Tag Archives: Peninsular War

“Such a desperate action” – two stories from the battlefield

Print of the Battle of Waterloo (1816) [MS 351/6 A4170/5]

There was widespread rejoicing at news of the Battle of Waterloo – the anniversary of which is today – and the conclusion of the war: this was an occasion equivalent to VE or VJ Day at the end of the Second World War. Wellington was lauded as a victor and hero and esteemed as both one of Europe’s leading generals and as its saviour. Heroic depictions of the military exploits appeared, such as the example below representing the death of Lieutenant Colonel Miller of the Guards at the Battle of Waterloo in  J.A. Atkinson’s Incidents of British bravery during the late campaigns on the continent… (Ackermann, London, 1817).

Death of Lieutenant Colonel Miller of the Guards at Waterloo [MS351/6 A4170/2 no 6]

Yet Wellington understood, as he recorded in his official despatch to Lord Bathurst of 19 June 1815, how victory on the battlefield often came at the cost of the loss of many lives: “Your Lordship will observe that such a desperate action could not be fought, and such advantages could not be gained, without great loss; and I am sorry to add that ours has been immense.”

Extracts from the correspondence of two soldiers held in the Special Collections provides an eloquent picture of the realities of life on the front line during the struggle for supremacy in Portugal in 1811 and on the Western Front in the First World War.

Engraving by Bartolomeo Pinelli of the campaign in Portugal, 1810-11

Lieutenant Colonel John Gurwood (1790-1845), who was the editor of  Wellington’s Dispatches, served under the Duke in the Peninsula from 1810. He was wounded at Sabugal, 3 April 1811, and distinguished himself leading the forlorn hopes at the storming of Badajoz and Ciudad Rodrigo. As a lieutenant of the 52nd Regiment of Foot in 1811, he describes in a letter to his mother of 16 March 1811 the intensity of the action by the British and allied army in expelling the French forces from Portugal during the course of March:

“We have been fighting for the last 4 days. The French retired … on the 6th at one in the morning… On the 11th we drove them through Pombal… On the plain of Redeinha [Redinha] we had 3 off[icer]s and 22 killed and wounded… On the 14th as soon as the fog cleared off… we got into one of the hottest affairs imaginable. We lost 1 officer killed, 3 cap[ains] wounded and a number killed and wounded… On the 15th were at it again…” [MS 321/5]

A career soldier, Lieutenant Colonel Frederick Dudley Samuel, DSO, had served with the Midlands Mounted Rifles in the Boer war. He was appointed a Second Lieutenant in the Third Volunteer Battalion, City of London (Royal Fusiliers) Regiment in December 1902 and served with the London Regiment throughout the First World War, eventually being appointed as commander of the 40th (Jewish) Battalion, Royal Fusiliers in 1918. Dudley Samuel was wounded four times during his service and received mention in despatches. He was awarded the Distinguished Service Order in 1917.

Major Frederick Dudley Samuel [MS336 A2097/1]

Major Frederick Dudley Samuel [MS336 A2097/1]

Dudley Samuel was involved in the Battle of Loos (25 September – 8 October 1915). The Artois-Loos Offensive aimed to break through the German Front in Artois. Whilst the British had some initial success north of Loos on the first day, a pause in the attack allowed the German army time to call in reinforcements for the Second position and the British suffered heavy casualties here on 26 September.

On 27 September he wrote to his wife Dorothy that they have come out from the Battle “as usual much depleted” with heavy losses and many killed.

