Austria Rebels Against Napoleon

Napoleon at Wagram, painted by Horace Vernet

Archduke Charles with his staff during the battle Aspern.

The Lightning Campaign of Five Days (APRIL 19-24, 1809)

Without a formal declaration of war, the Austrian army opened hostilities on April 8, 1808, by invading Bavaria.

Yet again, Napoleon had to leave his desk to take command of the army, once more leaving important matters in suspense. His strong sense of annoyance was reflected in his traditional proclamation to the troops, in which he clearly denounced the warmonger:

Soldiers: The territory of the Confederation has been violated. The Austrian general wants us to flee at the sight of his arms and to abandon our allies. I will be with you at the speed of light. Soldiers, you surrounded me when the Austrian sovereign came to my bivouac in Moravia. You heard him ask for my clemency and swear eternal friendship. Defeated in three wars, Austria owes everything to my generosity: three times it has perjured itself. Our past successes are a certain talisman of victory that awaits us. Let us march, and at sight of us the enemy will recognize their conquerors!

Commanded by Archduke Charles, the Austrian army was a family affair. Composed of 320,000 active soldiers and 200,000 Landwehr (the recently created territorial militia), this army was divided into three groups: (1) Opposite the Rhine, a striking force of 220,000 combatants under the direct orders of Archduke Charles. Archduke Ludwig commanded a corps; (2) In Italy, 60,000 soldiers commanded by Archduke Johann; (3) Opposite Poland, Archduke Ferdinand had 20,000 men. In the capital, Vienna, a garrison of 20,000 remained under the authority of Archduke Maximilian.

A European force of more than 270,000 men, Napoleon’s army was not composed of his best troops, who were engaged in Spain. The emergency mobilization of this army was barely completed in time. It was deployed in four theaters: in Germany, the Army of the Rhine, with 180,000 combatants under the direct control of the emperor; in Italy, 60,000 soldiers commanded by Prince Eugene; in Dalmatia, 15,000 men with Marmont at their head; and in Poland, a corps of 15,000 Poles commanded by Poniatowski.

Once again, Napoleon’s military genius achieved miracles. In only five days, and despite his great inferiority of numbers, he overthrew and routed the army of Archduke Charles, who barely escaped in Bohemia. Each of these days was marked by a stunning victory: the 19th at Tengen, the 20th at Abenberg, the 21st at Landshut, the 22nd at Eckmuhl, and the 23rd at Ratisbon. In his victory proclamation, Napoleon boasted of “50,000 prisoners, 100 cannon, 40 colors, 3,000 harnessed wagons, and all the regimental strongboxes.”

The cost to the enemy would have been much heavier if Napoleon had possessed sufficient cavalry, much of which had been left behind in Spain, for the pursuit. Vienna capitulated on May 13. In Italy, Archduke Johann retreated to Hungary, where he suffered defeat at Raab on June 14.

The conquest of Vienna did not end the war, however. The Austrian army had suffered very heavy losses but was not completely out of action. Its remnants regrouped and reorganized east of the capital, sheltered by the Danube. There would be no peace without a decisive victory on the far bank of that river.

The emperor would have to reengage the Austrians twice more: at Essling (also known as Aspern) on May 21-22 and at Wagram on July 5-6.

The Lost Victory of Aspern-Essling

In the aftermath of capturing Vienna, the emperor decided to pursue Archduke Charles. He crossed the Danube some ten kilometers south of Vienna, opposite the island of Lobau, using it as a platform from which to launch a bridgehead. For this purpose, he had a great bridge constructed across the wider arm of the river, on the friendly side, as well as a shorter bridge on the enemy side.

The French established a bridgehead on May 21, including the villages of Aspern and Essling. The bridgehead successfully withstood the Austrian counterattack and continued to expand. The next day, Napoleon personally commanded a general offensive. Beaten, the Austrians retreated in disorder. Lannes was on the verge of penetrating the Austrian line when the news arrived that the great bridge had been destroyed by fire rafts that the enemy had launched from upstream in the Danube. The flooded Danube made this particularly destructive. Davout’s corps, which was supposed to exploit the breach, was unable to reach the battlefield. The victory was lost!

The archduke immediately exploited this gift from heaven. With a numerical superiority of four to one, he counterattacked with all his forces, aiming to destroy the bridgehead that suddenly had been deprived of all hope of support.

A nameless butchery ensued, impossible to avoid for lack of any room to maneuver. Aspern and especially Essling were taken and retaken repeatedly. The slaughter was equal on both sides. Lannes, the “Roland” of the army, was mortally wounded. Gazing helplessly at this carnage, Napoleon barely escaped himself on several occasions.

The bridgehead resisted all day. Yet, its survival depended on withdrawing to the other bank of the river. During the night, Massena performed a masterwork in the delicate task of disengagement.

Because of this bridge, the emperor lost a decisive victory while mourning the cost of 18,000 killed and wounded, slightly less than the Austrian casualties. The decisive battle remained to be fought.

The Expensive Peace of Wagram

After the butchery of Aspern-Essling, the two belligerents had to lick their wounds and reorganize, which explains the forced 43-day truce that followed the battle.

Encouraged by his partial success at Essling, the Archduke decided to give battle on the Marschfeld between the Danube and Wagram. He had reorganized his forces, bringing them up to 180,000 men and more than 400 cannon.

Napoleon transformed the island of Lobau into a gigantic operational base crowded with a strike force of 150,000 men and 450 guns.

All Europe held its breath. On a field measuring 15 by 10 kilometers, more than 300,000 men confronted each other in a sort of judgment of God, to the deafening sound of 800 artillery pieces. No one had ever seen a battle of such scope.

Napoleon opened hostilities on July 4. While making a diversion toward Aspern, he launched a surprise crossing of the Danube during the night of the 4th to the 5th under cover of the sound of the river, and three kilometers away from the diversion. Without pausing, he attacked the Austrian positions all along the line.

The archduke expected an envelopment, especially on his left so as to cut the natural line of communication with Bohemia, from which must come any reinforcement from Archduke Johann. This was the type of maneuver that any good tactician might undertake and that the emperor had taught the Austrian army to expect during the past 13 years. Yet, Napoleon again deceived his adversary. His secret thrust was to strike where he was not expected, at the vulnerable point in the enemy’s dispositions. Reinforcing the wings of the Austrian line out of fear of an envelopment had of necessity weakened the center. It was there that Napoleon would apply his offensive effort. And at that point stood Wagram.

After several hours of relentless combat, Wagram was on the point of being taken and the Austrian line broken. At that moment, a foolish event occurred that put everything at risk. Reaching the Wagram plateau, two of Bernadotte’s Saxon battalions were attacked by Macdonald’s Italians, who mistook them for Austrians because of similarities of uniform. This produced a rout in Bernadotte’s corps, a rout that the Imperial Guard had enormous difficulty in containing. Oudinot’s neighboring corps was constrained to pull back to protect its flank, and the Austrians profited by sealing the breach in their lines.

An imminent victory dissipated in a few seconds. Night approached, forcing the opponents to recommence on the next day, July 6.

But this time it was the Archduke who took the initiative, undoubtedly emboldened by the French disappointment of the previous day. Beginning at 4:00 a.m., he launched a violent attack on the French right, held by Davout, as much to preempt any attempt at envelopment as to make a diversion. Soon thereafter he attacked Massena on the left wing, along the Danube, with the evident intention of cutting Napoleon’s communications with the island of Lobau and seizing its bridges. The archduke attempted to strike a blow similar to that of Napoleon at Friedland.

Napoleon was on the point of succeeding when Bernadotte’s Saxons again routed, dangerously exposing the right wing of Massena, who already had all he could handle. Under fire, the emperor moved quickly to Massena. With one accord, the two organized a defensive block to halt the Austrian envelopment.

Napoleon did not forget his own plan, which the archduke’s dangerous offensive had indirectly favored. Charles’ pronounced effort on his right had of necessity denuded his center, in the area of Aderklaa-Wagram. In that region, the emperor rapidly reassembled a striking force destined to slice open the Austrian line.

At 9:00 a.m., the emperor ordered a general counter-attack. All units advanced at the same time. In the center, on which everything depended, the artillery concentration would enter history under the name of the “Battery of Wagram.” Concentrated on a one-kilometer front before the assault troops, more than 100 cannon fired simultaneously, pulverizing everything with their shot and shell. Continuing to fire, they advanced in good order for two kilometers, always in the lead. After having thus opened the breach, the artillery gave way to Macdonald’s infantry as well as the cavalry and the Grenadier Guards.

At 2:00 p.m., Archduke Charles recognized his defeat and ordered a timely general withdrawal toward Bohemia, thereby permitting a large portion of his forces to escape Davout’s pincer movement. Disheartened, the Landwehr recruits threw down their arms and went home. The exhaustion of the French troops prevented an immediate pursuit.

Despite this delay, the Austrian rear guard was defeated at Znaim on July 11. Fearing total destruction, the archduke requested an armistice, which Napoleon authorized against the advice of his marshals. “Enough blood has been shed!” he told them in the episode already recounted.

At Wagram, the Austrians lost 44,000 killed, wounded, and captured, as well as 20 cannon and ten regimental colors. The French suffered 30,000 killed and wounded. Among the dead was the legendary light cavalryman General Charles Lasalle. The 1809 campaign in Germany was finished, giving way to peace negotiations.

Speculating on the results of the British landing in the Netherlands, the Machiavellian Klemens von Metternich, who had replaced Stadion as Austria’s foreign minister, temporized for three months. The disastrous outcome of the British expedition at Walcheren on September 30 convinced him to sign the Treaty of Vienna on October 4, 1809.

Napoleon permitted Francis to retain his crown, but severely punished his perjury by reducing the Habsburg possessions. Bavaria, an active and courageous ally of France, received the Austrian region of the Inn. Russia, surprisingly, gained a portion of Galicia (Ternopol). This gift to a fainthearted ally illustrated Napoleon’s obsession with peace in the east. He would be poorly repaid for it! The Grand Duchy of Warsaw received the other part of Galicia (Cracow). The remaining Austrian possessions on the Adriatic, including Trieste, Fiume, some remnants of Carnolia, and Croatia, were transferred to France for their strategic importance and as a portal to the east. They became the Illyrian provinces. In addition to these lost territories, Austria was to pay an indemnity of 85 million francs.

To demonstrate yet again that he cherished no territorial ambitions in Germany, Napoleon immediately abandoned his military positions, with the exception of Westphalia and the Prussian fortresses, which were indispensable pledges for the security of France.

But, like its predecessors, the Treaty of Vienna was considered by France’s enemies to be nothing but a new and temporary ceasefire. Two-and-a-half years later, it would again be Russia’s turn in the tag team of war.

The Battle of Wagram

The Battle of Aspern-Essling

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French Naval Operations 1958-2000

Charles de Gaulle is the flagship of the French Navy (Marine Nationale). The ship is the tenth French aircraft carrier, the first French nuclear-powered surface vessel, and the only nuclear-powered carrier completed outside of the United States Navy. She is named after French statesman and general Charles de Gaulle.

The ship carries a complement of Dassault Rafale M and E‑2C Hawkeye aircraft, EC725 Caracal and AS532 Cougar helicopters for combat search and rescue, as well as modern electronics and Aster missiles. She is a CATOBAR-type carrier that uses two 75 m C13‑3 steam catapults of a shorter version of the catapult system installed on the U.S. Nimitz-class aircraft carriers, one catapult at the bow and one across the front of the landing area. Charles de Gaulle is the only non-American carrier-vessel that has a catapult, allowing operation of American aircraft such as the F/A-18E/F Super Hornet and the C-2 Greyhound.

The visible presence of powerful Marine warships was an important part of the policy of de Gaulle and his successors. In asserting that France had returned to the major world power role Marine warship visits were freely used to reinforce this message. In the last forty years of the 20th Century Marine vessels paid visits to most countries possessing a sea coast, the training mission of the helicopter carrier Jeanne d’Arc on an annual cadet training cruise being the vessel frequently chosen. Three visits merit particular mention, a warship visit to the United States in 1964, President de Gaulle’s highly controversial visit aboard the cruiser Colbert to Canada in 1967, and the visit of the missile destroyer Duguay-Trouin to China in 1978, the first foreign warship to pay a courtesy visit to China since 1940. After the collapse of the Warsaw Pact organisation warships visited Bulgarian and Romanian ports, and also Angola.

Operations involving surface ships are best set out in chronological sequence. In April to October 1974 Marine, Royal Navy and United States naval vessels worked to clear war debris in the Suez Canal resulting from the 1973 Egypt-Israel conflict. Four years later Marine vessels supported a French contingent protecting French technical aid staff at a time of unrest in Mauritania.

