Frankish Military Organization and Siege Logistics in the 6th Century

Small magnate retinues or “warbands” that fought for glory and plunder, then, can hardly have provided an adequate basis for the 6th-century Frankish armies that fought over fortifications on equal terms with their neighbors. The size of armies is the first issue. The individual siege not only required overwhelming force on the part of the besiegers, but in many cases, several sieges were conducted at the same time, while other forces protected supply routes, garrisoned forts and cities, raided enemy territory, and shielded against relieving armies. Gregory provides many interesting figures for late 6th century Merovingian armies, most ranging from garrison forces of 300 professional troops guarding the gates of Tours, around 4,000 for garrisoning a number of fortifications on the Visigothic border, to field armies numbering 10-15,000 on a single campaign. Bachrach has used the latter numbers to extrapolate individual field armies on the scale of 20,000 men during serious inter-kingdom conflicts, but this is beyond what many scholars are willing to accept, and many opt for much lower numbers.

East Roman estimates of Frankish strength provide a useful check on these numbers. Diplomatic correspondence shows that in 538, Justinian asked for a Frankish mercenary division of 3,000 men from Theudebert of Austrasia when the Romans were hard pressed in Liguria. The Romans only had 1,000 men in the whole province at the time, and 300 were besieged at Milan along with her citizens. The force requested was only a fraction of the troops available to the Austrasian king, as it was to be sent as an auxiliary force to serve under Roman command, in solacium Bregantini patricii, who was in charge of the local defenders at Milan. It was not an army that would operate independently during joint operations, as in the late 6th century: the Romans only needed to strengthen their garrisons in Liguria until reinforcements could arrive, and did not want to give the Franks the opportunity to exploit the situation. This is nevertheless what happened. Theudebert politely excused himself to Justinian for the current campaigning season, blaming the late arrival of the Roman ambassador. However, he surreptitiously had 10,000 Burgundians join the Goths at Milan, and openly sent his own army the next year.

Procopius provides the highly improbable 100,000 men for Theudebert’s army in 539, but it nevertheless destroyed an Ostrogothic as well as a Roman army in the course of a single day. It must have been quite large to take on such a challenge with confidence and win so spectacularly. Since the Roman army that had moved into the area at the time numbered close to 10,000 men, and the Goths were presumably as numerous, we can estimate that the Franks matched them combined, i. e. forming a total of 20,000.

Agathias claims that an army of 75,000 men invaded Italy in the 550s, and 30,000 of them were defeated by Narses at Volturno in 554. This force appears far too large at first, but an inspection of Frankish activities shows that it was actually on a similar order of magnitude. If Agathias’ figure of the Roman army at Volturno, 18,000 men, is correct, the Frankish army was about the same size or slightly smaller, i. e. 15-20,000 men. Leutharis’ army would have been about the same size or smaller. Thus perhaps about 30,000 men for the whole raiding force would be a reasonable estimate (which is given by Agathias as the number of Franks at Volturno), but this may have included some Goths who joined on the way. There were still enough Frankish troops in the north to hold fortifications; a smaller force of around 10,000 would suffice including some Gothic and other local assistance. A reasonable, conservative estimate of the Frankish force, then, would be 30,000 soldiers from north of the Alps, including a large number of Alaman clients. These were in addition assisted by (a guesstimate of) up to 10,000 local Italian troops of indeterminate nature such as Goths and disaffected Italians.

Finally, considering the extensive regional responsibility and large personal military resources of the Frankish duces, the Frankish army that was sent to aid the Romans in 590 under 20 duces could hardly have numbered less than 20,000 men. In light of these rather consistent numbers, we must conclude that the Austrasian Franks could raise expeditionary armies in the range of 20-30,000 men across the Alps without excessively taxing royal resources. It is impossible to say whether these numbers included the camp followers who helped with logistics and construction, or whether such individuals came in addition. That would of course add to the grand total. Hazarding to guess that the very large figures given in East Roman sources were in fact sober diplomatic estimates of the total potential manpower resources of one or more of the Merovingian kingdoms at different times.

While such numbers explain the extent of Frankish activities in Italy, they are in serious conflict with much current historiography, and beg two important questions: on what basis were they raised, and how were they supplied? The Frankish armies of Clovis and his sons were dominated by professional troops settled between the Rhine and the Loire, who were the direct descendants of Roman legions, in large part of Frankish stock, as well as other categories such as laeti and federates. For reasons of supply and political control, they were widely distributed on estates belonging to the Merovingian ruling families and their close allies. While opulent villa centers were abandoned in the 5th century in northern Gaul, this may only indicate a shift in patterns of exploitation that were related to the needs of the army, similar to common 5th century developments in (informal) East Roman and (formal) Visigothic military organization, where estates had a significant role. In fact, Aetius had a strong position in northern Gaul due to his great estates there, and after his successor Aegidius broke with Rome in 461, all fiscal lands would have fallen under local military control. He also had to maintain large forces on the Loire in order to face his Roman enemies and their Visigothic allies. Personal wealth combined with former fiscal lands provided much of the power of the lesser rulers Syagrius, Paul, Arbogast and Childeric in the late 5th century.

When the latter’s son, Clovis, gained full control over the north, he also gained all of these resources, in addition to at least some elements of the traditional form of taxation for remaining land. 81 Direct taxation by the government is in fact well attested throughout most of the 6th century, especially in the Loire and Seine valleys-indicative of the distribution of troops requiring support-and was only gradually suppressed and became obsolete by the early 7th century. Within this framework, Roman unit structure survived in recognizable form in the early 6th century. Procopius’ famous description of recognizably Roman units in the Frankish army confirms that the Merovingians were also quite conservative in their military administration. The soldiers who served the early Merovingians were nevertheless called Franks, and had tax exempt status in return for their military service. A “Roman” in Salian law was whoever still paid taxes, but in the course of the 6th century, the extension of military service among “Romans” and complications caused by property acquisition by “Franks” blurred the distinction, and Frankish identity (and military service associated with tax exempt status) became universal north of the Loire. The Merovingians also absorbed Visigothic and Burgundian military organization, and in the course of the 6th century gained control over a wide belt of client kingdoms east of the Rhine and along the upper Danube (Thuringians, Alamans, Saxons) that added to their potential manpower.

At a certain point in the early 6th century, trusted officers and cadet lines of the Merovingian dynasty began to organize these Franks within the framework of their personal households, but the process is highly obscure. We have an early example in Sigisvult, a royal relative who was sent to garrison Clermont (524) with his familia. Otherwise, the transition from a tax-based army to an estate-based conglomeration of military followings is hard to trace, and can only be established with the hindsight provided by Gregory of Tours, whose information is most detailed for the last decades of the 6th century. This process, and the constant divisions and reshuffling of territory of the divided Frankish kingdom, resulted in the structure familiar from the later 6th century. Within the royal household(s), by far the largest and most widespread, there was a distinction between at least two categories of royal troops, analogous to the doryphoroi and hypaspistai in East Roman military followings. Some of these were called antrustiones, of higher status, while the bulk of soldiers in the king’s obsequium were simply called pueri regis, “the king’s boys.” Both were maintained by the households of the kings and their families (i. e. living off the proceeds of any one of a large number of estates, or taxes still collected). To ease the supply situation outside the campaigning season, they were probably settled or garrisoned in very small groups such as those attested in contemporary Egypt. The troops within the royal household were administered by his maior domus, who took direct control during regencies and became more prominent during the 7th century.

Royal troops in outlying districts were led by regional military commanders, duces, who “bear a close resemblance to the duces found at this same time in Lombard and Byzantine Italy or Visigothic Spain.” In the north and east, the duces led fixed districts (e. g. Champagne, Burgundy) that probably reflect late or sub-Roman military organization; otherwise, their commands could fluctuate depending on changes in the political geography or served as extensions of the royal household. The early duces may in fact have had humble backgrounds as officers in the early Merovingian military establishment or the royal household (cf. the high prevalence of Germanic names among them), but soon became synonymous with the high aristocracy. When not in charge of a division of the royal household troops, late-6th-century duces with estates of their own had substantial military followings in their own right, which may have numbered several hundred men. This came in addition to their official commands, which included subordinate counts, who were in charge of the civitas and its military resources. Counts are normally believed to be of “Roman” origins and also had their own followings, which may also have numbered in the hundreds. Aquitaine and the immediately surrounding civitates preserved a military organization that was taken over from the kingdom of Toulouse, strongly based on private military followings. During the 6th century but probably a survival from the gradual transition to Visigothic rule a century earlier, troops were organized civitas by civitas due to the political divisions of the day. Merovingian kings often only held scattered city territories in the south and southwest, and regional commands were only created when a large number of cities could be grouped together.

The exact composition of individual Merovingian armies is often difficult to determine, as in most cases they are only referred to as an exercitus, army, of a region or kingdom. At a lower level, Gregory refers to the homines, men, of a particular civitas. A close analysis of the narrative sources reveals that the lower-level civitas-organization had two tiers. The largest group consisted of able-bodied poor civilian men (pauperes), organized by the landowners or royal officers upon whom they depended. This group was essential for logistical purposes and could also provide extra manpower for defending cities and fortifications, but did not normally fight. The revolt of Munderic at Vitry in 524 was accompanied by throngs of the common people, presumably his personal dependants mobilized in this fashion. The (far) narrower group, and the basis for expeditionary forces, was formed by professional troops, homines proper, who served in the retinues of local magnates, sometimes supported on campaign by sections of the general “militia” for logistical purposes. Gregory gives us a hint of this composite structure: when Guntram ordered the homines of various cities to attack the Bretons in 584, most of the men of Tours seem to have taken part (such as the troops under the count’s authority). However, the `poor citizens’ (pauperes) and the `young men’ (iuvenes) of the cathedral failed to show up for the campaign, citing the traditional exemption from expeditionary duty. The “young men” were clearly the military members of Gregory’s familia, while the pauperes provided support functions. Merovingian armies, then, consisted of conglomerations of military followings and divisions of the royal household troops.

