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Coalition Warfare: An Anthology of Scholarly Presentations at the Conference on Coalition Warfare at the Royal Danish Defence College, 2011
Niels Bo Poulsen, Kjeld Hald Galster and Søren Nørby
Coalition Warfare: An Anthology of Scholarly Presentations at the Conference on Coalition Warfare at the Royal Danish Defence College, 2011, Edited by Niels Bo Poulsen, Kjeld Hald Galster and Søren Nørby This book first published 2013 Cambridge Scholars Publishing 12 Back Chapman Street, Newcastle upon Tyne, NE6 2XX, UK British Library Cataloguing in Publication Data A catalogue record for this book is available from the British Library Copyright © 2013 by Niels Bo Poulsen, Kjeld Hald Galster and Søren Nørby and contributors All rights for this book reserved. No part of this book may be reproduced, stored in a retrieval system, or transmitted, in any form or by any means, electronic, mechanical, photocopying, recording or otherwise, without the prior permission of the copyright owner. ISBN (10): 1-4438-4841-7, ISBN (13): 978-1-4438-4841-1
Preface ....................................................................................................... vii Biographies ................................................................................................. ix Introduction ................................................................................................. 1 Kjeld Hald Galster Shifting Allies, Enemies, and Interests: The Fluidity of Coalition Warfare ...................................................................................................... 16 Patrick William Cecil Coalition Warfare in the Ancient Greek World ......................................... 29 Thomas Heine Nielsen and Adam Schwartz Coalition Warfare in Renaissance Italy, 1455-1503 .................................. 51 Paul M. Dover Balancing Acts: The Canadian Army Experience as a Junior Alliance Partner, 1899-1953 .................................................................................... 70 Douglas E. Delaney Arms Races and Cooperation: The Anglo-French Crimean War Coalition, 1854–1856 ................................................................................................. 96 Andrew Lambert Coalition War: The Regimental Perspective of Den Kongelige Livgarde The Royal Life Guards (of Foot), Denmark ............................................ 116 Jesper Gram-Andersen Coalition Warfare in Seventeenth-Century New England ....................... 131 Matthew S. Muehlbauer Invited to See Americans Fight? The Dutch Participation in Allied Operations Post-9/11 ............................................................................... 143 Arthur ten Cate
A War Coalition Fails in Coalition Warfare: The Axis Powers and Operation Herkules in the Spring of 1942 ........................................ 160 Thomas Vogel The French Battalion in Korea 1950-53: France Asserts its Status as a Permanent Member of the United Nations Security Council at Minimal Cost ....................................................................................... 177 Ivan Cadeau
Readers will hardly be surprised by the assertion that the warfare of various post-Cold War ‘coalitions-of-the-willing’ has drawn much attention over recent years. However, we may also notice that associations of nations fighting, or preparing to fight, for common causes are no novelty. Multi-national co-operation in fields as costly and as fateful as war depends on considerations and caveats concerning political purpose, risks, mutual trust, national wealth and pride, compatibility of military forces and a glut of intangible forces and effects characterising human interaction. Thus, this anthology includes scholarly research papers describing coalition warfare past and present from the perspective of commonalities and differences materialising across history. Since the end of the Cold War – or perhaps rather since fighting ceased after World War II – western and westernised liberal democracies have not fought major wars for reasons of survival. Moreover, they have rarely waged war alone. With the exceptions of colonial and post-colonial wars, as well as the Soviet occupation of Afghanistan 1979-89 and the US-led invasion of Iraq in 2003, wars of the late twentieth and early twenty-first centuries have been mandated by the UN and conducted as coalition enterprises led by an alliance or a great power. This has boosted legitimacy and eased the burden on the individual nation participant’s treasury, but at the same time it has brought about a plethora of novel hitches and challenges. Amongst these are the complications of multinational military collaboration in general, and those stemming from cultural dissimilarities in particular. Coalition warfare, therefore, is fraught with inherent pitfalls of a cultural nature. The reasons given for entering war-time coalitions or alliances have differed from time to time – and, more often than not, the true reasons are at odds with those publicised – but the crux of the matter has always been state security, and still is today. While the dangers from terrorism and other trans-national crimes are abiding key concerns in the first decades of the third millennium, throughout centuries past various other phenomena have been the prompters of decisions to join multinational coalitions. However important the war aims, and no matter how many advantages coalitions bring to those fighting together, disunity and defection of allies
is an abiding risk. The key threat to a coalition is disintegration. Throughout history, this has happened over and over again – because of tempting offers from the opponent, decline of zeal, sheer exhaustion of resources and manpower, or simply because the war has taken a turn prohibiting continued fighting for one or more coalition partners. In 1813, Denmark and Saxony defected from the Napoleonic cause because the opposing coalition had pushed the French armies so far west that defence of own territories became incompatible with staying with the Emperor. In 2007, the UK and Denmark withdrew from the coalition-of-the-willing in the Basra Region of Iraq, although it could be argued that the desired endstate had still not been achieved. Similarly in 2010, the UK, Denmark and various other coalition partners chose to announce that they would no longer have combat troops in Afghanistan from 2015 onwards. Coalition warfare is a complicated matter subject to frictions and surprises as much as any other kind of warfare, but it is a politico-military reality that remains of importance to historians as well as politicians and military commanders. This reality is what this anthology endeavours to scrutinise. Niels Bo Poulsen Royal Danish Defence College, 2012
Captain Ivan Cadeau is an army historian at the French Ministry of Defence’s historical section. His field of expertise is the French army in World War II, the War in French Indochina and the Korean War. With a PhD in history, his dissertation was entitled Army Engineers during the French Indochina War 1945-1956: a lack of means and a lack of knowledge. He teaches at the War College and other military and civil institutions and regularly conducts staff rides, especially on the Battle of France, May-June 1940 and the Battle of Monte Cassino. He has written several articles (such as 1954-1956: the Departure of the French Expeditionary Corps in the Far East) and books (such as The French Battalion in the Korean War and Souvenirs and Documents of the Military Heritage, 1940). He recently published and introduced the Ely report in a book entitled Lessons Learned from the Indochina War. He also recently published a book on the battle of Diên Biên Phu and completed preparations for another book to be published in 2013 on the history of the Korean War. Patrick William Cecil, MA, is currently completing his PhD programme in History at The University of Alabama, USA. His dissertation examines Colonial Pennsylvania’s security culture of restraint and its various forms from the 1630s to 1770s, and is tentatively entitled, An Experiment in Peace: Colonial Pennsylvania’s Security Cultures and the Breakdown of Restraint. Focusing primarily on military and naval history, supplemented by two American history testing fields and a European non-testing field, his interests include American and British military history and foreign relations, coalition warfare, Quaker history, and sport in military infrastructures and coalitions. Professor, Dr Douglas Delaney is the author of The Soldiers’ General: Bert Hoffmeister at War (2005), which won the 2007 C.P. Stacey Prize in Canadian Military History. His latest work, Corps Commanders: Five British and Canadian Generals at War, 1939-1945 (2011) is a collective biography of senior leaders in the First Canadian Army during the Second World War. A retired infantry officer with over 27 years of service, Dr Delaney is a past Chair of the War Studies programme and Professor of
History at the Royal Military College of Canada, where he lectures on strategy, warfare in the twentieth century, and Canadian military history. Paul M. Dover is Associate Professor of History at Kennesaw State University in Georgia, USA. He is the author of numerous articles on the diplomatic and cultural history of late medieval and early modern Europe. He is also the author of a historiography textbook, The Changing Face of the Past (2013) and the editor of a forthcoming volume entitled Secretaries and Statecraft in the Early Modern World. Dr Kjeld Hald Galster is a senior researcher (now retired) of the Royal Danish Defence College and visiting senior lecturer at the Saxo Institute, University of Copenhagen, Denmark. He was educated at the University of Copenhagen, St Catherine College Cambridge, the Royal Military College of Canada/Collège Militaire Royal du Canada, the Royal Danish Defence College and the Royal Danish Military Academy. He has published on military history and defence policy, the most recent titles being: Danish Troops in the Williamite army in Ireland, 1689–91: For King and Coffers. Dublin: Four Courts Press, December 2011; The Face of the Foe: Pitfalls and Perspectives of Military Intelligence. Kingston, Ontario, Canada: Legacy Books Press, 2010; The Debate on Denmark’s Defence, in Herman Amersfoort and Wim Klinkert, Eds. Small Powers in the Age of Total War, 1900-1940. Leiden: Brill, 2011; and Collective Security: National Egotism in Harold E. Raugh, Ed., End of Empires: Challenges to Security and Statehood in Flux. Bucharest: Military Publishing House, 2010. Jesper Gram-Andersen is the creator and curator of The Royal Life Guards Museum in Copenhagen, which was opened in 1978. For ten years, he was a teacher of military history at the Royal Air Force Academy, Denmark and for 23 years editor of The Guards Magazine. Moreover, he has been military commentator on live television on various Royal occasions. Jesper Gram-Andersen has been a full-time and part-time infantry officer (Guards), and as a staff officer during the Cold War his main occupation was combat intelligence. As a UN officer, he was Staff Officer Operations with the Danish Contingent during the war in Cyprus in 1974. He held various staff appointments on Partnership for Peace exercises. Finally, he was chief of evaluation at the Army Operational Command Denmark’s final mission training of the Danish contingents for international operations. He has published several books and articles (in Danish) about the regiment, including The Royal Life Guards 325 years 1658-1983, Life Guards Barracks and Rosenborg Parade Ground 200 years 1986 and The Royal
Life Guards 350 years 1658-2008 (6 volumes). He is also the author of The Army Corps of Zealand (NATO: COMLANDZEALAND) (2000), Danish Armed Forces Centre for Physical Training and Education 200 years 1804-2004, published by the Royal Danish Defence College, and co-writer of For Peace and Freedom in 50 years – Home Guard Region VI 19491999 and Garrison Churchyard – Copenhagen (1998). From 1980 to 1985, he was the editor and co-writer of three volumes about Barracks and Other Military Establishments on the Zealand Group of Islands and Bornholm. Of major articles to be mentioned are Foreign Powers’ view of the Defence of Denmark before and Including World War I (2004) and British Artillery at Copenhagen in 1807 (2007). Other subjects are military music, biographies and the World War I fortifications of Copenhagen. Professor, Dr Andrew Lambert is a British naval historian who is currently Laughton Professor of Naval History in the Department of War Studies at King's College London. After completing his doctoral research, Lambert was lecturer in modern international history at Bristol Polytechnic from 1983 until 1987; consultant in the Department of History and International Affairs at the Royal Naval College, Greenwich from 1987 until 1989; senior lecturer in war studies at the Royal Military Academy Sandhurst from 1989 until 1991; senior lecturer in the Department of War Studies at King’s College London from 1996 until 1999, then Professor of Naval History from 1999 until 2001; and then Laughton Professor of Naval History, and Director of the Laughton Naval History Research Unit. He served as Hon. Secretary of the Navy Records Society 1991-2005 and is a Fellow of the Royal Historical Society. Lambert’s work focuses on the naval and strategic history of the British Empire between the Napoleonic Wars and the First World War, and the early development of naval historical writing. He has written works on important nineteenth century naval historians, including William James and Professor Sir John Knox Laughton, after whom Lambert's chair in Naval History at King's is named. His most recent books are Admirals: The Naval Commanders who Made Britain Great, Faber and Faber (2008), Ship: A History in Art & Photography, Conway Publishing (2010), Franklin: Tragic Hero of Polar Navigation, Faber and Faber (2010). The Crimean War: British Grand Strategy against Russia 1853-1856, 2nd edition Ashgate Press 2011, and The Challenge: Britain versus America in the Naval War of 1812, Faber & Faber 2012.
Dr Matthew S. Muehlbauer received his PhD from Temple University in 2008, where he was a University Fellow. His academic specialties are colonial America and military history, with research that focuses on seventeenth-century New England. His article ‘They… shall no more be called Peaquots but Narragansetts and Mohegans: Refugees, Rivalry, and the Consequences of the Pequot War’ was published in the journal War & Society in 2011, and he is currently writing a textbook with David J. Ulbrich on U.S. military history for Routledge. In addition to the Conference on Coalition Warfare, he has presented before the Society of Military History, the Organisation of American Historians, the International Society of Military Sciences and the Transatlantic Studies Association. He has taught for a number of American institutions, including the United States Military Academy and Rutgers University. Dr Thomas Heine Nielsen is a senior lecturer of Ancient Greek at the University of Copenhagen, Denmark. He graduated in Ancient Greek in 1992 with a thesis on the speeches of Herodotus. He has been employed by the Copenhagen Polis Centre (an international research centre devoted to the study of the ancient Greek city-state culture. His doctoral dissertation Pollan ek polion: The Polis Structure of Arkadia in the Archaic and Classical Periods was submitted in 1996 and was published in an enlarged version as Arkadia and its Poleis in the Archaic and Classical Periods in the Hypomnemata series by Vandenhoeck & Ruprecht (Göttingen) in 2002. He has authored or co-authored chapters (on Arkadia, Triphylia, East Lokris, Sikelia, Italia and Kampania, Thessalia and adjacent regions, and Rhodos) of the huge Inventory of Archaic and Classical Poleis, published by Oxford University Press in 2004 and of which he was co-editor. In 2000-2003, he was a Special Lecturer at the Department of Classics, University of Nottingham. Since August 2003, he has been a senior lecturer in Ancient Greek at the Section of Greek and Latin at the Saxo-Institute, University of Copenhagen. He is secretary to the Danish Xenophon Society, a member of the Editorial Committee of the on-line periodical Aigis, and a consultant in Ancient Greek matters for Museum Tusculanum Press. His current main interests are: interaction in the Hellenic city-state culture, the Panhellenic sanctuaries including athletics, Ancient Greek warfare and Ancient Greek religion. In 2003, he was awarded the Silver Medal for young scholars by the Royal Danish Academy of Sciences and Letters.
Dr Adam Schwartz is a research fellow at the University of Copenhagen, Denmark. He graduated in Ancient Greek in 2001 with a thesis on Aristotelian constitution types. During his time at the Section of Greek and Latin at the Saxo Institute, University of Copenhagen, he has lectured and researched on several aspects of ancient history, including Greek military history, and published extensively on the subject in both Danish and English. His revised doctoral dissertation Reinstating the Hoplite: Arms, Armour and Phalanx Fighting in Archaic and Classical Greece in the Historia Einzelschriften series by Franz Steiner Verlag (Stuttgart 2009) is an investigation of the nature of hoplite fighting and phalanx tactics. He has contributed to the forthcoming volume Men of Bronze: Hoplite Warfare in Ancient Greece, edited by Curtis Eastin and Donald Kagan (Princeton University Press: Princeton (2013)). He is a member of the Editorial Committee of the on-line periodical Aigis, and General Secretary of the Nordic Plato Society. Dr Arthur ten Cate is a military historian and senior researcher with the Netherlands Institute of Military History in The Hague. He has authored five books on contemporary Dutch military history, amongst them publications on Dutch peacekeeping operations in the Middle East and the Balkans, as well as a Ph.D. dissertation on international intervention in the Bosnian War of 1992-1995. Ten Cate’s latest research is on the Dutch participation in stability operations in Iraq in the aftermath of the 2003 war (resulting in a book published in 2010), and on Dutch Special Forces operations in the post-Cold War era, with a focus on Afghanistan. A book on this subject was published in March 2012. A book on Iraq was published in the autumn of 2010. ten Cate is also an editor of the web application Encyclopaedia of International Operations” (www.defensie. nl/nimh). He gives frequent lectures at the Netherlands Defence Academy and universities and is a reserve officer (rank of major) in the Royal Netherlands Army. ten Cate was deployed to Afghanistan three times, most recently in 2009 as Commander’s Historian, Regional Command South in Kandahar. Dr Thomas Vogel is a serving army lieutenant-colonel and a senior fellow at the Militärgeschichtliches Forschungsamt (MGFA; Military History Research Institute) of the Bundeswehr (German armed forces). His doctoral dissertation on Medieval History was submitted in 1994. In 1997, Dr Vogel joined the MGFA in Potsdam as a permanent member of its staff. As a project manager and co-author, he created three large touring exhibitions entitled Military Resistance against Hitler and the Nazi-
Regime, History of the Bundeswehr from the Beginning to 2005, and History of the Armed Bundeswehr Missions Abroad. Dr Vogel has been busy with historical research including the compilation of and comment on letters and diaries of Wehrmacht army captain Wilm Hosenfeld, an eye witness of the German occupation system in Poland during World War II. The book was published under the title: Wilm Hosenfeld: Ich versuche jeden zu retten. Das Leben eines deutschen Offiziers in Briefen und Tagebüchern. [W.H.: I try to Save Everybody. The Life of a German Officer in Letters and Diaries] (Munich: DVA, 2004). Secondary appointments made Dr Vogel a member of the editorial staff of both historic journals published by the MGFA: Militärgeschichte. Zeitschrift für historische Bildung [Military History: Journal of History Education] and (since 2004) Militärgeschichtliche Zeitschrift (MGZ) [Journal of Military History]. Recently, Dr Vogel has shifted into the Institute’s Department for Historical Research, where he is now working on military integration in war coalitions during the period of both world wars.
INTRODUCTION KJELD HALD GALSTER
History and general considerations Coalition warfare has been practiced for thousands of years. Sometimes the results have been complete disaster, as for the Greeks at Thermopylae 480 BC, and at other times the results were unequivocally successful, as with Wellington’s victory at Vitoria, 1813. Post-Cold War interdependence amongst many developed and developing countries contributes to making this the modern recipe for successful warfare. But the successful outcome henceforth depends on careful mixture and adjustment of key ingredients. These include mutual trust, command relationships, doctrine, technology, organisation, training, personnel and equipment strength, and cultural relationships.1 There is no vade mecum for coalition warfare – no commonly accepted and everlasting doctrine. Every coalition will be different in purpose, character, composition and scope; but there are some basic commonalities that will confront any coalition commander. Obviously, part of the basis on which we may form a template doctrine is historical experience. History plays such a dominant role in understanding the enduring aspects of warfare that modern commanders continue to study the battles of the ancients in order to understand the challenges of the present.2 Thus Thucydides’ The Peloponnesian War remains a classic example of the interactions between politics and war. Yet, for the most part, historic perspectives tend mainly to facilitate analysis of the actions by the commanders who led victorious coalitions – Marlborough, Prince Eugène of Savoy, Napoleon and Foch – but the key to success does not lie with 1
Willie J. Brown, USMC, The Keys To Successful Coalition Warfare: 1990 And Beyond. From internet, URL http://www.globalsecurity.org/military/library/report/1991/BWJ.htm accessed 11 August 2010. 2 Paul T. Mitchell, Network Centric Warfare and Coalition Operations: The New Military Operating System (Oxon: Routledge Global Security Studies, 2009) p. 3.
personalities alone. A doctrinal foundation must be based on methods. Many, but certainly far from all, coalitions are merged hurriedly in crisis or conflict and, thus for obvious reasons, may not provide an unfailing model upon which a doctrine may be founded. The technological limitations of coalition networks will themselves be aggravated by the political nature of coalitions and their management. Coalitions are largely about scarcity, either in terms of actual resources or political legitimacy. Scarcity is relieved through sharing influence over policy, and the willingness to share is a function of how interdependent coalition partners are. In the age of American military primacy, then, influence will be tightly restricted to the very few partners who are able, willing and trusted to make meaningful contributions to US operations.3 Being a lead nation of multilateral coalitions presents a challenge that is compounded by the need for doctrine to conduct joint operations in a combined environment. Four elements coalesce to achieve success in a war of coalition: agility, which calls for maintaining balance and force in shifting situations while striking in fleeting windows of opportunity; initiative, which means dominating the terms of battle and thus depriving the enemy of that same option; depth, which considers every dimension of war and envelops the entire spectrum of events across time and space; and synchronisation, which applies combat power both at the optimum moment and in the right place while controlling a myriad of simultaneous actions. The mutually supportive operations at El Alamein, 23 October 1942, and Torch, in November 1942, may serve as examples. To a military observer these four notions seem to emphasise the special importance to coalition warfare doctrine of the principles of offensive, flexibility and concentration of effort. Nonetheless, apparently no commonly accepted doctrine for coalition warfare exists today. Any multinational operation will require planning by all the participants, interoperability, shared risks and burdens, emphasis on commonalties, and diffused credit for success.4
Ibid., p. 5 The considerations on doctrines for coalition warfare are largely based on Robert W. Riscassi’s article Principles for Coalition Warfare. From Internet, URL http://www.dtic.mil/doctrine/jel/jfq_pubs/jfq0901.pdf accessed on 11 August 2010.
Kjeld Hald Galster
Dano-Afghan collaboration (photo by Major K.V.F. Ahlefeldt-Laurvig who was Force Protection mentor to Garrison Support Unit of 3rd Brigade, 215th Corps)
Political aspects Since antiquity, coalition warfare has been a part of the history of war and an abiding element in power politics. From the wars of the Delian League, 478-404 BC, to the most recent anti-terror operations in Afghanistan, coalition warfare has made significant contributions to the defence of values and security cherished by coalesced groups of nations. Alliances are not friendships, although the Austro-German coalition in the First World War, as well as the Anglo-American in the Second, were based on assumptions of common values that were genuinely believed to be true at the time and therefore carry historic weight. Nevertheless, all coalitions are entered into for motives of self-interest, usually for selfprotection.5 While over the last century coalitions and alliances have tended to be of a long-lasting nature, coalitions of the 17th and 18th centuries were 5
Paul Kennedy, Military Coalitions and Coalitions Warfare over the Past Century, in Keith Neilson and Roy A. Prete, Eds., Coalition Warfare: an Uneasy Accord (Waterloo, Ontario, Canada: Wilfrid Laurier University Press, 1983) p. 3.
only for the duration of a single war or even broken during it when raison d’état so suggested.6 In the 19th century, Britons who feared for the future of the empire and who saw world tendencies through Darwinian spectacles, sought alliances in two forms. The first was to attempt an imperial defence coalition, to attach the largely self-governing Dominions to the common cause, a notion perceived with scant enthusiasm by Canada as well as South Africa. The second form was a willingness to contemplate alliance with another great power – with Japan in 1902 and, less formally, with France and Russia a few years later. Thus British statesmen, too, sought the dual security that they believed a coalition offered: aid from partners in the event of hostilities; and a pledge to assist partners, whose defeat by a mutual foe might be disastrous to their own interests.7 In the mid-twentieth century there was a very threatening coalition of authoritarian regimes, the Axis Powers. While the actual degree of intimacy and shared aims may be questioned, the fact remains that they appeared to pose a combined menace and to be working with each other.8 Once hostilities actually broke, out it became apparent that that war could not be fought and won by a single state or empire and, thus, during the Second World War it dawned upon politicians of both warring sides that coalition warfare was the single most essential answer to their needs. Hence, from March 1941, a prolonged period of wartime coalitions and peacetime alliances began. That date was particularly significant because it marked the passing of the Lend-Lease Act in the US Congress, by which the British Empire got access to vital resources provided by the US, without which the empire would slowly have ceased to fight. Before the military alliance between Britain and the US, there was already an economic coalition; and at the first Churchill-Roosevelt summit at Placentia Bay in August 1941 – and even before that, at the ABC Conference – there was the first understanding of a joint strategy.9 It is true, of course, that there were significant political, almost ideological, differences between the British Empire and the US over India and the Asian colonies, and over the policy towards Nationalist China. There was also the famous long-lasting dispute over the Mediterranean strategy 194244.
Ibid., p. 4 Ibid., pp. 5-6 8 Ibid., p. 11 9 Ibid., pp. 11-12 7
Kjeld Hald Galster
Military aspects Doctrine and strategy While the expression ‘coalition’ signifies the outcome of a political agreement among two or more states to co-operate in war, in NATO parlance – at the military level – the proper term for what is happening on the battlefield is rather ‘combined operations.’ We know that joint operations represent significantly greater complexity than single-service operations. In combined operations, the ‘joint’ difficulties are still prevalent, but with the added complexity of two or more contributor nations’ armed forces co-operating, all of whom bring their separate orientations and proclivities to the practice of warfare, the challenge grows. In order to overcome these challenges a coalition must operate to a common doctrine to take advantage of commonalties and reconcile the differences. Moreover, doctrinal incompatibility will always be a source of friction.10 The doctrine is the sum of fundamental principles by which the military forces guide their actions in support of objectives. It is authoritative but requires judgement in application.11 But there are more requirements that are equally important: the professional language in which coalition forces communicate, the battlefield missions, control measures, combined arms and joint procedures as well as command relationships. To achieve the full synergic effects of joint combat power, the war fighting doctrine must be common to all arms. In the absence of a commonly understood doctrine, planning and execution of military operations become extraordinarily difficult. Yet, approaching a commonly agreed doctrine can be a dreary political task – eine politische Durststrecke. A strategic concept is ‘the course of action accepted as the result of an estimate of the strategic situation. It is a statement of what is to be done in broad terms sufficiently flexible to permit its use in framing the military, diplomatic, economic, psychological and other measures that stem from it.’12 Agreement on strategy is the foundation for coalition action. It is derived from policy agreements between contributing nations and must be detailed enough to shape the direction of the upcoming campaign, yet sufficiently broad to allow full exploitation of the capabilities of individual national forces. An example of disagreement on this point might be found 10
Gal Luft, Beef, Bacon and Bullets: Culture in Coalition Warfare from Gallipoli to Iraq (no place: Gal Luft, 2009), p. xvi 11 NATO AAP-6(S) 12 Ibid.
in Churchill’s peripheral strategy vs. Roosevelt’s centralist approach to the War in Europe. The development of an effective military strategy is difficult even when military action is national, and it is far more trying in a coalition. Strategy is designed to accomplish political objectives. Because of its proximity to policy, it will be the point of reference for gaining consensus between military and political leaders. Consequently, it is also most likely to be the centre of controversy in both political and military spheres. Rarely do nations enter a coalition with identical views on ends to be achieved. As coalition partners increase in number, conflicting objectives and additional political constraints are added to the conundrum. The coalition commander must walk a taut line between accommodating and compromising, yet preserve the ability to achieve military decision. At the same time, it is important to realise that in coalitions the will is strongest when the perception of threat is greatest. As conditions change over time, so may the will and objectives of participating nations. Coalition strategic formulation is difficult also because of the sheer mass involved in the effort. Strategy involves the merging and co-ordination of nearly every element of multinational power to accomplish military objectives. It may require insights into different national industrial capabilities, mobilisation processes, transportation capabilities, and interagency contributions, in addition to military capabilities. It must bind all these together with precision and care. It operates on the tangent edge of international relations and diplomacy and must seek congruency with these forms. It addresses issues as weighty as the end-state to be achieved and as mundane as the rules of engagement to be applied at each stage of operations. In coalition operations, strategy is the level of war where international politics and bodies are coalesced into a unified approach. The ability to design an effective military campaign will depend on concord on the military strategy. At the operational level, disagreements that occur are generally among military professionals; but there are, of course, political ramifications also to be considered. The campaign must be phased in concurrence with the availability of combat power, as it is generated from multiple national sources. The campaign plan should also provide the basis for defining and recommending national contributions. Unless this is done and provided to the various national authorities, the combined commander will end up with a force composition that is not rationalised towards operational requirements. The campaign plan has the integrating effect of serving as both the driver for force requirements and the schedule for generating those assets. The campaign plan is the instrument that synchronises all elements of combat power. It provides combined commanders with the vital understanding to link operations, battles and
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engagements to the coalition’s strategic objectives. It is the tool of coordination of the various activities with a view to achieving the end-state laid down in the strategy. It must address a variety of choices concerning the approach to warfare – offensive or defensive, terrain- or force-oriented, direct or indirect approach – and in so doing, becomes the instrument for the actual application of force.
Planning Within a coalition, a common planning process is essential. The degree to which national commanders and staffs understand and are able to participate in planning, impacts on the time required to plan and the sharing of knowledge of every component of operations. The common planning process should facilitate unity of command, which is the basic precondition for ability to integrate coalition forces. Unity of command is the most fundamental principle of warfare, but the single most difficult principle to gain in combined warfare. The strategic disagreement between the Francophile Churchill and the Anglophobe de Gaulle is a daunting example of the opposite. Unity of command is dependent on many influences and considerations. Coalition partners are often strict about preserving their operational independence.13 Because of the severity and consequences of war, relinquishing national command and control of forces is an act of trust and confidence that is unparalleled in relations between nations. It is a passing of human and material resources to another nation’s citizens. In a coalition, it is achieved by constructing command arrangements and task-organising forces to ensure that responsibilities match contributions and efforts. Command relationships between national commanders should be carefully considered to ensure that authority matches responsibilities. It is cardinal that compromises do not overshadow war fighting requirements.
Training The first priority in generating coalition combat power from a conglomeration of nationally separated units is to train, emphasising the fundamental commonalties outlined earlier. Only through training will combined units master and sustain collective war fighting skills. As the coalition is brought together, staffs and commanders must adapt rapidly to the units and processes in the fighting organisations being formed. The 13
Luft, Beef, Bacon and Bullets, p. xvi
impediments and sources of friction become clear at once. So, frequently, do the solutions that must be applied.
Command, Control, Communications, Computers and Intelligence Applying the combined doctrine – the doctrine of the coalition – relies on a Command, Control, Communications, Computers and Intelligence architecture, in modern military lingo C4I, which is supposed to integrate the joint forces of all coalition partners. Indeed, while continuing to improve capabilities for collecting, analysing and disseminating intelligence, managing the vast amounts of information upon which decisions are made, and incorporating more and more computer aids into the battlefield decision and execution processes, a coalition requires all partners to be in the electronic loop. Unless we maintain ability to share with, and in turn receive from, all coalition partners, our battlefield will not be as seamless as we wished it to be and significant risks will materialise. However, achieving integrated C4I within a coalition comes with a number of caveats. First, there is the language barrier. Communication problems are amongst the primary sources for tension, confusion and inefficiency in multinational forces. While spoken and written language is a vehicle to convey ideas, desires and feelings, it is also the main source of miscommunication.14 In the 17th and 18th centuries, French was the lingua franca spoken by all officers and diplomats. Similarly today, English and, in some cases, French are the preferred languages used by military staffs when engaged in coalition warfare, and translation into national languages happens at the lowest tactical or combat levels only. Tactical integration – and therefore command and control, i.e. C2 – of ground forces is difficult to achieve; and it might be attained most rapidly by early integration of some tactical units. Fundamental considerations are the factors of mission, enemy, terrain, troops and time available on the battlefield. This will dictate the alignment and missions of variously equipped and talented forces on the battlefield. Lightly armed forces can perform in military operations on urbanised, densely foliaged or mountainous terrain, heavy forces in more mobile environments, airmobile or motorised forces in virtually any terrain. Research into coalitions and networked collaboration is particularly intense on professional educational programmes, notably military staff courses, higher command course equivalents etc. While there is a great 14
Ibid., p. 11
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variety of themes amongst papers tendered by military students, many of them writing on issues concerned with their personal experiences of coalition warfare participation, there seems to be a general concern that Network Centric Warfare, driven by the US’ keenness to integrate information technology into its operational concepts, threatens the cohesion of coalition operations. Such challenges to coalitions posed by information technology appear to exist at all levels of warfare.15 As America’s principal military partner, the UK appears to have a strong interest in keeping pace with US military developments. However, even with the third-largest military budget in the world (at least until the recent cuts in military expenditure by the Cameron government), according to Swedish SIPRI the British worry about not being able to keep pace with the United States. This clearly puts the problem of coalition interoperability into stark contrast, because if the British cannot keep pace, who can?16 Network-enabled capabilities offer decisive advantages through the timely provision and exploitation of information and intelligence to enable effective decision-making and agile actions. It argues for creating a system that can exploit the latent power that exists between the seams of all three services, thus enabling successful joint fires and an ability to engage timesensitive targets. Indeed, expropriating many of the terms from Network Centric Warfare, it argues that network-enabled capabilities will enable decision superiority through shared situational awareness within taskoriented communities of interest that exploit collaborative processes in a single information domain.17
Logistics Logistics management of coalition forces is a matter ultimately dependent on a wide variety of factors. National arrangements, host nation support agreements and equipment compatibility are but a few. Some coalition forces will enter the coalition with the intention and means to provision themselves. In these cases, coalition control may be no more than a need to coordinate; or, providing ports of entry, offload capabilities, storage sites, and routes and means for pushing sustainment forward. Others will arrive with the need for more extensive support. This may be solvable through bi-national agreements from one member nation to provide 15
Paul T. Mitchell, Network Centric Warfare and Coalition Operations: The New Military Operating System (Oxon: Routledge Global Security Studies, 2009) p. 53. 16 Ibid., p. 111. 17 Ibid.
support to another, or may require active coalition management. As a rule, actual execution of tactical logistics support to alliance members should be decentralised. At the coalition headquarters level, the focus should be on measuring the requirements of executing the campaign plan, providing advance estimates of these requirements to national units, and ensuring that proper controls are in place to de-conflict and permit movement and processing of combat power to units.
Constraints Culture Any coalition is brought together by partner states, each with its individual cultural background, language, history, norms and sensitivities of political or religious natures. The level of exposure of military organisations to other cultures in the pre-coalition stage determines their ability to minimise cross-cultural tension with fellow coalition partners.18 Nevertheless, partners disparate in one or more respects, are prone to occasional clashes of interests as well as to differing views on and approaches to strategy and operations. Their strategic interests are rarely identical, their ways of fighting and commanding may differ considerably, as may their view on international treaties and agreements, and each of them will strive to preserve their operational independence and identity of their troops.19 Understanding the behaviour, norms and sensitivities of partners of dissimilar cultural backgrounds is a precondition for smooth co-operation and seamless interoperability within a coalition, and it goes without saying that the more used a military is to co-operating with foreign partners, the easier it will adapt to fighting alongside new ones. The more educated its members are as to the world beyond their own borders, the more painlessly they mingle with foreign colleagues. The challenge in this field is gaining awareness with respect for the differences – and there is a growing recognition of the need to analyse them in order to make sure that due respect is paid and misunderstandings and embarrassment are avoided. Thus, different cultures mean different doctrines and disparate approaches to planning and execution of operations. Casualties, ‘friendly fire,’ collateral damage and respect for human life are prominent domains where cultural models differ to the detriment of coalition co-operation. A society’s religiosity determines to a large extent 18 19
Ibid., p. xvii Ibid., p. xvi
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its ability to stomach casualties. Militaries from societies with a high sensitivity to casualties are likely to reflect their sensitivity by relying on firepower and air power, a reluctance to engage in high-risk operations, conservative training programmes and an adherence to often-exaggerated safety standards in the daily life of the troops. This can cause tension regarding certain ethical and moral issues applicable to military life, such as rules of engagement, treatment of civilian populations in enemy territory, environmental issues, the use of certain types of weapons, torture, abuse and treatment of prisoners of war.20 The USA appears willing to tolerate casualty figures considerably higher than do most coalition partners, which is, of course, part of the explanation of why the Americans operate more daringly than do the British or the Danes. The American criticism of Montgomery’s cautious and thoroughlyrehearsed operations in Europe in 1944-45 has a parallel in that of AngloDanish counter insurgency in Afghanistan’s Helmand Province disclosed by Wikileaks 2010. In December 2010, American as well as Afghan decision-makers were quoted for severe criticism of the British strategy, resource allocation, risk avoidance and allegedly poor ability to create security in the Helmand Region.21 The fear of casualties is the cause of significant operational restrictions on what European coalition partners will permit their ground forces to do once they are deployed.22 Moreover, this is true not only as far as own troops are concerned, but equally as much as to the opponent. To most European powers, it is sine qua non that casualties amongst the opposition be minimised and civilian fatalities be avoided. This leads to differing rules of engagement and dissimilar handling of hostile combatants, human shields and prisoners-of-war. Not only are doctrinal prescriptions and ethical standards rarely identical, partners normally emphasise the display of independence and sovereignty of their own forces. Since they have to collaborate, this is a challenge, which must be addressed. In 1815 at Waterloo, Blücher and Wellington attacked along converging, though clearly separate, axes, making it possible for the Prussians to claim victory in their own right. The need to reconcile diverse cultural traditions or religious practises is illustratively exemplified by the Sepoy Rebellion of 1857-8. The major cause of resentment that arose ten months prior to the outbreak of the rebellion was the General Service Enlistment Act of 25 July 1856. Until then, men of the Bengal Army had been exempted from service overseas. 20
Ibid., p. 17 The Guardian, 3 December 2010, ‘Wikileaks cables expose Afghan contempt for British Military.’ 22 Mitchell, p. 115. 21
Specifically, they were enlisted only for service in territories to which they could march. Although the Act required only new recruits to the Bengal Army to accept overseas deployment, serving high-caste sepoys were fearful that it might eventually be extended to them. There were also grievances over slow promotion caused by the increasing influx of British officers. The final, and – in terms of cultural differences – most decisive controversy was over the ammunition for the ‘New Pattern 1853 Enfield Rifle.’ To load the new rifle, the sepoys had to bite the cartridge open. Many Sepoys believed that the paper cartridges were greased with lard (pork fat), which was regarded as unclean by Muslims, or tallow (beef fat), being an abomination to Hindus. On 27 January 1857, the East India Company ordered that all cartridges issued from depots were to be grease free, and that sepoys could grease them themselves using whatever lubricant they might prefer. This, however, merely caused many sepoys to be convinced that the rumours were true and that their fears were justified. Hence, the Sepoy Rebellion started on 10 May 1857 and was to last until the signature of a peace treaty on 8 July 1858, at which occasion the Crown took over from the East India Company sole responsibility for British interests in India, including all military matters. It is, thus, obvious that conciliation of cultural and religious differences must be overcome to achieve optimum collaboration by coalition partners and that a lead nation will go out of its way to accomplish precisely that. However vague the common cause, however few the shared values; sensible coalition partners will hardly let irrelevant factors like ethnic or devout sensibilities stand in the way of completion of the military enterprise upon which they have embarked.
Coalition partners and dominance In any coalition the lead nation will hold considerable sway over strategy, campaign plans and the roles of lesser contributors. During the Napoleonic Wars, there could be no doubt that France was such a dominant coalition leader. On the opposite side – although various other great powers did have a say in coalition war policy – Britain, for the simple reason that she was paying the most, eventually came out as the primus inter pares – or first among equals – in the final battle at Waterloo as well as in the rearrangement of the European political layout in the immediate aftermath. Similarly, during the war between France and the German states in the late nineteenth century, Prussia took the obvious lead being not only the victor of two previous wars – i.e. one against Denmark in 1864 and another against Austria in 1866 – but also demographically and economically at the
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forefront of German industrial and political development. Although this did not happen without protest from various South-German, Catholic principalities and kingdoms, notably Bavaria, the Prussian dominance was generally accepted as a precursor of German unification, which eventually came about with the coronation of Prussian King Wilhelm as German emperor in 1871. From the end of the Second World War onwards, the USA has been the dominant power of most formal as well as many less regulated coalitions. This was generally the case in the Korean War, 1950-53, in the, post-French-Vietnam War, 1955-75, and during the Cold War, 1947-91. Even in conflicts fought by coalitions not including America, the US has been able to wield considerable influence on their duration, termination and outcome. This happened in the Suez crisis in 1956 and, to some extent, in the various Arab-Israeli Wars. After the end of the Cold War, the re-unification of Germany and the re-definition of NATO’s role, many things have changed and – as we saw in the bombing campaign in Libya in early 2011 – US lead is no longer a given. While NATO partners were generally supportive of the US after the atrocities of 11 September 2001, agreeing to the UN-sanctioned action in Afghanistan to eliminate the Al Qaeda menace, there was no unison in 2003 when the American Bush administration tried to persuade old as well as potential allies to back their war in Iraq. Severe divergence emerged between the United States and some of its major allies, notably France and Germany, indicating a decline of American hegemony. Unlike 1956, when the US was able to force France and Britain to back down over Suez, in the post-Cold War environment of 2003, Washington was unable to mollify partners and make them adapt their policies to American needs. Indeed, as the dispute went on, each side became more intransigent.23
The downside of coalition warfare Coalitions have their advantages and their downsides – or, as Churchill put it in 1942, ‘in working with allies, it sometimes happens that they develop opinions of their own’. While the obvious benefits include burden sharing, increased legitimacy and, frequently, strategic and operational gains (such as access to resources, encirclement of the opponent and large reserves), the drawbacks also loom on the horizon. Amongst them are differing war aims, disagreement on contributions, cumbersome decision-making processes, prima donnas amongst the commanders, differing sensitivity to 23
Ibid., p. 19.
casualties and troubles arising from uneven access to the information technology on which today’s network centric warfare is based. It is obvious that the decision-making process of a single power with its own well-rehearsed command system runs a lot more smoothly than that of a coalition, where commanders of different backgrounds and traditions have to go out of their way to avoid misunderstandings and secure agreement amongst themselves and with their individual capitals. Thus in Kosovo in 1999, when NATO fought the army of the Former Republic of Yugoslavia in order to stop atrocities being committed between the opposing sides, Yugoslav President Slobodan Milosevic was able to engage military forces greatly superior to his own, because he enjoyed the advantage of being a unitary actor confronted by a complex coalition of powers only loosely held together by a broadly defined common objective. Moreover, NATO fought under considerable constraints, which the Yugoslav forces did not share. Intense political pressure was applied to minimise casualties (friendly, enemy and civilian), curtail attacks on local infrastructure, and put an end to the ongoing ethnic cleansing. The tensions between NATO’s wartime objectives were a product of the tangled negotiations that ultimately brought the alliance into the conflict. Because of vetoes by Russia and China, there was no Security Council mandate in place, nor was NATO able to agree internally on a single legal basis for the war. Thus, each force-contributing nation applied its own legal and political justifications.24 Today, coalition warfare is largely conducted by lead nations possessing an overwhelming capability as far as information technologybased command and control systems are concerned: the US, Britain, France and a few more perhaps. If smaller coalition partners wish to cooperate at a par with their lead nations, they must adapt to the highest possible degree. They must be able to find their role in the triangular relationship amongst Network Centric Warfare, information release and coalition strategy. Coalition partners not possessing optimum Network Centric Warfare capabilities will be sidelined.25 Many factors combine to hamper coalition interoperability. Cultural factors, as we have already seen, can make serious hindrances if partners are not willing to – or capable of – adopting a common working language or if they do not share views on operative imperatives such as planning, timeliness and training standards. Similarly, national pride, tradition and ethical differences may stand in the way of effective co-operation. 24 25
Ibid., p. 27. Ibid., p. 119.
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However, among the more tangible matters there is always a risk that incompatible equipment or doctrinal disparity may cause a coalition to malfunction. While the disparity between the US and the rest of the world is partly a product of the Americans’ own design (in order to reinforce their unipolar military status), in its turn it creates growing problems for the US’ own operations.26 American military units are so lavishly equipped that few other countries – except perhaps Britain and France – are willing to do likewise. This leaves the Americans in the situation they probably wanted to avoid, namely that of having to bear the overwhelming majority of operational costs themselves. Some smaller partners have, nonetheless, chosen to follow suit technologically, but at the expense of numbers. While Denmark today has armed forces that are at a technological level almost as advanced as that of Britain, over the last decades the force structure has shrunk to a level allowing hardly more than one battalion at the time to be deployed on overseas missions.
A coalescence of nations Although there have been coalitions that have failed, as the Central Powers eventually did in World War I, the concept has stood the test of time due to viability, resilience and flexibility. Thus, as this concept has developed, coalition warfare is no longer just a matter of fighting a common enemy; it is a coalescence of nations that, of necessity, transcend national core values and beliefs to facilitate positive outcome of a common cause. As nations continue to rely upon one another for the provision of security as well as for trade and technological progress, the importance of establishing coalitions becomes more critical by the day.27 For a fuller account on the phenomena of coalition warfare, you might wish to see Kjeld Hald Galster Crucial Coalition: Anglo-Danish Military Co-operation and the Message of History. Kingston, Ontario, Canada: Legacy Books Press, 2012.
Ibid., p. 117. Paul Kennedy, “Military Coalitions and Coalitions Warfare over the past Century” in Keith Neilson and Roy A. Prete, Eds., Coalition Warfare: an Uneasy Accord (Waterloo, Ontario, Canada: Wilfrid Laurier University Press, 1983) p. 11
SHIFTING ALLIES, ENEMIES, AND INTERESTS: THE FLUIDITY OF COALITION WARFARE PATRICK WILLIAM CECIL
On 1 March 1848, Henry John Temple, the Viscount Palmerston, spoke in the House of Commons: “We have no eternal allies and we have no perpetual enemies. Our interests are eternal and perpetual, and these interests it is our duty to follow.”1 With revolution spreading through Europe, Palmerston warned that Britain always ought to seek her true interests of stability on the European continent, security on the seas and economic expansion, and that allies and enemies of a state shift according to the winds of change. Palmerston’s discussion on Britain’s interests, allies and enemies centres on the topic of coalition warfare. In basic terms, a coalition is an agreement between multiple entities to achieve a common purpose. When composed of a multiplicity of members, coalitions become complex relationships as differing viewpoints and interests must find balance with each other and the common purpose behind the alliance. This dynamic can extend well beyond the realm of war into such fields as politics, economics, religion and our everyday lives.2 In discussing coalition warfare, it is necessary to remember that ‘coalition’ itself can have multiple meanings and different interpretations within the context of war. These varying methods all seem to rest upon the idea of interests, yet even interests themselves are divisive and fluid. The historiography concerning coalition warfare demonstrates that the term 1 Henry John Temple, Viscount Palmerston, Speech in the House of Commons on foreign policy (1 March 1848), quoted in John Bartlett, Bartlett’s Familiar Quotations, 17th ed. (Boston: Little, Brown and Company, 2002), 417. 2 This historiography paper, first presented at the “Conference on Coalition Warfare from the Early Modern Era until Today” hosted by the Royal Danish Defence College and the Danish Commission for Military History in May 2011 in Copenhagen, Denmark, retains the same message presented at the conference along with some minor edits for publication, as well as incorporating the points brought up by colleagues in the question and discussion period following the paper’s presentation.
