England Invaded by the Dutch: A Conquest by any other name!

Unknown 17th Century Dutch Artist, Embarkation of William III, Prince of Orange, at Helvoetsluis, c. 1688-99, oil on canvas, Royal Collection

On 1 November, driven onward at speed by a strong easterly wind, a vast Dutch fleet left its sheltered harbour at Hellevoetsluis and sailed out into open waters. At a signal from William of Orange the great gathering of ships organised itself into a prearranged formation, ‘stretching the whole fleet in a line, from Dover to Calais, twenty-five deep’. The Dutch began their mission, ‘colours flying’, the fleet ‘in its greatest splendour’, ‘a vast mass of sail stretching as far as the eye could see, the warships on either flank simultaneously thundering their guns in salute as they passed in full view of Dover Castle on one side and the French garrison at Calais on the other’. As the great flotilla proceeded magnificently on its way, the Dutch regiments stood in full parade formation on the deck, with ‘trumpets and drums playing various tunes to rejoice [their] hearts … for above three hours’.

In his diary for the day, Constantijn Huygens junior, William of Orange’s Dutch secretary, recorded how, the morning after they set sail: ‘We arrived between Dover and Calais, and at midday, as we passed along the Channel, we could see distinctly the high white cliffs of England, but the coast of France could be seen only faintly.’ Constantijn junior, and the other children of the distinguished statesman, connoisseur, poet and musician Sir Constantijn Huygens, together with their father, will be important witnesses and guides as the present book unfolds.

Poised between England and Holland (like other members of his family he was an outstanding linguist, whose English and French were as fluent as his native Dutch), Constantijn junior was equally at home in the élite circles of either country. Like his father and his younger brother, the scientist Christiaan Huygens, he moved easily between countries, his international experience proving invaluable to his princely employer.

From the very start, the Dutch fleet achieved its key strategic aim, creating an unforgettable spectacle, inducing a feeling of shock and awe in onlookers on either shore. The iconic image of its offensive sortie into the English Channel was commemorated in countless contemporary paintings and engravings, still to be found today, on display or in store, in galleries on both sides of the Narrow Seas. As the seventeenth-century armada made its way along the Channel, crowds gathered on the clifftops of the south of England to watch it pass. It was reported that the procession of ships had taken six hours to clear the ‘straits’.

The departure from Holland and arrival in England of this great fleet had been contrived with exceptional care, down to the very last detail. As the foremost historian of this period of Anglo–Dutch relations puts it, ‘The boldest enterprise ever undertaken by the Republic of the United Netherlands was stage-managed with exquisite artistry.’ The expedition comprised fifty-three warships, of which thirty-two were ‘capital ships’ designed for combat – thirteen with between sixty and sixty-eight guns, seven with between fifty and fifty-six, and twelve with between forty and forty-eight – the rest escort ships. There were ten fireships and about four hundred other vessels to transport troops, supplies and horses. The army was made up of 10,692 regular infantry and 3,660 regular cavalry, plus gunners of the artillery train and five thousand gentleman volunteers – expatriate Englishmen, Huguenots and other sympathisers. On top of this there were 9,142 crew members and a further ten thousand men on board the transport vessels. William’s plan was that this spectacular floating combination of forces and resources should avoid naval engagement at all costs. Like the D-Day landings, this was a huge feat of transportation, rather than a navy seeking a sea battle.

The munitions, equipment and supplies with which the expeditionary force was provided were formidable, and state-of-the-art. According to one eyewitness (who, as usual, may have slightly exaggerated the numbers), the fleet carried a total of seven thousand horses – mounts for the 3,660 cavalry officers, the Prince, his entourage and the officer and gentleman volunteers, and draught horses for the carts carrying provisions and ammunition. Further draught animals were needed to pull the fifty artillery pieces.

Every possible eventuality had been anticipated. Special equipment for the venture had been manufactured covertly in Amsterdam, The Hague and Utrecht. Intelligencers reported in the months preceding the invasion that the Dutch government had ordered ‘at Utrecht the making of severall thousand of pairs of pistols and carabins’, while Amsterdam ‘has undertaken to furnish 3,000 saddles’, and ‘they are also night and day employed at The Hague in making bombs, cuirasses and stinkpotts’. There were ‘muskets, pikes of all sorts, bandoliers, swords, pistols, saddles, boots, bridles and other necessaries to mount horsemen; pickaxes, wheelbarrows and other instruments to raise ground’, and ‘boats covered with leather to pass over rivers and lakes’. The fleet carried a mobile smithy for shoeing horses and repairing weapons, ten thousand pairs of spare boots, a printing press, and a large quantity of printing paper. Additional vessels were hired at Amsterdam to transport hay, provisions, etc. The wind, Constantijn Huygens recorded in his diary for the day after the fleet set sail, was steadily easterly, and the weather good.

The one decision that had not been taken by William and his advisers in advance was whether the fleet would aim to make landfall in the north of England, in Yorkshire, or in the south-west (in either case avoiding the English army, which was massed in the south-east). Pragmatically, and to perplex English intelligence, it was decided to leave that choice to the prevailing winds. In the event, the wind, which had blown ferociously from the west for almost three weeks previously, battering the Dutch coast and thwarting William’s attempt to launch his attack in mid-October, swung round suddenly (some said providentially) in the final days of October.

Responding to the favourable wind, the invasion fleet proceeded in the direction of the English coast, headed towards Harwich, as if to make landfall in Yorkshire. Having sailed just past Harwich, however, William of Orange, commander-in-chief in person of this mighty flotilla, gave new orders for it to proceed instead south-westwards, to take full advantage of the ever-strengthening easterly wind. The English war fleet, trapped in the Thames estuary by the same wind, watched William’s armada go by twice, helpless to follow and engage until it was too late.

Landing of William III at Torbay, 5 November 1688.

The vast Dutch fleet sailed past the Hampshire coast at speed, barely managing to avoid being swept past Torbay, the last port capable of receiving it. It arrived there on 3 November, English style. Since the Northern Provinces, along with the rest of Continental Europe (but not England), used the ‘new’ Gregorian calendar, this corresponded to 13 November (new style) – the day before William of Orange’s birthday. Many in his entourage urged him to take advantage of that propitious day to launch his invasion of England. To the Dutch the choice of date would have had enormous ‘good luck’ significance.

To the English, whose support had to be won by every propaganda means possible, the coincidence of dates would have been entirely lost. For as far as they were concerned, on what the Dutch considered to be William’s birthday, the anniversary was still ten days away. Prince William and his fleet lay to off the English coast for two more days, and then landed. On 5 November 1688 (according to the English calendar) William began disembarking his troops on the coast of Devon.

Thus it was (once again, ‘providentially’) that the landing took place on the anniversary of another great triumph of English Protestantism over the hostile forces of Catholicism – the Gunpowder Plot of 1605. The convenient match with the familiar date meant that Catholic threats were opportunely on people’s minds. Those who had witnessed the Spanish Armada approaching a hundred years earlier, in 1588, had continued to talk about its fearful appearance for the rest of their lives. Now, a century after that failed attempt at conquering Britain from the sea, a Dutch fleet somewhere around four times the size of the Armada successfully made landfall on English soil, bent on conquest. The frigate Den Briel, carrying William, flew the colours of the Prince and Princess of Orange. Its banner was emblazoned with the motto – announcing the Prince’s justification for his offensive action – ‘For Liberty and the Protestant Religion’. Beneath these words was the motto of the house of Orange, ‘Je maintiendrai’ – ‘I will persevere’.

Constantijn Huygens described their arrival in his diary:

The village where we landed is called Braxton. It is very rundown, with few and poorly constructed houses, built of that inferior stone which this entire coast and the land adjacent to it are made of, and covered in slate. Nearby is a high mountain, and the houses huddle beneath it in short rows, as if stuck to it.

At Braxton he had his first experience of roughing it English-style:

I ran into Willem Meester in front of an inn which was named the Crowned Rose Tavern. He wanted me to join him for a glass of cider, we entered and discovered the entrance hall crowded with a rabble of soldiers, drinking and raging. Coincidentally, I saw My lord Coote in this place, who had been given a room upstairs, and I entreated him to give me a place to put a mattress on the ground, which he gladly did, and we agreed to have dinner together in the evening. We had an exceptionally leathery fricassée of mutton that evening.

Prince William confided to Huygens that he preferred any kind of lodging, however humble, to spending another night at sea.

Unloading troops and supplies began on the evening of 5 November. Local fishermen proposed a suitable landing point for the horses, where the beach fell away steeply so that they would not have too far to swim ashore, and they were unloaded without incident the following day. The landing was completed late on the seventh. Prince William, his Scottish-born chaplain Gilbert Burnet, his private secretary Constantijn Huygens junior, and his most intimate and influential favourite, Hans Willem Bentinck, ‘sitting on very bad horses’ (provided by the locals) watched the swift and efficient disembarkation with satisfaction from a high cliff at nearby Brixham.

Burnet and the Prince agreed (though not entirely seriously) that the easy arrival was probably proof of predestination, and certainly the work of Providence.

Huygens’s first impression of the reception the Dutch were to receive was favourable, in spite of the obvious local poverty (he was clearly relieved):

Wednesday 17 December: The land between consisted of grand and high mountains and deep valleys, everything separated by many hedges and walls, the roads curiously poor, all of stone and strewed with loose bricks, on top of which layers of sludgy filth.

Alongside the roads the people had gathered, as on the previous day, women, men, and children alike, all shouting: ‘God bless you’ and waving to us a hundred good wishes. They gave the Prince and his entourage apples, and an old lady was waiting with a bottle of mead and wanted to pour his Highness a glass. In a little square, five women were standing, greeting him, each of whom had a pipe of tobacco in her mouth, like the large crowds we have seen, all smoking without any shame, even the very young, thirteen and fourteen year olds.

This promising start was, however, not to be sustained. Torrential rain hampered the subsequent march to nearby Paignton, and it was freezing cold. En route from Paignton to Exeter, carts and cannon frequently stuck in the mud. William waited for twelve days at Exeter for the weather to improve, and in the hope that the English gentry would begin to flock to support him.

Meanwhile, some two hundred miles away in the capital, news and rumours of the landing were trickling through in dribs and drabs to anxious Londoners: ‘confusd news of Dutch Landing near Portsmouth: Forces marchd that way early this morning … Dutch seen off the Isle of Wight … Dutch sayd to be landed at Poole … news of yesterdays and this days riots of Rabble’. Unconfirmed stories of military engagements, casualties, naval assaults and civil disturbance proliferated.

The diarist John Evelyn and the wealthy financier Sir Stephen Fox were somewhat better informed about William of Orange’s movements. Evelyn wrote in his diary on 1 November:

Dined with Lord Preston, with other company, at Sir Stephen Fox’s. Continual alarms of the Prince of Orange, but no certainty. Reports of his great losses of horse in the storm, but without any assurance.

On 2 November (old style) these ‘alarms’ were made concrete. Some of William’s horses had indeed been lost in a first, abortive attempt to launch the fleet in late October, but now the armada was well under way. Eyewitnesses had watched it leave Brill on its way to Hellevoetsluis, seen off publicly by William’s wife, James II’s eldest daughter, the Princess of Orange. News of the landing at Torbay reached London three days later, and immediately provoked fears of a breakdown in civil order:

5th [November]. I went to London; heard the news of the Prince having landed at Torbay, coming with a fleet of near 700 sail, passing through the Channel with so favourable a wind, that our navy could not intercept, or molest them. This put the King and Court into great consternation … These are the beginnings of sorrow, unless God in His mercy prevent it by some happy reconciliation of all dissensions among us.

By the beginning of December the Prince of Orange was believed to have reached Oxford and to be on his way to London against little opposition, but there were contrary rumours of a French force coming to James’s assistance from Dunkirk (this news was contradicted later that day), and of Scottish troops marching south: ‘Great confusion of reports, noe certainty. Disturbance at Cambridge, St Edmondsbury and other places.’ On 15 December, the Curator of Experiments at the Royal Society in London, Robert Hooke (one of those chronicling events as they unfolded in his private diary), reported ‘confusion all’ and succumbed to a depression.

Lingering, in Devon, Prince William and his right-hand man Hans Willem Bentinck were privately disappointed at the absence of support from the English gentry and nobility at disembarkation. The Prince’s English advisers were quick to reassure him that this was simply a matter of everyone hanging back, in order not to be seen to be the first to abandon James II. In the absence of troops gathering to William’s side, and cheering hordes of English men and women welcoming the Prince who would deliver them from servitude and tyranny, it was decided to choreograph William’s arrival with heavy symbolic components, in a bid to proclaim the impeccable moral foundation for the invasion and his good intentions, to be broadcast as widely and as quickly as possible. A hastily written eyewitness account was rushed into print and distributed throughout the area.

The customarily sober and understated William entered Exeter in triumphal procession: ‘Armed cap a pee. A plume of white feathers on his head. All in bright armour, and forty two footmen running by him.’ Fifty gentlemen and as many pages attended him and supported his banner, which bore the inscription ‘God and the Protestant religion’. William rode on a ‘milk white palfrey’ and was preceded by two hundred gentlemen in armour, English and Scottish for the most part, mounted on heavy Flemish horses. For further dramatic effect, these knights were accompanied by ‘two hundred blacks brought from the [sugar] plantations of the Netherlands in America [Surinam]’, all dressed in white, turbaned and befeathered. No clearer symbolism could have been used to represent William as God’s appointed champion, as described in the Book of Revelation: ‘I saw and behold, a white horse: and he that sat on him had a bow, and a crown was given unto him, and he went forth conquering and to conquer.’ The white-clad ‘blacks’ reinforced the millennial theme – William was a global ruler, whose dominion extended to the limits of the known world.

From Exeter, Bentinck wrote to the commander of the Prince’s fleet, Admiral Herbert, still expressing concern at their lukewarm reception by the local gentry. The arrival of the Prince’s army would, he said, have looked less like an act of military aggression – less like an invasion, indeed – if the local landowners had only ridden out to welcome them:

I doubt not that the Good God will bless the cause, the people appear everywhere here extremely well disposed, it is only the gentlemen and the clergy who are somewhat more cautious, and do not espouse our cause. I am surprised at the latter, it seems to me that fear of the gibbet has more effect on their minds than zeal for religion.

In fact, the gentry were busy hedging their bets, trying to ascertain whether William’s bold adventure would succeed. They were preoccupied, too, with covering their backs – politically and financially. As early as 11 November, Sir Stephen Fox, anticipating his imminent dismissal from his office at the Exchequer, hastily approached the Royal Surveyor, Sir Christopher Wren, for written confirmation that building works he had carried out on his Whitehall lodgings (which belonged to the Crown) ten years earlier had cost him £1,000. Wren obliged with the certification of expenditure, and on 17 November issued a royal warrant guaranteeing Fox the right to remain in his Whitehall property until the money had been refunded to him.

Fox’s attempts to put his finances in order were part of a growing recognition at Whitehall Palace that the royal administration there was in the process of collapse. Support began to ebb away from the King’s party, and officials started discreetly to leave their posts. King James’s own first attempt at flight on 11 December contributed strongly to the confusion, since while attempting to remove himself and his family to safety abroad, he took steps to disrupt affairs of state, allowing him time (he hoped) to get French backing and to return. Before he left, he called for the most recent batch of Parliamentary writs and burned them. As he was being rowed across the Thames from Whitehall Palace to Vauxhall en route for the Kentish coast, he dropped the Great Seal, which he had retrieved from Lord Chancellor Jeffreys two days earlier, into the river. ‘He believed – correctly as it turned out – that there could be no lawful parliament held without his writs of summons under the Great Seal. His going thus created a hiatus in government, or interregnum, which was to be exploited by his enemies.’

James was right in thinking that his decision to flee would cause a constitutional crisis. Until he did so, William’s mission appeared to be one of ‘restauration’ – to restore English government to stability by any means necessary. With the throne apparently vacant, and government suspended, the Prince of Orange could for the first time openly express a willingness to fill the political vacuum by taking political control for himself and his wife, ‘to prevent the effusion of blood’. ‘Affaires being now altered by the King’s retirement’, William wrote to the Earl of Danby, James’s supporters like the Earl should disband their forces, return to their homes and ‘stand for to be chosen parliament men in their counties.’ His satisfaction turned out to be premature, however. In London, peers largely loyal to James had already set up a provisional government or Convention, which sat for the first time on 12 December, and continued to govern the country uninterruptedly, and without William’s interference, until James II fled for good just before Christmas.

William III of England at the Battle of the Boyne.

On 12 December, as the Dutch army made its way towards London, reports began to reach them that James II had fled to France. Gilbert Burnet, Prince William’s Scottish chaplain, told Huygens ‘at table’, that a ‘Convocation’ or ‘free Parliament’ had been set up at Westminster to govern the country. On 14 December they reached Henley. As they marched from Henley towards Windsor, the weather was fine, and Huygens – an accomplished amateur artist, some of whose exquisite watercolour landscapes survive – marvelled at the beauty of the countryside:

Because the weather was so beautiful, we marched from Henley to Windsor. My Master was riding along with me, and we went off course, too much to the left, and headed toward the river, to the extent that we made a detour of an entire mile, yet alongside that same river we saw the world’s most beautiful views. That of Henley, when one reaches a certain height, is magnificently beautiful.

We rode through a large hamlet, named Maidenhead, where my Master stayed behind because his horse had some pebbles in his horse shoes and consequently had gone lame. I continued on my own, and closer to Windsor came on an empty road. For a long stretch, I had to wade through water, which came up to the horse’s belly. I could find no one to ask directions because all the people had gone to the street where his Highness was scheduled to make his procession.

Windsor Castle, when they arrived, provided Huygens with an opportunity to indulge one of his favourite pastimes – appraising the fine art in princely collections:

At Windsor I saw once in haste the King’s apartment, which had many good Italian paintings in it, among them those by Titian of the Marquis del Guasto and his wife, one of a woman leaning on her elbow, lying and reading, a naked youth of the manner of Michel Angelo da Caravaggio, and many others. There were also some very beautiful tapestries.

On 18 December the Prince of Orange and his army entered London in another carefully organised ‘triumph’, to be welcomed, this time, by cheering crowds of Londoners. In spite of miserable weather, people in coaches and on horseback, as well as on foot, lined the streets. Huygens reports with evident relief that many of them wore orange ribbons, while others had stuck oranges on sticks and waved them in the air. One of those who has left us his own on-the-spot account of these events records:

The universall joy and acclamation at his entrance was like that at the Restauration [of 1660] in all things, except in debaucheries, of which there was as little appearance as has been known upon such occasion and such a publick concourse. An orange woman without Ludgate gave diverse baskets full of oranges to the Prince’s officers and soldiers as they marched by, to testifie her affection towards them. Divers ordinary women in Fleet Street shooke his soldiers by the hand, as they came by, and cryed, welcome, welcome. God blesse you, you come to redeeme our religion, lawes, liberties, and lives. God reward you. etc.

