the NW tip of Spain. This time the victims belonged to the 1st Escort Group comprising the destroyers Grenville and Athabaskan, the frigates Jed and Rother and the sloop Egret. Soon after 1200 the force of 18 bombers was sighted coming in from the north. The warships were heading southwards in a line‑abreast formation searching for U‑boats. The commander of the force, Captain Godfrey Brewer in Egret, immediately ordered ‘Repel Air Attack’. All ships went to action stations and ‘ increased speed. The ships swung into two columns of two ships in line ahead‑with two miles between columns. With her powerful AA armament of eight 4in guns, Egret was to move across the rear to support whichever column was threatened.

The attack began with four Dorniers flying along the ships’ port side. When they came within gun range Athabaskan and Egret opened fire. But the bombers held their course and each launched a glider bomb at Athabaskan. ‘ The first three missiles fell harmlessly into the sea, but the fourth continued on and struck and destroyed near the base of her ‘B’ gun turret. The bomb smashed straight through the superstructure, shedding its wings and body in the process. The warhead finally detonated just clear of the ships’ starboard side abreast the forward end of the bridge. The explosion caused severe splinter damage. ‘B’ turret shell‑room, two fuel tanks, the torpedomen’s mess and lower power and gyro room were all flooded. The blast caused the fires in the boilers to flash back into the boiler rooms. This resulted in a minor oil fire. Athabaskan’s engines stopped. She slid to a halt.


Meanwhile the German bombers were forming up on the starboard side and Egret departed to support the column there. But her gallantry was to bear bitter fruit. It was on her that the German crews now concentrated their attack. Within a short time seven glider bombs were streaking towards the sloop. The commander of Egret, Commander John Waterhouse, reported afterwards:

Several rocket bombs were now heading for Egret and I increased to full speed and put the wheel hard to starboard in an endeavour to point them and present the smallest possible virtual target. Two bombs passed close astern and a third was either hit by Oerlikon fire or else fell into the sea within thirty feet of the starboard side amidships.

After this escape a report was received from the engine room that all was well below and I assumed that any damage sustained was superficial. The ship was momentarily steadied on a west‑north‑westerly course with her main armament engaging the enemy, when two more bombs were reported approaching from just before and just abaft the starboard beam. I did not see the one approaching from aft, which I believe missed, but I was able to observe carefully the behaviour of that before the beam. Swinging fast under full starboard rudder the ship would normally have brought the bomb, which was flying level about fifteen feet above the water, within 30° of the ship’s bow and the bomb should have passed down the starboard side. In the event the bomb banked sweetly and turned smoothly to starboard like a well‑piloted fighter aircraft and so continued to head straight for the bridge . . ..

The missile struck Egret near her forecastle deck, and the warhead continued on into the ship before detonating. The resultant explosion, whose force was probably compounded by the detonation of one of the ship’s magazines, almost certainly blew out a large area of plating on Egret’s port side.

She listed badly to port. Within about 40 seconds of the explosion she had capsized completely. She floated bottom up for over an hour before sinking. Only 36 men survived out of a complement of 188. So it was that Egretgained thedubious distinction of being the first ship ever to be sunk by an air‑launched guided missile.

The crew of Athabaskan were able to effect temporary repairs to their engines and the destroyer returned to Britain under her own steam. Permanent repair work kept her out of action for over two months.

From German records it would seem that Leutnant Paulus and Hauptmann Vorpahl, respectively, had captained the Dorniers which sank Egret and damaged Athabaskan. It must be said, however, that the total of only two hits for an expenditure of 25 glider bombs during the attacks on 25 and 27 August was hardly impressive. During a subsequent investigation into the causes of the missile failures‑held at the bombers’ base at Bordeaux/Merignac‑‑it was discovered that several of the Dorniers had had their missile control transmitters sabotaged in a very cleverwayso thatnormal ground tests did not reveal the fault. The SS conducted a full investigation, but the culprit was never found.

While the Second Gruppe of Kampfgeschwader 100 was operating with its glider bombs, the Third Gruppe was preparing to go into action with a quite different type of missile. This was the Fritz‑X guided bomb‑‑a high‑velocity weapon designed to pierce the heaviest armor. In appearance the Fritz‑X resembled an ordinary bomb, except that it carried four stabilizing stub‑wings mid‑way along its body. It weighed 3,100 lb and was unpowered. Released from altitudes around 20,000ft, it fell under gravity to reach an

impact velocity close to that of sound. In the tail of the bomb was a tracking flare, and after release the missile was guided down to its target in a similar way to the glider bomb. Since the Fritz‑X had to be released from high level if it was to reach the necessary impact velocity, III./KG 100 received the high‑flying K2 version of the Dornier 217. This model was similar to the normal K type‑except that its wingspan was 19ft wider.

For the Third Gruppe of Kampfgeschwader 100 the big chance came on 9 September. The Italians capitulated and their battle fleet made its dash to Malta to surrender. The main body of the fleet sailed from La Spezia in northern Italy and included the modern battleships Roma, Italia and Vittorio Veneto. Early that afternoon Major Bernhard Jope, the commander of Kampfgeschwader 100, led a striking force of eleven Dorniers off the ground at Marseilles/Istres. Each aircraft carried a single Fritz‑X under its starboard wing, close to the fuselage.

The bombers caught up with the Italian warships off the Straits of Bonifacio‑between Sardinia and Corsica. The German crews broke formation and attacked individually–aiming their missiles at the ships twisting below. After releasing the Fritz‑X each pilot throttled back his engines and climbed through 1,000ft. This brought the aircraft in line with the missile and the target during the final stage of the missile’s trajectory. It was now possible to guide the Fritz‑X on to the target. Apart from being essential for the control of the missile, this maneuver produced the useful bonus of throwing off predicted AA fire from below.

One of the first bombs scored a near miss on the Italia, temporarily jamming her rudder. A few minutes later another scored a direct hit on Roma, on her deck near the starboard side abeam her after funnel. The missile punched its way straight through the ship and exploded immediately underneath the hull, wrecking her starboard steam turbines and causing some flooding. Severely shaken, Roma’s speed fell to 16 knots and she began to list to starboard. A little later a second bomb struck Roma. This was almost certainly released from the Dornier flown by Oberleutnant Heinrich Schmetz with Feldwebel Oscar Huhn as observer. This missile hit the ship squarely just in front of her bridge and pierced deep into her vitals and then detonated. The explosion‑its effects worsened by being confined inside the armored structure‑knocked out the remaining steam turbines and started an uncontrollable fire which raged through to the forward magazine. With a violent explosion the battleship snapped in two like a jack‑knife, and sank. Only 622 officers and ratings survived, out of her crew of nearly 2,000.

Shortly after the second bomb hit Roma, Italia took a Fritz‑X on her bow, which blew a large hole. She took on about 800 tons of water. In spite of this, the battleship was able to limp to Malta unaided.