“The Garhwal Brigade was heroic, it is the only word, it has been practically wiped out… Everyone stood to arms at 3.30am Saturday… At about 4.45 the guns started. At 5.50 we exploded an enormous mine the earth shook, a very muffled roar and it looked as if a whole trench went 300 feet in the air, then dense volumes of smoke were released everywhere and the German guns started on us and the Brigade advanced to the attack… Very few of the attackees came back, and I’m afraid all are killed or wounded. Three battalions are practically wiped out…

For us personally it is a great tragedy, so many friends in the Leicesters and Native Regiments gone… Our losses are over fifty, but we can’t tell yet. We of course are fortunate….” [MS336 A2097/5/2]

Part of an envelope, with the mark of the field censor, for a letter from Dudley Samuel to his wife [Ms 336 A2097/8/2/331]

The Battle of Waterloo and the Duke of Wellington were well remembered and received many marks of recognition during the 19th century: a previous blog looks at the battle and the Duke remembered. The Special Collections contains much other material reflecting different aspects of warfare from literary reflections to the service of VADs at the University War Hospital in the First World War.

Look out for further blogs, or why not visit the Archives and Manuscripts to find out more.

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In the company of Wellington

On St Patrick’s day we mark the anniversary of the arrival of the Wellington Archive at Southampton in 1983. Since then, the Special Collections has acquired a wide range of material that relates to this archive and we take the opportunity to explore some of these.

Part of Wellington Archive

Part of Wellington Archive

The Wellington Archive [MS61] represents the political, military and official papers of Wellington, so collections that provide a more personal perspective on the Duke are always of interest. Christopher Collins entered Wellington’s service in 1824 and worked as his confidential servant for the remainder of the Duke’s life. Amongst the papers in this collection [MS69] are notes and letters from the Duke issuing instructions about ordering straps with buckles and boots, arrangements for mending razors, for preparations for his room at Walmer Castle and the cleaning and maintenance of uniforms.

Note from Wellington to Collins sending instructions for preparing his room at Walmer Castle, 1838 [MS69/2/15]

Note from Wellington to Collins sending instructions for preparing his room at Walmer Castle, 13 September 1839 [MS69/2/15]: “have some fire in my room; some hot water for tea; and some boiling sea water for my feet”.

Collins kept a notebook listing the Duke’s diamonds, ceremonial collars, field marshal batons and coronation staves, 1842 [MS69/2/1] and amongst the objects in the collection are the blue ribbon of the Order of the Fleece and the red ribbon of the Order of the Bath which belonged to Wellington [MS69/4/11-12].

Red ribbon of the Order of the Bath [MS69/4/11]

Red ribbon of the Order of the Bath [MS69/4/11]

Collins also kept notes on Wellington’s health [MS69/2/3] and the collection includes a number of recipes, such as one for “onion porage” to cure “spasms of the chest and stomach”, 1850, below.

Recipe for "onion porage" [MS69/4/19]

Recipe for “onion porage” [MS69/4/19]

Three letters from Wellington to William Holmes, Tory Whip, in December 1838 [MS272/1 A9231/-3], likewise deal with the Duke’s health and in particular reports in the Morning Post about this. The Duke complained in a letter of 22 December 1838: “If people would only allow me to die and be damned I should not care what the Morning Post thinks proper to publish. But every devil who wants anything writes to enquire how I am.”

A small series of correspondence of Wellington, and Deputy Commissary General William Booth, which is a more recent acquisition, provide some insight into the management of Wellington’s estates at Waterloo, 1832-52 [MS414].

Illustration of the Duke of Wellington [MS351 A4170/9]

Illustration of the Duke of Wellington [MS351 A4170/9]

A number of military archive collections, including some of officers who served with Wellington, now join company with the Wellington Archive at Southampton. Papers of Sir John Malcolm, 1801-16, [MS308] provide important evidence for Wellington in India, at a formative stage of his career, in comparatively informal and personal correspondence with a friend and political colleague; it includes Wellington’s letters written in the field throughout the Assaye campaign. MS321 is composed of seven volumes of guardbooks of correspondence and papers of Lieutenant Colonel John Gurwood, who was editor of Wellington’s General Orders and Dispatches. The collection relates to Gurwood’s military career as well as his editorial work.

