Convoys: the British struggle against Napoleonic Europe and America

REVIEW BY PATRICK BONIFACE. Military success throughout time has been dependent on the orderly and safe supply of goods, food, fuel, ammunition, and personnel. Ancient mariners devised the convoy system to protect these vital supplies, and over the centuries little has fundamentally changed to the basic concept. During the dozen…

Nagasaki: the forgotten prisoners

REVIEW BY TOBY CLARK. Sailing into Hong Kong in late August 1945, the Royal Navy battleship HMS Anson symbolised the Japanese defeat. Within a week of her arrival, the Anson hosted 500 recently freed ex-Prisoners of War (POWs) for afternoon tea, followed by a tour of the battleship. Reading this…

War of words – ‘Privateer’

As far back as the Middle Ages, private ship captains were authorised by governments to harry enemy merchant shipping. Their ships, and their operators, came to be called ‘privateers’. The letters of marque and reprisal that gave privateering ship captains permission to strike enemy vessels had appeared in English law…

Military History Matters 129

• The BBC at war: how the broadcaster came of age during WWII
• Rome’s frontier: conflict and Hadrian’s Wall
• Hitler’s doomed offensive
• The worst leaders in history?
• When Britain and the US almost went to war…

The Restless Republic: Britain without a crown

The execution of King Charles I in January 1649 and the subsequent abolition of the monarchy turned Britain into a republic, which it would remain until the Restoration of Charles II 11 years later. Yet it is a period of British history that so often exists only in the shadows,…

Backs against the Wall, 117-113

In the early years of Hadrian’s reign, the military situation in Britain was in danger of spiralling out of control. The emperor hit on a radical solution, as Matthew Symonds describes.…

The Casco-class Monitors

Following the success of USS Monitor – the ground-breaking ironclad warship, designed by Swedish-born engineer John Ericsson, that played a central role in the US Civil War Battle of Hampton Roads on 9 March 1862 – the US Navy issued a requirement for similar shallow-draft ironclads capable of operating in…

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War Classics: From the Dreadnought to Scapa Flow

More than half a century after its publication, it is widely regarded as the inescapable starting point for scholars working on early 20th-century British naval history. What made Marder such an outstanding historian? Above all, it is his command of the primary sources.…

The worst commanders in history?

What makes a good or bad military leader? Is it just the winning and losing of battles, or does personality also play a part? A new book looks at some of the most disastrous commanders down the centuries. Here, three historians explain their choices.…

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