In the months that followed, the Dornier 217s of Kampfgeschwader 100 scored other successes. A direct hit and two near misses with Fritz‑X bombs on the battleship HMS Warspite put her out of action for seven months; a single Fritz‑X hit on the cruiser HMS Uganda, which required repairs lasting over a year. At the same time, Henschel 293 glider bombs sank the cruiser HMS Spartan and several destroyers. But the Allies proved able to take the measure of the new threat. Strong fighter patrols were maintained over all future concentrations of shipping. From the spring of 1944 it was rare for the missile‑carriers to reach their targets. They usually suffered debilitating losses whenever they tried. During the invasion of Normandy in June 1944 the Allied shipping not only enjoyed powerful fighter cover, but some of their number carried special transmitters which emitted jamming on the German missile‑control frequencies blotting out the radio command signals. As a result of these countermeasures, the missiles were virtually useless.

The German failure to contain the Allied invasion of Normandy coincided with the success of the Allied strategic bombing offensive against the German oil industry. This led to a crippling shortage of aviation fuel. One result of this was that the Luftwaffe bomber force was reduced to a shadow of what it had been. Most of the units were disbanded, their men being sent to the fighter units or into the army. A few Dornier 217s continued in use until the end of the war; but the majority of those that survived their bomber units ended their days in aircraft parks, where they swelled the scores of strafing Allied pilots.


The KV-2 looked more formidable than it actually was. It was excessively heavy, and coupled with a 500-horsepower diesel engine it was slow and not very maneuverable. The massive turret weighed twelve tons, rotated slowly, and would not traverse if the ground was not reasonably flat. Hull armor was very heavy for the period at 75mm for the hull and turret sides and 110mm for the turret front.

Production of the KV-2 was dropped by late 1941, although, to the Germans’ horror, such a giant could be hit over 11 times with no apparent effect whatsoever.

Combat experience gained during the Russo-Finnish War had shown that the existing Red Army tanks lacked the firepower necessary to destroy the heavily reinforced Finnish army bunkers being encountered. At the prodding of a senior general of the Red Army commanding troops in Finland, a new heavy breakthrough tank was conceived. In the span of two weeks a plan was hatched to mount a newly-designed turret mounting an M-10 152mm howitzer on an unmodified KV-1 series chassis. A prototype of this stop-gap vehicle was ready for testing in January 1940.

The initial prototype and a small number of very early series production units of this new heavy breakthrough tank were referred to as the KV-2 Model 1939. They featured a fairly complex angled turret design. The follow-on production units had a simpler and quicker to build turret design and were designated the KV-2 Model 1940. Production of the KV-2 series, nicknamed the `Dreadnought’ by its crews, began in November 1940 and continued until October 1941 with 334 units completed. Besides its main gun, the KV-2 was armed with three 7.62mm machine guns with the KV-2 Model 1940. Maximum armour thickness on the front of the KV-2 turret was 110mm.

Compared to the typical KV-1 series tank that weighed in at roughly 94,000lb (43mt), the six-man KV-2 might weigh as much as 114,000lb (52mt). The added 20,000lb (9.1mt) overloaded a chassis that was already plagued by automotive design issues. This made the KV-2’s on-and off-road mobility inferior to the KV-1 series. The large, heavy and unbalanced turret on the KV-2 also caused problems in traversing it on anything other than level surfaces.

Some KV-2s were based in the western military districts of the Soviet Union that took the initial invasion blows of the German army. On those occasions where the KV-2 series was encountered by advancing German army units in the summer of 1941, the vehicle’s thick armour provided it with immunity to almost every weapon in the German arsenal except the 88mm FlaK gun. Fortunately for the German army, the KV-2s were few and far between, with most being lost to mechanical failure or lack of fuel. A small number of KV-2s would survive long enough to see service during the fighting for Stalingrad, which lasted from August 1942 until February 1943.


Sino-Japanese War

The Battle of the Yalu River (“Naval Battle of the Yellow Sea”) was the largest naval engagement of the Qing-Japan War, and took place on 17 September 1894, the day after the Japanese victory at the land Battle of Pyongyang. It involved ships from the Imperial Japanese Navy and the Qing Beiyang Fleet. The battle is also known by a variety of names: Battle of Haiyang Island, Battle of Dadonggou, Battle of the Yellow Sea and Battle of Yalu, after the geographic location of the battle, which was in the Yellow Sea off the mouth of the Yalu River and not in the river itself. In the second half of the nineteenth century in Asia, both Qing and Japan put major resources into creating modern navies of armored steamships with guns firing explosive shells. Their battle at the Yalu River in 1894 ended with the defeat of Qing Empire Beiyang Fleet.

Turning to Germany for training and equipment of their army and to Great Britain for ships and naval instructors, the Japanese soon knew themselves to be the leading oriental military power and began to stretch their muscles. The first to feel their strength were the Chinese. Although the humiliating defeats leading up to the enforced treaties with the western powers had opened their eyes to the need to acquire western military and commercial skills and a `self-strengthening movement’ was set on foot under the guiding hand of the all-powerful minister Li Hung-chang, the Chinese people and their Manchu rulers lacked the martial ardour and the sense of purpose that raised the Japanese so rapidly to modern military and industrial power. Arsenals were founded at Shanghai, at Foochow and Nanking where small ships were built and guns manufactured. Chinese students were sent abroad, a naval academy founded at Tientsin and a steam navy, built abroad, was commissioned, or rather four separate navies – at Canton, at Foochow, in the Yangtse River and (in the north) the Peiyang fleet. Only the last of these was under the direct control of the Peking government.

Such an arrangement was an inadequate basis for sea power and when, in 1874, a Japanese expedition was sent to Formosa to exact retribution for the murder of some Ryu-kyu sailors by Formosan aborigines, the Chinese were unable to take any effective steps to protect this overseas outpost of their Empire. Actually the whole basis for the Japanese action was in Chinese eyes false. For the Ryu-kyu Islands had been a regular tributary of China since 1372. But the Japanese Lord of Satsuma had, unknown to the Chinese, subjugated them in 1609, since when the island king had been also a tribute-paying vassal of Satsuma.

Negotiations, in which the British minister to China, Thomas Wade, acted as mediator, led to a settlement by which China paid an indemnity of half a million dollars and agreed not to condemn the Japanese action. This latter concession tacitly implied Chinese acceptance of Japanese sovereignty over the Ryu-kyus and five years later this was confirmed by Japanese formal annexation.

Korea and Japan

In 1875 it was the Koreans’ turn to clash with the newly awakened aggressive power. Though Christian missionaries had, in spite of periodic persecution, spread their faith widely in the kingdom since the second half of the eighteenth century, the Koreans had successfully resisted all Western efforts to promote trade or establish diplomatic relations. In 1866, following a sweeping massacre of Christian priests, the French had sent a punitive expedition of seven ships and six hundred men which captured Kangwha near Seoul, but after suffering more than thirty casualties in a skirmish outside the city, withdrew. An American merchant ship seeking trade was destroyed and the crew killed in the same year. An American squadron sent to investigate the matter in 1871 steamed into the Han River, on which Seoul lies; on being fired on by shore batteries, the ships bombarded the city of Kangwha on two successive days but then withdrew, their mission unfulfilled.