The retinues of bishops and lay magnates are mostly extras and props in Gregory’s drama (they were the ones who actually exercised “aristocratic” violence), but they accompanied their lords in all their affairs, and are thus ubiquitous in all his writings. They were hence a large and important social group. They must be regarded as professional, full-time soldiers, because they never seem to be involved in any other sort of business; indeed, they seem to have been more engaged in fighting (due to internal conflicts and aristocratic feuds) than most Roman soldiers normally were. In the narrative and legal literature, they go under a vast array of names, including pueri, vassi, satellites, antrustiones for individuals, but as groups were known as trustis, contubernium, obsequium, familia. The size of such followings is in most cases difficult to gauge, but as we have seen, several hundred seems to have been normal for the most powerful dukes and counts; in effect, they were the same size as the military followings of East Roman generals, but far more ubiquitous because all magnates, officeholders and most bishops had such followings.

According to Halsall, large armies were impossible to sustain because few cities in Gaul had more than 5,000 inhabitants, and many villages only around 50. What is often forgotten in such arguments, however, is that a very large number of these villages belonged to much larger estate complexes, whose cultivators paid dues and/or performed services for their lord (cf. thepauperes), depending on the nature of the estate organization. The diversity of the estate economy, even in northern Gaul, is clear from two documents from the early 6th century: the testament of St. Remigius and the Pactus Legis Salicae. Remigius willed his personal property, which at his death consisted of the portions of four estates and other scattered holdings inherited from his father, a typical medium-range northern Gallic landowner of the mid-5th century. It is sometimes pointed out that Remigius’ holdings were rather small, but as a cleric, he may already have disposed of much of his property long before the will was drawn up, and at any rate it was only a portion of a substantially larger complex that still functioned, but had been shared with his relatives. It will be recalled that Genovefa kept Paris (490) supplied from her estates for over ten years; similar logistical abilities were common around 500. The Pactus Legis Salicae confirms the image of a medium-sized, but quite diversified estate economy in northern Gaul, which only became more complex and largescale the further south one looks, and far better attested in the 7th century.

Since soldiers were dependents of a lord, they were supplied through the estate structure of their patrons in peacetime. However, on campaigns, it was the personnel and agricultural surplus from villages and estates near the marching route that provided for an army’s logistical needs. Foodstuffs could be assembled in advance, and were levied from the general population as a tax. This was immensely unpopular, at least in Gregory’s presentation, but seems to have been fairly routine in the 6th century. The vast throng accompanying princess Rigunth (4,000 of the “common people” plus her personal escort and the retinues of prominent officers who accompanied her) was supplied at depots. An alternative was to shift produce from the royal, aristocratic and ecclesiastic estates whose forces were directly involved in a specific campaign (and presented as the proper alternative by Gregory) instead of burdening them on the people, who had immense labor obligations anyway. There is good evidence that foodstuffs were prepared in advance for ambassadors and their retinues according to detailed lists, ordering what should be stored in specific quantities at specific locations. Estate managers had assembling and shifting supplies as their regular daily business, and are known to have supplied cities in preparation for sieges (Convenae 585). Since troops were scattered in small numbers and only occasionally brought together for specific purposes, such as hunts, valuable for training, or publicae actiones to provide security and enforce the law (or, of course, squabble with political rivals), the logistical operations were quite simple considering the scale of estate organization, and rarely noticed by any texts. On a larger scale, armies were preceded by officials who went about collecting necessary foodstuffs, which could be deposited in granaries; from the tone in Gregory, it seems clear that they were zealous going about their business. A final alternative, however, was to buy supplies.

Early Frankish engineering was much more sophisticated than commonly thought, and was possible thanks to the ability to organize labor on a massive scale. The Franks were quite adept at building field fortifications, such as the one built at Volturno, or in Burgundy for stopping Saxon and Lombard invasions. They could also bridge rivers, a particularly difficult task that required highly trained specialists in the East Roman Empire. Civil engineering was quite substantial; the course of rivers were diverted on several occasions, one known example to protect the city from being undermined by the current, the other to provide extra protection during a siege. There was clearly an ability to build stone fortifications; thus bishop Nicetius of Trier had a heavily fortified residence built in the mid-6th century, while Gregory of Tours marveled at the fortifications of Dijon. Chilperic, when threatened with an invasion by his brother in 584, ordered his magnates to repair city walls and bring their relatives and movable goods inside. He recognized that their lands and immovable goods risked being destroyed during an enemy invasion, and therefore guaranteed that they would be reimbursed for any losses. There was thus an obligation to repair city walls on the part of the landowners, who could again draw upon their dependants to perform these tasks. It was also in their self-interest, since power struggles among magnate factions often involved military action.

Indeed, Merovingian kings had the same mechanisms available as Valentinian III, Theoderic and Anastasios to impose burdens of military logistics. The well-known labor requirements that descended from ancient munera had become the traditional seigneurial obligations of the dependant agricultural population, mobilized by their patrons on royal orders. While the “Franks” vociferously protested against taxation, providing military and logistical service was not an issue. As demonstrated by 7th-century immunities granted to monasteries, common obligations required by the king, administered through his officers and landowning subjects, included transportation and bridge-building. Civitates and castella are specifically mentioned as places where such labor was normally called out. No immunities were given for repairs of fortifications, however. The exact method of organizing repairs must have been the assignment of pedaturae to the landowners in question, as was the case with Ostrogothic possessores or East Roman social units and corporate bodies. Although labor obligations were also universal, in e. g. Roman Mesopotamia and Ostrogothic Gaul, as we have seen, extraordinary burdens or expenses were sometimes defrayed through tax relief or cash payments. The decline of direct taxation in Gaul meant that magnates had to shoulder far larger military burdens in the form of retinues, expeditionary service, and garrison troops whenever called upon, as well as routinely supplying labor for logistics and engineering. Thus, while military service and the burden of repair was mandatory on landowners (and apparently not an issue), Chilperic had to make sure that they would support him even if their estates were being ravaged. If they risked losing their economic basis, a negotiated settlement with his rival would soon become more attractive, as we saw above.

During the Merovingian era, most cities still had economic activities useful for military purposes, and were also the homes of at least part of the familiae of kings, bishops, counts and sometimes other magnates. Where their craftsmen and specialists actually resided is more problematic and probably varied from case to case. As early as the Pactus Legis Salicae, the Franks highly valued their dependent labor: not only were there detailed punishments for stealing or damaging a wide range of crops and livestock, it also lays down heavy fines for the theft of skilled slaves. Indeed, the range of craftsmen available and degree of specialization under the Merovingians is rarely addressed by military historians, whatever their views, but they are in fact quite ubiquitous in the original sources, while recent archaeological surveys show that their skills in many key crafts were neither inferior to, nor more narrowly distributed than, those of Roman craftsmen.

All of these groups have actual or potential military applications, and could be summoned at will by their lords whenever their services were needed. A certain number of craftsmen joined any major expedition as camp followers to perform various tasks as need arose, forming a specialized segment of the pauperes (noted earlier in this section). Thus Mummolus had his servant faber (probably one of several-he was only mentioned by Gregory for being so huge) brought from Avignon (583) to Convenae (585). In addition to destructive traps, the defense may also have involved artillery. Bishop Nicetius of Trier’s large fortified estate center was defended by a ballista. These were complex machines requiring specialist operation (tekhnitai or ballist(r)arioi in Greek sources), and unless imported from East Rome, they were trained in a local tradition. It just so happens that Mummolus had been commander of a region that had extremely strong Roman traditions, and that craftsmen there could maintain military skills over several generations. We can recall the artifex at Vienne in 500 who played a vital role during the siege. Nicetius, in turn, was bishop in the region that had one of the highest concentrations of Roman arsenals and fabricae during the early 5th century, and where selfconsciously Roman officers were still active until at least 480. It is possible that Franks had picked up ballista-operating skills on an Italian expedition. If this is the case, it reveals that once in Gaul, the experts would have to be maintained by a magnate’s household, which basically proves its suitability as a valuable form of military infrastructure. Indeed, in the Epistulae Austrasiacae there is preserved a letter from bishop Rufus of Turin to Nicetius, explaining how he finally has the opportunity to send the portitores artifices that Nicetius asked for. The combination of terms seems to be highly unusual, but they were presumably boat (barge) builders, as Nicetius’ estates were on navigable Rhine tributaries. Another explanation is that military skills survived along with military organization, and was gradually reorganized according to political developments, with more and more of the logistics and resource allocation devolving on great magnates in return for tax exemptions and immunities.

Red Army Shermans of WWII Part I

The story of the Sherman tank in Soviet service during World War II has received little attention outside Russia – or as it was, the Soviet Union. Although from 1941 to 1945, the USSR and the United States were allies, the Cold War commenced almost immediately after the defeat of Germany and any help that the western Allies may have extended to the Russian war effort was regarded by Stalin as a political embarrassment – and indeed has continued to be so even until the present day, although on something of a reduced scale. In fairness to the Soviets however, the majority of the tanks supplied under the Lend-Lease agreement performed poorly against their German counterparts and the greatest assistance came in the form of the huge number of Jeeps, trucks and canned food, the latter often derisorily referred to as the Second Front by the Red Army’s soldiers.

