McMullen Naval History Symposium 2019

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This was an impressive international conference, held once again at the US Naval Academy, Annapolis, Maryland. The flagship US Navy (USN) history symposium, held every two years, this year brought together a record number of scholars and participants, 400 in total, to present and learn from panels of world-class researchers and naval thinkers.

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Dawn’s early light over an F/A-18 display.

The weather on September 19 and 20 was beautiful, the sky was summer blue and warm, as the scholars awoke with the dawn to bus over to the US Naval Academy (USNA) from their hotels. Future USN lieutenants were starting classes on Thursday morning. The fall term had began on 19 August, with the conclusion of Plebe Summer for the new class of 2023 freshmen.

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Your intrepid narrator arrives & registers for the conference.

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After registering and picking up the conference booklet (which very helpfully included a small notebook, to be completely filled over the course of the following 48 hours), I headed down from the Hart Room reception and publishing exhibit at Sampson Hall (ie, the book store), making my way to the Mahan Hall Auditorium, to hear the symposium introductory remarks.

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Mahan Hall & the Auditorium

After a quick appraisal of the conference administrative details, we were on our way to the first panels. As usual with a conference of this size, one must selectively decide which panels to attend, and although it is certainly tempting to skitter in and out of rooms (as the midshipmen tend to do throughout the conference – preparing notes for assigned reports before heading to scheduled classes), I prefer to stick through with each panel and get a feel for the full discussion.

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Commander Benjamin “BJ” Armstrong covering conference administration and introductions

Although I was tempted to attend the session on the legacy of Jutland for the first panel, I decided instead to attend the panel on naval aviation and air power history, which I figured would complement my own research, to be presented in the afternoon on day two. As such, I was soon listening to Commander Andrew Moulis introduce the naval aviation panelists.

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Panel One: Session A6, Commander Stan Fisher (commentator), John Orr, Jonathan Chavanne and Bruce Perry

Bruce presented first, summarizing the history of pre-1941 Anglo-Japanese naval cooperation, notably the 1921 mission of the proto-fascist Lord Sempill, who was focused on advancing Japanese naval aviation. Bruce highlighted the infamous Frederick Rutland (“of Jutland”) controversy, in which the legendary naval aviator became a Japanese double agent, comparable to the Cambridge Five who later spied for the Soviet Union during the Second World War. Although much of this ground is covered by Arthur Marder’s now almost totally forgotten Old Friends, New Enemies, Bruce was able to take advantage of his impeccable pronunciation of Scottish names to enliven his paper, a strong opening to the conference proper.

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Jonathan was up next, presenting on the interwar history of the USN’s rigid airship program. Although the surviving First World War Zeppelins were destroyed by their crews rather than face internment, vis-a-vis the High Sea Fleet at Scapa Flow, they had in fact been promised as war reparations to the Americans. Rear Admiral Moffett, in particular, was keen to acquire rigid airships for the USN to act as long-range fleet scouts in the Pacific, a theatre where a Zeppelin’s endurance and operational radius, prior to the invention of radar, could have been useful. Towards this end Moffett, together with Lt. Commander Charles Rosendahl, arranged for the purchase of rigid airships from the Zeppelin works in Germany, of which the first for American service, LZ126, was completed in 1924. This Zeppelin entered American service as USS Los Angeles. Although the debate about the ongoing utility of rigid airships continued into the 1930s, the death of Moffett in the USS Macon disaster of 5 February 1935, like the demise of Britain’s R101 on 5 October 1930, as with the death of Germany’s Peter Strasser in LZ112 in 1918, generally put an end to the rigid airship program.

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Los Angeles (right) and Shenandoah in 1924

Third, John presented on the US naval air station (NAS) based in Halifax, Nova Scotia, for anti-submarine purposes during the First World War. Proposed with support from former Wing Commander J. T. Cull (RNAS and then RAF) in April 1918, the air station was activated in August 1918. Although not mentioned by John in his presentation, the USN had plenty of experience establishing stations in Ireland and at Dunkirk, the former in particular immensely important for Captain Hutch Cone (USN), who was leading the American naval aviation deployment to Europe for Admiral William Sims. By September 1918 Halifax was operating H12 flying boats, but this late in the submarine war, there was little activity in the area of operations

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John’s presentation included splendid nautical art by Group of Seven painter Arthur Lismer.

Lunch at the Alumni Hall was next, and as I had not formerly registered for the conference until a few days prior, my chances of making it into the assigned seating dining hall were slim. However, as luck would have it, a number of guests did not take their seats and thus I was thankfully ushered inside.

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Alumni Hall on the waterfront, in front of Mahan Hall, with the somewhat triumphalist display “Winning The Cold War”.

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The enormous model of USS Forrestal (CV59) outside the dining hall.

Inside the dining hall I quickly made my way to an open table and sat down to devour my salad entree and creamed chicken, followed by a satisfying carrot cake dessert. The sparse table I was sitting at turned out to be occupied by some of the ancient warfare presenters. This was in fact a significant bit of luck, as I had earlier sworn to Jesus, on Twitter, that I would attend more pre-1700 naval history panels at this years’ McMullen.

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I soon found myself conversing with a group including Jorit Wintjes, and John Hyland amongst others. Our discourse ranged from Greco-Roman amphibious operations to flagrant historical inaccuracies in Hollywood cinema and New York broadway, notably in Zack Snyder’s tortuous quasi-pornographic adaptation of Frank Miller’s 300, in the opening battle sequence of Ridley Scott’s Gladiator (artillery accurately represented; cavalry and shouting Zulu warriors less correct), and the portrayal of Lafayette alongside an apparently sympathetic Aaron Burr in the pop-cultural adaptation of Ron Chernow’s Hamilton.

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Refreshed, it was time to attend the afternoon panels. Feeling an irrepressible desire to break-out from my specialization, and no doubt influenced by the classical conversation at lunch, I decided to attend what turned out to be a fascinating session chaired by Gene Smith on the War of 1812

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Panel Two: Session B8, Samantha Cavell, Kevin McCranie and Kenneth “Kenny” Johnson.

Samantha presented on the distribution of Royal Navy forces during the 1812-13 phase of the American war, providing a useful update on Nicholas Rodger’s figures which unfortunately do not go beyond 1804 in The Command of the Ocean. Samantha demonstrated that Admiral Sir John Warren, C-in-C North American Station, based at Bermuda, was essentially conducting a holding operation: Warren’s tasks included carrying out a naval blockade, capturing American trade, and protecting the West Indies, while the war in Europe wound down. As soon as the threat from Napoleon was contained the British Admiralty shifted its focus from Europe to North America, and appointed the aggressive Vice Admiral Alexander Cochrane in Warren’s place, resulting in the defeat of the United States through a lightning maritime campaign that included Rear Admiral George Cockburn’s burning of Washington DC in 1814.

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Admiral Sir John Borlase Warren in 1799

Kevin followed up, employing the methodology of organizational and command analysis, eg, Roger Knight’s Britain Against Napoleon, to explore the administrative details at the Admiralty, where a minute staff of not much more than 30 individuals were running a global naval conflict. Kevin’s most interesting point was addressing the relative geospatial-time dynamic necessary when selecting commanders and drafting orders: the farther a naval station was from Whitehall, the more abstract the Admiralty orders by necessity had to be, and thus, the more discretion given to the local commander.

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While I was listening to the panel I was struck by the similarity of Britain’s 1812 strategy with that of the William Pitt – George Anson theatre strategy of 1756-63: concentrate in the decisive theatre while securing command of the sea, fight containment actions elsewhere, before shifting focus and eliminating the enemy’s overseas bases.

Kenny concluded the panel with a brilliant narration of Napoleon’s post-Trafalgar naval strategy, really a kind of “anti-strategy” as I saw it, in which the central objective was to confuse the British as much as possible regarding the Emperor’s objectives. This included fantasy operations to capture the Channel Islands with 10,000 men, another non-campaign in Egypt with 30,000, combined with a violent but generally ephemeral guerre de course intent on burning British merchants supplying Wellington’s Peninsular army. The extent of Napoleon’s effort to tie down British warships with deception included the comical case of blank orders and a brief effort during the American war to pay the United States to fight the privateering campaign on Bonaparte’s behalf.

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Sir Charles Oman’s multi-volume history of Wellington’s Peninsula campaign.

It was time to make my way to the next session, for which I knew I was going to have to make some tough choices. I was drawn to the Cold War Naval Strategy panel chaired by Nicholas Prime, but also to the US Naval Aviation during the Pacific War panel chaired by Randy Papadopoulous. Tempting as these sessions were, I ultimately decided I just could not miss the all-star panel on Leyte Gulf that was being chaired by Thomas Cutler.

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Panel Three: Session C7, Thomas Cutler introduces Trent Hone, Paul Stillwell, and K. J. Delamer, with comments by Craig Symonds.

Trent Hone, Guadalcanal and USN doctrine specialist, presented first, establishing the narrative basis for the Philippines’ campaign, known as Campaign Plan Granite. Vice Admiral Shoji Nishimura’s South Force was pulverized as it attempted to run the gauntlet at Surigao Strait, leaving only Vice Admiral Takeo Kurita’s Central Force to operate against the American invasion force. A group of Imperial Japanese Navy (IJN) carriers (without planes) are moving as a distraction north of USN Third Fleet, and although Task Force 38 under Admiral Mark Mitscher and his Chief of Staff Captain Arleigh Burke want to convince Admiral Halsey to concentrate against Kurita, Mitscher ultimately defers to Halsey and the entire force goes north after the Japanese decoy force. Trent argued that Halsey’s command process had become complacent, and when combined with fatigue and inexperience operating as a fleet commander, meant that Halsey’s subordinates did not feel confident to correct what they could see was clearly a mistake.

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Trent Hone presenting on Admiral William “Bull” Halsey’s (in)famous command decisions at the Battle of Leyte Gulf.

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“Halsey acted stupidly” – Tom Clancy’s Marko Ramius played by Sean Connery in John McTiernan’s Hunt For Red October.

Paul presented next, examining the question of Task Force 34 under Admiral Lee, who by all expectations should have fought a decisive action against Kurita at the San Bernadino Strait, but was instead committed north in the goose chase against the IJN decoy force. At this point in the panel the thought foremost in my mind was that this entire situation sounded so very similar to the Battle of Jutland and the confusion and command indecision that surrounded that battle, perhaps best described by Andrew Gordon in The Rules of the Game.

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Iconic photograph of USS Iowa, as featured on the cover of Life magazine, 30 October 1944

K. J., at this point, did everyone a service by deconstructing an obscure statement from Samuel Eliot Morison, the legendary American naval historian appointed by Franklin Roosevelt to write a “fighting” history of the war. S. E. Morison’s otherwise brilliant front-line quasi-official history is certainly an easy target for revision, but K. J. raised an interesting case by examining Morison’s seemingly bizarre comparison of Leyte Gulf to the Athenian Syracuse expedition. The thrust of K. J.’s counter argument was that American victory in the Pacific was clearly guaranteed by the geostrategic situation in 1944, and thus the tactical and operational details of Leyte, while interesting, were unlikely to produce a strategically significant result regardless of the what-if variables. Craig Symonds’ comments built off this analysis, flipping the Morison analogy on its head, and detailing the core controversies in the Leyte Gulf scenario that to my way of thinking clearly make this the American Jutland.

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S. E. Morison’s renowned multi-volume history of the US Navy in the Second World War, and Thomas Cutler’s introduction to Volume 12 of Morison’s history.

So ended the panels for day one, September 19, and the scholars retired to the US Naval Museum at Preble Hall for cocktails and decompression. After a few drinks and hors d’oeuvre we returned to Mahan Hall for the Symposium keynote. This year, unlike 2017’s conference, a roundtable event was arranged, the idea being to hear comparisons of King, Burke and Zumwalt, generally geared towards the freshmen plebes, some evidently more interested than others.

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Vice Admiral (retired) Frank Pandolfe chaired the panel that included scholars David Kohnen, David Rosenberg and Edward Marolda, with comment provided by Admiral (retired) Jonathan Greenert, former Chief of Naval Operations (2011-15).

David Kohnen highlighted Admiral King’s comprehensive service experience and technological mastery, while emphasizing King’s role as a naval educator, having co-authored the famous Knox-King-Pye report and later in his career established the Naval War College Command Course. David Rosenberg emphasized Captain Arleigh Burke’s role as Mitscher’s Chief of Staff during the war, a foundation that served Burke throughout his career, including planning the Inchon landings during the Korean War, aiding in the negotiation of the eventual ceasefire, and advancing to CNO under the Eisenhower administration where he helped develop high-frontier concepts such as NASA and ARPA. Edward brought the narrative into the post-Vietnam era with his discussion of Elmo Zumwalt, whose Project 60 concept led to the development of Harpoon missiles, the Sea Control Ship and other technologies that collectively created the foundation for the US Navy as it exists today.

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This was an interesting overview of three very different, but immensely influential, American naval leaders, that unfortunately had to be wrapped up during the Q&A as it had run overtime – clearly the discussion between these scholars could have continued indefinitely, but 8:30 pm on Thursday evening was late, and only a few lieutenants and fewer midshipmen remained. With that, I returned to the conference hotel to catch dinner and get some sleep in preparation for an event filled second day.

The conference restarted at 8 am sharp on Friday, 20 September (an hour earlier than on Thursday!) and, blurry eyed, I decided to attend the session that seemed to me to be thematically structured around the vastly important concept of maritime blockade. Little did I realize that, from my perspective, this would actually turn out to be the most interesting panel of the conference.

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Panel Four: Session D4, Cori Convertito, Hans Christian Bjerg, Nicholas Prime, with comment by Sharika Crawford.

Cori introduced the history of Key West in the context of the American Civil War. Key West was a hugely important fortified naval base and federal district court that became a decisive base of operations for both executing the blockade against the Confederate States of America (CSA), and in 1862 under Admiral David Farragut, the staging ground for the capture of New Orleans. Heavily fortified beginning in 1845, Key West became known as the American Gibraltar, the controlling point for access to the greater Florida southern United States. General Winfield Scott’s Anaconda Plan for strangling the CSA with riverine and coastal blockade relied on USN bases, including Boston and New York, with Key West playing a comparable role, the blockade forces there in fact responsible for capturing more Confederate blockade runners and merchants than either of the larger continental ports (although with cargos of less total value). Crucially, as the blockade forces seized Confederate supplies and ships, the Union’s merchants grew stronger – captured supplies could be put back into use during amphibious operations against the CSA.

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Farragut’s flagship USS Hartford forcing Fort Jackson during the New Orleans operation, April – May 1862

Hans presented next, likewise examining the role of a small Caribbean island that loomed large in the history of the Monroe doctrine. The Dutch Virgin Island of St. Thomas was of great interest to the reconstruction era United States as a possible naval base, and following the Alaska purchase of 1867, had been considered for purchase at the cost of $3 million in 1868, although not followed through. Renewed interest by the United States following consideration by the unified German Empire to purchase the island once again brought St. Thomas into American consideration, in particular after the Spanish-American War and then the decision to construct the Panama Canal in 1904. St. Thomas was finally purchased, at cost of $25 million in March 1917 – just prior to the US entry into the First World War – over concern that Germany might have acquired the island had Denmark been occupied during the war. This case study, like Cori’s presentation on Key West, highlighted the outsize significance of small but strategically located island bases which had the potential to provide sea-lane control, amidst frequent clashes between perceived strategic imperatives and political decision-making.

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Needless to say, St. Thomas is no longer the contested strategic location it was during the 19th and early 20th centuries.

Nicholas brought the conversation into the nuclear era, presenting the findings from his research into Rear Admiral J. C. Wylie, later well known as a military strategist, who in fact played an important and indeed astonishing role in the lead-up to the Cuban Missile Crisis. Wylie was the naval planner who, as early as mid-September 1962, had first proposed the plan to blockade Cuba. Wylie’s intention was to prepare a means of pressuring Castro, but his plan was however coopted by the Joint Chiefs of Staff, the CIA, and Robert Kennedy’s Mongoose planning group, into an off the shelf invasion plan aimed at removing Castro from power altogether. Utilizing Freedom Of Information (FOI) requests, Nicholas gained access to the Wylie plan, and dissected the document to demonstrate that the Pentagon had certainly been aware of the blockade strategy well before it was proposed during the Excomm meetings in October 1962. Furthermore, like the previous papers, Nicholas encountered the interplay between strategic planners and the political and service priorities that actually shaped policy.

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New York Times front page for 23 October 1962, recording JFK’s announcement of the Cuban quarantine, a watershed moment in the history of the Cuban Revolution and the first phase of the Cold War.

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As the panel wrapped up I headed back upstairs to scour the publishing stalls for fresh material. Amongst the cornucopia of free coffee, pop, danish and fruit platters, I discovered that the proceedings for the 2013 conference had at last (!) been published and were now available, free of charge. I chatted with the people manning the booths, but I was beginning to realize that I was confronted with a dilemma: on the one hand I was having fun with these panels, and no historian can resist collecting free books, but on the other hand I was rapidly exhausting any plausible storage space for the flight home. Furthermore there were only two panels remaining that I would have a chance to attend, considering that my own presentation was scheduled to follow in a few hours.

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They will be mine, oh yes, they will be mine

With these deep thoughts on my mind, and my arms straining under the burden of dense volumes, I paced the halls of the history department, chugging coffee as my Oxfords clicked across the floor. The time between sessions was counting down, and I had to make a decision. Presentations were starting as I ducked into the session chaired by Mark Folse.

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Panel Five: Session E2, Kelsey Power, Joy Carter, and Heather Haley, with comment by Lori Bogle.

Kelsey was presenting on the subject of how class shaped identity amongst POWs during the Napoleonic War. Officers captured during the war were sent to the Verdun Citadelle where they were treated relatively well, their class consciousness as gentlemen being generally respected. The overthrow of traditional 18th century European class norms during the French Revolution made Royal Navy officer POWs more liable for exploitation, and they were thereafter routinely subjected to search and seizure, including confiscation of their personal goods (and money). The prisoners in response utilized creative methods to hide their valuables, and were not unknown to have employed cross-dressing to orchestrate escape attempts.

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The Verdun Citadelle today

Heather’s presentation focused on the case of Ensign Vernon Berg, who was discharged from the Navy over a homosexual scandal aboard USS Little Rock. Berg later successfully sued the Navy for unfair dismissal in a landmark legal case. Heather’s presentation focused on the Cold War cultural mentality in the navy during and after the Eisenhower era, when a particular version of masculinity was codified in which homosexuality was perceived as deviant and threatening. Perceptions of homosexuality changed over time, being perceived during the 1970s primarily as a psychiatric issue effecting the “character” of the naval officer in question. Modernization, manpower retention policies, and legal challenges such as those pursued by Ensign Berg eventually mandated greater tolerance for homosexuality towards the end of the Cold War.

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E. Lawrence Gibson’s book about Berg’s legal suit.

Joy’s presentation surveyed her career as a civilian hydrographer, contracted by the navy to conduct spot hydrographic surveys in what were invariably future combat zones, including Somalia and Kuwait during the 1990s. This was a very revealing presentation that apparently did not involve the CIA, although it certainly could have, and demonstrated an immense blindspot in the land power approach to naval operations that often seems to dominate US Navy doctrine. The United States Hydrographic Office, originally a part of the Navy, was transferred to the Department of Defense in 1949, and then abolished and replaced by the Naval Oceanographic Office in July 1962. I was not entirely surprised that the USN had been terribly short-changed by these events, leaving Defence Department civilians to manage the essential hydrographic mapping functions, alongside competitor mapping agencies such as the National Geospatial Agency, formed out of the National Imagery and Mapping Agency in November 2003. The result of this bureaucratic centralization was that the USN routinely encountered scenarios for which it was woefully unprepared, notably for example during the rushed planning of the 1983 Grenada operation (Urgent Fury), during which nobody knew how dangerous the condition of the shoals were around Grenada. The resulting “just in time” reliance on civilians proved inadequate during the numerous littoral and special operations forces missions that followed 2001 as part of the War on Terror. The lesson that Joy’s experience emphasized is that the unglamorous and often dangerous work of hydrographic study is critical to naval operations and good order at sea, and is ignored at the peril of land powers with significant navies.

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It was time for lunch, and I had to check in with my panel prior to our session.

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The weather was gorgeous and hot as we marched down to Dahlgren Hall, where a free pizza lunch was being provided in part by the International Maritime History Association. Comically, we started off eating the wrong free pizzas (which had been provided to a different group), an error we only discovered after having munched our way through at least several pizzas. After resolution of this SNAFU, I spent most of lunch discussing Admiral Jellicoe’s empire mission of 1919-21 with Tim Moots, the two American Barbary conflicts, 1802-05 and 1815 with Abby Mullen, and amphibious capabilities within the Royal Marines with John Bolt. I encouraged a USNA midshipman, and history major, to utilize his written work on social media, say, in a blog format similar to this one, so as to establish a good foundation with the historical research he was doing – being very interested, as he explained, in comparative combat cultures in the ancient world.

At last it was time for my panel, so I hurried back to Mahan Hall.

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Panel Six, Session F7, Chaired by Tim Benbow, presenters Alex Howlett, David McMeekin and Nicolas Blackman.

I recorded my presentation on naval aviation development with the Grand Fleet, visible here, also available in long form. I was impressed to see the room packed with midshipmen, giving me the impression someone had instructed them to write a report on my presentation – a belief that was reinforced as most of the cadets excused themselves from the room immediately after I finished presenting. Unfortunately for them, this meant that they missed the excellent work of my colleagues.

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Converted escort carrier HMS Audacity

David discussed the introduction of the escort carrier as a trade defense measure in Britain and the US, ultimately a wildly successful measure for convoy protection and anti-submarine warfare that is not as well recognized today as it really should be. David related the Royal Navy’s ongoing interest in naval aviation for a number of roles, citing the significant Holland report of September 1938. Ultimately, no surprise from my perspective, the Royal Navy fully endorsed naval aviation for trade protection, despite ministerial opposition criticizing the conversion of merchant ships to escort carriers – fallacies that had in fact been employed before, during the First World War.

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Cierva C30 autogyro

Nick described the development of the helicopter, a slow evolution of the non-rigid airship and catapult amphibian aircraft utilized by the Navy from 1915 to the 1920s, and beyond. Surprisingly, the Spanish were ahead of the technological curve in terms of helicopter development, the Cierva C30 autogyro being licence built by a number of countries during the 1930s, including the Cierva Autogiro Company established by the British. Weir and Hafner models followed, eventually succeeded during the Second World War by the very successful American firm of Sikorsky.

There was only time for one more panel, and I knew I wanted to catch the powerhouse session on British naval technology, covering the hundred years between 1860 and 1960.

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Panel Seven: Session G5, chaired by Jesse Tumblin, featuring John Beeler, Duncan Redford and Tim Benbow, with comment by Matthew Seligmann.

John’s paper focused on late 19th century Royal Navy strategy and the network interplay between senior Admiralty personnel, notably Sir John Fisher, and newspaper and literary critics including W. T. Stead and Spencer Wilkinson, who were collectively responsible for shaping public opinion and swaying Admiralty decision making. The Clausewitzian tripod was in full display, actually a recurring theme throughout the conference, I began to notice: strategic principles, once articulated, could be forgotten, obscured, or indeed reinforced in the minds of the public, by skillful use of media to create false realities, invasion scares, or jingoism.

