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The capture of the Royal Prince during the Four Days Battle
This picture of the capture of the Royal Prince during the Four Days Battle of 1666 was produced in 1672 by Van de Velde the Elder
Picture reproduced courtesy of Seaforth Publishing, and can be found in The Four Days Battle of 1666, Frank L. Fox
The Black Prince's victory took place on September 19, 1356.
In August 1356, Edward, Prince of Wales, better known as the Black Prince, began a large scale raid into France from his base in Aquitaine. Moving north, he conducted a scorched earth campaign as he sought to ease pressure on English garrisons in northern and central France. Advancing to the Loire River at Tours, his raid was stopped by an inability to take to the city and its castle. Delaying, Edward soon had word that the French king, John II, had disengaged from operations against the Duke of Lancaster in Normandy and was marching south to destroy the English forces around Tours.
Did the Guardian have too much coverage of Prince Philip’s death?
How much is the right amount of coverage for the death of a royal consort?
On Saturday 10 April, the day after Prince Philip died, the Guardian newspaper’s front page carried a black-and-white portrait of the duke, followed by 12 more pages of news – including a four-page obituary – one comment piece and a leader article.
It was one of the few national papers not to offer a special supplement alongside the main coverage, but for some readers it was still too much. Between the readers’ editor’s office and the letters desk, we received about 100 complaints.
One reader wrote: “I find it difficult to comprehend how the Guardian can devote 13 pages of its Saturday edition to the death of Prince Philip. In proclaiming a self-avowed republican editorial policy, how can you rationalise such overkill that smacks of the sort of media coverage in an authoritarian country when the head of state dies.”
Another – who seemingly did not share the leader article’s view that in Covid times “other families can today see themselves, their own bereavements and their own losses and sadnesses reflected. That is one of the reasons why this death is indeed a national event for Britain” – told us: “I felt your coverage of the recent death of Prince Philip was totally disproportionate – especially in the context [of the] number of lives lost through the pandemic and the impact of that on specific communities. It smacked of one life being more important than others.”
Some readers expressed concern that the Duke of Edinburgh’s record on racially offensive comments should have weighed against the tone or volume of reporting, while a charge of “sycophancy” was levelled by many who complained.
More than 100,000 people read the printed paper each day, and many millions read it in digital form. And it is ever the case that readers are far less inclined to make contact to register their satisfaction. A few did, however, contradict the complainants: “Thank you for your front page today,” wrote one. “I am sure you know what I mean but in case you don’t – no fawning monarchy lead.”
Another said it was wrong to presume all readers think alike, adding: “My wife and I (to coin a slightly different phrase) have been readers for 40 years at least, and thought your coverage, and particularly comment, were very appropriate.” A third wrote: “As I used my TV/radio off button [on 9 April] so as not to get the blanket coverage following the passing of Prince Philip, I appreciated the excellent and balanced edition of the Guardian on Saturday.”
Over the four days following the announcement of Prince Philip’s death, about 50 related articles were published across the Guardian and Observer online. In a straw poll of subscribers conducted via their weekly newsletter, the 600 or so who responded (they may be paper or digital readers from any country) were split evenly between “too much” or “about right”, with a small handful saying there was “not enough” coverage.
Prince Philip, Britain’s longest-serving consort, is the seventh royal consort to die during the Guardian’s 200-year history but only the third – after Queen Caroline (who died in 1821, shortly after being barred from her husband’s coronation) and Prince Albert – who was still serving alongside the reigning monarch.
Times, sensibilities and newspaper formats change, so it seemed fitting in this anniversary period to delve into the archives to see how these events were handled in the past.
At the time of Albert’s death in 1861 the Manchester Guardian was just four broadsheet pages long, with the front page by convention given to classified advertising. The funeral of Queen Victoria’s husband took around half of the editorial space inside the Christmas Eve edition.
In 1925, tributes to Queen Alexandra occupied nearly four of the 24 pages, while the death in 1953 of Queen Mary, described by the Guardian as “the most queenly of queens”, led the front page for two days, with a spread of photographs and tributes inside the 12-page paper on day one. A leader opined that the strength of the monarchy was “in no small part due to the immense affection and admiration which her courage, industry and dignity won for both herself and the crown”.
Before Philip, we go back two decades to the death in 2002 of the Queen Mother aged 101, she had been a widow for half a century. Much had changed in those years. A front-page commentary ran under the headline: “Uncertain farewell leaves a nation divided”, with a spread on pages 4 and 5 (where the BBC was reported defending its coverage from criticisms ranging from schedule changes to Peter Sissons’ failure to wear a black tie), and four pages of obituary.
In the opinion section, Christopher Hitchens was unsparing. A leading article then offered a frank assessment of the former queen’s strengths and weaknesses, although the latter “did not invalidate her right to national honour”, but ended by saying that once the funeral was over, “this country will need to consider how much longer the monarchy can properly continue to hold the place in our national life” that she had done so much to sustain “in defiance of the times”.
A long package of letters under the headline: “We’re not all in mourning” was rounded on by some readers the next day as “mean-spirited”.
However one might wish the future to be, Prince Philip’s life had been part of the national fabric for the past 75 years. I asked the editor-in-chief, Katharine Viner, how coverage of his death was decided for 2021.
“As with any significant figure, we had a longstanding plan. We had commissioned a small number of well-researched and well-written pieces, including an outstanding obituary, which a group of senior editors had been reviewing in the months before his death,” she explained.
“We ran a live blog as it was the best way to capture the reaction to the announcement … [and] over subsequent days we featured a range of different views on Prince Philip’s life and death, as well as what it meant for the future of the monarchy and the country.
Confederates capture Harpers Ferry
Confederate General Thomas “Stonewall” Jackson captures Harpers Ferry, Virginia (present-day West Virginia), and some 12,000 Union soldiers as General Robert E. Lee’s army moves north into Maryland.
The Federal garrison inside Harpers Ferry was vulnerable to a Confederate attack after Lee’s invasion of Maryland in September. The strategic town on the Potomac River was cut off from the rest of the Union army. General George B. McClellan, commander of the Army of the Potomac, sent messages to Union General Dixon Miles, commander of the Harpers Ferry garrison, to hold the town at all costs. McClellan promised to send help, but he had to deal with the rest of the Confederate army.
Jackson rolled his artillery into place and began to shell the town on September 14. The Yankees were short on ammunition, and Miles offered little resistance before agreeing to surrender on the morning of September 15. As Miles’ aid, General Julius White, rode to Jackson to negotiate surrender terms, one Confederate cannon continued to fire. Miles was mortally wounded by the last shot fired at Harpers Ferry.
The Yankees surrendered 73 artillery pieces, 13,000 rifles, and some 12,000 men at Harpers Ferry. It was the largest single Union surrender of the war.
The fall of Harpers Ferry convinced Lee to change his plans. After suffering heavy losses on September 14 in Maryland at the Battle of South Mountain, to the northeast of Harpers Ferry, Lee had intended to gather his scattered troops and return to Virginia. Now, with Harpers Ferry secure, he summoned Jackson to join the rest of his force around Sharpsburg, Maryland. Two days later, on September 17, Lee and McClellan fought the Battle of Antietam.
Battle of The Alma
Combatants at the Battle of the Alma: British, French and Turkish troops against the Imperial Russian Army.
Generals at the Battle of the Alma: General the Earl of Raglan commanded the British Army. Marshal Saint-Arnaud commanded the French Army. Prince Menshikov commanded the Russian Army.
Size of the armies at the Battle of the Alma: The British Army comprised 26,000 infantry, 1,000 cavalry (only the Light Brigade the Heavy Brigade did not land in the Crimea in time for the battle) and 60 guns. The French Army comprised 28,000 infantry, no cavalry and 72 guns. The Turkish contingent comprised 7,000 infantry, no cavalry and an unknown number of guns. The Russian Army was made up of 33,000 infantry, 3,400 cavalry and 120 guns.
Prince Menshikov, Russian commander-in-chief in the Crimea: the Battle of the Alma on 20th September 1854 during the Crimean War
Uniforms, arms and equipment at the Battle of the Alma: The armies that fought in the Crimean War for Russia, Britain and France were in organisation little different from the armies that fought the Napoleonic wars at the beginning of the century. They were however on the verge of substantial change, brought about by developments in firearms.
The British infantry had fought with the Brown Bess musket in some form from the beginning of the 18 th Century.
As the Crimean War broke out, the British Army’s infantry was being equipped with the new French Minié Rifle, a muzzle loading rifle fired by a cap (all the British divisions, other than the Fourth, arriving in the Crimea with this weapon). This weapon was quickly replaced by the more efficient British Enfield Rifle.
The new rifle was sighted up to 1,000 yards, as against the old Brown Bess, wholly inaccurate beyond 100 yards.
Marshal de Saint-Arnaud, French commander-in-chief at the Battle of the Alma on 20th September 1854 during the Crimean War
It would take the rest of the century for field tactics to catch up with the effects of the modern weapons coming into service.
Winner of the Battle of the Alma: The British and French
British Order of Battle at the Battle of the Alma:
Commander in Chief: Field Marshal Lord Raglan
The Cavalry Division: General the Earl of Lucan
Troop of Royal Horse Artillery
Light Brigade: Major-General the Earl of Cardigan
4 th Light Dragoons
8 th Hussars
11 th Hussars
13 th Light Dragoons
17 th Lancers
First Division: the Duke of Cambridge
Two field batteries Royal Artillery
Guards Brigade: General Bentinck
3 rd Battalion, Grenadier Guards
1 st Battalion, Coldstream Guards
1 st Battalion, Scots Fusilier Guards
Highland Brigade: Major General Sir Colin Campbell
42 nd Highlanders
79 th Highlanders
93 rd Highlanders
Officer, NCO and piper of the 93rd Highlanders: the Battle of the Alma on 20th September 1854 during the Crimean War
Second Division: Lieutenant-General Sir de Lacy Evans
Two field batteries Royal Artillery
Officers of the 49th Regiment: the Battle of the Alma on 20th September 1854 during the Crimean War: print by Ackermann
Third Brigade: Brigadier-General Adams
41 st Regiment
47 th Regiment
49 th Regiment
Fourth Brigade: Brigadier-General Pennefather
30 th Regiment
55 th Regiment
95 th Regiment
Third Division: Lieutenant-General Sir Richard England
Two field batteries Royal Artillery
Fifth Brigade: Brigadier-General Sir John Campbell
4 th King’s Own Royal Regiment
38 th Regiment
50 th Regiment
Sixth Brigade: Brigade-General Eyre
1 st Royal Regiment
28 th Regiment
44 th Regiment
Fourth Division: Major-General Sir George Cathcart
One field battery of Royal Artillery
Seventh Brigade: Brigadier-General Torrens
20 th Regiment
21 st Royal Scots Fusiliers
68 th Regiment
46 th Regiment
(57 th Regiment, which did not land until after the battle)
2nd Rifle Brigade leading the Light Division across the river at the Battle of the Alma on 20th September 1854 during the Crimean War: picture by Louis Johns
Light Division: Lieutenant-General Sir George Brown
One troop of Royal Horse Artillery and one field battery of Royal Artillery
2 nd Battalion the Rifle Brigade.
First Brigade (known as the Fusilier Brigade): Major-General Codrington
7 th Royal Fusiliers
23 rd Royal Welch Fusiliers
33 rd Regiment
Second Brigade: Major-General Buller
19 th Regiment
77 th Regiment
88 th Regiment
The French order of battle at the Battle of the Alma:
The four divisions of General Bosquet, General Canrobert, Prince Napoleon and General Forey.
Map of the Battle of the Alma on 20th September 1854 during the Crimean War: map by John Fawkes
Account of the Battle of the Alma:
The British and French armies landed on the Crimean Peninsula on 14 th September 1854, intending to capture the Russian naval base of Sevastopol in the south-west of the Crimea. The landing took place on the western Crimean coast some fifteen miles to the north of the port.
Royal Artillery on the move: Battle of the Alma on 20th September 1854 during the Crimean War: picture by Orlando Norie
The road down the coast to Sevastopol crossed four rivers, flowing east to west into the Black Sea the Bulganek, the Alma, the Katelia and the Belbeck.
