Tag Archives: Frederick Dudley Samuel

Reflections on war

To mark the 50th anniversary of the death of Siegfried Sassoon, this blog will look at a number of collections in the Special Collections reflecting on warfare in the 20th century. These include two poems by the long-time friend of Sassoon, Edmund Blunden.

Edmund Blunden (1896-1974) was the longest serving First World War poet, and saw continuous action in the front line, between 1916-18. According to his friend and fellow poet Siegfried Sassoon, Blunden was the poet of the war “most lastingly obsessed by it”. The period that Blunden served at the front saw some of the most violent and bloody fighting, including the Battle of the Somme and the Third Battle of Ypres. He had very definite views on war writing, insisting that it had to be accurate in detail and  in spirit and he shared with Sassoon a belief that the First World War had been a terrible waste of life.

The Special Collections holds two of Blunden’s poems (MS10): fair copies of ‘Portrait of a colonel’ and ‘The passer-by’. Both were published in Retreat (London, 1928) with the former renamed as ‘On a portrait of a colonel’.

Opening lines of Edmund Blunden's Portrait of a colonel [MS10 A243/2]

Opening lines of Edmund Blunden’s ‘Portrait of a colonel’ [MS10 A243/2]

A more substantial literary collection held at Southampton is MS328, that of Frank Templeton Prince (1912-2003). He is probably best remembered for his collection Soldiers Bathing (1954), the title poem of which is one of the most anthologised poems of the Second World War. His archive collection contains not only notebooks and drafts of poems and prose writing, 1920s-87, but long series of correspondence, including correspondence with Edmund Blunden, 1932-58.

F.T.Prince [MS328 A834/1/11/10]

F.T.Prince [MS328 A834/1/11/10]

The soldier hero has proved to be one of the most durable and powerful ideas of idealised masculinity in western tradition since antiquity. For the poet Martin Bell, however, there was nothing heroic about either soldiering or military service, for him it was a life of crushing boredom. Bell volunteered for the Royal Engineers in 1939, in order, so he claimed, to avoid being called into the infantry. He spent his war service in camp as a hospital orderly both in UK and in the Mediterranean, and later as an instructor. His collection (MS12) of correspondence to Joan Broomfield, who was one of his circle of friends from his days at University College, Southampton, contains scathing comments on army life as well as reflecting his literary progress and including poems he had written. In a letter to Joan Broomfeld, from 1943, he expressed his dislike of army life and the boredom of his duties “we Pavlov’s dogs commended by imperious telephones, we cramp our reluctant flesh into organisation…” [MS12 A767/37]

The collection (MS376) of the poet Judith Lask Grubler provides very different reflections on warfare during the Second World War, drawing as she does a picture from the home front. In her writings, which date from the 1930s onwards, Grubler gives a contemporary account in such war related poems as ‘After the raids’ of the experience of civilians facing bombing raids on London.

This material fits well with a small collection of correspondence of Nora Harvey, a student at University College, Southampton, 1939. She writes of the impact of the war on the University as well as Southampton’s role as a port of embarkation and as a military camp. She noted that: “….Part of the college building is being used for a hospital and ARP depot etc….  The Common is horrid – all roped off, full of soldiers and rest camps. Lorry loads of troops are continually going up and down outside our window, and we can hear troops being drilled at all hours of the day.” [MS310/63 A4028]

Students outside a sandbag protected University College of Southampton, 4 October 1939 [MS310/43 A2038/2]

Students outside a sandbag protected University College of Southampton, 4 October 1939 [MS310/43 A2038/2]

Other papers reflecting on war include: diaries of Revd Michael Adler (MS125); letters and diary of Private Paul Epstein (MS124); correspondence and diaries of Leonard Stein (MS170); correspondence of Fred Salinger, Gallipoli (MS209); and correspondence of Frederick Dudley Samuel (MS336).

Revd Adler was one of a small number of Jewish chaplains attached to the forces in France. He, along with his colleagues worked tirelessly to visit the camps, training areas and hospitals to fulfil their pastoral duties. The four diaries that Adler kept for this period provide a brief record of his activities during his tours of duty rather than an analytical or personal account of his experiences as chaplain. They are detached and sparse in their detail and tone, as befits the type of record they represent, but also perhaps representing the need for detachment in dealing with a traumatic situation.