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Duncan’s presentation precisely addressed these themes, examining the air power mania that swept Britain after the creation of the Air Ministry in January 1918. Invasion rhetoric drummed up by the Daily Mail, combined with total war predictions about the utility of bombing within the Royal Air Force, stressed the future of the Empire as an aerial entity, with imperial defence increasingly the responsibility of a vast air establishment, sidelining the Royal Navy. After the Washington Treaty of 1923 the future of the Empire as a seapower was in question, with the RAF’s own bombing rhetoric – magnified by the Northcliffe and Beaverbrook press – coming to dominate predictions about the future war.

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Press baron Alfred Harmsworth, Lord Northcliffe, perhaps the greatest exponent of air power in Britain until his death in 1922.

Tim Benbow had the honor of closing out the panel, tackling in his presentation the thorny question of the role of the battleship after the Second World War. Beyond simply weapons systems, battleships were forms of naval diplomacy, and also aspects of national prestige, important cultural aspects of naval power that were often overlooked in the functionalist nuclear age. Increasing skepticism about nuclear warfare after 1945 began to emphasize the need to fight “broken backed” warfare – that is, in the post-attack environment – wherein survivability would be the preeminent currency, something the battleship retained well into the second half of the 20th century. The belief that the Air Ministry had become the final imperial institution was challenged, if the Cold War remained cold, and in fact the limited war concept offered by the Royal Navy became more important during the nuclear stalemate, not less.

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HMS Vanguard, the Royal Navy’s last battleship

Matthew Seligmann’s comments extrapolated the central questions of the panel and indeed the entire conference to a certain extent: what will the future of naval war be like? Can deterrence continue to function amidst increasing uncertainty? What will the technology of the future mean for naval strategy? Political and fiscal reality had to be matched with the proper technological timing, otherwise organizations trying to introduce revolutionary technology could very well end up fighting themselves, sister services, or their own governments (and treasuries), more than any foreign enemy. The only protection against misguided strategic theorization is careful study of the fundamentals, coupled with a resourceful but historically grounded imagination.

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The conference wraps up, two years of hard work and preparation producing a compelling two days of insight.

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Unrestricted Submarine Warfare, 1917 – 1918

 

The day is coming! Unterseeboot before London. Lithograph print.
Unrestricted Submarine Warfare, 1917 – 1918

Introduction

As Marc Milner recently explained in the context of the Second World War, ‘the first line of defense of trade was always the main battle fleet.’[i] What was true in 1939 was true in 1914. Germany’s High Sea Fleet, able to sortie from its protected anchorages only at significant risk, was reduced to relying on its destroyers, submarines, merchant raiders and naval air service to carry on the naval offensive. Britain’s Grand Fleet, although successful at confining the High Sea Fleet to the North Sea, was in turn unable to protect Britain’s far-flung merchant shipping. The two dreadnought fleets of the great naval antagonists were thus mutually immobilized. Flotilla craft, seaplanes and submarines became the primary instruments in the vast battle over oceanic trade. As British Prime Minister David Lloyd George prosaically described the situation, ‘When the last roving German cruiser had been beached in a mangrove swamp in Africa, in order to escape capture, the German Admiralty put more faith in the little swordfish which had already destroyed more enemy ships in a month than the cruiser had succeeded in sinking during the whole of their glorious but short-lived career. When they realized the power of this invention they set about building submarines on a great scale and constructing much larger types.’[ii]

While the Grand Fleet’s 10th Cruiser Squadron carried out the blockade of Germany, slowly strangling the Central Powers’ access to overseas trade, Germany’s U-boats, seaplanes and destroyers from the High Sea Fleet (HSF) and Flanders Flotillas attempted to circumscribe the blockade and attack Britain’s oceanic supply lines. The U-boats, like the Zeppelins and Gothas in the air, were new technological threats against which Britain’s traditional wooden walls provided no protection. To produce strategic effect with the aerial bomber and submarine, however, it was necessary to violate the laws of civilized warfare as they had been agreed upon by the European powers at the Hague conferences of 1899 and 1907.[iii] For the Zeppelins and Gothas this meant bombing British cities from the air without regard for civilian casualties, and for the U-boats at sea this meant violating the rules for prize capture and indiscriminately sinking enemy and neutral merchant shipping without warning.

The new Admiralty building, from N. A. M. Rodger, The Admiralty (1979)

After a trepidatious start in February 1915, when the ‘War Zone’ was established around Britain, by the spring of 1917 the U-boats were well on their way to wiping out Britain’s merchant fleet. During the months of March, April, May, June, July, and August, British shipping losses were always above 350,000 tons, with losses peaking at 550,000 tons in April, and 498,500 tons in June.[iv] The Admiralty, under the leadership of First Sea Lord Sir John Jellicoe and First Lord Edward Carson, had computed the loss rate and expected that, if no solution were found to the submarine crisis, Britain would soon be reduced by starvation and thus forced to abandon the war long before the yearend of 1918.[v]

London, c. early 20th century, by William Wyllie

The Royal Navy undertook a herculean effort to reduce shipping losses and increase Anti-Submarine (A/S) capabilities. Steadily improved counter-measures, reorganization at the Admiralty and in particular of the Naval Staff, and the gradual implementation of escorted convoys during the summer of 1917, began to alleviate the crisis. Although shipping losses remained high, frequently above 200,000 tons per month until the end of the war, this loss rate was not enough to cripple Britain’s supply lines. Furthermore, U-boats were now forced to attack defended convoys, raising the risk of counter-attack and eventually resulting in the development of wolf pack tactics, as were seen a quarter century later during the Second World War.[vi]

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The Eye at the Periscope aboard a Royal Navy submarine, Francis Dodd collection

Although the implementation of escorted convoys curtailed shipping losses, and forced the otherwise ephemeral U-boats to attack prepared warships, the inability of the Royal Navy to attack and destroy the High Sea Fleet meant that any operation aimed at capturing or destroying the U-boat bases themselves, or attempts to mine the U-boat areas of operations, could potentially prompt a fleet action in the enemy’s thoroughly mined waters: raising the prospect of catastrophic losses for the Royal Navy.

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Convoy in rough seas, 1918, by John Everett

Later in 1918 the famous ZO operation was conducted in an attempt to block the bases at Zeebrugge and Ostend, while a redoubled aerial bombing campaign was additionally carried out. Finally, in October 1918, with the One Hundred Days offensive systematically rolling back the German army and liberating Belgian,[vii] the Royal Navy commissioned HMS Argus, an aircraft carrier system that included the Sopwith T1 ‘cuckoo’ capable or launching aerial torpedoes and thus opening the prospect for a torpedo strike against the High Sea Fleet in harbour – guaranteeing the defeat of Germany’s main fleet. And without the main fleet to protect the bases, the U-boats, minesweepers and flotilla destroyers carrying out the anti-shipping war would quickly find operations extremely difficult under the guns of Grand Fleet warships.

smoking-roomThe Smoking Room, HMS Ambrose, Francis Dodd collection

This blog examines the multidomain nature of the unrestricted U-boat campaign of 1917 – 1918, and demonstrates the unpreparedness of the Royal Navy to combat the submarine threat, but also the extensive reforms undertaken that eventually defeated the U-boats. By November 1918 the Royal Navy had devised a comprehensive and effective A/S and trade defence system, to which Germany’s raiders could not respond with any hope of success.

Various British warships sunk by U-boats and mines, 1914 – 1915, three armoured cruisers, three pre-dreadnought battleships, two light cruisers and HMS Audacious a 28,000 ton super dreadnought, completed in 1913, which struck a mine.

For both the Royal Navy and the Imperial German Navy (Kaiserliche Marine), the First World War began with a flurry of surface and submarine activity. After the demise of Admiral von Spee at the Battle of the Falkland Islands, Admiral Souchen’s arrival in Istanbul, and the Heligoland Bight and Dogger Bank engagements of August 1914 and January 1915, the surface threat, beyond a few isolated light cruisers and merchant raiders, had been broadly curtailed.[viii]

Germany’s U-boats, for their part, destroyed a series of high-profile targets early in the war, from the seaplane carrier HMS Hermes, to the scout cruiser HMS Pathfinder, and the three armoured cruisers: HMS Crecy, Hogue and Aboukir. The new dreadnought HMS Audacious was lost to a mine on 27 October 1914, and the pre-dreadnought battleship HMS Formidable was torpedoed by U24 on New Years Day 1915. To add insult to injury, HMS Majestic and Triumph were both torpedoed at the Dardanelles by U21 during the May crisis of 1915.

The submarine and mine threat had a significant impact on Britain’s strategic position. The Grand Fleet required not only a protected and submarine-proof anchorage from which to operate, but also a large force of destroyers to escort it while at sea. The submarine’s emergent role as a commerce destroyer caught the Allies off guard. The decision in January 1915 by the Kaiser to authorize the designation of a ‘War Zone’ around Britain, in which British merchant shipping would be destroyed as part of a counter-blockade strategy, seemed a barbaric example of German ‘frightfulness’.

The strategic situation in the North Sea, 1917 – 1918, Map 9 from Paul Kennedy, The Rise and Fall of British Naval Mastery (1998), p. 248

Although shipping losses increased, Germany’s U-boats were not yet plentiful enough to seriously impact the war, and the embarrassing sinking of the liners Lusitania in May and Arabic in August 1915, both with loss of life for American and other neutral citizens, encouraged the Kaiser to restrain the anti-shipping war. The new doctrine of surface battle, promulgated by Admiral Reinhardt Scheer, necessitated the withdrawal of the U-boats during 1916 to combine with the Navy’s Zeppelins for fleet operations. The singular result of the Battle of Jutland on 31 May, followed by the aborted August sortie, convinced Scheer that the British blockade could not be cracked by the High Sea Fleet.[ix] The new German war leadership under Ludendorff and Hindenburg, as such, made the decision late in 1916 to gamble on the U-boats sinking enough British, Allied and neutral tonnage to cripple Britain’s war effort and thus tip the war in Germany’s favour.

Various Francis Dodd drawings from 1918, done from Royal Navy submarines, trawlers, launches and merchant ships. The machine world successor to its wooden counterpart a century before.

On the Western Front, meanwhile, the Allied offensive in France was to be renewed under Generalissimo Joffre’s replacement, General Neville. This was to be an offensive the British Expeditionary Force (BEF) would support at Arras, and included the plan to capture Vimy Ridge.[x] The Allies, to supply this offensive, required huge quantities of material. The cross-Channel coal trade in particular was crucial for fuelling the French war effort: 800 coal transports crossed the English Channel in November 1916 alone.[xi] Other seaborne trade, such as food, shells, and especially fodder for the BEF’s horses, likewise required transshipment across the Channel by merchant ships. Critical supplies of metal and ore were delivered across the North Sea from Scandinavia, goods and commodities were imported across the Atlantic from America and out of the Mediterranean through the Gibraltar Straits. This cornucopia of merchant shipping was exposed, defenceless, and ready-made prey for the unleashed U-boats.

Merchant shipping tonnage sinking by submarines and other means June 1916 to October 1918, from Duncan Redford and Philip Gove, The Royal Navy, A History Since 1900 (2014)

U-boat Offensive, January – March 1917

From the perspective of the German high command the clear weakness in the Western Allied armies was their exposed seaborne logistics. High Seas Fleet C-in-C Admiral Reinhard Scheer, in his 4 July 1916 report on the Jutland battle to the Kaiser, stated his belief that the only way to defeat Britain would be through economic means, meaning “setting the U-boats against the British trade routes.”[xii]

scheer

Vice Admiral Reinhard Scheer, Commander-in-Chief of the High Sea Fleet & Admiral Henning von Holtzendorff, Chief of the Admiralty Staff (Admiralstab), photograph by Hanse Hermann, Leipzig, 1918

On 22 December Admiral Holtzendorff accepted this view and advocated, in a fateful paper, for the destruction of all shipping approaching Britain.[xiii] Holtzendorff was convinced that if 600,000 tons of merchant shipping could be sunk each month, and sustained for a period of five months, the British would give in.[xiv] The renewed unrestricted submarine campaign commenced at the Kaiser’s order on 1 February 1917.[xv]

Commodore Andreas Michelsen, author of the book Submarine Warfare, 1914-1918, CO North Sea U-boats, Befehlshaber der Unterseeboote, June 1917 – November 1918. He replaced Fregattenkapitan Hermann Bauer.

Early in 1917 there were 111 U-boats available, 49 with the HSF at Wilhelmshaven, 33 at Zeebrugge and Ostend, with another 24 at Pola in the Mediterranean, two at Constantinople and three in the Baltic.[xvi] The Flanders Flotilla (coastal) U-boats alone had managed to sink enough shipping to reduce the cross-Channel coal trade by 39% during the final quarter of 1916.[xvii] This was enough of a threat to the French armaments industry that the Royal Navy’s Auxiliary Patrol, on 10 January 1917, commenced escorting large convoys of 45 ships across the Channel, 800 ships every month.[xviii]

April 1917: the catastrophic increase in Atlantic shipping losses, combined with a spike in Mediterranean losses, seemed to defy all of the Admiralty’s efforts. The potential for disaster seemed overwhelming. By this point, the French coal trade was being escorted across the English Channel, and the Dover barrage was being rebuilt with more effective mines. Despite this, nearly 100,000 tons of shipping had been lost in the Channel by the end of April. From Newbolt, Naval Operations, vol. IV, p. 382-3

With the restrictions on neutral shipping lifted, the U-boats began the slaughter. 35 merchant ships were sunk in the Channel and Western approaches the first week of February 1917 alone.[xix] By the end of February the U-boats had accounted for half a million tons, making more than a million cumulative when another 560,000 tons were sunk in March. The campaign high point was reached in April when 860,000 tons of Allied, British and neutral ships were destroyed.

1914-15

1916

Allied shipping losses in Channel and Western Approaches for 1914-15 and 1916

These figures represented the destruction of 1,118 Allied and neutrals in the first four months of 1917: 181 in January, 259 in February, 325 in March and 423 in April.[xx] Between 1 February and the end of April 1917, 781 British merchant ships had been attacked, another 374 torpedoed and sunk, plus 154 sunk specifically by U-boat cannons.[xxi] The United Kingdom exported 122,600,000 tons of goods in January, a value that fell to  93,200,000 in February.[xxii] Only nine U-boats, including accidents, were destroyed between February and April.[xxiii]

The Imperial War Cabinet, Jellicoe is standing at the back, second from left. First Lord of the Admiralty Edward Carson is third.

In Britain the new parliamentary coalition under former Munitions and then War Minister and now Prime Minister David Lloyd George was faced with an unprecedented crisis. In early December 1916 Admiral Sir John Jellicoe had been promoted out of the Grand Fleet and advanced to First Sea Lord (1SL), with the explicit objective of curtailing the submarine threat.[xxiv] There were many ideas about what to do, and it was not initially clear what the correct response was, and opinion in the Royal Navy was split. Captain Herbert Richmond believed convoy escort to be the obvious solution,[xxv] a subject he had studied in his historical work with Julian Corbett on 18th century naval warfare (published after the war as The Navy In The War of 1739-48).[xxvi] Both historians noted the importance of trade interdiction and convoy protection efforts in the Caribbean, and Corbett added the Korean peninsula experience in his staff history of the Russo-Japanese War.[xxvii]

Old Waterloo Bridge from South Bank by William Wyllie

Traditionally, Britain had indeed managed the threat from corsairs and privateers by convoying its merchant shipping. On 29 December Jellicoe, however, expressed his skepticism that convoy was the appropriate solution to the U-boat problem. The First Sea Lord’s position, in general, was that the historical analogy of convoy protection was no longer valid, given the vast increase in oceanic shipping, the supposed delays in loading, offloading, and assembling the convoys, coupled with limitations on available escorts.[xxviii] The reality was that the First Sea Lord perceived convoys as sitting targets, and was unable to transcend the tactical paradigm whereby the escorted convoy not only “reduced the number of targets” and thus increased the number of successful sailings, but also forced the U-boats to carry out attacks from positions where they would be exposed to destroyer counterattack.[xxix]

Furthermore, the figures the Admiralty estimated would be required for Atlantic merchant convoy escort were excessively high: 81 escorts for the homeward-bound Atlantic trade, and another 44 for the outward-bound trade.[xxx] Since the requirements of the western approaches had been minimized to increase destroyer numbers at Dover, Harwich, Rosyth and Scapa Flow, Jellicoe foresaw a situation in which the battle fleet’s escorts would be precariously reduced to endlessly feed requirement for merchant shipping escorts, as did in fact occur during Admiral Sir David Beatty’s second year as Grand Fleet C-in-C.

Jellicoe4

Photograph of Admiral Sir John Jellicoe as C-in-C Grand Fleet

When Jellicoe arrived, and until the April crisis, Britain’s trade defence policy was one of patrolling a series of shipping lanes, combined with aerial patrols over the coasts.[xxxi] The Admiralty had adopted an ‘approach route’ system, by which, rather than using its anti-submarine vessels as convoy escorts (convoys being believed to be large, slow moving, targets), the A/S vessels would patrol various approach ‘cones’ of which there were four, hoping to sweep them clean of enemy submarines.

Approach A: Apex at Falmouth, shipping from South Atlantic and Mediterranean, destined for London, English Channel, and East Coast Ports.

Approach B: Apex at Berehaven, shipping from North and South Atlantic, destined for Bristol Channel, London and English Channel and Mersey.

Approach C: Apex at Inishtrahull, shipping from North Atlantic for Clyde, Belfast, Irish Sea and Liverpool.

Approach D: Apex at Kirkwall, shipping from North Atlantic for North-East ports to the Humber.[xxxii]

The Admiralty’s initial Western Approaches ‘zone’ scheme, as established at the beginning of 1917, and the corresponding locations of sunk merchant ships. The unescorted approach lanes were ideal prey for the patient U-boat commander.

1917

Allied shipping losses in the Channel and Western Approaches for 1917

In practice this system proved disastrous, effectively funnelling in and outbound shipping into dangerously crowded and exposed lanes. Although the actual lane utilized was random, the need for a great number of destroyers to patrol the approach area still made U-boat contact unlikely and trade defence precarious. The approach-lane program, as Henry Jones put it, had the effect of ‘concentrating great numbers of ships along the patrol routes off the south coast of Ireland and in the Bristol Channel.’[xxxiii]

The Western approaches were at first starved for resources: only 14 destroyers stationed at Devonport for use ‘escorting troopships and vessels carrying specially valuable cargoes through the submarine danger zone,’[xxxiv] in addition to 12 sloops at Queenstown.[xxxv] Jellicoe transferred an additional ten destroyers from Admiral Beatty to the Senior Naval Officer (SNO) Devonport, at least partly with the intention of increasing the number of escorts available for providing escort to troop or munitions ships.[xxxvi]  Aircraft and airship bases had not yet been constructed to cover these approaches,[xxxvii] and the Dover Barrage, meant to prevent the Flanders U-boat flotillas from crossing the Channel, proved totally ineffective. Worse, there were only enough depth-charges to equip four per destroyer at the beginning of 1917, and as late as July, only 140 charges were being produced each month. By the end of 1917 this number had increased to 800, sufficient to equip destroyers with 30 to 40 charges.[xxxviii]

Although Jellicoe implemented strong reforms meant to improve all areas of the A/S patrols, from increased depth-charge production, to building new RNAS bases on the coast; the crisis continued to worsen. Shipping losses increased in March and by early April 1917 had reached an apex. The officers responsible for the particularly exposed Scandinavian sea route met at Longshope, in the Orkneys, on 3 April and determined in favour of implementing convoys to protect North Sea sailings.

Motor Launch in the Slipway at Lowestoft, Francis Dodd, April 1918

As we have seen, convoys – or protected sailings – had already been implemented to cover the Channel crossing, and they were far from a novel concept. The War Cabinet secretary, Colonel Maurice Hankey, had in fact prepared a paper for David Lloyd George on the subject of ASW on 11 February 1917.[xxxix] This paper outlined the flaws in the current patrol system and unequivocally advocated the adoption of convoy and escort as the correct solution. Hankey’s observations regarding the benefits of convoys were particularly cogent:

The adoption of the convoy system would appear to offer great opportunities for mutual support by the merchant vessels themselves, apart from the defence provided by their escorts. Instead of meeting one small gun on board one ship the enemy might be under from from, say, ten guns, distributed among twenty ships. Each merchant ship might have depth charges, and explosive charges in addition might be towed between pairs of ships, to be exploded electrically. One or two ships with paravanes might save a line of a dozen ships from the mine danger. Special salvage ships… might accompany the convoy to salve those ships were mined of torpedoed without sinking immediately, and in any event save the crews. Perhaps the best commentary on the convoy [escort] system is that it is invariably adopted by our main fleet, and for our transports.[xl]

Two days later, at an early morning 10 Downing Street meeting, Lloyd George, Carson, Jellicoe and the Director of the Anti-Submarine Division (DASD) of the Naval Staff, Rear Admiral Alexander Duff, spent several hours during breakfast discussing Hankey’s convoy paper. Jellicoe objected on the grounds that the lightly escorted convoys would make vulnerable targets and that merchant captains would not be capable of the complex station keeping required, or indeed zig-zag maneuvering, objections that did not convince Lloyd George, as Hankey described in his diary.[xli]

“The Pool” view of River Thames, by William Wyllie

The following week Jellicoe prepared a War Cabinet paper describing the progress of A/S measures so far taken by the Admiralty.[xlii] Jellicoe’s primary recommendation was merely to reduce the total maritime traffic, notably by abandoning supply for the Salonika front. This was a dismal situation, as Jellicoe put it, ‘the Admiralty can hold out little hope that there will be any reduction in the rate of loss until the number of patrol vessels is largely increased or unless new methods which have been and are in process of being adopted result in the destruction of enemy submarines at a greater rate than that which they are being constructed…’. At this time, Jellicoe illustrated mechanical thinking in his belief that an additional 60 destroyers, 60 sloops, and 240 trawlers would be needed for a patrol scheme of ultimately unspecified final scale, citing the case of the English Channel where auxiliary patrol vessels formed a complete lane through which traffic passed. His third recommendation was the destruction of the submarine bases themselves.[xliii]

1917admiraltyboard2.5-1

The expansion of A/S measures was above all else the priority for Jellicoe as soon as the new Admiralty administration was settled. The new First Sea Lord immediately set about re-organizing the staff and mobilizing naval logistics to supply new bases, improve torpedoes and mines, and create a host of flotilla and auxiliary craft for A/S purposes. DASD Rear Admiral Duff soon recognized the need for aerial patrol over the western approaches. In December 1916 Duff had requested that Director Air Services Rear Admiral Vaughan Lee implement a patrol schemes at Falmouth, the Scillies, Queenstown, Milford Haven, Salcombe, and Berehaven, to cover the exposed approach lanes.[xliv] In February three H12 flying boats were flown out to the Scillies to patrol the Plymouth approach.[xlv]

The U-boats were not alone in their exertion during February. The Kaiserliche Marine’s Zeebrugge force conducted raids against the Dover straits as the U-boats worked up towards maximum effort. The destroyer situation in the Royal Navy at this time was scattered: there were nominally 99 destroyers available with the Grand Fleet, 28 deployed with the Harwich Force, 37 with the Dover Patrol, 11 attached to the Rosyth, Scapa, Cromarty area, 24 at the Humber and Tyne, 8 at the Nore, 32 at Portsmouth, 44 at Devonport and 8 at Queenstown, although this includes ships refitting or being repaired, and not therefore the true operational strength.[xlvi] This great dispersion of force meant it was possible for Germany’s high-speed torpedo boat destroyers to sortie and conduct night raids with good chances of success.