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coalition holds many connotations and diverse examples. In one of its more recognisable forms, a coalition is created by separate entities in order for them to survive against a common opponent. It is the basic need to survive that drives states to seek assistance from others. As the coalition survives the danger, the relationship among members becomes increasingly complex and difficult to maintain as each pursue its own interests. Who dictates and interprets these interests offers another way to examine the term coalition, as military and government leaders, such as the Viscount Palmerston, pursue policies based on their understandings of what is best for the state. Individual interpretations of interest can eventually grow to threaten the coalition. As survival becomes less of a concern and government leaders pursue what they believe to be a state’s interests, sovereignty and patriotism can offer direct contrast to the coalition’s overarching aim and cause its collapse. As secondary interests and issues of sovereignty begin to pull and tug at the coalition, it becomes critical to find balance between the coalition’s purpose and members’ aspirations.3 Coalitions develop when separate entities find common reason to come together, perhaps none more natural than the need to survive against a mutual opponent. A coalition is strongest when its members are most vulnerable. Survival as an entity is the fundamental aim for a state in conflict. The ability to exist and to govern serves as the foundation block for all other interests of a state, whether in a coalition or not. When survival is threatened and a state is placed in a corner, desperation takes over, to the point where other groups facing similar circumstances appear as attractive allies. As coalitions form to survive against a common opponent, individual sovereignty becomes a secondary issue, as it will matter for nothing if they are unable to withstand the threat to their existence. World War I offers an interesting case in which survival acted as the fundamental bonding agent between states. Although Britain and France were already allied, circumstances in 1918 required that they
These three examples regarding coalition warfare (entities coming together to survive against a common opponent, how individuals interpret a state’s interests and the necessary policies to reach those goals, thus effecting the coalition’s dynamics and success, and how sovereignty and secondary interests can contrast with a coalition’s main goal and threaten its integrity) do not constitute set parameters by which coalitions form, function and evolve. Rather, they offer some of the more recognisable features within coalition warfare as well as instances that may be overlooked when analysing coalition warfare.
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further discard sovereignty in order effectively to resist against the Germans.4
Ferdinand Foch. (Courtesy of the Library of Congress)
For additional scholarship on coalitions and members seeking to survive, see John B. B. Trussell, Jr., Birthplace of an Army: A Study of the Valley Forge Encampment (Harrisburg: Pennsylvania Historical and Museum Commission, 1976). In extending coalition warfare from survival of a state to the survival of religion and identity, see the Holy Alliances of the sixteenth-century and such scholarship as: Frederic C. Lane, Venice: A Maritime Republic (Baltimore: The Johns Hopkins University Press, 1973); John Francis Guilmartin, Jr., Gunpowder and Galleys: Changing Technology and Mediterranean Warfare at Sea in the Sixteenth Century (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1974).
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The appointment of Ferdinand Foch as General-in-Chief of the Allied armies on the Western Front in the spring of 1918 came at a time when the survival of the Allied war effort against Germany seemingly had come to the point of collapse. Though already allied against the Central Powers, Britain and France lacked a unified command system, relying instead on assurances of support. Historians note that national contingent commanders guarded their army’s national sovereignty and control over their respective reserves, for they did not wish to handicap their own freedom of movement or to place troops under a foreign commander. The idea for an allied general staff had been floated in previous years, and in the summer of 1917 political leaders sought to create a Supreme War Council to better coordinate military action on the Western Front. Douglas Haig and Philippe Pétain, as commanders of their respective national armies, resisted the Council’s ability to control reserves. For these commanders, their coalition had not come under sufficient threat to give up their sovereignty and freedom of action.5 With Russia’s withdrawal from the conflict and Germany’s ability to concentrate manpower on the Western front, the separate Allied armies found themselves outnumbered by a German army under a unified command. On 21 March, Germany began a spring offensive, using intense bombardment and storm troops to gain local numerical superiority. Focusing their attack on the critical junction of the British and French armies, German troops within days pushed the Allied lines to the brink of collapse. With Haig wanting to ensure the security of the Channel Ports and Pétain wanting to cover Paris, the Germans appeared to be driving a wedge between the two, where each could be dealt with individually. Assurances and co-operation among national commanders only went so far in providing an effective resistance. The coalition in a sense remained loose, and needed to be tightened under the threat of disintegration. At the insistence of British leadership for unity of command, Ferdinand Foch, then acting as Chief of Staff to the French Army, 5
On the Allied coalition in World War I and the appointment of Ferdinand Foch as a measure of survival for the British and French allies, see the following: General Sir James Marshall-Cornwall, Foch as Military Commander (New York: Crane, Russak & Company, Inc., 1972); David F. Trask, The AEF and Coalition Warmaking, 1917-1918 (Lawrence: University Press of Kansas, 1993); William James Philpott, Anglo-French Relations and Strategy on the Western Front, 191418 (New York: St. Martin’s Press, Inc., 1996); Michael S. Neiberg, Foch: Supreme Allied Commander in the Great War (Washington, D.C.: Brassey’s, Inc., 2003); Elizabeth Greenhalgh, Victory through Coalition: Britain and France during the First World War (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2005).
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assumed the role to co-ordinate the Allied armies on 26 March. Such a recommendation brought a realisation to the British that their survival in the war effort required that their interests and sovereignty be made subordinate to alliance needs. Historians note that although Foch lacked the power to issue orders, his energy and ability to convince individual commanders to action, coupled by the German offensive losing steam, allowed the British and French to reorganise and solidify their lines. A week later on April 3, political and military leaders met at Beauvais to enhance Foch’s powers to give strategic direction over military operations, including that of the arriving American army.6
John “Black Jack” Pershing. (Courtesy of the Library of Congress)
The case of American General John “Black Jack” Pershing provides an interesting aspect to the unification of command among the allied British and French armies, and the ‘associated’ American army. Although it could be discussed in the subsequent constructs of the role played by individuals and their understanding of a state’s interests within coalition warfare, or how the guarding of national sovereignty can undermine an alliance, Pershing’s conduct regarding the need for a unified command structure in the coalition also supports how dire consequences can bond entities together in an alliance. Despite not being present at the Doullens conference, when Foch assumed overall command in March, Pershing 6 National army commanders held the right to petition against Foch’s orders if they felt it endangered the integrity of their armies.
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understood the necessity for a unified command structure, arguing, “…no matter who the commanders-in-chief of the different armies might be, we would never have co-operation unless we have one commander-in-chief for all the allied armies on this front; that is absolutely essential to the success of the allied cause.”7 With the German offensive threatening the integrity between the French and British lines, and with American units arriving in France piecemeal, that sense for survival encouraged coalition partners to bond closer together against the common threat. In the spring of 1918, the Allies, now under a unified commander in Foch, withstood the German initial drives as they lost momentum by the end of April. Yet both the British and French sought to strengthen their positions by having American troops attached to their formations, in fear of a renewed German offensive. Pershing refused this idea, seeking to create an American army that would function under its own flag while being under Pershing’s control and Foch’s guidance, not the national commands of Haig or Pétain. While Pershing’s stubbornness can be argued as being in contrast to the need for a single commander-in-chief, his defence of a distinct American army, similar to those of the French and the British, occurred after the German offensive had appeared to have ended in late April. No one really knew that it would resume in late May. The Abbeville conference in early May saw the situation change for the allies, where the fundamental need to survive had seemingly been secured, allowing for secondary interests now to weigh in on the balancing act of the coalition. Pershing remained steadfast to creating an American army, and Foch, as General-in-Chief, supported his position. Foch also demonstrated the importance of diplomacy and of maintaining balance in the coalition, for while he supported Pershing’s position on creating an American army, he secured agreements for increased troop shipments from the Americans.8 With their “backs to the wall,” as described by Douglas Haig, the allies, most notably the British and French, and to a lesser degree the Americans, sacrificed sovereignty to achieve unity of command and contain the threat to the war effort and command structure.9 When the perceived threat of survival to coalition members has been reduced to a lesser concern, an alliance can begin to break down as states pursue their divergent interests. Once firmly held together by a common threat to their existence and well-being, the relationship among allies becomes increasingly complex, fractious, and difficult to maintain as the commonly-held purpose branches off in a similar fashion to a tree’s 7
As quoted in Trask, 51. Trask, 58-63. 9 Greenhalgh, 206. 8
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complex root system, with each member seeking to nourish their respective wants. These wants and interests do not remain consistent either, for they change based on what government leaders come to view as the necessary and desirable interests for a state. Individuals bring an element of unpredictability to coalition warfare, keeping the subject and practice in constant motion and always needing to be studied and refined. Individual interpretation, influence, and the resulting rhetoric in expressing a state’s interests can dictate an alliance’s success as well as create unwanted tension that can loosen the bonds of a coalition. In considering the War for American Independence, the negotiations between the American colonies and the French Court occurred amongst individuals who had the capability to both solidify and disrupt the Franco-American alliance.10 Diplomatic negotiations between the American colonists and their French allies during the War for American Independence relied heavily on individual character. Historians have identified John Adams as a notable case, for his personality and interpretation of American interests threatened to disrupt the coalition. In the course of his diplomatic career in France, his interpersonal relationships displayed traits of fear, suspicion, anger, mortification, envy, and egotism.11 Adams feared that France sought to dominate American commercial and territorial interests in the place of Britain.12 Upon arrival in France, with the intention to assist in negotiating an alliance, Adams found the American delegation had already signed a treaty. Resigned to assisting with paperwork, Adams became envious of Benjamin Franklin when the latter received an appointment to be the sole minister to France in early 1779. In the resulting rivalry, both men sought to establish themselves as the primary American representative to France.13 10 For additional scholarship on the role played by individuals, their personalities, and their interpretation of a state’s interests within a coalition, see: Martin Blumenson and James L. Stokesbury, Masters of the Art of Command (Boston: Houghton Mifflin Company, 1975); Jonathan Gregory Rossie, The Politics of Command in the American Revolution (Syracuse: Syracuse University Press, 1975); Field Marshall Sir Michael Carver, ed., The War Lords (Boston: Little, Brown and Company, 1976); Dominick Graham and Shelford Bidwell, Coalitions, Politicians and Generals (London: Brassey’s, 1993); G. E. Patrick Murray, Eisenhower versus Montgomery (Westport: Praeger, 1996). 11 James H. Hutson, John Adams and the Diplomacy of the American Revolution (Lexington: The University Press of Kentucky, 1980), 36-37. 12 Hutson, 1. 13 Scholarship on Franco-American alliance during the War for American Independence and the role played by individuals, as seen through John Adams,
Patrick William Cecil
John Adams. (Courtesy of the Library of Congress)
Adams’ quest to gain power and influence as an American representative in France threatened to dissolve the coalition into factionalism and jealousy when, in September 1779, the Continental Congress appointed him to assist in negotiating peace with Britain. In a serious mistake that threatened the alliance’s integrity, Adams insisted that his arrival be announced to the British, and that he was to deal with peace negotiations. For the French, particularly Foreign Minister Comte de Vergennes, such a bold announcement overlooked French interests in the alliance. Adams’ interpretation of his instructions and his rhetoric gave Vergennes the impression that the Americans might sue for a separate peace with Britain and abandon the coalition. Distrust surfaced on both ends, as Adams continued to worry about French designs for the colonies once the alliance defeated Britain, while Vergennes came to see Adams as
include: William C. Stinchcombe, The American Revolution and the French Alliance (Syracuse: Syracuse University Press, 1969); James H. Hutson, John Adams and the Diplomacy of the American Revolution (Lexington: The University Press of Kentucky, 1980); Alexander DeConde, “The French Alliance in Historical Speculation,” in Diplomacy and Revolution: The Franco-American Alliance of 1778, ed. Ronald Hoffman and Peter J. Albert (Charlottesville: University Press of Virginia, 1981); Susan Mary Alsop, Yankees at the Court: The First Americans in Paris (Garden City, New York: Doubleday &Company, Inc., 1982); Jonathan R. Dull, A Diplomatic History of the American Revolution (New Haven: Yale University Press, 1985).
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a personal antagonist, and one dangerously disloyal to the coalition.14 By antagonising Vergennes and causing distrust among the French, Adams only brought upon himself increased hyper-suspiciousness. As Adams prepared for his mission to Holland to secure a loan, James Huston describes this state of paranoia: “…the cloying gratitude with which [Franklin] treated [Vergennes] [...] and the exaggerated deference that Vergennes and his understrappers showed Franklin convinced Adams that the two men were confederates in a conspiracy against him, that they had, in fact, formed an “Alliance” against him, each wishing, for his own reasons, to defeat his Dutch mission.”15 In his quest for personal power and recognition, both stoked by his rivalry with Franklin, Adams only made himself a nuisance and threatened the coalition’s well-being as he sought to pursue American interests based on his terms.
Comte de Vergennes. (Courtesy of the Library of Congress)
Individuals and their understanding of a state’s interests within a coalition can begin to loosen the binding that holds an alliance together. While variant methods and differences of opinion can create tension among allies, issues of state sovereignty and patriotism have the potential to undercut a coalition’s existence. The question for all states entering into an alliance is to what level they should allow their respective sovereignty be withdrawn for the benefit of the coalition. With their “backs to the 14 15
Stinchcombe, 154-157. Huston, 73-74.
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wall,” states can be willing to sacrifice sovereignty in order to survive. When the threat has passed, allies naturally seek to regain some of the lost interests sacrificed for the benefit of the whole. When a member pursues a policy in direct contrast to the overarching aim of the coalition, however, the alliance can collapse as interests become so divergent that they become untenable together. If states are allowed to pursue their individual goals and retain full sovereignty, then they have no reason to remain committed to an alliance. Balance between the coalition’s goal and members’ respective aspirations becomes a critical component within coalition warfare. This was the case at the end of the War of 1812. Despite peace being signed in Europe, American and British forces opposed each other outside New Orleans, each hoping to entice the Baratarian Pirates to assist them in the upcoming campaign. For the Baratarians, as an autonomous governing entity operating a smuggling business in the waterways outside New Orleans, their sovereignty and own sense of patriotism weighed heavily in their decision.16
Battle of New Orleans. (Courtesy of the Library of Congress)
In the lead up to the Battle of New Orleans, Jean Laffite and the Baratarian Pirates became critical middle men between the opposing American and British forces. Their knowledge of the bayous and waterways surrounding the city, as well as their armament supplies, 16 For additional scholarship and examples on states seeking sovereignty within a coalition, see: Michael V. Leggiere, Napoleon and Berlin: The Franco-Prussian War in North Germany, 1813 (Norman: University of Oklahoma Press, 2002); Richard L. DiNardo, Germany and the Axis Powers: From Coalition to Collapse (Lawrence: University Press of Kansas, 2005).
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provided critical factors that the two powers each sought to exploit to their advantage. Initial British advances towards Laffite offered amnesty, title, and wealth in exchange for assisting the British in their operations. Laffite refused to guide the British towards New Orleans, and informed American authorities of the British intentions. Despite the good favour displayed, the situation changed when an American force attacked Barataria, capturing some eighty pirates and confiscating ships and goods. With his men imprisoned and a common enemy approaching, Laffite offered his services, armaments, and gunpowder to Andrew Jackson in exchange for amnesty to those who defended the city. Jackson hesitated at first to ally himself with what he described as “hellish banditti,” but he relented and government officials offered pardons in return for military service against the British. In the ensuing battle on 8 January 1815, Laffite and his fellow pirates displayed their skill in artillery, and helped to provide Jackson with a tactical advantage in the resounding victory.17 While the outcome at the Battle of New Orleans was definitive, less so are historians in discussing why Laffite and the Baratarians chose to fight on the American side versus the British. The state of Laffite’s emotional attachment to both sides has been viewed as a possible determining factor. Some hold that Laffite spurned the British offer and chose to fight them due to hatred, while others have invoked Laffite’s growing patriotism for his adopted nation. But in considering Barataria as a larger entity, one encompassing the entire pirate community, and the autonomous state they enjoyed, siding with the Americans in a coalition seemed to be a more practical option for maintaining sovereignty. As smugglers in an underworld business, the Baratarians saw aiding Jackson to be in their best interest. Allying with the Americans offered immediate relief from prosecution in federal courts as well as the restitution of lost property in the raid prior to the battle. Furthermore, forming a coalition would allow the Barataria smuggling business to keep clear of British and Spanish efforts to suppress piracy. This would allow Laffite and the pirates to maintain their sovereignty and way of life, at least for the time being until American authorities resumed their civil prosecution. Although the 17
On Jean Laffite, Baratarian pirates, and their pursuit of sovereignty in alliance with the United States at the Battle of New Orleans, see: Jane Lucas de Grummond, The Baratarians and the Battle of New Orleans (Baton Rouge: Louisiana State University Press, 1961); Robert C. Vogel, “Jean Laffite, the Baratarians, and the Battle of New Orleans: A Reappraisal,” Louisiana History: The Journal of the Louisiana Historical Association 41, no. 3 (Summer 2000): 261-276; William C. Davis, The Pirates Laffite: The Treacherous World of the Corsairs of the Gulf (Orlando: Harcourt, Inc., 2005).
Patrick William Cecil
Baratarian pursuit of sovereignty and patriotism proved to be beneficial to their alliance with the United States, it had proven costly when the British had attempted to forge a coalition with Laffite and the pirates. So exclusive were Baratarian interests that, had they sided with the British, their pursuit of sovereignty and the expansion of their smuggling business would have perhaps come under greater scrutiny and harassment from a stronger European presence in the Gulf of Mexico and Caribbean. Allying with the Americans provided a realist approach for exercising a preferred way of life, maintaining a state of sovereignty, and interacting with a more familiar United States and the local and state governments, rather than venturing into unknown dealings with Great Britain or Spain. In managing relationships, how well one’s interests mirror those of another will largely determine the partnership’s success. All aspects of life, in a sense, create ‘coalitions’ and ‘alliances,’ as people balance their pursuits with those around them. Placed within the context of war, coalitions continue seeking this balance between the interests of member states and the commonly-held goal(s) for the alliance. As demonstrated within the examples of state survival, the role played by individuals in interpreting a state’s pursuits in relation to a coalition, and how interests of sovereignty and patriotism can determine an alliance’s success or failure, coalition warfare maintains multiple meanings and different interpretations. Furthermore, it is critical to remember that these examples are not concrete and cannot form “models” by which they can be used in application to various instances of coalition warfare. Historians acknowledge the complexity behind events, bending themselves to differing interpretations rather than being rigidly set in stone. At the time of the appointment of Ferdinand Foch as General-in-Chief, Britain and France found themselves backed into a corner that required they come closer together as allies. For John Pershing, however, though he supported a unified command structure, his insistence on creating a distinct American army can be viewed as a secondary interest playing into the coalition’s dynamics, requiring some balancing to be exercised by Foch. John Adams’ personality, his interpretation of the colonies’ interests, and his resulting rhetoric all influenced the relationship between the colonies and the French Court, as his paranoia and jealousy brought tension with Comte de Vergennes. Yet his fears for French designs in North America, following the hoped-for British defeat, offer another piece to analysing the coalition, for independence and maintenance of sovereignty were more important than simply trading one imperial European power for another. For the Baratarians, their decision-making in choosing between the United States and Britain in order to secure and expand their interests and sovereignty is
Shifting Allies, Enemies, and Interests
also very much intertwined with the idea of survival. With members imprisoned by the United States, it would seem reasonable that the Baratarians should have allied with the British against the American “enemy” threatening their survival. Yet immediate relief from civil prosecution, along with the idea that perhaps the Baratarians could better continue a state of sovereignty alongside the United States in the future, moved Jean Laffite and the pirates into seeking an alliance with the very group that had persecuted them. The interests on which these examples rest are themselves in constant motion, reacting to the circumstances and individuals that formulate state policy. Coalition warfare as a result is never finite in its lessons, providing instead a subject requiring consistent reinterpretation by the historian.
COALITION WARFARE IN THE ANCIENT GREEK WORLD THOMAS HEINE NIELSEN AND ADAM SCHWARTZ
“Nowadays, coalition warfare has become the norm.” Gal Luft 2009: xi.
On a hot summer day in the year of 458 BC, the armed forces of the powerful city-states Athens and Corinth fought a battle in the territory of the smaller city-state Megara, which was situated rather precariously between Athens and Corinth.1 The chain of events in Greek hoplite battles, as it is usually portrayed, is as follows:2 The hoplite army, the backbone of any land-based military power, was called up for service and marched out to intercept the army of the enemy city-state and engage it in battle, thus depriving the invading forces of the opportunity to ravage the countryside.3 Hoplites were heavyarmed infantry, armed with — at the barest minimum — an approximately two-metre-long thrusting spear and a circular and bowl-shaped shield, made of wood covered with bronze sheathing and measuring some 90 cm across and weighing in at 8 or 9 kg.4 Normally, a closed helmet, greaves and breastplate would also be worn. Deployed in combat order at a prearranged location, the phalanxes of the two feuding city-states squared off, eyeing each other warily. Next, the inevitable pitched battle followed: one phalanx advanced, and the other followed suit, in order not to lose momentum. The phalanxes broke into a trot as they drew near, and crashed 1
On this battle: Thucydides 1.105.4-5 and Diodorus Siculus 11.79.2-4 with Montagu 2000: 60; Schwartz 2009: 264-5; Ray 2010: 133-5. See also Legon 1981: 186-8. 2 On the perceived standard battle, see Connor 1988; Doyne Dawson 1996: 48 and Pritchard 2009: 224. See also Runciman 1998: 738-40; van Wees 2004: 118; and Ray 2010: 7-14. 3 On the devastation of agricultural land in Greek warfare, see Hanson 1998 and Foxhall 1993. 4 On the hoplite shield, see Schwartz 2009: 25-54.
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into each other; and over the next few hours grisly hand-to-hand combat took place. Eventually, one side was pushed back — in the case of the battle at Megara, the Corinthian phalanx — its ranks broken or depleted, and the hoplites turned and fled. The victorious Athenians kept up the pursuit and drove the fleeing Corinthian hoplites off the field under considerable slaughter. The Corinthians, at some point, asked to be allowed to pick up their dead from the battlefield under truce, thereby admitting defeat.5 On the face of it, this battle is a perfect illustration of what modern scholarship commonly takes to be the archetypal Greek battle, namely one fought between the hoplite phalanxes of two neighbouring city-states over the rugged borderlands separating them.6 This standard view of the Greek hoplite battle is no doubt linked to the belief that the normal cause of war was low-intensity territorial disputes,7 and that even small neighbouring city-states went to war over such petty feuds on a regular basis, perhaps almost every year. One reason for this notion is the fact that [t]he ancient sources replicate the widespread Greek practice of playing down questions of political ideology, economics or long-range shifts in the balance of power among states as the cause of war. Such issues are often masked as a dispute over some border land, as a response to an offence arising out of some ritual matter or as the obligation to be loyal to some friendly state. Whenever possible, war is presented simply as a matter of honour rather than of economic or strategic interest.8
Another reason for the standard view of the Greek hoplite battle may be the acknowledgment of the ritual aspect of Greek warfare apparent in many sources. ‘Ritual’ in this connection should not be taken to mean that Greek warfare was not concrete, bloody and brutal because it was. Gruesome scenes in Greek literature, ranging from Homer on the one hand to the atrocities related by the historians on the other, leave the reader in no doubt that the wars of the ancient Greeks were every bit as bitter and hard-fought as any in more recent times. Moreover, modern estimates based on the casualty numbers in sources for hoplite battles reveal that, on
Ober 1996: 60-1; Krentz 2002: 32-3. See Hanson 1996: 604: “Even then [sc. in the fifth century BC] phalanxes continued to fight almost entirely over disputed land, usually border strips of marginal lands, often more important to an agrarian community’s national pride than to its economic survival.” Cf. Ray 2010: 200. 7 Cf. Runciman 1998: 738. 8 Connor 1988: 9. 6
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average, the victorious side lost about 5 per cent of its force in a hoplite battle in the Classical period; the losing side lost as much as 14 per cent.9 Rather, the ritualistic aspects of Greek warfare manifest themselves in the framing of the pitched battles, surrounded by a plethora of largely unwritten rules and religious considerations, as well as in the cultural significance of the pitched battle for the self-perception of the warrior class. This perceived ritualism may also have influenced how the typical, Greek interstate war is seen today: as a largely unimportant or indecisive, sporting type of conflict, fought mainly because tradition required it. This, it is suggested, made more or less constant, small-scale wars between neighbouring city-states all but inevitable. The typical expression of this warfare, it is further surmised, was the pitched battle between the hoplite forces of any city-state and one or other of its immediate neighbours and arch-enemies. Such battles may perhaps have been frequent; but the nature of the sources at our disposal does not in fact allow the conclusion that such bilateral wars and battles were typical of Greek warfare, as a brief consideration of Greek history will make clear. In all major military confrontations of Greek history, at least one side was actually a coalition. All battles fought by what is commonly referred to as the ‘Spartan army’ were in effect coalition battles: that is to say, these battles were fought by the Lakedaimonian army.10 The region in which Sparta was situated was called Lakedaimon, and its inhabitants Lakedaimonians. They were settled in several city-states, of which Sparta was the undisputed political leader.11 The other city-states of the region were obliged to follow the Spartans in war and thus had to supply hoplites for Spartan campaigns. Accordingly, the famous army of Sparta, which was invincible for long periods of time, was not strictly speaking a Spartan army, but a Lakedaimonian army, and thus in fact a coalition army. The so-called Hellenic League12 — that is, the alliance of Greek citystates that famously defeated the invading Persians in the great battles of 9
Krentz 1985. The standard reference work on the “Spartan” army is still Lazenby 1985 (republished 2012), but see also Rusch 2011 and the essays collected in Hodkinson & Powell 2006. 11 On the city-states of Lakedaimon, see Shipley 2004; see also Hall 2000. 12 The standard names for the major Greek military leagues in modern research are modern coinages; in antiquity, the ‘Hellenic League’ probably did not have an official name (Brunt 1953-54: 145-6); the common designation for the ‘Peloponnesian League’ was ‘the Lakedaimonians and their allies’; correspondingly it was ‘the Athenians and their allies’ for ‘the Delian League’. 10
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480-479 BC — was a coalition of some 31 states under the leadership of Sparta.13 The Peloponnesian War was not, properly speaking, a war between Sparta and Athens, but a war fought between the Peloponnesian League led by Sparta14 and the Delian League led by Athens.15 The Corinthian War of the early fourth century BC was fought between, on the one side, the Peloponnesian League led by Sparta, and, on the other, a strong coalition between Argos, Athens, Corinth and Thebes.16 The famous battle of Leuktra in 371 BC, in which the Lakedaimonian army was so severely defeated that it never regained its former strength, was fought between Sparta with its Peloponnesian League and the forces of the Boiotian Confederacy led by Thebes.17 Finally, the battle of Chaironeia in 338 BC was fought between the Macedonians with allies and a Greek coalition led by Athens and Thebes.18 The conflicts just reviewed were, obviously, the great confrontations that shaped Greek history and it was these major clashes that formed the subject of the works by the great historians Herodotos, Thucydides and Xenophon. Their point of view is always that of the great city-states and their wars, which were, almost without exception, fought by coalitions: they did not take any particular interest in the martial history of the hundreds and hundreds of small or even very small city-states that may often have been involved in minor battles against each other.19 Our sources thus regularly focus on the famous and powerful citystates to the exclusion of their often minor allies: Thucydides, for instance, says in his introduction that the Peloponnesian War of the later fifth century BC was fought between “Athens and the Peloponnesians”, though in actual fact the Athenians were supported by numerous allies. In this case, we have plenty of evidence that the Peloponnesian War was fought between two great coalitions; but when sources refer in a compressed way to battles such as that of Megara in 458 BC, or to wars of the Archaic
On this coalition, see Brunt 1953-54 and Sealey 1976: 195-230. On the Persian invasion of 480-479 BC, see also Lazenby 1993 and Harrison 2002. 14 On the Peloponnesian League, see Nielsen 2002: 380-96 with refs. 15 On the Delian League, see Sealey 1976: 238-67; McGregor 1987; or the monumental Meiggs 1972. On the Peloponnesian War, see Hanson 2005 and Tritle 2010. 16 On the Corinthian War, see Buckler 2003: 75-128 and Hornblower 2011: 217-33. 17 On this battle, see Montagu 2000: 90-1; Schwartz 2009: 256-58. 18 On this battle, see Montagu 2000: 98-99; Schwartz 2009: 239-40. 19 Ray 2010: 115, 200.
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period (that is, from 750 to 480 BC),20 we sometimes run into difficulties in determining whether a given battle was a coalition battle. We stated above that the battle at Megara in 458 BC was, “on the face of it”, a fine illustration of an archetypal battle fought between the forces of two city-states, though neither Athens nor Corinth can be considered small or insignificant. The battle is mentioned rather briefly by Thucydides (1.105.4-5) who, though he does actually say that the Corinthians marched into Megarian territory “with their allies” (105.3: Ȟıĳո ĳȟ ȠȤȞȞչȥȧȟ), describes the battle itself as fought solely between Athenian and Corinthian troops (105.5). It is, however, clear from the more circumstantial account of the later historian Diodorus Siculus (11.79.3) that the Athenian contingent itself was, in fact, acting as an ally of Megara. Accordingly, even this battle was, after all, fought between coalitions, and what it illustrates is not the typical battle of modern historiography, but rather Thucydides’ habit of focusing on the great players to the exclusion of their many, but minor, allies.21 For battles of the pre-Classical age, our evidence is, as a rule, extremely sparse and exiguous, and it is often very difficult to determine the composition of the forces that fought them. A particularly illuminating example is provided by the important battle fought in 510 BC at the river Traeis in which the big and powerful city-state of Sybaris in Southern Italy was so utterly defeated by its neighbour Kroton that all its former greatness was forever lost.22 No contemporary source describes this battle, which quickly became the object of legendary tales, so we have to rely on later sources. Herodotos, writing two generations after the battle, in one passage ascribes the defeat of Sybaris to the Krotoniates alone, while in another he actually records a tradition that Kroton had received support from a Spartan expedition. There are, moreover, good reasons to believe that Sybaris also received support from allies in this battle. First of all, we may note that we know of three other wars fought by coalitions in the sixth 20
The traditional periodisation divides Greek history into (1) the Archaic period: 750 to 480 BC (from the end of the ‘Dark Ages’ to the Persian Wars); (2) the Classical period: 470 to 323 BC (from the Persian Wars to the death of Alexander the Great); (3) the Hellenistic period: 322 to 31 BC (from the death of Alexander the Great to the battle of Actium). 21 Cf. the remark by Legon 1981: 188: “The absence of any mention of Megarian participation in this sequence of events, either in Thucydides’ account or any other, is both extraordinary and improbable in the extreme. But it is easy to see how the Megarian role might have been overlooked in an Athenian-oriented tradition.” 22 On this battle: Herodotos 5.44-45; Diodorus Siculus 12.9.5; Strabo 6.1.13; Montagu 2000: 50.
Coalition Warfare in the Ancient Greek World
century BC in Southern Italy, and that Sybaris itself was a combatant in one of these.23 More importantly, Sybaris is, in fact, known to have been the leader of a coalition of allies: an inscription announcing the entrance of a new member into the league has been found at Olympia, where major Greek cities often published important acts of state.24 It seems unlikely that Sybaris would not have drawn on the resources of its own alliance, in particular since Kroton constituted a formidable enemy and the battle was the end product of a conflict that had begun some years before the final clash. So this battle, one of the great battles of Archaic Greek history, was in all probability fought between two coalitions, and it is, of course, worth emphasising that three other such wars are known from this area in the same period. Already by the sixth century BC, then, coalition fighting was well-developed in the Greek west. Of 173 land engagements of the fifth century discussed in a recent monograph by Fred E. Ray (2010), only a small minority was fought between forces of two city-states, and the overwhelming majority was fought by coalitions. The perceived standard battle was not so very average. Rather, coalition fighting was the norm in ancient Greek warfare, just as is the case with its modern counterpart. That this should have gone largely unnoticed and undiscussed is all the more surprising as our principal sources for Greek interstate wars, the great historians of the Classical period, do in fact (although sometimes inadvertently) make the prevalence of coalition fighting clear in their accounts, despite the fact that they mostly focus on the hegemonic powers, as we saw. The Delian, Peloponnesian and Hellenic Leagues have all been studied meticulously by modern historians, and are reasonably well known. It is widely recognised that the Delian and Peloponnesian Leagues were the frameworks inside which Athens and Sparta pursued both their military and their political objectives. In recent years, however, it has become 23
Three other wars fought by coalitions: (1) Justinus Epitoma 20.2: a coalition of Metapontion, Sybaris and Kroton conquered Siris, which was in its turn supported by Lokroi Epizephyrioi; the date of this seemingly major war was probably the middle of the sixth century BC (Dunbabin 1948: 359); (2) The capture of Siris was followed, prior to 530 BC (Dunbabin 1948, 359), by the Battle of R. Sagra, in which the Lokrians supported by the Rhegians defeated the Krotoniates (Strabo 6.1.10); (3) Supplementum Epigraphicum Graecum 11.-1211. 24 Meiggs & Lewis 1988: no. 10 (c. 550-525 BC): “The Sybarites and their allies and the Serdaioi made an agreement for friendship faithful and without guile forever. Guarantors: Zeus, Apollo, and the other gods and the city Poseidonia.” For the publication of alliance treaties at Olympia, see Nielsen 2007b: 79-82, with discussion of the Sybaris treaty.
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increasingly clear that hegemonic leagues — i.e. more or less stable coalitions of which one city-state was the undisputed political leader — were an extremely common phenomenon in the late Archaic and Classical Greek world. We have already seen that Sybaris was the leader of such an organisation in the sixth century BC. To speak only of the Peloponnese, at least four such minor leagues are known from the classical period in addition to the famous Peloponnesian League of the Spartans. These four coalitions were led by the cities of Argos, Elis, Tegea and Mantinea, and it is worth taking a brief look at the Mantinean League.25 The city-state of Mantinea was situated on the fertile south-eastern plain of the region Arkadia, a mere 16 kilometres north of the great citystate Tegea. Even though it enjoyed a democratic constitution, Mantinea was a member of the Peloponnesian League, led by the severely oligarchic city-state of Sparta. However, when it did not interfere with their own objectives, the Spartans allowed their allies to pursue their own local political agendas. In local terms, Mantinea’s objective was to match Tegea, the powerful city-state with which it shared the south-eastern plain of Arkadia. Mantinea pursued this objective by subjecting several small Arkadian communities to its political control. These minor communities were incorporated into a coalition, of which Mantinea was the political leader. The Mantinean League was thus a miniature replica of Sparta’s Peloponnesian League, which may have provided Mantinea with a model of how to dominate a number of minor allies. Tegea, however, took a page from Mantinea’s book and subjected a number of other minor communities of Arkadia to its political control, again by incorporating them into a hegemonic symmachia, the standard Greek term for coalition or alliance, meaning literally ‘a fighting together’. In the winter of 423 BC, the forces of the Tegean and Mantinean alliances met in battle at Laodikeion in Arkadia, as reported by Thucydides (4.134), who says: During the following winter the Athenians and Spartans were kept quiet by the armistice; but the Mantineans and the Tegeans, and their respective allies, fought a battle at Laodikeion, in the territory of Oresthasion. The victory remained doubtful, as each side routed one of the wings opposed to them, and both set up trophies and sent spoils to Delphi. After heavy loss on both sides the battle was undecided, and night interrupted the action; yet the Tegeans passed the night on the field and set up a trophy at once, 25
Argos: Herodotos 9.35; Thucydides 5.67.2; Diodorus Siculus 11.65; Strabo 8.6.19; cf. Perlman 2000: 138-41 and Nielsen 2007a: 173-76. – Elis: Capreedy 2008 and Roy 2009a. – Mantinea: Nielsen 2002: 367-72. – Tegea: Nielsen 2002: 366-67.
Coalition Warfare in the Ancient Greek World while the Mantineans withdrew to Boukolion and set up theirs afterwards.26
Obviously, this battle between two minor local coalitions was only possible because there was a temporary cessation of hostilities between Sparta and Athens. In other words, there was a clear hierarchy among the coalitions of the Peloponnese, with the Peloponnesian League at the top and the local leagues a good way further down. The Peloponnese, in fact, was a complicated web of coalitions, and Sparta tolerated local coalitions as long as they did not threaten or interfere with Spartan interests. If they did so, the Spartans immediately proceeded to annihilate them, as happened to the League of Elis which was summarily broken up by Sparta in the late fifth century.27 However, the prevalence of coalitions is not only demonstrated by the narratives of the great historians: we possess ample documentation even for the actual wording of alliance treaties.28 The four-city alliance of 420 BC is a prime example of such an alliance treaty, carved in stone and set up on the Athenian acropolis. It concerns Athens and a triad of important Peloponnesian city-states: Argos, Elis and Mantinea. Its importance is immediately apparent from the lavish treatment the public document has been given: the stele is made of expensive Pentelic marble, and in Athens, it was set up at the most conspicuous location in the city, the acropolis. A copy of the text was set up at Olympia as well, one of the most conspicuous locations in all of the Greek world. It is readily apparent from the formal language employed that the norms and conventions surrounding such treaties were highly codified. The text runs as follows:29  The Athenians, Argives, Mantineans and Eleans, acting for themselves and the allies in their respective empires, made a treaty for a hundred years, to be without fraud or injury by land and by sea.  It shall not be lawful to carry on war, either for the Argives, Eleans, Mantineans, and their allies, against the Athenians, or the allies in the Athenian empire; or for the Athenians and their allies against the Argives, Eleans, Mantineans, or their allies, in any way or means whatsoever. The Athenians, Argives, Eleans and Mantineans shall be allies for a hundred years upon the terms following:
Translation Crawley 1996 (modified). For the war between Sparta and the Eleian League ca. 400 BC, see Roy 2009b. 28 Evidence is collected by Bengtson 1962 and Schmitt 1969. 29 The text is preserved in Thucydides 5.47.6; a fragment of the Athenian copy has survived (IG I3 83). The treaty is no. 193 in Bengtson 1962. 27
Thomas Heine Nielsen and Adam Schwartz  If an enemy invade the country of the Athenians, the Argives, Eleans and Mantineans shall go to the relief of Athens, according as the Athenians may require by message, in such a way as they most effectively can, to the best of their power. But if the invader be gone after plundering the territory, the offending state shall be the enemy of the Argives, Mantineans, Eleans and Athenians, and war shall be made against it by all these cities; and no one of the cities shall be able to make peace with that state, except all the above cities agree to do so.  Likewise the Athenians shall go to the relief of Argos, Mantinea and Elis, if an enemy invade the country of Elis, Mantinea or Argos, according as the above cities may require by message, in such a way as they most effectively can, to the best of their power. But if the invader be gone after plundering the territory, the state offending shall be the enemy of the Athenians, Argives, Mantineans and Eleans, and war shall be made against it by all these cities, and peace may not be made with that state, except all the above cities agree to do so.  No armed force shall be allowed to pass for hostile purposes through the country of the powers contracting, or of the allies in their respective empires, or to go by sea, except all the cities — that is to say, Athens, Argos, Mantinea and Elis — vote for such passage.  The relieving troops shall be maintained by the city sending them for thirty days from their arrival in the city that has required them, and upon their return in the same way; if their services be desired for a longer period the city that sent for them shall maintain them, at the rate of three Aiginetan obols per day for a hoplite, archer or light-armed soldier, and an Aiginetan drachma for a cavalryman.  The city sending for the troops shall have the command when the war is in its own territory; but in the case of the cities resolving upon a joint expedition, the command shall be equally divided among all the cities.  The treaty shall be sworn to by the Athenians for themselves and their allies, by the Argives, Mantineans, Eleans, and their allies, by each state individually. Each shall swear the oath most binding in his country over full-grown victims, the oath being as follows: “I will stand by the alliance and its articles, justly, innocently and sincerely; and I will not transgress the same in any way whatsoever.”  The oath shall be taken at Athens by the council and the magistrates, the prytaneis administering it; at Argos by the council, the Eighty and the artynai, the Eighty administering it; at Mantinea by the dƝmiourgoi, the council and the other magistrates, the theǀroi and polemarchs administering it; at Elis by the dƝmiourgoi, the magistrates and the Six Hundred, the dƝmiourgoi and the thesmophylakes administering it.  The oaths shall be renewed by the Athenians going to Elis, Mantinea and Argos thirty days before the Olympic games; by the Argives, Mantineans and Eleans going to Athens ten days before the feast of the Great Panathenaia.  The articles of the treaty, the oaths and the alliance
Coalition Warfare in the Ancient Greek World shall be inscribed on a stone pillar by the Athenians in the Akropolis, by the Argives in the agora, in the temple of Apollo; by the Mantineans in the temple of Zeus, in the agora, and a bronze pillar shall be erected jointly by them at the Olympic games now at hand.  Should the above cities see fit to make any addition to these articles, whatever all the above cities should agree upon, after consulting together, shall be binding.30
Among the remarkable aspects of the treaty, we may note that all four powers referred to in the treaty are each in themselves coalition powers: each is the head of a military league of some size, and the co-operation and obedience in turn of these allies, or rather vassal states, is taken for granted — at any rate, their compliance is not required for the treaty to be valid. Certainly, Athens in the second half of the fifth century BC ruled an empire of at least 250 lesser city-states and even more vassals of other kinds (peoples, tribes etc.).31 These states may nominally have been allies, but disobedience would not be tolerated, as several of these subservient city-states found out to their cost.32 Although it is not immediately apparent, the treaty thus in fact involves several hundred city-states in a mega-coalition. A surprising aspect for moderns, perhaps, is the fact that the treaty is declared to be valid for a hundred years; but the specified, limited duration is a standard feature of Greek alliance treaties and by no means uncommon.33 This may be perceived as cynical, but reflects a quite pragmatic approach to the simple fact that war is extremely common in city-state cultures and produces constantly shifting loyalties and alliances. The terms of the treaty are quite specific. It is notable that it applies both defensively and offensively, and that none of the parties may conclude a separate peace without the consent of all the signatories. Partial help, such as allowing other troops to pass through the territory of one of the signatories, is also expressly forbidden unless agreed to by all, and this measure — as well as the rest of the treaty — is to be valid even at sea. Pay and living expenses for joint forces are to be covered by the party requesting the aid of the other allies, in case their service is required past a 30
Translation by Crawley 1996. Paarmann 2004. 32 E.g. Naxos: Thucydides 1.98.4 with Meiggs 1972: 70-1 (460s BC); Chalkis: Thucydides 1.113-14 and Meiggs & Lewis 1988: no. 52 with Meiggs 1972: 178-81 (446 BC); Samos: Thucydides 1.115.2-117 with Meiggs 1972: 189-94 (440-39 BC). 33 Examples from Bengtson 1962: 30 years: no. 195; 50 years: nos. 189, 194, 196, 231; 100 years: nos. 110, 175. On the other hand, treaties could be concluded “for all time”: nos. 120, 162, 163, 183, 223, 224, 263, 280, 290, 293. 31
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thirty-day-period. Moreover, the party requesting help from the other parties is to be de facto leader of that enterprise; and in case of a joint enterprise, leadership is also to be shared — presumably by means of rotation. Coalition fighting, then, seems on present evidence to be the norm rather than the exception in Archaic and Classical Greek warfare, and it seems worthwhile to conclude by way of some general reflections on why this was so. First of all, it should be realised that this apparent predominance of coalition fighting may perhaps be a reflection of the nature of our evidence, as we have already hinted: the great historians describe the great and important battles that shaped Greek history, not the petty wars of small and insignificant city-states, which may well have been fought in countless numbers, ignored by any contemporary historians and completely irretrievable to posterity. But even if this is so, it does not significantly alter the fact that coalition fighting was a central feature of Greek warfare and politics; and it may be noted en passant here that the fourth-century BC author Aineias the Tactician, who wrote a technical manual on how small city-states might withstand a siege, in several passages refers to the possibility that even the most obscure Slocums-inthe-Hole would be able to depend on allies when fighting their wars.34 So it seems reasonable to ask why coalition fighting was so important in Greek warfare. The first thing to note in this connection is that if war was endemic in and fundamental to Greek culture, so was collaboration between city-states. The Greek city-state culture, it has been conclusively established, comprised more than a thousand individual city-states;35 but it was a system of interacting city-states, not of city-states existing in splendid isolation.36 Greek city-states collaborated on, for example, religious affairs. Delphi was administered by an international institution, the so-called Delphic Amphictyony, which comprised almost 200 citystates;37 and the oracle at Delphi was consulted by Greeks from all parts of the far-flung Greek world.38 Greek states also maintained diplomatic relations with each other by sending and receiving official envoys and 34
See Aineias the Tactician 3.3; 12.1bis; 12.3; 24.3; 26.7. On Aineias in general, see Whitehead 1990. 35 See Hansen & Nielsen 2004. 36 For general introductions to the ancient Greek city-state culture, see Hansen 2000 and 2006. 37 On the Delphic Amphictyony, see Trevett 1990; Lefèvre 1998; Bowden 2003; Hornblower 2007; Nielsen 2008. 38 On the Delphic oracle, see Fontenrose 1978 and Bowden 2005; for pilgrimage to Delphi, see Dillon 1997: 81-90.
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messengers,39 and by appointing proxenoi. A proxenos was a private citizen of state A (e.g. Argos on the Peloponnese) who had been appointed by state B (e.g. Thebes in Boiotia), to keep an eye on Theban interests at Argos and to assist Theban citizens and diplomats when they had business at Argos.40 By the fifth century BC, to give one more example, the Greek citystates began to develop federal states, and by the fourth century, hundreds of Greek city-states were member-states of federations, which became a central institution for political collaboration.41 Collaboration between citystates, then, was a fundamental feature of Greek public life in the crucially important spheres of religion, diplomacy and politics, and it was probably inevitable that such collaboration should be extended to include the waging of wars. The federal state was in a certain way the military alliance turned into a structural political principle and, like many a hegemonic symmachia, some federal states were de facto the institution through which a powerful citystate controlled a number of dependencies: just as Sparta exercised its power by way of the Peloponnesian League, so Thebes controlled the other city-states of Boiotia through a firm grip on the federal state of the Boiotians, of which Thebes was the undisputed leader.42 The interest of the major city-states in creating and maintaining coalitions is probably fairly straightforward: political control of the allies and control for their own purposes of the hoplite contingents of allied city-states must have been the primary motives of the big city-states. And here it should be noted that numbers counted in Greek hoplite warfare:43 even a small extra contingent of hoplites would increase the strength of a phalanx. The standard file depth in a classical hoplite phalanx was eight ranks (or ‘eight shields’, as the Greeks themselves habitually phrased it);44 so for every eight additional hoplites, another file could be added, crucially widening the ranks and helping prevent outflanking (kyklosis), something hoplites in a phalanx dreaded more than almost anything else, since the clumsy,
Envoys: Adcock & Mosley 1975: 154ff; messengers: Nielsen, Schwartz & Christensen 2009. 40 On proxenoi, see Hansen 2006: 127-8; a full-scale study is provided by Marek 1984. 41 On Greek federal states, see Larsen 1968 and Beck 1997. 42 Hansen 1995: 36. 43 Ray 2010: 146, 195-6, 284-5. 44 Schwartz 2009: 167-71.