Private Epstein was a Russian conscript to the Royal Fusiliers (the Jewish Regiment) who served in the Palestine campaign. He suffered greatly from home sickness and this is recorded in his diary and correspondence. His letters describe daily events in great detail and he maintained his diary, even when he had nothing to record. Sometimes he summarises the content of his letters home in his diary. He used his letters as a means to maintain some sense of normality and create a strong link with home. As he noted in a letter to his parents of 16 March 1918: “A line to inform you that I received your second letter last Fri[day] March 13th and the sight of it was worth to me untold wealth…” [MS124 AJ 15/2]

Major Frederick Dudley Samuel [MS336 A2097/1]

Frederick Dudley Samuel [MS336 A2097/1]

Frederick Dudley Samuel, CBE, DSO (1877-1951) served in the South African war of 1901-2 and then with the British Expeditionary Forces in France, 1915-18. His archive consists mainly of correspondence written on an almost daily basis to his fiancée, later his wife, Dorothy, 1909-18. His letters from France depict the grim detail of life at the front line. In a letter of 5 April 1917 he talks of the “frightful waste of men, material and time it all is, all devoted to distruction when it should all be devoted to production”. [MS336 A2097/8/2/31]

Envelope of letter from Fred Samuel to his wife, 1917 [MS336 A2097/8/2/31]

Envelope of the letter from Frederick Samuel to his wife, 5 April 1917 [MS336 A2097/8/2/31]

The collections at Southampton provide a range of material and of experiences of 20th-century warfare and the reflections they contain still speak to us as loudly today as they ever did.

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Reflections on war and warfare: Week 43 (22 – 28 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’, until recently on display at the Special Collections Gallery.

21 December 1854 Devastating losses at the battle of Balaclava
The battle of Balaclava was fought 24 October 1854.  The port of Balaclava was crucial to the allies to maintain supply lines for their siege of Sebastapol against the Russians. The most famous part of the battle, the infamous charge of the Light Brigade, resulted in devastating losses of men and horses.  It was such a traumatic event that the allies were incapable of further action that day.

“The mismanagement and stupidity, if not utter negligence, at Balaklava, have caused a great amount of loss of life, of property and health.  This was excusable at the outset; it is not excusable now, when the government knows all these things.

MS 62 Broadlands Archives SHA/PD/6  Diary of Anthony Ashley Cooper, seventh Earl of Shaftesbury, 21 December 1854


23 December 1916 Trench foot
First described by French army surgeon Dominique Jean Larrey, trench foot is a medical condition caused by prolonged exposure of the feet to damp, unsanitary and cold conditions. If not treated, it can lead to a fungal infection, and eventually gangrene, which can result in amputation. Acts of prevention include keeping feet clean, warm and dry. During World War One, regular foot inspections acted as a key deterrent, as well as pairing soldiers up. Each soldier in the pair would be responsible for the feet of the other. The application of whale oil was also done to prevent this foot condition.

“It is all very quiet up here, but perfectly filthy as far as mud is concerned. The men all look jolly well. We have large quantity of socks – they have to put on clean ones every day and rub their feet and we have no frost bite. Every day clean socks all sent up for the men in the line and bad feet is a crime (that’s one for you).”

MS 336 A2097/7/2 Letter from Frederick Dudley Samuel to his fiancée and subsequent wife, Dorothy, 23 December 1916


28 December 1939  Rationing and the German-Soviet pact
Christmases for many years to come would be different following the introduction of rationing.  Following limits on the supply of petrol, food stuffs were the next items to be restricted: as from January 1940, sugar and meat were rationed for 14 and 15 years respectively.  Meanwhile, overseas, the Nazis had been given use of a submarine base near Murmansk, a city in northwest Russia, close to her borders with Norway and Finland.