Letter from Gurwood to his mother in which he reports he led the "forlorn hope" at Ciudad Rodrigo, 20 January 1812 [MS321/7]

Letter from Gurwood to his mother in which he reports he led the “forlorn hope” at Ciudad Rodrigo, 20 January 1812 [MS321/7]

Sir Robert Hugh Kennedy served as Commissary General of the forces commanded by Wellington in the Iberian Peninsula, with Sir John Bisset serving in Kennedy’s stead in 1812, and their collection of letter books, accounts and other papers cover the period 1793-1830 [MS271], providing evidence of the work of this department during military campaigns over this period. An order book of the general orders of Sir Edward Barnes, Adjutant General of the army in Europe, 10 May 1815 – 18 January 1816, covers the period of the battle of Waterloo and the allied occupation of France [MS289]. And the diary of George Eastlake, recording a visit to northern Spain with Admiral Sir Thomas Byam Martin in September 1813 to discover Wellington’s requirements for naval assistance, provides details of Wellington’s headquarters at Lesaca as well as the army camp at Bidassoa [MS213].

A journal sent by General Francisco Copons y Navia to the Duke of Wellington details the operations undertaken by the Spanish First Army for the period 2-20 June 1813 in relation to those of General Sir John Murray. Murray had landed with a British force at Salou in Catalonia on 3 June and laid siege to Tarragona [MS253].

"Journal du blocure de la place de Barcelonne" [MS360/1]

‘Journal du blocure de la place de Barcelonne’ [MS360/1]

Formerly part of a larger series of documents, Special Collections holds two booklets, signed by F.Mongeur, the Commissaire Ordonnateur for Barcelona, at Perpignan on 3 June 1814, that relate to the administration of Barcelona in 1814. The first, the ‘Journal du blocure de la place de Barcelonne’ has a daily record from 1 February to 3 June 1814 of the French forces [MS360/1]. The succeeding document in the series is a general report, in French, on the administration of the siege of Barcelona by the armée d’Aragon et de Catalogne, between 1 January and 28 May 1814, which gives details of the period of the evacuation of the place, as well as of the food and consumption of foodstuffs and expenditure on supplies during this period. There is a detailed analysis of the composition of the forces, the different corps of troops, companies and detachments making up the garrison at Barcelona [MS360/2].

Signature of Daniel O'Connell, 1815 [MS64/17/2]

Signature of Daniel O’Connell, 1815 [MS64/17/2]

Material relating to politics in the Wellington Archive is paralleled by that within a number of significant other collections at Southampton. The archive of the Parnell family, Barons Congleton [MS64] which contains extensive material relating to Irish politics. Amongst the papers of Sir John Parnell, second Baronet, is material for the Union of Ireland and Great Britain, whilst the papers of the first Baron Congleton include material about Roman Catholic emancipation.

Letter from Daniel O'Connell to Sir Henry Parnell, 13 June 1815 [MS64/17/2]

Letter from Daniel O’Connell to Sir Henry Parnell, 13 June 1815, relating to Catholic emancipation [MS64/17/2]

The Broadlands Archives [MS62] also contain much on British and Irish politics in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries as well as papers of two nineteenth-century Prime Ministers in the form of Lords Palmerston and Melbourne. A collection of correspondence between John Wilson Croker and Palmerston for the period 1810-56 [MS273] includes much on political, military and official business. Papers of Wellington’s elder brother, Richard, Marquis Wellesley, include material relating to his tenure as ambassador in Spain, 1809, and as Foreign Secretary, 1809-12 [MS63].

Letter from Simon Bolivar to Lord Wellesley, 22 January 1811 [MS63/9/7]

Letter from Simon Bolivar to Lord Wellesley, 22 January 1811 [MS63/9/7]

Since its arrival in 1983, which also heralded the development of the Archives and Manuscripts as a service, the Wellington Archive has acted as an irresistible draw to other collections to join its company.

To find out more about Wellington, or research that has drawn on the collections held at Southampton, why not join us at this year’s Wellington Congress. Registration is open until the end of March.

