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British military history for dummies


British Military
History
FOR

DUMmIES



by Bryan Perrett



British Military
History
FOR

DUMmIES




by Bryan Perrett


British Military History For Dummies®
Published by
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About the Author
Bryan Perrett was educated at Liverpool College. He served for nineteen
years in Regular and Territorial Regiments of the Royal Armoured Corps
before deciding to take up the pen professionally. His numerous books
include Seize and Hold, a study of the coup de main, and Iron Fist, containing
case studies of classic armoured engagements, which was selected by the
Royal United Services Institute for Defence Studies for its book option. His
more recent works include The Real Hornblower, a biography of Admiral Sir
James Gordon, believed to be the officer upon whom C.S. Forester based his
immortal character Horatio Hornblower, and For Valour: Victoria Cross and
Medal of Honor Battles. During the Falklands and First Gulf Wars he served as
Defence Correspondent to the Liverpool Echo.

Dedication
To my wife Anne for her astonishing patience while I worked my way through
2000 years of military history.


Publisher’s Acknowledgements
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Cover Photos: Cromwell: © Time Life Pictures/
Getty Images; Marlborough: © Getty Images;
Wellington: © Mary Evans Picture Library;
Roberts: © Getty Images; Victoria Cross:
© Peter Russell/The Military Picture Library;
Kitchener: © Time Life Pictures/Getty Images;
Tank: © Mary Evans Picture Library; First
World War soldiers: © Getty Images;
Montgomery: © Getty Images; Second
World War soldiers: © F4689/Imperial War
Museum; Blues and Royals: © Grant Faint/
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Cartoons: Rich Tennant
(www.the5thwave.com)

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Contents at a Glance
Introduction .................................................................1
Part I: Ancient and Medieval Warfare ............................7
Chapter 1: Small Islands with Lots of Clout ....................................................................9
Chapter 2: Swords, Sandals, and Geometry: The Romans ..........................................15
Chapter 3: Arthur, Alfred, and Aethelstan: The Dark Ages .........................................29
Chapter 4: The Hard Knight’s Day: The Norman Conquest and Medieval Period ...39

Part II: The Arrival of Gunpowder ................................57
Chapter 5: With Pike and Shot: Renaissance Warfare..................................................59
Chapter 6: Hearties versus Gloomies: The Civil Wars .................................................69
Chapter 7: Founding a Regular Army: The Late Seventeenth Century......................81

Part III: Wars of Succession, Independence,
and Revolution ...........................................................91
Chapter 8: O’er the Hills and Far Away: Marlborough Country and Beyond............93
Chapter 9: Risings and Rebellions: Jacobites and Americans ..................................117
Chapter 10: Revolting Frenchmen, The Grand Old Duke, and Boney:
The French Revolutionary and Napoleonic Wars ....................................................133
Chapter 11: Wellington Boots the French Out: The Peninsula to Waterloo ............143

Part IV: Nineteenth-Century Wars..............................171
Chapter 12: Britain’s Little Wars: Imperial Expansion ...............................................173
Chapter 13: Helping Turkey Fight the Bear: The Crimean War.................................187
Chapter 14: Rebels, Rajahs, and a Rani: The Indian Mutiny .....................................203
Chapter 15: Home and Away: Reorganisation, Re-Equipment,
and More Trouble in India ..........................................................................................223
Chapter 16: Boots, Boots, Boots, Boots: Marchin’ Over Africa ................................239

Part V: The First World War.......................................267
Chapter 17: ‘Hangin’ On the Old Barbed Wire’: The Western Front, 1914–1917.....269
Chapter 18: Storm Troopers and Tank Attacks: The Western Front, 1918..............287
Chapter 19: Turkey With All the Trimmings:
The Middle East and Beyond, 1914–1918..................................................................297


Part VI: The Second World War (and Beyond)............319
Chapter 20: Phoney War, Panzers, and Miracles:
The Outbreak of the Second World War ...................................................................321
Chapter 21: Sun, Sand, Sea, and Tanks: The Middle East
and North Africa, 1940–1943.......................................................................................331
Chapter 22: One Bloomin’ Ridge After Another:
The Italian Campaign, 1943–1945...............................................................................353
Chapter 23: Beachheads and Bridges: Normandy
and Northwest Europe, 1944–1945 ............................................................................361
Chapter 24: Welcome to the Jungle: The Far East, 1941–1945 ..................................377
Chapter 25: Around the World in 60 Years: Operations 1945–2006 .........................393