“The news scanty – & of ominous sound.  The French finance minister spoke of millions of Germans in wait & their planes an hour away.  Here, they are to ration sugar and meat very soon.  Old Swinton dithered ab[ou]t howitzers & guns, & doesn’t believe the Russians will give the Germans a submarine base nr. Murmansk.”

MS 168 AJ 217/35  Diary of S.M.Rich, 28 December 1939 

Reflections on war and warfare: Week 27 (1 – 7 September 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 August – 8 September 1813 The sacking and burning of San Sebastián
The town of San Sebastián was capture by assault on 31 August 1813. As the Allied forces entered the town, the French retreated to the security of the castle. As was the case at Badajoz, the victorious soldiers indulged in drunkenness and plunder while their officers attempted to enforce discipline. Meanwhile, fire from the artillery bombardment swept through the streets of the town and after several days only a small number of buildings remained. The castle capitulated on 8 September.

“The state of the town notwithstanding every exertion of General Hay and the staff officers, was such from the drunkenness of our soldiers, and the plundering of all, especially from the Portuguese, that I sent from the place an order for Lord Aylmer’s brigade to come immediately […] and I could not help considering that there is very great risk of misfortune, were the enemy to make a serious attempt against the town.”

MS 61 WP1/376 Letter from Lieutenant General Sir Thomas Graham to Field Marshal Arthur Wellesley, first Marquis of Wellington, 1 September 1813


7 September 1854 The strength of the allied forces in the Crimea
Many of the troops who died in the Crimea did so as a result of disease and 7,000 were lost before the first significant battle of the war in September 1854.

“In these operations everything will depend upon combination as the forces divided are not strong enough to meet the Russians said to be in the Crimea, the French having as usual much exaggerated the numbers they would send out here, and having also lost 7,000 men by disease..”

MS 63 A904/4/35 Letter from Major Edward Wellesley to his brother Richard, 7 September 1854


7 September 1916 The Battle of Guillemont, the Somme
Throughout late July and August 1916, Guillemont, which was on the right flank of the British line and the French Sixth Army boundary, defied repeated British attacks. Another major attack was made in early September, commencing with bombardments on 2 September. The main assault began on 3 September and fighting lasted until 6 September when a major portion of wood was secured.

“We are really having a very good time, the battle goes on day and night in different parts of the line. You can’t imagine how wonderful it is at night – a constant thunder of gun and flashes seem to light up the whole countryside. There are camp fires every as far as the eye can see, so you can understand that we are not yet very close up.”

MS 336 A2097/7/2 Letter from Frederick Dudley Samuel to his fiancée and subsequent wife, Dorothy, 7 September 1916

Reflections on war and warfare: Week 25 (18 – 24 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.

18 August 1945 The Japanese surrender
Following the devastation caused by the dropping of the atomic bomb on Hiroshima and Nagasaki on 6 and 9 August respectively, Japan surrendered to the allies on 15 August 1945. The surrender was based on the terms of the declaration to end the war, set out at the Potsdam Conference, 17 July-2 August 1945. Lord Mountbatten, who as Supreme Allied Commander South East Asia oversaw the capture of Burma from the Japanese and received the Japanese surrender at Singapore in September 1945, attended the Potsdam Conference. In the press statements below Mountbatten recalls being told about the dropping of the atomic bomb and reflects arrangements for occupation of Japan and of territories formerly occupied by Japan.

“At Potsdam at the end of the first day I was invited by Generals Marshall and Arnold to have dinner with them, but the Prime Minister had nailed me down, so I went along with them for an old fashioned! After General Marshall had got rid of all ADCs, he closed the doors very carefully, looked all around – and then told me about the atomic bomb.”

“The very same evening, while dining with the Prime Minister, with whom I spent some three hours, he waited until the servants had withdrawn, then took me in another room, closed all the doors, looked around – and then told me about the atomic bomb.”

“The next day I visited with President Truman, who took me in a room and closed all the doors. By that time I recognised the routine. Yes he told me about the atomic bomb! He also said that he had told Stalin about it on the previous evening.”

“Our attitude in the reoccupation will be tough; just as tough as we can make it but our manners will be impeccable.”