Marine aircraft flew over Mauritania and Chad during the periods of civil unrest and conflict in the late 1960s and 1970s. These former colonies were seen as a NATO southern flank glacis. Marine aircraft flew from bases at Dakar and Nouakchott and were concerned with intelligence gathering. The flights were almost certainly watching and passing details of the advance of Libyan forces into Chad, and later in the 1970s the activities of the Polisario insurgents in Morocco. The Aéronautique (from 1998 Aéronavale) also maintained patrols over metropolitan French coastal areas.

The independence of Djibouti, to become the Territory of the Afars and Issas in the spring of 1977 raised particular issues for the Marine. Both of the territory’s neighbours, Ethiopia and Somalia were known to be interested in its future. It was, though, an important base for the Marine’s operation in the Indian Ocean which had included an evacuation of civilians from Madagascar in 1972, and for the reassertion of French control in the Comores in 1975. A permanent force of five small frigates or other patrol vessels had been set up in 1972 to demonstrate French power and interest in the area. To make this interest entirely clear a major demonstration of Marine, Aéronavale and surface ship power was essential; this took the form of the arrival of the Clemenceau, the anti-submarine missile frigate Tourville, the missile destroyers Dupetit-Thouars and Kersaint, and the assault landing ship Ouragan for the actual independence, these vessels being relieved by the Foch and other vessels of the same capabilities a little later. The point was duly made. French naval installations although in certain details scaled down were nevertheless secured for future use.

The year 1982 provided an unexpected opportunity for Aéronautique training with also very timely help in aircraft and missile recognition training for Royal Navy vessels in the south Atlantic on their way to the Falklands. Facilities at Dakar were made available to help the movement of British troops and on exercises Super Étendard aircraft equipped with Exocet missiles made mock attacks on the Royal Navy ships whose crews were shortly to meet the same aircraft and missiles in the hands of the Argentinians.

The fighting and civil war in Lebanon from 1982 to 1989 involved the Marine in a series of operations. The first of these along with ships of other navies was the evacuation to safety of French nationals, some 1,200 being rescued. Marine vessels also patrolled along the coast. There followed a requirement to help with support for the multi-national French, American and Italian force on land. Landing vessels were used on occasions, the Foch participated in the patrolling and a small air and support base was opened at Larnaca in Cyprus. In October 1983 fifty-eight French soldiers of the multi-national ground force were killed and on 17 November Super Étendard aircraft from the Clemenceau which had arrived in the area attacked a rebel stronghold believed to have been held by Iranian and other Islam extremist groups. Reports on the success or otherwise of the attack are contradictory, but other air attacks were to follow into early 1984 before the withdrawal of the force. Marine vessels maintained general patrolling only further out to sea in the eastern Mediterranean until 1989 when ongoing Lebanese violence appeared to threaten the Christian community. The Foch and four frigates restored a measure of security despite intense Syrian hostility and, after the evacuation of wounded, the Foch and the four were withdrawn. Some minesweepers together with United States and Italian vessels were despatched south for work in the Gulf of Suez.

As a consequence of French military intervention in Chad a crisis in French relations with Libya arose in September 1984. The Foch and escorts were sent to display power off the Libyan Coast, a démarche which brought Libyan action to a halt.

Two Marine humanitarian operations evacuating civilians from an area in conflict or struck by natural disaster occurred in 1986. In January Marine, Soviet and Royal Navy warships (including as she was on the spot the British Royal Yacht Britannia) covered the evacuation of civilians from the People’s Democratic Republic of Yemen over a fourteen-day period. In May vessels mainly auxiliary logistic support based on Noumea evacuated people made homeless by a typhoon on the island of Guadalcanal in the Solomon Islands.

The opening of the Iran-Iraq war in September 1980 soon led to the harassment of tanker and container ships sailing from Basra. Iranian coastal missile boats and helicopters armed with missiles attempted to interfere and minefield warnings were issued. After an initial display of force that included the Suffren a small escort vessel patrol system was set up, the vessels accompanying merchant shipping. Friction and mine laying worsened in 1985-86 and led to a major crisis in July 1987 when following a diplomatic incident the Iranians seized the staff of the French Embassy in Teheran and held them as hostages. In response there followed a notable display of power projection by the Marine. In late July and August first the frigate Georges Leygues, then the Clemenceau supported by the missile destroyers Suffren and Duquesne with finally a squadron of minesweepers together with logistic support vessels were despatched to the Straits area. The Clemenceau remained in the area for just over a year, the other vessels exchanged crews with the arrival of replacements every three months or with crew reliefs flown out from France. The crew of the Clemenceau were given forty-five days’ leave in France on rotation. In June the Teheran government began to give way and by September the crisis had ended. The firm proactive French response, with the massive supply needs of warships and aircraft fuel, food, water and turn-over of personnel was only made possible by the availability of the Djibouti base.

In 1988 further unrest in New Caledonia and the Tuamotu archipelago required small-scale Marine support for two military stabilisation forces.

The Iraq invasion of Kuwait and the Gulf War that followed in July 1990 caught the French government by surprise, it had been believing that Saddam Hussein’s earlier pronouncements had been only rhetoric. The war also caught the Marine at a difficult time. The Clemenceau was thirty years old, the Foch only two years younger. The largest missile ships Duquesne and Suffren were also thirty years old and under repair. Although the liberation of Kuwait had been approved by the United Nations there were powerful political voices in Paris opposing any deployment of French forces in any operation led by an American. At the same time an operation led by the United States and Britain without France would be a serious loss of status and prestige, most particularly in the Gulf Arab states. It is against this background, culminating later in the resignation of the Defence Minister that the uneven pattern of French commitment to the war has to be understood.

At the outset, the Marine despatched two frigates, Montcalm and Dupleix with two sloop escorts to the Gulf for the evacuation of French nationals from Kuwait. These were followed by the Clemenceau carrying a company of infantry and forty-two helicopters designed to support ground warfare, and the now obsolescent anti-aircraft cruiser Colbert. These arrived in the Gulf and exercised with United Arab Emirate forces in ground warfare manoeuvres, the helicopters participating from land airstrips in the exercises. It was believed that this show of force indicated alliance with the assembling U.N. force and maintained French prestige – but it also begged the question of what use was the Clemenceau with no strike aircraft while the Foch which had strike aircraft embarked remained in the Mediterranean. Argument over the legitimacy of further operations was settled by the sacking by the Iraqis of the French Embassy in Kuwait and plans were then prepared for a French ground forces participation. The Clemenceau was slowly withdrawn calling at the Saudi Arabian port of Yanbu for the helicopters to be landed and then flown back on to the Gulf theatre, the ship then returning to Toulon. The whole deployment was criticised as a failure, impressing no one, not even the Iraqis, but it should also be remembered that even a full complement of Super Étendard aircraft would have counted for little against the massive American strength.

Agreement was reached (after a vain attempt by Paris to assemble a European Union formation headed by a Marine admiral) on an allocation of zones for the blockade of supplies to Iraq, the United States, Great Britain and France each receiving an area for control, that for France being the southern coast line of the Arabian Peninsula and the Hormuz Straits. The French land force units were disembarked at Yanbu. The aircraft carriers were not used again, there being a shortage of both aircraft and trained crews and the inability of the Super Étendard to carry a cost-effective bomb load at long range. At the time of the final preparations for the great Desert Storm land offensive and at its actual opening there was only one Marine combat vessel, the missile destroyer Jean de Vienne, replaced in rotation by the Latouche-Tréville, on escort duty in the Gulf. To help the French land forces were the support vessels Foudre and La Rance in use as hospital ships.

In the Mediterranean three nuclear-powered attack submarines and four conventional boats were keeping watch off the Algerian and Libyan coasts in case of any reprisal threat of which there was little sign other than rhetoric from the Libyan leader Gaddafi. The Foch was kept at Toulon apparently arising from concern that any alignment with America in the ground forces operations would lead to unrest in the Maghreb. There had earlier been dissent in the Council of Ministers over the issue of the balance of international relations.

While the Army and the Air Force were fully involved in the fighting, the Marine was not. In the period after the cease-fire, though, Marine mine-clearance vessels were to play the lead part in a French-Belgian and Netherlands formation of ships.

The message, ruefully absorbed, for the Marine was that France alone could now never be considered to be in the same super-power league as the United States. It could not command the same mass of naval or air resources, nor could it have at its disposal the wealth of satellite intelligence, much now real time. Attempts to present powers that it could not possess only harmed France, and real value would be best gained by useful support.

The disintegration of Yugoslavia was to provide the Marine in its last 20th Century commitment to show such support. A combined United States, Royal Navy and Marine aircraft carrier force maintained an effective blockade of the Adriatic coastline in 1993, the Clemenceau serving until June and then being replaced by the Foch. The frigate Jean de Vienne and a sloop were used in a close blockade of the Montenegro coast, and the hospital ship La Rance was stationed at Dubrovnik. During these operations personnel of the Marine were brought back to NATO procedures and communications.

The October 1998-June 1999 Kosovo crisis and operation formed a last chapter of the Yugoslav events, the necessary ending of Serb administration. Intervention became essential after a massacre in January 1999. For the Marine the years 1988 and 1999 had proved difficult, the costs and logistic requirements had imposed force reductions. No anti-aircraft missile frigate could be made available until the arrival of the Cassard in mid-February. The Clemenceau was now no longer in service, the age of the Foch daily more evident. It was however felt important that the Marine should be present and all not left to the Americans and British.

The Foch remained on station from the end of January to the end of May. Until mid-February the anti-submarine frigates Surcouf and Montcalm were in support, from mid-February the Cassard with a Royal Navy frigate, and in May the anti-aircraft frigate Jean Bart. Two nuclear-engined attack submarines, the Amethyst from February to April and the Saphir in May were at work off the Montenegro coast at Kotor ensuring a blockade of Serbia. The presence of the Foch was seen by some, especially air force personnel, as unnecessary and unhelpful. The Foch’s aircraft had to fly on operations from land, the carrier’s catapults being unequal to the task; some friction ensued. Much of the supply necessary for the force was brought by auxiliaries from Djibouti, but another limitation for the Foch was her small stock of guided bombs which could not easily be replenished.

The Marine cooperated with and helped the small states of former French West and Equatorial Africa (with the exception of Guinea Conakry) and has maintained a small warship on patrol in the Gulf of Guinea. This patrol and a much longer lasting requirement for the Marine opened in the last years of the century, one requiring only small vessels but tactical skill in ships’ boat handling, combating piracy off the coast of Somaliland.

The predicament of “boat people” seeking escape from Vietnam in the early 1980s presented the Marine with a humanitarian problem in the South China Sea off the Gulf of Siam. On occasions a corvette on patrol would pick up boats crowded with refugees and with the cooperation of a charity, Médecins du Monde, at first landing them in Malaysia or the Philippines. On one such occasion the Jeanne d’Arc on a training cruise was involved. Such rescue raised a number of issues, the diplomatic propriety of an armed warship engaged in such work far from its metropolis, the increasing unwillingness of countries to receive refugees, some political objection by the French Communists at home and the charity’s shortage of funds and consequent difficulty in resettling the hundreds of people rescued.

The policy that emerged eventually provided for Marine helicopter search, communication systems and rescue of “boat people” on the spot, provision of food and water, all prior to the refugees being transferred to one of the charity’s rescue vessels, a policy akin to that of traditional help in the event of a nature disaster.

Although only indirectly related to the Marine its ships and operations, mention should be made of the massive sales of French naval equipment, ships built in France for direct sale or vessels at the time surplus to requirements of the Marine, submarines, aircraft, Exocet and Crotale missiles. Training staff have been sent on loan service to a number of foreign navies. On at least one occasion, during the Iran-Iraq war French-made missiles were launched against French vessels.

At the start of the 1990s the Marine’s total strength was 66,000, a total including the Aéronavale and Fusiliers marins. Its operational command structure was built on five commands, Atlantic, Mediterranean, Indian Ocean, Pacific Ocean and ICBM submarines. One or two frigates were to be stationed permanently in the Red Sea/Indian Ocean, at Papete and New Caledonia and one at Martinique.

The building of the new generations of ships and the uses to which they were put makes impressive reading. Behind the story, though, lay another, especially in the late 1980s and 1990s. The second aircraft carrier was not the only vessel, but one among a number of others to be cancelled. Navies everywhere became more and more expensive at an alarming rate, yet if the ships were not fully abreast of all aspects of technology they became liabilities rather than assets. Great Britain was experiencing the same difficulties, the Royal Navy suffering cuts in a number of categories of warship that it considered essential. The common difficulties led to a meeting in December 1998 at St Malo at which President Chirac of France and Prime Minister Blair of the United Kingdom sponsored agreements for much closer naval cooperation, in particular including joint operations in crises and a series of joint exercises. A century after the historic 1905 Marine naval visit to Portsmouth, the Charles de Gaulle was welcomed in the Solent in June 2005 at a review essentially marking the bi-centenary of the battle of Trafalgar.

