Falklands Sea Kings



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

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

On April 2, 1982, Argentinean forces invaded the Falkland Islands, touching off the Falklands War, or the Guerro Pour Los Malvinas, which lasted until June 20. Both countries possessed many of the same type of helicopters, but, despite the loss of most of their helicopters when an Exocet missile slammed into the container ship Atlantic Conveyor, the British helicopters and crews proved much more effective than the Argentineans. Operating in immoderate weather conditions, the UK machines accomplished extraordinary rescues and inflicted heavy losses on the enemy. When two Wessex HU5s crashed on Fortuna Glacier, another Wessex crew, contending with 90-mph winds and blinding snow, rescued both downed crews. During the short war, Wessex and Sea King helicopters plucked several downed aircrews from the icy waters off the Falklands, in both plane guard and SAR roles. In their baptism of fire, 20 naval Lynxes, armed with Mk 44, Mk 66, or Stingray torpedoes, or four BEA Sea Skua ASMs, scored 100 percent accuracy in the antisurface role. The Lynx HAS 2 was faster and more agile than previous British ASW helicopters and carried an updated Sea Spray search/targeting radar to locate enemy shipping and the 600-mph Sea Skua, designed to attack vessels moving at up to 50 knots. Army Lynxes, and the Chinook saved from the fire-ravaged Atlantic Conveyor, performed more than credible service in transporting troops and supplies throughout the campaign.
A number of Sea Kings were deployed during the Falklands War. They were transported to the combat zone and operated from the decks of various ships of the Royal Navy, such as the landing platform dock HMS Fearless. In the theatre, they performed a wide range of missions, from anti-submarine patrols and reconnaissance flights to replenishment operations and the insertion of special forces. Support provided by the Sea Kings in the form of transport for men and supplies has been viewed as vital to the success of the British operation. Sea Kings also protected the fleet by acting as decoys against incoming Exocet missiles, with some missions being flown by Prince Andrew, Duke of York.

Anti-Submarine Sea Kings of 820 Naval Air Squadron were embarked in HMS Invincible. With 11 HAS.5s, the squadron operated anti-submarine and search and rescue sorties with one helicopter always airborne on surface search duties. On 14 June, an 820 NAS Sea King HAS.5 was used to transport Major General Jeremy Moore to Port Stanley to accept the surrender of Argentine troops on the island. The squadron flew 1,650 sorties during the war. A Flight of 824 Naval Air Squadron embarked two Sea King HAS.2As aboard RFA Olmeda and were used to move supplies to other ships on the way south and later anti-submarine patrols. C Flight had three Sea King HAS.2As on board RFA Fort Grange which were used for replenishment duties, supplying over 2,000 tons of stores.
825 Naval Air Squadron was formed for the war with 10 Sea King HAS.2s modified as utility variants to support ground forces. The anti-submarine equipment was removed and the helicopters fitted with troop seats. Two aircraft embarked in Queen Elizabeth 2 and were later used for moving troops from QE2 to other ships, the remainder embarked in Atlantic Causeway and were used for troop movements around the islands. Embarked in HMS Hermes was 826 Naval Air Squadron with nine HAS.5s, which carried out continuous anti-submarine sorties. From the departure of Hermes from Ascension in April until the Argentine surrender, the squadron operated at least three helicopters airborne continuously for fleet protection.

On 23 April 1982, a Sea King HC4 was ditched while performing a risky transfer of supplies to a ship at night, operating from the flagship HMS Hermes. On 12 May, a Sea King operating from Hermes crashed into the sea due to an altimeter problem; all crew were rescued. On 19 May 1982 a Sea King, in the process of transporting SAS troops to HMS Intrepid from Hermes, crashed into the sea while attempting to land on Intrepid. Twenty-two men were killed and nine survived. Bird feathers were found in the debris, suggesting a bird strike, although the accident’s cause is inconclusive. The SAS lost 18 men in the crash, their highest number of casualties on one day since the Second World War. The Royal Signals lost one man and the RAF one man.

Both the British and Argentinean military lost helicopters during the war, in combat and operational accidents. Ground fire shot down British Sea Kings and Argentinean Pumas, and both sides lost helicopters when ships on which they were based sank as a result of naval combat. Argentine Pucara ground attack aircraft shot down a couple of Gazelles, killing the crews, and a friendly fire incident, when HMS Cardiff mistakenly shot down another Gazelle with a Sea Dart, cost the United Kingdom another aircraft and crew. British Sea Harriers shot down at least three Argentinean Pumas and destroyed two others plus an Agusta 109 on the ground. By the end of the conflict British forces had captured nine Bell UH-1H Hueys, two 212s, and several Pumas left on the islands.




A Bloodhound missile at the RAF Museum, Hendon, London.

British surface-to-air missile. One of the world’s most successful surface-to-air missiles, Bloodhound employs ramjets to achieve long range. First evidence that Britain had embarked on research in this direction came in 1952 when a ramjet test vehicle, JVT-1, was exhibited at the SBAC Show at Farnborough. Developed by the old Bristol Aeroplane company from an RAE Farnborough design, its purpose was to obtain information on the behaviour of the ramjet in free flight at supersonic speeds.

The wingless test vehicle had two 6-in (15. 2-cm) diameter propulsive ducts’ mounted at the tail on aerodynamic stubs. The centre body housed fuel, fuel-system controls and automatic measuring and radio- telemetry equipment. The JVT-1 was launched from a twin-railed ramp by a pair of 7.5-in (19-cm) cordite rockets which separated well above the speed of sound, leaving the ramjet sustainers to continue to accelerate the vehicle.

Development of Bloodhound proper (under the code name Red Duster) followed extensive tests with prototypes both in Britain and Australia. Bloodhound Mk 1 entered service with the Royal Air Force in 1958 and was subsequently ordered by Sweden and Australia. Bloodhound is ramp-launched by four Bristol Aerojet strap on boosters, each of which has a large fin to assist launch stability. The missile takes the form of a cylindrical body with a dielectric pointed nose housing the semi-active radar seeker. Thor ramjets of 16-in (40.6-cm) diameter are mounted above and below the rear fuselage and flight control is achieved by all-moving wings in conjunction with fixed rectangular tail fins. The wings can move together or differentially to achieve control on the ‘twist-and-steer’ principle.

The semi-active radar homing system responds to reflected radar energy from the target when illuminated by ground radar, and the high-explosive warhead is detonated by a proximity fuze. In the forepart of the body are flexible rubber tanks for kerosene fuel, pressurized by ram air from the rear.

So effective was the performance of the original missile that a Mk 2 has been supplied to the air forces of Switzerland, Australia and Singapore.

The Mk 2 has greatly improved performance and is more effective at lower altitudes. Not only is it air-transportable for rapid deployment overseas-in 1964 it was deployed in Malaysia-but it has a more powerful Thor ramjet, more powerful boosters, and continuous-wave radar guidance.

It would be wrong to suppose that this potent weapon system is limited to high and medium-altitude targets. Trials have shown that it can deal effectively with fast targets at altitudes below 305 m (1000 ft).

Bloodhound had an important role in the NATO defence of Western Europe. RAF No 25 Squadron operated Bloodhounds at Briiggen, Laarbruch and Wildenrath, whilst No 85 Squadron had home defence responsibilities in Suffolk, Norfolk, Lincolnshire and elsewhere.

