Friedrich Mieth

Friedrich Mieth, an officer of great physical and moral courage, was born in Eberswalde, Brandenburg, about 30 miles northeast of Berlin, on June 4, 1888. He entered the army in 1906 as a Fahnenjunker in the 2nd Jaeger Battalion and was commissioned in the infantry in 1907. He served with distinction in World War I, where he fought on the Western Front, in Rumania, and with the Turkish Army. He performed well, became a company commander, and was wounded at least once. He remained in the army throughout the Weimar era, joined the General Staff, worked in the Defense Ministry, and was promoted to major in 1928. After Hitler came to power, the highly capable Mieth rose rapidly as the Wehrmacht expanded, being promoted to lieutenant colonel (1933), colonel (1935), and major general on April 1, 1938. In the meantime he commanded the 27th Infantry Regiment at Rostock, Pomerania (1936–1938) and served as chief of staff of Wehrkreis XII (1938–1939), which headquartered in Wiesbaden, Hesse. He was chief of staff of the 1st Army on the Western Front when World War II broke out.

Mieth was one of the first officers to clash with Hitler and the Nazis over the Einsatzgruppen (murder squads) and the SS and SD atrocities in Poland. In January 1940, Reinhard Heydrich, the brutal chief of the SD, set up a liquidation camp at Soldau, Poland, near the East Prussian border. When Mieth learned of this, he assembled the officers of the 1st Army and told them, “The SS has carried out mass executions without proper trials. The SS has besmirched the Wehrmacht’s honor.”

Prior to Mieth’s speech Hitler may have been unaware of Heydrich’s specific actions, but he certainly endorsed them in principle. In this clash between the army and the SS he quickly demonstrated which side he was on. Mieth was dismissed from his post on January 22 and sent into retirement. General Franz Halder, chief of the General Staff of the army and sometimes an anti-Hitler conspirator, rescued Mieth from professional oblivion three weeks later by naming him chief of the Operations Department (O Qu I) of OKH. This took a considerable amount of courage on Halder’s part. Remarkably, Mieth was promoted to lieutenant general on March 1, 1940—only five weeks after Hitler had sacked him.

In his new job, Mieth was involved in planning and executing the Western campaign of 1940—especially the operations on the Upper Rhine. During the last phase of the Battle of Dunkirk he served as OKH liaison officer with the 18th Army in a successful effort to transfer its divisions to the south as rapidly as possible. Partially as a result of these efforts, elements of the 18th Army took Paris on June 14. Later Mieth helped coordinate the buildup of forces between Army Group A (von Rundstedt) and OKH for the final phase of the conquest of France and toured the 9th Army’s front as the representative of General Halder. He was named chief of staff of the Armistice Commission on June 25, 1940.

After France capitulated and Operation Sea Lion, the invasion of the United Kingdom, was cancelled, Friedrich Mieth apparently tired of his duties in Berlin and asked for a command. He took over the 112th Infantry Division near Mannheim on December 10, 1940, the day it was officially activated. Sent to Russia in July, the 112th fought at Bobruisk, Kiev, and Bryansk and suffered heavy losses during the retreat from Moscow in the winter of 1941–1942. It was occupying a relatively static sector of Army Group Center’s line when Stalingrad was encircled on November 23, 1942.

When the Rumanian armies collapsed, Hitler upgraded headquarters’ 11th Army to Headquarters, Army Group Don, and called upon the brilliant Field Marshal Erich von Manstein to stabilize the front and save 6th Army. Manstein hastily summoned Mieth and named him commander of security and rear-area troops for the new army group. Because of the rapid speed of the Soviet breakthroughs, however, Mieth’s real function was to organize ad hoc units and lead them into combat to help stem the Russian tide. On New Year’s Day 1943, for example, he was in the Zymlia sector, commanding four ad hoc combat groups, each of approximately regimental strength, plus the 336th Infantry Division and what was left of the 7th Luftwaffe Field Division. With these forces he was conducting a delaying action near the Don River. His hastily organized headquarters was already known as Korps Mieth.

From January to July 1943, Mieth fought in the battles along the Don, in the Donetz, and in the retreat to the Mius. During this period he had to maintain constant flexibility because his units were always changing, as the southern sector of the Eastern Front underwent crisis after crisis. On March 4, for example, Mieth controlled the 336th and 384th Infantry divisions and the 23rd Panzer Division. Five weeks later all these units had been transferred, and Mieth was directing the 3rd Mountain and the 304th and 335th Infantry divisions. Mieth, however, proved himself to be an excellent field commander, and on April 20, 1943 (Hitler’s birthday), he was promoted to general of infantry. His headquarters was recognized as a permanent formation on July 20, when it was upgraded to IV Corps—named after a unit destroyed at Stalingrad. In the meantime, it received its corps units, including the 404th Artillery Command (Arko 404), the 44th Signal Battalion, and the 404th Supply Troop.

Friedrich Mieth continued to distinguish himself on the Russian Front throughout 1943 and into 1944, earning his Knight’s Cross and Oak Leaves in the process. He did not make headlines in America or Britain, or even in Germany, for that matter. He was, rather, one of many solid, dependable, highly competent German generals, fighting very skillfully against heavy odds, for a cause in which he did not believe and for a leader and regime he did not love, but for a country he did love. Meanwhile, IV Corps was pushed inexorably back, across the Dnieper, out of the Nikopol Bridgehead, across the Nogay Steppe and over the Bug and Dnestr, all the way to Moldavia in the eastern Carpathians, where the Soviet spring offensive of 1944 was finally brought to a halt. Here, as part of Colonel General Johannes Friessner’s Army Group South Ukraine, it awaited the next, inevitable Soviet attack.

In the meantime, secret negotiations were taking place between representatives of the Soviet Union and the political enemies of Hitler’s ally, Rumanian dictator Ion Antonescu. On August 20, the anticipated Soviet offensive began with a massive artillery bombardment, followed by strong ground attacks. In all, the Soviets had 90 infantry divisions and six tank and mechanized corps, or more than 925,000 men. Friessner met them with 360,000 German soldiers (23 divisions, of which 21 were infantry) and 23 Rumanian divisions—all of which had lost the will to fight. Of the army group’s 392-mile front, 160 miles were held by unreliable Rumanian troops. Although the Germans held their positions, the Rumanian front broke in a number of places, and there were incidents of Rumanians disarming and arresting German liaison staffs and cutting German communications and even firing on German troops. Friessner was already retreating when the Soviets sprang the trap.

On the afternoon of August 23, Antonescu was deposed and arrested and Rumania defected from the Axis, and that night the king broadcast a message to the Rumanian people stating that Rumania would join the United Nations against their common enemy—Germany. Meanwhile, the Rumanian Army stopped fighting the Soviets, whose motorized columns surged unopposed into the German rear. They were already 40 miles behind IV Corps before Mieth learned what was going on in Bucharest. Two days later Rumania formally declared war on Germany.

Meanwhile, on the morning of August 24, Friessner made the difficult decision to save what little of his army group he could save (for the defense of Hungary) and abandon the rest. Those forces already cut off in Rumania would have to break out and escape on their own—if they could. These included virtually the entire 6th Army (resurrected since Stalingrad) and the IV Corps of the 8th Army.

On August 21, Mieth’s corps consisted of the German 370th, 79th, and 376th Infantry divisions and the 11th Rumanian Division. Outflanked by a major Red Army attack to the west, Mieth at once retreated to the south, parallel to the Pruth River, although he lost a number of heavy guns in the process. (It had rained, and his horses could not move them out of the heavy mud.) Mieth had already lost contact with the corps on both his flanks.

August 22 was a day of continuous fighting with Soviet vanguards, as IV Corps slowly fell back to the previously prepared Trajan position. The sky was cloudless and the heat oppressive. The rainwater had already evaporated, and dust choked the veteran foot soldiers, who nevertheless beat back every Soviet attack. By this point of the war, the Luftwaffe was long since a spent force even in the East. Soviet airplanes bombed and strafed all the roads more or less continuously. No one had seen a German fighter plane for a long time.

Despite these difficulties, Mieth managed to keep his corps together—except for the 11th Rumanian, which had been engaged but was still not conforming to his instructions. Mieth ordered Lieutenant General Friedrich-August Weinknecht, the commander of the 79th Infantry, to visit the Rumanian commander, to coordinate operations and bring the 11th back into the battle. While the two divisional commanders were talking, panic-stricken hordes of Rumanians—led by their officers—suddenly appeared and rushed by them, babbling something about being under tank attack even though not one vehicle could be heard. The Rumanian commander tried to halt the rout and even resorted to using his whip, but he could not perform a miracle. The next day he was forced to report that his division had dissolved.