Although many official documents and photographs have been released since the break-up of the Soviet Union, many more are still denied to foreigners and all were of course recorded in Russian. The tendency to downplay the contribution of the Lend-Lease equipment means that very few images of the Soviet Shermans have ever been released. This has been alleviated in part by the reasonably large number of captured German photographs available. Unfortunately, these usually depict vehicles that are damaged to some degree and in most cases the captions have been lost. They are on the other hand, of a very high quality and we have used those that are available in this book.

One of the difficulties most often faced by Sherman researchers is attempting to determine which variant of the tank is being discussed or depicted in a particular photograph. However, except for two examples of the M4A4 model received for evaluation purposes, all the Sherman tanks delivered to the Soviet Union were the diesel engine M4A2 version, initially armed with the 75mm and later the long-barrelled 76mm gun. This model was chosen intentionally with the aim of placing the least possible strain on the Russian supply system as all their medium and heavy tanks were diesel powered.

Shipped from the United States via Siberia in the north or Iran in the south from November 1942 until the war’s end in mid-1945, in all 4,102 M4A2 Sherman tanks were delivered. This figure comprised 2,007 75mm armed vehicles and 2,095 with the 76mm gun. Exact figures for losses en route are not known but in total 417 M3 and M4 Medium tanks were lost and it would seem likely that the majority of these were M3 Mediums as the sea routes were much safer by the time the Shermans were dispatched. Curiously, Russian contemporary sources list only 3,664 deliveries with 2,653 vehicles being supplied to front-line units. The difference in these two figures was due to the high number of western tanks retained by training units. American built vehicles in particular were more reliable in addition to being mechanically more forgiving to inexperienced tank crews. These attributes enabled the Soviets to more easily and quickly train replacements and compensate for the extremely high loss rate among tank crews.

There is no obvious explanation for the discrepancy of 438 vehicles between the US and Soviet figures. Note that the US figure of 4,102 tanks shipped includes the 417 lost at sea. The detailed break-up by year given by the Russians is 36 for 1942; 469 for 1943; 2,345 for 1944 and 814 for 1945. Of the tanks supplied to front-line units, 36 were issued in 1942; 469 in 1943, 1,578 in 1944 and 570 in 1945.

The first deliveries were the 75mm armed versions of the M4A2, including almost every possible configuration ranging from the early, so called Direct Vision (DV), model to the later dry stowage variants with the one-piece glacis and appliqué armour plates on the hull sides. The 76mm versions were first equipped with the Vertical Volute Spring Suspension (VVSS) but Horizontal Volute Spring Suspension (HVSS) variants arrived in time for the Manchurian Campaign of August 1945, if not earlier.

The M4A2 was the second model of the M4 Medium tank to enter production and the first variant with a welded upper hull. It was powered by the General Motors 6046 twin, in-line 12 cylinder liquid cooled diesel engine developed for, and already in use with, the M3A3 and M3A5 Medium tank. In all 8,053 examples of the 75mm armed version of the M4A2 were produced from April 1942 to May 1944 with 7,413 of these being allocated to the Lend-Lease programme – the vast majority going to British and Commonwealth forces. In May 1944, the Sherman program switched to the 76mm gun with 2,915 of these tanks being built until production was halted in May 1945.

The Soviets referred to the tank – regardless of its armament – by its official US Army nomenclature of M4, or in Russian, M Chetyrye – shortened to Emcha. Their crews were referred to as Emchisti.

The Emchas enjoyed a much better reputation than the earlier Lend-Lease tanks such as the American M3 Medium or the British Matilda. They were liked by their crews who were grateful for the Sherman’s relative comfort and general habitability and also appreciated by the higher echelons for their mechanical reliability. These qualities were somewhat lacking in the T-34 and contributed to the Emcha’s efficiency during a campaign. This goes some way to explaining why an elite unit such as the 9th Guards Mechanized Corps had three of its brigades equipped with Shermans and not the locally developed T-34. As another example, the 1st Guards Mechanized Corps traded its powerful T-34/85s for M4A2s in late 1944 in preparation for the final offensive into the heart of Germany. Mounted in the commander’s cupola, the .50 calibre M2 heavy machine gun was much appreciated in street fighting and for anti-aircraft defence. Although it was generally awkward for the crew to operate, the gun was easily dismounted to allow the accompanying infantry to use it. Mechanically, the twin diesel engine had plentiful torque and could be clutched separately, allowing a very quiet advance at low speed especially if the tank ran on rubber tracks which the T- 34 could not do. The overall longer life of the Emcha’s tracks was also an advantage, surviving roughly twice as long as Soviet tracks, with the rubber variants capable of giving up to 5,000 km service. This was however in favourable conditions and terrain and the Russians found that the metal tracks particularly suffered from loss of grip on snow and ice and that in extremely high temperatures – such as those encountered during the summer of 1944 while crossing Romania and in August 1945 in Manchuria – the Emcha’s suspension was prone to overheating and damage, with the rubber block tracks and roadwheel tyres disintegrating.

It was commonly believed that the diesel fuel used with the M4A2 presented a lower fire risk if the tank was hit and this was undoubtedly one reason for the type’s popularity. Tests carried out by the US Army however established that the high flammability of the Sherman was due to inadequate ammunition stowage and had no link to the type of engine fuel used. This problem was addressed by the introduction of a system referred to as Wet Stowage whereby the tank’s ammunition racks were moved from the side sponsons to the hull floor and placed inside a protective, water filled bin. If the ammunition racks were penetrated the water would, in theory, prevent a fire from igniting the ammunition. In practice, the whole system was rendered useless if rounds were left scattered about the hull floor as they often were. Only the 76mm variant of the Emcha received this modification.

Another advantage was the Emcha’s five man crew which left the commander free to control and observe. This efficient combination was not introduced in the T-34 until the production of the 85mm armed model in 1944. Added to this were the excellent American radios which allowed for efficient command and control. Despite its advantages, the Soviets complained of a number of shortcomings in the Emcha in comparison to the T-34. Most notably were the inferior ballistic qualities of its non-sloped armour, its high profile, high centre of gravity, its lack of adequate flotation – caused by the narrow tracks – and its wider turning radius. The claim however that the T-34 was better armed should be regarded sceptically. The Emcha’s 75mm main gun was roughly equal in penetrating power to the Soviet 76.2mm while its High Explosive (HE) performance was vastly superior – in fact, the US Army’s 75mm HE shell was in a class of its own. The armour piercing capacity of the US 76mm gun was at least comparable to the Soviet 85mm as was proven in the Korean War – and the HE capability equal, in spite of the larger calibre of the Russian weapon. The American optical sights were also superior to the Soviet types, although it is probable that the stabilized gun of the American tank was not often utilised or even used to its full potential as it required extensive training and maintenance. And as regards the latter, the Soviets did indeed have a legitimate complaint, with few spare parts other than complete engines being delivered, necessitating such desperate measures as the cannibalisation of battlefield wrecks in order to keep vehicles running.

There seems to have been no attempt to alter the camouflage and markings in which the tanks were delivered including the vehicle’s US Army registration number. The single, known exception to this being the application of whitewash as a form of camouflage during the winter months. The notations in Russian that can be observed in many photographs stencilled onto the hull sides of numerous tanks were applied in the United States and were instructions regarding the vehicle’s maintenance. The tactical numbers and markings applied by the Russians are a much more complex matter being decided at corps level or lower and records are either sparse or non-existent. For the most part our knowledge of their meaning is restricted to what western researchers have been able to decipher from photographs in the years since the end of the war.

When the war in the east began in June 1941, the Soviet armoured force was made up of independent brigades, divisions and corps. Except for one or two units stationed in the Far East, the divisional organisation was quickly dropped and although some brigade sized formations continued to operate independently, the basic unit became the corps – roughly equivalent in size to a German division. Each corps was numbered and named according to its make-up and principal mission as either Cavalry, Rifles, Artillery, Airborne, Aviation, Mechanised or Tank and usually two or three corps were grouped into an army.

In 1944-1945, a typical Tank Army comprised two Tank Corps and one Mechanized Corps in addition to the various brigades and regiments of support weapons. Such a formation was capable of fielding, at full strength, approximately 600 tanks and 200 direct support self-propelled guns. The average Tank Corps comprised three Tank Brigades, with over 200 tanks and two regiments of self-propelled guns, with approximately 40 guns, and various support units. A typical Mechanized Corps could deploy three Mechanized Brigades, with three battalions of motorized infantry and a Tank Regiment, plus a Tank Brigade and various support units. Among the latter were three regiments of self-propelled artillery categorised as Light, Medium and Heavy. The Light regiment was usually equipped with SU-76 vehicles while the Medium regiment fielded the SU-85 or SU-100 and the Heavy regiment operated the powerful ISU-122 or SU-152. In total a Mechanised Corps contained over 180 tanks and more than 60 self-propelled guns.

In 1945, the Soviets managed to field 6 Tank Armies deploying 17 Tank and Mechanized Corps, plus 19 independent Tank and Mechanized Corps, in addition to approximately 50 independent Tank Brigades and more than 100 Tank and SP Artillery Regiments.

The other large users of the Emcha were the Cavalry Corps, of which the Red Army had seven in 1944, all being subsequently upgraded to Guards status by the end of the war (see note 5). Of these, 5th Cavalry Corps and 7th Cavalry Corps are known to have received Emchas in 1944. Such a corps normally fielded three Cavalry Divisions, each of which deployed a Tank Regiment of approximately 40 tanks, probably one third of them Light tanks – typically British built Valentines – while the remaining two thirds were Mediums, in this case Emchas. The pairing of these Lend-Lease tanks was quite common in 1944-1945. Lastly, some independent regiments also received the Emcha while providing general support to infantry units as Army level troops.