Sir Denis Pack: a Wellington ally

As we enjoy this year’s annual Wellington Lecture today, it is fitting that we announce the acquisition of a new collection of material relating to the career of Sir Denis Pack, one of Wellington’s generals. The collection, which includes maps relating to military actions in which Pack fought, complements both the current collection of his papers held by the Division (MS296) and material within the Wellington Archive (MS61).

Sir Denis Pack [MS296 A4298]

Sir Denis Pack [MS296 A4298]

Major General Sir Denis Pack, K.C.B (d.1823) entered the army in 1791. He served in Flanders, 1794-5, Cape of Good Hope, 1806, and subsequently in South America. He fought at Roliça and Vimeiro, 1808 and Corunna, 1809. Having served on the Walcheren expedition and at the siege of Flushing in 1809, he returned to the Iberian Peninsula to serve with the Duke of Wellington. He commanded a Portuguese brigade, part of Marshal Beresford’s Portuguese forces, at Busaco in 1810 and Almeida in 1811.

Detail from map of Battle of Busaco [MS296 A4298]

Detail from map of the battle of Busaco [MS296 A4298]

Pack took part at the siege of Ciudad Rodrigo and the battles of Salamanca, Vitoria and Orthes. In 1815, he commanded a brigade of Sir Thomas Picton’s Fifth Division at the battles of Quatre Bras and of Waterloo. Pack was Lieutenant Governor of Plymouth, serving alongside Wellington as Governor, from 1819 until his death in 1823.

Pack served with distinction at the Battle of Salamanca, 22 July 1812, and was mentioned in the official despatch of the battle written by Wellington to Lord Bathurst of 24 July. He also honourably mentioned for his part in the operations against Burgos later in 1812.

Amongst the maps in the new acquisition is a hand drawn one of the battle of Salamanca, with handwritten notes, providing us with a valuable new resource to supplement and illustrate the written descriptions of this battle.

Manuscript map of the battle of Salamanca, 1812 [MS296 A4298]

Manuscript map of the battle of Salamanca, 1812 [MS296 A4298]

Waterloo & MS 300: Peninsular War papers of S.G.P. Ward

Last year’s celebrations for the bicentenary of the Battle of Waterloo saw many commemorative events to mark the famous Allied victory of 18th June 1815. Conferences, lectures and new publications continued the historical debate on the history and significance of the Peninsular War. Waterloo has exerted a powerful influence on the public imagination for over 200 years – many contemporaries visited the battlefield as tourists, recording their experiences in works of art and literature. Souvenir engravings and maps, and exhibitions of paintings and artefacts relating to the battle, were popular at the time:

Chateau of Hougoumont

‘An entrance to the Chateau of Hougoumont: “It was here that the great battle of the 18th began…. the house was set fire to… and all the wounded perished in the flames.”’

The Barn at La Haye Sainte

‘The Barn at La Haye Sainte: “It was in this extensive building that more than 500 hundred limbs were amputated – what hospital of contemporary establishment can vie with it.”’

MS 300 A4011/16/2: sketches by Robert Hills of the ‘important scenes of action about the plains of Waterloo’, c. July 1815, published in The Illustrated London News, December 1945

These sketches are part of a series drawn by Robert Hills a few weeks after the battle. Note the slightly sensational captions which he has added to the scenes!

The Hill sketches were published in the Christmas 1945 edition of The Illustrated London News. A copy can be found in MS 300, the Peninsular War papers of Stephen George Peregrine Ward, military historian. These were donated to the University of Southampton along with his notable Peninsular War library. It is no coincidence that there was renewed interest in the study of the Napoleonic Wars in the post-WWII era: Mr Ward had served in Western Command during the Second World War, during which time he was introduced to the administrative problems of running a general staff and to the Murray papers in the National Library of Scotland. This, together with the acquisition of many of the Peninsular War items from the library of Sir Charles Oman, c. 1946, was the genesis of Ward’s work on the Peninsula, leading to his Oxford B.Litt. thesis, published as Wellington’s headquarters: a study of the administrative problems in the Peninsula, 1809-1814 (Oxford, 1957) and Wellington, (London, 1963).