William’s London entrance was designed to ensure that his arrival would be remembered as a liberation rather than a conquest. Crowds could be fickle – the same people had also lined the streets for King James, who had returned to the capital, after a first attempt at joining his wife and baby son in France had been thwarted, two days earlier. The Prince had therefore taken precautions to ensure that there was no unseemly opposition to his arrival. He had sent a senior troop commander on ahead of the main army, with units of the trusted Dutch Blue Guards, to take up positions protecting Whitehall, St James’s Park and St James’s Palace, in advance of his coming into residence. One of his key instructions was to replace the guard protecting James II with a contingent of élite Dutch troops, and to move him out of London, ostensibly for his own safety.

Three battalions of Dutch infantry and supporting cavalry entered London at about ten o’clock on the night on 17 December. ‘Having secured the posts at St James Palace, they marched on Whitehall in battle formation, their matches lit for action.’ As King James was going to bed around eleven o’clock, he was informed of their presence in St James’s Park. Thinking there was some mistake (’he could not believe it, because he had heard nothing of it from the Prince’), he sent for the Dutch commander, Lord Solms.

Then Count Solmes pressed the adding of some new [Dutch] Troopes of the Prince’s, just then come to town, to the Guards at Whitehall. The King was unwilling of that. But Count Solmes said it was very necessary.

Having vainly ‘argued the matter with him for some time’, James ordered Lord Craven (long-time devoted servant of James’s aunt, Elizabeth of Bohemia, and now in his eighties), commander of the Coldstream Guards protecting the King at Whitehall, to withdraw his men. Craven protested that he would ‘be rather cut in pieces, than resign his post to the Prince’s [Dutch] guards’. James, however, insisted, ‘to prevent the possibility of a disturbance from guards belonging to several masters’. The King retired to bed, a prisoner in his own palace, only to be woken during the night and escorted out of London to Rochester.

The Coldstream Guards marched reluctantly out of London to St Albans. Solms ordered all English army regiments in and around London to move out to towns and billets scattered throughout Sussex and the home counties, thereby ensuring that the troops were thoroughly dispersed. The Life Guards were packed off to St Albans and Chelmsford. ‘The English souldiers sent out of towne to distant quarters,’ John Evelyn recorded – they were ‘not well pleased’.

So the Prince and his highly disciplined Dutch army marched into London down Knightsbridge, confident that they would meet no resistance, along a two-mile route lined with Dutch Blue Guards. In the absence of any actual military drama to mark this final act in the well-orchestrated invasion, it was an entrance as carefully staged, in a long military tradition of ‘glorious entries’ into conquered cities, as that first entry into Exeter a few weeks earlier. William again wore white, with a white cloak thrown over his shoulder to protect him from the heavy rain. There was some consternation when the Prince, who disliked crowds, did not actually remain at the head of the cavalcade the full length of the official route to Whitehall, but instead cut across St James’s Park and gained access to his new residence at St James’s Palace from its ornamental garden.

Some historians have argued that William’s route across the park and through the palace gardens was a genuine mistake on his part (leaving his future subjects, thronged several deep along Whitehall to welcome him, disappointed). There is, however, a more plausible explanation. William, in a tradition of Dutch Stadholders going back several generations, was an enthusiastic amateur gardener, taking a keen interest in the latest garden designs and their execution at all of his numerous Dutch royal palaces.

Almost twenty years before the invasion, at the time when William was engaged in consolidating power in the United Provinces for the house of Orange, a former royal gardener to Charles II, André Mollet, had published a book on the design and execution of ambitious formal gardens, The Garden of Pleasure. Lavishly illustrated, with plates depicting the formal layout of shrubberies, kitchen gardens, flowerbeds and parterres, the book was a celebration of the garden designs of various European royal estates for which Mollet had been responsible, including Charles II’s London gardens at St James’s Palace. Since William of Orange’s own ambitious garden for his palace at Honselaarsdijk, outside The Hague, was included, we may be sure it was a ‘coffee-table’ book with which the Dutch Prince was familiar.

Mollet’s description of the garden he had created for the Stuart royal family at St James’s particularly emphasised the originality and ambition of its design. Because the site was low-lying, with no elevated viewing point from which ‘Embroidered groundworks and Knots of grass’ could be admired, the garden designer had instead ‘contrived it into several Parallelograms, according to its length’. These lozenges were ‘planted with dwarf-fruit-Trees, Rose-trees, and several sorts of Flowers’. The outer perimeter of the garden Mollet had marked ‘with Cyprus-Trees and other green Plants, to make Pallissade’s of about five foot high, with two perforated Gates to every Square’. The formal avenues were planted with ‘dwarf-fruit-Trees and Vines; the great Walk on the Right-hand is raised Terras-like, and Turff’t’, and at their intersections Mollet had designed an imposing fountain, and a ‘Round of grass whereon to set up a Dial or Statue, as also in several places Cut-Angles, as may be seen upon the Design’. To offset all this formality, there was also a carefully designed wilderness:

And in regard it falls out, that at one end there happens to be wild Wood, we have contrived another of green trees over against it, of which the great Tree which was found standing there in the middle makes the Head, both of the green Wood and the rest of the Garden; which tree we thought to leave as a remembrance of the Royal Oak [within whose branches Charles II reputedly took refuge from Cromwell’s soldiers during the Civil War].

The elegant complexity of the St James’s Palace gardens is still to be seen in engravings of the period, and on the many surviving London maps.

When, on his triumphal progress into London, Prince William came to the edge of St James’s Park, the sight of a garden project about which he had read, and which was closely related in plan and execution to his own much-loved pleasure gardens in the Northern Provinces, surely proved irresistible to him. He had already made more than one detour in the course of his military advance on London from Exeter, to indulge in a bit of tourism in the form of excursions to celebrated English stately homes and their formal gardens.36 Now he simply detached himself from the splendid cavalcade, and commenced his experience as King-to-be and owner of a string of magnificent royal palaces and grounds (including St James’s), with a short tour to admire the park, shrubbery and elegant gardens.

Strategically the advance deployment of Dutch troops, and the withdrawal of their English counterparts, ensured that London was secured for William before his arrival, and that King James was at his mercy even before the Prince himself reached London. The King had indeed been ‘escorted’ out of St James’s by Dutch guards on 18 December, ‘under pretence of keeping off the rabble’, and taken to Rochester, only hours before William took up occupancy. Just over a month had elapsed since the invading forces had landed on English soil. Less than a week later, King James absconded from his Rochester house-arrest, and left England for France. The Dutch Blue Coats guarding him had been carefully instructed to let him get away.

The Blue Coats continued to guard Whitehall, St James’s Palace and Somerset House for many months, ‘to the general disgust of the whole English army’. The entire London area remained under Dutch military occupation until the spring of 1690. No English regiments were allowed within twenty miles of the city. The English and Scots regiments of the States General’s forces, which had led the triumphal entry (in order not to alarm the citizens of London too much) were stationed at the Tower and Lambeth. Dutch and German regiments encamped at Woolwich, Kensington, Chelsea and Paddington, while another crack regiment was positioned at Richmond, and the Huguenots put up in various parts of London. As far as possible, the Prince avoided billeting his troops on private households, and insisted that they behave courteously, and pay for any goods acquired. Nevertheless, in spite of his efforts to avoid the appearance of foreign occupation, the continuing presence of large numbers of heavily armed troops in the city caused growing consternation and unrest.

The Dutch invasion of 1688 was a brilliantly stage-managed sequence of events, forever vivid in the memory of those who witnessed them. A number of contemporary diarists record the intensity of their feelings as events unfolded – whether they were for the overthrow of the Catholic James or against. John Evelyn (one of those apparently unsure of his own response to the imminent regime change) had recorded in his diary the sense of dread with which the news was received in late October that William’s immense fleet was poised ready to sail. There were ‘tumults’ in London as ‘the rabble’ attacked and demolished Catholic places of worship. Evelyn reported a ‘universal discontent’, which had ‘brought people to so desperate a passe as with uttmost expressions even passionately seeme to long for & desire the landing of that Prince, whom they looked on as their deliverer from popish Tyrannie’. For those like Evelyn who had lived through the turmoil of the Civil War years, the upheaval caused by William’s intervention in England’s national affairs seemed all too likely to herald another period of instability. Figuratively wringing his hands, he recalled in his diary his fearful state of mind as he witnessed the arrival of William’s invading army, when ‘To such a strange temper & unheard of in any former age, was this poore nation reduc’d, & of which I was an Eye witnesse.’

The complexity of the political response to James’s ‘abdication’ and William’s ‘peaceful’ arrival has been much discussed by historians, particularly since the three hundredth anniversary of the ‘Glorious Revolution’ was celebrated in 1988. In the end, the decision of the English people to accept William and Mary as joint monarchs had a good deal to do with a general reluctance to return to the bad old days of public disorder and civil unrest. Regime change was preferable to another civil war.



Stalingrad became a symbol of Russian endurance, of German capability. It also had an important strategic significance. If the Germans had cut across the Volga, they would have sliced right through the Russian lines of communication, for oil and for transport. Stalingrad was not an altogether facile quest on Hitler’s part but it became invested with enormous psychological significance. Both sides in this ghastly chest to chest struggle could not be unlocked. One side, it seemed had to be destroyed and the other become victor. It had the quality of a titanic struggle, the political importance which was attached to Stalingrad by both Hitler and Stalin was immensely significant.


To Hitler, the oil of the Caucasus had always been one of the foremost attractions of Russia. He had mentioned the necessity of seizing the Baku oil fields as early as 31st July 1940, during one of the initial discussions of his plan to invade the Soviet Union. In the spring of 1941 the Armed Forces High Command activated the so-called Oil Detachment Caucasus for the purpose of taking over the oil fields. At that time the Germans expected that their advance into the Caucasus would be so rapid that the Russians would not be able to severely damage the oil wells, and the tables of organization and equipment of the oil detachment were established accordingly.

The next step in this direction was the preparation of Directive No. 32, circulated by the Armed Forces High Command among the three services on 11th June 1941-11 days before the start of Operation BARBAROSSA. This directive envisaged a drive from the Caucasus across Iran as a part of the plan for the continuation of operations against the British Empire following the defeat of the Soviets. At that time German expeditionary forces were to be activated in the Caucasus and sent across Turkey and Syria to Palestine and across Iraq to Basra. The same directive also visualized the use of the Arab liberation movement against the British in the Middle East, and Special Staff F was designated to initiate and coordinate the corresponding military and subversive activities.

A few days later, on 16th June 1941, German counterintelligence submitted to the Armed Forces High Command a plan for securing the Caucasus oil fields as soon as the internal disintegration of the Soviet Union would become manifest. A nucleus of 100 Georgians, trained by German counterintelligence agents in sabotage and revolt tactics, was in existence in Romania. These Georgians would have to be brought to the oil fields by sea or air transport as soon as the German ground forces approached the Caucasus region. In a somewhat optimistic vein the plan foresaw the employment of the Georgians in two to three weeks after D-Day.

On 24th July 1941 the Army Operations Division wrote a memorandum on the conduct of operations after the conclusion of Operation BARBAROSSA. With regard to the Caucasus it was anticipated that the British would seize and block this area as soon as the Germans approached the Sea of Azov. The first British troop concentrations were believed to be taking place along the northern and eastern border of Iraq. Because of terrain difficulties a German offensive from the southern slopes of the Caucasus across Iran into Iraq could not be executed before the spring of 1942. Meanwhile, data regarding the Caucasus were to be collected; a list of German tourists, who had climbed the Caucasus Mountains during recent years and knew the terrain and weather conditions, was drawn up, and books dealing with the same subjects were carefully scrutinized.

At the beginning of August the German Naval Operations Staff submitted an estimate of the probable reaction of the Soviet Black Sea fleet in the event of a German penetration into the Caucasus. It was believed that the fleet could seriously hamper operations by keeping the coastal road and railroad between Tuapse and Sukhumi under fire. Among the Soviet ships suitable for such operations were one battleship, six cruisers, and 15 modern plus five outdated destroyers. In the Black Sea area the German Navy had no units capable of stopping or disturbing the movements of the Soviet fleet. Coastal batteries would be of limited use; even if they did drive the Soviet ships farther offshore, the latter would still remain within reach of the coast. Air force protection was the only effective means of safeguarding coastal traffic.

In late September reports from agents and radio intercepts indicated that the Russians had from five to six divisions in the Caucasus and three in Iran. It was estimated that British troops entering the Soviet Union would take three weeks to get from Iran to the Caucasus and four weeks to the Crimea.


In October 1941 the Operations Division of the Army High Command drew up the first detailed plan for a Caucasus operation. The scope of the offensive was limited to seizing the oil resources of the Caucasus and to reaching the Iranian and Iraqi border passes for a possible farther advance toward Baghdad. [See General reference map of the Caucasus area above.] The operation was to be executed in six separate phases, extending from November 1941 to September 1942. These phases were outlined as follows:

1 Seizure of the approaches to the northern Caucasus, starting in November 1941;

2 A series of preliminary attacks leading to the seizure of favorable jump-off areas by May 1942;

3 Launching the offensive across the Caucasus Mountains in two different stages in June 1942;

4 The advance across Transcaucasia toward the Turkish and Iranian borders;

5 Seizure of favorable jump-off areas within Iran; and

6 Capture of the border passes leading into Iraq. The last three phases were to take place in the period July-early September 1942.

The feasibility of the entire offensive would depend on the course taken by current operations in the Russian theater. The second and third phases could be executed only if German troops reached the lower Volga during the winter of 1941-42. The scope of the preliminary attacks to be launched during the second phase would depend on the overall plan adopted for the offensive across the Caucasus. The latter could be launched via the two roads following the Black and Caspian Sea coasts respectively and over the mountain road leading to Tiflis. The interior roads crossed the mountains over passes more than 10,000 feet in altitude. These roads could be negotiated only by mountain divisions. The movement along the Caspian coastal road would be easier because only a few outdated Russian destroyers were liable to interfere.

During the first stage of the offensive proper, two motorized and two mountain corps were to be employed, driving toward Sukhumi and Kutaisi in the west, Tiflis in the center, and Baku in the east, respectively. As soon as any one of these forces had achieved a breakthrough, one additional motorized corps that was being held in reserve was to move up and launch the pursuit. The commitment of this reserve force would determine where the point of main effort was to be placed during the second stage of the offensive.

The employment of two corps in the west during the first stage would be necessary because of the vulnerability of the lines of communications along the Black Sea. Moreover, in the west was the only opening for launching an enveloping drive, since unfavorable terrain conditions prevented any such maneuver elsewhere. During the second stage of the offensive the penetration into the mountains would have to be exploited by the reserve corps which could thrust either via the Black Sea coastal road to Batumi and from there via Tiflis to Baku; or across the mountains to Tiflis and from there either to Batumi or Baku; or along the Caspian shore to Baku and from there, if necessary to Tiflis.

While the offensive was in progress, German naval contingents would have to protect Novorossiysk and Tuapse by taking over captured coastal batteries. In addition, some submarines would have to keep the Russian Black Sea fleet under control, and the Navy would also have to make available the shipping space needed for carrying supplies from Novorossiysk to Batumi once the Russian fleet had been eliminated.

The Luftwaffe would have to protect and support the ground forces; combat the Red Navy and its ports; commit airborne troops to capture the major cities; use dive bombers against the pass fortifications; and prepare transport planes to airdrop supplies.

This plan met with general approval at an exploratory conference held at Army High Command headquarters upon request of the Operations Division on 24th October 1941. An attack across the Caucasus was considered the quickest solution to Germany’s Middle Eastern problems. The effect of such an offensive would induce Turkey to join the Axis Powers. In addition, British forces that would otherwise oppose Rommel in North Africa would be tied down in Iran.

An offensive launched in the spring of 1942 would first lead to the seizure of the Caucasus oil fields, then open the passes from Iran to Iraq, and finally permit the capture of the Iraqi oil fields in the autumn of 1942, when the weather favored the commitment of large ground forces. The essential prerequisite for such far-reaching operations was the seizure of the west bank of the lower Volga from Stalingrad to Astrakhan. This realization implied that if, for instance, the Germans failed to capture Stalingrad, a complete reevaluation of the plans for an offensive against the Caucasus would become necessary.

Among the essential preparations for a Caucasus operation discussed at this conference were the production of military maps and tropical clothing as well as the activation and equipment of special mountain troops.


In a conversation with Field Marshal von Brauchitsch on 7th November Hitler mentioned that the seizure of the oil fields would have to be delayed until the following year. This delay had actually been anticipated by the Operations Division of the Army High Command. However, a new point was brought up by the Führer when he added that he had no intention of going beyond the Russian border. The scope of the offensive was thus limited to the Caucasus; this change in plans was probably due to the slowdown in the 1941 advance caused by the muddy season.

According to all available intelligence the Red Army intended to put up stiff resistance in the Caucasus. By 9th November German intercept units had identified 5 army headquarters in that area. If exact, this information would imply the presence of at least 15 divisions, whereas prior to that time the presence of only 5 had been assumed. It seemed improbable that the Russians would move sizable forces across their border into Iran. And it seemed even more unlikely that the British would send strong forces northward into the Caucasus. For the time being the situation in the Caucasus remained obscure.

In a conversation with General Halder on 19th November, Hitler stated that the first objective for 1942 would be the Caucasus. An offensive launched for this purpose in March-April 1942 would bring the German forces to the Soviet border with Iran. Depending on the situation at the end of 1941, offensives in the center could subsequently be launched beyond Moscow toward Vologda or Gorki by the end of May 1942. Other objectives for 1942 could not yet be designated.

Their scope would depend mainly on the capacity of the railroads. The question of whether a defensive wall separating Asiatic from European Russia was subsequently to be constructed remained open.

Hitler thus revealed a number of interesting facts. Even as late as 19th November he seemed convinced that the Germans would be able to capture Moscow before the end of 1941. Furthermore, he seemed to believe that the Caucasus offensive across difficult mountain terrain could be successfully executed within a few weeks in April and May, as a kind of southern interlude prior to another offensive farther north. Three days later, on 22nd November 1941, Halder ordered a light infantry division organized for the Caucasus operation and mountain personnel withdrawn from combat. As late as 16 days before the turning of the tide in front of Moscow the atmosphere at Army High Command headquarters appeared definitely optimistic.


An order dated 10th January 1942, originating from the Armed Forces Economics Office and the Organization Branch of the Armed Forces Operations Staff and signed by Hitler brought out the newly imposed material limitations—if not the change in scope—of the 1942 operations.