The Soviet method of fighting mobile battles was referred to as the doctrine of Deep Battle. The first chapter of The Provisional Field Service Regulations for the Workers’ and Peasants’ Red Army of 1936 explained the principle thus: “The resources of modern defence technology enable one to deliver simultaneous strikes on the enemy tactical layout over the entire depth of his dispositions. There are now enhanced possibilities of rapid regrouping, of sudden turning movements, and of seizing the enemy’s rear areas and thus getting astride his axis of withdrawal. In an attack, the enemy should be surrounded and completely destroyed”.

To put it simply, the highly mobile tank and mechanised formations were not directed to search out and destroy large encirclements of enemy forces – this was the objective of the following infantry – but to move at top speed, regardless of casualties, towards important objectives deep in the enemy’s rear and to hold them until the infantry caught up. Key facilities, such as railway networks, large supply depots, road junctions and bridges would be thus denied to the enemy, paralysing him and forcing his withdrawal. The type of formation best suited to this style of warfare was the Mechanized Corps, which had a better balance of tanks and infantry than the Tank Corps, and was therefore better suited to holding key objectives against the inevitable German counter-attacks. This may explain why many of the mechanically reliable Emchas were allocated to the various Mechanized Corps.

In retrospect, the Emcha constituted a large and arguably, the most successful part of the Lend-Lease Medium tank program to the USSR. It arrived too late to take part in the Stalingrad battles of late 1942 and early 1943 and had no real impact on the huge armoured engagements at Kursk in July 1943. Thus it missed the most critical – and most highly publicised – phase of the Eastern Front Campaign, when the conflict was truly still in the balance. Nevertheless, it was an important weapon system and provided a reliable, if unremarkable, tank to support the Soviet Blitzkrieg when it equipped a fair proportion of the Guards Mechanized Corps of 1944-1945.

Red Army Shermans of WWII Part II


This list is far from exhaustive but does go some way towards accounting for the more than 4,000 M4A2 tanks sent to the Soviet Union between 1943 and 1945. During the Cold War the Soviet government deliberately disparaged the importance of the Lend-Lease program preferring to stress the contribution made to victory in blood by ordinary Russian soldiers. Further, where records were kept they were either inaccurate or incomplete, for example merely describing all Sherman tanks as “Detroit built”. We can say however that of the total number received, some 2,073 were armed with the 75mm gun while the remainder had the 76mm weapon. Among the latter were a small number of very late HVSS models that saw combat in the Far East.

1st Guards Mechanised Corps. Formed in November 1942 from 1st Guards Rifle Division, this unit was completely re-equipped – apparently at the insistence of Marshal Rokossovski – with M4A2 tanks in January 1945. The fact that this was considered an elite unit speaks volumes for the capabilities of the Lend-Lease Shermans. The corps took part in the siege of Budapest and the storming of Vienna as part of 3rd Ukrainian Front. In February 1945, after fighting in Hungary, the corps had 184 M4A2 tanks on hand. By March this total had been reduced to forty-seven. The armoured elements of 1st Guards Mechanised Corps were 16th Guards Tank Regiment and 17th Guards Tank Regiment.

1st Mechanised Corps. Disbanded in late 1941 and reformed in August-September 1942 from the remnants of 27th Tank Corps, this formation was attached to 2nd Guards Tank Army of 1st Byelorussian Front during the fighting in Berlin in April and May 1945.

3rd Guards Mechanized Corps. Formed from 4th Mechanized Corps in December 1942, this unit fought in the Stalingrad encirclement and at Kursk in 1943. During early 1944 the corps was equipped with M4A2 Shermans and British Valentine tanks. The Shermans were dispersed throughout 35th Guards Tank Brigade, 7th Guards Tank Brigade, 8th Guards Tank Brigade and 9th Guards Mechanized Brigade. In June 1944 the corps was attached to 3rd Byelorussian front as part of a special, highly mobile formation known as the Oslikovskiy Cavalry-Mechanised Group with 3rd Guards Cavalry Corps. In July the corps was attached to 1st Baltic Front. In January 1945, as part of 1st Pribaltisky Front, this unit had 176 M4A2 tanks on hand including 108 of the 76mm armed version. The corps took part in the invasion of Manchuria as part of the Transbaikal Front. In recognition of its service, this unit was granted the honorific title Stalingrad-Krivorozhskaya.

5th Mechanised Corps. Colonel Dmitry Loza, a highly decorated veteran and author of Commanding The Red Army’s Sherman Tanks, states that at least his unit, the 233rd Tank Brigade, was completely equipped with M4A2 tanks and implies that the other regiments of the corps were similarly equipped. Interestingly Colonel Loza states emphatically that most, if not all, of his brigade’s Shermans were the 76mm version.

8th Guards Mechanized Corps. Formed from 3rd Mechanised Corps in October 1943, this formation took part in some of the most important battles fought on the Eastern Front including Kursk, the fighting around Zhitomir-Berdichev, Korsun-Shevchenkovsky, Proskurov-Chernovits, and Lvovin in Poland. In January 1945, 8th Guards Mechanised Corps had 185 M4A2 tanks on hand and went on to fight at Warsaw, in Pomerania and in the final battle for Berlin. From its formation the corps was part of 1st Guards Tank Army and was made up of 1st Guards Tank Brigade, 19th Guards Mechanized Brigade, 20th Guards Mechanized Brigade and 21st Guards Mechanized Brigade. In 1945, 64th Guards Tank Regiment was also attached to this corps. In April 1944 this unit was awarded the honorific title Carpathian and is also referred to in some sources as 8th Red Guards Aleksandriysky Mechanized Corps.

9th Guards Mechanized Corps. Formed from 5th Mechanized Corps in September 1944 with 126 M4A2 tanks. This unit was attached to 6th Guards Tank Army during the fighting for Vienna in early 1945. From its formation until the end of the war the corps was made up from 46th Guards Tank Brigade, 18th Guards Mechanized Brigade, 30th Guards Mechanized Brigade and 31st Guards Mechanized Brigade.

9th Mechanized Corps. This formation began to receive M4A2 tanks in late 1943 and early 1944. The corps took part in the invasion of Manchuria as part of the Transbaikal Front and was made up of 116th Tank Regiment, 69th Mechanized Brigade and 70th Mechanized Brigade. At that time the corps had 137 M4A2 tanks on hand.

3rd Guards Tank Corps. Formed from 7th Tank Corps in late 1942, this unit was awarded the title Kotelnikovskikh the following year. From mid-1944 the corps was made up of 3rd Guards Tank Brigade, 18th Guards Tank Brigade, 19th Guards Tank Brigade and 2nd Guards Mechanised Brigade. In June 1944, during Operation Bagration, the corps was attached to 5th Guards Tank Army. This unit also fought in East Prussia with 3rd Guards Cavalry Corps as part of

19th Army. For the final battles in Berlin the corps was attached to 1st Byelorussian Front.

8th Guards Tank Corps. In the summer of 1944, this formation’s 58th Guards Tank Brigade was equipped with Shermans. Quite probably 59th and 60th Guards Tank Brigades also had Emchas.

18th Tank Corps. Formed in June 1942, this unit served with 2nd and 3rd Ukrainian Fronts in late 1944 and into 1945 taking part in the fighting in Hungary. Mostly equipped with IS-2 heavy tanks and SU-85 and ISU-152 self-propelled guns, the corps did have a small number of M4A2 tanks on hand in January 1945. These had however all been lost by March.

2nd Guards Cavalry Corps. This unit took part in battle for Berlin while attached to 33rd Army of 1st Byelorussian Front. Although it is known that this corps had a number of M4A2 tanks, no further details are available.

5th Guards Cavalry Corps. In March 1945 as part of 3rd Ukrainian Front this corps had a small number of M4A2 tanks on hand, perhaps as few as two.

47th Mechanised Brigade. This brigade’s 18th Tank Regiment was equipped with M4A2 tanks at the end of 1944.

63rd Tank Brigade. This unit had a number of Emchas on hand for a short time during 1944.

64th Guards Tank Brigade. This brigade took part in the fighting in eastern Germany in 1945. The brigade had at least some 76mm armed M4A2 tanks on hand at that time.

140th Tank Brigade. This brigade had a number of Sherman tanks on hand during 1943.

153rd Tank Brigade. As part of 31st Army of 3rd Byelorussian Front, this independent brigade took part in the fighting for Königsberg and had on hand thirteen M4A2 and thirty-two T-34 tanks in mid-January 1945. By the end of January only five of the Shermans were still serviceable and by February all had been lost.

201st Tank Brigade. Made up of the 295th and 296th Tank Battalions, this independent brigade was with the Transbaikal Front in Manchuria in August 1945.

208th Medium Self-propelled Gun Brigade. Formed in December 1944 this unit was attached to 3rd Ukrainian Front. Although at least one source states that the brigade had 184 M4A2 tanks on hand in March 1945, this number seems far too large being almost enough to equip a complete corps.

48th Separated Tank Batalion. In an effort to bolster the infantry’s offensive capability, some infantry divisions received an armoured battalion referred to as a Separated Tank Battalion. Intended to act in co-operation with the infantry, these battalions were made up of two companies of medium tanks and one of light tanks. The 48th Separated Tank Battalion was attached to the Transbaikal Front in 1945 and had a small number of M4A2 tanks on hand.