The allied army (British, French and Turkish) began the march south from the landing site on 19 th September 1854. The French army marched by the coast, with the Turkish contingent in its midst. The British in two columns took the inland flank. The British Light Brigade of cavalry provided a screen to the front and left flank. Ships of the British and French navies sailed parallel and in advance of the armies.
Marshal Saint-Arnaud at the Battle of the Alma on 20th September 1854 during the Crimean War: Saint-Arnaud was near to death from illness: picture by Belangé
A skirmish took place as the allied army crossed the Bulganek on the first day of the 25 mile march to Sevastopol. As the Russians withdrew from the hills beyond the river, Lord Lucan sought to pursue them with the Light Brigade, but was ordered to withdraw by Lord Raglan, the British commander-in-chief. The allied armies encamped on the high ground beyond the river.
French Artillery at the Battle of the Alma on 20th September 1854 during the Crimean War: picture by Orlando Norie
It was on the River Alma that the Russian general, Prince Menshikov, resolved to make his stand, taking advantage of the high ground along the south bank.
The axis of the advance was the post road, following the coastline from Eupatoria in the north of the Crimea to Sevastopol. The country was open, rolling grassland, enabling the troops to march on either side of the road.
Coldstream Guards at the Battle of the Alma on 20th September 1854 during the Crimean War: picture by Orlando Norie
On 20 th September 1854, the allied armies continued their march in the same formation. At about midday, a warship, steaming in advance of the armies, opened a bombardment on the shore. The allied armies reached the top of one of the low ridges, that lay across the line of march and the valley of the Alma opened before them.
Three villages lay along the near bank of the river Almatamak in front of the French Bourliouk in the centre of the advance and Tarkhanlar to the left of the British. The post road crossed the Alma to the inland side of Bourliouk and ascended into the hills beyond the river.
French troops crossing the river at the Battle of the Alma on 20th September 1854 during the Crimean War
Along the high ground on the far side of the Alma lay the Russian Army in strength, intending to give battle in defence of Sevastopol. The main body of Menshikov’s force lay on Kourgané Hill in front of the British Army’s centre, covered by a battery of eight heavy siege guns at the front of its position. These guns were the focal point of the Russian defence and became known as the “Great Russian Battery” or the “Greater Redoubt”. Immediately beyond Bourliouk, the Russian reserves occupied a hill with a telegraph station, labelled Telegraph Hill. The post road to Sevastopol lay in the valley between Kourgané Hill and Telegraph Hill.
From Bourliouk to the coast, in front of the French line of advance, the south bank of the Alma became a cliff face. An accessible road crossed the river from Almatamak and ascended the cliff. Near the river mouth a steep path climbed the cliff face. The Russian presence on the high ground above this cliff was slight.
French Zouaves storming the heights at the Battle of the Alma on 20th September 1854 during the Crimean War
Menshikov’s leadership was uninspired and lacking in vigour. The Russians took little trouble to fortify their positions. The heavy guns on Kourgané Hill were fronted by a low parapet, intended to stop the guns from rolling down the hill rather than for protection. No works had been built to keep the French off the coastal high ground or to protect the Russian troops from naval bombardment.
French Zouaves at the Battle of the Alma on 20th September 1854 during the Crimean War: picture by Victor Adam
The Allied plan, agreed between Raglan and St Arnaud that morning was for the French to begin the attack under cover of the fleet’s guns.
Bosquet’s Division stormed up the coastal path and the Almatamak road. Canrobert crossed the Alma to the west of Almatamak and climbed Telegraph Hill, sending his guns up the Almatamak road. The Russian piquets set fire to Bourliouk and withdrew across the river and up the hill.
General St Arnaud sent word to Lord Raglan requesting that the British now launch their assault on the main Russian positions and Raglan issued the orders to his divisional commanders to attack.
There now occurred an incident of extraordinary eccentricity. Leaving his generals to make the assault, Lord Raglan led his staff across the river and rode up onto a promontory below Telegraph Hill. Raglan watched the British attack from a position behind the Russian lines.
93rd Highlanders at the Battle of the Alma on 20th September 1854 during the Crimean War
Duke of Cambridge with the Grenadier Guards in the background: Battle of the Alma on 20th September 1854 during the Crimean War: print by Ackermann
The British infantry advanced towards the river in a line stretching from Bourliouk nearly to Tarkhanlar the Second Division on the right and the Light Division on the left. The Third Division supported the Second and the First Division supported the Light. The Fourth Division remained behind the left wing. The Light Brigade of cavalry guarded the inland flank.
The battery of heavy Russian guns on Kourgané Hill opened fire on the advancing British infantry with effect, inflicting casualties and disturbing the troops’ morale.
The burning village of Bourliouk caused considerable difficulty, the brigades of the Second Division being forced to bypass the village on either side to reach the river. The brigade of General Adams reached the river to the east of Bourliouk and found itself at the base of Telegraph Hill.
General Pennefather’s brigade passed to the west of the village. His third regiment, the 95 th , joined Codrington’s Fusilier Brigade and took part in the assault with that formation, leaving Pennefather with the 30 th and 55 th Regiments.
French troops of Prince Napoleon’s division advance at the Battle of the Alma on 20th September 1854 during the Crimean War: picture by Orlando Norie
Codrington’s regiments became the apex of the advance up to the Russian Battery. Two regiments of the Division’s second brigade were held back to protect the army’s inner flank. The remaining regiment of that brigade, the 19 th , also joined Codrington’s attack so that he led forward five regiments rather than the three of his brigade (the 7 th , 19 th , 23 rd , 33 rd and 95 th ).
British Guards advancing at the Battle of the Alma on 20th September 1854 during the Crimean War: picture by Henri Dupray
The British infantry advanced to the river and began to cross, finding the water to be fordable at almost every point (it is not clear whether this fact had been discovered before the battle). The far side of the river comprised a steep six-foot bank which caused a halt in the advance, partly because of its physical obstruction and partly because it provided the troops with cover from the bombardment. The divisional commander of the Light Division, Sir George Brown, rode up the bank and urged his soldiers to follow. The division surged out of the river and scaled the hill beyond.
42nd Highlanders, the Black Watch, advancing behind Sir Colin Campbell at the Battle of the Alma on 20th September 1854 during the Crimean War
The ground on the hillside was terraced and walled, making it difficult for the regiments to reform after the river crossing and the British troops attacked up the hill in some disorder. The regiments reached the Russian Battery to find that the guns had been hastily limbered up and were being removed to the rear. It is the view of General Hamley, who served as an artillery officer in the Crimea, that the precipitous retreat of these guns saved the British infantry regiments from suffering appalling losses in the final stages of the assault, from discharges of case shot at short range.
Staff of the French commander-in-chief, Marshal Saint-Arnaud at the Battle of the Alma on 20th September 1854 during the Crimean War: picture by Orlando Norie
Even so Codrington’s brigade was in a precarious position. There was little order and casualties were mounting, particularly among the officers. Large masses of Russian infantry were bearing down on the battery. Many of the British soldiers fell back down the hill towards the river.
Raglan’s position on the lower slopes of Telegraph Hill prevented him from exercising proper control over the assault by his army. If matters had gone according to plan, the First Division would have been on hand to support Codrington’s troops. It was not. The Duke of Cambridge was slow in ordering his brigades of Guards and Highlanders to cross the Alma. Fortunately, the Quartermaster General, Lieutenant General Airey had not accompanied his commander and was on hand to urge Cambridge forward. Even so the First Division was too far back to support the Light Division at the moment of crisis.
79th Highlanders at the Battle of the Alma on 20th September 1854 during the Crimean War
The First Division moved forward to the River Alma with General Bentinck’s Guards Brigade on the right and Sir Colin Campbell’s Highland Brigade on the left. The two brigades were formed, in accordance with precedent, with the senior regiments on the right within each brigade, the next senior regiment on the left and the junior regiment in the centre: from right to left the Grenadier Guards, the Scots Fusilier Guards, the Coldstream Guards, 42 nd Highlanders, 91 st Highlanders and the 79 th Highlanders. The length of the line, substantially longer than that of the Light Division, extended beyond the Russian inland flank. Differences in the depth of the river and the height and steepness of the bank affected the speed with which these regiments were able to cross the river and begin the ascent of the hill.
British staff watching the advance of the Guards at the Battle of the Alma on 20th September 1854 during the Crimean War: picture by Orlando Norie
The adjutant of the Grenadiers, Captain Higginson, described in his memoirs how his commander, Colonel Hood, noted the confused advance of the Fusilier Brigade as it attacked the Russian Battery and determined to keep his battalion under strict control. The Grenadiers formed in line, before leaving the river and advanced up the hill firing two volleys at the Russian infantry on the hillside, causing them to retreat.
Grenadier Guards attack up the hill after crossing the river at the Battle of the Alma on 20th September 1854 during the Crimean War
At the top of the hill, the 7 th Royal Fusiliers, under the leadership of Lieutenant Colonel Lacey Yea, on the right flank of Codrington’s brigade, had not retreated. Much of the rest of the brigade was falling back and the Scots Fusilier Guards in the centre of Bentinck’s brigade was largely swept back down the hill to the river by the flood of men.
The other two Guards battalions, the Grenadiers and the Coldstream, continued on up the hill and retook the Russian Battery. The 42 nd Highlanders outstripping the other regiments of the Highland Brigade outflanked the Battery on the left the other two Highland regiments coming up on the far flank.
Colours of the Scots Fusilier Guards at the Battle of the Alma on 20th September 1854 during the Crimean War: picture by Lady Butler
During the attack on the Russian Battery on Kourgané Hill, the remaining regiments of the Second Division, the 55 th , 30 th and 47 th , attacked up Telegraph Hill, supported by the 41 st and 49 th .
British gun batteries crossed the bridge beyond Bourliouk and bombarded the Russian regiments on Telegraph Hill. A Royal Horse Artillery battery climbed up onto the hill and fired into the Russian infantry from the right of the Guards Brigade. Other British guns came up on the flanks of the regiments of the Second Division and fired into the retreating Russian regiments. In one instance a battery outstripped its gunners, following on foot, and the guns were brought into action by the officers.
The Third Division crossed the Alma in support of the Highland Brigade and the Light Brigade of cavalry moved forward on the inland flank.
Attack by the British infantry at the Battle of the Alma on 20th September 1854 during the Crimean War
Cleared from the Battery and under threat from the attacks on Kourgané and Telegraph Hills, now fully supported by artillery fire, the Russian infantry fell back and left the battlefield, marching away towards Sevastopol.
The only allied cavalry on the field, Cardigan’s Light Brigade, under the direct command of the Cavalry Division commander, Lord Lucan, pressed for permission to pursue the retreating Russians, but were specifically ordered by Lord Raglan to remain with the army.
Black Watch at the Battle of the Alma on 20th September 1854 during the Crimean War: picture by Orlando Norie
The allied armies camped beyond the battle field, while Menshikov led his army back along the post road to Sevastopol.
The French force took little part in the battle, although Bosquet’s division had contact with the Russians. Canrobert’s division in the centre made little use of its position to influence the attack on Kourgané Hill.
Casualties at the Battle of the Alma:
The Russians casualties were 5,709 killed, wounded and captured. The official French return claimed casualties of 1,340. The British belief is that this return was incorrect. Lord Raglan set French casualties at 560. 3 French officers were killed.
Scots Fusilier Guards on exercise in England in 1853: Battle of the Alma on 20th September 1854 during the Crimean War: picture by Orlando Norie
British casualties were set at 2,002 killed, wounded and missing.
British regimental casualties were:
Royal Artillery: 3 officers and 30 men.