MS 350 A2096 SACSEA press statements, 18 August 1945


21 August 1808 Battle of Vimeiro
The Battle of Vimeiro took place on 21 August 1808, four days after the Battle of Roliça. After the success at Roliça, the Anglo-Portuguese army faced a much larger French force led by Major General Jean Andoche Junot, near the village of Vimeiro. While the French attempted a series of flanking manoeuvres on the weakest point in the British position, they were badly coordinated and were repulsed by Wellesley’s forces. The battle resulted in a decisive Anglo-Portuguese victory and ended the first French invasion of Portugal.

However, the subsequent agreement made with the French, the Convention of Sintra, allowed their defeated army to return to France complete with their supplies and loot. This caused a massive outcry in Britain and led to Wellesley being recalled from Portugal to face an inquiry, together with Generals Burrard and Dalrymple. While the agreement ended the active military careers of Burrard and Dalrymple, Wellesley returned to command the British army in Portugal in April 1809.

“In this action in which the whole of the French force in Portugal was employed, under the command of the Duke D’Abrantes, in which the enemy was certainly superior in cavalry and artillery, and in which not more than half of the army was actually engaged, he has sustained a signal defeat and has lost 13 pieces of cannon; 23 ammunition waggons; one General Officer (Brenier) has been wounded and taken prisoner, and a great number of officers and soldiers have been killed, wounded and taken.”

MS 61 WP1/211 Letter from Lieutenant General Sir Arthur Wellesley, Vimiero, to Lieutenant General Sir Harry Burrard, 21 August 1808


23 August 1916 Battle of Delville Wood
The Battle of Delville Wood lasted from 14 July to 3 September 1916. Allied aims were to secure one of the small prominent woods which would provide a strategic gain to direct artillery fire and to launch further attacks. The allies suffered a devastating amount of casualties. In addition, the British advance to the north only achieved negligible gains by the close of the battle.

“We are in for hard training, which is necessary after 3 months of trench work, mostly digging etc. The men did the march wonderfully well, only 4 fell out, chiefly owing to eating green apples I fear. They carry a lot of stuff packs, rifles, ammunition etc.”

MS 336 A2097/7/1 Letter from Frederick Dudley Samuel to his fiancée and subsequent wife, Dorothy, 23 August 1916

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 23 (4 – 10 August 2014)

On 4 August 1914 Great Britain entered the First World War, declaring war on Germany after Germany had invaded Belgium and Luxemburg. Orders had been given in Great Britain the previous day for troops to mobilise and by the 7 August the first British Expeditionary Forces had landed in France. At the outbreak of war the Territorial units, which were the reserve of the British army, were given the option of serving in France. Many battalions volunteered, but as there was a question of the availability of Territorials for service overseas on 11 August a call was made for the first 100,000 men to enlist in Lord Kitchener’s New Army. It was a call that was answered within two weeks. Not everyone was willing to take up arms to fight and there were an estimated 16,000 conscientious objectors in the First World War. Within this number were those who were willing to serve as “non-combatants” and such service could take the form of work as stretcher bearers or ambulance crews on the front line. Such work was hazardous, as bullets, bombs and shells did not distinguish between combatants and non-combatants.

3 August 1914 Defence of the English Channel
Prince Louis of Battenberg assumed the post of First Sea Lord of the Royal Navy on 8 December 1912. As First Sea Lord, he was responsible to the First Lord of the Admiralty, Winston Churchill, for ensuring the readiness of the fleet and the preparation of naval strategy. In response to the events of July 1914, Battenberg was instructed to bring the navy’s ships to a state of war readiness. While the move was criticised by some at the time, it did prove beneficial once war was declared. In the passage below, written on the eve of Britain declaring war on Germany, the First Lord requests authorisation to make preparations for the defence of the British Channel.

“In consequence of declarations in the House this afternoon, I must request authorisation immediately to put into force the [combined] Anglo-French dispositions for the defence of the channel. The French have already taken station and this partial disposition does not ensure security.

My naval colleagues and advisers desire me to press for this; and unless I am forbidden I shall act accordingly. This of course implies no offensive action and no warlike action unless we are attacked.”