(Bloodhound Mk 1)

Length (with boosters): 7.7 m (25 ft 3 ­ in)

Diameter: 54.6 cm (21.5 in)

Range: 80-96 km (50-60 miles)

(Bloodhound Mk 2)

Length: 7.67 m

(25 ft 2 in); with boosters 8.45 m (27 ft 8 in)

Diameter: 54.6 cm (21.5 in)

Wing span: 2.83 m (9 ft 4 in)

Range: 96-161 km (60-100 miles)

Speed: Mach 2

Guidance: target-illuminating (CW) Ferranti ‘Firelight’, vehicle mounted, and GEC/AEI ‘Scorpion’





Caesar – British destroyer class



Ordered in February 1942, The Caesar Class was the 11th destroyer flotilla of the emergency war programme. They were of the same design as the earlier ‘Emergency’ flotillas and almost identical to the preceding ‘Z’ or Zephyr Class in which the traditionaI4.7-in (120-mm) gun had been replaced by a new weapon of 4.5-in (114.3-mm) calibre. Having reached the end of the alphabet with the 10th Flotilla the new group were initially given names beginning with a variety of letters, but it was then decided to give them ‘c’ names as the original ‘c’ Class had been transferred to the RCN and renamed. The final three emergency flotillas were also given ‘c’ names, and to distinguish between them they were designated the ‘Ca’ (Caesar), ‘Ch’ (Chequers), ‘Co’ (Cossack) and ‘Cr’ (Crescent) Classes.

They were designed to carry a close-range armament of one twin 40-mm (1.57-in) Hazemeyer mounting amidships, two twin 20-mm (0.79-in) abaft the funnel and two single 20-mm in the bridge wings. However, the Caprice was completed with a quadruple 2-pdr porn-porn in place of the twin 40-mm and the Cassandra mounted twin 20-mm guns in her bridge wings instead of singles. In 1945 the majority had their 20-mm mountings replaced by four 2-pdr pom-poms but Cassandra was not altered, while Caesar mounted two 2-pdrs and one 40-mm gun and the Cavendish was fitted with three 2-pdrs only. These alterations were made to increase their firepower for defence against kamikaze attacks.

The class completed between April 1944 and February 1945, the Caprice being the first 4.5-in (114.3-mm) gunned destroyer to enter service, as the first of the ‘Z’ Class did not complete until July 1944. Initially they served with the Home Fleet as the 6th Destroyer Flotilla and operated mainly in northern waters where both Cassandra and Cavalier covered Russian convoys. On December 11, 1944, while escorting RA62, the Cassandra was torpedoed by a U-Boat, about 7.62 m (25 ft) of her bow being blown away. She was towed to Murmansk, stern first, where temporary repairs were carried out by the Russians. She returned to the UK in June 1945 but home dockyards were fully occupied. The remainder of the class were transferred to the Far East and Pacific during 1945 but the majority arrived too late to take an active part in the war against Japan. All returned to Britain in 1946 and were placed in reserve until the 1950s.

In 1953 the Carron was taken in hand at Chatham dockyard for a two-year modernization. A new bridge, similar to that in the Daring Class, replaced the original structure and a new director and remote power control were provided for the main armament. The after bank of torpedo tubes was replaced by a deckhouse on which a twin Mk V Bofors was mounted and X 4.5-in (114.3-mm) mounting was supplanted by two ‘Squid’ antisubmarine mortars. All of the original close range AA weapons were removed. The rest of the class were modernized in the same manner between 1954 and 1963 the only major variation being in the last four (Caesar, Cambrian, Caprice and Cassandra) which were fitted with enclosed frigate-type bridges instead of the open destroyer type.

In 1963 the Cavendish became the first ship to be fitted with the ‘Seacat’ GWS which replaced the twin 40-mm (1.57-in) gun mounting. The Cavalier was similarly fitted in 1966. In 1971 a race was held between the Cavalier and the frigate Rapid to settle an argument over which was the fastest ship in the navy. The Cavalier won by a very narrow margin after averaging 31.8 knots over 64 miles. Most of the class were sold for scrap between 1967 and 1975, but the Cavalier which is one of the last examples of her type, has been preserved and is permanently moored at Southampton.

Caesar, Cavendish (built by J Brown)

Cambrian, Carron (built by Scotts’)

Caprice, Cassandra (built by Yarrow)

Carysfort, Cavalier (built by White).

Displacement: 1710 tons (standard), 2530 tons (full load)

Length: 110.5 m (362 ft 9 in)

Beam: 10.9 m (35 ft 9 in)

Draught: 3.04 m (10ft) mean

Machinery: 2-shaft geared steam turbines, 40 000 shp=34 knots

Armament: 4 4.5-in (114.3- mm) (4×1); 2 40-mm (1.57-in) (1 x2); 6 20-mm (0.79-in) (2×2+2×1); 8 21-in (53-cm) torpedo tubes (2×4)

Crew: 186



The Victory of Ligny: A Vanished Triumph

Battle of Ligny by Theodore Yung

Once again, Napoleon succeeded in surprising and destabilizing his enemy. He moved his forces to the frontier without the knowledge of the enemy, and at dawn on June 15 he seized Charleroi.

Having no inkling of this, Wellington and Blücher were shocked. The former even panicked slightly. Instead of moving toward Blücher as agreed, he took steps to move closer to the embarkation ports, a truly British reflex. The deception had produced its fruits.

The Prussian commander was less affected by the appearance of the French due to a base treason. General Count Louis de Bourmont, commander of a French division and an ex-émigré who had been generously pardoned, deserted to the enemy and revealed the entire campaign plan to Blücher, who could not conceal his contempt for the deserter. Aided by this information, Blücher assembled all his forces around Ligny, where he decided to give battle.

Napoleon’s scheme of maneuver was as simple as usual: attack and fix Blücher at Ligny with Grouchy’s force; take him in reverse, moving Ney’s group from Quatre Bras; and exploit the results with the main reserve under the direct orders of the emperor. But things did not go according to plan on June 16.

At 8 a.m. on Friday, 16 June Napoleon was informed that the whole of the Prussian army seemed to have assembled at Sombreffe, so he left for the extreme right flank of his forces to check for himself, arriving at Fleurus at 11 a.m. Sure enough, the Prussians were there, so he ordered Marshal Ney, who he assumed would take the Quatre Bras crossroads with relative ease, to despatch a large body of his force to him to help rout the Prussians.

By the time Ney received Napoleon’s rather florid instructions — ‘The fate of France is in your hands. Thus do not hesitate even for a moment to carry out the manoeuvre’— he was no longer capable of carrying them out. For if Wellington had been relatively slow in concentrating his forces upon Quatre Bras, fearing that it might be a feint of Napoleon’s, Ney had been still more dilatory, and by the time he started to try to take the crossroads the British reserve had already begun arriving there after a thirty-mile march. Although the credit for saving Quatre Bras must go to the initiative of General Constant Rebecque, the Dutch chief of staff, who was early on the scene and recognised its strategic importance, the actual outcome of the battle of Quatre Bras itself was due to Wellington himself.

Wellington had set out from Brussels at 3 a.m., and by 11 a.m. he was conferring with Blücher at the Brye windmill overlooking the battlefield of Ligny. It is said that he trained his telescope on Napoleon, the first time he had ever set eyes on the man with whose name his fame was to be forever inextricably linked. They had both been born on islands, they had both attended French military academies and spoke French as their second language; they were the same age, born within three months of one another in 1769; they both excelled at topography and chose Hannibal as their ultimate hero, yet they had never hitherto faced one another across a field of battle. Nor were they destined to on 16 June, since Wellington only had time to give Blücher his considered opinion as to the Prussian displacements before being called off to command the defence of Quatre Bras.

