Andrew Bamford ed., Rebellious Scots to Crush (Helion, 2020)
In Rebellious Scots to Crush, Andrew Bamford has collated seven essays relating to the military reaction to the Jacobite uprising of 1745. They relate primarily to military responses in England, though Bamford highlights two essays on Scottish forces raised to fight the Jacobites to further his thesis that this was not a war between England and Scotland but a civil war. The result is an entertaining and thought-provoking read.
In his introduction, Bamford places the essays in their context. He begins with an overview of the British Army from the Foot Guards through the numbered Foot regiments and artillery to the new units that had to be raised to fight the Jacobites and the foreign mercenaries who remained on the side-lines. Jonathan Oates leads the essay charge with his dissection of the 13th and 14th Dragoons before narrating their ignominious conduct in battle against the Jacobites who saw more of the horses’ tails than their muzzles. Mark Price follows the 13th Regiment of Foot on its campaign with an analysis similar to Oates’. They too fought at Falkirk but also marched with Cumberland to Culloden; Price includes a first-hand account of the battle that is well worth reading. Andrew Cormack ponders the Noblemen’s Regiments, 11 of Foot and 2 Cavalry, raised to help provide security during the rebellion then happily disbanded. Arran Johnston examines the Edinburgh Units: the Trained Bands that were anything but; the City Guard that tried but couldn’t defend the City; the Edinburgh Regiment that struggled to recruit; and the Edinburgh Volunteers who at least had an adventure to relate when they joined in at the Battle of Falkirk. Jenn Scott discusses the Argyll Militia; the problems they had getting organised and maintaining them. They took part in the rout at Falkirk, but not the battle, and fought at Culloden, taking part in its bloody aftermath too. Jonathan Oates uncovers the Yorkshire Blues raised for the civil defence of that County. Forty-one infantry companies were raised, quite easily compared to the Argyll Militia apparently, and they performed well as an armed police force, argues Coates. Andrew and Lacy Bamford look at a similar organization in the Derbyshire Blues. Derby was the turning point of the Jacobite advance south, though the Blues had little to do with that, choosing to make themselves scarce. The Bamfords also discuss the Chatsworth Contingent from Devon who came to Derby to assist the Blues in their non-participation. Appendices on organisation and orders of battle and regimental colonelcies conclude the book.
The seven essays in Rebellious Scots to Crush are uniformly interesting and illuminate an aspect of the Jacobite Rebellion in 1745 that has so far gone under the radar – there was certainly much more to this war than a couple of armies marching around while everyone else got on with their day jobs. And while I disagree with Bamford’s interpretation of this war, that did not detract from my enjoyment of the essays. Students of the ’45 will find much to entertain and inform them in this book.
Andrew Bamford ed., Rebellious Scots to Crush (Helion, 2020)
John D Grainger, The Galatians (Pen & Sword, 2019)
The common perception of the Celts comes from the fierce warrior barbarians that fought the Romans in Gaul and Britain. But another significant branch of that culture migrated east into the Balkan region then Asia Minor, settling in both areas in their tribal groups. These were collectively known as the Galatians. In this riveting book, John Grainger narrates the rise and fall of this fascinating people who proved a thorn in the side for all the great Hellenistic powers before succumbing to the almighty Romans.
According to Grainger, the Galatians were part of an expansion from a culture that spread across western and northern Europe, entering into the Balkans as the Scordisci. From there, they clashed with their neighbours in Macedon and Thrace. Grainger’s story begins with Philip II of Macedon who was the first ‘Greek’ to encounter the Galatians/Scordisci. His son Alexander also took note of them, but he had bigger fish to fry in the East. When he died, his Empire fragmented, and the Galatians consolidated their power to become a threat to Macedon and Greece. Serious incursions into both took place from 280 BCE, though they ended in defeat and the division of the Galatians.
A group of Galatians invaded Asia Minor as the situation in Thrace settled down in the 270s. They took Bithynia collectively then split into three tribes to continue their expansion. Grainger notes that they were not the overwhelming scourge that some sources posit – one tribe was defeated by Antigonus in the famous Elephant battle of 274 – but they were still more than a nuisance to their neighbours. Grainger also records how Galatians were employed as mercenaries across the Hellenistic world, enthusiastically at first but more reluctantly because they were considered untrustworthy and rebellious, or perhaps, as Grainger notes in his next chapter, they were not particularly good soldiers in pitched battles? As Galatia came into being in Asia Minor by the 260s, the three tribes had to fight their own wars. Grainger points out these were not raids as was commonly thought but military campaigns conducted by a properly organised State.