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heavy combat formation could not re-deploy quickly and was fatally vulnerable at its flanks.45 Every man counted in a phalanx, and it was therefore remembered, for instance, that the tiny city-state of Mykenai had provided a mere 80 of the ca. 8,000 Greek hoplites engaged in the battle of Thermopylai,46 and the participation of a – presumably very small – contingent of hoplites from Mykenai was dutifully recorded on the monument erected by the Hellenic League at Delphi to commemorate its defeat of the Persians at Plataiai in 479 BC.47 There was no essential difference between a coalition phalanx and a phalanx consisting of hoplites from a single city-state. Coalition phalanxes were routinely deployed on the basis of city-state contingents, which were simply stationed one by one next to each other, with the strongest contingents holding the wings. Thus, the Greek phalanx that fought the Persians at Plataiai in 479 BC consisted of hoplite contingents from 25 city-states, with the Athenians on the left wing and the Lakedaimonians on the right, with the other contingents lined up city-state by city-state in between.48 The allied phalanx that fought the Lakedaimonians and their allies at Mantinea in 418 BC was composed in a similar way: the Mantineans with allies held the right wing with the Athenians on the left, while the Argives, the Kleonaians and the Orneans were lined up in between the Mantinean and Athenian contingents.49 Generally, it cannot have constituted a major tactical challenge to add new allied contingents to such phalanxes. Nor will Greek alliances have faced the problems troubling modern alliances as discussed by Gal Luft (2009), i.e. problems created by differences in, e.g., language, religion, customs and ethnic background — or at least not to the same extent as modern alliances. Certainly there were differences of dialect between various regions inside Greece, the Greeks were subdivided into several ethnic subgroups such as Arkadians, Dorians and Ionians,50 and it seems unlikely that any two Greek city-states will
On the dangers of kyklosis, see Xen. Cyr. 7.1.5; Hell. 4.2.19-22; Plut. Pel. 23.2; Thuc. 4.96.3, 5.71-3. Cf. also Thuc. 5.10.2-12; Xen. An. 1.8.13; Plut. Artax. 8.2-7 and Lendle 1966: 439-43. 46 Herodotos 7.202 (ȃȤȜșȟįտȧȟ ՌȗİօȜȡȟĳį). 47 Meiggs & Lewis 1988: no. 27.47 (ȂȣțĮȞİߖȢ). 48 Herodotos 9.28. 49 Thucydides 5.67. 50 On the Arkadians as an ethnic group, see Nielsen 1999; on Ionians and Dorians, see Alty 1982.
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have cultivated the exact same local divine pantheons.51 However, the city-states of the Greek world shared an overarching Greek identity. In a famous passage, Herodotos has an Athenian speaker define what it means to be Greek, or what to Hellenikon, ‘Greekness’ or Greek identity, is and consists in (8.144.2). The speaker describes Greekness as being “of the same blood and of the same tongue” (ՑȞįțȞȡȟ and ՍȞցȗȝȧĲĲȡȟ) and juxtaposes these characteristics with the possession of “shared sanctuaries of gods and sacrifices” (Țıȟ ԽİȢփȞįĳį Ȝȡțȟո Ȝįվ ȚȤĲտįț) as well as “congenial customs” (Țıį ՍȞցĳȢȡʍį). As has often been pointed out, here are “all the usual markers of ethnic affinity”,52 and the rather insistent emphasis on words such as ‘same’ and ‘shared’ is worth noting since it is certainly meant to highlight the “notion of common essence” of the Greeks.53 By “same blood” is implied a myth of common origin for the Greeks, the sine qua non for an ethnic group.54 By “same tongue” is implied that the Greeks all spoke a common language (although in fact the linguistic situation in Classical Greece was characterised by a multiplicity of dialectal forms).55 However, by the fifth century BC the different dialects were all subsumed under at least the abstract notion of a ‘Greek tongue’,56 and the similarity between the different varieties of Greek was such as to ensure mutual intelligibility:57 accordingly, problems of language do not seem to have presented a serious obstacle for the efficient working of alliances. Thus, the Hellenic League comprised city-states of six different dialectal groups,58 but there is nothing to suggest that this fact impeded communication and there is no evidence of any need for translation or of the existence of interpreters.59 The Peloponnesian and Delian Leagues similarly comprised city-states of several dialectal varieties, but again this seems not to have impeded the efficient working of these alliances. A final example: the four-city alliance discussed above 51
Zaidman & Pantel 1992: 207. Konstan 2001: 33. 53 Konstan 2001: 30. 54 Hall 1997: 25. 55 Hall 2002: 116. 56 ԭ ԧȝȝոȣ ȗȝĲĲį (cf. Hdt. 2.56.3; 2.137.5; 2.143.4; 2.144.2; 2.154.2; 4.78.2; 4.110.1; 4.155.3; 4.192.3; 6.98.3; 8.135.3; 9.16.2). See Morpurgo Davies 1987; Mickey 1981; and Hall 2002: 115. 57 Wyatt 1996: 614; Dobias-Lalou 2000: 120. 58 Aeolic: e.g. Thespiai and Plataiai; Arkadian: e.g. Orchomenos and Tegea; Attic: Athens; Doric: e.g. Corinth and Sparta; East Ionic: e.g. Eretria and Chalkis; Northwest Greek: Elis and Lepreon. 59 Cf. Dobias-Lalou 2000: 117. 52
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was concluded between speakers of at least four different dialect groups,60 but again there is no evidence that this fact decreased the intelligibility of communication.61 As to “shared sanctuaries of gods and sacrifices”, “the great national centres of religion, with their cults, oracles, and festivals — Olympia, Delphi, Dodona (perhaps Delos), Eleusis — must be chiefly in the speaker’s (or writer’s) mind.”62 So even if there were differences in nuances and emphasis in the cults and divinities respected and honoured by the different Greek city-states, all states belonged to the same overarching religious system and shared a number of central sanctuaries and rites.63 The Hellenic League actually fought its war against the Persians under the aegis of Apollo at Delphi.64 Religious differences, then, did not constitute a major problem for Greek coalitions. Admittedly, a city-state celebrating an important religious festival had the right, sanctioned by tradition, to abstain from an allied campaign, even within the Peloponnesian League;65 this would produce a weaker phalanx for that particular campaign, but Greek alliances did not dissolve, or even perform significantly below expected standards, because of religious differences. Finally, the “congenial customs” of the Herodotean definition of Greek identity is a reference to the fundamental fact that despite regional variations the Greeks shared a common way of life which included, e.g., passionate discussions of sport, using currency for daily economic transactions, listening to recitals of the Homeric poems,66 playing dice, drinking wine, and, one might well add, fighting coalition battles. It seems clear, then, that coalition building was a convenient and effective way for a major city-state to increase its power on the battlefield. But the system of coalition fighting was probably also an advantage seen 60
Arkadian: Mantinea; Attic: Athens; Doric: Argos; Northwest Greek: Elis. Ironically, about the only instance of language complicating matters in a coalition known to us occurred during the attempted conquest of Syracuse in 413 BC because Athens’ Dorian allies spoke the same dialect as the defenders, thus creating indescribable confusion in the exchange of battle songs and watchwords during one of the Peloponnesian War’s few large-scale night operations: Thuc. 7.44.6 (cf. also Thuc. 3.112.4, describing a stratagem deliberately employing the exact same trick). 62 Macan 1908, ad loc. Cf. Hansen 2000: 144 and Funke 2004. 63 The standard work on Greek religion remains Burkert 1985. 64 Mikalson 2003: 54-5, 60-1, 69-70, 84-5, 93-9, 114-22. 65 See e.g. Xenophon, Hellenica 4.2.16 and 5.2.2. See further de Ste. Croix 1972: 120. 66 Cf. Hansen 2000: 144. 61
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from the point of view of the minor city-states. In many cases there was probably no truly viable alternative to joining a coalition, and in these cases it must have been highly desirable to strike a deal by negotiating a treaty rather than risk it all on the field of battle: casualties were, it must be remembered, heavy for the losing side in Greek hoplite battles.67 Considerations of security will probably also often have induced minor city-states to enter a coalition that might provide some measure of protection from aggressive neighbours: most of the city-states of the Argolid, for instance, were members of the Peloponnesian League, with one notable exception. That exception was Argos, the aggressive top-dog city-state of the region: the other city-states of the Argolid probably found that membership of Sparta’s hegemonic league was a reasonable price to pay in order to obtain Spartan protection from Argos. When it comes to security on the actual field of battle it must also have been far safer for hoplites of small city-states to form a part of a strong phalanx rather than a weak one. Thus, political and military considerations of safety will often have favoured membership of an alliance or a federal state. Finally, we may briefly add two more reasons why it would be desirable for a small city-state to throw in its lot with what was thought to become the winning side. The first is that successful campaigns often produced booty. Thus, in his description of the invasion of the wealthy region of Elis by the Peloponnesian League at the end of the fifth century, the historian Xenophon (Hellenica 3.2.26) says the following: After the sacrifice he [sc. the Spartan king Agis] marched on the city of Elis, cutting down the trees and burning the crops on the way. Very great numbers of cattle and of slaves were captured in the country, with the result that, as this news spread, many more of the Arcadians and Achaeans came willingly to join in the campaign and get a share of the plunder. Indeed, this expedition turned out to be a kind of process for restocking the whole Peloponnese.68
Secondly, we may add a more psychological explanation for the willingness of small city-states to join coalitions. Greek culture was extremely agonistic,69 and victory was one of the most treasured values of all, be it in war or in sports or in any other kind of activity — though 67
Krentz 1985. Translation by R. Warner. On this war, see Roy 2009b. On booty in Greek warfare, see Pritchett 1971: 53-100; 1991: 68-541. 69 Cartledge 2006: 207-9; cf. Burckhardt 1999 [1898-1902]: 160-213 and Spivey 2004: 15. 68
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victory in war was obviously the ultimate triumph for a Greek male.70 For many small city-states the only prospect of ever achieving this euphoric experience, which was regularly celebrated by costly thank-offerings at central sanctuaries such as those at Olympia and Delphi,71 must have been to cast its lot in with the victor and thus share, if only modestly, in the glory of victory. The institution of the symmachia, then, as it had developed by the late Archaic period, was very well geared to a belligerent city-state culture such as the Greek, which comprised city-states of all sizes, sorts and shapes; or to put it in another way: Greek coalition fighting may best be interpreted and explained as the product of the particular military, political and cultural configuration of Greek society.72
Bibliography Adcock, F. & Mosley, D.J. 1975. Diplomacy in Ancient Greece. Thames and Hudson: London. Alty, J. 1982. “Dorians and Ionians,” Journal of Hellenic Studies 102: 114. Beck, H. 1997. Polis und Koinon. Untersuchungen zur Geschichte und Struktur der griechischen Bundesstaaten im 4. Jahrhundert v. Chr. Historia Einzelschriften 114. Franz Steiner Verlag: Stuttgart. Bengtson, H. 1962. Die Staatsverträge des Altertums. 2. Die Verträge der griechisch-rómischen Welt von 700 bis 338 v.Chr. C.H. Beck: Munich & Berlin. Bowden, H. 2003. “The Functions of the Delphic Amphictyony before 346 BCE,” Scripta Classica Israelica 22: 67-84. —. 2005. Classical Athens and the Delphic Oracle. Divination and Democracy. Cambridge University Press: Cambridge. Brunt, P.A. 1953-54. “The Hellenic League against Persia,” Historia 2: 135-63. Buckler, J. 2003. Aegean Greece in the Fourth Century. Brill: Leiden & Boston. Burkert, W. 1985. Greek Religion. Translated by John Raffan. Harvard University Press: Cambridge Mass. 70
See e.g. Herodotos 1.30.5 where the routing of the enemy is singled out as a constituent of the highest happiness. Cf. Runciman 1998: 740. 71 For such dedications, see e.g. Burkert 1985: 69 and Rice 1993; see also Gauer 1968; Jackson 1991; and Runciman 1998: 739-40. 72 We wish to thank Niels Grotum Sørensen for reading and commenting on a draft of the text.
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Roy, J. 2009a. “Hegemonial Structures in Late Archaic and Early Classical Elis and Sparta,” in S. Hodkinson (ed.), Sparta. Comparative Approaches. The Classical Press of Wales (Swansea): 69-88. —. 2009b. “The Spartan-Elean War of c. 400,” Athenaeum 97: 69-86. Runciman, W.G. 1998. “Greek Hoplites, Warrior Culture, and Indirect Bias,” Journal of the Royal Anthropological Institute 4: 731-51. Rusch, S.M. 2011. Sparta at War. Strategy, Tactics, and Campaigns, 550362 BC. Frontline Books: London. Schmitt, H.H. 1969. Die Staatsverträge des Altertums. 3. Die Verträge der griechisch-römischen Welt von 338 bis 200 v.Chr. C.H. Beck: Munich. Schwartz, A. 2009. Reinstating the Hoplite. Arms, Armour and Phalanx Fighting in Archaic and Classical Greece. Historia Einzelschriften 207. Franz Steiner Verlag: Stuttgart. Sealey, R. 1976. A History of the Greek City-States ca. 700–338 B.C. University of California Press: Berkeley, Los Angeles & London. Shipley, G. 2004. “Lakedaimon,” in M.H. Hansen & T.H. Nielsen (eds.), An Inventory of Archaic and Classical Poleis. Oxford University Press (Oxford): 569-98. Spivey, N. 2004. The ancient Olympics. Oxford University Press: Oxford. Trevett, J. 1990. “History in [Demosthenes] 59,” Classical Quarterly 40: 407-20. Tritle, L.A. 2010. A New History of the Peloponnesian War. WileyBlackwell: Malden, MA, Oxford, & Chichester. Warner, R. 1949. Xenophon: The Persian Expedition. Penguin: London. van Wees, H. 2004. Greek Warfare. Myths and Realities. Routledge: London. Whitehead, D. 1990. Aineias the Tactician. How to Survive under Siege. Translated with Introduction and Commentary by David Whitehead. Clarendon Press: Oxford. Wyatt, W.F. 1996. “Dialects and Ethnic Groups in Thucydides,” in Crawley (1996): 614-6. Zaidman, L.B. & Pantel, P.S. 1992. Religion in the Ancient Greek City. Translated by P. Cartledge. Cambridge University Press: Cambridge.
COALITION WARFARE IN RENAISSANCE ITALY, 1455-1503 PAUL M. DOVER
In chapter eleven of The Prince, Machiavelli remarks that in the years before the French king Charles VIII’s invasion of Italy in 1494, the five major powers of Italy (the Pope, the Republic of Venice, the Republic of Florence, the Duchy of Milan and the Kingdom of Naples) had “two principal cares: the one being that an outsider should not enter into Italy with arms; the other being that none of them should increase his state.”1 Machiavelli looked back at this fifteenth-century history, inescapably seen through the lens of the subsequent twenty years of war involving the major European powers, with a view to demonstrating the dangers of Italian disunity. For Machiavelli, the root of the calamities that had descended on Italy with the so-called Wars of Italy after 1494 was the inability of Italians to band together against the ultramontane barbarians. This is why he ends The Prince with an almost chiliastic call for an Italian redeemer who can bind together the states of Italy to face down the invaders.2 1
N. Machiavelli, The Prince, with Related Documents, ed. and trans. by W. Connell (Boston: Bedford/St. Martins, 2005), 74. 2 Machiavelli expresses similar sentiments in Book I, Chapter 12 of the Discourses, where he condemns the popes for keeping Italy divided in their pursuit of narrow, personal ends: la seconda cagione della rovina nostra: questo è che la chiesa ha tenuto e tiene questa provincia divisa. [the second reason for our ruin is that the church has held and continues to hold this province divided]. In so doing, the Church has made Italy more vulnerable to the depredations of foreigners. He levels similar blame at the popes in Book I, Chapter 9 of the Florentine Histories, where he highlights the role that the popes have played in inviting foreign involvement in Italy, thus keeping Italy weak and divided: Di modo che tutte le guerre che, dopo a questi tempi, furono da' barbari fatte in Italia furono in maggior parte dai pontefici causate; e tutti i barbari che quella inundorono furono il più delle volte da quegli chiamati. Il quale modo di procedere dura ancora in questi nostri tempi; il che ha tenuto e tiene la Italia disunita e inferma. [So henceforward, all the wars waged by the barbarians in Italy were for the most part caused by the pontiffs, and all the barbarians who invaded it were most often
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Several decades earlier, in the years before the French invasion, Giovanni Pontano, the humanist and counsellor to Ferrante, the King of Naples from 1458-92, also warned against the dangers of this Italian particularism, predicting with some prescience the risks for the southern kingdom. “All of Italy, France and Spain are conspiring against you, and none will help you; and the Turk will descend on your back, as do flies in Hell,” a reference to the suffering of the cowardly shades in Canto 3 of Dante’s Inferno.3 The great sixteenth-century historian of Italy and correspondent of Machiavelli, Francesco Guicciardini, idealised the period before the tragedia d’Italia initiated by Charles VIII as a period of relative peace and tranquillity. Guicciardini, unsurprisingly, heaped much of the credit on his fellow Florentine Lorenzo de’ Medici, a determination much disputed by modern historians. But Guicciardini recognised the importance of the five major states of Italy existing in a sort of finely posed equilibrium, whereby, in his words, political affairs were “disposed and counterpoised in such a way that not only was there no fear of any present change, but neither could anyone easily conceive of any policies or situations or wars which might disrupt the peace.”4 To Guicciardini, the balance achieved between the disparate Italian states was the source of Italy felicity. This chapter will explore the apparent contradiction at the heart of these near contemporary assessments of the atomised constellation of states that made up the political landscape of Italy in the second half of the fifteenth century. It will focus on these states at war and, in particular, on the practice of coalition warfare in the age of the Italian League, 14551494. During this period, every significant war was a war of coalitions, and the military and diplomatic history of the epoch is indelibly marked by the complexities of belligerents fielding armies, conducting operations, and pursuing peace in coalitions. By the end of the fifteenth century, the coalitions that were fighting the so-called Wars of Italy had come to include not just Italian states but the major powers of Europe, and the dynamics of coalition warfare had become a reality of the emerging early called in by them. This mode of proceeding continues still in our times; it is this that has kept and keeps Italy disunited and infirm]. This latter translation is from Florentine Histories, ed. and trans. L. Banfield and H. Mansfield (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1988), 20. 3 tutta Italia, Francia e Spagna vi sono congiurate contra, e non v’aiuteranno; e lo Turco vi correrà addosse, come faranno le mosche all’inferno. Cited in A. Aubert, La Crisi degli antichi stati italiani (Florence: Le Lettere, 2003), 30. 4 Francesco Guicciardini, The History of Italy, ed. and trans. S. Alexander (New York: Collier, 1969), Book One, 8-9.
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modern European state system. Thus, this chapter may serve as a valuable starting point for understanding coalition warfare as practiced in the subsequent period of European history.
The Italian League The Italian League, comprising the five major powers of Italy, was finalised in March 1455 and marked the end of an extended period of political instability and exhausting warfare that had spanned several decades. Designed to last for twenty-five years, it called for the signatories to maintain permanent military forces that would be used in case a fellow member came under attack. Sanctified by Pope Nicholas V, it was formally a sanctissima (most holy) league, and the language of the treaty suggested that it was primarily directed outward, against foreign powers, in particular France, the source of Angevin and Orleanist claims on Italian territory, and the Ottoman Turks, who had captured Constantinople less than two years earlier, causing widespread consternation in the chanceries of western Europe. While the Italian League was made possible by the general exhaustion of the Italian states and a widely shared desire for a general peace, its immediate origins are to be found in a bi-lateral agreement between the Duchy of Milan and the Republic of Venice, which agreed to end their longstanding hostilities with the Peace of Lodi in April 1454. The two states became convinced that the ongoing efforts of Pope Nicholas V to finalise a general peace in Italy were doomed to fail and sought a bi-lateral peace instead.5 The Peace of Lodi deliberately left open the possibility that other Italian states could join, with a view to creating a pan-Italian peace. Despite this, both Milan and Venice had kept their allies at the time in the dark about their communications with one another. We should not overemphasise the idealistic impulses behind the creation of a general league when it was finalised in 1455. As Michael Mallett has suggested, It is particularly important in the Italian context not to see the balance of power as a sort of panacea for all political ills, a universal acceptance of the need for peace and harmony, a kind of political enlightenment. It was rather a stalemate produced by economic exhaustion and a realisation that
See F. Antonino, “La pace di Lodi e i secreti maneggi che la preparano.’ Archivio storico lombardo, ser. 6, 57 (1930), 239ff; and C. Canetta, “La pace di Lodi (9 aprile 1454).” Rivista storica italiana II (1885), 516-64.
Coalition Warfare in Renaissance Italy, 1455-1503 the days of easy conquest had passed, even though the hegemonic aspirations remained.6
And yet amid this stalemate, the states of Italy persisted in seeking to seize what opportunities for political and territorial gain presented themselves, however minor they might be, while also being ready to counter similar moves by other states. Despite a supposedly shared commitment to peace and the status quo, ambition remained, and within the tense and geopolitically confined space of Italy it gave rise to vigilant diplomatic activity and the growth of permanence in diplomatic and military institutions. The Italian League was not, as it has sometimes been characterised, a binding supra-state organisation nor did it create a genuine inter-state political system. Instead, the Italian League represented an ideal expression of principle, whereby the territorial status quo would be preserved and Italy insulated from the predations of non-Italian actors. It had three goals above all: the maintenance of peace; the preservation of the territorial status quo; and the pretext of a crusade against the Turks, which, despite the recent fall of Constantinople, was largely diplomatic window dressing.7 That the Italian League was not sufficient to enforce solidarity and an integrated response in the face of crisis became apparent almost immediately. Traditional forms of inter-state competition crippled the League almost from its inception. In 1456, the King of Naples, Alfonso of Aragon, did not let the stipulations of the League stop him from pursuing hegemonic ambitions in Genoa and the Papal States, employing the condottieri Jacopo Piccinino and Sigismondo Malatesta as his proxies. Alfonso’s death in 1458, in turn, unleashed different, and more dangerous, pressures. King Charles VII of France pressed the Duke of Milan, Francesco Sforza, to sever his alliance with Ferrante, who had just succeeded Alfonso as King of Naples. The French king supported the Angevin claim to the southern kingdom, and was offering diplomatic support to the imminent invasion by Jean of Anjou. Francesco Sforza’s response was to insist that he was bound to defend Ferrante by the terms of the Italian League. French pressure on Cosimo de’ Medici in Florence was met with the same response. A year or so later, in 1460, Sforza actually sent his ambassador Emanuele di Iacopo to the French court with a copy 6
M. Mallett, “Diplomacy and War in Later Fifteenth-century Italy,” Proceedings of the British Academy 67 (1981), 268. 7 V. Ilardi, “The Italian League, Francesco Sforza and Charles VII (1454-`461),” Studies in the Renaissance 6 (1959), 142-3.
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of the text of the Italian League in order to defend his recent dispatch of the condottiere Roberto di Sanseverino to reinforce Ferrante in his perilous situation in Naples.8 Sforza’s fastidious adherence to League principles offers a stark contrast with the response of other major Italian states faced with the Angevin incursion into Italy. Venice assumed scrupulous neutrality, while Florence, although she gave limited financial subventions to Sforza, pursued quasi-neutrality. Presented with a casus belli after only three years, the major Italian states had already demonstrated that they would interpret their adherence to the provisions of the League according to their own needs at any given moment.
Leagues, universali and particolari Despite these dangers, for forty years a rough political balance in Italy was maintained. The balance of power in Italian politics that is so prominent in the influential account of the period by Guicciardini, as well as in the writings of other contemporary Italian historians such Corio and Giovio, is rarely expressed so explicitly in the diplomatic correspondence of the period. Virtually no statesman in the fifteenth century referenced concepts such as “the Italian system” or “equilibrium,” which we have come to associate with the practice of multilateral politics in the period. In this sense, the so-called balance is largely a later interpolation by historians. But the impetus to create a rough balance, if not expressed explicitly, was nearly always implicit. While the Italian League was never formally re-constituted in its original form of 1455, despite many calls to do so, statesmen throughout the remainder of the fifteenth century made constant reference to it and made pro forma expressions of willingness to see it formally re-formed.9 “The vision of the Italian League was recalled at appropriate moments almost always to shame an adversary or gain a diplomatic advantage marking particularistic interests.”10 There was generally an obverse reaction when there was a shared sense that the 8 The instructions for this mission (dated 24 May 1460) are in Dispatches and Related Documents of Milanese Ambassadors in France and Burgundy 1450-1483, Vol. I (1450-1460), ed. P. Kendall and V. Ilardi (Athens, OH: Ohio University Press, 1970), 295. 9 F. Catalano, La politica dell’equilibrio nell’Italia del Quattrocento (Milan: La Goliardica, 1970), 80. 10 V. Ilardi, “Towards the Tragedia d’Italia: Ferrante and Galeazzo Maria Sforza, friendly enemies and hostile allies,” in The French Descent into Renaissance Italy 1494-95. Antecedents and Effects, ed. D. Abulafia (Aldershot, Hampshire: Variorum, 1995), 121.
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formation of an alliance by two or more powers was threatening the perceived balance, resulting in an opposing alliance of two or three powers. In order to compensate for their own weaknesses, Italian states banded with others according to the exigencies of specific circumstances, quite out of keeping with the purported ends of the initial Italian League. There was, among the Italian states, a great fear of being isolated, of being left outside the theoretical protection of a coalition. It was necessary for them, as Lorenzo de’ Medici once termed it, to ballare secondo il suono, to dance according to the song being played.11 We first see such a dance taking place in 1466, in the wake of the death of the Milanese Duke Francesco Sforza. Milan, Florence and Naples, all three of them signatories of the Italian League, formed a three-state alliance to safeguard Milanese and Florentine territory against Venice and the forces of the condottiere Bartolomeo Colleoni. Colleoni, who had territorial ambitions of his own, while not technically acting as Venice’s captain-general, was in fact bankrolled by the Venetians and working in conjunction with Florentine exiles who resided in Venice. This smallerscale coalition formed to face Colleoni was, in the parlance of the day, a lega particolare, as opposed to the lega universale of the Italian League. It would be the first of many such alliances, which brought together two or three of the primary powers and nearly always resulted in a counter-league formed of the remaining peninsular powers. Second-tier confederate states, such as the Duchy of Ferrara-Modena, the Marquisate of Mantua and the Republic of Siena, also subscribed to these leagues, as did many smaller political units. In some cases leagues would even formalise relationships with non-state actors such as exiles, condottieri and nobility within rival states who might serve as a destabilising element in the event of conflict. It was to such leghe particolari, rather than the lega universale, that states looked for protection, and it was in such opposing political constellations that wars would be conducted in Italy for several decades. These opposing coalitions served repeatedly in practice to create an effective political and military balance inside Italy.12 As Giovanni Pillinini has succinctly suggested, “in reality, the Italian equilibrium was an
M. Bullard, “Lorenzo and Patterns of Diplomatic Discourse in the Late Fifteenth Century” in Lorenzo the Magnificent: Culture and Politics, ed. M. Mallett (London: Warburg Institute, 1996), 267. 12 On this, see especially N. Rubinstein, “Das politische System Italiens in der zweiten Hälfte des 15. Jahrhunderts”, in ‘Bündnissysteme’ und Auȕpolitik im späteren Mittelalter, ed. P Moraw (Berlin: Duncker und Humblot, 1988), 105-119.
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equilibrium of self-interest.”13 These partial leagues, while serving to achieve a rough balance, did little to reduce political instability and mutual suspicion, especially because few of them lasted particularly long. In 1485, the Florentine ambassador in Rome, Guidantonio Vespucci, remarked that “nowadays no trust is to be had in what is said or written to one, nor in friendship, nor in fede data, but only in that which one judged facci compagna et che si vede con facti.”14 By the end of century, this sense of alienation and suspicion among Italian states made it all the more likely that Italian states would be willing to call upon non-Italian states to buttress their own positions vis-à-vis their Italian rivals. This resort to the familiar calculus of counter-balancing leagues, so familiar to Italian politics in the late medieval centuries, did not mean, however, that the Italian League did not matter. As an expression of ideals, the Italian League remained an historical and moral exemplar to which princes and diplomats frequently made reference. Despite the fact that the Italian League failed to operate in the fashion for which it was designed, it remained a point of reference, in negotiations and in diplomatic discourse, through the bewildering sequence of alliance building that occurred in the course of the second half of the fifteenth century. The spirit of the League, and its pretensions to maintain an Italian peace, were repeatedly invoked as states jostled for advantage. It became customary for the leghe particolari to have articles that left open the possibility that other states could join in order to make the league universal. During the crisis in 146970 over who would succeed Sigismondo Malatesta as the Lord of Rimini, both the league between Milan, Naples and Florence, formed in 1467, and the alliance formed in response between Pope Paul II and the Republic of Venice in May 1469, employed language that left open the possibility that the other major Italian states could join in order to make their leagues universal. Rather than a universal league, however, brief war resulted, resulting in defeat for the Pope, who ended up having to wage the conflict in his own, as his Venetian partner, under pressure from the Ottomans in the eastern Mediterranean and unenthusiastic about seeing papal influence
G. Pillinini, Il sistema degli stati italiani 1454-1494 (Venice: Libreria universitaria editrice, 1970), 52: “In realtà, l’equilibrio italiano fu un equilibrio di egoismi.” 14 Archivio di Stato di Firenze, Mediceo avanti il Principato, Dieci di Balìa, Carteggi, Responsive, 34, f. 93v., cited in H. Butters, The politics of protection in late fifteenth-century Italy: Florence and the failed Sienese exiles’ plot of May 1485, in The French Descent, 143.
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enhanced in the Marches, contributed next to nothing.15 The pope then unilaterally declared a new universal league the following year, with much the same articles as the first Italian League of fifteen years earlier. This renovation of the League never became formally binding or universal, due to the refusal of Duke Galeazzo Maria Sforza to join it without the participation of the King of France, with whom he was then allied. Florence, under pressure from Galeazzo, also refused to ratify the new league.16 Such pursuit of balance was in part directed by the fear of one power becoming too powerful. The hegemonic ambitions of the Visconti dukes of Milan in the first half of the fifteenth century had served as a warning, and rhetoric that stressed the danger of a single state dominating Italy was widespread, if occasionally hyperbolic. Such warnings were frequently issued against Venice, Italy’s wealthiest and potentially most powerful state. The Venetians were accused of having a libido dominandi towards the rest of Italy.17 This danger was tempered in the period 1463-79, when Venice was largely preoccupied with its war with the Ottoman Empire in the Eastern Mediterranean, but there remained widespread suspicion that Venice intended to expand her terraferma holdings at the expense of other Italian states. Galeazzo Maria Sforza, the Duke of Milan, remarked to a Venetian secretary passing through Milan: “You are alone, and you have the whole world against you: if you knew the ill will that everyone has against you, your hair would stand up on end, and you would leave everyone else alone.”18 In 1463, Florentine envoys told the Pope that the Venetians “dreamt themselves the successors of the ancient Romans, and the inheritors of their worldwide dominion”, and “aspired, after the conquest of Greece, to subject Italy to their yoke.”19 Such expressions of fear of Venetian ambitions should not obscure the fact that in practice that 15
On the Rimini crisis, see especially W. Tommasoli, Momenti e figure della politica dell’equilibrio. Federico da Montefeltro e l’impresa di Rimini (Urbino: Argalia, 1968). 16 See G. Nebbia, “La lega italica del 1455: sue vicende e sua rinnovazione nel 1470”, Archivio storico lombardo ser. 7, 4 (1939), 115-135. See also Lorenzo de’ Medici, Lettere, Vol. I, ed. N. Rubinstein (Florence: Olschki, 1977), 230-238. 17 N. Rubinstein, “Italian Reactions to Terraferma expansion in the fifteenth century,” in Renaissance Venice, ed. J.R. Hale (London: Faber & Faber, 1973), 197-217. 18 “Sete soli, et havete tutto’ mondo contra: se sapesti la male volntà che tutti hanno contra di voi, vi se rizzeriano I capelli, et lasceresti viver ogn’uno nel suo stato.” Quoted in Michael Mallett, “Venezia e la politica italiana, 1454-1530” in Storia di Venezia. Vol. 4 (Rome: Treccani, 1996), 247. 19 L. von Pastor, History of the Popes, Vol. 3 (London: Hodges, 1902), 323.
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there was usually at least one other Italian power that perceived advantage in allying with Venice; she was very rarely isolated completely. Similar aspersions were cast in the direction of the King of Naples, perceived as a potential Italian hegemon.20 In 1474, Galeazzo Maria Sforza directed his hyperbole at the King of Naples, claiming that he was using all of his arte et fictione “to gain the superiority and government over the powers of Italy.”21 When the Ottoman Turks seized Otranto in 1480, some described it as a deliverance from the ambitions of Naples: a Venetian ambassador declared that it had prevented Ferrante from becoming the King of Italy.22 Such warnings were exaggerated, to be sure, but they reflected the desire to maintain the balance that had been among the goals of the Italian League. The legacy of the Italian League and the pursuit of the particularistic leagues influenced the burgeoning diplomatic activity of the age. These alliances were negotiated, maintained and undermined with recourse to the new diplomacy of the age, which saw states employ resident ambassadors for extended periods of time, establish chanceries committed to diplomatic affairs, and come to regard diplomacy as a continuous activity of the state. The mechanisms of the alliance systems, as much as military strength, were considered essential for the maintenance of the security and independence of individual states. An important task of the new resident ambassadors was the maintenance of alliances, and the military affairs corresponding with them, such as the negotiation of military contracts, the allocation of commands, and the payment of troops. Leagues would frequently send joint diplomatic missions, and make supplications at courts jointly. It was not uncommon for there to be a dual flow of correspondence, whereby ambassadors would send both dispatches composed jointly with the ambassadors of their alliance partners and dispatches composed on their own. Predictably, these dispatches did not always express the same sentiments and desires. The increasing reliance on continuous diplomacy, within and outside alliances, led to delays and opportunities for temporisation, a recurring feature of coalition warfare in the period. 20
On Naples, see P. Dover, “Royal Diplomacy in Renaissance Italy: Ferrante I d’Aragona and his Ambassadors,” in Mediterranean Studies 14 (2005), 57-94. 21 Galeazzo Maria Sforza to Girolamo Riario, 3 August 1474, Galliate, Archivio di Stato di Milano, Archivio Sforzesco, Potenze Estere – Roma, Cartella 77. 22 This reported in a letter of Niccolò Roberti to Duke Ercole d’Este, 7 June 1480, Naples in “Dépêches de Nicolas de Roberti, Ambassadeur d’Hercule Ier duc de Ferrare, auprès du roi Louis XI (novembre 1478 – juillet 1480)”, ed. P. Perinelle. Mélanges d’archéologie et d’histoire 24 (1904), 464-72.”
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War in Coalition Machiavelli, in both The Prince and The Discourses warned about being put in a position where one had to rely on allies, domestic and foreign. He himself had witnessed the fragility of alliances and the exercise of bad faith that had characterised Italian conflicts at the end of the fifteenth and beginning of the sixteenth centuries. In the diplomatic correspondence of the age, everyone wanted allies and expressed their need for them, but no one was ever satisfied with their alliance partners. This was never clearer than when it came time to mobilise for military action. Full mobilisation for war in the fifteenth century was extremely slow. The primary hurdle was not technological or institutional, but fiscal. Giangiacomo Trivulzio, the Milanese captain who later became the Maréchal de France, once declared that per fare la guerra, occorono solo tre cose: denaro, denaro e ancora denaro [in order to make war, only three things are necessary: money, money and still more money]. As mentioned above, among the stipulations of the Italian League was that its members should maintain a level of standing forces. The Italian states met these requirements with greater and lesser degrees of commitment, with Venice, Milan and Naples in particular maintaining permanent forces that were not raised by short-term contracts.23 These forces might eat up as much as half of the annual peacetime budgets of the Italian states. Preparation for war was thus usually a combination of readying one’s own small permanent forces for action while raising the balance of one’s army from among mercenaries. Forces were raised from a variety of different sources – in Milan, for example, the Dukes drew upon regular militia, the companies of urban-based captains like the Fieschi in Genoa, troops raised by rural seigniorial families like the Rossi in Parma, and the forces of the condottiere-princes who served as top military commanders and coalition allies, such as the Marquises of Mantua and of Monferrat. In the coalitions of the fifteenth century, smaller states were linked to their larger partners through arrangements of mutual military aid. Some of these relationships were rooted in the medieval traditions of adherenza and accomandigia: such non-feudal ties of allegiance retained their importance. To these medieval forms must be added the condotta, the contract by
On Milan, see M.N. Covini, L’esercito del duca: organizzazione militare e istituzioni al tempo degli Sforza (1450-1480) (Rome: Istituto storico per il medio evo, 1998). On Venice, see M. Mallett and J.R. Hale, The Military Organization of a Renaissance State. Venice, c. 1400 to 1617 (Cambridge University Press, 1984).
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which many small-state princes served larger states as captains.24 Thus the Marquises of Mantua were linked closely for nearly three decades to the Duchy of Milan, in a political alliance that was confirmed in a contract for military service, one that was regularly renewed despite repeated quarrelling over its terms and inconsistent payment. Such contractual arrangements in practice came close to resembling alliances. The Marquis’ contract took the form of the condotta in aspetto, an increasingly widespread arrangement by which the condottiere-prince was granted a retainer, with additional fees to be extended in the event of war. It was customary for a condottiere-prince like the Marquis to expect a reciprocal guarantee of protection from the employing state. Mantua thus followed Milan into all of its coalitions from 1454-87 and the Marquis of Mantua was a captain in the Milanese army throughout that period, although he only occasionally commanded his companies personally.25 The run-up to war inevitably involved what Maria Covini has called the caccia al denaro, or “the hunt for money.”26 Heavy cavalry, of which most Italian states had at least some units readily available, was reasonably easy to mobilise. But the warfare of the fifteenth century, with its increasing emphasis on siege and manoeuvre, meant that increasingly large detachments of infantry were required. This was especially the case in the years after the shock defeat of Charles the Bold of Burgundy by Swiss infantry at the battles of Grandson and Morat, 1476, which seemed to presage a new age of infantry. In most places the mechanisms for the quick assembly of sizable forces of foot soldiers were simply not in place – although Venice had become a notable exception. The building blocks for a good part of any fifteenth-century army in Italy were the condotte. In the course of the fifteenth century the terms of these contracts became longer, and relations between specific condottieri and states became more permanent. Condotte were almost without exception designed to provide different peacetime and wartime pay scales. In anticipation of hostilities, a state was expected to furnish a prestanza, a lump payment to a condottiere, who would then use the funds to raise and equip an army. The prestanza was the most important part of the payment to the condottieri; it was essential for putting the military machine into 24 M.N. Covini, ”Liens politiques et militaires dans le système des États italiens (XIIIe – XVIe siècle)” in Guerre et concurrence entre les États européens du XIVe au XVIIIe siècle, ed. P. Contamine (Paris: Presses Universitaires de France, 1988), 32. 25 See E. Ward Swain, “The wages of peace: the condotte of Ludovico Gonzaga, 1436-1478,” in Renaissance Studies 3.4 (December 1989), 442-452. 26 Covini, L’esercito del duca, 32.
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motion. But funds for these payments were often lacking – one could point to examples of even relatively rich princes such as the Duke of Milan pawning the ducal jewels in order to be able to afford the prestanze required to put an army in the field. High interest loans from bankers in Florence and Genoa were also standard fare when it became time to mobilise. Assuring that such funds were disbursed in the context of a coalition was even more complicated, where not only did the dearth of ready funds cause concern, but so too did regular disagreements over the division of relative fiscal responsibility of the respective coalition partners. Soldiers left in financial difficulty during any resulting period of delay would not hesitate to sell their horses, their arms and their armour.27 Once war began, coalitions tended to be plagued by two difficulties above all: the continued monetary provision of armies in the field and the relative financial responsibility of coalition partners; and issues of joint command. During the Pazzi War that followed the failed assassination attempt on Lorenzo de’ Medici in 1478, we can see the tension typical of cases where the different military institutions of coalition partners tried to work together. When Florence’s league partners Venice and Milan sent forces to aid in Florence’s defence, they complained vociferously about the administration of the combined army. Gian Giacomo Trivulzio, the Milanese commander of the coalition’s lanze spezzate, lamented that these Florentine troops are so badly organized that it disgusts me; the men at arms are spread out in confusion, often with squadrons all mixed up together in a way which seems to conform to no plan, and squadrons as much as a half mile apart. The soldiers are billeted all over the place without any provisions for pioneers or other essential auxiliaries; there are very few infantry, about 700, of which 150 only are properly armed although I have made constant protests about this…These Florentine officials sell victuals at the dearest price possible without any concern for the regulation of prices and quality; the money is debased so that it buys very little; and if provisions are sent from Lombardy or elsewhere these Florentines make us pay duty on them, or even keep it for themselves.28
Similarly, a Venetian politician, Giorgio Emo, travelled to Florence and publicly lambasted the parlous state of Florentine military organisation. Things were especially bad because the opposition of the Pope meant that Florence could not enlist the petty lords of the Romagna as military 27
Covini, L’esercito del duca, 359. E. Ricotti, Storia delle compagnie di ventura in Italia, Vol. 2 (2nd ed., Turin: G. Tomba, 1893), 132.
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captains, as had long been their custom.29Also contributing to such expressions of disgust was that Florence, unlike Milan and Venice, had not made a considerable commitment to the maintenance of sizable permanent peacetime forces. When time came to mobilise, the Florentines, unlike other Italian states, could not work from a pre-existing base of readily available troops, and were forced to ramp up from scratch.30 Indeed, the coalition between Florence, Milan and Venice, although it lasted six years, 1474-80, achieved very little concrete. Florence and Milan refused to provide any meaningful aid to Venice in her bitter and ongoing fight against the Ottomans, and despite the complaints of Trivulzio just cited, Florence never received the military support she hoped for in the course of the Pazzi War, with Venice insisting instead that Lorenzo de’ Medici pursue peace at any cost.31 The Milanese army originally sent to provide aid for Florence, meanwhile, was, in the event, almost completely redirected towards putting down the revolt that broke out in Genoa in 1477 – where it suffered a terrible defeat and played almost no role in the defence of Florentine territory during the Pazzi War. The shambolic preparations amongst the league partners who opposed Venetian aggression against Ferrara in the War of Ferrara, 1482-4, the bloodiest of the wars of the period of the Italian League, are also exemplary. The alliance of Naples, Florence and Milan, formed in March 1480, experienced significant problems in administering a joint military command structure. The three main condottieri who made up the League’s military leadership – the Duke of Ferrara Ercole d’Este, Roberto da Sanseverino, and the Duke of Calabria Alfonso d’Aragona – were bitter rivals and were favoured by different coalition partners. In both Florence and Milan there were suspicions of the ambitions of Ferrante, the King of Naples, while the uncertainty of leadership in Milan, where power was shared by an erratic duchess-regent and an ambitious Ludovico Maria Sforza, gave cause for concern in Florence and Naples. Florence, Naples and Milan had all explicitly pledged to defend Ferrara against Venice in secret clauses inserted in a renewal of their league of 25 July 1480. Ercole d’Este was made the lieutenant-general of the league army, to the great resentment of Roberto da Sanseverino, who would eventually leave its service in order to take charge of Venetian forces. By the second half of 29
P. Pieri, Il rinascimento e la crisi militare italiana (Turin: Einaudi, 1952), 292. On this contrast, see M. Mallett, “Preparations for war in Florence and Venice in the second half of the fifteenth century,” in Florence and Venice: Comparisons and Relations Vol I, ed. N. Rubinstein (Florence: la Nuova Editrice, 1979), 149-64. 31 On these events, see M. Mallett, “Lorenzo and Venice,” in Lorenzo il Magnifico e il suo mondo, ed. G. Grafagnini (Florence: Olschki, 1994), 109-121. 30
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1480, when Venetian intentions towards Ferrara were becoming all too evident, the King of Naples was no longer in a position to respond, as he faced the Ottoman occupation of Otranto and needed to spend every penny he had on its relief. The Republic of Florence, meanwhile, had no intention of mobilising without an assurance from Ferrante that certain towns in Tuscany occupied in the recent Pazzi War would be returned to Florence. At the same time, the political uncertainty in the Duchy of Milan had deepened with the revolt of the Rossi lords in the Duchy’s second city, Parma. By early 1482, Otranto had been cleared, essentially by Neapolitan forces alone, but now Naples was almost bankrupt. And while there was shared agreement among the league partners that they should seek to employ Federigo da Montefeltro, the aging but respected Duke of Urbino, as their lead condottiere against Venice, they were forced to wait not only until his condotta with the Pope expired in March, but also until he had spent several days consulting with his astrologers to determine the best day on which to sign a new contract!32 Once the assault on Ferrara had begun, the response of the allies of the League was characterised by a lack of enthusiasm and co-ordination, as well as serial excuse-making. In a ruse that was typical of the period, Lorenzo de’ Medici in Florence pointed to the lethargy in the preparations of his allies and used it as an excuse not to engage in expeditious preparations of his own.33 The challenges of mobilisation and supply in armies formed by coalitions were compounded by another regular feature of Renaissance warfare í the difficulty of determining when one was actually at war. There were instances of formal declarations of war, as when Venice declared war on Ferrara in the spring of 1482. But more frequently, states were eager to keep their intentions obscured, and leave the opposing side unsure as to whether formal hostilities were about to break out. This was generally a wise course of action because in very few of the alliances from this period were coalition partners equally enthusiastic about war. Membership in a coalition by no means meant a confluence of interests between partners, nor did it mean that partners agreed on the desirability of going to war. In the declaration of war against Ferrara by Venice in 1482, the 32
This according to a letter from Luigi Guicciardini & Pierfilippo Pandolfini to Lorenzo, Urbino, 31 March 1482, Archivio di Stato di Firenze, Mediceo avanti il Principato, 51. 33 M. Mallett, “The Florentine Otto di Pratica and the Beginning of the War of Ferrara” in Florence and Italy. Renaissance Studies in Honor of Nicolai Rubinstein, ed. P. Denley and C. Elam (London: Committee for Medieval Studies, 1988), 5.
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Venetians did not, in fact, recognise themselves to be in a state of war against the Duchy of Milan and the Republic of Florence, even though the two had theoretically committed themselves to the defence of Ferrara. This helps explain the deep reluctance of Florence, for example, to sending significant troop detachments to Ferrara, or even officially to send the standards of the condottiere Federigo da Montefeltro, who had been the Florentine commander but was already preparing his defence of Ferrara. To allow those standards to go with Federigo to the environs of Ferrara would have been tantamount to a formal declaration of war, something Lorenzo was cagily seeking to avoid. In fact, Lorenzo did not act to recall his ambassador from Venice after the Venetians attacked his league ally, nor did he request that the Venetian representative in Florence be repatriated. Finally, he chose not to appoint a war council, the so-called Dieci di Balìa, which was customary in wartime in Florence. Thus even once fierce fighting had begun in the Ferrarese, Florence’s position remained deeply ambivalent, and it would remain so throughout the course of the war.34
The Fragility of Coalitions Keeping coalitions together, politically and militarily, once war began was also difficult. Finances again played an important role in this regard, as few states could afford to keep forces in the field for extended periods of time without facing crises of liquidity. The wars of this period were characterised by the rapid exhaustion of available resources, insufficiency of salaries, and weakness of organisation, the latter being particularly vexing in coalition warfare. Soldiers simply did not count on getting pay on time and they found other means, employing what Nadia Covini has called autofinanziamento. The biggest problems of the time were not technological, strategic or tactical; instead they were organisational, financial and disciplinary. Not only was it difficult for coalitions to get their armies into the field initially; it was equally as difficult to keep them there. At the heart of this was “a basic difference of attitude towards the conduct of war. The state wanted quick and inexpensive victories; the condottieri wanted to make their living and save their skins.”35 34 See Mallett, “The Florentine Otto di Pratica” and his “Venice and the War of Ferrara, 1482-4” in D. Chambers, C. Clough, and M. Mallett, eds. War, Culture and Society in Renaissance Venice (London: Hambledon, 1993), 57-72. 35 M. Mallett, Mercenaries and their Masters (London: Bodley Head, 1973), 1012.
