Reflections on war and warfare: Week 38 (17 – 23 November 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. The quotes tie in with the exhibition ‘When “the days of conquest are passed”: reflections on war and warfare’, currently on display at the Special Collections Gallery.

17 November 1941 Air raids in Southampton

“A meeting of the Council was held on 17 November 1941 […] Halls and Refectory Committee […] That a vote of deep appreciation and gratitude be sent to the Warden and Vice-Warden of Highfield Hall for their splendid example and conduct in the face of great difficulties and dangers in the air raids which had taken place in the immediate vicinity.”

MS 1/MBK1/8 Council minute book: University College of Southampton 1938-51, p.54

18 November 1939 Germany’s “war aim”

“There’s great unrest in Bohemia and Moravia – martial law in Prague etc. Dr. Ley, the German Labour Leader says Germany’s war aim is the destruction of Britain! Oh yeah!”

MS 168 AJ 217/35 Journal of Samuel Rich, 18 November 1939

19 November 1809 Battle of Ocaña

The Battle of Ocaña was fought on 19 November 1809 between French forces under Marshal Soult and King Joseph Bonaparte and Spanish forces under General Juan Carlos de Aréizaga. Tensions with the British meant that no assistance was given by Wellington’s forces. As a result, the Spanish army suffering its greatest defeat of the Peninsular War, leaving southern Spain free to further French incursion.

“I acknowledge that I have never expected any other result from the march of General Areyzaga and I am not at all surprised at what has happened. The folly will appear in a still stronger light if after all that has occurred the French should be unable to penetrate into Andalusia, which I really believe will be the case, if General Areyzaga should be able to collect any proportion of his scattered forces.”

MS 61 WP1/286/43 Copy of a letter from Lieutenant General Sir Arthur Wellesley, first Viscount Wellington, to Lieutenant Colonel Roche, 26 November 1809

21 November 1917 Battle of Cambrai

Taking place from 20 November to 7 December 1917, the Battle of Cambrai reflected what could be achieved with new artillery and infantry methods. As a result of Cambrai, France being a vital location for breaking through the German Hindenburg Line, Brigadier Hugh Elles of the Tank Corps suggested using a large number of tanks for the British campaign. In addition, a secret transfer of artillery reinforcements was suggested by Henry Hugh Tudor, Commander of the 9th (Scottish) infantry division artillery, in order to achieve a surprise offensive upon the Germans. Unfortunately the Germans received adequate intelligence to be on moderate alert, and were aware of the use of tanks. Despite the success of the Mark IV at the start of the Cambrai campaign, they became mostly ineffective after the first day, with up to 179 tanks being lost at the end of the battle. However, the use of strategic artillery and infantry techniques such as new sound ranging and silent registration of guns led to victory for Britain.

“There is such thrilling news in tonight’s paper about us pushing through the Hindenburg line that I just feel I must if down straight away write to you – praying so now that if you have been in it, that you are safe.”

MS 132 AJ 322 2/1 Letter from Sybil Henriques to Basil Henriques, 21 November 1917


One response to “Reflections on war and warfare: Week 38 (17 – 23 November 2014)

  1. Warfare is a fascinating subject. Despite the dubious morality of using violence to achieve personal or political aims. It remains that conflict has been used to do just that throughout recorded history.

    Your article is very well done, a good read.

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