Tag Archives: Basil Henriques

Reflections on war and warfare: week 8 (21 – 27 April 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.

21 April 1918 The attack on Bethune, Battle of Lys
Known as Operation Georgette, General Ludendorff ‘s aim was to capture Ypres and to force the British troops to retreat back to the channel ports and out of the war. On 18th April the German forces (the Sixth Army) attacked south through Bethune but were repulsed. On 29th April the German high command cancelled the offensive as a result of suffering a substantial amount of casualties.

“The situation is of course critical. The attack in Bethune was a really bloody defeat, for all say we inflicted tremendous casualties. They fought all day and made no progress at all.”

MS 132 AJ 322 1/4 Letter from Basil Henriques to his mother, 21 April 1918

21 April 1942 Changing attitudes
Perceptions and attitudes, particularly amongst the young, changed during the Second World War due to social factors, such as the new roles given to women, who served in the armed forces or worked in factories or the land army as part of the war effort, and the influx of refugees. Samuel Rich touches upon this in his journal, noting a change which would really take hold in the 1950s when the concept of ‘teenagers’ was introduced and the lives of these teenagers began to change.

“Queenie’s Hebrew lesson followed by 5 with Job and Joan amongst them – I enjoy the visits of these young person’s very much – They talk of real things – work, vocation – is marriage a cancer? – All quite openly and with complete frankness. The post-war world should be a brave new world!”

MS 168 AJ217/38 Journal of Samuel Rich, 21 April 1942

22 April 1809 Arthur Wellesley arrives in Lisbon
The Battle of Vimeiro, on 21 August 1808, put an end to the first French invasion of Portugal. However, the terms of the subsequent Convention of Cintra, signed by General Dalrymple on 31 August, allowed the defeated French army to return to France together with its guns, equipment, and loot taken from Portugal. While Wellesley opposed the Convention he was subsequently recalled from Portugal, together with Burrard and Dalrymple, to face an official inquiry.

By November 1808, the French armies had been greatly reinforced. Spanish forces were defeated in a series of battles and the city of Madrid soon fell back into enemy hands. Following the battle of Coruna, on 16 January 1809, French forces, under Marshal Soult, began another invasion of the northern provinces of Portugal.

In response to the French taking possession of the city of Porto, on 29 March 1809, British reinforcements were directed to embark for Lisbon with Lieutenant General Sir Arthur Wellesley once again sent to command. After his arrival on 22 April 1809, Wellesley wrote to Marshal Beresford calling him to Lisbon to consider arrangements for the defence of Portugal.

“I arrived here yesterday, having had a passage of one week from Portsmouth. The fleet having on board my horses, the two regiments of heavy dragoons, and some horses for the artillery, sailed, I believe, on the day after I did, and may be expected in a day or two. The 24th foot may likewise be expected from Jersey, and likewise a brigade of light infantry from England, and a regiment of Hussars.

The expectation of the immediate arrival of some of these troops, and the consideration of the various different arrangements to be made, and which can be made only here, in respect to transport, commissariat, staff, the defence of Lisbon and the Tagus, and eventually the defence of the eastern frontier, during the absence of the army to the northward, supposing it should be decided to undertake the expedition against Soult, will, I fear, detain me here for a few days; and it occurs to me that time will be saved, and much advantage will result from your being here. Accordingly I wish that you could make it convenient to yourself to come here as soon as possible.”

MS 61 WP1/257/7 Copy of a letter from Lieutenant General Arthur Wellesley, Lisbon, to Marshal Beresford, requesting he come to Lisbon as soon as possible, 23 April 1809

27 April 1791 Siege warfare
Lord Cornwallis and the British East India Company forces made considerable advances against Tipu Sultan that year. As this letter recounts, despite tough resistance, the fort of Bangalore finally had been breached on 21 March. The siege of Darwar, then on the frontier between the Kingdom of Mysore and the Mahratta empire, lasted 29 weeks and came to an end in April.