 

SPAD XIII

This French SPAD XIII wears the crowing cockerel insignia of Escadrille SPA 48 along the rear fuselage. French squadron numbers were prefixed by the basic type of aircraft flown by the unit, ‘SPA’ in this case designating the SPAD fighter.

 

The insignia of the Lafayette Escadrille is worn on the fuselage of SPAD XIII C.1 serial number S7714. Many members of Lafayette joined the 103rd Aero Squadron after the U.S. entered the war.

Famed as the colourful mount of the American Expeditionary Air Force’s 94th Aero Squadron, the French SPAD XIII was one of the finest Allied fighting scouts of the war, and was also flown by renowned aces Guynemer and Fonck.

First flown in April 1917, the SPAD (Société Pour L’Aviation et ses Dérivés) XIII was designed by Louis Bechereau as a development of the earlier SPAD VII and added a new powerplant in the form of a more powerful, geared Hispano-Suiza 8a that drove a propeller in the opposite direction to that of its predecessor. This power unit was markedly superior to the inline Benz engines that powered German Albatros fighters of the time. Other modifications made to the SPAD XIII compared to the earlier aircraft included inverse tapered-chord ailerons, a slightly increased wingspan and rounded tips to the tailplane and vertical fin. Increased rudder area served to enhance the fighter’s manoeuvrability. The revised armament consisted of a pair of Vickers guns, using synchronizing gear to fire through the propeller arc.

Introduced in the summer of 1917 as a successor to the SPAD VII, the SPAD XIII was better armed with twin-synchronized Vickers guns. Slightly larger and heavier with a wingspan of 27 ft, a length of 20 ft 8 in., and a loaded weight of 1,808 lbs, the SPAD XIII was powered by a series of Hispano-Suiza engines, beginning with the 200 hp Hispano-Suiza 8Ba V-type engine and ending with the 235 hp Hispano-Suiza 8Be V-type engine. Those powered by the former could reach 131 mph and climb to 2,000 m (6,562 ft) in 5 minutes 17 seconds, whereas those powered by the latter could reach almost 140 mph and climb to 2,000 m (6,562 ft) in 4 minutes 40 seconds. Although the SPAD XIII may not have been equal in quality to the more highly regarded Sopwith Camel and Fokker D. VII, it more than made up for any shortcomings in the sheer number produced, which reached approximately 8,400, compared with 5,490 for the Sopwith Camel and 1,000 for the Fokker D. VII. An improved version, the SPAD XVII, which was powered by the 300 hp Hispano-Suiza 8Fb V-type engine, was introduced toward the end of the war and supplied to France’s most famous squadron, Les Cigognes (the Storks). Only twenty SPAD XVIIs were produced by war’s end.

Rugged Construction

The SPAD VII was already a potent fighter, heavier and faster than many of its contemporaries and although less agile it was of notably rugged construction. These same qualities were inherited by the SPAD XIII, which offered similarly sparkling performance, a result of the SPAD’s heritage in the successful line of Deperdussin racers (SPAD being the successor organization to Deperdussin when the latter declared bankruptcy in 1913). However, the fighters proved trickier to handle during take-off and landing, a result of the considerable torque generated by the engine. In order to counter this, the pilot was required to make liberal use of left rudder. In contrast to many fighters of its era, the SPAD was also unable to glide, which required full engine power on landing. Once on the ground, the pilot had to be careful to avoid ground-looping.

The first examples of the new SPAD fighter reached the Western Front by the end of May 1917. It was in the cockpit of a SPAD XIII that the French ace Georges Guynemer (53 victories) met his mysterious death over Poelcapelle in September 1917. Shot down seven times prior to his final mission, the exact circumstances of Guynemer’s demise have never been fully established, and neither the body of the pilot or the wreckage of his aircraft were ever recovered.

Meanwhile, René Fonck, the leading Allied ace of World War I, scored most of his officially credited 75 victories in the SPAD XIII (Fonck put his personal tally at 127 victories). In one famous incident, Fonck’s marksmanship and use of deflection shooting despatched three enemy aircraft with just 27 rounds fired. In a separate incident, Fonck despatched three enemy aircraft and troops on the ground found their wreckage all within a radius of just 400m (1312ft). On two separate occasions, Fonck succeeded in downing six enemy aircraft in a single day. Another leading French ace to fly the type was Charles Nungesser, who finished the war with 43 victories. The SPAD was not agile enough to take on the Fokker Dr.I on its own terms, but excelled in the dive, lending itself to ‘hit and run’ tactics, engaging the enemy in a single, high-speed diving manoeuvre.

American Service

The U.S. decision to adopt the SPAD XIII was taken in July 1918, seeking a successor to the problematic Nieuport 28. Of the American pilots to serve in World War I, the most celebrated was Eddie Rickenbacker of the American Expeditionary Force’s 94th Aero Squadron ‘Hat in the Ring’. Rickenbacker was the much decorated leading ace of the Expeditionary Force, with most of his 26 victories coming in a period of a few weeks at the end of the war.

In the word’s of Rickenbacker himself, the SPAD XIII was ‘the best ship I flew’. Meanwhile, Frank Luke Jr was the fastest-scoring American pilot, with a tally of 18 achieved flying SPAD XIIIs, including a number of observation balloons.

At the outset, production of the SPAD XIII was somewhat slow. By the time of the last major German offensives of the war, in March 1918, SPAD XIIIs were still outnumbered in service by SPAD VIIs. By this time, the earlier aircraft was outclassed by the German Fokker D.VII. However, during the last 14 months of fighting, a total of 81 French escadrilles were flying the SPAD XIII, and these were joined by two squadrons of the British Royal Flying Corps, as well as additional Belgian and Italian units. In the case of Italy, the SPAD XIII was flown by Francesco Baracca, the leading World War I ace of that country, with 34 aerial victories. By the time of the Armistice a total of 16 American pursuit squadrons were operating SPAD XIIIs.

Post-war Service

Ultimately, an impressive total of over 8000 SPAD XIIIs were completed. Post-war operators included Japan, Poland and Czechoslovakia, while SPADs remained with the U.S. Army Air Service until the mid-1920s, latterly in the fighter training role.

COUNTRY OF ORIGIN: France

MANUFACTURER: Société Anonyme Pour l’Aviation et ses Derives

TYPE: Fighter

CREW: 1

DIMENSIONS: Wingspan 27 ft; Length 20 ft 8 in.; Height 7 ft 11.75 in.

LOADED WEIGHT: 1,808 lbs

POWER PLANT: 1 x 200 hp Hispano-Suiza 8Ba V-type or 1 x 230 hp Hispano-Suiza 8Be V-type

PERFORMANCE: 131 mph maximum speed (200 hp) and 140 mph (230 hp)

SERVICE CEILING: 6,645 m (21,801 ft)

ENDURANCE: 2 hour

ARMAMENT: 2 x 7.7 mm fixed forward-firing synchronized Vickers machine gun

TOTAL PRODUCTION: Approximately 8,400

SERVICE DATES: 1917–1923

Operation Crossbow Part I

Interdiction and Crossbow

On Sunday morning, June 18, 1944, Clementine Churchill, the prime minister’s wife, visited London’s Hyde Park to see her daughter Mary, who was a young officer serving with the local anti-aircraft battery. It had been a busy week on the home front. Almost two weeks prior, the invasion force had departed British ports and landed on the Norman coast. Early optimism over the landing’s success had receded slightly as the Germans had launched a new aerial assault, this time with unmanned, pilotless bombs. Mrs. Churchill arrived while the guns were firing at one of these strange contraptions, which sounded like a truck struggling, with its engine sputtering, to climb a steep hill. This particular aircraft passed overhead unharmed and destroyed a nearby house. As the mother and daughter were talking, another bomb appeared in the sky, and the battery again fired frantically at this machine as it flew overhead. Not hit, its engine stopped as scheduled, dove to earth, and exploded beyond the view of the women. Mrs. Churchill did not realize until later that morning that the explosion took place at the Guards Chapel at Wellington Barracks near Buckingham Palace. A service was in progress, and the bomb killed or wounded more than two hundred active and retired members of the brigade. This incident was the most destructive V-1 attack of the war.

The German flying bomb and rocket offensive came as no surprise to Allied leaders. Although the first attack did not take place until the middle of June 1944, British intelligence had known about German research in this area since 1939. Throughout 1942 and 1943, evidence continued to accumulate that this research had progressed beyond the simple experimentation stage. For several years, German scientists had been laboring at several locations, especially Peenemünde on the Baltic Sea, to perfect these systems to strike at the English enemy. By early 1943 it became apparent to British intelligence specialists that these programs were potentially dangerous and that the government needed to take action. It was ironic that this news arrived just as the prospects for Allied success in the war against Nazi Germany were improving. America had been in the conflict for more than a year, and its forces were now fighting the German army in North Africa. Its buildup of troops in the British Isles continued, and the US Eighth Air Force had joined RAF Bomber Command in its campaign against German industry. The Soviet Red Army had thrown back the Nazi offensive at Stalingrad and appeared to have turned the tide in the east. But it was premature to celebrate as new weapons emerged that seemed to threaten the foundation of the Anglo-American war effort. From the week after D-Day in June 1944 until the end of the war, British civilians lived under the constant bombardment of Hitler’s so-called vengeance weapons (Vergeltungswaffe). Most students of the Second World War are aware that the V-1 pilotless bomb and the V-2 rocket wreaked havoc on London, eastern England, and Antwerp until March 1945, when Allied forces overran the last launcher units. When it was over, the V-weapons had killed approximately 9,000 British and 1,400 Belgian civilians and wounded more than twice that many.

This shooting war, however, began almost a year earlier, under Operation Crossbow. From June 1943 until the end of the war, Allied heavy bombers attacked Peenemünde and other construction and testing facilities in Germany. These attacks fit into the already established parameters of the Combined Bomber Offensive, so there was no actual diversion of effort. What was a controversial deviation from the strategic forces’ intended role, however, was their large-scale employment to attack these systems and their facilities in France. Crossbow was a massive effort that from August 1943 until August 1944 consumed more than 15 percent of the total tonnage dropped by the RAF Bomber Command and the US Eighth Air Force. This operation also drained the resources of the two tactical air forces, the US Ninth Air Force and RAF Second Tactical Air Forces, as medium bombers and fighter-bombers attacked suspected V-weapon facilities. So important was it to the Combined Chiefs of Staff to find these launchers that from May 1943 until April 1945 it dispatched more than four thousand reconnaissance sorties in search of these weapons, more than 40 percent of the total. Across northwestern France, most of these attacks, often with more than fifty bombers at a time, took place near the small villages that dot the departments of Pas-de-Calais, Somme, and Nord. Few remember these events. Unlike the bombing of Rouen, Le Havre, Caen, and Saint-Lô, whose citizens have commemorated the Allied destruction of their cities, there are few memorials to the French citizens of this region. The number of casualties caused by this and related bombing efforts is not insignificant. Although exact losses are always difficult to estimate, Allied air attacks collectively killed approximately 8,460 civilians in the departments of the Pas-de-Calais, the Nord, and the Somme. If just 10 percent of those were as a result of the Noball offensive, which is reasonable considering the dispersion of the various launchers, then it is a figure worth noting in the historical record.

The descriptions of the V-weapon war fall into several incomplete historical narratives. One group of historians focuses on the technical aspects of these advanced weapons systems and the construction of the French launching sites. These works, while essential to understanding the vengeance weapon programs, generally fail to describe the effect of the bombing of these facilities on the French. British historian Norman Longmate typifies the second group of authors, who focus on the German use of these systems against targets in the United Kingdom. His books chronicle the suffering of the British living under these attacks and the determined efforts of fighter pilots to shoot down the flying bombs before they could do any damage. His is the narrative that most Englishmen who lived through that period can identify with. The third group of books is the official histories, which are the traditional sources for understanding the relationship of Allied bombing operations against these weapons, their launchers, and support facilities. In general, these historians see the commitment of bombers against these rocket sites as a diversion of precious air resources from their primary tasks, and they downplay their overall importance. All these traditional accounts fail to grapple with the damage bombing raids caused among the French towns and villages. Some historians have begun correcting this imbalance and are going beyond English-centric narratives and descriptions of construction and technical data. Regional historians, those who have grown up among the concrete ruins and have heard from their elders the stories of the bombing, have done the best work in this field. Finally, absent from almost all discussions are the forced laborers who constructed the massive concrete facilities. The thousands of people the Germans worked to death pouring concrete and digging into hillsides have been all but lost to history and assimilated into general discussions of the Holocaust. This group probably suffered from the Allied bombing in the same manner as other French civilians.