59th Independent Tank Regiment. This unit is mentioned as having a number of Emchas on hand. No further details are available at this time.

60th Separated Tank Regiment. Attached to 5th Guards Cavalry Corps in 1944, the regiment had twenty M4A2 tanks on hand at that time.

70th Separated Tank Regiment. Attached to 5th Guards Cavalry Corps in 1944, the regiment had twenty M4A2 tanks on hand at that time.

223th Independent Tank Regiment. This regiment had a number of M4A2 tanks on hand at the time of Operation Bagration.

229th Separated Tank Regiment. This regiment is mentioned in official correspondence as having a number of M4A2 tanks on hand as part of Central Front in 1943 and may have fielded 38 at Kursk – although this is uncertain. No further details are available at this time.

230th Independent Tank Regiment. This regiment had a number of M4A2 tanks on hand at the time of Operation Bagration.

257th Independent Tank Regiment. This unit is mentioned as having a number of Emchas on hand. No further details are available at this time.

563rd Separated Tank Battalion. In early 1943 this unit, sometimes referred to as the 563rd Independent Battalion, was completely equipped with M3 Light tanks and was trained for amphibious operations. It is possible that the battalion received a small number of Shermans as part of the North Caucasian Front in late 1943.

The Emcha served with many Soviet units during the war and presented here as representative, the 1st Mechanised Corps was by 1945 equipped throughout with these US built medium tanks. The corps was attached to 2nd Guards Tank Army which was itself part of Marshal Georgy Zhukov’s 1st Byelorussian Front.

Originally formed in March 1940, more than a year before the German invasion, 1st Mechanised Corps was considered an elite formation at almost every stage of its history. In 1945 the corps was commanded by Lieutenant-General Semyon Moiseevich Krivoshein, an early pioneer of armoured warfare who had led a corps through the darkest days of Barbarossa and the Kursk battles in 1943 were he had been severely wounded. Prior to the assault on Berlin, this formation’s tank companies were completely re-equipped with new M4A2 Sherman tanks, handing over their T-34/85 vehicles to other units of 2nd Guards Tank Army. Readers should note that the figure of ten tanks for each tank company is the authorised strength and would of course have varied. The tank brigade attached to each Soviet mechanised corps usually contained three tank battalions however during the fighting in Berlin only the two shown here were present. During the period of heaviest fighting, between 16 to 21 April, the corps lost 20 of their Shermans – the equivalent of two complete companies – while a further 59 were severely damaged. The supposition that 347th Guards Artillery Regiment were equipped with ISU-122 selfpropelled guns is based on the official return for 1st Mechanised Corps which states that at least one of these vehicles was lost in the fighting.



The armed forces of Rhodesia won virtually every battle and skirmish they ever fought against the guerrilla armies, yet they lost the war. In July 1977, Foreign Minister P K van der Byl said of white Rhodesians’ resolve never to live under a guerrilla regime: ‘We will contest every hill and every river, every village and every town, every crossroad and every bridge.’ Van der Byl’s penchant for Churchillian rhetoric was renowned, but his declaration epitomized the objectives of the Rhodesians’ war against the nationalists: never to surrender their political, social and economic power to black majority rule. Yet the war was lost, and in April 1980 the guerrillas grasped the reins of power for which they had fought so long.

The story of the Rhodesian armed forces during the civil war is one of tactical brilliance and strategic ineptitude. Rarely in military history have such thinly stretched troops, hampered by chronic manpower, training, equipment and financial constraints achieved such consistent successes against enemy forces which enjoyed the tactical and strategic initiative for most of the war, and often reached numerical parity in the field. But the Rhodesian obsession with successful tactics created a fatal blindness to the strategic imperatives of a protracted revolutionary war such as the guerrillas were waging.

The early stages of the war were fought with the armed forces much the same as they had been at the break-up of Federation. The rashness of the guerrillas’ early strategy and tactics required no expansion of the armed forces or mobilization of reserves much beyond peace-time levels. Until 1972 the brunt of the counterinsurgency operations was borne by the British South Africa Police, the RAR, the Rhodesian Light Infantry and the Royal Rhodesian Air Force (the ‘Royal’ was dropped in 1970 when Rhodesia became a republic). Reserve forces assisted from time to time, but did not assume the importance of later years.

The counter-insurgency operations were originally conceived of as a ‘police action’, with the army aiding the civil power against what were characterized as politically motivated criminals. Guerrillas were tried and convicted through the civil courts and were imprisoned or executed through the same machinery as common criminals. This preserved the fiction that the government was waging a campaign against violent criminal elements rather than an incipient civil war, but despite its political usefulness this attitude ignored the realities of the conflict. The police were responsible for the painstaking collection of evidence and the preparation of criminal dockets. It was only in 1978-9 that disaffected areas were placed under martial law and tribunals empowered to deal with captured guerrillas.




In a sense it was natural that the BSAP should be involved in counter-insurgency operations from the start. The unit (formed partly from the earlier British South Africa Company police) was raised in 1896 to combat the Shona and Ndebele insurgents, and in 1897 was almost solely responsible for mopping up the final stubborn pockets of resistance. The Rhodesian authorities liked to boast that, after 1897, the police did not shoot and kill a single African until 26 July 1960, during serious rioting in Bulawayo. The force was structured as a cavalry regiment and its military ethos remained with it until the 1980s. Although its functions became increasingly civil in succeeding decades after its foundation, it never entirely lost its paramilitary role nor its military spirit, signified by the force’s nickname, ‘The Regiment’, and its status as the ‘senior service’.

The regular police, numbering about 2,000 whites and 6,000 blacks at the height of the war, received long periods of counter-insurgency training during their recruit courses. Although most active policemen served in a civil capacity, most white junior ranks were required to serve periodic tours in the Police Anti-Terrorist Unit (PATU), otherwise essentially a reserve element.

As the war intensified, so the combat role of the regular police expanded. The Support Unit, nicknamed the ‘Black Boots’, was formed as a regular counterinsurgency unit and eventually expanded into a light infantry battalion of black constables officered by whites. The unit was highly successful and at times scored a higher kill rate than regular army formations. A widening war encouraged the proliferation of other specialist police units. The Special Branch, initially responsible for the investigation of political crime and undercover surveillance, diversified into the collection of field intelligence when it absorbed the police ‘Ground Coverage’ network of operatives and informers. A Special Branch section, the SB-Scouts, was a small unit of Special Branch agents, Selous Scouts and captured guerrillas which carried out more dangerous and esoteric intelligence-gathering, as well as conducting clandestine operations against the enemy’s political and military infrastructure. A Police Mounted Unit, formed in 1976, was an attempt to increase the mobility of police COIN forces, but it was a gimmicky formation which remained limited in size. The explosion of stock theft, which was part of the guerrilla strategy of undermining the white economy and its logistics system, brought the creation of specialized anti-stock theft teams. Their high mobility and ruthlessness in dealing with stock thieves, as well as a mandatory nine-year gaol sentence for cattle theft, were only partly successful in controlling this chronic problem for the white farming community. The spread of the war to the urban areas in the latter stages of the conflict was countered by the Urban Emergency unit, a ‘special weapons and tactics’ (SWAT) group, which was highly successful in rooting out and deterring urban terrorism.

Like all the armed forces, the police suffered from a shortage of quality manpower. This was partly alleviated by the allocation of part of the national service intakes for each year from 1973, and the greater responsibility of reserve units to assist in preventing and detecting crime in urban areas and the safer rural districts. Increasing reliance was also placed on black recruits, who made up the rank and file, and the stretching of white officers’ responsibilities.

RAF in Malaya – The Enemy and Allied Forces I

The Royal Air Force (RAF) and Army Air Corps, based in Malaya, provided multi-role air support to emergency operations. This was either as an independent force of the operation, or in direct cooperation with forces on the ground. There were six facets to the availability of air support:

1.Photographic air reconnaissance facilitated informed planning and execution of anti-terrorist operations. An extensive air survey was conducted of the heavily populated areas, and active photographic tactical air cover made available. Light fixed-wing aircraft of the Army Air Corps were used for routine visual air reconnaissance, and had an active role target marking for RAF airstrikes.

2.Offensive air support was also multi-role. Due to restricted ground visibility from the air because of the very thick jungle canopy, the RAF had to rely heavily on pinpoint target coordinates from the ground forces for airstrikes to be effective. In the event of targets covering an extended area, but also dependent on target identification from the ground, bombers could lay down a deadly pattern to neutralise guerrillas positions. Often, an RAF representative would participate in the planning and implementation of ground operations in an advisory capacity when air support was included.

3.The supply of rations, ammunition and general supplies was essential to maintain sustained jungle operations. The terrain and general absence of a serviceable road network made the role of air supply critical for the success of prolonged counter-insurgency operations in the Malayan jungles.

4.For the same reasons, inaccessible areas of jungle required deployment of troops by air – light aircraft and medium helicopters. It also allowed for improved effectiveness as the troops could be deployed quicker and closer to the enemy.

5.Casualty evacuation by helicopter saved the lives of many a soldier wounded in action or suffering from some debilitating tropical disease. The medical exfiltration by this means enabled ground troops to continue with their operations, rather than having to evacuate a casualty by foot.

6.The dissemination of anti-Communist propaganda by air was also deemed useful, although problematic to quantify in absolute terms. Aerial leaflet drops or voice broadcasts formed an integral part of the psychological warfare during the emergency. As RAF planes continue to drop pamphlets throughout Malaya, Communists have intensified their propaganda warfare. Kluang police station in Johore yesterday received a bundle of Communist leaflets saying ‘Down with the British’ and promising ‘Death for the running dogs of the British’.

