Viking Longships

Havhingsten fra Glendalough in dock. The Havhingsten is a faithful reconstruction of Skuldelev 2, the second longest Viking longship ever found.

Skuldelev 2: The great longship

Skuldelev 2 is a war machine, built to carry many warriors at high speed. With a crew of 65-70 men, it was a chieftain’s ship, like those praised in ancient scaldic verse and sagas.

Tree-ring analysis of the timber show that the ship was built of oak in the vicinity of Dublin around 1042. Vikings settled in Ireland in AD 800 and established several fortified bases along the Irish coast. These bases developed into towns, which today is amongst the biggest in Ireland. Here Vikings lived as merchants, mercenary soldiers and shipbuilders.

The long, narrow shape of the ship and the enormous sail allowed at great speed. And the manning of 60 oars made it possible to keep the ship moving even without wind.

The region settled by the Vikings during the ninth to eleventh centuries consisted of the Scandinavian Peninsula and Jutland, the Danish archipelago, and islands in the Baltic and the North Atlantic as well as areas along the coasts and larger rivers of Britain, Ireland, northern France, and Russia. There were no overland routes connecting these areas, and consequently all communication relied on the ships and boats that rightfully became a trademark for Viking expansion as recorded in contemporaneous sources and in the archaeological record.

Several ships of the Viking period have been found in graves and as wrecks, and reused ships’ parts have been excavated in Viking towns, giving a detailed insight into the boat- and shipbuilding traditions of the period. There are few remains found of Nordic ships from the fifth to eighth centuries, the crucial period during which ship design in this area changed from large rowing vessels of the Migration period to the ships of the early Viking Age, combining propulsion by oars and sail. In contrast, wrecks of the medieval period and later provide evidence for the study of the region’s shipbuilding heritage and traditions from the Viking era to the twenty-first century.

All Viking ships were built by the clinker technique- that is, starting from a central keel, with identical stems fore and aft and with the overlapping edges of the planking riveted together. After shaping the lower planks to give the desired shape of the bottom, the floor timbers were inserted and fastened to the planking, with lashings in the early phase and later using treenails. The sides were supported by side timbers and by knees positioned on the deck beams (biti) over each of the floor timbers. A light, strong, and resilient hull was evidently the goal of Viking shipbuilders when constructing vessels for various purposes. Oak and pine were the primary materials for the hulls, with ropes of linden bast and sails of sheep’s wool. The ships were steered with a side rudder to starboard and propelled primarily by a single square sail stepped amidships in a keelson, a longitudinal timber with the step for the mast. The sail was set from a horizontal yard and adjusted by means of several ropes to bring the ship forward with the wind from astern, abeam, or up to 60 degrees to the wind in tacking. Viking ships had no cabins or weather decks, and all water coming inboard had to be bailed out.

The ships from the large burial mounds in southeastern Norway at Oseberg (c. A. D. 820, excavated in 1904) and Gokstad (c. A. D. 895, excavated in 1880), now exhibited in Oslo, represent the early Viking Age multifunctional ship type. With a length of 21.6 to 24.2 meters, a beam of 5.1 meters, and sides 1.6 to 2.1 meters high amidships, these vessels were propelled equally well by their square-sail of about 90 to 110 square meters or by their 30 to 32 oarsmen. The Oseberg ship is considered the personal vessel for the high-ranking woman buried in it with her elaborately decorated belongings. The Gokstad ship has higher sides and is slightly more robust, making it fit for deep-sea navigation with its crew and a moderate cargo of trade goods or booty.

Viking ships of the tenth and eleventh centuries have been found at several sites, the most important ones being Ladby (burial, c. A. D. 925), Hedeby (two wrecks, c. A. D. 985-1025), and Skuldelev (five ships in a barrier, c. A. D. 1030- 1050). The Ladby ship imprint in the ground, excavated 1935, is preserved in the Kerteminde region of Denmark, whereas the Hedeby ships, excavated 1979-1980, and the Skuldelev ships, excavated 1962, are exhibited in the Schleswig region of Germany and at Roskilde, Denmark, respectively. Additional evidence comes from excavations in the Viking towns of Hedeby and Dublin.

These ships display the range of types and sizes of vessels that had been developed for different purposes in that period. The primary division was between the relatively long and low “personnel carriers,” built primarily to satisfy the requirements for fast propulsion by rowing (demanded by longships used as troop transporters and by boats used for communication and fishing), and the broader and higher “cargo carriers” that required a proper cargo capacity, relying mainly or fully on sail propulsion. This specialization is not found in vessels dating before the tenth century.

The longships that served in the Danish waters, the North Sea, and the Irish Sea are represented by the Irish-built Skuldelev 2 ship and the Hedeby 1 ship built locally, both about 30 meters in length but only 3.8 meters and 2.7 meters wide respectively and manning about 60 oars each. Skuldelev 5 was a small 26-oared longship for local defense. These three warships represent different levels of craftsmanship, from the royal standard of Hedeby 1 to the “discount version” Skuldelev 5. In the longships, the oars were worked through holes in the ships’ sides, and shields could be mounted along the rail. Figureheads were carried on prominent longships, and others had gilt weather vanes, but most longships probably had no decorative flourishes other than their stemposts ending elegantly at a point.

Smaller, boat-sized vessels had their oars mounted along the rails. They could be used as ships’ boats, for communication, for general transportation, and for harvesting the sea, such as the Norwegian-built Skuldelev 6.

The cargo-carrying vessels range in sizes from the small Danish-built 14-meter-long general-purpose vessel Skuldelev 3 with a cargo capacity of 4 to 5 tons, to the 16-meter-long Baltic trader Skuldelev 1 (from western Norway) with a capacity of 20 to 25 tons, to the Hedeby 3 ship (fig. 1) with an estimated capacity of about 60 tons. The largest cargo-carrying ships were entirely dependent on sail propulsion, and their hulls were more solidly built than the longships. This type of ship was further developed in size during the eleventh and twelfth centuries to match the needs of trade in this period of urbanization around the Baltic and the North Sea.

The seaworthiness of the Gokstad ship was demonstrated as early as 1893 when a full-scale reconstruction of this ship crossed the Atlantic under sail. Since then several of the ships mentioned here, including all five Skuldelev ships, have been reconstructed at full scale and tested in order to study their potentials for the many needs of the maritime-oriented society of the Vikings.

Irish-built Skuldelev 2 ship

The Vikings built their ships of fresh wood. The long planking for the ship’s sides, the strakes, were cleaved from long, straight oak trunks, while the inner and more curved timbers were made from parts of the oak tree crown that had already grown into more or less the correct form. The total volume of wood required for the reconstruction is 150 stacked cubic metres. Then there are 400 kg of pure iron, hemp for the 3000 m of rope, and a great deal of flax for the sail, all 112 square metres of it!

Judging by the most recent wood and tree-ring analyses, the original ship was built in accordance with Scandinavian shipbuilding traditions in Dublin around the year 1042. The ship is thus linked with the Scandinavian expansion westwards and the history of the Vikings in Ireland. Without doubt the ship was also on the scene of many dramatic events that occurred at the end of the Viking Age, after William the Conqueror invaded England in 1066.

    Dating: 1042

    Place of construction: Dublin, Ireland

    Preserved: approx. 25 %

    Material: oak

    Length: approx. 30 metres

    Breadth: 3.8 metres

    Draught: 1 metre

    Displacement: 26 tons (fully equipped)

    No. of oars: 60

    Crew: 65-70 men

    Sail area: 112 m2

    Average speed: 6-8 knots

    Top speed: 13-17 knots

    Average speed for oars: 2.5 knots

BIBLIOGRAPHY Bill, Jan. _Ships and Seamanship._ In The Oxford Illustrated History of the Vikings. Edited by Peter Sawyer, pp. 182. 201. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1997. Brogger, Anton Wilhelm, and Haakan Shetelig. The Viking Ships: Their Ancestry and Evolution. Oslo, Norway: Dreyers, 1951. Crumlin-Pedersen, Ole. _Splendour versus Duty: Eleventh- Century Warships in the Light of History and Archaeology._ In Maritime Warfare in Northern Europe. Edited by A. N. Jorgensen et al., pp. 257.270. Studies in Archaeology and History 6. Copenhagen: National Museum of Denmark, 2002. …. _Ships as Indicators of Trade in Northern Europe, 600.1200._ In Maritime Topography and the Medieval Town. Edited by Jan Bill and Birthe Clausen, pp. 11. 20. Studies in Archaeology and History 4. Copenhagen: National Museum of Denmark, 1999. …. Viking-Age Ships and Shipbuilding in Hedeby/ Haithabu and Schleswig. Ships and Boats of the North, vol. 2. Schlesvig, Germany: Provincial Museum of Archaeology; Roskilde, Denmark: Viking Ship Museum, 1997. Crumlin-Pedersen, Ole, and Olaf Olsen, eds. The Skuldelev Ships I. Ships and Boats of the North, vol. 4.1. Roskilde, Denmark: Viking Ship Museum, 2002.

The Keying [Ch'i-ying]

“The Bay and Harbor of New York” by Samuel Waugh (1814–1885), depicting the Junk Keying moored in New York Harbor in 1847 (watercolor on canvas, c. 1853–1855, Museum of the City of New York).

There are many types of sea-going Chinese Junks. They usually have a high stern and overhanging bow, square on deck but fine at the waterline. They have no keels but a deep rudder lowered in a trunk, and from two to five masts and lug sails stiffened with battens which can be quickly reefed. The hold is divided into water right compartments and let out to merchants. The inland river trade of China is also carried by junks of many varieties. In 1851 the Great exhibition was visited by the Keying, a junk of 400 tons sailing from Canton to Landon via New York.

‘Keying’ was the first Chinese junk which sailed across the Atlantic Ocean. This painting of the junk by an unknown artist in Hong Kong represents the sole Chinese record of the vessel. ‘Keying’ sailed from Hong Kong in December 1846, targeting for London.

The Chinese junk Keying: length 160 ft breadth 33 ft burden 800 tons depth of hold 12 feet. This remarkable vessel is a junk of the largest class, and is the first ship constructed by the Chinese which has reached Europe or even rounded the Cape of Good Hope. This junk was purchased August, 1846, at Canton, by a few enterprising Englishmen. She sailed from Hong Kong, 6th December, 1846, rounded the cape 31st March, 1847, arrived in England 27th march, 1848.