MS 62 MB1/T37/365 Handwritten minute from Winston Churchill to Asquith and Grey on the defence of the English Channel, 3 August 1914


4 August 1914 War is declared
“They were bidding farewell to Territorials. Everything at tension as England has declared war…”

MS 168 AJ 217/10 Journal of Samuel Rich, 4 August 1914


5 August 1914 “England has a good cause”
“Well it has come, and now that war is declared I feel that England has a good cause, I don’t think in view of Germany’s behaviour about Belgium we could hold our hand. The Germans think of themselves as supermen, the waging of war is to them above the decencies and restraints of ordinary people, for them victory is to be strong, no matter by what means it is to be gained.”

MS 336 A2097/1 Letter from Frederick Dudley Samuel to his fiancée and, subsequent wife Dorothy, 5 August 1914


5 August 1914 Service with the Territorials
“It is all very dreadful, but I suppose Nietzsche would approve, meanwhile I feel rather proud that I am one of those who have consistently tried to prepare against the time which has come and that the sacrifices I have made of sport and whatever else I have missed by being a Territorial, are likely to be bear print.”

MS 336 A2097/1 Letter from Frederick Dudley Samuel to his fiancée and, subsequent wife Dorothy, 5 August 1914


8 August 1914 Belgium
“The Belgians are doing wonderful things according to the papers. If only they hold on, the whole course of the war will probably be alleged or the position of Germany made worse than if she had never violated Belgium.”

MS 336 A2097/1 Letter from Frederick Dudley Samuel to his fiancée and, subsequent wife Dorothy, 8 August 1914


8 August 1914 Provision of relief in cases of distress brought about by the war
The declaration of war on Germany caused a great deal of distress among the British public. In particular, it had a sudden impact on dependents of reservists called upon to serve their country, as well as individuals who became unemployed or suffered a loss of earnings as a result of the war. On 7 August, the Prince of Wales announced the formation of a National Fund to provide relief in such cases of distress. Rather than being administered through a central office, the Prince of Wales National Relief Fund worked through Local Relief Committees with the assistance of existing charities and relief organisations. In the case below, a circular letter was sent by the Mayor of Stepney to the Jewish Board of Guardians requesting their assistance in the distribution of relief.

“The President of the Local Government Board has requested me to take immediate steps to establish a representative Local Committee for the Borough of Stepney to consider the needs of the locality and to coordinate the distribution of such relief as may be required in cases of distress brought about by the present war. I should be glad if you could see your way to assist me in this important work by becoming a member of this Committee.”

MS173/1/11/4/985 Circular letter from H.T.A.Chidgey, Mayor of Stepney, requesting assistance in the establishment of a representative Local Committee for the Borough of Stepney to provide relief in cases of distress brought about by the present war, 8 August 1914


11 August 1914 Volunteering to serve as a “non-combatant”
Hope Bagenal was one who felt that he could not bear arms, instead serving with the Royal Army Medical Corps on the Western Front, 1914-16, before being seriously wounded at the Somme in 1916.

“I thought about the matter, and I do not think I am wrong. I could not have joined last week… By Saturday all the London Territorial Regiments were full and had long waiting lists… I found at a meeting at the Red Cross last night that names of men were wanted for stretcher bearers to begin training at once, also for those willing to go abroad when called upon. I have put my name down for both and go to practices in the evenings. There were not many names.

It is true I believe that so many are going or waiting to join regiments of various kinds that there is a real demand for ambulance volunteers. If there is an equal opportunity of serving without contributing to the general slaughter – and a man prefers to choose that – I think he need not be considered less patriotic.”

MS 340 A3067/1/3 Letter from Hope Bagenal to his father, 11 August 1914

Reflections on war and warfare: week 18 (30 June – 6 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.

1 July 1944 Dealing with the threat of bombing
The effects on the civilian population of the threat of bombing raids on London, bombs from June 1944 had taken the form of “Doodlebugs”, is recorded in the journal of Samuel Rich:

“The frequent procession to the shelter on the approach of each doodle bug – the suspense at the cutting out of the engine and the explosion – the relief on hearing what must mean death to somebody – the emergence – to be repeated n+1 times.”

