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On 3 September 1650 Oliver Cromwell won a decisive victory over the Scottish Covenanters at the Battle of Dunbar - a victory that is often regarded as his finest hour - but the aftermath, the forced march of 5,000 prisoners from the battlefield to Durham, was one of the cruellest episodes in his career. The march took them seven days, without food and with little water, no medical care, the property of a ruthless regime determined to eradicate any possibility of further threat. Those who survived long enough to reach Durham found no refuge, only pestilence and despair. Exhausted, starving and dreadfully weakened, perhaps as many as 1,700 died from typhus and dysentery. Those who survived were condemned to hard labour and enforced exile in conditions of virtual slavery in a harsh new world across the Atlantic. Cromwell's Convicts describes their ordeal in detail and, by using archaeological evidence, brings the story right up to date. John Sadler and Rosie Serdiville describe the battle at Dunbar, but their main focus is on the lethal week-long march of the captives that followed. They make extensive use of archive material, retrace the route taken by the prisoners and describe the recent archaeological excavations in Durham which have identified some of the victims and given us a graphic reminder of their fate.
Alexander was perhaps the greatest conquering general in history. In just over a generation, his northern Greek state of Macedon rose to control the whole of the vast Persian Empire. It was the legacy of his father, Philip, that launched Alexander on a spectacular career of conquest that planted Hellenic culture across most of Asia. In a dozen years Alexander took the whole of Asia Minor and Egypt, destroyed the once mighty Persian Empire, and pushed his army eastwards as far as the Indus. No-one in history has equalled his achievement. Julius Caesar, contemplating his hero's statue, is said to have wept because by contrast he had accomplished so little. Much of Alexander's success can be traced to the Macedonian phalanx, a close-ordered battle formation of sarissa-wielding infantry that proved itself a war-winning weapon. The army Alexander inherited from his father was the most powerful in Greece, highly disciplined, trained and loyal only to the king. United in a single purpose, they fought as one. Alexander recognized this and is quoted as saying, Remember upon the conduct of each depends the fate of all. Cavalry was also of crucial importance in the Macedonian army, as the driving force to attack the flanks of the enemy in battle. A talented commander, able to anticipate how his opponent would think, Alexander understood how to commit his forces to devastating effect, and was never defeated in battle. He also developed a corps of engineers that utilised catapults and siege towers against enemy fortifications. Alexander led from the front, fighting with his men, eating with them, refusing water when there was not enough, and his men would quite literally follow him to the ends of the (known) world, and none of his successors was able to hold together the empire he had forged. Although he died an early death his fame and glory persist to this day. This concise history gives an overview of Alexander's life from a military standpoint, from his early military exploits to the creation of his empire and the legacy left after his premature death.
Fortified structures have been in existence for thousands of years. In ancient and medieval times castles were the ultimate symbol of power, dominating their surroundings, and marking the landscape with their imposing size and impregnable designs. After the Norman conquest of England, castles exploded in popularity amongst the nobility, with William the Conqueror building an impressive thirty-six castles between 1066-1087, including Windsor Castle is one example of such a castle which survives today, a monument of the remarkable architecture designed and developed in medieval England. This concise and entertaining short history explores the life of the castle, one that often involved warfare and sieges. The castle was a first and foremost a fortress, the focus of numerous clashes which took place in the twelfth and thirteenth centuries. Castles became targets of sieges, such as that organised by Prince Louis of France against Dover castle in 1216, and were forced to adopt greater defensive measures. Also explored is how they evolved from motte-and-bailey to stone keep castles, in the face of newly-developed siege machines and trebuchets. The trebuchet named Warwolf, which Edward I had assembled for his siege of Scotland's Stirling Castle, reportedly took three months to construct and was almost four hundred feet tall on completion. With features such as 'murder-holes' for throwing boiling oil at the attackers, the defenders in the castle fought back in earnest. Alongside such violence, the castle functioned as a residence for the nobles and their servants, often totalling several hundred in number. It was the location for extravagant banquets held in the great hall by the lord and lady, and the place where the lord carried out his administrative duties such as overseeing laws and collecting taxes.
Originally warriors mounted on horseback, knights became associated with the concept of chivalry as it was popularised in medieval European literature. Knights were expected to fight bravely and honourably and be loyal to their lord until death if necessary. Later chivalry came to encompass activities such as tournaments and hunting, and virtues including justice, charity and faith. The Crusades were instrumental in the development of the code of chivalry, and some crusading orders of knighthood, such as the Knights Templar, have become legend. Boys would begin their knightly training at the age of seven, learning to hunt and studying academic studies before becoming assistants to older knights, training in combat and learning how to care for a knight's essentials: arms, armour, and horses. After fourteen years of training, and when considered master of all the skills of knighthood, a squire was eligible to be knighted. In peacetime knights would take part in tournaments. Tournaments were a major spectator sport, but also an important way for knights to practice their skills - knights were often injured and sometimes killed in melees. Knights figured large in medieval warfare and literature. In the 15th century knights became obsolete due to advances in warfare, but the title of 'knight' has survived as an honorary title granted for services to a monarch or country, and knights remain a strong concept in popular culture. This short history will cover the rise and decline of the medieval knights, including the extensive training, specific arms and armour, tournaments and the important concept of chivalry.