Grenadier Guards: 3 officers and 127 men
Coldstream Guards: 2 offices and 27 men
Scots Fusilier Guards: 11 officers and 149 men
4 th King’s Own Royal Regiment: 2 officers and 11 men
19 th Regiment: 8 officers and 119 men
20 th Regiment: 1 man
23 rd Royal Welch Fusiliers: 13 officers and 197 men
30 th Regiment: 5 officers and 74 men
33 rd Regiment: 7 officers and 232 men
41 st Regiment: 27 men
42 nd Highlanders: 39 men
44 th Regiment: 8 men
47 th Regiment: 4 officers and 65 men
49 th Regiment: 15 men
55 th Regiment: 8 officers and 107 men
77 th Regiment: 20 men
79 th Highlanders: 9 men
88 th Regiment: 1 officer and 21 men
93 rd Highlanders: 1 officer and 51 men
95 th Regiment: 17 officers and 176 men
Rifle Brigade: 1 officer and 50 men
The ridge on the day after the Battle of the Alma on 20th September 1854 during the Crimean War
Follow-up to the Battle of the Alma:
Colours of the 79th Queen’s Own Cameron Highlanders: Battle of the Alma on 20th September 1854 during the Crimean War: picture by Michael Angelo Hayes
Raglan urged his French colleague, St Arnaud, that the allies should immediately follow the Russians into Sevastopol. St Arnaud refused to do so. It seems to be the authoritative view, particularly of the Russians, that if the allies had launched a prompt attack, they would have had little difficulty in taking the city. The delay enabled the Russians to recover from the defeat and put the city defences in proper order. This in turn condemned the allies to the winters of 1854/5 and 1855/6 in the siege of Sevastopol and to two further battles.
On the other hand, General Hamley, who served in the Crimea, states in his book that when the army did follow the Russians they found few signs of a disorderly retreat.
The battle revealed a number of stark failings in the British Army.
Lieutenant Lindsay of the Scots Fusilier Guards winning the Victoria Cross at the Battle of the Alma on 20th September 1854 during the Crimean War: picture by Harry Payne
There was no standard battle drill, each regiment’s conduct depending on the individual approach of the commanding officer. Some regiments felt it necessary to form line and advance methodically, while others rushed up to the Great Battery as quickly as they could, without forming up after crossing the Alma River.
There seems to have been little control at brigade or divisional level. There was no co-ordination between infantry and artillery, the guns being left to come up and open fire, as and where their officers thought best.
Due to his curious expedition behind the Russian lines, the commander in chief, Lord Raglan, lost control of his army. Hamley makes the comment: “It was fortunate in the circumstances, that the divisional commanders had so plain a task before them.” It is apparent that, however plain their tasks may have been, it was necessary for some control to be exercised. It fell to General Airey to take command of the assault, propelling the First Division into supporting the faltering Light Division attack.
Officer of the 79th Highlanders: the Battle of the Alma on 20th September 1854 during the Crimean War: print by Ackermann
Anecdotes and traditions from the Battle of the Alma:
- All the Crimean battles are potent symbols for the British Army with many actions of valour by soldiers and officers and starting stupidity by the higher ranks.
- Victorian accounts of the retreat of the Fusilier Brigade from the Russian Battery describe a bugle call to retire as being the cause. General Hamley, in his account of the battle, makes no mention of this bugle call. It may well be that the causes of the retreat were the disorder of the regiments, the heavy officer casualties, the imminence of an overwhelming Russian attack and the lack of support from the First Division.
- Because of the nature of the attack on the Russian Battery and the importance of maintaining momentum, the use of the regimental colours has achieved prominence in the history and traditions of the battle. Important pictures show the Colours of the Scots Fusilier Guards being carried into battle, Sergeant Luke O’Connor with the Queen’s Colour of the Royal Welch Fusiliers and the Colour Party of the Coldstream Guards. Higginson states that the Colours of the Grenadier Guards were not uncased until just before the assault on the Russian Battery. He says the Colours of the Scots Fusilier Guards were shot through while the Grenadier Colours were largely unscathed.
Sergeant Luke O’Connor of the 23rd Royal Welch Fusiliers winning the Victoria Cross at the Battle of the Alma on 20th September 1854 during the Crimean War: picture by Desanges
Scots Fusilier Guards cheering Queen Victoria at Buckingham Palace before leaving for the Crimea: the Battle of the Alma on 20th September 1854 during the Crimean War
Captain Bell and Private Syle winning VCs at the Battle of the Alma on 20th September 1854 during the Crimean War: picture by Harry Payne
British Crimean War Medal 1854 to 1856 with clasps for Alma, Balaclava and Sevastopol and a Turkish Decoration: the Battle of the Alma on 20th September 1854 during the Crimean War
References for the Battle of the Alma:
Sir John Fortescue’s History of the British Army
The War in the Crimea by General Sir Edward Hamley
The previous battle in the British Battles sequence is the Battle of Goojerat
The next battle in the Crimean War is the Battle of Balaclava
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The capture of the Royal Prince during the Four Days Battle - History
By David H. Lippman
“So this is the Eastern Fleet,” ran Vice Admiral Sir James Fownes Somerville’s signal. “Never mind. Many a good tune is played on an old fiddle.”
It was March 31, 1942, and good humor was almost Britain’s only defense against Japan’s seemingly inexorable advances in the Pacific Rim. Since Japan had attacked Pearl Harbor on December 7, 1941, her forces had overrun Hong Kong, Malaya, Singapore, the Dutch East Indies, and Burma. Now the Imperial Japanese Navy and Army were heating up for an assault on India, the jewel in the British imperial crown.
The Japanese had confounded Western observers and experts with their superb aircraft, offensive spirit, and coordinated tactics, which sent Britain’s most modern battleship, HMS Prince of Wales, to the bottom of the ocean three days into the war and captured Singapore after 70 days of victorious fighting. Now they beat upon the gates of India.
The Battle-Tested Japanese Fleet Against an Aging Royal Navy
Roaring up from an air raid that had destroyed the north Australian port city of Darwin was Vice Admiral Chuichi Nagumo’s First Air Fleet of five tough carriers, all veterans of Pearl Harbor—only the Kaga was missing, having suffered the indignity of grounding—with roughly 300 planes, four battleships, three cruisers, and 11 destroyers. The Nagumo task force was to stage a massive raid on the British Indian Ocean convoy routes, disrupt the flow of supplies in the Bay of Bengal, and neutralize the British Eastern Fleet. Nagumo was backed by Vice Admiral Jisaburo Ozawa’s separate task force, which consisted of the light carrier Ryujo, seven cruisers, and 11 destroyers, assigned to strike convoys in the area.
Nagumo’s task force was a veteran outfit, and its pilots had scored victories at Pearl Harbor, Wake, Darwin, and the Dutch East Indies. Against this the British had to send in a second-string team. On paper, the British Eastern Fleet was a tough outfit: three carriers, five battleships, seven cruisers, and 14 destroyers, based out of Ceylon. Closer inspection showed serious flaws in the fleet.
Of the three carriers, two were new—HMS Formidable and HMS Indomitable. Neither carrier was fully worked up and they were operating obsolete aircraft compared to the Japanese and their nimble Zero fighter. Between them, they had 45 Fairey Albacore torpedo bombers and 33 fighters, the latter consisting of 12 Grumman F4F Martlets (the export version of the American Wildcat), 12 Fairey Fulmars, and nine Hawker Sea Hurricanes.
The third carrier, HMS Hermes, was one of Britain’s oldest, completed in 1923, and could not keep up with the other two. She carried only 15 obsolete aircraft.
The World War I-era battleship HMS Resolution and the aircraft carrier HMS Formidable served with the British Eastern Fleet at various times during World War II.
Four of the five battleships were of the R class: Revenge, Ramillies, Royal Sovereign, and Resolution, all World War I veterans, were slow and weak compared to their Japanese opponents. The only British battleship that could match the Japanese was the modernized HMS Warspite, which had fought at Jutland. Not even the British cruisers were the equal of the Japanese—four of them had been laid down during World War I.
Air defense was another problem: the British had three squadrons of Hawker Hurricanes and three more of Fulmars to defend Ceylon. Both types were weaker than the Japanese Zero. The two-seat Fulmar was hopeless and the Hurricane outmaneuvered at low altitudes. The only bombers available were a squadron of Bristol Blenheims, but there were two detachments of long-range Consolidated PBY Catalina flying boats for reconnaissance work, one of them the Royal Canadian Air Force’s 413 Squadron.
The only British advantage was that their torpedo bomber squadrons had been trained in night attacks, but even there the British had problems. Their Fairey Swordfish torpedo bomber was a biplane that looked like a throwback to World War I.
Somerville’s Secret Port T
All these weaknesses landed on the desk of Vice Admiral Somerville, a veteran sea dog whose achievements included the pursuit and destruction of the German battleship Bismarck in 1941. With Britain unable to send out any ships to reinforce the patchwork and ancient Eastern Fleet, the best they could do was provide solid leadership in the form of Somerville.
Faced with outdated ships and an all-conquering enemy, Somerville chose to split this fleet into a fast division with the two modern carriers and Warspite and a slow division with the four old battleships and Hermes.
Somerville knew he could not win a “fire-away Flanagan” sea battle against the Japanese, so he hoped to hit the Japanese with his night bombers, crippling their ships, and mopping up the survivors by day. But his primary goal was to preserve his small and incoherent fleet. As long as his ships existed, the Japanese could not risk an amphibious assault on the coast of India.
So to conceal the Eastern Fleet, Somerville created a secret base at Addu Atoll in the Maldive Islands. Here, at the secret Port T—a “Scapa Flow with palm trees”—Somerville concealed his supplies and support vessels.
Next, Somerville’s intelligence services let him down. With no Japanese ships spotted by radio intercepts or prowling Catalinas, Somerville ordered his fast division to return to Addu Atoll to refuel and take on fresh water —the big ships were nearly out of water and the small ships nearly out of fuel. When the Japanese did not attack Ceylon on April 1, Somerville made the faulty assessment that no assault on the island was imminent.
He sent his slow ships to Ceylon for their turn at the fueling hoses. The heavy cruisers Dorsetshire and Cornwall were sent to Colombo, while the carrier Hermes and destroyer Vampire were sent to Trincomalee.
The dispersion of the ships turned out to be a mistake. The Japanese were coming. On April 4, Royal Canadian Air Force Squadron Leader L.J. Birchall sighted Nagumo’s fleet 360 miles southeast of Ceylon at 4 pm. As the radio operator tapped out the report, Birchall flew his Catalina into cloud cover to avoid Japanese Zero fighter patrols. His radio signals were picked up by the Japanese, who shot down Birchall’s plane and captured the crew. They were retrieved and beaten, then sent to a prison camp for the duration of the war, surviving it.
For spotting the Japanese fleet, Birchall was given the nickname “Savior of Ceylon.”
Japanese Raid on Colombo
Somerville was in a bad tactical position. The fast division (Force A) was refueling and the slow division (Force B) was scattered—Hermes at Ceylon with two cruisers, the battleships at Addu Atoll.
Worse, the sighting report did not describe the enemy force’s strength. But Somerville correctly guessed the intruders were Nagumo’s carriers coming up from south of Java and not a full-scale amphibious assault force.
At 7 am on April 5, the fully fueled Force A set sail from Addu Atoll, joined by Force B’s battleships. But being 600 miles from Ceylon, it had no chance of intercepting the Japanese.
Imperial Japanese Navy Captain Mitsuo Fuchida.
At Ceylon (now Sri Lanka), the British alerted their defenses. RAF Catalinas roared out to find the Japanese carriers. The Catalinas made contact with the enemy but were unable to report their strength. One Catalina was shot down, and the others were driven off. It was obvious the Japanese were out there with carriers, but precisely where the attack would come from remained a mystery to the British.
The mystery was solved at 8 am on Easter Sunday, April 5, when the Japanese struck Colombo, hoping to find the Royal Navy’s Eastern Fleet tied up in port like the Americans were at Pearl Harbor. Leading the Japanese attack was Commander Mitsuo Fuchida, who had also led the attack on Pearl Harbor. The Japanese sent in 91 planes: 70 dive bombers and 21 fighters.
However, the Japanese did not find the British fleet at anchor. Somerville had taken the precaution of dispersing the warships and merchant vessels gathered in Ceylon’s two main harbors of Colombo and Trincomalee. Apart from a few coasters and cargo carriers, the only ships to remain behind were the destroyer Tenedos, the armed merchant cruiser Hector, the depot ship Lucia, and the submarine Trusty. The latter was being floated out of dry dock to avoid presenting enemy dive bombers with a sitting target.