The Duke politely criticised Blücher’s decision to present the whole Prussian army to Napoleon’s view — and artillery — in the old Continental manner, explaining his own preference of trying to conceal soldiers behind the reverse slopes of hills. ‘My men prefer to see the enemy,’ replied the proud, brave, but in this case also foolhardy Prussian. Wellington’s private estimation as he rode off was: ‘If they fight here, they will be damnably mauled.’ Sure enough, when Napoleon attacked, they were.

Marshal Ney, the veteran of seventy battles, might have won the splendid soubriquet ‘the bravest of the brave’in numerous engagements, but he was not an impressive commander when left in overall charge, and there were also fears that he had been suffering from a form of ‘combat fatigue’or ‘battle stress’ ever since the gruelling Russian campaign of 1812, when he had been left to command the French rearguard after Napoleon had fled back to Paris. He had certainly become highly unpredictable by 1815, and was quite possibly simply burnt out as a soldier. Napoleon once complained that Ney understood less than the youngest drummer boy in the French army, and certainly piled complaint on complaint upon his actions — and inactions — during the Waterloo campaign when he was exiled on St Helena.

Ney, who had fallen for Wellington’s tactic of concealing his troops in the Peninsular War, only attacked at Quatre Bras late and half-heartedly, even though Wellington was not on the battlefield in the early stages and had not hidden any troops. Nor had Ney yet received Napoleon’s urgent request that he send the bulk of his force to Ligny. Instead two battles — at Ligny and Quatre Bras — developed simultaneously only about seven miles from each other. Ney had too often in the Peninsula seen the ill-effect of attacking British infantry head on, and quite possibly feared that the crossroads of Quatre Bras hid another Wellingtonian deception, in the way that in 1810 the use of topography had won him the battle of Busaco against Marshal Masséna.

Believing that Ney could manage to take Quatre Bras with the troops already under his command, Napoleon sent a message to General Drouet d’Erlon, who was on his way to reinforce Ney from Gosselies with the 1st Corps, to march to the battlefield of Ligny instead, where fierce house-to-house combat had developed. By 5 p.m. Blücher’s force was hard-pressed, and he had to commit his reserves to the struggle, a dangerous moment for any commander when facing Napoleon. Had the French emperor been able to fling d’Erlon’s fresh troops into the battle, a rout would have been assured. But no such force was there, not least because d’Erlon had been counter-ordered by Ney to march to Quatre Bras instead. As it was, d’Erlon arrived on neither battlefield in time to affect the outcome of either engagement. The greatest living authority on the campaigns of Napoleon, Dr David Chandler, has stated that the importance of the non-appearance of d’Erlon’s corps at Ligny and Quatre Bras was crucial, since ‘in either … its intervention could have been decisive’.12

By the time nightfall had descended on the battlefield of Quatre Bras it was clear that there was a stalemate, with both sides in much the same position they had occupied before Ney had originally attacked. Over 9,000 lives had been lost — roughly equally on each side — to no significant strategic advantage to either.

Yet over at Ligny a few miles to the east it was a very different picture. Even despite d’Erlon’s non-appearance, Napoleon had conclusively given Blücher the damnable mauling that Wellington had predicted. The Emperor had delayed launching an attack by his Imperial Guard — the crack regiments nicknamed ‘Les Invincibles — until 7.30 p.m., but when he had — preceded by a huge artillery bombardment — it had proved decisive. Crying ‘Vive l’Empereur!’ the Guard had charged the Prussian centre with bayonets, supported by brigades of cavalry. Although Blücher personally counterattacked with only two brigades of cavalry, the French could not be turned back.

Darkness turned the defeat into a rout. Sixteen thousand Prussians were killed or wounded at Ligny, and around 8,000 Rhinelanders deserted the colours that night and simply returned home. Nonetheless the decision was taken by Blücher’s chief of staff General August von Gneisenau — in Blücher’s absence, because the marshal could not be found — that the army should act in a completely counter-intuitive way. Instead of retreating eastwards towards Liège and Prussia, the Prussians would instead go north to Wavre, where they could stay in touch with the Anglo-Allied army. Gneisenau was an Anglophobe, but he had nevertheless made the crucial decision of the campaign, one that Wellington himself hardly exaggerated when he described it as ‘the decisive moment of the century’.

If Gneisenau had returned to Prussia, Wellington would probably have had to retreat north towards Antwerp and the Channel ports and probably re-embark the British army back to the United Kingdom, as had happened on so many other equally humiliating occasions over the past quarter-century. The Royal Navy were used to shipping defeated British forces back from a Napoleon dominated Continent, and this time would have been no different. Yet with the Prussians still in the field, and liaising closely, there was still the prospect that they could pull off the coup that Napoleon missed at Ligny, that of bringing a fresh force onto the battlefield at the psychologically vital moment.

The Prussian retreat northward necessitated Wellington making a similar manoeuvre, giving up the crossroads that had been so hard fought over only the previous day. He could not risk having the combined forces of Napoleon and Ney fall upon him, so Saturday, 17 June was spent retreating to a highly defensible position some miles to the north, on the slopes of Mont St Jean, which — despite the best efforts of generations of French historians — will always be generally known as the battlefield of Waterloo. Old Blücher has had a damned good licking and gone back to Wavre, eighteen miles,’ Wellington said. ‘As he has gone back, we must go too. I suppose in England they’ll say we have been licked. Well, I can’t help it.’It had happened enough in the past; whenever Wellington had made tactical retreats in the Peninsula there had never been a shortage of those he termed ‘croakers’, especially among the radical Whigs in the parliamentary opposition, keen to suggest that he had been defeated.

The French, too, were happy to argue that Wellington had been ‘licked’. Napoleon sent back a report of the battle of Ligny to be printed in the official government newspaper Le Moniteur which suggested that the united Prussian and Anglo-Allied armies had been defeated. The propaganda sheet duly obliged and there were celebrations in the French capital.

As for Drout d’Erlon, he wobbled all day between Ney and Napoleon without taking part in the fighting at Ligny or at Quatre Bras. After the incomplete victory of Ligny, everything had to be done over.


British Fortunes, North America 1814

Rear-Admiral George Cockburn (1772-1853) The burning of Washington forms the background to this portrait of Rear Admiral George Cockburn. At background right is the burning of the US Treasury Building and the Capitol Building

On assuming the North American command, Admiral Cochrane had wasted no time declaring his intention to wage a more uncompromising brand of warfare than his predecessor had pursued. Cochrane had arrived in Bermuda on March 6, 1814, but Admiral Sir John Warren, C-in-C Royal Navy, Northern American Hemisphere, had brusquely rebuffed Cochrane’s proposal that he take charge at once; perhaps still thinking of the prize money that was due him as long as he retained the position of commander in chief, Warren icily informed his successor that he “must decline entering into any discussion” of an early transfer and would “strictly conform to the Orders of my Lords Commissioners of the Admiralty, as to the delivering over to you the Command of His Majesty’s Ships upon this Station … and therefore am to inform you that I shall not be prepared to place you in the Command thereof until April 1.”

So Cochrane bided his time but was clearly chafing to get into the fight. The day after taking charge, he issued a proclamation opening a new front in the reinvigorated campaign he was preparing to launch along the Chesapeake with the return of summer, and the expected arrival of considerable reinforcements in men and ships.