Map showing the simplified Channel Barrage, the main Folkestone – Gris Nez line and the outer Channel explosive mine net at the end of 1917, Dunn, Securing The Narrow Sea (2017)

To test the Channel defences, Admiral Scheer, early on 25 February, ordered the Zeebrugge destroyers to conduct a raid on the Dover coast with three groups, the first comprised of six boats of the First Half-Flotilla (G95, G96, V67, V68 and V47, Lieutenant Commander Albrecht in G95), the second comprised of four boats of the Sixth Flotilla (Lieutenant Commander Tillessen in S49, with V46, V45, G37, V44 and G86), plus a small diversion force of three boats from the Second Half-Flotilla.[xlvii] Albrecht was to target the Downs while Tillessen attacked the Barrage itself. HMS Laverock, a destroyer armed with three 4-inch guns under the command of Lieutenant Henry Binmore, encountered one of the approaching flotillas around 10:30 pm on the 25th.[xlviii]

SMS V43, 1913-class torpedo boat destroyer & Representations of Zeebrugge flotilla destroyers, V67 & G37

After a brief encounter the two sides slipped into the darkness, contact was lost and Tillessen turned back to base. The diversion force found no targets near the Maas, while the First Half-Flotilla carried out a brief shore bombardment of North Foreland and Margate, with no military consequence. Admiral von Schroder, in command of the naval and marine forces in Flanders, considered the operation a success in so far as it was a worthwhile distraction, drawing RN assets away from submarine hunting.[xlix]

paragon

HMS Paragon

A second raid on the Dover defences was organized for the night of March 17-18, during which 16 Flanders destroyers sortied under Tillessen’s command. On this occasion, the Dover destroyer HMS Paragon was torpedoed and sank, with the loss of 75 members of the crew, by boats from Germany’s Sixth Flotilla.[l] HMS Llewellyn was badly damaged by a torpedo attack when it came to assist the sinking Paragon.[li] The Second Half-Flotilla, for its part, sank the anchored merchant ship Greypoint and damaged a drifter near Ramsgate, which they also shelled without effect. Another raid on 24 March, this time against Dunkirk, destroyed a another pair of merchant ships.[lii] While these surface raids kept pressure on the Dover Strait defences, the shipping crisis itself was spiralling out of control.

U-boat Crisis, April – June 1917

On Saturday 24 March 1917, the London Times reported on Mr. J. M. Henderson’s parliamentary speech. On Friday the MP from Aberdeenshire stated that, due to the hardships suffered by the poor during the harsh winter of 1916, it would be necessary that ‘the Government should issue regulations under the Defence of the Realm Act directing the local authorities throughout the country to establish depots for the sale and delivery of coal, sugar, and other necessaries.’[liii] The creeping realization amongst the commons that the supply situation was deteriorating was not lost on the Lloyd George government. Indeed, the War Cabinet had already recognized, notably in a series of meetings during the second half of February, that food stockpiling and public rationing were both imperative and imminent.[liv]

Loading torpedoes aboard a coastal U-boat (UB-type), maintained at the Bruges base, 1917

By 21 March the situation was so serious that Arthur Balfour, then the Foreign Secretary, had been forced to convey to the Netherlands that the UK was likely going to begin requisitioning their shipping.[lv] On 2 April the War Cabinet considered the situation ‘most serious’.[lvi] The desperate nature of the shipping losses, and the inability of the Admiralty to resolve the crisis, can be seen in the War Cabinet’s consideration that smaller merchant ships should be built, thus compelling ‘the enemy to expend as many torpedoes as possible in his submarine campaign.’ It was also considered at the 2 April meeting that compulsory mercantile service may be required due to the potential collapse of crew morale.[lvii] All this chaos was being caused by roughly 50 U-boats, an unsustainably high figure that dropped to 40 in May as a result of the exhausting operational tempo the preceding month.[lviii]

Jellicoe, as First Sea Lord, could imagine only material solutions: strengthening merchant ships with bulkheads, or building enormous 50,000 ton ‘unsinkable’ ships for transporting wheat – further indications of the desperate situation.[lix] Indeed, some of the measures recommended to reduce losses were so desperate that had they been implemented the result would have ultimately had a negative impact on the anti-submarine war, such as the War Cabinet suggestion that the Admiralty reduce construction of airship sheds to save steel (airships proved to be ideal platforms for escorting convoys).[lx]

UB III type costal submarine, 500 tons displacement, crewed by three officers and 31 men, armed with four bow and one stern firing torpedoes, plus a single 8.8 or 10.5 cm gun

 

By 4 April figures provided by Sir Leo Chiozza Money, the Shipping Controller, indicated that by February 1918 merchant shipping tonnage would increase by 850,000 tons from building in Britain, plus 312,000 tons abroad, to which could be added the 720,000 tons of German shipping then seized in American ports. At this time it was believed that this new construction, combined with other efficiencies, would be enough to see the United Kingdom through only until the end of the year.[lxi]

On 1 January 1917 the British Empire possessed 16,788,000 tons (gross) of shipping. By 1 May this figure had fallen to 15,467,000 tons, despite new construction.[lxii] At the height of the crisis in April it was expected that the total would likely fall to around 12,862,000 by the end of the year, in other words, that 3.9 million tons would be erased during 1917. In fact, a staggering 9,964,500 tons were destroyed, globally, during the year, of which 3,729,000 had been British, almost matching the Admiralty estimate in April 1917.

Merchant shipping losses, British and World, to all causes. Gibson and Prendergast, German Submarine War., Appendix III, section O, p. 381-2

The British Army needed to import 428,000 tons a month. The Ministry of Munitions imported another 1,400,000 tons monthly. For comparison, Britain imported one million tons of cotton, 70,000 tons of tobacco and 400,000 tons of fertilizers on a monthly basis. It was believed that a minimum of 553,000 tons of goods were required every month to sustain the civilian population.[lxiii] According to Jellicoe’s calculations, 8,050,000 tons of shipping were required for the Navy and Army, and on 1 January 1917 there were 8,394,000 tons available for vital imports. By 31 December 1917 the latter figure would therefore have been reduced to 4,812,000 tons, or a loss of 2.78 million tons of civilian imports per month.[lxiv]

The degree of the crisis is told by these statistics, implying a monthly loss rate of between 300,000 and 500,000 tons for the remainder of 1917. The final, and potentially decisive, result was that civilian imports would fall from three million tons in January to 1.6 million tons by the end of the year. Certainly strong economy would be necessitated, in addition to rationing that if continued unchecked would result in the extinguishing of non-military trade by the summer of 1918.[lxv]

Top scoring U-boat ‘aces’ based on proven tonnage destroyed, from Michelsen, Submarine Warfare, p. 218

While the debate carried on at the Admiralty and in the War Cabinet, the district commanders and SNOs were beginning, on their own accord, to form proto-regional commands and implement convoys. As we have seen, the Scandinavian mineral trade and the Channel food and coal trade. had both been placed under convoy with good results.

Some relief occurred on 3 April when the United States joined the war, a momentous event that was welcomed by the War Cabinet three days later. Diplomatic efforts were crucial if the American and Allied war efforts were to be united for maximum impact. Balfour therefore traveled to the United States aboard RMS Olympic while Rear Admiral William Sims, USN, crossed over to Britain in exchange.[lxvi] When Sims, who had traveled across the Atlantic in civilian disguise – in fact, aboard a merchant ship that struck a mine during the voyage – arrived in London and met with Jellicoe, the message Jellicoe had to convey, as Prendergast and Gibson put it, was dire: ‘the German submarines were winning the war.’[lxvii] On Monday, 9 April, Jellicoe reported to the War Cabinet that Admiral Sims would make the utmost efforts to mobilize American support for the anti-submarine campaign.[lxviii]

US Ninth Battleship Division, showing USS New York & USS Texas off Rosyth by William Wyllie.

Close coordination with the Americans brought immediate returns as it would now be possible for American imports to Britain to be carried in American merchant ships, freeing British vessels for other duties.[lxix] Auxiliary ships in the form of the 10th Cruiser Squadron (25 armed merchant cruisers and 18 armed trawlers), that patrolled the Shetlands and Faeroes line intercepting American contraband, was no longer required and its ships were redirected to more fruitful purposes until the squadron itself was abolished on 29 November 1917, shortly prior to the arrival in European waters of the United States Navy’s Battleship Division Nine under Rear Admiral Hugh Rodman.[lxx]

Francis Dodd artwork from 1918 showing RN submarine L2 engaging aircraft with its deck cannon.

As part of Jellicoe’s material strategy, Royal Navy aircraft were expanded alongside A/S flotilla craft. Flying boats stationed at Yarmouth and Felixstowe were equipped to locate and attack submarines, making possible large-scale A/S patrols supported by surface vessels. As the patrol system evolved the U-boats adjusted their tactics.

By March 1917 Jellicoe could inform Beatty that the Staff believed between 11 and 21 U-boats had been destroyed so far that year.[lxxi] Three German torpedo boat flotillas, between 30 and 40 destroyers were deployed to support U-boat operations.[lxxii] German seaplanes were engaged in a significant battle with the Royal Naval Air Service (RNAS) for control of the North Sea, as well as carrying out anti-shipping missions, occasionally with success. April was a particularly busy month for the east coast air stations, the Felixstowe H12 flying boats being assigned to conduct ‘spider web’ patrols off the Kentish coast.

H-12 type Felixstowe flying boats on patrol, from Theodore Douglas Hallam, The Spider Web (2009) & ‘Spider Web’ style octagonal patrol areas for NAS Felixstowe.

In fact, the situation at Dover, since the raids in February and March, had resolved into an intense destroyer and seaplane conflict in its own right. The War Cabinet was informed on 26 March that 30 German destroyers had been massed at Zeebrugge.[lxxiii] Another destroyer raid was shortly organized, taking place on 20 April. The Fifth Half-Flotilla (V71, V73, V81, S53, G85 and G42) under Korvettenkapitan Gautier was to conduct an attack against Dover, while boats from the Sixth and First Half-Flotilla (Commander Albrecht in V47, with G95, V68, G96, G91 and V70) raided Calais.[lxxiv] Although in the event little damage was caused, the raid alerted Dover forces which sortied to intercept the retiring German destroyers. About 12:45 am the 21st, HMS Swift, commanded by Commander Ambrose Peck, with HMS Broke in support, spotted an unknown torpedo boat to the port bow. Swift attacked the boat, torpedoing G85 and disabling it, while Broke, under Commander Edward ‘Teddy’ Evans, rammed G42 and disabled the torpedo boat in hand-to-hand action.[lxxv] Broke was damaged by S53’s 105 mm cannon, but still managed to sink G85 with a torpedo after the German flotilla retreated. 89 sailors were recovered from G42 and G85.[lxxvi]

HMS Broke, from Steve Dunn, Securing The Narrow Sea (2017)

The temporary defeat of the Flanders raiders, the introduction of the Felixstowe flying boats, and above all else, the introduction of the United States, made a powerful tonic for the Admiralty’s ailing morale. Jellicoe, however, still faced a mounting crisis. He turned to the Naval Staff for answers.

Organization of the Naval Staff, 1905 – 1917 (May), from Nicholas Black, The British Naval Staff In The First World War (2011)

In April 1917 the Anti-Submarine Division (ASD) of the staff was composed of 15 officers and two civilians, spread across seven offices located in the Admiralty Building, Block III.[lxxvii] The U-boat threat plot was kept in a Chart Room within the Convoy Section of the Naval Staff. The Chart Room was managed by Commander J. W. Carrington.[lxxviii] this room, known as the ‘X’ room, displayed a 6’ by 9’ map of all of the known information on submarines, convoys and their most recent locations or sightings.[lxxix] The ASD thus controlled a centralized hub for collecting from the Intelligence Division and disseminating to the Operations Division, U-boat data on the approaching Atlantic convoys. U-boat signal intercepts detected by the Direction Finding (D/F) stations along the coast alerted the Director of Intelligence to submarine activity. The cryptanalysts in Room 40 could then triangulate the location of a transmitting U-boat to within 50 or 20 miles and send this information, via pneumatic tube, instantly to the Chart Room.[lxxx]

Naval Staff2.5

It was imperative that Jellicoe be in the closest touch with the Staff, and in May 1917 he was promoted to Chief of the Naval Staff, uniting that position with the office of the First Sea Lord.[lxxxi] These reforms resulted in Admiral Duff’s promotion to Assistant Chief of the Staff, with Henry Oliver becoming the Deputy Chief.[lxxxii] By assigning duties to the assistant and deputy the Chief of Staff was, in Winston Churchill’s words, relieved of ‘a mass of work.’[lxxxiii] The Director of Operations, Captain Thomas Jackson and, after June 1917, Captain George W. Hope, were to prepare a weekly appraisals of the naval situation, with specific attention to submarines, for the First Sea Lord and the War Cabinet.[lxxxiv]

Organization of the Naval Staff and Admiralty Board, c. September 1917, from Jellicoe, Crisis of the Naval War (1920), p. 20

Captain William Fisher, playing a part in Jellicoe’s reforms, replaced Admiral Duff as DASD. Fisher took a direct interest in operational aspects, orchestrating Jellicoe’s broader mission to centralize methods and material; he would communicate directly with the district commanders, such as on 21 July when he wrote a letter to Plymouth commander Admiral Bethell, proposing the use of kite balloons as a screen for convoys in his Area of Responsibility (AOR).[lxxxv]

 

The Decision for Convoys

The First Sea Lord, as we have seen, was initially skeptical of the possibilities of convoys.[lxxxvi] Early interest in convoy formation, not only in the English Channel and across the North Sea, but also in the Mediterranean, was ignored.[lxxxvii] Jellicoe’s initial blindness to convoy adoption hinged primarily on the scale of the endeavour. As he pointed out in 1934, the convoy system as had evolved by November 1917 for the Atlantic and English Channel required 170 escort vessels of all kinds (of which, 37 were USN destroyers), plus another 32 escorts covering the northern crossing with Norway, and a another 30 escorts in the Mediterranean for a total of 232 vessels, with another 217 escorts working with the fleet units.[lxxxviii] In practice, assembling, directing and communicating with the convoys proved a strenuous task, atmospheric conditions, enemy jamming, battle damage to communications equipment, all had an impact on a convoy’s, or squadron’s, ability to communicate. An officer was assigned to each arrival/departure terminus to manage assembly and coordinate with the escorts and merchantmen. In any given convoy the convoy itself was under the command of the convoy Commodore, while supporting warships were under the authority of the Senior Officer, Escort.[lxxxix]

 

Jellicoe as First Sea Lord, attending the Inter-Allied Conference in Paris, 27 July 1917, Rear Admiral Alexander Duff, the Director of the Anti-Submarine Division of the Naval Staff to his right

In early April the Scandinavian trade began to be convoyed, and with success. This was done at the insistence of the Norwegian government, who urged that the Admiralty do more to protect Norwegian merchant ships in the North Sea, of which 27 were sunk during March, and another 27 in April, plus six Danish and two Swedish neutrals.[xc] Of these ships, as Steve Dunn observes, nine were torpedoed by a single U-boat, U30, over the period 10 to 15 April.[xci]  Losses in the Lerwick – Bergan route, between the Shetland Islands and the Norwegian coast, were running at 25% per month since inception.

Although cross-Channel trade was by now routinely convoyed, the scale of crossing the North Sea, and the importance of the trade, including vitals such as ‘nitrates, carbide, timber, iron and steel,’ now necessitated new tactics.[xcii] Vice Admiral Frederick Brock, in command of the Orkneys and Shetlands, and on his own authority, was sharing destroyers for escort work with the C-in-C East Coast of England, and the C-in-C Rosyth: a plan they initiated on 3 March.[xciii]

Greenwich and the Thames, by William Wyllie

Jellicoe could see that this was the best option, given the dismal results from all other efforts.[xciv] Still, the First Sea Lord was wary about depleting the Grand Fleet’s destroyer flotillas, and was skeptical the convoy system would succeed in the long run.[xcv] In April, however, with the success of the Channel coal trade, where ‘controlled sailings’ had been implemented since 10 February with correspondingly dramatic reduction in losses such that, between then and the end of August, only 16 of the 8,871 ships convoyed across the Channel had been sunk.[xcvi] Jellicoe was just beginning to come around to the implementation of Admiral Duff’s comprehensive recommendation for convoying ‘all vessels – British, Allied and Neutral – bound from North and South Atlantic to United Kingdom’.[xcvii]

The pivot, from the perspective of the War Cabinet, occurred on Monday 23 April, when Lloyd George decided upon an upcoming visit to the Admiralty. The PM’s objective was certainly to put pressure on the Admiralty, but also simply to discover the details of whatever trade protection schemes the Navy was working on. Jellicoe had so far not suggested arranging convoys as the solution, rather relying on a multitude of measures, some more effective than others. In this case, DASD Rear Admiral Duff was in agreement with Grand Fleet C-in-C Admiral Sir David Beatty, as well as Admiral Sims, that convoy should be universally adopted. Jellicoe was still skeptical, having been convinced, in the weeks following the 13 February debate with Hankey, by interviews with a number of merchant ship captains who testified that station-keeping and convoy assembling, in particular, of inbound traffic, would be exceedingly difficult if not impossible.[xcviii] Jellicoe also clung to the dearth of destroyers, as well as an apparently deficient convoy trial that Beatty had conducted as counter-arguments. Under pressure from the PM, however, Jellicoe stated that he would reconsider Duff’s convoy proposal.[xcix]

Merchant convoy maneuvering with air support

Duff produced his report three days later, suggesting a program for convoying all Atlantic trade. The DASD observed that, in fact, contrary to Jellicoe’s perspective that convoys were merely larger targets, ‘it would appear that the larger the convoy passing through any given danger zone, provided it is moderately protected, the less the loss to the Merchant Services; that is, for instance, were it feasible to escort the entire volume of trade which normally enters the United Kingdom per diem in one large group, the submarine as now working would be limited to one attack, which, with a Destroyer escort, would result in negligible losses compared with those new being experienced.’[c] Jellicoe approved the scheme the next day, 27 April 1917, that is, three days before the PM arrived at the Admiralty.[ci]

Under Duff’s scheme, the Atlantic trade would be assembled into convoys at four key depots, where they would be joined by escorts and then shuttled into British harbours. Every four days 18 vessels would depart Gibraltar, escorted by two vessels outward and inward bound (requiring six escorts altogether – the other two being spares). Every five days 18 merchants would depart Dakar, protected by three escorts out and in, (nine escorts total). Every three days between 16-20 vessels would leave Louisburg, escorted by four destroyers both ways (12 total), and lastly, every three days 18 ships would depart Newport News, to be escorted by six destroyers (18 total), for a total program of 45 escorts. A further 45 destroyers would provide protection for the final leg of the inbound convoys, with six destroyers meeting each incoming convoy and escorting it to one of the pre-arranged collection points, either St. Mary’s, the Scillies, Plymouth, Milford Haven or Brest.[cii]

130 ton armed lighter X222, one of the armada of light vessels constructed or converted during PM Asquith’s wartime ministries. Originally designed for amphibious landings, these support craft were in converted to A/S patrol and convoy escort duties in 1917

 

Lloyd George and Hankey did indeed visit the Admiralty on 30 April, and had lunch with Carson, Jellicoe and his family, plus Duff, Captain Webb of the Trade Division and several Assistant Directors from the Naval Staff.[ciii] Jellicoe, the pessimist, considered the Prime Minister ‘a hopeless optimist’ who could not be swayed from his opinions regardless of the 1SL’s cold calculations.[civ] As Hankey phrased it, the meeting ‘set the seal on the decision to adopt the convoy system’.[cv] As significant as the decision in favour of convoys had been, another important decision was made at the next War Cabinet meeting: Lloyd George and Jellicoe agreed that Eric Geddes should be appointed as a civilian naval controller to administer all shipbuilding and supply for naval purposes.[cvi] Geddes strong hand ensured the delivering of the mass of material needed for ASW, with vessels available for A/S duty ballooning from 64 destroyers, 11 sloops and 16 P-boats in July 1917 to 102 destroyers, 24 sloops and 44 P-boats by November, a standard that was maintained well into 1918 when in April there were 115 destroyers, 35 sloops and 45 P-boats available for ASW.[cvii]

Various Francis Dodd artwork detailing shipboard convoy and patrol routine

It was still early in May when in Washington meanwhile, Sims and Balfour had convinced the Americans to supply 36 destroyers for RN use, a welcome development that would fill half of Jellicoe’s destroyer requirements.[cviii] Indeed, on the 22nd Jellicoe reported to the War Cabinet that the general situation was, ‘for the moment, more reassuring.’[cix] During May the loss rate fell significantly: 106,000 tons of shipping had been destroyed in the Mediterranean, with another 213,000 tons – 78 British ships – lost in all other theatres.[cx] 

Furthermore, the RN and RNAS were conducting more frequent engagements with U-boats, suggesting that the A/S measures were having some impact, although as yet there were few concrete results. Of the seven U-boats destroyed during May, only three were attributable to RN efforts: U81, torpedoed by RN submarine E54, UC26, rammed by the destroyer HMS Milne, and UB39 which blew up on Dover Strait mines.[cxi] Significantly, the nature of the U-boat attacks had changed. In March, only 69 ships approaching Britain from the North or South Atlantic had been attacked, with only 32 ships attacked leaving British ports for the same destinations (this was in addition to 62 fishing vessels that were attacked, and another 60 ships in the Channel). By May the figure for import ships attacked had climbed to 100, while the export number had fallen to 20 (only 38 vessels in the Channel attacked, and only 20 fishing vessels).[cxii] Whereas 100,333 tons had been sunk in the Channel during May, only 32,000 tons were sunk in June 1917, a major success.[cxiii]

HMS Fawn, a 380 ton destroyer armed with one 12 pdr and five 6 pdr guns plus two torpedo tubes, on convoy escort duty & a Japanese destroyer escorting the Alexandria – Tarento convoy, 1918

By the end of May 1917, as Henry Newbolt observed, it was the unescorted import trade that was now at the greatest risk of attack: ‘five times as vulnerable as the export trade’.[cxiv] Experimental Atlantic convoys were tested late in May and, by the end of July 1917, 21 Atlantic convoys had run successfully. Of the 354 ships escorted across that ocean, a mere two were sunk by U-boats. Of all convoys run during this period, of 8,894 ships convoyed, only 27 were destroyed by enemy submarines. The statistics demonstrated that convoys were the best method for protecting merchant shipping. Although ships traveling in convoys were relatively safe, there was still a great mass of unescorted traffic that was easy prey for the U-boats. During the May to July period, 910,133 tons of the total 1,868,555 tons sunk was destroyed by High Sea Fleet U-boats operating in the Atlantic.[cxv]

U-boats operating in 1917, and British tonnage sunk per submarine. Newbolt, Naval Operations, vol. V, 1931, p. 195

Shipping losses were heavy and Jellicoe reported that, up to 20 May, 185 ships had been sunk by U-boats (105 British, 36 Allied and 44 neutrals), for 239,816 tons of British shipping lost: a cumulative total of 362,183 tons destroyed.[cxvi] Jellicoe estimated this number would likely climb to 500,000 tons before the end of the month. In the event, 616,316 tons (or 596,629)[cxvii] were indeed sunk by the end of May, 352,596 tons of which were British.[cxviii] There were 126 U-boats in Germany’s possession that May, with 47 the average number at sea on a daily basis that month. A month later the figure was 55, falling to 41 in July. 15 boats were lost during that three-month period, equating to 53 merchants ships (124,750 tons) sunk on average for each U-boat lost, which was down from the rate of 86 ships (194,524 tons) during the previous period, February to April.

