Italy’s MBT Ariete




Italy’s MBT is the Ariete, developed beginning in 1982. A half-dozen prototypes were produced by 1984, and the Ariete entered service in 1995. The Italian Army ordered 200. The Ariete weighs about 119,000 pounds, has a crew of four, is powered by a 1,300-hp engine, and has a maximum speed of 40 mph. It mounts a 120mm smoothbore main gun, which takes the same ammunition as the M1A1/M1A2 Abrams and Leopard 2, and two machine guns. The Ariete has NBC protection, a ballistic computer, day/night sight, and laser rangefinder. It also has an electric gun-control and stabilization system. The tank features blowout panels in the turret roof to release any internal explosion upward and away from the crew. A Mark 2 is currently under development.

Designing the Mk 2 Ariete is well underway. Under present plans, 500 Mk 2 Arietes will follow the Mk 1 on the production lines. These will have enhanced serviceability features, a 1500 hp engine, hydro-pneumatic suspension, an automatic loader and a more advanced fire-control system.

Enhanced Ariete

As mentioned in the development, the Italian Army may fund a mid-life update of the Ariete in the medium term and Italian industry is already proposing a number of enhancements.

Tests are already under way of an add-on armour package. A war kit would provide increased protection over the frontal arc and there would also be a kit for peace support operations to provide enhanced protection along the side of the vehicle.

IVECO has also developed a series of new diesel engines based on the common rail injection system, with a prototype of a V-12 model already being installed for trials purposes in an Ariete at the Oto Melara plant in La Spezia.

The new diesel engine develops 1,500 hp compared to the current 1,200 hp, has reduced smoke and allows the vehicle to reach a maximum speed of 32 km/h within six seconds.

The current tracks could be replaced by wider tracks, which would lower the ground pressure of the vehicle and help to offset any increases in weight due to the installation of additional armour protection.

The commander’s station could be fitted with a multispectral panoramic sight, with the turret being fitted with all new electric servos, as already installed in the Oto Melara 120/105 HITFACT turret systems.

A radar and thermal reduction kit has also been developed and tested. According to the manufacturer, this kit can reduce by 90 to 99 per cent the radar signature in the 6 to 100 GHz band and by 85 per cent the infra-red signature in the 3 to 5 pm and 8 to 12 pm bands.

From 2005, the Italian Army intends to fit the SJCCONA navigation and command-and-control system to at least part of its Ariete fleet as part of its land digitisation programme.

The Ariete equips three armoured (4th, 32nd and 132nd) regiment of the Ariete Armoured Brigade. Each regiment has 54 tanks, equipping four companies, each with 13 tanks and two assigned to the regiment; headquarters. Other Italian armoured regiments are equipped with the Leopard 1 series MBT.

In 2004 the Italian Army deployed six Ariete MBTsto Iraq from the 3rd Tar Battalion/M. O. Galas/32 Tank Regiment. These were fitted with addition: armour protection to their hulls and turrets. Two 7.62 mm machine gun were installed on the roof, which were protected by shields similar to those fitted to the Centauro 105 mm armoured car/tank destroyer.


The tank has a conventional layout similar to other Western MBTs: with the driver located at the front of the hull, the fighting compartment – towards the middle – and the engine compartment is in the rear of the hull.


The Ariete’s main armament is a native 120 mm smoothbore cannon developed by OTO Breda, autofrettaged and stress-hardened to increase durability over extended periods of firing, allowing the use of APFSDS-T and HEAT ammunition. The gun is also adapted to fire most NATO-standard rounds of the same calibre. It carries 42 rounds, 27 rounds of which are stored in a special magazine inside the hull, to the left of the driver’s position. The remaining ammunition is stored in the rear turret bustle, separated from the crew compartment with an armoured door. The gun barrel has a thermal insulating sleeve and a fume extractor; it is fully stabilized in both azimuth and elevation by an electro-hydraulic drive system.

Secondary armament consists of a 7.62 mm MG 42/59 coaxial machine gun operated by the tank gunner or commander and an additional 7.62 mm MG 42/59 configured as an anti-aircraft weapon operated by the main-gun loader from his hatch.

Fire control and target acquisition

The tank’s sophisticated fire-control system, manufactured by Galileo Avionica, is designated OG14L3 TURMS, and includes day and night panoramic capability for the commander’s SP-T-694 primary sight (developed collaboratively by SFIM/Galileo), a stabilized platform including a thermal gunner’s sight and a laser rangefinder to increase accuracy and expedite target detection and targeting, and a digital fire-control computer, which is capable of measuring wind speed, humidity, and exterior weather conditions, combining them with the turret’s angle of elevation, attitude, and the barrel’s physical wear to increase accuracy. This computer is also a component of the tank’s navigation system and allows for the exchange of tactical information between vehicles in a network. The Ariete has a “hunter-killer” capability in which the commander spots and designates targets for the gunner in a 360° field of vision around the vehicle without changing his position or exposing himself by unbuttoning from inside the tank. The commander’s sight also has a vertical traverse from -10° to +60° from the horizontal, which allows the tank to engage low-flying airborne threats – primarily helicopters. During night fighting, the commander and gunner both share the thermal sight which is able to resolve a 2.3×x2.3 m target from a distance of 1,500 m.

Crew and tank protection

The Ariete’s armour is a steel and composite blend, similar to the British Challenger 2 and the American M1 Abrams.

The Ariete features two side-mounted, electronically fired grenade launchers. Each launcher consists of four barrels which can be intermixed with either smoke or chaff grenades. The smoke grenades are capable of shrouding the tank from visual or thermal detection, while the chaff grenades disperse the tank’s radar cross section. The tank is fully NBC protected.

Powerplant and drivetrain

The Ariete is powered by a 25.8-litre turbo-charged Fiat-Iveco MTCA 12-cylinder diesel engine in a Vee configuration rated at 937 kilowatts (1,250 hp) at 2,300 rpm, with a maximum torque of 4,615 Nm at 1,600 rpm driving through a ZF LSG3000 automatic transmission, with four forward gears and two reverse, allowing for a top cruising speed of 65 km/h and a 0–32 km/h acceleration in 6 s. The computer-controlled transmission allows it to climb grades rated up to 60%, and can ford waterways of up to 1.25 m on-the-fly. The entire engine and transmission assembly can be replaced in under 1 hour.

