Archive for December, 2007

27
Dec
07

The Russian Army 1914-18

THE Russian Army of the First World War has for decades suffered an image problem compounded by politics, secrecy and ignorance. The memoirs of those commanders who survived to write them often tend to be apologist or self-seeking. Russia’s withdrawal from the war is blamed upon politicians of varying shades of opinion. Shell shortages, lack of Western support, traitors in high places, Russia’s sacrifices in the interests of France in 1914 and Italy in 1916- all these factors have credibility, but none tells the whole story. Many Western historians tended to fall in with one or other of these schools of thought, until the publication of Professor Norman Stone’s The Eastern Front 1914-17 in 1975. Stone demonstrates that by late 1916 Russia was producing sufficient munitions; but that her inability to adapt to wartime imperatives such as feeding the urban population and developing a viable supply system led to her collapse into revolution.
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27
Dec
07

The Romanian Army Of World War 2

The four brigades, later divisions, of the Mountain Corps had a high regular component and particular expertise in mountain and winter warfare. Each battalion, numbered 1 to 24, was trained to act independently. Battalions 25 and 26 were specialist ski units. The 18th Infantry Division was converted into the 18th Mountain Division in late 1943 and its battalions renumbered 27 to 32, but it reverted to infantry status in 1944-45. The mountain brigades began the war with two mountain rifle groups of three battalions each and single reconnaissance, A/T and pioneer companies. The single artillery regiment had two battalions with Skoda 75mm and 100mm mountain guns. Their mule-borne artillery was extremely light and they were hard pressed to hold a line in the open steppe; however, they came into their own in broken terrain. Strength was about 12,000.
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27
Dec
07

The Alamo & The War of Texan Independence 1835-36

In 1727 a Spanish colony to the north of Mexico was formed into the province of Tejas or Texas (named from the local Indians., where settlements had been thrust into the wilderness since 1690. Beset by hostiles and by a lack of real zeal lo open up the area, settlements were restricted to small enclaves around the ecclesiastical, military and civil bases (missions, presidios and pueblos respectively). By 1821 it was estimated that (excluding Indians) the population of Texas numbered only some 4,000, mostly around the presidios of San Antonio de Bexar and La Bahia. The emptiness of the land could not fail to attract settlers from the United States, whose boundaries lay along the Sabine and Red Rivers; and US expansionism following the Louisiana Purchase made it inevitable that Americans would become entangled in Mexican affairs. In 1812-13 a force of Mexican rebels and American adventurers captured San Antonio and La Bahia. but were slaughtered by a Spanish army at the Medina River; among the Spanish officers present was one Lt. Antonio Lopez de Santa Anna Perez de Lebron, who figures largely in the story which follows.
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27
Dec
07

The Age of Charlemagne

Most historians agree that the Carolingian Age, from the 8th to 10th centuries ad, represented One of the most important turning points in European history. While this may have been less true of cultural history, it was certainly true of political and social history. The emergence of feudalism is only one example. It was probably even more true in the technological and military history of Europe, with the appearance of new farming and, to some extent, metal-working techniques. The adoption of the stirrup and subsequently of early versions of the high-framed war saddle, plus the pressure of rival and essentially non-western European cultures, combined to give birth to what are popularly regarded as medieval European styles of warfare. The most important ‘non-western’ rival cultures were, of course, the Arab-Iranian civilisation of Islam; the Asiatic Turco and Finno-Ugrian steppe cultures of the Avars, Bulgars and Magyars; and the archaic, though European, pagan culture of Viking Scandinavia.
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27
Dec
07

Romano Byzantine Armies 4th-9th Centuries

In general the Eastern half of the Roman Empire was, by the mid-4th century AD, economically stronger than the West, and there was no real evidence to indicate that Eastern ‘Greek’ soldiers were interior to Western ‘Roman’ soldiers. Various military reforms had, howc\cr, been based upon Hellenistic Greek rather than Roman concepts, and also reflected Germanic or Iranian influences from beyond the frontier. Meanwhile the military importance of frontier peoples grew. Nor should the fact that half the Roman Empire fell to barbarian assault hide the remarkable effectiveness of this late Roman defence structure, given the weakened foundations on which it was built. A water-tight frontier was now impossible, so the late Roman army relied on a screen of garrisons backed up by mobile field armies. Garrisons were to hold minor enemy incursions and, by forcing an invader to disperse in search of food, they also made him vulnerable to counterattack by the nearest field army.
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27
Dec
07

German Medieval Armies 1300-1500

Feudalism did not become established in the Empire at such an early date as in western Europe, especially in the east, where lay the powerful marcher territories. However, during the 13th century military levies based on feudal agreements had become commonplace. The bond was not as strong as was often the case in the west, nor was liege homage to one particular lord promoted to any extent. Feudal musters were not ideal, and could result in delays over the assembly of vassals. During the 13th century such musters were supplemented with contingents of hired troops, and this paid element became more prominent in the course of the next century. Money payments replaced quotas of soldiers to enable the Emperor to hire professional troops. The system sounds effective, but in reality was hampered by the selfish attitudes of those nobles directly responsible to the Kmperor. The latter was largely dependent on the good will of the Imperial Diet or parliament.
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27
Dec
07

French Foreign Legion 1914-45

The volunteers’ integration was hampered by die French Army’s shortage of suitably experienced cadres. The men posted to lead these volatile multinational units were often unequal to the challenge they posed, being ageing Territorials or reservists of rigid outlook. Under the special circumstances of 1911 (including the obvious problem of language) large groups of single nationalities were allowed to serve together – a mistake which the Legion had avoided since the 1830s, This soon caused tensions between companies, and encouraged national groups to make concerted demands for special treatment. As damaging was the gull between the new volunteers and the North African veterans. These rock-hard old drunkards regarded the duration-only volunteers as whining civilians unworthy of the proud status of legionnaires which they themselves had earned through hard years in Morocco; the volunteers resented and feared the African veterans as uncomradely brutes. Exposure to the new realities of warfare would weld rhe survivors together soon enough.
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