Tag Archives: Cape Frontier Wars

Reflections on war and warfare: Week 40 (1 – 7 December 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.

2 December 1851 The cavalry arrive in South Africa
The regiment that was to become the 12th Lancers was originally raised in 1715. It served with distinguish in various conflicts. Yet while the appearance of cavalry made an impression in South Africa in the 1850s, the Lancers weaponry did not prove the most suitable for the warfare being undertaken.

“The 12th Lancers who have lately arrived create a great impression amongst the natives who never saw a Lance before in their lives, it is however a weapon perfectly useless against the Kafirs in this warfare…”

MS 63 A904/3/10 Captain Edward Wellesley to his brother Richard, 2 December 1851

2 December 1939 Blackout blinds and Russian aggression

“Willie came to do the kitchen blackout, the W.C. ditto, & the bedroom ditto – all very neat and expert. Lal & he to lunch, & we left Willie at it when I went off to service. S.I.H. read, I preached on, “Oh, that I knew” – there were 31 there, including the Levers – Jack & Ray, back from a weekend from Guildford where they are evacuated. Erna at the service. Lal came back with us for a cosy evening. Our supper in the kitchen, the first fully illuminated since the war began. The whole world aghast at the Russian aggression on the Finns,–: even the Germans (when there’s a different aggressor) are uncomfortable about it.”

MS 168 AJ 217/35 Journal of Samuel Rich, 2 December 1939

3 December 1940 Evacuating students from the University College of Southampton

A special meeting of the Senate held on 3 December 1940:

“Senate considered the situation which had been created by the intensive raids on Southampton over the weekend, particularly in relation to the halls of residence. Although none of the halls had been damaged, apart from the loss of windows at South Stoneham House, Senate were of the opinion that they were not justified in keeping the students in residence at this time in view of the following considerations:

1. The inadequacy of the air raid shelters

2. Possible difficulties in obtaining food

3. The interference with the public service, e.g. electric light, gas and water

4. The impossibility of doing useful study in these conditions

It was agreed that it was impossible to obtain alternative accommodation at short notice and that the Chairman of Council stressed the point that the College would be rendering signal services to the community by placing the facilities of the Halls at the disposal of the local authorities in the vacation for housing evacuees or for some other useful purpose […]

Senate discussed the question as to what action should be taken in the event of the intensive raids on Southampton continuing and conditions becoming worse. The general opinion was that the previous decision of the Emergency Committee to evacuate to Nottingham was not so desirable in the light of recent events and it was agreed that a recommendation be sent to the Emergency Committee to consider the possibility of securing several large houses in the country within easy distance of Southampton, and that these houses be used in the first instance as temporary halls of residence. If the College was damaged and it became impossible to carry on instruction in the existing buildings it would then be feasible to adapt the houses acquired for residential purposes as places of instruction also.”

MS 1 MBK2/1/6 Senate minutes 1937-45, pp. 90-1

4 December 1917 Cease fire agreements made in the run up to Soviet Russia and Central Powers armistice
As a result of the Russian economy being on the brink of collapsing and Tsar Nicholas II’s abdication, Russia was forced to withdraw itself from the war. Following the Bolsheviks accession to power in Russia in November 1917, Vladimir Lenin approached the Central Powers to arrange an armistice. The first cease fire agreement in the run up to the armistice was made on 4 December 1917 between the Russians and the Germans on the Eastern Front. The second cease fire agreement included all Central Powers and was signed on 5 December 1917. The final armistice was signed on 15 December 1917, which signified Russia’s intention to leave the war permanently and begin peace negotiations.

“I so wonder if you have been in all this fearful fighting when the Germans are trying to regain the ground they have lost. One feels if it weren’t for Russia having given in, that they could never have done this vast counter attacking.”

MS 132 AJ 322 2/3 Letter from Sybil Henriques to Basil Henriques, 4 December 1917

Reflections on war and warfare: Week 36 (3 – 9 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.

3 November 1812 Madrid is retaken
Having liberated Madrid on 12 August 1812, Wellington made the decision to move against French forces in northern Spain in the hope of capturing the strategically important stronghold of Burgos. However, the castle proved too tough a target and Wellington raised the siege on 21 October. As French relief armies moved in Wellington ordered his forces to withdraw towards Ciudad Rodrigo. He ordered Lieutenant General Rowland Hill to abandon Madrid and march to join him. This allowed Joseph Bonaparte to re-enter the capital on 2 November.