Around twenty squadrons from Britain’s Far East Air Force served during the emergency, flying English Electric Canberra bomber and reconnaissance aircraft, Spitfire FR-18s and -19s, Beaufighter TF-10s, de Havilland Mosquitos, Vampires and Venoms, Gloster Meteors, Percival Pembrokes, Scottish Aviation Pioneers, Taylorcraft Austers, Sunderlands Mk Vs (RAF Kai Tak, Hong Kong, and RAF Seletar, Singapore), Avro Lincolns, Westland Whirlwind helicopters, Bristol Sycamores, Douglas Dakotas, Vickers Valettas and Sikorsky helicopters.

The Royal Australian Air Force squadrons contributed Avro Lincoln heavy bombers (Butterworth air base), Canberra bombers, Dakota transports and CAC Sabre jet fighters; and from the Royal New Zealand Air Force, Vampires, Venoms, Dakotas, Bristol Freighters and Canberras.

Ships from the Royal Navy, such as HMS Amethyst, Comus, Defender, Hart, Newcastle and Newfoundland, conducted coastal anti-smuggling and anti-piracy operations, and were used for amphibious landings into inaccessible areas near the coast. Naval vessels also provided bombardment of targeted CT areas.

Naval support also came from Australia – destroyers Warramunga and Arunta, aircraft carriers Melbourne and Sydney, and Commonwealth Strategic Reserve forces destroyers Anzac, Quadrant, Queenborough, Quiberon, Quickmatch, Tobruk, Vampire, Vendetta and Voyager. The Royal New Zealand Navy’s frigate, HMNZS Pukaki complemented coastal patrols.


Troops of the Dorsetshire Regiment using machine guns today aided Malayan police in a dawn action against Chinese gangsters. The Chinese had attacked police at Nyor village, five miles from Lluang, in Jahore State. Two gangsters were killed and five wounded. A British sergeant was injured by a hand grenade.

(Dundee Evening Telegraph, Thursday, 25 September 1947)

This brief, four-sentence report was easily missed in many newspapers in the UK. As much space was given in the British press to a report from American General Douglas MacArthur’s headquarters, which stated that the wartime Pacific commander had ordered the return to Singapore’s museum of 185 stuffed birds that the Japanese had pilfered during their occupation of Malaya for presentation to Emperor Hirohito.

The following month, the Chinese Chamber of Commerce, together with extreme left-wing parties, called for a hartal – a general strike and closure of shops – in protest against plans by London to replace the unpopular Malayan Union with a federation of all the Malay states and Straits Settlements, but excluding Singapore.

Unperturbed, it was Britain’s wish that ‘internal self-government’ be returned to the Malayan Peninsula, apart from the Crown Colony of Singapore. On 21 January 1948, Britain signed agreements in Kuala Lumpur with the rulers of nine Malayan states, thereby paving the way for a ‘Federation of Malaya’. The new state would be promulgated by the issue of an Order in Council from Governor Sir Edward Gent in February. Gent would then become High Commissioner, while resident British commissioners in each of the federal states would only have advisory powers.

The latest British initiative merely served to harden Malayan Communist Chinese resolve to expedite their quest for a people’s republic encompassing the whole peninsula.

While the wartime marriage of convenience between the British and the MCP’s military wing, MPAJA, was a tactical necessity to rid Malaya of the Japanese, the MCP was already planning its strategies to also oust the British. A covert programme of Communist indoctrination by means of propaganda was conducted to sensitise the ‘masses’ to the need for resistance.

The MCP, however, could not anticipate the militarily strong British administration that took over from the Japanese, effectively stalling the timing of their revolution. While ensuring that they were seen by the British to be cooperative subjects of the Crown, the MCP took its subversive activities underground. In line with Mao’s teachings, MCP activists infiltrated government and public departments, such as schooling and local government councils.

In the first quarter of 1948, the MCP started to implement by deed their doctrinal objectives. Initially, this took the form of nationwide civil disorder, exploiting the legitimacy of their actions in terms of the federal government’ s Trade Union Ordinance.

By this time, the MCP had divided its strategies into two – the Jungle Organisation and the Open Organisation. Whilst the federal authorities, ‘assisted’ by the British, were unable to legitimately classify the overt trade union activities as acts of terrorism, the Open Organisation played a fundamental role in the Communist insurrection.

The Jungle Organisation itself comprised two elements – the Malayan Races Liberation Army (MRLA) and the Min Yuen, or Mass People’s Movement.

Initially comprised of regiments, logistical necessities made the structure difficult to manage, so independent platoons were created instead. With platoon strengths fluctuating between fifteen and thirty, the units came under the command of a state committee member (SCM), which allowed for areas of operation to overlap. Local militia, referred to as the Armed Work Force, augmented platoon ranks.

About 90 per cent of the communist terrorists were ethnic Chinese, the balance mainly Malay and Indian, with one or two Siamese, Japanese and Javanese. Generally young, the Communist Terrorists (CTs) were jungle habituated, attuned to the lay of the land in which they operated. Hardened survivalists, they understood deprivation and the necessity of living off the jungle. Their fieldcraft and tracking skills were, for the majority, second nature in the familiar environment.

Much of the CTs’ war materiel, unearthed from Second World War jungle caches, was of diminished quality. Compounded by the metal-unfriendly jungle conditions, British military analysts rated CT handling and maintenance of arms and ammunition as ‘adequate for the type of warfare they are engaged in’. Questionable weapons’ serviceability impacted on the morale of the guerrillas. This, together with the efficacy of the British and Commonwealth security forces, food supply, quality of leadership and strength of conviction to the cause, meant for CT tactics that were largely hit-and-run in execution. Only the most zealous adherents to the Communist dogma would show determined resistance in combat.

The CTs drew from cached British and American stock weaponry issued to the anti-Japanese guerrillas during the occupation. Weapons included .303-calibre Bren light machine guns, 9mm Sten sub-machine guns, Thompson .45-calibre ‘Chicago Organ Grinder’ sub-machine guns, American .30 semi-automatic carbines, British .303 SMLE rifles, 12-bore shotguns, Russian-made Tokarev TT-33 pistols, and dated British revolvers.

A Ho Lung CT camp in the Sungei Palong area, southern Malaya.

CT campsites were meticulously selected, with an emphasis placed on unlikely positions to the casual observer, and a reliable source of clean water. The larger, more permanent camps had bashas constructed from natural materials found in the area, a parade ground and an outdoor lecture facility. Some camps had rudimentary armouries for basic weapons repair.

Two-way radio communications were rare, the CTs lacking suitable equipment. Two- or three-man courier groups were the norm in jungle operational areas, which included the conveyance of printed Communist propaganda. So-called open couriers proved the most effective and expedient means of communication, and one that the local law enforcement agencies found extremely difficult to detect, let alone eliminate. Invariably, these open couriers were readily available Min Yuen, blending in with the general populace as an ordinary citizen going about their daily routines.

Instructional material in guerrilla tactics such as vehicle and security force ambushes, defensive positions, reconnaissance and use of weapons, was sourced from translations of Russian and British manuals, and leaflets of the Chinese People’s Army sent in from China.

The Malayan civil government was, in the first instance, the responsible authority for the anti-terrorist campaign. Viewed at first as a civil action, CT attacks on civilians were regarded as of a criminal nature, and therefore a matter for the police force to address. With the escalation in acts of terrorism, armed forces – local, British and Commonwealth – were brought in to support the civil authorities. A home guard was also formed, mainly to release combatant troops from urban and village defence duties.

By 1950, the coordinated responsibility for the control of all counter-terrorist operations lay with the Emergency Operations Council – EOC. Answerable in turn to the federal government of Malaya, the EOC was tasked with the use of fully integrated civil and military resources to totally eradicate the Communist terrorists.

Chaired by the prime minister, the EOC comprised government ministers, the commissioner of police, the flag officer (navy) of the Malayan area, the general officer commanding overseas Commonwealth land forces, the air officer commanding No. 224 Group, RAF, and the deputy secretary, security and intelligence in the prime minister’s office.

Responsible for the day-to-day conduct of emergency operations, the Federal Director of Emergency Operations was a senior British army officer seconded to the Federation of Malaya government. Generally referred to as the Director of Operations, this officer chaired the Commanders’ Sub-committee, made up of the commanders of the army, air force, navy and police in Malaya. These combined forces’ operational structures were replicated at state and district levels, in descending chain of command.

The job of the security forces was threefold:

1.The strict control of concentrations of the civilian population, in cities, towns, kampongs (villages) and plantation lines. The forces had to be in a position to not only defend civilians from CT intimidation and brutality, but also to prevent supplies of food being smuggled out to the CTs by Communist sympathisers.

2.To perform offensive operations in areas surrounding centres of population, with the objective of cutting the flow of food by eliminating the CTs.

3.To mount deep-jungle, seek-and-destroy missions to isolate them from the local populace and to destroy camps, food and arms caches, and lands cultivated for food production.

Severing the link between CT and civilian was deemed key, and therefore warranting a systematic programme of isolation of one from the other. This process became a reality with the controversial introduction of the Briggs Plan.