In the introductory paragraph Hitler stated that the long-range strategic plans remained unchanged; the Navy and the Luftwaffe were to be expanded for the showdown with the Anglo-Saxon powers. Until further notice, however, the operations scheduled for 1942 would not permit a reduction in armaments destined for the Army. On the contrary, the Army would have to be given even more than its ordinary share of manpower and armaments so that it could accomplish its mission for 1942.

In effect, the Army was to have top priority on armament production. Wherever shortages of raw materials developed, the Navy and Luftwaffe would have to take the cuts. Greater standardization, the introduction of more substitutes, and the increased use of captured munitions were recommended as means to overcoming production bottlenecks.

The ground forces were to be ready for offensive commitment by 1st May 1942; supplies for at least four months of continuous operations would have to be accumulated by that time. The units taking part in the offensive would have to be amply provided with supply and service troops as well as motor vehicles, while those committed along the Atlantic Coast would not need many trucks. Ammunition supplies for all weapons used in the Russian theater would have to be built up to one month’s expenditure in addition to the basic load.

The Navy was to concentrate on submarine construction and maintenance. The Luftwaffe was to continue its current programs, except for a temporary curtailment of its ammunition and bomb production schedules.

Among the military-economic programs, oil had first priority. The railroad transportation, signal, and other programs were to be carried on along the same lines as before, whereas the motor vehicle output was to be increased. Military manpower requirements were to be coordinated with the industrial ones.

Perhaps the most striking note in this order was its pessimistic undertone. Written at a time when the Germans were desperately trying to stem the Russian tide west of Moscow, the order showed the many weaknesses in the German war machine which had become manifest after less than seven months of fighting in Russia. During the following weeks further planning for the summer offensive came to a standstill, probably because of the life-and-death struggle that raged along the Army Group Center front.


With the acute danger past at the front, the military planners were able to pursue more actively the preparations for a summer offensive. On 12th February 1942 the Operations Division of the Army High Command issued a directive for the conduct of operations after the end of the winter. An introductory statement anticipated that the Russian winter offensive would not succeed in destroying the German troops and their equipment. During the coming weeks the Germans would have to consolidate their lines, eliminate Russian forces that had penetrated into their rear areas, and generally attempt to seize the initiative. At the same time they would have to prepare themselves for the muddy period following the spring thaw.

The directive then went into great detail in describing the different aspects of the muddy season and the countermeasures to be taken. The Army High Command intended to use this probable lull in operations to rehabilitate and regroup its forces.

Army Group South was to hold its positions and make preparations for the planned offensive. First, the Russian penetration west of Izyum would have to be eliminated, then the Kerch Peninsula recaptured and Sevastopol seized, so that the forces stationed in the Crimea would become available for employment elsewhere.

Army Group Center was to seize Ostashkov and shorten its front line by eliminating various dents and penetrations.

Army Group North was to hold its lines near Kholm, Staraya Russa, and north of Lake Ilmen.

After the end of the muddy season all three army groups were to improve their front lines and establish continuous defensive positions, if possible. Because of the precarious supply situation, it seemed doubtful whether more than isolated strong points could be held along certain sectors of the front. Armored and motorized reserves would have to be assembled in accessible areas.

Units withdrawn from the frontline for rehabilitation would have to train their recently arrived replacements on the basis of past experience in combat. Because of a shortage of equipment, only a certain number of divisions could be fully rehabilitated. The ones selected for this purpose were the armored and motorized divisions as well as the army and corps troops of Army Group South, and three armored and three motorized infantry divisions as well as some of the army and corps troops of Army Groups Center and North. In the process of rehabilitation, each armored division was to have three tank battalions, and each motorized infantry division one. The armored divisions of Army Groups Center and North that were not to be rehabilitated would have to transfer some of their cadres to the south. Three armored and six infantry divisions of Army Group Center were to be moved to western Europe without their equipment. There they were to be completely rehabilitated and reequipped. The armored and motorized infantry divisions remaining with Army Group Center and North would have to be rehabilitated in the line without being issued any new equipment. The armored divisions in this category would probably have only one tank battalion. Approximately 500,000 replacements were supposed to arrive in the theater by the end of April 1942.


A special rehabilitation area for Army Group South was to be established near Dnieperopetrovsk, while for Army Group Center similar areas could be set up near Orsha, Minsk, Gomel, and Bryansk. Those few units of Army Group North which were to be rehabilitated would probably be transferred to the Zone of Interior. Rehabilitation was to begin in mid-March at the latest. After the muddy season the fully rehabilitated units of Army Group Center were to be transferred to Army Group South.

The exigencies of the last few months had led to the commitment of a great number of technical specialists as infantrymen. The overall personnel situation and the shortage of technically trained men made it imperative either to return all specialists to their proper assignment or to use them as cadres for newly activated units. The future combat efficiency of the Army would depend upon the effective enforcement of this policy.

The high rate of materiel attrition and the limited capacity of the armament industry were compelling reasons for keeping weapons and equipment losses at a minimum.

In the implementing order to the army groups and armies, the Organization Division of the Army High Command directed on 18th February that those mobile divisions that were to be fully rehabilitated would be issued 50-60 percent of their prescribed motor vehicle allowance and infantry divisions up to 50 percent. Every infantry company was to be issued four automatic rifles and four carbines with telescopic sights; armor-piercing rifle grenades were to be introduced. Bimonthly reports on manpower and equipment shortages as well as on current training and rehabilitation of units were to be submitted by all headquarters concerned.

The element of surprise was essential to the success of the summer offensive. On 12th February Keitel therefore issued the first directive for deceiving the Russians about future German intentions. The following information was to be played into Soviet intelligence hands by German counterintelligence agents:

At the end of the muddy season the German military leaders Intended to launch a new offensive against Moscow. For this purpose they wanted to concentrate strong forces by moving newly activated divisions to the Russian theater and exchanging battle-weary ones in the East for fresh ones from the West. After the capture of Moscow the Germans planned to advance to the middle Volga and seize the industrial installations in that region.

The assembly of forces was to take place in secret. For this purpose the capacity of the railroads was to be raised before the divisions were transferred from the West. German and allied forces would meanwhile launch a major deceptive attack in the direction of Rostov.

As to Leningrad, the prevailing opinion was that this city would perish by itself as soon as the ice on Lake Ladoga had melted. Then the Russians would have to dismount the railroad and the inhabitants would again be Isolated. To attack in this area appeared unnecessary.

In addition, those German troops that were earmarked for the Russian theater and presently stationed in the West were to be deceived by the issuance of military maps and geographic data pertaining to the Moscow area. The units that were already in the theater were not to be given any deceptive information until the current defensive battles had been concluded. The same directive also requested the Army and Luftwaffe to submit suggestions for other deceptive measures. The maintenance of secrecy was strongly emphasized.


The German Navy’s principal concern in the Black Sea area was the transportation of supplies for the Army. The difficulties were caused by the shortage of shipping space and the absence of escort and combat vessels. Measures taken to improve the German position in the Black Sea included transfer of PT boats, Italian antisubmarine vessels, small submarines, and landing craft; mine fields were also being laid. Orders had been issued to speed up these measures and support the Army by bringing up supplies. Russian naval forces in the Black Sea would have to be attacked and destroyed. The degree of success obtained would determine the outcome of the war in the Black Sea area. Attention was called to the fact that eventually it would become necessary to occupy all Russian Black Sea bases and ports.

On the other hand, the remainder of the Russian Baltic fleet stationed in and around Leningrad had neither strategic nor tactical value. Ammunition and fuel supplies were exceedingly low. About 12 of the high speed mine sweepers had been sunk so far, so that only four or five were left. About 65 out of 100 submarines had been sunk by the Germans.


In a summary dated 20th February 1942 the Eastern Intelligence Division of the Army High Command stated that the Russians were anticipating a German offensive directed against the Caucasus and the oil wells in that area. As a countermeasure the Red Army would have the choice between a spoiling offensive and a strategic withdrawal. Assuming the Russians would attack, it was estimated that their offensive would take place in the south. There they could interfere with German attack preparations, reoccupy economically valuable areas, and land far to the rear of the German lines along the Black Sea coast. If they were sufficiently strong, the Soviets would also attempt to tie down German forces by a series of local attacks in the Moscow and Leningrad sectors.

Numerous reports from German agents in Soviet-held territory indicated that the Red Army had been planning the recapture of the Ukraine for some time. At the earliest the Russian attack could take place immediately after the muddy season, i. e. at the beginning of May.

The Russian forces identified opposite Army Group South consisted of 83 infantry divisions and 12 infantry brigades as well as 20 cavalry divisions and 19 armored brigades, plus an unknown number of newly organized units.

Interference from British forces seemed unlikely. The latter would move into the Caucasus area only if their supply lines could be properly secured, a time-consuming process that had not even been initiated. On the other hand, lend-lease materiel was arriving in considerable quantities; the first U. S. fighter planes had been encountered along the German Sixth Army front.

Caucasus Campaign (22 July 1942-February 1943)

German campaign, dubbed Operation EDELWEISS, to capture the rich Caspian oil fields. Although the offensive was unsuccessful, the territory taken in this operation represent- ed the farthest points to the east and south reached by the German army during the war.

The great German summer offensive, Operation BLAU (BLUE), opened on 28 June. General Erich von Manstein had argued for a concentration in the center of the front. He believed that Soviet leader Josef Stalin would commit all available resources to save Moscow and that this approach offered the best chance of destroying the Red Army; it would also result in a more compact front. Adolf Hitler rejected this sound approach and instead divided his resources. In the north, he would push to take Leningrad, still under siege, and link up with the Finns. But the main effort would be Operation BLAU to the south, in which the Caucasus oil fields located near the cities of Baku, Maikop, and Grozny would be the ultimate prize. Securing these areas would severely cripple Soviet military operations, while at the same time aiding those of Germany.

Hitler ordered Field Marshal Fedor von Bock’s Army Group South to move east from around Kursk and take Voronezh, which fell to the Germans on 6 July. Hitler then reorganized his southern forces into Army Groups A and B. Field Marshal Siegmund List commanded Army Group A, the southern formation; General Maximilian von Weichs had charge of the northern formation, Army Group B.

Hitler’s original plan was for Army Groups A and B to cooperate in a great effort to secure the Don and Donets Val- leys and capture the cities of Rostov and Stalingrad. The two could then move southeast to take the oil fields. The Germans expected to be aided in their efforts there by the fact that most of the region was inhabited by non-Russian nationalities, such as the Chechens, whose loyalty to the Soviet government was suspect.

On 13 July, Hitler ordered a change of plans, now demanding that Stalingrad, a major industrial center and key crossing point on the Volga River, and the Caucasus be captured simultaneously. This demand placed further strains on already inadequate German resources, especially logistical support. The twin objectives also meant that a gap would inevitably appear between the two German army groups, enabling most Soviet troops caught in the Don River bend to escape eastward.

On 22 July, Army Group A’s First Panzer and Seventeenth Armies assaulted Rostov. Within two days, they had captured the city. A few days later, the Germans established a bridgehead across the Don River at Bataysk, and Hitler then issued Führer Directive 45, initiating EDELWEISS. He believed that the Red Army was close to defeat and that the advance into the Caucasus should proceed without waiting until the Don was cleared and Stalingrad had fallen. The operation would be a case of strategic overreach.

Securing the mountain passes of the Caucasus region between the Black and Caspian Seas was crucial in any operation to take the oil fields. To accomplish this task, Army Group A had special troops trained for Alpine operations, including Seventeenth Army’s XLIX Mountain Corps. Supporting Army Group A’s eastern flank was Army Group B’s Fourth Panzer Army.

At the end of July, List had at his disposal 10 infantry divisions as well as 3 Panzer and 2 motorized divisions, along with a half dozen Romanian and Slovak divisions. Hitler expected List to conquer an area the size of France with this force. Despite these scant German and allied forces, the Soviets had only scattered units available to oppose the German advance. On 28 July, the Soviets created the North Caucasus Front, commanded by Marshal Semen Budenny, and Stalin ordered his forces to stand in place and not retreat. But even reprisals failed to stem the Soviet withdrawal before Army Group A’s rapid advance, which had all the characteristics of a blitzkrieg. Indeed, the chief obstacles to the German advance were logistical, created by the vast distances involved and terrain problems. The Germans used aerial resupply where possible and also horses and camels to press their advance.

By 9 August, the 5th SS Panzer Division had taken the first of the Caucasus oil fields at Maykop. To the west, infantry and mountain formations of the Seventeenth Army had made slower progress, but on 9 August, they took Krasnodar, capital of the rich agricultural Kuban region. They then moved in a broad advance into the Caucasus Mountains, with the goal of taking the Black Sea ports of Novorossiysk, Tuapse, and Sukhumi. Soviet forces, meanwhile, continued to fall back into the Caucasus. As Budenny’s North Caucasus Front prepared to defend the Black Sea ports, the Soviets sabotaged the oil fields, removing much of the equipment and destroying the wellheads. So successful was this effort that there would be no significant oil production from the region until after the war.


After the German 73. Infanterie-Division captured central Novorossiysk, Ruoff ordered Wetzel’s V Armeekorps to continue the advance along the coast road to threaten Tuapse from the west. The Soviet 47th Army had been virtually demolished in the fight for the city and the only significant Soviet force blocking the coast road was three battalions of naval infantrymen, formed from survivors of Gorshkov’s Azov Flotilla and the 83rd Naval Infantry Brigade. On 8/9 September, the German Infanterie-Regiment 213 began the effort to push along the coast road, supported by assault guns and heavy artillery.

The 16th Naval Infantry Battalion had occupied a strong position in the Proletary Cement Factory, on the outskirts of the town, while the other two battalions were in the nearby Krasny Oktyabr Factory. Like Thermopylae in ancient Greece, the terrain was narrow here due to the water of Tsemes Bay and the nearby mountains, which reduced the German numerical advantage. At dawn on 8 September, the German Landser from Infanterie-Regiment 213 came on at the point of the bayonet, but encountered unexpectedly strong resistance at the Cement Factory. German infantrymen fought their way into the lower floors and engaged in hand-to-hand combat, while Soviet sailors fired down upon them from upper floors. After a day of intense fighting, the Soviet battalion was nearly surrounded, but the survivors were able to slip out to continue the fight at the Oktyabr Factory. Despite repeated attacks, the German V Armeekorps could not achieve a breakthrough along the coast road and the costly Soviet defence ultimately proved successful.

This scene shows the side of the factory and the oncoming German infantry. Several of the Germans have already become casualties, but a few of the Germans have reached the lower floor and are engaged in vicious hand-to-hand combat with the Soviet naval infantrymen.

By the end of August, the German advance had slowed to a crawl. For the Seventeenth Army, the problems were terrain and a stiffening Soviet resistance. Bitter fighting occurred in Novorossiysk, beginning on 18 August when the Germans threw six divisions against the city. It fell on 6 September, although the Soviets managed to evacuate their defending marine infantry by sea.

To the east, the advance of the First Panzer Army, pushing toward the oil fields at Grozny, also slowed. Problems there were largely logistical, with a serious shortage of fuel impeding forward movement. In addition, Hitler was gradually siphoning off First Army’s strength, including two divisions, some of its artillery, and most of its air support (diverted north to the cauldron of Stalingrad). Weather now became a factor, with the first snowfall in the mountains on 12 September. Displeased with the progress of his forces in the Caucasus and despite List’s objections, Hitler assumed personal control of Army Group A on 10 September and sacked List.

Hitler’s plan was far too ambitious for the assets committed. The weather had become a critical concern, as did continuing German logistical problems. The Soviets, meanwhile, were able to feed additional resources into the fight. On 14 October, the Germans suspended offensive operations in the Caucasus, except for the Seventeenth Army efforts on the Terek River and around Tuapse. The Germans took Tuapse several days later but then called a halt to offensive operations on 4 November.

Events at Stalingrad now took precedence. By the end of November, Soviets forces had encircled the German Sixth Army at Stalingrad, and Soviet successes there placed the Axis forces in the Caucasus in an untenable situation. Then, on 29 November, the Soviet Transcaucasus Front launched an offensive of its own along the Terek. The Germans repulsed this attack, but on 22 December, German forces began a withdrawal from positions along the Terek River. At the end of December, with the situation to the north growing more precarious daily, Hitler reluctantly ordered Army Group A to withdraw. This movement began in early January, with Soviet forces unable seriously to disrupt it. By early February, German forces had withdrawn to the Taman Peninsula, from which Hitler hoped to renew his Caucasus offensive in the spring. In October 1943, however, German forces there were withdrawn across Kerch Strait into the Crimea.

Germany’s Caucasus Campaign turned out to be a costly and unsuccessful gamble. Ultimately, by splitting his resources between Stalingrad and the Caucasus, Hitler got neither.

The Dutch Resistance and the OSS

On 10 May 1940, the German 10th Army, spearheaded by airborne troops, invaded the Netherlands. The rest of the Wehrmacht force committed to “the overrunning of the West executed the Manstein Plan through Belgium and the Ardennes Forest. On 14 May 1940, the Dutch commander ordered a cease-fire. Three days later, the entire Netherlands was occupied by Nazi Germany.

The Netherlands royal family, led by Queen Wilhelmina, along with some 4,600 Dutch officers, sailors, soldiers, and policemen, staged a Dutch Dunkirk, assisted by remnants of the country’s Navy and the entire merchant marine. This evacuation to Britain of the royal family and a cadre of the Dutch Government was critical in establishing a government-in-exile and the initial intelligence networks in Holland. Additionally, the emigration to Britain of Netherlands military people and civilians from all over the Continent and from overseas Dutch possessions helped form the core of a reconstituted Dutch Royal Army, Navy, and Air Force.

Stirrings of Resistance

The initial years of the German occupation of Holland were characterized by the removal of Dutch Jews from their homeland and harsh economic and political measures. The Nazis set up a puppet government at The Hague headed by Dr. Seyss-Inquart and established a Dutch National Socialist Party. Some Dutch citizens eagerly joined the new party and took positions in the government. Others, however, joined with the purpose of pretending to collaborate while remaining loyal to the government-in-exile. Their positions enabled them to keep an eye on Dutch collaborators and to influence policy-making and implementation. The Leegsma family provided a good example of this tactic. Agardus Leegsma, his brother, and their father joined the Nazi-organized Dutch National Police. The father had been a professional soldier in the Guards Regiment of the Royal Dutch Army during the interwar years. The family assisted various Resistance organizations during the Nazi occupation. During the liberation of the Netherlands, Agardus Leegsma and his brother joined different Allied units, serving as guides and combatants.

As the harshness of the occupation grew, so did Dutch unrest and resentment toward the Germans. Individual Dutchmen took it upon themselves to strike back. With no central command, these brave individuals began recruiting relatives, friends, and neighbors into the first Resistance organizations. The dangers were exceptionally high: captured members of the Resistance were usually shot or sent to concentration camps. The primary anti-Nazi activity came initially from the Social Democrats and Catholic youth leagues. The Dutch Communists began actively resisting after the Germans invaded the USSR.