Fourth Corps continued its withdrawal on August 23, under the remorseless sun and cloudless sky. Soviet mechanized and armored attacks against the rearguards were bolder now and beaten off with difficulty. No food had arrived for some time, and the troops ate their Iron Rations or lived on what little corn they could find in the poor Rumanian fields. The wounded, without medication or proper attention, were carried along in primitive farm carts and died like flies in the scorching heat. By August 24 the men were nearing exhaustion when Mieth learned from a radio interception that Soviet armor had overrun Husi, cutting IV Corps off to the south and destroying or dispersing the supply units in the process. Any possibility of help or resupply was now gone. Meanwhile, stragglers from two other crushed German infantry divisions joined Mieth’s columns in an effort to escape the impending disaster. On August 25 and 26, with strong Soviet forces to his front and rear, Friedrich Mieth launched a series of desperate attacks against Husi; however, due to the swampland that almost surrounded the town, the stiffness of the Soviet resistance, and the rapidly diminishing combat strength of his exhausted corps, he was unable to take the place and reopen the escape route to the south. He therefore ordered all carts burned and all unwanted horses shot.

General Mieth’s new plan was desperate, although definitely in line with the situation. He planned to change direction and march to the west. Fourth Corps would attack across the Berlad River, destroy all its remaining equipment, and break into small groups. These parties were then to head for German lines in the Carpathian Mountains, about 70 miles away—or at least Mieth hoped they were heading for German lines. He had had no contact with any higher or adjacent headquarters for days (although he must have assumed—correctly—that the latter had already been destroyed). In reality, Mieth had no way of knowing where either German or enemy forces were located.

The German assault group was supposed to form up for the attack on the night of August 27–28. It was to be spearheaded by the 79th Infantry Division and led by the four assault guns still left to the division, followed by its two combat engineer companies. The infantry by now was low in ammunition and too exhausted to be of much use. The foot soldiers who could still walk followed like zombies, in stupefied silence.

General Weinknecht tried to carry out the assault as scheduled, but it proved to be impossible. The combat organization of the 79th Infantry Division was breaking down, communications were gone, and the exhausted troops, many of whom had not eaten for days, simply could not be aroused in sufficient numbers. Delay followed delay until well after daybreak. Meanwhile, a hollow-eyed General Mieth showed up at the division command post, shaken and disheveled. He told how his headquarters had been overrun by Soviet troops a few hours before. With the Reds pressing heavily into his rear, Mieth was not happy that Weinknecht had not yet crossed the river, and the two exchanged harsh words, largely brought on by the physical and mental strain of the preceding nine days. In any event, the 79th Infantry, followed by other units and stragglers, crossed the river under artillery and mortar fire and overran the Soviet blocking positions on the morning of August 29. Friedrich Mieth himself was right up front with the engineers in close combat, and this is where he died. Due to conflicting reports, we do not know for sure whether he fell to a Soviet bullet or to a heart attack, but he certainly would have preferred the former.

Once across the Berlad, IV Corps broke up as planned. Later that day, Red Army radio traffic revealed that Mieth’s men had broken across the river in strength and that about 20,000 of them had pushed southwest of Husi. Almost all of these were run down and killed or captured by the Soviets or the Rumanians. Only one member of the 79th Infantry Division reached German lines in Hungary 12 days later. He was now 300 miles from Iasi, where the ordeal began. The detailed reports of the other divisions of the IV Corps are lacking, but they could not have done much better. In sum, Army Group South Ukraine lost all but five of its divisions in the Rumanian disaster. Three of these were west of the Soviet offensive when it began and were not engaged, and two (the 13th Panzer and 10th Panzer Grenadier) were mobile enough and acted quickly enough to escape. Some rear-area units, of course, were far enough behind the front to escape as well, and a few isolated bands of infantry made their way back to German lines weeks after the fighting began. Exact losses will never be known but could not have been much below 200,000 men. Most of these were never heard from again.

Hamilcar Barca (c. 275–228 BC

Hamilcar Barca (c. 275–228 BC) – Leader of the Barcid family and father of Hannibal, Hasdrubal and Mago. He was father-in-law to Hasdrubal the Fair. Barca means ‘thunderbolt’.

In 247 BC, in an effort to break the deadlock, a new commander was sent from Carthage to take over the troops in Sicily. Hamilcar would live up to his nickname, ‘Barca’, which appears to have meant ‘Lightning’ or ‘Flash’. The situation that faced him was grim. Carthage was confined to just two strongholds, while the remainder of the island was controlled by Rome and its allies. What was more, Hamilcar had few troops and no money to hire any fresh mercenaries. As one historian has recently put it, ‘Realistically then, his [Hamilcar’s] task was not so much to win the war as to avoid losing it.’

After first bringing his mutinous troops into line by executing the ringleaders, Hamilcar was ready to make his presence felt. After a first attack on an island close to Drepana was easily rebuffed, he wisely switched to softer targets with which to boast his own prestige and his troops’ morale. He launched a naval raid on the southern toe of the Italian peninsula, where there were no Roman forces. But Hamilcar Barca’s real genius lay not on the battlefield, where he appears to have been a proficient but not exceptional tactician, but in knowing how to generate an appropriate public image for himself. Faced with the overwhelming military superiority of the enemy, a hit-and-run strategy was to some extent forced upon him, but that strategy nevertheless suited a man who appears to have appreciated profoundly the symbolic capital which could accrue through a series of eye-catching, if strategically pointless, raids.

On the way back from the successful but ineffectual Italian expedition, he seized the height of Heircte, which most scholars now think was the mountain range centred around Monte Castellacio to the west of the Roman-held city of Panormus. From this easily defended point, which had access to fresh water, pasturage and the sea, Hamilcar planned a series of lightning strikes against enemy-held territory. His initial raid on the Italian mainland delivered morale-boosting booty and prisoners; thereafter things settled down to a ‘cat-andmouse’ war of attrition with the local Roman forces. By launching swift raids from his mountain refuge, Hamilcar was able to disrupt Roman supply lines and tie down a large number of Roman soldiers who could have been well used elsewhere. However, this strategy also tied down much-needed Carthaginian troops too. Thus, under Hamilcar, the Carthaginians came no closer to re-establishing their control of their old possessions on the island, let alone capturing new territory. Recognizing this, Hamilcar withdrew from Heircte in 244 BC and planned an even bolder venture: the recapture of Eryx.

Sailing in under the cover of night, Hamilcar led his army up to the town and massacred the Roman garrison there. The civilian population was deported to nearby Drepana, one of Carthage’s last outposts, but curiously Hamilcar seems to have made no initial attempt to capture a further Roman garrison stationed on the summit of Mount Eryx. The town, which lay just inland from Drepana, certainly had strategic advantages, for, at over 600 metres, it provided an incomparable view over the coastal plain and the sea. Yet taking it was a odd choice, since it left Hamilcar and his force perched halfway up a mountainside between Roman forces at the top and at Panormus. The one route to his anchorage, following a narrow twisting path, only added to his problems.

In terms of military strategy, Eryx would prove as fruitless as the heights of Heircte had done. Although Hamilcar continually harried the Roman forces who were besieging Drepana, his own side suffered as many losses as his opponents. Once again Hamilcar’s military strategy yielded a high profile for the dashing leader, but mixed results. At one point he was even forced to ask his Roman opposite number for a truce so that he could bury his dead. This was followed by a thousand-strong group of Gallic mercenaries in his army, fed up with the unrewarding war of attrition in which they were involved, attempting to betray Eryx and the Carthaginian army to the Romans. What Eryx lacked in strategic advantage, however, it more than made up for with its strong association with those halcyon days when the Carthaginians had been the dominant force on the island, rather than a defeated contender desperately clinging on to its last few enclaves. What could be better for the burgeoning reputation of a young ambitious general than seizing back a town which the Carthaginians had held for so long and in which they had such emotional investment? Eryx was the holy site where the goddess Astarte had for centuries held sway under the protection of her divine companion Melqart.

In fact matters were soon taken out of Hamilcar’s hands. In Rome, it had been decided that the only way of breaking the deadlock was to rebuild the fleet. As treasury funds were low, much of the money for this ship-construction programme had to be borrowed from private individuals. The result was a fleet of 200 quinqueremes modelled on the superior design of Hannibal the Rhodian’s ship. In a conscious attempt to create a confrontation, the blockade of Lilybaeum and Drepana was tightened, thereby forcing the Carthaginians to act. It took the Carthaginians nine months to assemble a fleet of 250 ships. Although they outnumbered the Romans, the ships were poorly prepared and the crews lacked training. Furthermore, the admiral, Hanno, hardly had a distinguished record against the Romans, having presided over previous defeats at Acragas and Ecnomus. The plan was to drop off supplies for the army in Sicily before taking on troops to serve as marines.