RAF in Malaya – The Enemy and Allied Forces II

Operation ‘Firedog’ – the air war against the CTS (Communist Terrorists) during the Malayan Emergency – began in earnest in July 1948 with the formation of an RAF Task Force at Kuala Lumpur. Reinforcements, notably Lincolns from the UK were sent to Malaya and Singapore on detachment. The first to arrive were Lincolns on 57 Squadron. On 15 March 1950, at a time when Chin Peng’s forces were slowly winning the war against the Security Forces, eight Lincolns on 57 Squadron arrived at Tengah from Waddington for operations against terrorists in Negri Sembilan. 57’s Lincolns were relieved in July by 100 Squadron. In December 1950 these were replaced by Lincolns on 61 and 148 Squadrons, the latter having converted from the Lancaster at Upwood in February 1950. The Lincoln seemed ideal for the task of bombing CT hide-outs in the jungle but while five Lincolns could effectively drop 70 1,000lb bombs on a jungle strongpoint the guerrillas had by now split into much smaller and more mobile units and were almost impossible to hit by ‘conventional’ bombing. One operation, in the Ipoh region between July and November 1954 involving Lincolns, 22 SAS and four infantry battalions, accounted for only 15 terrorists killed. From 1950 to 1958 eight Lincoln Mk.30s of 1 Squadron RAAF at Tengah dropped 17,500 tons of bombs but killed only 16 CTs and destroyed barely 30 camps. There were successes. On 13 May 1957 an operation by the RAAF Lincolns near Seremban killed a notorious Communist leader known as ‘Ten Foot Long’ and four of his followers. The Malaya Emergency officially ended in August 1960 and Operation ‘Firedog’ ended in October.

American Colonial Militia Systems


This illustration depicts the first muster of Massachusetts Bay Colony militia in the spring of 1637.

In the colonial era, the militia system was linked to fundamental concepts of American citizenship; militias were considered to be one of three pillars of society, along with the church and local government. Militarily, the colonial militia was the primary instrument of defense for the American colonies. By the latter part of the 17th century, the militia had become more complex, as local militias continued to function as local defense forces, while militia volunteers and draftees made up the provincial expeditionary forces for major campaigns. The structures and functions of local militias and expeditionary forces continued to evolve through the series of imperial wars of the 18th century.

Early Colonial Militias

The first English colonists found themselves in precarious circumstances. Potential attack from Native Americans and England’s European rivals compelled the colonists at Jamestown and Plymouth to immediately organize their defenses. For guidance, colonists turned to the English militia tradition, dating to the 12th-century Assize of Arms (1181), which obligated every able-bodied adult man in the community to provide military service for the common defense.

In Jamestown (settled in 1607), Capt. John Smith was one of several among the first colonists with professional military experience. Smith proved more forceful than most, however, and once he assumed responsibility for the defense of the colony he held every man responsible for militia duty. Facing the prospect of the colony’s starvation and total collapse, Smith declared martial law and organized reluctant settlers to raid corn supplies of local Native Americans. Smith’s authoritarian actions kept the colony alive without a formal militia structure. The founders of the first New England colony in Plymouth (1620) hired a military adviser, Miles Standish, to oversee the colony’s defenses. In the early years of both colonies, community defense fell to the entire male community.

After a decade of settlement, the militia structures of Virginia and New England diverged, reflecting differences in their societies and circumstances. In Virginia, the emergence of tobacco as a cash crop stimulated the entrepreneurial individualism that produced a rapid expansion of dispersed plantations. The isolated plantations, however, hindered militia organization and were vulnerable to attack; a 1622 attack by local Powhatans devastated the English colony. The royal government determined to establish an effective militia by mandating universal military service for every man between the ages of 17 and 60. Orders instructed planters to take their weapons with them to church and into the fields when they worked.

In contrast to Virginia’s dispersed settlement pattern, New Englanders settled closely around their meetinghouses, which enabled each town to maintain a militia company. In a total community effort, towns constructed fortifications that made each town an outpost and every freeman a soldier. The display of military prowess combined with competent diplomacy permitted New England to avoid major conflict during the early years of settlement.

17th-Century Militia Systems

Gradually over two decades, New England and Virginia transformed their ad hoc militias into formally structured militia systems. In New England, specialized “trained bands” received military training while the rest of the male population constituted a reserve. Between 1637 and 1676, New England’s military planners learned from repeated conflicts with Native Americans that their best chance for success depended on their ability to counterattack quickly and effectively. The Massachusetts militia adapted by creating special units of troops drawn from the trained bands based on particular skills, for example, tracking and marksmanship.

Their first major expedition during the Pequot War (1637) proved a tactical success but revealed shortcomings in command. As a remedy, New England colonies joined in a cooperative military establishment, the United Colonies of New England (1643). The confederation was formed expressly to provide mutual aid with both men and logistical support and to provide a central command. While imperfect, the New England regional coordinating council lasted for some 40 years.

By the time of King Philip’s War (1675-76), the colonial militia system had begun to take on two distinct forms: local militia and provincial expeditionary forces. After damaging surprise attacks by Native American warriors in 1675, New England towns contributed more than 1,000 militia troops for a retaliatory provincial expedition. The evolution of the militia- from a universal community obligation for local defense to a formalized military force-required provincial officials to negotiate soldiers’ pay rates and specify the destination and duration of service. Soldiers enlisted with the expectation that they were entering into a contract between equals. They insisted on electing the officers who would lead them, set the geographic limits of their service (often refusing to leave their own provinces), stipulated the rations and supplies to which they were entitled, and demanded discharge at the agreed expiration of their enlistment. As the scale and risks of expeditions grew, recruiters increasingly relied on enlistment bonuses to fill the ranks, and the social profiles of expedition soldiers shifted more toward young bachelors and the “lower sort” who were more likely to be enticed by economic incentives.

New England militias were subordinated to the selectmen of their towns; expedition forces reported to the provincial government. Operationally, local committees raised, equipped, and paid the militia, with the social composition of New England militia closely mirroring the community. In the local militia, the “better sort” of well-to-do and respectable men tended to be officers, while freeholders (property owners) filled the ranks; expeditionary forces relied more on the lower end of the social order for their rank and file.

During this same period, the evolution of the Virginia militia followed a different trajectory but arrived at a similar end. After quelling another Powhatan uprising in 1644, Virginia’s militia organization suffered from complacency and neglect. Militia duty was burdensome to busy tobacco planters. The lack of support from established planters pushed frontier settlers to organize their own vigilante militia. In 1676, they attacked bordering tribes, but then quickly turned their wrath on the colonial governor in a violent outburst known as Bacon’s Rebellion. After British regulars restored order, the royal government promptly restructured the Virginia militia, hiring professional soldiers for frontier duty and reserving future local militia service to the “better sort.”

18th-Century Militia Systems

From 1689 to 1763, the demands on the militia system shifted predominantly to providing expeditionary forces to support British wars with Spain and France. By the time of King William’s War (1689-97), provincial expeditionary forces were the primary unit for active duty, even though the militia remained the first line of defense for outlying towns. In the south at the turn of the century, the militia was only occasionally a viable force. When South Carolina experienced a Spanish attack in 1706, the militia rushed to defend the coastal capital Charleston, but during the Yamasee War (1715), militia turnout was dismal. Following the end of Queen Anne’s War in 1714, southern colonial militias declined in military readiness and became exclusively the preserve of white planters who were more worried about slave rebellion than Indian attacks.

By the time of the culminating phase of imperial wars in North America (King George’s War, 1744-48, to the French and Indian War, 1756-63), southern militias’ main function was community policing. When Britain called upon Virginia for troops to support a Caribbean expedition, the Virginia assembly hired or drafted transients, laborers, and other landless persons because propertied men refused to enlist for distant expeditions. Men of property remained active in the militia while it functioned as a policing force at home, but most landholders avoided active duty on the frontier or expeditions by paying a fine for nonservice. In contrast, New Englanders from across the entire social spectrum turned out for an offensive expedition against French Canada in 1745. The French and their Indian allies were a long-standing menace to the northern colonies, and past experiences of predations motivated some recruits. Others responded for army pay and the prospect of plunder, and still others for God and glory.

When the French and Indian War reignited hostilities, the British deployed a regular army to America and called on 30,000 colonial troops to support them. The war linked global imperial struggles to local frontier warfare, and New Englanders again joined the fray in considerable numbers. Because colonial militiamen in Massachusetts saw their military service as a contract, freely entered into and with stipulated limits, most joined voluntarily and were not disproportionately of the lower classes as was the case in Virginia.

As expeditionary forces increasingly fought the wars of empire, local militias became more important as social institutions than as military organizations. By the 18th century, militia training days were important community events in colonial society. Not only did the men come together to drill, the entire community joined in a civic holiday and a picnic, opened with a prayer by the minister of the congregation. Afterward, while the men drilled on the green, women cooked feasts and children socialized with other youngsters. Young women looked on as the young men fired their muskets and marched smartly on the training greens. Training day functioned as an initiation ritual for younger men entering into the world of adult manhood. It also was the stage upon which a community reconfirmed the ranks of citizenship and the social order. Those on the margins of the social proceedings at training days were the same people on the margins of full citizenship or prosperity-a diverse group that included servants, slaves, Native Americans, and transient laborers.

The Revolutionary Militia

The onset of the American Revolution inspired the last resurgence of colonial militia systems as effective military organizations. In 1775, the Minute Men were the American vanguard, as the larger part of the adult male population mustered for community defense. Once serious fighting began, however, the New England colonies reverted to the established model of the expeditionary forces in which recruits tended to be single young men able to handle the rigors of military life. When the war continued into another year, at Commander in Chief George Washington’s urging, the American Congress authorized establishment of a truly national army, much more similar to the European model of a professional army. The demands of a continental war required a national army that superseded the capacities of the colonial militia systems, and henceforth the militias functioned as auxiliaries and recruiting pools.