To the Japanese, Korea represented either a natural stepping stone to their penetration of the mainland or a pistol pointing at the heart of their country. They soon determined it should be the former. An expedition to force diplomatic and trade relations was planned; a surveying team with gunboat escort began charting the approaches to the Korean capital in 1875, and when this was fired on, the gunboats retaliated, destroying the Korean forts. A squadron of six Japanese warships appeared. The Chinese government was at that time in no state to interfere on behalf of its tributary state. The Korean Regent was instructed to negotiate and the Treaty of Kangwha, 24 February 1876, was the result. Not only was Korea thereby opened to diplomatic and commercial relations with Japan, but she was recognized as an independent state on an equal footing with Japan and, in the absence of any protest by China, was thus freed of her ancient vassalage.

When the United States concluded a similar treaty in 1882, the Koreans took the opportunity, in a separate statement, voluntarily to acknowledge Chinese suzerainty ; and it was under the auspices of the Chinese government that the treaty and those with Britain, France and Germany which followed it were concluded. Nevertheless Japan soon became influential in Seoul, operating in support of Queen Min, to reform the government and modernize the army, and against the reactionary Regent, Taewongon. In 1882 the latter provoked a rising during which the Japanese legation was burned, seven Japanese officers were killed and the minister forced to flee to Japan.

Both Chinese and Japanese warships arrived to enforce a pacification. The Chinese envoy arrested the Regent and deported him to China. A settlement with Japan was patched up, the most significant feature of which was the establishment of the Japanese right to station troops for the protection of the legation. The Chinese government, however, now took steps to re-assert suzerainty. Extra-territoriality for their nationals was one of the terms of a commercial treaty ; six Chinese battalions were stationed in Korea and a young Chinese officer, Yuan Shih-k’ai, who was in the years ahead to play a leading role in the history of China, was appointed to train the Korean army.

Pro-Chinese and pro-Japanese factions now grew up and in December 1884 the latter, encouraged by the Japanese minister and aided by the Japanese legation troops, staged a revolt in which the royal palace was broken into and the king captured. Yuan Shih-k’ai’s troops gained the upper hand, however; the Japanese, facing annihilation, set fire to their legation and, formed into a square with their wounded and womenfolk in the centre, fought their way through the winter night to the coast.

With a technique that was to become only too familiar, the Japanese made the incident an excuse for sending an expedition to enforce payment of compensation while at the same time a Sino-Japanese Convention was concluded at Tientsin. By its terms both Chinese and Japanese troops were to be withdrawn; but, deeply significant for the future was the mutual agreement that either China or Japan might send troops into Korea for the restoration of order provided they gave each other prior notice. For the time being, however, Chinese influence was supreme with Yiian Shih-k’ai virtually Governor of Korea.

French Aggression

But the Japanese, growing ever stronger on land and sea, were biding their time, while China, for lack of adequate sea power suffered a humiliating defeat when she attempted to oppose French aggression in Vietnam. Annam, as Vietnam was then called, was an ancient tributary state of China. Tribute missions had been sent to Peking even after the French had annexed the three southern provinces (Cochin-China) following the despatch of a punitive expedition to Saigon in 1859 on account of attacks on missionaries. She established a virtual protectorate over the remainder by another treaty in 1874. French troops were stationed in North Vietnam and fortresses built along the Red River. They were opposed by an irregular Chinese `Black Flag’ army, a remnant of the rebel Taiping army which from 1850-64 had controlled much of China and came near to unseating the Ch’ing dynasty. Regular Chinese troops were also surreptitiously sent to Tonking.

The fighting on land that followed was sporadic and indecisive. But when on 23 August 1884 the French Rear Admiral Courbet, with a squadron consisting of three powerful armoured cruisers and nine smaller ships attacked the Chinese Foochow squadron of one iron vessel, six wooden sloops, two armed transports, two gunboats and a number of war junks, the huge French superiority of force made the encounter into little more than a military execution. It took a mere forty-five minutes, following which the French guns were turned destructively on the arsenal and the defensive forts. The French fleet went on to occupy Keelung in Formosa and the Pescadores.

Meanwhile a blockade of the Yangtse River estuary and stoppage of the tribute grain from South China to the capital had been undermining the warlike resolution of the Empress Dowager ; when a serious defeat of the French army in Tonking offered a face-saving opportunity, a peace treaty was negotiated in June 1885, which recognized France’s position in Annam.

Yet another ancient tributary was lost to China in the following year when Burma became a British protectorate. Japanese hunger for a share in the apparent break-up of China strengthened their determination to possess themselves of Korea when the moment was ripe.

In 1894 an uprising by a Korean religious sect known as the Tongkaks, assisted by agents of the Japanese secret society, Genyosha, caused the Korean government to appeal to Yuan Shih-k’ai for help. A force of about 2,500 Chinese infantry was landed at Asan on the Korean west coast. This was the moment the Japanese had been waiting for: a balanced army eight thousand strong was immediately transported to Chemulpo.

Li Hung-chang turned to the western powers for mediation. Proposals by the British and Americans were rejected by the Japanese and, with war imminent, the Chinese chartered three British steamers to carry reinforcements to Asan. Two of these, escorted by the small protected cruiser, Tsi-Tuen, and the sloop, Kwang-Yi, reached Asan safely ; but as the two warships put to sea again on 25 July 1894 to return to Taku, they were intercepted by the Japanese Flying Squadron of three fast light cruisers, Yoshino, Naniwa and Akitsushima, under the command of Rear Admiral Tsuboi who had orders to stop the transport of troops to Korea, if necessary by force, and to deal with any Chinese warships met, though war had not yet been declared.

Convoy Battle

In the unequal fight that developed the Chinese were overwhelmed, the Tsi-Yuen being heavily damaged, though she was unaccountably allowed to limp away to the Chinese naval base of Wei-hai-wei ; the little sloop was forced to beach herself, where she was quickly destroyed. While the Yoshino was chasing the Tsi-Yuen off the scene, there came in sight two more ships. These were the chartered Jardine and Matheson steamer, Kowshing, carrying 1,200 Chinese troops, twelve guns and two Chinese generals, and her escort the 572-ton sloop Tsao-kiang. The sloop was quickly induced to surrender to the Akitsushima. The Naniwa, commanded by Captain Heihachiro Togo (who eleven years later was to be the hero-admiral, victor at the Battle of Tsu-shima), meanwhile signalled the Kowshing to stop and, having ascertained that she was carrying troops, ordered her to follow the cruiser. When the British master signalled that the Chinese would not allow him to comply and requested Togo to take off the Europeans on board, the Japanese captain declined on the grounds that his boat might be attacked. Four hours of unproductive signalling was brought to an end when the Naniwa opened fire at point blank range and sank the Kowshing. The British officers were picked up by the Naniwa’s boats; some 512 Chinese managed to swim ashore or cling to wreckage, but loss of life was heavy.