How the Galatians coped with Pergamon and Rome occupies Grainger next. Their use as mercenaries against Rome made them an enemy, which inevitably led to war. That was a one-sided affair and led to the steep decline of Galatia, first through domination by Pergamon then, after a spell of autonomy, under the pressure of Roman expansion. That said, the Scordisci back in the Balkans remained a force into the 1st century BCE before Rome defeated them followed by the rising Dacians. Roman annexation of the region was not too far behind. They annexed Galatia too, following another thread in Grainger’s story of Roman expansion, and made it into a successful Province. Indeed, notes Grainger in his appendix, Galatia furnished Rome with three Emperors.
The Galatians is a thoroughly enjoyable, well-written book on a people that are often overlooked amidst the great dynastic struggles of the Hellenistic world. Grainger wrings every drop out of his limited sources, both written and archaeological, and does so in a way that invites his readers into the conversation. He also works his way methodically through an often complex history, acknowledging at one point the ‘hyper-activity’ of the Roman Republic’s civil wars that he had to untangle. My one quibble is a lack of maps to help us follow the narrative, but other than that, this book will appeal to anyone interested in the Hellenistic world or just ancient history in general.
Jean-Louis Roba, The Luftwaffe in Africa 1941-1943 (Casemate, 2019)
You would think that clear desert skies were ideal for aerial combat. For the most part they were, but the majority of technical problems for the Luftwaffe tasked with supporting Rommel’s Afrika Korps came on the ground, while up in the air, the dark clouds gathering were the increasing numbers of enemy aircraft. In The Luftwaffe in Africa 1941-1943, Jean-Louis Roba explains how the Germans tried to cope with it all.
Roba opens with a handy timeline, integrating Luftwaffe operations into the broader Desert War. That war began with the failed Italian offensive in Egypt. The British counter-offensive brought the Luftwaffe into the theatre, operating mainly from Sicily. When Erwin Rommel arrived in Africa the following month, the Luftwaffe came with him. They soon discovered a lack of ground support facilities and the dangers to engines posed by sand. What follows is a catalogue of operations and sorties flown by the Luftwaffe in support of the Afrika Korps and the important transport service across the Mediterranean. The Commonwealth air forces were initially weak and overstretched – most German losses came from Anti-Aircraft fire. The loss of Crete in May 1941 meant that the Germans could use the island as a base, but also concentrated Allied airpower into North Africa. The escalation of forces increased in Africa, and new planes fitted with sand filters also entered the fray, though so too did the Allied SAS and LRDG to conduct hit-and-run missions against Axis airfields.
That the tide was turning against the Luftwaffe can be seen in the numbers of serviceable aircraft available on the eve of Operation Crusader in November 1941 – the Allies outnumbered the Axis 2:1. The Luftwaffe’s depletion through transfer to other fronts and being hit hard by the Allies exacerbated the situation, though the supply lines failure caused by Allied control of Malta seems to have hit the hardest. All of that, as Roba makes clear, continued to swing towards the Allies. In January 1942, Rommel took the offensive, but the Luftwaffe struggled to cover the variety of missions it had to conduct. Roba notes that they also could not prevent Allied bombers while the Luftwaffe lost many in return. It did not help when the Allies deployed Spitfires.
Roba identifies 30 September 1942 as a turning point for the Luftwaffe in Africa when ace Hptm. “Jochen” Marseille, the Star of Africa, was killed. From then it was all downhill for the Germans. By 23 October and the El Alamein offensive, the Allies outnumbered the Germans 3:1 in the air; the Luftwaffe had also lost many of its aces and it was “virtually bled white”. The arrival of the Americans added to the imbalance, but still the Luftwaffe fought on, though more in desperation than confidence. New German aircraft such as the FW190 made little difference against the increasing numerical imbalance. By May 1943, those who could get out of Africa did so; those who remained had to surrender. Roba concludes that Rommel’s decision to attack Egypt cost Germany valuable Luftwaffe resources in what was a doomed effort.
This volume in Casemate’s Men, Battles, Weapons series is packed with just enough information to satisfy the drive-by reader but leave the curious wanting more. I think that is ideal for a series like this. The text is nothing to write home about, but it is informative, and Roba is supported by many photographs, maps, tables, and In Profile graphic artworks of relevant warplanes. This is a different perspective on the Desert War from the usual emphasis on ground operations and a welcome one.
Laurence Spring, The Armies of Sir Ralph Hopton (Helion, 2020)
Laurence Spring introduces us to Sir Ralph Hopton, a veteran of the Thirty Years War and a solid soldier, but not much of a commander if results determine those things. Hopton joined the Marquess of Hertford’s army, then commanded three of his own during the English Civil War. He won one significant battle but lost all his major engagements. Spring narrates Hopton’s career and describes the processes for forming and maintaining an ECW Royalist Regiment.
