Reflections on war and warfare: week 12 (19 – 25 May 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.

19 May 1939 Anti-Semitic propaganda
The persecution of the Jewish population in Germany had begun as early as 1933 with the boycott of Jewish businesses and shops. On 30 January that year Hitler gave a speech in the Reichstag, announcing that: “If the international Jewish financiers inside and outside Europe should succeed in plunging the nations once more into a world war, then the outcome will not be the victory of Jewry, but rather the annihilation of the Jewish race in Europe!” By 1939, anti-Semitic propaganda had become so widely distributed and accessible, that it could also be viewed outside of Germany.

“I.I.M sent me ‘What are the Jews?’ to be published on Monday. I’ve read heartily 140 pages already. Clearly written – incisive – it should create quite a stir. The anti-Zionist polemic very powerful – he had M.L.P. in mind!”

MS 168 AJ 217/35 Journal of Samuel Rich, 19 May 1939

23 May 1917 The no annexations question
In 1917, Russia’s political and economic problems were augmented by the war. As warfare continued, Nicholas II abdicated and a provisional government led by liberals and moderate socialists was formed. These leaders wished to participate in the war more efficiently, resulting in them wanting to commit to a general peace minus annexations or indemnities. This was a plan that neither the Allies or Germany would accept.

“Something of an argument with Jeff on the question of ‘no annexations’. I think the allies ought to restate their terms in view of the entry of U.S.A. and of the Russian Revolution.”

MS 168 AJ 217/13 Journal of Samuel Rich, 23 May 1917

23 May 1854 The destruction of HMS Tiger
HMS Tiger had been part of the allied squadron that had been involved in the bombardment of Odessa. It was part of a squadron that was detached on 11 May to cruise off Odessa but was quickly separated from the others due to fog. It was fired on by the Russians from shore and was damaged. A number of crew members were seriously injured, including Captain Henry Giffard, who later died of wounds. The crew were well treated by the Russians, to whom they surrendered, but the Tiger was blown up when the Russians reopened fire on the vessel.

“The Russians have totally destroyed the ‘Tiger’ which vessel ran on shore in a fog near Odessa and the Captain Giffard after being wounded was taken prisoner with all his men.”

MS 63 A904/4/25 Letter from Major Edward Wellesley to his wife, Annot, 23 May 1854

25 May 1811 Report by the Secretary at War on the Battle of Fuentes de Oñoro
Lord Palmerston held the position of Secretary at War from 1809 to 1828. The Secretary at War was responsible for running the War Office which oversaw the administration and organisation of the Army. In the extract below Palmerston reports on the Allied success at the Battle of Fuentes de Oñoro where French forces failed to relieve the besieged city of Almeida.

“Dispatches have been received from [Lord] Wellington […] by which it appears that the enemy’s whole army, consisting of the 2nd, 6th and 8th Corps and all the cavalry which could be collection in Castile and Leon including 900 of the Imperial Guard together with some battalions of the 9th Corps […] made two desperate attacks on the British army for the purpose of relieving Almeida.

The contest though very severe, especially on the 5th, terminated in the complete repulse of enemy, and the allied army continued to hold its position.”

MS 62 PP/WO/1 Report by Henry John Temple, third Viscount Palmerston, Secretary at War, on the Battle of Fuentes de Oñoro, 25 May 1811


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