Vengeance Systems

Ultimately, three major systems emerged as Hitler’s vengeance weapons, his attempt to punish the English tormentors who refused to surrender to the logic of Nazi domination and continued to bomb German cities. Collectively, they represented a significant threat to the United Kingdom, the Allied war effort in general, and the invasion of northwest Europe in particular. Building the infrastructure for these systems was a massive effort that strained the German wartime economy. Constructing the dozen or so large launcher facilities, approximately ninety smaller launching sites, and a host of supply and storage installations drained workers and resources away from other construction priorities. Organisation Todt, the Nazi building contractor, had hoped to accomplish this work with volunteer and conscripted workers. There was never enough civilian labor, and ultimately it needed to resort to slave labor to keep the work on schedule. The first weapon placed into use was the Luftwaffe-designed flying bomb, the FZG-76 (Flakzielgerat 76), better known as the V-1 (Vergeltunswaffe 1) or Vengeance Weapon 1, intended to be launched from permanent sites. It was essentially a pilotless aircraft with a one-ton warhead and a unique-sounding pulse-jet engine. A magnetic-gyro compass guided it toward its destination. It flew at approximately 300 miles per hour until it ran out of fuel, a distance of 120 to 140 miles. Once it stopped, its one-ton high-explosive warhead crashed into the ground.

The second system was the Aggregat 4 or A-4, better known as the V-2 (Vergeltunswaffe 2) or Vengeance Weapon 2. Werner von Braun, who would later contribute to the American space program, developed it for the German army based on ideas developed by American scientist Robert Goddard. It was a long-range ballistic missile originally designed to be fired from fixed facilities in France and Belgium. In the last years of the war, this was the Nazi regime’s most expensive armament project and, in Hitler’s view, the best way to defeat the Anglo-American invaders. Each of these forty-five-foot systems traveled at more than three thousand miles per hour and carried a one-ton, high-explosive warhead. In open terrain, it could create a crater thirty-forty yards in diameter and ten to fifteen yards deep. Obviously, it was capable of doing widespread damage if it hit a city.

Crossbow Overview

As early as 1939, the British government was aware of several military rocket programs under development in Germany, and by the end of 1942 the intelligence services were receiving regular reports of rocket tests along the Baltic coast. Between January and June 1943, long-range reconnaissance flights had confirmed the existence of a testing area at Peenemünde, ninety miles east of Rostock, and had clearly identified the presence of rockets. At the same time, reports continued to accumulate about large-scale excavations and construction in the Pas-de-Calais and Manche departments of northern France. In April 1943 Churchill received his first detailed briefing on the possibility of long-range rockets aimed at London. The British Chiefs of Staff formed a special committee to monitor the developing threat and appointed a member of Parliament and Churchill’s son-in-law, Duncan Sandys, to head it. The primary task of this group was to figure out what the Germans were up to, what was the actual threat, and how the Allies could defeat it. A few members of the government doubted the existence of a rocket program, arguing it was a German hoax, but the evidence continued to accumulate as Sandys continued his investigation. Soon he had silenced their protests.

By early November 1943, the nature of the threat had become relatively clear as intelligence analysts realized that Organisation Todt was constructing three different types of installations in the Pas-de-Calais and the Cotentin Peninsula. Some of these were enormous, with deep excavations surrounded or covered by large amounts of concrete. These experts were still unable to determine their precise purpose but strongly suspected some innovative weapon. As a result, the Air Ministry, which had the best means of responding to enemy actions across the channel, took control of the investigation from Sandys’ committee and began to focus on the military aspects of the problem. Information continued to flow into London from a variety of sources, and by the beginning of 1944 it was evident that there were at least two different long-range weapon threats. Analysts reported that they had identified Flak Regiment 155W, with a headquarters in Amiens, which commanded 108 flying-bomb catapults designed to launch these unique aircraft. The prospect of rockets raining down on the United Kingdom could affect the nation’s will to fight and the Allies’ ability to invade the continent. Experts presented Churchill with estimates indicating that these rockets could inflict severe casualties upon the capital’s population, upwards of 30,000 killed and wounded. The British Chiefs of Staff were also concerned about the potential damage these weapons could do to the preparations for the landings in France. In the middle of December, they asked Frederick Morgan, still serving as the chief Overlord planner before Eisenhower’s arrival, about the potential effects of the rockets on the staging and execution of the invasion. They also inquired if he should consider mounting Operation Overlord from bases out of range of the vengeance weapons, such as harbors in Ireland, Northern Britain, or even the United States. The staff needed to know the chief planner’s thoughts and when they would have to make this decision. Morgan argued that the invasion had to be launched from the south, and he needed to know “at once” if he needed to make any significant changes in his plan. The chiefs directed no changes to the current preparations.

As the plan to deal with these weapons, known as Crossbow, emerged, it contained several distinct sets of action. Most immediately, the government developed a civil defense and security plan that integrated observers, detection devices, balloons, and interceptor aircraft. These improved on the measures developed earlier during the German air force’s bombing of London, but the staff was not overly optimistic about their effectiveness. The second aspect of the plan was the destruction of test sites and factories in Germany. The third and final portion of the operation was to destroy launching sites on the continent. They called this process Noball, which is the code name used for all missions and target lists against vengeance weapons in France.

The British public first became aware of this threat with the first V-1 attack, code-named Diver, a week after the Normandy invasion, during the night of June 12 and 13, when four bombs hit targets around London. A few days later, the barrage began in earnest with Flak Regiment 155W sending as many as one hundred flying bombs toward London each day. The most intense phase of this bombardment took place from June through the end of August 1944. During this period, the Germans controlled the French Pas-de-Calais region and used the plethora of modified launching sites scattered across the countryside. By June 18 the political panic within the British government was such that Eisenhower felt the need to pointedly tell Tedder that destroying Noball targets “are to take first priority over everything except the urgent requirements of the battle.” By July the British cabinet was debating using poison gas to contaminate launchers in France and as retaliation against the German homeland. Allied success on the battlefield muted such discussions, and as the Allies broke out of the Normandy bridgehead in July and began heading north, they overran these sites, sending the launch crews scurrying toward the Netherlands and Germany.

The first V-2 rocket attack, code-named Big Ben, hit London on September 8. There were few defensive measures the British could implement to stop the attacks. The rockets simply traveled too fast to be stopped by any system in the Allied inventory. The only effective defense was to continue to attack supply sites and factories in Germany. Rocket attacks continued against London and other cities in Europe until March 1945, when Allied ground forces overran most of Germany’s industrial area.

Executing Noball

British intelligence eventually identified four kinds of Noball targets in France: heavy sites, ski sites, modified sites, and supply and support facilities. It was the discovery of the nine large construction sites in the Pas-de-Calais region and the Cotentin Peninsula near Cherbourg that first captured the attention of British intelligence analysts. Throughout 1943 Organisation Todt’s building units, supported by thousands of slave workers and conscripted civilian labor, began excavating and building what British documents refer to as the “heavy” Crossbow sites. After the war, the Allies discovered that the German air force had responsibility for four of these, which were intended to store, assemble, and launch a large number of V-1 flying bombs. Code-named “Wasserwerk,” or water works, by the Germans to hide their purpose, these were primarily long tunnels with gaps in the ceiling to fire rockets toward London. In the Cotentin, they built one in Tamerville, northeast of Valognes, and the other at Couville, southwest of Cherbourg. The US Army’s VII Corps overran both of these installations in late June 1944. The other two were Lottinghen, east of Boulogne, and Siracourt, west of Arras in the Pas-de-Calais. Siracourt was typical of these kinds of launching sites. The dozen or so houses at the beginning of the war contained fewer than 140 citizens, mostly farmers and their families. The German army evacuated the French civilians as Organisation Todt arrived in the spring of 1943. On a little hill, just west of the village, contractors began construction in September. This facility was to be the first of four to process, store, and possibly fire the V-1. The main construction was 625 feet long and 132 feet wide and oriented at a right angle to London. The 1,200 workers, primarily Russians, Poles, Yugoslavs, and French forced labor, lived in a camp at Croix-en-Ternois a little more than a mile away. Under the supervision of Organisation Todt’s guard force (Schützkommando), the workers ultimately built the structure and poured more than 50,000 cubic meters of concrete to make it invulnerable to Allied bombers. Because of the bombing, however, it was impossible to finish its construction. As a result, the Germans never fired a flying bomb from it, and it fell to Canadian troops in September 1944.

The German army controlled the V-2 rockets, and it designed large concrete installations, capable of launching seven to ten rockets per day, with sophisticated storage and assembly capability. For example, the launchers at Wizernes, next to Saint-Omer, lay beneath a massive concrete cupola twenty feet thick and were capable of launching their rockets from two platforms. Other sites at Watten (Éperlecques), near Calais, and Sottevast, near Cherbourg, were just as massive and required millions of tons of concrete. Forty-four miles north of Siracourt and eleven miles northwest of the Luftwaffe airfields at Saint-Omer is the three-square-mile complex at Watten. On its southwest corner, Organisation Todt built a massive structure that came to be called the Blockhaus. It was an incredibly large structure that absorbed thousands of tons of concrete and the forced labor of thousands of unfortunate workers. Based on experience at the submarine pens along the coast, the German engineers expected it to withstand the bombardment of whatever the enemy could drop on top. The Allies never understood its exact purpose but knew they had to destroy anything that was consuming so much German effort. It was the first site detected by British reconnaissance. Duncan Sandys never believed it had an offensive capability and, even after his visit in October, considered it to be a plant for the production of hydrogen peroxide, which the Germans were using as a fuel. Postwar records and analysis indicate, though, that it may have served as a general storage, assembly, and launching facility in, according to one researcher, “a bomb-proof environment.” Most experts believe it was capable of launching rockets on its own.

Twelve miles south of the Blockhaus near Saint-Omer is the village of Wizernes. In an old quarry, Organisation Todt constructed one of the largest installations of the war, the V-2 launcher site known as La Coupole, or the dome, for the most impressive aspect of the facility. Todt designed it to assemble, fuel, and fire rockets from within the protected site. Upwards of 1,300 forced laborers worked on this project twenty-four hours a day. Like the Blockhaus, it had two launcher ramps that could fire rockets simultaneously and was probably the most sophisticated of the vengeance weapon launching sites. By March 1944 British intelligence was convinced that it needed to be added to the list of Noball targets. The most sinister of V-2 launcher sites was the silo complex west of Cherbourg near La Hague. These, generally overlooked by Allied intelligence, resemble the later American nuclear missile silos of the Cold War. It never became operational, and the US VII Corps occupied this region in July 1944. The problem for the Germans was that the construction crews could not hide the extensive work sites from the hundreds of Allied reconnaissance aircraft searching for signs of activity. The continuous bombing of the extensive excavations in France meant the Germans could not complete the launching facilities, which ended any possibility of the German air force using them. Ultimately, the Germans would fire no V-2 rockets from fixed sites but would employ mobile launchers that were essentially impossible for the Allies to detect in advance.

Eleven miles from Cap Gris-Nez, across the channel from Dover and ninety-five miles from the center of London, is a facility unique among the heavy sites. The British knew the Nazis were developing a long-range gun, but they did not know any details. The German army had done this before, and Allied commanders had visions of a weapon similar to the artillery used to bombard Paris in the previous conflict or the large guns deployed along the French coast. Therefore, most analysts believed the construction at Mimoyecques, France, was a variation on a V-2 launch site, since it bore no resemblance to anything with which they were familiar. Also, since most of the workers were German, few details emerged as to its actual intent. In reality, the site housed something revolutionary, a large battery of long-range guns, called Hochdruckpumpe (high-pressure pump) guns, later referred to by the Allies as Vengeance Weapon-3. Each 330-foot smooth-bore gun was to be capable of firing a six-foot-long dart about a hundred miles. Its range was the product of added velocity created by solid rocket boosters arrayed along the edge of the tube. Each projectile could carry about forty pounds of high explosives. The plan was to construct banks of five guns each with the potential of firing six hundred rounds per hour toward London. British intelligence knew little about what was going on inside the facility. After the war, Duncan Sandys’ investigation of the large sites discovered the true nature of the threat they had faced. Fortunately, Allied air attacks prevented Organisation Todt from ever finishing its work and German gunners were never able to fire these weapons.