Members of the Dutch royal armed forces who had not escaped to Britain and had successfully evaded German capture secretly banded together and began collecting information. Under the leadership of Dr. Johan Stijkel, a Rotterdam lawyer, Maj. Gen. H. D. S. Husselman and Col. J. P. Bolton organized a Resistance group of young Dutch citizens. With the help of radio expert Cornelius Drupsteen, they established a wireless link with the British Secret Intelligence Service (SIS) and began passing information to the Allies.

Resistance operations consisted primarily of organizational and networking functions, as well as gathering intelligence on the occupation forces. Probably the most heroic and dangerous aspect of resistance was the hiding and sheltering of Netherlands Jews and young draft-age Dutch men and women by other Dutch, collectively known as onkerduikers (“underdivers”). The best known story is that of Anne Frank.

Individual Dutch were horrified and appalled at the spectacle of their neighbors and friends being rounded up and taken away to an unknown fate. Most Dutch Jews who escaped capture were smuggled out of Holland to Britain via Belgium through France and then to Spain, or from Belgium to France, and then to Switzerland. Smuggling people out via the Dutch coast was extremely dangerous, as the Germans increasingly fortified the coast in anticipation of an Allied invasion. Some young Dutch men and women as well as Dutch Jews hid throughout the war, participating in underground activities. The underground networks established in this manner were later instrumental in hiding and exfiltrating Allied airmen shot down over Holland.

MI-9 and the Evaders

The British Military Intelligence Section 9 (MI-9) was set up to exploit available European Resistance networks and assist Allied airmen shot down over Europe in returning to Britain. MI-9, also known as IS-9, infiltrated agents, usually by parachute, into occupied Europe. These agents would link up with a Resistance cell and organize escape-and-evasion efforts in a particular area, usually after being notified by the Resistance of the presence of downed airmen. The agents brought money, maps, and false papers to assist these airmen. The usual route was either south to Switzerland or to southern France and then to Spain and Portugal.

One such MI-9 agent was Dick Kragt, who parachuted into Holland in 1943. He lost his equipment, including his radio, but continued on, armed only with a Colt.45. He managed to link up with a Dutch Jew named Joop Piller, living in the town of Emst, and they built a network designed to hide, protect, and eventually smuggle downed airmen out of Holland.

Initial Operations

By operating covertly and passively, members of the Resistance were able to function without attracting undue attention. This allowed them to organize their cells, gauge the German counterintelligence threat, and establish information networks. The telephone was their primary means of communication, and they always used nicknames. In face-to-face meetings, masks were often worn to ensure security.

The Dutch Resistance command and control hierarchy was decentralized and compartmented. Additionally, the creation of small groups by individual Dutchmen with no outside links was widespread. Some of these groups’ activities will never be known because many of their members were captured and executed by the Germans. Initially, they used leaflets and underground newspapers as means to enlist new members and raise money.

The Underground Press

Underground newspapers were helpful, especially in areas where the telephone lines were monitored and use of radiotransmitters was too dangerous because of German direction-finding operations. These newspapers helped counterbalance Nazi propaganda and the German-controlled media. Almost as soon as the occupation began, anti-Nazi leaflets began to circulate. Period photographs show such anti-Nazi newspapers as DeUnion being openly distributed on city streets despite the obvious danger. By 1943, underground newspapers had attained a collective circulation of nearly 500,000. Although some were amateurish, they were effective. One such paper–a translation and transcription of daily BBC broadcasts–was produced by the Leegsma brothers working at The Hague.

Another newspaper was also a two-man effort. Working out of a hotel room in Grave, Gerald Peijnenburg and a Dutch Jew in hiding wrote and copied Young Netherlands. Peijnenburg handled the distribution, and most of his copies were passed from person to person, providing some degree of security.

Slow Growth

The Resistance developed slowly for several reasons. Because of the Netherlands’ geographic proximity and cultural ties to Germany, many Dutch were sympathetic to the ideas of German nationalism, and a significant portion of the population joined the Dutch Nazi Party and even the Wehrmacht. There were also Dutch civilians who informed on their neighbors.

The swift German victory, combined with Queen Wilhelmina’s seeming abandonment of the Dutch population, disillusioned and embittered much of Holland. Many who collaborated really believed that the Germans represented the future and felt that Nazi success was inevitable. For these citizens, occupation was something merely to be accepted. Ruthless German countermeasures toward any anti-Nazi activity further discouraged active resistance. As the occupation grew more repressive, a backlash against the Germans grew, fanned by the government-in-exile.

The government-in-exile made its presence known through the judicious use of BBC broadcasts, listened to covertly by the Dutch population. Queen Wilhelmina became a symbol of hope to occupied Holland, and Crown Prince Bernhard took an active role in Allied planning for military operations in the Netherlands.

Geography also slowed the growth of the Resistance. The lack of mountainous and forested terrain prevented the establishment of hiding areas for large groups of maquis. Moreover, the flat terrain, interdicted by many bodies of water, large and small, confined movement to the established railroads, road networks, and bridges. These were easily controlled by the Germans, who established checkpoints to curtail freedom of movement.

Gasoline was scarce, and many Dutch used bicycles for transportation, sometimes riding on the rims because of a shortage of rubber for tires. On the other hand, the Germans were plagued by the Resistance’s incessant sabotage of telephone lines and by damage to the railroads.

Major Resistance Organizations

By the middle of 1944, there were four major Resistance organizations in Holland. They did not coordinate their activities unless help from one group to another was absolutely necessary; for the most part they did not answer to a central headquarters. They conducted their operations as they saw fit, and members of the groups often did not know which organization they were part of. Many did not learn the identity of their particular group until after the war.

“Central Government Organizations For Help To People In Hiding” (LO) was the most important such group. Its primary goal was the protection and exfiltration of onkerduikers. Another activity centered around the coupons used by the Germans and the Dutch Nazi government to ration food and keep tabs on the population. The LO made counterfeit coupons; it also obtained authentic coupons from loyal Netherlands citizens in the employ of the Dutch Nazis. Other groups conducted raids and robberies to steal authentic coupons from government agencies. And some Dutch civilians gave up their own coupons to the LO.

Besides keeping an eye on Dutch collaborators, local LO groups engaged in whatever resistance they could without endangering themselves. Occasionally, the Leegsma family in The Hague was able to use its position in the police force to tip off the LO before the impending arrest of an onkerduiker would occur. The family also was able to funnel genuine food coupons to the LO.

While the LO maintained a low profile, the “Central Government Fighting Group” (KP) carried out sabotage operations at the local level. Its estimated strength was 550 members nationally, but this figure is probably low. Without central direction, the KP attacked targets of opportunity in and around the hometowns. It tended mostly to target railroad tracks, telegraph and telephone lines, German supply points, and motor pools, but it occasionally assassinated individual German soldiers and Dutch collaborators. Such activities were dangerous. The Germans would crack down on the local population in the locale where a killing had occurred; sometimes they carried out a tit-for-tat retribution. The Germans would also step up their counterintelligence efforts in the area in an attempt to eradicate any underground cells.

A third organization, the “Council of Resistance” (RVV), engaged in both communications sabotage and protection of onkerduikers. Allied planners regarded this group as “sound from the security point of view.” With several thousand members, the RVV was in radio contact with the Bureau Inlichtingen (BI), the government-in-exile’s intelligence service, and demanded arms and ammunition.

Another organization, the “Order of Service” (OD), focused on preparing for the return of a Dutch Government following Holland’s liberation. The OD was made up primarily of former Dutch officers and government officials who found themselves supplanted by the Nazis and by Dutch collaborators. Its main missions were to collect intelligence and develop “plans for the maintenance of administrative services and civil order on the liberation of Holland.” Although the OD was thought to have been penetrated, Allied intelligence estimated that most OD cells were still loyal and could be depended on to provide assistance during the liberation of Holland.

A subgroup, the “Dutch Secret Service” (GDN), functioned as an intelligence agency for the OD. There were also some 20 other intelligence entities in wartime Holland. Most Resistance groups conducted some level of intelligence operations, even if it was only counterintelligence for security purposes. When organized at the national level, the groups were divided into regional geographic areas of administration.

At the national level, the National Steunfonds (NSV) was an umbrella financial organization which received money from the government-in-exile and conducted covert fundraising to finance KP and LO operations. There was some overlap in responsibilities among members of the local and regional groups. For example, in the Nijmegen district, the LO commander was also the chief of staff of the district OD.

Almost every town of any size had one or more of these groups. It was also possible for one person to belong to more than one such organization. In some groups, members simply were referred to by nicknames, and their true identities remain unknown. Many of the groups were named after their leader.

The Eindhoven and Nijmegen Undergrounds

Some organizations, established locally by individual Dutchmen, operated with no formal, structured links to any other groups. In Eindhoven, a group known as the “Partisan Action Nederlands” (PAN) functioned along the lines of the KP but did not consider itself part of that organization.

PAN was founded by Hoynck van Papendrecnt. He studied engineering at the Technical University in Delft until April 1943, when the Germans closed the Dutch universities and began forcibly relocating Dutch students to Germany as a manpower and professional talent pool. Van Papendrecht went into hiding and eventually moved to Eindhoven, where he established the PAN. By June 1944, the PAN had reached its full strength of 80 to 100 young men and women. The PAN had several small cells operating in the small towns around Eindhoven. These included the Group Sander, named after its leader, which worked as a KP and LO subgroup.

Margarethe Kelder and her sister were members of the Group Sander. They smuggled downed Allied airmen and Dutch onkerduikers to a crossing site on the Belgium border, coordinating their activities with a Belgian Resistance group. The female members of the PAN were primarily couriers, but they were also valued intelligence collectors. In early September 1944, Kelder and another female Resistance member were asked to go into the woods near Eindhoven to confirm the presence of a German antiaircraft battery. On the pretext of gathering mushrooms, they conducted their reconnaissance and, when confronted by German guards near the battery, were able to convince them of their innocence.

Another PAN group in a town north of Eindhoven conducted sabotage operations. It put salt in gas and oil tanks of German vehicles and blew up railroad tracks, using smuggled explosives provided by mining engineers.

After D-Day, many in the Dutch underground grew impatient and wanted to conduct more aggressive operations against the Germans. The PAN did so by launching raids against, among other targets, the 20- to 30-man German garrison at the Eindhoven airport on 5 September 1944. It also began conducting a form of psychological warfare; PAN members would approach German soldiers they knew and try to persuade them of the hopelessness of Germany’s situation and to surrender. Some PAN members were reported by German soldiers and arrested. The punishment for belonging to a Resistance organization was summary execution.

In June 1944, the PAN set up its headquarters in a house in Eindhoven. Van Papendrecht had little contact with the other groups in the Eindhoven area, including the RVV, which numbered only three of four members, but he was aware of their existence. The PAN leader did conduct some joint activities with other groups when he felt the operational need for outside assistance. One of his outside contacts was the KP leader in Rotterdam, Jan van Bijnen, whose nom deguerre was “Frank.” “Frank” was Van Pupendrecht’s periodic source of weapons and explosives, couriered by such women as Margerethe Kelder and her sister.

To the east of Eindhoven, in the small town of Helmond, a KP Resistance group was led by Johan Raaymaerkers, a former Dutch artillery captain who was a technical engineer and owned his own factory. Hans Bertels, a member of the group, began distributing an underground newspaper in 1941 in the Helmond area. Bertels’s contact was a man named Knaapen, who provided him with the newspapers and occasional operations orders.

South of Eindhoven, in the town of Roermond, a small LO group consisting of only 15 members had its headquarters in a vault in the local cemetery. Anya van Lyssens, later awarded the Military Order of William for her actions in the Resistance, was a member. The group had a radio, with which it maintained contact with a Belgian Resistance group, and smuggled downed Allied airmen over the border. By September 1944, it was credited with saving the lives of 29 airmen.

The Resistance groups in the Eindhoven area had a total of several hundred members. The local GDN was led by Arie Tromp, a director for the Phillips electrical firm office in Eindhoven. His nom de guerre was “Harry.” By placing their headquarters in the Eindhoven Museum, GDN members were able to come and go without arousing German suspicions. The GDN began receiving taskings and orders from the BI following its establishment in November 1942. Tromp and his agents used the underground electrical cables in the Phillips factory, which also had telephone lines, as their primary means of communication.

There were several underground groups in the Nijmegen area. In the city itself, some Resistance activities apparently were centered around Saint Canisius College. Jules Jansen was an engineering professor at the college and one of the leaders of the local KP. He set up a laboratory in his house for manufacturing explosives and an indoor firing range in his basement to teach KP members the basics of markmanship.

OSS Involvement

The Resistance organizations were part of the largely unknown story of the strategic OSS mission into occupied Holland. This story essentially began in May 1944, when Lt. Jan Laverge constituted the one-man Netherlands Section of Special Intelligence (SI) of the OSS in London. The American-born son of Dutch émigrés, he had been personally recruited for the job by Col. William Donovan. As planning progressed for the invasion of Europe, Lt. Col. De Vries, the chief of SI, asked Laverge to develop a plan for using an OSS team to assist in the liberation of the Netherlands. On 25 May 1944, Laverge submitted his preliminary plan, which called for two officers and three enlisted men with associated vehicles and communications equipment.

Following the Allied invasion of occupied France, Laverge looked forward to having a chance to operate an OSS mission in Holland similar to the OSS mission, codenamed Sussex, which had operated in France. In July 1944, the Netherlands Section came under the control of SI’s Continental Division. De Vries ordered resubmission of plans for the liberation of occupied countries, and Laverge reviewed the initial work. The OSS team designated for Holland would come under the control of the Supreme Headquarters Allied Expeditionary Force (SHAEF) military mission to the Netherlands. The OSS team grew to six officers and eight to 10 enlisted men.

Later that month, Laverge consulted with the BI and used its contributions for the final plan, submitted on 5 August 1944. Both the BI and the OSS approved the mission, which was given the codename Melanie. The Minister of War in the Dutch exile government also approved the mission, which was to gather intelligence and focus on “transmitting information obtained from the Dutch service’s intelligence nets, trying to recruit agents, and extending Dutch nets into Germany.’

After Lt. Laverge got the green light for the mission, he began recruiting soldiers for the team, choosing men he had worked with before in England. He also began building up his team to ensure maximum self-sufficiency. In addition to his radio operators and two Dutch BI analysts, he recruited an American Army mechanic, a radio repairman, and a Dutch-American major with no previous intelligence experience. The presence of a Major on the team would provide Laverge with enough rank to obtain resources.

Melanie Moves Ahead

As operations on the Continent speeded up, so did Laverge’s preparations. The target date for the start of the mission kept getting moved forward, and Laverge began to worry that he would not have enough time to prepare properly. The decision was finally made to deploy an advance team of two Dutch and two American officers not later than 7 September 1944, with the remainder of the team to follow as quickly as possible.

When the advance team arrived in Normandy, it reported to the SHAEF G2 Forward. On 9 September 1944, Lt. Laverge met with a Major Krick of the SHAEF G2. Krick apparently offered little or no guidance to Laverge as to Melanie’s intended intelligence-gathering priorities and requirements. According to Laverge’s report to his OSS superior, Krick only made suggestions, which Laverge developed into the following requirements:

German unit composition and positions behind the Siegfried Line.

Location of enemy headquarters of any kind and names of Germans located there.

Locations of the planning and archival sections of German industrial interests.

Information on “controlling personalities” at all levels of the Reich.

Locations of command, control, and communications nodes.

The OSS team was attached and ordered to report to Field Marshal Bernard Law Montgomery’s 21st Army Group. In early September, Laverge moved his team to the Palace Hotel in Brussels, in preparation for deployment into Holland. He also reported in at Montgomery’s headquarters.

Operation Market-Garden

In early September 1944, Montgomery, seeking to maintain the momentum of the Allied breakout from Normandy, conceived an operation to outflank the German “West Wall” defensive line. Encouraged by Ultra SIGINT intercepts which portrayed a disintegrating German Army, Montgomery persuaded Supreme Allied Commander General Eisenhower that his bold plan of forcing a narrow corridor through Holland and establishing a bridgehead across the Rhine River into northern Germany’s Ruhr Valley industrial complex held the promise of bringing about a German collapse by the end of 1944.

Montgomery’s Operation Market-Garden had two parts. He proposed dropping the First Allied Airborne Army to seize seven canal and river bridges in Holland as well as the bridge across the lower Rhine at the Dutch town of Arnhem–the “Market” portion of Montgomery’s operation. Simultaneously, the British XXX Armored Corps would rapidly advance 60 miles along a narrow road corridor crossing the captured bridges to link up with the airborne forces in Arnhem–the “Garden” portion. The operation began on 17 September.

The Melanie mission, with no prior coordination with the British XXX Armored Corps, deployed into Holland over the Albert Canal and reached Eindhoven on 21 September 1944. The team established its base of operations in a house at No. 2 Vestdijk Street.

The Dutch telephone network was a vital communications link between Melanie and the Resistance cells scattered throughout the country. Using a TR-4 wireless telegraph radio set, the team’s radio operators established contact with the OSS SI section in Paris. In addition to the TR-4, the team used a TR-1 for local communications with the Dutch Resistance groups in the Market-Garden area of operations.

Even though the team was attached to the 21st Army Group, it apparently did not provide intelligence to Montgomery’s G2. Instead, its reporting channel was directly to Paris and the OSS Continental Division of SI. The exclusion of the 21st Army Group G2 from the intelligence reporting chain probably stemmed from the sensitive, compartmented nature of all OSS missions. The team had no contact with the 101st Airborne Division, whose Market-Garden objective was the seizure of Eindhoven and vital bridges nearby. The only American paratrooper the OSS team saw was a lone GI who wandered past the house one day and asked for a cigarette.

Laverge quickly made contact with Arie Tromp, the chief of the Eindhoven Resistance. With Tromp’s assistance, Laverge recruited four Dutch civilians to work as interpreters and telephone operators. A Resistance member named A. Jongbloed was employed as the mission’s intelligence and liaison officer with Dutch civilian authorities in Eindhoven. The OSS team used the Dutch telephone system to make contact with various Resistance groups throughout Holland. This reporting network began yielding excellent information almost immediately.

The team’s first message to SI in Paris, on 21 September 1944, reported that it had begun recruiting possible agents for work behind the German lines. As the Market-Garden battle raged up and down the corridor along “Hell’s Highway,” the OSS team continued its intelligence-gathering mission. On 22 September 1944, the team reported the location of the Gestapo headquarters in Kleve, Germany, a border town just east of Nijmegen, and the location of the telephone exchange there. This information was passed via the telephone network by Resistance members. A report dated 24 September 1944 from a “reliable source” stated that, as of 22 September, all “troops [are] leaving Rotterdam, except demolition squads.” The team also reported on other concentrations of enemy troops and artillery.