Sir George Murray

Sir George Murray

MS 300 A4011/15/8ix: an engraving of Rt. Hon. Gen. Sir George Murray G.C.B., F.R.S., painted by Sir Thomas Lawrence, engraved by H.Meyer, published by Fisher, Son & Co., (London 1831)

We have recently catalogued an additional deposit of S.G.P. Ward’s papers held in the Special Collections at the University of Southampton. MS 300 A4011 includes a copy of his B.Litt. thesis and a number of his publications, articles and lectures. Ward was working on a biography of Major General Sir George Murray, Wellington’s Quartermaster General in the Peninsula. The work remained unfinished at his death, but Ward’s typescript draft – which includes complete chapters – as well as many of his research notes, form a valuable resource for historians. An acknowledged expert, Ward wrote the Oxford D.N.B. entry for Sir George Murray – which is current today.

Another useful part of this collection is the large number of photographic prints of portraits and paintings – both of Murray and his family, as well as of generals and military figures of different nationalities – from the Napoleonic period.

Ward acquired original manuscript material as well as copies and transcripts of archive sources relating to the Peninsular War. An unusual example is the Commissariat papers of Henry Whitmarsh c. 1812-14, (MS 351/7 A4237). These shed light on the logistical problems involved in moving large numbers of cattle between army depots in the Iberian Peninsula – essential for the maintenance of Wellington’s army. We learn that Henry had expected promotion, but was disappointed, and he complains that many gentlemen were obliged to return to England for their promotion.

In ‘Notes by Brigadier General Pack respecting Almeida’ (MS 351/9 A4242) we read a first-hand account of Brigadier General Sir Denis Pack’s experiences in the Peninsula in April and May 1811. The notes were enclosed in a letter to a friend dated 22 May 1811 and both are full of interesting detail. Pack’s Portuguese brigade, under the orders of Major General Campbell, was to support the blockade of the French garrison at Almeida: “On the 3rd [May] about 2 o’clock a.m. I received orders to relieve all the picquets of [Campbell’s] division with my brigade to which, with the addition of an English battalion (the Queen’s 400 strong) and 2 guns, I was informed the blockade was intrusted under my direction. A more distressingly anxious command I never had – Massena’s first attack on Lord Wellington’s lines (distant about 5 miles) commenced at 10 o’clock that day. The garrison almost immediately became emboldened, stronger picquets than usual were sent out from it; frequent skirmishes ensued and signals were distinctly made by rockets, guns, and lights, which were answered by the enemy’s army or from Ciudad Rodrigo.” When the French garrison escaped, Pack and his picquets pursued them all the way to the bridge over the River Aguedo at Barba de Puerco. General Campbell and his men arrived “most critically at the moment [the enemy] was making good his retreat across the Agueda – ten minutes sooner would have placed him in safety – ten minutes later, and his destruction would have been inevitable; as it was in killed, wounded, drowned and prisoners I should imagine he lost nearly half his men.”

To find out more, why not visit the Archives and Manuscripts to view the manuscript collections.

Reflections on war and warfare: Week 41 (8 – 14 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.

9-14 December 1813 Battles of the Nive
By December 1813 Wellington’s army had successfully pushed Marshal Soult’s French forces out of Spain and into southwest France. As the Allies advanced towards the French fortress of Bayonne they were forced to split in two by the river Nive. Soult, having formed a defensive line, launched a series of counterattacks on 9 December. The bulk of the fighting on the part of the Allied forces was left to Lieutenant Generals Rowland Hill and John Hope with Wellington remaining in reserve. On 14 December, after four days of intense fighting, the French were forced to withdraw. Severe weather precluded further action for two months.

“From observation and concurring reports, it appears that the enemy had collected nearly the whole of his force, under Marshal Soult, for this operation. From the fire of our artillery and the gallant resistance the enemy met with at all points, his loss is immense.”