In 241 the fleet crossed over to the Aegates Islands, just to the west of Sicily, and waited for a favourable wind to carry them to Sicily itself. But the Roman fleet, already aware of their location, caught up with the Carthaginians as they were preparing to cross. For the first time, the Roman fleet had no need of the corvi, as it was superior in all areas of seamanship and naval warfare. The Carthaginian crews–poorly trained, with too few marines, and burdened down with supplies– stood no chance. The Romans sank 50 Carthaginian ships and captured 70 before the remainder managed to escape.

The disaster broke the Carthaginians’ resolve, and they sued for peace. The terms agreed in 241 were harsh, but not unexpected. The Carthaginians were to evacuate the whole of Sicily, to free all Roman prisoners of war, and to pay a ransom for their own. Lilybaeum, which had held out to the bitter end, was surrendered to the Romans. A huge indemnity of 2,200 talents was to be paid to Rome over a period of twenty years. Lastly, neither Carthage nor Rome was to interfere in the affairs of the other’s allies nor recruit soldiers nor raise money for public buildings on the other’s territory. When the treaty was put before the Roman Popular Assembly to be ratified, the terms were made even stiffer. The indemnity was raised to 3,200 talents, with 1,000 due immediately and the remainder within ten years. Carthage was also to evacuate all the islands between Sicily and North Africa, but was allowed to hold on to Sardinia. Faced with ruin if the war continued, the Carthaginians had little option but to accept.

Monty's Close Call

Bernard Law Montgomery (1887-1976), in uniform during World War I. (Photo by © Hulton-Deutsch Collection/CORBIS/Corbis via Getty Images)

Field Marshal Sir Bernard Montgomery, Britain’s highly acclaimed European commander at the close of World War II, was but a junior lieutenant on 13 October 1916 when he materialized in a German sniper’s scope at Meieren, France. Seriously wounded, Lieutenant Montgomery fell in the open and lay still, in hopes he would not be shot again. “But a soldier ran to me and began to put a field dressing on my wound,” he recounted in his memoirs. “He was shot through the head by a sniper and collapsed on top of me.”

Despite lying still, the future field marshal became the sniper’s target. “The sniper continued to fire at us and I got a second wound in the knee,” he wrote. The lifeless soldier atop him, who’d died trying to save him, was shot over and over and “received many bullets intended for me.”

There was nothing more for Monty’s comrades to do but hope and wait for dark- ness. All day he lay there, hour after hour, until finally a party of stretcher bearers came for him that night. After such an ordeal the doctors did not think he would live, and a grave was dug for him. But somehow, despite his loss of blood, multiple wounds, and hours of dehydration, Lieutenant Montgomery pulled through. The rest is history.

Louis-Gabriel Suchet, (1770-1826)

Louis-Gabriel Suchet emerged as the most successful of Napoleon’s generals in coping with the difficulties of fighting in the Iberian Peninsula. After campaigning in Italy and Switzerland during the War of the Second Coalition, he fought with distinction as a divisional commander in the successful campaigns of 1805, 1806, and 1807. Al- though his early career brought him numerous laurels in conventional warfare, Suchet received no training in the complex task of fighting simultaneously against both guerrillas and regular enemy forces. But in 1808, Napoleon promoted the rising young leader to command a corps in Spain. There Suchet had a run of successes, pacifying the province of Aragon for several years and extending French control for a time into neighboring Catalonia and Valencia. His single greatest achievement, for which he won his marshal’s baton, was capturing the Spanish fortress of Tarragona in May 1811. Only when the Earl (later Duke) of Wellington had defeated other French leaders and driven them from Spain into southern France was Suchet compelled to agree to an armistice with the enemy. Rallying to Napoleon in the spring of 1815, he held a high-ranking post in the defense of France’s eastern border. Suchet survived the end of the Napoleonic era in France by a little more than a decade, dying in 1826.

Louis-Gabriel Suchet was a child of privilege, born at his father’s country estate near Lyons on 2 March 1770. The son of a wealthy silk manufacturer, the young man joined the National Guard, then entered a volunteer battalion as a private soldier in 1792. Within a year, his fellow soldiers had chosen him as lieutenant colonel of the same unit. Suchet’s battalion participated in the siege of the port of Toulon, where his battlefield exploits brought him to the attention of General Napoleon Bonaparte. During the 1796-1797 campaign in Italy, Suchet served at times in General André Masséna’s division, at other times in the division led by General Pierre Augereau. He was wounded in battle several times, displayed both tactical skill and bravery, and rose to the rank of colonel. When the French army left Italy to pursue the Austrian enemy into their homeland, Suchet commanded the advance guard of Bonaparte’s forces.

Although he reached the rank of général de brigade in 1798 and général de division in 1799, the years following the Italian campaign saw Suchet’s career lose some of its upward momentum. His personal relationship with Bonaparte was cool: Suchet exhibited no affection for his commander, and Bonaparte reciprocated by excluding the young officer from the list of associates marked for promotion to the top of the military hierarchy. Moreover, a paradoxical combination of political traits made him suspect to the government back in Paris. Suchet’s family background gave him the appearance of a sympathizer with the de- posed aristocracy. At the same time, Suchet’s extravagant rhetoric in favor of deepening the effect of the Revolution was seen as too radical for the post-Jacobin era.

Nonetheless, Suchet saw his reputation rise in the eyes of several senior commanders. Serving as a brigade commander under Masséna in Switzerland in the spring of 1799, he pulled his unit out of a perilous position after the bold French advance into eastern Switzerland. After returning safely to French lines, the young general received the post of Masséna’s chief of staff. Later that year, he served as chief of staff to General Barthélemy Joubert in Italy. In that capacity, Suchet advised his commander to avoid fighting a superior Russian force at Novi in August. When Joubert ignored the advice and was killed in the sub- sequent battle, Suchet helped to lead the defeated French army home.

Masséna’s 1800 campaign in northwestern Italy, which culminated in the siege of Genoa, brought Suchet mixed success. As commander of the northern segment of the French line, Suchet was unable to hold back an Austrian force, being pushed as far westward as Nice and beyond. His failure forced Masséna into a defensive position behind the walls of the important Italian port city. Suchet redeemed himself, however, by halting the Austrian offensive along the river Var west of Nice, thereby safeguarding the route into southern France. By holding down some 30,000 Austrian troops in Provence during May with his own meager force of only about 8,000 men, Suchet contributed to Bonaparte’s successful crossing of the Alps and subse- quent victory at the Battle of Marengo.

In the years following, Suchet received only modest rewards. Named the French army’s inspector general of infantry in 1801, he was passed over when several of his contemporaries received the title of marshal on 19 May 1804. With the formation of the Grande Armée, Suchet got the relatively lowly post of divisional commander. Fighting in V Corps under Marshal Jean Lannes, Suchet had a string of exceptional successes. His division advanced rapidly into Germany in the summer of 1805, thereby helping to confine and capture the Austrian army under Feldmarschalleutnant Karl Mack Freiherr von Leiberich at Ulm. At the subsequent Battle of Austerlitz in early December, Suchet’s troops held the French army’s northern flank against Russian attacks, permitting Napoleon to concentrate his forces in the center for the victorious strike against the enemy’s lines. In October 1806, Suchet’s division was the first to encounter the Prussian army and achieve a French victory in the fighting at Saalfeld; in the ensuing Battle of Jena, Suchet’s men again spearheaded the French advance.

In the subsequent offensive into Poland in late 1806 and early 1807, Suchet received orders to guard the area around Warsaw. Although his troops saw action at Pultusk and Ostrolenka, Suchet had no role to play in the great battlefield dramas of Eylau and Friedland. Nonetheless, his solid, sometimes brilliant leadership now brought him ap- propriate rewards. In March 1808, Napoleon granted him several large estates and named him a Count of the Empire. Moreover, after fifteen years of service, Suchet ascended to command of an army corps. In September 1808, he received orders to take this force into Spain.

Suchet had never fought guerrillas as he was to do so often in Spain. But he had experienced enough leadership challenges to help him cope better than many of his con- temporaries in the French army with the problems of both conventional and irregular warfare in the Peninsula. Campaigning in an area in which he was unlikely to receive reinforcements, Suchet saw the need to preserve the strength of his army at all costs. Ever since his service with the ragged troops of Bonaparte’s Army of Italy in 1796-1797, Suchet had been a stickler for obtaining adequate supplies of food for his men. And he insisted on suitable medical care for them. At the same time, he had become convinced of the advantages of unwavering discipline in the army. He was also equipped by experience for the delicate task of occupying a hostile area. As military governor of Toulon back in 1793, he had begun to acquire experience in ruling over a civilian population, and he had served as military governor of the Italian city of Padua in early 1801.