The Ariete’s independent suspension system consists of 14 torsion bars with suspension arms, 10 hydraulic shock absorbers (installed on roadwheels numbers 1, 2, 3, 6 and 7) and 14 friction dampers.

Summary: Italy’s current MBT. The Ariete features a ballistic computer, day/night sight, and laser rangefinder. It also has an electric gun-control and stabilization system, along with blowout panels in the turret roof to release any internal explosion upward and away from the crew. A Mark 2 is now under development.

Production dates: 1995-

Number produced: 200

Manufacturer: OTOBREDA, La Spezia, Italy

Crew: 4 (commander, gunner, loader, driver)

Armament: 1 x 120mm (4.72-inch) OTOBREDA smoothbore gun; 1 x 12.7mm machine gun (antiaircraft); 2 x 7.62mm machine guns (coaxial); 4 smoke grenade launchers

Weight: 119,016 lbs.

Length: 24’11” (31’7″ with gun forward)

Width: 11’10” Height: 8’2″ Armor: not disclosed Ammunition storage and type: 40 x 120mm; 2,400 x 7.62mm

Power plant: IVECO V-12 MTCA turbocharged 12-cylinder 1,300-hp diesel engine.

Maximum speed: 40 mph Range: 342 miles

Fording depth: 3’11” (6’10” with preparation)

Vertical obstacle: 3’3″

Trench crossing: 9’10”

Special characteristics (pos/neg): Galileo computerized fire-control system, including daylight sights, laser rangefinder


More Strategic Bombers





Strategic bombers exercised a major influence over the first half of the Cold War, principally because in the 1940s and 1950s they were the only practicable means of delivering the very heavy atomic and hydrogen weapons over intercontinental ranges. Allied to this, bombers had played a major role in the recently concluded Second World War, with the Allied bombing campaigns against Germany and Japan giving the appearance of a war-winning strategy. Indeed, the war had been brought to a close by the two USAAF (United States Army Air Force) B-29 bombers which dropped atomic bombs on Hiroshima and Nagasaki.

There were also bureaucratic reasons for the fierce advocacy of the bomber, however. The US air force finally became independent of the US army in 1947 and was extremely keen to prove itself to be the war-winning arm in the Cold War. In the UK, which found itself facing the reality that it was now only the second most powerful nation in the West, membership of the exclusive ‘nuclear club’ appeared to be the only way to retain superpower status, and, in the short term, bombers were the only feasible way of achieving that. On the Soviet side, the air force realized that it had never produced a bomber force to match those of the USA and UK, and was desperate to rectify this. Thus, from 1945 into the mid-1960s, the strategic bomber armed with nuclear weapons was the symbol of global power.

Atomic warfare was associated with aviation from the very beginning. The first and last nuclear weapons ever used in anger were dropped by U. S. B-29 bombers in August 1945 on the Japanese cities of Hiroshima and Nagasaki. These actions represented the end of World War II (Japan soon surrendered) and the beginning of the Cold War (erstwhile allies aligned against one another). As postwar tensions mounted, the United States clung to its monopoly on atomic weapons as its trump card in any future conflict. In the late 1940s and early 1950s, the U. S. Air Force developed the newly created Strategic Air Command into an elite force of medium- and long-range bombers capable of delivering nuclear weapons to targets throughout the Soviet Union, a strategy of massive retaliation in the event of war with the communist nation. Though the Soviet Union tested its first atomic bomb in 1949-years earlier than expected-the United States remained well ahead in its capacity for nuclear attack throughout the 1950s. In the early 1950s, the superpowers added thermonuclear weapons to their arsenals; some explosive yields were 1,000 times more powerful than early atomic bombs. By the mid-1950s, it had become possible to kill an entire nation in a matter of days. U. S. military planners hoped their nuclear superiority would deter any war, but should it come they continued to believe they could “win” a nuclear exchange by undertaking a massive first strike, thereby preventing Soviet retaliation.

The study of German jet engines helped the Soviets develop their first jet fighters (in 1946, the MiG-9 and Yak-15 were introduced). At the same time, Soviet designers benefited from the wartime acquisition of several U. S. B-29 bombers. The strategic bomber force was reorganized in 1946 within the Soviet Air Force, equipped with Tu-4 heavy bombers (based on the B-29 design) and Il-28 medium bombers.

The progress of the Cold War since the 1960s, the development of nuclear, thermonuclear, and missile weaponry, as well as the development of entirely new technologies, prompted significant changes in the Soviet Air Force. The political and military leadership needed a world-class airpower to back up rising global ambitions and be able to participate in any number of contingencies-nuclear and conventional. At the same time, the greater emphasis on ICBMs in the development of strategic power allowed the Soviets to reduce a number of obsolete aircraft without lowering the combat capability of its air force.

From the 1960 to the 1980s, the Soviets modernized their fleet of strategic bombers and introduced the supersonic Tu-22 bomber (1963). Beginning in 1987, the Tu-160 strategic bomber entered service. This bomber force was an integral (although the smallest) part of the Soviet strategic triad. Additionally, air-to-surface cruise missiles enhanced the strategic function of these aircraft. The cruise missiles, as well as the introduction of the Tu-26 longer-range bomber, in 1974 gave the Soviet Air Force the ability to carry out deep strikes across Western Europe, the North Atlantic, and North America.


Bomber designers and the tacticians fought an unending war against the potential defenders in an effort to ensure that the bomber would get through to its targets. In the late 1940s the major threat came from radar-directed anti-aircraft guns, which had reached a considerable degree of sophistication, and the bombers’ first response was simply to fly higher than the effective ceiling of the guns. The next threat was air-defence fighters, and here again the bombers responded by flying higher and faster – there were numerous reports of British and US reconnaissance flights over the USSR in the early 1950s in which the Soviet fighters simply could not reach the same altitude as the intruder.

Second World War bombers were fitted with machine-guns in a variety of positions – including the nose, the waist, above and below the fuselage, and the tail – but these were rapidly reduced to just the tail, the elimination of the others saving considerable weight and enabling the aircraft to fly higher and faster. Also in the Second World War, bombers had been escorted by fighters, particularly on the USAAF’s daylight raids; but the strategic ranges now being flown were far in excess of anything a fighter could undertake. So in the 1950s the US air force trialled the idea of the B-36 bomber taking a fighter with it, with the latter being carried on a retractable cradle from which it could be launched in mid-air to deal with enemy fighters, then being recovered for the return to base. A special miniature fighter, the McDonnell XF-85 Goblin, was tested, as was the RF-84K, a modified version of the full-size F-84 Thunderjet fighter, but, although launching proved feasible, recovery did not, and the idea was not pursued.

