Articles

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Battlefield Medicine: Wellington’s medical service at Waterloo

There were around 50 hospital staff in Brussels before Waterloo, some of whom had recently been on campaign elsewhere in the Low Countries. Other regimental doctors came over with their battalions, as did other hospital staff members (physicians, apothecaries, purveyors, and dispensers).  At the time of Waterloo, there was no anaesthesia, no knowledge of or […]

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REGIMENT: The 10th Bombay Native Infantry in the Indian Mutiny

As the last knot of mutineers stood against the charge of the 10th Bombay Native Infantry, there must have been many who marvelled at the regiment’s bravery. Kotah-ki-Serai in June 1858 was the stiffest fight that the 10th experienced in the so-called ‘Sepoy Mutiny’. Bengal troops – trained, armed, dressed, and equipped just like the […]

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BATTLE MAPS: Battles of Monte la Difensa and Remetania

  Monte la Difensa Today, when you look at the routes up Difensa’s crags, it is just possible to imagine small groups of highly trained mountaineers conquering them. But hosts of heavily laden troops could not succeed, could they? They did, but not without facing almost overpowering difficulties. As one Forceman said, ‘no fear of death, just sheer exhaustion and survival. I […]

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WAR OF WORDS: ‘Legion’

‘Legion’ derives from the Latin legio, which itself comes from the verb legere, meaning ‘to choose’ or ‘to levy’. The legion represented the muster of Rome’s citizens in times of war. It appeared in English in the Middle Ages, and came to mean a large body of soldiers, or simply many people or things. In 1611, Shakespeare wrote in Cymbeline: ‘The Romaine Legions, all from […]

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BEHIND THE IMAGE: Wind tunnel testing, Messerschmitt Bf 109, 1940

It may look like a scene from a movie shoot – Germany’s answer to The Dam Busters, perhaps – but this strikingly modern photograph from 1940 offers instead a real-life glimpse behind the scenes of a top-secret aeronautical project. The state-of-the-art wind tunnel at the Herman Goering Aviation Research Institute, near Braunschweig (or Brunswick) in Lower Saxony, was one of Germany’s most closely shrouded […]

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All you need to know about… Erich Ludendorff

Neat ‘tache… who was he? Once called ‘the most powerful man in Germany’, Erich Ludendorff was a prominent general in the German Army of the First World War. He was also a writer, military theorist, and ultra right-wing politician. He went to cadet school at an early age, and later attended the prestigious War Academy. He quickly rose through […]

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BEHIND THE IMAGE: captured Luftwaffe crewmen, London Underground, 1940

In photography, timing is all – and there is no better example of the dictum than this gem of a snapshot capturing a surprising moment from ordinary London life during the Second World War. The image shows two airmen in Luftwaffe uniform walking through the Underground. One is a corporal, the other an Oberleutnant (the highest-ranking type of lieutenant), and together they stroll […]

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WAR OF WORDS: ‘first rate’

Top notch. The best. The finest. To be ‘first rate’ is to be unexcelled. The phrase initially appeared in the London Gazette in 1666, in a report on the building of 12 ships for the Royal Navy, ‘all of the first rate’. Fifteen years later, in John Lacy’s Sir Hercules Buffoon, it was being applied by the playwright to people, with some said to have ‘first-, […]

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BRIEFING ROOM: Nader Shah

Look at that bling – who was he? Hailed by historians as ‘a second Alexander’ and ‘the Napoleon of the East’, Nader Shah was Shah (monarch) of Persia from 1736 to 1747. He was a gifted military commander and used his prowess to build a huge empire that included Iran, Afghanistan, the North Caucasus, northern India, and much of central […]

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BOOK REVIEW: Taylor Downing’s ‘Breakdown: the crisis of shell shock on the Somme, 1916’

How do you deal with someone suffering from mental illness if you do not believe that such a condition exists? If you feel that it is possible to ‘snap out of it’, use mind over matter, and exercise the stiff upper lip? This was the problem that confronted the British Army during the Great War, and became a particularly acute problem following the Battle […]