Ceylon’s defense lay in the hands of the Royal Artillery’s antiaircraft gunners and the small contingent of RAF and Fleet Air Arm Hurricane and Fulmar fighters.
The Japanese swarmed in on Ceylon, their 30 fighters easily defeating the British defenders. The British lost 15 Hurricanes and four Fulmars, while the Japanese lost seven fighters. The Japanese were surprised by the tenacity of the Hurricane, whose wooden frame could absorb armor-piercing bullets.
The Japanese bombers raked Colombo, but with so few ships in harbor little damage was done. The Tenedos and Hector were both sunk and the Lucia was damaged, and six Swordfish attempting to land at the main airbase were bounced and shot down. The explosions and fires were impressive, but the damage was minimal. The British had flown the coop.
Two Cruisers Discovered
On returning to the carrier Akagi, Fuchida stomped up to the flag bridge to report to Nagumo and urge that scout planes be launched to find the British ships that had fled the harbor. Nagumo did not need any prompting. He sent out search planes to find the missing ships.
Two of them had left already. The cruisers Dorsetshire and Cornwall, sisters of the British County class, had sailed from Colombo the previous evening at 10 pm, heading southwest at 23 knots. The senior officer was Dorsetshire’s Captain Augustus Agar, who held a Victoria Cross for torpedoing a Russian cruiser during the Royal Navy’s short-lived intervention against the Bolsheviks back in 1919. His orders were to rendezvous with Somerville’s Force A. After studying his orders and the big map in the chart room, Agar ordered his cruisers to crank up their speed to 26 knots, then to 28 when the Japanese were reported to be 150 miles east of his position.
At 11:30 am on the 5th, lookouts on Dorsetshire spotted a seaplane from the Japanese cruiser Tone hovering watchfully on the eastern horizon. Agar maintained radio silence until noon, then reported he was being shadowed. The message never got to Colombo or to Somerville.
The Japanese were less worried about radio silence. The Tone’s plane reported its find to Nagumo, and the Japanese admiral acted speedily. He sent 80 dive bombers under Pearl Harbor veteran Lt. Cmdr. Takashige Egusa after the British ships. The bombers were originally scheduled to make a second attack on Colombo, but Nagumo wanted those cruisers sunk.
“It Was Like Turning a hand, it Was So Easy.”
Egusa’s planes were picked up on Dorsetshire’s radar at 1 pm, and Agar radioed Somerville the news. Somerville’s big ships were only 70 miles away from Dorsetshire and Cornwall, but Agar’s message arrived on Somerville’s flagship, the Warspite, in mutilated form, and nearly an hour passed before its origin was established.
In the meantime, the Japanese swooped in on the two heavy cruisers. “They came diving at us out of the sun in waves of three,” Agar recalled. “The first made straight for Cornwall, scoring a hit aft … within seconds of being sighted. The next three came straight at us. We could see the bombs falling, black and shiny, blunt-nosed 1,000-pounders. I ordered the helm to be put over 25 degrees … but in spite of this the first one scored a hit near the catapult and started a fire. The next one fell close to the bridge, the blast throwing us to the deck … [and it] knocked out of action the main wireless office [which] stopped further reports getting through to the C-in-C.”
In minutes, Dorsetshire’s guns were out of action. A third bomb exploded in the cruiser’s magazine, and the warship began to sink by the stern. Within eight minutes of the attack commencing, HMS Dorsetshire sank, leaving behind life rafts, whalers, and wreckage. Agar was one of 500 men to escape, and he quickly organized the survivors so that everyone, including himself, took carefully regulated turns in the water so that their shipmates could enjoy rest periods in the boats.
A Mitsubishi A6M Zero fighter plane takes off from the deck of the Japanese aircraft carrier Akagi, part of the Japanese Naval force in the Indian Ocean.
Meanwhile, other bombers slammed down on Cornwall. For 20 minutes, the second cruiser fought back, until Captain P.C.W. Manwaring gave the order to abandon ship. Cornwall’s stern rose high into the air, and she slid to the bottom with her colors flying.
Fuchida’s assessment of the one-sided engagement was harsh: “The surface vessels did not have a chance against our striking force. It was like turning a hand, it was so easy.”
When Fuchida reported on the victory to Nagumo, the dour old admiral swelled with pride. But the surrounding surface line officers were discomfited, almost angry. They did not like the idea of the naval air arm being so powerful. The First Air Fleet had just sunk two powerful men-of-war in motion, not trapped and immobile like the ships in Pearl Harbor. The advocates of surface ship supremacy had no alibi left. Fuchida said, “Sea power had changed and a new era had begun. This was the victory of naval air power.”
For a day and a half, the survivors of both ships floated in the water until the light cruiser HMS Enterprise and the destroyers Paladin and Panther arrived to start picking them up. Out of 1,546 officers and crew from the two ships, some 1,122 officers and men were saved from the drink.
Somerville’s Game of Hide-and-Seek
Somerville knew he could not fight the Japanese in daylight, so he turned south to avoid the enemy. For the next few hours, Somerville played hide-and-seek with the Japanese, struggling to avoid their reconnaissance planes. He worried that the Japanese might learn the location of his secret base at Addu Atoll.
Actually, the Japanese had not. Nagumo was circling to the east of Ceylon, a clear 500 miles away, figuring out his next move.
Warspite and the carrier group hooked up with the R-class battleships at dawn on April 6, and Somerville approached Addu Atoll carefully, preparing for a night attack on the Japanese enemy he presumed was near his base. As the tactical situation clarified, it was clear Nagumo was nowhere near the secret base, and Somerville’s ships anchored there on April 8.
Meanwhile, the second Japanese sword, Ozawa’s raiding force of five heavy cruisers and the light carrier Ryujo, struck at British merchant shipping in the Bay of Bengal. Ozawa split his force into three groups at dusk on Easter Sunday and hurled them at merchant ships headed for Calcutta.
In 48 hours, Ozawa’s ships sank 20 merchantmen, including the 7,726-ton Dardanus, the 5,281-ton Gandera, and the 7,621-ton Autolycus. In all, Ozawa’s cruisers sank 93,000 tons of valuable British shipping between April 5 and 7. The effects of the two days were massive. Calcutta’s port was at a standstill for three weeks in the aftermath of the attack.
Somerville was helpless in the face of this awesome display of modern naval power—his ships were too far from the scene, Nagumo’s carriers were between him and Ozawa, and his ships were outmatched and outclassed by Nagumo’s carriers and battleships.
“Get Out of Danger at the Earliest Moment.”
It was a hopeless situation, and the best Somerville could do was bluff and preserve his dwindling fleet. He decided to send the four R-class battleships to Mombasa in Kenya to protect the vital shipping lanes off East Africa, while Warspite and the two fleet carriers would base themselves in Bombay, where they would be out of reach of Nagumo’s carriers but still capable of intervening southward. This meant the Royal Navy was abdicating control of the eastern Indian Ocean to the Japanese—a harsh choice for any veteran sailor.
But the Admiralty approved Somerville’s move, signaling that the battle fleet must “get out of danger at the earliest moment.”
Within 24 hours of Somerville’s decision, Nagumo struck again, having refueled at sea from his tankers. His new target was Ceylon’s other port, Trincomalee. Nagumo sent in 91 bombers and 38 fighters, led by Fuchida himself, to attack the port.
Once again the British Catalinas reported the incoming airstrike, and the British had time to scatter shipping in the harbor and prepare for attack. Some 17 RAF Hurricanes and six Fleet Air Arm Fulmars attacked and soon found themselves overwhelmed by the 38 more nimble Zero fighters. Eight of the Hurricanes and one Fulmar were shot down, and the Japanese swooped in efficiently.
In a welter of explosions and screeching dive bombers, the Japanese scored hits on the British harbor buildings and other shore installations. They also hit the monitor Erebus and the merchant ship Sagaing, 7,958 tons.
The RAF tried a counterattack. The last nine Blenheim bombers of No. 11 Squadron roared off to hit Nagumo’s ships, but they stood no chance against the Japanese Zero fighters and only four returned to base, all damaged.
While Fuchida’s planes formed back up over Trincomalee and returned to their carriers, at 7:55 am a floatplane from the battleship Haruna spotted the biggest prize of the raid, the carrier Hermes and her escort, the Australian destroyer HMAS Vampire, some 65 miles to the south, about five miles offshore, returning to Trincomalee and fighter protection. Along with them was the hospital ship Vita, heading south.
Nagumo’s Second Wave
Though Fuchida’s strike was heading home with all its ordnance expended, Nagumo had a second wave readying on his flight decks for an attack on Trincomalee. Now Nagumo changed the plan. Instead of making a second attack on Ceylon, Commander Egusa’s 85 dive bombers and nine fighters would hammer the British carrier. The planes launched at 9:45 am.
At 10:35 am, Egusa’s bombers arrived over the Hermes. They ignored the clearly marked hospital ship and swooped down on the carrier. It had been intended to provide the carrier with fighter cover—she had only Swordfish and Albacore torpedo bombers embarked—but a communications failure meant that the orders did not arrive at RAF Ratmalana in sufficient time to scramble the few fighters available.
The Japanese battleship Haruna is photographed underway at sea. One of the battleship’s floatplanes actually spotted the British aircraft carrier Hermes in the Indian Ocean, initiating the air attack that led to the carrier’s sinking.
The attack was almost a massacre. The first wave of bombers scored hits on Hermes, and within minutes she was struck by more than 40 bombs. She sank 20 minutes later, and one of her antiaircraft guns was still firing defiantly as she rolled over and vanished beneath the surface. Her skipper, Captain Richard Onslow, went down with the ship along with 18 officers and 288 men.
Meanwhile, 16 Japanese dive bombers pounded the equally hapless Vampire. Two near-misses shook the ship badly, and then she was stopped by a direct hit in the boiler room. Four hits followed in quick succession, and Commander W.T.A. Moran, Vampire’s captain, ordered the crew to abandon ship. Floats and rafts were launched when another hit broke the ship’s back. The Japanese estimated 13 direct hits on Vampire with 16 bombs.
Vampire’s bow sank quickly, and the stern, which floated for some time, followed at 11:20 am after a heavy explosion, most likely from the magazine. Commander Moran, last seen standing on his destroyer’s bridge, went down with Vampire along with seven ratings: Chief Stoker R.E. Lord, Stoker Petty Officer J.V.A. Carey, Petty Officer R.A.H. McDonald, Stoker Petty Officer L.A. Gyss, Stoker G.H. Williams, Stoker J.H. Hill, and Signalman A.S. Shaw, Royal Navy.
Fuchida Leads the Zeros’ Pursuit
Meanwhile, Fuchida’s group was quickly recovered and turned around to join Egusa’s group. Maintenance crews loaded Fuchida’s level bombers with torpedoes. Leaving his torpedo bombers behind on the carriers, Fuchida led a group of Zeros in pursuit of Egusa in case he needed help coping with any fighters.
When Fuchida arrived, Hermes was already sinking. He noticed Lieutenant Shokei Yamada, who led the Akagi’s dive bombers, gesticulating urgently, so Fuchida flew alongside his plane. Yamada pointed at his nose, then downward, and smiled. Fuchida followed the finger and found the Vampire sinking. Fuchida understood. Yamada had his heart set on bombing the carrier, and rather than waste his bomb, had dropped it on the destroyer instead.
The two warships accounted for four enemy aircraft in the attack, but it was a hopeless situation. Fortunately for all in the water, the hospital ship Vita was standing by and she moved in to start picking up survivors. Vita herself accounted for 590 survivors, while others were picked up by local craft or, incredibly, swam five miles to shore.
With Hermes and Vampire sunk quickly, other Japanese planes in the strike package hunted the nearby area for other targets. They found the tanker British Sergeant some 15 miles to the north. Six dive bombers left her sinking, and she foundered off Elephant Point, where her crew landed in boats.
Nine other Japanese dive bombers found the corvette Hollyhock escorting the merchant ship Athelstone 30 miles south of Batticaloa Light. The Japanese jumped both ships and sank them quickly. All of Athelstone’s crew survived, but 53 of Hollyhock’s, including the commanding officer, did not.
