Dealey – The Destroyer Killer II

After depositing Ensign Galvin with his comrades, Dealey continued Harder’s patrol. As he cruised the area north of the western Caroline Islands, Dealey’s sub was spotted by Japanese planes, which called in the destroyer Ikazuchi to hunt the American down. By this time in the conflict the Japanese had themselves developed accurate sonar and the Japanese destroyer sent “ping” (the sound of the sonar’s emission) after “ping” in an attempt to find the US submarine. Destroyers were (and are) fast maneuverable ships, heavily armed and usually commanded by an aggressive captain. Killing an enemy destroyer was not only a feat, it was incredibly dangerous. One of the primary purposes of the destroyer in both WWII and today is that of submarine hunter. This time however, the Ikazuchi met her match.

Diving to avoid the spotter planes, and only coming to periscope depth briefly to chart the course of the Japanese destroyer, Commander Dealey let the Japanese ship get within 900 yards before opening fire. Harder’s torpedoes struck home and the Japanese vessel was torn apart, sinking in five minutes time and taking her crew with her to the bottom of the sea. At Navy Headquarters, Dealey’s after-action notice brought smiles. “Expended four torpedoes ad one Jap destroyer.” The legend of the Destroyer Killer had begun, and on the way the naval base at Fremantle, Australia, Harder added to her luster by sinking another Japanese freighter and bombard the island of Woleai with her deck gun for added measure. After three weeks of rest, resupply and repair in Fremantle, Dealey was ordered to take his sub on her fifth patrol, this time to lurk in the waters off the Japanese base at Tawi Tawi at the very southwest tip of the Philippine Islands.

While the men of the Allied forces were dropping into, landing on and shelling the beaches of Normandy on June 6th, 1944 the war continued in thousands of different actions around the globe. Busy also on the night of June 6th was Harder, which had been ordered to approach northwestern Borneo from her station off Tawi Tawi and pick up friendly guerrilla fighters from the Indonesian island.

As he passed through the Sibutu Strait between the island of Tawi Tawi and Sibutu Island, Dealey spotted three tankers and two destroyers – plum targets. As he was planning his attack, one of the Japanese destroyers noticed Harder and made full steam to attack her. As he had previously, Dealey let the submarine get close – 1,100 yards.

To illustrate how close this really is, imagine a 16-inch shell from a battleship. Just one shell can level an average house and leave a crater 200ft wide and many feet deep. The concussion from the explosion of a 16-inch shell can sometimes be felt for miles. Now realize that the torpedoes carried by most submarines in WWII were 21-inches in diameter, and packed with hundreds of pounds of explosives. Any closer than what Dealey had already chanced in his encounters could result in the sub being damaged or even sunk by the explosion or concussion of its own torpedoes.

At flank (full) speed, a Japanese destroyer could cover 1,100 yards in a minute or so. Once a destroyer closed to within one hundred yards or so, she would start to drop or launch her depth charges, and then the submariners were thrown into a nightmare that might end with the ocean rushing into their broken ship and extinguishing their lives far from another living soul.

When the Japanese warship was almost too close, Dealey fired three torpedoes that struck the enemy vessel (IJS Minatsuki) sinking her quickly, and almost losing his boat as the wreckage of the Japanese destroyer passed over his ship. By this time, the convoy and the remaining Japanese destroyer were miles away, and Dealey’s attempt to pursue came to naught.

On the morning of June 7th however, Dealey spotted another Japanese destroyer, IJS Hayanami, which she sank with another salvo of three torpedoes. On June 8th, Harder made the rendezvous with the guerrilla force, and began to head back to base.

As Harder entered the narrowest part of the strait between the islands, Dealey observed two more destroyers who were likely looking for him. Turning the tables on his pursuers, Dealey approached the destroyers undetected. As they passed by each other in his periscope, Dealey fired four torpedoes at the two subs. One destroyer, Tanikaze went shortly to the bottom. Dealey and his crew believed they had sunk the other Japanese ship as well, hearing further explosions, but this was likely the sound of the Tanikaze’s ammunition exploding as she sank.

Harder’s after action report relating this event reads:

Commenced firing the bow tubes. No. 1 appeared to pass just ahead of the first destroyer, No. 2 struck it near the bow, No. 3 hit just under the destroyer’s bridge, and No. 4 passed astern of the near target. The sub was now swung hard right to avoid hitting the first destroyer and fire was withheld on remaining tubes until a new setup could be put into the T.D.C. for an attack on the second destroyer. About thirty seconds after turning, the second destroyer came into view just astern of what was left of the first one, then burning furiously. Just then No. 4 torpedo, which had passed astern of the first target, was heard and observed to hit the second target. – (No more torpedoes were needed for either.)

Meanwhile, a heavy explosion, believed to be caused by an exploding boiler on the first destroyer, went off and the sub (then about 400 yards away) was heeled over by the concussion. At almost the same time a blinding explosion took place on the second destroyer (probably his ammunition going off) and it took a quick nosedive. When last observed, by the Commanding Officer and Executive Officer, the tail of the second destroyer was straight in the air and the first destroyer had disappeared. “Sound” now, reported, “No more screws.”

The above listed pandemonium may not be in exact chronological order but is as accurate as the happenings over that eventful few minutes can be remembered.

CDR Dealey wearing the Navy Cross presented to him by Vice Admiral Lockwood 19 October 1943.

On June 10, having deposited his passengers, Dealey returned to station near Tawi Tawi and it was there that she ran across the kind of prize a submarine captain dreams of – a convoy of three battleships, four cruisers and a number of escorting destroyers. A target like this was not going to be easy and unprepared and the Japanese had a number of observation planes aloft, one of which spotted Harder. As one of the screening destroyers steamed toward his position, Dealey sent three torpedoes her way and dove deep. Though they heard explosions of some kind, the Harder did not sink a Japanese ship that day. What did happen was that she had to endure the nightmare described on the preceding page? Two hours of Japanese depth charges and prayers that none of them would crack the Harder in two below the waves, or destroy her engines, in which case the crew would suffocate after their oxygen was depleted.

Luckily, for Dealey and the crew of the Harder, none of the enemy’s depth charges hit home and after two tense hours, Dealey surfaced the boat to find the Japanese vessel gone. On June 21st, Harder reached home. News of her exploits had preceded her and her captain was informally referred to as the “Destroyer Killer”. An indirect effect of Dealey’s success was the decision made by the Japanese Navy to abandon the Tawi Tawi base as untenable – and when the Japanese fleet there left, it was decided by the Japanese High Command to attempt to chase the Americans from the Philippine Sea. The resulting battle of the Philippine Sea and the aerial battle known famously as the “Great Marianas Turkey Shoot” were in a way caused by Dealey and his success in the Sibutu Strait. For his actions in the Tawi Tawi area, Dealey was later awarded the Medal of Honor.

While in Darwin, Dealey had the unenviable job of taking a desk bound admiral out on a short combat patrol so that officer could at least say he had seen some action during the war. In the course of the weeklong sortie, Dealey pursued a number of targets, including a cruiser, but was not able to close within range. He was also forced underwater for close to two days by Japanese observation planes overhead.

When he returned the admiral back to Australia, it was suggested to Dealey that he retire from combat command and allow a younger man to take over his sub. While Dealey knew he was pushing the odds, he asked to take Harder out on one more patrol to train new crewmen who had never seen combat.

Dealey’s sixth war patrol began on August 5, 1944 with Dealey in command of a five submarine wolfpack. The son and namesake of Fleet Admiral Chester Nimitz, one of the great leaders of World War II, commanded one sub, the USS Haddo. At Paluan Bay in the Philippines, Dealey’s wolfpack sank four merchantmen to no losses, but Harder did not score any of the kills herself.

Dealey and Nimitz then split from the other three subs and headed towards Manila Bay, where they picked up three survivors of the convoy they had attacked shortly before. Both commanders racked up one kill each and shared another, sending more ships and supplies to the bottom.

The two commanders then moved north along the Philippines’ largest island of Luzon and were to rendezvous with another sub, the USS Hake, when they ran across the destroyer Asakaze. Nimitz slammed two torpedoes into the Japanese ship and turned for base, out of ammunition. Dealey, met by Hake, remained outside the bay where they believed the destroyer had been towed waiting for it or other Japanese ships to emerge.

The next morning, August 24 1944, a Japanese destroyer and minesweeper emerged from the bay. As Dealey’s comrades on the Hake pursued her as she turned back into the bay (and escaped), Harder was left to deal with the minesweeper that was unusually aggressive and was pinging her sonar madly in apparent pursuit of Harder. The Commander Frank Haylor and the crew of the Hake heard the sonar pings as the Japanese ship moved out of the bay towards Dealey and his boat. At 6.47am, Haylor caught sight of Harder’s periscope – the last trace anyone ever saw of Dealey and his crew. A bit more than a half hour later, Hake heard fifteen explosions as the minesweeper dropped depth charges near where Harder had last been seen. Evading Japanese ships through the day Hake stayed in the area and surfaced at night to look for any trace of the Harder or its crew and found none. Over the next two weeks, Hake patrolled the area, hoping that somehow members of Harder’s crew had made it to shore, but no one was ever found. After the war, the report of the Japanese minesweeper was found and her captain reported oil, wood and cork floating in the area where Harder had been.

Captain Dealey and his crew had been lost forever. Harder had been responsible for the sinking of 18 Japanese ships making Captain Dealey the fifth ranking US Navy submarine ace of the war.

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CORPS FIRE-BRIGADE

It had been quiet in Kovel sector for eight days. The enemy’s efforts slackened noticeably and there were rumors that the Red Army was preparing a major offensive. The high commands of the armed forces (OKW) and the army (OKH) were convinced that it was going to come in the Kovel-Ternopol area and would thus be directed mainly against Army Group North Ukraine. Following the pitiless and desperate fighting southwest of Kovel during the winter and spring of 1944, intelligence confirmed the buildup of enemy forces opposite Army Group North Ukraine. No one knew that this was an elaborate ruse on the part of the Soviets. They had simulated a massive buildup by running numerous empty trains into this area. As a result, the German command decided to launch a major asault to clear the situation in the Kovel area. The attack, which was proposed by Feldmarschall Model (the commander in chief of Army Group North Ukraine), required the transfer south of significant tank forces from Army Group Center.

In Army Group North Ukraine’s sector a total of eight panzer and two panzer-grenadier divisions were supposed to prevent the enemy from breaking through Lvov and Warsaw to Königsberg and cutting off both Army Group North and Army Group Center.