“The siege of Durwar [Darwar] still continues. It has now lasted 8 months. Col[onel] Frederick died about 2 months ago of a fever much increased by the chagrin and vexation caus’d by the Mahratha’s delays. Lord Cornwallis with his army has been in a very critical situation. After the capture of the Pittah of Bagalore, several days elapsed in besieging the fort. Tippoo repairing with great alacrity and skill every breach we made. The country was laid waste and such was the distress of the army that had we not received information from some deserters that the fort in one particular was so constructed as to favor a storm by night (which Lord C[ornwallis] on 21 March resolved to attempt and carried out with trifling loss) we must have retreated precipitately the next day and left the greatest part of our artillery behind…”

MS 62 Broadlands Archive BR11/16/16 Letter from Benjamin Mee to his brother-in-law Henry Temple, second Viscount Palmerston, 27 April 1791 


Reflections on war and warfare: week 5 (31 March – 6 April 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.

31 March 1856 End of Crimean War
The Treaty of Paris was signed on 30 March 1856, bringing an end to three years of warfare in the Crimea, in which an estimate 300,000 soldiers were killed. The politician and social reformer Lord Shaftesbury was very pious and many of his reflections in his diaries contain a strong moral and religious reflection on events.

“Yesterday Sunday. Peace was signed and the intelligence sent by electric telegraph. The guns announced it to the people. Let us bless the Lord who has brought us out of so many and great dangers, who has shown us such unspeakable and undeserved mercies, and who has taught us how and why to thank Him! May it be a true peace, a lasting peace, a fruitful peace. May it give double energy and double capacity to our thoughts, desires and efforts.”

MS 62 Broadlands Archives SHA/PD/7 Diary of Anthony Ashley Cooper, seventh Earl of Shaftesbury, 31 March 1856

2 April 1918 The struggle for territory at the Western Front

Between March 21st and April 5th, the Ludendorff Offensive was put into full force, resulting in a huge German push in the west driving the British back 40 miles.

“The battle of course is not even over yet. The gain of territory which is perfectly useless and not a village nor house standing on it does not constitute a victory – indeed it can hardly have been worth the terrific price they have paid for it. Whether they have some surprise in store or whether they intend to go on pegging away in a pointless attempt to break through and roll up the line remains to be seen. Every man and every shell is needed by us, we shall certainly hold on and beat them in the end.”

MS 132 AJ 322 1/4 Letter from Basil Henriques to his mother, 2 April 1918

6 April 1812 Storming of Badajoz
Between May 1811 and September 1813 the Allied forces engaged in four major sieges. Siege operations proved one of the least satisfactory aspects of an otherwise successful campaign and resulted in some of the highest casualties suffered by Wellington’s forces during the Peninsular War. The storming of Badajoz took place on 6 April 1812. In the aftermath of the fighting, Wellington was said to have been deeply moved at the sight of the hundreds of bodies piled before the breaches. Much of the bloodshed stemmed from a lack of sufficient resources necessary to conduct a successful siege, such as heavy siege guns and entrenching tools.

“Our loss has been very great; but I send you a letter to Lord Liverpool which accounts for it. The truth is, that, equipped as we are, the British army are not capable of carrying on a regular siege.”

WP1/346 Copy of a letter from General Arthur Wellesley, first Earl of Wellington, camp at Badajoz, to Lieutenant Colonel Torrens, Military Secretary to His Royal Highness the Duke of York, the Commander in Chief, sending accounts of the siege and capture of Badajoz, 7 April 1812

Service as an air raid warden
When the Second World War began, there were fears that Britain would be attacked by air. An air raid was an attack by enemy planes dropping bombs. A warning would be issued when this was about to happen by sirens. When people heard the sirens’ wailing, they went instructed to enter into air raid shelters. It was the job of Air Raid Wardens to supervise the blackout, and report people to the police who continually ignored it. They had to sound the air raid sirens so that everybody knew that they had to get to the shelter, as well as supervising people getting in and out of the air raid shelters. They also had to check that everybody had their gas masks, and that they were all fitting properly, as well as sounding alerts if there was a gas attack. In addition to this, they also had to evacuate people away from unexploded bombs, and report the bombs and other damage to the warden control centre.