Spring starts his survey with a general overview of army organisation but with Hopton’s armies in mind. A close look at Royalist officers follows, and from there to the men and recruitment. At first the soldiers were mostly volunteers, but that well ran dry until conscription became the usual method. Once recruited they were called to muster for the regiment, trained to fight, and given clothing with varying degrees of uniformity. Spring turns to the arms and armour of the Royalist soldiers. These were difficult to get and expensive. Many weapons were imported, while the aristocracy furnished some, which created a problem with a lack of standard measurements. All the accoutrements of war had to be bought, manufactured, or recycled, adding to the expense of war. The Regiment also required colours. Spring examines discipline and punishment, covering issues such as desertion and proper conduct. Keeping with administration, Spring reviews pay and provisions with the burden for the latter falling on hard-pressed parishes. He addresses casualties next, which makes grim reading as you might expect.
Hopton’s three armies are considered in the second half of the book. These chapters follow Hopton’s operations, including skirmishes, sieges, and proper battles. Hopton’s first army operated in the West in 1643, highlighted by the battles of Stratton and Lansdown Hill. Hopton was wounded while at Bristol but stayed busy organising his second army under orders to clear Dorsetshire, Wiltshire, and Hampshire. He made the classic mistake, however, of dividing his army in the face of the enemy, led by Sir William Waller, in late 1644 and managed to lose a large portion of it in the process. Worse followed in March 1645 when Hopton lost to Waller at Cheriton, and with it the rest of his army. Hopton took command of his third army at the siege of Taunton in May 1645. Despite the Royalist cause becoming a losing proposition, Hopton continued into 1646, commanding about 7,000 men. Then Halifax defeated him at Torrington and Hopton surrendered soon afterwards before fleeing to Europe. He died in exile in 1652. Spring follows that with the fates of some of Hopton’s men through the Restoration and beyond. He adds four appendices, including a useful list of regiments that fought for Hopton.
If nothing else, Sir Ralph Hopton was committed to his cause, and he has found a solid military biographer in Laurence Spring. Indeed, Spring weaves Hopton’s story into a broader picture of the Royalist armies in the west very well. His nuts and bolts description of the Royalist regiment is useful for readers wanting to peek behind the generalist curtain, and his superior use of limited sources is supported by tables, charts, maps, and some attractive colour plates of soldiers. In addition, this volume of Helion’s excellent Century of the Soldier series dovetails nicely with other books in the series to help establish a mesh of works looking at ECW campaigns from different angles.
Brian Best, Unrewarded Courage (Frontline, 2020)
To earn a Victoria Cross, a soldier has to do something extraordinary above and beyond any required action or even a mere act of bravery. But some soldiers did those things and were not rewarded with the VC. In Unrewarded Courage, Brian Best sets out to explain why that happened.
The book begins with the introduction of the VC during the Crimean War. An award for the most extreme acts of bravery seems like a straightforward concept, but it was not. Who was to get it and why has plagued the VC since its inception. Best takes us through a chronological survey of British wars and expeditions, narrating accounts of astonishing acts of bravery, some of which received the VC, while some did not, but at this remove it is difficult to tell them apart.
The tardiness of the reporting process to recommend a VC scuppered a few cases. There were also commanders who simply did not believe in the VC, arguing that the candidates all acted within their duty as a British soldier. Class played its usual role in preventing those of lower backgrounds receiving the VC, while giving it to those of the aristocracy who did little to earn it other than use their status to lobby hard. Politics played its part too, controlling the flow of VCs for certain engagements, keeping the numbers down but also increasing the awards too when it suited British political purposes. Some brave men suffered from a morality problem in that they had done bad things in the past, so were all but ineligible no matter what they did. The rules for awarding the VC developed with new caveats added, though the rules could be bent if the occasion demanded, particularly if high level influence was brought to bear. The emphasis shifted too, from saving lives to damaging the enemy, but many of the same prejudices remain even in our seemingly enlightened world.
Best performs well in this book, weaving stories and reasons, so that the reader is not bogged down in analysis while still able to get indignant at some of the ridiculousness that seems to typify the British military at times. But Best’s efforts to keep things integrated start to break down in World War I and beyond when even he cannot find adequate reasons for the refusals, and the book ends in a catalogue of cases, which are still interesting but do not flow into each other as do Best’s earlier stories. Nevertheless, Unrewarded Courage is a riveting read, and at least Best has given these men the full recognition they deserve.