“I do not know how the French can contrive to keep together the force which they have brought against us; but at all events as we have got together they cannot do us much harm and sooner or later they must separate and we then shall resume again the upper hand.

At all events although the evacuation of Madrid is a material deterioration of the campaign, its effects on the contest in the Peninsula are still most important.”

MS 61 WP1/351 Letter from General Sir Arthur Wellesley, first Marquis of Wellington, Rueda, to Robert Banks Jenkinson, second Earl of Liverpool, Prime Minister, 3 November 1812

4 November 1939 Opposing Fascism

“Coming back from service, we came upon a Fascist meeting at the corner by W.H.Smiths opp. The lib[rar]y.  The speaker wanted a general election: the people to vote peace or war. Mosley for peace.  I noticed a “supporter” abuse a non-Jewish member of the crowd by calling him a Jew “you were in a synagogue being yitched when the last war was on!”  A large crowd was hostile to the speaker & the police stopped him & the meeting.”

MS 168 AJ 217/35 Diary of Samuel Rich, 4 November 1939

5 November 1918 The Armistice of Villa Giusti
As a result of being defeated at the Battle of Vittorio Veneto, the troops of Austria-Hungary were finished as a combat force. This state of the army made it imperative for Austria-Hungary to secure an immediate armistice. On 1 November the rough draft of the armistice conditions were disseminated to the Austro-Hungarian Armistice Commission by General Badoglio, Assistant Chief of the Italian General Staff and Chairman of the Italian Armistice Commission. The conditions included Austria-Hungary reducing her army to 20 divisions on a peace footing, surrendering over half of her artillery, and releasing all prisoners of war. On 3 November the Austro-Hungarians accepted the peace terms.

“There was quite a lot of excitement in Cairo yesterday at the news of the Armistice with Austria – particularly among the Cairene Italians.”

MS 116/8 AJ 14 Volume of typescript ‘excerpts’ from letters from H.D. Myer, 5 November 1918

4 November 1852 Winning the peace
Faced with the problem of how to retain peace in areas conquered by the British in South Africa for the long term, the best way of settling the colony was investigated. One suggestion was to move Swiss settlers into the area.

“An Englishman always looks forward to returning home and that his residence in a colony is only temporary, but if you could transplant a community of Swiss who would make the Amatola mountains their home, you only effectively render them inaccessible to the Kafirs, but secure to yourself an industrious sober population a most certain safeguard on your most exposed border.”

MS 63 A904/3/23 Letter from Captain Edward Wellesley to his brother Richard, 4 November 1852

Reflections on war and warfare: Week 35 (27 October – 2 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.

27 October 1939 “Dead-end kids”

“Ritchie Calder (now Lord Ritchie-Calder) wrote a brilliant article in the Daily Herald on the “Dead-end kids”. In it he gave due publicity to the great problem that Basil had warned against when he urged the Authorities to provide adequate occupation and supervised recreation for children who had not been evacuated with their schools. He constantly had cases of their delinquency before him in court; they were in grave moral danger. He continued admonishing parents for keeping their children in London. A boy had misbehaved in his place of evacuation, and the Police were wiling to drop the charge against him, provided he went home. At this Basil really did “go off the deep end”. He said in Court that if the Police in Country Courts were going to do this, uncharged young delinquents would be wandering about the streets of London… Richie Calder came to see Basil on the subject. In his article he says “He” (Basil) “had been sitting 8 ½ hours in the Bench. ‘yes, it’s serious’ he said, taking off his glasses wearily, ‘Every case of under 14 I had today was a by-product of the evacuation – or the non-evacuation. We are threatened with a generation of little gansters.”

MS 132 AJ 195/3/31 Typescript of biographical journal of Sir Basil Henriques

28 October 1813 Negotiations for the surrender of Pamplona
Following the withdraw of the French Army of the North over the Pyrenees in June 1813, a Spanish army, led by Captain General Henry Enrique José O’Donnell, laid siege to a French garrison at the fortified city of Pamplona. As O’Donnell’s blockade tightened, the French troops in the city were eventually reduced to starvation and negotiations for surrendered were opened. The French finally capitulated on 31 October.

“The last I heard from Pamplona was that at half past 2 p.m. on the 26th the French negotiators had returned into the fort having offered to surrender it on condition of being allowed to return to France under an engagement not to serve for a year and a day; and declaring that they would prefer to die to surrender prisoners of war.”