WHEREAS it has been represented to me, that many Persons now resident in the UNITED STATES, have expressed a desire to withdraw therefrom,…

This is therefore to Give Notice,

That all those who may be disposed to emigrate from the UNITED STATES will, with their Families, be received on board of His Majesty’s Ships and Vessels of War, or at the Military Posts that may be established, upon or near the Coast of the UNITED STATES, when they will have their choice of either entering into His Majesty’s Sea or Land Forces, or of being sent as FREE Settlers to the British Possessions in North America or the West Indies, where they will meet with all due encouragement.

The notice nowhere specifically mentioned “slaves,” but it did not need to: everyone knew who it was aimed at. Cochrane had a thousand copies printed up and sent them to Cockburn, who had returned to Lynnhaven Bay a few weeks earlier to begin reconnoitering and prepare a base of operations for the summer campaign. Cochrane optimistically thought he might be getting as many as fifteen thousand troops from France plus several regiments from England and Ireland. In the meantime, Cockburn established a base at Tangier Island, located almost in the middle of the Chesapeake Bay, to receive runaway slaves and begin training them for the several companies of “Colonial Marines” he planned to organize. Cochrane also sent him £2,000 for “contingent expenses”: both to buy information and to try to kidnap “Persons of Political Interest” connected to the Republican party, to be held as hostages.

While awaiting the promised reinforcements, Cockburn began looking for likely targets he could raid with the 1,500 or so men he currently had available. “You are at perfect liberty as soon as you can muster a Sufficient force, to act with the utmost Hostility against the shores of the United States,” Cochrane had instructed him, pointing to American actions as justification for harsh retaliation:

Their Government authorizes & directs a most destructive War to be carried on against our Commerce & we have no means of retaliating but on shore, where they must be made to feel in their Property, what our Merchants do in having their Ships destroyed at Sea; & taught to know that they are at the mercy of an invading foe.… Their Sea Port Towns laid in Ashes & the Country wasted will be some sort of a retaliation for their savage Conduct in Canada.

Cochrane specifically suggested that he choose targets that would best facilitate the exodus of more slaves: “Let the Landings you may make be more for the protection of the desertion of the Black Population than with a view to any other advantage, the force you have is too Small to accomplish an object of magnitude—the great point to be attained is the cordial Support of the Black population with them properly armed & backed with 20,000 British Troops, Mr. Maddison will be hurled from his Throne.”

Hundreds of slaves flocked to Tangier through the spring and summer of 1814. Although they had had time to receive only a few weeks’ training in firearms, Cockburn reported they fought extremely well in several small skirmishes. Unlike the regular troops, there was scarcely any worry of them deserting; they knew the country well; and the fear that armed black men had already induced among the Virginia and Maryland militia units had significant shock value in itself: “They expect Blacky will have no mercy on them and they know that he understands bush fighting and the locality of the Woods as well as themselves.” In one well-publicized incident that sent tremors through slaveholders along the Chesapeake, an escaped slave led a British force to his former master’s home, and while the troops looted the plantation, the ex-slave, armed with a pistol and sword, sat up through the night verbally tormenting his former master. At dawn the troops withdrew, taking the rest of the plantation’s slaves with them.

Cockburn reported after one early raid by his black marines, “They have induced me to alter the bad opinion I had of the whole of their Race & I now really believe these we are training, will neither shew want of Zeal or Courage when employed by us in attacking their old Masters.” In late May 1814 the Colonial Marines had displayed notable courage during an attack on a militia battery at Pungoteague, near Tangier Island on Virginia’s Eastern Shore: one of the black soldiers was shot and died instantly, but, Cockburn said, “it did not daunt or check the others in the least but on the contrary animated them to seek revenge.”

Cochrane’s plans for revenge were on a grander scale, however. In July 1814 he wrote Lord Melville laying out options for the destruction of one of “the principal Towns of America,” Boston, New York, Philadelphia, Baltimore, Washington, Annapolis, Richmond, and Norfolk among them. He issued sterner and sterner public directives to his commanders to “destroy & lay waste such Towns and Districts upon the Coast as you may find assailable.” While doing so, he added, they should “take every opportunity of explaining to the people” that they would have to look to their own government for compensation, since the British actions were merely “retributory justice” for the “wanton & unjustifiable outrages on the unoffending Inhabitants” of Upper Canada. Yet Cochrane vacillated for weeks over where the brunt of the British sword should fall. He still had received no official word on how many troops would arrive or when. Croker had warily distanced himself from any responsibility for the direction of the land campaign, telling Cochrane, “Their Lordships entrust to your judgment the choice of the objects on which you may employ this Force,” and advising only that he not advance too far inland as to risk having his line of retreat cut, and to give preference to “crippling the Enemy’s naval Force” should such an opportunity present itself.

Only in mid-July did the first even semi-official word reach Cochrane in Bermuda about the size of the army. After months of buildup in British newspapers, which had been reporting that a vast invasion force was assembling, it must have scarcely seemed believable that only a few thousand troops in the end were on the way. But the news was confirmed the last week of July when two convoys arrived in Bermuda carrying four thousand British infantry. They and a few hundred marines would be all the force available.

Cochrane still hesitated, even toying with the idea of abandoning a campaign on the Chesapeake altogether given the approach of the “sickly season.” He considered instead striking New Hampshire to destroy the ship of the line under construction at Portsmouth, or perhaps Rhode Island. But Cockburn was strongly urging an attack on Washington, and a letter from him that arrived in Bermuda on July 25 aboard a schooner bearing dispatches finally persuaded the commander in chief. On August 1 Cochrane sailed for the Chesapeake with his invasion force: Washington it would be.

On August 18, 1814, a huge British flotilla entered the Patuxent River: four ships of the line, seven frigates, seven transports, and several brigs or schooners. The next day the British force of 4,500 men, led by Major General Robert Ross, a veteran of the Peninsula campaign, accompanied by Admiral Cockburn, landed at Benedict, Maryland. It was thirty-five miles from Washington on a good road, and as one of Cockburn’s captains had predicted a few weeks earlier, the troops met virtually no opposition for the first twenty miles. “Jonathan is so confounded,” Captain Joseph Nourse had written Cockburn, “that he does not know when or where to look for us, and I do believe it would require little force to burn Washington.” He added: “I hope soon to put the first torch to it myself.”

Despite weeks of warning, the defense of the capital city was in utter disarray. Another one of the many inexperienced political generals who were the bane of the United States army was in charge: Brigadier General William Winder put on an air of being knowledgeable about military matters but in fact his major qualification for office was being the nephew of the Federalist governor of Maryland, whose cooperation President James Madison desperately needed. Winder had spent weeks conducting a personal reconnaissance of the approaches to Washington while scarcely more than a few hundred state militia answered a summons Madison had issued on July 1 for 100,000 troops to defend the city. For much of the summer the flotilla of rowed barges that Joshua Barney had organized had kept up a harassing campaign against British naval forces in the lower Patuxent, to the point that it had become a major thorn in Cockburn’s side. But on August 20 Secretary of the Navy William Jones sent an urgent order to Barney to fall back, destroy his boats, and dispatch his 400 flotillamen for the defense of Washington. As the British troops marched toward Upper Marlboro on August 22, they heard the booms in the distance of Barney’s flotilla boats blowing up. Barney’s men arrived at the navy yard in southeast Washington soon afterward.

