Reflections on war and warfare: week 15 (9 – 15 June 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.

9 June 1811 The second siege of Badajoz
After failing to capture the Spanish border fortress of Badajoz in the spring of 1811 a second attempt began in May the same year. Once again the main focus was on the fort of San Cristobal. After four days of bombardment a sizable breach had been made in the fort and an assault was attempted. However, unaware that the French had removed all of the debris from the ditch, the British assaulting party were unable to find any part of the wall low enough for their ladders to reach and the assault ended in failure. After further bombardment and a second failed assault, Wellington was forced to abandon capturing Badajoz until a third, successful, siege was attempted in 1812.

“The breach in [San Cristobal] was thought practicable on the 6th and was attempted that night. I hear by detachment of the 51st, 85th and Portuguese under Major McIntosh of the 85th the attack was unsuccessful and cost us 60 men, but two soldiers got into the place and got back again to tell the fact and receive a pecuniary reward from Lord Wellington!!!!! Since that time our batteries have been abandoned towards the old castle wall upon the other side of the river and at this moment the breaching battery upon that side of the Guadiana may be within 450 yards.”

MS 296/1 Letter from Lieutenant Colonel Henry Cadogan, Talavera Real, to Brigadier General Denis Pack, reporting on the siege of Badajoz, 9 June 1811

10 June 1940 German invasion of Norway and Italy declares war
The war took a downward turn for the allies during 1940. On 9 April, German forces invaded Norway with the aim was to capture Oslo. They failed to do this and the Norwegian royal family, the cabinet, and most of the 150 members of the Storting (parliament) made a hasty departure from the capital by special train.

On 10 June 1940, Benito Mussolini, leader of Italy, declared war on France and Great Britain.

The allied reaction was swift: in London, all Italians who had lived in Britain less than 20 years and who were between the ages of 16 and 70 were immediately interned. In America, President Roosevelt broadcast on radio the promise of support for Britain and France.

Nevertheless, it was a worrying time for the civilians of allied countries as Samuel Rich notes:

“Worst day of the war so far. The allies have left Norway; its king and government have come to England. In the evacuation HMS Glorious, 2 destroyers and another ship were lost. Italy declared war on the allies; the Germans have reached Rociem, and the lower Seine has been crossed. The weather has been fitting to the news […] it looks as if freedom is to be eclipsed in Europe for a generation.”

MS 168 AJ217/36 Journal of Samuel Rich, 10 June 1940

13 June 1915 The third battle of Krithia
On 4 June 1915 the third battle of Krithia began at Gallipoli. This event signified the final attack against the Ottoman defences, with the aim of enabling the capture of Alçı Tepe (Achi Baba) which controlled the majority of the peninsula. The result was an Ottoman victory, with the British only achieving little gains in ground.

“What one wants now is an Oliver Cromwell who will send them all about their business and prosecute the war with all the powers of the country. I think that they [politicians] will have to have some sort of industrial compulsion.”

MS 336 A2097/4/3 Letter from Frederick Dudley Samuel to his wife, 13 June 1915


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