Electronic countermeasures (ECM) were always used, becoming increasingly sophisticated as time passed. Thus electronic jamming was used to confuse enemy radars, as was ‘chaff’ (strips of metal foil cut to the wavelength of the radar), which was dropped in large quantities, either by the bomber or by specialized escorting aircraft.

One of the earliest devices to help the bomber get through was the US air force’s ADM-20 Quail, which resembled a miniature unmanned aircraft and was dropped over enemy territory, where it flew for some 400 km, using its on-board ECM devices to confuse the enemy as to the strength, direction and probable targets of the incoming bomber force. A maximum of three Quails could be carried by a B-52, and the device was in service from 1962 to 1979.

The main emphasis then turned to stand-off missiles – a concept which, like so many others, had its genesis in Germany, where V-1 missiles had been launched from Heinkel He-111 bombers in 1944–5. The Cold War missiles carried a nuclear warhead and were designed to be launched from the bomber while still outside the range of the enemy air defences. One of the first was the US Hound Dog – a slim missile with small delta wings, and powered by a turbojet – which entered service in 1961. Two Hound Dogs, each with a 1 MT nuclear warhead, were carried beneath the wings of a B-52. The missile could be set to fly at any height between about 50 m and 16,000 m, and had a range at high level of 1,140 km, less at low level. The guidance system was capable of high- or low-level approach, with dog-legs and jinxes to confuse the defence.

Next came the unhappy saga of Skybolt, which was an attempt to use a bomber to launch a ballistic missile, which would have given longer range and, of greater importance, a much shorter flight time. The UK air force joined the project, but the incoming Kennedy administration unilaterally cancelled it in December 1961 – greatly to the indignation of the British, who used the issue as a lever to obtain Polaris missiles and SSBN technology to replace its V-force bombers.

The Short-Range Attack Missile (SRAM), which entered service in 1972, was a rocket-propelled missile with a 170 kT nuclear warhead and a speed of Mach 3. SRAMs could fly either a semi-ballistic, a terrain-following or an ‘under-the-radar’ flight profile, the latter terminating in a pull-up and high-angle dive on to the target. The range depended on the height, and was from 56 km at low level to 170 km at high level. B-52s normally carried twenty SRAMs, while the FB-111A carried six and the B-1B twenty-four.

The Air-Launched Cruise Missile (ALCM) entered service with the US air force in 1982. This weapon had folding wings which extended when it was dropped from the carrier aircraft, and was powered by a small turbojet engine. Designed exclusively for low-level flight, the ALCM used a radar altimeter to maintain height and a map-matching process known as terrain comparison (TerCom) to give very precise navigation. The nuclear-armed version (AGM-96B) had a 200 kT warhead, a CEP of 30 m and a range of some 2,500 km. The AGM-96C was conventionally armed, with a high-explosive warhead, and this version demonstrated its effectiveness and accuracy when thirty-five were launched by B-52s during the Gulf War. B-52s could carry up to twelve and B-1Bs twenty-four.

Soviet stand-off missile development followed a similar pattern and time-scale, although in the early stages of the Cold War the missiles tended to be much larger and less effective than their US counterparts. Indeed, the first missile designed for use by strategic bombers, the AS-3 (NATO = ‘Kangaroo’) remains the largest air-launched missile to go into service, with a length of some 15 m, a wingspan of 9 m and a weight of 11,000 kg; only one could be carried by a Tu-95 (Bear-B). It did, however, have a useful range (650 km) and a high speed (Mach 2), and with an 800 kT warhead it was targeted against large area targets such as cities and ports.

The AS-15 (NATO = ‘Kent’) was much smaller and generally similar in size, performance and role to the US Tomahawk; sixteen could be carried by the Tu-95 Bear-B and twelve by the Tu-160 Blackjack. It carried a 200 kT nuclear warhead and flew at high subsonic speeds over a range of some 3,000 km at a height of 200 m, with an accuracy (CEP) of 150 m.

The most dramatic bomber to serve with SAC was the tailless, delta-winged Convair B-58, with a Mach 2 speed and 8,250 km range. Air-to-air refuelling enabled the B-58 to undertake long flights (e.g. from Tokyo to London), loudly advertising its wartime capabilities. The aircraft used a unique system in which a large pod under the fuselage housed both the nuclear weapon and the fuel for the outward flight; it was dropped complete, enabling the aircraft to make a very rapid getaway before returning to base on its internal fuel supply. Although generally successful, the B-58 was very expensive to operate, even by US standards, and was retired after just ten years’ service, without replacement.

In 1969 US satellites began to return photographs of a new Soviet bomber on the apron at the new aircraft factory at Kazan. This turned out to be a swing-wing version of the Tupolev Tu-22, designated Tu-22M (NATO = ‘Backfire’). Subsequently, a virtually new aircraft with some external similarities to the Tu-22M appeared and was put into production as the Tu-26 (NATO = ‘Backfire-B’). (The relationship between the Tu-22M and the Tu-26 was probably similar to that between the American B-1A and B-1B.)

Three versions of the Tu-26 entered service, one of which carried nuclear weapons for use in the land-attack role. There were, however, repeated arguments between the United States and the Soviet Union over the role of this bomber, with the former stating and the latter denying that it was a strategic bomber. This became a major issue in the SALT II negotiations, and President Brezhnev eventually ordered that the aircraft’s flight-refuelling probes be removed to prove that it did not have the ability to reach the USA, although since these could have been replaced in less than thirty minutes this was only a token gesture. The Tu-26 entered service in the mid-1970s and was produced at the rate agreed under SALT II – thirty per year – with service numbers peaking at about 220.

DUKW users



03 view dukw

World War II

The DUKW was supplied to the U.S. Army, U.S. Marine Corps and Allied forces. 2,000 were supplied to Britain under the Lend-Lease program and 535 were acquired by Australian forces. 586 were supplied to the Soviet Union, which built its own version, the BAV 485, after the war.