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Also important were the changing expectations of coalition partners, according to both success and failure. Events during the Pazzi War exhibit how quickly these alliances could change. Once the conspiracy against Lorenzo de’ Medici, hatched by Pope Sixtus IV, his nephew Girolamo Riario and the Duke of Urbino Federigo da Montefeltro, had failed either to kill Lorenzo or remove him from his perch in Florence, open war ensued, with the Pope and Riario supported by their alliance partners in Naples and Siena.36 Florence was ostensibly allied to Milan and Venice, but, as we have already seen, this pact was contentious and ineffective. But in the other camp, victory had revealed similar jealousies and dissension. The King of Naples, Ferrante, while he had successfully occupied the Tuscan towns he had targeted, found his finances in shambles and was largely content that he had achieved his objectives. He did not feel compelled to pursue the war toward the ends envisioned by the Pope and Girolamo Riario: the expulsion of the Florentines from their castles in Umbria and the removal of Lorenzo from power in Florence. Aware of some of these differences, Lorenzo decided to take a bet that he could break up the opposing coalition with a risky gambit. In December 1479, Lorenzo undertook a secret voyage to Naples and managed to detach King Ferrante from his existing alliance and forge an accord between Florence and Naples on 25 March 1480.37 This essentially ended the war, as Naples provided the bulk of the anti-Florentine coalition’s military force. Within a month the Pope, deeply exasperated by Ferrante’s betrayal, formed a counter alliance with Venice and with René of Anjou, who had inherited the Angevin claim to the Neapolitan kingdom. Seeing the shifting allegiances, Milan now chose to join in a triple alliance with Naples and Florence, and the Duchy of Ferrara also joined as a confederate. In exceptionally short order, the Italian alliance system had been turned completely upside down, but ended up once again with a familiar scenario of two counter-balancing leagues of two or three of the major Italian states. It would be these two opposing coalitions that would contest the War of Ferrara; the secret clauses of Venice’s alliance with the Pope outlined an agreement to divide the territory of Ferrara between them. The War of Ferrara, which followed quickly on the heels of the Pazzi conflict, also demonstrated the fragility of these alliances. Pope Sixtus IV, 36
For the most recent treatment of the Pazzi Conspiracy and subsequent war, based on newly discovered documents, see M. Simonetta, The Montefeltro Conspiracy (New York: Doubleday, 1998). 37 On the background to this trip, see N. Rubinstein, “Le origini della missione di Lorenzo a Napoli,” in Lorenzo de’ Medici, Lettere Vol. 4 (Florence: Giunti, 1981), 391-400.
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who had been induced to join an alliance with Venice in the wake of his disappointments over the way the Pazzi War concluded, became discontent with the Venetian pact almost as soon as hostilities commenced. Venice was by far the more powerful of the partners, and Sixtus believed that Venice was pursuing her own narrow interests with her military power. When Venice enjoyed early military success, the Pope became alarmed at the long-term ramifications of a Venetian defeat of Ferrara, in particular the prospect of Venetian expansion into the Emilia-Romagna, which compromised both the Pope’s own ambitions and those of his nephew Girolam Riario. Already by the end of 1482, the Pope had forged a peace with the King of Naples, and soon sought to expand this alliance into a grand anti-Venetian coalition. In early 1483, Venice seemed to be effectively isolated in Italy. The most surprising thing about the War of Ferrara is that Venice proved able to resist the combined pressure of the other four major Italian states and still emerge victorious at the peace that ended the conflict. That this was the case was due primarily to the internal contradictions of the opposing coalition, mention of which has already been made. King Ferrante demanded more decisive and concerted action against Venice, especially after a Venetian amphibious assault took Gallipoli in the south of the peninsula. Ludovico Sforza in Milan was intent on temporising and wanted to avoid crippling the Venetian Republic. The Duke of Ferrara was understandably most concerned with the relief of his own capital. The Venetians skilfully exploited these differences between the league’s members, and encouraged Angevin designs on Naples and Orleanist claims to the Duchy of Milan. It was the latter, especially, that pushed Ludovico Sforza toward peace. Thus he negotiated the Peace of Bagnolo with Venice in 1484, leaving his coalition partners largely in the dark about his intentions. As with many accords before it, Bagnolo was a peace between two powers that left open the possibility of including other signatories, with a general Italian membership ultimately in mind. Pope Sixtus IV was reportedly so angered by the news of the Pecae of Bagnolo that he was struck by an illness that would kill him within a week. Despite all these difficulties, states realised they could not stay out of such coalitions. Every state feared isolation, being left outside of the general balance, and thus vulnerable to opportunistic states. The position of Florence is exemplary. Throughout the period in question, Florence found that, for her security, it was essential to rest in alliance with partners with richer martial traditions and readier access to military resources. So, in spite of differences with his allies, Lorenzo de’ Medici considered league with them (nearly always Milan and often Naples) the best safeguard
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for Florence. He called his allies his fondamento and la salute nostra et degl’altri. The alliance with Milan, for example, dated back to the inception of the Italian League and it remained the basis for Florence’s protection throughout this period. There was a widespread recognition that Lorenzo’s authority in Florence itself relied very much on the support he received from other princes and governments.38 What went for Florence was true for every Italian state. As an ambassador of Duke Ercole d’Este once wrote: “United they [states] are always respected and revered, and apart they are little valued.”39
Italy and Europe When Charles VIII of France invaded Italy in 1494 to press his claim to the throne of Naples, he did so with the Duke of Milan as an ally. Only Florence, Naples and the Pope actively opposed the invasion; Venice remained aloof. Milanese troops worked in conjunction with the French, playing a prominent role in the French advance during the course of 1494, including launching an attack at Rapallo. In essence, two opposing coalitions were facing each other, as had been so frequently the case during the previous four decades. The important difference now was that one of those coalition partners was the mighty King of France. After the forces of the King entered Rome in late December, both Milan and Venice began to rethink their previous positions. Ludovico Sforza actively began to sound out an anti-French alliance, while the Venetians confirmed their condotta with Francesco Gonzaga. In March 1495 the League of Venice was formed, comprising all the major Italian states save Florence, to oppose the French in Italy, with additional diplomatic support from Spain and Maximilian, the Holy Roman Emperor. There was considerable talk in Italian courts of simply allowing the forces of Charles VIII to leave the peninsula unmolested, but the captain general of the newly formed League, Francesco Gonzaga, thought the opportunity to strike a blow at the French too good to pass up. The force that fought the French army to a stalemate at Fornovo in July 1495 was perhaps three-quarters Venetian,
On the Florentine-Milanese alliance, see V. Ilardi, “Towards the Tragedia d’Italia.” 39 Antonio Guidoni to Ercole, 16 November 1486, Archivio di Stato di Modena, Archivio Segreto Estense – Ambasicatori, Firenze, 5, cited in Bullard, “Lorenzo and Patterns of Diplomatic Discourse,” 272.
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after Venice had been the last Italian state to join the anti-French coalition.40 In 1499, the French returned to Italy, as Louis XII invaded Naples, confirmation that extra-Italian intervention in the peninsula was now the new norm. So, too, was the alliance between an Italian power (Venice) and a non-Italian one (France) who agreed to divide the Duchy of Milan between them in the Treaty of Blois. The subsequent war was primarily fought between France and Spain, and their contest confirmed French control of Milan and Spanish control of the Kingdom of Naples. This was a new geopolitical world, one in which the territorial concerns of the peninsula, and the political balance to be maintained, were European ones, rather than merely Italian. Italian states would continue to fight in coalitions, but their destinies were now largely in the hands of their larger, more powerful non-Italian coalition partners. Unable to face down the forces of France, Spain or the Empire in battle, it was wiser simply to ally with them. Italian rivalries were now completely subsumed in broader European dynastic politics and Italian states were only one set of allies in a broader, more destructive and genuinely international conflict.41 Thus an old challenge, the maintenance of political balance, was addressed in the context of a new political reality: the powerful and permanent presence of the European powers in Italy. The wars in Italy of the second half of the fifteenth century, limited as they were in geography, length and destructiveness, were now firmly in the past. Italy would now be, for several decades to come, only one theatre, albeit the most important one, of dynastic struggles of altogether different scope. Italian states continued to fight wars in coalitions, but now only as satellites or, at best, junior partners, of the barbarians.
40 See D. Nicolle, Fornovo 1495; France’s Bloody Fighting Retreat (Westport, CT: Praeger, 2005). 41 See K. DeVries, “Warfare and the International State System” in F. Tallet and D.J.B. Trim, eds. European Warfare 1350-1750 (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2010), 27-49.
BALANCING ACTS: THE CANADIAN ARMY EXPERIENCE AS A JUNIOR ALLIANCE PARTNER, 1899-1953 DOUGLAS E. DELANEY
The Canadian experience as a junior alliance partner has not been all that unusual, at least in terms of wider policy considerations the Canadian case was not outside the norm. Between the Second Boer War and the War in Korea, Canadian soldiers and statesmen had to balance the oftencompeting requirements of maintaining an expeditionary force capability, gaining and retaining sovereign control of where, when, and how to commit their armed forces, and ensuring that coalition commitments did not cause political problems at home. Most democratic self-governing states operating in alliances have had to wrestle with these issues. But Canada did have a few peculiarities that set it apart. In the Canadian case, political problems usually surfaced along the fault lines of language and culture. Quite often, English-speaking and French-speaking Canadians pulled in opposite directions, especially when it came to sending troops overseas. Even talking about expeditionary forces was a touchy matter. Domestic considerations consumed many a Canadian prime minister during war, and the approach to war, with the result that Canada’s senior soldiers were often restricted in what they could do to plan and prepare for expeditionary force operations. As a result, Canada’s most senior generals often had to push the limits of their authority in trying to maintain the ability to generate expeditionary forces, which they knew the majority of Canadians would demand when war came. In this regard, their most important and consistent consideration was the requirement to maintain a high level of interoperability with the senior alliance partner – Great Britain at first and, later, the United States. The ability to “walk and talk” in the manner of the senior alliance partner gave the Canadian army options and paid dividends when it came to mounting expeditionary forces. The Second Boer War (1899-1902) delineated for Canadians the difficulties and divisions attendant with sending expeditionary forces
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abroad. By the summer of 1899, it was clear to anyone watching that war was coming to Southern Africa. Trouble had been brewing between British settlers and the small Boer Republics of Transvaal and the Orange Free State, where the settlers were regarded as uitlanders, or outsiders, had no voting rights and were forced to send their children to Boer schools. British outrage was only fuelled by a desire for access to diamond and gold deposits in Boer territory. Something had to be done. The reputation of the British Empire demanded action, or so the argument ran. Canadians called for action too. The Vancouver Province was fairly typical in chastising British inaction to that point: “The fact that the Boers have been allowed to pursue their policy of injustice and oppression so long is due solely to the magnanimity of British Governments which have shrunk from coercing a weak power… Britain [would] be justified in coercing the Boers, by force of arms, into granting justice to British subjects…”1 That was very much the sentiment in English-speaking Canada, but Frenchspeaking Canada was different – much different. French Canadians had never felt much affinity for the British Empire and they even sympathised with the Boers, whom they regarded as a maligned minority, like themselves, resisting the dominance of a larger group. With such contrary views across the French-English divide, the government of Prime Minister Sir Wilfrid Laurier found itself caught on the horns of a typical Canadian dilemma: commit an expeditionary force to Southern Africa and risk alienating the vote-rich province of Quebec (with its francophone majority); or do nothing and incur the enmity of the rest of Canada. Laurier might have been inclined to let matters lie and do nothing, but circumstances and some high-level chicanery forced his hand. When the Colonial Office asked Lord Minto, the British Governor General of Canada, if the Canadians might make a ‘spontaneous’ show of support and offer up a contingent of volunteers for service in South Africa, Minto dutifully shared the request with both the government and Canada’s senior soldier, who wasn’t a Canadian officer at all, but a British Army Officer, Major-General E.T.H. Hutton.2 That was in July 1899, a full two months before the formal declaration of war in South Africa. Hutton was a headstrong and faithful Imperialist who described himself as “the very humble instrument of an All-wise Providence”, and he took to his task as General Officer Commanding (GOC) the Canadian Militia with predictable alacrity. In no time, he produced a contingency plan for a 1
Quoted in Norman Hillmer and J.L. Granatstein, Empire to Umpire: Canada and the World into the Twenty-First Century (Toronto: Nelson, 2008), 16. 2 See Carman Miller, A Knight in Politics: A Biography of Sir Frederick Borden (Montreal and Kingston: McGill-Queen’s University Press, 2010), 113-120.
1200-man Canadian contingent. The Canadian Minister of the Militia, Dr Frederick Borden, actually supported the plan for sending an expeditionary force to the Cape Colony, but he became very annoyed when the Government of Canada received a telegram from the British Colonial Secretary on 3 October thanking Canada for its contribution of a volunteer contingent, even though no formal offer had yet been made! Prime Minister Laurier was incensed. He suspected that Hutton, or Minto, or both had conspired to force him into a corner. There were simply too many “convenient coincidences” for Laurier not to have suspected that someone was trying to trap him into a decision, and he was not without reason. Even before the Colonial Office “thank-you note”, details of Hutton’s plan had gone public when they appeared in the Canadian Military Gazette. Hutton later bragged of his part in forcing “the weak-kneed and vacillating Laurier Government with their ill-disguised French and Pro-Boer proclivities to take a part…in the great movement which has drawn the strings of our Anglo-Saxon British Empire so close.”3 Laurier was trapped. How could he refuse a contingent now that the plans for one were public? How could he avoid the appearance that he was backing out of a promise? English Canada would have been apoplectic. On the other hand, how could he send a force to South Africa without his fellow French-Canadians thinking that he was kowtowing to Imperial masters who were beating up on a minority group and doing it in an area of little interest to Canada? Laurier’s government reflected the French-English divisions. When his cabinet met on 13 October to discuss the matter, his Quebec ministers opposed outright the dispatch of any military contingent to South Africa, while a good portion of his English-speaking ministers argued passionately for a 1,000-man contingent, one completely sponsored by the government of Canada. Borden was one of the ministers advocating a fully-funded Canadian contingent, despite his annoyance at Hutton’s earlier conduct. Others, however, argued for something of a compromise – that Canada recruit a battalion-size force and ship it to Southern Africa, at which point it would become the responsibility of British military authorities. This was the option that Laurier chose. Ever the wily politician, he went for the arrangement that offered both an outlet for the Imperial zeal of English Canada, and some assurance to French Canadians that they would not have to pay for, or participate in, a British Imperial venture. Laurier also emphasised that the dispatch of troops to South Africa did not constitute a precedent for future action. 3
British Library, E.T.H. Hutton Papers, Memoirs, ms., 153. Quoted in Carman Miller, Painting the Map Red: Canada and the South African War, 1899-1902 (Ottawa: Canadian War Museum, 1993), 33.
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Not everyone bought it though. Henri Bourassa, the brightest member of his Quebec caucus, resigned his House of Commons seat over what he perceived as Laurier’s acquiescence to what he called “the military federation of the Empire”, something that Canada had consistently resisted over the previous decade.4 Bourassa was certain that Canada’s Boer War commitment would later be cited as a precedent for participation in future Imperial wars, most of them in places where Canadians had no concern. He even went on to found the anti-imperial Ligue Nationaliste as well as the French Canadian nationalist newspaper Le Devoir, which he edited until 1932. Imperialists despised Bourassa, of course, but they agreed with him that participation in the Boer War bound Canada to future wars at Britain’s side – and they liked it that way. Canada’s contribution to the South African War was a respectable one, but not without its problems. Recruiting was fairly easy. Volunteers flocked to the first contingent, 1061 of them, including 62 officers.5 The 2nd (Special Service) Battalion of the Royal Canadian Regiment (RCR), which was a mish-mash of ex-soldiers, half-trained militiamen, and a good number of men who had never fired a rifle, drew overwhelmingly from urban centres and contained very few Francophones.6 It sailed from Quebec City on 30 October 1899, a mere 17 days after the Laurier government had given the go-ahead for its creation. Two more contingents of volunteers, mostly mounted troops, were raised just as easily and sent to the South African veldt as well.7 In all, 8,372 Canadians volunteered for service during the South African War and they gave a reasonably good account of themselves. They netted four Victoria Crosses, 19 Distinguished Service Orders, 17 Distinguished Conduct Medals, and 117 Mentions in Dispatches – not a bad haul for a little Dominion army on its first real expeditionary operation. Finding tough and brave soldiers was not a problem. The problems had more to do with army organisation and services – the medical and supply services first among them. More than half of the 244 Canadian fatalities in South Africa had succumbed to disease that preventative medicine, a steady supply of drinkable water, and 4
M. Henri Bourassa to Sir Wilfrid Laurier, October 20, 1899. Joseph Levitt, ed., Henri Bourassa on Imperialism and Bi-culuturalism, 1900-1918, (Toronto: Copp Clark, 1970). 35-36. 5 Desmond Morton, “Canada’s First Expeditionary Force: the Canadian Contingent in South Africa,” Canadian Defence Quarterly, 15, 3 (Winter 1985-86): 41-46. 6 On the first contingent see Miller, Painting the Map Red, 49-64; and J.L. Granatstein, Canada’s Army: Waging war and Keeping the Peace (Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 2002), 38-39. 7 Miller, Painting the Map Red, 152-170, 414-423.
functioning field hospitals might have avoided.8 But the Canadian contingent in South Africa could provide none of that on its own. It had to rely on the British for those services, and they were bad. There was a growing sense among Canadian soldiers that they had to take greater responsibility for their military establishment and the expeditionary forces it generated. They also began to think about more systematic planning for expeditionary force operations. Why did they not have a supply of reinforcements, for example? By June 1900, a combination of casualties and diseases had reduced the 1,061 men of the first contingent to 438 all ranks. Were the contingents really expected to use their troops until they were spent – then stop? It made no military sense. Interestingly, the solutions to Canadian shortfalls stemmed in large part from British soul-searching in the wake of the Boer War. Winning in South Africa had not been easy. The British Empire had been forced to mobilise some 450,000 troops, with the army in South Africa peaking at 240,000, in order to put down 50,000 Boer fighters.9 But numbers were not the whole story. The late-Victorian British Army was not an army so much as it was what Donald Gordon described as “an aggregate of battalions scattered around the globe.”10 And when it assembled in South Africa, the problems showed. Many of the army’s deficiencies could be traced to the fact that the army did not have a general staff to bring uniformity to its disparate parts and animate them for expeditionary force operations. The War Office was a bit Byzantine in its structure and operation as well, the responsibilities of the Secretary of State for War often overlapping with those of the Adjutant General and the Quartermaster General. None of this boded well for the future, especially in view of the challenge then emanating from Germany, which did have a rational military structure and general staff for war planning. So, in 1902, the British government struck a committee to make recommendations on War Office reform. Chaired by Reginald Brett, the Second Viscount Esher, the Committee published its report in February and March 1904. In the very simplest of terms, the Esher Report recommended the establishment of an Army Council of both military and civilian members, modelled on the Admiralty Board and designed to give the Secretary of State for War the same power as the First Lord of the Admiralty; the elimination of the post of Commander-in-Chief of the Forces and its 8
Granatstien, Canada’s Army, 45. Robert Asprey, War in the Shadows: The Guerrilla in History (New York: William Morrow, 1994) 147-148. 10 Donald C. Gordon, “The Colonial Defence Committee and Imperial Collaboration: 1885-1904,” Political Science Quarterly, Vol. 77, No. 4 (December 1962): 526. 9
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replacement by a Chief of the General Staff, who would report to Army Council; and a wholesale restructuring of the War Office itself (changes too intricate to be delineated here). Borden, who had first caught wind of Esher’s recommendations while in London during late 1903, could see the potential that structural changes like these had for strengthening Canadian government control of the military. Neither he nor Laurier had forgotten how they had been hoodwinked by Hutton and they both moved swiftly to enact Esher-like reforms in Canada. The result was the Canadian Militia Act of 1904. It created a Militia Council, like the British Army Council, and it eliminated the post of GOC Canadian Militia in favour of a Chief of the General Staff, a position that would be open to Canadian officers as soon as qualified candidates were available. There would be no more Hutton end-runs in Canada. Borden also set about imposing root-and-branch military reforms of his own. With the assistance of Major-General the Earl of Dundonald, one of Hutton’s successors and the last GOC Canadian Militia, Borden instituted changes to improve the volunteer militia and, especially, the tiny cadre of full-time professionals who trained it – the Permanent Force.11 Since 1883, a Permanent Force comprising an artillery unit, an infantry unit and a cavalry unit had existed to train the Canadian militia. These units were not so much regiments as schools, and Dundonald was of the mind that they had to be treated more like real units in a real army. How could the Permanent Force train the militia to fight, if it never practised any such thing itself? The organisation was incomplete in any event. To start, real armies needed real support services, so he convinced Borden and the government to increase the strength of the Permanent Force to 2,000, and create the Canadian support services that had been missing in South Africa – an army service corps, engineers, a medical corps, a signals branch, and a nascent intelligence branch (Corps of Guides). With Borden’s consent, Dundonald also imposed a British Army training syllabus on Permanent Force units and he made their officers write British Army promotion exams for advancement. Selected Canadian officers also started attending the Staff College at Camberley, where they learned how the British Army organised itself, thought about war, planned to fight, and disseminated direction. These were positive changes and the Permanent Force accepted them pretty much without rancour. The militia was a different matter entirely. Long an object of political patronage, the Canadian militia resented any interference with appointments 11
The definitive source on Canadian military planning and training during this period is Stephen J. Harris, Canadian Brass: The making of a Professional Army, 1860-1939 (Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 1988), 22-81.
or promotions, especially since, in their view, regular soldiers had been found so wanting in South Africa. Dundonald was frustrated to find that the government also objected to measures that restricted its ability to use the militia for political purposes. Appointed battalion commanders could always be counted on for a battalion’s worth of votes, after all. It was that simple. In fact, in spite of general agreement with his Permanent Force reforms, the government sent Dundonald back to Britain for his public criticism of the militia, its patronage-ridden ranks, and the government’s unwillingness, or inability, to do anything about it. Reforming the militia was nearly impossible.12 Still, the changes enacted during Borden’s tenure as Minister of Militia had far-reaching effect. This was also the period of the Haldane reforms in Britain. Named after Richard Haldane, the long-serving British Secretary of State for War (1905-1912), these reforms picked up where Lord Esher’s report left off. In brief, Haldane had to look at the possibility of committing an expeditionary force to the Continent in support of France, a proposition that posed a number of problems. Not only would he have to create and train a British Expeditionary Force, which did not exist, he also had to reorganise the rest of the army and rationalise Imperial defence commitments to do it. With a view to achieving all that, at the 1907 Imperial conference Haldane proposed that the British General Staff be expanded to an Imperial General Staff, with staff sections for each of the Dominions. Borden and Laurier both attended the conference and both agreed to organise the Canadian Militia on British Army lines – a very important step – but they resisted any integration with, or membership on, an Imperial General staff. It wasn’t that the concept of an Imperial general staff didn’t make military sense; even Laurier and Borden could see the military logic in it. The trouble was that jumping on the Imperial General Staff train was a one-way trip to political crisis in Canada. AntiImperialists, like Bourassa, were sure to make hay on the premise that membership on an Imperial staff meant open commitments in any Imperial wars. Canadian and British perspectives were different – that’s all. Whereas the South African War had taught the British the importance of peacetime planning and organisation for war, for the Canadians, the political pitfalls of fighting wars overseas trumped all other lessons. Even after Haldane had assured the Canadians that the Imperial General Staff would have only an advisory role on such issues as training, organisation, and staff 12
Desmond Morton, Ministers and Generals: Politics and the Canadian Militia, 1868-1904 (Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 1970), 188-193.
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procedures, Laurier insisted that the regular exchange of letters between the Chief of the Imperial General Staff and the Canadian Chief of the General Staff be sent through the Minister of the Militia, so that the government could ensure that its senior soldiers did not agree to anything that looked like a commitment in advance of war. Thus a vaguely humorous situation existed in which the British general staff wanted to know what the Dominions were willing to do in war, and the lead-up to war, and Canadian political authorities were determined not to tell them. Still, the 1907 agreement on common organisations and procedures did a lot to ensure that Canadians would be able to fight at Britain’s side in the future. It made the Canadian Militia a British Army in miniature and the significance of that cannot be overstated. Common military education and exchanges were the drivers of the process. By 1914, for example, Canada had cycled 12 of its officers through Camberley, while there were 37 British officers serving in Canada.13 Those numbers sound small, but for a Permanent Force that peaked at 3,100 men in 1913, they were significant, especially considering that they were the trainers for a Militia of some 74,000.14 The numbers also included the British officers who worked on the small general staff in Ottawa and in the headquarters of the militia divisions. The Canadian military got well indoctrinated in the British Army way of doing things, and Borden knew it had to be so. He understood that war would probably come and that the majority of Canadians would demand that Canada take its place at Britain’s side, but speaking about such things beforehand was politically unwise. Talk of expeditionary forces was something mostly to be avoided until they were needed. Only towards the very end of Borden’s tenure, and after tensions in Europe had spiked with the Agadir Crisis of July 1911, did the Canadian General Staff finally produce real plans for an expeditionary force of one infantry division and a cavalry brigade.15 And even then, Borden had to caution senior commanders to keep quiet about it because 13
John A. Macdonald, “In Search of Veritable: Training the Canadian Army Staff Officer, 1899 to 1945 (Royal Military College of Canada: Unpublished MA Thesis, 1992), Appendix III; and Richard A. Preston, “The Military Structure of the Old Commonwealth,” International Journal, Vol. XVII, No. 2 (Spring 1962): 104. 14 Granatstein, Canada’s Army, 15 James Wood, Militia Myths: Ideas of the Canadian Citizen Soldier, 1896-1921 (Toronto and Vancouver: UBC Press, 2010), 147-18; and Richard A. Preston, Canada and “Imperial Defence”: A Study of the Origins of the British Commonwealth’s Defence Organization, 1867-1919 (Durham, N.C.: Duke University Press, 1967), 441-445.
“knowledge of [the plan’s] existence might lead to false inferences and cause much mischief.”16 The political sensitivity for expeditionary force planning lingered still, but this first step was important for the professionalisation of Canada’s army. Too bad no one used the plans when war came in 1914. Sam Hughes, Borden’s successor as Minister of Militia, threw them out – and it is nearly impossible to explain why. Hughes was a buffoon. A long-serving Member of Parliament, Hughes was also a militia colonel and Boer War veteran who believed fervently in the superiority of part-time citizen soldiers and despised military professionals, whom he believed to be nothing more than stultified thinkers and “bar-room loafers.”17 Hughes regularly ignored the advice of the Camberley-trained professionals of his general staff. Shortly after becoming minister, he announced that “[t]he days of standing armies are gone… the old Saxon days have returned, when the whole nation must be armed.”18 So much for professionalism and progress. It seems incredible that someone as ill-tempered and unstable as Hughes could have run roughshod over his department, but he was such a prized political asset of the Conservative party that even the Prime Minister, Sir Robert Borden, had trouble roping him in. The result was a chaotic mobilisation in 1914. When war came, there were actually two plans on the books for mobilising a Canadian Division – one to form composite battalions at regional locations then assemble the division at Camp Petawawa in Ontario, the other to mobilise existing militia units and assemble them at a central location. Ignoring both sets of plans, Hughes bypassed the general staff and the military districts and appealed directly to 226 militia unit commanding officers.19 He ordered that they send him directly the names of volunteers for overseas service. He would see to it that they were formed into battalions, brigades and, eventually, a division at Valcartier, Quebec – where no military facility existed. This amateur and ad hoc approach represented everything that was wrong with Hughes and how he did things. In assembling new units himself, he kept a stranglehold on appointments, which allowed him to 16
General Staff Memorandum, 3 October 1911, Library and Archives Canada (LAC), RG 24 4263. Quoted in Harris, Canadian Brass, 79. 17 Ronald G. Haycock, Sam Hughes: the Public Career of a Controversial Canadian, 1885-1916 (Ottawa: Canadian War Museum, 1986), 146. Haycock’s biography of Hughes is the definitive source. 18 Quoted in Harris, Canadian Brass, 85. 19 On Hughes’s haphazard mobilisation efforts, see Tim Cook, The Madman and the Butcher: The Sensational Wars of Sam Hughes and General Arthur Currie (Toronto: Allen lane, 2010), 57-71.
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appoint friends and political hacks to plum command and staff positions, regardless of their military qualifications. And the selection of Valcartier as the site for a new military installation allowed him to line the pockets of two Conservative party friends who owned the sole rail link to the tiny town.20 It was a mess, although most Canadians did not notice. All they saw was the so-called ‘marvel’ of a 36,267-man first contingent that departed Canada for Britain by mid-October 1914. They had no idea that it would take months, even years, to untangle the administrative muddle that Hughes had caused. Thankfully, he would be relieved of his Cabinet post before the end of 1916, probably two years too late. As the mobilisation of 1914 demonstrated, Canada was a fairly immature country with a fairly immature army, but the decisions taken back in the Borden-Haldane era did pay dividends, allowing the Canadian army to grow and mature. When the First Canadian Division arrived in England in late 1914, it was quite rightly placed under the command of Major-General Edwin Alderson, a British Army officer of considerable experience. Sam Hughes may have thought himself the better man for the job, but the truth was that Canada did not yet have anyone with the requisite military experience and training for division command at that time. When Alderson arrived at First Canadian Division he had in tow his own General Staff Officer First Grade (GSO 1) and Assistant Adjutant and Quartermaster-Genera (AA & QMG), plus one staff-trained major to act as the Brigade Major for the First Canadian Infantry Brigade – not a huge complement of staff officers.21 But, by mid-1916, a combination of battle experience (some of it bad) and the expansion of the Canadian Expeditionary Force (CEF) into a four-division corps, resulted in a sharp increase in the number and proportion of Imperial staff officers attached to the CEF. The Canadians were keen to retain as many command positions as possible, so the British Army provided a sizeable complement of staff officers to mentor the new Canadian formations. In fact, some 214 British officers were attached to the Canadian Expeditionary Force between 1914 and 1918, 135 of them for a period longer than two months.22 They were not all there at once, of course, but British staff officers held nearly every key staff appointment until late 1917, when they were gradually replaced by Canadian staff officers, who had understudied them. And even then, Lieutenant-General Sir Arthur Currie, the first Canadian to command the 20
Harris, Canadian Brass, 95. Library and Archives Canada (LAC), RG 24, Vol. 447, List of British Officers who served with Canadian Troops in the Field, Officers of the British Forces who have served with the O[verseas]. M[ilitary].F[orces of].C[anada] (n.d). 22 Ibid. 21
Canadian Corps, always had British officers as his British Brigadier General Staff (BGS) and as his AA & QMG. The British Army was not in any way stingy with the staff officers it sent the Canadians. Of the British 135 officers who served longer than two months with the CEF, 34 were staff-qualified, which is a fairly significant figure considering the British Army had only 447 staff-trained officers in 1914.23 They were a talented lot. Alan Brooke, John Dill, and Edmund Ironside would all rise to the rank of field-marshal and hold the appointment of Chief of the Imperial General Staff (CIGS). Others would later hold the appointments of Deputy Chief of the Imperial General Staff (DCIGS) and Adjutant-General to the Forces.24 The contribution that they made to Canadian Corps success cannot be ignored. Major Alan Brooke, who served as Staff Officer Royal Artillery from February 1917 to October 1918, claimed that he “had a free hand in control of the whole of the artillery of the corps” because the Commander Corps Royal Artillery, a Canadian militiaman and Hughes appointee named Brigadier W.E.B. Morrison, “knew practically nothing…as regards the practical handling of artillery.”25 That may or may not have been entirely accurate, but the fact remains that the British Army was able to provide significant staff assistance to the Canadians, something that would not have been nearly so simple if they had been forced to graft themselves onto uniquely-Canadian organisations with uniquely-Canadian staff procedures. Their contribution has never been fully acknowledged by Canadian military historians. The Canadian corps simply could not have grown into the highly efficient formation of Vimy Ridge and Amiens fame without them. Military maturity coincided with a growing sense of national identity and the Canadian government’s desire to have a greater say in the direction of the war. Laurier may have been happy to hand off Canadian forces in South Africa and forget about them (provided they caused him no domestic political trouble), but Prime Minister Sir Robert Borden was different. An Imperialist at heart, Borden was nonetheless determined that Canada would play a more autonomous and influential role in the affairs 23
On the psc qualifications, see Joint Services Command and Staff College (JSCSC), Camberley Nominal Rolls. On the number of trained staff officers in the British Army in 1914, see Brian Bond, British Military Policy Between the Two World Wars (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1980), 3. 24 General Sir Charles Harington “Tim” Harington, Deputy Chief of the Imperial General Staff (1918-1920); and General Sir Cecil Francis Romer, AdjutantGeneral to the Forces (1933-1935). 25 Liddell Hart Centre for Military Archives (LHCMA), Papers of Field Marshal Viscount Alanbrooke (Alanbrooke Papers), 5/2/13, Notes on My Life, 59.
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of Empire. Around the same time that he dumped Hughes as Minister of Militia, he established in London the Canadian Ministry Overseas to bring order to the administration of all Canadian forces in the United Kingdom, France and Belgium.26 Taking full responsibility for Canadian fighting forces was an important move in the direction of full autonomy. Borden was also determined to retain ultimate control of how and when Canadian forces were employed, and the gruesome casualty lists from the battles of Second Ypres, St Eloi, and Somme only strengthened his resolve in this regard. He enthusiastically joined the newly-formed Imperial War Cabinet in the spring of 1917, and he was not shy in asserting himself. In the wake of the gut-wrenching Passchendaele offensive of 1917, he reportedly told British Prime Minister David Lloyd George, “If there is ever a repetition of the battle of Passchendaele, not a Canadian soldier will leave the shores of Canada as long as the Canadian people entrust the government of their country to my hands.”27 Reflexive Canadian deference to British military authority, if it ever really existed, was gone. Borden’s policy and his constitutional position as a Dominion prime minister accorded Currie, as Canadian Corps commander, what amounted to a ‘veto’ on any matter concerning the employment and organisation of the Canadian corps. And Currie used it. When the BEF reorganised its infantry brigades from four battalions to three, Currie kept his brigades at four-battalion strength because he believed that any reduction in combat power would be detrimental to the fighting ability of the corps.28 He liked his fighting formations big. By 1918, Currie’s divisions contained 21,000 troops, whereas British divisions had only 15,000 troops. He also had three times the number of engineers and two more artillery brigades than could be found in any British corps order of battle.29 Currie even had a say under which British army commander he would fight. In October 1917, Currie objected to fighting under General Sir Hubert Gough, the Fifth Army commander, and Field-Marshal Sir Douglas Haig acceded to his demands,
See Desmond Morton, A Peculiar Kind of Politics: Canada’s Overseas Ministry in the First World War (Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 1982). 27 Quoted in Robert Craig Brown, Robert Laird Borden: A Biography, Volume II, (Toronto: Macmillan, 1980), 137-138. 28 On the composition of Canadian formations, see Shane B. Schreiber, Shock Army of the British Empire: The Canadian Corps in the Last 100 Days of the Great War (Westport, Connecticut: Praeger, 1997), 19-20. 29 Library and Archives Canada (LAC), RG 9, III, D2, Vol. 4809, File 196, “Principle Differences Between Canadian Corps and British Corps.” (n.d.)
Lieutenant-General Sir Arthur Currie (centre) and the Commander-in-Chief of the British Armies in France, Field Marshal Sir Douglas Haig speak with a French dignitary. Currie’s trusted Imperial staff officers – Brigadier-General G.J. Farmar (trench coat) and Brigadier-General P de B. Radcliffe – can be seen in the background, May 1918. (Library and Archives Canada, PA-004666.)
allowing the Canadians to fight instead with the Second Army under General Sir Herbert Plumer, whom Currie believed the more competent commander. It should be noted that, although Currie did use his ‘veto’ and assert himself on occasion, he still did everything asked of him by the British chain of command. He fought the gruelling battle of Passchendaele to its excruciating conclusion and the 16,000 Canadian casualties that he had predicted it would cost.30 Later, during the final 100 days of the war, he bashed his corps through a series of German defensive lines and sustained a staggering 45,830 casualties as the German armies recoiled
Daniel G. Dancocks, Sir Arthur Currie: A Biography (Toronto: Methuen, 1985), 111; and A.M.J. Hyatt, The Military Career of Sir Arthur Currie (PhD Dissertation, Duke University, 1965), 130-132.
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under the relentless Allied assaults.31 The British Expeditionary Forces got what they wanted from the Canadians, even if they were difficult at times. Unfortunately, high casualty rates and declining enlistments brought old political divisions back to the surface – right along the same fault lines that had troubled Laurier eighteen years earlier. The Borden government had calculated – wrongly as it turned out – that voluntary enlistments could keep the Canadian Corps up to strength in the field, but battle casualties were far outstripping the intake of enlistments by mid-1917. In April and May 1917, for example, the Canadian Corps suffered 23,939 casualties, while recruiting centres in Canada brought in only 11,790 recruits during the same two-month period.32 And recruiting numbers dropped precipitously after that. Canada had apparently used up its supply of single, British-born, unemployed, city-dwelling young men.33 Simple maths indicated that a manpower crisis was looming. That’s how Borden saw it. In the summer of 1917, he went back on an earlier promise not to enact conscription in order to sustain the ranks of the Canadian Corps overseas, even if he had to ram it down the throats of those who would oppose it in Canada. He ran the Military Service Bill through the Canadian House of Commons by a vote of 119 to 55, but the cultural divide could not have been more pronounced – nearly all English-speaking members voting for the bill, nearly all French-speaking members voting against it.34 French Canadians had been lukewarm at best to the war effort from the start. Their affection for the British Empire had not grown since the Boer War and they were more than fourteen decades removed from France, with practically no French immigrants to maintain ties, so there wasn’t much of an emotional tug from France either. To French Canadians, the European conflagration was an imperial contest in which they had no part. That was Henri Bourassa’s opinion and one that he voiced – often – in Le Devoir. French Canadian enlistment numbers reflected that attitude as well. The province of Quebec, which comprised 27 per cent of the Canadian 31
Colonel G.W.L. Nicholson, Canadian Expeditionary Force, 1914-1919 (Ottawa: Queen’s Printer, 1962), 548. 32 Ibid., 344. 33 Of the 36,267 men of the first contingent, more than 60 per cent were Britishborn and only 1,245 (3.4 per cent) were French Canadians. Sixty per cent of the contingent was raised in urban areas, where unemployment had been high in 1914. Robert Craig Brown and Donald Loveridge, “Unrequited Faith: Recruiting in the CEF, 1914-1918”. Revue Internationale d'Histoire Militaire, No. 54 (1982): 56-57. See also Granatstein, Canada’s Army, 57. 34 J.L. Granatstein and J.M. Hitsman, Broken Promises: A History of Conscription in Canada (Toronto: Oxford University, 1977), 68-69.
population, accounted for only 14.2 per cent of CEF enlistments, and the vast majority of that could be attributed to English-speaking communities in the province.35 One contemporary estimate even pegged French Canadian enlistment as low as 1.4 per cent of their population.36 Understanding the discordant nature of the conscription issues, Borden tried to coax Laurier into a coalition but, when Laurier declined the offer, Borden formed a union of Conservatives and pro-conscription Liberals and fought a very nasty general election that pitted English-Canadians against French-Canadians.37 He defeated the Laurier Liberals handily in December 1917, taking 153 of 235 seats, but only 3 of 65 seats in Quebec. The Military Service Act did furnish the recruits to keep the Canadian Corps fighting until the end of the war, and into 1919 if that had been necessary, but it came with a cost. Resentment in Quebec could hardly have run deeper. Anti-conscription riots flared in Montreal and Quebec City and the Conservative party was all but eliminated as a political contender in the province until the 1980s. The lessons of Borden’s experience with war were not wasted on William Lyon Mackenzie King, Canada’s prime minister for much of the inter-war period and the Second World War.38 He understood completely the political consequences of conscription in Canada. In fact, it could be argued that fear of conscription informed most of his foreign and defence policy decisions. National unity was paramount, and it was paramount in particular for a Liberal prime minister who needed Quebec to stay in power. If national schisms were to be avoided in the future, Canada had to stay out of big wars, or at least limit the role it would play in them. King once said that if Britain went to war, “there would be great numbers of Canadians anxious to swim the Atlantic!” 39 That was the nub of his problem. 35
Granatstein, Canada’s Army, 75.. The National Archives (TNA) CAB 32/1, Meeting 41 War Cabinet, 27 January 1917, Appendix 1. Cited in Granatstein and Hitsman, Broken Promises, 62. 37 Before the December 1917 election, Borden passed legislation to ensure the vote went his way. The Wartime Elections Act allowed women the right to vote in federal elections, but only if they were wives, widows, mothers, or sisters of soldiers serving overseas. The Military Voters Act gave the vote to all soldiers, regardless of how long they had been in Canada, although soldiers did not vote for a specific candidate. The cast their vote either in favour of the government or the opposition. This allowed the government to assign soldiers votes to the ridings in which they needed them most. 38 William Lyon Mackenzie King served three terms as Prime Minister of Canada: December 1921-June 1926, September 1926-August 1930, and October 1935November 1948. 39 Quoted in Granatstein and Hillmer, Empire to Umpire, 130. 36
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How could the government manage that kind of enthusiasm such that it didn’t stampede its way into a commitment on a First World War scale? If Canada was to avoid big efforts in big wars it had to steer clear of open commitments, and King, who was his own Minister of External Affairs, conducted his policy accordingly. At the Imperial Conference of 1923, he strenuously resisted the British attempt to generate a common Imperial foreign policy, and won. He later opposed any collective action or sanction against Italy for its actions in Abyssinia and he enthusiastically supported the appeasement of Hitler. The other thing he did was keep Canada’s military forces small, especially the army, his rationale for doing so running something like this: if we keep it small, no one will ask for it. And so small the army was. In 1921, the Permanent Force reverted almost to its pre-1914 state – 381 officers and 3,744 other ranks.40 Those figures barely budged during the entire inter-war period.41 In those constrained circumstances, Canada’s tiny cadre of military professionals struggled to maintain even the minimum capabilities that would allow them to fight alongside other British Commonwealth armies, whenever that time came. But, unlike King and his foreign affairs advisors, the officers on Canada’s general staff accepted the assumption that Canada would not be able to avoid a large land force commitment if Britain went to war. They knew that the English-Canadian public would demand nothing less than a large army to fight at Britain’s side, particularly if the mother country was in peril. They also understood that the core of interoperability was the retention of the organisations, procedures and military ‘language’ of the British Army. Accordingly, Canada continued to send selected officers for two years of staff training, either at Camberley or at Quetta, where the Indian Army had its own staff college. In all, 63 Canadian officers earned the designation psc (passed staff college) during the inter-war period, 48 of whom were still serving in 1939.42 Permanent Force officers trained their militia counterparts in much-abbreviated Militia staff courses, which helped ensure that the British Army modus operandi permeated the 47,000-man militia as well. The military ‘language’ of the British army disseminated slowly, like an oil spill, through the ranks of Canada’s army. As far as training was concerned, there wasn’t much funding for field exercises or modern equipment, so progress was slow, but at least Canadian soldiers would be
Granatstein, Canada’s Army, 158. In 1939, the Permanent Force consisted of only 455 officers and 3,714 other ranks. Granatstein, Canada’s Army, 173. 42 Macdonald, “In Search of Veritable”, Appendix III. 41
able work with their senior alliance partner when their government asked them to do so. Planners had to plan for war, of course, but even that was difficult. Staff officers in the Directorate of Military Operations and Intelligence43 developed a series of defence schemes for a number of basic scenarios. But any mention of expeditionary forces made King nervous for fear that it might fester into a commitment and cause him political grief. He was doing everything he could to avoid what he called ‘entanglements’ and he didn’t trust that his generals would not say or do something that would bind Canada to military action of some sort. In 1937, whispers of expeditionary force planning led him to re-route the long-standing periodic exchange of letters between the general staffs in Ottawa and London.44 Henceforth, all letters and cables to and from the War Office, whether on war plans or widgets, would be relayed through the Department of External Affairs for vetting. When war did come in 1939, King sought to limit Canadian liability, but he soon found himself pushed along by English-Canadian demand that Canada do more.45 King, it must be said, had no desire to stay out of the war, but he was very concerned with how war would affect national unity. Like Laurier, he had to satisfy English-Canadian demand that the country stand in support of Great Britain, while, at the same time, avoiding large commitments that were sure to be resisted in French Canada. Large armies meant large casualty lists, which might lead to another divisive debate on conscription, and that was anathema to King. Accordingly, his government initially set to limit Canada’s war effort to the training of aircrews under the British Commonwealth Air Training Plan (BCATP), the sale of munitions and food supplies, the shipping of those supplies overseas, and a small army contingent of one infantry division, which deployed to Britain at the end of 1939. Surely that would satisfy the English Canadian impulse to do something and keep Canada off a course that could lead to anything like the 172,000 casualties that the nation had suffered during the First World War. Interestingly, King was not at all like Borden in that he had no desire initially to have a substantial say in the higher direction of the war. 43
As a cost saving measure, in 1921-1922 the Departments of the Marine, Fisheries and the Naval Service were combined with the Department of Militia and Defence under a new Department of National Defence. 44 C.P. Stacey, Arms, Men and Governments: he War Policies of Canada, 19391945 (Ottawa: Queen’s Printer, 1970), 73-75. 45 The definitive work on the policy of the Mackenzie King government is J.L. Granatstein, Canada’s War: the Politics of the Mackenzie King Government, 19391945 (Toronto: Oxford University Press, 1975).