MS 61 WP1/377 Copy of a letter from Field Marshal Arthur Wellesley, first Marquis of Wellington, Vera, to Marshal Sir William Carr Beresford, 28 October 1813, 1 p.m.

29 October 1917 The battle of Caporetto
Fought on the Austro-Hungarian front between 24 October and 19 November 1917, the battle of Caporetto, formed part of Germany’s plan to keep the Austro-Hungarians in the war and defeat Italy. Through the use of poison gas and supporting the Austro-Hungarian forces with their troops, Germany played a significant role in the breaking through of the Italian front line and defeating the Italian Second Army. Italy suffered major losses, which included the lives of 10,000 soldiers and 265,000 taken prisoner.

“The grave Italian defeats are casting a gloom on everybody – Gorizia gone, 100,000 prisoners, 700 guns of the Germans in the Hains. What a war! Some are so sick of it that they even find a kind of consolation in the thought that these German Victories may give us some kind of a peace by Xmas! I find none and would take no comfort in such a peace. Italy, it seems, may be driven to a separate peace and things may work out as they were a century ago – England alone doing the work of the alliance.”

MS 168 AJ 217/13 Journal of Samuel Rich, 29 October 1917

30 October 1851 The situation of soldiers’ wives

“I fret for you very much… why do people marry soldiers – a farmer’s wife jogs on from day to day never having her beloved object out of her sight for perhaps one day in three score and ten. Perhaps they get tired of one another, although of course you on reading this, in fact I see you, blush and say not if they love each other. I think the Duke [of Wellington] in the Peninsula did not see his wife and children for six or seven years.”

MS 63 A904/3 Captain Edward Wellesley to his wife, Annot, 30 October 1851

Reflections on war and warfare: Week 34 (20 – 26 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. 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.

21 October 1812 End of the Siege of Burgos
After the victory at Salamanca on 22 July 1812, and the liberation of Madrid on 12 August, Wellington made the decision to move against French forces in Northern Spain, leading to an attempted to capture the castle of Burgos. However, the French garrison managed to repulse every attempt by the Allies to seize the fortress. In the meantime, large French relief armies were moving from both the northeast and southeast. On 21 October, Wellington was forced to raise the siege and retreat to Cuidad Rodrigo, losing 5,000 men to hunger or exposure in the severe winter conditions.

“I am sorry to say that I am afraid that I shall be obliged to give up our position here, in consequence of the intelligence which I have received from General Hill of the movements of the enemy in the south ; and unless I should receive a contradiction of the intelligence, I propose to march this night.”

MS 61 WP1/351 Copy of a letter from General Arthur Wellesley, first Marquis of Wellington, Riobena, to Brigadier General Denis Pack, 21 October 1812

21 October 1851 The difficulties of operations in the Kroome valley

“Major General Somerset has had some hard fighting in the Kroome range where Macomo a cunning and influential Chief of the Gaikas is located. There had been hard fighting for two days and Somerset would go on until he effectively clears this difficult country from all the enemy who infests it…. If Somerset completely effects this duty it may have more influence on the termination of the war…”

MS 63 A904/3 Letter from Captain Edward Wellesley to his brother, Richard, 21 October 1851

21 October 1917 The October Revolution
As a result of military defeat and starvation, as well as internal disagreements within the provisional government, the public of Russia were unhappy with the state of their country. Citizens of Russia became irritated by Russia’s continued involvement in World War One, which led to the rise of the national debt and living costs. Consequently, strikes by Moscow and Petrograd workers occurred and the provisional government was overthrown. Power was handed to the local Soviets dominated by the majority faction of the Russian Social Democratic Labour Party.

“All the same, one gets most awfully fed up – my dear, two bombs have just stopped 50 yards away or less! Yes very fed up, (more so than when I started this sentence) with the war. The Russian news is disgusting, and most serious. However, perhaps by the time this reaches you there may be something better to read in the papers.”