The Japanese had one more small punch to throw at the British. The carrier Ryujo launched airstrikes on Vizagatapan and Cocanada in India, which did little physical damage but frightened the Indian command, setting off an invasion scare that took months to die down.
“He Who Controls the Air Controls the Sea- and the World”
With that, the Indian Ocean raid was over. It had been a massive victory for the Japanese, and Fuchida himself saw it as a great victory for air power. “He who controls the air controls the sea—and the world,” he wrote later. “Conventional navy vessels do not have a chance against air power. It is sad to see them sink so helplessly.”
At the same time, Fuchida was saddened to see the vaunted Royal Navy collapsing so easily before him. “This is the end of the British Empire and British sea power,” he mused. “What a pity—an era of world history lay dying before my eyes.”
As soon as Fuchida’s planes landed on their carriers’ decks, Nagumo turned his vast task force home to Japan to prepare for the next operations—the attacks on the Coral Sea and Midway. Nagumo decided to retire for four reasons: he had exterminated the greater part of the British surface power in the Bay of Bengal half the British air strength in Ceylon was destroyed India could not be regarded as a dangerous source of attack in the absence of heavy bombing squadrons there and the British were showing no inclination to fight.
After sustaining more than 40 direct hits from Japanese bombs, the British aircraft carrier Hermes burns furiously. Her forward elevator has been blown out of its well, and smoke billows from deep inside the ship. The carrier sank in 20 minutes with the loss of 18 officers and 288 sailors.
Back in London, Prime Minister Winston Churchill had no choice but to support his admiral in the face of Parliamentary criticism. On April 13, Churchill told the House of Commons, “Without giving the enemy useful information, I cannot make any statement about the strength of the forces at Admiral Somerville’s disposal, or of the reasons which led him to make the dispositions of his fleet for which he was responsible. Nothing in these dispositions, or the consequences which followed upon them, have in any way weakened the confidence of the Admiralty in his judgment.”
Privately, Churchill was angry and complained to the Admiralty, “No satisfactory explanation has ever been given by the officer concerned [Somerville] of the imprudent dispersion of his forces in the early days of April.”
Somerville, typically, took the responsibility. He blamed the British losses on a “wrong appreciation on my part,” namely that he had concluded wrongly that the Colombo raid had been postponed or canceled and that he had underestimated the sheer size of the attack Nagumo was about to launch.
A Flawed and Pointless Victory
It all looked glorious to the Japanese propaganda machine. For a mere 47 planes the Japanese had sunk two heavy cruisers, a carrier, a destroyer, and a corvette and punched out nearly 93,000 tons of merchant shipping. But the victory was a flawed and pointless one.
Certainly the Japanese had again demonstrated that a navy that lacked air cover was helpless against enemy airpower. But that point had been demonstrated at Pearl Harbor, and at the sinkings of the Bismarck in the Atlantic and the Prince of Wales and Repulse off Malaya. The British had tried to avoid such a one-sided clash and for the most part had succeeded. Despite Nagumo’s best efforts, the British Eastern Fleet was still intact and still in business.
The Eastern Fleet proved it was still capable on May 5, when its ships supported the invasion of Vichy French Madagascar, the first successful Allied invasion of the war.
But the Eastern Fleet still had a long way to go. It needed more modern ships, better coordination with ground-based aviation, and more aircraft.
The Japanese never returned to the Indian Ocean to follow up on their success and never challenged the Eastern Fleet again. Despite the victory, the Japanese could not mount an amphibious end run around the British defenses in Burma, let alone an amphibious assault on India’s shores.
Nor were the Japanese raids on the British bases at Trincomalee and Colombo particularly successful. Despite their best efforts, the British continued to use the bases.
Most important, the Japanese Indian Ocean raid took their big carriers and their highly trained pilots away from their primary target, the U.S. Navy. While Nagumo’s ships raided the Indian Ocean, the Americans had time to rebuild from Pearl Harbor and buttress their strength for the next rounds. By the time the Japanese returned to the Pacific, they would have only two carriers available for the Coral Sea operation, which ended badly for Japan. The time spent in the Indian Ocean could have been used more profitably in the Pacific.
In the end, Nagumo’s raid on the Indian Ocean used a hammer to crack an eggshell. The British losses were embarrassing and humiliating, but minor in the long run—two cruisers and an old aircraft carrier—and the British knew they needed a more powerful, faster, and well-balanced fleet to take on the Japanese.
Once again Nagumo’s task force had swatted down the emperor’s enemies without suffering a scratch of paint on its warships’ hides. The 47 planes lost were a pittance. The easy victory added to Japan’s arrogance, which would be brought down in a welter of destruction two months hence, at Coral Sea and Midway.
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1 /5 A timeline of Prince Philip’s life from 1921 to 2021
A timeline of Prince Philip’s life from 1921 to 2021
Queen Elizabeth II and the Duke of Edinburgh holding Prince Charles and Princess Anne, 1952
Universal History Archive/Shutterstock
A timeline of Prince Philip’s life from 1921 to 2021
Prince Philip (second left) taking archery lessons at the MacJannet American school in St Cloud
A timeline of Prince Philip’s life from 1921 to 2021
Princess Elizabeth and the Duke of Edinburgh with their eight bridesmaids in the Throne Room at Buckingham Palace on their wedding day
Prince Philip Laid to Rest in Royal Funeral Without Precedent
LONDON—The British royal family Saturday bade farewell to Prince Philip, the country’s longest-serving royal consort, during a ceremony adapted to conform to Covid-19 social-distancing rules but that remained rich in symbolism that spoke to the prince’s devotion to the queen and his deep attachment to the British military.
A masked Queen Elizabeth sat alone, surrounded by empty seats in St. George’s chapel at Windsor Castle, and watched as her husband of over 73 years was lowered into the royal vault in a funeral without precedent in the monarchy’s long history.
Due to the pandemic, only 30 members of Prince Philip’s family, including three of his relatives from German nobility, were allowed to attend the service in person. The mourners outside the castle walls were urged not to congregate in the April spring sunshine. Instead, the country was invited to tune in on television to commemorate a prince born in Greece but who dedicated his life to furthering the British monarchy.
Professional soccer and cricket matches were rescheduled around the funeral. At 3 p.m. cannon fire signaled a nationwide minute’s silence held to remember Prince Philip’s life.
Born a prince of Greece and Denmark on the island of Corfu in 1921, he served with distinction in the Royal Navy during World War II and then married the queen—then still Princess Elizabeth. He had been by her side since she became queen in 1952. He died on April 9, at age 99.
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In June, 1494, as Christopher Columbus was exploring the western Caribbean in the hope of finding an Asian passage, chaos broke out at Isabela on Espanola as three additional ships arrived from Spain. Relations between the indigenous Taino and the settlers were boiling over and a group loyal to Captain Pere Margarit became so disciplined and unruly that they boarded one of the three newly arrived ships under the command of Columbus's brother Bartholomew and immediately set sail for Spain.
On June 1, 1521, Conquistador Hernan Cortés' brigantine fleet, constructed on the coast by master shipwright Martin Lopez, dismantled, carried over land by thousands of indigenous retainers and reconstructed on Lake Tenochtitlan, launched against a large contingent of Aztec war canoes on Lake Tenochtitlan. Averaging about 50 feet with some as long as 65 feet, these single and double masted flat bottomed ships were designed to carry up to 30 soldiers armed with an iron cannon and crossbows, the Aztecs were no match for the Spanish as Cortés and his Spaniards easily plowed through the indigenous defense though Cortés experienced a brief boarding of his flagship, rescued by his shipwright Lopez. Following his rescue, he pushed into the Ixtapalpa causeway near Tenochtitlan. It would take nearly two months for Cortés to push beyond the causeway at the cost of thousands of indigenous allies and hundreds of Spaniards to eventually plant the Spanish flag atop the highest pyramid in Tenochtitlan.
In June, 1525, as Conquistador Francisco Pizarro convalesced at Cochambra in the Pearl Islands after having suffered serious wounds from an indigenous battle at Puerto Quemado, Pizarro's second in command Diego de Almagro returned to Panama City to report their encounter. Pizarro, having reached present day Candelaria, Peru in a ship and two large canoes along the southern coast of the Pacific from Panama City with 110 men and some horses and second in command Diego de Almagro aboard a later expedition after having encamped on the coast at the mouth of the Biru River to await resupply by Captain Montenegro from the Pearl Islands, had careened a vessel at Puerto Quemado. Pizarro had led an expedition of 60 men inland where the encountered fierce resistance from indigenous forces who killed 16 Spaniards. Pizarro was wounded numerous times with his wounds cauterized with boiling oil, forcing the expedition to retreat back to Chochama in the Pearl. Almagro's expedition didn't make contact with Pizarro fleeing north, likewise encountering the same hostile indigenous force shortly thereafter, during which Almagro lost an eye but his forces instead pressed south to the mouth of the San Juan River where he, too, reversed course and joined the convalescing Pizarro at Chochama before reporting his findings to Governor Davila who promoted him to Co-Captain of the expedition and ordered him to return to the Pearl Islands with 110 men to face the Piru (a misspelling of Biru).
In early June, 1527, Conquistador Francisco Pizarro and his Co-Captain Diego de Almagro along with pilot Batholome Ruiz, having established a base on Gallo Island off the Ecuadorian coast after having to flee the mainland when confronted by an overwhelming indigenous force, dispatched Almagro back to Panama to seek reinforcements to launch a large land campaign.
In 1579, the Union of Utrecht was promulgated initially with Netherlands provinces of Holland, Zeeland and Utrecht later joined by Gelderland and Friesland and the free cities Ghent, Bruges, Antwerp, and Ypres as a rejection of the Spanish Monarchy. Primarily Catholic, Netherlands remained loyal to Spain and the other provinces in the Union supported one another and the union maintained ancient rights and privileges, including religious freedom. The success of the rebellious movement must, in large measure, be attributed to the actions of the vehemently anti-catholic Watergeuzen, aka sea-beggars, the pirate collective, and to the return of the protestant exiles, who collectively formed the hard core of the resistance (to the bitter end) against the tyranny of the Duke of Alva. The majority of the Holland regents were not only able to maintain themselves in office but they were also able to strengthen their position of power in the county considerably, especially after they had succeeded, with the assistance of the prince of Orange, in bringing the recalcitrant sea-beggars within the legitimate provincial jurisdiction.
On June 1, 1586, it was reported that Ralph Lane, who had settled Roanoke Island with 106 men of military and construction backgrounds the prior September, "were at open war with the Indians." After nearly 10 months in the "New World," Lane's men met the king of the Chowanoac Indian tribe, Menatonon, and took him prisoner, reportedly for three days, before releasing him. Shortly after, members of Lane's group, possibly he himself, killed another Indian, Wingina, according to historical documentation, as the colonists believed Wingina was plotting to destroy the white men. Feeling pressure of retaliation, Lane asked Sir Francis Drake, who had arrived at Sir Walter Raleigh's colony at Roanoke with additional supplies and people- including African slaves- after carrying out a series of deadly assaults against Spanish New World colonies, for a ship in which the Roanoke colonists might return to England. Drake was willing to offer enough supplies and ships for the colonists to last another month to prepare for their return to England. Ten days after Drake's arrival and shortly after Lane accepted Drake's offer, Lane wrote, "There arose such an unwonted storm . this storm having continued from the 13 to the 16 of the month, and thus my bark put away as aforesaid, the general coming ashore made a new proffer unto me which was a ship of 170 tons." Records show the ship was the bark Bonner.
In June, 1665, Louis XIV of France appointed Buccaneer Bertrand d'Ogeron as Royal Governor of Tortuga and Saint Dominigue. D'Ogeron had led the life of a buccaneer on the north-west coast of Santo Domingo , at Petit-Goave, and as a tobacco planter at Leogane and Port-Margot. His efforts contributed to the settlement of Santo Domingo, which then did not have a governor, ensuring the transport of hundreds of indentured servants (called 36 months, the duration of their contract), from Nantes and La Rochelle, to Port Margot first and then Tortuga. He worked to organize the colony, giving commissions to pirates to attack the Spaniards. But when he launched the colonization of Cap-Français, he unleashed a revolt by the buccaneers against him.