Winder at last made a decision to organize a stand at Bladensburg, just northeast of Washington, with the Eastern Branch forming a natural barrier ahead of him. He placed the defenders in three lines, but the disposition was all wrong; even a Maryland militia lieutenant saw at a glance that the troops were far too scattered. On the morning of August 24, Barney received orders from Winder to deploy his flotillamen to defend the bridge in Washington across the Eastern Branch and blow it up if the British attempted to cross there; but Jones and Madison soon arrived at the scene, and as Jones noted, it was a ridiculous misallocation of force: the task of blowing up the bridge “could as well be done by half a dozen men, as by five hundred.” Madison personally ordered Barney’s force to head for Bladensburg and join the defense there. Barney’s flotillamen, plus 120 marines from the Washington barracks, took off “in a trot,” hauling three 12-pounder and two 18-pounder naval guns that Jones had earlier ordered mounted on carriages as part of the preparations to defend the yard.

Arriving at Bladensburg, they were placed in the third line, but the position Winder had chosen was too far back to effectively support the second line. Secretary of State Monroe, who chose that unfortunate moment to play general, having first volunteered his services as a cavalry scout and galloping about the countryside, showed up at Bladensburg just in time to make matters worse by repositioning the second line, on his own orders, so that it was incapable of supporting the first. Some seven thousand militia had arrived at last, but most had been marching without rest or food.

At 1:00 p.m. on August 24 the first British troops appeared on the other side of the river, and by 4:00 p.m. the battle was over and the British were marching on to Washington and the American forces were in headlong flight. Only Barney’s men had held their line, pouring a murderous fire of grape and canister into the oncoming redcoats until the British were already completely in their rear. Barney was shot in the thigh and was pouring blood. His horse was killed. Cockburn, learning who the wounded man was, personally came up to him and spoke a few polite words and ordered a British surgeon to tend to his wounds at once.

When word had arrived of the British invasion force entering the Patuxent, William Jones had ordered Rodgers and Porter from New York to head south to assist in the defense of Baltimore and Washington, but events followed far too swiftly. At the Washington Navy Yard, the chief clerk, Mordecai Booth, had spent days frantically scouring the city trying to commandeer wagons to remove the gunpowder from the yard, but there were hardly any to be found amid the mass exodus of government officers and citizens fleeing with public records and personal belongings. On the evening of the twenty-fourth Booth had been stricken by the sight of the thousands of American troops in full retreat past the yard: “Oh! my Country—And I blush Sir! to tell you—I saw the Commons Covered with the fugitive Soldiery of our Army—running, hobbling, Creaping & appearently panick struck.” With all of the navy yard’s seamen, marines, and even mechanics and laborers pressed into service in Winder’s army, the yard was defenseless. Jones solemnly approved the commandant’s order to set fire to the naval stores—and, with even greater pain, the newly completed sloop of war Argus and the nearly completed frigate Columbia. Shops, timber, casks of provisions, small arms, cordage, paint, tar all went up in the flames. The total loss was more than a half million dollars.

Jones found his family in northwest Washington, then joined Madison across the Potomac in Virginia, where he had fled with other government officials. Cockburn, arriving on the streets of the city not long after, conspicuous astride a white horse with his sunburned face and rusty gold-laced hat, made joking inquiries of the townspeople about President Madison’s whereabouts and personally supervised troops pulling down the building that housed the offices of the National Intelligencer newspaper, telling them to “destroy all the C’s so they can’t abuse my name.” Cockburn then led a detachment into the White House, picked up a few souvenirs, and set the building ablaze. Other troops burned the war and navy department offices, the Treasury, and the Capitol before the British forces withdrew the way they had come and reembarked on their ships to return down the Patuxent to the Chesapeake Bay.

Another squadron of British ships had meanwhile ascended the Potomac, and Jones, who had returned to Washington on August 27 with the rest of the cabinet in the wake of the British departure, was furious when he saw the abject terms of surrender the town of Alexandria had agreed to. Offering no resistance, town officials had meekly acceded to a huge demand for tribute, including all the produce and merchandise in the town. Rodgers, Porter, and Commodore Oliver Hazard Perry had now arrived in Washington, and Jones ordered them to attack the British naval force as it sailed back down the Potomac; with fire ships and artillery erected on the heights, they succeeded in delaying, though not stopping, the British force’s escape.

Jones was sending out a constant stream of orders to the naval detachments in the region, receiving and answering two or three express dispatches in the middle of each night. Eleanor had gone on to Baltimore, and on the way she passed through Bladensburg and was deeply affected by the scene of the battleground. On September 1 she wrote her husband of her safe arrival and her continuing fears for his safety—and for his honor, as the backlash of public opinion turned on the administration over the humiliation of the British attack.

My Dear Husband,

We have separated under such distressing circumstances that I know not what evil awaits me—Now I can indulge a hope of being soon relieved from the most awful apprehensions of your safety.

… A view of the ground where the Battle was fought, and the Graves of the fallen Men, The cannon near which Come Barney lost his horse and where they buried it excited the most painful sensations, particularly on seeing the foot of one above the earth. Passing the hospitals in Bladensburgh we saw the wounded, Americans, and British, and preparations to bury an English soldier just expired—On the Road we met our heroes of the Navy with their crews, the Marines, Cavalry, and 800 regulars …

May the Almighty guard you

in the hour of danger prays

your Affte Wife

Eleanor Jones

Admiral Cochrane wrote Melville full of high spirits over “the brilliant success” of the raid on the enemy capital, though he expressed concern that General Ross did not fully share his view that Baltimore, as “the most democratic town … ought to be laid in Ashes” next. Ross, he feared, was inclined to be too lenient on the Americans: “When he is better acquainted with the American Character he will possibly see as I do that like Spaniels they must be treated with great severity before you ever make them tractable.”

The American navy’s delaying action on the Potomac bought some valuable days to prepare the defenses of Baltimore, where all signs pointed the British would indeed strike next. Here the American forces acquitted themselves far better, making amends for the debacle at Bladensburg by inflicting heavy British casualties even as they fell back behind the city’s prepared defensive works in the attack that began September 12. During the initial assault an American sharpshooter killed Ross: after that the British gave no quarter to any American snipers. But the attack failed, as did the bombardment of Fort McHenry in Baltimore harbor by mortars and Congreve rockets on the night of September 13–14, an event witnessed by Francis Scott Key and immortalized in the words he began to set down the following morning in a poem titled “Defence of Fort McHenry,” subsequently published under the title of its most memorable phrase: “The Star-Spangled Banner.” William Jones sent Eleanor, two weeks later, a copy of the “beautiful little effusion written by Mr F. Key a respectable young lawyer of talents residing in Georgetown … He is a Federalist but with such Federalists I can have but a common feeling.”

The British forces again withdrew to the Chesapeake, their next target a matter of intense speculation and anxiety. In the midst of everything else Jones was working “from day dawn to midnight” on a proposal for a reorganization of the Navy Department to leave to his successor and trying to wrap up his personal affairs in Washington. He had told only four congressmen of his final decision to leave office by December 1, but “people however begin ‘to smell a mouse’ as my home is given up,” he wrote Eleanor. “May God preserve all things right at least till after the 1st of December,” Jones continued. “Though all is well and my reputation high I feel as if I was standing upon gun powder with a slow match near it. Public expectation is so extravagant, opinion so capricious, and prejudice and ignorance so predominant, that millions would not tempt me to stay one year longer.… Though I am labouring to smooth the way for my successor I commiserate him with all my heart whoever he may be I predict his ruin if the war continues.”