As part of this concentration of forces on 8 May the Panzer Regiment Wiking was withdrawn from Fortress Kovel and was moved to Maciejow as corps reserve. At 4:30 P.M. on that May day—exactly one year before the end of the war—Standartenführer Hannes Mühlenkamp reported to the command post of the LVI Panzer Corps. The corps, which was commanded by General Hossbach, had been reduced to the 4th Panzer Division, the 101st Mountain Division and the 26th and 131st Infantry Divisions. The corps’ chief of staff, General Staff Oberst von Bonin, explained the situation to Standartenführer Mühlenkamp:

“Mühlenkamp, as your regiment is the armored reserve group I am giving it the job of conducting reconnaissance for counterattacks by the 4th Panzer Division and the 26th, 131st and 342nd Infantry Divisions. You are to scout all the roads thoroughly and establish contact with the named divisions immediately.”

The Panzer Regiment Wiking had become the “corps fire-brigade.”

The Soviet offensive began early on the morning of 22 June 1944. The Germans were taken completely by surprise, for instead of Army Group North Ukraine the attack struck the entire front of Army Group Center.

Thirty-eight German divisions (not one of which was a panzer division) manning an arc-shaped sector of front 1,100 kilometers long faced an onslaught by 185 Russian divisions with approximately 2,500,000 men attacking on a 700-kilometer front. This huge army was spearheaded by 6,100 tanks and self-propelled guns. 45,000 guns began the offensive with a barrage that lasted up to 14 hours. 7,000 Soviet aircraft of all types, including the feared Il-2 “Butchers,” supported the attack. Never before had the Russian theater seen such a concentration of men and arms.

Facing this tremendous military force were 500,000 German troops, of whom 400,000 were in defensive positions. At this critical hour Army Group Center lacked the armored divisions which had been transferred to the northern Ukraine. It lacked the heavy weapons which were necessary to halt the Russian steamroller.

At approximately 10 P.M. on 22 June 1944 the decimated II Battalion was handed over to Hauptsturmführer Reicher. At that point in time none of the men were aware of the catastrophe that was taking place to the north of them. All remained quiet in the Kovel area. This was exactly the opposite of what the OKH had predicted. The experts had made a fundamental miscalculation. In no way was Kovel the beginning or the end point of the Soviet offensive.

Bit by bit reports of the catastrophic events of the Russian offensive trickled through to the officers of the Mühlenkamp regiment. When the regiment was then moved into a quartering area west of Kovel and was subordinated to the LVI Panzer Corps again, everyone was convinced that things were going to “get going” there too.

The units moved into their old quartering areas near Maciejow and Tupaly. There followed a time of hectic transfers and subordinations, however the tank crews were unaffected. There were several minor actions in the period until 6 July, but then all hell broke loose in the Kovel area again. The men of the Panzer Regiment Wiking were called upon to fight one more battle near Kovel, which would demand the utmost of all of them.

“Gentlemen, the situation of Army Group Center forces us to also withdraw our lines step by step. On 6 July we fall back to the Red Line, one day later to the Green Line, and so on. ‘Battle Group Mühlenkamp’ will remain in the Kovel area to cover our withdrawal movements until all of the infantry units have gone. Standartenführer Mühlenkamp, your job is to hold the enemy until the infantry has reached the new line and dug itself in.” Hannes Mühlenkamp now had a clear picture of the situation. Army Group Center’s situation was desperate. On 5 July it had just six infantry divisions left. The huge pocket between Minsk and Baranovichi had been closed and it could be only hours before the last divisions were destroyed.

At 1:15 P.M. II Battalion reported through Obersturmführer Nicolussi-Leck that enemy infantry assembly areas had been located in the Dolhonosy area.

“Place artillery fire on those assembly areas,” ordered Mühlenkamp. The few guns available now tried to destroy the enemy positions, but the blows they inflicted on the enemy were little more than fly bites.

Russian bombers flew over the positions and bombed II Battalion’s assembly areas. At 2:45 P.M. it was reported to Hauptsturmführer Reicher, the new battalion commander, that the enemy was attacking from the wood northeast of Nowe Koscary with seventeen tanks and infantry.

Just as he was about to issue the order for a company to prepare to head for the threatened area, the entire “Battle Group Mühlenkamp” received the following radio message from LVI Panzer Corps: “The battle group is to transfer into the Smydin area immediately.”

That was at 2:50. Ten minutes later the regiment’s operations section and II Battalion, Panzer Regiment Wiking departed for the assigned area. Two-and-a-half hours later the battle group, which was still corps reserve, readied itself in a wood south of Smydin. The regiment’s armored pioneer company received orders to immediately scout bridges and roads for the Panthers. Hauptsturmführer Schliack, the company commander, set to work at once.

While the period of Battle Group Mühlenkamp’s preparations had been relatively quiet, during the night of 6 July the sporadic artillery fire intensified all along the front. The first enemy attacks followed, on the left sector of the division’s front. At 4:35 A.M. the Division Ia called. He said: “The enemy attacked during the night from the wood northeast of Kruhel towards Kruhel and has broken into the main line of resistance. He is now contnuing to advance south from the eastern outskirts of Kruhel towards the wooded area west of Novy Koscary and has already destroyed two forward antitank guns. There exists the danger that the enemy will advance farther to the west towards Krasnoduby.”

The first II Battalion tanks went into action, but it soon became apparent that the enemy was not going to attack on this day, for his tanks only felt their way forward, apparently seeking a weak spot. Further withdrawals followed during the night, but at 4:30 A.M. 7th Company was ordered into the Smydin bridgehead and subordinated to III Battalion, Germania Regiment. The rest of the operational Panther battalion took shelter in Maciejow. During this night the enemy artillery fire intensified to near barrage level. Shells howled down on the assembly areas and plowed up the ground. Miraculously only minor damage was done and there were no serious casualties.

A message arrived from the 4th Panzer Division: “Maximum readiness! The enemy will probably soon begin his breakthrough attempt at this spot.”

Mühlenkamp passed the word for everyone to remain on defensive alert. Days earlier he had reported an amazing discovery to General Hossbach and his chief of staff: “The terrain facing our front, which is considered too swampy for tanks to cross, has been drying up so much that tanks can drive 100 meters farther every day. A surprise attack must be expected soon.”

But Oberst von Bonin, who usually received such information by telephone or telex, obviously did not take the report seriously. On 6 July General Hossbach came and together with Mühlenkamp watched a test drive a Panther. These firsthand investigations and their results were more persuasive than the dissenting views of his chief of staff. In fact the swamps had dried up so much that a general attack by the enemy had to be expected. Furthermore, increasing tank noises had been heard from the forests southwest of Kovel in recent nights. The enemy was believed to be massing strong armored forces there.

“What do you think the enemy will try, Mühlenkamp?” the commanding general asked the battle group commander.

“I expect that the enemy will try to break through to the Bug in the direction of Cholm in one go. That would explain the strong concentration of tanks opposite our front. Afterwards the enemy will try to close the bag around our entire corps.”

“Is that your whole supporting argument?”

“Reconnaissance results also clearly point toward it. I must therefore request that I be allowed to redirect my tanks, which might be simply overrun here in the forest positions, to more favorable positions.”

“Well, we will see,” said General Hossbach. The general drove back to his corps headquarters and only after much back and forth was the order for the requested change of positions issued by the chief of staff, Oberst von Bonin.

Mühlenkamp moved his panzers into the back slope position in the Maciejow area. This was his only chance of stopping the expected armored assault by the enemy. The move was carried out during the afternoon hours of 6 July. Prior to this, however, 8th Company determined that the enemy was massing infantry forces in front of it in the Dolhonosy area.

A heavy air raid struck the German main line of resistance at 12:15 P.M. on 7 July. Heavy bombs fell southeast of the tank assembly area. This had to be the attack!

“Attention, enemy tanks ahead!”

The commander of the Eighth had been the first to spot the 17 heavy tanks and following infantry which had set off from the wood south of Novy Koscary.

“To all tanks: fire at will!”

The first armor-piercing shells were fired at the enemy. Several Russian tanks were disabled with track and roadwheel damage, while others caught fire before they could open fire on the defenders’ favorable position. The surviving Soviet tanks pulled back. Then came hundreds of bombers and close-support aircraft. They attacked the positions, but fortunately Mühlenkamp, the consummate chess player, had moved his tanks elsewhere. The attack forced the infantry to take cover. Bombs howled earthward and explosions shook the ground. The “butchers” raked the German positions with cannon and machine-gun fire. The attempt to force a breakthrough was in full swing.

Now the main force of Soviet tanks—more than 400 vehicles—attacked north of Maciejow. Their direction of advance was due west. They rolled past the Panthers of II Battalion waiting in their hull-down positions. The tank commanders and gunners could scarcely believe their eyes when they saw this seemingly endless mass of steel.

“Olin, where are you?” Have you reached your position?” Mühlenkamp called to the Finnish Obersturmführer. The latter had remained with the panzer regiment after the Finnish battalion had returned to the division.

“Olin to commander: have reached the special position, see the tanks, are in good firing range.Request permission for my five Panthers to fire.”

“Let the first ten pass by. Then knock out the first and the last, the rest will be stuck.”

“As you order, Standartenführer.”

Seconds later Mühlenkamp heard and saw the flash of gunfire from the direction of the Finn’s position and soon the first Soviet tank was in flames. Thirty seconds later the tenth was knocked out and Olin’s Panthers destroyed the rest in succession. The full attention of the Soviet tank units was then directed at Olin, and it was at that moment that Mühlenkamp acted.

“All tanks open fire. Maximum rate of fire, aim carefully!”

The Panthers in the hull-down position fired their 75-mm guns almost simultaneously. After the first salvo the battlefield resembled a huge junk yard. Dozens of enemy tanks lay on the plain, shot-up, burning, ammunition exploding. Then the second salvo went out, inflicting the same devastation and soon fifty of the at least 400 enemy tanks were in flames or disabled wrecks. The Panthers fired for thirty minutes and for thirty minutes the Soviet tanks attempted to escape. They rolled into ravines but were pursued and knocked out. When the sound of battle ebbed, 103 enemy tanks, including some of the newest and heaviest types, lay destroyed on the battlefield.

Mühlenkamp’s report of the destruction of 103 enemy tanks appears to have met with disbelief from General Hossbach, for he sent Oberstleutnant Peter Sauerbruch to count the knocked-out tanks on the battlefield. When the officer was finished he had counted—103 wrecks. At least 150 more enemy tanks had been damaged in this duel of armor and had sought shelter in the forests. The regimental commander of one of these units was found in his shot-up tank. Found on him was a situation map, on which was marked the main direction of the Russian tank attack: Kovel-Cholm-Bug!