Part VII: The Part of Tens ..........................................411
Chapter 26: Ten Great British Generals .......................................................................413
Chapter 27: Ten Decisive Battles in British Military History....................................419
Chapter 28: Ten British Military Museums Worth Visiting .......................................423

Index .......................................................................427


Table of Contents
Introduction ....................................................................
About This Book...............................................................................................1
Conventions Used in This Book .....................................................................2
What You’re Not to Read.................................................................................2
Foolish Assumptions .......................................................................................3
How This Book Is Organised...........................................................................3
Part I: Ancient and Medieval Warfare ..................................................3
Part II: The Arrival of Gunpowder .......................................................4
Part III: Wars of Succession, Independence, and Revolution............4
Part IV: Nineteenth-Century Wars ........................................................4
Part V: The First World War ..................................................................5
Part VI: The Second World War (and Beyond) ...................................5
Part VII: The Part of Tens ......................................................................5
Icons Used in This Book..................................................................................5
Where to Go from Here....................................................................................6

Part I: Ancient and Medieval Warfare.............................7
Chapter 1: Small Islands with Lots of Clout . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .9
Checking Out Britain’s Wars Through the Ages .........................................10
Moving with the Times: Key Strategies through History ..........................12
Remembering the Regiment: Traditions and Spirit ...................................13
Realising the Army’s Role in the Modern World ........................................14

Chapter 2: Swords, Sandals, and Geometry: The Romans . . . . . . . . . .15
Fighting from the Start: The Ancient Britons .............................................16
Caesar Seizes an Opportunity ......................................................................17
Caesar’s first raid, 55 BC......................................................................18
Caesar’s second raid, 54 BC ................................................................19
The Roman Invasion, AD 43 ..........................................................................21
Harvesting a landing ............................................................................21
Bring on the elephants!........................................................................22
Caratacus, the first British hero .........................................................22
Setting London Ablaze: The Boudiccan Rebellion.....................................23
Policing Roman Britain..................................................................................24
The Legions Depart........................................................................................26


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British Military History For Dummies
Chapter 3: Arthur, Alfred, and Aethelstan: The Dark Ages . . . . . . . . . .29
(Not) Welcoming New Arrivals: Angles, Saxons, and Jutes ......................30
Riding to the Rescue: King Arthur ...............................................................31
Carving Up Saxon England............................................................................31
An Unbeatable Offa ........................................................................................33
Shipping in the Viking Menace .....................................................................34
The Saxons Fight Back: Alfred and Aethelstan...........................................35
The Battle of Brunanburgh, 937 ...................................................................36
Turning Back the Tide: Ethelred and Canute..............................................37

Chapter 4: The Hard Knight’s Day: The Norman Conquest
and Medieval Period . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .39
1066: The Disputed Throne...........................................................................40
The Battle of Stamford Bridge, 25 September 1066 ........................41
The Battle of Hastings, 14 October 1066 ...........................................42
William takes the crown ......................................................................43
Fighting over Medieval England ...................................................................43
Here a castle, there a castle ................................................................44
The days of knights ..............................................................................45
Looking north . . . and west.................................................................46
The Scottish Wars of Independence ............................................................48
The Battle of Bannockburn, 14 June 1314 .........................................49
Continuing Anglo-Scottish hostilities ................................................49
Fighting the French: A National Sport .........................................................50
The Battle of Crecy, 26 August 1346...................................................50
The Battle of Poitiers, 19 September 1356 ........................................51
The Battle of Agincourt, 25 October 1415 .........................................52
Roses Are Red, Roses Are White ..................................................................54

Part II: The Arrival of Gunpowder .................................57
Chapter 5: With Pike and Shot: Renaissance Warfare . . . . . . . . . . . . .59
Introducing Gunpowder Artillery ................................................................60
Getting to grips with different types of gun ......................................61
What’s your gun called? .....................................................................62
Hiring in guns, gunners, and ammunition .........................................62
Upgrading the Infantry ..................................................................................63
Waving goodbye to the longbow . . . ..................................................63
. . . And saying hello to the arquebus ................................................64
Riding Around in Circles: Cavalry ................................................................65
Testing Out the New Ideas ............................................................................66
The Battle of Flodden, 1513.................................................................66
The Spanish Armada, 1588..................................................................67