The Keying was a three-masted Chinese trading junk that sailed from Hong Kong in December 1847 with a mixed crew of Chinese and British sailors. The vessel had been purchased surreptitiously by a conglomerate of enterprising English businessmen. It was placed under the command of Captain Alfred Kellett with the intention of carrying curiosities and merchandise to England and thereafter serving as a kind of floating museum. The avaricious Kellett neglected to tell the Chinese crew members that they were embarking on such an extended journey, and by the time the Keying rounded the Cape of Good Hope, they were more or less mutinous. After some bad weather and with supplies running short, the vessel was forced to make an unscheduled stopover in New York City. When the Keying sailed into the harbor on July 9, 1847, it created a sensation. Since at least the late eighteenth-century, Americans had exhibited a fascination with China that only increased as trade relations expanded in the nineteenth century. Tea was of course the most coveted commodity, but Chinese porcelain, silk, and other luxury goods were also much sought after. The Keying brought the “romance of China” to New York City, and the public lined up to pay fifty cents to tour the vessel and peruse its displays.

This watercolor by Samuel Waugh shows the Keying anchored just offshore from Castle Garden, where it remained for several months in 1847. Kellett was coining money, but the Chinese crew used the opportunity to take him to court for his duplicity and general meanness. Although they received a favorable ruling and many of the crew elected to head back to China, Kellett skipped town to escape his obligations, making first for Boston and then crossing the Atlantic the following spring.

In late March 1848, the Keying arrived in London to great fanfare, and several different medals were struck to commemorate its appearance and to sell to the public as souvenirs. If anything, the Chinese junk created an even bigger sensation in England, where it was visited by the Queen, Charles Dickens, and other luminaries. The Keying remained a popular attraction for several years, but later fell into disrepair and it was eventually dismantled. For a description of the vessel, the voyage, and the objects it contained, click on the image at left to page through the promotional pamphlet that Kettell published in London. 

British Army Firepower in the mid-eighteenth century I

Horse Guard and Horse Grenadier Guard.

Lord Ligonier

Major-General Sir Charles Howard

British regiment of foot: Battle of Lauffeldt 21st June 1747 in the War of the Austrian Succession: picture by Richard Simkin.

When writing about the tactics and doctrine of the British Army in the mid-eighteenth century modern historians invariably turn to Humphrey Bland’s A Treatise of Military Discipline. Houlding describes it as being of ‘commanding influence in the army’. In the preface Humphrey Bland laid out his aims and his reasons for writing. He pointed out that there had been nothing written on the art of war by a British author for fifty years. He went on to say that as there were then so few old officers with experience of war he felt it necessary to write what he knew of military matters for those ‘who are yet to learn’. Bland’s Military Discipline was thus a statement of how things were at the time of writing. It contained nothing that would be considered innovative by his fellow officers; if anything it looked backwards. It was also very comprehensive, which probably explains its widespread appeal at the time and its endurance. For the historian it allows developments since the War of the Spanish Succession to be identified.

Brigadier General Richard Kane’s book was not published until after his death. The writer of the preface says of Kane: ‘With great Contempt he read some Books, which pretended to Teach the whole Military Art; and often assured his Friends, that those mean Performances provoked him, to attempt something on the same Subject, which, if not perfect, might be free from those gross Errors and glaring Absurdities, which abound in them.’ This may be a reference to Bland’s Military Discipline; indeed it is difficult to think that it could refer to anything else for the simple reason, as Bland himself said, that there were no other books. Kane himself is also scathing of the 1728 regulations. After quoting its title in full he called it a ‘poor performance’.

Kane is particularly adamant concerning the division of a battalion into four grand divisions. This is, he wrote, ‘the Groundwork of all our Performances, of which our Martinet gives but a faint Idea’. Although Bland wrote initially of dividing a battalion into three grand divisions he also wrote of four when it came to how to form a square. The 1728 regulations contain no mention at all of forming grand divisions, which makes it seem likely that Kane’s ‘Martinet’ is a reference to the official regulations. These were drawn up by a committee of very senior and distinguished officers and approved by the king, George II, who took a great interest in his army. It is therefore perhaps not surprising that Kane’s ideas were not published until after his death.

Kane was also flexible in the number of platoons to be formed by a battalion. His preferred number was sixteen hat platoons in addition to the grenadiers, but he also wrote that twelve was possible for a weak battalion, particularly one on a reduced peacetime establishment. He divided the platoons into three firings but as he considered it ‘absolutely necessary’ to have a reserve he held the front rank as a reserve or fourth firing, leaving the second and rear ranks to carry out the firings. The front ranks of the two central platoons, however, were not reserved, but were to fire with the rest of their platoons. This was so that the battalion commander, out in front of the battalion, had somewhere safe to stand when the reserve fired.

Kane insisted that all the platoons of a firing should fire together and not one at a time, according to their order in a firing, which he describes as normal practice at reviews: ‘they are not to keep popping by single Platoons.’ He required the full weight of six platoons’ fire to be delivered together. Kane described how the simultaneous firing of six platoons scattered along a battalion frontage could be achieved by the battalion commander making use of drum beats to transmit commands. The platoon officers and sergeants were simply to ensure their men acted as ordered by the battalion commander. In particular he mentioned ensuring that the soldiers ‘level well their Arms, so that their Fire may have Effect on the Enemy’. Kane does seem to suggest that extended firefights might be necessary; describing the battalion going through its firings, he wrote: ‘And thus the Colonel continues his Firings standing, without Intermission between them.’ If the enemy were not broken by that fire he wrote that the battalion should be advanced closer by the commander who then ‘continues his Firings as fast as he can, until he obliges them to give Way’.

Like Bland, Kane writes that infantry in line fighting cavalry should fire by platoons, but in contrast to Bland Kane wrote that when in square each side of the square was to fire by ranks. Unfortunately he did not explain his reasons for his preference. Kane also completely omits any mention of the bayonet in attack or defence. Another officer writing in 1744 deliberately omits anything on firings, writing that they ‘have long ago been very clearly and fully laid down by Mr. Bland’, but mentions firing by ranks as one way of firing. Despite the comprehensive nature of Bland it would seem that there was still a considerable amount of variety of opinion over the details of how a battalion of infantry should fight. This was not helped by the brevity of the 1728 regulations, which would have left officers with no alternative but to consult Bland on the finer points of drill. What is clear is that the underlying principal of close-range firing by platoons organised into firings and the subsequent assault with the bayonet against infantry, if necessary, was still the basis of the way British infantry intended to fight.

A further change to the process of loading and firing made its first appearance in the 1740 edition of the 1728 regulations. Until then, officially at least, muskets had been primed from a small flask before a cartridge was opened and loaded into the barrel. The 1740 edition allowed for the musket to be primed direct from a cartridge, thus saving valuable seconds in the loading process. During the mid-eighteenth century wooden ramrods were gradually replaced by steel ramrods and despite some early problems with them bending or being too brittle and breaking they also seem to have speeded up the rate of fire. Houlding suggests that these changes, combined with the platoon exercise, increased the rate of fire of the infantry from two to three rounds a minute.

While Kane probably wrote his book around 1730 it was not published until 1745 and, although he shed a little light on the way British infantry were intended to fight, it was with Bland and the 1728 regulations to guide them that they embarked upon the War of the Austrian Succession.

La Fausille’s manuscript, written around 1750–2, contained a considerable amount of information that cast light upon the battlefield practices of British infantry during the War of the Austrian Succession in a manner that a theoretical drill book could not. Not least he identifies the French contribution to British success. He first emphasised the importance of preventing ‘the men from throwing away their Fire to no purpose, or at too great a distance, as our men, being then Novices, did at the Battle of Dettingen’, explaining that the first discharge of fire in a battle is the one that does the greatest execution as it was properly loaded. As well as happening at Dettingen he added that long-range fire almost happened again at Fontenoy. He then stated that ‘the French generally begin to Fire at a great distance.’ Amherst, later to be commander-in-chief in North America recorded that at Fontenoy the French opened fire at ‘about 80 yards distance’. Citing Laffeldt as an example, La Fausille described how the British infantry continued to advance, ignoring the French fire; the French then hurried to reload, doing so without using the ramrod, but simply dropping the open cartridge into the musket and then banging the butt on the ground to get the cartridge and ball to drop into the breech. The effect of loading in this manner, now commonly referred to as tap-loading, is that the balls do not travel far or with any great force – in fact, if the ball lodges in the barrel some way short of the breech, it can result in the barrel bursting. La Fausille added, ‘this Preserved many of our men at the Battle of Laffelt.’ He then described how they advanced against the French, ignoring their fire, until they came up to the hedge and ditch in front of the French. The British then fired and ‘leaping in among them immediately after it, thus struck them with such a terror, that they gave way’. He made the observation that British battalions were able to attack in this manner three times and lost fewer men than allied battalions who tried to rely entirely upon firepower to defeat the French.

La Fausille observed that once an engagement had begun the pressure of combat ‘rarely affords the men time to Prime, Load and Ram down their Cartridge properly’. That tap-loading was a common practice in British infantry regiments was clear from his advice on what to do after an enemy had been broken. First the battalion was to be put in order and then it was to ‘fresh Prime, Load or Ram down the charge of such as are Loaded’. Ramming tap-loaded charges and freshly priming muskets would have ensured that the battalion’s next fire was as effective as any first fire: it was effectively starting again.

Bland also wrote about tap-loading in his manual, reinforcing that it was a common practice. He advised that loading quickly was facilitated by ensuring that the cartridges were made so that after being placed in the barrel a thump on the ground with the butt end of the musket would make them drop to the breech. Like La Fausille he did not greatly approve of it and listed his objections. First, if the barrel was dirty, the cartridge could stick part way down, risking the barrel bursting. Secondly the paper of the cartridge could get between the powder and the touch-hole. Thirdly, the power of the shot could be greatly reduced so that ‘the Ball will either drop within two or three Yards, or not have Force enough to do much Execution.’ He added that if the men ‘are not press’d too close by the Enemy, the Ramming down of the Cartridge should not be omitted in Service’.