The Soviet tank units had been ordered to avoid costly battles and instead drive through as quickly as possible and at all costs seize the sole still intact bridge over the Bug, and establish a bridgehead for the infantry on the far side. Had the enemy succeeded in accomplishing this, all of the Hossbach corps and possible even the entire 4th Panzer Army would have been lost. Mühlenkamp had averted this threat with his tactical chess move and had inflicted a severe blow on the enemy. For the second time he had saved Kovel and the German front there. For this feat he was recommended for the Oak Leaves and he was awarded the coveted decoration on 29 September 1944.

The second great defensive success at Kovel was announced in the Wehrmacht communique of 11 July 1944 and the battle group of the Wiking Division under Standartenführer Mühlenkamp was identified by name.

Several days later in an interview for German radio, Mühlenkamp revealed the secret of his success: “Standartenführer,” they asked him, “your battle group was deployed to cover the withdrawal movements here in the Kovel area. This movement has since been completed with no pressure from the enemy and was also planned without pressure from the enemy. How did you manage to turn this plan into reality?”

“The Soviets appeared here with masses of tanks such as, to my knowledge, had never been seen before. They had new guns and heavier armor. But this battle of a few against many demonstrated the superiority of our new Panther tank. It is especially significant that not one of our tanks became a total loss in this tough battle.

This is due to the bravery and steadfastness of our crews as well as to the quality of our equipment. They are all men who have been with me for years and whose soldierly behaviour and accomplishments are beyond praise. My special thanks go to these brave tank soldiers, and I am glad that I can speak to you at this place once again.”

The following members of the Waffen-SS were decorated with the Knight’s Cross or a higher grade of this decoration for their actions in the Battle of Kovel:

Knight’s Cross with Oak Leaves, Swords and Diamonds:

Herbert Gille, SS-Gruppenführer, on 20/4/1944

Knight’s Cross with Swords:

Hans Dorr, SS-Sturmbannführer, on 9/7/1944

Knight’s Cross with Oak Leaves:

Johann Mühlenkamp, SS-Standartenführer, on 21/9/1944

Knight’s Cross:

SS-Obersturmführer Karl Nicolussi-Leck, on 9/4/1944

SS-Obersturmführer Otto Schneider, on 4/5/1944

SS-Untersturmführer Alfred Grossrock, on 12/8/1944

SS-Sturmbannführer Franz Hack, on 14/5/1944

Henry Every I

An Englishman named Henry Every, alias John Avery, alias “Long Ben” Avery, called in his time “the Arch-Pirate.”

In May 1694, when King William’s War against Louis XIV was in its fifth indecisive year, the English privateer Charles II lay at anchor in the port of La Coruña, in Spain.

A swift-sailing, well-armed fighting ship, the Charles II carried forty-six cannon and a crew of 120 tough veterans of privateering campaigns in the Caribbean. She had been chartered in Bristol by the Spanish government, England’s new ally against the French. Her mission was to intercept French smugglers operating in Spain’s Caribbean colonies.

It was not much of a charter, for there was little chance that French smugglers, even if they could be caught, would yield much plunder. Prize money, therefore, would be meager. On the other hand, privateering ventures had become scarcer than sober sailors since the war with France had commenced. For that reason any seafarer who wanted to avoid service in the navy or aboard a merchant ship was glad to take whatever privateering berth presented itself, even if it was only a punitive expedition against smugglers. Recruiters, therefore, had had no trouble signing men aboard the Charles II.

The Charles II, however, was not a happy ship.

Although her crewmen—as employees of the Spanish government—had been promised regular pay (in addition to shares in any booty they might capture from French smugglers), they had received no salary since signing aboard and they were grumbling openly.

But despite the complaints of the crew, the commander of the Charles II, a certain Captain Gibson, did nothing to improve the situation. According to that omniscient chronicler Daniel Defoe, Captain Gibson was a man “mightily addicted to Punch,” and usually drank himself into a stupor each night. It is likely that Gibson was too drunk or hung over most of the time to know, or care, about the plummeting morale of his crew.

Further aggravating the unhappiness aboard the Charles II was the fact that neither Captain Gibson nor the Spanish government seemed in any hurry to speed her on her mission to the Caribbean where her disaffected crew would at least get a chance to obtain some plunder. Although it was months since Spanish officials had chartered her, the Charles II had still gotten no farther than the port of La Coruña where, as the month of May waned, she was delayed again, waiting this time to take on additional passengers and stores for the long voyage across the Atlantic, while her crew seethed with resentment.

If Captain Gibson was unaware of—or unconcerned with—the tension aboard his ship, there was one officer of the Charles II who was very much aware of it. This was the ship’s forty-year-old sailing master, or first officer, Henry Every, who was soon to become the most celebrated pirate of his time.

According to contemporaries, Every was a man of middle height, stocky, with a tendency to run to fat. Clean-shaven, as the fashion was, he had a florid complexion—one that would redden, rather than tan, in the sun—and cold eyes that looked out upon the world with unswerving directness from under heavy lids. In dress he was far from a dandy, usually favoring a rather plain costume by the standards of the time: a tricorn hat, breeches and buckled shoes, and a plain, longish waistcoat that did not flatter his somewhat corpulent figure.

Every more than compensated for his physical shortcomings, however, with an intimidating personality, a cunning intelligence, and a frigid and ruthless competence that caused other men to defer to him. Although Every’s associates acknowledged his courage and his daring in action, all recognized that it was his capacity to contrive clever plans and then to execute them with cold, undeviating purposefulness, that truly set Every apart from the simple men who sailed with him.

The incidents of Every’s career reveal him as one of that rarest of human creatures: a completely selfish man. He seems to have known at all times exactly what he wanted, and exactly what to do to obtain what he wanted. Nor did he scruple at any wrongdoing to achieve his ends. He was a man who always maintained control of himself. He did not drink, for example, although he operated in an environment in which drunkenness was a way of life. He seldom betrayed anger either, although he would occasionally feign it for effect. Self-disciplined himself, Every overflowed with contempt for the weak-minded and ignorant men around him. Yet he managed to hide his disdain behind a mask of good nature in order to get these simpler souls to do his will.

(At least one contemporary source says that Every was often “insolent” and that he gave himself the airs of a monarch. As if to underscore this judgment, he is depicted in some old woodcuts wearing fancy clothing and accompanied by a black slave who holds a parasol over his head to shield him from the sun. Given the character of Every that comes through in his career, however, it seems highly unlikely that he ever really adopted such royal airs. It is far more probable that, if he ever did behave in this manner, it was a pose he employed to achieve some devious purpose of his own. Other contemporary illustrations show a rather portly, heavy-lidded Every with a cynical half smile on his face. These portraits seem much more characteristic of the man. It is easy to imagine the smile of this Every turning into a snarl. It is also easy to imagine the man depicted in these illustrations speaking soothing, convincing words in a soft, velvety voice—and then cocking his pistols and coolly blowing his hearer’s brains out.)

While it is necessary to infer much of Every’s character from contemporary accounts and from events in his career, a few solid facts do exist about his early life.

He was born near Plymouth, England, about 1653, the son of poverty-stricken parents. He went to sea as a boy some time around 1665 and is supposed to have served in the Royal Navy in the Mediterranean. Bright and willing, he learned to read and write, a rare accomplishment among ordinary sailors of the time. He also had a predilection for mathematics, and became a first-class navigator. While still a young man—despite the pervasive prejudices of the day—he became a ship’s officer, serving aboard a series of merchant vessels. At one point he served aboard a slave ship that worked the west coast of Africa in the service of the royal governor of Bermuda. He apparently employed his native ruthlessness and persuasiveness to good effect in filling the holds of his ships with human cargo, for he soon gained a reputation along the coast as a most successful practitioner of the gruesome trade in “black ivory.” He must have remained in the slave trade for a number of years, because as late as 1693, a Royal African Company officer wrote: “I have no where upon the coast met the negroes so shy as here, which makes me fancy they have had tricks play’d them by such blades as Long Ben, alias Every, who have seiz’d and carry’d them away.”

Probably it was while employed in the vile slave trade that Henry Every gained both his knowledge of command and the deep streak of contempt for humanity that was so evident in his piratical career.

In any event, Every had long since made himself into a master mariner and a practiced manipulator of men when, in May 1694, he found himself serving aboard the privateer Charles II.

Although nominally second-in-command under the drunken Captain Gibson, there is little doubt that Every was, in fact, the real leader of the discontented crew of the Charles II. He had helped recruit many of the ship’s crew off the docks of Bristol. Many of them, no doubt, had sailed with him on slaving voyages in the past. They would have had no hesitancy about disclosing to Henry Every their dissatisfaction about the Charles II’s cruise—and he would have had no scruple about manipulating the crew’s ire for his purposes.

The men aboard the Charles II must have already heard the first reports of the voyage of Captain Thomas Tew in the Amity, and the rich score that he had made. There must have been many nights, as the Charles II lay at La Coruña and Captain Gibson lay drunk in his cabin, when Henry Every whispered to his shipmates that they too might become rich. They had only to seize the Charles II and take her to the East.

Doubtless Every, using such blandishments, had little trouble recruiting a full complement of mutineers.

(It is not beyond the realm of possibility, as some suggest, that Every had planned to seize the Charles II from the very outset of her cruise. Given his devious nature, he might very well have recruited some of his old Bristol shipmates from slaving days specifically for purposes of mutiny.)

Having made sure of sufficient support among the crew, Every set forth a simple straightforward plan for taking the Charles II.

Every’s plan revolved around the fact that it was captain Gibson’s habit to go ashore almost every night and get blind drunk in a favorite tavern. He suggested that the mutineers simply wait for a night when the tide would be running out to sea and the moon obscured. While Captain Gibson was ashore getting drunk, they would take control of the ship and set adrift any dissenters to their enterprise. Then, after riding the tide far enough offshore, they would set sail and be away to gain their fortune. All agreed with Every’s scheme.

But on the designated night, Captain Gibson did not go ashore. Instead he got drunk in his cabin.

The cool Every merely altered his plan.

He waited until the captain had drunk himself into his usual stupor. Then Every and his mutineers weighed anchor—so stealthily that they neither woke the drunken captain nor disturbed other members of the crew asleep below.