Admiral Cochrane afterward tried to claim that the attack on Baltimore had been intended all along only as a “demonstration” and then blamed Ross, who was no longer around to defend himself, for having persuaded him against his better judgment to approve the failed operation.

There was a lot of blame-shifting going on among the British leadership over the direction the war was taking. The new American sloops of war Peacock and Wasp had been on a rampage through the North Atlantic since setting out in the spring, leaving British merchants sputtering with outrage they directed almost entirely against their own government. On July 8, 1814, the Wasp arrived at the French port of L’Orient, having burned or scuttled seven prizes from the Irish coast to the mouth of the English Channel; the American ship had also destroyed the British navy brig Reindeer in a brief but furious action on June 28 that left the British captain’s clerk the only surviving officer available to give the surrender to the American boarders that came swarming over her bloody decks nineteen minutes after the shooting began.

After refitting in L’Orient—over the indignant protests of the British government and the undisguised pleasure of the local French populace—the Wasp took seven more prizes while defeating another Royal Navy brig, the Avon, on September 1, before disappearing forever under unknown circumstances after last being seen near the Cape Verde Islands on October 9.

While the Wasp was refitting, the Peacock arrived to maraud through British home waters in July and August, taking fourteen prizes along the coasts of Ireland and the Shetlands. The summer of 1814 also brought a number of larger and more daring American privateers into British home waters; the largest of them were ship-rigged vessels almost as well armed and well manned as sloops of war like the American navy’s Wasp and Peacock, and they too set to plundering with an impunity that astonished the British merchants. The Chasseur of Baltimore carried sixteen long twelve-pounders and a crew of one hundred and haunted the English Channel for months, taking at least fifteen prizes while eluding the frigates and brigs sent after her.






(By E. Dwyer Gray, Sydney.)

It is, of course, fairly well known that the war tank was really a Western Australian invention. Those who would like to know the details of the occurrences in connection with Corporal Lancelot E. de Mole’s travelling caterpillar fort, will find them set out in the current issue of the “Australian Motor Owner,” which gives the whole story. The magazine does not, however, print the text of a certain striking letter from Perth, addressed to the British Minister for War on September 19, 1914. This not only informed the British Minister for War that the archives of its own department contained the plans for a perfect war tank, but foretold what tanks could do, exactly two years before the inferior Somme tanks appeared so belatedly on the battlefields. This letter is now made available for publication for the first time, and reads as follows:

“The question of armaments being of paramount importance to armies engaged in this great war, may I suggest your placing the plans, specifications, and model, submitted by Mr. Lancelot de Mole in 1912, before a committee of experts, with a view to the adoption of travelling forts against the German forces In my humble opinion no deadlier or more efficient war engine could be used than de Mole’s caterpillar fort, which can travel over broken ground, climb embankments., span canals, streams and trenches with the greatest of ease, and which, if armoured and manned with small quick-firing guns and maxims, will quickly turn the most stubborn of armies, even if they be most strongly entrenched.

A line of moving fortresses – no dreamer’s fancy, but an idea which can be actually materialised – adequately support- ed by artillery, will carry everything before it, and save the infantry. I sincerely trust that you will appreciate the value of my suggestion. Should you require the services of Mr. L. de Mole kindly request the Western Australian Government to communicate with Mr. H. J. Anketell, resident engineer, Department of Public Works, Perth – Yours, etc., G. W. D. Breadon.”

Mr. Breadon was a civil engineer by profession. He was a man of repute and capacity, and shortly after writing this remarkable letter he became a Commissioner for Munitions in India. The letter had no effect whatever. Apparently it went into the same sort of pigeonhole as de Mole’s plans in 1912. Today it accuses the British Minister for War in 1914, or his agents, and the accusation, though it has a particular application to 1914, goes back to 1912.

Some Tragic Questions.

Here observe that on November 17. 1919, a British Royal Commission on Awards to Inventors, presided over by   Mr. Justice Sargant, declared:- “De Mole made, and reduced to practical shape, as far back as the year 1912, a very brilliant lank invention, which anticipated, and in some respects surpassed, that actually put into use late in 1916. Counsel for the Minister for Munitions specifically admitted: ”De Mole’s suggestions would, in the opinion of present advisers, have made a better article than those that went into action.” The Chairman said to him: ”Your suggestion is sent to the Government in 1912 and 1915. Then it gets pigeonholed. That is your misfortune, but not your fault.” But what about his country’s misfortune and the calamitous consequences to mankind? How much would the war have been shortened if Britain had possessed tanks from the beginning? Would there have been any retreat from Mons? Would the war ever have become static? Millions of men may have perished on account of this ineptitude, which in fact prolonged the war for years. Even if the British   Minister for War, or his agents, had acted promptly and with sense when Breadon’s striking letter reached London in October, 1914, the whole history of the war would have been altered, and huge savings would have been effected in human lives. Dead men tell no tales, but live ones can – and this is one of them. It is time to abolish pigeonholes and to substitute searchlights.

Churchill’s Historic Letter.

On January 5, 1915, Mr. Winston Churchill, then First Lord of the Admiralty, wrote his historic letter to Mr. Asquith (of “Wait and see” fame) on the subject of mechanical warfare. In this he remarked:- “The question to be now solved is not the long attack over a carefully prepared glacis of former times, but the actual getting across of   100 or 200 yards of open space and wire entanglements. All this was apparent more than two months ago, but no steps have been taken and no preparation made. Yet it would be quite easy to fit up tractors with armoured shelters, in which men and machine guns could be placed, which would be bullet proof. The caterpillar system would enable trenches to be crossed quite easily, and the weight of the machines would destroy all wire entanglements. These engines could . . . advance into enemy trenches, smash   all obstructions, and sweep the trenches with their machine gun fire.”

Mr. Winston Churchill began his practical tank activities after a Dukes’ dinner on February 15, 1915, when Major Hetherington and others suggested rolling cars, with wheels the size of the Great Wheel at Earl’s Court, but the above letter shows that he had received inspiration before that date. At the moment he wrote his historic letter his colleague, the Minister for War, or his agents, had Breadon’s letter locked away and ignored, whilst somewhere else in the War Office reposed plans for a perfect war tank travelling on the cater- pillar system on a chain track of steel plates. It was only after spending mil- lions on the secret evolution of an inferior type of tank that “Mother” and its adaptation appeared 0n the battlefields in September, 1916.

The Birth of the Tank.

The standard work on these subjects is “Tanks, 1914-18,” by Sir Albert Stern, long Director of the Mechanical Warfare Supply Department, and an original member of Mr. Winston Churchill’s celebrated Landship Committee of 1915, so detested by the War Office that it refused to give it the accommodation of an un-tenanted room. Britain owed even, the Somme tanks, not to the War Office and the military authorities, who consistently ridiculed and opposed all ideas of landships or tanks, but to the grit, the commonsense, the courage, and the driving force of Sir Albert Stern, and the Naval Department. In his book Sir Albert Stern writes:- “Mr. d’Eyncourt turned down a proposed truck of Balata belting, and once more our hopes sank. Then on September 22 (1915) I received the following telegram from Lincoln: ‘To Stern, Room 59, 83 Pall Mall. Balata died on the test bench yesterday morning. New arrival by Tritton out of pressed plate. Light in weight, but very strong. All doing well, thank you. – Proud Parents.’ That was the birth of the tank.”