In addition to the Melanie operation, which was to provide strategic intelligence on the situation throughout Holland, OSS/SOE Jedburgh teams deployed with each Allied airborne division during Market-Garden. The Jedburgh teams worked closely with their respective division commanders and staff. These teams performed civil affairs and unconventional warfare missions in much the same manner as latter-day special forces units do, but they were primarily concerned with obtaining tactical intelligence provided by Resistance members.

During Market-Garden, intelligence supplied by the various Resistance networks, because of its noncompartmented nature, was passed through the Jedburgh teams to the various tactical commanders. The commanders received intelligence on the composition and disposition of German forces, as well as information on terrain and the conditions of the bridges. Once the paratroopers were on the ground, this information flow continued. Some of the Resistance cells were aware to some extent of Market-Garden before its implementation, but the decentralized nature of the underground network guaranteed that not everyone would know the time and place of the attack. As Allied parachutes began blossoming, those previously unaware of the operation reacted by mobilizing their cells and recovering arms caches.

Some Resistance members carried out independent actions during the operation. Others actively sought out airborne soldiers and attached themselves to any unit that would take them. In cases where their loyalties were suspect, Resistance members were vetted by the Jedburgh teams. Once this was done, they were farmed out to different units as the need arose.

Jedburgh Team Claude, attached to the British 1st Airborne Division, was too small to conduct effective operations. One four-man team per brigade would have been enough, but not one team for the entire division. The splitting of this team had disastrous consequences, placing the entire responsibility for the vetting and administration of the available Resistance on the junior member of Team Claude, Lt. Knottenbelt.

The British plan for using the Resistance fell apart after Col. Barlow, the officer in charge of civil affairs and of working with the Resistance in the Arnhem area, was killed. Dutch naval commander Wolters was attached to the British division, but his stated mission was focused on Dutch civil affairs after the liberation of Arnhem. His unplanned, ad hoc actions during the fighting demonstrated his considerable abilities; if his responsibilities had been broadened before D-Day, he could have been even more effective.

The communications failures suffered by Market forces, especially the 1st Airborne Division, are legendary. Team Claude’s loss of communications occurred because the team carried only one radio for the operation, which was lost during the initial drop on D-Day. Team Edward’s inability to communicate with Team Claude and the physical isolation of the two teams prevented a clear assessment of the situation at Arnhem.

Intelligence Failure

Market-Garden ranks among the most serious intelligence failures of the war. Critiques of the operation have focused on the overly optimistic interpretations of SIGINT as well as on the failure of planners to credit airborne reconnaissance indications of recent German armored reinforcements in the Arnhem area.

Similarly, the operational planners, in their haste to meet Montgomery’s deadlines, paid too little attention to route, terrain, and weather assessments. These assessments, moreover, suffered from insufficient basic intelligence information. Selections of drop zones, especially at Arnhem, were ill-considered, and estimates of the road system’s ability to support the armored column were critically flawed, although this latter shortcoming was as much a planning failure as it was an intelligence failure.

The Dutch Resistance was not alerted to the Arnhem drop because British intelligence believed the Germans had penetrated their Dutch networks. If the British had heeded word from their agents in Arnhem, they would have been alerted to the presence of two enemy panzer divisions.

Carrying On

After Market-Garden, the Melanie mission continued to collect military, economic, and industrial intelligence. A detailed report dated 14 December 1944 provided the specifications on a Mauser small-arms factory in the town of Oberndorf, Germany. The team also provided reports regarding German atrocities committed against Allied prisoners and Netherlands civilians.

The unleashing of German secret weapons such as jet aircraft and the V-2 rocket made information about these weapons critical. Melanie responded by providing information on the location of V-2 launching sites, with detailed sketches. Information on industrial infrastructure was also provided. A report dated 3 March 1945 stated that V-2 parts were being manufactured in the Croecke textile factory in Hohenlimburg, Germany.

In late December, coinciding with the German attack through the Ardennes, Melanie developed intelligence indicating a secondary, supplementary German attack across the Maas River. Maj. Van der Gracht reported to his superior, Philip Horton, that in the period of a few days more than 30 German commandos wearing British uniforms had been captured in Eindhoven, some only a few blocks from the team’s quarters. Van der Gracht also reported, however, that Eindhoven had received numerous V-2 attacks “with some accuracy.” The threat became so ominous that Van der Gracht made plans for the destruction of those files which could not be evacuated.

On 8 February 1945, Melanie reported that Field Marshal Goering had established his headquarters in a train with three coaches at the Niederaula train station and that he had been there for several months. Dutch intelligence agents were routinely able to report the locations of German regimental and higher headquarters along with descriptions of vehicle and uniform markings. Reports on German units were usually able to identify the name of the commander and sometimes what decorations he wore. This type of information came from underground sources living in the occupied towns and villages.

SI also tasked Melanie to conduct and submit battle damage assessment reports on the results of Allied bombing raids in the Netherlands. Again, such reports could only be obtained through eyewitness accounts provided by Dutch Resistance members and Melanie agents.

A 24 December 1944 memorandum from Lt. Laverge states that the team had recruited nine Dutch citizens–five observers and four wireless telegraph operators–and was training them in Eindhoven to penetrate German lines and collect information. Armed with only their wits and the TR-1 radio, these Netherlanders tried, with varying degrees of success, to accomplish their assigned missions. From September 1944 until May 1945, several secondary missions were conducted, each including at least one agent. These missions involved contacting various Resistance groups and establishing radio contact between the groups and Melanie for intelligence-gathering purposes. Some of the agents did not survive.

Operations in occupied Holland were extremely difficult and dangerous for Melanie’s Dutch agents. After an OSS bureaucrat had recommended shutting down the operation because of a perceived lack of results, Laverge responded angrily: “Frankly, if you knew about conditions in Holland like we do here, you don’t see how the hell those people [Dutch agents] can accomplish what we are asking.” The lack of archival reports on the success or failure of these missions makes it impossible to evaluate them authoritatively.

Melanie continued in Eindhoven for the duration of the war. Besides obtaining intelligence on the strategic and tactical military situation, the team provided economic, political, and social intelligence on large and small urban areas and on rural communities. Melanie also put together a database on Dutch collaborators.

From 25 to 31 March 1945, the Melanie mission sent 251 reports, messages, and maps/sketches to the OSS/ETO SI section. From September 1944 to April 1945, Melanie sent approximately 3,200 courier reports and 750 cable messages to the OSS SI section in Paris. According to an afteraction report written by the SHAEF G-2 in 1945 evaluating Dutch intelligence production and reporting, the Melanie mission “supplied more reports for SHAEF’s Daily Digest than any other OSS mission from September 1944 to May 1945.

Undeserved Obscurity

Despite its achievements, Melanie has hardly been mentioned in most OSS histories. The only sources on Melanie are surviving participants and the declassified OSS records at the National Archives at College Park, Maryland. These records include daily situation reports, financial accounting records, operational reports, and debriefs of Dutch agents sent behind the lines. There are important gaps in the records; some documents have been pulled from the files and reclassified.

But the SHAEF G2, at least, gave some credit where it was justly due, when he reported that Melanie provided the most accurate and complete intelligence picture for its assigned area of any intelligence operation during the war As he indicated, Melanie’s efforts and the cooperation and sacrifices of its Dutch Resistance agents contributed substantially to Allied intelligence operations in Holland at a crucial stage.

A Bridge Too Far

Operation Market-Garden turned into a military disaster. Although the American airborne divisions eventually achieved their objectives–the 82nd Airborne parachuted into Grave and Groesbeek and controlled the strategic river crossings, while the 101st Airborne seized the bridges at Eindhoven and Veghel–the Germans managed to demolish one of the bridges. In addition, the British lst Airborne Division, reinforced by a Polish airborne unit, was dropped too far from its target, the Arnhem bridge.

More fundamently, German strength in Arnhem was substantially greater than anticipated in the intelligence estimates. Lightly armed Allied paratroopers found themselves up against two SS panzer divisions that had recently been refitting in the area. The British/Polish force, suffering from the loss in the airdrop of critical vehicles, artillery, and communications, failed to seize the Arnhem bridge despite a heroic fight.

The situation in Arnhem grew increasingly perilous. The British armored column which was to break through to relieve the airborne forces fell behind schedule as the tanks crawled along the narrow, congested roadway. The operation ended less than 10 days later, with the British and Polish airborne troops surrounded in Arnhem and the armored column stalled 10 miles away.

The British were able to pull back some of their forces, but not before the Germans killed or captured more than 7,000 paratroopers; the two American airborne divisions fighting along the corridor lost more than 3,500. With the debacle in Arnhem, hopes of an early end to the war quickly faded. In the words of the British airborne Commander General Boy Browning, Market-Garden was “a bridge too far.”

The 1942 Summer Offensive in Russia I

The Germans planned to strike on a 350-mile front but not all at one time. Bock had to command no less than seven armies (two allied), and more would join him later. (Normally, an army group would never control more than four armies at once. In 1944-1945, the Western democracies hardly ever had an army group command controlling more than three armies on their whole front of no more than 600 miles.)

To control the growing force and increasingly widespread operations, another headquarters, Army Group A, under Field Marshal List would take over Army Group South’s southern wing and conduct the advance south to the Caucasus. Army Group South, redesignated Army Group B, would handle the Don-Stalingrad flank.

The left wing of Army Group B, or “Group Weichs,” comprised Maximilian von Weichs’s Second German Army, the Second Hungarian Army, and the Fourth Panzer Army. According to plans, it would strike from east of Kursk to the Don and, probably, over the Don to Voronezh, an important road and rail hub five miles east of the river, while the German Sixth Army drove north and east from Belgorod to meet it and form a pocket around Stary Oskol. While the Sixth Army and the Hungarians cleared the pocket, the Fourth Panzer Army would turn south along the west side of the Don with Sixth Army on its right. The First Panzer Army would then strike east from the Artemovsk-Izyum area to meet the Fourth Panzer Army between the Don and Donetz Rivers. This strategy was a late and not promising alteration of the original plan. Originally the main thrust on the right was to have been based in the Taganrog area by the Sea of Azov, but the Germans decided that First Panzer Army was too weak to operate so far from the other enveloping force and had insufficient bridging equipment. The change shifted the right pincer almost 150 miles north, close to the center rather than the right of Bock’s front, and reduced the chance of cutting off the Soviet forces before they escaped over the Don.

Farther south, Group Ruoff, comprising the German Seventeenth Army and the Eighth Italian Army, would pin down the Soviets in the coastal region. Right before the First Panzer Army jumped off, Army Group A would take over Group Ruoff and the Eleventh Army, which by that point was expected to have come up from the Crimea to take over a sector of the main front. The Italians and the Seventeenth Army would advance on Rostov and the lower Don from the west and converge with the two panzer armies, which would then come under Army Group A. Then they would drive on Stalingrad, along with Army Group B’s Sixth Army. The northern flank secured, Army Group A could safely head south for the Caucasus and the oil fields.

This complex, step-by-step plan would come apart fairly quickly. The Soviets did not play into the Germans’ hands this time, while logistics problems and command conflicts hampered the Germans.

The attack of Group Weichs on June 28 tore a hole right through the Soviets’ Bryansk Front, and the Sixth Army attacked on June 30. On July 2 the Sixth and Fourth Panzer Armies met, encircling parts of the Soviets’ Twenty-first and Fortieth Armies. The Soviets desperately tried to block the road to Voronezh, believing that the Germans wanted it as a jumping off point for a deep encirclement of Moscow from the southeast. Hitler, however, could not decide whether to take Voronezh, as Bock wished. Hitler finally let Bock go ahead as long as he did not waste time or entangle panzer and motorized divisions in city fighting. On July 6, the city fell without much of a fight. Although the move helped confuse the Soviets, it may have been a costly diversion of effort at a critical moment. In a more serious development—which Bock perceived as early as July 3, but most Germans, including Hitler, missed—not many Soviet units were caught west of the Don. On July 6, while hastily reinforcing around Voronezh to block the threat from there, the Soviets had ordered the Southwest and South Fronts to start a strategic retreat farther south.

Bock’s tying up of forces around Voronezh helped prevent the encirclement of the Twenty-first and Twenty-eighth Soviet Armies. Army Group A now officially took over its sector and received control of the First Panzer Army, which attacked eastward that same day, July 7. But it was too late to destroy the Soviet forces west of the Don. First Panzer Army and Group Ruoff encircled only rearguards of the withdrawing Soviets.

On July 9 and 10 the Fourth Panzer Army’s drive south was spasmodic and hampered by fuel shortages. The first phase of the German plan had been completed, but they had taken only 30,000 prisoners. Any chance the Germans had had of success in the 1942 summer campaign was probably already gone.

Hitler, fast losing confidence in Bock, began intervening in the conduct of operations and issued orders affecting even the movement of the corps. His ideas were frequently erratic. Over the next few months, Hitler’s actions in the eastern campaign were often so odd that they constitute probably the best evidence for the otherwise highly improbable thesis, occasionally advanced (notably by Robert Waite in The Psychopathic God), that he subconsciously sought defeat.

On July 9, he decided to have the Eleventh Army cross from the Crimea to the Kuban in early August and drive east to the Maikop oil fields instead of taking up a front on the mainland north of the Sea of Azov. It was a good idea, but he aborted its execution. On July 12, Hitler again intervened. He ordered the First Panzer Army to attack toward Millerovo and Kamenets-Shakhtinsky (the first place on the main north-south railroad in the Donetz Basin and the latter, a crossing of the Donetz), while the Fourth Panzer Army headed for the same places to trap the Soviets. While Hitler and the General Staff expected the Soviets to stand and fight for those objectives, Bock did not, warning that this move would pile up armor uselessly around Millerovo. The Fourth Panzer Army should be directed much farther east, instead, at Morozovsk on the Rostov-Stalingrad rail line. Hitler may have begun to suspect that Bock was right, but he was fed up with him, blaming him for earlier mistakes. On July 13, he ordered the Fourth Panzer Army transferred from Army Group B to Army Group A and fired Bock, replacing him with Weichs. As Bock had predicted, however, the two panzer armies largely “hit air,” taking only a modest number of prisoners and producing a traffic jam. Hitler believed that the Soviets in force were still present north of the lower Don but were farther west around Rostov. He belatedly and partially adopted Bock’s plan. He ordered the First Panzer Army to turn south, cross the Donetz, and drive on Rostov from the north, while the Fourth Panzer Army should drive south to Morozovsk, to and across the Don, and attack west, parallel with the First Panzer Army north of the Don.

On July 14 Hitler moved his headquarters from East Prussia to Vinnitsa in western Ukraine, indicating his intention to take even closer control of the fighting. Bad weather and difficulties in transporting fuel delayed the Panzer armies’ move down the Don, while the Soviet South Front and Southwest Front were fast retreating out of danger. (The new Stalingrad Front replaced the Southwest Front on July 12. Three reserve armies, which were not in good shape, reinforced the new front.)

On July 17, Hitler changed his mind. He ordered the Fourth Panzer Army to stop crossing the Don and instead follow the north bank, and sent the Seventeenth Army to attack farther south than planned, a move that involved lengthy regrouping. On July 19, he belatedly decided to follow Halder’s advice and ordered part of the Fourth Panzer Army, four divisions, to cross the Don after all. He also ordered the Sixth Army to resume its advance on Stalingrad and transferred some units to it from Fourth Panzer Army. All this was unusually erratic even for Hitler. He may have suspected that the Soviets had already retreated out of range. On July 2021, the Seventeenth Army and First Panzer Army found Soviet resistance around Rostov weakening and took the city, a place nearly as large as Stalingrad, on July 23. In a remarkable feat, the Second Battalion of the Brandenburg Regiment (the German Army’s special force) and the SS Viking Division took the main bridge over the Don intact, making possible a quick drive for the Caucasus. But the Soviet forces had escaped south of the Don, largely unscathed.

Hitler’s Directive 45, issued the same day, probably ended any remaining chance of reaching the Caucasus oil fields. Although the Germans had only taken slightly more than a tenth of the 700,000-800,000 prisoners they had expected to capture west and north of the Don, Hitler had convinced himself that they had actually smashed the Soviets. In view of the small number of prisoners taken, he must have assumed that the Soviets had all along been much weaker than anyone had dared hope; he had already ventured to suggest that possibility as early as June 25. He seems to have clung to this idea for at least another six weeks. Directive 45 declared that “only weak enemy forces have succeeded in escaping encirclement and reaching the south bank of the Don.” Army Group A would now encircle them south and southeast of Rostov and then clear the Black Sea coast while, at the same time, driving on Maikop. Then an advance would take place toward Grozny and the most important oil fields at Baku. Wildly overconfident, Hitler had cancelled the plan to send the Eleventh Army into the Kuban, opting instead for a much smaller, delayed crossing of the Kerch Strait. The Eleventh Army and most of its German divisions, with the superheavy artillery, would go north to eliminate Leningrad and its population. (Only the German Navy dared to differ with this idea, squawking about the destruction of Leningrad’s shipyards.) The Eighth Italian Army was also switched from Army Group A to take over part of the defensive front along the Don south of the Hungarian Army. This transfer denied the Caucasus drive Alpine divisions, which would have been invaluable in the mountains. While Army Group A struck into the Caucasus, Army Group B would take Stalingrad, with which Hitler became increasingly fatally fascinated. (As late as July 17, however, he had not insisted on capturing it.)

The Germans had split their forces and sent them against two different objectives at right angles to each other. It would have been hard to supply either advance or give them sufficient air support. Moreover, the southward advance, originally supposed to be the main one, was itself split between two objectives—the Black Sea coast and the oil fields. In practice, the Caucasus advance would become more and more subordinate to capturing Stalingrad. Aside from other diversions, Hitler transferred the Grossdeutschland Division to the west, where he feared an Allied landing. in France. Directive 45 has much claim as the death warrant for Germany’s last chances of success in the east.


A decreasing fraction of the Axis forces in the east carried out the drive for the oil fields, supposedly the objective of the whole campaign; but it might not have been possible to supply stronger forces even had they been available. Already, in late July, as it started south of the Don, Army Group A was not well supplied and suffered serious fuel shortages. Just one railroad running south from Rostov supported the German advance, and only airlifts were able to get fuel to the spearhead divisions.

The Soviets were worried. On July 28, Stalin issued his “not a step back” order, which, with surprising frankness, recounted the loss of territory and resources the Soviets had suffered. He forbade further retreats, backing this command with horrendous threats of punishment. The order, however, does not seem to have applied in the great isthmus between the Black and Caspian Seas. There, the Soviets fell back, often in disorder, but evaded the planned encirclement south of the Don. On July 29, Field Marshal List had urged canceling the planned move, for the Soviets were retreating too quickly to be trapped.