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The appearance of a say was good enough. Anything more than that would likely result in British authorities asking Canada to do more. As historian Adrian Preston put it nearly four decades ago, King sought some “balance… between the necessity of at least some appearance of strategic responsibility and the haphazard commitment to politically suicidal projects.”46 In early 1940, King was confident in his middle course, so confident that he repeatedly promised the nation of 11 million that conscription for overseas service would not be necessary. But that was before the Fall of France in the spring of 1940. King could see that the dramatic events of 1940 would fuel EnglishCanadian demand for conscription, something sure to upset French Canadians, and he moved to nip the discord in the bud. The situation in Europe was serious and Britain seemed perilously vulnerable. The government had to take action, and it did. Even before the end of the campaign in France, the Canadian Cabinet War Committee approved the deployment of a three-division corps for the defence of Britain. The government also passed sweeping legislation. The National Resources Mobilisation Act (NRMA) of June 1940 gave the government emergency power to mobilise all human and material resources of the nation “for the Defence of Canada.”47 In contrast to Canada’s chaotic mobilisation of the First World War, the NRMA set the conditions for the orderly coordination of the entire Canadian war effort, especially home defence. French Canadians saw it as something more than that, however. From their perspective, the registration of males between the ages of 18 and 45 was a barely-veiled precursor to conscription. King assured them that national registration was largely an inventory exercise, and that recruits called up for 30 days of training would only be mobilised “solely and exclusively [for] the defence of Canada on our own soil and in our territorial waters.”48 He also re-stated his promise that there would be no conscription for service overseas. But, as the crisis deepened during 1940 and 1941, and as English Canada demanded a greater war effort, the general staff at National Defence Headquarters seized the opportunity and performed with considerable political skill. It helped that they were proving more prescient than King’s external affairs advisors, who believed that Canada could keep 46
Adrian Preston, “Canada and the Higher Direction of the Second World War, 1939-1945, Royal United Service Institution Journal (1965 )110(637): 34. 47 Daniel Byers, “Mobilising Canada: The National Resources Mobilisation Act, the Department of National Defence, and Compulsory Military Service in Canada, 1940-1945.” Journal of the Canadian Historical Association (1996), 175-203. 48 House of Commons, Debates, 18 June 1940.
its commitment to European war small. King wanted to believe it too, but it was clear that English-Canadians would accept nothing less than a large land component for the war, and they were, after all, the majority in the country. Sensing the political push was Canada’s most politically-astute senior officer, Major-General H.D.G. “Harry” Crerar, Chief of the General Staff (1940-1941).49 He impressed King and the Cabinet War Committee with his understanding of the Canadian political climate and the risks of not managing the expectations of the Canadian public. And his facts, figures, bar graphs and charts all indicated that Canada could provide the sort of army that English Canada demanded, without having to resort to conscription. Opposition calls for an even greater war effort than Crerar was proposing fanned the flames of English Canadian opinion as did the Japanese entry into the war in December 1941.50 In those circumstances, King was pretty well caught. On 26 January 1942, he reluctantly announced the creation of the First Canadian Army – of five divisions and two independent armoured brigades. The political pressure remained intense, but King dealt with it well. Something more had to be done to tone down the divisive debate. Recruiting in French Canada was better than it had been during the First World War, but it still lagged far behind the rest of the country. Quebec sent only 25.69 per cent of eligible males into the armed forces (probably half of which were Anglophone), compared to a 47 per cent intake for the other nine provinces as a whole.51 Naturally, that led to charges that Quebec was not doing its part. King’s instincts were to delay, so he decided to buy himself some time by holding a national plebiscite on the issue – asking the country to release him from his promise not to conscript men called up under the NRMA for service overseas if it became imperative that the government do so. That way, he could tell English Canada: “Don’t worry. We will conscript for overseas service if we have to.” And he could tell French Canadians: “Don’t worry. We won’t conscript for overseas service unless we have to.” It was a clever political manoeuvre – “not necessarily conscription, but conscription if necessary”, as King put it – and it threw a wet blanket on the crisis, for a while. But the results of the April 1942 plebiscite revealed a national divide on par with the one from the First World War. The country as a whole may have voted 64 per cent in favour of releasing the government from its no49 Paul Douglas Dickson, A Thoroughly Canadian General: A Biography of General H.D.G. Crerar (Toronto: University of Toronto press, 2007), 137-173. 50 Colonel C.P. Stacey, Six Years of war: the Army in Canada, Britain and the Pacific (Ottawa: Queen’s Printer, 1966), 94-97. 51 Stacey, Arms, Men and Governments, Appendix R, 590.
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conscription promise, but Quebeckers voted 73 per cent against the proposal while 80 per cent of voters in the rest of Canada voted for it.52 Amazingly, despite the very stark English-French split, King still managed to keep his Cabinet together, losing only one Quebec minister, and there were no riots as there had been in 1918. This issue simmered quietly until November 1944. By that time though, Canadian casualties from the battles of Normandy, the Scheldt Estuary and the Italian campaign finally forced the government to conscript 16,000 NRMA men for service overseas – a fairly small number considering that Canada had mobilised over a million of its 11 million citizens for the army, navy, air force and merchant navy. French Canadians may not have been happy with the King government, but they held far greater disdain for opposition Conservatives, who had been positively rabid in their calls for compulsory service overseas. At least the King Liberals had done everything possible to avoid it. Overseas, the incredible growth of the Canadian army and its ability to fight within British army formations owed much to common military education, organisations and staff procedures. Having decided to train its leaders and organise its land forces in the British army mould, Canada retained the nucleus of ability to participate in military operations as a junior alliance partner. The retention of ties with the British army gave the Canadian government options; it did not surrender sovereignty, even if King did not see it that way. Canada was a fully sovereign state by 1939. The Canadian Parliament had made its own declaration of war, after all. Canada also controlled its own army. Canadian generals made sure that British generals did not task subordinate Canadian formations without their consent; and yet they could still count on the assistance of the senior alliance partner when they needed it. When it came to building the brigades, divisions and corps with which the Canadians would fight the campaigns in Northwest Europe and the Mediterranean, they tapped readily into British training establishments and expertise. For instance, the Canadians needed more staff officers to build and staff the five divisions and two brigades of the First Canadian Army. Forty-eight Camberley-andQuetta-trained staff officers were barely adequate for manning National Defence Headquarters in Ottawa, Canadian Military Headquarters in London and one infantry division. So the Canadians sent dozens of their officers for abbreviated staff courses at Camberley, Haifa, and Sandhurst.53 And, in 1941, when the Canadian Army established its own staff course at the Royal Military College in Kingston, it drew about a 52
Stacey, Six Years of War, 122-123. Douglas E. Delaney, Corps Commanders: Five British and Canadian Generals at War (Vancouver and Toronto: UBC Press, 2011), 199-200. 53
third of its directing staff from the British Army. The training deficit was deep, so it took time – at least three years – to train enough staff officers, build competent staffs, and forge effective fighting formations, but the Canadian army accomplished what it set out to do. It would not have been possible without the assistance of the senior alliance partner.
Lieutenant-General Sir Brian Horrocks, Commander 30th British Corps, speaks with one of his brigade commanders for the Rhine Crossing, Brigadier John Rockingham of 9th Canadian Infantry Brigade, March 1945. During the Korean War, Rockingham would command 25th Canadian Infantry Brigade, part of the 1st Commonwealth Division. (Library and Archives Canada e010770497)
The result of all this common training, organisation and equipment was Canadian and British formations that were virtually inter-changeable. In fact, Anglo-Canadian formations mixed and matched more readily in 1944 and 1945 than they had in 1917 and 1918, even though the Canadians provided nearly all their own staff officers this time. A quick (and by no means comprehensive) survey of Anglo-Canadian operations in Northwest Europe makes the point. To start, the First Canadian Army fought effectively under Sir Bernard Montgomery’s 21st Army Group for the entire campaign, most of it with Sir John Crocker’s 1st British Corps
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under command. That 1st British Corps had the 3rd Canadian Division from the D-Day invasion to 11 July 1944, when it reverted to its place in 2nd Canadian Corps. The 2nd Canadian Corps, in turn, was part of the 2nd British Army from 11 to 23 July, when the First Canadian Army became operational in Normandy. For Operation SPRING on 25 July, the commander 2nd Canadian Corps, Lieutenant-General Guy Simonds, had two British armoured divisions under command – the 7th Armoured and the Guards Armoured. Two weeks later, the 51st (Highland) Division and the 33rd Armoured Brigade joined Simonds’s 2nd Canadian Corps for Operation TOTALIZE. In the Scheldt operations of October-November 1944, the First Canadian Army had several British formations at its disposal. It had the 1st British Corps to clear north and east of Antwerp and it had the 52nd (Lowland) Division, the 4th Special Service Brigade and No. 4 Commando for the assault on Walcheren Island. For Operation VERITABLE and the battles of the Rhineland, Brian Horrocks’s 30th British Corps joined General Harry Crerar’s First Canadian Army for the first stage of the operation, which it fought with the 2nd Canadian and 3rd Canadian Divisions under command. These inter-army arrangements were relatively simple because the British and Canadian armies were organised in nearly identical ways, and the commanders and staffs in both armies spoke the language of Camberley and Quetta – no small advantage when co-ordinating operations involving hundreds of thousands of troops. There were the occasional problems, of course. Montgomery and Crerar, for example, often did not get along.54 But even during the rockiest of periods of their relationship, the ‘Q’ staff at 21st Army Group co-ordinated logistics with the ‘Q’ staff at First Canadian Army, who coordinated with the ‘Q’ staff at 1st British Corps, and so on. The same could be said for ‘G’ staffs concerning operations and intelligence and ‘A’ staffs when it came to personnel matters. That level of interoperability was the result of decades of common staff training, officer exchanges, and Commonwealth co-ordination.
See Douglas E. Delaney, “When Harry Met Monty: Canadian National Politics and the Crerar-Montgomery Relationship,” in The Canadian Way of War: Serving the National Interest, ed. Bernd Horn (Toronto: Dundurn, 2006), 213-234.
The Commander 21st Army Group, Field-Marshal Sir Bernard Law Montgomery (centre) discusses Rhineland operations with the Commander 2nd Canadian Corps, Lieutenant-General Guy Simonds (left) and Commander First Canadian Army, General Harry Crerar (right), March 1945. (Library and Archives Canada e10796910.)
In the post-1945 period, it was harder for the Canadian Army to maintain similar levels of commonality with its closest senior alliance partner, in part because it was not always clear who the closest senior alliance partner would be. The Canadian drift into an American orbit had been happening for years. Economic ties between the two countries had been tightening for decades, and the Second World War nudged the North Americans closer still. In August 1940, when Britain seemed exposed to
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invasion, Canada and the United States signed the Ogdensburg Agreement, a bilateral arrangement that led to the establishment of the Permanent Joint Board on Defence to co-ordinate the defence of North America. The uncertainty of the early Cold War period pushed things along as well. The 1945 discovery of a Soviet spy network in Canada troubled Canadians deeply and led to even closer defence co-operation with the Americans, and the Soviet acquisition of an atomic bomb in 1949 only accelerated the trend. But the problem, as Canadians soon found out, was that dealing with an American superpower one-on-one usually amounted to accepting dictation. The Americans would do what they had to do to ensure their own security and they were even less inclined to hear Canadian concerns than the British ever had been. In the past, Canadians had used their connection with the British Empire to leverage their position with the United States, but, in the late 1940s, the British Commonwealth was not what the Empire used to be. Multi-lateral fora like North Atlantic Treaty Organisation (NATO), or even the United Nations, offered Canadians a much better chance of not being forced into decisions they did not like. As Canadian diplomats used to say of NATO, “twelve in the bed means no rape.”55 Interestingly, in spite of the commitment to the NATO military alliance, Canadian decision-makers had no real idea what they wanted their army, navy and air forces to look like or do. In the era of the American atomic monopoly, there didn’t seem much point in maintaining a large army establishment. And even after the Soviet atom bomb test in 1949, NATO’s reliance on the American strategic arsenal still seemed to obviate the need for large standing forces. So Canadians shrunk their standing forces drastically. Demobilisation after the Second World War occurred at such a rate that, by July 1947, the Canadian Army was a mere 13,985, plus 33,704 reserves, down significantly from its wartime peak of 495,073.56 Most of the army was organised into three infantry battalions (with one company of paratroops each), two armoured regiments, and an artillery regiment, all of which was designated the Mobile Striking Force and nominally assigned to defend northern Canada against Soviet incursion. Beyond that, it was not at all clear to military planners how the Canadian Army would be employed in war, and under whose operational control it would operate. In the absence of clear direction or commitments, the army hedged its bets. Understanding that Canada could not stay out of another European 55
Cited in Desmond Morton, “Uncle Louis and Golden Age for Canada: A Time of Prosperity at Home and Influence Abroad,” Policy Options (June-July 2003): 53. 56 Granatstein, Canada’s Army, 316; and Stacey, Six Years of War, 522-523.
war, Canadian army leaders considered how they would return to Continental Europe in the wake of a Soviet invasion. Soviet conventional superiority in Europe led them to assume that another D-Day-type of invasion would be necessary, but no one was sure whether Canada would join such an enterprise under American or British command. Given that uncertainty, the Canadian Army had to get ‘bilingual’ – meaning the Canadian army had to learn the staff languages of both the British and American armies, especially as they pertained to amphibious operations. The newly-established Canadian Army Staff College at Kingston was the crucible of the effort to ‘bilingualise’ the professional army between 1946 and 1956.57 The Canadian army, which was British in organisation, culture, equipment and staff procedures, had to learn how to fight with US Army and US Marine Corps formations. So, the staff college curriculum integrated training packages on American military organisations and equipment. American instructors were invited to deliver specific units on the conduct of amphibious operations, often for a week at a time. British directing staff from the School of Combined Operations did the same. American officers also joined, and soon outnumbered, British officers as exchange instructors at Kingston.58 This was definitely a period of transition, but the Americanisation of the Canadian Army had only just started when the Korean War started, and the Canadian Army did well to have taken a prudent tack and not jettisoned all things British. In 1950, the Canadian Army still had the weapons with which it had fought the Second World War, and it still operated very much like a British army in miniature. It made perfect sense to place the 25th Canadian Brigade in the Commonwealth Division, where it fought with distinction between 1951 and 1953. In deciding to send troops to the war in Korea, the Liberal government of Louis St. Laurent followed a familiar pattern. Worried that support for the war would be shallow in Quebec, it moved cautiously, at first committing only three destroyers to the United Nations coalition. But pressure from the United States and English Canada induced the government to do more, which it did. Tearing a page out of Laurier’s Boer War book, St Laurent authorised the recruitment of a Special Force 57 See Alexander W.G. Herd, “Preparing to Fight the Bear: American Influence on Canadian Army Staff Officer Education, 1946-1956” (PhD Dissertation: University of Calgary, 2011). 58 In 1946-1947, there were three British and one American Directing Staff at the Canadian Army Staff College. By 1956, the numbers were reversed. See Howard Gerald Coombs, “In Search of Minerva: Canada’s Army and Staff Education (1946-1995)” (PhD Dissertation: Queen’s University, 2009), 141.
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brigade for service with the United Nations force, then commanded by the American General Douglas MacArthur. Seventy-five per cent of Canadians supported the UN action in defence of South Korea, but English Canadians were twice as likely as French Canadians to support the commitment of Canadian ground troops to the mission, even though the commitment was small by world war standards.59 Several Quebec newspapers echoed Le Devoir’s carp that Canada was now serving a new imperial master: “We are like little dogs who are eager to show their master that they adore him, that one gesture from him is enough to throw themselves into the water.”60 Still, there were no riots in Quebec streets and the debates were not nearly as heated as those past. South Korea in peril just didn’t have the emotional pull of Britain in peril, and the Korean War affected far fewer Canadians than previous wars anyway. But the old divisions were still there and the deployment of troops picked a national scab that never seemed to heal. That was, and still is, the Canadian reality. The first half of the twentieth century was a growing-up period for Canada. Canadians went from handing off their forces (and more or less washing their hands of them) in South Africa, to taking full responsibility for mounting and sustaining their own expeditionary forces and determining – for themselves – where when, and how they would fight. It was not easy for the Canadian statesmen and soldiers who operated in coalitions. In fact, it was a series of balancing acts – of satisfying one part of the country’s desire to do something, while accommodating the other part’s unwillingness to get involved, just as it has been a matter of maintaining an ability to work with senior alliance partners while, at the same time, avoiding open commitments that could cause political problems at home.
Robert Teigrob, Warming to the Cold War: Canada and the United States’ Coalition of the Willing, from Hiroshima to Korea (Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 2009), 215-221. An August 1950 poll showed that, while only 21 per cent of Quebeckers offered unqualified support for the deployment of Canadian troops to Korea, 40 per cent of Ontarians supported the action. 60 Cited in Ibid., 222.
ARMS RACES AND COOPERATION: THE ANGLO-FRENCH CRIMEAN WAR COALITION, 1854–1856 ANDREW LAMBERT
The Anglo-French coalition that fought against Russia during the Crimean War was an unlikely combination. The two powers had been at war, off and on, for close on five hundred years, and well within living memory had been the principle opponents in a twenty-two year long total conflict, the Revolutionary and Napoleonic wars, 1793–1815. In the years since Waterloo their relations had rarely been other than hostile. Yet they managed to agree on policy, strategy, and operate in apparent harmony to invade and defeat Imperial Russia – the continental superpower of the age. Beneath the surface, however, things were far from smooth. The clash of strategic cultures, and continuing long-term rivalries manifested in a major arms race, made the coalition a fragile instrument. Long before the war terminated the two parties anticipated an early end to the relationship, and apart from the latter stages of the Second Opium War (1856–1860), the two powers would not take the field again as partners until 1914. It should be stressed that the Crimean War was a limited maritime conflict, in which British and French troops were never more than one day’s march from the sea. This was a British strategic model. Yet the operational core of the war was a large-scale military operation dominated by French soldiers. Despite these oddities, the Crimean coalition enabled two great powers to inflict a decisive defeat on the third without mobilising for a major conflict. The damage sustained by Russia, Britain’s only global rival, removed it from the front ranks of the great powers for a generation.
Background to the coalition In the years that separated Waterloo from World War I, Great Britain operated as a unique global power, with its national security, prosperity, and influence based on naval mastery encapsulated in the “Two Power
Standard” first enunciated by Lord Castlereagh in 1817, and restated by Lord George Hamilton in 1889.1 This required the government to ensure the Royal Navy possessed a battle fleet equal to the next two most powerful navies. For most of the century, these two navies were those of France and Russia, which were Britain’s principal great power rivals in Europe, Africa and Asia. The brief periods of Franco-Russian alignment, 1817–25, 1857–59, and after 1889 were marked by sharp increases in British naval spending, and a restatement of the two power standard. When France and Russia were divided by ideology and policy, British diplomacy tended to be more effective and defence spending was reduced. When its naval mastery was secure, British policy could be conducted without the need to enter into a binding alliance with another major power. This approach was best summarised by the dictum of Lord Palmerston, who held ministerial office for nearly sixty years, latterly as foreign secretary and prime minister.2 In March 1848, he explained British policy on alliances to the House of Commons: “We have no eternal allies, and we have no perpetual enemies. Our interests are eternal, and those interests it is our duty to follow.”3 As a unique world power relying on maritime, economic and industrial strength rather than military manpower, Britain was usually able to secure its interests without recourse to any political combination. Mainly in Europe, where the mass armies of the other great powers made it seem less formidable, was it necessary to enter into coalitions, a temporary political/military alliance directed at specific, and limited, objectives. British statesmen recognised the limits of their strength, and sought coalition with other powers on a “case by case” basis to secure political and military reinforcement, while ensuring the solution had a “European” character. Preferring profitable peace to the sterile glory of a fruitless war, Britain adopted an essentially defensive strategic posture in Europe. In 1815, the five European great powers – Russia, Austria, Prussia, France, and Britain – used the Vienna settlement to establish a new European polity, preserving the peace of the continent by concert. The underlying stability of the Vienna system was challenged by France. After 1815, France recovered her place among the great powers, but her 1
Andrew D. Lambert, “Preparing for the Long Peace: The Reconstruction of the Royal Navy 1815–1830,” Mariner’s Mirror 86 (1996): 41–54. 2 Henry John Temple (1784–1865), Third Viscount Palmerston. His Irish title allowed Palmerston to sit in the House of Commons, the “popular” chamber of Parliament. 3 Kenneth Bourne, Palmerston: The Early Years 1784–1841 (London: Alien Lane, 1982), 627.
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domestic politics remained unstable with two revolutions and two coups d’etat in forty years. In 1852, France was ruled by the Second Empire under Napoleon’s nephew, Louis Napoleon III. French leaders frequently tried to redirect internal tensions to the conquest of Algeria, while challenging British influence in the Levant and the Pacific, by starting naval arms races. Britain responded by combining with Russia, Austria and Prussia to humiliate France during the Syrian Crisis of 1840–1841. In the process it created a five-power guarantee for Ottoman Turkey.4 After this humiliation, French policy-makers adopted a new naval strategy, based on steamships and the threat of a cross-channel invasion. Between 1845 and 1853, Anglo-French relations were rarely better than hostile. French political instability, a costly naval arms race, and the completion of an invasion base at Cherbourg ensured that most British considered France the “natural” enemy. However, this view was complicated by domestic politics. While conservatives, and the exconservative “Peelite” splinter group, were generally anti-French, and rather better disposed toward Russia, the Liberals were usually hostile to Russia, and pro-French. In 1853, Lord Aberdeen’s Peelite/Liberal coalition government had to deal with a new Turkish Crisis. While Aberdeen was notoriously proRussian, his liberal colleague Palmerston was pro-French. The Conservative opposition leader Lord Derby called the new ministry “an unprincipled coalition” and warned that “England does not love coalitions.”5 There was something repugnant to the feelings of all honest Englishmen in a coalition, which required “the sacrifice of principles and opinions for power.”6 The internal political tensions and personal rivalries of the Aberdeen ministry would prevent the development and execution of a clear and consistent policy.7 British defence policy was anti-French, with programmes to create new fortified naval bases for steam-powered operations in the English Channel, and an arms race in steam battleships were underway, along with plans to 4
In 1840 British, Turkish and Austrian forces drove the Egyptians out of Syria, (Modern Syria, Lebanon, and Israel), despite French support for Egypt. Egypt had seized the territory from Turkey in 1832, claiming that it had not been repaid the costs incurred supporting Turkey in the War of Greek Independence. 5 Muriel E. Chamberlain, Lord Aberdeen: A Political Biography (London: Longman, 1983), 452; R. Blake, Disraeli (London: Oxford University Press, 1966), 345. 6 Quoted in The Oxford English Dictionary, 3:389. 7 J. B. Conacher, The Aberdeen Coalition, 1852–1855: A Study in Mid-Nineteenth Century Party Politics (Cambridge, England: Cambridge University Press, 1968), 38, 56–57, 175.
attack Cherbourg.8 The anti-British rhetoric of the Second Empire brought matters to a head. The two British statesmen who held office as First Lord of the Admiralty between 1853–1856 were particularly outspoken in their criticism of Louis Napoleon and his regime.9 For his part Louis Napoleon, who had spent a considerable time in Britain, loathed Lord Aberdeen.10 This made the creation of the anti-Russian coalition even more surprising.
A coalition war Although the origins of the Crimean coalition lay in the complex relationship between the great powers and the crumbling Ottoman Empire, the catalyst was provided by the domestic politics of France. Britain and Russia agreed that a stable Turkey was the best guarantor of peace in the region.11 Yet, in 1852–53 France violated the 1841 Straits Convention. In the face of blatant French aggression, the initial British response to the Holy Places Crisis of 1852 was to support Russia.12 But in March 1853, when Russia demanded effective political control over Turkey, British policy-makers began to reconsider and joined with France. Before 1853, the British Mediterranean Fleet, which was the key indicator of British policy in the Levant, remained in the Grand Harbour at Malta, to avoid backing France or Russia. This enraged the French, who had sent their fleet to the Aegean in great haste, expecting the British to follow. French chagrin was increased by the ignominious return of its fleet, having failed politically, and suffered a series of collisions and engineering breakdowns. Realisation that they needed British support to secure any political success in the Eastern Question led to a further round of tension in April, when the French mobilised their Atlantic Fleet and hinted they might attack Belgium if Britain did not support them at Istanbul. However, it was not French threats but the reality of Russian power that led the British to shift their policy. France could not overthrow 8 Andrew D. Lambert, Battleships in Transition: The Creation of the Steam Battlefleet, 1815–1860. London 1984. 9 Ibid., 56–57. 10 Earl Cowley (Ambassador in Paris) to Lord Clarendon (Foreign Secretary) 5.4.1853, Cl. Dep. C5 f245, Clarendon Deposit, Bodleian Library, Oxford. 11 David M. Goldfrank, The Origins of the Crimean War (London: Longmans, 1994); Ann Pottinger Saab, The Origins of the Crimean Alliance (Charlottesville: University of Virginia Press, 1977). 12 Andrew D. Lambert, The Crimean War: British Grand Strategy against Russia, 1853–1856 (Manchester: Manchester University Press, 1990), 10–16.
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Turkey, but Russia could, as she demonstrated by occupying the Danubian Principalities (modern Romania) in early July. However, the British ministry had ordered the fleet to Besika Bay, just outside the Dardanelles one month earlier. This ill-considered and hasty act committed Britain to uphold Turkey against Russia, and linked it to France. The decision reflected deep divisions within the cabinet, on both diplomatic and domestic issues. It was neither rational nor considered.13 But having made the gesture, Britain could not withdraw unless Russia backed down, and could not advance without giving Russia just cause for war. Even as the Crimean Coalition was forming, Britain had abdicated any control over the process by linking its fleet to that of France, and committing it to support Turkey. The process was completed by the intransigence of the Tsar, a riot in Istanbul, and the failure of the western powers to settle the crisis before the onset of winter forced them to move their fleets from the exposed anchorage at Besika. Neither Britain nor France wanted war. France wanted a diplomatic victory, and a British alliance to launch its bid to recover the dominant role in European politics.14 Britain preferred to uphold the 1841 Convention. The confusion at the heart of British policy was reflected in the failure to follow the usual pattern of crisis management. They did not attempt to deter Russia. The powers simply drifted into war. Thus, the common interest that formed the coalition was essentially negative, that of preserving Turkey. When Turkey declared war on Russia in October 1853, the Western powers moved their fleets to Istanbul, but they did not issue their own ultimatum until the following spring. When the Russians annihilated a Turkish squadron at Sinope, Louis Napoleon exploited popular outrage in Britain at the so-called “massacre” to cement the coalition. The British cabinet found profoundly unsettling the novel experience of having their actions criticised in the daily press, and held up to the scrutiny of “public opinion.” As opposition spokesman Benjamin Disraeli declared, “The war has been brought about by two opposing opinions in the cabinet. It is a coalition war.”15 The British remained suspicious. Throughout 1853, British agents reported a major French naval program, and in December Foreign 13
Ibid., 20–22. William E. Echard, Louis Napoleon and the Concert of Europe (Baton Rouge: Louisiana State University Press, 1983); L. M. Case, French Opinion on War and Diplomacy during the Second Empire (Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press, 1954). 15 Disraeli speech of May 1854, in Conacher, 389. 14
Secretary Lord Clarendon broke off from a discussion of Russian policy to tell the Ambassador in Istanbul: “The naval preparations of France are prodigious, there has been nothing like the present activity in their dockyards for a long time past. 80 gun screw steamers are the ships they are principally occupied with.”16 Both Clarendon and First Lord of the Admiralty Sir James Graham distrusted France, and in particular its ruler. They saw no advantage in waging war to replace Russian influence at Istanbul with that of France. Graham, who had always been hostile, went so far as to call the alliance with France “unnatural.”17
The development of coalition strategy and structure Unnatural or not, if Britain and France were going to persuade Russia to retire from the Principalities and abandon its pretensions against Turkey they would need to concert strategy. Neither power could defeat Russia in the short term, but with the land route through Germany blocked by Austro-Prussian neutrality, the formation of allied grand strategy fell to Graham. Building on existing plans to assault Cherbourg, he simply shifted the focus to Sevastopol. His plan was accepted by the French, who ought to have had reservations about strengthening the Royal Navy by burning Russian dockyards.18 The twin themes of his strategy were economy of effort and the continuation of long-term programmes to meet the battleship challenge of France. Graham argued that the Russian Black Sea Fleet and the base at Sevastopol must be destroyed, or as he put it, “the eye tooth of the bear must be drawn”, to persuade the Tsar to abandon his claims on Turkey.19 An early success would release resources for the Baltic theatre, where another, larger Russian fleet would need to be dealt with later. Here, Graham hoped to revive Nelson’s plan to attack Reval (Tallin). The timing of this operation, which required the attack to be made in the brief period when Reval was ice free and the ice in the Gulf of Finland remained frozen, would settle the date on which the coalition ultimatum to Russia would expire.20 16
Clarendon to Lord Stratford de Redcliffe 8.12.1853, Stratford MSS, The National Archives, Kew. FO 352/36/1 f235. 17 Graham to Lord Heytsbury 2.2.1854, Graham MSS, Cumbria, Record Office Bundle 117. 18 Graham to General Burgoyne 25.1.1854, in George Wrottesley, The Life and Opinions of Field Marshal Sir John Fox Burgoyne (London: Bentley, 1873), 2:6. 19 Graham to Clarendon 1.3.1854, Clarendon Deposit C14 ff.217–8. 20 Lambert, Crimean War, 74.
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France accepted British maritime plans because the French had no specific object in going to war, beyond la gloire, and the sooner that was secured the better. The coalition was more important than the details of strategy, not least because the two powers had signed a self-denying ordinance, renouncing the right to make any territorial conquests. Both powers assumed Russia would submit after the destruction of Sevastopol, the fleet, and possibly some Baltic ports. This reflected a very limited understanding of Russia and its strategic history. Such a haphazard approach was perfectly adequate while everything went according to plan, but as soon as the coalition met the checks and disappointments of real war, tensions were bound to arise. This fundamental incompatibility of aim would complicate the conduct and termination of the war. Perhaps the most obvious sign of the fundamental lack of trust at the heart of the Crimean Coalition was the command structure. In February 1854, less than a month before the outbreak of war, Napoleon proposed that the French take supreme command on land, if only on the day of battle, conceding command afloat to Britain. The British ministers and their Queen were horrified at the thought of British troops being ordered into battle by a French general. Their concern was heightened by the notorious limitations of the designated French commander, Marshal Leroy de St Arnaud.21 The British proposed following the precedent of the two admirals already operating as joint and equal commanders in the Black Sea. This compromise left four allied commanders to make war by agreement. This worked to the advantage of the French, who had placed their admiral under the command of the army. The British selected General Lord Raglan as their military commander, because of his senior rank, fluent French and tact, attributes he would need to maintain good relations with the French marshals and his irascible naval colleague Admiral Sir James Dundas.22 However, a command structure that required four joint and equal commanders to agree was wholly out of step with Graham’s ambitious strategy, which relied on quick, decisive movements. At critical moments it proved impossible for the allies to agree on a positive course of action. Instead they settled on half measures 21
Frederick Wellesley, ed., The Paris Embassy under the Second Empire: from the Papers of Earl Cowley (London: Butterworth, 1928). 22 F. Darrell Munsell,. The Unfortunate Duke: Henry Pelham, Fifth Duke of Newcastle, 1811–1864 (Columbia: University of Missouri Press, 1985), 145–147; Christopher Hibbert, The Destruction of Lord Raglan (London: Longmans, 1961), 20–38; John Sweetman, Raglan: From the Peninsula to the Crimea (London: Arms & Armour, 1993), 169–70, 179.
and delay.23 The catalogue of operational and tactical indecision reached a crisis when the allied fleets were called upon to bombard the harbour defences of Sevastopol on 17 October 1854 – a classic example of how not to conduct coalition operations.
The fortress Sevastopol.
The bombardment of Sevastopol Shortly after landing in the Crimea, the allies defeated the Russians at River Alma; however, Marshal St Amaud would not follow up the victory, and refused to attack the Russian earthworks to the north of Sevastopol harbour, the allied target. Instead Raglan compromised by marching round the city to begin a regular siege from the south. St Arnaud then handed over command to General Canrobert. After two weeks of unrelenting effort the allies had established powerful batteries and expected to breach the defences and storm the city with their first attack. Raglan and Canrobert expected the allied fleets to provide a diversionary bombardment of the sea defences, well aware that the harbour entrance
Lambert, Crimean War, 119–21, 123–24, 124–25, 137.
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had been blocked by scuttled ships, so the fleets could not enter the harbour.24
Admiral Dundas recognised that the entire operation in the Crimea depended on command of the sea, and that his French colleague Admiral Hamelin was under army control. As a result, he was the sole representative of naval opinion. However, his position had been undermined by his second in command, Rear Admiral Sir Edmund Lyons, a dashing officer of considerable linguistic and diplomatic talent.25 Dundas recognised that while many officers in his fleet longed for action, it was his duty to avoid unnecessary damage and casualties. When Raglan requested naval support Dundas wrote a private letter to Graham: “I am quite sure this is an attack that will be of no service to the army and most likely destructive to many of our ships but I will not shrink from doing what is so looked upon by Lord Raglan as a means to effect the capture of Sevastopol. I shall 24
Raglan to Dundas 13.10.1854, Raglan MSS (National Army Museum, London) 6807–298. 25 Sidney Eardley-Wimot, The Life of Vice Admiral Lord Lyons (London: Samson Low, 1898), 238–51, covers the attack on Sevastopol.
put this letter in the hands of the chaplain in case I should be cut off in the approaching action.”26 Later that night the allied admirals agreed to support the land attack with a general bombardment of the sea defences, leaving the timing of the attack to the generals. The question of timing was critical, since the battleships had landed men, guns, and ammunition to support the land operations. The British ships had only enough ammunition for two hours’ rapid fire. The admirals offered to open fire with the bombardment, to wait for the assault, or to fire half their ammunition on each occasion. Late on 16 October, the generals accepted the last option: the fleets would open fire at 0630 the following morning. However, Lyons and the British captains did not want to retire from action, for fear that it might seem that they were beaten. Hamelin agreed, and unilaterally decided not to open fire until 1030 or 1100. Dundas grudgingly accepted the change, not expecting to achieve anything. His battle plan was dominated by the need to keep the ships safe, and relied on steamships lashed alongside the sailing battleships to keep them out of danger. The Turkish and French ships would engage the batteries to the south of the harbour entrance, the English those to the north. All ships would engage underway to complicate the task of the Russian gunners.27 At 0700 on 17 October, just as the firing on land became heavy, Admiral Hamelin boarded Dundas’s flagship, HMS Britannia. At the last minute, Canrobert had ordered him to engage at anchor, and at a range in excess of one mile. Dundas protested, but Hamelin observed that the distance between the anchorage and allied siege batteries south of Sevastopol made it impossible to refer back to the generals. He would fight at anchor. Dundas had to agree, in the interests of allied solidarity. For wooden ships to engage while at anchor in a long-range fire fight with stone casemate batteries mounting several hundred cannon was to ignore all previous experience. Ships could only defeat batteries if they could get close enough for their volume of fire to overwhelm the defenders. Alternatively, they could avoid serious damage by keeping underway. Canrobert had used the allied command structure to impose a plan on the fleets that combined impotence with exposure; it would force the ships to take risks while ensuring they would achieve nothing. 26
Dundas to Graham 15.10.1854, Dundas MSS (National Maritime Museum, London) DND/11 f76–7. 27 Resolutions adopted by the Allied Admirals 15.10.1854, in A. C. Dewar, ed., The Russian War: 1854 (London: Navy Records Society, 1943), 339–45. Dundas to Raglan 16.10.1854, Raglan 6807–299 Dundas to Graham 16.10.1854, Graham CW5.
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Infuriated by French inconsistency, Dundas momentarily forgot his strategic priorities, allowing the “fire-eating” Lyons to take his division to within 800 yards of the Russian fortress, at which range he might do some damage. The main event on land had already commenced while the coalition fleet was still changing plans. The Russians anticipated the attack with a pre-emptive bombardment of the French works. At 1030, the main French magazine blew up and their attack petered out. By contrast, the British quickly gained the upper hand in their sector; by 1500 the main Russian work, the Redan, had been demolished. The time was ripe for an assault, but Raglan could not find Canrobert, so nothing was done, and nobody thought to inform the admirals. It was at least thirty minutes after the magazine explosion before the fleets began to move. As there was a flat calm, the battleships had to be towed into action. At 1255, the forts to the south of the harbour opened fire on Hamelin’s ships as they slowly took up position. There was no reply for twenty-five minutes. Once anchored, the French and Turkish ships maintained a heavy fire for four hours, but did little damage. In this sector, the Russians lost 6 killed and 39 wounded, the French 50 killed and 150 wounded. The English, with further to go, took even longer to get into action – Lyons’s ships finally opened fire shortly before 1400. While Lyons temporarily silenced Fort Constantine, his success came at a high price. Two ships were forced out of action by shell explosions, another was set on fire by red hot shot. Yet instead of hauling off, Lyons called in more ships and Dundas had to support him, despite his overriding concern to preserve the fleet. Just after 1700, the fleets began to haul out. Britannia had been hit by at least 40 projectiles, Lyons’s Agamemnon more than 200; two heavy ships had to be sent to Istanbul for repairs, the rest would require days to get back into fighting trim. Furthermore, 40 men were dead and 266 wounded.28 All but 21 of these men were in Lyons’s division. Dundas did not dare recall him, well aware of the fate of Admiral Sir Hyde Parker, who had been sacked after he tried to recall a victorious Nelson from a similarly exposed position at the battle of Copenhagen. Furthermore, the British officers were anxious to demonstrate just how cool they were under fire. The French understood their role rather better, achieving their objective at far less cost.
28 Dundas to Admiralty 18.10.1854, No. 544, Admiralty MSS, The National Archives ADM 87/50.
Once he had recovered his composure, Dundas wrote to Raglan. He refused to repeat the attack, which he condemned as “false.” He considered a feint landing and a long-range attack by steamers would be quite enough for a diversion, anything more would use up what little ammunition he had left.29 He left his fundamental objection unspoken: he had no intention of allowing the French general to dictate his tactics in future. On the other side of the world, the command relationship between British and French admirals proved equally dangerous. Rear Admiral Sir David Price and Rear Admiral Fevrier Des Pointes held a joint command in the Pacific. On 3 September, the attack on the Russian position at Petropavlovsk was about to start but Price, distressed by French procrastination and changes of plan, retired to his cabin and shot himself. Although the attack was postponed for one day, it proved to be equally unfortunate.30
Strategy and command The failure of the bombardment of Sevastopol was the first serious setback for the allies. It would not be the last. Russian flank attacks at Balaklava and the Inkerman halted the siege. Then, in November 1854, a terrible storm effectively halted the campaign and forced the allies to accept the failure of the original plan for a grand raid, intended to be over before the weather broke. They would have to winter in the Crimea, something for which neither had planned. As ever, adversity provoked recrimination and desire to apportion blame. The controlled press of Louis Napoleon’s Empire was relatively calm, but in late January 1855 the Aberdeen coalition fell, to be replaced by a new coalition under Lord Palmerston, who was expected to infuse some energy into the war. Napoleon relied on him to continue the alliance.31 Defeat quickly tore aside the flimsy veil of co-operation in the coalition fleets, reviving old rivalries. Graham even refused to help the French find transport shipping, to teach them how difficult it was to stage invasions, until the cabinet forced his hand.32 However, the fundamental 29
Dundas to Raglan 18, 19, & 20.10.1854, Raglan MSS. 6807–298. R A Parker, The British Pacific Naval Station in 1854; Problems of Trade, International Affairs and War, MA Dissertation, University of Newcastle 2004. 31 Jonathan Parry, The Rise and Fall of Liberal Government in Victorian Britain (New Haven, Conn.: Yale University Press, 1993), 176, 190. 32 Graham to Clarendon 9.11.154, Clarendon Deposit C14 f480. Clarendon to Palmerston 19.2.1855, Broadlands MSS (Southampton University Library) GC/CL 30
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result of the failure before Sevastopol was to reopen the debate on strategy in Paris. The British remained committed to the maritime strategy adopted in March 1854. Russia would be blockaded, attacked on all its coasts, and its naval bases destroyed. Throughout 1854, the British had focused their Black Sea theatre effort on Sevastopol, the main operation. When that operation stalled they favoured widening the attack, to cut Russian logistics supply lines into the Crimean from the River Don and the Sea of Azov, and clearing the Caucasian coast to assist the Chechnian rebels.33 The French, as befits a land power, had an altogether different view. They had no interest in destroying the Russian fleet, or a campaign in the Caucasus to protect British India. They wanted to destroy the Vienna settlement and recover their military prestige before reasserting diplomatic primacy in Europe. Revenge for 1812 would be sweet, but only if it could be obtained on the field of battle. Napoleon recognised that such aims required a large French army to win a “decisive” battle. He decided to go to the Crimea and take supreme command. The British considered the French strategy dangerous, while the Imperial plan to take personal command was positively terrifying. Consequently the ministers and the Queen played on Bonapartist insecurity, inviting the Emperor to London. Napoleon and his Empress arrived in April, and received all the honours due to their rank. Flattery and theatre, together with pressure from his own supporters, secured a result that the British were in no position to demand. Napoleon did not go to the Crimea. Victoria and Prince Albert paid a return visit to Paris in August.34 One of the keys to any successful coalition is to know the foibles of the allied leaders and how to exploit them. Over the winter, the French army was heavily reinforced, while the British could do little more than replace losses. They only retained equal status because Lord Raglan’s calm, dignified manner and exemplary tact earned him the trust of the French generals, despite his unfortunate habit of referring to the enemy as “the French.” Meanwhile, the battlefield performance of Raglan’s troops ensured the French wanted his support in any serious fighting. When Napoleon pressed Canrobert to carry out his “decisive” battle strategy, Raglan thwarted him by playing on Canrobert’s natural caution. In April 1855, he persuaded Canrobert to release 8,000 men to capture Kerch and open the Sea of Azov for the allied fleets. To the 33
M. Gammer, Muslim Resistance to the Tsar: Shamil and the Conquest of Chechnia and Daghestan (London: Frank Cass, 1994), 263–95. 34 Wellesley, 71–74, 80–81.
disgust of the British, Canrobert unilaterally recalled the French element of the expedition after it had sailed, following fresh orders sent from Paris on the newly-laid telegraph line. Admiral Lyons, who had replaced Dundas, condemned Canrobert’s “dread of responsibility and indecision of conduct” because they were ruining the campaign, and, more seriously, undermining the moral ascendancy of the Royal Navy.35 Realising he was in an impossible position, Canrobert turned over the command to General Pelissier. Pelissier ignored the Emperor and his telegraph orders; he would grind his way into Sevastopol by a regular siege. Recognising the importance of British goodwill, Pelissier carried out the Kerch operation and then, with the concurrence of Raglan, set up a battle of attrition, in which the allies had the advantage of logistics, firepower and initiative, despite being thousands of miles from home, camped outside a Russian city. The key to this strategy was the campaign in the Sea of Azov, where ten British gunboats destroyed the food and fodder that sustained the Russian army in the Crimea. Within three months, starvation and disease so weakened the Russians that they could no longer sustain the battle before Sevastopol. Pelissier used tactics that presaged the carnage of World War I; small attacks and feints kept large Russian reserves in the front line, where they were decimated by superior allied artillery. After inflicting casualties in excess of 1,000 a day for much of August and early September, on 9 September 1855 the French took the Malakhoff, the key to the defence of Sevastopol. Raglan had died in June, and with him went any significant British influence on the campaign. His successors lacked the skill, tact, and status to maintain an artificial role in the allied command.36 In London, Palmerston wanted to exploit the successful Sea of Azov campaign by occupying the neck of the Crimean peninsula from the allied base at Yevpatoria. However, the French were not interested in strangling Russian logistics, they wanted a battlefield triumph, and the British could not insist, as their Crimean army was still 40,000 men short of the size they had agreed to provide. Once the original strategy of maritime raids had broken down, superior manpower gave the French the right to direct allied strategy in the Black Sea theatre, leaving the Royal Navy tied to the support of allied armies, which were essentially under French direction, denying them any opportunity for a significant maritime campaign. Little 35 36
Lyons to Wood 15.5.1855, British Library Additional MSS Add.49,535 f75–6. Lambert, Crimean War, 240, 244–45.
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wonder the British were anxious to find separate theatres of action from their allies once Sevastopol fell. The failure of the original grand raid exposed the fundamental divergence of aim between the coalition partners, providing Russia with a golden opportunity to exploit the critical weakness of any coalition, the political cohesion between the partners. Fortunately for Britain, France had to fight until Sevastopol fell. The fall of Sevastopol effectively ended the war for the French. They had recovered their prestige and wanted to cement their achievement in a peace settlement. However, the British were embarrassed by military failures. They wanted another campaign so their army could recover some of the aura of Waterloo, while their national arm, the Royal Navy, inflicted a serious blow on Russia. Having entered the war to reduce Russian power around the world, they were hardly going to be satisfied with Sevastopol. This conflict of interests made the diplomacy of war termination more than usually fraught with tensions. It also required the British to shift the emphasis of the war effort.
