Published on 11 Apr 2016
Even though he was called “the thick headed Croat” no southern Slav had ever achieved the rank of Field Marshal before Svetozar Borojevic von Bojna. During World War 1 he was probably the best general of the Habsburg Empire and his deeds during the Carpathian campaign and especially the defence against the Italians at the Isonzo River made him popular and earned him another nickname: Lion of the Isonzo.
April 12, 2016
March 15, 2016
Published on 14 Mar 2016
The military campaign in German East Africa during World War 1 went on longer than the whole war and thanks to Paul von Lettow-Vorbeck and his guerilla warfare is now infamous among the theatres of the great war. But what was the history behind German East Africa and was it really a gentleman’s war and what role did the Askari play in it?
Published on 5 Mar 2016
By the time Narses was sent to join him Italy, Belisarius had been away from Constantinople for a very long time. The royal family wasn’t sure if they could still trust him, or if his repeated victories had gone to his head, so they sent Narses (who had been in Constantinople and earned their trust) to keep an eye on him. But this laid the groundwork for disputes that would unravel the military effort there. John looked down on the “barbarian” Ostrogoths and did not consider them a threat, so he viewed the war in Italy as a political battlefield between his friend Narses and his commander Belisarius. Although Procopius defends John’s courage and capability as a cavalry commander, John did not see the bigger picture in Italy and his actions interfered with Belisarius’s overall strategy even though Narses and his family connection to the previous emperor helped keep him safe from repercussions. Belisarius wound up doing the same thing when he refused Justinian’s orders to leave Italy immediately. And in the end, the arrival of the plague – Bubonic Plague, the Black Death – interfered with all their plans. Although we believe Theodora’s actions helped hold the empire together, historians like Procopius take a much darker view: he thought she went power-mad and ruined everything. It’s also worth taking a moment to point out that Theodora was a miaphysite Christian, not a monophysite as we described her in this series. We’ll clarify the difference in a future series on Early Christian Heresies, but for right now we decided to simplify. And there was one thing we left out of this series, a story we love about how Justinian succeeded (where so many had failed) in getting silk worms out of China by bribing monks to smuggle silk worm eggs away in their canes. He helped found a silk industry that brought a lot of money to the empire, and helped it survive longer than it might have otherwise.
March 13, 2016
Published on 12 Mar 2016
Indy sits in the chair of wisdom again to answer your questions and this week we are talking about artillery training, the education for officers and NCOs and if colonial troops were used as first in trench warfare.
March 12, 2016
Published on 27 Feb 2016
Faced with a crumbling empire, Justinian remained determined to realize the dreams of his youth – even though he was now over 65 years old and without Theodora by his side. He worked tirelessly to bring revenue back to the empire, and with money in hand he could finally deal with the forces that threatened it. He assembled his last company, an odd selection of leaders for his army, made up of men who were either old, or inexperienced, or even known for failure – yet they succeeded. His instinct for choosing the right person for the job did not fail him, as one by one his last company made peace with Persia, tamed the Balkan threat, and reclaimed Italy from the Ostrogoths. But fate was not yet done with him. A wave of natural disasters and the return of the plague shook the empire while its foundations were still being rebuilt, and left it vulnerable to an invasion by the Bulgars. Justinian turned to his old friend Belisarius, calling him out of retirement for one final campaign. As always, Belisarius succeeded against the odds, but it would be his last fight. One by one, all of Justinian’s close friends and advisors died of old age. Increasingly alone, he spent his last years trying to consolidate his empire and struggling to reconcile the Christian church. Finally, after one of the longest reigns in Roman history, Justinian died in 565 CE. His reign was a great “What If:” What if all those disasters hadn’t struck? Would his grand ambitions have succeeded? He accomplished so much with the expansion of empire, the construction of the Hagia Sophia, and his overhaul of the legal code. But in the process, he risked – and perhaps lost – everything. He emptied the treasury, overextended the borders, and left the empire vulnerable to the Ottomans years later. Good or bad, his legacy reaches through the centuries to touch our lives today.