Despite Bland’s objections there are clear indications in order books that tap-loading was not only acceptable, but was planned for in the preparation of ammunition. An order of February 1743 to the British Army in Europe instructed that if any unit had balls too big for their muskets they were to hammer them ‘on every side, to reduce them to such a size as they may go easily down in a Cartridge, allowing for the fouling of a piece by often firing’. It would appear that, while the dangers of tap-loading and the benefits of properly loaded muskets were well understood, at short range the benefit of an increase in the speed of loading, and thus the rate of fire, outweighed any loss in effectiveness. Loading without using the rammer could have shortened the loading time by as much as half. This meant that the well-loaded first shots of the firings could be fired with shorter intervals between each firing as the first firing to fire would have reloaded in half the usual time. This would have increased the intensity of the firing and thus its effect on an enemy.

The first battle of the war, Dettingen, 1743, was also the last occasion upon which British troops were commanded in the field by their monarch, in this case George II. The British with their Hanoverian and Austrian allies were outmanoeuvred by the French and found themselves trapped between the river Main and forest-covered hills with the French in front, behind and across the river. Fortunately, errors by the French gave the British and their allies a chance to fight their way out when the French force blocking their march launched an unnecessary attack.

It is generally stated that the platoon firing of the infantry pretty much fell apart with every man firing in his own time, despite which the British and their allies were able to achieve a notable victory over the French. The main source for this assertion is a letter from Lieutenant Colonel Russell of the Guards in letters to his wife.

That the Austrians also behaved well is also true; that except one of their battalions which fired only once by platoons, they all fired as irregular as we did; that the English infantry behaved like heroes, and as they were the major part of the action, to them the honour of the day was due; that they were under no command by way of Hide Park firing, but that the whole three ranks made a running fire of their own accord, and at the same time with great judgement and skill, stooping all as low as they could, making almost every ball take place is true; that the enemy when expecting our fire, dropped down, which our own men perceiving, waited till they got up before they would fire, as a confirmation of their coolness as well as bravery, is very certain; that the French fired in the same manner, I mean like a running fire, without waiting for words of command, and that Lord Stair did often say he had seen many a battle and never saw the infantry engage in any other manner is as true.

Russell is clearly stating that the British infantry did not fire by platoons as practised in Hyde Park. The London-based Guards’ regiments drilled in Hyde Park and the term Hyde Park became synonymous with doing things strictly according to regulations. In another letter Russell wrote: ‘our men and their regimental officers gained the day; not in the manner of Hyde Park discipline, but our foot almost kneeled down by whole ranks, and so fired upon ’em a constant running fire.’ He goes on to say that each man fired as an individual, and that Lord Stair stated that was what always happened in a battle. The extent to which this sweeping statement, which could be read as applying solely to the French, can be relied upon is open to question. Lord Stair had been the army’s commander-in-chief until his position was usurped when George II took personal command and there is little doubt that Stair was sulking. Similarly Russell was in no mood to pay compliments to the line battalions as the Guards had been with the rearguard of the army and saw no action. In fact Russell wrote to his wife that his view of the battle was from a hill two miles away. More reliable are the accounts of those in the infantry who were directly involved, including a young James Wolfe with Duroure’s regiment. He is clear on the point that his battalion and several others opened fire at far too great a range. Colonel Duroure, acting as adjutant general, wrote that the British infantry fired ‘not by Platoons but with perpetual Volleys from Right to Left, loading almost as fast as they fired without ceasing, so that the French were forced to retreat’. La Fausille described how, once some battalions began to fire, firing broke out right along the line of British infantry even though in places the French were even out of cannon shot. He also recounted how, when a battalion commander asked a general whether he should order his battalion to fire by platoons or ranks the general advised him to keep his men in good order, try to hold their fire to a very close range and he would be delighted to see either fire by platoon or ranks as he ‘never did yet but on a Field day or at a Review’. However, at least one British infantry battalion seems to have managed to fire correctly, by platoons, in firings. An officer in the Royal Welch Fusiliers described how they advanced to within sixty paces of the French before firing:

Our people imitated their predecessors in the late war gloriously, marching in close order, as firm as a wall, and did not fire till we came within sixty paces, and still kept advancing; so that when we had soon closed with the Enemy, they had not retreated: for when the smoak blew off a little, instead of being among their living we found the dead in heaps by us; and the second fire turned them to the right about, and upon a long trot.

This describes the battalion continuing to advance after giving the first firing and on emerging from the smoke of their fire finding the French had taken heavy casualties. The battalion’s second firing then caused the enemy to run. This feat was then repeated against three other French regiments, including a Guard’s regiment that retreated before the fusiliers could fire. This officer was clear in his views about the reasons for the success of his regiment, emphasising the importance of getting close to the enemy before firing: ‘What preserved us was keeping close order, and advancing near the enemy ere we fir’d. Several that popp’d at one hundred paces lost more of their men, and did less execution, for the French will stand fire at that distance, tho’ ’tis plain they cannot look men in the face.’

In his official report Colonel Duroure not only gave his account of what happened, but also made mention of how the infantry had been ordered to fight. It was ‘judged that the whole fire had been given without Orders, against the Directions to preserve ours, and first to receive the Enemy’s, then giving ours and charging with Bayonets’. A clear statement that if Dettingen had been won by firepower alone that had not been the intention.

At Dettingen the French cavalry enjoyed an initial success against the British infantry. The French Household cavalry broke through the first line of British infantry, but did not cause it to retreat. Rather the words of Bland about the superiority of infantry over cavalry were vindicated when the grenadier company of Huske’s 32nd, in the second line, held off the cavalry while the battalion finished forming. Then, trapped between the first and second line of infantry, the cavalry were shot to pieces.

For events at Fontenoy in 1745 there is a French account of cavalry attacking British infantry. ‘Our Cavalry, which advanced before them immediately, could not sustain the terrible Fire made by that Line of Infantry . . . Several of our Squadrons rallied, but were again repuls’d by the prodigious Fire of the Enemy’s Infantry.’69 Although Fontenoy was a defeat for the allied army under the Duke of Cumberland the British infantry more than held their own against both French cavalry and infantry.

Following Dettingen the infantry had trained hard in their battalion firings, as shown by an order of 1 December 1744: ‘The Regt which fired ball against the wall of ye Capuchin’s near the Nonnen Bosh, are to do so no more, but to find some other place, if they have occasion to fire anymore.’ Whilst not a great deal of detail of the infantry battle at Fontenoy has come down to us, the notable exception to this is the firefight between the British and French Guards early on in the battle, when the benefits of such training were clear. Three battalions of British Guards were on the right of the first line of the British infantry attacking the French position. In an incident immortalised by Voltaire they came face to face with the French Guards, the Swiss Guards and the Regiment Courten. According to Voltaire, Lord Hay, a captain in the First Guards, stepped forwards and invited the French to fire first. A French officer responded, saying that they never fired first. The truth, as related by Lord Hay, was more prosaic. He saluted the French, toasted them from his hip flask and told the French he hoped they would not swim the nearby Scheldt as they had the Main at Dettingen, a reference to their rout at that battle. It is unclear who did fire first. Voltaire suggests that the French infantry were so stunned by the British fire that they did not fire at all. An account in a British newspaper stated that the French fired first. Whether they fired first or second the effect of the British fire was devastating. Voltaire says that the fire was by platoons and it seems most likely that the Guards fired twice by firings at a range of less than thirty yards. The total strength of the three guard’s battalions at Fontenoy was approximately 1,970 rank and file, meaning that the French received approximately 3,900 rounds of musket fire. Voltaire records this fire as causing a total of 912 killed and wounded, giving the Guards a hit rate of about 23 per cent. By contrast the three battalions of Guards suffered a total of 736 killed and wounded for the whole battle.

British participation in the War of the Austrian Succession was interrupted by the Jacobite Rebellion of 1745 when Prince Charles Edward Stuart, with French support, landed in Scotland and raised a Scottish army to attempt to recover the Crown for his father. The eyewitness descriptions of combat that survive from that domestic affair allow a far more detailed analysis of how the British infantry fought than has so far been possible. From the beginning it was recognised that the threat posed by Highland forces was quite different from that of conventional European forces. Their tactics had been described by Lieutenant General Hugh Mackay who had been beaten by them at Killiekrankie.

Their way of fighting is to divide themselves by clans, the chief or principal man being at their heads, with some distance to distinguish betwixt them. They come on slowly till they be within distance of firing, which, because they keep no rank or file, doth ordinarily little harm. When their fire is over, they throw away their firelocks, and everyone drawing a long broad sword, with his targe (such as have them) on his left hand, they fall a running toward the enemy.

British Army Firepower in the mid-eighteenth century II

King George II with the Duke of Cumberland at the Battle of Dettingen on 16th June 1743 in the War of the Austrian Succession: picture by John Wootton

Earl of Stair British Commander at the Battle of Dettingen fought on 16th June 1743 in the War of the Austrian Succession.

Lieutenant General Henry Hawley wrote a similar account of the Highlander’s tactics, adding that they normally formed four deep, with their best men in the front rank, but that by the time they reached their enemy they were twelve or fourteen deep. The Duke of Cumberland added further detail when he gave his orders on how the Highlanders were to be fought. His orders explained that the object of the Highlanders firing ‘at a distance’ was to draw their enemy’s fire, adding that after firing they lay down to avoid that return fire. This enabled them to charge home with swords against unloaded muskets.

Mackay’s attempts to overcome the Highland tactics ended in defeat. Hawley’s response was to advise firing by ranks, the fire directed at the centre of the attacking body of Highlanders, starting with the rear rank, but not firing until the range was ‘ten or twelve paces’. He deemed it necessary to wait until the range was so short because the speed of the advance would prevent reloading. Cumberland’s orders were more comprehensive as he allowed for the enemy advancing slowly as well as for the Highland charge. First he specified that a battalion must be in eighteen platoons. If the advance was slow he ordered that firing should be by half firings, that is three platoons at a time, in the case of a rapid advance the fire of the whole battalion was to be reserved until the range was ten or twelve yards. He makes no mention of firing by ranks, so it would seem the whole battalion was to fire together.