War between China and Japan was formally declared on 1 August. As with all wars, this one would inevitably be concluded by the victory of one of the opposing armies; but the decision would have already been secured at sea, on the local control of which depended the support and supply of both. For although Korea was connected to China at its landward frontier, road communications were so primitive as to be of little use for the despatch of reinforcements or supplies.

That only by battle with the opposing fleet could such an essential control be secured was not understood by Fi Hungchang, who forbade Admiral Ting Ju-ch’ang, commanding the Peiyang fleet, to proceed to the east of a line drawn from his base at Wei-hai-wei to the mouth of the Yalu River. The Japanese fleet arrived off Wei-hai-wei on 10 August and bombarded its forts, but the challenge was not accepted; the Chinese ships remained in harbour. Thus Admiral Ito, the Japanese Commander-in-Chief, was left undisturbed to convoy his land forces to Korea where such a Japanese superiority was quickly built up that the Chinese army was defeated and driven north.

Battle of Yalu

Admiral Ting was now ordered to escort a troop convoy to the Yalu from Port Arthur. This was successfully achieved ; but it was off the mouth of the Yalu that Admiral Ito arrived on 17 September 1894, placing himself between Ting and his bases and forcing the Chinese admiral to accept the battle he had professed to desire. Ting at once put to sea and cleared for action.

The two fleets were, on paper, evenly matched. Indeed, to the school that believed that the heavily armoured battleship mounting four 12-inch guns was the arbiter of naval battles, the Chinese was the more powerful. For Ting had two of these, the Ting Yuen, his flagship, and the Chen Yuen as well as eight cruisers mounting guns varying in calibre from 10.2-inch to 5.9-inch. None of these guns was of the quick-firing type which had been invented seven years earlier.

The Japanese fleet under Admiral Ito was divided into a Main Squadron under his personal command and a fast Flying Squadron under Rear Admiral Tsuboi. The biggest ships of the Japanese Main Squadron were three unarmoured cruisers, Matsushima (Ito’s flagship), Itsukushima and Hashidate, which mounted but one 12.6-inch gun each. The remainder of the squadron consisted of two cruisers Fuso and Hiyei, ancient veterans built seventeen years before, carrying a few antiquated guns, and one, the Choyoda, armed with nothing bigger than 4.7-inch guns, but of the quick-firing type.

Rear Admiral Tsuboi’s flag flew in the cruiser Toshino, a fine modern ship of 4,150 tons with 6-inch and 4.7-inch quick firers. With him were three other fast cruisers; Takachiho and Naniwa, mounting two 10.2-inch guns and six 6-inch each, and the Akitsushima which, like the Toshino, carried only quick-firing guns of 6-inch and 4.7-inch calibre. None of these ships was armoured, but even the slowest could make nearly nineteen knots, a good speed at that time.

So far it might seem that the Japanese fleet was much too weak to think of facing the heavy guns of the Chinese. On the other hand all the Japanese ships except Takachiho, Naniwa, Fuso and Hiyei carried between ten and twelve quick-firing guns, either 6-inch or 4.7-inch. A meeting between the two fleets might show which of the rival theories was right – that of the believers in the massive blow of a few big guns, or the contrary theory that many quick-firers would smother the slow-firing, big-gun ships before they could score many hits.

When the time came, however, the test was not to be so clear-cut. There were several reasons for this. The Japanese fleet was a highly trained and skillful force, whereas the Chinese, who a few years previously had achieved a high state of efficiency under the guidance of Captain W. M. Lang of the British Navy, had reverted on his departure to the condition of glossed-over incompetence usual in the armed forces of the Empire. The ships were kept outwardly smart and well-painted, but behind this facade there were half-empty magazines and unpractised gunners. Troubles in the shell factories had led to indifferent bursting charges, or even cement and coal dust inserted in their place.

Furthermore, Admiral Ting had a faulty conception of naval fighting tactics based on the outcome of the Battle of Lissa, fought twenty-eight years earlier, in which the Austrian victory had been won by a frontal, line abreast attack on the Italian line, and an eventual recourse to the ram. The fact that the big guns of his two battleships could all fire ahead increased Ting’s faith in such a method. He had completely overlooked the fact that guns had greatly increased in range and effectiveness since Lissa, so that a fleet which awaited such an onslaught in line ahead would have a considerable gun advantage for a long period during the approach. The ram had consequently ceased to be a practical proposition.

Such were the two fleets that now steered for an encounter; the Japanese at about ten knots, which was the best that Fuso and Hiyei could achieve, the Chinese at a knot or two faster. Ito’s fleet was in line ahead with the Flying Squadron in the van. Besides the major units there were present two ships of little or no fighting value, the gunboat Akagi and an armed merchant steamer Saikio Adaru, which were to prove an embarrassment to Ito. It is not clear why the Japanese admiral did not send such vulnerable ships away to the southward, where they would have been clear of the battle. Instead he stationed them on the port side of his Main Squadron, the side away from the enemy.

Meanwhile Ting’s squadron was approaching on a south-westerly course in a formation somewhat similar to Tegetthoff’s at Lissa, with the two big ships in the centre. But owing to tardiness in getting under way, the two starboard wing ships were lagging, while on the other wing one of the Chinese cruisers, the Tsi-Tuen, was well behind and unable to get up into station. In fact, viewed from the Japanese ships, the Chinese squadron seemed to be in considerable disorder.

The tactics of the two admirals were soon evident. At the long range for those days of six thousand yards, the Chinese opened fire with their big guns. With calm confidence the Japanese held their fire, and indeed they could well afford to do so; for with the rapidly changing range making shooting difficult, the unpractised Chinese gunners failed to score a single hit during the approach.

The Japanese line drew steadily across the Chinese front until the Flying Squadron was able to pass round the starboard wing, and at a range of three thousand yards open a withering fire from their quick-firers on the wing ships of the Chinese formation. Their Main Squadron now came into action, passing close ahead of Ting’s flagship and the Chen Tuen, which bore down as though to ram, both battleships being heavily shot up in the process. The whole of Ito’s squadron except the Hiyei, the rear ship, passed safely round the northern flank of Ting’s line, and Ito then led round to star¬ board, circling the now completely disorganized Chinese fleet and keeping up a punishing fire to which only a feeble reply was made.

Indeed the Chinese had more than the enemy’s fire with which to reckon. Dense funnel smoke, increased by that from a hundred guns, enveloped the whole scene. The laggard Tsi-Tuen, coming up at last, plunged into the smother and ran amok, colliding with two ships of her own side, sinking one and so damaging another that it steamed away blazing to be beached. The Tsi-Tuen herself then withdrew to Port Arthur, where her captain subsequently paid for his actions with his head.