In terms of U-boats lost or destroyed versus new commissions, September was the costliest month for the German submarine force. From Marder, FDSF, IV, p. 278

Unfortunately for the Allies, U-boat losses were more than made up for by the 24 new U-boats constructed during May and July.[cxix] In James Goldrick’s phrase ‘the navy admitted reality’ as more U-boats were urgently required, and an order for 95 boats, mainly UB and UC types but including ten U-cruisers, was placed in early June. At the peak of new construction, after another 220 boats were ordered in June 1918, some 300 U-boats of varying types were on order, 74 were completed in the ten months before the armistice, 1.85 per week.[cxx] Besides the battlecruiser SMS Hindenburg, and three further light cruisers, these would be amongst the last warships completed for the Kaiserliche Marine.[cxxi]

 

Convoy Implementation, July to September 1917

The improvements in air support, war material, American destroyers, the rolling adoption of convoys, combined with fatigue amongst the U-boats and loss of some experienced crews, was having an impact on the spiralling shipping loss rate. Import trade, which was now generally convoyed, was well protected so once again the U-boats concentrated their efforts against outbound shipping, which so far had not been incorporated into the convoy system.[cxxii] Jellicoe was now convinced of the need to implement a total convoy system, and outward-bound ships began to be convoyed on 13 August, the needed escorts being removed from the Grand Fleet. The results were excellent: during August, only three of the 200 ships convoyed in outbound convoys were lost, a figure that increased to 789 ships convoyed with only two losses during September. Likewise, 1,306 ships were convoyed inbound across the Atlantic, with only 18 lost that month.[cxxiii]

When the system was fully operational, as Arthur Marder described, there were ‘on the average, sixteen homeward convoys at sea, of which three were in the Home Submarine Danger Zone (Western Approaches, Irish Sea, of English Channel), under destroyer escort. There was an average of seven outward convoys at sea, of which four to five were in the Home Danger Zone. It is worth emphasizing that the convoy system protected neutral as well as British and Allied shipping’.[cxxiv]

The effectiveness of the U-boats had been crippled by this comprehensive convoy system, although the Mediterranean, where convoys had not yet been implemented, remained fertile hunting grounds, albeit with too few submarines operating there to represent a serious impediment to Allied supplies. Regardless, between October and November 1917 a convoy system was arranged for those waters, and by the end of November 381 ships, or 40% of all the Mediterranean traffic, had been successfully convoyed with the loss of only nine vessels.[cxxv]

Depth charge attack, by William Wyllie.

One of the key material improvements was in the quality and quantity of Britain’s undersea weapons, from torpedoes to depth charges and mines. During 1915 and 1916, 6,177 not very effective mines were laid in the Heligoland Bight. In 1917 the Allies reverse-engineered the more effective German mine, and production numbers increased significantly. Jellicoe was an aggressive advocate of mine operations and he championed the introduction of the German ‘horned’ type over the defective British ‘lever’ mines, specifically for the Dover Barrage,[cxxvi] while also advancing the technical and quantitative refinement of aerial bombs and escort depth-charges.[cxxvii] 12,450 mines were produced between October and December 1917,[cxxviii] with 10,389 laid in the Heligoland Bight and Dover Strait. Marder states that 20,000 mines were laid in the Dover Strait and Bight between July and December 1917, of which 15,686 were laid (in 76 fields) in the Bight during 1917.

hornedmines

‘Horned’ mines carried aboard a minelayer.

British mine counter-measures also improved, with 726 vessels counted in the sweeping force, or paravane equipped, so that only ten British vessels, less than 20,000 tons, were sunk by mines during 1918, compared to more than 250,000 tons lost in the first ten months of 1917.[cxxix]

Six U-boats were in fact destroyed by mines between September and the end of the year.[cxxx] At the beginning of 1918 the increased lethality of the Dover, Bight and Zeebrugge minefields meant that U-boats wishing to reach the Atlantic approaches had to exit the North Sea via the Orkney’s passage, or risk running the Channel nets and minefields. A vast effort was decided upon to mine the North Sea exit (250 miles, requiring 100,000 special ‘antenna’ mines),[cxxxi] and plans were examined to block the U-boats’ bases at Zeebrugge, Ostend, and Kiel. Another 7,500 mines would cut-off the Danish strait.[cxxxii]

A scheme to deploy 21,000 mines from Wangeroog to Heligoland to Pellworm, thus attempting to block the base of operations for the High Sea Fleet’s U-boats, was also considered. Actually executing these plans once again raised problems exposed by the schemes of Winston Churchill (Borkum) and Sir John Fisher (Baltic), that had not been resolved in 1914-15. The operation would require a vast armament, success was not guaranteed, and the potential for a catastrophic defeat was real.[cxxxiii]

 

RNAS Million based Coastal airship C23A escorting a convoy early in 1918 (C23A was wrecked on 10 May near Newbury)

The Royal Naval Air Service (RNAS) had not been neglected in this vast expansion of military hardware. Indeed, the coastal patrol and convoy escort roles supplied by the naval aviators were essential and had been significantly expanded, with 324 seaplanes, flying boats, and airplanes on duty, plus around 100 airships of various types.[cxxxiv]

Felixstowe F3, N4230, IWM photograph.

During 1917 the majority of these aircraft were involved in air patrol missions, in June 1917 only 46 airplane and 46 airship convoy escort missions were flown, but the figure rose to 92 and 86 respectively in September before poor weather curtailed flying.[cxxxv] By April 1918 the figure was 176 and 184, jumping to 402 and 269 in May. Airships provided the convoy with a constant deterrent to submarine attack, except during night, while flying boats and airplanes could fly in advance of the convoy on look-out, or counter-attack any located U-boats with bombs, which increased in potency from 230 lb delayed-fuse bombs introduced in May 1917 to the 520 lb bombs in use by 1918.[cxxxvi]

 

RNAS and RAF coverage of the Atlantic approaches by the SNO Plymouth and Queenstown. The RNAS South West Group under Wing Captain E. L. Gerrard implemented sweeping ‘spider-web’ flying-boat patrols off the coast of England and Wales, while Vice Admiral Bayly at Queenstown worked with Captain Hutch Cone, United States Navy, to develop flying-boat bases in Ireland.

Although convoy escort and improved A/S methods and material reduced the potential for a starvation defeat, shortages were still a serious problem. Oil imports to the UK were falling drastically as tankers were destroyed. On 11 June Jellicoe reported that he intended to form weekly oil convoys to relieve the situation.[cxxxvii] Two days later Jellicoe reported to the War Cabinet that the implementation of the convoy system was ‘nearly complete.’[cxxxviii]

Convoys were highly successful in 1917, as this figure from Marder indicates. Of the 26,404 ships that sailed in convoys during that year, only 147 were lost. The Scandinavian and Atlantic convoys were the most susceptible targets for convoy interdiction missions, while the sparsely escorted Mediterranean had the highest loss rate that year.

Effects of Ocean Convoys, with the losses vs successful convoy sailing ‘cross-over’ point at August – September 1917, from Tarrant, The U-Boat Offensive, p. 73

By the end of 1917 26,404 ships had sailed in organized merchant convoys: 4,484 across the Atlantic, 6,155 between Scotland and Scandinavia, and 15,684 in the French coal trade, with a total loss of only 147 vessels.[cxxxix] 32.5% and 42.5%, respectively, of those ships that were lost while being convoyed, were sunk while entering or leaving a convoy, when confusion was at its greatest.[cxl] These results were significant, as compared with June 1917 when 122 British merchant ships were sunk with a loss of 417,925 tons in a single month. Although loss rates dropped significantly by November, 85 ships were still lost to mines (8) and U-boats (76) at loss of 253,087 tons of British merchant shipping in December.[cxli] Allied tonnage losses, that is, non-British shipping losses, plummeted from 72 ships at 111,683 tons in July to only 46 ships at 86,981 tons in December.[cxlii]

By August 1917 the convoy system had been systematically implemented in all three maritime theatres, the North Sea, Atlantic Ocean, and the Mediterranean

The Flanders UB and UC flotillas were, however, continually destroying Channel shipping at an average of 50,000 tons a month for the entire period and the Third Ypres offensive had failed to capture Passchendaele, and critically, the U-boat bases along the Belgian coast. Despite these set-backs there was room for hope. In the Atlantic the tonnage loss rate fell from 550,000 tons in April, to only 165,000 tons in November. 37 U-boats were destroyed during the second half of 1917, 16 by mines, the total equivalent to 7.4 boats a month, nearly matching the commission rate for new U-boats, 8.8 per month.[cxliii]

Counter-blockade submarine U151, 1,500 tons displacement, first of seven initially designed for use as blockade runners and in April 1917 converted to an Atlantic battle submarine, entering service in July 1917.

In September there were 139 submarines operating, the wartime peak, allowing for an increased daily average of 56 U-boats in October, more than the 39 at sea in November or the 48 in December.[cxliv] With nearly fifty U-boats continuously at sea every day, and new long-endurance U-boat cruisers plumbing the Atlantic to the tune of 52,000 tons per three month cruise, as U155 achieved in the fall of 1917 (10 steamers & seven sailing ships), the submarine war was far from over.[cxlv]

Daily average of U-boats at sea & total (Allied, Neutral & British) tonnage sunk on average per boat. The sinking rate was cut almost in half between March and December 1917. Furthermore the average daily number and size of vessels sunk was falling: whereas in March 889 tons of British shipping was on average destroyed each day, by August that number had fallen to 485 tons, & half again to 284 tons by December. In March – June the average size of each ship sunk was 5,084 tons gross, falling to 4,342 tons in July – October. Tarrant, The U-Boat Offensive, p. 58

 

Convoy Battles, October – December 1917

From Jellicoe’s perspective, the Royal Navy was engaged in an unprecedented destroyer and submarine action with the German Navy, with the possibility for a High Sea Fleet sortie at any time. Early in the morning of October 17, German light cruisers raided a west-bound Scandinavian convoy of 12 (two British, one Belgian, one Danish, five Norwegian, three Swedish) that had departed Marstein in the company of two destroyers, HMS Strongbow and Mary Rose.[cxlvi] Just after 6 am on the 17th, Strongbow spotted two unidentified vessels on a converging course. In fact, these were the 3,800 ton German minelaying cruisers SMS Brummer and Bremse, with orders to mine the Scandinavian convoy routes.

 

SMS Brummer, minelaying cruiser that along with sistership SMS Bremse, attacked a Scandinavian convoy on 17 October 1917 & HMS Strongbowdestroyed by SMS Brummer & Bremse at the action of 17 October 1917

The light cruisers proceeded to make short work of Strongbow and Mary Rose with their 15 cm guns.[cxlvii] The trawlers Elise and P. Fannon, armed with only one 6 pdr gun apiece, along with three unarmed steamers, managed to escape and retrieve Lieutenant Commander Brooke, CO of the Strongbow and others, from the water.[cxlviii] The enemy cruisers destroyed the remaining nine merchants in the convoy.[cxlix]

Locations of major minefields, Tarrant, The U-boat Offensive, p. 62 & The chaotic minefield situation in the Heligoland Bight, 17 November 1917, from Newbolt, Naval Operations, vol. V, p. 168-9

On 17 November the Second Battle of Heligoland Bight took place when the First Battle Cruiser Squadron, under Rear Admiral Phillimore, a component of Admiral Pakenham’s Battle Cruiser Force, intercepted a group of High Sea Fleet minesweepers that were attempting to clear the edge of the Bight minefields.[cl] Rear Admiral Phillimore’s HMS Repulse group pursued the minesweepers, but the Germans deployed a large smoke screen that successfully covered their escape.[cli]

HMS Repulse or Renown at steam, by William Weyllie. & Second Battle of Heligoland Bight, 17 November 1917, also by Wyllie

On 11 December Admiral Scheer ordered Commander Heinecke’s Second Flotilla (Torpedo Boat Flotilla II), comprising the largest and fastest destroyers in the fleet,[clii] to raid Britain’s merchant convoys. The Fourth Half-Flotilla was to attack shipping near Newcastle, while the Third Half-Flotilla raided the Scandinavian Bergen-Lerwick line. During the winter darkness early on 12 December, the Fourth Half-Flotilla destroyers (B97, B109, B110 & B112), moving north up the coast, encountered the stragglers from a southbound coastal convoy out of Lerwick, Shetlands, and torpedoed two transports, the Danish Peter Willemoes and the Swedish Nike and sank a third small coastal steamer shortly afterwards.[cliii] The Fourth Half-Flotilla then withdrew for its rendezvous with the light cruiser SMS Emden at 5:15 pm.[cliv]

German destroyers in formation, from Goldrick, After Jutland (2018), photo 9.1

The complexities of night-time communication in crowded sea-lanes meant that no clear indication of what was happening reached the Admiralty. Furthermore, the poor weather conditions and dearth of coastal lighting (suppressed except at specific times at Admiralty orders) resulted in the Third Half-Flotilla becoming lost and eventually approaching the Norwegian coast.[clv]

 

G101-type German destroyer, c. 1916

So it was with complete surprise that the daily convoy from Lerwick to the Marstein lighthouse, escorted by destroyers HMS Pellew and HMS Partridge, plus four armed trawlers, at 11:30 am south-west of Bjorne Fjord, encountered the German destroyers of the Third Half-Flotilla, under the command of Korvettenkapitan (Lieutenant-Commander) Hans Kolbe, a powerful force composed of SMS G101, G103, G104 & V100.[clvi] Lieutenant-Commander J. R. C. Cavendish of the Pellew, when the unknown destroyers approaching the convoy did not answer his signals, transmitted a warning notice to Beatty informing the C-in-C of the expected enemy contact (a signal actually received by the armoured cruiser HMS Shannon and its group, about sixty miles away), and then ordered the convoy to scatter.[clvii]

A RN destroyer and three armed drifters escorting a convoy of merchant ships, c. 1917-18

The 12 December 1917 convoy action, from Scheer’s High Sea Fleet, p. 383

Pellew and Partridge placed themselves between the German destroyers and the convoy hoping to buy time.[clviii] Kolbe’s force destroyed Partridge with gunfire and torpedoes until it sank. Pellew, partially disabled by gunfire, was lost in a storm and LTC Cavendish was able to navigate the destroyer towards the Norwegian coast while Kolbe turned on the convoy (six merchants, four trawlers) and annihilated it.[clix] Although the Partridge distress report was received by HMS Rival and then transmitted to the HMS Birkenhead group (3rd Light Cruiser Squadron) south of Norway, Kolbe’s force managed to slip east past the picket line shortly after sunset.[clx]

Chart of 12 December 1917 destroyer raid on the Scandinavian convoy route, from Marder, FDSF, IV

While this example demonstrated that Germany’s surface assets were very much still a risk to the convoy system, another encounter a week later with U-boats operating near a convoy assembly point highlighted the multidimensional nature of the battle.

A convoy of 17 departed Falmouth in stormy weather at 11 am on 18 December, screened by several trawlers. When the convoy was clear of the Channel and off Prawle point at 1:30 pm, the SS Riversdale was torpedoed. At noon the C-in-C Devonport, receiving reports of sunk merchant ships, ordered all merchant traffic between Plymouth and Portland to be halted, a condition that remained in force until 8 pm, and then again from 5:15 am.[clxi]

The 7,046 ton Cunard liner SS Vinovia was the next to be torpedoed, off Wolf Rock an hour later, with nine lives lost.[clxii] The Rame Head wireless-telegraphy (W/T) station reported a sighting, and the C-in-C Devonport ordered the trawlers in F section to investigate. These were the Mewslade and Coulard Hill. These hydrophone equipped vessels established a hydrophone picket, but did not locate any submarines.[clxiii] Meanwhile, airship C23, which had been despatched to investigate the Rame Head W/T contact, discovered that the French steamer St. Andre had also been torpedoed, sometime around around midnight.[clxiv]

UC100, UCIII-type coastal minelayer submarine, from Tarrant, The U-boat Offensive (2000)

Lieutenant John Lawris RNR, in the sailing ship Mitchell, encountered a U-boat surfacing in windy weather off the north Devon coast. When, at 10:10 am, a submarine surfaced in front of the Mitchell Lt. Lawris opened fire, multiple shell hits causing the U-boat to dive. Although the trawler Sardius raced to support the Mitchell, the submarine was already gone.[clxv] Mitchell relayed this information to the Trevose Head W/T station at 10:25, and the report was broadcast around the region, where it was received at Penzance, Falmouth, Newlyn and elsewhere.[clxvi] The rush of W/T communication amidst the flurry of sighting reports caused communication delays. One Falmouth flotilla, carrying out hydrophone investigations of sightings, did not receive a sinking report until five and half hours after the event.[clxvii]

UB148 at sea

At 4:00 pm the Prince Charles de Belgique, a Belgian steamer, was attacked by a submarine eight miles from the Lizard. Luckily the torpedo missed, whence the U-boat was spotted by a Newlyn NAS seaplane cruising overhead at 500 ft. The seaplane carried out a bombing attack but was unsuccessful. Simultaneously at 4 pm, the trawler Take Care, while protecting the Brixham fishing fleet, spotted a submarine near Berry Head, although no further sightings were made. Several hours later trawler Lysander was picking up the survivors of the torpedoed Norwegian steamer Ingrid II, which had been enroute to Cardif for repairs.[clxviii] The Alice Marie was sunk next, sometime before midnight, then the Warsaw at 1:20 am, and then at 4 am the Eveline. The trawlers Rinaldo and Ulysses could do nothing to intervene, dashing between reports and unable to make firm detections with their hydrophones.[clxix]

A significant score of ships destroyed, and no submarine caught in the act. The impact of A/S measures continued to be essentially random, thus when UB56 crashed into a mine in the English Channel it became the only German casualty associated with the 18 December action.[clxx] Ten merchant ships of three nations had been lost, but the convoy, reduced to 16, still crossed successfully.

St. Paul’s and Blackfriars Bridge, by William Wyllie.

These battles and others like them demonstrate that as 1917 came to a close the Royal Navy had to strengthen and refine its procedures for convoy escort and ASW. Outside of the Mediterranean, the English Channel, Irish Sea and the Scandinavian corridor were all vulnerable to attack, especially near the as yet unescorted coastal routes.

 

Resolution: Attacks on the Belgian Submarine Bases & the Defeat of the U-boats in 1918

When 1918 opened the convoy system had been widely adopted and plentiful resources were being supplied to the regional commanders. The coastal space, however, had become highly contested. A German surface raid attack near Yarmouth on 14 January involved 50 vessels of various kinds, but was driven off by Commodore Tyrwhitt’s Harwich Force.[clxxi] Despite the ongoing surface and submarine battle, crucially, merchant sinkings were well below crisis levels and falling.[clxxii] In December 1917 the German Admiralty made Vice Admiral Ritter von Mann-Tiechler head of a dedicated U-boat office, recognition of ad hoc nature of the previous year of unrestricted submarine warfare.[clxxiii]

Sir Eric Campbell Geddes as Vice Admiral and First Lord of the Admiralty, 1917, photograph by Walter Stoneman

Naval Staff reforms c. January 1918, from Nicholas Black, The British Naval Staff In The First World War (2011)

The Naval Staff as organized in January 1918 for the Geddes – Wemyss administration, from Jellicoe, Crisis of the Naval War (1920), p. 27

1918adboard2.5jpg-1-1

Jellicoe, in a controversial decision by Lloyd George and Geddes, was removed from office in December, and then replaced by his Deputy, Admiral Sir Rosslyn Wemyss.[clxxiv] Vice Admiral Sir Herbert L. Heath became the Second Sea Lord, Rear Admiral Lionel Halsey retained the Third Sea Lord position, and Rear Admiral Hugh H. D. Tothill became the Fourth Sea Lord. Duff stayed on as ACNS, and Rear Admiral Sydney R. Fremantle became Deputy DCNS and Rear Admiral George P. W. Hope of the Naval Staff’s Operations Division the Deputy First Sea Lord.[clxxv] Geddes now reformed the staff again, delegating home operations and air to the DCNS, the ASD and other trade protection elements to the ACNS, while the Deputy 1SL assumed responsibility for foreign operations.[clxxvi]

naval-staff3.3-1918

Next to fall from the famous Geddes axe was Vice Admiral Bacon, the long serving SNO Dover. Wemyss appointed Rear Admiral Roger Keyes in his place on 1 January 1918. Captain Wilfred Tomkinson became Captain of the Dover Destroyers.[clxxvii] The arrangement of the Dover Barrage, as it had been under Bacon, was expanded with a new system of illumination, authored by Wing Commander F. A. Brock (RNAS), son of the Brock of Brock’s firework (and explosive bullet) manufacturer, coinciding with a new patrol scheme, whereby 80 to 100 destroyers and auxiliaries were constantly patrolling the Straits by day and night.[clxxviii]

The positions of the Channel mine net and Folkestone – Gris Nez minefields in 1918, from Tarrant, The U-boat Offensive, 1914-1915 (2000)

Between 19 December 1917 and 8 February 1918 four U-boats were mined in the Channel, and UB35 was depth-charged by HMS Leven.[clxxix] The increased danger was so significant that Commodore Michelsen was forced to prohibit the use of the Channel route and instead endorse the northern route around Scotland, effectively adding five days of transit to the U-boats’ cruise.[clxxx]

Drifter net-mine deployment

The Flanders command launched another anti-shipping sortie on 14 January with 14 destroyers, although in the event no merchant ships were encountered.[clxxxi] A month later, on 13 February, Commander Heinecke’s Second Flotilla was despatched to attack the Dover – Calais barrage, in particular, the lights that since December 1917 had drastically increased the risk to transiting U-boats.[clxxxii] Heinecke’s destroyers departed in thick fog, and anchored overnight north of Norderney.