The Baltic theatre Although historical coverage of the Crimean war is generally restricted to the Crimean campaign, the conflict was global, with two major theatres, the Black Sea and the Baltic, and two minor, the Pacific and the White Sea. Initially, coalition strategy relied on the early destruction of Sevastopol to release resources for the Baltic, where the winter ice would not clear until April or May. The Russian fleet in the Baltic was three times larger than that in the Black Sea, for the Russian capital, St Petersburg, lay on the neighbouring shores of the Gulf of Finland. When Sir James Graham’s overly ambitious Baltic strategy broke down, it left a powerful fleet with little to do but impose a blockade until a French army turned up in August to capture the Aaland Islands. The application of British naval power in the Baltic was limited by Graham’s refusal to build specialised craft for power projection operations. His wartime policy was dominated by the continuing battleship arms race with the French, and he was unwilling to seek the additional funds that had always been necessary to translate the peacetime battle fleet sea control navy into the offensive force required to carry the war to Russia. Only in October 1854, erroneously believing that Sevastopol had fallen, was he prepared to order a coastal force of armoured assault craft, steam block ships, gunboats, and mortar vessels for Baltic service, in a
joint programme with the French.37 When he asked the Chancellor of the Exchequer for the necessary funds, some £650,000, he stressed that the new force would be available for “coast defence” against France once the Russian war was over.38 Despite the “defence” label, he was referring to an attack on Cherbourg, which remained the centrepiece of British strategic thought. At the same time, Graham assembled a battle fleet in the English Channel, to demonstrate the depth of British reserves to the French, rather than carry the war to the Russians.39 Graham’s ambitious plans for the 1855 Baltic campaign, including British troops, were ruined by the impasse in the Crimea. This brought down the ministry of his political ally Lord Aberdeen, and ensured that new Prime Minister Lord Palmerston had to focus all efforts on Sevastopol. The Baltic could wait. The French had always taken this view; their Baltic fleet for 1855 was far smaller than in 1854. Long before the French arrived, the large steam-powered British fleet had imposed a crippling blockade and pinned down 250,000 Russian troops.40 When the new flotilla arrived in August, it was employed in a devastating forty-eight-hour bombardment of the arsenal and dockyard at Sveaborg (outside Helsinki, Finnish: Suomenlinna, though until 1918 Viapori), which crippled a major base and wiped out part of the Russian fleet. This ‘Cherbourg Strategy’ attack demonstrated the awesome potential of steam-age naval power projection. There were no fatal casualties in the allied fleet; the Russians could not hit the mortar vessels, gunboats and rocket craft that fired on them.41 Even Kronshtadt, the mightiest sea fortress in the world and the maritime bastion of St Petersburg was open to attack. In November, the Russian situation deteriorated further when Sweden, recognising the decisive nature of coalition success, accepted an Anglo-French guarantee of its territory and began planning for war.42 37
Graham to Earl Cowley 8.10.1854, Foreign Office (FO) 519/208 fl05–110. Graham to Gladstone 6.10.1854, Add. 44,163 f. 153–4. 39 Wood to Admiral Sir R. Dundas (C-in-C Baltic 1855) 16.4.1855, Add. 49,558 f57. The Queen to Palmerston 19.3.1855, Bdlds RC/F f573 40 Lambert, A. D., “The Crimean War Blockade, 1854–1856,” in Elleman and Paine, 46–60, for the problems of forming coalition economic war policy. 41 Lambert, A.D., “Under the Heel of Britannia: The Bombardment of Sweaborg, 9–11 August 1855,” in Hore, P. ed. Seapower Ashore: 200 years of Royal Navy Operations on Land. (London 2001), 96–129. 42 Jussi T. Lappalainen, “Oskar i’s planer 1854–1856,” Militarhistorisk Tidskrift 1 (1985):5–18. 38
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When the French lost interest in the war, Sveaborg provided the British with an alternative strategy for war termination. Sir Charles Wood, who had replaced Graham in February 1855, ordered 200 more gunboats, 100 mortar vessels, and new ironclads, while preparing floating factories, depots, and the full panoply of naval logistics to maintain the new force in action. This Great Armament would be ready to open the 1856 campaign by destroying Kronshtadt and threatening St Petersburg. Recognising the drift of French policy and his inability to control his partner, Palmerston adopted the Great Armament as the basis of British strategy and diplomacy.43 The sheer size of the force obviated the need for French assistance and revived British naval prestige. Wood, like Graham before him, retained a deep-rooted suspicion of Imperial France. His flotilla craft were built in private shipyards, so that the Royal Dockyards could continue to build the new steam battleships required to maintain British naval mastery after the war, against France, Russia, or the United States.44 Naval mastery remained the cornerstone of British security.
Palmerston to the Queen 19.10.1855, Royal Archives, Windsor Castle RAG39 f55. 44 Graham to Wood 12.10.1855, Halifax A4/70 is typical.
Peace negotiations The winter of 1855–56 provided an opportunity for diplomacy. Although France publicly remained in the war, Louis Napoleon was anxious for peace, concocting a compromise plan with Austria in mid-October.45 When the coalition partners met in Paris early in 1856 to plan the next campaign, few expected any more fighting.46 Given the choice between a humiliating, but not disastrous peace, or the near inevitability of major defeats, loss of territory, and even the destruction of St Petersburg, Tsar Alexander II agreed to the terms, reassured by unofficial contacts that the French would resist British demands.47 The peace congress assembled in Paris to mark the triumph of Louis Napoleon and resurgence of France, but by then the coalition had already collapsed. Peace was signed on 30 March 1856. The British celebrated the victory with a Fleet review at Spithead on St George’s Day (23 April). The political and military representatives of the major powers watched as the Great Armament conducted a mock attack on Southsea Castle. The Russians, the Americans, and most particularly the French, could be in no doubt that Kronshtadt, New York and Cherbourg were the real targets.48 With peace settled, Palmerston had no qualms about allowing the wartime coalition to cool. British interests would have been damaged by Louis Napoleon’s radical plans to redraw the map of Europe, and Palmerston preferred to resume Britain’s historic balancing role. He also explained why the coalition had not reduced underlying Anglo-French tension, or ended the naval race: “When we consider the different interests of England and France, the different characters and habits of the two countries, we ought rather to be thankful at having got so much out of the alliance, and to have maintained it for so long, than to be surprised or disappointed at its approaching end.”49 By this time, France and Russia were enjoying a brief coalition of their own, largely based on a mutual hatred of Austria.50 More significantly, the 45
Paul Schroeder, Austria, Great Britain and the Crimean War (Ithaca, N. Y.: Cornell University Press, 1972), 322–26. 46 Lambert, Crimean War, 312–25. 47 Winfried Baumgart, The Peace of Paris (Santa Barbara, Calif: ABC-Clio, 1981), 68–80. 48 Palmerston to Wood 19.3.1856, Halifax A4/63 f59. 49 Palmerston to Clarendon 10.12.1856, in V. J. Puryear, England, Russia and the Straits Question, 1844–1856 (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1931), 431. 50 Werner E. Mosse, The Rise and Fall of the Crimean System (London: Macmillan, 1963), 105–26.
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naval arms race continued unabated, French construction being aimed at reducing British freedom of action in Europe.51 The ultimate triumph of the British in this contest ensured they would not have to enter any more coalitions for half a century, or use their coastal assault force against a major power. Naval power was the key to Anglo-French relations. While Britain was superior at sea, it could follow its own interests, but if France could neutralise that superiority, Britain would lose her freedom of action in Europe and require an ally. Consequently, the continuation of the naval arms race throughout the war was logical and, because it was a question of steam battleships, not gunboats, set limits on the application of naval power against Russia. Throughout the war, the French Navy had taken every opportunity to claim equality with, or even superiority over, the British. Despite the much vaunted performance of the steam battleship Napoléon, and the superior education of French officers, the basic fact remained that the British were better seamen, kept their ships in better order, and did not need to boast about their performance.52 A disinterested observer, the American merchant ship skipper John Codman, provided a succinct assessment:53 The British navy did excite the admiration and envy of the French. They learned some useful lessons in seamanship from their association with it. But it was in vain that their ships endeavoured to rival those of the English in naval tactics and evolutions. It was a study to see an English and French line of battleship or frigate coming to anchor together. On board the former, silently and as if by magic, every sail was furled at once before the Frenchmen could man their yards and gather up the bunts, chattering all the while like a lot of magpies, and all apparently giving orders to each other.
Conclusions The painful experience of coalition war-making in 1854–56 reflected the completely different strategic ideas of Britain and France: maritime 51
Andrew D. Lambert, “Palmerston, Gladstone and the Management of the Ironclad Naval Race 1859–1865,” Northern Mariner, July 1998. 52 Michele Battesti, La Marine de Napoleon III, 2 vols. (Vincennes: Service Historique de la marine, 1997); C. I. Hamilton, Anglo-French Naval Rivalry I840– 1870 (Oxford Clarendon Press, 1993); J. K. Laughton, Studies in Naval History (London: Bennett, Silver, 1887). 53 John Codman, An American Transport in the Crimean War (New York: Bonnell & Silver, 1896), 192–93.
attrition opposed to military annihilation. The British recognised the limits of any coalition but could not obviate them. Lack of military manpower, global security interests, and an underlying hostility toward the coalition partner all hampered the development of British strategy. This would have been well known to the statesmen of 1854, some of whom could recall the contrast between the muddled British planning of 1803–6, while the Third Coalition existed, when partners had to be cultivated, and the ruthless, dynamic effort against Copenhagen in 1807, when all hope of coalition appeared to be gone. Coalition war plans are inevitably a compromise. By early 1855, British theatre commanders, and other officers who had to deal with their partners at a high level, were frustrated by the novel experience of coalition war-making. The different working methods, aims and experiences of the two nations provided little to sustain the coalition in the face of adversity. Only the military imperative of impending disaster, and the political need to win, kept them on the same side í and then only until Sevastopol fell. Thereafter, the coalition fell apart almost as rapidly as it had been created. When the British threatened to escalate the conflict from a limited war to an unlimited struggle, with a direct attack on the Russian capital, the war ended. It was not in France’s interests for this escalation to occur; hence the haste with which a compromise peace was cobbled together. Coalitions require careful handling, and should be entered into with a clear-sighted appreciation of their limitations. The application of so much power without a clear political programme led to results that neither partner had anticipated.
COALITION WAR: THE REGIMENTAL PERSPECTIVE OF DEN KONGELIGE LIVGARDE THE ROYAL LIFE GUARDS (OF FOOT), DENMARK JESPER GRAM-ANDERSEN
The regiment of The Royal Life Guards was founded according to an ordinance by King Frederik III dated 30 June 1658.1 Its mission was, and remains so even today, the protection of the sovereign, the training of soldiers and forming a part of the Danish field army for operations at home and abroad. In 2011, the regiment consists of a Guards Company of about 300 conscripts and a cadre of regular officers and NCOs, a Band, a Corps of Drums, 3rd Battalion (Training Battalion) and the regular mechanised infantry 1st and 2nd Battalions. The regiment of today is a descendant of older organisations for guarding and serving the monarchs of Denmark-Norway which have – over the years – included The Halberdier Guard (1563-1763), The Royal Life Guards of Foot (1658-present time), The Royal Life Guards of Horse (1661-1866) and the Corps of Grenadiers (1701-1763).2 Additionally, the Guards Hussars Regiment (1763-present time) provides mounted escort at special occasions at the Court.
This article is based on a power-point briefing by the author at The Royal Danish Defence College - Conference on Coalition Warfare, Copenhagen 3-4 May 2011. The power-point briefing, including several pictures, was later distributed to the participants as a DVD by the Defence College (Kjeld H. Galster). A description of the international coalitions including the political aspects has been published by Kjeld Galster in two articles: “Krige og koalitioner” [Wars and Coalitions] in Chakoten – Dansk Militærhistorisk Selskab [The Shako – Danish Society of Military History], June 2011, p.18ff and in the subsequent issue of this magazine. 2 The Royal Life Guards – Denmark 1658-2008
In the context of coalition warfare it seems reasonable to ask when, actually, did this particular regiment and its predecessor units fight alongside foreign troops? The answer is that the regiment of The Royal Life Guards of Foot has taken part in almost all wars and other military operations in which the Kingdom of Denmark (Denmark-Norway until 1814) has been engaged. On the one hand, in most of these operations Danish forces have fought, or have planned to fight, together with some sort of ‘allied’, foreign troops. Moreover, this has taken place, or been planned, at home as well as abroad. On the other hand, Denmark has also fought coalitions, as in the War of 1864, for example, when an enemy coalition of the Kingdom of Prussia (Bismarck) and the Empire of Austria had been arrayed against her. A brief summary of the wars and other operations that The Royal Life Guards have taken part in includes: x 1657-59, 1675-79 and 1701-20: Wars against Sweden with support (and the opposite) from various powers. x 1688-1697 and 1701-1713: international operations with England/ United Kingdom of Great Britain and the United Provinces of the Dutch Republic. x 1801-1814: Napoleonic Wars – allied with France - against United Kingdom and others (including Sweden). x 1848-1850 and 1864: Schleswig Wars against German countries led by Prussia. x 1914-1918: World War I – Neutrality Guard Force. x 1939-1945: World War II – German occupation (encounters outside palaces and barracks). x 1948-1989: Cold War – frontline state with prepared external reinforcements from NATO – UN Peace Keeping operations. x 1992 - : international operations (former Yugoslavia, Iraq, Africa and Afghanistan).
Denmark-Norway in international operations 1689-1713 The focus of this chapter is the organisation of the regiment for international operations around the turn of the 17th and 18th centuries. The strengths of the Danish contingents were impressive. During the European war with the many names 1688-1697, the Danish contingent deploying for Ireland in 1689 comprised more than 7,000 men.3 During the War of 3
The War of the Grand Alliance (1688–97) – often called the Nine Years' War, the War of the Palatine Succession, or the War of the League of Augsburg. Older texts
Coalition War: The Regimental Perspective of Den Kongelige Livgarde
Spanish Succession 1701-1713, the ‘DANCON’ was a force of about 10,500 men. At the same time, Denmark-Norway was fighting the Great Nordic War 1700/1709-1720 against Sweden, which, of course, also demanded a huge army besides the strong navy.
Ferdinand Wilhelm, Duke of Württemberg-Neustadt (1659-1700).
may refer to the war as the War of the English Succession, or, in North American historiography as King William's War. This varying nomenclature reflects the fact that contemporaries – as well as later historians – viewed the general conflict from particular national or dynastic viewpoints (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Nine_Years'_War). In his History of England (1945) p. 492, George Macaulay Trevelyan names it the War of the League of Augsburg.
King Christian V (1646-1670-1699) of Denmark and Norway and Duke of Schleswig and Holstein experienced his father’s wars against Sweden 1657-1660, saving the existence of the Kingdom. Succeeding his father, who had, introduced absolute monarchy in 1660, Christian waged The Scanian War against Sweden 1675-1679 with his brother Prince George at his side. George later became Prince Consort to Queen Anne of Great Britain.
International operations 1689-1697 In the European theatre, Christian V decided mainly to support the English-Dutch side of William of Orange opposing the France of Louis XIV. Consequently, one fifth of the army was allocated for this purpose. The more than 7,000-strong Danish Expeditionary Force comprised: headquarters of 21 (all ranks and 104 horses), nine battalions of infantry detached from nine parent regiments in Denmark of 6,070 (all ranks and 397 horses). The cavalry was organised in three newly-raised regiments of 1,011 (all ranks and 1,218 horses).4 A couple of battles should be mentioned to get the picture of Danish participation in the campaign in Ireland and on the Continent. On 1 July 1690, the Danish Guards Battalion spearheaded Lieutenant-General the Duke of Württemberg’s column of 17 battalions crossing the river Boyne east of Oldbridge. The Danish Guards Battalion also fought at Limerick, again with splendid use of the Grenadier Company. Amongst others, the Captain of the Grenadier Company was killed in action on 27 August 1690. At the conquest of Athlone in June 1691, the Guards again lost their Grenadier Captain. In his report home to Denmark after the bloody victory at Aughrim 12 July 1691, Württemberg wrote, “The Guards have done wonders”.5 The total of all ranks of the Danish Guards Battalion alone killed in action in this war was approximately 320.6
Command and Control The General-Officer-Commanding the Danish contingent was also the Commanding Officer of the Guards Battalion, Ferdinand Wilhelm, Duke of Württemberg-Neustadt (1659-1700). He was a warrior, and had been seriously wounded with a sabre cut to the forehead in a battle in 1685. In 4
Jahn 1840, p 30ff Den Kongelige Livgarde 350 år 1658-2008, vol.1, p.68ff 6 Den Kongelige Livgarde 350 år 1658-2008, vol.4, p.266 5
Coalition War: The Regimental Perspective of Den Kongelige Livgarde
1678 he had joined the Danish Life Guards. As a Knight of the order of the Elephant, he chose the same motto as number 1 (A) Company of The Royal Life Guards of Foot, which had also been the motto of the late King Frederik III: The Lord is our providence. Thus Württemberg was Commander of the Danish Contingent, Colonel of the regiment in Copenhagen (also when abroad), Colonel of the Battalion and officer commanding A Company.7 Being the senior national officer of the Danish contingent, Württemberg reported directly to the highest politico-strategic levels in Denmark. In the theatre he was on the operational level as contingent Commander, and his battalion and the companies of the Life Guards were on the tactical and confronting levels. So, undoubtedly the officers of the Guards battalion were well informed through their high-ranking colonel. An example of disagreement concerning who was in charge on the high level occurred in September 1690 at Cork in Ireland between Württemberg and the English Lieutenant-General John Churchill (later to become the first Duke of Marlborough). Württemberg, also a Lieutenant-General, was younger than Marlborough, but claimed – by virtue of his high birth – the right to assume command. Marlborough (or perhaps a Huguenot brigadier) suggested a compromise whereby the two generals would command on alternate days, and on his first day in command, courteously gave Württemberg as the password.8 A matter included in the status of command is discipline, which in those days too was a national matter. At Saint Mary’s Church in Beverley, north of Hull on the east coast of England, an epitaph informs us about this in real terms by referring to a sad incident upon the arrival of the Danish troops just before Christmas in 1689. The words explain what happened: Here two young Danish Soldiers lye The one in quarrel chanc’d to die The others Head, by their own Law With Sword was sever’d at one Blow December, the 23d 1689. 9
Brammer 1908, p.290 Richard Holmes: Marlborough: England’s Fragile Genius. Harper Press, 2008, p. 169 9 E. Ovesen/F. Clausen in The Journal of The Danish Arms & Armour Society 6/October 1980 8
Uniforms and weapons In 1685, the Regiment of Guards was issued with new, yellow uniforms and red capes (as before).10 It is believed, that Christian V, on his earlier study tour to France as a Crown Prince, was impressed by the uniforms of the Guards of Louis XIV. None of the uniforms are kept today, and we have no contemporary drawings of them. The uniforms were magnificent, e.g. for an NCO’s uniform, 120 buttons were used, and for a bandsman’s, 94 metres of thin string was used for decoration. However, there is a detailed report by the Swedish envoy, from a parade in Copenhagen 3 May 1686, describing the yellow frocks and scarlet capes with the monogram of Christian V.11 The Danish troops in Ireland are also mentioned in a letter from 1690: The Prince of Wirtemberg came hither on Tuesday, and Duke Schomberg met him with great state and ceremony. The Prince is a jolly man, much like Prince George. All the Danes are comely proper men as can be seen; the foot are everything that can be wished for by a general - lusty, healthy, rugged fellows, well disciplined, well clothed, very neat and cleanly, arms as bright as silver, all firelocks, [a] cuttock boxes, their colour green lined with red, blue lined with white, grey lined with blue and grey lined with green, and every man a cloak, or such a cloak as the Dutch Guards wear, and you shall not see a man with a hole in any part of his clothing; those I see of the horse are white lined with white and buff waistcoats.13
Several replica versions of this uniform have been drawn by various Danish uniform artists since 1858 if not before. The newest is depicted as figure 2.14 The uniforms in those days were multipurpose uniforms, so 10
Livgardens Historiske Samling (JGA) - 2010-04-25/2011-07-23: Den Kongelige Livgarde til Fods’ gule uniform M/1685 [Notes about the yellow uniform 1685 for The Royal Life Guards of Foot, Denmark] 11 Published in Danske Samlinger for Historie, Topografi, Personal- og Litteraturhistorie.(Gyldendal, København 1865-1879), 2den Række V, p. 161 [Danish Collections for History, Topography, Personnel- and Literature History] 12 Cartouche or cuttack, possibly after the town in India famous for gold and silver filigree work. 13 T. Snorrason: Danske Kasakker (188.8.131.52) December 26, 2004 at 20:00:35 (www.chakoten.dk). Coloured drawings showing the “Dutch Guards” are in Michael McNally: Battle of the Boyne 1690 (Osprey, Oxford 2005). 14 The first replica versions of this uniform were made by Danish artists such as Peter Klæstrup in 1858, Valdemar Lund in 1892, and Preben Kannik in 1940. More research has changed the replicas a bit, and the final versions to be mentioned are by Preben Kannik (who modified his first version), the figure in the
Coalition War: The Regimental Perspective of Den Kongelige Livgarde
they were used as field uniform, combat uniform, garrison uniform, guard uniform, parade uniform, training uniform, etc. Uniforms were also related to the civilian fashion and uniforms of other European armies. Also to be noted is the development leading up to present day guards uniforms. Between 1686 and 1688, the musketeers of the Danish Foot Guards were issued with new flintlock muskets with plug bayonets. Additionally, all ranks had a sidearm.15 The grenadiers were also equipped with up-todate weapons. In 1687, when the musketeers received the new model of musket, the Grenadier Company was armed with “this new invention of musquetoons”, so 107 grenade guns were made in Copenhagen for privates and NCOs in the company. In 1689, another 100 grenade guns were ordered, when the second Grenadier Company of The Guards was established.16
Organisation The basic organisation of the regiment of The Royal Guards of Foot in 1689 comprised 18 musketeer companies and two grenadier companies.17 Looking at figures, six musketeer companies and one of the grenadier companies were detached for England. It should be noted that the number of companies at home did not change (Table 1), in other words the basic organisation concerning the number of companies in the Regiment in international operations and at home remained the same 20. The Royal Life Guards of Foot, COMPANIES MUSKETEER COYS GRENADIER COYS Total
TOTAL 1689 18 2 20
INT 1690 6 1 7
HOME 1690 12 1 13
Table 1: Organisation of the Regiment.
Royal Guards’ Museum made by military tailors in 1957, Christian Würgler in 1997 and Søren Henriksen’s impressive “Grenadier Corporal, Danish Foot Guards” with the scarlet cape, published in 2004 in Michael McNally’s Battle of the Boyne (Osprey, Oxford 2005). 15 Den Kongelige Livgarde 350 år 1658-2008, vol.1, p. 66f 16 Arne Hoff: Some Danish Grenade Guns, Vaabenhistoriske aarbøger XXXIII, Copenhagen 1987, p.5ff [Yearbook of Weapons History] 17 Deducted from Lövenskiold: Officers 1858-
Grenadier Corporal, Danish Foot Guards by Søren Henriksen, ca. 200418
Royal Guards’ Museum archive, courtesy of Søren Henriksen
Coalition War: The Regimental Perspective of Den Kongelige Livgarde
According to the 1683 organisation, the company was organised with four officers (one Captain, one 1st lieutenant, one 2nd lieutenant and one ensign), three sergeants, one fourier, three corporals, two drummers (previously also a piper), 10 lance corporals (Gefreiters) and 90 privates, totalling 113 all ranks.19 The staff officers were also company commanders. Thus, the colonel commanded 1 Company, the lieutenantcolonel 2 Company, and the Major 3 Company. One could believe that, at the formation of the battalion for England, say 1, 2, 3, 4, 5 & 6 Company were assigned. However, an analysis of the posting of officers shows another pattern (table 2): the officers of 1 Company came mainly from 1 Company, 2 Company from 3 and 16 Company, 3 Company mainly from 8 Company, 4 Company mainly from 12 Company, 5 Company mainly from 18 Company, 6 Company mainly from 10 Company and the Grenadier Company Commander from 2 Grenadier Company (also named the Norwegian Grenadier Company); but most of the officers of the new Grenadier Company came from Musketeer companies (7 and 9). With a few exceptions, all officers were from the Regiment, only a few were from external units. Note that the external captain of 6 Company also had the title of General Adjutant.20 The guardsmen in the regiment of the Danish Foot Guards were mainly Danes (including those from Scania, Hallandia and Blekinge) and Norwegians. Table 3 shows where the soldiers in the Regiment were born. As it is from 1663, it can only give us an idea of the situation in 1689. Anyway, it shows that of 1,332 all ranks, 1,135 or 85% had Danish (or Norwegian) as their basic language, and that 1,189 (89%) were born as subjects of the King of Denmark-Norway and Duke of Schleswig & Holstein. Scania, Hallandia and Blekinge were the Danish provinces east of the Sound (present day Sweden). The others were one Dutch officer, three Dutch NCOs, one Irish and one French, and 17 Dutch privates, 24 Polish, one English and two French. In 1671, the average age of the 87 NCOs was 39 years and they had served an average of 12 years. About 29% of the private soldiers had served for more than 12 years.21
Brammer 1908, p. 90 Deducted from Lövenskiold: Officers 165821 Brammer 1908, p. 42f 20
NEW COMPANY FUNCTION FROM NEW FUNCTION FROM Captain OLD COMPANY OLD COMPANY Captain COMPANY CPT 1 COY & HQ COL 1 COY 4 COY 12 COY CPT Tünner 1LT (COLONEL) 1 COY 12 COY (Württemberg) 1LT 2LT 13 COY 1 COY Wacherbarth 2LT 14COY ENS EXT ENS 6 COY CPT CPT 2 COY 3 COY 5 COY 18 COY 16COY Sønderborg 1LT 18COY/EXT (LIEUTENANT 1LT 2LT 2LT EXT COLONEL) 3 COY Munchgaard ENS 16COY ENS 18 COY EXT 3 COY (MAJOR) CPT 8 COY 6 COY CPT Hohndorff 1LT EXT 1LT (GAD) 10 COY 2LT 1GRCOY Bluhme 2LT 4 COY ENS ENS 8 COY 10 COY MUSKCOYS GRENCOY CPT 2 GRCOY = 1-6 Suzannet 1LT 9 COY 2LT 7 COY ENS 7 COY
Table 2: Officers transferred at the formation of the Battalion for England 1689-1690 BIRTHPLACE
OFFs 24 NCOs 85 DENMARK 2+2 30 NORWAY 3 18 SCANIA-HALLANDIA-BLEKINGE 2 11 SCHLESWIG-HOLSTEIN 4+2 8 SWEDEN 1 GERMANY 6+2 12 OTHERS 1 5 DANISH-NORWEGIAN LANGUAGE 9 (38%) 59 (69%) SUBJECT TO THE KING OF DEN- 15 67 NOR (60%) (79%)
PTEs 1,223 1,332 (100%) 607+1 642 254 275 205 218 40 54 15+2 18 55 75 44 50 1,067 1,135(85%) (87%) 1,107 1,189(89%) (90%)
Table 3: Nationalities in the Regiment In the beginning of November 1697, Württemberg mustered the Battalion in Alost near Brussels before marching home to Denmark. A muster roll was made at this occasion to conclude the final financial business (Table 4). Note that 21 of 33 officers had survived since the Battalion left
Coalition War: The Regimental Perspective of Den Kongelige Livgarde
Denmark in 1689. The difference matches the number of officers killed in action. Of other ranks 245 veterans returned.22 OFFICERS
FROM DENMARK (1689) LATER CONTRACTS SUM (1697) STRENGTH (1697) SHORT CONTRACTS - LEAVING REST (1697) FROM DENMARK (1689)
21 12 33 OTHER RANKS 745 123 622 245 WIVES 146 CHILDREN 173 ARRIVED TO DENMARK 1697 ALL INCL WOMEN & CHILDREN 974 EFF STRENGTH OUTMARCHING 1689 804
Table 4: Account of personnel, Alost near Brussels November 1697
On the French side During the complicated sea transport of the Danish Contingent in 1689, a ship with three companies of The Queen’s Regiment was taken by the French. Consequently, the more than 300 men were enrolled in a regiment in the French army, Régiment Youl/Royal Danois, named after the Commanding Officer, Lieutenant Colonel Frands Juul (Youl), a former major in the Danish Life Guards of Foot. Another officer in this regiment, Christian Danckwarth later advanced to Colonel of the Danish Guards and was killed in action fighting the Swedish Army in the Battle of Helsingborg 1710. Also Peter Frederik Kalthoff and Andreas Skeel should be mentioned; they both became captains in the Danish Life Guards of Foot. In 1692, when Christian Gyldenløve (Golden Lion), a son of Christian V and his maitraisse, became the Commanding Officer, this French regiment was named Régiment Royal Danois. Indeed, one could talk about “international operations”.23
Lövenskiold 1858, p.124 Manuscrit Dédié au duc du Maine en 1715, appartenant à Mgr. Le Duc de Guise. Reproduction au musée du l’armée à Paris. Notes Royal Guards’ Museum N-C5-1690-YOUL/ROYAL DANOIS 23
The War of the Spanish Succession 1701-1713 The Danish Contingent of 10,500 men in The War of the Spanish Succession also included a battalion of the Life Guards of Foot. They were fighting under John Churchill, Duke of Marlborough, and Prince Eugene of Savoy in famous battles like Höchstädt-Blindheim (English: Blenheim) in Bavaria and Malplaquet in France.24 The casualties of the Danish Guards Battalion at Malplaquet were frightful: four officers and 63 other ranks killed and 14 officers and 190 other ranks wounded. Additionally, the Battalion lost one of its colours, according to the regimental history, or two, according to French sources. However, the taken colours were depicted in a French prestige book describing the triumphs of Louis XIV25. So, because of this, we know today what the colours looked like then. Another souvenir from that war is a coin medal issued by King Frederik IV of Denmark-Norway in memory of the victory at Höchstädt-Blindheim 18 August 1704. This shows the King’s interest and concern for his troops in international operations.26 The total of all ranks killed in action of the Battalion of the Danish Guards alone in The War of the Spanish Succession was approximately 235.27
King Frederik IV’s coin medal commemorating the victory at Blenheim 1704
24 About this war, see Richard Holmes: “Marlborough – Britain’s Greatest General”, published by Harper Perennial 2009 25 Les Thriomphes du Louis XIV représentée par les Drapeaux pris sur les Ennemis de S. M. (Bibliothèque Nationale, Paris) 26 The Foundation of the Officers of The Royal Life Guards, Protocol ser. no. H.0928 27 Den Kongelige Livgarde 350 år 1658-2008, vol.4, p.267
Coalition War: The Regimental Perspective of Den Kongelige Livgarde
Coalition - in memory Another souvenir with – literally – a frame story is a coloured engraving that shows “The famous BATTLE of the BOYNE in Ireland, in which WILLIAM III commanded in person against JAMES II. And the Gallant Duke Schomberg was slain.” (Grainger inv. et sculp.)28. In 1988 this engraving was given to The Royal Life Guards by The Queen’s Regiment, framed with the following inscriptions: “THE QUEEN’S REGIMENT AND THE KONGELIGE LIVGARDE FOUGHT SIDE BY SIDE AT THIS BATTLE” “PRESENTED BY THE COMMANDING OFFICER AND OFFICERS 1ST BATTALION THE QUEEN’S REGIMENT ON THE OCCASION OF THEIR VISIT 7TH SEPT 1988”
The regiment related to the aforementioned Prince George of Denmark, “The Buffs”, was fighting on the same side in the Battle of the Boyne as the contingent of The Royal Life Guards from Denmark. Later The Buffs became the Queen’s Regiment. Today, this English regiment is named The Princess of Wales’s Royal Regiment, with Queen Margrethe II of Denmark as its Colonel-in-Chief. The small picture is to be seen in the Royal Guards’ Museum in Copenhagen.29
Comparison 1692- and 1992Without wishing to embark on a discussion of the purpose of (military) history, it is tempting to compare the participation of the Regiment of The Royal Life Guards, as well as the Danish Army, in international operations at the change of the 17th and 18th centuries with the same 300 years later, at the change of the 20th and 21th centuries. Possible headlines would be: MOU (Memorandum of Understanding), SOFA (Status of Forces Agreement), SNO (Senior National Officer), Discipline, Training, Command-Control-Communications, War Experience, PoliticalStrategically /Operational /Tactical/ Confrontation levels, Coalition of the 28 The print is not contemporary as William Grainger’s engravings were made in the 1780s and 1790s. Grainger also made engravings of Queen Anne and another of John Churchill, the 1st Duke of Marlborough, about 100 years after the events (National Portrait Gallery – www.npg.org.uk) 29 The Foundation of the Officers of The Royal Life Guards, Protocol ser. no. C.36. The Royal Guards Museum (Livgardens Historiske Samling), Gothersgade 100, DK-1123 Copenhagen K – Open Saturdays and Sundays 1130-1500.
Willing, etc. The Circle of Warfare – i.e. the interrelations between Organisation, Doctrine and Technology “around the Sun” of The Royal Life Guards is always of interest in the regimental history.
PRO REGE ET GREGE - FOR KING AND PEOPLE. The Royal Life Guards, Denmark. Founded 30 June 1658
Sources The main Danish and regimental related printed sources are as follows: Jahn, J.H.F. De danske Auxiliairtropper, 1ste Afdeling: Corpset i engelsk tjeneste fra 1689 til 1697 (Copenhagen 1840) [The Danish Auxiliary Troops, Part 1: The Army Corps in English service from 1689 to 1697]
Coalition War: The Regimental Perspective of Den Kongelige Livgarde
Lövenskiold. C.L. Officerer ved Den Kongelige Livgarde til Fods 1658(Handwritten, Royal Guards Museum) [Officers of The Royal Life Guards of Foot 1658- ] —. Efterretninger om Den Kongelige Livgarde til Fods (Copenhagen 1858) [Information about The Royal Life Guards of Foot] Brammer, G. Livgarden 1658-1908 (Copenhagen 1908) [The Life Guards 1658-1908] The officers Jahn as well as Lövenskiold and Brammer used primary sources in archives etc. Lövenskiold’s regimental history of 1858 is an impressive collection of transcribed documents, and Brammer 1908 is an example of listing a wide range of sources and using notes. The historical and present international operations were deliberately emphasised in separate chapters in the 350 years volumes: Jesper Gram-Andersen: Den Kongelige Livgarde 350 år 1658-2008, 1-6 (2008) The Royal Life Guards – Denmark 1658-2008 – Summary in English of the above mentioned. After this article was finished, the following was published: Kjeld Hald Galster: Danish Troops in the Williamite Army in Ireland, 1689-91. Four Courts Press, Dublin 2012. This unique account focuses on the Danish troops comprising 15 per cent of William III’s army at the Battle of the Boyne.
COALITION WARFARE IN SEVENTEENTHCENTURY NEW ENGLAND MATTHEW S. MUEHLBAUER
Seventeenth-century North America receives relatively little attention in the annals of military history. Yet the continent during the colonial period offers instructive lessons for those concerned with coalition warfare – particularly anyone concerned with cooperation between peoples of radically different cultures. Such inquiries must be qualified, however, as European colonisers regarded their culture and religion as superior to those of indigenous peoples, and did not regard native allies as equals to themselves. Yet cross-cultural alliances nonetheless formed. Arguably the French in Canada provide the best example, as they were crucially dependent upon native allies for their colony’s security throughout the colonial era until its capture by the British during the French and Indian War (1754-1763). Moreover, the Canadian French went the furthest in terms of interacting with indigenous groups on the latter’s terms, helping to create what Richard White calls a “middle ground”: a set of social norms and customs to which both the French and Amerindian peoples contributed. At the other end of the spectrum, the Spanish in North America created missions that explicitly sought to impose Catholicism and Western lifestyles while eradicating native spiritual practices. In Florida, where they built numerous missions to bolster their influence among the Guale peoples and employ them in the colony’s defence, such efforts were ameliorated by promises of trade and by native willingness to consider spiritual alternatives to traditional practices.1 The English in North America provide different examples of such interactions. Again, they thought themselves as superior to Amerindians, and demands for land and resources put them at odds with local peoples. 1
Richard White, The Middle Ground: Indians, Empires, and the Republics in the Great Lakes Region, 1650-1815 (New York: Cambridge University Press, 1991), particularly 50-93; on the Spanish and the Guale, see James Axtell, The Indians' New South: Cultural Change in the Colonial Southeast (Baton Rouge: Louisiana State University Press, 1997), 25-36.
Coalition Warfare in Seventeenth-Century New England
During the seventeenth century, native populations in many regions plummeted as a result of disease, war, and migration, and they were ultimately subordinated to growing numbers of English colonists. But that outcome was not apparent for much of the 1600s. In New England too, while settlers often feared native groups, they also sought them as allies. Moreover, within this region individual colonies were not always united in their policies towards aboriginal peoples. This chapter will explore these issues by considering seventeenth-century New England from the Pequot War (1636-37) to and with King Philip’s War (1675-76), with greater emphasis on the period of 1630 to the 1650s.2 Various native peoples inhabited New England prior to European colonisation. Their aggregate numbers at the beginning of the century remain a matter of conjecture: older estimates tend to be lower, in the realm of about 25,000, while more recent calculations have trended upwards, to above 100,000. But whatever the initial population, there is no doubt that it decreased over time, due largely to disease: epidemics in 1616-19 and the early 1630s greatly depopulated native areas of New England. These peoples spoke dialects encompassed by the Algonquianlanguage family, shared a number of cultural practices and beliefs, and many had links to one other through ties of kinship. But they competed with each other for influence and status. Smaller bands and groups, for example, might pay tribute (give gifts and respect) to larger ones in exchange for protection from hostile neighbours. If a native nation had access to resources that were otherwise rare or hard to acquire, another might pay tribute in order to trade, or perhaps even join with it. New England’s prominent native groups in this period were the Wampanoags,
For a sample of scholarship on early English-native interactions, see Francis Jennings, The Invasion of America: Indians, Colonialism, and the Cant of Conquest (Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 1975); Karen Ordahl Kupperman, Settling with the Indians: The Meeting of English and Indian Cultures in America, 1580-1640 (Totowa, New Jersey: Rowman and Littlefield, 1980); and Michael Leroy Oberg, Dominion & Civility: English Imperialism and Native America, 1585-1685 (Ithaca: Cornell University Press, 1999). For the only booklength treatment of the Pequot War, see Alfred A. Cave, The Pequot War (Amherst: University of Massachusetts Press, 1996); the best narrative of King Philip’s War remains Douglas Edward Leach, Flintlock and Tomahawk: New England in King Philip’s War (New York: Macmillan Co., 1959; reprint Woodstock, VT: The Countryman Press, 2009), though for a more recent analysis, see James D. Drake, King Philip’s War: Civil War in New England, 1675-76 (Amherst: University of Massachusetts Press, 1999).
Matthew S. Muehlbauer
(Courtesy of Plimoth Plantation and Lyn Malone)
Narragansetts, Niantics, Pequots, Mohegans, Nipmucks, Pocumtacks and Abenaki.3 3
For an overview of native peoples of the region, see Kathleen J. Bragdon, Native People of Southern New England, 1500-1650 (Norman: University of Oklahoma Press, 1996), and Neal Salisbury, Manitou and Providence: Indians, Europeans,
Coalition Warfare in Seventeenth-Century New England
As for English colonisation, Plymouth was the first permanent colonial English settlement in the region – and its early survival stemmed in large part from friendly relations it established with the Wampanoags. This group sought allies to offset the influence of the Narragansetts, and the Anglo-Wampanoag alliance lasted many decades. But Plymouth’s population was never large: only a few hundred by 1630, when English settlers founded another colony further north along the coastline at Massachusetts Bay. By 1640, at least 10,000 settlers had arrived there, with some migrating again and founding settlements along the Connecticut River in 1635 and New Haven in 1638 (and Long Island in subsequent years). In comparison the Pequots, one the most populous indigenous groups in the region, numbered about 3,000 by 1636. This influx of colonists in the 1630s has since been dubbed the Great Migration, and had a much greater impact upon New England’s demographic make-up í and hence upon the region’s native peoples í than the settlement of Plymouth.5 The English, however, were not the only Europeans in New England’s early history. The Dutch, though their settlements primarily resided on or near the Hudson River, were active traders in the region in the 1620s and 1630s. They were particularly interested in developing sources of wampum. They traded these strings of buffed and polished seashells with Amerindians in the continental interior for fur. The Narragansetts and the Pequots competed to meet this demand, and their fierce rivalry soon developed into hostility.6 Both native groups made contact with Massachusetts Bay shortly after the colony’s founding. The Narragansetts sent representatives a few times before the Pequot War, the first one as early as 1631. These often included Miantinomi, one of the Narragansetts’ two most influential leaders (or and the Making of New England, 1500-1643 (New York: Oxford University Press, 1982), 13-49; for a discussion of native populations before contact, see also Dean R. Snow and Kim M. Lanphear, “European Contact and Indian Depopulation in the Northeast: The Timing of the First Epidemics,” Ethnohistory 35 (1988): 15-33. 5 For a discussion of early Plymouth and its relations with other groups, see Salisbury, 110-40; and on the Great Migration, see Virginia DeJohn Anderson, New England’s Generation: The Great Migration and the Formation of Society and Culture in the Seventeenth Century (New York: Cambridge University Press, 1981); on the Pequot population, see Snow and Lanphear. 6 For discussions of the development of the wampum trade before the Pequot War, see Salisbury, 147-52; Lynn Ceci, “Native Wampum as a Peripheral Resource in the Seventeenth-Century World-System,” in The Pequots in Southern New England: The Fall and Rise of an American Indian Nation, ed. Laurence M. Hauptmann and James D. Wherry (Norman: University of Oklahoma Press, 1990), 48-63, and Cave, 50-57.
Matthew S. Muehlbauer
sachems), and established amicable relations with the English. In contrast, the Pequots only dispatched one delegation to Massachusetts Bay in this period, in the fall of 1634, though it had ambitious goals: a military alliance between their people and the English against the Narragansetts. Colony officials demurred, but agreed that if the Pequots provided a large present of wampum and other gifts, they would offer much of it to the Narragansetts in an effort to establish peace between the two native peoples. The English also asked that the Pequots produce the murderers of John Stone, a sea captain who the native emissaries admitted had been killed by some of their warriors. Both sides agreed to these terms in a treaty before the Pequot envoys departed.7 Relations between Massachusetts Bay and native peoples remained quiescent until the summer of 1636. In July, rumours circulated that the Pequots were planning to attack English ships. A few weeks later John Oldham, another English ship captain, was found killed and his ship ransacked and adrift off of Block Island. Initially the Narragansetts appeared responsible. But their chiefs immediately sent envoys to Massachusetts, disclaiming responsibility and instead blaming the Indians of Block Island. When the colony sent a delegation to the Narragansetts, the English were thoroughly impressed and assured by Canonicus, the other chief Narragansett sachem, who convinced them his people were blameless. In contrast, when Massachusetts Bay sent a representative to treat with the Pequots, he failed to receive similar assurances – though he may not have met with Pequots, but with another band friendly with that nation.8 At the end of August 1636, Massachusetts Bay dispatched an expedition of 90 soldiers under the command of John Endecott. They were to first retaliate against the Block Island Indians for John Oldham’s death, and then proceed to the Pequot homelands to demand compliance with the 7
The Journal of John Winthrop 1630-49, ed. Richard S. Dunn, James Savage, and Laetitia Yeandle (Cambridge: Belknap Press of Harvard University Press, 1996), 54, 77-78, 133-35, hereafter WJ; William Bradford, Of Plymouth Plantation 162047, ed. Samuel Eliot Morison (New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 1975), 290-91. For discussions of the 1634 treaty, see, Cave, 69-72; Jennings 190-96; and Alden T. Vaughan, New England Frontier: Puritans and Indians 1620-1675, 3rd ed. (Norman: University of Oklahoma Press, 1995), 124-26. 8 Cave, 98-108; Jennings, 205-6; WJ, 179-83; Winthrop Papers III, 1631-37 (Boston: Massachusetts Historical Society, 1943), 270-72, 282, hereafter WP III; Lion Gardener, “Leift Lion Gardener his relation of the Pequot Warres” contained in History of the Pequot War: The Contemporary Accounts of Mason, Underhill, Vincent and Gardener, ed. Charles Orr (Cleveland: Helman-Taylor Co., 1897), 124.
Coalition Warfare in Seventeenth-Century New England
1634 treaty, whose terms had not been fulfilled. Endecott’s men failed in the former task, being unable to find any Block Islanders, despite receiving arrow fire when they landed. After stopping at Fort Saybrook at the mouth of the Connecticut River, his troops proceeded to the Pequot River (now the Thames), arriving in early September. When Endecott sought to parley, the Pequots seemed to stall, and he grew suspicious. He landed his men, and after waiting a while longer, formed them for combat. When the Pequots refused to meet them for a conventional battle (which was not their style of fighting), Endecott had his men ravage Pequot dwellings and destroy food stores. The English soldiers then returned to Massachusetts Bay.9 Thus began the Pequot War. But whereas the Endecott expedition certainly reflected English fears of the Pequots, the fact that confronting the Narragansetts was not one of its missions reflected successful diplomacy between their sachems and Massachusetts Bay. Cooperation between the two reached its pinnacle in the autumn of 1636, when both signed a treaty and pledged to fight the Pequots. Neither partner, however, pursued any further operations until the following year. In the interim, other groups – both English and native – became embroiled in the war, and ultimately determined its outcome.10 During the winter of 1636-37, Pequot warriors besieged Fort Saybrook at the mouth of the Connecticut River. But they ignored the English settlements further upriver. Those towns had not had any role in the Endecott expedition, and evidence indicates they did not fear the Pequots after the war began. This situation changed in April 1637, when Pequot warriors attacked Wethersfield, apparently at the request of a local sachem aggrieved by the conduct of some settlers. The Connecticut colonists responded quickly, organising an expedition in May that precipitated the war’s most infamous event, the annihilation of the Pequot town on the Mystic River, killing hundreds of men, women and children. But the English received crucial assistance during this campaign.11 Near the Connecticut English towns resided the native leader Uncas and his band of Mohegans. Uncas had formerly been a minor Pequot 9
Cave, 108-19; WJ, 183-86; Gardener, 127; John Underhill, Good Nevves From America (London: J. D. for Peter Cole, 1638), 4-15. 10 On the English-Narragansett treaty, see Cave, 123-28; WJ,187, 191-92; The Correspondence of Roger Williams, ed. Glenn W. La Fantasie, 2 vol. (Hanover, New Hampshire: University Press of New England, 1988), 2: 611-12. 11 Cave, 128-37; WJ, 189-90, 207; WP III, 320-21, 405; Gardener, 129-30, 131, 133; Public Records of the Colony of Connecticut, 15 vol. (Hartford: Brown & Parsons, 1850-90), 1: 9-10
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sachem. After the Wethersfield attack, Uncas urged the English to retaliate, and offered his support. One source even claims he hinted that if the colonists did not respond, he would withhold any assistance from them in the future – a threat that would have had significant weight, given that the Connecticut English were isolated and lacked native allies. When 90 English militia left on their campaign in early May, they were accompanied by Uncas and 60 Mohegans.12 In the meantime, the Narragansetts had been in contact with Massachusetts Bay, inquiring when the colony would next strike the Pequots and suggesting courses of action. But in late May 1637, it was the Connecticut English with their Mohegan allies who landed in Narragansett Bay. Their commander, John Mason, had decided to approach the Pequot lands from the east to surprise his enemies. Upon arriving he asked the Narragansetts’ permission to march through their lands. They agreed, and numerous Narragansett warriors joined the expedition. But when it became clear that the English intended to assault a fortified Pequot town, most of these warriors abandoned the expedition, regarding such an attack as foolhardy relative to the usual native combat that involved ambushes and skirmishing. Conversely, the Mohegans remained with the English, and while not participating in the direct assault upon Mystic, rendered important services in terms of reconnaissance, scouting and navigating the expedition’s way through the countryside.13 This disparity in native participation on the Mystic campaign had important ramifications. After the town’s destruction, Pequots scattered across the region. Massachusetts troops arrived in the area in June and, over the summer, soldiers from both English colonies, along with native allies, hunted down fleeing Pequot bands. By the end of August 1637, with many of their sachems killed, Pequots had sought shelter with other native peoples – particularly with the Mohegans and the Narragansetts. These developments elevated the influence of the Mohegans, creating a new rivalry with the Narragansetts that replaced the previous one between the Narragansetts and the Pequots. But the Mystic campaign also forged a close relationship between the Connecticut English and the Mohegans that lasted the rest of the seventeenth century. In contrast, during the summer 12
Cave, 141; WP III, 407-08; Underhill, 23 (who claims there were 100 Englishmen in the expedition); John Mason, A Brief History of the Pequot War (Boston: S. Kneeland & T. Green, 1736), 1; for background on Uncas, including his possible role in spreading rumours of Pequot plans to attack the English in the summer of 1636, see Oberg, Uncas: First of the Mohegans (Ithaca: Cornell University Press, 2003), 48-52. 13 Cave, 144-48; Mason, 2-6; Underhill, 36.