On June 1, 1666, the Four Days Battle began, one of the longest, largest, and bloodiest naval engagements in history, taking place during the Second Anglo-Dutch War. Among the combatants was Sir Christopher Myngs (pictured below on the left), a British Privateer who had just returned from successful raids against Spanish objectives in the Caribbean including the Battle of Campeche. Though fighting with distinction throughout the war, Myngs was shot in the cheek and shoulders and succumbed to his wounds days later.
In June, 1678, French pirate Michel de Grammont, “Le Chevalier" (pictured below on the right) captured San Carlos fortification which guarded the entrance of the Lake of Maracaibo.
In June, 1704, pirate John Quelch was tried for piracy in Massachusetts. Eleven months prior, Governor Joseph Dudley of Boston sent out Captain Daniel Plowman of the Charles with a Privateering license to attack French and Spanish ships off the coast of Newfoundland and Arcadia. John Quelch was Plowman's lieutenant. Before leaving Marblehead, Massachusetts, the Charles's crew under Quartermaster Anthony Holding mutinied and locked the ailing Plowman in his cabin. The crew elected Quelch the captain, who turned the Charles south. Plowman was thrown overboard, although it was never established whether he was dead or alive at that moment. The crew plundered nine Portuguese ships off the coast of Brazil and gained a large sum of money, even though England and Portugal were at peace at the time. When the Charles returned to Marblehead 10 months later, the crewmen scattered with their plunder. Some of the crew sailed with pirate and former privateer Thomas Larimore, who was also captured shortly afterward. Within a week, Quelch was in jail, because the Portuguese were not in his letter of marque and more importantly, Queen Anne and the King of Portugal had just became allies. He and others of his crew were taken to Boston to be tried. Three of the crew turned Queen's evidence and escaped severe prosecution while Quelch and six others from his crew were hanged June 30. This was the first admiralty trial outside England. It was called by one historian "the first case of judicial murder in America."
In June, 1718, Captain Edward Thatch, aka Blackbeard, fresh off of his blockade of Charles Town and saddled with more men and ships than he wanted or needed, intentionally ran his flagship Anne's Revenge aground at Beaufort Inlet. Convincing Stede Bonnet to take a small crew to Bath Town to petition Governor Charles Eden for the pardon, he and a hand selected party of compatriots seized control over the masses and put them ashore and the remainder of Bonnet's men on a sand bar a few miles away, transferred the valuables from the Queen Anne's Revenge into the much smaller revenge, and sailed away before Bonnet returned to discover his betrayal and the marooning of his men, upon which he swore revenge.
On June 1, 1813, the HMS Shannon defeated the USS Chesapeake at the Battle of Boston Harbor. The Chesapeake was captured in a brief but intense action in which over 80 men were killed. This was the only frigate action of the war in which there was no preponderance of force on either side. Captain James Lawrence was fatally wounded. His dying command, "Don't give up the ship!" was immortalized in American military lore.
In June, 1926, the League of Nation’s Committee of Experts for the Progressive Codification of International Law published its Draft Provisions for the Suppression of Piracy.
On June 1, 2010, USS San Jacinto (CG 56) sent a boarding team with U.S. Coast Guard Law Enforcement Detachment and San Jacinto Sailors to search a pirate skiff with nine pirates aboard, which had failed to comply with Proud Warrior 433's order to stop the prior day. The boarding team quickly took control of the vessel and searched the skiff and pirates, who had previously thrown their weapons, ammunition, and pirate paraphernalia overboard. The pirates were released in the skiff after the boarding team confiscated one engine and several gallons of fuel, ensuring they could reach shore while limiting their ability to continue piracy attempts.
On June 1, 2014, the hijacked Thai-flagged oil tanker MT Orapin 4, which had been captured by armed pirates five days earlier near Bintan Island, suffered severe damage to its communications systems aboard the ship, had all it cargo stolen but the vessel itself was left without harming the crew, was found by the Royal Thai Navy in Chon Buri province and safely returned to Sriracha port.
On June 1, 2017, suspected pirates in a skiff attacked a Marshall Islands-flagged oil tanker, MT NAVIG8 Providence, in the Gulf of Oman. driven off by the ship's security, the European Naval Force said. "There was an exchange of small arms fire between the suspected pirates and the maritime security team on board the tanker," the maritime force, known as EU NAVFOR, said in a statement. The guards aboard the tanker reported seeing a ladder in the skiff. EU NAVFOR said anti-piracy forces in the area were jointly responding to the attack by searching for the skiff.
And, since we make our home at the precipice of the Graveyard of the Atlantic, here are this day's list of shipwrecks of the Outer Banks:
June 1718 — Queen Anne's Revenge, frigate, pirate ship/privateer belonging to Blackbeard, ran aground in Beaufort Inlet
June 1837 — Aurora, schooner, lost off Ocracoke
June 1851 — Jane, schooner, lost off Hatteras
June 1868 — Istria, bark, lost off Diamond Shoals 23 killed
June 1, 1921 — Laura A. Barnes, schooner, sank near Bodie Island
Welcome to British Battles (britishbattles.com).
Welcome to Britishbattles.com the site that gives you the battles fought by Britain and its Empire forces, illustrated and mapped.
Click on the battle you wish to view in the left margin list. The battles are listed chronologically by war.
Our most recently posted battles are:
Battle of Maida
General Stuart’s victory over the French army of General Reynier in Southern Italy on 4 th July 1806 during the Napoleonic Wars
Battle of Maida on 4th July 1806 in the Napoleonic Wars: picture by J.J. Jenkins
Battle of Alexandria
The British victory in Egypt, 8 th to 21 st March 1801, over Napoleon Buonaparte’s vaunted veterans of the Army of Italy
42nd Highlanders rescuing General Sir Ralph Abercromby at the Battle-of Alexandria on 21st March 1801 in the French Revolutionary War
73. Podcast on the Battle of Alexandria: the British victory in Egypt, fought between 8 th and 21 st March 1801 during the French Revolutionary War, over Napoleon Buonaparte’s vaunted veterans of the Army of Italy: John Mackenzie’s britishbattles.com podcasts
72. Podcast on the Battle of Flodden:the defeat on 9th September 1513 at the hands of the English that annihilated a generation of Scottish aristocracy including the Scots king, King James IV: John Mackenzie’s britishbattles.com podcasts
71.Podcast on the Siege of Ladysmith: The siege in Natal during the Boer War that ensnared a British army from 2 nd November 1899 to 27 th February1900, but blocked the Boer invasion of the colony: John Mackenzie’s britishbattles.com podcasts
70.Podcast on the Siege of Kimberley: the diamond-mining town in the north of Cape Colony in Southern Africa, between 14 th October 1899 and 15 th February 1900 in the Boer War, whose relief dominated the strategy of the western British forces: John Mackenzie’s britishbattles.com podcasts
69. Podcast on the Siege of Mafeking from 14 th October 1899 to 16 th May 1900 in the Boer War: the siege of the railway town on the border between Bechuanaland and the Transvaal that fired British imagination with its resourceful defence by Robert Baden-Powell, founder of the Scout Movement: John Mackenzie’s britishbattles.com podcasts
68. Podcast on the Battle of Paardeberg: the close fought battle in the Boer War between 18 th and 27 th February 1900 that ended with the surrender of Cronje’s Boer army to the British: John Mackenzie’s britishbattles.com podcasts: John Mackenzie’s britishbattles.com podcasts
67.Podcast on the Battles of Val Krantz and Pietersfought between 5 th and 28 th February 1900 in the Boer War: The third unsuccessful attempt by Buller to push across the Tugela River followed by the fourth, final and successful crossing of the Tugela, leading to the relief of Ladysmith: John Mackenzie’s britishbattles.com podcasts
66. Podcast on the Battle of Spion Kop fought on 24 th January 1900 in the Boer War: the iconic British defeat, during Buller’s second and disastrous attempt to cross the Tugela River and relieve Ladysmith: John Mackenzie’s britishbattles.com podcasts
65. Podcast on the Battle of Colenso: fought on 15 th December 1899 in the Boer War: Buller’s disastrous first attempt to cross the Tugela River in Natal and relieve Ladysmith, the last of the three battles of ‘Black Week’: John Mackenzie’s britishbattles.com podcasts
64 .Podcast on the Battle of Magersfontein: Lord Methuen’s disastrous defeat at the hands of Cronje’s Boers on 11th December 1899 in the Boer War the Highland Brigade suffering severe loss: the second battle of ‘Black Week’: John Mackenzie’s britishbattles.com podcasts
63. Podcast on the Battle of Stormberg: General Gatacre’s disastrous defeat in Northern Cape Colony, fought on 9th/10th December 1899 in the Boer War the first battle of ‘Black Week’:John Mackenzie’s britishbattles.com podcasts
62. Podcast of the Battle of Modder River fought on 28 th November 1899 in the Boer War as Lord Methuen’s British force advanced to relieve Kimberley: John Mackenzie’s britishbattles.com podcasts
61. Podcast on the Battle of Graspan (also known as Enslin) fought on 25 th November 1899 in the Great Boer War leading to the British advance to the disastrous battles of Modder River and Magersfontein: John Mackenzie’s britishbattles.com podcasts
60. Podcast on the Battle of Belmont fought on 23 rd November 1899 in the Boer War, beginning the British advance to relieve Kimberley, besieged by the Boers: John Mackenzie’s britishbattles.com podcasts
59.Podcast on the Battle of Ladysmith fought on 29 th October 1899 in the Boer War, also known as Lombard’s Kop and Nicholson’s Nek, the first defeat for the British in the war, leading to the Siege of Ladysmith: John Mackenzie’s britishbattles.com podcasts
58. Podcast on the Battle of Elandslaagtefought on 21 st October 1899 in the Great Boer War with the devastating charge by the British 5 th Dragoon Guards and 5 th Lancers:John Mackenzie’s britishbattles.com podcasts
57. Podcast on the Battle of Talana Hill: the first battle of the Great Boer War, also known as the Battle of Dundee, fought in Northern Natal on 20 th October 1899:John Mackenzie’s britishbattles.com podcasts
56.Podcast on the Battle of Ulundi: the final battle of the Zulu War, fought on 4 th July 1879 Lord Chelmsford’s troops destroying the army of the Zulu King Cetshwayo: John Mackenzie’s britishbattles.com podcasts
55.Podcast on the Battle of Gingindlovu: fought on 2 nd April 1879 in the Zulu War, Lord Chelmsford defeating a Zulu army on his route to Ulundi:John Mackenzie’s britishbattles.com podcasts
54.Podcast on the Battle of Khambulaon 29 th March 1879 in the Zulu War: the defeat by Colonel Evelyn Wood VC of a Zulu army in the opening stages of the war: John Mackenzie’s britishbattles.com podcasts
53.Podcast on the Battle of Rorke’s Drift in the Zulu War: the iconic defence on 22 nd January 1879 of the mission station in Natal by a small force of British and colonial troops winning a record number of Victoria Crosses and inspiring Victorian Britain: John Mackenzie’s britishbattles.com podcasts
52.Podcast on the Battle of Isandlwanafought on 22 nd January 1879 in the Zulu War where the Zulus wiped out a substantial British force rocking British Victorian society:John Mackenzie’s britishbattles.com podcasts
51.Podcast on the Sortie from Bayonne: the terrible night-time clash outside Bayonne on 14 th April 1814, that marked the end of the Peninsular War, but occurred after the abdication of the Emperor Napoleon on 4 th April 1814: John Mackenzie’s britishbattles.com podcasts
50. Podcast on the Battle of Toulouse fought on 10 th April 1814 by Wellington against Marshal Soult outside the French City of Toulouse in Southern France the last battle fought by Wellington in the Peninsular War: John Mackenzie’s britishbattles.com podcasts
49. Podcast on the Battle of Tarbes: fought by Wellington against Marshal Soult on 20 th March 1814 in Southern France during the Peninsular War where the three Battalions of the 95 th Rifles distinguished themselves:John Mackenzie’s britishbattles.com podcasts