Meanwhile the Hiyei, unable to follow the Japanese Main Squadron round the Chinese flank, boldly turned to pass through the Chinese. Avoiding two torpedoes fired at her and which strangely enough hit nothing in spite of the milling throng of ships, the Hiyei won through, though suffering considerably in the process.

The two weak Japanese ships, Akagi and Saikio Maru, also cut off, kept on across the Chinese front, the former being badly battered. Seeing this, Rear Admiral Tsuboi led the Flying Squadron round to port to come back and cover them. This brought a temporary relief to the Chinese ships, but by the time Tsuboi had completed his turn the Chinese found themselves between two fires, Ito to the eastward and the Flying Squadron to the north-westward.

By now Ting’s squadron was in desperate straits. Apart from the victims of the Tsi-Tuen’s wild career, two other cruisers, smothered by the rapid fire of Tsuboi’s 6-inch and 4.7-inch guns, had gone down. Yet another had struggled away burning furiously, ultimately to be run aground near Port Arthur. Ting was thus left with only four of his original ten ships, all of which had suffered severely and had shot away nearly all their ammunition.

Complete annihilation of the Chinese squadron was in Ito’s grasp. The Japanese had not achieved this without damage to themselves, however; in particular Ito’s flagship Matsushima had been hit twice by 12-inch shells, once by a 10.2-inch, suffering more than a hundred casualties, and had been set on fire. By the time Ito had transferred his flag to the Hashidate and despatched the Matsushima, Hiyei, Akagi and Saikio to base for repairs, the sun was sinking low; and as dusk fell, the two fleets disengaged and formed up on parallel courses in line ahead.

A renewal of the fight might now have wiped out the Chinese force, but a new element had entered the situation. The two torpedo-boats of Ting’s squadron had joined him from the Yalu. This caused Ito to decide to await the dawn before completing the enemy’s annihilation, and in the night Ting slipped away with his surviving ships, which included his two battleships. Nevertheless the Japanese had won a considerable victory, and had secured control of the disputed sea area, making certain of victory on land. There the Japanese were able to occupy Dairen and to capture the fortified base of Port Arthur by attacking the forts from the rear. They went on to capture Wei-hai-wei in February 1895, turning the guns of the forts on the damaged remnants of the Peiyang fleet. Admiral Ting committed suicide; the fleet surrendered.

Li Hung-chang, the inspirer of the Self-strengthening Movement by which China had hoped to withstand further foreign aggression, but which had failed primarily because the Chinese public service was so riddled with corruption and incompetence, was disgraced and dismissed. He was reinstated, however, at Japanese insistence upon an envoy of sufficient stature being sent to negotiate a peace settlement. The Treaty of Shimonoseki which was finally signed on 17 April 1895 provided for recognition of Korean independence and termination of tribute to China ; a large indemnity ; the opening of four more Chinese ports ; Japanese right to open factories and engage in industry in China ; finally, and most ominously, the cession to Japan of Formosa, the Pescadores and the Liaotung Peninsula on which Port Arthur and Dairen were situated.

For the moment Japan had in spectacular fashion burst out of her backwardness and obscurity to claim an equal status with the western powers. Great Britain had already offered a treaty revision to abolish her extra-territorial rights and during the next few years her example was followed by other powers. But Japan was now to suffer a humiliating set-back on her road to great power status, one which was to colour her attitude ever afterwards.

Portuguese and Spanish in the Pacific

On September 20, 1519, Magellan set sail from Spain in an effort to find a western sea route to the rich Spice Islands of Indonesia. In command of five ships and 270 men, Magellan sailed to West Africa and then to Brazil, where he searched the South American coast for a strait that would take him to the Pacific.

The opponents of this Portuguese trade monopoly were initially natural enemies as followers of the Prophet and therefore committed by the tenets of their faith to the forcible conversion of the infidel; the Portuguese similarly favoured extermination of such unprofitable material for their burning missionary zeal as the Muslims invariably were. Thus on both sides material aims which could vary in degree from honest trading ambitions to sheer rapacity, were given the cloak of piety. Portuguese guns would sink the ships of Muslim rivals with the blessing of the Church ; Mohammedan rajahs would take to ruthless piracy in the name of Allah. One consequence of the latter which arose when Mohammedanism spread to the ports of Western Java and southern Borneo, was the denial of these as stopping points for Portuguese ships on the run to and from the Spice Islands. When the seamen of East Borneo and Celebes, the warlike Bugis, took to unabashed piracy, the route became so dangerous that the Portuguese eventually preferred to accept the hazards of the Sulu Islands passage and the North Borneo coast.

In 1521, however, a new factor was introduced by the arrival at Brunei of a patched and battered carrack flying the flag of Spain, Portugal’s only serious European naval rival in that period. This was the Victoria, sole survivor of Ferdinand Magellan’s expedition which was to complete the first circumnavigation of the globe. Magellan, a Portuguese who had been pilot to Sequeira at Malacca in 1509, had offered his services to Spain and had been commissioned to command a squadron sent to find a route to the Spice Islands by sailing westwards. Discovering the straits that bear his name, he had entered and named the Pacific Ocean and had been carried across it in the latitude of the trade winds to make landfall on the Philippine Islands.

There Magellan had been killed in a brush with the natives, but his flagship had continued the voyage westwards to arrive at Brunei. When fighting broke out there also, the ship was turned east again and after sailing through the difficult channels amongst the Sulu Islands, arrived at Tidore, to the west of Halmahera, and rival centre of the spice trade to the neighbouring Ternate. When the Victoria arrived home in 1522, Spanish claims to the Spice Islands were put forward.

The rival claimants, Spain and Portugal, were bound by the decision of Pope Alexander vi in 1493 by which the new world being gradually discovered was divided between the two countries. To the west of a line drawn from pole to pole passing 100 leagues to the westward of the Cape Verde Islands all would belong to Spain ; to the eastward all was to be Portuguese. Unfortunately the difficulty of establishing the longitude of a place even approximately with the means available at the time made it impossible to say where the demarcation line ran with regard to the East Indies; no agreement could be come to at a conference in 1524. Spanish efforts in the next few years were ineffective owing to the difficulties and hazards of the long haul across the Pacific. As a result of the Treaty of Saragossa in 1529 the Spaniards withdrew their claims for some years, selling their rights in the Moluccas to the Portuguese and fixing the dividing line seventeen degrees to the eastward of those islands. The King of Spain, however, reserved the right to annul his agreement, in which case arbitrators would decide the ownership of the Spice Islands. The Portuguese had, therefore, prepared against future trouble by building a fort on Ternate and espousing the cause of the Sultan against his rival on Tidore.

While the Portuguese were thus establishing, amidst unceasing conflict, their control of the East Indian trade, the pioneering genius and the commercial ability (or, as St Francis Xavier was to condemn it, the insatiable rapacity) of their seamen had been taking them ever further afield. In 1517 a squadron of seven ships under Fernando Perez de Andrade, victor of the sea-fight of 1513, arrived off Canton carrying a valuable cargo. Though the gun salute with which the Portuguese announced their arrival violated the code of conduct imposed on visiting foreign ships and Andrade had to make apologies for it, relations were thereafter friendly and permission to build a factory for the housing of goods on an off-shore island was granted.