They headed the Charles II out to sea on the tide. Defoe tells the story from this point on in crisp detail.

The Charles II was far offshore when at last the motion of the ship and the sound of the sails being worked finally roused Captain Gibson.

The befuddled captain rang the bell in his cabin, signaling for his second-in-command. Every, who had been expecting the summons, entered the captain’s cabin accompanied by two of his mutineers. (It is easy to imagine the portly Every, with a cocked pistol in his belt, smiling down on the confused, disheveled Gibson sprawled out in his nightshirt on his bunk.)

“What is the matter?” asked Captain Gibson, sitting up and pointing to the lamp in his cabin, swinging with the movement of the ship. “What is the matter?”

“Nothing is the matter,” Every replied smoothly.

“Something’s the matter with this ship,” insisted Gibson, emerging now a little further out of his alcoholic fog. “What weather is it?”

“No, no,” soothed Every. “We’re at sea with a fair wind and good weather.”

“At sea!” the captain cried. “How can that be?”

“Come,” Every murmured, the smile remaining on his face. “Don’t be in a fright. Put on your clothes, and I’ll let you into a secret.”

Now, as the astounded Captain Gibson listened wide-eyed and struggled into his clothes, Every matter-of-factly spelled out the new status of the Charles II and those who sailed in her.

Said Every: “You must know that I am captain of this ship now, and this is my cabin; therefore you must walk out. I am bound to Madagascar, with a design of making my own fortune, and that of all the brave fellows joined with me.”

Every, maintaining his tone of sweet reason, then went on to explain that Captain Gibson had only two choices open to him. He could join the mutiny as Every’s second-in-command (provided he was willing to give up drinking), or Every would give him a ship’s boat and let him find his way to shore.

Captain Gibson recognized that he no longer commanded his ship. He chose to be set ashore. Every agreed. The mutiny was over.

Now, with his purpose accomplished, Every and his mutineers called together the rest of the crew. Every explained what had happened, and the mission he now proposed for the Charles II. The great majority of the crew overwhelmingly approved Every’s enterprise and enthusiastically elected him captain.

Six crewmen who did not endorse Every or his program were then put into an open boat along with the deposed Captain Gibson and allowed to row back to La Coruña. (By the time they reached the safety of the port, and told their story, Every was far out of reach.)

Every now renamed the ship the Fancy—a name soon to become famous. He then ran up the flag of St. George—a banner flown by many English ships—and his own personal flag: four silver chevrons on a red field, a flag soon to become infamous. He then set a course that would take Fancy around the Cape of Good Hope to the East, where Tew had won his fortune.

It was not long before Fancy took her first victims. In the vicinity of the Cape Verde Islands, located off the northwest coast of Africa, Every halted three English ships and helped himself to supplies from their larders. Although minor in scope, this offense against English ships was, in fact, an unpardonable act of piracy, one that put Every and his men irrevocably outside the law. Perhaps the devious Every deliberately chose to plunder these English ships in order to commit his men to him and to their mission. In any event, Fancy continued on her voyage southward along the African coast. Along the way she took two Danish ships, which yielded only a few ounces of gold for each man in Every’s crew. But it was a taste of what was to come.

After rounding the Cape of Good Hope, Every fetched up at Johanna Island, a pleasant, well-watered island just off the northwest corner of Madagascar. Johanna was a popular place for mariners to victual, water, and clean their hulls. Here Every careened the Fancy and scraped her hull of marine growth so that she would slide more smoothly through the water. He also took this opportunity to remove much of Fancy’s “upperwork” such as her deck cabins, forecastle bulwarks, and hatches. The idea was to achieve a “flush” deck that would give her more speed—a crucial requirement, Every felt, for success in the mission ahead.

While at Johanna an incident occurred that further illustrates Every’s capacity to make swift, unsentimental judgments for the benefit of himself and his enterprise.

A French pirate ship, loaded with loot taken from Mogul ships, came into Johanna for water.

Every quickly assembled his men and pointed out that England and France were at war. He then suggested that it was their duty to their king to seize the French pirate. To the ordinary sailors who heard Every, the proposition seemed plausible, not to mention attractive. Without hesitation Every’s men piled aboard the French pirate, and soon took control of the ship and her contents.

Every then invited the defeated French crew to join the crew of Fancy. Most of them, along with a dozen other Frenchmen, who had previously been shipwrecked at Johanna, did so with alacrity, obviously impressed with Every. They no doubt saw clearly that service with a captain who knew what he wanted and how to get it would bring considerable profit.

While at Johanna, Every also composed a cunning letter that he gave to a native chief to pass on to the first English ship that arrived in the harbor after he had departed. It is classical Every:

To All English Commanders:

Let this satisfy that I was riding here at this instant in the ship Fancy, man-of-war, formerly the Charles of the Spanish Expedition who departed from La Coruña 7th May 1694, being then and now a ship of 46 guns, 150 men and bound to seek our fortunes. I have never as yet wronged any English or Dutch or ever intend whilst I am Commander. Wherefore as I commonly speak with all ships, I desire whoever comes to the perusal of this to take this signal, that if you or any whom you may inform are desirous to know what we are at a distance, then make your ancient [ship’s flag] up in a ball or bundle and hoist him at the mizzen peak, the mizzen being furled. I shall answer with the same, and never molest you, for my men are hungry, stout, and resolute, and should they exceed my desire I cannot help myself. As yet, an Englishman’s friend, At Johanna 18th February 1695

Henry Every

P.S. Here is 160 odd French armed men at Mohilla who waits for opportunity for getting any ship, take care of yourselves.

This mixture of threats and assurances was received by the English captain of an East Indiaman only a few days after Every sailed north from Johanna. It was eventually forwarded to London with a request for stronger measures against the growing pirate menace in the Indian Ocean.

Every’s purpose in writing this cleverly contrived letter was to confuse the authorities regarding his purpose. He had hoped, also, to give the impression that if his men committed crimes, it was beyond his power to stop them, and he should not be held accountable. Always thinking of himself above all, Every appears to be trying to disassociate himself personally, in advance, from the crimes that he knew he and his men would soon be committing. By adding the postscript about the French threat at Mohilla (Mohéli), he was probably attempting to convince the ultimate readers of the letter, the authorities in London, that despite all appearances to the contrary, he remained a loyal Englishman in service to the king.

But Every’s ploy, which he had probably regarded as a long shot in any case, failed to achieve its purpose. The authorities in London set Henry Every down in their books as an outright pirate.

 

Henry Every II

The “Ganj-i-Sawai”, being pursued by several smaller pirate ships, including “The Fancy” Avery’s pirates waited by the Red Sea to hijack the ships carrying the valuable cargo, treasures, and pilgrims.; but proceeded to kidnap some locals who confirmed that the “Moor[ish]” fleet was making its way to Surat from Mocha. The Mughal Fleet passed by the pirates under the cover of night, but Avery had found this too late, launching an immediate and zealous pursuit. One of their ships, “The Dolphin”, could not pick up significant speed and so was abandoned and burned. Whatever crew was left from this ship was added to “The Fancy”. The other ships that were able to carry on were the “Pearl”, “Portsmouth Adventure” and “The Amity”; the others were similarly left behind. The “Fateh Muhammed”, not knowing “The Fancy” was full of pirates came within a pistol shot of the pirates who overtook its autonomy. The cargo from this ship alone was worth between £50,000—£60,000 pounds, including having carried silver and gold. The “Ganj-i-Sawai” (anglicized; “Gunsway”), was better armed with 40—80 cannons/guns and 400—500 fighting men, and was also personally owned by Emperor Aurangzeb. The battle lasted for 2—3 hours. Tragically, the “Ganj-i-Sawai’s” attempts to set fire to “The Fancy” fell through when one of its own guns exploded killing many on board, causing significant damage. The pirates guns also managed to ruin the mainmast, rooting the ship to its spot. This gave the pirates an immense amount of morale. Afterwards, Avery’s men said they would give mercy on the condition of surrender, however the pirates raped and murdered for at least a week after.

Meanwhile, Fancy was on her way northward, bound for the mouth of the Red Sea. Every’s plan was to patrol the narrow Gulf of Aden where he hoped to seize a rich, Moorish ship on her way to or from India. (English-speaking sailors began around this time to call all Muslim vessels “Moorish.”)

On the voyage from Johanna to the Red Sea, Fancy was joined by two smaller pirate ships from America. It was agreed the two Americans would operate jointly with Fancy, and that Every would serve as overall commander of the little fleet.

In August 1695, Every and his companion ships arrived at their destination and began their predatory patrol. Every soon learned from Muslim fisherman he had captured that the annual convoy of the Great Mogul’s treasure ships was due to leave soon from the Red Sea port of Mocha for the return trip to India. The Arab prisoners said that in addition to precious cargoes of gold, jewels, and silks, the Mogul fleet would also be carrying wealthy pilgrims, returning home to India after visiting the Holy City of Mecca. Every ordered a round-the-clock watch for the Moorish convoy.

Now, as Fancy and her consorts waited for their Mogul prey to appear, two more American ships came into the area. One of them turned out to be the famed Amity, under the celebrated Captain Tew. The newcomers also agreed to join the pirate flotilla under Henry Every’s command.

Day after day the pirate ships cruised, scouring the area for their victims. Although each ship patrolled independently, each kept within range of the flagship, the Fancy.

Then, on a moonless night, the Mogul convoy sailed. Despite the sharp vigil being kept aboard the pirate ships, the Mogul fleet, twenty-five ships in all, slipped past the pirate lookouts unseen.

When the sun rose the next morning the enraged pirates discovered that most of the long-awaited convoy had gotten too far beyond their picket lines to be caught. Every, however, refused to allow disappointment or anger to cloud his judgment. Examining the retreating convoy through his glass, he decided that two of the Mogul ships might still be within range. The nearest of these possible victims was a small vessel, while the other, farther off, was an enormous ship, clearly so powerfully armed that she would outgun any of the pirate fleet—including Fancy—by a wide margin. Nevertheless, Every ordered his ship to pursue the fleeing Moors.

Aboard Amity, which was closer to the two Mogul ships than Fancy was, Captain Tew also decided to pursue. Crowding on all sail, Tew chased after the smaller of the two Moors. Fancy followed.

After a time Amity caught up with her quarry, whose Arabic name was Fateh Mohamed. There was an exchange of fire. Both ships recoiled from the shock. Men screamed oaths. Muskets cracked. Then, suddenly, Amity disengaged. A cannon shot from Fateh Mohamed had killed Captain Tew. The men of Amity, shocked by the death of their captain, turned away.