48. Podcast on the Battle of Orthez: fought on 2nd February 1814 during the Peninsular War in the south-west of France with Wellington pushing Marshal Soult’s Army of the Pyrenees back across the River Adour: John Mackenzie’s britishbattles.com podcasts
47. Podcast on the Battle of St Pierre: fought on 13 th December 1813 in the Peninsular War, the last day of the crossing of the River Nive by Wellington’s army described as some of the fiercest fighting of the war: John Mackenzie’s britishbattles.com podcasts
46. Podcast on the Battle of the Nive: fought between 9 th and 13 th December 1813 in the Peninsular War with Wellington’s army crossing the River Nive and moving further into France a battle with some of the fiercest fighting of the Peninsular War: John Mackenzie’s britishbattles.com podcasts
45. Podcast on the Battle of the Nivelle: fought on 10 th November 1813, during the Peninsular War Wellington’s army crossing the River Nivelle and moving from the Pyrenees Mountains into the plains of France: John Mackenzie’s britishbattles.com podcasts
44. Podcast on the Battle of the Bidassoa: fought on 7 th October 1813 during the Peninsular War with Wellington’s army crossing the River Bidassoa into France:John Mackenzie’s britishbattles.com podcasts
43. Podcast on the Battle of San Marcial: fought on 31 st August and 1 st September 1813 along the French border, during the Peninsular War with Spanish troops decisively repelling the French attack: John Mackenzie’s britishbattles.com podcasts
42. Podcast on the Battle of the Pyrenees: the battles fought between 25 th July and 2 nd August 1813 in the western Pyrenees Mountains, during the Peninsular War Wellington decisively repelling Marshal Soult’s incursion across the border to relieve the French garrisons in Pamplona and San Sebastian: John Mackenzie’s britishbattles.com podcasts
41. Podcast on the Storming of San Sebastian: the hard-fought struggle to capture the city port on the north-east coast of Spain near the French border between 11 th July and 9 th September 1813 in the Peninsular War: John Mackenzie’s britishbattles.com podcasts
40. Podcast on the Battle of San Millan and Osma:the clash in the mountains of Northern Spain on 18 th June 1813 between the van of Wellington’s advancing army and General Reille’s French ‘Army of Portugal’, as it withdrew to Vitoria: John Mackenzie’s britishbattles.com podcasts
39. Podcast on the Battle of Morales de Toro: The successful cavalry action fought by the British Hussar Brigade against the French 16 th and 21 st Dragoons on 1 st June 1813 in the Peninsular War: John Mackenzie’s britishbattles.com podcasts
38. Podcast on the Retreat from Burgos:Wellington’s retreat to Ciudad Rodrigo following the unsuccessful attack on Burgos in the Autumn of 1812 in the Peninsular War: John Mackenzie’s britishbattles.com podcasts
37. Podcast on the Attack on Burgos between 19 th September and 25 th October 1812 in the Peninsular War: Wellington’s unsuccessful assault on the Spanish City following the Battle of Salamanca: John Mackenzie’s britishbattles.com podcasts
36. Podcast on the Battle of Majadahonda: the engagement on 11 th August 1812 in the Peninsular War between Wellington’s advanced guard and Joseph Buonaparte’s cavalry rear-guard: John Mackenzie’s britishbattles.com podcasts
35. Podcast on the Battle of Garcia Hernandez fought on 23 rd July 1812 in the Peninsular War, the second day of the Battle of Salamanca, when King’s German Legion Dragoons overwhelmed French infantry squares during the French retreat: John Mackenzie’s britishbattles.com podcasts
34. Podcast on the Capture of Havana: The capture of the Spanish port of Havana on the island of Cuba on 14 th August 1762 in the Seven Years War by the Royal Navy and the British Army in a notably successful combined operation: John Mackenzie’s britishbattles.com podcasts
33. Podcast on the Battle of Laswaree: The triumph of British and Bengal light cavalry in General Lake’s defeat of the Gwalior Mahrattas on 1 st November 1803, after capturing Delhi, the future capital city of British-ruled India: John Mackenzie’s britishbattles.com podcasts
Capture of Havana in 1762
The capture of the Spanish port of Havana on the island of Cuba on 14 th August 1762 in the Seven Year War by the Royal Navy and the British Army, a notably successful combined operation
Royal Navy Bombardment of El Morro Castle on 1st July 1762 during the Capture of Havana in 1762: a British picture
32. Podcast on the Storming of Siringapatam: The capture on 4 th May 1799 of Tipu Sultan’s palace fortress: A key battle in the conquest of South India by the British: John Mackenzie’s britishbattles.com podcasts
31. Podcast on the Battle of Almaraz:Rowland Hill’s resourceful destruction of the fortified French bridge of boats at Almaraz over the River Tagus on 19 th May 1812 during the Peninsular War:John Mackenzie’s britishbattles.com podcasts
30. Podcast of the Battle of Villagarcia: The successful cavalry action fought by the British against the French on 11 th April 1812 during the Peninsular War: John Mackenzie’s britishbattles.com podcasts
29. Podcast of the Battle of Salamanca: Wellington’s victory on 22 nd July 1812 over the French army of Marshal Marmont, during the Peninsular War, leading to the re-capture of Madrid also known as the Battle of Los Arapiles or Les Arapiles: John Mackenzie’s britishbattles.com podcasts
92nd Highland Regiment: Battle of Almaraz on 19th May 1812 in the Peninsular War: picture by Richard Simkin
Rowland Hill’s resourceful destruction of the fortified French bridge of boats at Almaraz over the River Tagus on 19 th May 1812, during the Peninsular War
28. Podcast of the Battle of Vitoria: Wellington’s decisive defeat of Joseph Bonaparte’s French army on 21 st June 1813 in the Peninsular War: John Mackenzie’s britishbattles.com podcasts
27.Podcast of the Storming of Badajoz: Wellington’s capture, on 6 th April 1812, of the second French base on the Portuguese border, the southern gateway for the British invasion of Spain, during the Peninsular War: John Mackenzie’s britishbattles.com podcasts
26. Podcast of the Storming of Ciudad Rodrigo: The sudden capture by Wellington on 19 th January 1812 of Marmont’s ‘base of operations’ for the intended third French invasion of Portugal during the Peninsular War: John Mackenzie’s britishbattles.com podcasts
25. Podcast of the Battle of Arroyo Molinos: the spectacular destruction of Girard’s French Division by General Rowland Hill on 28 th October 1811 in the Peninsular War: John Mackenzie’s britishbattles.com podcasts
24. Podcast of the Battle of El Bodon: The successful rear-guard actions fought on 25 th September 1811 in the Peninsular War by Wellington’s troops against French cavalry: John Mackenzie’s britishbattles.com podcasts
23. Podcast of the Battle of Usagre: The brisk battle fought on 25 th May 1811 in the Peninsular War, where a powerful force of French dragoons was overwhelmed by the British 3 rd Dragoon Guards and 4 th Dragoons with their Spanish and Portuguese allies: John Mackenzie’s britishbattles.com podcasts
Battle of Albuera on 16th May 1811 in the Peninsular War: picture by J.J. Jenkins
Marshal Beresford’s hard-fought battle against Marshal Soult on 16 th May 1811 during the Peninsular War, with his army of British, Portuguese and Spanish troops.
22. Podcast of the Battle of Albuera: Marshal Beresford’s hard-fought battle against Marshal Soult on 16 th May 1811 during the Peninsular War, with his army of British, Portuguese and Spanish troops: John Mackenzie’s britishbattles.com podcasts
79th Cameron Highlanders attacking the village of Fuentes de Oñoro during the Battle of Fuentes de Oñoro on 3rd May 1811 in the Peninsular War
Wellington’s hard-fought battle to prevent Massena relieving the fortress of Almeida on 3 rd to 5 th May 1811 in the Peninsular War
21.Podcast of the Battle of Fuentes de Oñoro: Wellington’s hard-fought battle to prevent the French Army of Portugal under Marshal Massena relieving the fortress of Almeida on 3 rd to 5 th May 1811 in the Peninsular War: John Mackenzie’s britishbattles.com podcasts
Battle of Redinha or Pombal fought on 12th March 1811 in the Peninsular War: picture by J.J. Jenkins
The indecisive battle fought on 12 th March 1811 in Western Central Portugal during Massena’s retreat from the Lines of Torres Vedras to the River Mondego, following the unsuccessful French attempt to capture Lisbon during the Peninsular War
18. Podcast of the Battle of Campo Maior: fought on 25 th March 1811 in the Peninsular War: John Mackenzie’s britishbattles.com Pod
Battle of Barossa or Chiclana fought on 5th March 1811 in the Peninsular War: picture by Baron Lejeune
General Graham’s notable victory, also known as the Battle of Chiclana, over the French during the march to Cadiz on 5 th March 1811 in the Peninsular War
17. Podcast of the Battle of Barossa: fought on 5 th March 1811 during the Peninsular War: John Mackenzie’s britishbattles.com podcast
15. Podcast of the Battle of Waterloo: the battle fought on 18 th June 1815 that ended the dominance of the French Emperor Napoleon over Europe and saw the end of an epoch. John Mackenzie’s Britishbattles.com podcast.
British and Portuguese infantry drive the French back down the hill at the Battle of Busaco on 27th September 1810 in the Peninsular War
Wellington’s highly successful holding battle fought on 27 th September 1810 in Western Portugal against Marshal Massena’s invading French army, as the British and Portuguese withdrew to Lisbon and the Lines of Torres Vedras, during the Peninsular War.
Podcast of the Battle of Busaco: John Mackenzie’s britishbattles.com podcast.
British Light Division defending the bridge at the Battle of the River Coa on 24th July 1810 in the Peninsular War: picture by Christa Hook
The British Light Division’s fierce battle to escape from Marshal Ney’s French corps across the River Coa on 24 th July 1810 in the Peninsular War.
Podcast of the Battle of the River Coa: John Mackenzie’s britishbattles.com podcast.
12. Podcast of The Great Siege of Gibraltar, between 8 th July 1779 and 2 nd February 1783, whose defence under General Eliott so inspired Great Britain at a time of defeat in the American Revolutionary War: John Mackenzie’s Britishbattles.com podcast.
11. Podcast of Braddock’s Defeat Part 1: The account of General Braddock’s expedition to Fort Duquesne in 1755: The origins of General Braddock’s expedition: John Mackenzie’s britishbattles.com podcast
9. Podcast of the Battle of Talavera: The British victory south of Madrid on 28 th July 1809 over Joseph Bonaparte, the King imposed on Spain by Napoleon, and his French army in the Peninsular War: John Mackenzie’s Britishbattles.com podcast.
8. Podcast of the Battle of the Crossing of the Douro: The battle, also known as the Second Battle of Oporto, that saw Sir Arthur Wellesley’s (later the Duke of Wellington) successful passage of the River Douro at Oporto in Portugal, on 12 th May 1809 during the Peninsular War, forcing Marshal Soult’s French army into headlong and disastrous retreat to Spain: John Mackenzie’s Britishbattles.com podcast.
7. Podcast of the Battle of Corunna: The battle, also known as the Battle of Elviña, that ensured the escape of the British army from Spain on 16 th January 1809, during the Peninsular War, with the death of Sir John Moore at the moment of success: John Mackenzie’s Britishbattles.com podcast.
6. Podcast of the Battle of Cacabelos: The battle fought at Cacabelos bridge on 3 rd January 1809 during Sir John Moore’s retreat to Corunna in the Peninsular War:John Mackenzie’s Britishbattles.com podcast.
5. Podcast of the Battle of Benavente: The second cavalry battle, fought on 29 th December 1808, establishing the early predominance of British cavalry over French in the Peninsular War: John Mackenzie’s Britishbattles.com podcast.
4. Podcast of the Battle of Sahagun: The dawn attack by the British 15 th Hussars, on 21 st December 1808 in the snow, that routed a French cavalry brigade and set the standard for British cavalry in the Peninsular War ‘Success to the Fifteenth and ‘God Save the King’: John Mackenzie’s Britishbattles.com podcast on the battle.
3. Podcast of the Battle of Vimeiro: Sir Arthur Wellesley’s victory over the French army of Marshal Junot in Portugal on 21 st August 1808, his first major victory in the Peninsular War, which nearly ruined his military career: John Mackenzie’s Britishbattles.com podcast on the battle.