Accompanying the expedition as ambassador was Tome Pires who had previously visited China and written an account of it in his Suma Oriental in 1515. From Canton, Pires was sent on to the Chinese court at Peking in September 1518, while Andrade, with part of his squadron, returned to Malacca. The remainder, in company with some Fiu-chiu Islands junks sailed on northwards to Ningpo where another factory was built and trade was opened with other parts of China, with fortified posts at Amoy and Foochow also.

This satisfactory opening of European trade with China was not to persist for long, however. The old bone of contention, China’s claim to the overlordship of all southern Asia, was brought out when Pires arrived at Peking. A letter from the deposed Sultan of Malacca had reached the Emperor, reminding him of Malacca’s vassal status and requesting Chinese assistance to eject the invaders. Pires, not authorized to acknowledge Chinese suzerainty in the same way, was put under arrest and conducted back to Canton, where he was to remain a prisoner until his death in 1540.

In 1521 Fernando de Andrade’s brother, Simon, arrived off Canton with another expedition. The high-handed arrogance which was the fatal defect of the Portuguese in their heyday was to cause his downfall. Just when negotiations for the opening of Chinese ports to trade were reaching a satisfactory conclusion, he offended the Chinese authorities by erecting a factory and fort on an off-shore island, without permission, ostensibly as protection against pirates ; and there he proceeded to exercise sovereign rights, demonstrated by his trial and execution of one of his sailors. A Chinese fleet of war junks attacked him, destroying all but three of his ships with which he was lucky to escape.

Nevertheless Portuguese trade with China through the former’s fortified posts at Amoy, Foochow and Ningpo persisted until 1545 when their aggressive behaviour finally led to their being expelled. The survivors, apparently learning their lesson at last, now adopted a conciliatory and suppliant attitude ; they were eventually permitted in 1557 to build a trading post on the island of Macao (in the approaches to Canton), which has persisted as a Portuguese colony to this day.

For the next fifty years the Portuguese enjoyed a monopoly of direct trade with China using their own ships, while at the same time Chinese junks traded to the Philippines, to Brunei, to Patani and occasionally to Malacca, though the extortionate charges levied there discouraged them. Another country opened up to Portuguese exclusive trade at that time was Japan; an expedition reaching Kagoshima in 1542 set up a trading post which enjoyed total absence of European competition for fifty years.

Far otherwise was the situation of the Portuguese in the Indonesian Archipelago. Besides the unceasing hostilities between Christian and Muslim in the Malacca Straits, with frequent full-scale naval expeditions by the Sultan of Atjeh against Malacca itself, the Portuguese hold on the Spice Islands was constantly under attack by the inhabitants and their rajahs, resentful of Portuguese arrogance and made desperate by their cruelty and greed.

Much of the Portuguese difficulties in the Spice Islands stemmed from their ruthless and often treacherous treatment of the native rulers and, conversely, from these Muslim rulers’ opposition to attempts to make Christian converts amongst their subjects. Indeed, Portuguese cupidity and missionary zeal were always at loggerheads to the frustration of the efforts of such as Francis Xavier, who laboured in the Moluccas from 1546 to 1548. The type of man sent out to govern the Portuguese settlements was more often than not bent on personal enrichment to the exclusion of other aims; or, if he bestirred himself to restrain the peculations of his subordinates he was liable to have a mutiny on his hands, and more than one governor was murdered for his pains. Throughout the century of Portuguese control of the Spice Islands, only one governor, Antonio Galvao 1536-40, left behind him a reputation for rectitude and fair dealing with the natives. He consequently returned poor to Lisbon, and there died in poverty.

In 1544 the ruler of Ternate, who claimed the overlordship of the Banda Islands as well as the Moluccas, made over Amboyna to the Portuguese who thereupon occupied the island, thus obtaining a more ample and secure base than the tiny islands of Ternate and Tidore, where strife was endemic, with the rival rajahs sometimes at war with each other, perhaps with the support of Portuguese or Spaniards, or in alliance with each other to attack the Portuguese strongholds.

The Spaniards had abrogated the agreement of 1529 in 1542 and had established prior and exclusive rights for themselves on Tidore. But for the next twenty years they were unable to follow this up. Though they could reach the area by sailing westwards across the Pacific from Mexico, until an eastward return route across the Pacific had been discovered, they would have had to return to Spain by completing the circumnavigation of the globe and thus to traverse waters dominated by the fighting galleons of their jealous Portuguese rivals. It was not until 1565 that a Spanish expedition of five ships, having landed the nucleus of a settlement at Cebu in the Philippines under Legaspi, was sailed northwards on the south-west monsoon by Andres de Urdaneta to discover the region of fairly constant westerlies between the parallels of 32 and 38 degrees north and so to reach the shores of California whence they could coast southwards to Mexico. Legaspi’s settlement at Cebu was considered an intrusion by the Portuguese, who showed their resentment by sending a squadron of ten ships to besiege it in 1568. They failed to dislodge the Spanish, however.

More of a threat to the Spanish colonizing efforts were the native Moros of the southern islands of the Philippines. Converts to Islam, they made formidable enemies and lived largely by piracy. In 1570, therefore, Legaspi moved his settlement to Luzon where he founded the city of Manila. There, after repulsing an attack in the following year by a Moro fleet, the Spaniards laid the foundations of a centre for both missionary work amongst the pagan inhabitants of Luzon and trade with the Chinese merchants from Fukien who brought their silks to exchange for Mexican silver. Neither of these objectives was possible amongst the belligerent Muslims further south and the Spanish left them discreetly alone.

After the foundation of Manila, Spanish ships again appeared in the Moluccas to dispute the Portuguese monopoly. By this time Portuguese misrule and the cruel cupidity of often mutinous forces had fanned the enmity of the natives and loosened the Portuguese hold on the Spice Islands. Amboyna had narrowly survived an attack by a Javanese force; the Portuguese fort on Ternate was besieged by forces under the Sultan of Tidore, a siege which was to end with its surrender in 1575. The Spaniards were then able to gain a foothold on Ternate for a time; the Portuguese shifted their spice trading headquarters to Tidore. An open struggle between the two Iberian powers was, however, avoided through the unification of the two countries under Philip II of Spain in 1580.

Enter the Dutch…

Future events were now casting their shadows before them. In 1579 Francis Drake’s Golden Hind, on her voyage of circumnavigation, had called briefly at Ternate, after refitting in Celebes, and loaded a quantity of spices. In the following year the Netherlands began its revolt against the rule of Spain. Both English and Dutch were soon to challenge the Portuguese/ Spanish claims to exclusive trading rights, though it was the Dutch who were to take the leading part in the East Indies.