Table of Contents
Chapter 6: Hearties versus Gloomies: The Civil Wars . . . . . . . . . . . . .69
The First Civil War..........................................................................................71
Setting the Civil War in swing .............................................................71
Campaigning in 1644 ............................................................................74
Reaching a conclusion: 1645–1646 .....................................................75
The Second Civil War.....................................................................................77
The Third Civil War........................................................................................77
The Battle of Worcester, 3 September 1651 ......................................78
The Irish Campaign, 1649–1652 ..........................................................79
Campaigning for the Commonwealth .........................................................79

Chapter 7: Founding a Regular Army:
The Late Seventeenth Century . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .81
The Changing Army .......................................................................................82
Raising a regiment: The proprietary system ....................................82
Buying a commission ...........................................................................83
Introducing new types of soldier........................................................84
Dressing for battle ................................................................................84
The First Regiments .......................................................................................85
Colours...................................................................................................87
Battle honours and honour titles .......................................................87
Preparing for War: Logistics, Ballistics, and Fortification ........................88
Getting Some Action! .....................................................................................89
The Battle of Sedgemoor, 6 July 1685 ................................................89
The Battle of the Boyne, 1 July 1690 ..................................................90

Part III: Wars of Succession, Independence,
and Revolution............................................................91
Chapter 8: O’er the Hills and Far Away:
Marlborough Country and Beyond . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .93
The War of Spanish Succession, 1701–1714................................................95
The Battle of Blenheim, 13 August 1704 ............................................96
The Battle of Ramillies, 22 May 1706 .................................................97
The Battle of Oudenarde, 11 July 1708 .............................................98
The Battle of Malplaquet, 11 September 1709 ..................................98
Handing out the spoils of war.............................................................99
The War of Austrian Succession, 1740–1748...............................................99
The Battle of Dettingen, 27 June 1743..............................................100
The Battle of Fontenoy, 11 May 1745 ...............................................101

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British Military History For Dummies
The Seven Years’ War, 1756–1763...............................................................103
Losing Minorca, 1756 .........................................................................104
The Battle of Minden, 1 August 1759 ...............................................104
The Battle of Emsdorf, 14 July 1760 .................................................107
The Battle of Warburg, 31 July 1760.................................................108
Same Old Enemy, Brand New Venues ........................................................108
Possessing the West Indies ...............................................................108
The French and Indian War, 1754–1763 ...........................................109
Getting curried away: War in India...................................................113
Defending Gibraltar............................................................................115

Chapter 9: Risings and Rebellions: Jacobites and Americans . . . . .117
One Day My Prince Will Come, 1708..........................................................118
Here Comes James – Again! The ‘Fifteen’..................................................118
¡Hola! Spain’s (Mini) Invasion of Scotland, 1719.......................................119
The Jacobites Return . . . And This Time They’re Bonnie:
The ‘Forty-Five’ .........................................................................................120
The Battle of Prestonpans, 21 September 1745..............................120
The Battle of Falkirk, 17 January 1746 .............................................121
The Battle of Culloden, 15 April 1746 ..............................................122
The American War of Independence, 1775 –1783.....................................123
The Battles of Lexington, Concord, and Bunker Hill, 1775............124
Rebel failures in Canada ....................................................................126
New York, New York ...........................................................................126
Making plans with Johnny and George............................................128
Georgia on my mind, 1779–1781 .......................................................130
Turning the world upside down .......................................................131

Chapter 10: Revolting Frenchmen, The Grand Old Duke, and
Boney: The French Revolutionary and Napoleonic Wars . . . . . . . . .133
Campaigning with the Grand Old Duke of York:
The Low Countries, 1793–1795 ...............................................................134
The Battle of Fishguard, February 1797 ....................................................135
The Great Irish Rebellion of 1798...............................................................136
Chasing the French out of Egypt, 1801 ......................................................138
Fighting France Here, There, and Everywhere .........................................139

Chapter 11: Wellington Boots the French Out:
The Peninsula to Waterloo . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .143
The Peninsular War, 1808–1814 ..................................................................144
The Battle of Corunna, 16 January 1808..........................................146
The Battle of Talavera, 27 July 1809.................................................146
The Battles of Torres Vedras and Busaco, 27 September 1810 ....147
The Battle of Fuentes de Onoro, 5 May 1811 ..................................148
The Battle of Albuera, 16 May 1811..................................................149