March 7, 2016
Published on 6 Mar 2016
A promotional and informational short produced by New Horizon Films (with support from the NFB) for the Department of National Defense. The film follows a set of new recruits through officer training at the facility in Chilliwack B.C. Directed and photographed by Robert S. Rodvik; sound recording and editing by Michael J. Collier; technical advisors: Captain Stu Harper and Captain Grant Russell; music composed by Captain John Montminy; Narrated by Chad Miller; music performed by Canadian Forces Naden Band; Esquimalt B.C. “Can you be a leader?” won a Certificate of Excellence – Training at the U.S. Industrial Film Festival.
This film has been made available courtesy the City of Vancouver Archives at http://vancouver.ca/your-government/city-of-vancouver-archives.aspx Reference code: AM1553-2-S2-: MI-272
March 3, 2016
Published on 13 Feb 2016
The first recorded outbreak of the Bubonic Plague occurred in Pelusium, an isolated town in the Egyptian province, but soon it moved on to Alexandria. Alexandria was the breadbasket of the Empire, and ships carrying grain (and plague-bearing rats) spread across the Empire. The Plague reached Constantinople to disastrous effect: 25% of the population died. Justinian set up a burial office but even they couldnt keep up with the demand. When they ran out of burial land, they started piling corpses into ships and setting them afloat; they even packed them into the guard towers along the wall. So few people survived that when word got out that Justinian had contracted the plague, hope seemed lost… until Theodora stepped up. She had always been a force within the Empire, Justinian’s co-regent, and now she used that power to fight off the plots against him and keep the Empire together. She dealt ruthlessly with anyone who threatened them, and since many people wanted Belisarius installed on the throne as Justinian’s heir, she recalled him and pushed him out of power. She managed to keep the Empire from disintegrating into Civil War and became the symbol of hope and perserverance for a sorely demoralized city. And then, miraculously, Justinian pulled through.
March 2, 2016
Published on 29 Feb 2016
Erwin Rommel’s book Infantry Attacks in our Amazon Store: http://bit.ly/RommelAttacks (Affiliate Link)
Erwin Rommel had his baptism of fire during the initial offensives of World War 1 on the Western Front. His fearlessness and daring actions made him rise through the ranks quickly. When the German infantry tactics changed and the new Stormtrooper regiments were built, Rommel was the kind of officer needed. During the war in Romania and the battles of Italy he distinguished himself and already started building his legendary reputation that followed him into World War 2 as the Desert Fox.
February 5, 2016
Retired Colonel Ted Campbell has some thoughts on the Canadian military:
Nothing in what follows is, in any way at all, intended to minimize the importance of quantities ~ quantities of people, quantities of dollars and quantities of ships, tanks and aircraft ~ but it is intended to stress that there IS a qualitative measure to national defence: how much must, always, be balanced with how well. Indeed, sometimes, “not really well” can be offset by “lots of men (and women), money and materiel” and, equally, often “not enough people or equipment” can be offset by “able to get 100% out of every person and every bullet.”
For many years I have preached that we, Canadian sailors, soldiers and air force personnel need to be four things ~ we need to have four attributes ~ and we need to be those four things in a specific order.
WeThey, now, need to be:
- Superbly disciplined;
- Very well trained; and
- Adequately equipped.