Suchet arrived in Spain in December 1808. He was ordered to Aragon to join other commanders like Marshal Adolphe Mortier and General Jean Andoche Junot in besieging the key Spanish fortress of Saragossa. Dispatched to northeastern Spain at this early stage in the Peninsular War, Suchet was to spend most of the following five years here.

In helping with the siege of Saragossa, a major city on the river Ebro, the young general soon faced the problems of guerrilla warfare. His role was to hold the road center of Calatayud, to the southwest of Saragossa, thus maintaining the besiegers’ supply line with Madrid. In dealing with the local population, Suchet tested some of the policies that served him well throughout his posting in the Peninsula. In particular, he worked to win over the Spanish under his jurisdiction by avoiding the harsh requisitioning policies that elsewhere provoked fierce popular resistance.

With the fall of Saragossa in February 1809, Suchet replaced Junot as commander of V Corps and received the assignment of pacifying Aragon. Although the three divisions he now led were notoriously ill-disciplined, Suchet transformed them into a potent fighting force that later received the title of the Army of Aragon. The French leader shook off an initial defeat at the hands of General Joaquin Blake at Alcaniz in late May. Dismissing incompetent officers and reconstituting his forces, he led his troops to victories over Blake in battles at Maria and Belchite the following month, thereby freeing Aragon of conventional Spanish forces.

Suchet’s next task was to cope with insurgents within the Aragonese population. His success came from a mixture of conciliation and firmness. He capitalized on separatist feeling in Aragon and the willingness of the local population to disavow allegiance to the old Spanish monarchy. He saw no need to harass local religious leaders, and he was comfortable calling on representatives of the population to offer him advice and suggestions. In forming a police force, he tried to rely on the local population for recruits, and he had some modest success in bringing local notables into the French administration. Meanwhile, Suchet made every effort to maintain discipline among his own troops by paying them regularly and providing them with adequate rations. By employing an entire army corps in controlling the people of Aragon, Suchet assured that local insurgents, who had not yet organized effectively, could not get a foothold in the region. He soon gained a reputation for unmitigated harshness in dealing with guerrillas who fell into his hands.

Success in counterinsurgency received a boost from the fact that, starting in mid-1809 after defeating the Austrians at Wagram, Napoleon did not face organized opposition elsewhere. Since the Emperor had no need to draw troops from Spain for a number of years, Suchet was allowed to keep his forces intact. He even received a stream of reinforcements from across the Pyrenees. On the other hand, cooperation among the generals in charge of individual provinces in Spain was conspicuous by its absence. While Suchet could clear Aragon of insurgent opposition, the elusive enemy could easily slip over into a neighboring province. Nor was Suchet, for all his abilities, willing to cooperate with his fellow French generals.

Pursuing a policy certain to rouse popular feeling against the occupiers, Napoleon insisted on draining away the resources of the Spanish countryside. The Emperor directed Suchet to undertake other responsibilities that undercut the successes in Aragon. By requiring Suchet to advance into the neighboring provinces of Catalonia and Valencia in February 1810, Napoleon began to spread Suchet’s troops perilously thin. Insurgents in Aragon took notice.

Suchet failed in an initial attempt to take the port city of Valencia in April 1810, but he then produced a series of dramatic successes. His troops captured two main Spanish strongholds in southern Catalonia-Lérida and Tortosa- and Suchet became recognized as one French commander who could produce good results against both enemy regulars and enemy insurgents.

The highpoint of Suchet’s command in Spain came in 1811 with the capture of Tarragona; on 8 July he received the baton of Marshal of the Empire as a reward for this achievement, becoming the only French general to win this distinction in the Peninsula. As a major port and key fortress, Tarragona enabled regular Spanish forces to maintain themselves in lower Catalonia. A difficult siege began in early May, with the defenders aided by the presence of a Royal Navy squadron. British warships directed artillery fire against the French attackers, and British transports brought Spanish forces by sea to reinforce Tarragona’s garrison. By the close of June, Suchet’s Army of Aragon had breached the fortress walls, fought through the streets of the city, and captured a garrison of 9,000. But even Suchet, the disciplinarian and advocate of moderate treatment for Spanish civilians, found himself helpless to control his victorious French forces. Filled with excitement and post-battle exhilaration, Suchet’s troops sacked the city and murdered thousands of Tarragona’s population.

Suchet faced a new challenge when Napoleon ordered him to move against the city of Valencia. The city was the last base of support for Spanish regular forces in eastern Spain, and it provided crucial supplies for guerrillas operating in that part of the country. In October, a new victory over Blake at Sagunto, north of Valencia, put the Army of Aragon in a position to advance on Valencia itself. Suchet took the city in January 1812, capturing his longtime adversary Blake along with 18,000 troops. Napoleon recognized the feat of arms by naming Suchet duc d’Albufera, after a small body of water near the captured city.

But Suchet’s success at Valencia had negative consequences. For one thing, concentrating the army for a conventional campaign enabled insurgents back in Aragon to renew their activities. Moreover, Napoleon diverted troops from the Army of Portugal in western Spain in order to reinforce Suchet. With the shrinkage in French troops there, Wellington received a golden opportunity to strike at his enemy’s border fortresses at Ciudad Rodrigo and Badajoz. With these in his hands, the British commander in chief was able to advance into the center of Spain and even to take temporary possession of Madrid.

Reconstructing the Grande Armée in 1813 after his disastrous Russian campaign, Napoleon desperately needed troops in Germany. The Emperor transferred units from Italy to Germany, leaving a gap that Napoleon filled by drawing troops from Suchet’s command. Thus, Italian regiments serving under Suchet were reconstituted as a single division and sent back to Italy. Besides his diminished resources, Suchet found himself confronted with the potent opposition of the Royal Navy. In the spring, a landing force of British and Sicilian troops tried to recapture Tarragona. He was able to bring sufficient forces together to relieve the city in August, but by then the overall situation in Spain was growing increasingly unstable.

After the defeat of French forces at Vitoria in June 1813, and Wellington’s invasion of French territory in October, Suchet realized that holding extensive territory in northeastern Spain was no longer possible. He withdrew to northern Catalonia, and, in a controversial decision, refused to join Marshal Nicolas Soult in a counteroffensive Soult had planned against Wellington. In early 1814, Suchet was pushed northward to Gerona and then to the approaches to the Pyrenees at Figueras. At this time, new demands from Napoleon that troops leave Spain for the campaign in France deprived Suchet of over 20,000 troops, leaving barely 12,000 soldiers under his command.

Suchet’s troops remained a disciplined, if small fighting force in southwestern France when Napoleon’s resistance to the invading Allies collapsed in the spring of 1814. With his headquarters at Narbonne, Suchet negotiated an armistice with Wellington. It was his only important con- tact with the distinguished British commander. Alone among the senior French military leaders who served years in Spain, Suchet never faced Wellington on the battlefield. The French marshal also declared his allegiance to the restored monarchy of Louis XVIII and received a number of rewards. Elevated to the peerage, Suchet obtained a succession of prestigious military commands. Napoleon’s return from exile in March 1815 found Suchet as commander of the 5th Division stationed at Strasbourg.

Suchet joined several of the other marshals in rallying to Napoleon’s service. Although Suchet had not seen the Emperor since 1808, Napoleon showed that he was aware of the talents of this Peninsular veteran, awarding him a significant independent command. Suchet was sent to Lyons as Napoleon prepared to thrust his army into Belgium, and he was given the mission of defending south- eastern France. His “Corps of Observation of the Alps” consisted of some 8,000 regulars and 15,000 members of the National Guard. With this meager force, Suchet had to shield France from an Austrian and Piedmontese attack expected to advance from Switzerland or Savoy.

Suchet took the initiative away from the enemy by driving into Savoy and seizing the key military routes through the Alps. His offensive began on 14 June, the day before Napoleon’s troops entered Belgium. Facing a well- led, veteran Austrian army of some 48,000 men, however, Suchet was compelled to order a retreat, which most of the army carried out in a disciplined manner. More than a week after Waterloo, he learned about Napoleon’s defeat and abdication, and he followed orders from the provisional government in Paris to negotiate an armistice with the enemy.

As a penalty for having renewed his ties with Napoleon, Suchet was deprived of both his peerage and his military post at Strasbourg. His peerage was restored in 1819, but he never again received any military responsibilities. After living his last decade in obscurity, Suchet died at his chateau near Marseilles on 3 June 1826.