Bibliography Boucher, Ronald L. “The Colonial Militia as a Social Organization: Salem, Massachusetts, 1764-1775.” Military Affairs 37 (1973): 125-30. Cress, Lawrence Delbert. Citizens in Arms: The Army and the Militia in American Society to the War of 1812. Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 1982. Leach, Douglas Edward. “The Military System of Plymouth Colony.” New England Quarterly (1951): 342-364. Shy, John. “A New Look at the Colonial Militia.” William and Mary Quarterly 20 (1963): 175-85. Whisker, James Biser. The Rise and Decline of the American Militia System. London: Associated University Press, 1999.

Further Reading Anderson, Fred. A People’s Army: Massachusetts Soldiers and Society in the Seven Years’ War. Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 1984. Gross, Robert. The Minutemen and Their World. New York: Hill & Wang, 1976. Leach, Douglas Edward. Roots of Conflict: British Armed Forces and Colonial Americans, 1677-1763. Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 1986. Main, Jackson Turner. The Social Structure of Revolutionary America. Princeton, N. J.: Princeton University Press, 1965. Millis, Walter. Arms and Men: A Study in American Military History. New York: G. P. Putnam’s Sons, 1956.

Han Dynasty Frontier Armies



One of the key transformations of Chinese society during the Han was the abolition of universal military service, an institution that had underpinned the Warring States and the Qin.22 With the Han’s defeat of the feudatory kingdoms in 154 B.C., the possibility of large-scale warfare in the interior of China vanished, leaving only the threat of the Xiongnu on the northern border. The inability of peasants serving one-year terms to master horsemanship and the crossbow left them ill-equipped for expeditionary forces. Their relatively short terms also made them unsuitable for long-term garrison duty. Emperor Wu allowed some peasants to pay a tax in lieu of military service and used this money to recruit professionals. Nomadic enemies of the Xiongnu and dissident elements of the Xiongnu themselves were also recruited to provide skilled cavalry. In some cases convicts were sent to the frontiers to man garrisons. Thus, during the last century B.C. the Chinese army began to shift away from peasant levies to an army based on professionals, nomads, and criminals.

The rebellion against Wang Mang turned this gradual and informal process into official policy. The rebellion had demonstrated that peasant conscripts could be turned against the state, especially during the autumn training session, when adult males of a commandery gathered for inspection. It also showed that peasants would follow locally powerful families to whom they were bound rather than officials. Training peasants to fight thus simply provided potential rebels with a superior quality of soldier. Furthermore, in the course of the rebellions, much of the population had been displaced, and loss of registered population meant a drastic decrease in tax income for the court. Motivated by the need to decrease expenditures and reduce internal threats, and by the uselessness of conscripts on the frontier, the newly established Eastern Han regime abolished both the annual training sessions and the local military officials. This did away with a formal peasant army, and left only a small, professional army stationed around the capital.

Following the split of the Xiongnu into southern and northern confederacies in 48 A.D., nomads were internally resettled on a large scale. To supervise these new inhabitants, the Eastern Han government set up standing army commands in camps at the frontier, one command for each major nomadic group resettled in China. These standing armies were manned by professional Han soldiers. The total number of troops in the camps is not recorded, but scattered citations indicate that they were in the tens of thousands. These camps remained a permanent feature of the Han army, and their troops took part in most of the major campaigns of the second century A.D.

Expeditionary armies were distinct from the standing armies, and drew their forces primarily from resettled barbarians. Most of the cavalry in the campaigns of the first century A.D. that destroyed the Xiongnu confederacy consisted of nomad soldiers. The Han founder had already employed tribal soldiers during the civil war. After the reign of Emperor Wu, these tribes were usually classified as “dependent states” and allowed to keep their own leaders and customs, under the supervision of a commandant. But the Eastern Han went beyond the policy of “using barbarians to control barbarians.” Non-Han soldiers also quelled internal rebellions, much as foreign mercenaries did for monarchs in early modern Europe. The histories record more than fifty cases of the participation of non-Han soldiers in Chinese armies. Twenty-seven of these list no Han troops in the forces involved, and six were under the command of tribal chieftains.

From this evidence it is clear that after the middle of the first century A.D. the primary source of mounted warriors was non-Han soldiers. State-controlled grasslands and stables for rearing military horses, which the Western Han had maintained since the reign of Emperor Jing in the second century B.C., were largely abandoned. The warlords of the Three Kingdoms period (220-280 A.D.) continued to rely on non-Han peoples to provide their cavalry.

In addition to using non-Han troops in their army, the Han also paid bounties for the heads of slain enemies. Xianbei chieftains, before submitting to the Han, received payments for the heads of Xiongnu. In 58 A.D. they again received payments for crushing a force of invading Wuhuan, and at that time they formally submitted. They received annual payments of 270,000,000 cash, and in return they controlled the Wuhuan and killed Xiongnu. Thus the most common military man in the Eastern Han was the nomad warrior serving the empire under the command of his tribal chieftain.


In contrast with the Warring States period, when regional cultures constituted the primary divisions in the Chinese sphere, the imagining of a world divided between nomads and Chinese marked a major step. It posited the fundamental unity of a single Chinese civilization defined by what was not nomadic, and it reduced regional divisions to secondary status. China first emerged as a unity through the invention of a Chinese/ nomad dichotomy, and this bipolar concept remained central to Chinese civilization in later periods.

It is ironic, then, that the political partition of the world into two spheres lasted only a few decades. In spite of increasing payments, Xiongnu incursions did not cease. Each agreement lasted a few years, only to be broken by a new invasion, which was followed in turn by demands for a resumption of peaceful relations based on an increase in payments. The Chinese attributed this to barbarian perfidy, but it reflected the nature of the Xiongnu state. While the Chinese emperor was unchallenged as chief lawgiver, judge, and administrator, power within the Xiongnu state was constrained and divided by kin bonds, customary practice, and horizontal segmentation between clans or tribes. The chanyu maintained control over his subordinate chiefs only by constant negotiations in which he was first among equals rather than an absolute authority. Consensus on his power hinged on his success in battle and distribution of booty.

In such a system, the chanyu could not refrain from military action indefinitely. Nor could he stop his subordinates from attacking on their own, for the power and prestige of chiefs likewise depended on their success in battle and distribution of booty. Sometimes they invaded because of tensions with local Chinese officials, sometimes because of resentment of the chanyu. The he qin policy failed because it relied on a structure of authority that did not exist among the Xiongnu.19

As treaty after treaty was violated, debates at the Chinese court were increasingly dominated by calls for war. Decades of peace had given the Chinese time to develop a new style of army based on cavalry and crossbows that could successfully engage the Xiongnu in the field. In 134 B.C. Emperor Wu finally undertook to destroy the Xiongnu through military action. Although his attempted ambush of the chanyu failed, in the decades that followed, Chinese armies pushed deep into Central Asia and inflicted substantial losses of both men and flocks on the Xiongnu.

However, Han losses were also considerable, and repeated campaigns drained the treasury without achieving any decisive result. Difficulties in transporting supplies and harsh weather meant that no army could spend even as much as one hundred days in the field, so victories could not be translated into an enduring occupation. Emperor Wu’s successors consequently abandoned his policy of launching expeditions and instead retired behind a defensive line, while refusing to pay tribute. This policy was successful, for it deprived the chanyu of Han tribute and also reduced his role as defender against Han invasions. The position of the chanyu deteriorated, and in 120 B.C. a dissident Xiongnu king surrendered to the Han with 40,000 men. In subsequent decades other chiefs refused to attend the chanyu’s court.20 Between 115 and 60 B.C. the Han also secured control of the former Xiongnu sphere of influence in eastern Central Asia (modern Xinjiang).

A battle over succession split the Xiongnu empire in 57 B.C., with no fewer than five kings claiming the title of chanyu. After several years one king acknowledged Han suzerainty, visited the Han court, and resettled inside China. This proved to be highly advantageous, for in exchange for obeisance he received generous gifts from the Han. He repeated his visit to the court in 49 and 33 B.C. and sent a son there as a hostage, whose well-being depended on his father’s good conduct and who learned Han culture. The wealth that the vassal chieftain gained allowed him to build up his following and defeat his rivals. Eventually, he grew powerful enough to return to the north and resume the old pattern of demanding tribute, until a second succession struggle renewed the civil war in 48 A.D. This led to a permanent split between the southern Xiongnu, who dwelt in China and submitted to the emperor, and the northern Xiongnu, who resided beyond the boundaries of the Han empire.

The southern Xiongnu became dependent on Han assistance, as indicated in 88 A.D. in a memorial from the southern chanyu: “Your servant humbly thinks back on how since his ancestor submitted to the Han we have been blessed with your support, keeping a sharp watch on the passes and providing strong armies for more than forty years. Your subjects have been born and reared in Han territory and have depended entirely on the Han for food. Each year we received gifts counted in the hundreds of millions [of cash].”21 This policy of resettling nomads still grouped in their tribes inside the Chinese empire would have disastrous long-term consequences, as we will see, leading to a breakdown in civil order in the northwest and the southward flight of large numbers of Han Chinese.

Although the northern Xiongnu continued to defy the Han, they were defeated on several occasions by allied armies of the Han and the southern Xiongnu. Moreover, other tribal peoples such as the Wuhuan and Xianbei broke away from the Xiongnu and received large bounties from the Han for killing Xiongnu. In 87 A.D. a Xianbei army defeated the Xiongnu, killed the northern chanyu, and flayed his body. More than 200,000 Xiongnu tribesmen surrendered after this defeat, and a great Han victory in 89 A.D. completed the destruction of the Xiongnu state.