Now, a few years ago some friends suggested, and I agreed, that I needed to “bookend” those four things with two more; they also need to be:
- Well led; and
- Properly organized
I agreed and revised my list accordingly […]
And on the differences between a “typical” military organization and a properly disciplined one:
Discipline starts on the parade square, and Canadian military men and women take a back seat to no-one when it comes to pomp and circumstance, but “real” military discipline is self discipline and it comes from doing what needs to be done when one is near exhaustion, in the dark, in the cold, and when no one is looking … I remember, some
yearsdecades ago, when I was a junior officer, I was escorting a foreign visitor into our unit. As we drove in the main gate a trumpet call sounded over the loudspeakers; “what’s that?” our guest asked. “The lunch signal,” I replied, “we’re just in time for lunch.” As we drove past the transport lines we both observed many soldiers washing vehicles, loading stores, repairing armoured personnel carriers and so on … “why aren’t they breaking for lunch?” our guest asked. “They’re not finished yet,” I answered, “they’ll be off for their lunch as soon as they’re done their work.” “In our army,” he said, “they would have just dropped their tools and run for the lunch line.” “Oh, ” I responded, “not here. This is our army and these fellows know what has to be done and they’ll do it without being told or watched.” We were, in fact, discussing the fundamental difference between a very large, very well equipped and very average army, on the one hand, and a small, adequately equipped but very well disciplined Canadian army on the other. Discipline certainly starts with sergeants bellowing orders on the parade square, but in a good army it is exemplified by individual soldiers doing the hardest jobs, in the worst of circumstances, alone and without supervision. It doesn’t really matter if the task is “square bashing,” a lonely, dangerous, standing patrol at night, or the loneliness, even in a crowd, of command at sea; whatever the task, a tough, superbly disciplined Canadian sailor, soldier or aviator can do it, and do it right, the first time.
January 13, 2016
Published on 11 Jan 2016
Arthur Currie is one of the few universally acclaimed generals of World War 1. His refusal to send is troops into battle as canon fodder and his detailed planning and training made the Canadian Corps a force to be reckoned with on the Western Front. Find out all about the man who was only serving in the militia before the war.
December 16, 2015
Published on 14 Dec 2015
King Albert I of Belgium was not by any means a regular monarch. It was already unlikely that he became King in the first place and when he did, he tried everything he could to distance himself from King Leopold II who had reigned before him. After the outbreak of World War 1 he tried everything he could to keep up the morale on the Yser Front, the last part of Belgium not occupied by the Germans.
December 15, 2015
William Brooke Stallsmith explains how Hannibal’s amazing string of battlefield successes still ended up meaning little in the larger war between Rome and Carthage:
Hannibal Barca of Carthage was one of history’s most remarkable commanders. In 218 BCE, at the start of the Second Punic War, he led an army of Carthaginian regulars, barbarian allies, and mercenaries — not to mention a few elephants — over the Alps into Italy and over the next few years nearly brought Rome to its knees. Hannibal scored a series of victories, which climaxed at the Battle of Cannae in August 216 BCE, where his 50,000 soldiers enveloped and destroyed nearly twice as many Roman legionnaires, including both consuls of the Roman Republic.
After Cannae, Hannibal controlled nearly all of Italy. Roman military forces on the peninsula were in tatters, and the republic was on the verge of panic. But this great triumph — still studied today as the model for a battle of complete annihilation of the enemy — turned out to be a strategic dead-end. Its aftermath was 15 more years of war and a harsh Roman-dictated settlement that ended centuries of Carthaginian power in the Western Mediterranean.
I think the reasons for Hannibal’s ultimate defeat lay not so much in any failings on his part as in the resilience and flexibility of the Roman Republic. Resilience was built into the nature of the state and the character of its citizens. This fundamental trait made it possible for Rome’s Senate and other institutions to shake off their initial panic and adapt to the new situation created by Cannae. They mobilized the Republic’s manpower and other resources with a ruthless efficiency would have made Albert Speer blink. While new legions were being formed and trained, Roman command in Italy went to a septuagenarian ex-consul, Quintus Fabius Maximus. He refused to engage his limited forces in pitched battle against Hannibal and focused instead on pinprick harassment and the disruption of Carthaginian supply lines.
When the Romans had regained strength and confidence, new adaptations were made. Roman institutions harnessed the energy and lust for glory of an aggressive young commander, Publius Cornelius Scipio Africanus. Scipio led an offensive into the Carthaginian heartland in North Africa and inflicted the final defeats on Hannibal’s army that ended the war on Roman terms.
November 30, 2015
Why Don’t You Use Modern Names For Cities? Who Was A Capable Commander in WW1? I OUT OF THE TRENCHES
Published on 28 Nov 2015
Indy sits in the chair of wisdom again and this time answers two questions that you were asking a lot. He explains his policy for naming places in a historical context and if there were any good commanders actually.