Dutch procurement of the spices and other commodities of the East had for a long time been by means of their own ships sent to load them at Lisbon, and much of the supply of oriental pepper and spices to northern Europe had been in the hands of Dutch merchants. In 1585, however, Philip II gave orders for the seizure of all Dutch ships found in Spanish waters. For another nine years this regulation was to a great extent flouted so that no particular hardship was thereby suffered by the Netherlands.

The Dutch, whose trading and exploring ventures had been spreading far and wide, had, however, long coveted a direct share in the trade with the East Indies. In 1592, Huyghen van Linschoten returned from a nine-year sojourn in India possessed of all the necessary geographic and navigational information for the voyage to the East Indies which he published in his Itinerario in 1595. When Lisbon was finally closed to Dutch trade in 1594, therefore, it was not long before an expedition of four ships was organized which sailed in the spring of 1595 under Cornelis van Houtman, and arrived at the Javanese port of Bantam in June 1596.

Here they were amicably received; a treaty of friendship with the Sultan was concluded and a cargo of pepper was soon being loaded. Unfortunately van Houtman had neither the wit nor the manners to take advantage of this and strife soon broke out. As a result further supplies of pepper were refused at other Javanese ports and, when his crew refused to venture further to the Spice Islands, Houtman was forced to return with little profit.

Nevertheless the flood-gates of Dutch trade with the East Indies had been opened. Making use of the constant west winds, the `Roaring Forties’ south of the Indian Ocean, for their easting, which made them independent of the seasonal monsoons, they established the fastest route to a trading post set up at Bantam via the Cape of Good Hope and the Sunda Strait between Sumatra and Java. Thirteen ships took this route during 1598, returning with vast profits. Others, usually sailing in squadrons for mutual protection, followed. From Bantam they voyaged on to the Banda Islands and Ternate at both of which places they were welcomed and were able to establish trading posts. Peaceful trade being the expressed aim of the ship owners, invitations to assist the natives against the hated Portuguese were at first declined. But in 1600 the Admiral of one of these squadrons, Steven van der Haghen, made a treaty of alliance with the inhabitants of the island of Amboyna against the Portuguese, receiving in return promises of a monopoly of the spice trade.


Medieval Prints by Graham Turner

Although firmly rooted and fairly well developed in the Rhineland, Franconia, Lorraine (the old Lotharingia) and Burgundy, feudalism in its widest sense was never as strong in Germany as in, say, France or England, and true knighthood and the customary granting of fiefs was unknown in Germany until the 12th century; the earliest recorded instance of knighting actually dates to 1146.

During the period under review Germany was basically a confederation of petty states led by princely families of tribal origin, of whom very few held their Lands as vassals of the crown. In the first half of this era, therefore, the king (or Emperor) had to depend almost entirely on the goodwill of these autonomous princes and dukes for military support, who recognised Imperial authority only when they deemed it expedient to do so. Their principalities had largely evolved from once-independent territories and sub-kingdoms (principally Saxony, Thuringia, Burgundy, Franconia, Bavaria, Swabia, Austria, Bohemia and Moravia) and the princes continued to associate themselves with the ethnic origins of their lands. Without their support the Emperor had practically no army, and therefore no power, at all, and it was as a result of this dependence that the Imperial throne became elective in the second half of the 13th century, the most powerful princes becoming Kürfursten or ‘Electors’ whose one concern was effectively to ensure their own autonomy by the maintenance of a weak monarchy. Some idea of the princes’ military potential can be got from the fact that at a Diet (parliament) in Mainz in 1235, where they were nearly all present, their personal retinues are recorded to have totalled 12,000 knights. An individual prince might easily raise several hundred knights (mostly ministeriales, for which see below), the Archbishop of Cologne reputedly fielding 500 in 1161.

Other than for the king’s expedition to Rome to be crowned (the expeditio italica, after 1135 called the expeditio roma or Romfahrt, later Romzug) only the princes of the church -the abbots, bishops and archbishops- were actually obliged to render him military service, since they alone owed their positions to the crown, having been invested with their various estates and offices by the king; therefore it was on them that he relied predominantly for troops. In 1167, 1174 and 1176, for example, German armies operating in Italy under Frederick I Barbarossa consisted almost entirely of church contingents. However, the obligations of ecclesiastical princes differed from those of feudal vassals; with them it was more a case of administering an Imperial estate and, when necessary, financing contingents of troops from the proceeds. Sometimes such proceeds were inadequate to pay for the requisite troops and it was not uncommon for the church to have to mortgage or pawn property and estates in order to raise men. Most German bishops were therefore soldiers first and churchmen second and many even commanded Imperial armies in the field, despite the fact that for most of this era there was bitter enmity between Empire and papacy. In 1257 Richard of Cornwall wrote to his brother, King Henry III of England, about the ‘mettlesome and warlike archbishops there are in Germany. It would be a fine thing for you if you could create such archbishops in England.’

It was Frederick I (who added the ‘Holy’ to ‘Roman Empire’) who first sought to fully reorganise German feudalism on the model of France. Realising the necessity of pulling together the heterogenous elements that made up the Empire, Frederick made a concerted effort to ensure that all princes, both ecclesiastical and lay, were tied to the throne by bonds of vassalage, and by 1180 the structure of the feudal hierarchy had been firmly established; the princes and dukes were now tenants-in-chief (the princes of the church inevitably taking precedence over lay princes), with their vassals obliged to perform military service as knights. Where previously the king bad been able to solicit military aid from his nobility chiefly only by cash payments, the late-12th century saw them serving for a standard period of6 weeks per year, in addition to which, after an interval, their vassals could be called upon for further service of another 6 weeks at the expense of the tenant-in-chief or crown. Unfortunately after Frederick’s death in 1190 his successors were unable to maintain their hold on the nobility, his grandson Frederick II (1214-50, best known for his Sicilian and Italian exploits) issuing in 1231 the ‘Statute of Favour of the Princes’ which granted lay and ecclesiastical princes alike absolute autonomy within their lands and total freedom from royal interference; assorted exemptions from and limitations on obligatory military service followed (Bohemians and Saxons, for instance, could commute their obligation to participate in the Romfahrt by means of a token cash payment). Thereafter the German monarchy was purely elective and royal authority Little more than nominal. Rudolf of Habsburg (1273-91) appears to have been at least partially successful in forcing the nobility back into submission, though be bad to put dissidents down by force on a number of occasions and destroyed some 70 or more castles in the process. Nor were his achievements particularly lasting.