The second kind of targets identified by Allied analysts were the so-called ski sites, named from the configuration of several buildings that looked like snow skis on their side. By late 1943 British intelligence officers had identified between seventy and eighty of these, hidden in the hundreds of wooden patches that dot the northwestern French countryside, with their launchers pointed directly at their intended target. If left alone, each one of these small installations could hurl fifteen FZG-76 flying bombs across the channel each day. The cumulative effect of hundreds of these striking London daily would not help civilian morale. They also posed a direct threat to the harbors from which the Allies would launch and sustain the invasion. One of the first sites identified by intelligence analysts was in the Bois Carré (Square Woods) about three-quarters of a mile east of Yvrench and ten miles northeast of Abbeville on the Somme. A French Resistance agent was able to infiltrate the construction site in October 1943 and smuggle out some of earliest detailed descriptions of a ski site layout. The long catapult, generally visible from the sky and quickly identified by reconnaissance aircraft, became the signature target indicator. As a result, even with extensive camouflage, they were identified, targeted, and destroyed by Anglo-American aircraft. As a result, none of these installations ever became operational.

Soon after the first air attacks, German leaders began considering an alternative method of launching the V-1. Security and concealment now became a priority, and these modified launcher sites were better camouflaged and of simpler construction. These new launchers no longer had many of the standard buildings, especially those that resembled skis, which had contributed to their rapid discovery by intelligence specialists. With minimal permanent construction, the only identifiable features were an easily hidden concrete foundation for the launch ramp and a small building to set the bomb’s compass. Other buildings were designed to blend into the environment or to look like the local farmhouses. All this took less than a week to fabricate, and forced labor no longer did the construction work, as German soldiers prepared each site in secret. Supply crews delivered the flying bombs directly to the launcher from a hidden location, assembled and ready to launch. All the teams needed to do was set the compass and mount it on the catapult. Difficult to locate from the air, these launchers would remain operational until overrun by Allied ground troops in early September 1944. After that, the Germans launched their V-1 rockets from sites in the Netherlands or from German bombers specially configured to fire these weapons.

One week after the last V-1 flew from French soil, the V-2 rocket made its first appearance when it slammed into a French village southeast of Paris, killing six civilians. The German army had abandoned any hope of using large fixed sites for anything other than storage, and they now organized the delivery of their rockets as mobile systems, structured around less than a dozen vehicles and trailers. While the rocket was still hidden, crews prepared it for launch, a process that took between four and six hours. Within two hours of mission time, the firing unit deployed to a previously surveyed site and erected the rocket on a mobile pad. As soon as it was on the way, the soldiers disappeared into the woods, leaving little trace of the launch. Unless an Allied fighter happened to catch the Germans during the short preparation process, there was little the air forces could do to prevent launches. The Germans fired none of the mobile V-2s from French soil, but fired them instead from Belgium, the Netherlands, and Germany. While not part of the discussion of bombing France, these rockets are an important reminder that the Germans continued to use mobile sites until the end of the war.

The final kinds of Noball targets were the supply sites that provided rockets for the individual firing units and the transportation network that supported them. By February 1944 the Allies had determined that seven facilities existed, one on the Cotentin Peninsula and the remainder arrayed just east of the belt of launchers. These, however, were relatively difficult to attack and were often located within underground bunkers or railroad tunnels, under fortresses, or deep within thick woods. They also were often protected by extensive anti-aircraft artillery. More vulnerable were the various rail yards that served as offload and staging points for these systems. Rail stations in Saint-Omer, Bethune, Lille, Lens, and Arras were the crucial nodes in this network. Attacking these transportation nodes also supported the goals of the Transportation Plan, the Allied attack of bridges along the Seine and Loire, and Operation Fortitude, the effort to deceive the Germans as to the actual location of the invasion.

 

Operation Crossbow Part II

V-1 Rocket attacked by Spitfire F Mk XVI

Effect on France

The standard British narrative omits or minimizes the effect of this campaign on the environment and people who lived near the concrete launcher facilities. War is not merely a sport played on a designated field between military teams, but is a multidimensional tornado of violence that scars the land and people through which it passes. The skies of this small corner of Europe—three departments, the Nord, the Pas-de-Calais, and the Somme, together smaller in size than the state of New Jersey—were never empty of combat aircraft as the Allies searched for these vengeance weapons. As pointed out earlier, these aircraft were not extremely accurate. American and British air commanders, especially those in charge of the heavy bombers, seldom made claims about bombing precision. In almost every case, no matter how small the target, a minimum of a dozen B-17s or Lancasters, the general flight configuration of operations over Germany, executed the attack. Unlike during raids against the Ruhr or industrial complexes across the Rhine, few Luftwaffe fighters defended these sites. Flying high above the objective, in the same formations they used in the heart of Germany, crews dropped their munitions with the intent to pulverize the installation by the cumulative effect of the explosive tonnage. As the authors of WPD-1 anticipated, most bombs missed the target. Some got close and affected the facility’s supply routes, while others only tore up farmers’ fields and killed their livestock. Many others physically destroyed the farms and villages near the objective, killing or wounding those who lived there. Therefore, in evaluating Operation Crossbow’s effect on France, we can examine it from three different aspects: the intensity of the air attacks, the inaccuracy of the attacks on these targets, and the killing and wounding of those near the bombing attacks.

The intensity of the bombing effort against Noball targets is difficult to understand in the contemporary era of precision munitions. According to the United States Strategic Bombing Survey, published soon after the war, this operation consumed 13.7 percent of all sorties, almost 37,000, launched by the Allied strategic air forces from August 1943 until August 1944. From December 1943 through June 11, 1944, more than 15.5 percent of all bombs dropped by heavy bombers were aimed at fixed sites in France. The tactical air forces conducted more than 4,000 reconnaissance sorties, 40 percent of the total between May 1943 to April 1945, to find the launchers and their supporting facilities. The northern French departments of Nord, Pas-de-Calais, and the Somme was one of the most heavily bombed parts of France if measured by individual missions. During the first three months of 1944, more than 50 percent of all bombs dropped in the country fell on these three small departments. The bombing’s scale is reflected in three ways: the number of attacks in the region, the number on a given target, and the intensity of a bombing mission. For example, in the space of just one month, February 1944, the towns of the Pas-de-Calais, an area smaller than the state of Delaware, absorbed 124 separate attacks, ranging in size from one or two aircraft to several dozen. Some areas, such as the installations at Siracourt and Éperlecques, were each hit several times. By spring, the weather had improved and the Allies had more aircraft available. On just one day, April 20, the region endured thirty-six separate attacks. The following month, during the week of May 7–13, this same small area absorbed more than seventy-one separate raids. The Allies increased the pace of these attacks as the June landings approached, and, shortly after that, the German air force began to launch flying bombs from the improvised sites toward London.

A second way to understand scale is to consider the number of missions flown against the individual sites. The large installations in the Pas-de-Calais absorbed an incredible number of bombs. The facility at Mimoyecques, what British investigators later discovered as the home of the Hochdrukpumpe (V-3), is typical of the offensive against the most prominent targets. Beginning with the first raid on November 5, 1943, the entire complex remained in a state of increasing pulverization. Determining the exact number of sorties that attacked this or any target is difficult. Records usually include reports of the intended target and what pilots thought they were attacking. Some hit the wrong objective without even knowing it. Other crews, especially those in the tactical air forces, hit targets of opportunity. Observers on the ground reported Allied air attacks on days not mentioned in the documents now stored in London or American archives. In the case of Mimoyecques, Allied bombers attacked seventeen times between November 1943 and July 6, 1944. Most missions ranged in size from 10 to 40 aircraft. Several raids were enormous in relationship to the targets, with more than 280 heavy bombers pulverizing the area on November 5, 1943, another 300 on March 19, and 350 on March 26. Two raids on July 6 essentially ended all work on the site. The morning strike of more than 85 Lancasters was with conventional munitions, mainly 500-pound bombs. An afternoon attack of the RAF’s crack 617 Squadron, equipped with 17 Lancaster bombers carrying 12,000-pound Tallboy bombs, finished the destruction of the facility.

In the case of the Wasserwerk at Siracourt, for example, 74 US B-24 Liberator bombers arrived overhead on January 31, 1944. Each bombardier aimed to place his payload on top of a building the size of a modern football field. As the Air Force knew, the probability of actually hitting the target was quite small. The 189 tons of ordnance had little effect on the construction, as most bombs fell in fields far from the actual target. The attack destroyed one building and damaged nine in the village. Bombs also hit two buildings in the local village of Croix-en-Ternois, where the workers who built the facility lived. This attack was the first of thirty-three, conducted by more than 1,200 bombers, which would take place over the next year. The Eighth Air Force struck six times in February, twice in March, four times in April, and six times in May. The Ninth Air Force attacked Siracourt on March 18 and April 22. These were, from the airmen’s perspective, relatively easy missions. During a May 21 mission, for example, each aircraft carried eight 1,000-pound bombs. The 99 B-17 bombers had P-47 Thunderbolt fighters as escorts all the way and encountered no enemy fighters or anti-aircraft artillery. Dropping their bombs at 21,000 feet at ground obscured by clouds, crews had no idea of what kind of damage their explosives caused. As one crewman remarked in his journal, “This raid was short and sweet. . . . Hope I have 27 more just like this one.” The Allies continued to attack this target, just in case, until the end of June.

Another good example is the Blockhaus at Watten in the Éperlecques forest. The Eighth Air Force sent more than 180 B-17 bombers to take out the site on August 27, 1943. The first aircraft hit as scheduled at 1845 hours. Allied planners, based on reports from the French Resistance, planned to arrive at 1830, when the work site was unoccupied because of a shift change, to avoid killing the workers. But because they were behind schedule, Todt’s contractors had kept the day shift on the job to catch up. The 374 2,000-pound bombs found the slave laborers at their stations. Hundreds died as American bombers continued to drop their cargo for almost an hour. When it was over, five bombs had hit the target, with the remainder landing in the forest and nearby farmland. Contrary to initial positive reports, the raid inflicted little actual damage, and the Germans continued the construction. Over the next year, British and American bombers would attack this massive structure at least twenty-four more times, and each time the workers repaired the damage and continued working.

The last attack in this series was an Operation Aphrodite mission on August 4. Aphrodite was an American attempt to use worn-out bombers, loaded with explosives and equipped with newly developed radio guidance systems, to destroy important targets. Essentially each bomber was an early version of a cruise missile. Unfortunately these bombers required live pilots to fly the aircraft from the airfield to a point over the English Channel. Then, the two-person crew was supposed to parachute out of the plane, while a crew in another flew the unmanned bomber by radio control. The goal was to crash the explosive-laden aircraft into the target. Unfortunately the technology was still in development, and these missions were almost always unsuccessful. Such was the case of these two old B-17s that never made it to the objective. The US Navy followed the Air Forces’ lead in these experiments, with as little success. Joseph P. Kennedy Jr., brother of future president John F. Kennedy, died when the converted B-24 he was flying to the launch position exploded in mid-air.

The massive La Coupole near Wizernes is another example of a heavily bombed target. The Allies were late as the massive dome was already in place and and mostly invulnerable to attack by March 1943. The first strike, consisting of 34 B-24 bombers, hit on March 11. The 248 1,000-pound bombs did little but damage the local countryside. Nine more raids, comprising 348 heavy bombers and more than 2,000 large bombs, did little damage, and work continued inside, although affected slightly by the damage outside. Bomber Command began attacking La Coupole in June and July with raids of between 80 and 100 aircraft and dropping hundreds of tons of bombs, including several dozen Tallboy 12,000-pounders. The July 17 attack caused the dome to shift and block the entrances, but it did little to affect the site itself. Of course, the countryside was a bombed-out mess, and it was almost impossible for workers and material to get to the construction site. The Germans were long gone when Canadian and Polish troops arrived in the Saint-Omer region at the end of August.

A final way to consider the scale of this operation is the intensity of the attacks on individual sites by specific missions. In addition to the intense bombing of the large sites described above, the V-1 sites absorbed an incredible amount of ordnance. Typical was the installation near Wisques, west of Saint-Omer in the Pas-de-Calais. With fewer than three hundred people, it was a typical farm community. Its most prominent feature was a beautiful nineteenth-century Benedictine abbey on the western part of town on the edge of the local forest. Hidden in that forest was a standard “ski” launch site. Thirty-six A-20 Havoc light bombers arrived overhead on the evening of March 19, 1944, and for almost three hours these aircraft took turns dropping their payloads on the small patch of woods, obscured by fire from antiaircraft guns and smoke from the burning forest. When they had departed, they were not quite sure if they had damaged the target. The Eighth Air Force sent six B-17 heavy bombers on April 20, and the Ninth Air Force returned with B-26 medium bombers two days later on April 22. Twenty-one B-17 heavy bombers returned to attack the installation five days later, and thirty-three P-47 Thunderbolt fighters worked the woods over on June 2, the last recorded attack on the Wisques launcher. Cumulatively, it was a massive amount of combat power directed against a relatively small and insignificant target.