DUKWs were initially sent to the Pacific theatre’s Guadalcanal, and were used by an invasion force for the first time during the Sicilian Operation Husky in the Mediterranean. They were used on the D-Day beaches of Normandy and in the Battle of the Scheldt, Operation Veritable and Operation Plunder. Amphibious beachheads were thought to be highly vulnerable to early counterattack as the landing units would deplete their ammunition and the supply system would not yet be established. The principal use was to ferry supplies from ship to shore, and tasks such as transporting wounded combatants to hospital ships or operations in flooded (polder) landscape


After World War II, reduced numbers were kept in service by the United States, Britain, France and Australia, with many stored pending disposal. Australia transferred many to Citizens Military Force units.

The U.S. Army reactivated and deployed several hundred at the outbreak of the Korean War with the 1st Transportation Replacement Training Group providing crew training. DUKWs were used extensively to bring supplies ashore during the Battle of Pusan Perimeter and in the amphibious landings at Incheon.

Ex-U.S. Army DUKWs were transferred to the French military after World War II and were used by the Troupes de marine and naval commandos. Many were used for general utility duties in overseas territories. France deployed DUKWs to French Indochina during the First Indochina War. Some French DUKWs were given new hulls in the 1970s, with the last being retired in 1982.

Britain deployed DUKWs to Malaya during the Malayan Emergency of 1948–60. Many were redeployed to Borneo during the Indonesia–Malaysia confrontation of 1962–66.

Later military use

The Royal Marines use five of these vehicles for training at 11 (Amphibious Trials and Training) Squadron, 1 Assault Group Royal Marines at Instow, North Devon. Four were manufactured between 1943 and 1945. The fifth is a DUKW hull copy manufactured in 1993 with unused World War II vintage running gear parts. In 1999, a refurbishment programme began to extend their service life to 2014.

The DUKWs are used for safety, allowing all ranks to undertake training drills for boat work for the landing craft ranks, and drivers undertaking wading drills from the Landing Craft Utility.

Civilian use

Many were used by civilian organizations such as the police, fire departments and rescue units.

The Australian Army lent two DUKWs and crew to Australian National Antarctic Research Expeditions for a 1948 expedition to Macquarie Island. Australian DUKWs were used on Antarctic supply voyages until 1970. From 1945 to 1965, the Australian Commonwealth Lighthouse Service supply ship Cape York carried ex-Army DUKWs for supplying lighthouses on remote islands.

Several were used by abalone fishermen in San Luis Obispo County, California to take their catch from the boats directly to market, combining the two steps of off-loading onto smaller craft and transferring to trucks once they reached the beach.

DUKWs are well equipped for the land and water rescue. Australian Army Reserve DUKWs were used extensively for rescue and transport during the 1955 Hunter Valley floods.

One of the last DUKWs manufactured in 1945 was loaned to a fire department during the Great Flood of 1993, and in 2005 Duck Riders of Grapevine, Texas deployed the vehicle to help in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina. The DUKW maneuvered through flood waters, transporting victims stranded on their rooftops to helicopter pads throughout New Orleans.

A few, such as the “Moby Duck”, have been adapted by local groups like Seattle’s Seafair Pirates, for parades and other events.

One DUKW is in use by the Technisches Hilfswerk (THW) of Germersheim in Germany, a public organization supplying technical support.

Raeder’s heavy ships –December 1942


Painting depicting the sinking of German destroyer Friedrich Eckoldt by HMS Sheffield at the Battle of Barents Sea.


JW.51B, left the Highland port of Loch Ewe on 22 December 1942 with fourteen freighters and the usual mixed escort screen and a range of warships offering both close and more distant cover. This was exactly the type of convoy that Raeder’s heavy ships were meant to savage. Lützow (the former pocket battleship – now designated a heavy cruiser) had joined the other heavy cruiser Admiral Hipper at Altenfjorden in the Finnmark region of northern Norway just prior to Christmas. Although Fall Regenbogen (Case Rainbow) was not originally designed with Lützow in mind, it made sense for her to join the operation in a bid to destroy all vestiges of convoy JW. 51B and reinforce the impression that the Germans wished to relay to London, namely, that the Arctic convoys were too costly for the Allies to run even in winter. As a result, the two heavy cruisers left port together at 1745 hours on 30 December accompanied by six destroyers. Under the operational command of Vizeadmiral Oskar Kummetz on board the Admiral Hipper, the plan was hardly the stuff of Yamamoto complexity and ought to have worked far better than it did. Simply put, the Hipper, accompanied by the three destroyers Friedrich Eckholdt, Richard Beitzen and Z29, was to plough on ahead of Kapitän zur See Rudolf Stange in command of the Lützow and his three destroyers Theodor Riedel, Z30 and Z31 during the night to open up a gap between the heavy cruisers of 75-85nm (139-57km) by first light on 31 December. In between the two heavy cruisers the destroyers were to be deployed some 15nm (28 km) apart from one another. This would widen the convoy search area and provide some opportunities for the destroyers to cause some confusion once the convoy had been sighted. In theory at least it was expected that Kummetz, working on information first supplied by German aerial reconnaissance and then subsequently derived from tracking reports from U354, would be the first to intercept the unsuspecting convoy. According to the plan, the Hipper and her destroyers were to engage the Allied destroyer escorts and lure them away from the convoy they were guarding. If this phase went according to plan, it was thought quite reasonably that the unprotected freighters would flee in the opposite direction – in other words to the south and straight into the arms of the Lützow and her destroyers. In this way the Hipper and the northern group of destroyers would eliminate the convoy escorts while the Lützow and her group would fall on the rest of the convoy and reap another PQ. 17 whirlwind. That at least was the theory. In practice the operation turned out to be something quite different. Far from being a belated, but glorious, opportunity to show Hitler that the surface fleet still possessed value and hitting power, Fall Regenbogen was to demonstrate to the Führer just what Raeder’s heavy ships had lost.