At this stage, the Germans were in the rare position of actually outnumbering the Soviet troops in both men and equipment. The battered Soviet Southern Front was absorbed by Marshal Budyonny’s North Caucasus Front, which was backed up, to the south and east, by Gen. Ivan Tyulenev’s Transcaucasus Front. The North Caucasus Front numbered no less than eighteen divisions, but some were in bad shape. The Soviets frantically mobilized local resources, forming new units in the Transcaucasus, where they thought the population was relatively dependable, while ruthlessly rounding up and deporting Muslim Caucasian mountaineers like the Chechens. Although the Germans supposed that the Caucasus had been cut off from the rest of the USSR, the Soviets had made the region self-supporting except for tanks and planes. Contact was maintained by sea, and between August 6 and September the Soviets shipped two guards corps and eleven separate infantry brigades to the Caucasus from Astrakhan.

The drive to the Caucasus steadily lost resources and priority. On July 31, Hitler transferred the Fourth Panzer Army and most of its units to Army Group B, which drove northeast on Stalingrad. Army Group A also had to cede a Romanian corps; nevertheless, it made surprising progress at first. Field Marshal List, despite the failure of the encirclement south of the Don, was quite optimistic in early August about reaching Baku, 700 miles from Rostov. But Army Group A was badly spread out, with twenty divisions on a front growing to a length of more than 500 miles, and operating on two divergent axes—the Seventeenth Army south through Krasnodar to the coast and the First Panzer Army southeast toward Grozny and Baku. The Seventeenth Army itself was split between an effort toward Novorossisk in the northeast and an attack toward Sukhumi-Batum in the southwest over the higher mountains. The first German penetration into the mountains on August 12 struck lightly guarded passes and took the Soviets by surprise, but they soon pulled back to a shortened front in incredibly rugged terrain. The Germans found themselves inching along narrow mountain trails through dense forests. Their clothing and equipment were unsuitable. Only mules, caterpillar-tracked motorcycles, and Schwimmwagens (amphibious Volkswagens) could get up the trails. The First Panzer Army also lost momentum. The Army Group steadily lost more units and air support to Army Group B. Three Italian mountain divisions were diverted to join Eighth Italian Army on the Don, while a panzer division, a flak division, and two rocket launcher brigades left for Stalingrad, along with most of Richthofen’s supporting planes.

Supplying even the remaining units was difficult. Moving fuel to the front was especially arduous. The Germans even used camels. The truck columns bringing up supplies themselves ran out of gas. The Germans resorted to the expedient of running trains over short stretches of open track, loading the trains from trucks at one end and shifting the cargo back to trucks at the other.

By mid-August, the First Panzer Army was pessimistic, and both German armies were slowing to a halt. The Germans took the least important oil field at Maikop only to find it thoroughly demolished. As early as August 26, List warned that his forces would have to take up winter positions soon and that he needed reinforcements and more air support.

The First Panzer Army tried to cross the Terek River, which the Trans-caucasus Front’s Northern Group held. The Terek was a formidable obstacle, being both wide (500 meters) and fast, and bordered by swampy ground. In a difficult operation, the Germans crossed the river and seized a confined bridgehead, but they could not exploit it. Soviet night bombers then smashed their newly constructed bridge. They shifted their effort farther west but were soon stopped. On October 1, the First Panzer Army called a halt until reinforcements could arrive.

On September 6, the Seventeenth Army had finally taken most of Novorossisk against heavy resistance by the Soviet Forty-seventh Army but did not get much farther. The weather became worse and worse. Hitler had become increasingly irritated at List, who he thought had picked the wrong mountain passes to attack, and there was some confusion about what he wanted List to do. On September 9, he fired List for supposedly not following orders, but he did not name a successor, in effect, acting as commander of Army Group A himself. The Seventeenth Army ultimately stalled on the Maikop-Tuapse road in early October. By then, even Hitler accepted that the advance was over until reinforcements could arrive, that is, after Stalingrad fell.

The First Panzer Army did launch a local offensive on October 25, biting out a Soviet salient around Nalchik that had threatened its rear. At first it was successful, making a surprising advance, but it was stopped on November 4. The leading panzer division had to fight its way back out of a trap.


List had ordered Kirchner’s LVII Panzerkorps to continue the advance towards Neftegorsk with the SS-Division ‘Wiking’ and Henrici’s 16. Infanterie-Division (mot.), while de Angelis’ XXXXIV Armeekorps was moving up with 97. and 101. Jäger-Division to reinforce them. Kirchner intended to conduct a pincer operation on the Soviet oilfields located between Khadyzhensk and Apsheronsk, with ‘Wiking’ advancing from Belorechenskaya in the west and Henrici’s division advancing from Maikop in the east. After the oilfields were occupied, German forces would advance towards the port of Tuapse along two routes: the Belorochensk–Tuapse rail line, and the Apsheronsk–Lazarevskoye road. Initially, Soviet resistance was light; Budyonny had transferred Kirichenko’s 17th Kuban Cossack Cavalry Corps to block ‘Wiking’ but arrived too late to interfere with its opening moves. Cherevichenko had the 12th Army deployed on the main route to Tuapse, but it had few infantrymen and little artillery. Assisted by infiltrators from the 7. Kompanie of Brandenburgers, ‘Wiking’ was able to capture an intact bridge over the Pshekha River on 11 August, enabling two battalions from the SS-Regiment ‘Germania’ and its Panzer-Abteilung to advance 50km in three days to overrun the oilfields at Kabardinskaya. However, the captured oilfields were all burning and Soviet resistance suddenly stiffened. Kirichenko’s cavalry began harassing ‘Wiking’’s exposed right flank, which forced SS-Gruppenführer Felix Steiner to divert one of his regiments to screen that area until that mission could be handed off to the Slovak Fast Division. Steiner’s division was very spread out and he only had a few battalions committed to the advance along a narrow axis towards Tuapse. The terrain was increasingly mountainous and heavily forested, which enabled the Soviet 12th Army to focus its defence at Khadyzhensk. The efforts made by ‘Wiking’ to break through this Soviet blocking position on 15–16 August failed.

Nor did Henrici’s 16. Infanterie-Division (mot.) achieve much success. South of Maikop, he sent Kampfgruppe Brede south on 12 August, trying to approach Apsheronsk and the Neftyanaya oil centre from the east. However, Brede had to approach along a narrow, heavily forested mountain road and encountered one of 12th Army’s blocking positions. Brede attempted a hasty attack, but this was repulsed with heavy losses, including himself. Henrici was forced to bring up more troops and mount a set-piece attack on 13 August, but gained little ground. By 15 August, de Angelis’ XXXXIV Armeekorps began to conduct a forward passage of lines through Kirchner’s LVII Panzerkorps and assumed the lead, while Henrici’s division was relieved and sent south to rejoin von Kleist’s spearhead. The two German light divisions – 97. and 101. Jäger-Division – now assumed the lead in the offensive towards Tuapse, but Kirichenko was beginning to exert real pressure on the Belorechenskaya–Kabardinskaya road, so both SS-Division ‘Wiking’ and the Slovak Fast Division were retained to protect de Angelis’ right flank; the commitment of these two mechanised divisions to a supporting role for the better part of a month was an absurd error on List’s part.

The 1942 Summer Offensive in Russia II

Generalmajor Erich Diestel’s 101. Jäger-Division was first into action and easily overran Apsheronsk on 15 August, then pivoted westwards to outflank the Soviet blocking positions at Khadyzhensk. Initially, Diestel’s Jäger made good progress, approaching the outskirts of Khadyzhensk by evening of 16 August. However, the lead elements of Polkovnik Mikhail F. Tikhonov’s 32nd Guards Rifle Division – transferred by sea from the Taman Peninsula – began to arrive in the area at the same time, which re-energised the 12th Army’s defence. By the time that Diestel began to organise a deliberate assault upon the town, the 32nd Guards Rifle Division was dug in around the train station and nearby railway tunnel. When 101. Jäger-Division began its attack upon Khadyzhensk on 18 August, supported by Stukas and corps-level 21cm Mörser fire, Tikhonov’s troops repulsed every German attempt to advance.

On de Angelis’ left flank, Generalmajor Ernst Rupp’s 97. Jäger-Division began a major attack southwards from Apsheronsk on 16 August with two regimental-size Kampfgruppen. The Jäger moved quickly through the rugged and heavily forested terrain, capturing Samurskaya on the first day. Soviet resistance was spotty and Rupp allowed his division to disperse, with individual battalions pushing forward as fast as possible. On 18 August, I./Jäger-Regiment 204 captured the Neftyanaya oilfield. Hauptmann Friedrich Höhne’s III./Jäger-Regiment 204 achieved a remarkable 25km advance in three days towards the Tuby Pass and overran a Soviet 15cm howitzer battalion. However, the Soviet 12th Army had merely retreated to more defensible positions on mountain tops further south and Höhne’s lone battalion boldly advanced along a narrow track into a classic ambush at the 50m-wide Wolf’s Gate Pass. Both sides of the narrow pass were flanked by steep, wooded ridges which were occupied by the Soviets. Höhne’s battalion advanced in a long column and was blasted from both sides as it entered the pass, destroying the vanguard. The Soviets had fortified Mount Oplepek (Gora Oplepen), which overlooked the Wolf’s Gate Pass and brought the German column under heavy fire while Soviet infantrymen manoeuvred through the hills to cut off their escape route. With great difficulty, Höhne extracted his bloodied battalion from the ambush at the cost of abandoning his wounded and heavy weapons and retreated 12km back to Samurskaya. The next day, Rupp tried an outflanking manoeuvre with II./Jäger-Regiment 207, but this too failed.

De Angelis’ XXXXIV Armeekorps offensive towards Tuapse had been halted after only four days by the increasing Soviet resistance and rugged terrain. Diestel’s 101. Jäger-Division brought up more artillery and attempted an ambitious double envelopment of the 32nd Guards Rifle Division between 28 and 30 August; the jaws of the two converging Jäger-Regiment almost closed around Tikhonov’s division, but ground to a halt just short of their objective. Tikhonov launched a counterattack that briefly surrounded II./Jäger-Regiment 228 before Diestel called off the offensive. West of Khadyzhensk, 198. Infanterie-Division had captured Goryachy Klyuch on 20 August, which offered the possibility of outflanking the Soviet position, but the offensive was called off. Instead, 17. Armee remained in a funk for the next month, slowly preparing for another offensive and drifting into command limbo after List was relieved by Hitler on 10 September.

While Ruoff’s army sat immobile, the Soviets used the respite to rush reinforcements to Cherevichenko’s Black Sea Group from the Transcaucasus. Kamkov’s 18th Army eventually absorbed the depleted 12th Army and assumed primary responsibility for defending the main avenue of approach to Tuapse; this army was rebuilt around six rifle and one cavalry divisions, and received substantial artillery reinforcements. On 23 August, the Military Council of the North Caucasus Front ordered the creation of a Tuapse Defensive Region (TOR), under the command of Rear-Admiral Georgy Zhukov – which would be subordinate to Kamkov’s 18th Army. Ryzhov’s 56th Army, with four rifle divisions, was ordered to defend Kamkov’s left flank and to tie in with Grechko’s 47th Army. The 5th Air Army also received another fighter division and more Il-2 Sturmoviks.

Ruoff’s 17. Armee was not able to resume the offensive until late September; he wanted proper mountain troops to conduct the operation, but none were at hand. Since the promised Italian Alpine Corps had not arrived, the OKH finally cancelled the operation by XXXXIX Gebirgskorps against Sukhumi and sent parts of both of its divisions, totalling five infantry and five artillery battalions, as Division Lanz to reinforce 17. Armee. Ruoff also received an infantry regiment from 46. Infanterie-Division. Altogether, Ruoff intended to hurl three German corps against the Tuapse defences, but the delay allowed the Soviets to regain their confidence. During the lull, on 6 September Soviet troops from the 395th Rifle Division managed to ambush and kill Generalmajor Albert Buck, commander of 198. Infanterie-Division, and wound his operations officer.

Ruoff’s offensive, dubbed Operation Attika, began on 23 September when LVII Panzerkorps committed 125. and 198. Infanterie-Division against the 56th Army’s 395th Rifle Division south of Goryachy Kluych. His intent was to penetrate through Ryzhov’s weaker defences and push down the Psekups Valley to reach Shaumyan, thereby enveloping Kamkov’s left flank. Kirchner’s two infantry divisions succeeded in making a modest 10km bulge into Ryzhov’s front and captured Fanagoriyskoye by 30 September, but were then stymied by tough Soviet resistance. In the centre, de Angelis’ XXXXIV Armeekorps concentrated both Jäger-Divisionen, reinforced by Infanterie-Regiment 72 from 46 Infanterie-Division, against Tikhonov’s 32nd Guards Rifle Division on 25 September; although they kept pounding for a week, they could not capture the main defensive positions. Despite support from Stukas, heavy artillery and assault guns, 101. Jäger-Division was repeatedly repulsed by Tikhonov’s division. The 97. Jäger-Division succeeded in pushing back the 236th Rifle Division and capturing Mount Lyssaya, but was fought out after just four days of combat.

It was Generalmajor Hubert Lanz’s ad hoc division of Gebirgstruppen that achieved the most success. Lanz did not launch his attack until 27 September and his battalions advanced across mountainous terrain that the Soviets regarded as nearly impassible. In just three days, Lanz’s Gebirgsjäger advanced 10–15km, capturing Mount Geiman and Mount Gunai. On 28 September, the remainder of 46. Infanterie-Division (two regiments) conducted a supporting attack on Lanz’s left flank and succeeded in capturing Mount Oplepek. Having broken through Kamkov’s centre, Division Lanz pivoted westward into the Gunaika Valley, intent upon outflanking Tikhonov’s 32nd Guards Rifle Division. Kamkov was forced to pull some of his units back to prevent encirclement. The 46. Infanterie-Division achieved a clear-cut breakthrough south of Mount Oplepek and advanced to seize Kotlovina on 3 October. De Angelis’ XXXXIV Armeekorps continued to pound on Tikhonov’s nearly encircled division and briefly cut it off by seizing Kurinskiy, but a rapid Soviet counterattack by 32nd Guards Rifle Division reopened the road.

By early October, the German advance towards Tuapse was bogged down, moving only occasionally in fits and starts. Ruoff could only jab in a few sectors – he lacked the resources to mount an all-out offensive. Short of infantry, Ruoff was forced to use Sicherungs-Regiment 4 in the front line to cover his army’s left flank. Kamkov received reinforcements from the 47th and 56th armies, enabling him to mount local counterattacks between 7 and 13 October, which succeeded in cutting into the flank of XXXXIX Gebirgskorps and recapturing Mount Oplepek. The weather was beginning to turn and would soon make offensive operations impossible in the mountains. Nevertheless, on 14 October Ruoff kicked off another offensive by all three corps. The 198. Infanterie-Division was able to break through the 56th Army’s defences, which finally caused Tikhonov’s 32nd Guards Rifle Division to evacuate its positions at Khadyzhensk and retreat towards Tuapse. The 101. Jäger-Division followed and captured Shaumyan on 17 October. Ruoff was confident that 17. Armee would make it to Tuapse before the weather closed in. Then it began to rain on 18 October, turning the mountain trails into untrafficable muck. Low cloud cover also interfered with the ability of I./StG 77’s Stukas to provide close air support.

Only Division Lanz continued to push forward slowly, while the rest of Ruoff’s army struggled merely to hold on to what they already possessed. Kampfgruppe Lawall, with all three battalions of Gebirgsjäger-Regiment 98, pushed on resolutely despite the rains that began on 18 October. Four days later, the Gebirgsjäger were able to capture the 1,016m-high Mount Semashkho, from which they could see the Black Sea in the distance.

However, furious Soviet counterattacks by the fresh 408th Rifle Division and 383rd Rifle Division brought the German advance to a halt and inflicted heavy losses on Division Lanz. Although the German effort to capture Tuapse would continue for two more pointless months, Ruoff’s offensive had peaked by late October 1942 and the front line settled into a static nature. Soviet counterattacks kept picking at the exposed German flanks throughout the next two months. The commitment of three German corps to capture a minor Black Sea port had proved to be a costly diversion in a campaign which had little margin for error.


The offensive against Tuapse had been weakened from the beginning by the OKH’s last-minute decision to send General der Gebirgstruppe Rudolf Konrad’s XXXXIX Gebirgskorps far to the south to advance down the so-called ‘Sukhumi Military Highway’ in order to seize several mountain passes in the High Caucasus Mountains and then capture the port of Sukhumi. Konrad argued for using his corps in the advance upon Tuapse, while von Kleist wanted to use the Gebirgsjäger to assist 1. Panzerarmee’s advance to Grozny, but both were overruled. As early as 5 August, Konrad was informed that in addition to seizing several key passes, he was to organise an expedition to occupy Mount Elbrus – the highest point in the Caucasus and in Europe. The powers back in Berlin, like Dr Joseph Goebbels, wanted a photogenic propaganda triumph which planting a Nazi flag on Elbrus would serve admirably, while ignoring the affect of this extravagant diversion on the overall operation.

Konrad knew that the Caucasus mountain passes would be closed by snow by September, so like a good soldier he forced-marched his two divisions 200km southwards as rapidly as possible, following in the path of von Kleist’s panzers. Amazingly, his vanguard – Kampfgruppe Lawall from 1. Gebirgs-Division – reached Cherkessk on 11 August and then stormed into Mikoyan-Shakhar (Karachayevsk). The ‘Sukhumi Military Highway’ turned out to be little more than a dirt road, which turned into an even narrower track as they approached the main Caucasus peaks. Meanwhile, Tyulenev’s ZKF (Transcaucasus Front) staff were completely unaware that Konrad’s troops were pushing through the mountains towards Sukhumi and did not even issue orders to defend the passes until 10 August. General-mayor Vasiliy F. Sergatskov’s 46th Army was assigned the mission of defending the Caucasus passes, but even Soviet sources are frank about condemning his lethargic effort to move units towards them. Sergatskov merely ordered General-mayor Konstantin N. Leselidze’s 3rd Mountain Rifle Corps to send company and battalion-size detachments from the 9th and 20th Mountain Rifle divisions and the 394th Rifle Division to observe the passes. One unit, the 1st Battalion, 815th Rifle Regiment from the 394th Rifle Division marched to the town of Teberda, where it was surprised and defeated by Kampfgruppe Lawall on 14 August. The German Gebirgsjäger pushed on, with a single picked battalion known as Kampfgruppe von Hirschfeld and seized the important Klukhor Pass on the evening of 17 August. Stalin was furious that the Germans had penetrated so deeply into the Caucasus and ordered his NKVD chief Lavrenti Beria, who had arrived at Tyulenev’s headquarters in Tbilisi, to relieve Sergatskov of command. Leselidze, a Georgian officer (Stalin and Beria were both Georgians) managed to survive this shake-up and demonstrated ability by rushing a reinforced regiment to the Klukhor Pass to block any further German advance towards the coast; Stalin gave him command of the 46th Army.