November 29, 2015
Last month, David Warren wrote about the Emperor Nero as if he were a modern American president:
While Rome burned, it is said, the Emperor Nero golfed, partied, and selfied. This, anyway, is my updated account. In an earlier version, he played his fiddle. The fire, which broke out in the evening of 18th July, 64 anno Domini (or 817, ab urbe condita), continued for a week, levelling ten of pagan Rome’s fourteen districts, and leaving at least half a million homeless. I gather it started in the merchant quarter, where fires usually started, back then. There were lots of merchants; there were lots of warehouse fires. And this despite numerous municipal regulations.
Read your Tacitus, however, and you will see that this rumour has been corrected. In fact, Nero rushed back to Rome from his palace at Antium (just outside the Beltway), took charge of the fire-fighting operation from the first night, opened public buildings and his own gardens to shelter the dispossessed, and made immediate arrangements to import huge quantities of grain into the city, for distribution free or at nominal cost. Criticisms of his Department of Homeland Security were feverish and unfair.
There is another problem with this rumour. The violin was not invented for another fifteen hundred years. Those still circulating the story should say he was playing on his cythera, instead. Nero was an enthusiastic and accomplished amateur musician; perhaps some people resented it. He was a man of culture; an Ivy League guy. But he was also an accomplished politician, and nobody’s fool.
Rumours that he set this fire himself are about as likely as rumours that George Bush started Hurricane Katrina. It would not have been in the chief executive’s interest to do so, in either case. For Nero was already sinking in the polls — curiously not because he’d ascended to office by having his mother kill his uncle, then killing his mother in turn; or many similar instances of hardball. Politics was politics then as now; success is to the ruthless. No, Nero was unpopular thanks to his growing reputation for ineffectuality. His failure to stop the fire hurt him in the same way as Bush’s failure to stop the hurricane.
After consulting with a few focus groups, Nero decided upon a scapegoat. He chose the Christians. He accused them of complicity in setting the fire, and his subsequent persecution of them — which included the martyrdoms of Saint Peter and Saint Paul — probably improved his popularity rating, at least slightly. From what I can make out, the early Christians were not well liked. People thought they were spooky and weird.
November 25, 2015
James Holmes suggests a few lessons modern tacticians can learn from the great Roman general, Quintus Fabius Maximus:
Quintus Fabius would nod knowingly at seeing the world turned upside down. Celebrated as Fabius Cunctatus (“the Delayer”), the Roman dictator lent his name to strategies whereby commanders deploy strategically defensive yet tactically offensive methods to forestall a decisive battle — all while marshaling manpower, implements of war, and other resources to right the military imbalance.
Skillfully prosecuted, a Fabian strategy proffers an opportunity to defeat a superior foe in a conventional trial of arms. And indeed, Fabius’s feats of arms earned him the nickname “Maximus” among Romans — signifying rock-star status. Historians of classical antiquity ranging from Polybius to Plutarch to Machiavelli considered him an icon of patient, guileful martial statecraft.
Polybius retells Fabius’s tale expertly. After trekking over the Alps, the Carthaginian warlord Hannibal’s army had rampaged throughout Italy, compiling a virtually unbroken record of battlefield victory. In particular, his triumph over the Roman legions at Cannae won enduring fame in Western military circles. Two millennia later General Dwight Eisenhower recalled in his memoir Crusade in Europe, “Every ground commander seeks the battle of annihilation,” maintained Eisenhower; “he tries to duplicate in modern war the classic example of Cannae.”
Granted emergency powers, Fabius assumed personal command of the legions and encamped near the Carthaginian host at Aecae. Upon learning that the Roman army was nearby, Hannibal resolved to “terrify the enemy by promptly attacking.” The Roman riposte? Nothing. No one responded to the Carthaginians’ approach. They trudged back to camp. Having acknowledged his army’s “manifest inferiority,” Fabius “made up his mind to incur no danger and not to risk a battle.”
He was ornery that way. Better to live to fight another day, and on more favorable terms. Why rush in and risk fresh disaster? Rome was fighting on home turf. Its armies were beneficiaries of an “inexhaustible supply of provisions and of men.” Fabius only needed time to tap that potential, transforming latent into kinetic military power.