In far from ideal conditions with a heavy swell running and sea sickness rampant amongst all the crews of the German vessels, Hipper first glimpsed some elements of an already partly scattered convoy at 0718 hours on New Year’s Eve and sent the destroyer Friedrich Eckholdt to confirm that these ghostly silhouettes were indeed from the convoy. Kummetz now waited for dawn to break but even when it did the visibility was poor and a grey murkiness disguised the ships of both sides. While Kummetz and Stange seemed to be neutralised to some extent by the inclement weather conditions and the latter especially behaved with excessive caution throughout, Captain Robert Sherbrooke in the destroyer Onslow showed tactical acumen and considerable bravery in combating the far superior enemy force pitted against him once he realised that they and not some Russian vessels were in the offing. Sherbrooke only received confirmation that he was about to confront a German force when the Friedrich Eckholdt opened fire on the British destroyer Obdurate from about 8,000 yards (7,315m) at 0929 hours. He wasted little time in signalling the destroyers Obdurate, Obedient and Orwell to join the Onslow and gave orders for the only other destroyer Achates and the remaining vessels of his convoy screen to close with the freighters and lay a smokescreen to try and hide their retreat to the southeast. As Achates began to make smoke so the Hipper hove into view and opened fire on her. Splintered by a near-miss and with her power lines ruptured, the ageing destroyer slowed to 15 knots. At precisely the same time that Kummetz had concentrated his guns upon Achates (0941 hours), Sherbrooke had opened fire on the Hipper from about 9,000 yards (8,229m). Sherbrooke realised he had no chance in an artillery duel with the far heavier weight of shot available to Kummetz’s flagship, but he hoped by steering directly at her and then hauling away he might give the impression that he was firing torpedoes at the heavy cruiser. If his ploy worked, of course, Kummetz would turn away to avoid being hit. Sherbrooke’s only realistic chance was to simulate this type of torpedo attack more than once in a bid to keep the enemy on edge and stall for time until Force R (the light cruisers Jamaica and Sheffield some 50nm [93km] distant) came to his and the other vessels’ rescue. Unfortunately, help was anything from one to four hours away. If the Allied force was to survive for that long and not be crippled in the meantime it would take much initiative, fine shiphandling and raw courage from Sherbrooke and the others captains of his destroyer flotilla. They were up to the task but they needed a slice of luck too and this arrived in the shape of a series of snowy squalls that would temporarily obscure the protagonists from one another. After at least thirty-five minutes of feinting and weaving to good effect and shortly after ordering two of his lightly-armed destroyers (Obdurate and Obedient) to rejoin the convoy to give it added protection, Onslow was finally hit with telling effect by Admiral Hipper at approximately 1016 hours. Holed, on fire, without the use of either her `A’ or `B’ guns and with forty of her crew either dead or wounded, Onslow was in no shape to continue the action. Sherbrooke who had continued to direct operations on the bridge didn’t escape punishment either. Badly injured by flying splinters and having lost the sight of one eye from the flying metal shards, he nonetheless remained at his post, issued orders to lay a smokescreen and only afterwards passed over command to Commander Kinloch on the Obedient before taking his burning vessel out of the line of fire. In putting paid to Onslow (but not sinking her), Kummetz’s gun crews had used 48 x 8-inch (203mm) and 72 x 4.1-inch (104mm) shells to strike her only three times.

Orwell now stood in her path but before Kummetz could do anything on this score, the weather intervened once more blanketing the British destroyer from the sight of the German heavy cruiser. Instead of waiting for the snowstorm to lift, Kummetz decided on a turn to the northeast. This route took him away from the Orwell and the convoy itself now lying some 12nm (22km) distant, but put him on track to meet the minesweeper Bramble. She was quickly rendered into a smoking hulk by a total of 51 x 8-inch (203mm) and 38 x 4.1-inch (104mm) shells that began to rain down on her from shortly after 1036 hours onward. It was no contest, but why Kummetz devoted so much time and attention to destroying Bramble is not clear. She would be finally put out of her misery by the two German destroyers Friedrich Eckholdt and Richard Beitzen, but precious time had been lost in destroying a vessel that posed no real threat to the operation as a whole or to the heavy cruisers in particular. If Kummetz can be faulted for this error, Stange’s entire performance in the Lützow was unsatisfactory. Coming up from the south he and his three destroyers had not sought any action whatsoever. They had crossed the path of the convoy and had reached a point by 1050 hours only 2-3nm (3.7-5.5km) ahead of the freighters. There was nothing in their way and mass slaughter appeared on the cards. Amazingly, Stange failed to respond to this enviable situation. Citing poor visibility, he decided to wait for the weather system to blow itself out and for better conditions to present themselves before taking decisive action. It was an extraordinary blunder. Grossadmiral Raeder would long have cause to regret Stange’s aversion to risk-taking and his appointment to the Lützow.

Even if Stange didn’t recognise the Allied vessels, they had little trouble in determining the Lützow’s identity. Gathering all the British destroyers around the Obedient and displaying none of the restraint of his far more powerful adversary, Kinloch decided that action was called for. Before he could launch any attack, however, the picture became more complicated as Kummetz brought the Hipper back into contention. At 1115 hours she announced her return by opening up once more on the Achates with deadly effect. After pulverising the small destroyer, the German heavy cruiser next turned her attention to the Obedient and quickly straddled her knocking out Kinloch’s wireless as she did so. Command shifted for the second time in a little more than an hour and was passed on this occasion to Lieutenant-Commander Sclater on board the Obdurate. Once again the tactics would be the same – a torpedo feint to force the Admiral Hipper to turn away. It succeeded as before and at 1130 hours the heavy cruiser did just that to comb the tracks of any torpedoes sent her way. Within a minute Force R finally made an appearance and began to make its presence felt as the first shells from the light cruisers Jamaica and Sheffield began to fall around Kummetz’s flagship. Despite frantic manoeuvring, the Hipper was hit by one of Sheffield’s 6-inch (152mm) shells that penetrated her starboard hull beneath her armoured belt some 11 feet (3.35m) below the waterline, causing extensive flooding and knocking out two of her boiler rooms and reducing her power temporarily to 15 knots. Two more shells struck home within the next six minutes: one passing through her hull on the starboard side without exploding and the other detonating inside the aircraft hangar and starting a blazing fire. These were unwelcome and surprising developments, but none were critical and need not have caused the abandonment of the entire operation. After all, neither Jamaica nor Sheffield was actually a match for the two heavy cruisers if they had coordinated their activities better. What Kummetz didn’t know, of course, was whether there were any other Allied ships that would enter the fray and tip the balance of advantage to the other side. He remained very mindful of the advice which Admiral Klüber (Flag Officer, Northern Waters) had given him shortly after he had sailed on the previous evening. `Contrary to operational order regarding contact with the enemy… use caution against enemy of equal strength because it is undesirable for the cruisers to take any great risks.’

