A road to iSandlwana

Research is something I do. Sometimes for no reason. And that is the best way I can explain the following post. If you are interested in the Anglo Zulu War of 1879 then I’m sure you will be interested. If you’ve never heard of it, you will likley have more questions to ask than are answered. Continue reading “A road to iSandlwana”

Britain’s Greatest Battle

On the 20th of April the National Army Museum London will hold a speakers event to determine Britain’s Greatest battle. A selection of battles covering a span of time from the English Civil War to Afghanistan has been chosen, and a online poll has been opened for the public to vote for five finalists that guest speakers (as yet unnamed) will argue for on the 20th.  Previously the Museum has chosen Britain’s Greatest General, and Britain’s Greatest Enemy General by this means, and has found that The Duke of Wellington and Field Marshal Slim (A name not generally known) where tied for greatest general. And by a large margin George Washington beat out Napoleon for British enemy number 1.

At this moment the leader board looks like this:
Battle Votes
1 D-Day/Normandy 256
2 Waterloo 248
3 Musa Qala 131
4 Imphal/Kohima 130
5 El Alamein 115
But there is a choice of 20 well and not so well known choices.
You can vote here for the battle you think is your greatest. http://www.nam.ac.uk/exhibitions/online-exhibitions/britains-greatest-battles

Here’s my thoughts.
For a long time I have had WM stamped after my name. These initials, found on muster books at the end of a soldier’s name who fought under the Duke of Wellington at Waterloo . Essentially this makes me biased, but everyone who gets involved in this debate will have their favourite. However I feel perfectly certain in my belief that Waterloo deserves its place in the popular imagination as Britain’s Greatest Battle.
Because The victory over Napoleon in 1815 has numerous threads that lead down to today. It was the full stop of an age and the first word of another, the 18th century died on the slopes of Mont St Jean that sunday morning, and modern Europe was born by the gunsmoke tarnished sunset, and an Empire was being born out of the ashes of another. The reason why the British Army is the force it is today is Becasue of the steadiness and dedication of the troops at Waterloo. The image of the steel rimmed squares of British redcoats, being swamped by angry sea’s of French Cuirassiers, inspired the nation and was the epitome of the stiff upper lip, the Victorian Empire we are descended from, came about not Becasue of steam and mills, but Becasue the Waterloo men won the peace that allowed progress to happen.
As a military victory, it shows Wellington’s mastery of position, deployment and improvisation, on the 15th of June he should have been knocked out of the game, but he was able to concentrate his force and fall back to ground he knew, where he could be supported and utterly crush Napoleon. The Duke said his Infantry never behaved so well, and indeed never had the ties of Regimental loyalty and dicipline been tested so hard, in all arms, from the redcoats to the cavalry’s magnificent charges to the solidness of the Artillery, all played their part in the eventual victory.

The reason I have decided to write this is because I myself cannot see how Washington could have defeated Napoleon, or how Field Marshal Montgomery was a poorer general than Slim, just Because Slim has unjustly been forgotten, in my opinion that is like saying General Hill was better than Wellington just because he didn’t have as much notoriety.

If we consider what a Great Battle is, it clearly is a conflict that shaped the history that followed it or possibly overshadows the battles that preceded it. That by virtue of its outcome has influenced the world today, and has left an indelible impression on the tactical thinking, motivation and performance of the military units that can trace their ancestry to it. This is not to say that the older the battle the more deserving, for not every battle has been fought with the same stakes riding on it and thus has a lessened impact on today.

Waterloo represents the peak of proficiency of the army that Wellington fought in. This why for the rest of his life he fought to keep it that way with only minor changes creeping in. The British would not fight another war against an “Industrial power” until the Crimea in 1854 so the tactical benefits of the battle where obsolete almost as soon as the last shot was fired, yet the use of squares, lines, volleying and cavalry was widely used across the Empire, but in different ways. Indeed it could be argued that WW2 was the final proving of the post Waterloo army and, the post world war army has yet to evolve into its penultimate form as it faces the challenges of counter insurgency and guerrilla warfare, perhaps Iraq and Afghanistan will prove to be this benchmark and another change awaits. In this sense Waterloo’s influence on the following generations of soldiers was tradition and spirit, which obviously carried through to the first and second world war, and by extension to the troops fighting today.

Please follow the link and vote how you think is best
Thanks for reading.

2012 in review

The WordPress.com stats helper monkeys prepared a 2012 annual report for this blog.

Here’s an excerpt:

600 people reached the top of Mt. Everest in 2012. This blog got about 3,200 views in 2012. If every person who reached the top of Mt. Everest viewed this blog, it would have taken 5 years to get that many views.

Click here to see the complete report.

Jousting the once and future sport?

Two American made program’s have recently caused me to ask the question is Jousting the next Olympic sport or is it just a fad?