Dover trawlers and motor-launches, from Steve Dunn, Securing The Narrow Sea (2017)

After working around to the English coast the attackers, eight in total, split into two half-flotillas and waited until night, and then, around 12:30 am on the 15th, began their raid against the well lit and heavily defended cross-Channel barrage. Attaining complete surprise, Heinecke’s force (Fourth Half-Flotilla) destroyed, according to Scheer, a searchlight vessel, 13 drifters, a U-boat chaser, a torpedo boat and two motor-boats, while the other half-flotilla (Third Half-Flotilla), working the southern end of the barrage, sank 12 trawlers and two motor-boats. Steve Dunn and James Goldrick give the accurate figure of seven drifters, one trawler sunk, with three drifters one paddle steamer damaged.[clxxxiii]

Zeebrugge raid of 22 April 1918, showing location of harbour assault force and canal blockships, from Cecil Aspinall-Oglander, Roger Keyes (1951)

Dover’s new C-in-C Admiral Roger Keyes now conducted the long-planned Flanders coast raid on 22 April.[clxxxiv] Although the blockships meant to obstruct the Zeebrugge harbour were only effective for a few days, the daring raid was described as a triumph by the press, with eight Victoria Crosses being awarded to the participants.[clxxxv] A further attempt to block the Ostend canal was attempted on 9-10 May, with likewise limited results.[clxxxvi]

On 23 April 1918 the High Sea Fleet launched a planned raid against the Scandinavian convoy route.[clxxxvii] This was a major operation involving the battlecruisers of the Scouting Group under Admiral von Hipper, in addition to light cruisers and destroyers, supported by Scheer’s main force. As the advanced group cleared the Heligoland minefields, however, SMS Moltke threw a propeller and suffered a turbine failure that ultimately damaged the engines and caused a breach in the hull. The battlecruiser had to be taken in tow by SMS Oldenburg.[clxxxviii]

24 April 1918 High Sea Fleet sortie, from James Goldrick, After Jutland (2018), map 13.1

The Grand Fleet was notified by Room 40 that the High Sea Fleet was out of harbour and Beatty prepared the fleet for sea,[clxxxix] although there was no chance the British could catch the Germans before they returned to harbour.[cxc] Later that evening, after being restored to its own power, Moltke was torpedoed by RN submarine E42, but managed to return safety of the Jade.[cxci] The fleet operation had failed to locate any convoys and the High Sea Fleet would not sortie again until it sailed for internment on 24 November 1918.

The bomb-proof U-boat pens at Bruges.

While the U-boats’ areas of operation were slowly being squeezed by increasingly comprehensive convoys and sophisticated hydrophone and aerial sweeps, the bombing campaign by RNAS Dunkirk, and after 1 April 1918, RAF No. 5 Group, against the Flanders U-boat bases was renewed.  Wing Captain Charles Lambe’s 27 May operating orders called for the No. 5 Group (Dunkirk) to bomb the Bruges docks twice a day, both day and night.[cxcii] Indeed, 70 tons of bombs were dropped on Bruges and Zeebrugge during May 1918.[cxciii]

 

Royal Naval Air Service (RNAS) naval air, airship, and training establishment map, March 1918, and Royal Air Force (RAF) Home Defence Groups.

From mid-June until the end of August, 86 tons of bombs were dropped on Zeebrugge, Ostend and Bruges by No. 5 Group, with another 49 tons dropped by other RAF squadrons.[cxciv] Between February 1917 and November 1918 the various Allied bombing forces (the US Northern Bombing Group had been forming since June 1918),[cxcv] managed to drop 524 tons of bombs on Zeebrugge, Ostend and Bruges, and, although the Bruges electrical works were destroyed and the Zeebrugge lock gates targeted, only three submarines were damaged by the bombing programme.[cxcvi]

The U-boats, for their part, had been forced once again to change tactics, focusing on the lightly escorted outbound traffic returning across the Atlantic to America. During the summer of 1918 the U-boats, by expanding their area of operations into the western and southern Atlantic, scored a series successful sinkings.

Powerful 2,000 ton U139 – U141 ‘cruiser’ type developed for long-range operations in the Atlantic, armed with two 150 mm cannons and 19 torpedoes for its six torpedo tubes. & U140, double-hulled 12,000 nm range 2,000 ton submarine crewed by six officers and 56 men, armed with 8.8 cm and 10 cm guns and six torpedo tubes, four bow and two stern, from Eberhard Moller and Werner Brack, Encyclopedia of U-boats from 1904 to the Present (2004), p. 39

1918

Allied shipping losses in the Channel and Western Approaches for 1918

However, as the return voyage traffic was empty of supplies or troops the impact on the war was marginal in comparison to the 1.5 million American soldiers that successfully crossed the Atlantic.[cxcvii] Although shipping losses remained in the 300,000 ton/month range for the first eight months of 1918, with a high of 368,750 tons sunk in March, followed by a low of 268,505 tons in June, the sinking rate was not high enough to cripple Allied shipping.[cxcviii]

 

convoy01Convoys in 1918, by John Everett

justicia

32,000 ton White Star liner Justicia, sunk 19 – 20 July 1918, despite escort, by the combined efforts of UB64, U54, with UB124 in support (damaged by escorts and then scuttled).

A notable footnote is the 10 – 25 May 1918 concentration, wherein eight U-boats grouped against the western approaches off the Irish coast. Luckily for the Admiralty, this concentration was known and cleared through careful routing of approaching convoys, thus, as Newbolt phrased it, the Royal Navy had avoided the ‘the most methodical and elaborate attempt that the Germans Staff had as yet made to interfere with the convoy system.’[cxcix]

Meanwhile, the monthly loss rate for U-boats climbed significantly during 1918, from Gibson & Prendergast, German Submarine War

The U-boats certainly needed some change in method, as during 1918 69 U-boats were destroyed, a figure that matched new construction.[cc] As Lawrence Sondhaus concluded, ‘the balance sheet of Allied tonnage sunk versus German submarines lost clearly tipped from favoring the Germans in 1917 (6.15 million tons at a cost of sixty-three U-boats) to favoring the Allies in 1918 (2.75 million tons at a cost of sixty-nine U-boats).’[cci] The implementation of air-escorted coastal convoys for the East Coast of Britain and the Irish Sea – the two remaining areas of highest shipping losses – closed the final weakness in the trade defence system, and, as Tarrant phrased it, ‘all hopes of the U-boats forcing a decision finally evaporated’.[ccii]

Sinking locations, February to October 1918, from Tarrant, The U-boat Offensive, 1914-1915 (2000)

In August 1918, with the submarine war failing and the Allies preparing for their final Western Front offensive, Admiral von Holtzendorff resigned, being replaced by Admiral Scheer.[cciii] At a meeting between Scheer and senior German industrialists held 1 October 1918 it was determined that every effort should be made to increase submarine construction, first to 16 per month and eventually up to 30 per month.[cciv] This was too little too late, however, as the submarine war was winding down as Germany’s military situation on the continent collapsed.

Decline in global merchant sinking, May – November 1918, from Tarrant, The U-boat Offensive (2000)

The Flanders U-boat bases were liberated during October 1918, a decisive event in the Allied Hundred Days offensive. The Germans evacuated Ostend on 17 October, and then Zeebrugge and Bruges two days later. On 21 October the U-boat command issued the order to cease attacks on passenger ships, followed by the recall of all U-boats to Wilhelmshaven, from which the expected final sortie of the High Sea Fleet was to take place.[ccv] The naval mutiny following the 28 October order for the suicidal final sortie, and resulting capture of the fleet bases at Wilhelmshaven, Cuxhaven and Kiel by revolutionaries on 3 November, at last terminated the submarine threat.[ccvi]

Approximate locations of U-boats destroyed during the First World War, from Gibson & Prendergast

“The Archaeology of First World War U-boat Losses in the English Channel and its Impact on the Historical Record,” Innes McCartney, Mariner’s Mirror, vol. 105, no. 2, May 2019, p. 183-201
UB131 beached near Hastings, 9 January 1921, from Tarrant, The U-Boat Offensive, p. 65

The RAF memorial, Victoria Embankment, c. 1923 by William Wyllie

Conclusion

As Stephen Roskill observed of the British experience with ASW during the Second World War, the immediate lesson was the complete failure of hunting groups, and the superior nature of escorted convoys, in particular with destroyer and air support. The old argument of offensive versus defensive measures masked the aggressive naval officer’s distaste for the rigors of convoy duty.[ccvii] The advantages of convoys were undeniable: the total space the convoy occupied was marginal when compared to the visibility of thousands of independently sailing vessels, which in effect acted as a screen for the convoys, until controls were tightened as losses continued into 1918.

First World War Royal Navy officers, by Sir Arthur Stockdale Cope, 1921.

Fast attack forces able to slip through the Royal Navy’s blockade, such as minelayers and destroyers, produced decisive results against convoys, as they were able to overwhelm the escorts. The U-boats, by concentrating against the coasts and the convoy dispersion points, and attacking the thinly escorted Atlantic and Norwegian convoy routes, were still able to inflict serious losses. The Admiralty did arrive at the essential formula for success – vastly improved A/S escorts, convoys, qualitative and quantitative improvements in material and technology from mines, depth-charges, bombs and shell, plus flying boats, airships, Q-ships, hydrophones, minesweepers and paravanes. So long as as the High Sea Fleet did not escalate the scale of its counter-blockade operations, the crucial merchant supplies would get through, while peripheral attacks, such as by the Zeppelins and Gothas against London and the coastal bases and arsenals, could not decide the outcome of the war.

The German naval command had gambled on an uncertain weapon, and come close to success. As the U-boat war evolved during 1917, both sides were forced to dramatically adjust their operations and tactics. For the Allies, restricting the movement of, and eventually counter-attacking the U-boats became the new paradigm, whereas Germany abandoned main fleet battle to focus completely on submarine construction and flotilla deployment. The historical parallel with 18th century convoy and the guerre de course was proven correct,[ccviii] and by the end of the war the tools to effectively locate and destroy U-boats had been invented, tested and operationalized. For the U-boats the lessons were clear: strength lay in numbers, and safety at night, far away from air patrols. The Second Battle of the Atlantic, twenty years later, would prove which side had truly grappled with the crisis, and mastered it.

After the War: UB77 in Portsmouth harbour with HMS Victory, from Tarrant, The U-Boat Offensive, p. 55

HMS Renown departs Portsmouth, 16 March 1920, with HMS Victory and UB77 at left, by William Wyllie.
Francis Dodd drawing of the crew cabin aboard Royal Navy ML558 & sketches of U-boats surrendering, 20 November 1918, & Square-rigged sailing ship at sea, by William Wyllie

Notes

[i] Marc Milner, “The Atlantic War, 1939-1945: The Case for a New Paradigm,” in Decision in the Atlantic, ed. Marcus Faulkner and Christopher M. Bell (University of Kentucky: Andarta Books, 2019), 5–19.

[ii] David Lloyd George, War Memoirs of David Lloyd George, Vol. I, Kindle ebook, vol. 1, 2 vols. (Arcole Publishing, 2017)., chapter 40, loc. 14420

[iii] Hague Convention on Land Warfare, July 1899, https://ihl-databases.icrc.org/applic/ihl/ihl.nsf/Treaty.xsp?documentId=CD0F6C83F96FB459C12563CD002D66A1&action=openDocument

 & Hague Convention on Neutral Powers in Naval War, October 1907, https://ihl-databases.icrc.org/applic/ihl/ihl.nsf/Treaty.xsp?documentId=06A47A50FE7412AFC12563CD002D6877&action=openDocument

[iv] Henry Newbolt, Naval Operations, vol. V, 5 vols., History of the Great War Based on Official Documents (Uckfield: The Naval & Military Press Ltd, 1931)., p. 195

[v] V. E. Tarrant, The U-Boat Offensive, 1914-1945 (London: Cassel & Co, 2000)., p. 50

[vi] Donald Macintyre, The Battle of the Atlantic (Barnsley: Pen & Sword Military Classics, 2006)., p. 73-7

[vii] Nick lloyd, Hundred Days: The End of the Great War, Kindle ebook (New York: Penguin Group (USA) Inc., 2013)., Chapter 13, loc 4088

[viii] See for example, Nick Hewitt, The Kaiser’s Pirates, Hunting Germany’s Raiding Cruisers in World War I, Kindle ebook (New York: Pen & Sword Books, Ltd., 2013)., also, Julian Corbett, Naval Operations, vol. I, V vols., History of the Great War Based on Official Documents (Uckfield: The Naval & Military Press Ltd, 1920).

[ix] Nicolas Wolz, From Imperial Splendour to Internment: The German Navy in the First World War, trans. Geoffrey Brooks, Kindle ebook (Barnsley: Seaforth Publishing, 2015)., chapter 7, loc. 2730-5

[x] Gary Sheffield, “Vimy Ridge and the Battle of Arras: A British Perspective,” in Vimy Ridge: A Canadian Reassessment, ed. Geoffrey Hayes, Andrew Iarocci, and Mike Bechthold (Waterloo, Ontario: Wilfrid Laurier University Press, 2010), 15–30., p. 15-6

[xi] John Terraine, Business in Great Waters: The U-Boat Wars, 1916-1945, Kindle ebook (Barnsley: Pen & Sword Military, 2009)., part I, chapter 3, loc. 1297

[xii] Wolz, From Imperial Splendour to Internment: The German Navy in the First World War., chapter 7, loc. 2735

[xiii] Holger Herwig, The First World War: Germany and Austria-Hungary, 1914-1918, Kindle ebook (New York: Bloomsbury, 2014)., p. 308

[xiv] Edwyn A. Gray, The U-Boat War, 1914-1918, Kindle ebook (London: Leo Cooper, 1994)., chapter 10, loc. 2443

[xv] Gray., chapter 10, loc. 2451

[xvi] H. A. Jones, The War In The Air, Antony Rowe Ltd. reprint, vol. IV, VI vols. (Uckfield: The Naval & Military Press Ltd, 1934)., p. 47

[xvii] Tarrant, U-Boat Offensive., p. 51

[xviii] Tarrant., p. 51

[xix] Jones, WIA, IV., p. 47

[xx] Winston Churchill, The World Crisis, 1915, Kindle ebook, vol. 2, 4 vols. (New York: RosettaBooks, LLC, 1923)., chapter 15, loc. 5209

[xxi] Tarrant, U-Boat Offensive., p. 48

[xxii] ‘”Blockade” Effect in U.S. Trade,’ 19 March 1917, London Times, p. 7

[xxiii] Tarrant, U-Boat Offensive., p. 49

[xxiv] Gray, The U-Boat War, 1914-1918., chapter 10, loc. 2443

[xxv] Arthur Marder, ed., Portrait of an Admiral, The Life And Papers Of Herbert Richmond. (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1952)., p. 228

[xxvi] Daniel A. Baugh, “Admiral Sir Herbert Richmond and the Objects of Sea Power,” in Mahan Is Not Enough: The Proceedings of a Conference on the Works of Sir Julian Corbett and Admiral Sir Herbert Richmond, ed. James Goldrick and John B. Hattendorf, Naval War College Historical Monograph 10 (Newport, Rhode Island: Naval War College Press, 1993), 13–49., p. 18 fn. See also in particular, Herbert Richmond, The Navy In The War of 1739-48, Volume III, vol. 3, 3 vols., Cambridge Naval and Military Series (London: Cambridge University Press, 1920)., p. 52 et seq

[xxvii] Julian Corbett, The Seven Years War, A Study in British Combined Strategy (London: The Folio Society, 2001)., p. 267-80; & Julian Corbett, Maritime Operations in the Russo-Japanese War, 1904-1905, Volume I, Kindle ebook, vol. 1, 2 vols. (Annapolis: Naval Institute Press, 2015)., p. 290, 359

[xxviii] Arthur Marder, From The Dreadnought to Scapa Flow: The Year of Crisis, vol. 4, 5 vols. (Toronto: Oxford University Press, 1969)., p. 120-1

[xxix] Terraine, Business in Great Waters., Part 1, Chapter 3, loc. 1314-21. See also, Winston Churchill, The World Crisis: Volume III, 1916 – 1918, Kindle ebook, vol. 3, 4 vols. (New York: RosettaBooks, LLC, 2013)., Chapter 15, loc. 5253-60

[xxx] Marder, FDSF., p. 122

[xxxi] John J. Abbatiello, “The Myths and Realities of Air Anti-Submarine Warfare during the Great War,” Air Power Review 12, no. 1 (2009): 14–31., p. 14

[xxxii] Norman Leslie, “The System of Convoys for Merchant Shipping in 1917 and 1918,” Naval Review 5, no. 1 (1917): 42–95., p. 43

[xxxiii] Jones, WIA, IV., p. 45

[xxxiv] John Jellicoe, The Submarine Peril (London: Cassell & Co. Ltd., 1934)., p. 16

[xxxv] R. H. Gibson and Maurice Prendergast, The German Submarine War, 1914-1918, Reprint (London: Naval & Military Press, 1931)., p. 160

[xxxvi] Jellicoe, The Submarine Peril., p. 17-8

[xxxvii] Alexander L. N. Howlett, “The Royal Naval Air Service and the Evolution of Naval Aviation in Britain, 1914 – 1918” (PhD thesis, King’s College London, 2019)., p. 125-9

[xxxviii] Jellicoe, The Submarine Peril., p. 14

[xxxix] Newbolt, Naval Operations, 1931., p. 10-14

[xl] Newbolt., p. 14

[xli] Marder, FDSF., IV p. 156

[xlii] War Cabinet paper by Jellicoe, 21 February 1917, ADM 1/8480, #33 in A. Temple Patterson, ed., The Jellicoe Papers, 1916-1935, vol. 2, 2 vols. (London: Spottiswoode, Ballantyne and Co. Ltd., 1968)., p. 144-9

[xliii] War Cabinet paper by Jellicoe, 21 February 1917, ADM 1/8480, #33 in Temple Patterson., p. 146-8

[xliv] Jones, WIA, IV., p. 45-6

[xlv] Jones., IV p. 47

[xlvi] Marder, FDSF., IV p. 123

[xlvii] Henry Newbolt, Naval Operations, vol. IV, 5 vols., The Naval History of the Great War (Antony Rowe Ltd., Eastbourne: The Naval & Military Press Ltd, 1928)., p. 353; James Goldrick, After Jutland: The Naval War in North European Waters, June 1916 – November 1918, Kindle ebook (Barnsley: Seaforth Publishing, 2018)., chapter 9, loc. 3018. Goldrick says Tilleson.

[xlviii] Steve Dunn, Securing The Narrow Sea: The Dover Patrol, 1914-1918 (Barnsley: Seaforth Publishing, 2017)., p. 134

[xlix] Goldrick, After Jutland., chapter 9, loc. 3036-45

[l] Newbolt, Naval Operations, 1928., p. 360-68

[li] Dunn, Securing The Narrow Sea., p. 134; Goldrick, After Jutland., chapter 9, loc. 3126-41

[lii] Goldrick, After Jutland., chapter 9, loc. 3149-58

[liii] ‘Distribution of Coal and Sugar,’ 24 March 1917, London Times, p. 8

[liv] Paul Guinn, British Strategy and Politics, 1914 to 1918 (Oxford: The Clarendon Press, 1965)., p. 228; see also, Stephen Roskill, Hankey: Man of Secrets, vol. I: 1877-1918, 3 vols. (Annapolis: Naval Institute Press, 1970). p. 359-60

[lv] War Cabinet meeting 100, 21 March 1917, CAB 23/2/18, p. 2

[lvi] War Cabinet meeting 110, 2 April 1917, CAB 23/2/28, p. 3

[lvii] War Cabinet meeting 110, 2 April 1917, CAB 23/2/28, p. 3

[lviii] Newbolt, Naval Operations, 1931., p. 42

[lix] War Cabinet meeting 117, 11 April 1917, CAB 23/2/35, p. 4; see also, War Cabinet meeting 125, 23 April 1917, CAB 23/2/43, p. 4

[lx] War Cabinet meeting 125, 23 April 1917, CAB 23/2/43, p. 4

[lxi] War Cabinet meeting 113, 4 April 1917, CAB 23/2/31, p. 2-3

[lxii] War Cabinet meeting 125, 23 April 1917, CAB 23/2/43, p. 2

[lxiii] War Cabinet meeting 125, 23 April 1917, CAB 23/2/43, p. 3-5

[lxiv] War Cabinet meeting 125, 23 April 1917, CAB 23/2/43, p. 2

[lxv] War Cabinet meeting 125, 23 April 1917, CAB 23/2/43, Appendix II, p. 8-9

[lxvi] Jellicoe to Beatty, 12 April 1917, #42 in Temple Patterson, Jellicoe Papers, Vol. II., p. 156

[lxvii] Gibson and Prendergast, German Submarine War., p. 159

[lxviii] War Cabinet meeting 116, 9 April 1917, CAB 23/2/34, p. 5; War Cabinet meeting 117, 11 April 1917, CAB 23/2/35, p. 2-3; see also Jellicoe to Rear-Admiral W. S. Sims, 7 April 1917, #41 in Temple Patterson, Jellicoe Papers, Vol. II., p. 155.

[lxix] War Cabinet meeting 115, 6 April 1917, CAB 23/2/33, p. 1

[lxx] Marder, FDSF, IV, pp. 274-5. See also, William Sims, The Victory at Sea (Annapolis: Naval Institute Press, 2016)., p. 352-3

[lxxi] Jellicoe to Beatty, 17 March 1917, #36 in Temple Patterson, Jellicoe Papers, Vol. II., p. 153

[lxxii] Jellicoe to Beatty, 24 March 1917, #37 in Temple Patterson., p. 153

[lxxiii] War Cabinet minutes 104, 26 March 1917, CAB 23/2/22, p. 3

[lxxiv] Dunn, Securing The Narrow Sea., p. 135-41. Newbolt, Naval Operations, 1928., p. 373

[lxxv] Newbolt, Naval Operations, 1928., p. 377-8. Dunn, Securing The Narrow Sea., p. 137-8

[lxxvi] Goldrick, After Jutland., chapter 9, loc. 3221-50

[lxxvii] The Naval Who’s Who, 1917 (Polstead: J. B. Hayward & Son, 1981). p. 273

[lxxviii] Nicholas Black, The British Naval Staff In The First World War (Rochester: Boydell & Brewer Inc., 2011), p. 301

[lxxix] Marder, FDSF, IV, pp. 264. Patrick Beesly, Room 40: British Naval Intelligence 1914-1918 (London: Hamish Hamilton Ltd., 1982)., p. 254

[lxxx] Marder, FDSF, IV, pp. 264. Beesly., p. 254fn

[lxxxi] War Cabinet meeting 130, 2 May 1917, CAB 23/2/48, Appendix, p. 5

[lxxxii] Black, British Naval Staff., p. 34

[lxxxiii] Churchill, The World Crisis, 1915., chapter 15, loc. 5231

[lxxxiv] War Cabinet meeting 130, 2 May 1917, CAB 23/2/48, Appendix, p. 5; see also, Black, British Naval Staff., p. 248-9

[lxxxv] DASD Fisher to C-in-C Portsmouth, 21 July 1917, Bethell Papers (VII), LHCMA. See also, Abbatiello, Anti-Submarine Warfare, p. 113.