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of 1637 tensions arose between Massachusetts Bay and the Narragansetts over the division of spoils and control over Pequot refugees. These developments led to the Narragansetts’ diplomatic isolation in the years after the Pequot War.14 For example, the Treaty of Hartford of September 1638 formally concluded the Pequot War. This agreement resulted from a conference convened by the Connecticut English with the Narragansetts and the Mohegans – but Massachusetts Bay was not involved. The treaty stipulated that Pequots would be absorbed by the Narragansetts and the Mohegans (who would deliver an annual tribute to the English based on the number of Pequots who joined them), and that the English would resolve any future disputes between these two peoples. But their rivalry intensified and, in 1640 and 1642, rumours circulated that the Narragansetts were plotting attacks upon the English. In these cases, Connecticut and the newly founded colony of New Haven favoured pre-emptive action. But the leaders of Massachusetts Bay were more sceptical, for as John Winthrop (who was often the colony’s governor) stated, such reports might merely stem from “the enmity which had been between [Miantinomi] and [Uncas], who continually sought to discredit each other with the English.”15 War did not erupt with the English and the Narragansetts in either 1640 or 1642. But the latter engaged in extensive hostilities with the Mohegans by 1643. In that year the four English colonies of Connecticut, Massachusetts Bay, New Haven and Plymouth formed an alliance: the United Colonies of New England, or the New England Confederation. This league formed for the purposes of mutual defence, due primarily to fears of possible hostilities with native groups. With the outbreak of the English Civil War, New England’s leaders also suspected they would be left to their own resources if a regional conflict erupted. One of the first 14 Cave, 158-67; Matthew S. Muehlbauer, “‘They… shall no more be called Peaquots but Narragansetts and Mohegans:’ Refugees, Rivalry, and the Consequences of the Pequot War,” War & Society 30:3 (October 2011): 167-76. 15 The Treaty of Hartford appears in Adlen T. Vaughan, New England Frontier: Puritans and Indians, 1620-1675, 3rd ed. (Norman: University of Oklahoma Press, 1995), 340-41; also available in Rhode Island Historical Society Collections III (1835), 177-78; see also Mason, 40. For various interpretations on the Treaty of Hartford, see Jennings, 259; Oberg, 84; Jenny Hale Pulsipher, Subjects unto the Same King: Indians, English, and the Contest for Authority in Colonial New England (Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press, 2005), 22-24, though she erroneously claims the treaty required the Narragansetts and Niantics to provide hostages and a payment of 2,000 wampum, which were actually terms of a treaty signed in 1645; and Vaughan, 150-54. See also Oberg, Dominion & Civility, 11419; WJ, 408.
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challenges faced by the New England Confederation was settling the fate of Miantinomi: In the summer of 1643, Uncas had captured him in a large battle between the Narragansetts and Mohegans. In accordance with the Treaty of Hartford, Uncas brought Miantinomi before the Confederation’s commissioners to settle their dispute. The latter determined that because of Miantinomi’s ongoing efforts to kill Uncas, the latter had the right to execute him – in Mohegan, not English territory, which subsequently occurred.16 Some scholarly accounts of this incident regard it as a poorly disguised effort to impose English authority upon native peoples under the pretext of dispensing justice. Certainly justice was not well served, but such interpretations fail to recognise that at the time, the English – particularly those in Connecticut and New Haven – regarded Uncas and the Mohegans as their only staunch native allies in the region. When Uncas brought Miantinomi before the commissioners of the New England Confederation, he was not only acting as a dutiful English ally under the Hartford Treaty: he was also testing the English to see if their decision would confirm the importance of the Anglo-Mohegan alliance. To the chagrin of the Narragansetts, it did.17 Nonetheless, hostilities continued between the Narragansetts and the Mohegans. The former blamed the latter for Miantinomi’s death, and became more defiant towards the English colonies. In 1645, the New England Confederation prepared for war against the Narragansetts, who at the last minute avoided hostilities and accepted a putative treaty by which they would have to pay a penalty of 2,000 fathoms of wampum. Over the next few years, the United Colonies chastised the Narragansetts and the Niantic sachem Ninigret over failure to pay this penalty. The Niantics were close allies of the Narragansetts, and Ninigret had come to represent both peoples in their dealings with the English. In the meantime, tensions arose between the English colonies of Connecticut and New Haven and the Dutch at New Amsterdam. After the First Anglo-Dutch War (1652-54)
Bradford, 331; WJ, 471-73; Records of the Colony of New Plymouth, in New England, 12 vols,. eds. Nathaniel B. Shurtleff and David Pulsifer (Boston: W. White, 1855-61), 9: 3, 11, hereafter PCR; Edward Winslow, Hypocrisie Unmasked… (London: Rich. Coates, 1646), 65; Oberg, Uncas, 104, 107-8. For the only book-length treatment of the New England Confederation, see Harry M. Ward, The United Colonies of New England – 1643-90 (New York: Vantage Press, 1961), particularly 24-43 on its formation. 17 Jennings, 268; Oberg, Uncas, 104-5, 107-8; Ward, 121.
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began, rumours circulated in New England that the Dutch were colluding with Ninigret to organise attacks upon the English.18 Once again the smaller New England colonies favoured a pre-emptive attack, now against the Dutch, which Massachusetts Bay again opposed. But the ensuing debate almost destroyed the New England Confederation, and Connecticut and New Haven were preparing such an expedition without help from the Bay when the war ended. But immediately thereafter, in the fall of 1654, the United Colonies dispatched an armed expedition against Ninigret. The Niantic had not attacked the English, but had assaulted native groups around Long Island Sound allied with the colonists. Moreover, many Pequots (including warriors) resided with the Ninigret, and the English claimed he had violated the Treaty of Hartford by not paying tribute for them. Colonial soldiers thus forced Pequots living among the Niantics to leave and establish their own communities under English authority.19 For the next twenty years, no military confrontations involving native groups disturbed the New England. But in 1675-76, King Philip’s War became the most devastating conflict in the region’s history. Moreover, its outbreak and structure of alliances reflected longer-term developments, unlike the Pequot War. For example, at the time perhaps about 60,000 colonists resided in the region, compared to about 18,000 Native Americans. The increasing English population placed heavy demands on native people to sell land, and made their pursuit of seasonal migration patterns based on cycles of hunting and fishing problematic. Starting in the 1640s, the English also began efforts to proselytise native peoples. By the 1670s, the colonies had established more than a dozen ‘praying towns’ where native peoples were to learn Christianity and adopt Western lifestyles.20 Ironically the Wampanoags – who for decades had been allies of Plymouth colony – began the war. Their chief sachem Metacom was known as King Philip to the English. The colony was growing in the 1660s 18
For a discussion of Miantinomi’s death and subsequent tensions between the English and the Narragansetts and Ninigret, see Ward, 118-32; and Matthew S. Muehlbauer, “Justice and Just War: A History of Early New England, 1630-1655 (Ph.D. diss., Temple University, 2008), 203-46. On strains between the New England colonies and New Amsterdam, see Ward, 157-73; and Muehlbauer, “Justice and Just War,” 262-70. On rumours of native-Dutch collusion in 1653, see PCR 10: 10-12; Winthrop Papers VI, 1650-54 (Boston: Massachusetts Historical Society, 1992), 255, 258, 271. 19 Ward, 179-96; Muehlbauer, “Justice and Just War,” 282-334. 20 Population figures taken from Drake, 4; for a discussion of these trends, see Leach, 14-29.
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and 1670s, during which time its government attempted to subordinate the Wampanoags under its control. In June 1675, when three Wampanoag men were found guilty by a court for the murder of a Christian Indian and hanged, warriors reacted by harassing and burning settlements in southwest Plymouth. Shortly thereafter the Nipmucks of what is now central Massachusetts joined hostilities against the English, followed by the Pocumtucks of the upper Connecticut River Valley.21 While Plymouth and Massachusetts saw numerous settlements devastated over the course of the war, Connecticut suffered almost no violence. It still maintained a close friendship with Uncas and the Mohegans, who once again fought alongside colonists in this war – as did a number of Pequots and Niantics. Many native men from praying towns also assisted the English, though not immediately. When the war first erupted, Massachusetts and Plymouth colonists suspected indigenous groups of duplicity, and relocated the residents of praying towns to Deer Island in Boston harbour, where they suffered through a harsh winter with limited food and shelter. Only in 1676, after repeated failures to locate native enemies and prevent ambushes and raids, did the English turn to praying Indians for help in fighting their foes. As for the Narragansetts, they initially stayed out of the war. But English suspicions of them grew, and rumours circulated that they were helping Philip. In December 1675 the colonists launched their first offensive campaign of the war – not against a current enemy, but a pre-emptive strike against the Narragansetts that culminated in the destruction of a native fortified town, a battle known as the Great Swamp Fight.22 Although native foes inflicted great damage on Massachusetts and Plymouth, the intensity of the conflict during King Philip’s War was beyond what aboriginal peoples could sustain over a prolonged period. Wampanoags, Narragansetts and others had to abandon their homes, fields and hunting grounds, requiring assistance from allies and straining available resources. While native fighters were tactically superior to the English for most of the war, by war’s end colonial soldiers were fighting with indigenous allies and adopting their methods of combat; Metacom himself was tracked down and killed by such a unit. The governor of New York also persuaded the Mohawks to attack enemies of the English. By the end of summer, 1676, fighting had ceased (except in what is now Maine), with thousands of natives either killed, sent into bondage 21
For a good treatment of the Wampanoags, see Drake, 57-74. On natives who sought to support the English during the war, see Drake, 101-07, and Leach 145-54; on the Narragansetts and the Great Swamp Fight, see Drake, 114-20, Leach, 112-43.
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overseas, or having fled the region. Even the colonists’ aboriginal allies would continue to diminish in numbers in years to come, resulting in English dominance of the region.23 And yet, before that ultimate outcome, peoples from alien cultures, at times, cooperated in times of war and peace. They also bickered and fought – as did people who shared similar cultural backgrounds. But not only did the English, despite their ethnocentricity and prejudiced views towards native people, work with aboriginal groups, indigenous leaders also sought out alliances with the English in attempts to find an advantage in their rivalries and conflicts with other aboriginal groups. Initially the English were willing to entertain such entreaties, but were quick to suspect duplicity among their new neighbours. It was the contributions of Uncas and the Mohegans in the Pequot War that overcame such English fears; conversely, the conduct of the Narragansetts in this same conflict exacerbated them. Connecticut’s capacity to maintain close relationships with native groups protected it in King Philip’s War; in comparison, Massachusetts’ colonists refused to trust its aboriginal friends at first, doing so ultimately to counter military failures and defeats. Though the experiences of seventeenth-century New England are not directly transferable to other times and places, tolerance for people unlike one’s own did not receive as much emphasis among the region’s native and colonial groups as one sees in much of today’s world. Both then and now, intercultural differences pose significant obstacles, and can facilitate tension and violence. But it is instructive that, even in seventeenthcentury New England, cross-cultural alliances could form.
On the end of the war, see Drake, 140-67, and Leach, 199-241; on the war’s consequences, see Drake, 168-96, Leach, 242-50. For a discussion of differing native and English tactical approaches to combat and the fighting in King Philip’s War, see Patrick Malone, The Skulking Way of War: Technology and Tactics among the New England Indians (Lanham, MD: Madison Books, 1991; Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press, 1993), 88-125.
‘INVITED TO SEE AMERICANS FIGHT’? THE DUTCH PARTICIPATION IN ALLIED MILITARY OPERATIONS POST-9/11 ARTHUR TEN CATE
In the corridors of many military command posts and headquarters in Afghanistan, a half-serious joke circulated in recent years amongst coalition partners participating in the stabilisation force ISAF, reflecting on the nature of the allied campaign these men and women were in. It propounded that the acronym of ISAF should not be considered to mean ‘International Security Assistance Force’ any more, but instead had changed to ‘Invited to See Americans Fight’. Although this of course was a typical military way of communicating perceived ground truth on allied relations with a lot of irony, done by people who were very aware of the fact that the brunt of the fight against the Afghan insurgents in this coalition campaign was also very much being borne by non-American grunts (only in smaller numbers), there was a genuine observation in it about modern allied military operations. Which is the fact that since the end of the Cold War, the world has seen western allied formations performing in international conflicts that are usually made up of one very large partner, the United States of America, able and willing to fight, and a lot of very small ones, less able or less willing. We saw it in the Balkans, most notably in the Kosovo conflict, just before the turn of the century, and in operations in Iraq and Afghanistan in the last decade. On the most current campaign, military author Bing West recently stated: “Most nations [of the 48 in the Afghanistan coalition] contribute only political symbolism. The French, Dutch, Canadians, Australians, and British have been in the fray. But at this stage, it’s mostly an American effort”. Without a doubt, the Danes also belong to this ‘premier league’ list of fighting allies, since they have been on the frontline in recent years in Helmand province, by far the most dangerous theatre of operations in the Afghanistan war. But generally speaking, West has a point. Coalition warfare these days, for a majority of
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the partner states concerned, seems to be about symbolic participation and avoiding the fight.1 The Netherlands has been a very loyal but small participant in most of the recent allied campaigns mentioned. Apparently, its contributions are being viewed in a positive light. Often, it is said that the Dutch are even ‘punching above their weight’. This notwithstanding, it is also a fact that the Netherlands participated only for a limited amount of time in what are usually extended campaigns. In Kosovo it was only one year (1999-2000). In the early days of ISAF in Kabul, one-and-a-half (2002-2003). In Iraq, two (2003-2005). And in Uruzgan province in southern Afghanistan (ISAF phase III), four (2006-2010).2 Also, the Dutch Task Force-sized contributions of around 2,000 troops maximum actually were, compared to the forces provided by the main allies, not a very big ‘punch’. Dutch participations tended to focus on quality, not quantity. The question discussed in this article therefore, is how a junior ally like the Netherlands views its participations in large-scale coalition warfare and extended allied conflict management operations, how it handles the differences in interests and approaches that are common in allied campaigns, and how it has performed and behaved in recent years. The analysis will focus on the post-9/11 period, and will pay special attention to the case of the Dutch role in the occupation and stabilisation of Iraq since 2003.
Joining the Coalition In 2002 and 2003 – when the United States and Great Britain made their case before a sceptical international community that the regime of dictator Saddam Hussein was a threat to the world – the Dutch government fully supported the allied efforts to disarm Iraq. However, in the months before the war, and also during the major combat phase of operation Iraqi Freedom in March and April 2003, this support was only political. No units of the Netherlands armed forces took part in the invasion or the initial warfighting. After Iraq was conquered, the Dutch government decided to send troops in support of the post-invasion stabilisation effort 1
Bing West, “The way out of Afghanistan”, Military Review March-April 2011, 8995, esp. 90. In 2008 U.S. Secretary of Defence Robert Gates invoked a discussion on ‘burden sharing’ with regard to Afghanistan by warning that NATO ran the risk of becoming a “two-tiered alliance”. Source: BBC News, 7 February 2008. 2 See the application ‘International Operations’ about Dutch military operations abroad since 1945, at http://www.defensie.nl/english/nimh/history/international_operations/mission_over view
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started by the US and the UK – now officially the occupying powers – and their allies. The Netherlands thus joined the ‘Coalition of the willing’ with boots on the ground at the exact moment the situation in Iraq went out of control, with full-scale looting and destruction of government property and infrastructure; total chaos and anarchy in the streets; a major collapse of civil administration, and law and order; and with the first signs of an insurgency; circumstances the newly formed Coalition Provisional Authority (CPA) – the executive agency of the allied occupation – and its supporting Coalition Forces were unable to control for the first couple of months of their rule.3 The Dutch participation in the stabilisation phase of operation Iraqi Freedom was based on an invitation by the occupying powers, both longtime allies, as well as Security Council Resolution 1483 of 22 May 2003, which welcomed “the willingness of Member States to contribute to stability and security in Iraq by contributing personnel, equipment, and other resources under the Authority” and appealed “to assist the people of Iraq in their efforts to reform their institutions and rebuild their country”.4 Beside a careful risk assessment, two factors drove the Dutch to accept a position in the southern province of Al Muthanna. First, because the territory became part of the British-led Multi-National Division South-East (MND SE) and the British government had explicitly asked the Dutch to assume responsibility for the distant and logistically challenging area on its western flank. This wish of a long-time and close ally was deemed important. Second, the Dutch government also explicitly wished to raise its own profile in the international arena. Showing the national flag by ways of autonomous deployment in a separate area was expected to do exactly this. From the point of view of the Dutch foreign policy professionals, participation in the allied effort was seen as potentially rewarding.5 The Dutch government at the same time however emphasised that the Netherlands were a “non-occupying Coalition member” in order to distance itself from occupational responsibilities under international law, which, in its view, belonged exclusively to the American-British CPA, and from the negative image associated with a foreign occupation and with 3
Eric Herring and Glen Rangwala, Iraq in fragments. The occupation and its legacy (London 2006) 7-26. 4 See the resolution on www.un.org: S/RES/1483 (2003). 5 Thijs Brocades Zaalberg and Arthur ten Cate, Missie in Al Muthanna. De Nederlandse krijgsmacht in Irak, 2003-2005 [translation: Mission in Al Muthanna. The Dutch armed forces in Iraq, 2003-2005] (Amsterdam 2010; chapter 1. (English language version forthcoming.)
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foreign occupiers in general (especially in the non-western world, with the history of colonialism in mind). In the Dutch perspective, its Battlegroup (NLBG) should be seen as participating in a peacekeeping mission, not as an occupation army. To underline its non-occupying status, the Dutch government created two caveats. The first dictated that the NLBG was not to conduct civil police tasks; the second and most important that it was not to become involved in governing its area of operations. To be avoided, therefore, were the two primary occupational obligations under The Law of Occupation as laid down in The Hague Convention of 1907 and the Fourth Geneva Convention of 1949.6 This position of the Dutch government to the allies seemed a bit schizophrenic. The Netherlands was eager to join the allied occupation of Iraq, but it didn’t want to be an occupier.
Policing the AOR anyway The first Dutch Battlegroup that deployed to Iraq in the summer of 2003 had the 1st Battalion of the Royal Netherlands Marine Corps at its core. It was well-equipped but, with approximately 1,000 troops, the Dutch commander, Lieutenant-Colonel Dick Swijgman, had fewer infantrymen, MPs and Civil Affairs personnel than his American predecessor, who, in the months before, had fielded a Task Force of over 1,500. Also, Swijgman’s 50,000 euro national budget for Civil-Military Cooperation (CIMIC) projects compared poorly to the 2 million dollars already spent by the Americans on government infrastructure and public facilities. The choices in force composition and financial means allocated were all related to the smaller role the Dutch government envisioned for its troops within the Coalition army and the determination not to become an occupation force.7 When US Marines handed over responsibility for security in Al Muthanna province to the Dutch on 1 August 2003, the circumstances were rather grim. On the edge of the Iraqi desert, near the provincial capital of As Samawah, the bulk of the American troops were living under austere conditions in an old railway repair shop from which they patrolled the dusty streets, with temperatures rising to 60° C. Massive looting had occurred in the power vacuum that followed the Coalition’s military advance, leaving the civil administrative and economic infrastructure in 6
Minutes of the Second Chamber of Dutch Parliament 2003-2004, 86 4993, letter no. 86. 7 Missie in Al Muthanna, chapter 2.
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ruins. With a largely dysfunctional and overall distrusted local police force hardly leaving its stations, crime in the form of armed robbery, arms and drugs trade, kidnappings and smuggling was soaring. U.S. Marines and Military Police were acting primarily as crime-fighters and admitted they had difficulty controlling the situation at night.8 Immediately after assuming control, the Iraqis called upon the Dutch to increase their patrols and to take on an active role in crime-fighting. Within a couple of weeks, the NLBG was dealing with carjacking tribes, smuggling organisations, arms traders and groups looting broken-down supply trucks left behind by Coalition or other convoys along the highways. All these public security tasks would have neatly fitted the national mandate if Dutch forces had stuck to a supporting role, leaving the local police in the lead. But the Battlegroup noticed that the Iraqi security forces were woefully inadequate and, more often than not, had to take the initiative, doing what nobody else could. Eventually, this raised some eyebrows. When the Dutch forces initiated a large scale military raid on a weapons market in As Samawah in October 2003 as part of a division-led crime-fighting operation, the Defence Staff in The Hague warned them about balancing on the edge of the national mandate, running the risk of violating the main national caveat. Meanwhile, the audience back home had to get used to the levels of violence in Iraq and the fundamental hardening of what was generally sold to them as a peace operation. The widening gap between operational practice and public perception surfaced in December 2003, when a Dutch sergeant-major killed an Iraqi looter when firing what were meant to be warning shots in order to secure supplies in a shipping container left behind by one of the many Coalition convoys travelling through Al Muthanna. The Dutch Attorney General publicly justified prosecuting the sergeant-major by comparing the marines’ work to that of police officers on the beat in The Netherlands, and by echoing the government’s argument that Dutch forces were not part of an occupation force. He therefore concluded that the NLBG had to be more restrictive when using force than other coalition partners. This assumption – which was proven wrong in the subsequent trial – was partly the result of the efforts to present the mission as a peace support operation instead of an allied military campaign. As threat levels in Al Muthanna remained relatively low, and with Iraqi popular attitudes towards the Dutch troops
Reconnaissance Report (24-28 May 2003), in: Archives NL Ministry of Foreign Affairs, “Directie Veiligheidsbeleid” (DVB), nr. 02857 (May 2003).
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predominantly positive, this fundamental mischaracterisation of the mission had gone largely unnoticed in The Netherlands for months.9 Ignorance of operational realities in Al Muthanna was allowed to linger because the Ministry of Defence tended to conceal the rough edges. There was no reporting of the marines frequently engaged in crowd and riot control or the repeated need to use firepower. Also, the incidental fire fights between Dutch forces and criminal elements went unnoticed. Another crucial omission was the rising number of arrest operations, euphemistically called ‘Knock Talk Search’ operations. These company or battalion-sized operations, often spearheaded by Special Forces, singled out dozens of suspects from criminal tribal networks with strong ties to insurgent groups elsewhere in Iraq. Operation Swatter, the largest such raid, was performed by the Army battalion that took over Al Muthanna from the Marines in March 2004. The action went completely unnoticed on the home front. This was hardly surprising given the fact that it was presented in the official communiqué as “assistance” by the helicopter detachment of the NLBG to a British-led arrest-operation.10 Twenty-one suspects were lifted at American request and transported to the Abu Graib prison near Baghdad. Obviously, the political boundaries between the occupation force and the so-called peace support operation the Dutch pretended to execute had always been an illusion. But with the growing insurgency in many parts of Iraq, and scandals such as the abuse at Abu Graib emerging in the same period, there was no lessening of the urge of the Dutch government to fictionally separate the two.
The Muthanna Model In the meantime, with the CPA understaffed and under-resourced, Lieutenant-Colonel Swijgman and his successors were seen by most local Iraqis as the main local chieftains. The subsequent NLBG commanders held weekly appearances on local television, and contributed much to the security situation and the Battlegroup’s intelligence position by courting the traditional tribal leaders. Crucial to the Dutch commander’s performance was the effective partnership forged with his Political Advisor, a senior diplomat, who assumed a role that far exceeded his official job description. The ‘Polad’ became not just the advisor to the military commander, but also took on the position of primary advisor to the CPA. With one foot in each organisation, the Polad assumed a pivotal position in 9
Missie in Al Muthanna, chapter 4. Press release NLD Ministry of Defence, 1 April 2004 (www.mindef.nl).
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combining military and civilian efforts. In this dual role, he pioneered what later became known within the CPA as the Muthanna Model.11 The military commander recognised that the growing tension in his province was primarily the result of unemployment and the local governance vacuum. He stimulated the Polad’s efforts to resurrect local councils in the cities of Al Khidr and Ar Rumaythah in the late summer of 2003 through improvised caucus procedures. A similar selection process was created for a provincial council. The culmination of this quasi-democratic process was the election by the selected representatives of a new provincial governor in October 2003.12 The improvised state-building exercise that evolved in Al Muthanna went far beyond the Dutch government’s intent to focus merely on security. As with the caveat on executive policing, the growing role in state-building and the governance sphere went largely unnoticed back home, and was condoned for practical reasons by the few who knew. Paradoxically, due to the national caveat placed on involvement in governance and state-building, the Muthanna Model – a truly unique Dutch contribution to the new Iraq – could not be officially claimed as a national success. Instead, it was presented as an accomplishment of the local US-led CPA. In retrospect, lieutenant-colonel Swijgman regarded it as one of the two most important ways to influence events in Al Muthanna and found it more decisive than the patrols and actions he could perform with his infantry platoons. His other key lever was the unexpected flow of millions of US dollars from the so-called Commander’s Emergency Response Program (CERP), a Coalition reconstruction fund. It was used by his successors to revive Al Muthanna’s infrastructure, economy and security forces.
Backpacks full of dollars Much to its credit, the Dutch Ministry of Defence had expanded its nineperson CIMIC section soon after the start of the operation in Al Muthanna, and allowed its commander to unofficially embed them as ‘military advisors’ to the CPA organisation. Colocated in the centre of As Samawah with the CPA and the Political Adviser, they rapidly expanded their tasks beyond (merely) generating “force acceptance” and “winning the hearts 11
E-mail L. Paul Bremer, ‘Subject: Local Government Plan, Post-November 15’ of 27 November 2003, in: Netherlands Institute of Military History, SFIR Collection, box 1. 12 Missie in Al Muthanna, 116-121.
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and minds” of the local population to fundamental reconstruction in the service of the general occupational effort of the Coalition. CIMIC instructions from the British divisional headquarters were literally to “spend the money!”13 They were executed with enthusiasm, with the help of the backpacks full of dollars ‘Basrah’ provided to this end. In contrast to the Dutch government’s intent, the role of the NLBG in reconstruction in Al Muthanna thus became unprecedented in modern Dutch military history. By the time of the transfer of sovereignty to the new Iraqi authorities on 28 June 2004, Dutch military personnel had spent some 12 million dollars on projects. This money – a combination of seized Iraqi funds from the former Baath regime, US taxpayer’s dollars and a national CIMIC budget – was allocated to initiatives such as the refurbishment of schools, the reconstruction of the local cement factory, police stations and courts, water plants and irrigation. Parallel to these short and medium-term initiatives, the Dutch successfully tapped into the so-called ‘long dollars’ of the CPA, enabling them to kick-start long-term projects such as a circular road around As Samawah and the construction of a new power plant. Together with the local councils, the NLBG managed to channel close to 100 million of these ‘long dollars’ to the development of Al Muthanna.14 With its strong focus on security rather than development, the Dutch government was furthermore functionally generous in funding Security Sector Reform (SSR). It recognised the importance of raising and reforming the host nation security forces as an exit strategy and contributed a total of two million dollars for police equipment and the construction of a police school. The Ministry of Defence in 2004 temporarily sent over extra military personnel for training purposes. As elsewhere in Iraq, the accomplishments in Al Muthanna were impressive in terms of numbers. The Dutch reinforced and trained 1,700 Iraqi Police (IP) officers, 200 border police personnel, and 120 highway police. They created a Tactical Support Unit (TSU) for crowd and riot control and special weapons and tactics (SWAT) tasks and a paramilitary Iraqi Civil Defence Corps (ICDC) battalion that was eventually added to the New Iraqi Army as a motorised infantry unit. The Dutch also facilitated the establishment of a police Emergency Battalion, another paramilitary unit that grew out of the TSU. All over Iraq, however, the overly-ambitious timelines of the SSR project resulted in security forces of dubious quality. Corruption and bias towards people from other tribes also remained rife 13 14
E. Muller, “Security Sector Reform”, Militaire Spectator 173-4 (2005) 167. Missie in Al Muthanna, chapter 4.
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and police officers in particular lacked the skills, ethics and discipline to function effectively. Fighting the organised criminal networks involved in smuggling, carjacking and systematic looting, assistance of the NLBG – still seen as ‘the strongest tribe’ in the province – remained particularly necessary.15
Counter-Insurgency Light The true stress test of Dutch operations came when the radical young Shia cleric Moqtada al Sadr inspired a revolt against the Coalition and Iraqi authorities during the spring and summer of 2004. In Baghdad and several key cities in southern Iraq, the uprising of the urban masses – while ultimately ending in a tactical defeat for the insurgents – exhibited the weakness of the CPA and the allied occupation force, while seriously undermining both the established Shia clerical hierarchy and the legitimacy of the Iraqi interim government. The first Sadr revolt of AprilMay 2004 showed that even peaceful Al Muthanna was open to violent outside influences. The Dutch suffered their first casualties. However, compared to the battles that raged in southern cities such as An Nasiriyah, Al Amarah and Al Kut against the British, Italian and Ukrainian allies, the attacks on the CPA and the Dutch, and on local security forces in Al Muthanna, with small arms fire, Improvised Explosive Devices, mortars and rocket-propelled grenades never amounted to more than a series of skirmishes. The initial response of the NLBG to the mounting irregular threat was to request tanks and armoured personnel carriers.16 Allies all over the south, such as the British and the Italians, were doing the same. Instead, the decision was made at the national level not to abandon the light infantry approach propagated thus far and executed since 2003. However, the NLBG was reinforced with Apache attack helicopters however, for extra fire power and observation purposes, while sticking to its open, population-centric approach on the ground as much as possible. As a show of force, Dutch troops seized the Sadr office in As Samawah and conducted raids against insurgent logistical networks and supply lines running from Saudi-Arabia to the Sunni Triangle. 15 Arthur ten Cate, “Counterinsurgency light. The so-called ‘Dutch approach’ to stabilisation operations in Iraq, 2003-2005”, Insurgency and Counter-Insurgency: irregular warfare from 1800 to the present. 36th Congress of the International Commission of Military History (Den Haag 2011). 16 Situation Report 138/2004 of the NLBG of 17 May 2004.
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Unlike the neighbouring provinces, the situation in Al Muthanna was ultimately easily kept in check. By showing restraint, the Dutch ‘foreigners’ avoided alienating the local population. They allowed the brittle local security apparatus to take the lead in maintaining security, while displaying sufficient power and presence to bolster it. Eventually, neither the NLBG nor the nascent Iraqi security and political structures were really put to the test, due to tribal mechanisms inherent in Al Muthanna’s rural society. Tribal leaders managed to stay in control by keeping power struggles in check and maintaining a provincial balance of power between the clans. Political outsiders, like the Sadrists, were rejected.17 The second Sadr revolt that emerged shortly thereafter, in August 2004, proved to be a more serious test to the ‘Dutch approach’. Lacking information, the NLBG was caught off guard when three of its MP vehicles were ambushed one late Saturday night in the province’s most rebellious town, Ar Rumaythah, and the responding Quick Reaction Forces were severely attacked. The coordinated, though poorly-executed assault, ultimately resulted in the death of one Dutch MP and left several troops injured. Rather than getting closer to the people and making themselves vulnerable, the infantry company stationed in the insurgent town fell into the trap of assuming a defensive and hostile posture. Relations with the police hit rock bottom and contacts with the urban population hardly improved during the remainder of their tour. Normal relations with the local security forces were only resumed after the next Battlegroup took over three months later. The newcomers were able to make a fresh start under the much-improved conditions that prevailed in southern Iraq by that time. Stability in Ar Rumaythah clearly remained fragile, but when the Dutch government decided to withdraw its forces in 2005, the last Battlegroup’s positive experience seemed to underline the fact that the crisis of August 2004 was little more than a hiccup in the course of twenty months of smooth and successful operations.18
Ten Cate, “Counterinsurgency light”. Missie in Al Muthanna, chapter 7.
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Dutch and Afghan coalition forces prepare for air assault, Uruzgan province, Afghanistan 2009. Collection NIMH.
From Iraq to Afghanistan If there was a pattern in Dutch policy evolving from the allied campaign in Iraq to the even more challenging ISAF mission in Uruzgan province in southern Afghanistan in the years after 2006, it was evidently that of a country whose leaders were eager to participate in the operations in the wake of what the Americans called the ‘Global War on Terrorism’ or the ‘Long War’. At the same time, by 2005 Dutch loyalty to the US – for more than fifty years An invariable foreign policy cemented in the Second World War and further reinforced by the shared communist threat of the Cold War period – had become the subject of a divisive debate. Were Dutch and American security interests still the same now the days of the Cold War were far behind them? The unilateral policies of the Bush administration (2001-2009) and, after 9/11 specifically, the shift to a strategy of unilateral pre-emptive war, particularly raised this fundamental question on the Dutch side.19 The allied failures in Iraq in 2003-2006 made 19 See the U.S. National Security Strategy 2002 and 2006, on: georgewbushwhitehouse.archives.gov.
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matters worse. The neglect of the Afghanistan campaign did not help either. In search for broad parliamentary and public support, the Dutch government avoided a rift by repackaging the mandates of the allied operations it wanted to join. The political reflex was spin-doctoring. In the case of operation Iraqi Freedom, the Dutch policy makers used caveats that subsequently proved to interfere with the realities of the battlefield. With regard to the ISAF effort in Afghanistan, the political leadership in 2005 and 2006 chose a less formal tactic, by shifting the emphasis of the mission statement away from its evident counterinsurgency character. This meant an emphasis on reconstruction and supporting local government rather than the need to fight Pashtun insurgents. Once again, a combat mission was presented as a peace support operation. This showed that Dutch authorities wrestled with severe dilemmas, more than ten years after the end of the Cold War, to account for the continuation of the Atlantic alliance in far-away conflict areas. While security interests and a shared world view within the Atlantic community seemed to diminish, certainly in the Bush years, and the shape of the new world order seemed more uncertain than ever, the Dutch foreign policy elite, contrary to public feelings about global developments, rejuvenated the idea that the partnership with the US and the UK – and more generally with NATO – had to be the most important pillar of Dutch foreign relations.20 They expected to show this by providing the US with a peacekeeping service. Instead, they stumbled into war. In 2006, When Dutch armed forces participated in the ISAF campaign, shifting its attention from north to south Afghanistan by assuming responsibility for the province of Uruzgan next to the British in Helmand and the Canadians in Kandahar, they thought they would be conducting a similar peace-building operation as they had done in Baghlan in the north between 2004 and 2006, where they had run a so-called Provincial Reconstruction Team (PRT). But the situation in the Pashtun south, the heartland of the extremist Taliban and the chaotic playground of corrupt warlords, drug kingpins and opportunistic tribal leaders was different from the one in the north. The American neglect of the southern Afghan battlefield on behalf of the operation in Iraq in the years before and the volatile situation in neighbouring Pakistan, an unreliable ally, enabled Taliban and Al Qaeda remnants to regroup, resupply, retrain and – precisely in 2006 – go on the offensive again.21 Along with the still weak Afghan government, ISAF became embroiled in a full-blown insurgency. 20
Netherlands Defence Doctrine (The Hague 2005) 35-38. On the failure of American policy in southern Afghanistan, see Sarah Chayes, The punishment of virtue. Inside Afghanistan after the Taliban (2006).
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The Dutch-Australian Task Force Uruzgan (of approximately 2,600 personnel) consisted of a PRT for construction and reconstruction, an armoured infantry battle group for security and combat operations, an air force component with attack helicopters, and both combat support and logistics support units. Also in theatre was an Australian engineering unit with its own infantry force protection and (from 2007 onwards) Special Forces. Furthermore, the Task Force Uruzgan was supported by small, specialised French, Czech and Slovakian contingents for security sector development and guard duties. The Task Force Uruzgan supported the provincial Afghan government and security forces (an 800-man police force and a partially-operational army brigade) in enhancing regional stability. Although ISAF was a security assistance force, in practice, the Afghan security forces were not up to the task (yet) and, just like the coalition troops in Helmand and Kandahar, the Dutch had to bear the brunt of the fight.22 Most problematic about the allied campaign in Afghanistan was the fundamental flaw from the beginning, made by the Americans, to wage war by proxy – paying warlords and armed crooks millions of dollars to be the Coalition’s temporary friends. Very effective for the first couple of months to topple the Taliban regime and to hunt for Al Qaeda, this choice for the bad over the ugly in a decades- old civil war undermined any chance for long term stability in Afghanistan, a fact that could not be hidden by the lofty words from the Bonn Agreement of 2001, the UN Security Council resolutions or the Afghanistan Compact of 2006. The error of Vietnam seemed about to be made all over again. Under the direction of the US the Afghanistan Coalition nevertheless tried to build a new legitimate Afghan government, while at the same time allowing its criminal local allies to hijack the state institutions and prey on the population (again). The non-policy-making partners, like the Netherlands, had no choice but to go along with this strategic blunder.
Arthur ten Cate, “Civilians as a centre of gravity. Dutch security assistance operations in Afghanistan and Iraq”, in: Military conflicts and civil populations. Total wars, limited wars, asymmetric wars. Acta of the 34th Congress of the International Commission of Military History (Rome 2009) 739-744.
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Aftermath of IED attack in Al Muthanna, Iraq, 2004. Collection NIMH.
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Dutch coalition warfare experiences, 2001 to present Because of global trends after 9/11, but also for specific national reasons, robust allied military operations became the dominant tool of Dutch foreign and security policy at the turn of the millennium, at the expense of the UN-led international peacekeeping and peace-making missions that, for a time, had very enthusiastically been embraced after the end of the Cold War. Primarily, the doomed UN mission in Bosnia had enormous influence here, especially the events in Srebrenica in the summer of 1995. The Dutch, failing to protect the UN ‘safe haven’ in Eastern Bosnia, with hindsight felt they had been given a ‘mission impossible’ by the Security Council and had then been abandoned by the international community when the bluff of the Council was called by the Serbs. The UN later acknowledged this.23 The Dutch leadership learned from these events that it was more effective to have the backing of a powerful ally than a ‘soft’ international organisation. As a consequence, the Netherlands changed its focus. The number of Dutch participations in UN-led missions declined, and the government acted on a preference to operate henceforth within NATO and EU frameworks, in close cooperation with one of the larger member states, as well as partaking in ad-hoc military coalitions under big power leadership. When, soon after this change, the opportunity presented itself of contributing to US-led allied operations, the timing was therefore right, and the Netherlands acted willingly and usually ably, though sometimes with its own specific restrictions and caveats. Most certainly, this last characteristic of the Dutch involvement in western allied campaigns post9/11 had to do with the fact that the Netherlands had a long tradition of being a legalistic-oriented country, both nationally and internationally. Having a preference for the rule of law made the Dutch feel uncomfortable with the fact that the interventions they joined tended to lack a strong basis in international law or in the rules of the international security system. Hence the almost schizophrenic attitude with regard to the operations in Afghanistan and Iraq. Issues that caused serious doubts were, for example, the status and treatment of detainees, the establishment of Guantanamo Bay, American ‘rendition’ practices, the lack of a firm basis in international law of the Iraq invasion of 2003 and the general disregard for basic human rights in places like Abu Ghraib and Bagram. So, why did the Dutch join anyway? The deployment of troops on international missions has always been at least as much part of Dutch 23
United Nations, Srebrenica Report (New York 1999).
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foreign policy as it was of its security strategy, and therefore the influence the Netherlands thought might be gained by substantial and high-risk contributions to the allied operations in the wake of the Global War on Terror was regarded by many politicians and policy makers, not least in the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, as having to be considerable, or even as having to be one of the most important goals. Attaining diplomatic prestige or showing ‘Atlantic loyalty’, paving the way for example for a Dutch secretary-general of NATO and strengthening the alliance as a longterm ‘insurance policy’, was always as imperative, in general, as a positive outcome of a specific military campaign.24 Being a small ally, the Netherlands also clearly felt the need, as was shown by its actions in Iraq, primarily to sell itself and gain, directly or indirectly, from participation on the diplomatic front. Winning the war for the allies came second. Still, the goal of wanting to gain influence could very well be a fiction in itself. In the case of the Netherlands, recent practices brought to light that the country usually got little reward for its participations in coalition operations, nor for its tactical success, but tended to get politely punished when exiting (Iraq in 2005 and Uruzgan in 2010). The Dutch, in the geopolitical context that prevailed after 9/11, did not seem to be regarded as a genuine coalition partner, but like most small allies, as a willing provider of auxiliary forces. In Iraq, the conditions-driven tactical success of the Dutch operations happened in the context of a huge strategic failure not of its making, while at the same time raising doubts as to whether security interests were still shared, and therefore caused a lot of political problems. Mainly because of the manipulations of the Bush administration, the flawed occupational policies of the first year, the growing armed resistance by the Iraqi people and the initial lack of an effective military response by the Coalition forces, as well as the irreconcilable differences of opinion on the status and treatment of detainees, the Netherlands could not sustain the support to stay. In the end, the country needed to leave (although this was never publicly said), because the Coalition was associated with a failed occupation and uncivilised practices like the Abu Ghraib prison abuse. Three years before US President Barack Obama, as a candidate in the election campaign of 2008, framed Iraq the ‘wrong’ war opposed to the ‘necessary’ war in Afghanistan, turning the global war on terror back to its real centre of gravity, the Netherlands made this shift, turned its back on the Iraq campaign and refocused on Afghanistan. However, this particular 24 Rapport Commissie van Onderzoek Besluitvorming Irak (translation: Report of the Commission that investigated the political decision-making process on Iraq).
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coalition war has lost its appeal too in recent years, and it seems that the Dutch participation in ad hoc US-led coalitions may have lost its public support in the same way UN peacekeeping operations did at the end of the 1990s. Shared security interests and values within the Atlantic community, as well as the recent choices of the foreign policy elite, are in doubt. Showing the flag and advancing abstract foreign policy interests alone may not be enough anymore for the future. For truly committed participations in allied military operations, core values and interests have to be at stake again, and it needs to show.
A WAR COALITION FAILS IN COALITION WARFARE: THE AXIS POWERS AND OPERATION HERKULES IN SPRING 1942 THOMAS VOGEL
Introduction In early 1942, the Axis powers had a rare opportunity to redirect their strategy.1 The Red Army’s unexpected resistance outside Moscow had forced the Wehrmacht on the defensive in its central theatre of war. By contrast, the other main opponent of the Axis, Great Britain, had come under great pressure from Rommel’s campaign in North Africa and from the Japanese victories in the Far East. Thus, for Germany and Italy, the prospect loomed to expel the troubled British Empire from the Mediterranean and the Middle East – with potential far-reaching consequences for the global war.2 The British bastion of Malta posed the main threat to a possible success in North Africa. The island hampered the supply of the ItaloGerman African Army across the Mediterranean. Therefore, the Italian military leadership had long harboured intentions to conquer Malta, 1
For the German strategic prospects, as considered by the German High Command, see: Bernd Wegner, Hitler’s Grand Strategy between Pearl Harbor and Stalingrad, in: Germany and the Second World War, Vol. VI: The Global War, ed. by the Militärgeschichtliches Forschungsamt (Research Institute for Military History, Potsdam, Germany), trans. ed. Ewald Osers, Oxford: Clarendon Press, 2001; pp. 112-144, and: id., The War against the Soviet Union 1942-1943, in: ibid., pp. 860863. 2 It was mainly the German Naval High Command that was attracted by such expectations (cf. below, p. 5). From today’s point of view, there is reasonable doubt whether the Mediterranean could have been a decisive theatre for the outcome of the war. See: Klaus Schmider, The Mediterranean in 1940-1941: Crossroads of Lost Opportunities, in: War & Society, Vol. 15, No. 2 (1997), pp. 19-41.
though they did not dare to carry out this operation on their own. Not until the spring of 1942 – when the German ally also seemed ready – did the preparations for a joint operation begin. The Germans nicknamed the operation Herkules, whereas the Italians kept the codename C 3.3 Although the joint approach to Herkules was quite promising, the Axis co-operation was cursed from the very beginning and therefore highly difficult. Eventually, the operation was not carried out: in fact, it was given up in the early planning stage because of the political, strategic and operational difficulties that form the subject of this chapter. Such preparations ended quietly in the summer of 1942 after several months’ hectic planning. Thus, the Axis powers failed to seize Malta at the decisive moment, a strategic misstep that caused German and Italian makers of strategy much regret, because the further course of the war in the Mediterranean offered no new opportunities to strike against the island. Although Operation Herkules never went beyond the planning stage, it deserves attention as a symbol of the failures of Axis coalition warfare. This chapter seeks to highlight certain outstanding features of Axis coalition warfare in a pivotal period of the Second World War. From this perspective, the failure of the Axis did not occur in the fall of 1943, when Italy turned its back on Germany, but much earlier as a result of the structural and fundamental inadequacies in their joint warfare. This insight has become the object of general consensus among historians of the Mediterranean theatre in World War II.4 The case study of Herkules 3 For details of the planning see: Mariano Gabriele, Operazione C3: Malta, Rom: Ufficio Storico Marina Militare, 1965; also detailed, but with more regard to the German side: Ralf Georg Reuth, Entscheidung im Mittelmeer. Die südliche Peripherie Europas in der deutschen Strategie des Zweiten Weltkrieges 19491942, Koblenz: Bernhard & Graefe, 1985, pp. 135-205; with another thesis, and shorter: Reinhard Stumpf, The War in the Mediterranean Area 1942-1943: Operations in North Africa and the Central Mediterranean, in: Germany and the Second World War, Vol. VI, pp. 654-660; On „The Problem of Malta“ („Das Problem Malta“) q.v.: Gerhard Schreiber, Revisionismus und Weltmachtstreben. Marineführung und deutsch-italienische Beziehungen 1919 bis 1944, Stuttgart: Deutsche Verlags-Anstalt, 1978, pp. 351-357. 4 Cf., more generally, the recent works of Richard DiNardo, Germany and the Axis Powers. From Coalition to Collapse, Lawrence: University of Kansas Press, 2005; Brian R. Sullivan, The German-Italian Alliance, 1939-1943, in: Hitler and his Allies in World War II, ed. Jonathan R. Adelman, London, New York: Routledge, 2007; Malte König, Kooperation als Machtkampf. Das faschistische Achsenbündnis Berlin-Rom im Krieg 1940/41, Köln: SH-Verlag, 2007; and the findings of an international conference in Rome, April 2005, published as: Die „Achse“ im Krieg. Politik, Ideologie und Kriegführung 1939-1945, ed. Lutz
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examines especially the political, strategic and operational breakdowns of the Axis coalition in practice.
The western part of the Mediterranean Sea. From “Newsmap”, December 1942, Army Orientation Course, Washington 1942.