The intensity of these attacks was made worse by the bombers’ notorious inaccuracy. By early 1944, after years of practice, the Eighth Air Force had improved its bombing accuracy to the degree that 36 percent of its bombs fell within one thousand feet of an actual aiming point. Against targets in Germany, this was acceptable, but from the French perspective, most raids conducted by heavy bombers still resembled area attacks. Add considerations such as inclement weather, German ground and air defenses, and simple human error, it is not surprising that bomb runs were often wide of the intended target. Photographs of craters in target areas testify to the broad impact spread of a typical attack. Beyond the damage done to the weapons sites, these runs often hit nearby French villages and individual structures. In some cases, such as the bombing of rail yards, the damage was apparent to all. In most cases, however, the Noball offensive was characterized by the destruction of small farms and villages far from most observers. This “collateral damage,” to use a modern term, is seldom mentioned in reports or dispatches by attacking units. To those who owned these structures, their destruction was an emotional event. The fundamental community structure of the region, dating back to the premedieval era, was a small central cluster of farmhouses and barns with a forest nearby that provided a source of game and lumber. Most of the surrounding open area was devoted to growing grains and potatoes and raising cattle. The nature of these clusters was that if they were near a target, the odds were high that the carpet bombing would destroy them. Reports provided to the local prefect confirm the damage, as do photographs of the bombed areas taken by poststrike reconnaissance aircraft. Immediately after the war, French farmers and property owners filed reports with the local authorities documenting their losses and requesting assistance in rebuilding, reports that can be seen in departmental archives today.

Often the Allies attacked these small villages only once or twice. For example, the town of Blendecques, the location of a V-1 ski site, had about 3,500 inhabitants at the beginning of the war. The town was southeast of the highly militarized region of Saint-Omer, and it is hard to know how many of the original residents were still there. On April 22 the Ninth Air Force raided it for the first and apparently the only time. At around 1900 hours fifty B-26 bombers attacked the site. When the attackers were gone, at least fifty bombs had hit the town, killing five civilians and wounding another three badly. The attack destroyed eleven homes and damaged forty-three others. Month after month, correspondence from the local prefectures across the region identified the damage or destruction to individual homes and structures. While not as dramatic as the bombing of Caen or Rouen, this damage had a substantial effect on the local population, which had now lost their homes and source of livelihood.

Those villages in the shadow of the large sites provide more dramatic examples of the effects of Allied bombing. One good example is the small village of Helfaut, on the south side of the woods near the La Coupole at Wizernes. At the beginning of the war, it had fewer than fifty structures of all kinds: homes, barns, and small shops. One attack on March 19 destroyed ten of those and severely damaged twenty more. By the end of the war, the bombing attacks had mostly destroyed this town and driven its inhabitants away. Apparently aiming for La Coupole on June 20, an Eighth Air Force bombing mission could not find its target, and fifteen B-24 bombers dropped their bombs over the town of Guarbecque, sixteen miles to the southeast. The bombs hit the center perfectly. When the fires were out, the citizens discovered that the attack had damaged their church, destroyed the town hall, and burned more than ninety buildings to the ground. Two weeks after the Normandy landings, American aircraft had almost wiped this French village of slightly less than a thousand inhabitants off the map.

Most dramatic was the destruction that took place near the rail yards and transportation centers that supported the construction of installations and the supply of rockets for the firing batteries. These missions were not part of the Transportation Plan, discussed later, but an integral part of defeating the vengeance weapon threat. Béthune, located in the center of a triangle formed by the cities of Lille, Saint-Omer, and Arras, provides one example of the level of destruction wrought by these bombings. Located along the battle lines of the First World War, this was a rebuilt version of the ancient city. It was a relatively large town, with a densely populated city center of approximately 20,000 inhabitants. In addition to its rail yard, it was a center of regional mining, especially coal. Bombers struck the town and its suburbs on April 20, 21, 22, 23, and 27. In the wake of the bombing, hundreds of buildings were gone, including the rail yard and the housing for miners and railway workers. These are just several of the examples of communities in northwestern France damaged or destroyed as part of the Allied Noball operation.

Each of the material examples described above has a human cost. Each month the department’s préfet, the state’s representative, compiled a list describing the effects of the bombing. Organized by date and community, the report identifies every town bombed or machine-gunned. Most often, the numbers are not large, especially in comparison to the carnage on the eastern front. Six wounded and seven killed at Sallaumines outside of Lens on April 20, 1944. Another five wounded and three dead on May 6, and another seventeen killed and fifteen wounded on May 12, and so on, often with other notations such as that the bombs landed in the field. These casualties continued to accumulate well into July 1944, more than a month after the invasion at Normandy. Sometimes the numbers in the right column attract attention, such as the attack on April 27 that left forty-eight dead and thirty-six wounded at Béthune, or on June 20 at Guarbecque that left eighteen wounded and twenty civilians dead.

The more detailed reports, written by the local officials, are often quite gripping. The bombing on May 12 of the village of Saint-Venant, on the road between Hazebrouck and Béthune, is one such example. The attack killed only one victim, forty-eight-year-old André Pierru, who was working in the field. He was a veteran of the Great War and the 1940 Campaign and a knight of the Legion of Honor. He left behind a wife and a fifteen-year-old son. Reading the report it is evident that to the local police official, Monsieur Pierru was not a simple number, but a friend. Another perspective is the one presented by police officials in the larger town and cities. Here we find reports that describe the nature of the attack and list the dead by name, often including the deceased’s address. For example, the police commissioner of Arras reported by name those killed and wounded during the bombing of April 30. The raid wounded twenty-three citizens and six “sujets russes.” Then he continues with a list of the eight dead:

  • Vasseur, Yvette
  • Greuin, Gaston
  • Fleurquin, Oscar (48 years old)
  • Seneca, Miss
  • Lefebvre, Marcel (15 months old)
  • Rifflart, Kléber
  • Haudiquet, Lucien
  • Van Rokeghem, François (61 years old)

As the weeks went by, officials refined these reports and passed the new information to the national government. Often they reported the subsequent deaths of the wounded in the hospitals and more detailed information as to the scale of the damage to the community. From the countryside, these documents are brief, often only a simple letter. Reports from the larger cities, such as Lille, Calais, and Boulogne-Sur-Mer, provide a similar but longer list of casualties. In the end, it is hard to assess the actual human cost of Noball attacks in isolation from the other operations going on. A local historian, Hugues Chevalier, believes that approximately 5,000 civilians perished in just the Pas-de-Calais under Allied bombs from 1943 to 1945. Of the approximately 60,000 to 70,000 civilians killed in France by aerial bombing, perhaps 10 percent died as a result of the Allied search for German vengeance weapons. Probably two or three times that number were wounded. For many reasons, we will probably never have an accurate accounting of the human toll in this region.

Absent from both the Allied and French narratives of the Noball operation is any commentary on the forced laborers who constructed these sites for Organisation Todt. As Jim Aulich, one of the few scholars to address this aspect of the war, notes, these camps are at the “margins of memory.” Aulich’s father was a forced laborer and helped construct the Blockhaus near Éperlecques, and he passed on some of the details from this camp, of which there were many along the French coast. Officially named Organisation Todt Watten Zwangsarbeiter 62 (Forced Labor Camp 62), it had more than 35,000 workers living there at some point in 1943 and 1944. During peak construction, between 3,000 and 4,000 slaves worked on each twelve-hour shift, seven days a week, with few breaks. The German masters, and perhaps their French contractors, worked most of these unfortunates to death. At Wizernes, 1,300 workmen labored on the site day and night. Badly nourished and abused, they were forced to continue working, even under air attack, until the Germans abandoned the site in July 1944. The last 500 Soviet workers working in the Coupole were sent by train to Germany and “never seen again.” As the bombers approached, German guards ran for cover, often leaving the workers to their own devices. Many, such as Aulich’s father, escaped. The raids were costly nevertheless. As one Dutch prisoner of war, Luc Vandevelde, working at the camp near Watten, noted, after three attacks carried out by more than 320 bombers in 1943, they had more than 1,500 dead. Without question, the nature of this forced labor, and the fate of those workers caught under Allied bombs, is still one of the least discussed and explained aspects of the Second World War in the west.

In the end, the Noball operation was relatively successful. Because of the bombing, neither the Heer nor the Luftwaffe was able to launch a single rocket from the large facilities or ski sites from Normandy or the Cotentin Peninsula toward the overcrowded ports of Plymouth, Bristol, Portsmouth, or Southampton. The three-month delay in V-1 flying bomb launches and as much as a six-month delay in deploying the V-2 rocket were crucial to the ultimate Allied success. But anyone interested in the Second World War in Europe, or those fascinated with the technical aspects of the conflict’s weapons, knows most of this story. The British experience with these attacks, because they were so concentrated in London and southeastern England, is also amply documented and reported in histories of the conflict.

The continental perspective is less well known, even among the French who, as we shall see, are more prone to remember the effects of raids on the larger ports and rail yards. The rural population near each site was small, and the civilian casualty rates relatively insignificant. Even the French who lived near these war ruins understood these were legitimate targets and were taking a risk by remaining. Fortunately, local French historians are doing a marvelous job of researching and explaining the nature, scope, and effects of the attacks on these sites in the three northern departments. Their efforts illuminate the scope and details of a portion of the air war Spaatz and Harris considered a significant diversion from their larger goal of taking the fight to the Germans. Churchill, however, after hearing the British people’s complaints, had a pressing political need to defeat the V-weapon menace, and it was one of his highest priorities, as reflected by Eisenhower’s memorandum to Tedder on June 18. The bombing of these installations in France was thus an important aspect of the Allied air war against France.

 

The War in The Indian Ocean, 1803-06

Defeat of French Admiral Linois by Commodore Dance, February. 15th. 1804

Defence of the Centurion in Vizagapatam Road, September. 15th 1804

For the Royal Navy, there was no more demanding station than the East Indies. The command stretched over an enormous area, amounting to almost 29 million square miles from the Cape of Good Hope in the west to Manila in the east, which made locating enemy forces and coordinating operations incredibly difficult. On one occasion in 1805, two British fleets spent months sailing around the Indian Ocean in an attempt to combine forces, only to keep missing each other. It followed that protecting British trade against enemy predations was a severe challenge, made harder still by the paucity of resources devoted to the region. In July 1803 the naval force amounted to a mere nine vessels and it was not until the following year that the fleet began to reach a respectable size. Moreover, all merchant ships entering and leaving the region travelled along a precarious trade route, forced to negotiate enemy privateers based at the French ports at Ile Bonaparte (formerly Ile Bourbon, and nowadays Réunion) and Ile de France (Mauritius). The defence of British commerce was complicated further by the monsoon, which created specific windows in which trade could enter and leave the region, seasonal restrictions that were well known to the watching French squadrons as they waited to attack British shipping.

The navy was further hampered by poor charts, uncooperative merchants and the ever- present threat of fever. Between 1806 and 1810, over a thou- sand men died of disease, and the navy was forced to resort to large- scale impressment from merchant ships to make up the deficiencies in manpower. Perhaps the greatest challenge, though, was the vast distance between a fleet in the Indian Ocean and the Admiralty in London. Naval commanders were often operating with information months out of date and with no clear idea as to what the Admiralty wished them to do. A letter sent by sea took between four and five months to arrive, while the passage by land through Turkey and the Middle East was fraught with its own dangers. Put simply, it took an awfully long time for messages to reach India and even longer when enemy fleets were cruising in the Indian Ocean: one message sent late in 1803 took eleven months to arrive. Naval commanders did correspond with the Admiralty but essentially they were left to their own devices, forced to judge situations and make decisions without recourse to a higher authority. As a result, the war in the East remained remote and isolated from the rest of the naval conflict.