[lxxxvi] Jellicoe, The Submarine Peril., p. vii

[lxxxvii] Marder, FDSF., p. 118-9

[lxxxviii] Jellicoe, The Submarine Peril., p. xi

[lxxxix] Marder, FDSF, IV, pp. 268

[xc] Temple Patterson, Jellicoe Papers, Vol. II., Chapter 10, loc. 1977

[xci] Temple Patterson., Chapter 10, loc. 2002

[xcii] Temple Patterson., Chapter 10, loc. 1984

[xciii] Temple Patterson., Chapter 10, loc. 1977-93

[xciv] Jellicoe to Beatty, 25 April 1917, #43 in Temple Patterson., p. 157 fn

[xcv] Jellicoe to Beatty, 25 April 1917, #43 in Temple Patterson., p. 157

[xcvi] Terraine, Business in Great Waters., Part 1, Chapter 3, loc. 1305

[xcvii] Duff to Jellicoe, 26 April 1917, #44 in Temple Patterson, Jellicoe Papers, Vol. II., p. 157

[xcviii] Report of Admiralty meeting 23 February 1917, #34 in Temple Patterson., p. 149-51 & Jellicoe to Admiral Sir Frederick Hamilton, C-in-C Rosyth, 25 April 1917, #43 in Temple Patterson., p. 157

[xcix] War Cabinet meeting 124, 23 April 1917, CAB 23/2/42, p. 3; see also, Holger H. Herwig and Donald Trask, “The Failure of Imperial Germany’s Undersea Offensive Against World Shipping, February 1917 – October 1918,” The Historian 33, no. 4 (August 1971): 611–36., p. 614

[c] Rear-Admiral Duff to Jellicoe, 26 April 1917, #44 in Temple Patterson, Jellicoe Papers, Vol. II., vol. 2, p. 158

[ci] Marder, FDSF, IV, p. 160

[cii] Rear-Admiral Duff to Jellicoe, 26 April 1917, #44 in Temple Patterson, Jellicoe Papers, Vol. II., vol. 2, p. 159p.

[ciii] Marder, FDSF, IV, p. 159, 164

[civ] Jellicoe to Beatty, 12 April 1917, #42 in Temple Patterson, Jellicoe Papers, Vol. II., p. 156

[cv] Maurice Hankey, The Supreme Command, 1914 – 1918, Kindle ebook, vol. 2, 2 vols. (New York: Routledge, 2014)., chapter 62, loc. 4257

[cvi] War Cabinet meeting 130, 2 May 1917, CAB 23/2/48, p. 3

[cvii] Marder, FDSF., IV, p. 275

[cviii] War Cabinet meeting 128, 1 May 1917, CAB 23/2/46, p. 2; War Cabinet meeting 130, 2 May 1917, CAB 23/2/48, p. 2

[cix] War Cabinet meeting 142, 22 May 1917, CAB 23/2/60, p. 2

[cx] War Cabinet meeting 156, 6 June 1917, CAB 23/3/3, p. 3

[cxi] Tarrant, U-Boat Offensive., p. 54

[cxii] Newbolt, Naval Operations, 1931., p. 43

[cxiii] Newbolt., V, p. 57-8

[cxiv] Newbolt., p. 43

[cxv] Tarrant, U-Boat Offensive., p. 52-3

[cxvi] War Cabinet meeting 144, 23 May 1917, CAB 23/2/62, p. 7

[cxvii] Newbolt, Naval Operations, 1931., p. 42

[cxviii] Tarrant, U-Boat Offensive., p. 53

[cxix] Tarrant., p. 52

[cxx] Andreas Michelsen, Submarine Warfare, 1914-1918 (Miami: Trident Publishing, 2017)., p. 76, 78; see also, Herwig and Trask, “The Failure of Imperial Germany’s Undersea Offensive Against World Shipping, February 1917 – October 1918.”, p. 635

[cxxi] Goldrick, After Jutland., chapter 12, loc. 4190

[cxxii] Marder, FDSF, IV, p. 259

[cxxiii] Marder, FDSF, IV, p. 260-1

[cxxiv] Marder, FDSF, IV, p. 263

[cxxv] Marder, FDSF, IV, p. 261-2

[cxxvi] Jellicoe to Beatty, 2 April 1917, #39 in Temple Patterson, Jellicoe Papers, Vol. II., p. 154-5

[cxxvii] John Jellicoe, The Crisis of the Naval War (London: Cassell and Company, Ltd, 1920)., Chapter III, p. 53-101

[cxxviii] Jellicoe, The Submarine Peril., p. 13

[cxxix] Marder, FDSF. IV, p. 286-7

[cxxx] Marder., IV, p. 226

[cxxxi] Marder., IV, p. 227-8

[cxxxii] Marder., IV, p. 233

[cxxxiii] Marder., IV, p. 228-9

[cxxxiv] Marder., IV, p. 271

[cxxxv] Howlett, “The Royal Naval Air Service and the Evolution of Naval Aviation in Britain, 1914 – 1918.”, p. 140; see also, John J. Abbatiello, Anti-Submarine Warfare in World War I: British Naval Aviation and the Defeat of the U-Boats (New York: Routledge, 2006)., Appendix I, p. 174

[cxxxvi] Dwight Messimer, Find and Destroy: Antisubmarine Warfare in World War I (Annapolis: Naval Institute Press, 2001)., p. 134; Howlett, “The Royal Naval Air Service and the Evolution of Naval Aviation in Britain, 1914 – 1918.”, p. 116; see also, H. A. Williamson, “Employment of aeroplanes of Anti-Submarine Work”, 14 August 1918, AIR 1/642, #267 in Stephen Roskill, ed., Documents Relating to the Naval Air Service. Volume I, 1908-1918 (London: Spottiswoode, Ballantyne and Co. Ltd., 1969)., p. 703-4

[cxxxvii] War Cabinet minute 160, 11 June 1917, CAB 23/3/7, p. 2

[cxxxviii] War Cabinet minute 162, 13 June 1917, CAB 23/3/9, p. 4

[cxxxix] Marder, FDSF., IV, p. 282

[cxl] Marder., IV, p. 283,

[cxli] Marder., IV, p. 277

[cxlii] Marder., IV, p. 277

[cxliii] Tarrant, U-Boat Offensive., p. 59

[cxliv] Marder, FDSF., IV, p. 276

[cxlv] Marder., IV, p. 276

[cxlvi] Steve R. Dunn, Southern Thunder: The Royal Navy and the Scandinavian Trade in World War One, Kindle ebook (Barnsley,: Seaforth Publishing, 2019). chapter 13, loc. 2882

[cxlvii] Reinhard Scheer, Germany’s High Sea Fleet in the World War, Kindle ebook (Shilka Publishing, 2013)., p. 378-81

[cxlviii] Dunn, Southern Thunder. chapter 13, loc. 2873-968

[cxlix] Newbolt, Naval Operations, 1931., V, p. 153-5

[cl] Newbolt., V, p. 168, et seq

[cli] Goldrick, After Jutland., chapter 12, loc. 4407-27

[clii] Scheer, High Sea Fleet., p. 381. Dunn says this is Commodore Heinrich.

[cliii] Goldrick, After Jutland., chapter 12, loc. 4499

[cliv] Scheer, High Sea Fleet., p. 383

[clv] Scheer., p. 383

[clvi] Dunn, Southern Thunder. chapter 14, loc. 3199, 3249;  Newbolt, Naval Operations, 1931., V, p. 184-8.

[clvii] Goldrick, After Jutland., chapter 12, loc. 4518

[clviii] Newbolt, Naval Operations, 1931., V, p. 189.

[clix] Goldrick, After Jutland., chapter 12, loc. 4518; Newbolt, Naval Operations, 1931., V, p. 190-2

[clx] Goldrick, After Jutland., chapter 12, loc. 4525

[clxi] Newbolt, Naval Operations, 1931., V, p. 198, 200-1

[clxii] Gibson and Prendergast, German Submarine War., p. 231

[clxiii] Newbolt, Naval Operations, 1931., V, p. 198

[clxiv] Newbolt., V, p. 198

[clxv] Newbolt., V, p. 199

[clxvi] Newbolt., V, p. 199

[clxvii] Newbolt., V, p. 200

[clxviii] Newbolt., V, p. 200

[clxix] Newbolt., V, p. 200

[clxx] Eberhard Moller and Werner Brack, The Encyclopedia of U-Boats From 1904 to the Present Day, trans. Andrea Battson and Roger Chesneau (London: Greenhill Books, 2004)., p. 47

[clxxi] Newbolt, Naval Operations, 1931., V, p. 208

[clxxii] Newbolt., V, p. 205

[clxxiii] Herwig and Trask, “The Failure of Imperial Germany’s Undersea Offensive Against World Shipping, February 1917 – October 1918.”, p. 622

[clxxiv] Stephen Roskill, “The Dismissal of Admiral Jellicoe,” Journal of Contemporary History 1, no. 4 (October 1966): 69–93.

[clxxv] Newbolt, Naval Operations, 1931., V, p. 204

[clxxvi] Figure 7.2 in Black, British Naval Staff., p. 230

[clxxvii] Arthur Marder, From the Dreadnought to Scapa Flow: Victory and Aftermath: 1918-1919, vol. 5, 5 vols. (Annapolis: Naval Institute Press, 2014)., p. 39-50.

[clxxviii] Marder., V, p. 41

[clxxix] Marder., V, p. 41

[clxxx] Marder., V, p. 41-2

[clxxxi] Goldrick, After Jutland., chapter 13, loc. 4822

[clxxxii] Scheer, High Sea Fleet., p. 386

[clxxxiii] Scheer., p. 387-8; see also, Dunn, Securing The Narrow Sea., p. 171-4, Goldrick, After Jutland., chapter 13, loc. 4879

[clxxxiv] Cecil Aspinall-Oglander, Roger Keyes (London: The Hogarth Press, 1951)., p. 222-53; see also, Lawrence Sondhaus, German Submarine Warfare in World War I: The Onset of Total War at Sea (New York: Rowman & Littlefield Publishers, Inc., 2017)., p. 179-80

[clxxxv] Dunn, Securing The Narrow Sea., p. 191

[clxxxvi] Goldrick, After Jutland., chapter 13, loc. 5123; see also Newbolt, Naval Operations, 1931., p. 241-77

[clxxxvii] Goldrick, After Jutland., chapter 13, loc. 5186

[clxxxviii] Scheer, High Sea Fleet., p. 393

[clxxxix] Beesly, Room 40: British Naval Intelligence 1914-1918., p. 284-9

[cxc] Goldrick, After Jutland., chapter 13, loc. 5232

[cxci] Scheer, High Sea Fleet., p. 396, Goldrick, After Jutland., chapter 13, loc. 5269

[cxcii] Howlett, “The Royal Naval Air Service and the Evolution of Naval Aviation in Britain, 1914 – 1918.”, p. 164

[cxciii] Abbatiello, Anti-Submarine Warfare., p. 75

[cxciv] Abbatiello., p. 76-7

[cxcv] Geoffrey Rossano and Thomas Wildenberg, Striking the Hornets’ Nest (Annapolis: Naval Institute Press, 2015)., p. 140-1

[cxcvi] Howlett, “The Royal Naval Air Service and the Evolution of Naval Aviation in Britain, 1914 – 1918.”, p. 164-5

[cxcvii] Gibson and Prendergast, German Submarine War., p. 298. See also, Sondhaus, German Submarine Warfare., p. 168-9

[cxcviii] Sondhaus, German Submarine Warfare., p. 173-4

[cxcix] Newbolt, Naval Operations, 1931., V, p. 278-82

[cc] Sondhaus, German Submarine Warfare., p. 174

[cci] Sondhaus., p. 175

[ccii] Tarrant, U-Boat Offensive., p. 69

[cciii] Tim Benbow, Naval Warfare 1914-1918, Kindle ebook, The History of World War I (London: Amber Books Ltd, 2011)., chapter 6, loc. 3344-8

[cciv] Michelsen, Submarine Warfare, 1914-1918., p. 78-9

[ccv] Gibson and Prendergast, German Submarine War., p. 324-5

[ccvi] Gibson and Prendergast., p. 328-9

[ccvii] Stephen Roskill, War at Sea, 1939 – 1945, Volume II: The Period of Balance, Kindle ebook, vol. 2, 4 vols., History of the Second World War (London: HMSO, 1956)., chapter IV, loc. 2353-95

[ccviii] Richard Woodman, “The Problems of Convoys, 1914-1917,” in Dreadnought to Daring: 100 Years of Comment, Controversy and Debate in The Naval Review, ed. Peter Hore (Barnsley: Seaforth Publishing, 2012), 53–66., p. 55-6

England and the Closing of the Middle Ages: the Battle of Bosworth, 22 August 1485

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England and the Closing of the Middle Ages: the Battle of Bosworth, 22 August 1485

 

The death of Richard III at the Battle of Bosworth is the culminating event of the literary cycle, eight plays long, developed by William Shakespeare during the decade 1590-1600. The historical demise of Richard III on 22 August 1485, and the subsequent coronation of Henry Tudor as Henry VII, marked the conclusion of the bitter, century-long, dynastic struggle between Lancaster and York that has since become known as the Wars of the Roses. The cultural memory of those violent years of civil strife during the middle of the 15th century still haunts our modern imagination. What happened at Bosworth over a half millennium ago? How was it that the feudal contest was finally settled, and why is the outcome still discussed today?

The sequence of events that produced this watershed in English history is, however, shrouded in the fog of war. Tumultuous record keeping and aggressive propaganda during a period of devastating civil war has long obscured the events of the battle. Only in the last decade has modern battlefield archaeology been combined with systematic analysis of the source material to produce a scientific perspective on what happened on that epoch defining day in August more than 530 years ago. This post examines the military events of the battle, the dynastic political background, and the socioeconomic factors, that combined to ultimately bring to a close the Middle Ages in English history.

Henry Tudor’s victory at Bosworth began in England the process of consolidation and state formation that was already underway in France, Spain, and Central Europe. A cultural revolution was spreading across the continent, the result of more than 400 years of feudal warfare, as European societies were newly energized by the Humanist movement of northern Europe, and the Italian Renaissance in the Mediterranean. At the dawn of the 16th century England had become a unified kingdom, somewhat parochial and backward, but on the frontier of a new Age of Discovery.

The story of how the British Isles arrived at that point requires, first, looking back a thousand years to the end of Anglo-Saxon rule in Britain.

 

Part One: The Sons of Edward III & The Hundred Years War 

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King Harold Godwinson, the last Anglo-Saxon ruler of England, was killed at the Battle of Hastings, 1066, as recorded by the Bayeux Tapestry. The death of Harold is the marker for a period, ultimately longer than 500 years, during which the Kings of England laid claim to a cross-Channel polity that connected the emerging Kingdoms of England and France.

 

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Territorial holdings of the Normans under King William in 1087, & the Angevin Empire inherited by King Henry II, in 1172.

The Kingdom administered by the successors of William the Conqueror slowly declined relative to its continental competitors. The Norman dynasty was soon eclipsed by the rising Plantagenet family, originating from the House of Anjou. In 1153 King Stephen the Norman was forced to recognize Henry of Anjou as his heir designate, formalized by the Treaty of Westminster. When Stephen died the following year, Henry Plantagenet inherited the English crown as Henry II. 88 years had passed since the death of King Harold at the Battle of Hastings.

 

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After Henry II’s death in 1189, Philip II Auguste, the Capetian, over the course of his 43 year-long reign, reconquered most of the Angevin territory in France. England retained only Aquitaine (Gascony) when Philip II died in 1223.

 

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Louis IX (r. 1226 – 1270), Philip III (r. 1270 – 1285) and Philip IV (r. 1285 – 1314) consolidated France’s state lands for nearly 90 years. England, meanwhile, was weakened by internal strife, exemplified by the Second Baron’s War (1264 – 1267) during the reign of Henry III (r. 1216 – 1272), followed by the struggles with Scotland and Wales during the reigns of Edward I (r. 1272 – 1307) and Edward II (r. 1307 – 1327).

 

Edward III, painted in the late 16th c.

On 24 May 1337, 271 years after Hastings, King Philip VI declared Aquitaine forfeit, a major blow to Edward III who was also Duke of Aquitaine and thus heir to the Plantagenet family’s claims in France. Edward formally set claim to the French throne on 6 July 1339.

 

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Top: Battle of Crecy, 26 August 1346. Lower: Battle of Poitiers, 19 September 1356, by Eugene Delacroix, 1830.

Edward III and his son Edward the Black Prince invaded France and won decisive victories at Crecy, in August 1346, and at Poitiers, in September 1356. Edward eventually settled for the Treaty of Bretigny and recognition of England’s dominion over Gascony.

 

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English holdings in France after Edward III secured the treaties of Bretigny, 8 May 1360, and Calais, 24 October 1360. Charles V (r. 1364 – 1380) of France rolled back the English conquests, and by 1380 the land holdings of Edward’s successor Richard II (r. 1377 – 1399) had been reduced to only the rump of Bordeaux and Calais.

 

Lineage of Henry III Plantagenet and the houses of Lancaster and York.

 

The century long succession struggle that culminated in the Wars of the Roses originated, in its immediate sense, with Edward III’s sons. Edward’s first son, the Prince of Wales, Edward the Black Prince, the Earl of Chester and Duke of Cornwall, was heir to Edward’s claim as King of both England and France. The Black Prince died before Edward III, however, and upon the King’s death in 1377 the throne passed to the Prince of Wales’ son, Richard II.

Richard II, son of the Black Prince, engraving by George Vertue, 1718

The new King was surrounded by his uncles, although his eldest uncle, Edward’s second surviving son, Lionel of Antwerp, the Duke of Clarence, died in 1368 to be succeeded by his only daughter, Phillippa.

John of Gaunt (Ghent) was Edward’s third son, holder of the Duchy of Lancaster, with estates in Derby, Leicester and Lincoln. Thomas of Woodstock, the Duke of Gloucester, was the youngest son of Edward III, & held estates in Buckingham, Northampton and Essex.[i] Edmund of Langley was fourth, the Duke of York, whose descendants would inherit Lionel of Antwerp’s claim (and estates) through the marriage of his son, Richard the Earl of Cambridge, to Anne Mortimer, daughter of Phillippa, the Countess of Ulster. Their son, born in 1411, was Richard Plantagenet, the father of two kings, Edward IV and Richard III.

The struggle for power became apparent in 1388 when Thomas, Duke of Gloucester, with the support of John of Gaunt’s son, the Earl of Derby, assembled with the Earls of Arundel, Nottingham and Warwick, and mobilized against the 23 year-old King’s supporters. Richard II’s circle of power included the archbishop of York, the Duke of Ireland, the Earl of Suffolk, and Sirs Robert Tresilian and Nicholas Brembre.[ii] This force, under the Duke of Ireland, was defeated by Thomas, Duke of Gloucester, at Oxfordshire, resulting in the King’s virtual subjugation to his powerful uncle. Richard’s followers, including Lord Beauchamp of Holt, Sir Simon Burley, Sir James Berners and John Salisbury, were all purged, being arbitrarily condemned for high treason.

 

John of Gaunt (Ghent), Duke of Lancaster & Aquitaine, by George Yate, c. early 17th century. Effigy of Edmund of Langley, First Duke of York, at Westminster Abbey. & Thomas of Woodstock, Duke of Gloucester, engraving by Richard Godfrey, 1776.

 

Richard II, however, succeeded at expelling Gloucester’s various supporters from his Royal Council, including the Archbishop of Canterbury, who was Chancellor, the Bishop of Hereford, the Treasurer, and the Earl of Arundel, who was High Admiral. The Earl of Warwick and the Duke of Gloucester himself were both reduced in power and status.[iii] A general pardon was issued by Parliament and then proclaimed by the King (except for the Duke of Ireland) to normalize government affairs, and soon the powerful Duke of Lancaster, who had been overseas attempting to promote his claim to the throne of Castile, returned to England. In 1396 a 25-year truce was arranged between England and France, and Richard, in a royal arrangement with the French court, married Charles Valois daughter, Isabella, then only seven years old.

By 1397 the Duke of Gloucester was conspiring for war with France, a position that put him at odds with Richard II’s peaceful policy. With the support of the Dukes of Lancaster and York, as well as their sons, the Earls of Derby and Rutland, Gloucester was arrested and conveyed to Calais where he was unceremoniously executed. Parliament was elected along lines more favourable to Richard and the pardons previously issued were annulled. Gloucester’s chief lieutenants, the Earls of Arundel and Warwick were likewise arrested, the former executed afterwards. Warwick was banished to the Isle of Man.[iv]

In 1398, with his power waning, and his former allies turning against him, Richard banished the Duke of Lancaster’s son, Henry Bolingbroke, and when the Duke died in 1399, the King attempted to confiscate all of his Lancastrian property. At this delicate juncture Richard II made the mistake of departing for a campaign in Ireland, enabling Henry Bloingbroke, the Lancastrian, to land at Ravenspur, Yorkshire, with a contingent of 60, including the Earl of Arundel. Within days their force was swollen by reinforcements. Now supported by the Earls of Northumberland and Westmoreland,[v] the Duke of York opened London’s gates to his nephew Lancaster, and when Richard II returned from Ireland he was confronted by Henry’s party, led by Northumberland, and captured.

 

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Henry of Bolingbroke, afterwards Henry IV (r. 1399 – 1413), c. late 16th century.

 

On 30 September Henry, claiming descent from Henry III, was crowned Henry IV, King of England. Parliament, with no other realistic options, recognized Henry as the legitimate monarch, disavowing the deposed Richard II, who died a prisoner the following year, possibly starved to death by Henry IV, at the age of 34.

Henry quickly rid himself of Richard’s supporters and in 1400 the Earls of Rutland (Albermarle), Kent (Surrey), Huntingdon (Exeter), Lord Spenser (Gloucester), Salisbury and Lord Lumley, were all executed, save for Rutland, the future Duke of York, who betrayed and murdered Lord Spenser in a demonstration of loyalty to Henry IV.[vi] The Earl of Worcester was dispatched to maintain order in Gascony, although the French made little effort to take advantage of the disorder in England.

Battle of Shrewsbury, 21 July 1403, illustrated by Thomas Pennant in 1781.

 

In 1402, Henry Percy (Hotspur), with support from the Earls of Northumberland (his father), Worcester and Douglas, raised an army to oppose Henry IV. Percy and Douglas were met by Henry IV at Shrewsbury on 21 July 1403, where in bloody fighting their armies were destroyed and Percy slain. Worcester, after his capture, was executed, although Douglas was given quarter due to his great status and past service. Northumberland, upon hearing of his son’s death, disbanded his army and traveled to York where he met with King Henry, who granted a royal pardon, although Henry Percy’s recantation was not to last long.[vii]

 

Henry Percy, father of Hotspur, the Earl of Northumberland, engraving by R. Clamp, 1792

 

In 1405 the Earl of Nottingham and the Archbishop of York, with the Earl of Northumberland’s support, rebelled against the King. These rebels were captured by the Earl of Westmoreland and their executions ordered by Henry. Northumberland fled to Scotland from where he conducted raids into England. It was on one such adventure into Yorkshire that Henry Percy, the Earl of Northumberland, was slain in 1407.[viii]

Having consolidated his power, Henry IV began to increase his interest in foreign affairs. In 1411 he sent forces to support the Dukes of Burgundy and Orleans against the King of France. When Henry IV died in 1413, his son, Henry the Prince of Wales, carried on his mission.