2. Podcast of the Battle of Roliça: The first battle fought by the British in the Peninsular War, on 17 th August 1808 also, the first of the string of victories over the French won by Sir Arthur Wellesley, later the Duke of Wellington: John Mackenzie’s Britishbattles.com podcast on the battle.
Battle of Talavera (an extensive re-write)
43rd Regiment collecting the dead after the Battle of Talavera on 28th July 1809 in the Peninsular War: picture by Lady Butler
The British victory south of Madrid on 28 th July 1809 over Joseph Bonaparte, the King imposed on Spain by Napoleon, and his French army in the Peninsular War.
Battle of the Douro (a full re-write)
Battle of Grijo: Battle of the Passage of the Douro on 16th May 1809 in the Peninsular War: picture by JJ Jenkins
This battle, also known as the Second Battle of Oporto, saw Sir Arthur Wellesley’s (later the Duke of Wellington) successful Passage of the River Douro at Oporto in Portugal, on 12 th May 1809 during the Peninsular War, forcing Marshal Soult’s French army into headlong and disastrous retreat to Spain.
Battle of Corunna (a full re-write)
Sir John Moore and the British army at the Battle of Corunna on 16th January 1809 in the Peninsular War: picture by R. Granville Baker
The battle, also known as the Battle ofElviña, that ensured the escape of the British army from Spain on 16 th January 1809, during the Peninsular War, with the death of Sir John Moore at the moment of success.
Battle of Cacabelos
British 95th Rifles confronting the French 4th Light Infantry at the Battle of Cacabelos on 3rd January 1809 in the Peninsular War: picture by Richard Simkin
The battle fought at Cacabelos bridge on 3 rd January 1809 during Sir John Moore’s retreat to Corunna in the Peninsular War.
Battle of Benavente
Chasseurs à Cheval of the Imperial Guard crossing the River Esla at Castro-Gonzalo in the Battle of Benevente on 29th December 1808 in the Peninsular War
The second cavalry battle, fought on 29 th December 1808, establishing the early predominance of British cavalry over French in the Peninsular War.
Battle of Sahagun
British 15th Hussars charging the French cavalry at the Battle of Sahagun on 21st December 1808 in the Peninsular War
The dawn attack by the British 15 th Hussars, on 21 st December 1808 in the snow, that routed a French cavalry brigade and set the standard for British cavalry in the Peninsular War‘Success to the Fifteenth and ‘God Save the King’.
Battle of Vimeiro (a comprehensive re-write)
71st Highland Light Infantry at the Battle of Vimeiro on 21st August 1808 in the Peninsular War
Sir Arthur Wellesley’s (later the Duke of Wellington) victory over the French army of Marshal Junot in Portugal on 21 st August 1808, in the opening stages of the Peninsular War a battle that nearly ruined Wellesley’s military career.
Battle of Roliça
Sergeant, Officer, Soldier and Drummer of British infantry: Battle of Roliça on 17th August 1808 in the Peninsular War
The first battle fought by the British in the Peninsular War, on 17 th August 1808 also, the first of the string of victories over the French won by Sir Arthur Wellesley, later the Duke of Wellington.
Sortie from Bayonne
General Pierre Thouvenot, French Governor of Bayonne at the Sortie from Bayonne on 14th April 1814 in the Peninsular War: picture by Denis Dighton
The terrible night-time clash outside Bayonne on 14 th April 1814, that marked the end of the Peninsular War, but occurred after the abdication of the Emperor Napoleon on 4 th April 1814.
Battle of Toulouse
British 27th Regiment at the Battle of Toulouse on 10th April 1814 in the Peninsular War: picture by Richard Simkin
The Battle fought by Wellington against Marshal Soult on 10 th April 1814 outside the French City of Toulouse in Southern France the last battle fought by Wellington in the Peninsular War.
Battle of Tarbes
95th Rifles in action at the Battle of Tarbes on 20th March 1814 in the Peninsular War: picture by Richard Simkin
The Action fought by Wellington against Marshal Soult on 20 th March 1814 in Southern France where the three Battalions of the 95 th Rifles distinguished themselves
Battle of Orthez:
Lord Wellington with British Hussars: Battle of Orthez on 27th February 1814 in the Peninsular War
The Battle fought on 2nd February 1814 in the south-west of France that saw Wellington push Marshal Soult’s Army of the Pyrenees back across the River Adour
Battle of St Pierre:
Battle of St Pierre on 13th December 1813 during the Battle of the Nive, fought from 9th to 13th December 1813 in the Peninsular War: picture by J.J. Jenkins
The Battle fought on the last day of the crossing of the River Nive by Wellington’s army, on 13 th December 1813 described as some of the fiercest fighting of the Peninsular War.
Storming of Seringapatam:
British troops attacking the breach at the Storming of Seringapatam on 4th May 1799 in the Fourth Mysore War
The Storming on 4 th May 1799 of Tipu Sultan’s palace fortress, leading to the death of Tipu Sultan, ruler of Mysore: A key battles in the conquest of South India by the British and one of the Duke of Wellington’s early actions.
Battle of the Nive:
The Battle fought between 9 th and 13 th December 1813 Wellington’s army crossing the River Nive and moving further into France a battle with some of the fiercest fighting of the Peninsular War.
Lieutenant General Sir Rowland Hill: Battle of the Nive fought between 9th and 13th December 1813 and the Battle of St Pierre in the Peninsular War
Battle of the Nivelle:
The Battle fought on 10 th November 1813, during the Peninsular War Wellington’s army crossing the River Nivelle and moving from the Pyrenees Mountains into the plains of France.
Battle of the Nivelle on 10th November 1813 during the Peninsular War: picture by J.J. Jenkins
Battle of the Bidassoa:
The Battle fought on 7 th October 1813, during the Peninsular War, when Wellington’s army crossed the River Bidassoa into France.
British column crossing the Bidassoa Estuary in the Battle of the Bidassoa on 7th October 1813 during the Peninsular War: picture by J.P. Beadle
Battle of San Marcial
The Battle fought on 31 st August and 1 st September 1813 along the French border, during the Peninsular War with Spanish troops decisively repelling the French attack.
Spanish troops defending Mount San Marcial at the Battle of San Marcial on 31st August 1813 in the Peninsular War: picture by Augusto Ferrer Dalmau
Battle of the Pyrenees
The Battle fought between 25 th July and 2 nd August 1813 in the western Pyrenees Mountains, during the Peninsular War Wellington decisively repelling Marshal Soult’s incursion across the border, intended to re-establish French occupation of Spain
Wellington and Somerset at the Bridge in Sorauren on 27th July 1813: Battle of the Pyrenees fought between 25th July and 2nd August 1813 in the western Pyrenees Mountains, during the Peninsular War: picture by Thomas Jones Barker
Storming of San Sebastian
The hard-fought struggle to capture San Sebastian, the small city port on the north-east coast of Spain near the French border, between 11 th July and 9 th September 1813 in the Peninsular War
Second Attack on 31st August 1813 in the Storming of San Sebastian between 11th July and 9th September 1813 in the Peninsular War
The Retreat from Burgos
Wellington’s retreat to Ciudad Rodrigo following the unsuccessful Attack on Burgos in the autumn of 1812 in the Peninsular War
Capture of General Paget by French Dragoons on 17th November 1812 during the Retreat from Burgos in the Peninsular War
The Battle of Vitoria in the Peninsular (a comprehensive re-write)
Wellington’s decisive defeat of Joseph Bonaparte’s French army on 21 st June 1813 in North-Eastern Spain in the Peninsular War
4th, 47th and 69th Regiments storming Gamarra Mayor at the Battle of Vitoria on 21st June 1813 in the Peninsular War: picture by JP Beadle
Map of the Battle of Vitoria on 21st June 1813 during the Peninsular War: map by John Fawkes
British troops in action in the mountains: Battle of San Millan and Osma on 18th June 1813 in the Peninsular War: picture by Richard Simkin
Battle of San Millan and Osma in the Peninsular War
The clash in the mountains of Northern Spain on 18 th June 1813 between the van of Wellington’s advancing army and General Reille’s French ‘Army of Portugal’, withdrawing on Vitoria.
Battle of Morales de Toro on 2nd June 1813: picture by William Heath
The Battle of Morales de Toro fought in the Peninsular War:
The successful cavalry action fought by the British Hussar Brigade against the French 16 th and 21 st Dragoons on 1 st June 1813.
Attack on Burgos Castle between 19th September and 25th October 1812 in the Peninsular War
The Attack on the City of Burgos in the Peninsular War:
Wellington’s unsuccessful assault on the Spanish City of Burgos between 19 th September and 25 th October 1812, following the Battle of Salamanca.
British and Indian Army on the march in Abyssinia: Battle of Magdala on 13th April 1868 in the Abyssinian War
The Battle of Magdala in the Abyssinian War:
Sir Robert Napier’s capture, on 13 th April 1868, of the Fortress of Magdala, stronghold of the Emperor Theodore III of Abyssinia.
5th Dragoon Guards at the Battle of Salamanca on 22nd July 1812 during the Peninsular War, also known as the Battle of Los Arapiles or Les Arapiles
The Battle of Salamanca in the Peninsular War:
Wellington’s victory on 22 nd July 1812 over the French army of Marshal Marmont, leading to the re-capture of Madrid also known as the Battle of Los Arapiles or Les Arapiles.
Map of the Battle of Salamanca on 22nd July 1812 during the Peninsular War, also known as the Battle of Los Arapiles or Les Arapiles: map by John Fawkes
Grenadiers of the 1st, Coldstream and 3rd Foot Guards in1751: picture by David Morier: Death of General Edward Braddock on the Monongahela River on 9th July 1755 in the French and Indian War
A war recently chronicled on British Battles is the ‘Wars of the Roses’.
Yorkists and Lancastrians taking white and red roses in the Inner Temple Garden: First Battle of St Albans, fought on 22nd May 1455 in the Wars of the Roses: allegorical picture from William Shakespeare by Henry Arthur Payne
First Battle of St Albans, fought on 22nd May 1455 in the Wars of the Roses: picture by Graham Turner
British Battles has published battles of the English Civil War:
The Battle of Edgehill is the first important battle.
The fight for the Royal Standard at the Battle of Edgehill on 23rd October 1642 at the Battle of Edgehill in the English Civil War
20th Regiment and Foot Guards returning from the Battle of Inkerman on 5th November 1854 in the Crimean War: picture by Lady Butler
We have on our site a long list of battles with descriptions of what took place and other essential information. Most of our pages have a map of the battle designed and drafted by our own Military Cartographer, John Fawkes
While our battles are primarily British battles there are many other battles of interest including all the important battles fought by Frederick the Great, King of Prussia in the Mid-18th Century.
All the battles are extensively illustrated with pictures both well-known and more obscure. Prints of many of these pictures can be purchased through the site as can the maps.
General George Washington crossing the Delaware at the Battle of Trenton on Christmas night 1776 by Emmanuel Leutze
Map of the Battle of Minden fought on 1st August 1759 by the Prussians, Hanoverians, Hessians and the British against the French at which the British infantry made their famous advance against the French cavalry with roses in their hats, an episode celebrated every year by the “Minden Regiments”
Our most recent additions are:
Robert de Bruce strikes and kills Sir Henry de Bohun with his axe in single combat before the Battle of Bannockburn on 23rd June 1314: picture by John Hassall
Among the other battles and wars on the site are:
Battle of Waterloo 18th June 1815 : Order of Battle at the Outset of the Battle
Map 1 of 3 by John Fawkes.
English fire ships advance on the Spanish Armada anchored offshore at Calais, before the crews set them ablaze: Spanish Armada June to September 1588
General Braddock’s March to Fort Cumberland through the Northern Neck of
Virginia and through Maryland – March – May 1755 – Map by John Fawkes
Death of King Harold at the Battle of Hastings on 14th October 1066 in the Norman Invasion: picture by James Cooper
Edward III crossing the Somme before the Battle of Creçy on 26th August 1346 by Benjamin West
Map of the Battle of Blenheim 2nd August 1704 by John Fawkes
Lord Cardigan leads Charge of the Light Brigade at the Battle of Balaclava
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