The first infantry to meet the Jacobite army were those of the scratch force of Lieutenant General Sir John Cope at Prestonpans on 21 September 1745. A considerable amount is known concerning events at Prestonpans because there was a subsequent inquiry into the defeat of Cope’s little army, although the main interest of the inquiry was the conduct of the senior officers, not the tactics employed. What is clear is that there was no attempt to fight the Jacobite army in anything other than a completely conventional way. The infantry was described as completely formed and having been divided into platoons and firings. When the Jacobites attacked first the dragoons broke and then the infantry gave what was described as ragged fire and also broke and ran.

At the battle of Falkirk, 17 January 1746, the British army was led by Lieutenant General Hawley and, following the defeat of his cavalry, most of his infantry turned and ran in the face of the Highland charge and a raging storm with rain and sleet. However, some detail is available of how the infantry battalions that did stand fought the Jacobites. In particular the description by a sergeant in Barrell’s regiment described how the front rank knelt while the centre and rear rank fired continually. This is confirmed by a private in Barrell’s who referred to the battalion keeping a reserve, that is the front rank. A description of the Royal Scots that appeared in a Dublin newspaper described them firing on attacking Highlanders, the rear rank first, then the centre rank and the front rank when the enemy were within a few paces. This was sufficient to repel the attack. There is a suggestion that while the front rank was held as a reserve, the centre and rear ranks fired by platoon rather than whole ranks, but on the whole those battalions that stood appear to have adhered to Hawley’s advice.

Prior to the battle of Culloden the Duke of Cumberland assembled his army at Aberdeen. There the infantry were carefully trained for the forthcoming confrontation with the Jacobite army and the Highland charge in particular. On 2 April 1746 Cumberland ordered: ‘The Royal North British Fuzileers to be out in the Park tomorrow at 11 o’clock there to practice the motions of alternate firings by platoons from ye right and left to ye centre reserving the fire of ye front rank & Grenadiers.’ These were followed by the Royal Scots, Price’s, Barrell’s and ‘Every Regiment to take their turns afterwards.’ This method of firing was a departure from the normal practice of firing by platoons organised into firings. In some ways this was similar to what Bland advised for dealing with cavalry, with the front rank reserved, but alternate firing was something that he advised against. He described the way the Dutch conducted alternate firing when advancing and although he thought it could be very effective against a stationary enemy he considered it to be vulnerable to a sudden counter-attack while the platoons were reloading. He emphasised that it was necessary for a battalion firing in this manner to advance slowly, ‘to give the Men Time to load their Arms before they approach too near the Enemy’. This would seem to make it unsuitable as a method of dealing with the fast-advancing Highlanders. However, the suggestion that a battalion could be left vulnerable while men reloaded also indicates that the whole fire of a battalion could be delivered very quickly in this manner, something that would be desirable against Highlanders closing quickly. Should that fire not stop an attack then the fire of the reserved grenadiers and front rank could be delivered at a range of only a few yards. This intention of delivering the maximum available fire in a short time at close range is borne out by a passage in a contemporary history of the rebellion that described the infantry at Culloden as firing ‘according to Orders, viz. the 2d and 3d Rank, as they were within 30 Yards, and the 1st, just as they were at the Muzzles of their Guns’.

In addition to a different form of firing the infantry also received instruction in a new way of using the bayonet. From its introduction the bayonet had been treated in the same manner as the pike and for combat it was held in exactly the same manner as the ‘charge for pike’ position. The soldier turned his body to the right with the musket held horizontally under the chin across the chest. The left hand supported the musket under the chin while the right arm was fully extended and the right hand held the musket butt. Drill for fighting with the bayonet was limited to simply thrusting the musket forward, bringing the right hand to the right shoulder and extending the left arm, all with the musket held horizontally at shoulder level. It would seem improbable that soldiers in hand-to-hand combat only plied their bayonets in this manner and it is possible that this lack of drill, when compared to the extensive instructions for musketry, might be partly responsible for the idea that firepower was more important than the bayonet. However, the amount of instruction required for an activity is not necessarily an indication of its relative importance.

The drawback with this drill when fighting a Highlander armed with a sword in the right hand and a targe on the left arm was that any thrust with the bayonet was easily caught on the targe and the musket was also easily knocked aside by the targe, leaving the back of the soldier exposed to the sword. The solution to this problem was simple and introduced by the Duke of Cumberland: ‘his Highness took the pains to confer with every Battalion of Foot, on the proper Method of using the Musket and Bayonet to Advantage against the Sword and Target.’ He simply instructed the soldiers to reverse the position so that they faced to the left of their unit with the right hand under their chin and their left hand on the musket butt. The intention was that any thrust with the bayonet would then tend to come at a Highlander’s exposed right side instead of the left that was covered by the targe. Although Cumberland is usually credited with devising this drill, it is described in an article in the Gentleman’s Magazine for January 1746.

Cumberland’s army came face to face with the Jacobite army of Charles Edward Stuart on Culloden Moor on 16 April 1746. What followed was Cumberland’s army simply, efficiently and professionally going about its business, particularly the infantry. The Jacobite army was organised in two lines, the front consisting of the Highland units, with the Lowland units and French regulars in the second line. It was the Highlanders in the front line that attacked, moving forward in three large bodies. The body which moved towards Cumberland’s right flank did not make contact. Three times it advanced, trying to provoke the infantry into firing too soon, but, as Cumberland wrote in a letter to Lord Loudon: ‘On our right tho they came on with great fury, our Men did not take their firelocks from their shoulders tho they advanced three times within less than an hundred yards of us.’ It was also probable that the Jacobites were inhibited by the presence of three squadrons of cavalry on that flank.

On the other side of the battlefield the other two bodies of Highlanders coalesced into one single mass that struck the battalions of Barrell and Monro. Because of the surviving accounts and an accurate list of the strength of Cumberland’s army it is possible to examine in some detail the combat that ensued.

Barrell’s regiment took the brunt of the Highland charge. The strength of Barrell’s that day was 373, all ranks, of whom 325 were carrying muskets in the three-deep platoons. At this time infantry battalions consisted of nine hat companies and one grenadier company. Given the low strength of Barrell’s, it is probable that it was organised into a total of twelve platoons, giving a platoon strength of twenty-seven men. This would mean that the centre and rear ranks of the ten hat platoons contained 180 men and the reserve had 145 men. If they fired as related, the platoons would have commenced firing at thirty yards in what one eyewitness described as a ‘running fire’, followed by the reserve who ‘received them with their fire upon the Points of their Bayonets’. They appear to have only fired once before the Highlanders reached them, a total of 325 rounds.

Monro’s regiment was the largest battalion on the field with a total strength of 491 men and 426 men in the platoons. An account by a corporal in the regiment states: ‘we fired at about 50 yards Distance . . . they still advanced, and were almost upon us before we had loaden again. We immediately gave them another full fire.’ This probably means that the platoons of the centre and rear ranks fired twice, almost certainly tap-loading to get in a second round, followed by the reserve. Thus 236 men fired twice and 190 fired once, a total of 662 rounds. The corporal of Monro’s continued that ‘the Front Rank charged their Bayonets Breast high, and the Centre and Rear Ranks kept a continual Firing . . . most of us having discharged nine Shot each.’ Monro’s suffered a total of eighty-two killed and wounded in the battle, allowing for which the battalion could have fired approximately two thousand rounds at ranges well under fifty metres.

To the right of Monro’s was Cambell’s Royal Scots Fusiliers. Although not subsequently involved in hand-to-hand fighting, part of the Highland charge crossed its front. With 412 men in its platoons, and assuming its reserve did not fire, it is likely that it fired about 220 rounds at the Highlanders, if it only fired once. The initial fire received by the front of the Highland charge was probably in excess of one thousand rounds, many at point-blank range. The corporal of Monro’s wrote that this ‘made hundreds fall’.

It was at this point that Cumberland’s new bayonet drill came into play and numerous letters and accounts speak of its effectiveness. Cumberland himself wrote: ‘our Men fairly beat them & drove them back with their Bayonets & made a great slaughter of them.’ According to another account: ‘the Soldiers mutually defended each other, and pierced the Heart of his Opponent, ramming their fixed Bayonets up to the Socket.’ Another eyewitness claimed: ‘there being scarce one Soldier in Barreyl’s Regiment who did not each kill several Men; and they of Monro’s which ingaged did the same.’

Some Highlanders passed around the left flank of Barrell’s and between Barrell’s and Monro’s, overrunning two artillery pieces in the gap. Pairs of three-pounder cannon had been placed between the battalions in the front line and these undoubtedly added many casualties, the guns next to Barrell’s firing their last shots of grape at only six feet. The Highlanders who passed Barrell’s then came under fire from regiments in the second line. Subsequently these moved forward to support Barrell’s and Monro’s. In particular Edward Wolfe’s regiment marched to the left of Barrell’s and placed itself at right angles to the front line where it commenced firing. The account of an officer of that regiment says that the battalion fired five or six times. The strength of the regiment was 324 in the platoons and if this firing was carried out with the front rank and grenadier platoons reserved it would have fired between nine hundred and one thousand rounds into the Highlanders at close range. Ligonier’s, Bligh’s and Sempill’s regiments also added their weight to this fire with a total of 1,157 muskets in their platoons. There is no indication of how many rounds they fired, but if, like Wolfe’s, they fired five rounds each that would have been another 3,200 rounds.

Highland charge on Barrell’s Regiment: Battle of Culloden 16th April 1746 in the Jacobite Rebellion: painted by David Morier using Highland prisoners as models.

All in all it would appear that the Highlanders received between six and seven thousand rounds from the battalions of British infantry, many at ranges well under fifty metres. The strength of the Highlanders who attacked the British left-flank battalions was about 2,500. According to the officer of Monro’s left-flank grenadier platoon: ‘we laid about 1,600 dead on the spot.’ The figures for rounds fired would seem to be reasonably robust, as the various sources are consistent. It would also seem that most, if not all, were fired at ranges under fifty metres and that a considerable proportion were fired at much closer ranges. The area where the greatest doubt is to be found is in the numbers of casualties actually inflicted by this fire. However, a return of approximately 1,600 casualties for six or seven thousand rounds is a hit rate of roughly 22–26 per cent, which is in keeping with the 23 per cent suggested for Fontenoy. Even if the casualty figure is high and includes casualties from other parts of the battlefield a figure of one thousand casualties still gives a rate of 14–16 per cent. It would be unwise to place too much reliance on these figures, but they do give an indication of the capability of British musketry to inflict high casualties at the short range that they seem to have preferred to engage at. Every soldier with a musket had twenty-four rounds at Culloden, yet Wolfe’s battalion fired only five or six rounds a man. It would seem most likely that they stopped firing because there was nothing left to fire at.