Fateh Mohamed sailed on. But she did not escape.

Every’s speedy Fancy overtook her. His tough crew swarmed aboard her. The Fateh Mohamed’s crew, outnumbered and outgunned, this time decided not to fight. Every’s men quickly ransacked the Mogul vessel, bellowing with joy when they discovered that the Fateh Mohamed carried some £50,000 in gold and silver, which they quickly transferred to Fancy.

Now Every exhibited the daring and steely resolve that was also part of his character. He saw that the other Moorish ship—much larger than the Fateh Mohamed—was still within range. It seemed to him that this great ship now lumbering toward the horizon might be carrying a cargo even more valuable than the treasure they had just taken from the Fateh Mohamed, for surely a ship so large and so heavily armed must be transporting the dearest treasures of the Great Mogul himself. As formidable as this Moorish giant might be, Every told himself, she was also the sort of prize that freebooters could hope to encounter only once. He sensed the chance of a lifetime—and he seized it without hesitation.

He broke out every scrap of sail. Fancy began the chase.

In fact, the ship Every was pursuing was the Gang-I-Sawai.

She was, in the words of Indian historian Khafi Khan, “the greatest ship in all the Mogul dominions.” She carried sixty-two guns and five hundred soldiers. She also carried six hundred passengers among whom were a number of high-ranking officials of the Great Mogul’s court who were returning from their pilgrimage to Mecca. She was also carrying, in her capacious holds, 500,000 gold and silver pieces. Her destination was the port of Surat on India’s west coast.

Inexorably Fancy closed the gap between herself and the giant Mogul ship. Before long the men aboard the Fancy could make out the gaping muzzles of the Gang-I-Sawai’s cannon and the heavily armed, turbaned soldiers crowding her decks. But despite being outgunned and outnumbered better than four to one, the crew of Fancy prepared for action, confident of their ability to overcome their Moorish enemy.

As her ponderous quarry came into range of Fancy’s cannon, Every broke out his flag of silver chevrons as a sign that he was willing to give quarter if the Moors surrendered. There was no response to his signal. Every then ran up a plain red flag, the “bloody flag” as his men called it, signifying that the offer of quarter was withdrawn.

The battle was on.

Fancy fired a broadside. The Muslim guns replied. But as the Moorish broadside was fired, one of the Gang-I-Sawai’s cannon suddenly exploded, killing a number of her well-trained gun crews and sending lethal fragments of metal scything across her decks, compelling her soldiers to take cover in confusion and terror. Fancy fired again. A lucky shot crashed into the Mogul ship’s mainmast, disrupting her rigging and slowing her even more. With her rigging badly damaged, the Gang-I-Sawai soon became almost unmaneuverable.

Fancy now broke off firing and swung in alongside her much larger quarry whose gunports towered over her. As soon as the two ships touched, Every’s crew, cutlasses and pistols at the ready, scrambled up the sides of the Gang-I-Sawai and hurled themselves against the Muslim soldiers who awaited them.

The pirates’ ferocity made up for their lack of numbers. With cutlasses ringing on steel scimitars, the pirates fought for the ship for two hours.

Smoke, explosions, and the screams of dying and wounded men filled the air. The decks of the Gang-I-Sawai ran with blood as the Indian soldiers fiercely resisted the pirate onslaught. At one point in the confusion of battle, the Gang-I-Sawai’s captain, Ibrahim Khan, fled below to a cabin where he had secreted a number of Turkish girls whom he had bought in Mecca to add to his harem. Apparently intending to safeguard his property from the marauding pirates who were still battling his troops on the decks above, the Mogul captain wrapped turbans around the girls’ heads, hoping thereby to fool the infidel outlaws into believing they were boys. But the pirates, who burst into the cabin in the wake of the captain, were not fooled by the ruse. They dragged the girls up on deck where the pirates were now gaining the upper hand in the bloody battle.

By degrees the fighting diminished as more and more of the Muslim soldiers and sailors threw up their hands in surrender. Finally, the fighting ceased altogether.

In the wake of the noise of combat, an eerie silence now descended over the Gang-I-Sawai. The dead lay everywhere. Wreckage littered the decks. The Gang-I-Sawai creaked in the sudden quiet. Every’s men had gained the victory but at the cost of fifteen to twenty dead comrades—a fact that so infuriated them that they began a vengeful orgy of murder, rape, and torture as they ransacked their prize.

Every’s men had little compunction about meting out brutal treatment to their captives. Muslims, in their view, were only “black heathen,” sinners who denied Christ and therefore deserved the harsh treatment they got.

Every’s men stripped their captives, both men and women, of all their clothing and possessions. They tortured any captive they suspected of withholding valuables. In some cases the infuriated pirates simply killed their victims after taking their money. A number of the women, however, were dragged off to be gang-raped. One of those treated in this manner was the elderly wife of a high-ranking Mogul official who also happened to be a relative of the Great Mogul himself. Some of the women died under their savage treatment. Some threw themselves overboard rather than submit to ravishment. Some, feeling themselves shamed forever, later stabbed themselves to death with daggers.

Throughout the butchery, Every himself remained aboard the Fancy. He knew better than to take part personally in these brutalities. In any case, he was not temperamentally given to such outbursts of vengeance-seeking, although he had participated in the thick of the battle for the Gang-I-Sawai.

As the rage of the pirates spent itself, and as cooler heads began to restore order, it became clear that—as Every had anticipated—the Gang-I-Sawai was a mother lode of booty. The loot that was now piling up on her bloody decks included gold, silver, ivory, jewels, damasks, and even a saddle set with rubies, which had been intended for the Great Mogul himself.

Now Every, taking command again in the aftermath of his crew’s explosion of violence, ordered all this wealth—and the surviving women as well—transferred to the Fancy.

When this was accomplished, Every ordered the Gang-I-Sawai cut loose to join its consort, the previously pillaged Fateh Mohamed, for the long, lugubrious voyage home.

Eventually both ships put in at Surat, the Great Mogul’s chief port and the East India Company’s main trading station in India. The tale of the pirate terror that the two ships’ survivors told outraged the Great Mogul. The Mogul’s fury, in turn, sent a chill of fear through the men of the East India Company who depended upon his goodwill for their continued prosperity.

Although the Muslim Indians were sympathetic toward the civilian victims of the pirate terror, they wasted little sympathy on the soldiers and sailors who had lost the Gang-I-Sawai.

Mogul historian Khafi Khan viewed the pirate victory as a disgrace for Mogul arms and he blamed the ship’s captain for not putting up a better fight. “The English are not bold in the use of the sword,” he wrote, “and there were so many weapons aboard that, if any determined resistance had been made, they had been defeated.”

Meanwhile, Fancy, after rejoining the other ships of Every’s fleet, set off southward for safe waters where Every planned to share out the loot and plan his next move.

Fancy and her consorts eventually made landfall at the island of Bourbon (later to be renamed Réunion) almost 2,500 miles away from the scene of the battle. At this time Bourbon, although claimed by France, was virtually devoid of French presence, let alone French law.

Here Every and his men divided the plunder from the Gang-I-Sawai and the Fateh Mohamed. The East India Company later estimated Every’s loot at some £325,000—a truly imperial haul.

Each man in Every’s company received more than £1,000, plus a number of jewels. The apprenticed seamen who sailed in the fleet, most of them boys between twelve and fifteen years of age, received £500 each. Every himself was awarded the pirate captain’s usual double share. There is no record of the fate of the women taken from the Gang-I-Sawai. More than likely they were left stranded at Bourbon.

Now, with the loot divided, Every’s fleet broke up, with each ship going its own way. Every himself wanted to take Fancy to the Bahamas. He knew of a local governor there, he said, who would help them sell their stolen goods for cash. But members of Every’s crew wanted to go to Brazil instead. As usual Every finally won the argument, although about fifty of his men elected to remain in Bourbon rather than voyage farther. To fill their places Every took aboard a consignment of black slaves. Then, in April 1696, he set off for the Bahamas.

 

 

Royal Netherlands East Indies Air Force

In 1933 the Oost-Indisch Leger was renamed Koninklijk Nederlandsch Indsch Leger (KNIL), or the Royal Netherlands Indies Army. During that time, the KNIL numbered around 35,000 men, of which 5,000 were deployed from the Netherlands. In addition, there was a militia (landsturm) that fielded a force of 8,000 men. The KNIL operated training facilities at Meester Cornelis and Magelang on the island of Java for all branches, as well as its small armor force. The air forces of the colony operated second-rate aircraft from counties such as the United States and Great Britain. The navy remained under the control of the Royal Netherlands Navy, and consisted of three cruisers, seven destroyers, a number of smaller ships, and fifteen submarines.

With the German invasion and occupation of the Netherlands in 1940, the colony became one of the last areas of Dutch control. But the East Indies soon found itself facing an outside foe in Japan. The Netherlands declared war on Japan on December 8, 1941, but faced invasion in January 1942. The Japanese conquest of Indonesia lasted roughly three months. The KNIL found itself overwhelmed by the Japanese military forces, and the fighting renewed regional guerrilla activity in the field. The Dutch prisoners were sent to labor and prison camps, and native KNIL troops were given the opportunity to join the Japanese local forces, known as PETA (Pembela Tanah Air).

Air War

Site of early Japanese successes during World War II. In early 1942, the Japanese moved toward the Dutch East Indies in force. Dutch airpower on Java consisted of only a few obsolete Fokker fighters and U. S.-built Martin B-10 bombers. These were reinforced by several British Hawker Hurricanes flown in from HMS Indomitable and some U. S. Curtiss P-40s, as well as various survivors of the debacle in Malaya, such as RAF Lockheed Hudsons and Bristol Blenheims and Fleet Air Arm Vickers Vildebeest torpedo-bombers.

This polyglot Allied force (ABDA, for American, British, Dutch, Australian) was heavily outnumbered in the air by the Japanese 23d Naval Air Flotilla. The Japanese seized one lightly defended island after another: Tarakan off Borneo on 11 January, Celebes on 24 January, Amboina (Ambon) on 31 January, Bali on 19 February. Sumatra, with its important oil fields, was invaded on 14 February. In one of the few parachute drops of the Pacific War, Japanese airborne troops seized airfields on Sumatra.

Four Japanese carriers passed through the East Indies on their way to the Indian Ocean. Aircraft from this fleet attacked Port Darwin in Australia on 15 February, causing heavy damage.