Such was the distance that even declarations of war could take months to arrive. July 1803 found Admiral Peter Rainier gazing expectantly into the port of Pondicherry, an unfortified harbour on the south- east coast of India. Anchored inside was a French fleet that had sailed to the Indian Ocean during the Peace of Amiens under the command of Charles- Alexandre Durand Linois. For two months, Rainier received unconfirmed rumours that war between Britain and France had resumed, but without official authorisation he refrained from attacking. Rainier had commanded the East Indies station for eight years, a role that had made him an incredibly rich man: at his death his property was valued at nearly a quarter of a million pounds, an astonishing sum even by standards of naval prize money. By 1803 he was eager to come home and had already attempted to resign his position once before. With his unparalleled knowledge of the region, however, the Admiralty was reluctant to allow him to return, and insisted that he remain in command. On the night of 24 July, correctly anticipating the news of war, the French squadron slipped past his fleet and put to sea. Rainier was left scrabbling. `At Daylight I sent ships out in different directions to observe what course he had steered,’ he wrote to the Admiralty, `but none of them were able to get sight of him.’ Not until the end of August did the news of war reach Rainier, by which time Linois’s fleet had disappeared into the vast Indian Ocean.

Linois’s escape struck at the heart of Britain’s trading empire. Since the loss of the American colonies, the East Indies had become a region of great commercial opportunity, while trade with India and China had grown rapidly in the late eighteenth century. In 1803 it accounted for £6.3 million of British imports, more than that of any other region of the world. It was of vital importance to the British government’s execution of the war, for the revenue generated by trade brought vast fiscal resources into the nation’s coffers. In 1803 the revenue on tea alone was worth £1.7 million to the Treasury, enough to cover a sixth of the entire naval budget. This commerce was conducted exclusively by the leading trading organisation of its time, the East India Company, which governed British trade across the Indian Ocean. Although a semi- private company, it effectively ruled and administered large stretches of India, its power centralised in three presidencies at Madras, Bombay and Calcutta, with a further outpost at Penang. The Company acted as a state in its own right, funding a private army to back up its interests, and also supported a small naval force known as the Bombay Marine. This was insufficient for the Company’s needs, however, and the Royal Navy was therefore charged with protecting the region’s vast coastline from French incursions, while also defending the Company’s seaborne commerce.

The unique nature of the East Indies station provoked contrasting emotions among the officers and sailors posted to the region. As Rainier’s bank balance could attest, there was considerable prize money to be made, and for others the exotic East promised novelty and adventure. Robert Hay, a sailor on board Culloden as it voyaged to the East Indies in 1804, was initially fascinated by what he encountered:

`The appearance of everything here was new and strange,’ he later wrote. Not everyone, however, was so enthusiastic and even Hay himself began to have second thoughts: In these warm climates, men have a much greater number of enemies to annoy them than in the more temperate regions. The first and minutest, though not the least troublesome, is the mosquito . . . as soon as the shades of night set in, they begin their depredations, and woe to every inch of human skin exposed to the attacks, especially that of newly- arrived Europeans, whose face, after sleeping ashore on the first night, may be so disfigured as to be scarcely recognisable by his most intimate acquaintance.

Some of those with prior experience of the region took the opportunity to switch command: Lieutenant Hawkins of Culloden was `not fond of India’ and transferred to a ship on a home station after discovering its destina- tion. It was for precisely this reason that the Admiralty was determined that the experienced Rainier should remain on station, at least until a suit- able replacement could be found. With Linois’s fleet loose in the Indian Ocean and capable of striking at any of Britain’s Indian possessions, Rainier was attempting to find a needle in a haystack. The Commander- in- Chief was faced with a difficult choice: he could concentrate his resources on protecting Company trade or arrange them to defend Britain’s Indian possessions, but his limited means meant that he was unable to do both. Frustrated by this dearth of resources, he was forced to explain to the Governor- General, the Marquis Wellesley, that he had no spare ships to chase Linois. Rainier organised his fleet to defend what he believed were the weaker parts of the Indian coastline, at Goa, Bombay and Trincomalee, while a small detachment of a frigate and two sloops was sent under Captain Walter Bathurst to protect Madras. Rainier kept together his four ships of the line, which included the 50- gun Centurion, to repel any surprise French incursions. In the face of this limited force, over the next two and a half years Linois’s squadron proved a persistent and aggressive adversary, attacking trade and raiding British settlements, returning each winter to its base at Mauritius. Faced with such a nimble and elusive foe, Rainier was constantly playing catch-up.

The French threat was quickly made clear. Having escaped from Pondicherry in July, Linois had headed south to Ile de France, where he finally confirmed that war had been declared. On 8 October, Linois put to sea with the warship Marengo, two frigates, Belle Poule and Simillante, and the corvette Berceau, and headed north once again. He was well aware of his operational advantage over Rainier. As he explained in 1803, `there are many points to guard, their forces must be greatly stretched. That gives me hope to do them much harm by moving the great distances within the different parts of the Indian Seas.’ The French ability to attack suddenly, and with devastating effect, was demonstrated on 2 December 1803, when Linois’s squadron descended unexpectedly on Sumatra, sailing into Bencoolen harbour. Flying British colours until the last minute, the squadron caught the British unprepared and completely fooled them – the garrison even sent out a pilot to help navigate the fleet into port. Two prizes were taken and five merchantmen burnt, while landing parties set fire to the warehouses. Having wreaked havoc, Linois escaped to the safety of the nearby Dutch colony of Batavia. Rainer did not hear of the raid until two months later, by which time Linois was long gone.

Rainier’s limited resources also meant that the annual China convoy, which carried vast quantities of tea to Britain, sailed on 31 January 1804 without a naval escort. It left with 27 poorly armed Indiamen, carrying a cargo worth £8 million on board. It was an easy target for the French, and at daybreak on 14 February it was intercepted near the eastern entrance of the Strait of Malacca by Linois’s squadron. In a bluff that was as brave as it was fortunate, the convoy’s commander, Nathaniel Dance, steered straight for the French with his ships in a line- of- battle formation and ordered them to fly the naval ensign. He hoped to fool the enemy commander and, as luck would have it, Linois had received erroneous intelligence that British naval forces were in the region. Believing the Indiamen to be ships of the line, he delayed further action until the next morning. Having finally attacked, a brief and confused engagement of forty minutes convinced Linois that he was up against warships, and he made the terrible decision to haul off. Determined to maintain the pretence, Dance signalled a general chase after the retreating foe, and Linois was completely deceived. The Battle of Pulo Aura, as it became known, was a triumph for the East India Company and a disaster for the French but it clearly demonstrated that the Royal Navy was overstretched. In October and November 1804 Rainier ordered as many ships as possible to protect the China trade through the Malacca Strait, and to ensure there was no repeat of Pulo Aura.

After his embarrassing defeat, Linois returned somewhat chastened to Ile de France. In Europe, Napoleon was furious: `the conduct of Admiral Linois is miserable,’ he wrote to Decres. `He has made the French flag the laughing stock of the Universe.’ Linois had an uncomfortable interview with the equally unimpressed French Governor- General, Charles Mathieu Isidore Decaen, who urged him to return to sea immediately. Dutifully, Linois continued to prey on British trade for the remainder of 1804, with some success. In September his small squadron attacked naval ships stationed at Vizagapatam, severely damaging the British Centurion and coming away with the East India vessel Princess Charlotte. The operation demonstrated once more the difficulty of protecting a long coastline, but Linois again came under heavy criticism from Decaen for not annihilating the British warship. However, his attacks began to take their toll on Rainier, now ageing and increasingly worn out by the demands of the station, and in 1804 a replacement was sent out to take command. Rainier’s final task was to escort the China trade back to Britain: in September 1805 a convoy with cargo worth £15 million arrived home without loss. This was the most valuable ever to leave Indian waters, and a fitting end to Rainier’s long and under-appreciated career.

His replacement was Rear- Admiral Edward Pellew, who had formerly commanded off Ferrol. Assertive and dynamic, he brought a new vigour to the war in the East. As he sailed out, and in characteristically brisk prose, he dreamed of `giving a blow to the inveterate and restless Enemies of Mankind’. A series of reinforcements from Britain supple- mented the East Indies fleet throughout 1804, and Pellew was able to spread his forces far more widely than Rainier, sending ships to protect the China trade and the Strait of Malacca. Like many others, Pellew struggled to adapt to the oppressive climate, and spent his first weeks bitterly regretting the lengths he had gone to in order to secure the appointment:

We have reached our destination without accident and have felt the glowing heat of a Thermometer at 88º, how I should hold out against such melting I know not . . . I cannot say I am much struck with the Country, and am often very angry with myself for being instrumental to my leaving England and think I did not act wisely.

He was even less impressed with the administrators he found on land: `In short it is a climate of indolence and luxury,’ he wrote, `united with avarice and oppression of which I am truly disgusted.’ He was mercilessly rude about the young men he found lounging around uttering `elegant Quotations from Shakespeare’, and was critical of the East India Company’s control of India, which he likened to Napoleon’s domination of Europe. He had no qualms, however, about halting French imperial ambitions.

From the beginning of his command, Pellew received numerous complaints about the shortcomings in the navy’s protection of commerce. One of the first letters was from Lord Wellesley, bemoaning `the vexatious list of the Captures recently made by the French in these Seas, and carried into the Mauritius in the face of our Cruisers off that island’. This point was immediately hammered home when Linois emerged again in the summer of 1805: on 1 July his small but powerful squadron intercepted and captured the 1,200- ton Indiaman Brunswick off Ceylon. Brunswick had lost many men to naval impressment and was heavily outmatched in terms of guns: threatened with an overwhelming broadside, its captain had little choice but to surrender. On board was the midshipman Thomas Addison, who was devastated to give up the vessel: `I cannot express the intensity of my feelings,’ he later wrote, `being compelled to yield into the hands of the enemy this fine, beautiful and valuable ship.’ Addison and the ship’s officers were held on board Marengo, where they were forced to submit to trying conditions. `They have a poor idea of cleanliness; neatness is out of the question,’ wrote Addison. `Our living was wretched. Only two meals per diem; both put together would hardly make a good English breakfast, with a purser’s pint of sour Bordeaux claret, and a half pint of water.’

After this valuable capture, Linois sailed south hoping to prey on the trade route between the Cape and Madras. In August his fleet encountered a convoy of eleven large ships sailing eastwards, commanded by Rear- Admiral Thomas Troubridge, until recently a Lord of the Admiralty in Whitehall. Linois steered to intercept, only this time he found a real naval escort defending the convoy. The two fleets exchanged distant fire: Addison, still imprisoned in the depths of Marengo, was forced to listen to the sounds of battle. `Firing now commenced with great spirit,’ he recalled, `we heard a thundering return from the English man- of- war, which was soon followed by terrific screams between decks.’ Troubridge did not attempt to chase Linois, for his task was to see the convoy through to India rather than eliminate French cruisers. `We saw no more of the French,’ wrote one of his passengers, Mary Sherwood, `but we afterwards ascertained that we had made Linois suffer so severely that he was glad to get away.’ While Troubridge headed north, Linois proceeded to the Cape, his squadron weakened by successive storms, and then into the South Atlantic where he aimed to raid the coast of West Africa. On 13 March 1806, he met the squadron commanded by John Borlase Warren that had left Britain months earlier in search of Willaumez’s fleet. Forced to fight against a superior foe for the first time – Warren’s flagship was the powerful 90- gun London – Marengo was reduced to a shattered hulk before the French commander finally surrendered. After almost three years of cruising he had captured shipping worth £600,000, a considerable sum that had caused great concern in India and London. However, Linois’s destructive campaign was over and he remained a prisoner until 1814.

The British Man of War London capturing the Marengo of Admiral Linois, 13 March 1806

Great Syrian rebellion, 1925–7

Damascus in flames after High Commissioner Sarrail gave orders to shell the city.

Sultan Pasha al-Atrash, leader of Great Syrian Revolt of 1925, in the Arabian Desert after fleeing Syria.

In July 1925, the Druze of the Hawran exploded in revolt. This lit a fuse for an insurrection that would spread as far north as Hama and the Orontes valley, and as far west as southern Lebanon. For a brief period it even looked as though the French were about to be driven out: a sentiment that was expressed by the famous Arabist Gertrude Bell. She was one of the British officials who had set up the Mandate of Iraq and placed Faisal on its throne, almost as a compensation for his loss of Syria. In a secret report from Baghdad which she wrote that November following a trip to Syria, she expressed the opinion that “it is the Druze who will enable his brother Syrians to evict the French.”

This revolt should have been foreseen. The Druze had soon found that the autonomy the French granted them was, in reality, largely a way for the French to interfere in their lives, manipulate disputes between Druze notables to their advantage, and extend their control into the Druze heartland. They were well aware of the French “divide and rule” policies, and observed how they were calculated to insulate the Druze heartland from Damascus, which they resented. They felt much closer to other Syrians than the French were prepared to admit to themselves. Druze leaders such as Sultan al-Atrash had contact with Damascus- based nationalists as well as those in Amman, the capital of Jordan. When their revolt came, it was in the name of Syrian independence – not that of the Druze state-let which the French had carved out for them.