MS 132 AJ 322 2/3 Letter from Basil Henriques to Sybil Henriques, 21 October 1917

21 October 1940 Life in the East End during the Blitz

“Let me try and describe an incident on the night of 21 October 1940, at Tonybee Hall. I lived in the immediate vicinity of Tonybee Hall and thanks to Dr. Jimmy Mallon, the work done there during the Blitz was incalculable. A number of people who had special responsibilities there, slept in a room, all on mattresses on the floor, except for one lady over 80, who had a camp bed. On this night, Winston Churchill was due to speak, and so we assembled to hear him. […] The final words were completely drowned by the noise of a nearby plane and in seconds a bomb had exploded. The ceiling of our room partly collapsed, all the glass was broken; mortar and shrapnel hit us all and there was no electricity. Covered with debris, cut by glass, bruised by falling masonry, our hair matted with dirt, we stood silent for a minute. The somebody called: “I’m alright; who is hurt?” The silence was broken and nobody in that room was seriously hurt. But curiously, as we waited, we all kissed each other – a strange occurrence for a group of highly undemonstrative people, and, as always, we thanked God and prayed to Him.”

MS 116/82 AJ 221 Typescript of “Life in Stepney during World War II, 1939-45” by Edith Ramsey

A news release for the current exhibition can be viewed at:

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

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

Reflections on war and warfare: Week 24 (11 – 17 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.

11 August 1914 Changes in London in the first week of war
“Took a walk with Lal to see the sights – crowds at the Admiralty, War Office, musketry instruction in St James PK, March of London Irish, Horse Guards – Over Hungerford Bridge…War news today: Mulhausen retaken by Germany, French advance checked in Alcace. No news of British fleet.”

MS 168 AJ 217/10 Journal of Samuel Rich, 11 August 1914

12 August 1916
Propaganda and news reports
The war afforded the government wide-ranging powers of censorship and press censorship was used to ensure that the conflict was presented in a pro-Allied light. The War Propaganda Bureau was created in September 1914, its dual role being to maintain morale at home and combat German propaganda. British propaganda during this period was generally considered to be more successful than its more strident German counterpart.

“I believe the German reports are not more false than ours, but I think everybody is prepared for a winter campaign, one feels somehow that if the war were left to the soldiers it would soon be over, but the government have been such swine that they are really more afraid of what will happen to them in peace, than of what happens to us in war.”

MS 336 A2097/7/1 Letter from Frederick Dudley Samuel to his fiancée and subsequent wife, Dorothy, 12 August 1916

14 August 1914 Registration of aliens
At the outbreak of the First World War the British Nationality and Status of Aliens Act was introduced which required, all aliens over the age of 16 to register at local police stations. They had to demonstrate a good character and knowledge of English. In part this was due to a fear of spies.

“Uncle has registered under the aliens Restriction order in Council, but under protest, as he thinks being a Hanoverian, he is a British subject.”

MS 168 AJ 217/10 Journal of Samuel Rich, 14 August 1914

14 August 1851 Guerilla warfare in the Cape frontier wars
“This war has been languishing and all the spirit and daring which distinguished the Kafirs at the commencement have disappeared, they now seldom if ever fight the regular troops, they seem entirely to have deserted their great strongholds of the Amatola Mountains, and have broken into the Colony in small parties of mixed Kafirs and Hottentots where they burn the farm houses, carry off the cattle and sheep and commit every harm and devastation on the unfortunate border farmers…”

MS 63 A904/3/6 Captain Edward Wellesley to his brother Richard, 14 August 1851

17 August 1808 Battle of Roliça
The Battle of Roliça was the first battle fought by the British army during the Peninsular War, and marked Sir Arthur Wellesley’s first victory of the campaign. The battle took place on 17 August 1808 as an Anglo-Portuguese army under Wellesley marched towards Lisbon following a French force under the command of General Henri-François Delaborde.

Delaborde had been ordered by General Jean-Andoche Junot to hold the Anglo-Portuguese until his larger army was ready to fight. Delaborde’s outnumbered French force took up a defensive position near the village of Roliça where they repulsed three enemy assaults before being forced to withdraw. While Wellesley’s attitude towards his troops varied throughout the subsequent campaign, on this occasion he offered high praise for the gallantry of his troops.

“I cannot sufficiently applaud the conduct of the troops throughout this action. The enemy’s positions were formidable and he took them up with his usual ability and celerity; and defended them most gallantly. But I must observe that although we had such a superiority of numbers employed in the operations of this day, the troops actually engaged in the heat of the action were, from circumstances unavoidable, only the 9th, 29th, 5th, the riflemen of the 60th and 95th regiments, and the flank companies of Major General Hill’s brigade; being a number by no means equal to that of the enemy. Their conduct therefore deserves the highest commendations.”

MS 61 WP1/211 Letter from Lieutenant General Sir Arthur Wellesley, Head Quarters at Villa Verde, to Robert Stewart, Viscount Castlereagh, Secretary of State for War and the Colonies, 17 August 1808

Reflections on war and warfare: week 20 (14 – 20 July 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.