The old U. S. carrier Langley, converted to an aircraft transport, sailed from Australia with a load 32 P-40E fighters and a freighter with 27 more crated P-40s. Japanese aircraft found these ships just south of Java, however, and sank Langley. The crated P-40s could not be unloaded after they reached Java and had to be thrown into the sea.

As a result, the Japanese invasion fleet approached Java virtually unhindered by Allied air threat. ABDA’s surface naval force under Dutch Admiral Karel Doormann attempted to interfere but was defeated in the Battle of Java Sea. Japanese forces landed on Java on 1 March, and resistance ended on 9 March with almost 100,000 Allied troops taken captive. Throughout the campaign, the Japanese proved adept at quickly and effectively preparing newly seized advanced bases for air operations.

KNIL-ML

The primary trainers for the pre-war KNIL-ML (Royal Netherlands East Indies Air Force) were the De Havilland Tiger Moth, Ryan PT Series and Buckner Jungmeister. A number of older Fokker models were also used, although I’m not exactly of which models without spending an hour to look them up.

AVRO 504K

Beech AT-11 Kansan

Brewster B-339D Buffalo

Bücker Bü-131B Jungmann

Commonwealth Wackett

Curtiss P-6 Hawk I

Curtiss 75A-7 Hawk (P-36)

Curtiss P-40E Kittyhawk

Curtiss P-40F-5 Kittyhawk

Curtiss P-40N Warhawk

Curtiss-Wright CW-21B Demon

Curtiss-Wright CW-22 Falcon

De Havilland DH-9

Douglas C-47 Dakota

Douglas C-54 Skymaster

Fairchild 24R

Farman HF-20 / HF-22

Fokker C.Ve

Fokker C.Vd

Fokker C.X

Fokker D.VII

Fokker D.XVII

Fokker D.XXI (prototype)

Fokker F.VIIb/3M

Hawker Hurricane IIb

Koolhoven FK-51

Lockheed 12

Lockheed Lodestar

Martin 139WH-1/2

Messerschmitt Me-108B

Miles 2H Hawk

Mitsubishi Ki.57 “Topsy”

Noorduijn Norseman

North American AT-16 Harvard

North American B-25B/C Mitchell

North American B-25H/J Mitchell

North American P-51D/K Mustang

Piper L-4J Grasshopper

Ryan STM

Ryan ST-3/PT-22

Tachikawa Ki.54 “Soren”

Waco EGC-7

Waco UKC

Both the Messerschmitt Bf108B-1 (MT-928) and Fairchild 24R-9 (FAT-926) were privately owned aircraft. When the Japanese attacked, both planes were pressed into military service as small communication aircraft. They were painted “jongblad” (medium green) and received the orange triangles.

The following civil aircraft were also pressed into military service:

– Waco EGC-7 (WT-903)

– Waco UKC (WT-927)

– 2 Piper J-4E (PT-929 and PT-930)

 Koninklijke Nederlands Indisch Leger – Militaire Luchvaart (KNIL-ML)

Bandoeng

1e Vliegtuiggroep  Andir:

1eVLGI (9 M139)

2eVLGI (9 M139)

2e Vliegtuiggroep  Malang

1eVLGII (9 M139)

3e Vliegtuiggroep  Tjilitjan

1eVLGIII (9 M139)

2eVLGIII (9 M139)

3eVLGIII (9 M139)

4e Vliegtuiggroep  Madioen

1eVLGIV (12 H75)

2eVLGIV (12 Cw21)

5e Vliegtuiggroep  Semplank

1eVLGV (12 B339)

2eVLGV (12 B339)

6e Vliegtuiggroep  Jogjakarta

1eVLGVI (9 Cw22)

2eVLGVI (9 Cw22)

Vliegschuul  (disestablished  5Dec41):  60 Ryan PT, 30 FK51,

16 Lockheed 12, 20 M139

> 3eVLGV (B339)

> 3eVLGVI (FK51)

> 4eVLGVI (Lockheed 12)

> 7eVLGVI (M139)

+ 1 Afdeling (FK51)

Aircraft Depot  Andir

Koninklijke Marine Luchvaartdienst

Groep Vliegtuigen 1 (3 Do24k)  Ambon

Groep Vliegtuigen 2 (3 Do24k)  Sorong

Groep Vliegtuigen 3 (3 Do24k)  Soerabaya

Groep Vliegtuigen 4 (3 Do24k)  Sambas

Groep Vliegtuigen 5 (3 Do24k)  Ternate

Groep Vliegtuigen 6 (3 Do24k)  Morokrembangan

Groep Vliegtuigen 7 (3 Do24k)  Tarakan

Groep Vliegtuigen 8 (3 Do24k)  Poeloe Samboe

Groep Vliegtuigen 11 (3 TIVw)  Morokrembangan

Groep Vliegtuigen 12 (3 TIVw)  Morokrembangan

Groep Vliegtuigen 13 and 14 (5 CXIw)  Morokrembangan or embarked

Groep Vliegtuigen 16 (3 PBY)  Tandjong Priok

Groep Vliegtuigen 17 (3 PBY)  Ambon

Dutch East Indies 1941-1942 Website

Codenamed Circus

An image of Spitfire Mk Vb of 92 Squadron in the air.

A Spitfire Mk Vb of 92 Squadron based at Biggin Hill, May 1941. The Mk Vb was the principal Spitfire variant in service during 1941 and 1942. This particular aircraft (serial R6923) was shot down by a Messerschmidt Bf 109 near Dover on 21 June 1941. CH 2929.

An image of Hurricanes of 312 Squadron escorting Short Stirling bombers on a ‘circus’ operation.

Hurricanes of 312 Squadron escorting Short Stirling bombers on a ‘circus’ operation to Lille, 5 July 1941. The use of heavy bombers instead of the more usual Bristol Blenheims was a further attempt to encourage Luftwaffe fighters into the air. C2027.

In late 1940, a few British pilots, demonstrated that British fighters did have the range to conduct attacks on targets or conduct fighter sweeps over Northern France, Belgium and Holland. From the Spring of 1941 to early 1944 the Fighter Command squadrons primary tasks were to conduct seek and destroy missions (Rodeos) Fighter Sweeps (Ramrods) and if the weather was bad small scale attacks on targets of opportunity (Rhubarbs). Collectively these were known as circuses.

The year of 1941 had been a desperate one for the Allies on all fronts. Allied armies in North Africa were on a see-saw of operations back and forth across the desert, Malta was being pounded by Italian and German aircraft, German U-boats were decimating ships bringing supplies across the Atlantic, Russia had been invaded, and in early December Japan had brought America into the war by attacking Pearl Harbor. There had been one or two high spots, such as the sinking of the German battleship Bismarck in May, and the London Blitz had come to an end that same month, but everything seemed to be going rapidly downhill. Bomber Command was doing its best to strike back, but without the navigational aids and target identification methods that were to come, the damage inflicted was less than supposed, or hoped for.

Fighter Command, along with light bombers from 2 and 16 Groups, and later with Stirlings and Hampdens from 3 and 5 Groups, had taken the air war into the skies of northern France and Belgium, but at what cost? If success was being thought to be made because losses were far less than German aircraft shot down, then success was elusory. In the beginning, the idea was merely to take the air war to the Germans following the hard fought actions during the Battle of Britain. It helped morale if the RAF fighter pilots could hit back and feel they were ‘dishing it out’ rather than constantly ‘taking it’.

After the Germans moved on Russia in mid-June, there was another incentive in taking this air war to the enemy. Russia wanted Britain to harass the Germans in the West in the hope that the pressure in the East could be eased somewhat. Britain’s war leaders thought that by keeping up attacks over northern France, it would force the Germans to reduce the number of aircraft being used on the Eastern Front. As we now know this did not happen, and leaving just two fighter Gruppen in France and the Low Countries was more than enough to cope with these RAF incursions.

The idea that massed fighter sweeps [Codenamed Circus] by Fighter Command would encourage Luftwaffe fighters to rise and do battle was very naïve.  Exactly when the code-word ‘Circus’ came into being is obscure, but one imagines someone of WW1 vintage likened the mass of aircraft to be akin to the German Flying Circuses they had seen above the trenches during 1917–18. In a report on this operation it was referred to as ‘First Fighter Sweep’. While many German pilots were keen to engage in dogfights, if for no other reason than to increase personal victory scores, their leaders saw no percentage in shooting down a few Spitfires or Hurricanes while risking perhaps a similar number of losses. The RAF had found this out in late 1940, knowing that fighter sweeps, or Frei Jagd as the Germans called them, posed no threat to military or civilian targets, and were mostly left alone, thereby eliminating the loss of valuable pilots and aircraft. The Germans had countered by using their bomb-carrying jabo staffels to make it difficult for RAF interceptors to ignore. Now, in 1941, the Germans had to be encouraged to engage by using small formations of bombers as bait, and when this started to pall, the RAF introduced four-engined Stirlings to entice air combat.

As 1941 progressed, the RAF was encouraged by the number of German fighters that were being shot down, or in truth, being ‘claimed’ as shot down. Even in the 1914–18 war it was known that fighter claims bore little or no relation to the number of enemy aircraft that were actually destroyed. In that conflict, the RFC, RNAS and then the RAF, were constantly over the German side of the lines in France, and the chances of a German falling on the Allied side were few and far between. In order to produce some measure of success, the only guide to what damage was being inflicted was by corroborated reports by the pilots themselves.

This was all very well, but put simply, the conditions that prevailed made this a very hit and miss affair. Aeroplanes, and therefore airmen, flying at high speed, and, if they were not stupid, constantly looking out for danger, had very limited access to a clear picture of what was happening around them. Certainly if they were firing upon a hostile aeroplane and it burst into flames in front of them, or perhaps a wing or two came adrift, then it was fairly certain the aircraft was destroyed. Even seeing it go down and strike the ground resulted in making a good claim, but it could rarely, if ever, be known with absolute certainty if the crashing aircraft was in fact the one you had shot at. Several pilots shooting at several aircraft, and as the whirling and turning continued, looked down when an opportunity occurred, and saw an aircraft crash, believed it was the one they had been firing at moments before. In this way, one crashing aircraft produced two or three claims by the squadron as a whole.