Konrad’s other division, 4. Gebirgs-Division, also initially made good progress towards the coast by marching on a parallel route, and its vanguard Kampfgruppe Stettner (two Gebirgsjäger-Bataillone and six 7.5cm mountain guns) seized several passes. Yet despite the apparent proximity of Sukhumi – just 30km away – Konrad never really had a chance to reach that objective. It began to snow in the mountains on 18 August and continued for several days, reducing the German advance to a crawl. The Sukhumi Military Highway petered out after the Klukhor Pass into trackless mountains. The OKH staff members who thought that Konrad’s Gebirgstruppen could advance from the Klukhor Pass to the southern segment of the Sukhumi Military Highway near the coast did not appreciate that this would require a corps to supply itself along a 90km stretch of trail that was only fit for mules; the nearest railhead was over 170km distant. It was not the Soviets that defeated Konrad, but a combination of the terrain and weather. Even if Konrad could somehow have reached the coast, he would have had to defeat the bulk of the 46th Army with a handful of battalions in order to seize Sukhumi – and then his lines of communications across the Caucasus would be severed by snow for the entire winter. If his corps was caught on the wrong side of the passes once winter arrived, it would eventually be destroyed. Neither the Kriegsmarine nor the Luftwaffe would be able to supply the Gebirgskorps in the Caucasus Mountains for an entire winter. Indeed, the entire OKH plan to push Konrad’s Gebirgskorps towards Sukhumi was a half-baked concept that ignored terrain and weather and which risked these elite troops becoming isolated and possibly destroyed, all for the sake of a tertiary objective.

After taking the Klukhor Pass, 1. Gebirgs-Division sent a hand-picked force to climb Mount Elbrus, which was accomplished on 21 August. Hitler was rightly furious when he heard about this frivolous expedition, which caused further friction with List. Konrad’s advance was now running up against serious opposition. Leselidze quickly shifted his 46th Army divisions along the coast road and received reinforcements from Tyulenev, while Konrad was on his own. Kampfgruppe Stettner was able to cross the Bsyb River on 28 August but was blocked by the 354th Rifle Division near the Achavkar Pass, while Kampfgruppe Lawall was blocked by the 304th Rifle Division. Konrad’s supply lines were a mess, requiring four days or more for mule convoys to reach Kampfgruppe Stettner. By late August, it was clear that the plan to seize Sukhumi had failed and List, Ruoff and Konrad met in Krasnodar to discuss options. It was decided that the Gebirgstruppe could be better employed in supporting Ruoff’s offensive towards Tuapse, rather than freezing to death in the High Caucasus. The Sukhumi front would become an economy of force effort, where the Germans left only enough troops to prevent Tyulenev’s forces from threatening von Kleist’s lines of communications. Gruppe von Le Suire, consisting of five battalions, was left to guard the passes. Consequently, Konrad pulled the rest of his corps back to reduce his supply problems and transferred the remaining units to Division Lanz, which was sent north to join in the second offensive against Tuapse.

What was supposed to be the advance intended to decide the whole war had stalled at Novorossisk, on the Terek, and in the mountains. There are indications that by early September, Hitler realized that the objectives in the east could not be attained and even that the war was lost. This defeat was the result of failure in the Caucasus and not Stalingrad, where he still hoped for at least a local victory.

Coastal Command Requirements

‘Caught on the Surface’.  The sinking of U-461 by RAAF Sunderland “U” of 461 Squadron RAAF, in the Bay of Biscay in July 1943.  [As depicted by aviation artist Robert Taylor.]


At the outbreak of war in September 1939 Air Marshal Sir Frederick Bowhill, the Air Officer-in-Chief of Coastal Command, had forces of ten Anson squadrons, including four Auxiliaries, one Hudson squadron, and two strike squadrons of Vildebeests. The flying-boat units were two squadrons of Sunderlands, three with Saro Londons, and one equipped with Supermarine Stranraers. The Vildebeest strike-aircraft and the London and Stranraer flying-boats were all obsolescent.

The Ansons represented the equipment for more than half his total force, but with insufficient range to undertake the reconnaissance required, and four out of the six flying-boat squadrons were equipped with obsolescent aircraft. Sir Frederick was thus left with just three squadrons with modern aircraft, namely Hudsons and Sunderlands, that were considered able to operate effectively.

In the early months of 1939 supplies of engines for the Avro Anson aircraft were limited, and there was a need to restrict the flying of Ansons on that account. It was necessary also to conserve even the outdated Vildebeests, as there were only six in store to supply both home and abroad. At that time the Command had ten Stranraers, seventeen Londons, four Short Singapore flying-boats, and two Sunderlands. Deliveries of the latter to the Command were given as only two per month.

The Director of Organisation at the Air Ministry, then Charles Portal, following the Munich crisis, foresaw what was to be a problem in respect of the availability of aircraft throughout the war. That was that aircraft could be weather-bound for days at various places round the coast. Coastal Command was required to operate throughout the twenty-four hours, and to do that bases were required for both take-off and landing with some degree of safety. This applied particularly to flying-boats. The new twin-engined flying-boat, the Saro Lerwick, had not been expected to be delivered before April 1939, and therefore was unlikely to be operational before the end of the year, but then it was to be found unsuitable for operations.

There was a need, therefore, for land-based aircraft to cover the South-Western Approaches, and significantly, in the same memo of 25 October 1938, Portal refers to having Newquay (St Eval) laid out to take two squadrons.

Between December 1939 and August 1940 the following reinforcements were received by Coastal Command: No. 10 Squadron RAAF Sunderlands in December 1939, four Blenheim squadrons on loan from Fighter Command in February 1940 (Nos 235, 236, 248 and 254); in June 1940 Nos 53 and 59 Squadrons with Blenheims on loan from Bomber Command, and in August 1940, No. 98 Squadron’s Fairey Battles, also on loan from Bomber Command, the latter to be based in Iceland.

These additions had followed an agreement by the Air Ministry with the Admiralty for Coastal Command to have an additional fifteen squadrons by June 1941. By 15 June, that had only been achieved by the loan of seven squadrons from other Commands, with aircraft unsuited to the maritime role, and with a daily average availability of 298 aircraft.

Just a month later, the Command had 612 aircraft with thirty-nine squadrons, but by then it was estimated that future requirements would be sixty-three and a half squadrons with 838 aircraft. The 612 aircraft then available included eleven types, and that would have produced problems in training for aircrew when they converted to a different type of aircraft. At Air Chief Marshal Sir Philip Joubert de la Ferté’s first staff meeting on 30 June as Air Officer Commanding-in-Chief Coastal Command, the number of aircraft available was not stated, but rather that there were only four strike squadrons.

By 1 December 1941 reconnaissance aircraft available to Coastal Command included eighteen Catalina flying-boats, nine Sunderlands, twenty Whitleys and 170 Hudsons. The Command’s strike aircraft comprised sixty Beaufort torpedo-bombers, twenty Beaufort bombers and forty Beaufighters. Additionally, Coastal had sixty of the Blenheim fighter version. The total of 397 aircraft was available to equip eighteen squadrons.

The total number of aircraft available to Coastal Command in June 1942 was 496, and would have included aircraft of four squadrons on loan from Bomber Command, but for Sir Philip, there was a shortage of three landplane squadrons, and ten flying-boat squadrons; and in his report to the Air Ministry he added: ‘I therefore cannot accept your view that we are comparatively well off, nor do I feel that we have sufficient strength to carry out our job.’

Although, in November 1942, Coastal had 259 Hudsons, Sir Philip was concerned about their availability, due to ten squadrons plus other units still operating them, and stated that with the ‘present Hudson commitment … continuance of the present numbers of squadrons is impossible’.

Sir Philip was still concerned about the two types from Bomber Command, such as the Whitley, ‘… on the whole, given unsatisfactory service’ and the Hampden, which was ‘incapable of operating in daylight … off the enemy coast … without a very strong escort of long-range fighters’.

There were no Beaufort-equipped squadrons left with Coastal Command (they were posted overseas), and no trained Beaufighter squadron, and it was known that German Fw190 fighters were 50 mph faster than the Beaufighter, which was therefore hardly suitable as escort to the Hampdens even if available.26 De Havilland Mosquitoes had been made available for Photo-Reconnaissance in 1942, but for the Mosquito Mark VI fighter-bomber priority was given to Fighter Command.

When Air Marshal John Slessor assumed command of Coastal Command in February 1943, the strength was sixty squadrons with ‘some 850 aircraft’. Although he appeared largely content with the aircraft available to him, in respect of both quantity and quality, he wrote to the Air Ministry in September stating, ‘I now find that there are 120 first line Mosquitoes going into photo-reconnaissance in this country, and over 200 first line Mosquitoes going to the Army support in the Tactical Air Force’.

Thus, despite the need for reconnaissance, priority was given to the TAF. He refers, however, to the ‘unforeseen requirement for modification of certain four-engined types to Very Long Range [VLR]’ coinciding with the introduction of a system of ‘planned flying and maintenance … in what was a “difficult period of availability”’.

Air Chief Marshal Sir Sholto Douglas succeeded Air Marshal Slessor in January 1944, when, in respect of numbers of aircraft, equilibrium had obviously been reached. The Command’s records written during his tenure refer to equipment of aircraft such as ASV, and modifications to aircraft rather than the need for more aircraft. Forces for Sholto Douglas included (again, as was the case for Slessor) 430 aircraft for anti-submarine operations.

The 430 aircraft, however, were the equipment for ten squadrons of Liberators, including three of the United States Navy; five Leigh-Light Wellington squadrons, and two squadrons each equipped with Halifaxes, Hudsons and Fortresses. There were also seven Sunderland and two Catalina squadrons. The heavy four-engined aircraft that Sir Sholto then had available did, however, raise another requirement–the need for runways of sufficient length to take such as the Liberator, Fortress and Halifax.

Thus, on 7 February 1944, the Air Ministry was asked to approve the lengthening of the runways at Brawdy, Chivenor, Aldergrove and Leuchars. Although Sholto Douglas expressed no need for more aircraft, he referred to the ‘Bomber Baron’s decision finding the Liberator unsuitable for night operations’, such that Coastal Command’s near starvation came to an end’. He added, ‘By the time that I became C-in-C of Coastal we were using twelve squadrons of them.’

However, by 27 April the Command was obviously preparing for Operation Overlord–the invasion of Europe, and a signal was sent to No. 19 Group regarding the necessity for ‘reducing wastage to conserve aircraft for forthcoming operations’. Specifically mentioned were Mosquitoes and Liberators.

In November the re-equipment of Halifax squadrons with Liberators was again mooted, although these were all bombers that had to be modified for Coastal Command.

In 1945 the Air Ministry agreed to thirty Mark V Sunderlands (those with Pratt & Whitney Wasp engines), which had been intended for overseas service, to be allocated to Coastal Command. This was in sharp contrast to Sir Philip Joubert’s experience three years earlier, when he was losing both aircraft and crews to overseas. During Sir Sholto’s final meetings, a whole spectrum of aircraft types had to be considered. Thus, during the 4 May meeting he asked the Senior Air Staff Officer to find from the Air Ministry what the Command’s commitments might be for modifying fifty Gloster Meteor jet aircraft for photo-reconnaissance, and those required for the Supermarine Sea Otter.


Until the outbreak of the Second World War the number of aircraft considered necessary for Coastal Command to provide trade protection in Home Waters was 281. This number assumed a war by Britain alone against Germany. The prime duty was then to cover the exits from the North Sea.

The capitulation of France, the over-running of the Low Countries and the occupation of Norway and Denmark resulted in a vast coastline from the French Biscay ports to North Cape to be covered. The entry of Italy into the war in addition to a possible hostile French fleet made further demands on Coastal Command. Thus, in addition to covering the North Sea exits, three additional flying-boat squadrons were considered to be immediate requirements to cover the Irish Sea, Faeroes areas, and Western Approaches, plus an additional general reconnaissance landplane squadron and two long-range fighter squadrons–say, another 100 aircraft.

For overseas, an additional five flying-boat squadrons and one landplane squadron were specified; thus, for additional home and overseas commitments, possibly 200 aircraft above the 281 already stated were needed. This assumed that other forces would cover the Caribbean and Newfoundland areas. In December 1939, however, the Command was concerned with close escort of coastal convoys and the chain of patrols to the Norwegian coast.

For those duties reference was made specifically to two types of aircraft, the Avro Anson and the Lockheed Hudson, the reconnaissance landplanes then available. With those two types, a total of 273 aircraft was anticipated, following an agreement to increase the requirements of each squadron to twenty-one aircraft. Other landplanes for reconnaissance then being considered about that time were the Blackburn Botha, the Bristol Blenheim and Bristol Beaufort, with the comments that the Botha was ‘specially designed for reconnaissance’, but that the Blenheim was ‘adversely reported’. It was hoped that twenty Bothas would be delivered to the Command by the end of 1939, and twelve Beauforts were expected in October/November.

The Bothas, however, were found unsuitable for operations, and no more of the Mark IV Blenheims were being allocated to Coastal Command.

In October 1941 the Prime Minister became aware of U-boats operating further afield, and suggested to the First Lord of the Admiralty that it was probably due to our air operations. Following this, Coastal Command’s requirement programme was considered to be 150 Catalinas and seventy-two Sunderlands for twenty-six flying-boat squadrons; thirty-two Liberators and thirty-two Wellingtons or Whitleys to equip four long-range GR squadrons; sixty-four Mosquitoes and 180 GR Hudsons for fifteen and a half medium- and short-range squadrons; 128 Beauforts for eight torpedo-bomber squadrons; and 160 Beaufighters for ten long-range fighter squadrons. However, four flying-boat and two GR short-range squadrons were to be earmarked for West Africa, and three flying-boat squadrons for Gibraltar.

By December 1941 the types of aircraft required were stated as a long-range flying-boat, a long-range landplane, a medium-range landplane, a high-speed reconnaissance landplane, a long-range fighter, and a torpedo- bomber. Changes had been made to requirements following the previous three months’ experience and an analysis of U-boat attacks. At that time it was considered that extra-long-range aircraft should have a range of 2,000 miles because some U-boat attacks had been 700 miles from British bases, and if air patrols were deployed 350–600 miles, the enemy would move to the 600–700-mile area (600 miles from a United Kingdom base would be up to 20’E 15’W; from Iceland, up to 40’E 12’W).

Reconnaissance aircraft were then expected to have ASV (Aircraft-to-Surface Vessel) radar for homing; long-range planes were to be able to operate in all weathers and have a short take-off and landing distance. For high-speed reconnaissance aircraft the Air Ministry suggested the Mosquito, but other services were given priority in their supply.

Three types were suggested to undertake the task of a torpedo bomber: the Handley-Page Hampden, the Bristol Beaufort and the Vickers Wellington III.

All three were to operate as such, despite the lack of forward armament in the Hampden and Beaufort, and the Wellington and Hampden had not been designed for maritime work.

In early 1942 the functions of the Command’s operational aircraft were clearly stated in six categories. Anti-submarine warfare was first in order of importance, covering reconnaissance, depth-charging and bombing. Second and fifth were torpedo warfare (reconnaissance and the attack on large merchant vessels and enemy naval forces) and anti-shipping warfare (reconnaissance and bombing). Third, fourth and sixth in order of importance were photo-reconnaissance, meteorological reconnaissance and coastal fighter warfare.

Coastal fighter and anti-shipping warfare were rated former RAF peacetime functions; anti-submarine warfare had become a highly specialised category, as also torpedo warfare. Little consideration had been given to the latter, as it was ‘uneconomical to have torpedo squadrons locked up for a target which may never materialise so may find ourselves making more use of the GR/TB squadrons for GR work’, as was the case with Beauforts.

At the time of Air Marshal John Slessor assuming command of Coastal in February 1943, the trend (which is reflected in the Command’s records) was concerned about the equipment then being added to aircraft, rather than the aircraft itself. This was resulting in an effect on the aircraft’s range due to the additional loads–a matter of concern throughout the war. Slessor addressed this matter in a letter to all his Group’s headquarters in May 1943.


Range of aircraft for a given design is affected by many factors, such as the all-up weight, the quantity of fuel carried and the type of engine(s). When airborne, other factors include the height at which the aircraft is flown (this because the engines would be designed for an optimum height for greatest efficiency).

Other factors for Coastal Command’s aircrew to consider were whether they should deploy side guns in, for example, Wellingtons or Hudsons; and in the case of the Sunderland flying-boats, whether they should run out their depth charges onto the wings from the bomb-bay.

These were continuing tactical problems in addition to the reduction of speed and range. All four of Coastal Command’s Air Officers Commanding-in-Chief show their awareness of the importance of range for aircraft in the Second World War–notably Sir Philip Joubert –who imposed a limit on the endurance for crews of eighteen hours; and even that figure was to be under exceptional circumstances. At RAF Waddington in April 1998, it was understood that the endurance of aircrew is still the deciding factor in maritime operations, albeit due to toilet facilities.

Although given as having an endurance of 5½ hours at 103 knots, the Anson represented the operational equipment for Coastal Command’s land-based reconnaissance squadrons at the outbreak of war, excluding No. 224, which had just rearmed with Hudsons. The Anson’s lack of range precluded it being effectively used, even for the Command’s prime task on the outset of war, reconnaissance from Britain to Norway. As Capt T. Dorling, RN, stated: ‘Ansons were unable to reach Norway and blockade the North Sea. Only flying-boats and Hudson squadrons were able to do so.’

The Air Ministry, when writing to the C-inC of Coastal Command in September 1941, stated that a limit should not be set on the range of reconnaissance aircraft, but that the matter would be pursued with the Admiralty with a view to limiting the maximum operating distance from base of 600 miles, as convoy escorts beyond that would be uneconomical. Range was necessary to cover, in particular, convoy routes, notably out into the North Atlantic as far as the ‘prudent limit of endurance’, or ‘PLE’.

If on a ‘sweep’, that would have sufficed; but if a convoy was to be escorted, say, at 12°W, it was essential also to have some hours in that area circling the convoy; endurance was therefore also required. Opinions vary in what was considered a useful time with a convoy, but typically two to three hours. In a letter dated 28 July 1941, however, from Air Commodore Lloyd, the Deputy SASO, it was recommended that at least one-third of sorties should be with the convoy.

In Coastal Command, it was decided that the limit of long-range aircraft should be the endurance of the crew rather than the fuel supply. This was decided at a Command meeting on 7 January 1942, when Catalinas were considered able to have a radius of 600 nautical miles, ‘on the fringe of the U-boat area’, with a sortie of eighteen hours’ duration.