 

Henry V, engraving, c. 18th century. & Catherine of Valois, engraving by Silvester Harding, 1792. Ascending to the throne in 1413, Henry V attempted to end the war by forcing the outright military conquest of France. His victory at Agincourt, 25 October 1415, decisively weakened France in the struggle against England and Burgundy, and in his second campaign in 1418 succeeded in annexing Normandy.

Henry V’s objectives were multifaceted. First, he sought to reverse the conquests of Phillip Augustus, second, in doing so, to assert his legitimacy through the adoption of Edward III’s mission to acquire for England the Kingdom of France. Third, the best means of securing this arrangement, would be the English King’s marriage to Charles VI’s daughter, Catherine, at cost of 2 million crowns. Another 1.6 million crowns would be paid on the outstanding debt owed for King Jean’s 14th century ransom.[ix] Through these means, military and matrimonial, Henry V sought to secure his claim to the thrones of England and France.

 

Descendants of Edward III

 

Weakness in the French crown made concessions possible. Henry’s diplomatic objective was merely to stall for time while he marshalled his forces. Before he could embark on his campaign of conquest, Henry ordered the executions of the traitorous Lord Scrope of Masham, Sir Thomas Grey of Heton, and Earl of Cambridge (father of Richard of York), the plotters of the infamous Southampton plot to assassinate Henry before he embarked for France.

 

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Modern illustration of southampton in 1415, & Royal army transported across the Channel, from Froissart’s Chroniques, c. 1480.

 

With England secure behind him the King departed on 11 August, landing in Normandy three days later and marching against the port of Harfleur, immediately placed under siege on the 19th of August. A month of bombardment from Henry’s siege artillery forced the port to surrender, but this effort had absorbed most of the fall campaign season.[x] Henry, with his supply lines at Harfleur reduced to only a trickle, now determined to make for Calais. This base was far more secure than Harfleur, nearly impervious to French attack by land or sea, where he could draw on stockpiled supplies over the winter and prepare for further activity the following spring.[xi] Victualing as they raided through the Norman country side en route, Henry was however outmaneuvered by a large French army under the command of the Constable D’Albert who now blocked the approach to Calais.

 

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Henry V’s 1415 campaign

 

Henry in effect had attempted to repeat Edward III’s 1346 campaign, with the expected result that the French would confront him near the conclusion. With the French army blocking the road to Calais, Henry had no choice but battle. In the ensuing battle at Agincourt, 25 October 1415, the French were foolish enough to play into Henry’s offensive-defensive tactics, and were cut down by massed longbow arrows amidst confined and muddy ground that rendered the French cavalry useless.[xii] Although the Duke of York and Earl of Suffolk were both slain in the battle, the French, a number of whose prisoners Henry had ordered killed during a moment of crisis,[xiii] suffered far greater losses in men and nobles, amongst whom were the Dukes of Alencon, Bar, Brabant, Admiral Jacques de Chatillon, and Counts of Marle, Vaudemont, Blamont, Roucy, Dammartin, Vaucourt, Fauquembergue, Nevers, and others, including the Constable D’Albert and 1,500 knights.[xiv] Captured by Henry were the Dukes of Orleans, Bourbon, and the Counts Vendome, Richemont and d’Eu.[xv]

 

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Henry’s position and approach at Agincourt, from Oman, England and the Hundred Years War, Chapter 10, & Keegan, Face of Battle, p. 64.

 

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Renderings of the Battle of Agincourt 25 October 1415; from St. Alban’s Chronicle by Thomas Walsingham, c. 15th century. & Enguerrand de Monstrelet’s 15th century miniature.

 

Although this initial campaign had met with the luck of tactical success at Agincourt,[xvi] with long-term implications for the stability of the French crown, Henry was actually faced with operational defeat. His expeditionary army had been reduced by disease and lack of supplies, and then exhausted by a long and difficult march culminating in the slaughter at Agincourt. Henry thus withdrew from the continent on 16 November. Less than a year later, on 15 August 1416, Henry’s eldest brother the Duke of Bedford defeated a Franco-Genoese fleet in the Channel in a battle near Harfleur, capturing three of the enemy’s eight carracks in the process.[xvii] On 25 July 1417 the Earl of Huntingdon won another important naval battle in the Bay of the Seine, capturing a further four Genoese carracks and effectively winning control of the sea for the English, clearing Henry’s supply lines for a second invasion.[xviii] The French nation was soon at its weakest point. Invaded by the Duke of Burgundy, with Charles VI increasingly delusional, the death of his elder sons left only the seventeen year-old Dauphin, Charles, as heir to the throne.

 

The Treaty of Troyes, 21 May 1420, as ratified by the Estates-General, proclaimed Henry V Lancaster, and his heirs, as inheritors of the throne of France.

 

Henry took advantage of this situation to land another army in 1418. Henry maintained negotiations with the Duke of Burgundy to arrange for the return of the territory ceded to Edward III by the Treaty of Bretigny (1360), however, the Duke was himself negotiating with the Dauphin in opposition to Henry, and, although progress was being made, the Duke was assassinated by the Dauphin’s men in 1419. The Duke’s successor, Phillip, Count of Charolais, now changed sides to support Henry’s claim and a treaty between the two was concluded at Arras, with Henry, Gloucester, and Clarence, meeting the Duke at Troyes.[xix] Henry’s marriage to Charles VI’s daughter, Catherine of Valois, soon followed, and upon entering Paris the Estates-General ratified the treaty of Troyes. Henry left Paris under guard of the Duke of Exeter and departed to suppress the Dauphin, whose supporters rejected Henry’s claim.

 

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The conquests of Henry V & English holdings and alliances in France after the Treaty of Troyes, 1420, & European political map c. 1422

 

Henry VI, engraving, c. 18th century.

 

Henry V died on 31 August 1422 and hardly two months later Charles VI was dead, leaving the combined Anglo-Franco crown to nine month old Henry VI.[xx] The Kingdom was placed under a regency headed by Henry VI’s oldest uncle, the Duke of Bedford, while responsibility for England went his youngest uncle, the Duke of Gloucester. The Bishop of Winchester, son of John of Gaunt, would act as Henry VI’s tutor. The English military was led by able generals, including the Earls of Somerset, Warwick, Salisbury, Suffolk, Arundel and knights including Sir John Talbot and Sir John Fastolf.[xxi] Meanwhile Catherine, Henry V’s widow, married Sir Owen Tudor and with him had two sons, Edmund, Earl of Richmond, and Jasper, the Earl of Pembroke.

 

John of Lancaster, the Duke of Bedford, Regent to Henry VI. Humphrey, his brother, Duke of Gloucester, & Henry Beaufort the Bishop of Winchester, son of John of Gaunt, Henry VI’s tutor. Although Henry VI was crowned King of France in Paris on 16 December 1431, the Dauphin, who by then had been crowned Charles VII, continued to fight a determined campaign to oppose the English and their Burgundian allies.

 

Bedford continued the conquest of France, winning the decisive battle at Verneuil, 17 August 1424.

 

Although final victory was within sight, a poorly timed campaign by the Duke of Gloucester against Holland and Brabant diverted forces that should have been sent to support Bedford and he was forced to return to England, where he discovered further disunion. The Bishop of Winchester had consolidated power around himself. As a result of these affairs, the Dukes of Burgundy and Brittany began to withdraw their support for England. In France in 1426, meanwhile, the Count of Donois succeeded in raising Warwick’s siege of Montargis, signalling the beginning of a series of reversals that within thirty years would lead to England’s defeat in the Hundred Years War.

 

Orleans in 1428-9, by Anatole France. 

 

In 1428 Bedford despatched the Earl of Salisbury to lay siege to Orleans. Realizing that Orleans would become the focal point of resistance to the English invasion (similar in significance to Verdun nearly a half millennium later), the Dauphin rushed in reinforcements. Salisbury was killed by a cannon ball during the siege and replaced by Suffolk. Sir John Fastolf was able to reinforce the English, despite intervention by Dunois. 

The Duke of Burgundy, the alliance with England slipping as a result of a disagreement with Bedford, recalled his forces from the siege and thus dramatically weakened the English position. The timely arrival of Joan of Arc invigorated the French forces, and Suffolk was captured in a side-action. The English were successfully expelled from Orleans, an operation that was complete by 8 May 1429. The English forces remaining were under the command of Fastolf, Scales and Talbot who now hastened their retreat, the latter two were captured, and Fastolf was stripped of his knighthood for cowardice.

 

Joan of Arc enters Orleans, by Jean-Jacques Scherrer, 1887.

 

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France in 1430, from E. F. Jacob, The Fifteenth Century.

 

The Dauphin Charles now hastened to Rheims, chasing the English as they fled before him, and was there crowned Charles VII on 17 July 1429, effectively nullifying the Treaty of Troyes from the French perspective. Militarily the war was not yet over, and Bedford was able to prevent Charles from regaining the capital. Bedford now invested Henry VI with the crown of France.

 

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Phillip III, the Good, Duke of Burgundy. & Charles VII of France, painted by Jean Fouquet, c. 1445 – 1450.

The Burgundian capture and ransom of Joan of Arc to the English was a minor coup, although her witchcraft trial and execution only served to martyr the French heroine. Bedford’s position in France was weakening, his credit reserves nearly exhausted, and with his allies turning against him, he died on 14 September 1435. Eight days later Charles VII, King of France, and Phillip the Good, Duke of Burgundy, signed the Treaty of Arras, sealing the fate of Bedford’s decades long struggle to complete his brother’s conquest of France.

Gloucester and the Bishop of Winchester quickly consolidated power, only for the Duke of York to slip through their fingers and emerge as the Protector of the Kingdom. When York returned to France he found that Paris had turned against England, and Burgundy was laying siege to Calais. Gloucester raised the siege of Calais, and Talbot was promoted Earl of Shrewsbury. York’s continuation of Bedford’s policy was noble, but the cause was lost, the nail in the coffin symbolized by the death of Warwick, the Lieutenant of France, in 1439. Richard Duke of York arranged a truce with Burgundy, and in 1443 the Earl of Suffolk began negotiations with Charles VII. These laudable acts of diplomacy resulted in the Treaty of Tours, 28 May 1444, by which Henry VI would marry Margaret of Anjou, a Princess descending from ancient Frankish crusading families whose father was titular King of Naples and of the Templar kingdom of Jerusalem. Henry and Margaret were married on 23 April 1445, ensuring the maintenance of peace until 1446.[xxii]

 

Margaret of Anjou, who, by her marriage to Henry VI (24 years-old) as a result of the Treaty of Tours in May 1445, became Queen of England at the age of 15. Reproduced here in George Goodwin, Fatal Colours: Towton 1461 (2011).

 

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Edmund Beaufort, the Duke of Somerset, negotiating his surrender at Rouen, 1449 & the Siege of Caen, 1450, from the Bibliotheque Nationale de France. Reproduced in George Goodwins, Fatal Colours: Towton 1461 (2011). Cannons notable.

 

With the crown unable to bankroll the cost of maintaining England’s position in France, Somerest, the new Lieutenant of France, had the disappointing duty of overseeing the collapse of the war effort as the half century approached. The French invaded and conquered Normandy, although Somerset was allowed to withdraw to Harfleur after he arranged to pay 56,000 crowns in ransom for his surrender at Rouen.[xxiii] Cherbourg fell in December 1450, and then Dunois led the inevitable invasion of English Gascony. This string of victories reasserted the status quo as established by the conquests of Charles V eighty years prior.

 

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The death of John Talbot, the Earl of Shrewsbury, at Castillon, 17 July 1453, illustrated manuscript by Martial d’Auvergne (c. 1493). Note presence of cannons. With the English now retaining only Calais, this battle finalized England’s defeat in the Hundred Years War. Constantinople had fallen to the Turks only a month before on 29 May. 387 years had passed since King Harold died at the Battle of Hastings.

 

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National consolidation: France in 1453, when only Calais remained in English possession, & cosmopolitan Paris in 1460.

 

Part Two: Wars of the Roses, Lancaster & York, 1453 – 1485 

London2

Illustration of London from Charles d’Orleans poetry, c. 1450 – 1500, looking west from the Tower towards the customs house and London Bridge. Reproduced in Alison Weir, The Princes in the Tower (1999).

 

France Map2

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France, with York & Lancastrian estates in England between 1455 – 85. England during the Wars of the Roses. Map of English Counties, & Landholdings of the principal noble families of England and Wales in c. 1450, from E. F. Jacob, The Fifteenth Century.

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readinghernyVIadmin

Book printing, literacy, and the legal system all flourished during Henry VI’s reign. Note the number of clerks processing legal writs. Based on Gutenberg’s movable type press, mass publication spread from Bravia, where it was invented in the 1450s, to Nuremberg, Cologne, Paris, Venice, and Rome, before reaching London around 1470. Sir Thomas Malory’s Arthurian epic Le Morte D’arthur appeared post-humously on 31 July 1485, published by Claxton’s press. The feudal era in Britain was thawing as Humanism spread from the Renaissance in Italy and Flanders.

 

Cloth exports surpassed wool as pastoral commodities were purchased for textile production. England’s textile craft industry heralded a rise in living standards for the artisanal class and was tightly controlled by the English crown.

 

Stages of medieval cloth production; agrarian decline leads to rise in pastoralism. Sheep rearing, wool shearing, weaving on the loom, dyeing, tailoring, and sale of the finished products at market.

 

markets

Despite frequent markets across Great Britain, Wales in the west and Yorkshire in the north remained relatively sparsely populated. Populations were concentrated in the London area and in coastal townships dotting the English coast; from Fernand Braudel, The Wheels of Commerce (2002).

 

street

market

prices2

prices1

Over all currency deflation in this period caused by peak silver conditions in Europe, combined with the introduction of gold as a specie supplement, conspired to keep wages low, despite labour scarcity resulting from the Black Death (1347-51). Wages and prices remained remarkably stable from the reigns of Richard II to Richard III, as the nation slowly grew and its war-debt  was repaid over the course of a century. Note price inflation in the 1431-40 decade, when England was financing distant siege operations and ultimately losing the war in France. Commodities were sold cheaply but in bulk, and merchants were getting rich on export trade. Life expectancy remained low while the wealth and power of the landed nobility increased until the largest land and title holders determined the fate of kings. See, Christopher Dyer, Making a Living in the Middle Ages: the People of Britain, 850-1520 (Yale University Press, 2013), p. 266-8. Diagrams from E. F. Jacob, The Fifteenth Century (1993), p. 383 et seq

 

armour

Blacksmithing & armouring in the 14th and 15th centuries

The cost and complexity of warfare continued to increase. The proliferation of gunpowder weapons and increase in cost and sophistication of body-armour was beginning to revolutionize battle. The immense expense of a century of warfare had accumulated to the point that Henry VI, after the loss of Castillion, had no choice but to recognize defeat in France. The national debt had grown to the figure of £372,000, an immense sum, considering that Henry V’s pre-invasion income amounted to only £55,700 per annum.[xxiv]

French, Italian or Gothic-type full-plate men-at-arms and knight’s armour, popular between 1450-1500.

Late 15th c. organ-gun and cannon. Bosworth, 1485, Foard & Curry, 2013, Figure 7.31. Burgundian-type cannons, including organ guns, were popular in Flanders and with Charles the Bold, Duke of Burgundy. The Duke had deployed large siege trains during his disastrous Swiss campaign of 1476.

 

Illustration of the Battle of Grandson, made c. 1515

 

Cannons had first been introduced into European arsenals in the middle of the 14th century. Over the following century the European monarchs accumulated a variety of handguns, arquebuses, field guns and siege cannons. At Castillon in July 1453, French artillery had outranged John Talbot, the Earl of Shrewsbury, and inflicted a disastrous defeat for the English that effectively terminated the Hundred Years War. Seventy-two years later at the battle of Pavia in 1525, pike, field cannon and the arquebus had become the decisive instrument in battle.

 

The Wars of the Roses occurred during a transitional phase in Europe’s military history. New weapons, such as handguns and field cannon, and rediscovered tactics, such as pike and halberd formations, reduced the importance of heavy cavalry and emphasized the renewed importance of mobile infantry. Battle of Pavia tapestry woven in Brussels, c. 1528-31.

 

Wars of the Roses Genealogy, the descendants of the Henry V

 

map11

Castles of England and battles of the Wars of the Roses, from E. F. Jacob, The Fifteenth Century.

 

Richard Plantagenet, the son of Anne Mortimer (great-granddaughter of Lionel of Antwerp) and Richard, Earl of Cambridge. As Duke of York, Richard had claim to the throne through Edward III’s line from his second son Lionel, Duke of Clarence. In Ireland, the star of York was rising as Somerset’s was falling in Normandy. 

Richard’s father, the Earl of Cambridge, had been executed at the order of Henry V for charge of treason as one of the conspirators in the Southampton plot of 1415. Richard’s descent from Edward III’s second surviving son, Lionel of Antwerp, made his claim to the throne more immediate than Henry VI’s, whose grandfather Henry Bolingbroke was descended from John of Gaunt, the third surviving son of Edward III. Richard’s interests were advanced by his brother-in-law, the Earl of Salisbury and by the Earl of Warwick, both of the family Neville. For its part the Lancastrian claim was generally supported by the Earls of Westmoreland, Shrewsbury and Northumberland, and by the Duke of Somerset, Edmund Beaufort, Henry Holland, the Duke of Exeter, and the Duke of Buckingham.[xxv]

 

Richard Neville, 5th Earl of Salisbury, father of Richard, 6th Earl of Salisbury.

neville

Richard Neville, 16th Earl of Warwick, 6th Earl of Salisbury, the Kingmaker. 16th c.

 

In 1452 Richard, eager to assert his claim and with his power solidified, led an army against London where he was met by the King. Unsupported by Warwick and Salisbury, on this occasion, Richard was dismissed by the King and forced to retreat to Wigmore on the border of Wales. Richard did not have to wait long, as the death of Shrewsbury and the final loss of Gascony in 1453 weakened the crown such that in 1454 Henry was forced to agree to concessions and promote Richard to Lieutenant of the Kingdom, a power soon confirmed by Parliament.[xxvi] Resistance from the Lancastrian faction was crushed by Warwick and Salisbury on 22 May 1455 at the First Battle of St. Albans. Edmund Beaufort, the Duke of Somerset, Henry Percy the Earl of Northumberland, and the Earl of Stafford were all slain.

 

First Battle of St. Albans, 22 May 1455, York in red, Lancaster in blue.

This was such a disaster for the Lancastrian forces that Henry VI was forced to agree to all of York’s demands, which effectively amount to his promotion to Protector of the Realm, until the coronation of Edward, the Prince of Wales. Although Henry, with Margaret’s support, was able to moderate Richard’s power, the Duke of York’s claim was now too strong to be realistically opposed.

The Queen, established in Cheshire, and supported by the new Duke of Somerset, rallied support to her cause.[xxvii] Warwick, however, with the fleet now unified under his command, landed at Sandwich in Kent with a force led by Sir John Blount and Andrew Trollop. Warwick reached London on 21 September and made his start towards Ludlow where he was to rendezvous with Salisbury and Edward, the Earl of Marche, son of Richard of York.

Margaret summoned Lord Stanley to raise his force and join the King who was at Eccleshall Castle. The Lancastrian army on this occasion was led by James Touchet, Lord Audley, supported by Lord Dudley, although nominally under the authority of the Prince of Wales. This force was to intercept Salisbury before he could join forces with York or Warwick. Salisbury had with him between 3,000 – 4,000 men, mainly spearmen and some cannon, and was outnumbered by Audley with between 6,000 – 12,000, including quality archers but also many conscripts.[xxviii] Salisbury, in a strong defensive position supported by cannon, won a victory over Audley at Blore Heath on 23 September 1459, in which 2,000 Lancastrian soldiers were killed and Audley himself was overtaken and slain.

 

Blore

Battle of Blore Heath, 23 September 1459

 

This was sour news for Margaret, although the sting of defeat was somewhat lessened when Salisbury left his cannon on the field and withdrew, the cannon captured shortly afterwards by Margaret’s main force, as were Salisbury’s sons, Thomas and Sir John Neville.

Salisbury nevertheless made his connection with Warwick at Ludlow, where the Duke of York was scheduled to join them. Already assembled were the Earls Somerset, Northumberland, with Lords Buckingham, Egremont, Exeter, Devon, Arundel, Shrewsbury, Wiltshire and Beaumont.[xxix] The Yorkist force perhaps numbered as many as 25,000 men, about half the size of the Royal army’s 40,000 – 60,000. York was further frustrated by the defection of a number of his Calais veterans, in particular Sir Andrew Trollop.[xxx]

York, Warwick and Salisbury, recognizing the weakness of their position, deserted their army on 13 October and fled, leaving Ludlow Castle, along with Richard’s wife the Duchess Cecily Neville, to be captured by the Royal force. York fled once again to Ireland. Warwick, March and Salisbury had by November retired to Calais where they began a campaign of piracy against the lucrative Channel wool and textile trade. On 20 November Margaret arranged for a Parliament at Coventry, in which all the Yorkist commanders were declared guilty of high treason. Somerset sailed with a small force to harass Warwick and impose an embargo on Calais and succeeded in capturing a castle near Calais, although Warwick captured the new Lord Audley, and Humphrey Stafford, in the process.[xxxi] Over the winter Lord Rivers assembled a fleet to invade Calais, but on 15 January Sir John Dynham raided Sandwich and captured Rivers and his ships, hauling them off to Calais, another demonstration of the importance of sea control during the 15th century.

In March 1460 Warwick sailed to Ireland to join with York, while Somerset made another effort to capture Calais, but was defeated at Newham Bridge. Pressure was maintained on the Yorkist forces when the Duke of Exeter was made Admiral of England and given fifteen ships. On 25 May he sailed to intercept Warwick but was unsure of the loyalty of his men and so put in at Dartmouth, leaving the channel to Warwick, lately returned to Calais. In June Warwick raided Sandwich and captured the entire Lancastrian fleet (see N. A. M. Rodger, Safeguard of the Sea, p. 153). On 26 June Warwick, Salisbury and March, with 2,000 men, landed at Sandwich and on the 27th entered Canterbury. On 2 July London threw open its gates to the Yorkist force.

Warwick marched north with an entourage that included Lord Fauconberg, Edward Earl of March, the Archbishop of Canterbury, Bishops of Ely, Exeter, Rochester, Lincoln and Salisbury, and the papal legate Coppini – who carried a letter from Pope Pius II urging Henry VI to accept the Yorkist demands.[xxxii] Salisbury, Cobham and Wenlock, with 2,000 men, were left in London to finish the siege of the Tower.

Rome

Rome in the 15th century. Papal intervention attempted to moderate the conflict, evidence of ongoing international diplomacy.