MS 61 WP1/380 Letter from Lieutenant General Rowland Hill, Vieux Mouguerre, to Field Marshal Arthur Wellesley, first Marquis of Wellington, 16 December 1813


10 December 1917 Britain liberates Jerusalem

To secure the final objective of the Southern Palestine Offensive of World War One, Britain undertook Jerusalem operations against the Ottoman Empire. Britain had recognised that in order for Jerusalem to be captured, two battles were to be fought in the Judean Hills to the north and the east of the Hebron-Junction Station line. These battles were the Battle of Nebi Samwill and the Defence of Jerusalem. Britain also saw the necessity of advancing across the Nahr el Auja as the Battle of Jaffa. These battles resulted with the British forces achieving victories against the Yildirim Army Group’s Seventh Army in the Judean Hills and the Eight Army north of Jaffa on the Mediterranean coast. As a result of these victories, the British Empire troops captured Jerusalem and established a new strategically strong fortified line.

“Nothing much that is pleasant to record. Jerusalem captured!”

MS 168 AJ 217/13 Journal of Samuel Rich, 10 December 1917


11 December 1939 Finland holds the Mannerheim Line against Russia aggression

The Soviet Union first attacked Finland at the end of November 1939. The final significant act of the League (it was replaced by the United Nations after the end of the war) was to expel the Soviet Union in December. The Finns retreated to the Mannerheim line and held their position until mid-February.

“War news – increased sinkings of ships – the Finns hold out – the L[eague] of N[ations] are “moving”.”

MS 168 AJ 217/35 Journal of Samuel Rich, 11 December 1939

Reflections on war and warfare: Week 39 (24 – 30 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.

25 November 1812 Loss of intelligence in Spain
Having liberated large areas of Spain after the battle of Salamanca on 22 July 1812, Wellington’s army was eventually force to withdraw to the Portuguese frontier to avoid being trapped by large French relief armies. In the passage below Wellington writes from Freneda, situated between the Portuguese fortress town of Almeida and the Spanish fortress city of Ciudad Rodrigo, on the recent loss of intelligence from the country.

“I must admit however that I have lately received but little intelligence from the country. The decree of the Cortes which required every person to justify his conduct who had remained in the country occupied by the enemy, has obliged many, who were heretofore instrumental in acquiring and transmitting intelligence, to fly from their homes; lest they should be punished by the enemy; and I have not yet had time to establish fresh channels of communication.”

MS 61 WP1/351 Copy of a letter from General Arthur Wellesley, first Marquis of Wellington, to Henry Bathurst, third Earl Bathurst, Secretary for War and the Colonies, 25 November 1812


26 November 1939 The war “news”

“The war “news” a tale of more boats sunk – an ominous accusation by Russia that Finns have “attacked” their troops, killing some – the usual technique to excuse an attack of their own.”

MS 168 AJ 217/35 Journal of Samuel Rich, 26 November 1939


30 November 1915 Preparations for dealing with gas attacks

As a chemical weapon, gas was used to injure and kill entrenched defenders. In 1915 Britain first used gas at the Battle of Loo, namely chlorine which was codenamed Red Star. Despite chlorine being a powerful irritant that could damage the eyes, throat and lungs, Red Star’s weakness was that it was dependent on a favourable wind for a successful attack. This meant that there was the potential danger of it inflicting damage on British troops if the gas cyclinders were hit by shells from the opposition. Britain learnt from this and went on to develop the potent killing agent phosgene, which was colourless and had an odour of mouldy gas. This made it less detectable and more effective as a weapon. This gas went on to be the cause of 85% of the 1000,000 deaths caused by chemical weapons during World War One. Britain also developed helmets for its troops to wear. Examples include the smoke helmet, which was developed in July 1915 and developed by Major Cluny Macpherson of the Newfoundland Regiment. This helmet consisted of a flannel bag with a celluloid window, entirely covering the head. Other examples include the British P gas helmet, which was impregnated with sodium phenolate. This was partially effective against harmful chemicals such as phosgene.