Sir Philip Joubert decided that routine patrols should not exceed fourteen hours, but in cases of emergency could be extended up to eighteen hours due to ‘conditions of cold and cramp in which the crews are called upon to operate, and the need for sparing their endurance and not stretching it to the limit unless an emergency arises’.

As an economy measure in Coastal Command’s use of Catalinas in respect of long-range work, it was suggested by the Deputy Senior Air Staff Officer (D/SASO) that Sunderlands could be used for sorties between 250 and 440 nautical miles along convoy routes. It is not clear, however, if that idea was followed.

Range was considered so important that the question of Liberators with or without self-sealing fuel tanks was raised, as without them there would be a reduction of unladen weight but an increase in fuel capacity. In January 1942, however, the Mark I Liberator’s maximum range is stated as 2,720 miles, but with the crew’s endurance limiting it to 2,240 miles.

When the Liberator was just coming into service with Coastal in June 1941 for antisubmarine warfare, the C-in-C wrote to the Air Ministry:

For duties of this nature, which involve flying for long periods by day and night, out of sight of land in all conditions of weather, the Long Range bombers do not provide the same amenities and freedom of movement to the crew as a flying-boat. The Liberator, which is being provided for one squadron, meets these requirements to a greater extent than any existing British bomber ….

He added, however, that more attention should be given to their layout for reconnaissance rather than bomb load.

The long range of 2,240 miles enabled the Liberator in Coastal Command to help close the ‘Mid-Atlantic Gap’ south of Cape Farewell with such as a shuttle service between Newfoundland and Iceland.

Sir Philip Joubert stated that his first problem when he succeeded Sir Frederick Bowhill in 1941 was ‘the need to fill the Gap’, and here the only land-based aircraft that could do the job was the American B24, the Liberator. The C-in-C Coastal Command in a review of the Command’s expansion and re-equipment programme dated 12 June 1941 wrote: ‘The extension of unrestricted U-boat warfare against shipping in the Atlantic to areas outside the range of MR [medium-range] aircraft has necessitated the use of LR


bombers such as the Whitley and Wellington as anti-submarine aircraft.’

The twin-engined medium bombers that came from Bomber Command, the Wellington 1C and Whitley V, were both serving in Coastal by late 1940. Although they helped to fill a gap in the Command’s general reconnaissance requirements, Air Commodore I.T. Lloyd, the D/SASO, wrote to the C-in-C Coastal Command on 28 July 1941: ‘Whitleys and Wellingtons are uneconomical at their speed and with only nine-hour sorties; we require a replacement for these types to give range up to 600 miles … or at least 440 miles.’

Four-engined bombers that were loaned or allocated to Coastal Command included the British Handley-Page Halifax and the Avro Lancaster, but the Halifax when used for meteorological flights was provided with drop tanks to increase the range.

By 30 November 1944 Coastal Command was due to receive Pathfinder-type Mk III Halifaxes from Bomber Command’s production, but it was considered necessary for the first one to be examined and modified at Gosport to bring it up to the Command’s standard. When No. 502 Squadron was due to re-equip with Halifaxes they were to be fitted with long-range tanks, compensated, apparently, in respect of all-up weight, by having the front turret removed.

This was despite the fact that when considering the provision of Halifaxes for No. 58 Squadron, it was stated that for operations in the Bay of Biscay front turrets were needed, largely against enemy fighters.

These essentially bomber aircraft were nevertheless operated by Coastal Command in anti-submarine warfare, and for meteorological flights and anti-shipping sorties. The Avro Lancaster, another four-engined bomber, was only on brief loan to Coastal Command during the war, and does not feature in the RAF’s official history as a Coastal Command aircraft. With a range of 2,350 miles it could have been invaluable, but the Chief of Air Staff was strongly opposed to Lancasters being transferred to Coastal Command, as it was the only aircraft able to take an 8,000 lb bomb to Berlin.

The American-built B17 Flying Fortress was rated a long-range aircraft, but was selected for Coastal Command because it was considered unfit for Bomber Command’s night operations. The Fortress served as a useful reconnaissance aircraft with such as Nos 59, 206 and 220 Squadrons; fortunately it was not required by Bomber Command, and it was reported on 27 January 1942 that all Fortress aircraft from America would go to Coastal Command.

The C-in-C Coastal Command, Air Chief Marshal Sir Philip Joubert, wrote to the Air Ministry on 7 January 1942 of his concern that his long-range aircraft, ‘except the Liberator, fall far short of Coastal Command’s needs … when U-boat attacks on shipping were about 700 miles westwards with Catalinas at 600 miles only on the fringe of the U-boats’ area’. In that same letter, Sir Philip referred to the medium-range Hudson as a ‘stop gap’ with the Ventura [a development of the Hudson] of lesser range; that a medium-range aircraft should have a range of 1,200 nautical miles, while the Wellington and Whitley ‘more nearly meet requirements’. The Air Ministry’s ultimate response was in a letter dated 7 March 1942, which stated:

It would be uneconomical to divert a successful heavy bomber type to a Coastal Command role particularly if … a less successful type of heavy bomber is available … the Fortress … is unfit for night bomber operations and weather conditions strictly limit its employment … in high altitude bombing … for these reasons it was selected for … Coastal Command.

The Air Ministry did show some appreciation of Coastal Command’s requirements, but indicated the priority given to Bomber Command with:

We should hamper the normal evolution of GR [general reconnaissance] aircraft by setting a limit to their range. It is now apparent that our requirements for heavy bomber types are unlikely to be realised in full for a very long time. It will therefore be impracticable to provide many squadrons equipped with this type for general reconnaissance work. Consequently this role will have to be fulfilled by normal GR landplanes for some time to come.

The Air Ministry added that the matter would be pursued with the Admiralty, with Coastal Command aircraft limited to a radius of 600 miles; greater distances ‘should be the responsibility of surface forces’.

At Sir Philip Joubert’s fifth staff meeting, photo-reconnaissance aircraft were said to be Coastal’s ‘weak point’, and he stated, ‘We must have long-range Spitfires.’ For both the Beaufighter, and later the Mosquito, attempts were made to increase their endurance and range by the addition of drop tanks. For the Mosquito, modifications are recorded from November 1941 until towards the end of the war.

Maskirovka; A Powerful Soviet Concept

‘War puts nations to the test. Just as mummies crumble to dust the moment they are exposed to air, so war pronounces its sentence of death on those social institutions which have become ossified.’ (Karl Marx, 1855).

Maskirovka, the art of deception, formed the very bedrock of Soviet military practice and is still an important tenet in Russian strategic thinking. It has no equivalent in the West; indeed the word Maskirovka itself defies translation. It encompasses the arts of concealment (skrytie), the use of dummies and decoys (imitatsiia), disinformation (dezinformatsiia), and even the execution of complex demonstration manoeuvres (demonstrativny manevry). Indeed, anything capable of confusing, and therefore weakening, the enemy may be incorporated.

Maskirovka, according to the Soviet Military Encyclopaedia, complements surprise by covertly ‘securing military operations and the routine activity of troops and by confusing the enemy with regard to the presence and position of the forces, military complexes, their position, level of preparation and activity as well as the plans for the command structure.’

Although both the Tzars and Bolsheviks recognized the potential of Maskirovka, neither exploited it fully. The Leninist secret service organization, the Cheka, adopted the term dezinformatsiia in the 1920s, but was subsequently frustrated by Stalin who actively distrusted the concept.

In the late 1920s the Ukrainian Military District was allowed to organize a special partisan task force charged with the demolition of critical facilities along the border with Poland and Romania in the case of invasion. The task force was responsible for the development of demolition technology, the establishing of explosives caches and the training of special teams to carry out covert demolition tasks. Primary targets for such teams were to be the key points and rolling stock of the Soviet railway system, their objective being to deny use of the system to an invading enemy.

More than sixty demolition teams were formed with an average strength of twenty-three persons each (including some females). Every demolition expert was also a parachutist, a radio operator and a master of camouflage (then defined as maskirovka). In the winter of 1932 a number of teams jumped into the Leningrad Military District on an exercise to demonstrate their skills on operations in the enemy rear, their mission being to capture a headquarters and destroy transportation facilities. The mission was an unqualified success and the teams were able to place ten mines on a 10km stretch of track before their presence was detected (by a mine which blew up under the wheels of a commuter train before it could be removed).

Although primarily an engineer effort, the programme was closely related to the GRU’s creation of a special partisan cadre trained for ‘stay behind’ operations in the enemy rear in the event of invasion. Gradually, however, as the threat of foreign invasion subsided, the partisan groups were absorbed into the Red Army and the programme destroyed. Most of the personnel associated with it were killed during Stalin’s purges in the late 1930s, possibly because he feared that the programme was a destabilizing threat to his own régime.

The Great Patriotic War

Maskirovka was employed to limited effect by the military during the Great Patriotic War (the Second World War). It was exploited during the counter-offensive to relieve Moscow in 1942, and later in the encirclement of the Sixth Army attacking Stalingrad. Its large-scale use was otherwise limited to the Manchurian Campaign described below.

The NKVD, however, almost immediately formed a Special Tasks unit of 20,000 men and women, including 2,000 foreigners and 140 former intelligence and security officers arrested in the pre-war purges and now released under licence (many were subsequently re-arrested once their usefulness was over). In October 1941, the unit was enlarged and reorganized into Independent Department Two of the NKVD reporting directly to Beria, and in February, 1942, became the Independent Directorate Four for Special Tasks and Guerrilla Warfare. As such it assumed responsibility for the vast majority of major intelligence operations against Germany, including the running of clandestine groups in the occupied territories, the creation of deception plans at home and the planting of disinformation rumours.

During the course of the war the unit infiltrated 212 guerrilla detachments comprising 7,316 men behind the enemy lines. It trained over 1,000 military and 3,500 civilian technicians and saboteurs and was responsible for the deaths of eighty-seven high-ranking German officials and the liquidation of 2,045 Soviet collaborators in the service of the Germans. Twenty-three of its officers (including a few former prisoners) were awarded the highest honour, Hero of the Soviet Union, and more than 8,000 of its members received lesser decorations.

One of the most successful deception exercises of the war was Operation Monastery, undertaken by the NKVD in conjunction with the GRU in July, 1941. Monastery was intended as a counter intelligence operation aimed at penetrating the Abwehr (German intelligence) network within the Soviet Union, but quickly expanded. A few members of the former Czarist intelligentsia who had somehow survived the Stalinist purges of the 1920s and 1930s were recruited by the NKVD and formed into a psuedo pro-German organization in the hopes that they would be targetted by the Abwehr.

Control of the group passed to Aleksandr Demyanov, a veteran NKVD agent with an otherwise impeccable White Russian background. His grandfather had been the founder of the Kuban Cossacks, his father an officer in the Imperial Army, killed in action fighting the Germans in 1915. His uncle had been chief of counterintelligence for the White Army in the Northern Caucasus, had been captured by the Chekists and had died of typhus en route to interrogation in Moscow. Demyanov’s mother, a well-known socialite, had received but rejected several invitations to emigrate to France, but had returned instead to Leningrad. There Demyanov’s background had denied him a formal education and, indeed, had led to his arrest in 1929 on false charges of possessing illegal weapons and anti-Soviet propaganda.

Unusually, Demyanov had not been sentenced to administrative exile in Siberia, but had instead been recruited by the NKVD. Tired of violence and political intrigue, he had agreed to work towards the neutralization of White immigrant groups returning to the Soviet Union. He had later moved to Moscow where he had obtained a job with the Central Cinema Studio, Moscow’s Hollywood. His intelligence and easy going nature had made him many friends among the actors, directors and writers, and had brought him to the attention of the Abwehr.

On the eve of the war, when Demyanov was first approached by the Abwehr, he already had ten years counter-intelligence operational experience with the NKVD. Having gained the trust of Germany, Demyanov let it be known that he led a pro-German underground organization which would feed the Abwehr information in exchange for a promise of positions in the German provisional government once the Soviet Union had been conquered.

The deception operation was originally planned as a means of exposing Russian collaboration with the Nazis, but quickly expanded into a far more deadly confrontation between NKVD and Abwehr. In December, 1941, Demyanov crossed the front line on skis, pretending to be a deserter from the Red Army. To make the crossing, he skied over a recently laid minefield, unaware of the danger. The Abwehr group to whom he surrendered did not trust him and, as a deserter, treated him with contempt.

They were, however, most interested in how he had crossed the minefield and could not believe that he could have done so without knowing the pattern of the mines in advance. They took no interest in his covert activities and, indeed, on one occasion staged a mock execution to compel him to admit his collusion with Soviet intelligence. That failing, they transferred him to Abwehr headquarters in Smolensk. There, to his surprise, the Germans took no interest in his political motives but instead recruited him as a full-time agent of the Abwehr with the task of setting up a spy ring based on his connections in Moscow.

The Abwehr became certain of Demyanov’s bona fides when they checked their own files and discovered that not only was he of impeccable pedigree but that he had been targetted by one of their agents. Demyanov was not allowed to mix with the Russian emigrés then serving the Nazis. Their organizations had been heavily infiltrated by the NKVD and Berlin was adamant that their new find would remain untainted.

In February, 1942, after a period of intensive Abwehr training, Demyanov and two assistants were parachuted into the outskirts of Moscow. The landing went badly, the three men lost contact with each other in a snowstorm and had to reach Moscow independently. Demyanov quickly contacted his NKVD masters and with their assistance set up a Nazi rezidenzia in the city. His two assistants were arrested.

In the months that followed, the Abwehr sent in excess of fifty agents to Moscow. All were quickly and quietly arrested. Faced with the stark option of death, a number agreed to become double agents and assisted the NKVD in the creation of a fiction in which Demyanov was receiving considerable intelligence from a number of undisclosed ex-czarist officers.

Railway accidents were fabricated and reported to the Abwehr as successful sabotage missions. Occasionally Nazi sabotage groups were left at liberty for a few days, but covertly followed to establish their contacts. In one instance Demyanov’s wife doped a team by dropping knockout pills into their vodka. While they slept a team of demolition experts entered her flat to disable the saboteurs’ explosives. Effectively disarmed, the team was allowed considerable leeway before being arrested.

A few German couriers, mostly of Baltic origin, were allowed to return to the Abwehr to whom they reported that the network was functioning successfully. Operation Monastery proved highly successful, causing the German High Command to make a number of fatal errors. Because Demyanov ensured that all information sent to the Abwehr contained at least an element of truth they began to accept the whole unreservedly.

In one instance, on the eve of the Battle of Stalingrad, Monastery predicted that the Red Army would unleash a massive offensive in the North Caucasus and in the areas to the north of Stalingrad. Such an attack did take place, but it was only a diversion planned by Stalin in absolute secrecy to divert German efforts away from Stalingrad itself. Even Zhukov, in command of the diversionary attack, was not told that the Germans had been forewarned, and in the process of pursuing the feint to its vigorous and bloody conclusion paid a heavy price in the loss of thousands of men.

Later, during the Battle of Kursk in April and May 1943, Monastery reported that the Soviets held strong reserves in the east and south of the theatre but that these lacked manoeuvrability. This resulted in the Germans moving much of their reserve to meet an anticipated, though non-existent, attack to the north, leaving themselves vulnerable to the actual Soviet thrust when it came from the south.

With the aid of Enigma the British were able to intercept many of Monastery’s messages to Berlin and reported these in sanitized form to the Soviets. In February, 1943, London warned Stalin that the Abwehr had a source in Moscow. Only years later did the British discover that this was in fact Monastery.

Although the largest of the Soviet deception plans, Monastery was far from unique. In all, Moscow operated in excess of forty minor radio deceptions, few if any of which fell under Nazi suspicion. In theory the Abwehr was an excellent intelligence organization. In practice it lacked versatility. It would not easily accept the possibility of error, nor the likelihood of infiltration. Soviet disinformation fed to the German High Command via the Abwehr seems to have been accepted almost at face value, and certainly did much to influence the course of several crucial battles.

The Manchurian Experience

The attack against the Japanese in Manchuria in August, 1945, was the last great campaign of the war, and was the only example of the successful use of strategic surprise by the Soviets. In eleven days of savage fighting they secured approximately 1.5 million square kilometres, an area the size of France.

The Soviets had fought the Japanese Kwantung Army in numerous border incidents in the years preceding the invasion, most notably at Lake Khasan in 1938, but tensions had eased somewhat with the signing of the Soviet-Japanese Neutrality Pact in April, 1941. The Soviets had, however, continued to maintain a force of 1.3 million men, including between forty and sixty rifle divisions, on the Manchurian border.

Stalin had promised at the February, 1945, Yalta Conference to assist the Allies in the war against Japan within three months of the surrender of Germany, but in fact had intended to attack into Manchuria in late summer-early autumn 1945 to clear the Japanese from the area before the onset of winter. In the event his hand was forced on 6 August when the United States dropped an atomic bomb on Hiroshima. On 9 August the Soviets crossed the Manchurian frontier taking the Japanese completely by surprise.

Preparations for the campaign were actually begun in late 1944, although formal planning did not begin until February, 1945. From December, 1944 to the end of March, 1945, the Soviets moved 410 million rounds of small-arms ammunition and 3.2 million artillery shells to the Far East. Between April, 1945 and 25 July, 1945 the Soviets shipped two military fronts, two field armies, one tank army and supporting war material from Europe, via the Trans-Siberian railroad to the Manchurian border. Over 136,000 rail cars and up to thirty trains a day were employed in the move, which led to the redeployment of the equivalent of thirty divisions, yet the entire manoeuvre was kept a closely guarded secret, not just from the Japanese but from the Soviet’s Anglo-American allies.

Key personnel travelled in disguise to preserve the myth of normality, while many units moved only at night, staying camouflaged during the day. Soviet troops closest to the border built massive defensive emplacements to reinforce the Japanese feeling of security. By August the newly created Far East command had just under 1.6 million personnel under arms, supported by 27,000 guns and mortars, 1,200 multiple rocket launchers, 5,600 tanks and self-propelled guns, 3,700 aircraft and 86,000 vehicles along a 5,000km frontage.

The Kwantung Army was taken completely by surprise. Although it occupied good defensive positions it had not expected to fight and was in any case a mere shell of its former self. Its better troops had long been transferred to other theatres, all but six of its divisions were new and some of its veteran units were down to 15% efficiency. There can be no doubt that it could not have withstood the might of the Soviet onslaught under any circumstances. Equally, however, had the Soviets not been so effective in masking their intentions the Japanese would have been better prepared and might well have delayed, if not completely frustrated, their advance. The Soviets learned many lessons from Manchuria, not the least the absolute necessity for deception in tactical planning. When Stalin died in 1953 the art of Maskirovka, which had made the Manchurian Campaign so successful, was formally adopted by the Red Army.