MS 168 AJ217/40 Journal of Samuel Rich, 1 July 1944


2 July 1813 The “scum of the earth”
At the Battle of Vitoria, on 21 June 1813, Arthur Wellesley, first Marquis of Wellington, broke the French army of King Joseph Bonaparte and Marshal Jean-Baptiste Jourdan near Vitoria in Spain. However, in the aftermath of the battle, his troops broke their ranks to loot the abandoned French wagons. While Wellington often praised the gallantry of his troops he was well aware that the pressures of warfare all too often lead to such bouts of pillaging. This particular incident led him to write his now famous dispatch to Earl Bathurst, referring to his men as the “scum of the earth”.

“It is quite impossible for me or any other man to command a British army under the existing system. We have in the service the scum of the earth as common soldiers, and of late years we have been doing every thing in our power both by law and by publications to relax the discipline by which alone such men can be kept in order. The officers of the lower ranks will not perform the duty required from them in order to keep their soldiers in order and it is next to impossible to punish any officer for neglects of this description. As to the noncommissioned officers as I have repeatedly stated, they are as bad as the men; and too near them in point of pay and situation by the regulations of late years to expect them to do anything to keep the men in order.

It is really a disgrace to have any thing to say to such men as some of our soldiers are.”

WP1/373/6 Letter from Field Marshal Arthur Wellesley, first Marquis of Wellington, Huarte, to Henry Bathurst, third Earl Bathurst, Secretary for War and the Colonies, 2 July 1813


1-4 July 1916 A chaplain in the war
As the Anglo-French operations in the Battle of the Somme commenced on 1 July, extracts from the diary of Revd Michael Adler, senior Jewish chaplain to the British Expeditionary Force, recorded some of the human cost of this military action.

Sat 1 July: “Battle begun.”
Mon 3 July: “ Corbie La Neuville to be near the Somme fighting.”
Tue 4 July: “Funeral of Pte L.Levi… 2nd Lieut Seline seriously wounded.”

MS 125 AJ 16/2 Diary of Revd Michael Adler, 1-4 July 1916


3-4 July 1916 Battle of Albert
Taking place in Somme (Picardy, France), the Battle of Albert encompassed the beginnings of the Anglo-French operations in the Battle of the Somme. Lasting from 1-13 July 1916, it began with an attack made by the Anglo-French Infantry on the south bank from Foucaucourt to the Somme, and from the Somme north to Gommecourt. Despite the Infantry achieving a significant victory on the German Second Army, the British attack from Albert-Bapaume road to Gommecourt resulted in approximately 60,000 British casualties.

“All last week there was a heavy bombardment of the German line, getting more and more violent. In fact it was terrible. But the weather was awful and the attack had to be put off for Thursday. The whole Battalion have been working like ants for days past, all night and every night.”

MS 336 A2097/7/1 Letter from Frederick Dudley Samuel to his fiancée and, subsequent wife Dorothy, 3-4 July 1916

Reflections on war and warfare: week 15 (9 – 15 June 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.

9 June 1811 The second siege of Badajoz
After failing to capture the Spanish border fortress of Badajoz in the spring of 1811 a second attempt began in May the same year. Once again the main focus was on the fort of San Cristobal. After four days of bombardment a sizable breach had been made in the fort and an assault was attempted. However, unaware that the French had removed all of the debris from the ditch, the British assaulting party were unable to find any part of the wall low enough for their ladders to reach and the assault ended in failure. After further bombardment and a second failed assault, Wellington was forced to abandon capturing Badajoz until a third, successful, siege was attempted in 1812.

“The breach in [San Cristobal] was thought practicable on the 6th and was attempted that night. I hear by detachment of the 51st, 85th and Portuguese under Major McIntosh of the 85th the attack was unsuccessful and cost us 60 men, but two soldiers got into the place and got back again to tell the fact and receive a pecuniary reward from Lord Wellington!!!!! Since that time our batteries have been abandoned towards the old castle wall upon the other side of the river and at this moment the breaching battery upon that side of the Guadiana may be within 450 yards.”