Leo III the Isaurian (ca. 680–741)

Byzantine emperor. Leo III, whose original name was Konon, is popularly known as Leo the Isaurian. He was born possibly in 680 in Germanikeia, a city in the ancient country of Commagene in the Roman province of Syria (present-day Maras in southeastern Turkey). It is not clear when, but he entered the service of Byzantine emperor Justinian II (r. 685-695) and was sent by him on a diplomatic mission and then was appointed general (strategus) by Emperor Anastasius II (r. 713- 715). When Anastasius was deposed, Leo joined with another general, Artabasdus, to overthrow the usurper and the new emperor Theodosius III (r. 715-717), who had done little to prepare the empire for an impending Muslim assault on Constantinople. Leo entered Constantinople on March 25, 717; forced the abdication of Theodosius; and assumed the throne, taking the name of Leo III.

As emperor, Leo immediately set to work preparing Constantinople for attack, strengthening its defenses and laying in stocks of food to meet a large Muslim force sent by Caliph Suleiman ibn Abd al-Malik and commanded by his general Maslamah. The Muslims hoped to take advantage of the chaos in the Byzantine Empire to capture the great city of Constantinople. the Muslim army besieged the walls of the capital, and Suleiman’s 1800 ships sailed into the Marmara. Leo gained Bulgarian help in this crucial war to stop the Muslim expansion from entering eastern Europe. Once again Greek fire enabled the Byzantine navy to destroy the Muslim fleet, though the blockade lasted a year until August 718. That year Sicily general Sergius tried to proclaim a new Emperor, and two years later ex-Emperor Anastasius II escaped from Thessalonica and tried to reclaim power with Bulgarian support; but both these efforts failed. Muslim armies invaded Asia Minor every year from 726 to 740, when they were defeated by Leo’s army at Acroinon. Leo’s son Constantine married a daughter of the Khazar Khan in 733. Having become Emperor after being the military governor of a powerful theme, Leo divided the larger themes into two parts. Western Anatolia became the Thracesion theme. The maritime Carabisian theme was divided, though the large Opsikion theme was still governed by Leo’s son-in-law Artabasdus.

Having preserved his empire from Muslim overlordship, Leo turned his attention to administrative reform. In 718 he suppressed a rebellion in Sicily, and the next year he crushed an attempt to restore deposed emperor Anastasius II. Leo also reorganized the army and helped restore depopulated areas of the empire by inviting Slavic settlers to live there. He also formed alliances with the Khazars and the Georgians. His reforms were so successful that when the Muslims again invaded the empire in both 726 and 739, they were decisively defeated.

Leo also introduced important legal reforms in the empire that changed taxes and raised the status of serfs to free tenants. He rewrote the law codes, and in 726 he published a collection of his legal reforms, the Eclogia.

Leo’s most striking reforms were probably in the area of religion, where he insisted on the baptism of all Jews and Montanists in the empire in 722 and then embarked on iconoclasm, issuing a series of edicts that prohibited the worship of images. Although many people supported his iconoclasm, a number of others, especially in the western part of the empire, did not. In 727 the imperial fleet crushed a revolt in Greece that had been prompted chiefly by religious reasons. Leo replaced the patriarch of Constantinople, who disagreed with him in the matter of icons. Leo also clashed with Pope Gregory II and Pope Gregory III in Italy on this issue. In 727 Leo sent a large fleet to Italy to crush a revolt in Ravenna, but a great storm largely destroyed the fleet, and southern Italy successfully defied him, with the exarchate of Ravenna in effect becoming free of Byzantine control. Leo continued as emperor until his death on June 18, 741. He was succeeded by his son, Constantine V.

A resourceful, energetic, and bold general, Leo saved the Byzantine Empire and, not incidentally, Western civilization from Muslim control. He also won time for the Byzantine Empire to recover from its early political chaos and survive.

The Second Siege of Constantinople and the Fall of the Umayyad Dynasty (717–50)

The continuing turmoil in Constantinople could not have gone unnoticed in Damascus. Earlier that same year Sulayman ibn Abd al-Malik assumed the caliphate and inaugurated his rule by propelling his brother, Maslamah ibn Abd al-Malik, into Asia Minor at the head of 80,000 troops, while a huge armada of reportedly 1,800 vessels made its way around the south coast. Constantinople was about to experience its most dire confrontation with Islam until its final fall over seven centuries later.

The details of the ensuing epic engagement are discussed in a separate section at the end of the chapter as an example of sea combat in the period, but it suffices to say here that it unfolded in a manner similar to the siege of 672–8, with much the same result. As the Arab forces approached Constantinople in the spring of 717, Leo the Isaurian, the strategos of the Anatolikon Theme, engineered a coup to replace the ill-suited Theodosios III on the throne. Under his inspired leadership as Leo III, the Byzantines then used dromōns spewing ‘Greek fire’ to break up an Umayyad attempt to blockade the Bosporus. The besieging Arab army fared even worse. A particularly harsh winter ravaged it with deprivation and disease. And the following spring offered little relief. Nearly 800 supply ships arrived from Egypt and Ifriqiyah, but their Coptic Christian crews switched sides en masse. Without the precious provisions which these ships carried, Maslama’s troops fell easy prey to the Bulgars of Khan Tervel, with whom Leo had formed a propitious alliance. The Bulgars butchered some 22,000 of the Arabs. Umar ibn Abd al-Aziz, the new caliph, had little choice but to recall his forces. It was a battered Umayyad army that retreated across Asia Minor in the autumn of 718 and only five vessels of the once massive Muslim armada managed to run the gauntlet of autumn storms in the Hellespont and Aegean to reach their home port.

It was a disastrous Muslim defeat, which should have put Islam on the defensive for decades to come, but inexplicably Leo chose this time to delve into the religious controversy that was to be the bane of Byzantium. In 726 he inaugurated Iconoclasm (literally, ‘the smashing of icons’) by ordering the removal of the icon of Christ over the Chalke entrance to the imperial palace in Constantinople. In 730 he followed up this action with an imperial decree against all icons. This polemical policy was to rend the fabric of the empire for the next fifty-seven years. It proved particularly unpopular in Italy and the Aegean areas. In early 727 the fleets of the Hellas and Karabisian Themes revolted and proclaimed a certain Kosmas as emperor. Leo managed to devastate and disperse these fleets with his own, again using ‘Greek fire’, the secret of which was apparently restricted to Constantinople at the time.

The episode, nonetheless, prompted the emperor to dissolve the troublesome Karabisian Theme and restructure the provincial fleets in order to dilute their threat to the throne. Leo placed the south coast of Asia Minor, formerly a responsibility of the disbanded Karabisian Theme, under the authority of the more tractable droungarios of the Kibyrrhaeot fleet, whose headquarters was transferred to Attaleia (present-day Antalya). Land-based themes, like the Hellas and Peloponnesos, were also allowed to maintain fleets of their own. These modifications to fleet organization were probably intended to help defuse naval power and make it more subservient to the emperor.

Despite their humiliating failure before the walls of Constantinople, the Umayyads took advantage of continued Byzantine upheaval both in the palace and in the Church to nibble away at the edges of the empire. A long period of raid and counter-raid ensued between Damascus and Constantinople, mostly involving either Egypt or Cyprus. But ultimately the Byzantines’ advantage in naval organization, possession of ‘Greek fire’ and virtual monopoly of such critical shipbuilding materials as wood and iron ensured they would prevail, at least in the eastern Mediterranean. The climax of the contest came in 747, when the Kibyrrhaeot fleet surprised an enormous armada from Alexandria in a harbour on Cyprus called Keramaia (exact location unknown). ‘Out of 1,000 dromōns it is said only three escaped,’ professed Theophanes. This was undoubtedly a chauvinistic exaggeration, but Umayyad naval power was evidently broken by the outcome of the battle and never again posed a serious threat to the Byzantine Empire. The Umayyad Dynasty came to an end just three years later when the Abbasids led by Abu al-Abbas as-Saffah crushed Caliph Marwan II at the Battle of Zab (Mesopotamia) in late January 750. The subsequent Abbasid Caliphate moved its capital from Damascus to Baghdad and focused its initial attention on the East.

Further Reading Bury, J. B. A History of the Later Roman Empire from Arcadius to Irene. 2 vols. Amsterdam: Hakkert, 1966. Gero, Stephen. Byzantine Iconoclasm during the Reign of Leo III, with Particular Attention to the Oriental Sources. Louvain: Secrétariat du Corpus SCO, 1973. Guilland, Rodolphe. “L’expédition de Maslama contre Constantinople (717-718).” In Études Byzantines, 109-133. Paris: Presses universitaires de France, 1959. Ladner, Gerhart. “Origin and Significance of the Byzantine Iconoclastic Controversy.” Mediaeval Studies 2 (1940): 127-149. Ostragorsky, George. A History of the Byzantine State. Translated by John Hussey. New Brunswick, NJ: Rutgers University Press, 1969. Treadgold, Warren. A History of the Byzantine State and Society. Stanford, CA: University of Stanford Press, 1997.