That statement is what Mr. Winston Churchill once described as a terminological inexactitude, only in the sense that it is historically untrue. The curious telegram of September 22, 1915, signed “Proud Parents,” was not the birth of the tank. It was only the birth of “Mother” and its adaptations. The birth of the tank took place in Western Australia in 1912. But Sir Albert Stern is not to blame. He did not know de Mole’s story when he wrote his book. That the Director of the Mechanical Warfare Supply Department should never have heard of de Mole’s tank is, however, just one of those mysteries which should have been probed and never was. De Mole’s plans were not merely received and then pigeonholed. They were, on the contrary, examined, and deliberately rejected at least three times – once before the war and twice during the war, or, to be exact, in 1913, 1916, and 1918. There was also Breadon’s letter of September, 1914, and a working model one-eighth of the natural size, which did no more in London than the plans and was eventually found in what the London Press of 1919 described as “the neglected cellar of a Government department.” In 1916 de Mole’s tank was rejected by the Advisory Committee of Scientific Experts. They must have displayed some expert science to keep Sir Albert Stern ignorant of the fact that there was anything of the kind on the planet. But that he was ignorant of the existence of de Mole’s tank can be accepted as sure.

The Royal Commission of 1919 paid a high tribute to the driving force of Mr. Winston Churchill, and probably he deserved it. But no tribute was paid to the driving force of Sir Albert Stern, who deserved it more, and was his teacher about tanks. It is regrettable to have to add that on October 16, 1917. Mr. Winston Churchill weakly dismissed Sir Albert Stern from the Directorship of the Mechanical Warfare Supply Department, at the bidding of British Generals, whoso stupidity in connection with tanks he had dared to oppose and expose: appointed Admiral Moore in his place, who up to the date of his appointment had never even seen a tank, and actually referred Sir Albert Stern to America for a proper development of tanks on a large scale. But it is now a matter of history that Sir Albert Stern won through in the end.

De Mole’s Ideal Tank.        

De Mole’s tank was intended to be 37 ft. long, with a wheel base of 25ft, travelling on a caterpillar track of steel plates. It had a double climbing face, and consequently could have reversed over the roughest battlefields, which the Somme tanks could not. It would have crossed a 16ft trench with ease, either forwards or backwards. It had a high underbody clearance to prevent bogging.

The chain track was fully protected, travelling inside the armour instead of over the top. The Somme tanks were very imperfectly steered by moving the chain track faster on one side than the other, which imposed a strict limitation in length, or they could not be steered at all. ln de Mole’s tank perfect steering was secured, for the chain track could be moved laterally, thus causing it to conform lo curves. This meant that there was no limitation to length, except that imposed by weight, and the   horse-power of the motor engine used. At least three times de Mole offered his brilliant invention to his country for nothing, and it was refused. It is terrible to think what might have occurred If de Mole had been a man of the same type as Grindell Mathews. When in June, 1913, the Director-General of Artillery, wrote to him finally from the War Office, London, definitely declining the invention, and stating “it is not proposed to proceed with the matter,” some of de Mole’s friends suggested to him that he should take copies of his plans to the German Consul in Perth. All was peace, but de Mole said he would have no truck with any foreign Government.

What even the Somme tanks and their developments actually did in the war need not be stressed here. They were one of the chief factors in the final victory of the Allies. Lord Kitchener had no time for them. As Sir Albert Stern says. He was too busy even to look at the first efforts at construction. The chairman of the alleged Australian Inventions Board, sitting in Adelaide during the war was also too busy even to look at de Mole’s plans. Field-Marshal Sir Douglas Haig supported Stern. When the tanks appeared at Delville Wood and other Somme battlefields in September 1916, he wrote: “We take our objectives where the tanks advance. Where they do not advance we do not take our objectives.” In May, 1917, he wrote: “The tanks are wonderful life-savers.” A British private wrote: “Before the tanks came the dead used to be strewn in front of the German gun emplacements like birds before a butt with a good shot inside. Now these tank things just walkthrough.”

The 1919 Tank Awards.

The British Royal Commission on Awards to Inventors accorded the Australian credit and commiseration, to which a grateful Empire added later the sustaining letters, “C. B. E.” To the contrivers of an inferior tank they allotted £15,000 in cash. But the Commissioners had no choice. They were tied by the terms of their appointment, and could make awards only for “tanks actually used by a Government department” – that is, for “Mother” and its adaptations, or to those who could show, “A casual connection” between their conceptions and those Contrivances. The Somme tank awardees were Sir E. H. W. Tennyson-d’Eyncourt, Sir W. Tritton, Major Wilson, Lieut. McFie, and Mr. S. Newfield. A certified verbatim report of the Commission proceedings at Queen Anne’s Gate, Westminster, on November 3, 1919, shows that two of these Somme awardees had, whilst controlling official positions, offered criticisms of de Mole’s tank, which “he felt he could not properly put forward to the Commission as being a reasoned and proper report on the position as it then was”, since “the criticisms contained in that report are criticism, which I am advised are not justified.”

De Mole’s Other Activities.

De Mole conceived his great tank idea or travelling caterpillar fort, while engaged in the organisation of heavy transport work in the South-Western part of Western Australia in 1911, and he first sent his plans to the British War Office in 1912. Caterpillar traction was already known, the celebrated American   Holt tractor being then on the scene. But the steering was awkward, and this was part of de Mole’s triumph. He made perfect steering quite easy. The Holt story is another instance of the ineptitude of the British authorities on some important occasions. They gave to America for nothing plans for which they had paid a prize, and which they were exceedingly glad to use on generous re- turn. In 1902 de Mole invented au automatic telephone similar in operation to that now in use, but the postal authorities would not even give it a trial. The model of his rejected war tank can be seen at the Melbourne War Museum. The British Museum wanted to buy it, but characteristically the Australian soldier refused to sell it, and presented it to the Australian War Museum as a gift. Just now de Mole is a resident of Cremorne, Sydney, and is working out two big ideas in connection with heavy traffic. In six months’ time every city in Australia is likely to know all about them, and the country, too. He is a civil engineer by profession, like his father, who is a citizen of Adelaide. His great-great-grand-father was the eminent engineer, Henry Maudesly, who invented the marine engine, etc.

A generous-minded man. Lancelot de Mole makes no grievance of his wrongs. But the mourning millions will never know what his wrongs cost the world in human lives, or how many of the dead, including 60,000 splendid Australians, would have been saved if the British War Office had been wise in time. The man actually responsible for the pigeon- holing of the Australian corporal’s tank plans in 1912 and the definite rejection of June, 1913, was the man who prolonged the war for years. Who was he?




Alan Francis Brooke


Considered a master strategist, Alan Francis Brooke(1883-1963) was instrumental in orchestrating the victory of Allied forces in the Second World War. As chief of the Imperial General Staff, Brooke was the chief military spokesman for the British government and the Allies. Born on July 23, 1883, in Bagneres de Bigorre, France, Alan Francis Brooke was the sixth son and ninth child of Sir Victor Brooke, third baronet of Colebrooke in county Fermanagh, and Alice Bellingham Brooke, second daughter of Sir Alan Edward Bellingham, third baronet, of Castle Bellingham in County Louth. Both parents belonged to the Protestant Ascendancy class in Ireland. The Brookes of Colebrooke had fought for the British Crown from before 1641. His ancestor, Sir Henry Brooke of Donegal, was awarded 30,000 acres of Fermanagh for his part in suppressing the native uprising in Ireland. As his mother preferred sunny southern France to the Irish climate, Brooke was raised near Pau, in southern France. His father died when he was eight years old. Brooke was privately educated and spoke fluent French and German before he mastered English. He was also an excellent horseman, hunter, and fisherman.