MS 296/1 Letter from Lieutenant Colonel Henry Cadogan, Talavera Real, to Brigadier General Denis Pack, reporting on the siege of Badajoz, 9 June 1811


10 June 1940 German invasion of Norway and Italy declares war
The war took a downward turn for the allies during 1940. On 9 April, German forces invaded Norway with the aim was to capture Oslo. They failed to do this and the Norwegian royal family, the cabinet, and most of the 150 members of the Storting (parliament) made a hasty departure from the capital by special train.

On 10 June 1940, Benito Mussolini, leader of Italy, declared war on France and Great Britain.

The allied reaction was swift: in London, all Italians who had lived in Britain less than 20 years and who were between the ages of 16 and 70 were immediately interned. In America, President Roosevelt broadcast on radio the promise of support for Britain and France.

Nevertheless, it was a worrying time for the civilians of allied countries as Samuel Rich notes:

“Worst day of the war so far. The allies have left Norway; its king and government have come to England. In the evacuation HMS Glorious, 2 destroyers and another ship were lost. Italy declared war on the allies; the Germans have reached Rociem, and the lower Seine has been crossed. The weather has been fitting to the news […] it looks as if freedom is to be eclipsed in Europe for a generation.”

MS 168 AJ217/36 Journal of Samuel Rich, 10 June 1940


13 June 1915 The third battle of Krithia
On 4 June 1915 the third battle of Krithia began at Gallipoli. This event signified the final attack against the Ottoman defences, with the aim of enabling the capture of Alçı Tepe (Achi Baba) which controlled the majority of the peninsula. The result was an Ottoman victory, with the British only achieving little gains in ground.

“What one wants now is an Oliver Cromwell who will send them all about their business and prosecute the war with all the powers of the country. I think that they [politicians] will have to have some sort of industrial compulsion.”

MS 336 A2097/4/3 Letter from Frederick Dudley Samuel to his wife, 13 June 1915

Reflections on war and warfare: week 1 (3 – 9 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.

March 1940    Letter about army life
The poet Martin Bell turned twenty one in 1939. He served from 1939 to 1946 initially as a medical orderly and later as an instructor in Lebanon, Syria and Italy. Much of the poetry he wrote during that time and indeed his correspondence and diary entries portrayed a longing for his home town and a resentment of military service. He openly acknowledges this in much of his correspondence.

“General psychological observation: In the army one is pressed down by a host of niggling details, petty discomforts, irritating restrictions. If one can’t stand away from them, or relax oneself towards them: if one is overwhelmed by them and one’s reaction to them: then one is in just one hell of a state.”

MS12 A767/14 page 2 Letter from Martin Bell to his University College of Southampton friends Joan Broomfield (later Russell), March 1940


3 March 1915   Letter from the Western Front

The correspondence of Frederick Dudley Samuel provides an insight into the realities of conditions on the front line with the British Expeditionary Force in France. Correspondence to his wife can be found for almost every day between 1915 and 1918, depicting how much he missed home life.

‘Today it is horrid, wet & windy but we are comfortably under cover, I know you despise the weather, but with us, it is almost as important as the Germans, in fact bad weather causes more suffering.’

MS336 A2097/4/2 Letter from Frederick Dudley Samuel to his wife, 3 March 1915


7 March 1809   Memorandum on the Defence of Portugal

At the Battle of Vimeiro, 21 August 1808, the British army under General Arthur Wellesley defeated the French near the village of Vimeiro, putting an end to the first French invasion of Portugal. On 7 March 1809 Wellesley submitted his Memorandum on the Defence of Portugal.

“I have always been of opinion that Portugal might be defended whatever might be the result of the contest in Spain and that in the meantime the measures adopted for the defence of Portugal could be highly useful to the Spaniards in their contest with the French”

MS61 WP1/248/3 Draft of a memorandum from Sir Arthur Wellesley, on the number of soldiers and arms necessary to strengthen the Portuguese military establishment and the defence of Portugal, 7 March 1809