Table of Contents
The storming of Ciudad Rodrigo and Badajoz,
19 January and 7 April 1812 ..........................................................153
The Battle of Salamanca, 22 July 1812 .............................................153
The Battle of Vittoria, 21 June 1813 .................................................154
The War of 1812 ............................................................................................155
The northern theatre .........................................................................155
The Atlantic front ...............................................................................160
Fighting beyond the bitter end: New Orleans, 1815.......................163
Catching the 1815 to Waterloo ...................................................................163
The Battles of Ligny and Quatre Bras, 16 June 1815......................164
The Battle of Waterloo, 18 June 1815...............................................165

Part IV: Nineteenth-Century Wars ..............................171
Chapter 12: Britain’s Little Wars: Imperial Expansion . . . . . . . . . . . .173
The Changing Face of the Army .................................................................174
Have Guns, Will Travel, 1815–1852 ............................................................174
South Africa.........................................................................................174
Aden .....................................................................................................175
Persia (Iran) ........................................................................................175
Ceylon (Sri Lanka) ..............................................................................176
Burma...................................................................................................176
China ....................................................................................................178
New Zealand........................................................................................180
India ...............................................................................................................181
The First Afghan War .........................................................................181
The conquest of Scinde .....................................................................183
The First Sikh War ..............................................................................183
The Second Sikh War .........................................................................185

Chapter 13: Helping Turkey Fight the Bear: The Crimean War . . . . .187
In the Red Corner: Commanding the British Army..................................189
The Battle of the Alma, 20 September 1854 ..............................................190
The British advance ...........................................................................190
The Guards and Highlanders advance.............................................192
The Russians counter-attack ............................................................193
Sauntering on to Sevastopol .............................................................194
The Battle of Balaklava, 25 October 1854 .................................................194
The thin red line .................................................................................195
The charge of the Heavy Brigade .....................................................196
The charge of the Light Brigade .......................................................197
The Battle of Inkerman, 5 November 1854................................................199
Bungling Beyond Belief................................................................................200
The Fall of Sevastopol, 8 September 1855.................................................201

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British Military History For Dummies
Chapter 14: Rebels, Rajahs, and a Rani: The Indian Mutiny . . . . . . .203
The Mutiny Begins .......................................................................................204
The Siege of Delhi, 8 June–20 September 1857.........................................206
Reinforcing the besiegers..................................................................207
Assaulting Delhi’s walls .....................................................................208
Fighting inside the city ......................................................................208
The Reliefs of Lucknow, 1857–1858............................................................210
Defending Lucknow............................................................................211
Havelock and Outram to the rescue: The First Relief....................211
Campbell is coming, hurrah! Hurrah!: The Second Relief .............214
Evacuating Lucknow ..........................................................................216
Fighting in Central India, 1858 ....................................................................216
Action in Jhansi ..................................................................................217
Fighting in Kalpi..................................................................................219
Ending the mutiny at Gwalior ...........................................................220
Waving Goodbye to John Company, 1860 .................................................221

Chapter 15: Home and Away: Reorganisation,
Re-Equipment, and More Trouble in India . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .223
Addressing Matters Close to Home ...........................................................224
Shootin’ fastest and bestest..............................................................224
Introducing new uniforms .................................................................226
Mr Cardwell knows best ....................................................................226
Seeing Action on the North West Frontier ................................................228
The Second Afghan War, 1878–1880...........................................................230
Defending the Kabul Residency........................................................230
Retaking the Kabul Residency ..........................................................231
Intriguing Afghan politics ..................................................................232
The Maiwand disaster, 27 July 1880.................................................233
Marching from Kabul to Kandahar...................................................235
The Great Frontier Rising, 1897–1898 ........................................................236

Chapter 16: Boots, Boots, Boots, Boots: Marchin’ Over Africa . . . . .239
Rescuing Hostages in Abyssinia, 1868.......................................................240
The Ashanti War, 1873–1874 .......................................................................241
The Zulu War, 1879 .......................................................................................243
The Battle of Isandhlwana, 22 January 1879...................................243
The Defence of Rorke’s Drift, 22–23 January 1879 .........................246
Ending the Zulu War...........................................................................248
The First Boer War, 1880–1881....................................................................249
Introducing Boer commandos ..........................................................249
The Battles of Laing’s Nek and Majuba Hill,
28 January and 27 February 1881 .................................................249