At the age of eighteen, Brooke entered the Royal Military Academy at Woolwich, a traditional English school. He was shy, delicate and introspective, but did well enough to follow the family tradition by embarking on a military career. Brooke joined a battery of Royal Field Artillery in Ireland in 1902. His first four years were spent in Ireland. In 1906, he joined the prestigious Royal Horse Artillery. Three years later, he was sent to India, where he proved to be a highly efficient officer-considerate of his men and kind to his horses. Brooke was well liked and considered to be quick-witted and amusing. He was a gifted draftsman and caricaturist, and a skilled mimic. His hobbies in India were big-game hunting and horseracing. Brooke married Jane Richardson, daughter of Colonel John Richardson, in 1914. He had one son and one daughter from this marriage. His wife died after an auto accident in 1925.

Distinguished Service in World War I

During World War I, Brooke was commanding Canadian and Indian artillery units on the western front. He fought in the battle of the Somme and introduced the French “creeping barrage” system. It ensured that the ground between the enemy’s trench lines was covered and minimized the amount of exposure by advancing infantry to machinegun fire. Brooke’s work was considered to be outstanding in all engagements and, by 1918, he was a brevet lieutenant colonel and was awarded the Distinguished Service Order and bar.

After the war, Brooke was sent to the Staff College at Camberley and later became an instructor there. In 1929, he married Benita Lees, daughter of Sir Harold Pelly and widow of Sir Thomas Lees. This second marriage brought a calming influence to his high strung temperament and was a source of strength, especially during World War II. Brooke kept a diary that he intended to be read only by his wife. The diary later provided material for several books including Arthur Bryant’s The Turn of the Tide, 1939-1943 and Triumph in the West, 1943-1946. By 1929, he was commandant of the School of Artillery. He also attended the Imperial Defense College, and later returned as an instructor. In the 1930s Brooke commanded first an infantry brigade, and later a mobile division-which foreshadowed the armored divisions of World War II. He was promoted to lieutenant-general and placed in charge of Britain’s antiaircraft corps and eventually the entire anti-aircraft command. Brooke was responsible for organizing and expanding this division and preparing it to meet the ominous growth of the German Luftwaffe. In this undertaking, he worked closely with Air Marshall Sir Hugh Dowding.

In August 1939, Brooke was made commander-in-chief of the Southern Command and sent to lead the Second Army Corps of the British Expeditionary Force (BEF). The following month, he moved to the Franco-Belgian frontier with his untrained and poorly equipped troops. As they took up their positions during a lull in the fighting, Brooke tried to get his soldiers into the best condition he could. Despite his efforts, he still believed that his men were not well equipped and not trained as well as they needed to be. Brooke felt that French morale was weak and that Gort, the commander-in-chief, was not a good military strategist. The Allied forces were isolated in northern France and Belgium and fell back to the sea at Dunkirk. When the Belgians surrendered the British Expeditionary Force retreated. Brooke was forced to turn over command of his troops on the beach at La Panne and returned to England.

The British Prime Minister, Winston Churchill, asked Brooke to return to France in order to bolster the fighting forces. He arrived in Cherbourg and soon concluded that the French had lost their will to fight. Brooke realized that England did not have enough troops to defeat the vastly superior German forces. He convinced Churchill to withdraw nearly 140,000 British troops before it was too late.

Guided the Allies to Victory

In July 1940, Brooke was put in charge of the home forces and worked out plans to defeat a German attack on England. The Royal Air Force won its battle for air supremacy and the Germans postponed their invasion. In December 1941, Japanese forces bombed the American naval base at Pearl Harbor, Hawaii. As a result, America joined the conflict and Japan attacked British positions in the Pacific. Churchill asked Brooke to become Chief of the Imperial General Staff (CIGS) in late 1941. In this position, Brooke proved to be most effective. Churchill had a strong-willed personality and tended to set unrealistic goals. Brooke was able to keep Churchill restrained until the Allies had sufficient troop strength to defeat the Germans. He persuaded Churchill to send Field Marshal Sir John Dill to Washington, as head of the British military mission. Dill was able to smooth out many difficulties between the Americans and the British. Brooke was himself able to use common sense in his dealings with Britain’s allies. The Americans wanted to invade France from England in the fall of 1942 by crossing the English Channel. He convinced them that it was necessary to weaken the Germans by fighting in Africa and Russia before such an invasion could succeed. He also believed that the war in Europe must be won before dealing with the Japanese. Therefore, his strategy required liberating North Africa and Italy, while conducting a saturation bombing campaign against the Germans in order to weaken their will and ability to continue the war.

Brooke and Churchill

Brooke spent most of 1943 at Churchill’s side defending the British point of view at conferences in Casablanca, Washington, Quebec, Moscow, Cairo, and Teheran. Though he admired Churchill, Brooke wrote in his diary that he was the most difficult man with whom he had ever worked. His role was to turn Churchill’s visionary ideas into military realities. The two men made a great team. Churchill was the stocky fiery politician while Brooke, the aloof, strong-willed field marshal with a lean, athletic figure and closely trimmed mustache, created the balance. Brooke was able to maintain cordial relations with the leaders of the Allied forces, including Stalin. He did not trust Stalin but knew that his forces were needed in order to keep the Germans occupied and away from Britain. The American president, Franklin Roosevelt and General George Marshall, both respected him. Marshall described Brooke as being determined in his position, but agreeable to negotiation, open minded, and a delightful friend.

In January 1944, Brooke was promoted to field marshal. His staff drew up plans for the invasion of Normandy. Brooke desperately wanted to lead the invasion, but agreed that the American general, Dwight Eisenhower, should be given this role since most of the troops were American.

Selecting the right officers to lead men into battle is an important responsibility, and Brooke demonstrated unerring good judgment. Men like Bernard Law Montgomery and Harold Rupert Alexander may have gotten the most acclaim, but the fact was that he chose them and they reported to him. Brooke was considered to be a tower of strength, a man whose inner power radiated confidence. All were glad that he was the one in charge. After the war was won, Brooke received many honors: he was named Baron Alanbrooke in 1945 and Viscount Alanbrooke in 1946. In addition, he was Knight of the Garter, Royal Order of Merit, most distinguished member of the Royal Regiment of Artillery, and Master Gunner of St. James’s Park, all in 1946. The governments of Poland, Belgium, France, Denmark, Czechoslovakia, Greece, Portugal, Ethiopia, the Soviet Union, and Sweden honored him for his service in World War II.

After retiring from active service, Brooke devoted himself to his love of ornithology. He was president of the London Zoological Society from 1950 to 1954. He also became a director of the Midland Bank and sat on the boards of numerous companies. On June 17, 1963, Brooke died at his home in Hartley Wintney, Hampshire, England. Researchers interested in the inner working of the British command during World War II, still turn to his journals for insight into the decision-making processes. Marshall and Eisenhower may have finished the war, but Brooke laid the foundation for their efforts.

Further Reading Bryant, Arthur, Triumph in the West, Doubleday & Company, 1959. Bryant, Arthur, The Turn of the Tide, Doubleday & Company, 1957. Dictionary of National Biography: 1961-1970, edited by E. T. Williams and C. S. Nicholls, Oxford University Press, 1981. Lanning, Michael Lee, The Military 100: A Ranking of the Most Influential Military Leaders of all Time, Carol Publishing Group, 1996. Magill, Frank N., Great Lives From History: British and Commonwealth Series, Salem Press, 1987.