Jousting is being whispered to be the next Olympic sport. It’s a long road from English Heritage events but people are talking about it seriously.
The American tradition of Renaissance Fair’s allowed the sport to re-emerge from obscurity and in 2012 Full Metal Jousting appeared on the History Channel, bringing modern competitive jousting its first international screening.
But does this sport have what it takes to come back to the fore amongst other equestrian sports. In those terms it would seem so, for after all it remained a popular activity all the way from about 1100 to the 16th Century.
The sport is still as violent as ever though. Although events in Britain, where the joust is an officially recognised sport, are relatively tame geared towards crowd pleasing than doing damage, there was one fatality in 2011 and fractures are as common as they are in rugby.
American professional jousting emphasises full contact and violence in the old tradition and injuries are rife, with the use of solid heavy lances made of hemlock in the case of National Geographic’s earlier show, aired in 2011, “Knights of Mayhem” which makes use of traditional armour unlike Full Metal’s modern “Iron Man” take on body protection.
Cutting edge outfits and reality drama aside I am not convinced that Full Contact Jousting will ever become a professional, popular sport until the risk factor is minimised. Polo is the closest thing to jousting today, it is fast, it is dangerous but it is also non contact and injury not as guaranteed, if you get injured in Polo you have probably broken the rules.
Jousting is the “polo” opposite where the infliction of pain is a necessary evil, but does it have to be? I don’t think so.
The Sport of Fencing is arguably much older than Jousting and in the 17th century the violent aspect of training to kill a man in a duel was removed and by 1900 formal rules had appeared.
Unless the practice of War aspect is eliminated from Jousting I don’t think it can progress much further, professional competitor Shane Adams  has said what is missing from the sport is money, I would say that what is missing is safety, money will come when something big changes, for there are no more safeguards now than there was in 1300. Until that happens it will essentially remain an extreme sport.
How to resolve this? I think that jousting would make a great popular sport and by following the example of sword fencing I think it can attain this status.
By making the joust electric you instantly stop trying to hurt the opponent and start trying to score on him, this would further be improved by making the lances out of some sort of either easily breakable material or an incredibly bendy one, so as to lessen the impact. Perhaps there will always be a place for historic jousting but to make it a popular sport things have to change, because things have moved on and though we are sadly bombarded constantly by gratuitous graphic violence in the movies, the need to watch it live has yet to reappear. Traditionally points were awarded according to where you struck your opponent,  and so it would be so again, so and so point awarded for shoulders, chest, waist and so on. By allowing the practice of war to be removed you are left with a modern (possibly Olympic) sport that can be enjoyed with as much adrenaline as any equestrian event but in as much safety as well.

These be my thoughts thanks for reading them, I suggest you stop now or who knows what will happen.


What’s in a Name? The Margherita Pizza.

Last night I had a Margherita Pizza for dinner. Yum. And I would like to simply state that I think that this dish is nothing short of Italian Brilliance, possibly that country’s greatest gift to Western Civilisation! Being a Pizza enthusiast I suddenly wondered what the deal with it was and why was it called Margherita?
I Hereby show you my findings.
Pizza in one form or another has been around for centuries, decended from simple MedIterranean flatbreads, the people of Naples had called their simple creations of yeast based bread and paste Pizza long before the thing we buy at the supermarket came along.
In its origional form I don’t think it sounds very appetising, but as time went on the Pizza’s of Naples, cooked by its poorer citizens became a tourist attraction and drew wealthier diners down into the sticks to sample their tasty creations, served by open air vendors, Pizza bakeries or by peddlers. Apparently it was a favourite in winter but it bares little resemblance to what we know as Pizza today. What changed? Well in 1889 the Royal cook Raffael Esposito made three special Pizza’s for the King and his consort Queen Margherita of Savoy. One was a completely new take on the traditional plain pizza, hitherto either topped with a tomato paste (since the 16th century-ish) anchovies or olive oil and presumably that mysterious red paste. It was a pizza made with tomato sauce, olive oil, green basil and Mozzarlla cheese, the vibrant colours on this pie created the illusion of the Italian flag and the Queen enjoyed it so much that not only did cheese become prevalent on all Pizza’s from then on but this favoured creation became known as “The Margherita Pizza” and according to the True Neapolitan Pizza Association, it and the Marinara are the “only” types of Pizza in the world.

Anybody hungry?
Later, Josh.

What’s Your Civ?

Call it an experiment, call it a game or call it a random thought conjured up from the languid torpor of an absent moment, now used as a weapon to annoy travellers, call it what you like but let me ask you a question: Given the choice of three ancient civilisations which one would you choose to be a part of and why? Continue reading “What’s Your Civ?”

Waterloo Men.

His Grace Field Marshal the Duke of Wellington 1844

The 18th of June, is the anniversary of the Battle of Waterloo, a pivotal moment in European history. Don’t worry I haven’t been nearly so industrious as to have written a lengthy blow by blow account of the fight, hopefully I have been a little more original, So if you have a moment for commemoration please follow me.

Continue reading “Waterloo Men.”


Though I haven’t yet written about anything prior or past the 17th or 18th Centuries AD I just want to make something clear about my reference to dates in Antiquity.

At some recent time, I don’t know when (ha ha), the traditional way of identifying time prior and post a certain date changed from BC and AD to BCE and CE (or sometimes ACE which I think you will all agree is a word not an abbreviation). Why I don’t know and frankly I don’t care, all that I care about is that you should know that were applicable, on this website all dates will be prefixed or postmarked Before Christ or Year of Our Lord (As the comment below says, After Death, is a popular memory hook, my thanks).

If you being fond of the newer appellations feel vexed about this then I’m sorry,  you will just have to go through the same irritation that I have to every time I read a book with your favoured distinction in it. Call me what you like, say,  your one of those guys who would wear a T shirt reading “When I was a Kid Pluto was a Planet” well I don’t have one of those shirts but it’s quite true nevertheless. Just as true as the fact that when I was a kid we used BC and AD and I like them.

Well having wasted enough of your time on my hang up, I’ll let you get on with your life. The author breaths out a long freeing sigh and relaxes.