Following the conclusion of the Jacobite Rebellion the British Army returned to Europe and on 11 October 1746 was engaged with its allies in the battle of Rocoux. Contemporary accounts of this defeat at the hands of the French tell us nothing about how the British infantry fought, but do tell that they fought well. On 2 July the following year the allied army was again beaten at Laffeldt. On this occasion one detail in a letter from a British officer sheds a little light on infantry combat doctrine. The letter confirms La Fausille’s statement that some British battalions attacked the French three times in the fight for possession of the village of Laffeldt. The officer gives the example of Wolfe’s regiment to illustrate how the British battalions fought.

Wolfe’s Regiment carried into the field 24 rounds a man. This they made use of. Afterwards they had a supply of 8 rounds a man more. After this was spent, they made use of all the ammunition amongst the dead and wounded, both of their own men and the enemies. When no farther supply could be had, they formed themselves immediately to receive the enemy upon their bayonets, and being ordered to retreat did it with the utmost regularity.

Wolfe’s battalion was probably involved in trying to repel at least four French attacks on Laffeldt as the village repeatedly changed hands. With firing minimised in the assault it would appear that Wolfe’s men fired in excess of thirty rounds each in defence or six or seven rounds a man against each French attack. This represents a considerable amount of sustained firing and paints a different picture to the short, sharp bursts of fire followed by the vigorous use of the bayonet that seem to have been the preferred method. It may be that the nature of this fighting, in and around a village – hedges are referred to in several accounts – forced the infantry into extended firefights. However, it clearly demonstrates that when necessary British infantry was capable of considerably extended periods of sustained fire.

Following the effective end of the war and while peace negotiations were in progress the Duke of Cumberland and the army were camped at Eindhoven. The organisation of firing was further developed and new instructions were issued on 27 August 1748.

According to these instructions a battalion was to be divided into two grenadier platoons and sixteen hat platoons. Although Bland, Kane and the 1728 regulations allow for other numbers of platoons according to the size of the battalion, the Duke of Cumberland was insistent on forming eighteen. As early as 17 May 1744 he had ordered all battalions to form sixteen subdivisions, eight half divisions and four grand divisions, besides the grenadiers. In his first orders for fighting Highlanders he again stated that battalions were to form eighteen platoons. This may have been fine for the battalions of Guards, in 1744 they averaged at about 660 men in each battalion, not far short of the establishment of seven hundred privates, giving thirty-six men to a platoon. The relatively small size of line battalions, compared to the theoretical establishment, can be seen from the morning state of the battalions at Culloden, where the battalions averaged about 367 privates. Forming eighteen platoons would have given a platoon strength of twenty, far below what Bland recommended as a minimum. In the case of Barrell’s regiment this figure would have been eighteen, yet the commander of one grenadier platoon wrote that he ‘had 18 men killed and wounded in my platoon’. Furthermore, if the grenadier company accounted for a tenth of the battalion strength, as one of the ten companies, and formed two platoons, then eighteen men would have been the platoon size again. As the officer is clear that he had eighteen men killed and wounded in his platoon, and not that all of his platoon were killed or wounded, it suggests that, as recommended by Bland, the grenadier platoons had been supplemented by hatmen. This further suggests that the number of platoons was fewer than eighteen, as has been discussed above.

Prior to the directions issued in 1748 there was no suggestion that the subdivisions could be used as a fire unit, they were simply for manoeuvring. In the absence of any contemporary discussion of the development of the new directions the possibility arises that the new departure of using of subdivisions – that is, pairs of platoons – as firing units was to overcome the problem of platoons that were too small to be effective on their own. As before the platoons were divided into three firings, the platoons of which could either fire singly, one after the other, or all together in a whole firing. However, before these directions could be tested in battle the War of the Austrian Succession was concluded.

There is no doubt that platoon firing was not an easy procedure to execute effectively. This was clearly demonstrated at Dettingen, the British Army’s first major battle in three decades. There, inexperience caused the infantry, described by La Fausille as novices, to open fire spontaneously at far too great a range.120 Although the same thing nearly happened again at Fontenoy, from then onwards the infantry carried out their firing most effectively. That effectiveness was improved by a number of changes from the days of Marlborough. Locking up made firing easier for the men and may have improved accuracy as a consequence. The platoon exercise, priming from the cartridge and steel ramrods all contributed to shortening the loading time, which could be further shortened under pressure by tap-loading. Working against these improvements, however, was the change in battalion organisation that meant platoons and companies were no longer synonymous. However, in Europe the difficulties and complexities were overcome and the experienced infantry fighting there were able to realise the full potential effectiveness of their firepower.

The importance of experience was clearly demonstrated during the Jacobite Rebellion. Of the fifteen battalions at Culloden that destroyed the Jacobite army five battalions had been at Dettingen, another eight at Fontenoy and four had been at both. It was also experience that taught that it was better to brave the enemy fire and get close before firing and then closing with the bayonet than to give in to instinct and fire as soon as the enemy was in range. As La Fausille pointed out, it was the apparently more dangerous course of action that led to the fewer casualties.

What is also clear from both the theory and the practice of British infantry combat doctrine during the War of the Austrian Succession is that it is still basically the same as that developed during the English Civil War. What was also demonstrated during the Jacobite Rebellion was that the infantry were capable of adapting the detailed execution of their doctrine to suit circumstances and the nature of a specific enemy, but that they did so without compromising the underlying principles of maximising short-range fire and following it with effective use of the bayonet. Nor should the importance of the bayonet be underestimated. Perhaps because of the small amount of attention paid to it in the drill books, modern writers appear to have missed the significance of its use and rather emphasised the infantry’s commitment to firepower. That it was an essential element of the way the infantry fought is clearly stated by Duroure in his comment on how it had been intended to fight at Dettingen and La Fausille in his remarks on Laffeldt. What British infantry generally did not do was get into long, sustained firefights where fire alone would decide the outcome, though when necessary they were more than capable of it, as at Laffeldt.

“On to Richmond!”

Ulysses S. Grant and Robert E. Lee, respectively, opposing commanders in the Overland Campaign.

The Army of the Potomac didn’t know quite what to make of Ulysses Grant. Modest to a fault, he was the inverse of peacocks like McClellan and Hooker, whose preening bombast belied their mediocrity, while his quiet decisiveness would prove the antidote to the hesitation that had characterized Meade’s lackluster leadership ever since Gettysburg. It wasn’t always thus. Until 1861, Grant was a study in failed promise: graduation from West Point followed by distinguished service in the Mexican War that petered out into dreary years of garrison duty, rumors of alcoholism, and a succession of unrewarding and unrewarded civilian trades in the backwaters of Missouri and Illinois. A Douglas Democrat in politics, he had harbored mixed feelings about slavery. The Civil War rescued him from obscurity, but unlike most it also rocketed him within months from victory to victory, beginning with the seizure of enemy posts on the Mississippi, the brilliant capture of Forts Henry and Donelson on the Tennessee and the Cumberland, the stunning recovery from near-defeat at Shiloh, the triumph at Vicksburg, and the relief of Chattanooga.

Promising to bring a new aggressive spirit to the so often defeated eastern army, he called up spare troops from as far away as New York and Boston, and stripped the defenses of Washington to restore the Army of the Potomac to more than 120,000 men, its greatest size since 1862. “We had to have hard fighting,” Grant later wrote. “The two armies had been confronting each other so long, without any decisive result, that they hardly knew which could whip.” He retained Meade as the army’s nominal commander, although in practice the victor of Gettysburg served as something closer to a senior chief of staff for Grant, who planned the army’s movements. In contrast to his predecessors, Grant saw the Army of the Potomac’s overland campaign as but one piece, if the largest one, of a multi-pronged campaign to assault the Confederates simultaneously on every front. William T. Sherman, Grant’s successor as commander of the Army of the Tennessee, would strike for Atlanta, the Confederacy’s western manufacturing center and railroad hub. Gen. Nathaniel Banks would drive up the Red River into the heartland of Louisiana. A combined land and sea force would assault Mobile, the Confederacy’s last major port on the Gulf of Mexico. Yet another army under Gen. David Hunter would campaign down the Shenandoah Valley. And while Grant himself marched south into Virginia in pursuit of Robert E. Lee, Gen. Benjamin Butler with another 36,000 men would swing inland from Chesapeake Bay to envelop Richmond from the south. Altogether, it was the most comprehensive and coordinated war plan that the Union had yet attempted, and its complexity a testament to the strategic sophistication of Grant’s mind.

The Army of the Potomac in 1864 was no longer the battle-hungry and undisciplined mob that had stumbled into defeat at Bull Run three years earlier. It had been bloodied many times over since then. Most of the early volunteers were now dead or maimed, or had declined to reenlist after their three years were up. Although a steely patriotism, comradeship, and a determination to finish the job they had started all played their part, many of the veterans who still remained searched their souls for the strength to continue. One of them, Elwood Griest, a Pennsylvanian from Lancaster County, tried to explain to his wife how he coped with the pervasiveness of suffering and death. “I am more than ever convinced that life, strange and mysterious as it may seem to us, is but the sure and unerring workings of a grand machine, as much above our comprehension as the most complicated machinery of human invention is above the comprehension of brute creation. This being the case, we may go forward on life’s journey without fear, confident that whatever may happen, we are but contributing to the grand result.”