The Hawran had already been restive and seen much discontent, but the straw which broke the camel’s back concerned the behaviour of a Captain Carbillet who had been temporarily put in charge of the Druze state-let while the French decided whom to appoint as the next ethnically Druze governor. Appointment of the governor was a delicate question for the authorities, since it meant successfully negotiating their way through the maze of Druze clan politics. Carbillet was a high- minded but arrogant believer in the values of the French republic. He was energetically trying to bring the modern world to the Hawran, and enjoyed High Commissioner Sarrail’s full support. But his decision to split common land between peasant families as part of a land reform programme – aimed at ending what he perceived to be “feudalism” – conflicted with customary usages. This made him unpopular, as did his conscription of Druze from all segments of society as forced labour to build roads. Not only did the Druze object to the forced labour on principle, but they considered conscripting their clan leaders an insult to the clan. They also shrewdly observed that the main purpose for the roads would be to bring tax collectors and the French army to their doors.

On 11 July, three Druze leaders arrived in Damascus at Sarrail’s invitation to discuss their grievances, while Carbillet had been sent on temporary leave. Sarrail decided to hold them hostage to encourage “good behaviour” among the Druze, and had them taken to Palmyra and imprisoned. This was understandably seen as an appalling breach of the traditions of hospitality and treatment of envoys. A week later, the Hawran rose under the leadership of Sultan al-Atrash, the most important Druze clan leader and an eminent notable whose father had been hanged by the Turks. Although an officer in the Ottoman army, by the end of the Great War he had become a firm partisan of Faisal and the Arab revolt. More recently, he had his own cause for concern as the French had been trying to undermine his pre-eminent position among the Druze.

French columns in the Hawran were ambushed and destroyed, and then a punitive expedition sent from Damascus was forced to retreat. During the first weeks of the rebellion, a thousand French colonial soldiers were killed, and the Druze even captured some artillery. Their revolt soon spread beyond their community, as some local Muslims and Christians joined in. A Druze column marching on Damascus was only stopped outside the city in late August by an air attack and a Moroccan cavalry squadron. Leaflets signed by Sultan al-Atrash appeared in many neighbourhoods. They combined Arabic rhetoric with that of the French Revolution, and clearly demonstrated that intellectuals in Damascus had had a hand in drafting them. They denounced the French attempts to divide Syria – as well as the partition of Greater Syria itself:

The imperialists have stolen what is yours. They have laid hands on the very sources of your wealth and raised barriers and divid- ed your homeland. They have separated the nation into religious sects and states. They have strangled freedom of religion, thought, conscience, speech and action. We are no longer allowed to move about freely in our own country.

They ended with four demands:

  1. The complete independence of Arab Syria, one and indivisible, sea coast and interior;
  2. The institution of a Popular Government and the free election of a Constituent Assembly for the framing of an Organic Law;
  3. The evacuation of the foreign army of occupation and the creation of a national army for the maintenance of security;
  4. The application of the principles of the French Revolution and the Rights of Man.

To arms! God is with us. Long live independent Syria! Sultan al-Atrash, Commander of the Syrian Revolutionary Armies

Within days, the countryside around Damascus had ceased to be secure territory for the Mandate forces. The French clamped down in Damascus itself, arresting such leading lights of the People’s Party as they could find, but many had escaped, including Dr Shahbandar who fled to the Hawran where he attempted to establish a provisional rebel government on 9 September. With the help of reinforcements, the French tried to stamp out the source of the rebellion. At first the army successfully penetrated the Hawran, inflicted a bloody defeat on the Druze and relieved the French garrison at Suwayda which had been besieged in the citadel. But then it had to withdraw because of its supply situation. For the Druze, defeat was turned into victory.

This was the point at which the revolt spread in a major way. On 4 October, the Syrian troops in Hama mutinied under the leadership of Fawzi al-Qawuqji, a survivor of the Syrian forces at the battle of Maysaloun. He had joined the army of the French Mandate and was now a captain in a cavalry unit. The Hama uprising had been carefully timed, and Qawuqji waited until most of the garrison had been transferred to reinforce the French in the Hawran. Rapidly taking control of the city, he besieged the remaining French in their headquarters. The authorities, however, hit back by sending their air force to bomb Hama into submission. Local notables persuaded Qawuqji and his followers to leave so as to avoid further destruction, but the insurgents took refuge in the surrounding countryside and waged guerrilla war against French communications.

The French also lost control of the Ghouta, the countryside around Damascus, and insurgent bands also began to appear in many other parts of Syria. Counter-attacks against the insurgency were frequently ineffectual, so the authorities resorted to reprisals and collective punishments. The French recruited gangs from the Circassian and Armenian minorities to carry out their dirty work. It was a sign of how nervous they were becoming about trusting Arabic-speaking Syrians. Villages, including the Druze settlement of Jaramana just outside Damascus, were systematically destroyed, and prisoners shot. On one occasion, the authorities executed up to 100 inhabitants of villages in the Ghouta, and brought a further sixteen young men back to Damascus to be shot in the central Marja square, where the bodies were left on public display. After this incident, the French had an unpleasant surprise a few days later. The corpses of a dozen captured Circassian militiamen were discovered lying near Bab Sharqi, the eastern gate of the city. The hands of the rebels were far from clean.

Insurgent bands engaged in extortion to finance and supply the revolt. They also attacked villages which refused to cooperate, and cases of naked brigandage occurred.

On 18 October the rebels took control of most of Damascus, burning and looting much of the sprawling Azm Palace, the governor’s residence, where they had hoped to capture General Sarrail. They also slaughtered Armenian refugees who had fled from Turkey, and were now encamped to the south of the city at Qadam. These refugees were alleged to have been members of militias which had taken part in massacres in the Ghouta. Police and gendarmes melted away from their posts, and French armoured cars were reduced to firing blindly as they passed through the streets, terrorising but failing to hold neighbourhoods. Many people from the Christian and Jewish quarters had participated in a big nationalist demonstration which had taken place during the Muslim religious celebrations for the Prophet’s birthday a few weeks earlier. All districts of the city were now backing the insurgency, but the rebels took special care to reassure and safeguard the Christians and Jews as they moved through Damascus. This prompted an ironic comment by W. A. Smart, the British consul, in a report to his superiors: “These Moslem interventions assured the Christian quarters against pillage. In other words it was Islam and not the `Protectrice des Chrétiens en Orient’ which protected the Christians in those critical days.” This incident illustrates that, contrary to what the French tended to feel instinctively, the nationalism they were encountering did not fit the label of the “Muslim fanaticism” which they constantly attempted to pin on those who opposed them. Their obsession with seeing Arab nationalism through this particular prism made it very hard for them to understand it, let alone come to terms with it.

Now the French did as they had done in Hama, with equal success but greater violence, even though the protests their actions caused led to the recall of Sarrail. For two days, they shelled Damascus, leaving much of it in ruins and on fire. One area was so thoroughly destroyed that when it was rebuilt the original street pattern was abandoned. It also acquired a new name, “Hariqah”, meaning “Fire”. One thousand five hundred people are estimated to have been killed in the bombard- ment (in Hama, the inhabitants had claimed the death total was 344, mostly civilian – the French admitted to 76, all of them insurgents). As in Hama, a delegation of notables persuaded the rebels to leave the city. The delegation also agreed to pay the authorities a hefty fine in exchange for ending the bombardment.

Once again, the rebels were forced out of the urban areas into the suburbs such as Maydan and the surrounding belts of farmland, where they disrupted French communications with, for a time, increasing success. That winter, the rail link into Damascus was regularly cut by the activities of co-ordinated bands of insurgents who now dominated virtually the whole of the southern half of Syria. The French air force conducted what may well have been the most intensive and systematic aerial bombardments against a civilian population that had taken place up to that time anywhere in the world, as their planes returned to bomb villages on a daily basis. The intention of the bombardments was to punish and deter, but initially it bred hatred and made its victims flock to join the rebels. Maydan suffered repeated assaults because of its obstinacy, and was cut in half by a new road and barbed wire as the French built a security barrier round the city.

The final French assault on Maydan in May 1926 was savage and brutal. One thousand houses and shops were destroyed by incendiary bombs dropped by the air force and up to 1000 people were killed – many of whom were women and children and only about fifty were fighters. A neighbourhood where 30,000 people had lived was now a desolate ruin. But the onslaught achieved its objective. On 17 May, lights shone again from the minarets in the city, something that had not been seen for months. Refugees from Maydan now thronged into the Old City to join those from the Ghouta, the Hawran and other areas. The French did little to help them. It has been suggested that this was deliberate. The French “relied on the growing state of misery, which they attributed to the rebellion, to force the rebels and their supporters into submission”.

The Maronites of Mount Lebanon and many other Uniates generally supported the French, but many Orthodox Christians backed or joined the rebels. In some Christian communities, such as the small towns of Ma’loula and Saydnaya, the Christians may have split more or less on sectarian lines between Uniates and Orthodox. The ancient Orthodox convent of Saydnaya tended wounded rebels and collected food for the fighters. At least one letter has survived from the leader of a rebel band to an Orthodox notable in Damascus asking him to provide young men from his community to fight in the insurgency. There were also areas, such as Aleppo, where there was nationalist agitation but no explosion of revolt, even though on one occasion Moroccan cavalrymen dispersed a demonstration in the city and killed at least fifteen people with their sabres. The Alawi area was also quiet. This may have reflected its relative isolation compared with the Hawran. The Alawis had no equivalent to the longstanding corn trade links with Damascus which had hampered the French attempt to separate the Druze from the rest of Syria.

Minor rural and provincial notables like Sultan al-Atrash and Fawzi al-Qawuqji, who were often former Ottoman army officers, provided most of the military leadership for the revolt. Many city notables with large rural estates supplied the revolt with arms, money and men, and it was also widely supported by urban merchants, particularly the Damascus grain merchants of Maydan and Shaghur. Much of the rank and file were peasants, those who had left the land and were destitute because they could no longer make a living there, and the urban poor. Economic factors, including drought, also played their part in boosting recruitment. The rebels had more support and sympathy among the young than the old, and there were elements of what might be called class struggle in the demands sometimes made of leading notables to provide funds, men and other support. Among the wealthier sections of society, many people sat uncomfortably on the sidelines, and more than a few were quietly relieved when the revolt was crushed.

Sometimes, but not always, there was a religious tinge to the revolt: the use of traditional Muslim warrior rhetoric and appeals for jihad against the unbelieving French. For the French to rule a predominantly Muslim country was, in the eyes of Syria’s Muslim majority, a scandal of monumental proportions. Fawzi al-Qawuqji exploited this fully in Hama where, before the revolt began, he had founded his own political party known as Hizbullah, or “the Party of God”, to appeal to the conservative Sunni population of the city. He also grew a beard to mark himself out as a devout Muslim, and spent many evenings in mosques where he encouraged preachers to support him and give sermons on jihad.

For obvious reasons, neither class warfare nor this populist/religious current chimed well with the elite nationalists. When Dr Shahbandar proclaimed a provisional government, he used purely secular language in his communiqué. Yet it would be wrong to see the nationalism of the elite as entirely secular. Because they saw themselves as the leaders of Syria, they considered that they should represent its people. The religious rhetoric of Islam has its place in any sense of Arab pride, and was an obvious rallying cry. Ordinary people felt their customs, their way of life and their religion were under attack from alien forces. The nationalist elite shared this perception, and it was only natural for it to use religious symbolism on appropriate occasions. Nor did this lead to a neat sectarian divide. In 1923, right at the start of the Mandate, Yusuf al-`Issa, a Christian, had suggested in the Damascus newspaper he edited that “the birthday of the Arab prophet” should be made a national holiday. He saw it as a way to unite all the “communities” that speak Arabic – the entire Arabic-speaking nation.

By the summer of 1927, France had succeeded in crushing the revolt. This would have been impossible without large numbers of additional colonial troops who were brought in from Algeria, Senegal and Madagascar. A significant role was also played by the badly disciplined militias. These were particularly important in the earlier stages of the rebellion when they were short of troops. As the French regained territory and maintained their grip on it, the heart went out of the rebellion. In October 1926, Sultan al-Atrash and Dr Shahbandar took refuge in Jordan. Fawzi al-Qawuqji fought on into the following spring, by which time he and his followers could no longer find the welcome and support from the local population which they would once have received. State terror had done its work. By the very end, more than 6,000 rebel fighters had been killed and 100,000 people – a staggering number in the Syria of the mid-1920s – had seen their homes destroyed.

1st Foreign Legion Cavalry Syria 1924-26. Legionaire and brigadier.

France; 1st REC in Syria 1924-25 Captain and Brigadier.