Just over a decade after the first successful powered flight, fearless pioneers were flying over the battlefields of France in flimsy biplanes. As more aircraft took to the skies, their pilots began to develop tactics to take down enemy aviators. Though the infantry in their muddy trenches might see aerial combat as glorious and chivalric, the reality for these 'Knights of the Sky' was very different and undeniably deadly: new Royal Flying Corps subalterns in 1917 had a life expectancy of 11 days. In 1915 the term 'ace' was coined to denote a pilot adept at downing enemy aircraft, and top aces like the Red Baron, Rene Fonck and Billy Bishop became household names. The idea of the ace continued after the 1918 Armistice, but as the size of air forces increased, the prominence of the ace diminished. But still, the pilots who swirled and danced in Hurricanes and Spitfires over southern England in 1940 were, and remain, feted as 'the Few' who stood between Britain and invasion. Flying aircraft advanced beyond the wildest dreams of Great War pilots, the 'top' fighter aces of World War II would accrue hundreds of kills, though their life expectancy was still measured in weeks, not years. World War II cemented the vital role of air power, and post-war innovation gave fighter pilots jet-powered fighters, enabling them to pursue duels over huge areas above modern battlefields. This entertaining introduction explores the history and cult of the fighter ace from the first pilots through late 20th century conflicts, which leads to discussion of whether the era of the fighter ace is at an end.
British soldiers have been known as Tommies for centuries, but the nickname is particularly associated with the British infantryman in the trenches of World War I. In August 1914, a small professional force of British soldiers crossed the Channel to aid the French and Belgians as the German army advanced. As it became apparent that the war would not, in fact, be over by Christmas, a vast drive for volunteer soldiers began. As enthusiasm for enlistment tailed off, eventually conscription was introduced in order to replenish the forces weakened by years of bloodshed. By 1918 the British Army was transformed, fielding 5.5 million men on the Western Front alone. These Tommies fought an entirely new type of war, living in vast trench systems, threatened by death from the air and gas attack as well as by bullet, bomb, or bayonet. This introduction explores the experience of Tommies on the Western Front, explaining how their war evolved and changed from the mobile battles of August 1914 to the final days of the war, and discussing daily life as an infantryman on the front line using first-hand accounts, contemporary poems, and songs.
The Battle for Alesia was a decisive moment in world history. It determined whether Rome would finally conquer Gaul or whether Celtic chieftain Vercingetorix would throw off the yoke and consequently whether a number of independent Celtic tribal kingdoms could resist the might of Rome. Failure would have been a total defeat for Julius Caesar, not just in Gaul but in the Senate. His career would have been over, his enemies would have pulled him down, civil war would have ensued, no dictatorship, no liaison with Cleopatra. Rome would not have become an empire beyond the Mediterranean. European, and therefore world history might have been a very different story. Caesar's campaign of 52 BC frequently hung in the balance. Vercingetorix was a far more formidable opponent than any encountered in Gaul; bold charismatic and imbued with strategic insight of the highest order. The Romans were caught totally off-guard and it seemed all too likely their grip on Gaul, which Caesar had imagined secure, would be prised free. The Siege of Alesia itself was one of the most astonishing military undertakings of all times. Caesar's interior siege lines stretched for 18 kilometres and were surrounded by an outward facing line three kilometres longer, complete with palisades, towers, ditches, minefields and outposts. This work was completed in less than three weeks. Vercingetorix's refuge proved a trap and, despite an energetic defence and the arrival of a huge relief army, there was to be no escape. Caesar's Greatest Victory fully reveals both sides of the conflict, to explore in depth the personalities involved and to examine the legacy of the campaign which still resonates today. The arms, equipment, tactics and fighting styles of Roman and Celtic armies are explained, as well as the charisma and leadership of Caesar and Vercingetorix and the command and control structures of both sides. Using new evidence from archaeology, the authors construct a fresh account of not just the siege itself but also the Alesia campaign and place it into the wider context of the history of warfare. This is Roman history at its most exciting, featuring events still talked about today.
The Great War 1914 1918 was dubbed the `war to end all wars' and introduced the full flowering of industrial warfare to the world. The huge enthusiasm which had greeted the outbreak of hostilities in August 1914 soon gave way to a grim resignation and, as the Western Front became a long, agonising battle of dire attrition, revulsion. Never before had Britain's sons and daughters poured out their lifeblood in such prolonged and seemingly incessant slaughter. The conflict produced a large corpus of war poetry, though focus to date has rested with the `big' names Brooke, Sassoon, Graves, Owen, Rosenberg and Blunden et al - with their descent from youthful enthusiasm to black cynicism held as a mirror of the nation's journey. Their fame is richly merited, but there are others that, until now, you would not expect to find in any Great War anthology. This is `Tommy' verse, mainly written by other ranks and not, as is generally the case with the more famous war poets, by officers. It is, much of it, doggerel, loaded with lavatorial humour. Much of the earlier material is as patriotic and sentimental as the times, jingoistic and occasionally mawkish. However, the majority of the poems in this collection have never appeared in print before; they have been unearthed in archives, private collections and papers. Their authors had few pretences, did not see themselves as poets, nor were writing for fame and posterity. Nonetheless, these lost voices of the Great War have a raw immediacy, and an instant connection that the reader will find compelling.
The Battle of Flodden in 1513 was the largest battle ever to take place between England and Scotland. James IV himself led an army of 30,000 men over the border into England, ostensibly in revenge for the murder of a Scotsman, but in reality to assist their ally the French by diverting the forces of Henry VIII. Yet the Scots were hampered by old-fashioned weapons and tactics, whereas the English deployed more accurate artillery and their vaunted longbowmen. When King James IV was killed while leading a charge, and many of their officers died, the Scots were left in disarray and the English victory was decisive. As the first new history of the battle in a decade, this authoritative and eye-opening account marks the 500th anniversary and brings our knowledge of the conflict up to date. Expert knowledge and detailed maps look at the key events, the 1135 campaign and the minor battles of Millfield and Norham, and a full profile of the respective forces and deployments, and convey the battle's course concisely and clearly. A key read for those interested in military history or the period in general.