17-20 July 1812 Prelude to the Battle of Salamanca
Following the capture of Badajoz and Ciudad Rodrigo in 1812, Wellington advanced into Spain where he was confronted by Marshal Marmont, commanding the army known as the “Army of Portugal”. In the weeks and days leading up to their engagement at the battle of Salamanca, on 22 July, the two armies often marched close together with Marmont continually outmanoeuvring Wellington’s forces and threatening the Allied supply line.

17 July 1812 – “The Army concentrated near Fuetelapeña. In the evening of this day it was discovered that we had been outmanoeuvred and the enemy had actually crossed a great force at the bridge of Tordesillas and the ford of Pollos. Marmont deserves great credit for the way in which he carried out the deception. For along time he kept constantly moving troops to his right, repaired the bridge at Toro and made good the ford at that place, crossed over small bodies constantly towards our left and kept us in alarm for our communications that way.”

18 July – “The enemy advanced in force, our troops retiring and concentrating near Cañin in some irregular strong ground. They advanced with great spirit taking care never to commit their cavalry supporting them (and they supporting each other) with artillery and infantry.”

19 July – “Towards evening the enemy made a move to the left which obliged us to take the ground to our right, and the next morning we offered him battle and expected an attack.”

20 July – “To Cabezavellosa. The enemy again moved to the left and we made a very long march, both armies moving in parallel lines, the enemy keeping the heights and cannonading our people with little effect.”

MS 300/7/1 Transcript by S.G.P.Ward of Scovell’s Peninsula diary, 17-20 July 1812

19 July 1918 Resentment over conscription legislation
As a result of numbers of volunteers falling to approximately 80,000 per month after the Dardanelles expedition, the government felt forced to intervene. Initially the ‘Derby scheme’ was introduced, which involved door-to-door visits to gather men to serve if needed, with assurance that bachelors would be called up before married men. However, this measure proved inadequate and in January 1916 the Military Service Act was introduced. It introduced conscription of single men aged 18-41, extended to married men in May of that year.

“I sat down to a half hour talk in which I did not get my way, namely to see that English born Jews be allowed the option of not joining the Jewish Regiment, and that a chaplain be approached to the Jewish Battalion.”

MS 132 AJ 322 1/4 Letter from Basil Henriques to his mother, 19 July 1918

20 July 1852 The Cape frontier wars

In December 1850 there was another outbreak of hostilities in the ongoing Cape frontier wars, in this case created in part by the policies imposed by the British Governor Sir Harry Smith. Chief Maqoma of the Xhosa led a guerrilla campaign in the valleys and forested mountains of Waterkloof against the British. From this base he was able to plunder surrounding farms and torch homestead. Maqoma inflicted heavy losses on forces under Sir Harry Smith’s command, notably that of the 74th Highlanders. By early 1852 George Cathcart was sent to replace Smith, taking up command in March. His brief was to crush the insurgents, a task he applied himself to with dedication and by February 1853 the chiefs surrendered. Captain Edward Wellesley’s letters give insights into the way the realities of warfare in the Cape.

“A large assemblage of Kafirs having been reported at Auckland the site of one of the destroyed military villages, the Governor sent a force and went himself; we found a number of huts which were destroyed but the Kafirs and any cattle they may have had escaped… On the 7th of this month a movement was made against the Kafirs under Macomo [Maqoma] in the Waterkloof, we left this and formed a camp on the Kroome river under the Kroome range from whence we ascended the Kroome and united with the Rifle Brigade at the tope and bivouacked on the heights. On the following day, we passed through a forest which divides the Waterkloof from Fuller’s Hoek and reached an open space familiarly called the Horseshoe, this is an open plateau something the shape of what it is termed and the best fighting ground I have seen for Kafirs… It is a melancholy spot, the graves of many poor soldiers dotted about, and you are pointed out the spot where many officers fell amongst them being Fordyce who commanded the 74th Highlanders and was a brave and distinguished officer. We however met with no opposition either passing through the Forest or emerging on the plain and having joined another column which had been operating on this side, in concert destroyed a large number of huts on the edge of the Waterkloof and in a skirmish one man of the Rifle Brigade was killed… The next day we returned to Fort Beaufort.”

MS 63 A904/3/19 Letter from Captain Edward Wellesley to his brother Richard, 20 July 1852