Table of Contents
Invading Egypt, 1882 ....................................................................................250
Send Sir Garnet! The Sudan, 1884–1885.....................................................252
Khartoum or bust! ..............................................................................253
Sallying from Suakin against Osman Digna .....................................255
Reconquering the Sudan, 1896–1898 .........................................................256
Steaming along Kitchener’s desert railway.....................................257
The Battle of Omdurman, 2 September 1898 ..................................258
The Second Boer War, 1899–1902...............................................................260
Opening moves ...................................................................................261
Defending Mafeking............................................................................262
Struggling on through Black Week, 10–15 December 1899............263
Taking the initiative from the Boers.................................................264
Fighting the guerrilla war ..................................................................266

Part V: The First World War .......................................267
Chapter 17: ‘Hangin’ On the Old Barbed Wire’:
The Western Front, 1914–1917 . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .269
All Noisy on the Western Front ..................................................................271
The Battle of Mons, 23 August 1914.................................................271
The Battle of Le Cateau, 26 August 1914 .........................................272
The Battle of the Marne, 5–10 September 1914 ..............................272
The First Battle of Ypres, 18 October–30 November 1914 ............273
Digging In to Trench Warfare ......................................................................274
Coping with shell shock ....................................................................274
‘Your Country Needs You!’ ................................................................275
The Second Battle of Ypres, 22 April–25 May 1915 ........................276
The Battle of Loos, 25 September–8 October 1915 ........................277
The Battle of the Somme, 1916 ...................................................................277
Starting the Somme offensive ..........................................................278
Turning the tide ..................................................................................280
Bringing on the tanks.........................................................................281
The Battles of 1917.......................................................................................283

Chapter 18: Storm Troopers and Tank Attacks:
The Western Front, 1918 . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .287
The Ludendorff Offensives, March–June 1918 .........................................289
The Allies Fight Back ...................................................................................291
The Battle of Amiens, 8 August 1918 .........................................................292
Breaking the Hindenburg Line....................................................................294
Reflecting on the War: Lions, Donkeys, and Poets...................................294

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British Military History For Dummies
Chapter 19: Turkey With All the Trimmings:
The Middle East and Beyond, 1914–1918 . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .297
Defending Egypt ...........................................................................................298
Attacking the Suez Canal ...................................................................298
Fighting in the Western Desert .........................................................299
Landing in the Dardanelles .........................................................................302
Optimism gone mad – the Dardanelles plan ...................................302
Getting everything wrong: Gallipoli .................................................303
Fighting in Mesopotamia.............................................................................305
Baghdad or bust: Take one................................................................305
Baghdad or bust: Take two ...............................................................307
Campaigning in Palestine ............................................................................309
Fending off early Turkish advances .................................................310
Taking the Gaza Line ..........................................................................312
Battle of Megiddo, 19–21 September 1918 ......................................313
Engaging Enemies World Wide ...................................................................317

Part VI: The Second World War (and Beyond) ............319
Chapter 20: Phoney War, Panzers, and Miracles:
The Outbreak of the Second World War . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .321
Campaigning between the Wars .................................................................322
The Phoney War, 1939–1940........................................................................324
The Arras counter-attack, 21 May 1940 ...........................................325
The Dunkirk evacuation, 26 May–4 June 1940 ................................326
Standing Alone after Dunkirk......................................................................328

Chapter 21: Sun, Sand, Sea, and Tanks: The Middle East
and North Africa, 1940–1943 . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .331
Facing the Italians in Libya .........................................................................334
The Battle of Sidi Barrani, 9–12 December 1940 ............................335
Chasing ‘Electric Whiskers’...............................................................336
Taking Tobruk, 6–22 January 1941 ...................................................337
The Battle of Beda Fomm, 5–7 February 1941 ................................338
Rommel Arrives in the Desert ....................................................................339
Holed up at Tobruk, April–December 1941 .....................................340
Operation Battleaxe, 15–17 June 1941 .............................................341
Operation Crusader, 18 November–7 December 1941...................341
First Battle of Alamein, 1–27 July 1942 ......................................................345