Cloudy or misty conditions did not help in the claiming game either. Firing at and seeing an opponent go spinning down into cloud, could never be turned into a confirmed kill, so it was frustrating for the fighting pilots not to be able to claim a definite scalp. Therefore, it was not long before these sorts of actions resulted in what was termed as an ‘out of control’ claim. That is to say, someone else saw the action and confirmed that their colleague had indeed hit an enemy aircraft so badly that it had gone down ‘out of control’ (adding the word completely also helped). Pilots were supposed to understand the difference between an aircraft really out of control, rather than one with a pilot simply spinning out of the fight, and once below the cloud into which he was seen spinning, flattened out and went home, a better and a wiser man. This inevitably became, what in WW2 would be known as a ‘probable’ victory. Of course, the ‘ooc’ aircraft might well have continued down through the cloud or ground mist, to smash to pieces over the French countryside, but unless it was near enough to the lines for an Allied soldier to witness it, the ‘victorious’ pilot could only report one enemy aircraft ‘out of control’.

As things progressed, the word ‘victory’ became synonymous with ‘destroyed’, and the armchair historians in later years, added confirmed victories together with these ‘ooc’ aircraft (or probables) in order to create a total victory list for the man. Therefore, if the pilot was given credit for three enemy aircraft destroyed and four ‘out of control’ his score became seven. In citations for medals this separation was not always recorded and the journalists of the time, and then the pulp fiction writers of the 1920–30s invariably ignored (or did not fully understand) the two types of claims, and listed the victory scores as enemy aircraft destroyed. This in itself didn’t matter a hoot, but this is why many WW1 pilots appear to have achieved a considerable number of victories – of which some, in reality, were merely probables.

In WW2 this did not happen. Fighter pilots could claim an enemy aircraft destroyed, probably destroyed or damaged. If confirmed as destroyed it had to have been witnessed by an independent person and seen to crash, crash in flames, break up in the air, or the pilot take to his parachute. If it merely fell or spun away out of sight trailing smoke or flame but not actually seen to crash, blow up or its pilot bale out, then it was a probable. Even if the victorious pilot reported it had crashed but had no witnesses to the event, the squadron intelligence officer could only give credit for a probable, although it became obvious that certain pilots – those with a track record for shooting down enemy machines – were often given credit. Whatever the result, only those aircraft confirmed as destroyed were credited as victories, and were not, like WW1, added to probables to show an overall score. As camera guns were fitted to day fighter aircraft, often a confirmed victory could be given if the pictures showed the enemy aircraft being destroyed, or at least, so heavily damaged that it was more than probable that it was destroyed. Anything less, even if the attacker saw the aircraft crash after he had stopped firing, was more often than not given as a probable or even a damaged.

The German pilots had similar categories of victory credits, especially the confirmation by another pilot or ground observer. However, neither side, obviously, kept to these rules, as witnessed by the number of claims and credits against actual losses. It was generally a case of the head seeing what the eye did not. If a pilot was convinced that his opponent had been destroyed, even if he had to admit to himself he had not actually seen it, he might easily report it destroyed because he could not believe it could have survived the damage he had inflicted.

If the problem of speed in WW1 contributed to over-confidence in claiming a victory because, having fired at an opponent, then taking his eyes from it to check his own safety, then having turned or banked looked back and saw what he assumed to be the aircraft he had just attacked crash, it was easy to assume it was his. In the Second World War, the speed of combat compared with World War One meant that a pilot very quickly exited the immediate combat zone. It was this more than anything else, especially in a fight where there were several aircraft of both sides involved, that one falling aircraft could become the ‘victory’ of several pilots. And if an aircraft was seen to fall into the sea or crash several thousand feet below, it was easy to say that it was a German aircraft when in fact it might well have been a British one.

What of course becomes very clear from the earlier chapters in this book, is that both sides were claiming vastly more of their opponents as destroyed, than were actually lost or even damaged. On Circus operations during 1941, the RAF’s own score of enemy fighters destroyed came to 556, which added to other types of operations that showed 219 victories, the total then became 775. Of the 219, eighty-two were under the heading of ‘fighter sweeps’ and often these sweeps were in support of Circuses, so one could argue that Circuses had accounted for well over 600 victories. As the Germans only lost 103 fighters between 14 June and 31 December on the Western Front in 1941, it does not take a mathematical genius to see that the RAF pilots were vastly over-claiming. Often in good faith one has to say. To say otherwise would not be very gallant. However, there are some examples of pilots being credited with a confirmed victory with untruthful combat report narratives.

Today’s Internet figures record that the Germans lost 236 fighters from all causes, 103 of them in combat. RAF claims, however, amounted to 711 [another source says 731] enemy aircraft, while the RAF lost approximately 411 Spitfires and ninety-three Hurricanes [or about 505 in total].

It is only human nature to discover that if the intelligence officer was not keen in giving a confirmed victory or if a pilot’s report did not mention a realistic demise of enemy aircraft or pilot, that an extra couple of words would make the difference. There is the case of one successful British pilot who claimed a 109 shot down, and ended his report by saying he saw it dive into the sea. We now know from German evidence that this particular German pilot, while heading for the sea, did not crash but pulled out and went home. But as the RAF pilot’s report said it dived into the sea, it helped his claim for a confirmed victory. Don’t forget that most of these RAF pilots were little more than boys and with the adrenalin flowing, heart pumping and breathing heavy, it is all too easy to guild the lily, and come home a champion rather than an also-ran.

It happened on the German side too. One has only to compare RAF losses with German claims to see that the same was just as true as with the RAF, especially on the rare occasions when Blenheims survived the fighter onslaught and all returned home, yet some were claimed as destroyed anyway. Despite the assumed strict confirmation rules, it has to be said that those German aces with growing scores, appear to be among the most prolific over-claimers. Their carrot was the award of the Knight’s Cross for approximately twenty victories, it was a definite aim.

Luftwaffe claims according to one report noted almost 1,500, broken down into 850 Spitfires, 100 Hurricanes, 161 Blenheims, 149 Wellingtons and 1 Lancaster (but no Stirlings).

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The Air Ministry – that is to say, the top brass who were over-seeing the day to day, week to week, month to month activities of the offensive operations being carried out – blinkered to common sense, or did they just go along with everything? Did they really think that Fighter Command was actually inflicting so such damage on the Luftwaffe? Surely Intelligence gathering sources could reveal that there was a vast difference between claims of losses and actual losses?

At the end of August 1941 for instance, Fighter Command gave an analysis of enemy casualties during that month. Total enemy losses attributed to RAF fighters was 146 with another seventy-seven as probables. While this did include some sixteen Me110s, He111s, Do17s and Ju88s, it still made 131 Me109s lost by the enemy. Staying with the fighter losses, these figures estimated (and assumed) personnel losses of the same number, i.e. 131, plus a possible sixty-eight more casualties in the probable category, making 199 pilot casualties. This analysis also estimated, by adding total and probable losses together, that the Luftwaffe had suffered a possible loss of 227 during the month.

We imagine that the Chief of the Air Staff and his immediate inner circle read these figures and jumped up and down with joy, believing the war was not far off being won if their fighter pilots could inflict such pain on the enemy. However, there had to be some officers questioning the ‘intelligence’ reports. Presumably everyone looked with less favour on RAF losses. During the year the figure of lost pilots recorded by Fighter Command who had been on Circus operations totalled 296 killed, taken prisoner or were still missing. Another fifty-five had become casualties on fighter sweeps, while overall, for all operations (including Rhubarbs, anti-shipping escorts, etc.), pilot losses were 462.

A good number of these losses were veterans of the Battle of Britain, in fact over 200 pilots that had seen action in the defence of Britain in the summer and autumn of 1940 had become casualties from late 1940 and during 1941 – some eighty-two being killed in action with twenty-six others taken prisoner. Some, naturally, had lost their lives in flying accidents – about fifty-three – while about twenty others had been lost or shot down after being sent to Malta or North Africa, but that still meant that over 100 had become casualties, mainly over France and the Channel, while ‘taking the war to the enemy’. A number had also been wounded, some never to return to operational flying. A few had also been brought down, evaded capture and eventually managed to return to England.

During the second half of the 1941 ‘offensive’, the RAF lost around 600 fighters, as opposed to some 920 in the Battle of Britain. Luftwaffe records seem to indicate around 100 Me109s lost.

The two main Geschwaders, JG26 and JG2, generally had around 250 fighters on strength, although serviceability often reduced this overall figure – sometimes by up to a third. After Rolf Pingel was interrogated following his capture in early July, it became clear to Fighter Command leaders that their task of reducing Luftwaffe effort on the Eastern Front so as to counter the offensive over France was not working. It also became clear that German losses were not in accord with RAF claims. Following a conference on 29 July, it was decided to reduce somewhat the intensity of the offensive. Ironically, the RAF failed to realise that their efforts were in fact having some impact on Luftwaffe fighter serviceability which was at this time down to 70 per cent. More ironically, the respite enabled the serviceability to increase to around 80 per cent by August. However, this brief lull was over by mid-August and Circus operations returned to normal. In late August the question of continuing with these operations was still being considered.

1941: The Difficult Year

By Marshal of the RAF Sir Sholto Douglas

The Circus Offensive, 14th June to 31st December 1941

 

 

Frankish Greece

Frankish Greece, 1204–61

Following the conquest of Constantinople by the Fourth Crusade, a substantial new Frankish presence was added to those in Syria, the Holy Land and Cyprus. Rule was established by those crusaders who remained in Constantinople over the city and adjoining territories, and those areas that had still been under the control of the Byzantine government – Thrace, Greece and the extreme northwest of Asia Minor, together with the Aegean and Ionian islands.

The new emperor was elected by a council comprising six Venetians and six Frankish crusaders. The choice of Baldwin, count of Flanders, rather than Boniface of Montferrat, was a genuine surprise, at least to Boniface, but may be explained by Baldwin’s more conciliatory approach to the Byzantines (Lock 1995: 43–5). Another committee decided upon the division of spoils. The Venetians retained one-eighth of the city of Constantinople, the Adriatic coast, the Ionian and Aegean islands (the latter of which were to become the Duchy of the Archipelago), Euboea (Negroponte) and Crete. They established a genuinely colonial maritime empire, ruled through a podestà by the Republic of Venice itself. Most of these possessions were lost to the Ottomans in the fifteenth century, though Crete remained in Venetian hands until 1669. The emperor received the rest of the city of Constantinople, together with Thrace, the northwest region of Asia Minor and the islands of Chios, Lesbos and Samos. He soon found, however, that he had exchanged his strongly centralised county in the West for little more than a glamorous title. Although the partition of fiefs was probably based on recent Byzantine tax registers (Oikonomides 1976: 3–28), Baldwin had little say in the distribution, which meant that he had little opportunity to establish a dynastic base in support of his title. In recognition of his family’s claim to titles held by his brother Renier before 1185, Boniface was granted the barony of Thessalonika. Central Greece and the Peloponnese were carved up between the Frankish crusaders, and eventually settled into the two main power bases of the Principality of Achaia and the Duchy of Athens.