Klüber’s original message, coincidentally repeated in condensed form just at this crucial juncture in the battle, would weigh on Kummetz’s mind and dictate his actions subsequently. At 1137 hours he signalled his other ships to break off their action with the Allied vessels and to turn away to the west. As they did so, both the Friedrich Eckholdt and Richard Beitzen unsuspectingly found themselves on a collision course with the two British light cruisers a mere 2nm away (3.7km). Sheffield sank the former in a blaze of gunfire but Jamaica somehow managed to miss the latter. A minute before Sheffield opened up on the German destroyer (1143 hours), Stange at last got Lützow into the act by opening fire on one of the freighters (Calobre) in the convoy. As the British destroyers congregated to meet this latest threat, they laid a dense smokescreen to obscure the emergency turn to the southwest that the convoy made in an effort to put some distance between the freighters and the German surface vessels. It worked. Kummetz reinforced the order to withdraw back towards Altenfjorden at 1149 hours before darkness fell and Stange complied in a rather languid and desultory way that had marked his entire approach to the naval action throughout. As a result, he failed to make further inroads into the convoy and though the Lützow would inflict some splinter damage on Obdurate at midday, the Battle of the Barents Sea was largely over. There might yet have been a successful resolution of the affair for the Germans after midday as Rear-Admiral Burnett in the Sheffield in grey, misty conditions suddenly stumbled upon the two heavy cruisers and Lützow’s destroyers once more at 1223 hours. A lucky man at the best of times, Burnett was once more fortunate as Stange couldn’t recognise Sheffield’s shape or identity in the prevailing gloom. An awkward interlude of six minutes followed in which both ships challenged one another by flashlight, but Burnett brought that episode to an end by firing upon the Lützow and straddling her at 1229 hours from a distance of about 8nm (15km). Stange replied a minute later but the Lützow’s first shells fell short. Shortly afterwards, Kummetz reappeared once more to join in the shelling at 1234 hours. Her gunners were more accurate and Burnett found his ship being straddled almost immediately. It didn’t take him long to decide that this was an unenviable position to be in and at 1236 hours he retired swiftly to the northwest and out of range. Neither Stange nor Kummetz followed and Sheffield and Jamaica were spared destruction as was convoy JW. 51B which had been the objective of Fall Regenbogen in the first place. In this unsatisfactory way, the Battle of the Barents Sea ended for the Germans. It was hardly a ringing endorsement of what the surface fleet could do for their war effort at sea and would scarcely impress the Führer whose patience with Raeder’s heavy ships was wearing intolerably thin by the end of 1942. Once again the line between success and failure was very thin. Fall Regenbogen could have been a classic triumph for the beleaguered surface fleet, but it ended up in exposing it to ridicule and incurring the Führer’s undying contempt.


Eighth France Civil War (1585–1589)


Henry IV at the Battle of Ivry, by Peter Paul Rubens.

Such political and military indecision did not guarantee peace so much as set the table for the Eighth Civil War (1585-1589), the most destructive of them all. The spark was the death of the duc d’Anjou. With the monarchy seen to be weakened, the dévots increasingly supported the Catholic League, which the Guise formally allied with Philip II in the Treaty of Joinville (December 1584). Eight months later the League forced the radically intolerant Treaty of Nemours on Henri III, effectively banning Protestantism and stripping Huguenots of legal and military protections. Confused fighting, attempted town coups, and general disruption coursed over the south and the Atlantic coast of France. In January 1585, Pope Sixtus V excommunicated Henri de Navarre and Conde’ to remove them from the line of succession. Even Catholics were shocked at this foreign intervention in the Gallican Church, but the king was too weak to retaliate. All these events provoked the so-called “War of the Three Henries” (1587-1589). The young Henri Guise, the new duc de Lorraine, took the lead military role on the Catholic side, taking control of much of the north out of the hands of the king, Henri III. Supported by Spanish gold, Guise and the League prepared to meet the third Henri, Henri de Navarre, and the Huguenot army. In mid-1587 the Huguenots were reinforced by Palatine mercenaries bought with 50,000 English gold crowns sent by Elizabeth I, herself girding for war with Spain and in great need of distraction of potential Catholic enemies in France. Henri de Navarre failed to link with German Reiters hurrying to France under John Casimir, regent of the Palatinate. These mercenaries were instead defeated in two sharp engagements with Guise’s army. Surviving Germans were simply bought off by the king and went home. Meanwhile, Navarre aligned with two Catholic Bourbon princes and moved into Maine and Normandy before falling back to winter in Guyenne. He won handily against a small Royalist army at Coutras (October 20, 1587).

In the wake of the Day of the Barricades (May 12, 1588), a coup d’état in Paris carried out by The Sixteen (a radical bourgeois council), and Henri III’s murder of Guise in December, the League moved to make war on the king. Most fighting shifted north of the Loire once a truce and alliance was agreed between Henri de Navarre and Henri III, signed on April 3, 1589. A joint campaign to retake Paris from the League followed in the summer, but was interrupted by assassination of the king on August 1, 1589. After that, Royalist troops refused to serve Navarre, reducing his force within days from 40,000 to just 18,000. Henry turned to mercenaries instead, selling off his patrimonial lands in Béarn and Navarre to pay them. Huguenots looked to his coming coronation as their salvation, but despite the Salic Law that made Henri the rightful heir, the Catholic League rejected the idea that a heretic and excommunicate could ascend the sacral throne of France. League cells seized control of the cities across the north, bringing to them a fresh League terror and ensuring that the civil war would continue.

Finally, significant battles were fought. On September 21, 1589, the League lost 10,000 men to Henri at Arques, despite outnumbering his army 4:1. Reinforced by 5,200 Scots and English, making his army 18,000 strong, Henri marched on Paris and attacked into its suburbs on November 1. Lacking siege guns he could not breach the city’s inner walls, and lacking money to pay his troops neither could he starve Paris into submission. He met Mayenne in battle and crushed him, and the last large-scale Leaguer military opposition, at Ivry-la-Bataille. The League still backed his uncle, a Bourbon Catholic cardinal (whom they called Charles X) for Henri’s throne, but he died in 1590 while in Henri’s custody. That gutted the League’s confessional hopes and its political program. Meanwhile, supported by 5,000 English troops, Henri leisurely besieged Paris (April 7-August 30, 1590). The city held out, but 13,000 starved to death. Only the intervention of the Duke of Parma with an army of 20,000 Spanish foot and 7,000 horse from the Netherlands saved the French capital from its king. Even after the siege, inside Paris fear and terror governed as The Sixteen purged and murdered “politiques” and “traitors.” Mayenne occupied the city (November 28, 1591) and executed several of The Sixteen in their turn.