Below is a snippet from a pamphlet designed to instruct air raid wardens and the population on the kind of dangers they faced from an air raid and what they could expect.

“A concise, fully illustrated and practical guide for the householder and air-raid warden, ‘Methods of air attack:

1) High Explosive Attacks, involving the use of highly destructive bombs to cause destruction, injury and loss of life.

2) Incendiary Attacks, i.e., the use of fire bombs to cause widespread fires so as to create panic and disorganise essential services, especially the A.R.P. organisation.

3) Gas Attacks, involving the release, from bombs or as spray, of dangerous liquid gases, or poisonous smokes intended to injure or incapacitate the public, to nullify or hamper precautions taken against (1) and (2) and to make difficult the work of rescue and first aid’’.

MS 73 Papers of L. A. Burgess, relating to Burgess’ service as an air raid warden

Reflections on war and warfare: week 3 (17 – 23 March 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.

21 March 1917 The progress of the German withdrawal
At the time when this letter was written, Basil Henriques was on the verge of being promoted to second in command. He not only served with merit in the Tanks Corps, but also with skill and bravery as a reconnaissance officer. This led to a mention in dispatches and being awarded the Italian silver medal. The letter refers to Germany’s withdrawal to the Hindenburg Line, which lasted three weeks.

‘I daresay you will think this very bitter of me, but perhaps it is jealousy, perhaps annoyance, perhaps failure to sympathise, perhaps very strong feelings that no man has a right to be earning money at these times, even though I quite see that everyone cannot join the army and they do greater service to the country outside the army. The retreat of the Germans is a marvellous feat, and perhaps their greatest and most masterly triumph of the war.’

MS 132 AJ 322 1/4 Letter from Basil Henriques to his mother, 18 March 1917

17 and 19 March 1939 War clouds loom
On 17 March 1939, Hitler tore up the Munich agreement, signed by Germany, Great Britain, France and Italy allowing Germany to annex parts of Czechoslovakia. This effectively set in motion the events which would lead to the Second World War. The allies trust in Hitler’s word diminished and fear of war grew once again.

March 17, 1939: ‘I write tonight with feelings akin to those in the crisis of last September. All hopes based on Hitler’s word are built on sand. Chamberlain spoke fairly tonight at Birmingham – we heard him: Roosevelt is to amend neutrality law – all seems heading for imminent war. Mad!’

March 19, 1939: ‘Things march on to doom – Germany rejects the protests of England and France and U.S.A.’

MS 168 AJ 217/35 Diary of Samuel Rich, 17 and 19 March 1939

23 March 1814 Discipline in the army
Wellington had a reputation as a disciplinarian with severe punishment applied to soldiers caught thieving and looting. However, Wellington understood that the discipline and regularity of his army depended upon the diligence of the regimental officers.

‘I was quartered here last night, and am very much concerned to have received many complaints of the conduct of your brigade here on the preceding night. They destroyed as much forage as would have lasted them for a week; in numberless instances no receipts were given; and the soldiers plundered nearly every house they were in of linen, fowls, and everything the people had.

This conduct is not less injurious to those guilty of it than it is to the inhabitants and to the army who have to follow your march. Very little attention to their duty on the part of the officers, and any obedience to the orders of the army, must prevent it; and I shall be very much obliged to you if you will call upon the commanding officers of regiments to make those under them attend to their duty and obey the orders given out.’

WP1/407 Copy of a letter from Field Marshal Arthur Wellesley, first Marquis of Wellington, Galan, to Colonel Lord Charles Manners, 3rd Dragoons, 23 March 1814