Reflections on war and warfare: week 7 (14 – 20 April 2014)

As of March 2014, we are posting weekly extracts of writings on war and warfare drawn from our manuscript and printed collections. Ranging from items on the Maratha wars to the Second World War, the extracts will reflect opinions both from the battle front and from those at home.

14 April 1918 Letter about the military service bill responding to the manpower crisis
As a result of the German troops breaking through the Allied lines in numerous sectors of the Western Front in France, the British Army was left critically short of troops. This led to the drafting of a new military service bill, where conscription would be expanded to Ireland and the age limit would be raised to 50. Auckland Geddes, Director of National Service, argued that such measures would result in 150,000 more recruits for the army.

“Just now I’m following Lloyd George’s new bill which he introduced in the House of Commons on Thursday April 11th which embodies compulsion for Ireland raising the age limit to 50 years. Of compulsion for Ireland, I could write a great deal, but what will the old fogies who sat on the Tribunals say to this measure. They certainly made mockery of us when we appeased before them, and I think it is about high time they themselves should do their bit for king and country.”

MS 124 AJ 15/2 Letter from Private Paul Epstein to parents, Aby and Frieda, 14 April 1918


17 April 1939 President Roosevelt tries to avert war
On 15 April 1939, the American President Roosevelt read a message that he had sent the previous day to the German Chancellor Adolph Hitler imploring him to avoid any action that would result in the outbreak of war. Sadly the meeting of the Reichstag eleven days later suggested otherwise.

‘’It seems possible that Hitler may not entirely reject Roosevelt’s offer – he’s calling the Reichstag which meets in 11 days”

MS168 AJ 217/35 Journal of Samuel Rich, 17 April 1939


18 April 1814 Armistice agreed bringing an end to the Peninsular War
The Convention of Toulouse took place on 18 April 1814, suspending hostilities between the Anglo-Allied forces, under Field Marshal Arthur Wellesley, first Marquis of Wellington, and French forces, under Marshal Nicolas Jean-de-Dieu Soult, Duc de Dalmatie, and Marshal Louis Gabriel Suchet, Duc d’Albufera. A general order outlining the articles of the convention expresses appreciation for the efforts of the officers and troops of the Allied forces.

“Upon congratulating the army upon this prospect of an honourable termination of their labours, the Commander of the Forces avails himself of the opportunity of returning the General Officers, Officers, and troops, his best thanks for their uniform discipline and gallantry in the field, and for their conciliating conduct towards the inhabitants of the country, which, almost in an equal degree with their discipline and gallantry in the field, have produced the fortunate circumstances that now hold forth to the world the prospect of genuine and permanent peace.”

WP9/1/2/7 General orders issued by the Adjutant General’s department of the army in the Peninsula and Southern France, Toulouse, 21 April 1814


20 April 1791 Fighting Tipu Sultan

Tipu Sultan, the rule of Mysore, and his father before him had previously fought the British East India Company army in the first and second Anglo-Mysore Wars. In 1789, he sent forces onto the Malabar Coast to put down a rebellion causing many people to flee to Travancore and Cochin. Lord Cornwallis, the Governor General of India, viewed an assault by Tipu Sultan on the Nedumkotta, a fortified line of defence built by the Rajah of Travancore, in December 1789 as a declaration of war. This marked the start of the third Anglo-Mysore war, which dragged on until 1792. The British and their allies had made considerable advances on Tipu Sultan’s forces by 1791 , although Lord Cornwallis was eventually forced to withdraw his troops, due to Tipu Sultan’s efforts to break the British supply system.

“I agree with you perfectly about Indian politicks and cannot discover either the necessity, policy or justice of this desperate war we are waging against Tippo. If the success of it should prove as problematical … we shall have made a fine job of it.”

MS 62 Broadlands Archive BR 11/16/4 Letter from Henry Temple, second Viscount Palmerston, to his brother-in-law, Benjamin Mee, a merchant in India, 20 April 1791

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