General Sir Bernard Paget (1887–1961), GCB, DSO, MC

The Commander in Chief Home Forces, General Sir Bernard Paget, October 1942 Half length portrait of General Sir Bernard Paget, Commander in Chief, Home Forces.

General Sir Bernard Paget talks to a parachute jumping instructor at Ringway. Air Marhal Sir Arthur Barratt is in the centre and Group Captain Maurice Newnham on the extreme right.

The son of a bishop and educated at Shrewsbury and RMC, Sandhurst, Paget was commissioned in the Oxfordshire and Buckinghamshire Light Infantry in 1907. His First War service was in France, where he was five times mentioned in despatches, awarded the MC in 1915 and admitted to the DSO in 1917. Twice wounded, he was never fully to recover the use of his left arm.

Married in 1918 and a graduate of the Staff College, Camberley, in 1920, Paget shone as a teacher of officers and trainer of troops. A lieutenant colonel in 1925, he was an instructor at Camberley 1926–1928 and, after attending the Imperial Defence College in 1929, served on the instructing staff at the Staff College, Quetta, 1932–1934, followed by a two-year spell at the War Office. Commander of the Quetta Brigade and Baluchistan District 1936–1937, he was promoted major general and appointed Commandant of the Staff College, Camberley, in 1938.

GOC of 18th Division 1939–1940, Paget was ‘summoned at a moment’s notice’ (DNB) in April 1940 and sent with his divisional staff to Åndalsnes in Norway. There, installed as head of SICKLEFORCE, he supervised the successful withdrawal and evacuation of British troops. It took less than a week, but his ‘fine feat of arms’ was rewarded with him being appointed CB.

Appointed CGS Home Forces in June 1940, Paget, a ‘large-nosed, dark-haired, sharp-tongued’ man, who could be ‘extremely funny when he chose’ (Fraser, 2002, 140), was promoted lieutenant general the following year. Made C-in-C South Eastern Command, his troop-training expertise came to the fore and his hot temper, elephantine memory and capacity to devote ‘half and hour’s discussion . . . over where a comma should be placed in a sentence’ (Pyman, 1971, 61) made him something of a legend. His brusqueness of manner, ‘that seemed to combine rudeness and bad temper’ (Hamilton, 1982, 516), was put down to the continuous pain he suffered from his war wound. Eager to make training more realistic, he was probably the commander most responsible for instituting battle-drill. Tipped to succeed Dill as CIGS in December 1941, Brooke, ever one to elide his own interests with those of the state, regarded the prospect as ‘a tragedy [and] a definite step towards losing the war’ (Danchev & Todman, 2001, 198).

Appointed C-in-C Home Forces in December 1941, Paget was knighted the next year. It was probably he who was most responsible for preparing the army for the opening of the second front in Europe. Appropriately appointed C-in-C 21st Army Group in June 1943, he was, just as appropriately, sidelined that December when Montgomery, who described him as having ‘very rigid ideas’ (Alanbrooke, 6/2/22, LHCMA), was summoned from Italy to assume that command. Always the bridesmaid, and ‘bitterly disappointed at not being allowed to use in battle the weapon he had shaped and termpered’ (Grigg, 1948), he was appointed C-in-C Middle East Force and divided his time over the rest of the war between Cairo and Baghdad. His younger son was killed in action in Holland in 1945.

Retired from the army in 1946, Paget enjoyed what appears to have been a fantastically busy retirement. Principal of Ashridge College, a Conservative-oriented adult education centre promoting ‘good citizenship’, he resigned after a row with the governors. He was Colonel Commandant of the Oxfordshire and Buckinghamshire Light Infantry 1946–1955 and Colonel Commandant of the Reconnaissance and Intelligence Corps 1943–1952. Sometime National Chairman of the Forces Help Society, he was a longstanding Vice-President of the Royal Commonwealth Society for the Blind. Much decorated by foreign governments, he was a Freeman of the City of Cork and DL for Hampshire from 1952. He died at his home in Petersfield at the age of 73.


Chandragupta had defeated the remaining Macedonian satrapies in the northwest of the Indian subcontinent by 317 BCE.

Around 321 BCE Chandragupta Maurya established himself as the ruler of the Indian kingdom of Magadha, supplanting the long- established and powerful Nanda dynasty. Although little historical evidence has survived of this conflict, it appears that Chandragupta took inspiration from Alexander the Great, whom he may even have met. His campaign against the Nanda was probably fought using popular guerrilla tactics. His forces drew a noose gradually tighter around the Magadha capital, Pataliputra (now Patna), until the overwhelmingly superior Nanda army was defeated.


Once in possession of the resources of a kingdom, Chandragupta seems to have used them to create a highly organized regular army, plentifully supplied with weaponry, chariots, war elephants, and horses. A Greek envoy to India, Megasthenes, was impressed by the high morale of Chandragupta’s soldiers, whom he described as “of good cheer”, a state of mind perhaps sustained by the high wages that they were paid in peace as in war. Although Magadha was in northeastern India, roughly in the area of modern-day Bihar and Bengal, Chandragupta extended his rule far to the west and south. He fought a war against Seleucus Nicator, Alexander’s former  general, who ruled the northwest of the Indian subcontinent, taking from him an area stretching from Punjab and Kashmir north into Kandahar and Baluchistan. In later years  he led his  armies south  into the Deccan.

Chandragupta’s armed strength can be gauged from his gift of 500 elephants to Seleucus to seal their peace agreement in 303 BCE – an astonishing number of valuable animals for a ruler to feel able to spare. In old age Chandragupta abdicated in favour of his son, Bindusara, bequeathing the most extensive empire seen in India up to that date.

When Alexander the Great withdrew from India, he left the defeated king Porus as vassal of an expanded kingdom. Porus remained loyal to Alexander and his successors, but he encouraged the Indian prince, Chandragupta, who emulated Alexander himself. Chandragupta had met Alexander and had been introduced to the Macedonian way of war, though he, and other Indian kings, preferred to continue using war elephants and chariots in a four-part division of their armies—elephant, chariot, cavalry, foot. After the death of Alexander Chandragupta raised an army and defeated the Macedonians in India. Buoyed by this success, he overthrew the king of Magadha—Magadha, centered on the Ganges and patron of the Buddha, was the most powerful state of some 120 independent kingdoms in India.

Chandragupta (reigned 321-297) expanded his power along the Ganges and into the Indus valley, where he had to contend with Seleucus Nicator in 305. The details of their battles are lost, but Seleucus ceded all territory east of the Indus and the western provinces of Arachosia and Gedrosia. In return Chandragupta presented Seleucus with 500 war elephants and took a daughter in marriage. (Seleucus was forced to keep his attention on his wars in the west and prepare for an impending battle—Ipsus—with his rivals.) Chandragupta founded the Mauryan Empire. His empire encompassed the whole of northern Indian and Afghanistan. A curious story relates that when a famine struck his kingdom, Chandragupta joined the religious sect of the Jains, abdicated, and accompanied a party of Jains south in search of better conditions. There he starved himself to death. His son (who took the title Slayer of the Enemy) increased the size of the empire and passed it on to his own son, Asoka.

Chandragupta organized his empire around the central point of his capital city, Patna. He maintained a standing army (according to contemporary reports) of 300,000-600,000 infantry, 30,000 cavalry, and 9,000 elephants. By now the chariot, though still a royal status symbol, was obsolete. Indian rulers lived a life of warfare, hunting, gambling, and sports (a race between chariots pulled by combined teams of horses and oxen was popular). Chandragupta feared assassination, as he was quite ready to encourage the assassination of rival kings, and so he did not sleep in the same bedroom two nights in a row. He was an absolute monarch at the head of a fully organized and closely controlled bureaucracy. One bureau had charge of the military and was divided into six boards controlled by five men each: navy, quartermaster, infantry, cavalry, chariot, and elephant. The army was to be recruited from “robbers, mountain men, gangs, forest people, and warrior clans.” Soldiers were to receive a regular salary and their equipment, but they had to be mindful of the guiding principle of Mauryan government—the art of government is the art of punishment.

Chandragupta’s right-hand man, Kautilya, is the supposed author of a work on politics and war (the Arthasatra) that describes, summarizes, and advises on the situation of the time of Chandragupta. There are sections on the duties of the ministers of the boards of elephants, boards of chariots, and boards of infantry—to inspect the troops, to check their equipment, their proficiency in training (“in shooting arrows, throwing clubs, wearing armor, fighting seated in a chariot, controlling the team of horses”), and their pay. Among sections on organization and punishment (appropriate tortures) are chapters on when and how to attack, to make and betray allies, to feign peace, and to use spies to gather intelligence. “If you face two enemies, one strong and one weak, which should you attack first? The strong, because once he is defeated, the weak will capitulate without a fight.”