Since the princes were of dubious loyalty, and because the German peasantry were basically forbidden to bear arms by the late-12th century, it was inevitable that some reliance should be placed on mercenary troops (principally Germans), though they were apparently never employed in particularly large numbers. As early as the late-11th century it had been suggested to Henry IV (by Benzo of Alba) that mercenaries, paid for by a form of scutage, should replace the feudal or semi-feudal muster, and the suggestion was revived following the failure of Henry V’s French campaign of 1124and again after the decisive defeat of the Imperialists under Otto IV at Bouvines in 1214. Certainly Frederick I had depended on Brabanson mercenaries in Italy in 1166-67 (5-800 men, or perhaps 1,500 including Flemish mercenaries too) and 1174-75 (commanded by the Archbishop of Mainz), where they gained a morale ascendancy over the Italians, who were scared to death of them (or, rather, of their reputation); such Brabanzonen were only actively employed within Germany itself once, in Saxony in 1179 by Archbishop Philip von Heinsberg of Cologne, who fielded as many as 4,000 mercenaries, cavalry and infantry together, of whom the Brabansons constituted the latter. The Emperors themselves tended to rely heavily on mercenaries in their personal retinues to compensate for the indifference of their vassals; for a crusading enterprise of 1196-98 Henry VI personally raised a contingent of as many as 6,000 mercenary troops, 1,500 of them knights and a further 1,500 being esquires. Many such troops were paid with money-fiefs. Hungarians too were sometimes employed, about 600 horse-archers being recorded in an army raised in 1158, while as many as 14,000 are supposed to have been present under their king in Rudolf’s army at Marchfeld 120 years later.

Another considerable – and unique – element of the Imperial army (and of the ecclesiastical contingents in particular) was supplied by ministeriales (German Dienscleuten), a class of ‘unfree’ knights. These appeared in the first half of the 10th century, were only first introduced on a large scale by Conrad II (1024-39), when they were much used for royal garrisons. They were initially nonnoble freemen administering fiefs without actually holding them as vassals, and they could be granted by one lord to another, leased out as mercenaries, or even sold.

The building of fortresses was one of the duties of the levy, particularly in the Marches. Henry the Fowler (919-936, founder of the dynasty), introduced a system where every ninth man lived in a fortified town, helping to build and maintain it, while the other 8 continued their agricultural chores and stored one third of their produce within the town, taking refuge there themselves during Slav or Magyar raids. These men were lower-class vassals, sometimes referred to as agrarii milites, who were in many ways the forerunners of the mediaeval German ministeriales, unfree knights.

It was Conrad II (1024-1039) who actually introduced ministeriales on a large scale. A ministerialis is best described as an unfree man in possession of a benefice and performing the same military service as a free, feudal tenant would. They appear to have originally evolved as a result of church lands being obliged to supply feudal troops in the same way as the nobility had to; so as not to incur a loss of income by granting the land to free vassals to fulfil these obligations, unfree men were granted such lands instead and were obliged to supply the requisite military duties while at the same time, being unfree, not being permitted any of the benefits or income of a free vassal. This practice became widespread in Germany.

Many vassals therefore bad no need to involve themselves in subinfeudation, since they could utilise ministeriales to satisfy their military obligations without loss of land or revenue, and it was this aspect that made them particularly popular with the church. However, ministeriales often became important Imperial officials so that their status steadily improved. As early as 1126 we find ministeriales being made knights and by the mid-century they had to be paid for service beyond their master’s own domains. Many were by this time becoming powerful and wealthy enough to be considered capable of holding lands on their own account, so that their offices were subsequently convened into feudal possessions. Their ability to hold property and thereby have vassals of their own inevitably broke down and blurred the original distinction between the ‘unfree’ ministerialis and the free knight (to the disgust of the latter), one powerful ministerialis of Frederick I’s reign, Werner von Bolanden, even being reported as holding 17 castles and allegedly being owed the service of as many as 1,100 men-at-arms. By the mid-13th century when, in South German contingents at least, as much as 95 per cent or more of an army could be composed of ministeriales – they were indistinguishable from the nobility, a considerable proportion of the latter by then being of ministerialis origin, including even dukes, counts and bishops.

Some ministeriales appear to have served as infantry but most evidence indicates that they were cavalrymen. The same applies to the Sariants, or sergeants, who first appear in the 12th century. Nethertheless infantry were an important element of German armies. Many were still supplied by the Heerbann or its equivalent, the traditional Germanic levy of all able-bodied freemen which lasted up until the 13th century, though from the late-12th century the lower classes were being steadily excluded from military service. It lasted longest in the north and east, in Saxony, Thuringia and Bavaria; Saxon and Thuringian infantry were present in strength at Bouvines in 1214 and fought in nearly every important campaign of the 11th and 12thcenturies.

The standard role of infantry in this period was of an almost entirely defensive nature, an attitude which remained prevalent until the beginning of the 14th century. They were either assigned to the cavalry units or organised separately, usually as close-order phalanxes. They could be drawn up before, behind, between or on the flanks of the cavalry depending on circumstances.

To strengthen the infantry and boost their morale many commanders chose to dismount at least a percentage of their knights, particularly in the late-11th and 12th centuries; this is especially true of English, Norman and German armies. Prior to the 13th century, in fact, German knights are recorded in a number of contemporary sources as better at fighting on foot than on horse. The 12thcentury Byzantine chronicler Cinnamus records them as being at their best fighting on foot with the sword, comparing them to the French who were better on horseback with the lance. William of Apulia, describing Swabian knights fighting on foot at Civitate in 1053, says they were ‘better with the sword than the lance since they are incapable of handling their horses or thrusting vigorously [with the lance]. But they excel with the sword.’ At Damascus in the Second Crusade we even find German knights dismounting to charge, William of Tyre telling us that this ‘was the custom of the Germans when circumstances obliged them to use it.’ Conversely, we are told that French knights were of little value on foot, while a source ofc. 1120 describes Breton knights as 7 times more effective mounted than they were when dismounted.

Other infantry were provided by town militias from the 11th century onwards, these participating in most of the civil wars which racked the reigns of every German king of this era.

They were obliged to go to war when ever called upon to do so by their sovereign (ie, the ruling prince, duke, bishop etc of the state in which the town stood, which in the case of Reichsunmittelbare towns-those under direct royal control- was the king or Emperor himself). In most cases, however, they were not expected to do much more than defend their own town walls, except in dire circumstances when they might be called upon to serve in the field locally (this obligation frequently being reduced in the 13th century so that service could not be called for further than a half-day’s march from the militia’s home town). Hence the reliance on Italian, Brabancon and other indigenous or mercenary infantry when campaigning outside Germany.

Auxiliaries were also employed, Magyars, Poles, Wends and other Slavs all being recorded in the 10th and 1th centuries. Even Danish auxiliaries are sometimes mentioned, by the mid-11th century apparently sometimes serving as cavalry As an indication of the numbers of troops available, 32 legiones were mustered for an attack on the Capetian Hugh the Great in 946, though these included Carolingian French and Flemish units, while at Lechfield in 955 there were 8 legiones, probably a more usual size for an army. Otto II, campaigning in Italy in 982, requested reinforcements of 2,080 feudal cavalry from Lotharingia, Bavaria, Franconia and Swabia, 1,482 of whom were supplied by ecclesiastical vassals; this may very well have been after his defeat by the Arabs at Cotrone, where he is recorded to have lost 4,000 men killed plus many more captured. In the mid-11th century Henry II had adequate troops to promise a Milanese rebel the loan of 4,000 knights (probably ministeriales).