Table of Contents
Second Battle of Alamein, 23 October–4 November 1942.......................347
Operation Bertram, October 1942....................................................348
Operation Supercharge, 2 November 1942 .....................................350
Pursuing Rommel to Tunisia.......................................................................351

Chapter 22: One Bloomin’ Ridge After Another:
The Italian Campaign, 1943–1945 . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .353
Warming Up for Italy: Sicily.........................................................................354
Landing at Salerno .......................................................................................354
Monte Cassino and the Gustav Line ..........................................................356
The Anzio Beachhead..................................................................................357
Fighting through the Gothic Line ...............................................................358
Assaulting the Po .........................................................................................359

Chapter 23: Beachheads and Bridges: Normandy
and Northwest Europe, 1944–1945 . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .361
The Raid on Dieppe, 19 August 1942 .........................................................364
D Day, 6 June 1944: The Greatest Amphibious Invasion in History .......365
Pushing on through the hedgerows .................................................366
Pursuing through France and Belgium ............................................368
Operation Market Garden, 17–26 September 1944 ..................................369
The drops ............................................................................................370
Withdrawing from Arnhem................................................................371
Fighting Through to Germany: The Last Winter ......................................372
The Battle of the Bulge, 16 December 1944–16 January 1945.......372
Operation Veritable, 8 February–8 March 1945..............................373
Crossing the Rhine .............................................................................374
Advancing across Germany to Victory......................................................375

Chapter 24: Welcome to the Jungle: The Far East, 1941–1945 . . . . . .377
Losing the Empire in the Far East (For the Time Being) .........................378
The Malayan Debacle, December 1941–February 1942 .................379
Retreating from Burma, 1942 ............................................................381
Ending the Myth of Jungle Supermen........................................................383
Defending New Guinea.......................................................................383
Chasing out the Japanese..................................................................384
Fighting Back into Burma, 1943–1944 ........................................................385
The Admin Box, 6–25 February 1944 ...............................................385
Kohima and Imphal ............................................................................387
Destroying the Japanese Burma Area Army .............................................389
The capture of Meiktila, 28 February–4 March 1945......................390
Driving to Rangoon ............................................................................391

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Chapter 25: Around the World in 60 Years:
Operations 1945–2006 . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .393
Withdrawing from the Empire ....................................................................395
Palestine, 1945–1948 ..........................................................................395
India and Pakistan, 1947 ....................................................................395
Malaya, 1948–1960..............................................................................396
Kenya, 1952–1956 ...............................................................................397
Cyprus, 1954–1974..............................................................................398
Aden, 1964–1967 .................................................................................398
The ‘Real’ Wars: Great and Small ...............................................................399
Korea, 1951–1953 ................................................................................399
Suez, 1956 ............................................................................................401
Borneo, 1962–1966 .............................................................................402
The Falkland Islands, 1982 ................................................................403
The First Gulf War, 1991 .....................................................................406
Afghanistan, 2001 onwards ...............................................................407
The Second Gulf War, 2003 ................................................................407
Peacekeeping Around the World................................................................408
Ulster, 1969–1998 ................................................................................409
Yugoslavia, post-1992.........................................................................410

Part VII: The Part of Tens...........................................411
Chapter 26: Ten Great British Generals . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .413
King Edward I (Chapter 4)...........................................................................413
Oliver Cromwell (Chapter 6) ......................................................................413
The Duke of Marlborough (Chapter 8) ......................................................414
The Duke of Wellington (Chapters 10 and 11)..........................................414
General Sir Colin Campbell (Chapters 13 and 14) ...................................414
Field Marshal Lord Roberts (Chapters 14–16) .........................................415
Field Marshal Lord Wolseley (Chapters 15 and 16) .................................416
Field Marshal Lord Allenby (Chapter 19)..................................................416
Field Marshal Viscount Montgomery of Alamein (Chapters 21–23)......417
Field Marshal Viscount Slim (Chapters 21 and 24)..................................418

Chapter 27: Ten Decisive Battles in British Military History . . . . . . .419
Hastings, 1066 (Chapter 4)..........................................................................419
Bannockburn, 1314 (Chapter 4) .................................................................419
Blenheim, 1704 (Chapter 8) ........................................................................420
Saratoga, 1777 (Chapter 9)..........................................................................420
Waterloo, 1815 (Chapter 11) .......................................................................420
Amiens, 1918 (Chapter 18)..........................................................................421