Part 10 offers advice on war. The king’s camp should be sited by the commander, an astrologer, and the engineer. It should be divided into nine parts with six roads. The quarters for the king should be surrounded by trenches, parapets, and a wall with gates. There should be a place for his harem and the harem guard, his financial officials, the gods and their priests, stables for the royal mounts (elephants and horses), quarters for infantry, chariots, cavalry, elephants, and free labor, for merchants, prostitutes, hunters, spies and guards. People should not be allowed to come and go. Drinking, parties, and gambling are prohibited. Wells should be dug in advance all along the way.

“Armies in good locations will defeat armies in bad.” The best rate of march is ten and a quarter miles a day. There are different formations for marching. Provisions and water must be supplied in advance. “Strike the enemy when he is caught in unfavorable terrain.” Deceive the enemy, feign defeat. Look for places to put ambushes. Harass the enemy at night to prevent his sleeping. Before a pitched battle the king says to his troops, “I’m being paid just like you. You and I will both profit from this conquest.” The priests encourage the army. Priests (and poets) should say that heroes go to heaven and cowards go to hell. Offer cash rewards for acts of bravery.

The army’s back should be to the sun. “When a defeated army resumes its attack, it cares not whether it lives or dies, its fury cannot be resisted; let a defeated army flee.” The different divisions of the army do better on different terrain. The best terrain for the chariot is dry ground that is firm, level, and free of wagon ruts, trees, plants, vines, and thorns. The duties of the four armies is described in detail. The order of the army arranged for battle is: the strongest troops will lead the attack from center, left, and right. Once the enemy is broken, the weaker troops in reserve will destroy the enemy. The king should station himself with the reserve. “Never fight without a reserve.”

The moral of the Arthasatra is to deceive and divide your enemies without allowing them to deceive and divide you. “When an archer shoots an arrow, he may miss his target, but intrigue can kill even the unborn.” In part the Arthasatra is a manual of organization of the army. Chandragupta relied on a core of trained men supplemented by levies of militia and by mercenaries (independent war guilds that sold their services to the highest bidder). There were mercenary corps (guilds) of elephant troops.

The elephant was now the royal mount of the kings. Elephants were armored, had neck ropes and bells, and they carried hooks and quivers, slings, and lances. Seven men rode their backs, employing the different weapons. The elephant was used to connect different elements of the army, to guard the flanks when advancing and to guard the rear in retreat. An army might have 8,000 chariots, 1,000 elephants, 60,000 horse; an ideal division of an army would have 10,000 horse, 2,000 elephants, 10,000 foot, and 500 chariots. A unit organized to care for the wounded followed the army.

Asoka (reigned 274-232) began his reign as his father and grandfather before him—an autocrat devoted to the hunt, feasts, gambling, and war—but the campaign he led against the Kalingas (a people on the middle of the southeast coast) changed his life and the life of the whole of India. He wrote (paraphrased), “I conquered Kalinga in the eighth year of my reign (261 B. C.) and had 150,000 people carried off as prisoners, I was responsible for 100,000 slain, and many times 100,000 died. Then I suffered remorse for having conquered the Kalingas because conquest of an independent country necessitates the slaughter and the capture of the people. I regret this. Now I desire that all living creatures—even the people of the forest who I wish would mend their ways—live in peace without fear.”

True conquest (according to Asoka) depended upon the conquest of men’s hearts. Among these true conquests he included disparate people in his own domains, neighbors, and the kings of Ptolemaic Egypt, Cyrene, Asia Minor, and the Seleucid empire. Such conquests win favor in the next world, too. Asoka sponsored Buddhist missions to the Hellenistic kingdoms, to Ceylon (where they rapidly converted the inhabitants), and to east and north. As the unity of the Roman Empire in the future was to contribute to the rapid spread of Christianity, so the Mauryan unity contributed to the rapid spread of Buddhism. Asoka intended to inculcate in his people—by being accessible to them and by showing them through his own example—the three virtues, reverence to authority, respect for life, and truth. After his death in 232 the empire began to disintegrate, because of both the lethargy of his successors and the increased aggressiveness of the Seleucids.

Details of specific battles do not survive, but in the epic of the battle between the Kurus and the Pandavas an elephant battle is described. Elephant was used against elephant, but in the melee an elephant would trample and crush anything that got in its way. The most feared elephant was a male in rut. Its musk glands discharged a noxious substance that warned other elephants to give it wide berth (unless they, too, were in rut). The difficulty with elephants in rut is that they are impossible to control.


On both sides there arose a clamor, shouting, the blare of cow horns, beating drums and cymbals and tabors, and the two sides rushed upon each other. The prince’s shouts rose above the noise made by the thousands of neighing horses and filled the enemy with fear. Horses and elephants all lost control of their bladders and bowels. The sun himself was shrouded by the dust raised by the warriors.

Huge elephants with wounded temples attacked other huge elephants, and they tore one another with their tusks. They had castles and standards on their backs, they were trained to fight, and they struck with their tusks and were struck in turn, and they shrieked in agony. They were goaded forward by pikes and hooks, and so they fought each other, though it was not the mating season. Some elephants uttered cries like cranes and fled in all directions. Many elephants, bleeding from temple and mouth, torn by swords, lances, and arrows, shrieked aloud, fell down, and died.

One warrior turned his elephant with upraised trunk and rushed upon a chariot. The elephant in his anger placed his foot upon the yoke of the chariot and killed the four large horses, but the chariot warrior stayed on his chariot with the dead horses and threw a lance, made entirely of iron and resembling a snake, and he hit the elephant-warrior. The lance pierced his coat of mail; he dropped the hook and his lance and fell down from his elephant’s neck. The chariot warrior drew his sword, jumped down from his chariot, swung with all his strength, and hacked off the elephant’s trunk. The elephant’s coat of mail was pierced all over with arrows, his trunk was cut off, and he uttered a loud shriek and fell down and died.


Arising in the kingdom of Magadha, the Mauryan empire (321–185 B . C .), with its capital Pataliputra (modern Patna), was the first imperial polity in South Asia. Under the able leadership of its founder, Chandragupta Maurya (r. 321–297 B . C .), and his successors Bindusara (r. 297–272 B . C .) and Ashoka (r. 268–231 B . C .), the empire integrated several key regions of the subcontinent into a loosely structured but tightly drawn imperial network, and bequeathed a significant historical legacy to the subcontinent’s history. The sources of Mauryan history include archaeological remains, Brahmanical and Buddhist textual sources, foreign travel accounts, and most importantly, the public edicts of Ashoka.

By the middle of first millennium B.C., a number of small polities called mahajanapadas had grown up along the Ganges. The more powerful of these at the time—the kingdoms of Kashi, Koshala, and Magadha, and the more distant Vrijji confederation—were clustered in the middle Gangetic Plain, which had seen extensive development in agriculture, intensive urbanization, and the rise of new religious movements like Buddhism and Jainism. By the beginning of the fifth century B . C ., Magadha had gained the upper hand over its rivals through the leader- ship of the raja (king) Bimbisara, whose line was eventually displaced by the Nanda dynasty at the beginning in the fourth century B . C . Nanda imperial ambitions might have brought them into conflict with the generals of Alexander the Great, who conquered the eastern provinces of the Achaemenid empire in northwestern India, but his usurpation by Chandragupta Maurya in 321 B . C . brought a swift end to Nanda rule.

With the Gangetic Plain largely under his dominion, Chandragupta pursued campaigns in central India and the northwest, where by the end of the fourth century B . C . he had gained territory from a Greek successor state ruled by Seleucus Nicator. An envoy of Seleucus, Megasthenes, visited the Mauryan empire and its capital at Pataliputra and left an account of it called Indika. Toward the end of his life, Chandragupta is said to have embraced the Jain faith, abdicated the throne, and migrated to Sravana Belgola in present-day Karnataka, where he fasted to death in Jain tradition. The events of the reign of Chandragupta’s son, Bindusara, are uncertain, but by the time that Ashoka inherited the kingdom in 268 B . C ., the empire was considerably expanded. Knowledge of Ashoka’s reign is drawn from a series of public edicts, which reveal the specific policies and vision of the emperor, and provide crucial information about Mauryan society. The edicts of the earlier half of his reign were carved on rock surfaces and distributed widely through the empire, while those toward the end were issued mostly in its Gangetic heartland and were inscribed on polished sandstone pillars, each surmounted with a finely carved animal capital. Most of the inscriptions were issued in the Prakrit language written in Brahmi script, but in the northwest some have been found in Greek and Aramaic, written in the Kharoshti script used in Iran. Ashoka extended the influence of the empire even farther than his forefathers, with the southernmost limits of his inscriptions being found in the lower Deccan. Sometime around 260 B.C., Ashoka conquered the region of Kalinga (present-day Orissa). The devastation wrought by his campaign so impressed him that he publicly expressed remorse in his thirteenth rock edict. Judging from this edict, Ashoka seems to have curtailed further wars of expansion and maintained cordial relations with neigh- boring polities, both within the subcontinent and beyond.