Along with veterans like Griest, tens of thousands of often unwilling draftees now filled the ranks. Even more were men who had been paid by affluent draftees to serve as hired substitutes. At the beginning of the war, bounties of $40 or $50 were common; by 1864, it often cost more than $1,000 to entice men to enlist. Thaddeus Stevens personally offered a bounty of $150 to every man in the first two companies from Lancaster County to volunteer for twelve months’ service under the most recent Enrollment Act, plus a bonus of $50 for the first three companies whose officers pledged to abstain from liquor while in service. Apart from the standard $300 federal fee, many others were paid bounties by cities and towns, businesses and private donors such as Stevens, so that states could fill their draft quotas without resorting to politically risky mass conscription. Not surprisingly, many such men soon deserted and often reenlisted elsewhere to claim another bounty, and then absconded again: in one Connecticut regiment, 60 out of 210 recruits decamped within their first three days in camp. A satirical cartoon in Harper’s Weekly that winter showed a broker leading a weedy-looking drunk into a barber shop, saying, “Look a-here—I want you to trim up this old chap with a flaxen wig and a light mustache, so as to make him look like twenty; and as I shall probably clear three hundred dollars on him, I sha’n’t mind giving you a fifty for the job.”

Once again, the Army of the Potomac crossed the desolation of northern Virginia, littered with abandoned fortifications, earthworks, old camps, rifle pits, burned bridges, wrecked railroad cars, ruined woodlands, and untilled fields. Even houses were scarce, having been torn apart for firewood by one army or another. On May 5, Grant collided with a Confederate army about half the size of his own near the old Chancellorsville battlefield, in the wasteland of scrub pine, briars, oak, swamps, and thickets known locally as the “Wilderness.” Human skulls and bones left from the former battle were strewn everywhere, a forbidding sight for men about to go into battle. Maneuver was close to impossible. The narrow roads jumbled ranks and the dense woods wiped out the Union’s advantage in artillery. For two days the armies grappled in bloody melees and fell in tangled heaps to devastating rifle fire from enemies hidden in the trees. Brushfires roasted hundreds of wounded alive, terrifying the living with their screams and the stink of burning flesh. The stalemate left more than seventeen thousand federals and eleven thousand Confederates killed, wounded, and captured. Several of Grant’s senior officers advised him to retreat as every thwarted commander before him had done. He ignored them. He directed the army to skirt Lee’s flank and keep marching south. Despite their wounds and their weariness, when the soldiers realized that Grant would not take them back to Washington, wild cheers echoed through the forest. Men swung their hats, flung up their arms, and cried, “On to Richmond!” with a gusto that they had not felt for many months.

On May 9, the two armies met again near Spotsylvania Court House, eight miles to the south. Grant hammered hard at the Confederate line but failed to break it. May 12 saw the longest sustained combat of the war, as for twenty-one hours straight soldiers battled only a few feet apart, standing atop the mingled dead and wounded three and four deep to poke their rifles over the breastworks, as the wounded writhed in agony beneath them. Wrote one federal soldier, “I saw one [man] completely trodden in the mud so as to look like part of it and yet he was breathing and gasping.” Federal losses at Spotsylvania surpassed 18,000, the Confederates’ somewhat less. Over just two weeks, the Army of the Potomac had been reduced by 36,000 men, more than a third of its number; the Confederates were diminished by about 24,000, a slightly greater proportion of their total. Stymied but undefeated, Grant once again sidestepped the enemy’s position and pushed on south.

Northern newspapers barely mentioned the slaughter, instead emphasizing the skill of the generals and the bravery of the men. The Lancaster Examiner jauntily characterized Grant’s slog as “a footrace to Richmond,” and with a trumpeting boldface headline screamed—quite inaccurately—“Butler on the War Path! He is successful everywhere!” even as that hapless general succumbed to tactical paralysis. The soldiers, of course, knew the truth. The sheer bloodiness of the campaign traumatized even the most battle-hardened. Elwood Griest wrote to his wife, “What a ghastly spectacle do the dead present, torn and mutilated in every conceivable way their unburied corpses cover the country for miles and miles in every direction. I pray that I may be spared from seeing any more.” And in a scribbled note to his parents, future Supreme Court Justice Oliver Wendell Holmes wrote, “It is still kill—kill—all the time,” adding a few days later, “I tell you many a man has gone crazy since this campaign has begun from the terrible pressure on mind & body.”

Only slowly did the magnitude of what was happening make itself felt in Washington. The atmosphere there became increasingly grim. “It is a tearful place here now,” wrote Rep. James A. Garfield to his wife from Washington. “While the thousands of fresh troops go out to feed the great battle mills the crushed grain comes in.” The wounded swamped field hospitals and piled up on train platforms and wharves. It got only worse. On June 3, in what Grant himself recognized as his worst mistake of the campaign, he ordered another frontal assault on Lee’s lines at Cold Harbor, ten miles east of Richmond. Veterans knew it was suicidal and wrote their names on scraps of paper so that their bodies could be identified later. Grant lost six thousand men that morning, more than half of them in the first half-hour, but failed again to dent Lee’s lines. When another assault was ordered that afternoon not a man stirred, refusing to commit suicide in what looked like a foregone massacre.

Grant realized that Cold Harbor was a watershed. Depleted, numb with exhaustion, shaken by trauma, and unwilling to attack dug-in Confederates, the Army of the Potomac was essentially fought-out. Since the beginning of the campaign, it had lost some 55,000 men, of whom more than 7,000 had been killed. A single division in the Second Corps had suffered the appalling loss of 72 percent of its strength since the campaign began. The Confederates had lost between 30,000 and 35,000, many of them irreplaceable.

Apart from Adm. David Farragut’s dramatic seizure of Mobile—“Damn the torpedoes, full speed ahead,” he famously cried as he ordered his warships into the heavily mined bay—all the other pieces of Grant’s ambitious strategy had come to naught. Hunter had been driven ignominiously from the Shenandoah Valley. Butler had allowed himself to be bottled up by a much smaller enemy force outside Petersburg. Sherman was still maneuvering toward Atlanta. Banks had been thrown back in Louisiana. Grant had brought Lee to bay in the ring of fortified trenches around Richmond and Petersburg, but the Confederates still held their capital, and they were still willing to fight. Yet another year that had begun with high hopes and another celebrated general seemed to be sinking into torpid stalemate.

In Washington, as renewed public disillusionment with the war set in, tempers were on a hair-trigger. Zachariah Chandler, Ben Wade’s rough-mannered Senate colleague from Michigan, was dining with friends at the National Hotel on Pennsylvania Avenue when he was overheard denouncing Copperheads by Rep. Daniel Voorhees of Indiana, who was sitting nearby. Voorhees rose, stepped closer to Chandler, and slapped him in the face. The two, both big men—Voorhees was known as “The Tall Sycamore of the Wabash”—then began wrestling across the dining room. When Chandler appeared to be getting the better of Voorhees, the Indianan’s companion, a man named Hannigan, rushed to his aid. Seizing a pitcher of milk from a nearby table, he smashed it over Chandler’s head, spraying milk over everyone nearby and leaving Chandler stunned. Hannigan then hit him again with a chair, at which point the men were finally separated, with great difficulty, by bystanders. It was a foretaste of the political campaign that was just getting under way.

In Congress, Elihu Washburne of Illinois rose to deliver a paean of thanks to the soldiers of the Union. Precisely a year to the day, July 3 1864, had passed, he said, since the armies of the North and South had grappled at Gettysburg. Yes, many men and much matériel had been lost since then. But federal arms were triumphant from Arkansas to Virginia. Sherman was just eighteen miles from Atlanta, “the great rebel heart of the Southwest.” And Lee? Two months ago he had confronted the federal army on the Rapidan with “one hundred and thirty thousand of the best soldiers of the bogus confederacy.” (This was a considerable exaggeration, but no one corrected him.) Two months later, Washburne went on, General Grant—“that child of victory”—had now “driven the desperate and maddened hordes of Lee through sixty miles of his intrenchments, outgeneraling him in every movement, and beating him in every battle. He now holds both Petersburg and Richmond by the throat.” (This was another exaggeration.) The entire military situation never looked more promising, he claimed. “Returning to our seats on the 1st of December, as I hope we all may, I trust we shall see the rebellion crushed, peace restored, and the country regenerated and disenthralled.”

British Crossing of the Rhine: Operation Plunder

By March 1945 the Allies had advanced up to the River Rhine, the last great defensive barrier against the western armies. The Canadians had fought through the Reichswald whilst the British had assisted in the restoring of the lines in the northern sector of the Ardennes following the Battle of the Bulge. Further to the south Hodge’s US 1st Army was at Koblenz on the Rhine and Patton’s 3rd Army was opposite Mainz. Montgomery, seeing a chance to cross the Rhine in the area of Wesel utilising his 21st Army Group put forward the plan for Operation Plunder. This would incorporate 1st Canadian, 2nd British and 9th US Armies. Crossing the Rhine they could then advance into the German industrial heartland, the Ruhr and on to the North German Plain, which was ideal ground for a rapid armoured advance. Montgomery would also include airborne forces in his plan. Dropping just behind the river crossings to secure towns on the intended route of advance as well as disrupting the German reaction to the crossings and halting reinforcements into the area. Learning lessons from the Market Garden debacle, the airborne troops would expect to link up with the ground forces within 24 hours.

The plan was for the Canadian 1st Army to hold the left flank of the assault whilst also making feint attacks across the river to draw the defenders’ attention from the main assault. The British 2nd Army was to make an assault crossing opposite Rees with the 1st Commando Brigade crossing just north of Wesel itself. The US 9th Army would cross further to the south with the aim of advancing on Munster whilst protecting the right flank. The airborne element would utilise the 17th US and 6th British Airborne Divisions. The 6th, made up of 3rd Parachute Brigade commanded by Brigadier James Hill, 5th Parachute Brigade commanded by Brigadier Nigel Poett and 6th Airlanding Brigade commanded by Brigadier Hugh Bellamy would drop around the towns of Hamminkeln and Schnappenberg and the Diersfordter Wald, a forested area east of the Rhine, secure the towns and the surrounding area and await for the arrival of the ground forces. They would also capture several crossings over the smaller Issel river to the east of the Rhine. The 17th, made up of 507th Parachute Infantry Regiment commanded by Colonel Edson Raff, 513th PIR commanded by Colonel James Coutts and 194th Glider Infantry Regiment commanded by Colonel James Pierce would drop just south of the 6th but north of Wesel, again securing areas of the Diersfordter Wald and disrupt any attempts by the enemy to reinforce the battle zone. The plan was also made to include the 13th US Airborne Division but due to a lack of transport aircraft this division was left behind.