Table of Contents
Operation Compass and its Sequels, 1940–1941 (Chapter 21)...............421
The Second Battle of Alamein, 1942 (Chapter 21) ...................................421
Normandy, 1944 (Chapter 23).....................................................................422
Meiktila, 1945 (Chapter 24).........................................................................422

Chapter 28: Ten British Military Museums Worth Visiting . . . . . . . .423
Housesteads Roman Fort, Northumberland.............................................423
The Tower of London ..................................................................................423
Caernarfon Castle.........................................................................................424
Edinburgh Castle ..........................................................................................424
The Royal Armouries Museum, Leeds.......................................................424
Firepower! The Royal Artillery Museum, Woolwich ................................424
The Imperial War Museum, London...........................................................424
The National Army Museum, London........................................................425
The Tank Museum, Bovington....................................................................425
The D Day Museum, Southsea ....................................................................425

Index........................................................................427

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Introduction

Y

ou come across them everywhere. Not always in the flesh, of course.
Their names are inscribed on the walls of temples and the badges of
their old regiments are carved into rock faces around the world. I mean
British soldiers, of course, who have served on every continent. At one time
they policed one-quarter of the earth’s surface, which is a remarkable
achievement for a comparatively small group of men (and these days,
women) born in an insignificant group of offshore islands. They were heroes
and cowards, wise men and fools, good men and bad. Their story is one of triumph and tragedy, victory and sometimes defeat, hard living and laughter.
Strong bonds of comradeship, a sense of family, and pride in the soldier’s regiment have always existed, as well as traditions that aren’t found to the same
extent in any other army. When times are at their worst, these things provide
a tremendous source of strength.
The British – by which I mean the English, Welsh, Scots, Irish, and Manx –
were fighting among themselves long, long before the Regular Army was
established in the seventeenth century, and when they weren’t doing that
they were fighting the French! The story of the British army is a long one that
I hope you enjoy reading as much as I have enjoyed telling it.

About This Book
On the way through the book you meet all sorts of people, from King Arthur to
Field Marshal Viscount Montgomery of Alamein. One of the most important
people you meet is called Tommy Atkins, the universal name for the British soldier that even his enemies use. He’s a rather likeable sort, a good ambassador
for his country, slow to anger, stubborn as a mule, and someone to avoid when
his temper’s up. He’s as brave as anyone, but because of his training, discipline, and regimental spirit, he tends to be braver for five minutes longer. One
French general described him as a very bad soldier who didn’t seem to understand that he’d lost the battle and went on fighting until the French (who of
course were better soldiers) realised they had lost and sensibly withdrew. In
addition, in the book you get to know something about weapons, tactics, battles, and the army’s part in creating and defending the British Empire.
What I’ve written in this book represents my own opinions. Other people may
not agree or may differ in their interpretation of details, but the thing to
remember about military history, as Sir Basil Liddell Hart said, is that no one
can know more than a fraction of anything, and every day there is something
fresh to discover. It’s fun.


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British Military History For Dummies

Conventions Used in This Book
First, dates. I have stuck to BC (Before Christ) and AD (Anno Domini, the year
of our Lord) because that is how dates are recorded in all but a tiny percentage of the reference books you may wish to consult.
Second, I refer to military formations. Not everyone is familiar with the structures the army uses, so here they are:
ߜ An army group consists of two or more armies.
ߜ An army usually consists of two or more corps.
ߜ A corps normally consists of two or more divisions.
ߜ A division consists of two or more brigades.
ߜ A brigade consists of three infantry battalions or cavalry regiments.
This is representative and varies according to circumstances. Although
British infantry regiments may consist of several battalions (of between 500
and 1,000 soldiers), it was unusual for them to serve together prior to the
World Wars.
In military history, the written conventions employed to identify formations are:
ߜ Army Group: Arabic numerals, for example 21st Army Group
ߜ Army: Roman letters, for example Eighth Army
ߜ Corps: Roman numerals, for example XXX Corps
ߜ Divisions: Arabic numerals, for example 1st Division. If other than
infantry a designation is added, such as 1st Cavalry Division, 1st
Armoured Division
ߜ Brigades: As divisions. Recent convention is to omit ‘st, nd, rd, th’ from
the numeral, for example 123 Brigade.
When you get to the smaller units, things can become a little confusing. For
the same of simplicity I have used regiments’ numbers, such as 24th. When a
regiment had two battalions, I have indicated which one we’re talking about,
such as 1/24th or 2/24th.