Many of Ashoka’s edicts have a distinctly ethical dimension—enjoining his subjects to honor elders, show consideration to menials, refrain from hurting living beings, avoid needless ceremony, and most of all, follow dharma (right action, teaching). Many of these exhortations bear a distinctively Buddhist stamp, and indeed, Ashoka considered himself a lay convert to the faith and gave generously to its institutions. Perhaps as a concession to these principles, he deterred the performance of Vedic sacrifices that involved the killing of animals. In the Buddhist tradition, he became a legendary figure, being viewed as the paradigmatic Buddhist emperor, or cakravartin. The degree to which he actually propagated Buddhist doctrine, however, remains an open question, and it would seem that the dharma of his edicts did not refer to Buddhist doctrine as such but had a more general ethical sense. Yet the connection between Ashoka and Buddhism is undeniable, and it remains a fact that Bud- dhism grew into a powerful and influential religion, with imperial and universal ambitions, during the Mauryan period.

Regular agricultural revenues from the Gangetic heartland provided the basic wealth of the Mauryan empire, and punch-marked coins circulated as currency in certain sectors of the economy. Urban life continued to be important, with manufacturing and commerce forming an important source of individual and state wealth. Beyond inscriptions, another source used by scholars to understand the structure and functioning of the Mauryan empire is the Artha Shastra, a treatise on government attributed to Chanakya (Kautilya), minister of Chandragupta. While the existing text was probably not compiled in Mauryan times, certain parts may be as early, and thus provide a normative perspective on Mauryan society and polity. Ashoka’s edicts and the Artha Shastra, read together, confirm that a set of regularized ministerial offices, service cadre, judges, and revenue assessors formed the core of the state apparatus. The inscriptions themselves mark the first widespread use of written records (after the undeciphered Indus Valley script). Assessing the structure of Mauryan polity from the evidence is more difficult. Until recently, historians tended to portray the Mauryan empire as a centrally organized, uniformly administered, bureaucratic polity. Recent work has suggested, however, that such an image, driven by modern theories of state, may not be correct. It has been argued that the Mauryan empire should be seen as a metropolitan hub (Magadha) linked to a number of core and peripheral “nodes.” Cores and peripheries were not distinguished by geographical location, but by socioeconomic articulation. Core areas, typically represented by clusters of Ashokan inscriptions, were regions where the metropole significantly influenced local economy and society, while peripheral areas, less populated and developed, were largely incorporated for revenue extraction alone. Thus the empire was composed of a network of different local economies and social structures, linked through a relatively simple, but horizontal, imperial system. Although this system disintegrated not long after Ashoka’s death in 231 B . C ., the Mauryan empire—with its innovations in the technology of rule and its integration of economic networks—had a lasting effect on early India, acting as a catalyst for further economic and political development in many of the empire’s core and peripheral regions.


Allchin, F. R. The Archaeology of Early Historic India. Cambridge, U. K.: Cambridge University Press, 1995. Bongard-Levin, G. M. Mauryan India. New Delhi: Sterling, 1985. Sharma, R. S. Material Culture and Social Formations in Ancient India. Delhi: Macmillan, 1983. Sircar, D. C. Inscriptions of Asoka. Delhi: South Asia Books, 1998. Thapar, Romila. Asoka and the Decline of the Mauryas. Delhi: Oxford University Press, 1973. ———. From Lineage to State: Social Formations in the Mid- First Millennium B . C . in the Ganga Valley. Delhi: Oxford University Press, 1984. ———. The Mauryas Revisited. Kolkata: K. P. Bagchi, 1987

Polish Tank Ace

A TKS armed with a Nkm wz.38 FK 20mm autocannon, the same type commanded by Orlik.

The alleged wreck of Prince Victor von Ratibor’s Panzer IV.

Sketch of the clash at Pociecha made by R. Columbine. 1, II-positions of TK tankettes from km; III, IILA, IlIB with TKS which were armed with 20 mm cannons positions; 1, 2, 3-positions of hit German tanks.

Sketch of the battle for Sieraków also made by R. Columbine. Shown are TKS tankettes with 20 mm cannon, during which they engaged German tanks (marked with numbers from 1 to 7)

Plutonowy podchorąży rez. Roman Edmund Orlik (71. armoured dyon of Wielkopolska Cavalry Brigade) was one of the first tank aces of WW II.

On 18th of September during the combat of Pociecha he eliminated 3 tanks from Panzer-Regiment 11. from 1. Leichte-Division. He also destroyed several motorized vehicles during that combat and took 2 prisoners of war (tank crew). He also tried to rescue the crew of one of those eliminated by him German tanks – which started to burn – but he – unfortunately – didn’t manage to rescue them and all of them died.

Among tanks eliminated by Orlik on 18th of September there was tank of Leutnant (or Oberleutnant ?) Victor IV Albrecht von Ratibor – commander of a platoon. The whole his platoon was eliminated during that combat and Prinz Victor IV Albrecht von Ratibor was heavily WIA and severely burned – and after a few minutes he died. He was born in 1916 and was first son of Victor III August and Elizabeth zu Oettingen-Oettingen und Öttingen-Spilberg.

On 19th of September Orlik eliminated 7 German tanks (from Panzer-Abteilung 65. or from I. battalion of Panzer-Regiment 11.) during the battle of Sieraków. Most of those 7 tanks eliminated (most probably 6 of them) were Pz-35(t) tanks.

His tankette was one of 2 tankettes from 71. armoured dyon of Wielkopolska Cavalry Brigade (both of them were TKS tankettes with 20mm automatic guns) which broke through to Warsaw (during the night from 20th to 21st of September 1939). He was later fighting in Warsaw until 28th of September 1939.

Orlik’s victories (kills) during the battle of Sieraków

German sources say that during the failed German Panzer counterattack on Sieraków, Panzer-Abteilung 65. lost 26 KIA and WIA tank crewmen (including 4 officers, 5 NCOs and 17 soldiers).

The majority of tanks of Panzer-Abteilung 65. which took part in the attack (and most probably the whole Abteilung took part) were eliminated during that battle. Also Bade writes about this. According to Bade (and also according to German daily reports) the remaining German tanks escaped towards Hornówek and Lipków.

German tanks were attacking (according to Bade – but Polish sources confirm it) in two separated groups at the same time (it is possible – but not certain -, that apart from Panzer-Abteilung 65. also I. battalion of Panzer-Regiment 11. took part in that attack – or at least some part of it). Both groups were defeated and dispersed.

From the first group the Poles eliminated 27 tanks – 7 by Orlik, 20 by 7. light artillery dyon (direct fire) and 7. horse rifle regiment (the majority by regimental AT guns). During combats with this group the Poles (7. horse rifle regiment) lost 56 men – 14 KIA and 42 WIA.

From the second group the Poles eliminated 11 tanks – including 2 by direct fire of artillery platoon from 14. light artillery dyon (porucznik F. Orzeszko) and 3 by platoon of AT guns cal. 37mm of podporucznik Wiktor Ziemiński from 14. uhlan regiment (two of them were destroyed by Wiktor Ziemiński himself). The remaining 6 were eliminated by elements of 17. and 14. uhlan regiments and 9. horse rifle regiment.

Before the German counterattack, during the Polish attack on Sieraków (in the morning – the attack started , around 10:00 – so after less than 10 hours – Sieraków was captured), platoon from 15. light artillery regiment eliminated 2 tanks. Few tanks were also eliminated by 6. uhlan regiment – which was fighting north of Sieraków. And also in Sieraków (during the Polish attack) – apart from 34 German trucks (full of equipment and ammo), which were captured and later destroyed there, a few tanks were eliminated. While conquering Sieraków Polish forces also captured 9 machine guns.

Polish forces which took part in the battle of Sieraków – Laski (elements of Wielkopolska and Podolska Cavalry Brigades) were fighting both with tanks of Panzer-Abteilung 65. and tanks of I. battalion of Panzer-Regiment 11. during that day.

During the battle of Sieraków the Poles captured – according to the Polish sources – 70 POWs from II./KSR.4 and inflicted heavy casualties to it.

According to the German sources – both the German daily reports and relation of Bade – II./KSR.4 was dispersed and crushed during that day, and the remaining rests of it gathered on the road from Truskaw to Izabelin, where they established a hedgehog defence.