Preparations for the crossing commenced on 16 March with the laying of a massive smoke screen to cover the Allied build up and deployment of the supporting artillery, which would total over 5,000 guns. Facing the upcoming assault were elements of the German 86th Corps and 2nd Parachute Corps, with the brunt of the attack been taken by 7th Parachute Division and the 84th Infantry Division. Further to the rear on the east side of the Issel river were the severely depleted but still threatening 116th Panzer Division, with a total of some seventy tanks. The area surrounding Wesel was also thick with anti-aircraft batteries.

During the afternoon of the 23 March 1945 a massive air raid on Wesel was followed by a four hour bombardment from the allied artillery covering the entire 21st Army Group front but concentrating on the town of Wesel. Late that evening the first elements of 2nd Army, the 51st Highland Division made its crossing in amphibious Buffalo vehicles, the crossing taking less than three minutes. The path was laid by an array of searchlights and tracer fire firing from the west to the east bank. Just after midnight the 15th (Scottish) Division would land on the east bank too. The 1st Commando Brigade would do the same landing just north of Wesel. No. 46 (RM) Commando were in the lead and managed to create a bridgehead, despite tough resistance. No. 6 Commando then passed through their positions and began entering the outskirts of the town before they were met by local counter-attacks. The Germans, alerted for days by the smoke screen and the preliminary bombardment were dazed, but soon began to put up a solid defence all along the eastern bank of the Rhine, the 51st Division did not manage to capture the northern town of Rees by the end of the first day, whilst the 15th Division was facing Fallschirmjaeger well emplaced with machine guns and numerous anti-tank ditches.

To the south the Americans were meeting less stubborn resistance but were still taking casualties. The lead unit, 30th Infantry Division managed to gain a strong foothold on the eastern bank whilst the 79th Division did the same to their south.

On the morning of 24 March 1,600 transports, mostly C-47 Dakotas but with some newly arrived C-46 Commando and C-54 transports, began to form up above Belgium. Being towed by these aircraft were a total of 1,300 gliders, made up of Horsa, Waco and the heavy lift Hamilcar. The vast armada stretched for some 200 miles and was heavily protected by fighter aircraft. This was to be the largest airborne drop in military history.

The 3rd Parachute Brigade were the first over their drop zone, DZ ‘A’, and were met with ferocious anit-aircraft fire. The unit did however manage to land as a cohesive unit on the drop zone ten minutes before their H-Hour of 10.00. Once on the ground they held off local counter-attacks and went about clearing their area of the Diersfordter as well as moving on the village of Schnappenberg, which was captured by 14.00.

Closely following the 3rd were the men of 5th Parachute Brigade, landing on DZ ‘B’. Here the men again landed within their designated area but were met with intense artillery fire onto the drop zone. This had to be neutralised before the Brigade could then go about its tasks.

The 6th Airlanding Brigade was separated into companys for its assault. The 2nd Oxfordshire and Buckinghamshire Light infantry landed to the north on LZ ‘O’. Their task being to secure the two bridges over the River Issel. The 1st Royal Ulster Rifles landed just south on LZ ‘U’ to secure the main road bridge whilst 12th Battalion of Devonshire Regiment landed LZ ‘P’ tasked with the capture of Hamminkeln. By now the German defenders were fully alerted and the slow moving gliders, along with the towing aircraft were met with heavy flak. This took an extreme toll on the glidermen with many casualties from aircraft crashing or making emergency landings. These same flak cannons were then lowered to the horizontal where they engaged the brigade as they formed up on their respective landing zones. 2 Ox and Bucks captured the two bridges and established footholds on the eastern bank of the Issel. 1 RUR also captured their bridge. 12 Devons took the most casualties on landing but despite this moved on Hamminkeln and took it with the aid of the misdropped men of 513th PIR. As the glidermen dug in to defend their positions local counter-attacks by the Germans, supported by armour were made, these being fought off. However the area around 2 Ox and Bucks positions at the road bridge was severely threatened and they were pushed from the east bank. This was taken with an immediate counter-attack, but when enemy armour approached the bridge it was decided to blow it.

As 24 March came to a close all the tasks given to the men of the various airborne units had been accomplished. The German rear had been thrown into disarray and allowed for the consolidation of the bridgehead over the Rhine by the land forces. The routes taken by any potential counter-attack from the German panzer units stationed further to the rear were held and the town of Hamminkeln had been captured. By midnight of 24 March the 15th Division had made contact with the 6th Airborne and armour was starting to come across the river to further reinforce the bridgehead. By the following day twelve pontoon bridges were laid across the Rhine to aid the stream of Allied forces east of the river. The attack had been costly on the airborne forces, with the 6th Airborne suffering 1,300 casualties and the 17th Airborne suffering a similar amount. However the lessons learned from Market Garden had proved to be fruitful, with an airborne army landing in the enemy’s direct rear area a swift victory could be achieved. The German defences in the west had been cracked and now the road was open for 21st Army Group to exploit the gap and continue on to the Elbe river, swinging south to join with the American counterparts, who had forced various crossings along the southern part of the Rhine. Within six weeks the war in Europe would come to an end.

79th Armoured Division

By March 1945, Allied forces were staged all along the west bank of the Rhine, prepared for one last, deep thrust into the heart of Germany. The Rhine River crossings, code-named PLUNDER by the British, were deliberately planned, rehearsed and executed, second only in scale to the Normandy landings. Through its training wings the 79th made intense efforts to train and rehearse Buffalo and DD-tank crews, in concert with the units to be supported. Maintenance of equipment was equally a concern, as many of the Sherman DDs had to be refitted with floatation gear that had long ago been discarded, or had fallen into disrepair. SHAEF message traffic from the period indicates that DD-tank maintenance status was also a concern for the U.S. command. Messages relayed between the War Department and the Army Group commanders (through Eisenhower) suggest a serious lack of visibility on not only DD-tank maintenance status, but questions how many of these tanks were still out in the field. It was also noted that repair parts and spares were lacking, and that Americans would have to rely on British holdings to get most of the U.S. DD-tank fleet operational.

These tanks were critical to both forces, especially for the British as their plan was similar to D-Day in that DD-tanks would lead the assault forces. Instead of Crabs and AVREs, Buffaloes would be the key piece of specialized armor provided by the division, as they would ferry waves of assaulting infantry to the far bank. On the night of 23 March, units marshaled and loaded Buffaloes as the assault across the river commenced.

As the assault unfolded, DD-tanks succeeded in crossing in great numbers, though some became bogged down on the muddy eastern embankments. The tank crews were able to accomplish their mission and provide direct fire support to the follow-on infantry force. It was during the night crossing that another “funny” would finally be employed, the CDL tank. The plan called for a CDL-equipped squadron to light the far bank during night operations on 24 and 25 March. The powerful lights would not only assist units as they ferried across the wide river, they would also deter mine and sabotage swimmer threats along the upstream (north) approach. These tanks became favorite targets of German gunners, although only one tank would be lost in action. In the end the CDL squadron successfully accomplished its unique mission, and could finally claim they had contributed to the division’s legacy.

From 24-26 March the four Buffalo-equipped regiments tasked with ferrying infantry made over 3800 trips, carrying most of the fighting soldiers of the Highland, 3rd Canadian, 43rd and 15th (Scottish) Divisions across the Rhine. This was accomplished with only thirty-eight casualties and nine destroyed Buffaloes. On 26 March, Prime Minister Churchill and Field Marshal Alan Brooke accompanied Field Marshal Montgomery and General Hobart across the Rhine in a Buffalo. Churchill addressed the men assembled, congratulating the Buffalo crews on a “splendid job of work.” It had been a monumental task, flawlessly executed.

The assault across the Rhine was the largest operation the 79th would conduct following OVERLORD, and certainly the most important too. The instructional wing concept had shown itself worthy of the investment of time, men and materiel. DD-tanks had once again proven their value in an amphibious assault, with much credit due the REME units for getting the tanks back into a mission capable status. The concept for the use of Buffaloes was also found to be sound, and the engineer squadrons that manned them deemed as capable at their employment as they had been the AVRE. Finally, CDL tanks had even provided a significant, although limited, contribution.

The 79th Division’s success during OVERLORD and on these subsequent operations through late 1944 and early 1945 would pique interest elsewhere. AVREs, ARKs and Crocodiles were all used in the Italian campaign beginning around August 1944. Use of ARKs and AVREs would steadily increase as they were found to be effective in supporting the numerous stream and gap crossings being conducted. An armored engineer brigade was organized in theater, consisting of two AVRE regiments, a Crocodile regiment, and a Crab regiment.

The U.S. Army also attempted to establish specialist armor units in northwest Europe. Three such specialist battalions were organized, the intent being an allocation of one battalion per Army. The units’ primary mission was to conduct mine and obstacle clearance, and to provide support to Corps and Divisions on request through the numbered Army staffs. Each battalion was to be outfitted with five tankdozers, eight rolling mine exploders (U.S. variants of the CIRD), three Crabs, and an undetermined number of Snakes. The mine exploders were never favorably received due to maneuverability limitations and a demonstrated inefficiency at the core task, exploding mines. These units saw limited action and were therefore not effective.

A key reason for continued British success in employing specialized armor, and a reason why the Americans continued to struggle, was that a purpose-built unit had maintained the strong thread of training and development begun well prior to the campaign’s commencement. From the beginning British leaders had agreed that the division was a required investment to help ensure success. The U.S. Army followed a much less structured, decentralized approach in its efforts, and as such often struggled to meet the needs of units through rapid, well synchronized combat developments.

The U.S. Army also lacked a leader, or leaders, that possessed the necessary experience, attitude and vision to shepherd these innovations. The strong-willed, yet highly capable Hobart was such an individual, and he built a cadre of like-minded officers that would be equally critical factors in the division’s success. As Montgomery noted in a post-war lecture, Hobart and his “competent advisors” enabled the success of this huge task in that, “It was found that centralization under him was essential in order to achieve flexibility and provide a controlled programme of workshops overhaul, rest and relief.” The strong influence of the 79th Division in the development and use of specialized armor had proven itself worthy of the investment.

