Reflections on war and warfare: Week 33 (13 – 19 October 2014)

Today sees the opening of the exhibition ‘When “the days of conquest are passed”: reflections on war and warfare’ at the Special Collections Gallery. The exhibition forms part of the special events taking place across campus to mark the anniversary of the First World War. In conjunction with these events 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.

15 October 1812 In praise of Wellington
The diary of John Holt Beaver charts his travels in Portugal and Spain in the aftermath of the Battle of Salamanca. While crossing the Sierra de Guadarrama mountain range he lodges in a house belonging to the alcalde of the village of Guadarrama. During their conversation his host praises Wellington for his decisive victory over the French at Salamanca.

“He is a young man and told us that the French had destroyed 5 houses that he had in the village, the one we were in being the only one habitable, and this was no better than an English barn […] Our host was loud in praise of the English nation, and Lord Wellington he said was the saviour of Spain, which had been ruined by a bad government and betrayed by those leading men, who ought to have defended her.”

MS 362 Diary of John Holt Beaver, 15 October 1812


16 October 1851 Operations in Kroome Forest
In 1851 the heavily outnumbered British forces began to receive reinforcements which enabled them to sweep through the Cape region. On 14 October, the first two-pronged assault was undertaken by Major General Henry Somerset and Colonel Fordyce in the Kroome Forest area which was used as a base by their opponents. Ultimately the mission was aborted as dense fog made it difficult for the forces to meet up.

“We have as yet not been able to attack from the paucity of our numbers and vast extent of forest to be cleared, where Macomo a chief of the Gaikas is located, a clever and influential man with some two or three thousand followers and Major General Somerset is about to attack him having been strongly from here. If he succeeds well it may have an important effect on the termination of the war.”

MS 63 A904/3/9 Letter from Captain Edward Wellesley to his brother, Richard, 16 October 1851


17 October 1918 The Battle of Courtrai
The Battle of Courtrai began early in the morning of 14 October 1918 with an attack from the Groupe d’Armées des Flandres and the French Sixth Army. Located at the Lys river at Comines towards Dixmude, the group comprised of twelve Belgian divisions and ten divisions of the British Second Army. While the British forces had conquered Werviq, Memnin, Morslede, Gulleghem and Steenbeck, Belgian troops had reached Iseeghem and Coretemarck. On 15 October Roulers fell to the French Army, and by the 17 October, Thourout, Ostend, Lille and Douai had been recaptured. As a result of the British Second Army crossing the Lye and capturing Coutrai, German troops retreated on the front of the Fifth Army, who encircled Lille on 18 October.

“Yesterday’s rumours were baseless but during the day enough good news came up; Ostend occupied by the British – Lille taken!…We must be careful or we’ll miss a victory or two.”

MS 168 AJ 217/14 Journal of Samuel Rich, 17 October 1918


18 October 1939 War time necessitates economies in lighting for the University College
A meeting of the Senate held on 18 October 1939 the Senate considered various suggestions for effecting an economy in lighting.

Resolved: “(a) That the start of the Easter term be deferred a week, and begin on 15 January instead of the 8th, and that the summer term be brought forward a week, and begin on 15th April instead of the 22nd April.

(b) That heads of departments be authorised to start the afternoon session at 1.30 p.m. instead of 2 p.m. if they so desire.”

MS 1/MBK/2/1/6 University College Southampton Senate minutes 1937-45, p. 77

The current exhibition forms part of the University of Southampton’s Great War: Unknown War programme – a series of events, talks, workshops and conferences taking place in 2014-15 across campus, as part of the wider global WW1 commemoration. A full programme of events can be found at: http://www.southampton.ac.uk/greatwar_unknownwar

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