Reflections on war and warfare: Week 24 (11 – 17 August 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.

11 August 1914 Changes in London in the first week of war
“Took a walk with Lal to see the sights – crowds at the Admiralty, War Office, musketry instruction in St James PK, March of London Irish, Horse Guards – Over Hungerford Bridge…War news today: Mulhausen retaken by Germany, French advance checked in Alcace. No news of British fleet.”

MS 168 AJ 217/10 Journal of Samuel Rich, 11 August 1914


12 August 1916
Propaganda and news reports
The war afforded the government wide-ranging powers of censorship and press censorship was used to ensure that the conflict was presented in a pro-Allied light. The War Propaganda Bureau was created in September 1914, its dual role being to maintain morale at home and combat German propaganda. British propaganda during this period was generally considered to be more successful than its more strident German counterpart.

“I believe the German reports are not more false than ours, but I think everybody is prepared for a winter campaign, one feels somehow that if the war were left to the soldiers it would soon be over, but the government have been such swine that they are really more afraid of what will happen to them in peace, than of what happens to us in war.”

MS 336 A2097/7/1 Letter from Frederick Dudley Samuel to his fiancée and subsequent wife, Dorothy, 12 August 1916


14 August 1914 Registration of aliens
At the outbreak of the First World War the British Nationality and Status of Aliens Act was introduced which required, all aliens over the age of 16 to register at local police stations. They had to demonstrate a good character and knowledge of English. In part this was due to a fear of spies.

“Uncle has registered under the aliens Restriction order in Council, but under protest, as he thinks being a Hanoverian, he is a British subject.”

MS 168 AJ 217/10 Journal of Samuel Rich, 14 August 1914


14 August 1851 Guerilla warfare in the Cape frontier wars
“This war has been languishing and all the spirit and daring which distinguished the Kafirs at the commencement have disappeared, they now seldom if ever fight the regular troops, they seem entirely to have deserted their great strongholds of the Amatola Mountains, and have broken into the Colony in small parties of mixed Kafirs and Hottentots where they burn the farm houses, carry off the cattle and sheep and commit every harm and devastation on the unfortunate border farmers…”

MS 63 A904/3/6 Captain Edward Wellesley to his brother Richard, 14 August 1851


17 August 1808 Battle of Roliça
The Battle of Roliça was the first battle fought by the British army during the Peninsular War, and marked Sir Arthur Wellesley’s first victory of the campaign. The battle took place on 17 August 1808 as an Anglo-Portuguese army under Wellesley marched towards Lisbon following a French force under the command of General Henri-François Delaborde.

Delaborde had been ordered by General Jean-Andoche Junot to hold the Anglo-Portuguese until his larger army was ready to fight. Delaborde’s outnumbered French force took up a defensive position near the village of Roliça where they repulsed three enemy assaults before being forced to withdraw. While Wellesley’s attitude towards his troops varied throughout the subsequent campaign, on this occasion he offered high praise for the gallantry of his troops.

“I cannot sufficiently applaud the conduct of the troops throughout this action. The enemy’s positions were formidable and he took them up with his usual ability and celerity; and defended them most gallantly. But I must observe that although we had such a superiority of numbers employed in the operations of this day, the troops actually engaged in the heat of the action were, from circumstances unavoidable, only the 9th, 29th, 5th, the riflemen of the 60th and 95th regiments, and the flank companies of Major General Hill’s brigade; being a number by no means equal to that of the enemy. Their conduct therefore deserves the highest commendations.”

MS 61 WP1/211 Letter from Lieutenant General Sir Arthur Wellesley, Head Quarters at Villa Verde, to Robert Stewart, Viscount Castlereagh, Secretary of State for War and the Colonies, 17 August 1808

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