The end of hostilities in Germany marked the end of the 79th Armoured Division. The division would disband, with its subunits to be parceled out to other British Army formations in various theaters. The division had acquitted itself well in its brief existence, accomplishing a great deal in terms of equipment, organizational and tactical developments. Units from the division participated in every 21 Army Group operation from Normandy onward, usually in the van of each assault, and had done so with the relatively modest losses of 379 tanks (approximately twenty-five percent of the frontline total) and just under 1500 soldiers killed, wounded or missing (approximately seven percent of the divisional strength at its high point). Perhaps the greatest contribution of the division (other than the myriad of armored vehicles in the inventory) would be in the detailed after-action reports that would serve as the basis for future doctrinal and technical developments.

BC Lion (1912)

Larger than the contemporary German battlecruiser Seydlitz, and only half a knot faster, Lion’s armour accounted for 23 per cent of displacement, while Seydlitz’s was 31 per cent.

The deck plan shows how much of Lion’s 213.4m (700ft) length needed protection because of the spacing of the 342mm (13.5 in) turrets.

Battle of Dogger Bank

The Battle of the Dogger Bank was fought when, from intercepted radio messages, the British came out to forestall a German bombardment of coastal towns: Admiral Beatty’s force of five battlecruisers – Lion, Tiger, Princess Royal, New Zealand and Indomitable – with seven light cruisers and 35 destroyers against Admiral Hipper’s three battlecruisers, Seydlitz, Moltke and Derfflinger, one armoured cruiser, Blücher, four light cruisers and 18 torpedo boats.

Outnumbered, Hipper sought to avoid a battle but the faster British force pursued his ships in a stern chase and by 09:30 on 24 January they opened fire at long range. The disabling of Lion, with all electrical power lost, prevented Beatty from giving effective signals, and the German ships, except for Blücher, got away. Though indecisive, the battle was considered a British tactical victory and enhanced the reputation of the battlecruisers, despite the damage to Lion having revealed the British ships’ lack of staying power under heavy gunfire.

The Lion class

The three ships of the Lion class were the first battlecruisers to carry 342mm (13.5in) guns, and were the largest and fastest capital ships yet built; they were also the most expensive. But they had serious defects.

The British Navy adopted the superfiring turret arrangement in HMS Neptune (commissioned November 1911), and with the Orion class of battleships (commissioned January 1912) introduced the ‘super-dreadnought’ with 343mm (13.5in) guns. These aspects were combined in the Lion class battlecruisers. Britain had introduced the battlecruiser, as an enlarged version of the armoured cruiser, with HMS Invincible, commissioned in 1908. Like HMS Dreadnought, it was a project begun and driven by Admiral Lord Fisher who believed it to be tactically and strategically superior to the battleship.

Lion was the third class of battlecruiser to be introduced, laid down at Devonport Naval Dockyard on 29 November 1909, launched on 6 August 1910 and commissioned on 4 June 1912. Two others, Princess Royal and Queen Mary, completed the class. Each ship cost in excess of £2,000,000. The German Navy had responded rapidly to the implicit challenge: SMS Moltke was commissioned in September 1911 while Lion was still fitting out, and Derfflinger was laid down in January 1912. Moltke carried 10 208mm (11.1in) guns.

Design errors

Lion’s design followed that of Dreadnought and Orion by having the fore-funnel placed in front of the mast. As a result sparks, smoke and heat made the masthead installations often uninhabitable. The bridge, placed on top of the conning tower, suffered similarly. In 1912 the original tripod mast was replaced by a single pole mast with a light spotting top, and the funnel was moved behind it, though still very close. The second and third funnels were heightened to be uniform with the fore-funnel.

Although the ‘A’ and ‘B’ turrets were set in a superfiring arrangement, there was only a single aft ‘Y’ turret, with a central ‘Q’ turret placed between the second and third funnels, separating the boiler rooms below. Rangefinders were located in ‘B’ and ‘Y’ turrets and in the conning tower, with the fire-control position (this was later transferred to the mast, which was fortified by struts to support it). The ships carried 16 102mm (4in) guns for anti-torpedo boat defence, their batteries aligned so as to have six firing ahead, eight abeam and four astern. Two 533mm (21in) torpedo tubes were below the waterline on either side of ‘A’ barbette. In 1917 searchlight supports were fixed on the mast and the after funnel.

Armour limitations

The most controversial aspect of the battlecruiser, certainly after the Battle of Jutland, was its relative lack of armour protection. Speed was the great requirement insisted upon, and greater speed meant greater length and more surface requiring protection. In fact the vulnerability of the Lion class was more due to insufficient understanding of the flash effects of a shell explosion and the countermeasures necessary, rather than of lack of armour as such. Belt armour was fitted up to main deck level for the first time, but the armoured deck was only 25.4mm (1in) thick, and the barbettes extending down into the hull had 76.2mm (3in) armour. Altogether, armour weight came to 5624 tonnes (6200 tons) or 23 per cent of the design displacement. By comparison the German Moltke had belt armour to a maximum of 270mm (10.6in) and an armoured deck of 50mm (2in).

Lion joined the 1st Cruiser Squadron on commissioning, then was flagship of the 1st Battlecruiser Squadron from January 1913. In the 1914–18 war it was flagship of the Battlecruiser Fleet, and gave long-range support at the Battle of Heligoland Bight on 28 August 1914. At the Battle of the Dogger Bank, the only fight exclusively involving battlecruisers on 24 January 1915, a shot from Lion knocked out the rear turret of Admiral Hipper’s flagship Seydlitz, but Lion sustained 17 hits including two on the waterline, narrowly avoided flooding of the engine room, and fell out of the action. Towed back by Indomitable, it spent four months under repair.

At the Battle of Jutland, 31 May 1916, Lion took a direct hit on ‘Q’ turret, whose officer, Major Harvey, died as he flooded the magazines, saving the ship. But its sister ship Queen Mary was blown up, with Indefatigable and Invincible. Lion was repaired by 19 July and continued in North Sea operations until the end of the war. In 1921 it was decommissioned under the Washington Agreement and was sold for breaking up in January 1924.

Boleslaw Chrobry (the Brave)

992-1025 Reign of Boleslaw I ‘the Brave’

Boleslaw Chrobry (the Brave), whose brilliant reign started in 992 with a strengthening of Poland’s unity and which had as its main objective the securing of a fully independent and even leading position in East Central Europe.

Boleslaw first hoped to realize his plans in friendly cooperation with the young Emperor Otto III who had a truly universal, supranational conception of the Roman Empire, uniting on equal terms Italy, Gaul, Germany and Sclavinia. In the latter-the Slavic world-the Emperor was prepared to recognize Boleslaw as his vicar (patricius), whose friendly collaboration would promote the missionary activities in which they were both deeply interested. Their common friend, Adalbert, the former Bishop of Prague, having been killed in 997 on a mission in Prussia, was soon afterwards canonized by Pope Sylvester II. At Easter of the year 1000, Otto III made a pilgrimage to Poland’s capital, Gniezno, where Boleslaw had buried the redeemed body of the martyr. At a solemn convention attended by a papal legate, Poland received a fully independent ecclesiastical organization with an archbishop in Gniezno and new bishops in Cracow, Wroclaw (Breslau in Silesia), and Kolobrzeg (Kolberg in Pomerania).

The political decisions of the congress of Gniezno made Boleslaw -like his father a former tributarius of the Empire-a real dominus, that is, an independent ruler to whom most probably the royal dignity was promised. Some obscure intrigues at the Roman curia delayed the planned coronation, however, and in 1002 the death of Otto III altogether changed the situation. Fully aware of the danger of German imperialism which reappeared under the new emperor, Henry II, the Polish duke decided to oppose his policy by uniting all Western Slavs in some kind of federation under Poland’s leadership.

That project included two different problems. Boleslaw wanted first of all to save from German domination and to include in his realm as much as possible of the Slavic territory between Germany and Poland. Therefore in 1002 he occupied Lusatia and Misnia (Meissen), where a residuum of the Slavic population was to survive until our day. Even more important was the idea of replacing German influence in Bohemia by Polish authority.

Interfering with internal rivalries among the members of the Premyslid dynasty, in the following year Boleslaw entered Prague and the creation of a common Polish-Czech state seemed nearer than in any later period of history.

But Henry II reacted by declaring a war which, twice interrupted by truces, lasted sixteen years. The final peace was concluded in 1018 in Budziszyn (Bautzen), the capital of Lusatia, which definitely remained under Boleslaw’s full sovereignty. He did not, however, succeed in gaining any other Slavic lands between the Oder and Elbe rivers, where the strongest tribe, the Lutitians, even cooperated with the German invaders, thus preparing their final doom. There was also a German party in Bohemia which the Poles had to evacuate in 1004. Boleslaw kept only Moravia, so that the state of the Premyslids was temporarily divided between the Empire and Poland.

In 1013, in the midst of the German war, Poland was for the first time threatened by a joint action of her western and eastern neighbors, the Emperor having resumed earlier German relations with the Kievan State. That was probably one of the reasons why Boleslaw, immediately after the Treaty of Budziszyn, decided to interfere with the internal struggle among the sons of Vladimir of Kiev, supporting the one who had married his daughter. When he occupied Kiev in that same year of 1018 and there established the rule of his son-in-law, Sviatopolk, it seemed that even the Eastern Slavs would be included in Boleslaw’s federal system. The message which he sent from Kiev to both emperors, Henry II of Germany and Basil II of Byzantium, was a clear expression of his aim to keep the whole of East Central Europe free from any imperial authority.

Boleslaw’s influence reached as far as the Lithuanian border, where another missionary whom he supported, his German admirer St. Bruno, was killed in 1009, and also into Hungary, although it is doubtful whether he ever united any Slovak territories with Poland. His coronation as first King of Poland which with papal approval took place shortly before his death in 1025, finally confirmed Poland’s position as an independent member of the European community.

The royal tradition of Boleslaw Chrobry remained alive throughout the whole course of Polish history, although already under his son and successor, Mieszko II (1025-1034), crowned immediately after his father’s death, Poland lost her leading position and entered a serious internal crisis that opened the door to German intervention. Lost were also the first king’s territorial acquisitions, Lusatia and Moravia, the former coming definitely under German control and the latter returning to Bohemia. In spite of a fierce but unorganized resistance, the Slavic tribes west of Poland were absorbed by the Empire, which also continued to include the state of the Premyslids.