Pope Gregory XIV now interfered in French affairs, excommunicating Henri IV for a second time in March 1591. A Spanish force landed in Brittany that same month, a fact that frightened Elizabeth I into sending Henri still more men, money, and warships. Her clear interest was to prevent a Leaguer victory that could mean a Franco-Spanish alliance against England. From November 1591 to April 1592, Henri conducted the Siege of Rouen. He was forced away only when Parma intervened again from the Netherlands. Papal usurpation of Gallican privileges and Spanish troops on French soil rallied the country’s tired nobles for one last hurrah. Henri gathered 24,000 men and moved to trap and destroy Parma. But the irascible old Spaniard crossed the Seine and burned his barges behind him, leaving Henri stranded on the far bank but satisfied to see a foreign army depart in haste. Only a small Spanish garrison in Paris remained and some scattered League resistance in Brittany, Provence, and Dauphine’. In any case, foreign intervention had come too late. By 1592 most Royalist Catholics accepted Henri as their legitimate king. Without an alternate French candidate after the death of Charles X, some Leaguers looked to foreign Catholic princes to displace Henri, but the majority of French balked at renunciation of the traditions and rights of the Gallican Church and the primacy of the Salic Law even over Catholicity. A majority of Catholic delegates in the Estates General reaffirmed this position on June 28, 1593. A month later, on July 25, Henri formally abjured Calvinism and submitted to formal instruction in Catholicism. With a single brilliant stroke he removed the last obstacle to his acceptance by most Catholics. With the country exhausted by war and the majority on both sides reconciled to the monarchy, over the next two years League bitter-enders were run down or driven into exile. On February 27, 1594, Henri was crowned at Chartres (Leaguers still held Reims). Paris submitted on March 22. Its Spanish garrison was given safe passage out of the city and left with arms shouldered and colors intact. Most, though not all, League towns submitted in due course as Henri shrewdly and amply rewarded those which surrendered without violence: he spent over 30 million livres forgiving taxes or bribing nobles and councils to accept him.

During 1594, Tard-Avise’s peasant revolts broke out in Agenais, Burgundy, Limousin, and Périgord, in part in reaction against economic deprivations of protracted civil war in whose largely urban quarrels and arcane doctrinal disputes peasants in France’s 30,000 villages never had much stake or interest. Henri wisely appeased the peasants, as he had Spanish troops and Leaguer garrisons. The next year he declared war on Spain (January 17, 1595), upon discovery of another plot by Philip II to invade France, and to undermine Mayenne and the League bitter-enders by exposing their alliance with a foreign power. That brought about the Franco-Spanish War of 1595-1598. Meanwhile, Huguenots became uneasy as Henri became evermore overtly Catholic in his royal persona and public displays of religiosity. Mayenne ritually submitted before his king in 1595, with Henri paying the duc’s war debts and restoring him to a provincial governorship. All other great nobles submitted soon thereafter, except the duc de Mercoeur. He did not submit until Henri invaded Brittany in early 1598, gave him a bribe of four million livres, and married Mercoeur’s daughter to his own illegitimate son. The Treaty of Ponts de Ce’ formally ended the eighth war of religion. Henri settled the outstanding Huguenot issue, at least temporarily, with issuance of the Edict of Nantes (April 13, 1598). He then made peace with Spain at Vervins. Peace in France was born of weariness with protracted war, weaned on famine and massacres, reared on economic hardship and decline, and finally seduced into bed with the king by baubles and bribery. Still, it was peace, at last.

Hastenbeck 1757



The Weser and the fortresses at Hamelin, Minden, Nienburg and Bremen formed a natural line of defence.


Reconstruction based on the maps of “Großer Gerneralstab, Kriegsgeschichtliche Abteilung II, Der Siebenjährige Krieg 1756-1763”, vol. V; and “Camps topographiques de la Campagne de 1757 en Westphalie ect., par le Sr. Du Bois”, Le Hague, 1760.

Seven Years War (Europe) Advancing towards Prussia, French Marshal Louis Letellier (later Duke d’Estre’es) invaded Hanover against William Augustus Duke of Cumberland. After an indecisive struggle at Hastenbeck, on the Weser near Hameln, the Anglo-Hanoverian army was beaten when Cumberland withdrew prematurely to the Elbe. He later disgracefully agreed to declare Hanover neutral (26 July 1757).

The Battle of Hastenbeck (26 July 1757) was fought as part of the Invasion of Hanover during the Seven Years’ War between the allied forces of Hanover, Hesse-Kassel (or Hesse-Cassel) and Brunswick and the French. The allies were defeated by the French army near Hamelin in the Electorate of Hanover.

The French, who were allied with Austria, Russia, Sweden and Saxony during the Seven Years’ War, invaded Germany in April 1757 with two armies, altogether about 100,000 soldiers. The French hoped to draw the attention of the Kingdom of Prussia, which was allied with Britain and Hanover, away from the Bohemian theatre where Prussia and Austria fought several battles (Lobositz, Prague, Kolin).

One of the two French armies under command of Prince de Soubise marched through central Germany. They joined the Imperial Army, or “Reichsarmee”, commanded by Prinz von Hildburghausen. This coalition army later met a Prussian army at the Battle of Rossbach on 5 November 1757 with disaster.

The other French army commanded by Marshal Louis Charles d’Estrées consisted of about 50,000 infantry, 10,000 cavalry and 68 cannons. The army advanced towards the Electorate of Hanover. Prussia was heavily involved with its enemies Austria, Russia and Sweden and therefore was not able to help on the western front. This task was given to the Hanoverian Army of Observation which only had little support from Prussia, namely six Prussian battalions. The main part of the “Hanoverian Army of Observation” came from Hanover (about 60%) and Hesse (about 25%), smaller additional forces from Brunswick and Prussia. The total strength of the Hanoverian Army of Observation consisted of about 30,000 infantry, 5,000 cavalry and 28 guns. The army was commanded by William Augustus the Duke of Cumberland who was a son of King George II of Great Britain.

