Reflections on war and warfare: Week 31 (29 September – 5 October 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.

29 September 1918 British and Arab troops conquer Damascus
Commanded by Edmund Henry Hynman Allenby, the British-led Egyptian expeditionary force broke through the Ottoman line at the Battle of Megiddo. This led to them being able to block the Turkish retreat. Damascus was occupied on 1 October, was followed by Homs on 16 October and Aleppo on 25 October. This eventually led to the surrender of Turkey on 30 October 1918.

The reference to Turkey in the quote below as “Johnny Turk” is an example of Digger slang, first used by the Australian armed forces during the First World War.

“The past week has passed away very quietly with nothing important happening except the great offensive, which has begun on our front. We have given Johnny Turk a wonderful surprise and it is really marvellous how we have taken such big hills with such a small amount of casualties.”

MS 124 AJ 15/3 Letter from Private Paul Epstein to parents, Aby and Frieda, 29 September 1918


3 October 1940 Evacuated students from University College London come to Southampton
The Principal reported that he has been asked by the provost of University College, London, to accommodate a number of his students who had been compelled to evacuate from London, and that he had once agreed to offer them hospitality. There were approximately thirty-four of these students, mostly in the Faculty of Arts, who had accepted the offer and had now joined the College.

Resolved: “That the action of the Principal be confirmed, and that a cordial welcome be extended to these London students”

MS 1/MBK/2/1/6 University College Southampton Senate minute book 1937-45, p.87


5 October 1813 The Siege of Pamplona continues
Following Wellington’s decisive victory at the Battle of Vitoria, on 21 June 1813, the French army in northern Spain withdrew over the Pyrenees. As Wellington’s forces laid siege to the city of San Sebastián, a Spanish army, under Captain General Enrique O’Donnell, laid siege to a French garrison at the fortified city of Pamplona. While the Siege of San Sebastián reached a successful conclusion in early September the garrison at Pamplona held out. However, having eaten all the dogs and rats they could find in the city the French troops were eventually reduced to starvation and surrendered to the Spanish on 31 October.

“From what we can make out of an intercepted letter in cipher from the Governor of Pamplona I judge that he can hold out till the 20th or the 25th and till that time we certainly cannot move our right. But the heights on the right of the Bidasoa command such a view of us that we must have them and the sooner we get them the better.”

MS 61 WP1/377 Copy of a letter from Field Marshal Arthur Wellesley, first Marquis of Wellington, to Lieutenant General Sir Thomas Graham, 5 October 1813


3 October 1851 Post from home
For many of those serving on military campaigns communication with their loved ones and family back home was something they clung to and which sustained them, as the following extract from Captain Wellesley indicates.

“I received your letter of the 25th and all the newspapers and the mail from the Retribution… The people from the Retribution have not yet arrived as the bar at the Buffalo mouth has been impracticable for landing so Reeve with your parcel has not yet made an appearance. How lazy they are in England not to write even one line….”

MS 63 A904/3 Letter from Captain Edward Wellesley, King William’s Town, to his wife Annot, 3 October 1851

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