What You’re Not to Read
From time to time in this book I’ve used icons called Technical Stuff. These
are necessary because warfare is a technical business and I’ve recorded the
introduction of new weapons systems and other developments separately


Introduction
from the main narrative. The same is true of sidebars, which contain interesting info that you can skip if you just want to read the main narrative. You
don’t have to read either to understand what is happening.

Foolish Assumptions
I’ve made some assumptions about you when writing this book. I’m assuming
that one or more of the following is true:
ߜ You did a bit of military history at school, perhaps relating to the Second
World War, but had difficulty placing all the information into context.
ߜ You may have studied other aspects, like the Napoleonic Wars, but have
become a bit hazy about who did what and when.
ߜ You enjoy reading a good story in which some of your not-so-distant
ancestors are bound to have taken part.

How This Book Is Organised
I’ve organised the book in a modular way. It consists of a number of parts,
each of which stands on its own so you don’t need to read the book cover to
cover (unless you want to!). If your interest is in ancient and medieval warfare or the Napoleonic Wars, for example, go straight to the relevant part.
Each part contains chapters with information about the British involvement
in the wars of that period. The following sections describe the type of information you can find in each part.

Part I: Ancient and Medieval Warfare
When the Roman Legions invaded the island they called Britannia, they found
themselves fighting fierce blue tribesmen egged on by wild women and weird
Druids. The Romans won, but after they had gone, Angles, Saxons, and Jutes
invaded the island. If you read this part you find out about the rough-andtumble punch-ups between the Saxon kingdoms, admire Offa and his smart
new dyke, cheer on Alfred as he batters the Danes, and make the acquaintance of Canute, owner of the original float-away throne. Then, if you’ve got
time, you can make friends with William the Conqueror, or discover how to
build a castle or two and really oppress people. You may well agree that the
Scots deserved their independence after Edward II’s dreadful performance at
Bannockburn, and that the snobby French nobility asked for the regular hidings they got from English archers.

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British Military History For Dummies

Part II: The Arrival of Gunpowder
Suddenly, all the rules changed. Why? Because of an unstable black powder
that has a tendency to explode anywhere, any time, given the slightest
encouragement. That means that guns, muskets, and pistols are in. And that
means a complete new look for the infantry. The cavalry didn’t adapt too well
at first, but they gradually got the hang of things, as did the chaps who
designed fortifications. The British weren’t really into land warfare at this
time, so when Charles I and his Parliament came to blows they did so with
amateur armies. Charles II realised that he needed a regular standing army. In
this part, you discover how that army was formed, what it consisted of, and
how it operated.

Part III: Wars of Succession,
Independence, and Revolution
The British army spent most of the eighteenth century, and some years after,
fighting the French. They fought other people too, but mostly the French. In
fact, some people grew up believing that fighting the French was what you
did when you left school. During the early years of the century, the Duke of
Marlborough won a series of stunning victories that established the army’s
reputation. India was an area of constant squabbling where the Honourable
East India Company looked after British interests. Another area of continual
friction was North America, where Canada in the north and Louisiana in the
south menaced the 13 British colonies. Then some of the American colonists
rebelled and declared their independence. France declared war on Great
Britain, little realising that the two countries would still be fighting 22 years
later when the French had a pushy general called Bonaparte.

Part IV: Nineteenth-Century Wars
In India, the jewel of the expanding Empire, threats developed requiring the
armed services to protect British interests. Even the Crimean War, the British
army’s only European involvement during the period, was fought to prevent
Imperial Russia expanding its influence into the Mediterranean and so posing
a threat to British India. In fact, what became known as the ‘Great Game’, the
nineteenth-century equivalent of the Cold War, played out between Great
Britain and Russia in Central Asia. Other European nations were eager to
enhance their status by acquiring colonies, mainly in Africa, and this meant
that the British acquired additional colonies they did not want, simply to prevent them being used by potentially hostile powers. Improved weapons systems completely altered the way wars were fought and hinted at the
industrialised killing that would take place during the twentieth century.


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