A narrative account of the fortunes of the Latin Empire makes unedifying reading. The Empire faced enemies on three fronts: in east and west, the two rival Byzantine successor states of Nicaea, ruled by the Lascarids (who also swallowed up the Komnenos state of Trebizond) and the Despotate of Epiros, ruled by the Angeloi; and the Bulgar kingdom to the north. Baldwin and Boniface were both killed fighting the Bulgars, in 1205 and 1207 respectively. Had the Franks been prepared to recognise the Bulgar kingdom, they might have been able to count on their help against their Byzantine rivals, but Emperor seems to have been deluded by his title into a false sense of his power. In 1208, his successor, Henry II (1206–16) married the daughter of the Bulgar tsar Kalojan, which gave him breathing space to concentrate on defending his empire against the Lascarids. In 1211 he won a victory in Asia Minor that secured his Asian possessions, and when he died in 1216 the Latin Empire was probably at its height.

The 1220s, however, proved disastrous. The ‘kingdom’ of Thessalonika, a Montferrat dynastic possession, fell to the Despotate of Epiros in 1224, despite the launch of a crusade from the West by William IV of Montferrat to save it. In 1225 the Nicene Emperor John III Vatatzes (1222–54) drove the Franks out of Asia Minor and was prevented from reconquering Constantinople itself only by the opposition of Epiros. A further stay of execution came in 1230 when Epiros itself was destroyed by the Bulgar tsar John II Asen (1218–41). The Empire had a minor, Baldwin II (1228–61) at its helm, and even the appointment of the experienced former king of Jerusalem, John of Brienne to the position of co-emperor in 1229 could not turn the tide. When John died in 1237, after an adventurous career that had included the captaincy of papal armies in Italy, marriage to the heiresses of Jerusalem and Armenia and the leadership of a crusade, the Latin Empire consisted of little more than the city of Constantinople itself. The end came only in 1261, when the Nicene Emperor Michael VIII Paleologus (1259–82) realised just how weak the Franks were. By that stage, the unfortunate Baldwin II had been reduced to selling or pawning anything of value, including the remaining relics, the lead from the palace roof, and even his own son.

One corner of Frankish Greece, however, provided a model of strong and successful feudal colonisation. The Villehardouin dynasty established itself in Morea (Peloponnese) and between 1209 and 1259 enjoyed secure and peaceful rule over the Principality of Achaia. William II of Villehardouin (1246–78) conquered the whole of Morea, and made himself overlord of Negroponte, the duchies of Athens and the Archipelago. The constant warfare that weakened the emperors in the north also acted as a screen to protect the more remote Morea, with the result that the Villehardouin princes were able to consolidate centralised feudal authority with little external threat. Alongside their Frankish fief-holders they also ruled over the remaining Byzantine archontes (landowners), using French feudal customs enshrined in a written code of law. After 1266, following the defeat of William II by the Lascarids in 1262, the Principality survived only as a vassal state of Charles of Anjou’s Sicilian kingdom. In the fourteenth century it disintegrated under the growing strength of the new Palaeologan regime in Constantinople, and as a consequence of the seizure of the duchy of Athens by the Catalan Company (1311), a group of mercenaries from northern Spain. During its zenith, however, under Geoffrey II (1229–46) and William II, the Frankish court of Achaia enjoyed a reputation as a centre of traditional chivalric culture. William II, who participated in Louis IX’s crusade in Egypt (1249–50), built a palace at Mistra whose grandeur can still be appreciated today.

The weakness of the Latin Empire must be seen in the context of wider collapse in the region. That the crusaders had triumphed in 1204 with a small army (about 20,000) over the defences of the largest city in Christendom says more about problems within the Byzantine imperial system than about Frankish military strength. The Byzantine Empire had suffered five changes in regime between 1182 and 1204; loyalty to the emperor was so loose by 1204 that the Greeks of Thrace were quite prepared to recognise a Latin as just another in a succession of emperors. The Franks never had sufficient military strength, nor could they mobilise western colonisation as the settlers in the Holy Land after 1099 had been able to. But if the Franks were hopelessly weak, their rivals were scarcely stronger. The Latin Empire was therefore ‘an additional element in the regional mosaic of princelings’ (Lock 1995: 55); they were distinguished only by their possession of the ‘queen of cities’ herself. The Latin Empire was a symptom of the breakdown in power in the northeast Mediterranean.

The Latin Empire may have been weak, but that does not mean it was unimportant in the political life of Europe. Popes until the mid-thirteenth century saw it as a vital component in the Crusader States. There is no reason to suppose that Innocent III’s reference to the Frankish settlers after 1204 as ‘pilgrims’ was simply conventional phrasing: like Gregory IX (1227–41), he was probably sincere in the belief that the best hope for the Holy Land lay in securing a bridgehead to control the passage from West to East. Thus Gregory saw a crusade against Nicaea (1237–9), which never in fact materialised, as part of the wider effort to protect the Crusader States. Here the papacy seems to have been out of step with western opinion (Barber 1989: 111–28). Although individual rulers such as Charles of Anjou (1266–85) were prepared to invest in Frankish Greece, the cause of the Latin Empire had little resonance among potential crusaders. Richard, earl of Cornwall, for example, resisted papal pressure to commute his vow for the Holy Land to the Aegean in 1239. The failure of the Latin Empire to appeal to western crusading instincts can also be seen in the large numbers of Franks who took service in the Byzantine armies of Nicaea or the Despotate of Epiros after 1204. Frankish mercenaries were prepared to commit horrifying acts of violence against the ruling Franks on behalf of their employers, as for example in 1210 when Adamée de Pofoy and a group of his knights were crucified in Thessaly by western knights fighting for the Despotate. Papal policy changed, perhaps to conform to public opinion, under Innocent IV (1243–54). Seeing that there would never be sufficient western interest in propping up the failing régime in Constantinople, he recognised the legitimacy of the Orthodox patriarch of Constantinople in exile, and initiated a more conciliatory policy towards Orthodox Christendom in general. This change in papal policy surely contributed to the revival of Byzantine authority and the eventual downfall of the Latin Empire.

Relations between Franks and the indigenous Greek population were, as may be supposed, often strained. Yet it may have been the confrontation with unfamiliar and – according to the Byzantine view – erroneous religious customs that proved most offensive to the Greeks. As in the Crusader States in the Levant, Orthodox monasteries and the parochial system continued to function. The difference between the twelfth-century Crusader States and the situation in Frankish Greece and Cyprus in the thirteenth century, as well as in Syria and the Holy Land, was the more intensive level of papal oversight. In part, this may have been caused by the suspicion that Greek monasteries were collaborating with the rival régimes of Nicaea and Epiros (Lock 1995: 227), but on the whole this changed situation reflected new directions in papal policy under Innocent III and his successors. Where the Latin Church in the twelfth-century Crusader States seems to have made little trouble over the observance of Orthodox customs that ran contrary to Latin norms, in Frankish Greece there was less tolerance of difference in customs relating to fasting, the Eucharist, consecration and holy orders. Latin oversight was aided by the arrival of new religious orders, notably the Franciscans and Dominicans, who were valuable agents on behalf of papal policy. A dozen Cistercian monasteries and nunneries were also founded in Frankish Greece, reflecting the involvement of the order in the Fourth Crusade (Brown 1958: 63–120; Panagopoulos 1979). Nevertheless, the number of Franks was always small compared with Greeks, and consequently there was little attempt outside Constantinople and Thessalonika to impose a Latin parochial system on conquered territory. This meant that there must often have been little alternative for isolated Frankish communities to sharing churches or even attending Orthodox services, and even in the early years of the settlement Pope Innocent III worried about Franks adopting Orthodox religious customs. By the fourteenth century, Venetians in Crete who ‘went native’ were a serious concern for the papacy. It is probably going too far to describe the Frankish settlement as a process of acculturation. As one historian has observed, the occupation was too brief and too limited geographically to be ‘anything other than a curdling, rather than a true intermingling’ (Lock 1995: 266). Because Frankish and Greek communities lived largely separate different existences, however, it does not follow that they were necessarily hostile to each other. Although historians, naturally enough, dwell on violent incidents such as the anti-Latin riots of 1182, and examine the polemical discourse against Latins in the Orthodox tradition, there is a danger in overplaying this type of evidence. There was little anti-Latin resistance in Frankish Greece in the thirteenth century, and although polemical writing continued to be produced in monasteries and schools, it was not representative of how the societies interacted. Once ‘a caricature became a person with a face and a name, cooperation, friendship and conjugal fidelity were thought possible’ (Lock 1995: 274).

We may even question the extent to which 1204 really marks a cataclysm in Byzantine history. For one thing, creeping ‘westernisation’ during the twelfth century had accustomed cosmopolitan Byzantines to the sight, sound and customs of Franks. It has been estimated that before the last quarter of the twelfth century there were between ten and twenty thousand western merchants and their families in Constantinople; marriage between Italian merchants and Byzantine women was, moreover, encouraged by imperial policy (Magdalino 1993: 27–108). At the middle and lower levels of society in particular, the Latin conquest offered possibilities of social and professional advancement, and it may be in this largely undocumented hinterland that something like a hybrid society developed. Even for those Greeks who were unwilling to cooperate actively, or in the provinces where Franks were thinly spread, the resentment against them may have been no greater than that felt for any ruling élite. In the provinces, land was redistributed, but the impact of this was greater for the pre-1204 élites than for those who actually worked on the land. The Frankish effect on institutional life was minimal. Although some French feudal terminology crept into the everyday speech, few place-names seem to have been changed. Debates over whether the Franks introduced feudal landholding arrangements have been inconclusive. The age-old Byzantine system of pronoia – a grant of land or privilege in return for services to the grantor – looks on the surface rather like western feudalism anyway, with the exception that the grant was typically for the lifetime of the recipient and not hereditary. After 1261, Emperor Michael VIII seems to have made some grants of pronoia hereditary, which may indicate residual Frankish influence. Even this, however, may simply have been a stage in the process of westernisation that can be seen in the twelfth century, in Emperor Manuel Komnenos’ adoption of chivalric concepts such as the tournament and dubbing to knighthood. The Frankish occupation of Greece, therefore, may be seen as a stage in a process, rather than as the sole cause of the eventual decline of the Byzantine Empire.