Hanover refused to defend the river Rhine which is farther to the west than the river Weser. This left the Prussians no choice than to abandon their fortress in Wesel and to give up the line of the Lippe river in April. Cumberland’s main objective was preventing the occupation of Hanover. He first concentrated his army at Bielefeld, and then after a brief stand in Brackwede, Cumberland decided to cross the Weser south of Minden. The main idea was to use the Weser as a natural defense line and to make it impossible for the French troops to cross the river. The Duke of Cumberland deployed his main forces at Hamelin which is a couple of kilometers to the northwest from Hastenbeck and left the Prussian battalions as garrison forces to Minden. He also deployed small patrols all along the Weser. Meanwhile the French sent a detachment to the North to capture Emden on 3 July, which was an important access point for Britain to Europe. Later they sent another detachment to the south which took Kassel on 15 July.

French camps from 24 to 25 July 1757 around Frenke; copper engraving “Nr. 24” by the Dutchman Jacob van der Schley

During the night of 7 July a strong French advance guard crossed the river Weser close to the town Beverungen. While the river Weser normally cannot be easily forded, during the summer the water level drops down to a low of 80 cm (~3 feet) between Münden and Hameln, making it possible for infantry and cavalry to cross. The French advance troops then marched to the north and established a bridgehead at Höxter. The main army crossed the river Weser on 16 July leaving the Duke of Cumberland no choice than to deploy his troops south of Hamelin and to engage d’Estrées. The Prussian battalions were then recalled by Frederick the Great, after losing the Battle of Kolin against Austria.

The armies finally met on the morning of 25 July at the village of Hastenbeck. The commander of the French right flank, general François de Chevert, was ordered to engage Hanoverian troops at the village of Voremberg, but failed to drive them out. As the French left under general Duc de Broglie was still crossing the Weser near Hameln, d’Estrées decided to postpone the battle until all his troops were up.

The next day saw the Hanoverian army holding on a line from Hamelin to Voremberg. Their right flank was anchored on the Hamel river and the Hastenbach creek. The center of the Hanoverian front was deployed north of the town of Hastenbeck and an artillery battery was situated on high ground behind the town. The Hanoverian left consisted of two entrenched batteries with grenadier battalions protecting the guns. The left flank was anchored on the Obensburg. Cumberland made the mistake in assuming the hill to be impassable to formed troops and deployed a meagre three Jäger companies on its summit, effectively leaving the Hanoverian left flank in the air.

General Chevert was ordered to flank the Hanoverian position with four brigades containing troops from Picardy, la Marine, Navarre and Eu. At 09.00 hours this force advanced toward the Obensburg in three battalion columns and quickly overwhelmed the Jägers. The Duke of Cumberland, seeing his position threatened from the rear, ordered his reserves and the grenadier battalions protecting the guns to recapture the Obensburg. The use of these grenadier battalions in the counterattack on the Obensburg meant they were no longer available in the center when the main French attacks went in against the Hanoverian center.

The French main attack consisted out of general d’Armentieres’ attack against Voremberg with five brigades of infantry plus four regiments of dismounted dragoons. At the same time, the French center assaulted the battery immediately north of it. The Hanoverian grand battery was able to repulse several of the French attacks but eventually the guns were overrun. When the Hanoverian reserve infantry arrived on the Obensburg, they were able to turn the tide momentarily, but as the Duke of Cumberland had begun to withdraw his army, they were unable to maintain the now isolated position for long.

The Battle of Hastenbeck is one of the most curious battles in history, since both commanders-in-chief thought that they lost the battle and were already starting to withdraw from the battlefield. The battle eventually resulted in the Convention of Klosterzeven and the occupation of Hanover. During the battle Hastenbeck was almost completely destroyed, only the church, the manse and the farm house were not destroyed.


Duration of Military Campaigns – WARS OF THE ROSES


war of the roses

Although warfare between Englishmen for control of the government or possession of the Crown occurred from the 1450s to the 1490s, fighting was not continuous throughout the period. The military campaigns of the WARS OF THE ROSES were few, intermittent, and brief.

From the first Battle of ST. ALBANS in May 1455 to the Battle of STOKE in June 1487, adherents of the houses of LANCASTER and YORK engaged in thirteen major battles, such as those at TOWTON, BARNET, and BOSWORTH FIELD; several smaller encounters, such as the Battles of TWT HILL and HEXHAM; and numerous raids, rebellions, and assaults on castles. However, most of this fighting across a span of more than thirty years was compressed into a few active phases of two to three years, within which large armed forces were actually in the field for only a matter of weeks. The main periods of active campaigning occurred between the autumn of 1459 and the spring of 1461, the summer of 1469 and the spring of 1471, and in the autumn of 1483 and the summers of 1485 and 1487.

Being an island kingdom, England had not experienced the nearly continuous warfare that the HUNDRED YEARS WAR and other conflicts and rebellions had brought in the previous century to FRANCE, BURGUNDY, and other continental states. As a result, England lacked the standing armies (and the arbitrary taxation that supported them) that had developed in France under CHARLES VII and in Burgundy under Dukes PHILIP and CHARLES. The only ongoing military establishments in fifteenth-century England were a royal bodyguard of 200 archers created in 1468, the 1,000-man CALAIS garrison, and the forces raised at Crown expense by the wardens of the marches to defend the borders with SCOTLAND. The important role that elements of the Calais garrison had in the outcome of several battles, such as LUDFORD BRIDGE in 1459, illustrated how nonmilitarized England was.

This lack of military experience meant that England lagged behind the continent in the use of ARTILLERY and handguns and in the development of military fortification. Whereas an avoidance of pitched battle and a highly developed siegecraft characterized continental warfare, the Wars of the Roses witnessed almost no sieges, no sacks of major towns, little pillage or destruction of the countryside, and a series of brief campaigns and pitched battles, the winner of which usually gained immediate control of the government. In his MEMOIRS, the Burgundian chronicler Philippe de Commines observed that the English “were the most inclined to give battle” and that when fighting erupted in England “one or the other of the rivals is master within ten days or less” (Gillingham, p. 28). With sieges largely unnecessary and the problem of supply making it difficult to keep large armies in the field for long periods, active campaigning, as shown in the following table, occupied less than year and a half of the more than thirty-year period encompassing the Wars of the Roses.

Further Reading: Gillingham, John, The Wars of the Roses (Baton Rouge: Louisiana State University Press, 1981); Goodman, Anthony, The Wars of the Roses (New York: Dorset Press, 1981); Ross, Charles, The Wars of the Roses (London: Thames and Hudson, 1987).