The political framework The search for cause and effect in the failure of Herkules must begin with the general character of the Italo-German coalition. The lack of viability in the alliance emerged as early as 1939, that is, three years after the promulgation of the Berlin-Rome Axis – as the Italian Duce Benito Mussolini called it. Germany and Italy confirmed their special bond with a political and military pact of mutual assistance: the so-called Pact of Steel (Stahlpakt) in May 1939. At the same time, high level military consultations began.5 No sooner had this declaration been made than the German Führer Adolf Hitler expressed his scepticism. Thus, when he explained his plans for war against Poland to the inner circle of Wehrmacht leadership, he Klinkhammer, Amedeo Osti Guerazzi und Thomas Schlemmer, Paderborn u.a.: Ferdinand Schöningh, 2010 (primarily see the contributions of Jürgen Förster and Alessandro Massignani). 5 For the military high-level talks between Germany and Italy see: Schreiber, Revisionismus, pp. 154-163.
expressly forbade them to inform the Italians.6 At that time his complete confidence in his ally had already been shaken by Mussolini’s conduct during the Czechoslovakia crisis in 1938, and the Duce’s comments on the Pact of Steel made him realise that Italy lacked the necessary readiness for armed conflict as well as the will, in the near future, to risk a major war at Germany’s side.7 Moreover, Hitler received yet another unpleasant surprise when, in late August 1939, not only was a British-French-Polish alliance formed against German aggression, but Mussolini also resolutely refused his allegiance in the imminent war.8 Italy, on the other hand, was no less suspicious of her ally north of the Brenner Pass. The Italians felt conned by Hitler’s reckless drive to war while their own geo-strategic aspirations were neglected. In particular, the Italian military had great reservations about the danger of being instrumentalised by German interests and abruptly suspended the talks with the Wehrmacht leadership.9 As a result, a fruitful co-operation for a 6
Hitler, who was worried about keeping the German plans secret, also included allied Japan into his ban; cf. Alessandro Massignani, Die italienischen Streitkräfte und der Krieg der “Achse“, in: Die “Achse“ im Krieg, p. 130). 7 In principle, Mussolini did not spare the risk of entering a “great war“ together with Germany; see: Gerhard Schreiber, Political and Military Developments in the Mediterranean Area, 1939-1940, in: Germany and the Second World War, Vol. III. The Mediterranean, South-East Europe, and North Africa 1939-1941. From Italy’s declaration of non-belligerence to the entry of the United States into the war, ed. Militärgeschichtliches Forschungsamt (Research Institute for Military History, Freiburg im Breisgau, Germany), trans. ed. P. S. Falla, Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1995; p. 7. – The Italians had informed the Germans several times about their lacking readiness for war: Firstly, at the Italo-German high-level staff talks on 5/6.4.1939 (cf. Schreiber, Revisionismus, p. 159); secondly, by foreign minister Ciano at his meeting with German colleague Ribbentrop on 6.-8.5.1939 (cf. Ferdinand Siebert, Italiens Weg in den Zweiten Weltkrieg, Frankfurt/Main, Bonn: Athenäum-Verlag, 1962, pp. 167ff.; and, thirdly, with Mussolini’s letter to Hitler on 30.5.1939 (cf. ibid., pp. 205ff.). – In fact, at the beginning of World War II, Italy’s level of armament was deficient in nearly every respect; cf. Schreiber, Entwicklung im Mittelmeerraum, pp. 54-85; MacGregor Knox, Hitler’s Italian Allies. Royal Armed Forces, Fascist Regime, and the War of 1940-1943, Cambridge University Press, 2000; Ciro Paoletti, A Military History of Italy, Westport (Connecticut): Praeger Security Int., 2008, pp. 167-171. 8 Schreiber, Revisionismus, pp. 185-191. 9 König, Kooperation als Machtkampf, pp. 20f.; on 16.1.1940, a comment of the Italian ambassador at Berlin, Alfieri, shows clearly the critical distance on the political level (ibid., p. 19, FN 39); German witness reports on that matter are from: Enno von Rintelen, Mussolini als Bundesgenosse. Erinnerungen des deutschen Militärattachés in Rom 1936-1943, Tübingen, Stuttgart: Rainer
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joint offensive in the West did not come about, despite the fact that Mussolini had indicated his readiness to enter the war as early as in March 1940 and that Hitler had sought indications of Italian military commitment.10 The Wehrmacht’s successful campaign in May 1940 reversed the situation: the German interest in an Italian military commitment declined considerably, and now it was Mussolini who pushed for an involvement as he believed himself to be falling behind in power politics.11 When Italy finally entered the war, France had already been defeated. Nevertheless, only due to German assistance did the Italian campaign – launched belatedly and precipitously across the Alps border – not end in disgrace. With the failure to achieve its political objectives, Italy’s ill-fated entry into the war caused the nation to lose face among its allies. Not only did Mussolini’s voracious political cravings make a bad impression, but the military weakness of his forces represented a particular negative surprise. On top of this burden, further events through the late 1940 completely unhinged the fragile inner balance of the Axis coalition. After the bad impression of his country’s belligerent actions, in summer and fall 1940, Mussolini eagerly wanted to maintain Italy’s reputation as a major power and to remain on par with Germany. Granted his ambition to participate in the great theatre of war, Mussolini thrust Italian submarine and air force units on his German ally to fight Britain in the Atlantic and on the Channel coast. However, Italian politicians revealed their real ambitions when they attempted to implement the idea of a “parallel war”, as developed by Mussolini in the spring of 1940.12 According to that, Italy wanted to wage its own war, simultaneously if need be, but otherwise independently of the unpredictable and unloved German ally. Mussolini’s cravings for expansion caused Italy to become active in the Mediterranean area, which the makers of Italian strategy had considered their national sphere of
Wunderlich Verlag Hermann Leins, 1951, pp. 79f.; and: Walter Warlimont, Im Hauptquartier der deutschen Wehrmacht 1939-1945. Grundlagen, Formen, Gestalten, Frankfurt a. Main: Bernhard & Graefe, 1962, pp. 78-81. 10 König, Kooperation als Machtkampf, pp. 21-26. 11 Ibid., pp. 24f. 12 Siebert, Italiens Weg, pp. 415f.; Andreas Hillgruber, Hitlers Strategie. Politik und Kriegführung 1940-1941, Bonn: Bernhard & Graefe, 3rd edition, 1993 (1st edition, 1965), pp. 127f.; Hans Umbreit, The Battle for Hegemony in the West, in: Germany and the Second World War, Vol. II. Germany’s Initial Conquest in Europe, ed. by the Militärgeschichtliches Forschungsamt (Research Institute for Military History, Freiburg im Breisgau, Germany), trans. ed. P. S. Falla, Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1991, pp. 306ff.; Schreiber, Revisionismus, pp. 255f.
influence long before the agreement with Hitler.13 The overestimation of his own forces soon resulted in the well-known military failures against Greece in the fall of 1940 and against the British in North Africa in the winter of 1940/41. Furthermore, this strategic diversion harmed the relationship with the Germans. Although it was neither his intention nor his wish, Hitler felt obliged to interfere in both theatres of war, not only to avoid the imminent defeat of Italy, but also because Mussolini’s regime required stabilisation.14 Mussolini was forced to accept German assistance and thus German expansion into the area that Italy had so far claimed for itself. The arrival in February 1941 of the first German troops under Lieutenant-General Erwin Rommel in Italian Libya, under siege by the British, marked a significant turning point in the record of the Axis.15 The Third Reich had begun to assume political guardianship of the Fascist regime in Rome. As a result, until the overthrow of Mussolini in the fall of 1943, Italy became almost completely dependent on German power.
The strategic dimension This shift of political power within the Axis at the turn of 1940/41 forms a central fact in the fate of operation Herkules. The Axis now embarked on a new strategic orientation that changed considerably the parameters for the solution of the increasingly virulent problem of Malta. Until this moment, Malta had been considered a purely Italian problem, due to an agreement of the Axis powers that left the Mediterranean area to Italy alone. This problem was more than obvious: the well-fortified British base directly at Italy’s doorstep formed the origin of increasing enemy action against Italy and its colony, as well as the lines of communication between the two. 13
Formally, Germany, Italy and Japan divided the world in their zones of influence only with the Three Powers Treaty on 27.10.1940. But, as early as 24.10.1936, Hitler had made a statement to Italian foreign minister Ciano that formed a mutual agreement on this subject; cf. Ciano’s Diplomatic Papers, ed. Malcolm Muggeridge, London: Odhams Press, 1948, p. 57. Hitler affirmed this agreement several times in 1939; cf. Schreiber, Revisionismus, p. 156, FN 277. 14 For Hitler’s decision process in the fall of 1940/beginning of 1941 see: Hillgruber, Hitlers Strategie, pp. 334-352. 15 This turning point can already be seen with Hitler’s letter to Mussolini on 20.11.1940. As a result of Italy’s disastrous defeat against Greece, the letter shows a new level of communication between the two allies; cf. König, Kooperation als Machtkampf, pp. 38f. A similar impression gives the lopsided dialogue between Hitler and Mussolini on 19/20.1.1941; cf. Hillgruber, Hitlers Strategie, p. 347.
A War Coalition Fails in Coalition Warfare
Moreover, Malta, the British bases at Gibraltar and in Egypt formed the backbone of British naval power in the Mediterranean,16 which Italy had long considered a threat to its hegemonic and imperial aspirations of a mare nostro.17 The clear distribution of spheres of influence among the Axis powers made the Mediterranean area in a certain way taboo for German strategic considerations. The Chief of the Wehrmachtführungsamt (Forces Command Office) and first military advisor to Hitler, Major General Alfred Jodl, was the first to cross this “red line”. Searching for an alternative indirect strategy in the fight against Britain, Jodl realised the key function of this area for war with the British Empire.18 Soon afterwards, German Naval Supreme Commander, Grand Admiral Erich Raeder, considered the development in the Mediterranean Sea “decisive for the war” and requested a stronger German commitment in this area. But such considerations did not prevail.19 At this moment, when fortune stood with the Axis, Italy failed to find a sustainable military solution to the Malta problem. Indeed, as early as 1938, Italy had contemplated an attack, followed by an invasion immediately prior to an official entry into the war; that is, “a kind of 16
Malta was the main base of the British Mediterranean Fleet. Due to its exposed position, headquarters and big ships were moved to Alexandria in October 1939, in expectation of a war against Italy,. The remaining smaller units, including submarines, and an increasing number of aircraft on the island made Malta a forward base of an offensive British strategy in the Mediterranean. Thus, these forces significantly contributed to British naval supremacy, sustaining its position in central Mediterranean for the time being. Cf. I. S. O. Playfair, The Mediterranean and Middle East, Vol. 1. The Early Successes against Italy (to May 1941), London: Her Majesty’s Stationery Office, 1954, pp. 159-162; Reuth, Entscheidung im Mittelmeer, p. 35. 17 F. W. Deakin, Die brutale Freundschaft. Hitler, Mussolini und der Untergang des italienischen Faschismus, Köln, Berlin: Kiepenheuer & Witsch, 1964 (Trans. of the English Original, 1962), pp. 23f.; MacGregor Knox, Common Destiny. Dictatorship, Foreign Policy, and War in Fascist Italy and Nazi Germany, Cambridge University Press, 2000, pp. 118-120. 18 Jodl outlined his thoughts in a memorandum on 30.6.1940 (printed in: Dokumente zum Unternehmen “Seelöwe”. Die geplante deutsche Landung in England 1940, ed. Karl Klee, Göttingen, Zürich, Frankfurt a.M.: MusterschmidtVerlag, pp. 298-300; cf. Schreiber, Entwicklung im Mittelmeerraum, pp. 178-180. 19 For the politics of the German Naval High Command, developing strong strategic interests in the Mediterranean area since 1940, see: Schreiber, Revisionismus, pp. 271- 367; id., Entwicklung im Mittelmeerraum, pp. 180-222; Reuth, Entscheidung im Mittelmeer, pp. 48-53, 64-70.
extended Pearl Harbor”20. Two years later, however, when Italy declared war at the decisive moment, the country lacked not only necessary preparations but also the political will. No forces stood available, as is well known, because the campaign against France received political priority. As a result, the opportunity to conquer the island, poorly defended as it was, escaped the Axis. Soon thereafter the British reinforced their garrison so the Italians were no longer able or at least not willing to act on their own.21 The new German dominance in the alliance after the turn of the year of 1940/41, and the German military involvement in the Mediterranean associated with it, completely transformed the Malta problem. Only at this point did the fate of Malta become a pressing problem for the Axis, and especially for the Germans. The chances for an operational solution, however, only seemed to increase for this reason, because the Germans, along with their new military engagement, claimed priority for their own ideas and they were able to enforce their claim due to Italian weakness. German strategists, nonetheless, regarded the Mediterranean and Malta as being of little importance. Rather, they put their main focus on planning the campaign against the Soviet Union. All glory later accorded to Rommel notwithstanding, the war against the Soviet Union required all German forces. Hitler’s personality provides the explanation: his ideological and dogmatic fixation on the East precluded political and strategic alternatives even though his conduct in the eyes of his contemporaries sometimes created a false idea of strategic flexibility.22 An example of this phenomenon was Hitler’s readiness to send an armoured blocking force (Panzer-Sperrverband) under Rommel’s command to Libya in February 1941. The task of this unit was purely defensive and gave no indication for the future operational success of the
20 Schreiber, Revisionismus, pp. 145, 269; cf. Lothar Gruchmann, Die „verpassten strategischen Chancen“ der Achsenmächte im Mittelmeerraum 1940/41, in: Vierteljahreshefte für Zeitgeschichte, Vol. 18 (1970), p. 457. 21 Playfair, Mediterranean, pp. 29-31, 119-121, 159-162; Hillgruber, Hitlers Strategie, p. 130, FN 14; Douglas Porch, Hitler’s Mediterranean Gamble. The North African and the Mediterranean Campaigns in World War II, London: Weidenfeld & Nicholson, 2004, pp. 40-46. 22 For the ideological dimension of Hitler’s strategic concentration on the “War in the East” (“Ostkrieg”) see, first and most fundamentally: Hillgruber, Hitlers Strategie, pp. 564-578; summarising the current state of research: Rolf-Dieter Müller, Der letzte deutsche Krieg 1939-1945, Stuttgart: Klett-Cotta, 2005, pp. 7681.
A War Coalition Fails in Coalition Warfare
German Afrikakorps or the Italo-German Panzerarmee Afrika.23 Rommel’s troops had to stabilise the Italian front, which represented the weakened southern flank of the Axis and an especially troubling contingency on the eve of operation Barbarossa. With Rommel’s dispatch to Libya, Hitler did not pursue a new strategy against Britain, seized as he was by his crusade against the Soviet Union.24 It was only the specific strategic constellation of the spring of 1942 that enabled the German side to employ alternative strategies. Japan’s successful entry into the war, and the promising start of Rommel’s second offensive, opened new perspectives, while the Wehrmacht’s failure outside Moscow and the temporary defensive on the eastern front rendered the main theatre of war problematic. According to German strategic custom, the navy embodied the global dimension of German strategy, along with its attendant misconceptions.25 With the prize of the Suez Canal in mind, the dreams of the maritime strategists pushed beyond the symbolic ‘axis’ to forge strategic co-operation in the Pacific with Imperial Japan. In February 1942, Grand Admiral Raeder tried several times to persuade Hitler to approve a strategy focused rather on London and the British Empire, than Moscow and the USSR, as being the true opponent or, at least, an opponent who should be defeated first to achieve the agenda of German goals. This development allowed Hitler at least to hope that he might be able to force Britain to accept a peace agreement.26 At that time, he gave the impression to his circle that he might be open to new strategic ideas. By April 1942, the positive situation in North Africa had developed favourably for the Axis, whereby the Malta menace emerged as being of primary importance. The advocates in the German chain of command of the extant Italian plan pushed to conquer and thereby neutralise the British bastion. As Hitler was to make a decision on the Malta undertaking, which
23 For details of Rommel’s mission to North Africa see: Bernd Stegemann, Die italienisch-deutsche Kriegführung im Mittelmeer und in Afrika, in: Germany and the Second World War, Vol. III, pp. 654-658. 24 For Hitler’s strategic calculations at the turn of the year 1940/41, particularly with regard to the Mediterranean and North Africa see: Hillgruber, Hitlers Strategie, pp. 334-352; Reuth, Entscheidung im Mittelmeer, pp. 41-48. 25 Reuth, Entscheidung im Mittelmeer, pp. 143-148; Wegner, Hitler’s Grand Strategy, pp. 121-126; id., War against the Soviet Union, pp. 848-850. 26 Reuth, Entscheidung im Mittelmeer, p. 149; Wegner, Hitler’s Grand Strategy, pp. 121-126.
received its German codename Herkules only on 10 April,27 the Führer gave his final approval on 18 April. The Malta partisans in the coalition chains of command,28 however, enjoyed only brief success, once Hitler revised his decision at the next German-Italian summit at Klessheim Castle near Salzburg on 29/30 April 1942. There he postponed Herkules to a moment after the final victory against the British in North Africa, whereby he had essentially abandoned the plan. On closer examination, Hitler’s conduct appears far less fickle and contradictory than it seems. Despite the conflicted results of his two decisions, these choices were understandable when considered in the specific context of the spring of 1942. These contradictions underscored his strategic dilemma. On the one hand, the prospect of a British defeat in Egypt, with its expected far-reaching consequences, demanded the greatest possible support for Rommel. Hitler doubted, on the other hand, the absolute necessity for the conquest of Malta, particularly since he doubted the efficacy of the Italian ally.29 He refused to provide extensive support in terms of personnel and equipment, as this would have jeopardised the coming summer offensive against the USSR as well as the operational defence against an allied landing in the west. Consequently, the German Commander-in-Chief South, Generalfeldmarschall [Field-Marshal] Albert Kesselring, won him over on 18 April only because he characterised the 27
Oberkommando der Wehrmacht, WFSt/Op Nr. 55655/42 g.K.Chefs. vom 10.4.42 (5. Ausfertigung), in: Bundesarchiv-Militärarchiv, RM 7/945, fol. 27. 28 The German promoters were: Lieutenant-General Enno von Rintelen, German Accredited General to Headquarters of the Italian Armed Forces High Command (“Deutscher Bevollmächtigte General beim Hauptquartier der italienischen Wehrmacht”), Vice-Admiral Eberhard Weichold, Commander of the German Naval Command in Italy (“Befehlshaber des Deutschen Marinekommandos Italien”), General Kurt Student, Commander of 11th Air Corps (“Kommandierender General des XI. Fliegerkorps”), Colonel-General Hans Jeschonnek , Chief of Staff of the German Air Force (“Chef des Generalstabes der Luftwaffe”), and Field Marshal Albert Kesselring, Commander-in-Chief South (“Oberbefehlshaber Süd”). Weichold‘s view on “Malta as the crucial problem for the Axis warfare in the Mediterranean” (“Malta als zentrales Problem der ‚Achsen’-Kriegführung im Mittelmeer”) became part of: Walter Baum/Eberhard Weichold, Der Krieg der “Achsenmächte” im Mittelmeer-Raum. Die “Strategie” der Diktatoren, Göttingen, Zürich, Frankfurt: Musterschmidt, 1973, S. 213-219. Rintelen’s witness in: id., Mussolini als Bundesgenosse, pp. 165-175. A comprehensive account on the courting of Hitler in April 1942 to get his approval for Operation Herkules is given by: Reuth, Entscheidung im Mittelmeer, pp. 160-171; and Stumpf: War in the Mediterranean, pp. 591-593. 29 See: Stumpf, War in the Mediterranean, p. 591 (FN 99).
A War Coalition Fails in Coalition Warfare
operation as a raid against Malta. This kind of operation required relatively few German forces and could be carried out within a short time, as Italian preparations appeared to be far advanced.30 Furthermore, Kesselring’s briefing to Hitler referred to the consultation with Rommel. The former also made a deep impression on Hitler with his personal report that Malta was ripe for attack because of the German-Italian air raids that had lasted for weeks. With his decision in favour of Herkules, Hitler also took into account the political situation of Mussolini, who desperately needed to enhance his prestige and, therefore, shortly before, had eagerly accepted Kesselring’s plans. Two weeks later, Hitler realised the now unfavourable conditions for Herkules. Therefore, the German-Italian summit in late April offered Hitler a convenient opportunity to revoke his earlier decision steamrolling the Italian political and military leadership. This change of policy signified Hitler’s response to the demands of the Italian supreme command for extensive German personnel and equipment support for Herkules. In fact, the German side realised that the Italians fully lacked the means for a surprise attack against Malta. Rather, the Italian Comando Supremo regarded a large-scale landing operation as essential in the face of strong British defences. All the more unacceptable to Hitler, bulked Italian operational ideas that would have delayed Herkules for several months and would thus have endangered his crucial operational linkage in the theatre and beyond. According to this calculus, Herkules would have to be completed before Rommel would re-launch an attack on Tobruk no later than early June – that is before the hot season and the expected British counter-offensive. And there were not enough military resources available, especially of the Luftwaffe, to carry out both operations at the same time. In this context, Hitler understandably decided to call off, or to delay, Herkules – and have the planning continue for the time being. On a grand strategic level these decisions confirmed Hitler’s priorities of, firstly, offensive war against the Soviet Union and, secondly, a defensive approach in the Mediterranean.31 These goals were the major continuities in Hitler’s strategic thought and deeds. In view of the above, the practical 30
It was Lieutenant-General von Rintelen who brought up the idea of a surprise attack against Malta as an alternative to a large-scale landing operation favoured and planned by the Italians. With Field-Marshal Kesselring giving backing, Rintelen made his proposal during a meeting at the Italian Armed Forces High Command on 17.3.42. See: Deutscher General beim Hauptquartier der italienischen Wehrmacht, Ia, Nr. 5032/42 vom 23.3.42, in: BundesarchivMilitärarchiv, RM 7/945, fol. 14; cf. Reuth, Entscheidung im Mittelmeer, p. 156. 31 Cf. above, p. 155, FN 343.
constraints on the Herkules operation, as these hinged on Hitler’s approval, augured poorly for the plan’s success in the cosmos of Axis decision-making.
The military-operational level The early failure of Herkules reveals the considerable imbalance of power between Germany and Italy when set against the background of the particular political nature of the two regimes. The Germans and Italians failed to create structures in order to reconcile effectively their different strategic interests. Inevitably, under these circumstances, there was no way to develop the top-level consultation and decision-making procedures that are essential for effective coalition warfare. Political summits gradually turned into Hitler one-man shows, where he overawed the Duce. This political spectacle dominated the few conferences of the military high commands that took place in the period in question. As the participants had no authority to adopt any decisions, there was rarely more than a mere exchange of information and opinions with very little specific or prospective outcome.32 Therefore, an effective co-operation in planning, command and control at all military levels would have been even more important. But the preconditions for this consultation in Germany and Italy were rather inauspicious. National supreme commands quickly proved inadequate for war-time combined and joint operations. Hitler and Mussolini clung to their institutions of supreme command embodied by themselves because of their dictatorial powers within the two states. Thus, the dictators largely deprived the military high commands of any decision-making authority in order to have the final say themselves. As the European war became a world war, neither Hitler nor Mussolini mustered the necessary strategic genius or institutional change to master this challenge. The relative autonomy of army, navy, air force and regional commanders added a further dysfunctional element that compromised the effectiveness of the German and Italian armed forces. Despite this fact, Hitler as well as Mussolini exploited traditional inter-service rivalry in order to strengthen their own personal power. 32 In the same spirit, the first high-level Italo-German staff talks failed as early as the spring and summer of 1939; see: Schreiber, Revisionismus, pp. 154-181. Equally unsuccessful in yielding any substantial results was the November 1940 meeting of Field Marshals Badoglio and Keitel, Chiefs of the Armed Forces High Commands,; see: König, Kooperation als Machtkampf, p. 38).
A War Coalition Fails in Coalition Warfare
The polycratic chaos of competing power structures – a central feature of the German and Italian Führer states – greatly permeated the organisations of the respective militaries. Especially the Mediterranean theatre, where the two systems overlapped, exacerbated these structural weaknesses of high command. Here of all places, integrated military structures were sorely needed, notably in staff organisation. The high commands in both countries, though well aware of these problems, proved incapable of forging a solution. Backward thinking and bureaucratic resistance joined with mutual distrust to harm combined joint planning on the operational level. In the autumn of 1941, these baleful circumstances predominated the German efforts to combine all possible military forces under a dedicated and unified command for the assault on Malta. This effort was prompted by the surging losses inflicted on Italian supply routes to Libya by British naval and air forces. Both the Italian navy and air force obviously were overtaxed with protecting the sea lines of communication. In late October 1941, alarmed by the looming existential threat to the German-Italian power in North Africa, Hitler persuaded Mussolini to accept German assistance in the form of strong air force units.33 But Italian sensitivities did not allow for any further concessions in this regard. Field-Marshal Kesselring, Commander-in-Chief of Luftflotte 2 (2nd Tactical Air Force) learned this the hard way as he assumed his command as Oberbefehlshaber Süd (Commander-in-Chief South) in late November. Also with reference to Mussolini, the Italian High Command flatly refused to place Italian naval and air force units under his command. He received solely the symbolic authority to countersign all Italian orders relevant to his mission. This affront rendered obsolete Kesselring’s plan to set up a bi-national staff under his command to conduct the operations of German and Italian forces against Malta. Upset by Rommel’s demeanour in North Africa, the Italian side was justifiably reserved about any German initiatives. They did not want to see their very own plan to attack Malta wrenched away by the Germans. Italian reservations made Kesselring’s appointment as Commander-in33
Apparently inspired by Göring, Hitler’s primary request to Mussolini went far beyond proposing the installation of a combined German-Italian command staff for the Mediterranean war theatre. It was proposed that Chief of Staff should be a German Air Force General. In compensation, he should be subordinate to the Chief of the Italian Armed Forces High Command. Due to political reservations of the Italians, Hitler failed with his proposal and therefore independently appointed a German “Commander-in-Chief South” (see the following); cf. Baum/Weichold, Krieg der “Achsenmächte”, pp. 201f.
Chief South by Hitler on 2 December nothing more than eyewash. Interservice rivalry and bureaucratic friction complicated his mission even more. How could he achieve sea and air supremacy between Southern Italy and Northern Africa if even the German navy refused to subordinate its regional commanders to his control? This friction appears all the more paradoxical because the Naval High Command (OKM) had long insisted on a concentration of both forces and commands in the Mediterranean. Neither did Kesselring receive any actual command over the North African theatre of war, save for his subordinate air force units.34 Rommel was directed to co-operate with Kesselring, i.e. merely obliged to inform and co-ordinate with his air force colleague. Further dysfunctional aspects in the relation between Kesselring and Rommel signify the paradigmatic, structural shortfalls of the Axis, and its failures of military integration for operations. I refer to the problematic practice of multiple subordinations: i.e. the disunity of command.35 Subordinate both to the Italian commander-in-chief in Libya and the German High Command (OKW), Rommel ignored this duplication of command whenever it suited him. He could do so because he enjoyed a high standing with Hitler and could, therefore, appeal to him directly. With such backing, he ruthlessly created facts that did not allow for wellplanned co-ordinated measures. Ultimately, Operation Herkules became collateral damage of Rommel’s lightning triumph in the spring of 1942. In contrast, Kesselring remained a prisoner of the multiple chains of command. He struggled further on the political and strategic levels of his already difficult position. For instance, he reported to the Italian High Command, i.e. Mussolini himself. In his capacity as Commander of the Air Force, he was subordinate to the no-less difficult figure than Reichsmarschall Hermann Göring. The Commander-in-Chief of the Luftwaffe repeatedly abused his “authority” and his political position within the Third Reich with unqualified interference in Mediterranean operations.36 Finally, to make matters worse, Kesselring received orders from the German High Command (OKW). 34
Albert Kesselring, Soldat bis zum letzten Tag, Bonn: Athenäum-Verlag, 1953, p. 146. 35 For the problem of multiple subordinations in the case of Rommel and Kesselring see: Stumpf, War in the Mediterranean, pp. 572f. An even more detailed look at Kesselring’s problematic position gives: Karl Gundelach, Die deutsche Luftwaffe im Mittelmeer 1940-1945, Vol. 1, Frankfurt a. M. 1981, pp. 329-338. 36 Göring disliked the idea of conquering Malta and, therefore, somewhat declined Operation Herkules. With the heavy casualties of the German airborne assault on
A War Coalition Fails in Coalition Warfare
In the end, Kesselring could not compensate the organisational deficiencies through his personal commitment. Only in combat as Commander-in-Chief of his air force could he achieve real success. Through his air offensive against Malta in the spring of 1942, he created the preconditions for the capture of Tobruk, albeit with heavy losses. At the same time, he recognised that air raids alone could not eliminate the British insular bastion for good.37 On 17 January 1942, with his mind already opened to operational alternatives, Kesselring accepted the Italian High Command’s idea to capture Malta.38 His proposal, however, to form a German-Italian force under his command, foundered on Italian reservations that embraced German support only as long as the Italians remained in charge. Against this background, neither the frequent meetings of Kesselring and Rommel with the Italian senior leadership in Rome and Libya, nor the exchange of permanent military representatives as liaison between the High Commands, could replace a combined planning entity. Such halfmeasures could hardly substitute an integrated supreme command. The Mediterranean theatre of Axis operations demanded a synthesis of operational approaches in order to interact with the highest political levels. The absence of such integrated combined and joint means resulted in strategic problems that eluded any solution. This problem befell Kesselring on 17 March in a misunderstanding with the Italian High Command. As a result, he wrongly assumed the Italian side would support the German idea of a surprise attack against Malta. In this context, Kesselring also overestimated the capacity of the Italian ally to muster quickly the forces required for a coup de main. In late April 1942, in the splendour of Klessheim Castle, the fatal weakness of the military plans and the differences among the military leaders on Herkules unfolded. Hitler’s generally negative attitude towards this undertaking prevailed. Under these circumstances, his decision to postpone Herkules in favour of Rommel’s offensive finally convinced even Kesselring. Once more the Italian side could only yield to the German ally because of its own weakness in forces. Italy could find consolation in Hitler’s promise of a significant German contribution to a future Malta landing. We know today that Hitler had already given up on Crete in mind, he feared for “his” paratroopers. Moreover, Göring’s strategic main interest in the autumn of 1941 rather centred on the Eastern Mediterranean. See: Warlimont, Im Hauptquartier, pp. 248f.; Gundelach, Luftwaffe im Mittelmeer, p. 380; Reuth, Entscheidung im Mittelmeer, pp. 108-113. 37 Kesselring, Soldat bis zum letzten Tag, p. 140. 38 Gabriele, Operazione C 3, p. 128.
this plan and merely deceived all concerned. Evidence of Hitler’s deeprooted opposition to Herkules became clear to his closest military advisers in May 1942.39 Nonetheless official orders to Kesselring to continue preparations for Herkules in co-operation with the Italians remained in effect.40 As the potential failure of Herkules lay yet in the future, the plan nonetheless helped to give birth to a novelty for the Axis: it produced a planning element that was obviously based on the coalition’s newly achieved readiness at staff level for military integration. In mid-April 1942, inspired by Kesselring’s initiative, the Italian High Command formed a first combined German-Italian planning staff,41 which intensified the preparations for operation C 3 or Herkules. Certainly, this novelty signified an important step forward, despite the large number of fragmented German special service staffs, including even a special airborne staff, which now mushroomed, all eager to make their contribution.42 This fact notwithstanding, the plans for a combined landing operation in Malta had been drafted already in the beginning of June.43 The planners envisaged a force comprising 100,000 troops, several hundred aircraft and nearly all naval units available in the Mediterranean. Much more difficult was the provision of the other forces required. Until the last moment, the Axis lacked the required number of landing craft, among others, and the Italian navy failed to bunker sufficient fuel oil. In mid-July 1942, when the German side finally ceased all efforts on Herkules, the Italian High Command had already shifted its focus too. They had drawn the consequences from the situation after the seizure of Tobruk on 21 June, in line with clear-cut directives issued by their political leadership. All the euphoria about the new prospects eclipsed the necessity of seizing Malta. Hitler could therefore persuade Mussolini to focus all efforts on the progress of Rommel’s offensive towards Egypt and, again, to put off operation Herkules until possibly September. This 39
Reuth, Entscheidung im Mittelmeer, pp. 170, 174f. Oberkommando der Wehrmacht, WFSt/Op, Nr. 55797/42 g.Kdos. Chefs., 4.5.42, in: Bundesarchiv-Militärarchiv, RH 2/462, fol. 65; cf. Warlimont, Im Hauptquartier, p. 249. 41 Deutscher General beim Hauptquartier der italienischen Wehrmacht, Ia, Nr. 934/42, 14.4.42, in: Bundesarchiv-Militärarchiv, RH 2/462, fol. 42; cf. Warlimont, Im Hauptquartier, p. 249; Rintelen, Mussolini als Bundesgenosse, pp. 165f.; Reuth, Entscheidung im Mittelmeer, pp. 172f. 42 Stumpf, War in the Mediterranean, p. 659; Reuth, Entscheidung im Mittelmeer, p. 172. 43 For details see: Gabriele, Operazione C 3, pp. 203-259. 40
A War Coalition Fails in Coalition Warfare
postponement doomed the undertaking, especially in view of the other Axis operations. To be sure, the defeat at El Alamein formed the turning point of the war for the Axis, and thereby crushed hopes for Herkules. This event spread melancholy among the Axis command about what became known as a missed opportunity.44
Conclusion Counterfactual speculations about the chances for success of the GermanItalian campaign in North Africa lie beyond my concern. Nor would there be much profit in the operational what-ifs of Herkules. In my view, the most substantial issue is the readiness to integrate military decision making and force structure, as witnessed in the planning for Herkules, an innovation that further matured in the later course of German-Italian operations. Indeed, historical evidence exists that this concept of integration lived on beyond the Herkules planning phase.45 The character of military integration, however, has not been the focus of this chapter. Nor has my ambition been to offer a chronology of the Herkules operation in a political, strategic and operational vacuum. Rather, this case study hints at the main reasons why the German-Italian Axis failed as a wartime coalition. In my view, this episode particularly illustrates the complex problems underlying the operational failure. In conclusion, let me state clearly that operation Herkules shows the blockage of the Axis at both ends. This infarct consisted, firstly, of political incompatibility of the coalition partners and the resulting misconceptions about strategy, secondly of traditional service parochialism, and its damage to combined and joint operations and, finally, of the harmful role of personality in command.
E.g. Kesselring in his situation report on 2.12.1942, in: BundesarchivMilitärarchiv, RM 7-235, fol. 545; cf. Kesselring, Soldat bis zum letzten Tag, p. 174. 45 See: DiNardo, Germany and the Axis Powers, pp. 170f., with reference to the creation of a combined command structure for the German-Italian Army Group Africa during the final stage of the battle for Tunisia.
THE FRENCH BATTALION IN KOREA 1950-53: FRANCE ASSERTS ITS STATUS AS A PERMANENT MEMBER OF THE UNITED NATIONS SECURITY COUNCIL AT MINIMAL COST IVAN CADEAU
French historiography on the Korean War is limited. The majority of books are about the French Battalion sent to Korea in November 1950 to fight Communism alongside western coalition partners. These books emphasise feats of arms, heroism and sacrifice of the individual French fighters. Memoir elements take precedence over historical aspects. However, on the one hand, since the French military participation was of consequence to the allied effort, its story deserves to be told, and we will have to qualify the contribution. Initially, it appeared unlikely that France, given her engagement since 1945 in the War in Indo-China against Vietminh as well as her limited manpower, fiscal and material resources, would be able to make a difference in Korea. On the other, the French Army’s high command wished to take advantage of the lessons likely to be learned from combat, handling of weapons, tactical employment of troops and development of military doctrine. In this way, the Korean War represented a test ground for western armies, whose officers did their best to acquire knowledge that might be of use in a possible world war against Soviet Union. But, apart from the military advantages of contributing to the UN intervention, at the political level the deployment of French forces was also a means for asserting French interests on the international stage. France was keen to reclaim her status as a great power, which had been temporarily lost with the defeat of 1940. Then, sending a symbolic contingent, France hoped that, as a permanent member of the United Nations Security Council, she might participate in all future negotiations and avoid being excluded from great powers discussions.
The French Battalion in Korea 1950-53
French soldier from the UN Battalion (Communication and Audiovisual Production Company of the French Ministry of Defence(ECPAD)).
The French Battalion of UN Force in Korea 1950-53 í a real but limited action On 25 June 1950, North Korea launched an attack on neighbouring South Korea. For several decades, western politicians and historians continued to believe that the President of the Soviet Union and Leader of the Communist Party, Joseph Stalin, lurked behind this aggression. With the recent opening of the Russian and Chinese national archives, it appears that it was Kim Il Sung, the North Korean leader, who independently decided to commence hostilities. Vis-à-vis South Korea, the military superiority of the North Korean Popular Army was overwhelming. The North Korean Army had 130,000 men, well trained, well equipped and apparently well motivated. The majority of these soldiers were veterans of the struggle against Japan and of the Chinese civil war. Between 1938 till 1949, thousands of Koreans
fought with Mao’s Army in China or in the Red Army in Manchuria. Moreover, the North Korean Army had about 200 fighter and bomber aircraft and 150 of the famous Soviet T-34 tanks. Faced with these forces, the Republic of Korea Army (ROKA, i.e. the South Korean army) of President Syngman Rhee was inadequately trained and did not possess the necessary heavy weapons. Worse still, the ROKA had neither aircraft nor tanks. From a North Korean point of view, victory would have been a walkover if only US and UN forces had not intervened. However, on 27 June the United Nations Security Council appealed to all UN member states for help to South Korea. Nevertheless, France’s response remained symbolic as the government decided merely to dispatch the naval vessel La Grandière, a Bougainville-class colonial aviso (sloop). This ship, which had until then been based in Saigon, belonged to the French IndoChina naval command. From the end of July to the end of November, her crew carried out troop transport and coast guarding missions, her greatest action being the Inchon Landing on 15 September 1950. However, the dispatch of this sole vessel was a very modest contribution that did not satisfy Tryv Lie, the Norwegian Secretary General of the United Nations. Hence, faced with Lie’s insistence, the French government eventually decided on sending a 1,000-man-strong battalion. On 25 august 1950, the French United Nations Battalion was officially raised. But, due to downsizing and various difficulties that the French Army encountered in the aftermath of World War II, the French high command declined furnishing this unit with regular troops. Indeed, in addition to the defence of Western Europe and North Africa, a vast number of officers and Non-Commissioned Officers were needed for service in the French Far-East Expeditionary Corps fighting in Indo-China. Thus, the solution chosen was to raise a unit of volunteers, most of whom, though, were veterans of World War II and the Indo-China Campaigns. However, since about 1,050 reservists on active service were selected, we can hardly speak of an all-out voluntary enlistment. Moreover, as candidates for service in Korea were few and far between from 1951 onwards (one year after the creation of this battalion), the French Army Command, much to its chagrin, had to start reinforcing the Korea Battalion with regulars. A total of some 3,400 French soldiers served in the French UN Battalion between 1950 and the end of war in 1953. The Battalion left Marseilles on 25 October 1950 and arrived in Pusan on 29 November. This was a critical moment because, a few days earlier, 300,000 Chinese so-called volunteer Communist forces had launched a major
The French Battalion in Korea 1950-53
counteroffensive against United Nations troops near the Manchurian border. Like other contingents of the coalition, the French Battalion was attached to an American division, the 2nd Infantry Division, nicknamed “Indian Head” because of its sleeve badge. While the French Battalion formed the fourth unit of the 23rd Regimental Combat Team, the Dutch belonged to the 9th Battalion and the Thai to the 38th. Nowadays, French veterans remember that, when they joined the 2nd Infantry Division, US fighters regarded them with some contempt. Apparently, at this stage, and despite the French participation in the World War II campaigns in Italy, France and Germany, France was still remembered for being the vanquished of 1940. Thus, fighting alongside western allies in Korea, French officers and troops wanted to prove their efficacy and courage at the earliest possible moment. At the beginning of 1951, after a short period of training and familiarisation with US weapons, the French Battalion got an opportunity to show its fighting qualities. On 8-10 January 1951, for the first time the Battalion faced a Communist offensive. At Wonju, the 2nd and 3rd Companies drove back the Chinese assailants with bayonets in hand. This action was keenly reported by US war correspondents, gaining for the French the admiration of their US co-belligerents. From then onwards, French fighters would benefit from the unreserved trust of their US comrades, a trust that was soon re-affirmed in the battles of Twin Tunnels and Chipyong-Ni in early February 1951. Fighting alongside their American allies, the French Battalion took part in some of the fiercest battles of the Korean War, such as those of Heartbreak Ridge (another name for Hill 931) in September 1951, and Arrowhead in October 1952. The French Battalion suffered about 270 killed and more than 1,000 wounded. Compared with the 33,000 Americans killed, only few French soldiers died, but their behaviour was unanimously appreciated by their American brothers in arms.
Two French soldiers from the UN Battalion (Communication and Audiovisual Production Company of the French Ministry of Defence(ECPAD)).
The teachings of the Korean War: the consideration of lesson learned The joint chiefs-of-staff were eager that their armed forces should learn from the operations in Korea and, for this reason, French participation was not limited to sending the battalion – the staff was considerably expanded with personnel whose task it was to identify lessons from which to learn. Thus the staff at the battalion HQ included thirty-four persons of whom ten were specialists in artillery, engineering, intelligence etc. By appointing General Monclar, a four-star general and veteran of both World Wars, as the chief-of-staff, the government wanted to give a prestigious and unique character to the French participation. In order to meet American requirements, Monclar accepted to trade his general’s stars for five stripes of a lieutenant-colonel. However beneficial to the lessons learning process, Monclar’s presence had the negative side-effect that the
The French Battalion in Korea 1950-53
battalion’s commanding officer – Major Le Mire – was relegated to relative obscurity and remained unknown abroad.
General Monclar and members of his staff. (Communication and Audiovisual Production Company of the French Ministry of Defence(ECPAD)).
Monclar’s mission was clear: he and his staff officers would observe and analyse the operations and the enemy’s methods of warfare, as well as the modus operandi of coalition partners. Thus, certain officers were told to spy on their American colleagues, something French officers refused to do. After the end of World War II, the Korean War was the first modern conflict which might be characterised as a warfare laboratory for western armies. The French army, whose reorganisation was in full progress, was trying to formulate modern military doctrines; the operations in Korea gave them the opportunity. Here are just a few examples. From the air force’s point of view, the French army was seriously behind. Thus, the air interdiction missions realised by the B-29 Super Fortress targeting of North Korean communication lines are thoroughly examined. Likewise, special attention was paid to the co-ordination of actions on land and in the air and, more particularly, to the missions of close air support, at which the American air and, particularly maritime, force became increasingly better. Although the
employment of artillery and cavalry seemed rather conventional, nevertheless it proved interesting because these branches were intensively used in mountainous and, therefore, particularly difficult physical environments. The use of mortar fire during the attack, as well as throughout defensive periods, was subject to detailed reports. In September 1951, only one year after its creation, the chief of staff was dissolved. At the end of 1951, an extensive document titled “Lessons learned from Korean War” [Les Enseignements de la guerre de Corée] was published and circulated widely among French officers. Even though the work of this staff was performed satisfactorily, one fact – that has largely gone unnoticed – deserves to be mentioned: Archival material reveals that the extended staff complicated the chain of command between the Americans and the French Battalion. Moreover, there is a matter of serious disagreements between the chief of staff and the battalion’s remaining officers: A confidential memo from 1951 tells that the chief of staff’s doings confused responsibilities, caused unwarranted interference and created conflicts. Thus, “each of the two [parties] accuses the other of delaying the transmission of orders and final reports”. The officers and non-commissioned officers remembered this “anomaly in the military organisation chart” as triggering “confusion between the orders received from both sides”, impacting first and foremost upon the troops who had to suffer the consequences. When the first contingent of the French Battalion returned home at the end of 1951, some of these disagreements had turned into bitter enmities. In a telegram to the Minister for National Defence, General Monclar declared that “it is not specified that the staff officers have to travel with the battalion after the frictions which took place”.
The French Battalion, a political tool of a medium power The French, American and South Korean citations that the French Battalion received attest the total commitment of the French volunteers and regulars. Yet, no offence is intended when asserting that French participation in the war remained limited: France sent one third of the personnel that Turkey did. Actually, the number of soldiers sent to Korea was not the primary concern to the French government. More importantly, France showed her willingness to take part in the military actions and subsequently had its voice heard on the world stage. Due to her contribution to the victory over National-Socialist Germany in 1945, France still nurtured an illusion of greatness. This illusion has been reinforced by the French notion of having re-conquered the Empire – even though unrest caused recurring trouble – and by, in the nick of time,
The French Battalion in Korea 1950-53
managing to become a permanent member of the United Nation Security Council. To uphold this illusion, when the Korean War broke out, though by then economically bled white, France had no choice but to respond positively to the request by the United Nations. As with other western administrations, the invasion of South Korea came as a complete surprise to the French government. Indeed, neither the American intelligence agencies nor the French resources in the region had been able to provide any predictions of what was about to happen. On 26 June 1950, at the Council of Ministers, the President of the French Republic, Vincent Auriol, expressed his astonishment and requested more detailed information concerning the situation from the Foreign Office. According to the reports at hand “the sector seemed very calm”. “We did not expect anything like this”. Moreover, like many observers, the ministry did not believe in an internationalisation of the conflict. Nevertheless, the members of government soon united in their desire to enforce international law and adopt a firm attitude towards the North Korean aggressor. The French Ambassador to the United Nations, Jean Chauvel, received clear instructions: a firm attitude without going beyond the Americans, which would be evidently “ridiculous, since we did not have any appropriate way to act”. Incidentally, in the beginning, Auriol was in favour of a limited action by the United Nations, which would have consisted of an air raid followed by leaflet-dropping over North Korea. The leaflets would explain the reasons of the air raid. With the sending of the colonial aviso La Grandière in July 1950, the French government hoped to fulfil its duty in the international coalition by repeating that France was already fighting communism in Indo-China. With repeated demands from the UN, France still tried to avoid becoming too actively involved in the Korean affair. Hence the suggestion was made to send a group of observers (a dozen senior officers) to operate on the ground. This proposal greatly irritated General MacArthur and met with refusal: “The United Nations forces needed fighters, not observers,” he explained. Moreover, MacArthur pointed out that this group, even if it reached the Far-East, would remain blocked in Japan. It should indeed be remembered that, during the initial period, the American fighters felt somewhat “isolated”. In mid-August 1950, war correspondents unanimously relayed the feelings of the GIs about the absence of the United Nations troops who were supposed to fight at their side. In addition to an immediate military effect, the arrival of allied contingents could have a positive effect on the morale of the American soldiers, whose fighting spirit was declining after two months of intensive combat.
Conclusion Eventually, the decision to send a battalion pleased everybody: the United Nations Secretary-General, who wanted France to become more involved; the Americans who, from a military point of view, did not need the French at all, but for political reasons needed as many nations as possible around them; and the French who, by this means, could have their voice heard internationally and at modest costs. The Korean War cannot be exactly considered as a multinational operation as we understand it nowadays because it was conducted and commanded entirely by the Americans. Aware of its weakness at the time, France agreed, with no difficulty, to take part in the international coalition under American command, and the attachment of its battalion to an American unit. To fulfil its role as permanent member of the United Nations, the price to be paid was not too high.