Reflections on war and warfare: Week 25 (18 – 24 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.

18 August 1945 The Japanese surrender
Following the devastation caused by the dropping of the atomic bomb on Hiroshima and Nagasaki on 6 and 9 August respectively, Japan surrendered to the allies on 15 August 1945. The surrender was based on the terms of the declaration to end the war, set out at the Potsdam Conference, 17 July-2 August 1945. Lord Mountbatten, who as Supreme Allied Commander South East Asia oversaw the capture of Burma from the Japanese and received the Japanese surrender at Singapore in September 1945, attended the Potsdam Conference. In the press statements below Mountbatten recalls being told about the dropping of the atomic bomb and reflects arrangements for occupation of Japan and of territories formerly occupied by Japan.

“At Potsdam at the end of the first day I was invited by Generals Marshall and Arnold to have dinner with them, but the Prime Minister had nailed me down, so I went along with them for an old fashioned! After General Marshall had got rid of all ADCs, he closed the doors very carefully, looked all around – and then told me about the atomic bomb.”

“The very same evening, while dining with the Prime Minister, with whom I spent some three hours, he waited until the servants had withdrawn, then took me in another room, closed all the doors, looked around – and then told me about the atomic bomb.”

“The next day I visited with President Truman, who took me in a room and closed all the doors. By that time I recognised the routine. Yes he told me about the atomic bomb! He also said that he had told Stalin about it on the previous evening.”

“Our attitude in the reoccupation will be tough; just as tough as we can make it but our manners will be impeccable.”

MS 350 A2096 SACSEA press statements, 18 August 1945

21 August 1808 Battle of Vimeiro
The Battle of Vimeiro took place on 21 August 1808, four days after the Battle of Roliça. After the success at Roliça, the Anglo-Portuguese army faced a much larger French force led by Major General Jean Andoche Junot, near the village of Vimeiro. While the French attempted a series of flanking manoeuvres on the weakest point in the British position, they were badly coordinated and were repulsed by Wellesley’s forces. The battle resulted in a decisive Anglo-Portuguese victory and ended the first French invasion of Portugal.

However, the subsequent agreement made with the French, the Convention of Sintra, allowed their defeated army to return to France complete with their supplies and loot. This caused a massive outcry in Britain and led to Wellesley being recalled from Portugal to face an inquiry, together with Generals Burrard and Dalrymple. While the agreement ended the active military careers of Burrard and Dalrymple, Wellesley returned to command the British army in Portugal in April 1809.

“In this action in which the whole of the French force in Portugal was employed, under the command of the Duke D’Abrantes, in which the enemy was certainly superior in cavalry and artillery, and in which not more than half of the army was actually engaged, he has sustained a signal defeat and has lost 13 pieces of cannon; 23 ammunition waggons; one General Officer (Brenier) has been wounded and taken prisoner, and a great number of officers and soldiers have been killed, wounded and taken.”

MS 61 WP1/211 Letter from Lieutenant General Sir Arthur Wellesley, Vimiero, to Lieutenant General Sir Harry Burrard, 21 August 1808

23 August 1916 Battle of Delville Wood
The Battle of Delville Wood lasted from 14 July to 3 September 1916. Allied aims were to secure one of the small prominent woods which would provide a strategic gain to direct artillery fire and to launch further attacks. The allies suffered a devastating amount of casualties. In addition, the British advance to the north only achieved negligible gains by the close of the battle.

“We are in for hard training, which is necessary after 3 months of trench work, mostly digging etc. The men did the march wonderfully well, only 4 fell out, chiefly owing to eating green apples I fear. They carry a lot of stuff packs, rifles, ammunition etc.”

MS 336 A2097/7/1 Letter from Frederick Dudley Samuel to his fiancée and subsequent wife, Dorothy, 23 August 1916


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