“This afternoon we had a lecture on gas, and helmet drill afterwards. We went into a room with asphyxiating gas which would have killed us in three minutes, but for the helmets. As it was you only felt a change in the temperature. Then we went into another room where there was more gas (known as lachrymose) being let off. In five seconds you were almost blinded and tears rolled down your cheeks. Beastly as the latter was I think it was preferable to the former.”

MS 132 AJ 322 1/1 Letter from Basil Henriques to his mother, 30 November 1915

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

Reflections on war and warfare: Week 37 (10 – 16 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.

10 November 1813 Advance towards France
With the capture of the city of San Sebastian in September 1813, Wellington’s Anglo-Allied army were in a position to push Marshal Soult’s forces towards the French-Spanish frontier. As they pursued the French out of Spain they achieved further success at the Battle of the Bidassoa on 7 October, and the Battle of Nivelle on 10 November. As noted in the below passage, the French suffered a further defeat with the surrender of the city of Pamplona to the Spanish on 30 October.

“The fall of Pamplona must have relieved you from some anxiety, considering the state of the season. Your advance into France will come at a very seasonable time, although Buonaparte has effected his escape to Mayence. It is impossible to judge by the French papers with what force he has been able to retreat. There cannot be any doubt of Blücher having defeated part of the army on the 21st.”

MS 61 WP1/379 Letter from Henry Bathurst, third Earl Bathurst, Secretary for War and the Colonies, Downing Street, to Field Marshal Arthur Wellesley, first Marquis of Wellington, 10 November 1813


11 November 1918 Germany signs armistice, formally ending the First World War
Known as the Armistice of Compiègne, the agreement was the official signal of World War One ending, after four years. On 29 September 1918 Kaiser Wilhelm II and Imperial Chancellor Count Georg von Herling were informed by the German Supreme Army Command that the military situation facing Germany was hopeless. Quartermaster Erich Ludendorff claimed that he could not promise that the front would hold for another 24 hours, and heavily recommended Germany to accept the fourteen points made by of US President Wilson in January 1918. Such points related to the withdrawal of German troops to behind their own borders, a promise of reparations, the disposition of German warships and submarines, and the discontinuance of hostilities. Despite the Germans registering their formal protest at the harshness of the Allied terms, they were not in a position to refuse the armistice. This was due to the abdication of the Kaiser, and the threat of revolution looming in various parts of Germany. Thus, the armistice went into effect on 11am on 11 November 1918, marking a triumph for the Allies and a defeat for Germany.

“The child had gone to school, Amy to the shop – I reading a novel ‘The Game’ by J. London, when bang went the maroons, and guns and rockets. Alone in the house, I could only guess what it portended – a raid! Soon Amy came along and disabused me. The war is over! The war is over! The flags flutter from every house; Con brought home one for her half-holiday – W.T. has a big one at his shop. Armistice signed at 5am today, Sidney spent his half-holiday in going to Sutton to Ansells – I persuaded to go down to W.T.S for a drink of wine. We shut our shop ‘in consequence of victory’; the high road full of cheering crowds – all carry flags.”

MS 168 AJ 217/14 Journal of Samuel Rich, 11 November 1918


12 November 1939 Nazi violence against the Jewish people

“Mr. Bruno spoke on the music of the Reformgemeinde [reform community] at Berlin – destroyed by Nazi gangsters on the night of Nov 9/10 last year. He spoke well – the whole thing was most moving. There were only 25 present, mostly Germans. […] All the Germans present (men) had been in concentration camps. Their wives present. Mrs Shapski told me quite simply that she had walked from Smithfields that morning:- yet she had been a “very wealthy” woman! But no fussing. These are the real people.”

MS 168 AJ 217/35 Journal of Samuel Rich, 12 November 1939

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