 

Henry VI marshalled his forces under the Duke of Buckingham, and then departed to march on Northampton. The Royal army blocked the road from London with their cannon and prepared other defensive measures in anticipation of Warwick, who promptly arrived at Northampton on 10 July. Warwick attempted to bargain with Henry through the Bishop of Salisbury and papal legate Coppini, but was rebuffed. Warwick’s force was double the size of the King’s, who is said to have marshalled 20,000 men, but did not receive the full reinforcements he expected.

Edward, Earl of March, led Warwick’s vanguard, supported by Lord Scrope, with Fauconberg in the rear. Lord Grey de Ruthin commanded Henry’s vanguard, but had been promised concessions if he were to desert and join Warwick. In the event the Royal cannon were inundated with rain and so rendered useless, although the Lancastrian archers inflicted many casualties.[xxxiii]

 

Battle of Northampton, 10 July 1460

 

Lord Grey’s treachery and the loss of several thousand men in battle was a blow to the Lancastrian war effort. Lord de la Warre and the Earl of Kendal switched sides, joining the Yorkist cause.[xxxiv] The Duke of Buckingham, the Earl of Shrewsbury, Lords Beaumont and Egremont and Sir William Lucie were all slain, while the Royal Personage, Henry VI himself, was captured. Proceeding to Westminster, Warwick, with Henry VI in tow, entered London on 16 July and soon forced Lord Scales to surrender the Tower, during which that Lancastrian commander was captured and murdered while attempting escape.

Queen Margaret, with her young son Edward, escaped to Wales where they met Jasper Tudor at Harlech Castle. From there Maragret proceeded to Denbigh Castle where she was joined by Exeter and Pembroke. She wrote to Somerset and Devon to raise an army, while she sailed to Scotland to meet with Queen Mary of Gueldres, who was sympathetic to the Lancastrian cause and made arrangements for the Earls Douglas and Angus to support Margaret.

York now returned from Ireland, landing near Chester in Wales on 8 September 1460. He collected his wife, the Duchess Cecily, who had been freed after the Battle of Northampton. Together they marched to London and arrived on 10 October, in time for the meeting of Parliament. Although Parliament approved further concessions they did not completely endorse Richard’s claim to the throne.

By the Act of Settlement (“of Accord”) of 24 October 1460, Henry VI was to remain as King, although power of governance was completely vested in the Duke of York, who, or his sons, it was determined, would inherit the kingdom upon Henry VI’s death. The attainders against York were reversed, he was made Protector of England, while Lord Bourchier was made Treasurer and Warwick’s brother George was made Bishop of Exeter and Chancellor.[xxxv]

Margaret was naturally infuriated by these developments and soon marched south to join with her allies. Her army when it reached Yorkshire numbered 20,000, under the generalship of Somerset, Northumberland, Devon, Exeter and Clifford. Margaret issued a challenge to Richard to settle his claim by force of arms.

York, raiding the Tower Arsenal for cannon to take with him and with about 5,000 – 6,000 men, left Warwick in charge of the capital and hastened out of London on 9 December with his son Edmund, Earl of Rutland, and the Earl of Salisbury, to confront Margaret.

 

Sandal Castle

sandal_castle_plan

Sandal Castle, a traditional holding of the York family, granted from Edward III to Lionel of Antwerp, reputed to be both formidable and luxurious.

Richard’s force is said to have swollen to 12,000 when he arrived at Sandal Castle on 21 December, although this, like most military figures for the period, is likely an exaggeration. York most likely intended to await the arrival of his son Edward with reinforcements. The Lancastrians however deployed a significantly larger force, increased by the desertion of Lord Neville with 8,000 men who joined Margaret.

Outnumbered and with supplies dwindling, Richard, for reasons that have never been completely explained, rode from the castle with his vanguard and was immediately surrounded by the Lancastrians.[xxxvi] The Duke of York, 50 years of age, and 1,000 – 2,000 of his men, including Sir Thomas Neville, Sir Thomas Parr and Sir Edward Bourchier, were therefore destroyed at the Battle of Wakefield, 30 December 1460. Edmund, Earl of Rutland, was handed over to Lord Clifford, who murdered him.[xxxvii] Richard Neville, Earl of Salisbury, was captured and executed.[xxxviii]

 

Battle of Wakefield, by Graham Turner for Osprey©, where Richard of York met his demise on 30 December 1460.

The death of Salisbury, Warwick’s father, resulted in Warwick inheriting that wealthy Earl’s land, effectively doubling the size of Warwick’s holdings and making him by far the wealthiest man in the Kingdom. Edward, the 18 year-old Earl of March, now inherited his father’s title as Duke of York, making him heir to the throne by the Act of Accord. Edward’s brothers, George and Richard, were sent to Burgundy to live under the protection of Duke Phillip, although the widowed Duchess of York remained in London.[xxxix]

Margaret, who had wintered in Scotland and signed an agreement with Queen Mary by which Edward the Prince of Wales was to be married to Mary’s daughter, Margaret Stewart, now despatched Jasper Tudor, Earl of Pembroke, alongside James Butler, Earl of Whiltshire, and Sir Owen Tudor, to defeat Edward while she took the main force to London to confront Warwick.

 

Second Battle of St. Albans, Henry VI is re-captured by the Lancastrian forces in their greatest victory.

 

At the Second Battle of St. Albans, 17 February 1461, Margaret’s force, led by Exeter, Somerset, Devon, Shrewsbury, Northumberland, Clifford, Grey, Roos, and Sir Trollop, defeated Warwick’s army, led by Norfolk, Suffolk, Arundel, Lords Fauconberg, Bourchier and Bonville. Warwick’s army included 500 Burgundian archers, various mercenaries, crossbowman and indeed some handgunners firing ribaudkins in addition to a few cannon.[xl] Prior to the battle Sir Henry Lovelace, who had been Warwick’s steward and in command of his vanguard but had promised his loyalty to Henry VI, deserted the Yorkists. Falling snow negated Warwick’s advantage in gunpowder (although not in archers, who inflicted many casualties on the Lancastrians), and the King was re-captured by Margaret while Warwick was forced to flee. A number of Warwick’s supporters were captured and executed, including Lord Bonville and Sir Thomas Kyriell. With Richard of York slain at Wakefield, and Warwick defeated at St. Albans, the Lancastrians were riding on a swell of victory, however, this good fortune was to prove illusionary.

 

Battle of Mortimer’s Cross, 2 February 1461, Edward Duke of York destroys Pembroke and Owen Tudor’s army and clears the route to London.

 

Richard Plantagenet’s eldest son Edward, now the Duke of York, with Lord Audley, Sir William Herbert, Sir Walter Devereux, Lord Grey de Wilton, Lord FitzWalter and Sir William Hastings, with a force of 5,000 had meanwhile, on 2 February, destroyed Pembroke and Whiltshire’s Lancastrian army of between 4,000 – 8,000 at Mortimer’s Cross. Although Pembroke and Whiltshire escaped, Owen Tudor – the old husband of Catherine Valois – was captured and beheaded.[xli] While Pembroke fled to France, Henry Tudor, grandson of Owen Tudor and son of Edmund Tudor and Margaret Beaufort, was deposited at Pembroke Castle and later captured by the Yorkists, being subsequently imprisoned at Raglan Castle.

Edward of York advanced from his victory against Pembroke and collected Warwick at Oxfordshire with his remaining force of 4,000 on the 19th of February. Edward was able to stay ahead of Margaret in the race to the capital. The Lancastrian army was short on money and victuals and therefore withdrew, leaving London open to Edward. This was a decisive mistake for the Lancastrian cause as not yet nineteen year-old Edward Plantagenet entered London with his army on 27 February and shortly thereafter on 3 March, with great enthusiasm and church support (for his claim was considered the legitimate return to Plantagenet rule that had been usurped by Henry IV in 1399), was proclaimed King Edward IV.

 

Edward, son of Richard, Duke of York, became King Edward IV

 

A ceremony took place at Westminster Abbey where Edward was presented with the crown and the sceptre of St. Edward the Confessor.[xlii] Warwick, already the wealthiest man in the Kingdom and not yet 32 years old, was now raised to colossal proportions, being made Great Chamberlain, Captain of Dover, and Lord Warden of the Cinque Ports, that is, controller of the lucrative cloth trade, a situation that was formally recognized in 1465.[xliii]

Queen Margaret led a strategic retreat north, continuing to accumulate her army, still under the command of Somerset, Northumberland, Rivers, and Clifford, a force now estimated to be as large as 30,000 – 60,000.

Edward did not waste time and on 5 March despatched Norfolk to East Anglia to raise men. The King left London on 13 March to lead his force, estimated at 25,000, expecting to be joined by significant detachments under Warwick and Norfolk as he set out to confront the Lancastrians. 

The total size of the two forces now approached 100,000 men – as much as 2% of the total population of the Kingdom in 1461.[xliv] The Lancastrian force was commanded by the 24 year-old Duke of Somerset and supported by Exeter, Northumberland, Devon, Trollop, and Lords Fitzhugh, Hungerford, Beaumont, Dacre of Gilsland, Roos, and Grey of Codnor. The Yorkist force was commanded by Warwick, Norfolk, Bourchier, Grey de Wilton, Clinton, Fauconberg, and Lords Scrope and Dacre (Richard Fiennes), and the young king himself, Edward IV.

 

towton4

Graham Turner painting of longbowmen at Towton.

 

In a preliminary engagement on 28 March, while attempting to cross a bridge over the River Aire, Lord Clifford ambushed Lord FitzWalter and Warwick, slaying the former and wounding the latter in the leg, although Warwick was able to escape and rejoin Edward’s army. A melee developed as Edward rushed reinforcements to support the crossing but the Lancastrians destroyed the bridge. Edward moved his army upstream and crossed at Castleford. Clifford marched there to block Fauconberg but was outnumbered and the murderer of Rutland was thus slain by an arrow as he retreated.[xlv]

 

towton5

Towton3

Battle of Towton, 29 March 1461. From A. H. Burne, The Battlefields of England (2002). Edward and Warwick annihilate a large Lancastrian army under Somerset and Northumberland, & the field at Towton from Goodwin, Fatal Colours (2011).

With lines established outside of Towton on 29 March, in the midst of a blizzard, the two factions confronted each other. The initial Lancastrian arrow volleys were ineffective as Fauconberg’s archers were masked by the snow while being able to recover the arrows fired at them. In turn they launched back effective volleys. With losses mounting, Somerset urged his men to rush in a general melee, which the Yorkists immediately joined, and the butchery of Towton commenced.[xlvi] The outcome of the battle was hard fought, with Edward IV and Warwick fighting on foot in the thick of the action, joined as evening descended by Norfolk’s detachment. Norfolk had arrived at a timely juncture and flanked the Lancastrian position. Margaret’s army fled and was destroyed in detail, Edward encouraged the Yorkists to give no quarter. Somewhere between 28,000 and 40,000 men were killed, the majority on the side of the Lancastrians.

This was a crushing defeat for Maragert. Among those slain were the Duke of Devonshire, Earls of Westmoreland and Northumberland, Lords Dacre and Welles, Sir John Neville, and Sir Andrew Trollop. The Duke of Somerset, however, escaped the carnage and re-joined Margaret and Henry, who, learning of the devastation, fled to Scotland. Edward IV, vowing to destroy Henry VI, ordered the deaths of 42 Lancastrian knights, and later the Earl of Oxford and Whiltshire, who were both executed, although the Plantagenet king pardoned others including Northumberland’s brother, Sir Ralph Percy.[xlvii] Lord Rivers surrendered himself and joined Edward.

Edward’s party was now riding a wave of victory, having secured the crown and effectively reversed the outcome of Wakefield and St. Albans. Edward thus entered Yorkshire in triumph, where he removed the skulls of his father, brother, and his uncle Salisbury, which had been displayed on the walls of York as a Lancastrian provocation since Wakefield the year before.[xlviii] Edward, leaving Warwick and his brother, John Neville, Lord Montague, in charge of pacifying the north, returned to London on 2 May, from which he prepared to campaign in Wales and reduce the last areas loyal to the Lancastrians. Edward promoted his brother George to Duke of Clarence (who also received Henry Tudor’s Earldom of Richmond) and in 1462 made young Richard the Duke of Gloucester, sending him to live at Warwick’s Middleham estate.[xlix]

Edward IV was formally crowned in Westminster Abbey on 28 June 1461. His symbols of the triple sun and white rose of York were displayed prominently, and he was lavish with his subjects, yet economical in governance.[l] Noted for his proven warrior virtue, enormous gastronomical and sexual appetites – “voluptuous” was what Winston Churchill called him[li] – the young King’s reign was at first generally mild and peaceful, certainly a welcome change from the preceding years of violence and calamity. Edward enjoyed a royal income of £50,000, late in 1461 increased to £80,000 by confiscation of Henry VI’s estates and other properties including the Duchy of Lancaster, awarded directly to the crown. In 1465 Parliament granted Edward lifetime duties on English ports, which brought in another £25,000 a year.[lii] With Warwick, whose income soon skyrocketed from £3,900 to £15,000 a year,[liii] and Fauconberg, who had been promoted Admiral of England in 1462, Edward was in firm control of the seas and reaping great profit from the wool and cloth trade. Edward used these regal incomes to begin repaying the vast outstanding national debt that had worsened under Henry VI. Upon his death in 1483 Edward had repaid £97,000 to London and Italian bankers.[liv]

 

Campaign in the North, 1464. Map 5 from Hugh Bicheno, Blood Royal: The Wars of the Roses: 1462-1485 (2017).

 

Although the dynastic war in England now entered a period of relative calm, political developments on the continent conspired to keep the flame of civil strife alive. Charles VII of France died on 22 July 1461 and was succeeded by Louis XI, from whom the defeated and impoverished Margaret now sought whatever support she could gain. Louis’ main political ambitions were to secure Burgundy and Brittany for France, and he perceived Margaret’s request for support as a chance to destabilize relations between England and Burgundy,[lv] thus opening an avenue for French intervention. In England, after spending the early 1460s quashing Lancastrian rebellion, Edward IV had indeed intended to cultivate closer relations with Burgundy, whose merchants controlled the cloth trade throughout Belgium and Holland. Edward IV was a fan of everything Burgundian and in fact modelled his court and army on the Burgundian pattern.

 

Louis3

Louis XI of France

Granted a small force financed by Louis, in exchange for forfeiting Calais, Margaret now sailed from Normandy and landed, after tribulations caused by the weather, in Northumberland, where she began once again to consolidate her position.

Warwick and Edward IV soon arrived with a large army, and Margaret, with nowhere near enough forces to oppose them, was forced to retreat to Scotland. On 24 December 1462 Somerset changed sides by agreement with Warwick.[lvi] In spring 1463 the Lancastrians sallied forth from Scotland to invest castles in Northumberland, beginning with Bamburgh where Sir Ralph Percy opened the gates, and on 1 May Margaret secured Alnwick Castle, where Sir Ralph Grey turned to her side. Again Warwick marched north with an army and again Margaret was forced to flee, now seeking to make her way, with the Duke of Exeter and Sir John Fortescue, to Burgundy where she intended to plead with Phillip for support.[lvii] Although Phillip warily agreed to meet her, and paid her a gift of gold, he could not endorse her efforts and sent her instead to Bruges to be entertained by his son Charles. Margaret eventually traveled to meet her father, Rene of Anjou, who granted her a small stipend of 6,000 crowns per annum, reducing somewhat her financial straits.[lviii] In December 1463 Somerset again defected, and traveled to the Anjou court at Bar where he rejoined Margaret.

In the north Henry VI was rallying his forces, including Humphrey Neville, Roos, Hungerford, Sir Ralph Grey and Sir Ralph Percy, who were then rejoined by Somerset after his voyage to the continent. Sir Ralph Percy, however, was trapped and killed in battle by Montague’s men on 25 April 1464 at Hedgeley Moor.[lix] Montague then rode to York where he met Scottish envoys and with them secured a 15 year truce, another blow to the Lancastrian cause.[lx]

Montague finally caught up with Somerset and defeated him at Hexham, 15 May 1464. The Duke was beheaded upon capture, amongst others condemned by Montagu and John Tiptoft, the Constable of England, including Roos, Robert Hungerford, Sir Philip Wentworth, Sir Thomas Finderne, Sir Edmund Fish, Sir William Tailboys, and Sir Ralph Grey.[lxi] Warwick captured Alnwick Castle on 23 June and Montague was promoted Earl of Northumberland.[lxii]

 

Harlech Castle today. The last Lancastrian stronghold after the 1464 campaign.

Only Harlech Castle in Wales now remained in Lancastrian hands. Edward IV appointed Lord Herbert constable of Harlech, entrusting him with persecuting and concluding the siege of that place, which finally fell in 1468.[lxiii] In 1465 Henry VI, until then hiding in various rebel settlements in the north, was captured and brought to London for imprisonment in the Tower.[lxiv]

 

Elizabeth Wydville (Woodville), wife of Edward IV and Queen of England. John Faber Sr., early 18th c. & from Queen’s College Cambridge.

 

Edward, with the Lancastrian cause crushed and Henry VI once again his prisoner, returned to the pursuit of his pet-project: an alliance with Burgundy. This was an annoyance for Warwick, still the most powerful man in the country, who supported Louis XI of France. Warwick’s power had been encroached upon by the rising Wydville (Woodville) family, to whom Edward was intimately connected through his marriage to Elizabeth Wydville in May 1464.[lxv] In 1466 Edward dismissed Warwick’s uncle, Lord Mountjoy, who had been Treasurer of England, and replaced him with Richard Wydville, Elizabeth’s father, who Edward also promoted to Earl Rivers. This was a particular insult to Warwick, who had once captured Wydville during the upstart’s career as a Lancastrian.[lxvi]

In October of that year, despite Warwick’s opposition, Edward IV and Philip of Burgundy reached an understanding. A number of trade barriers were cleared between the English and Flanders merchants, and certain protections were granted for Channel shipping. These entirely sensible proposals were certain to alienate Warwick, whose income was always supplemented by tacitly acknowledged Channel piracy.[lxvii] In 1467 Warwick hatched a scheme wherein his two daughters, Isabel and Anne, would marry Edward’s brothers, the Dukes of Clarence and Gloucester. Edward, wary of Warwick’s effort to gain royal power for the Neville family, continued to pursue his Burundian alliance, at last concluded in November 1467. Philip of Burgundy had been succeeded by Charles the Bold that June. Another diplomatic success was scored the following spring through alliance with Brittany.

This progress with Burgundy and increase of the Wydvilles was deeply frustrating to Warwick, who was still keen to see England allied with France.[lxviii] In retaliation for Edward IV’s support for Burgundy and Britany, Louis XI agreed to finance the Earl Pembroke, Jasper Tudor, so that he could return to England and assemble a Lancastrian army. After landing in Wales Pembroke began his march towards Harlech Castle, intending to raise Edward’s four year-long marathon siege. Unfortunately for the Lancastrians, Harlech fell on 14 August 1468 and so Pembroke’s rebellion was halted before it could truly get underway.[lxix] With Louis XI now openly supporting the Lancastrians, Parliament granted Edward IV £62,000 in 1469 to finance an invasion of France.[lxx]

By late 1468 Warwick, “bitterly vexed” in Charles Oman’s phrase,[lxxi] had exhausted his patience with Edward, and thus began to turn against the Plantagenet King he had done so much to install.[lxxii] Edward continued to purge potential sources of Lancastrian support, and in January 1469 Henry Courtenay and Thomas Hungerford were both tried as traitors and condemned to death. Sir Richard Roos was able to sneak out a coded message to the Earl of Oxford, entreating the Lancastrians to rally with Warwick against Edward.[lxxiii] Warwick, along with Oxford and Clarence – Edward IV’s brother who Warwick still planned to marry to his daughter Isabel – retired to Calais where they could negotiate with Louis and organize their planned coup against Edward. Warwick clearly intended to reverse his decline under Edward by loading the deck in favour of Lancaster – a weak cause he could control. On 11 July Clarence was married to Isabel, and the following day Warwick issued a manifesto decrying Edward’s supporters.[lxxiv]

Warwick landed in Kent on 16 July 1469 and quickly rallied a sizeable force. He marched on London with ease and entered the city on 20 July. Edward was at this time in the north. The Earl of Pembroke (York: William Herbert, ie, not Jasper Tudor) meanwhile, supported by the Earl of Devon, rallied forces to confront a small rebel group led by Robin of Redesdale while they were enroute to joining Edward at Nottingham. Pembroke forced a bridgehead over the River Cherwell and was then joined by Sir William Parr and Sir Geoffrey Gate. Not long afterwards, however, they spotted the vanguard of Warwick’s force approaching. Devon promptly deserted to join Warwick and a battle ensued that the Yorkists were winning, but the tide turned when Warwick arrived personally with his main force and scattered Pembroke’s remaining forces.[lxxv] William Herbert, the Earl of Pembroke, was captured as a result, and he and his brother were both condemned to death by the all conquering Warwick.[lxxvi]

 

Infographic near battle-site describing the Battle of Edgecote, 26 July 1469.

Warwick’s army caught up with Edward IV on 2 August and in a major coup the King was captured. With Edward IV in his custody, Warwick now attempted to summon Parliament so as to justify his blatant usurpation, but was forced to cancel this summons not long afterwards. While these arrangements were being made Warwick cleaned house, exacting revenge on the detested Wydville family on 12 August by condemning to death Sir John Wydville, and Lord Rivers, respectively Queen Elizabeth Wydville’s father and brother. Warwick’s raw displays of power caused chaos, a situation that was exploited in the north by Humphrey Neville of Brancepeth, who raised a pro-Lancastrian rebellion. Warwick marched to suppress this revolt but in doing so was forced to agree to liberate Edward IV. Edward was soon joined by his loyalists and Warwick had no choice but to set him free, whence the King returned to London. Although the Lancastrian rebellion was crushed and Humphrey Neville captured and beheaded, Warwick’s power had been exposed for what it was – a flagrant appropriation of the King’s authority driven essentially by the Earl’s lust for power.[lxxvii]

Edward pardoned both Clarence and Warwick, but the action during 1469 had destroyed Warwick’s position as the arbiter of the realm. Edward feigned forgiveness for the Kingmaker but wasted little time isolating him. Warwick now had only one card left to play, namely, to somehow depose Edward IV and promote Clarence as King. In the meantime the King appointed his 17 year-old brother Richard, Duke of Gloucester, to set out for Wales and suppress any rebellion found there.[lxxviii]

Warwick for his part set about fomenting rebellion while maintaining a façade of loyalty. By March 1470 Warwick had convinced Sir Robert Welles to lead a rebellion with the objective of deposing Edward in favour of Clarence, although the rebels themselves were clearly unaware that they were being used as pawns in Warwick’s game, being led to believe that they were supporting the cause of Henry VI.[lxxix] Edward took this affair seriously – it could have been the prelude to a French invasion – and brought his artillery with him to Stamford, where he ordered the execution of Lord Welles, Sir Robert’s father, to demonstrate his intention to quash the rebellion. In the ensuing battle at Empingham the rebels were decimated by Edward’s artillery, and the rebel leaders, Welles, de la Lande and Dymoke were all captured and executed.[lxxx]

Edward, his position now more secure, on 24 March denounced Warwick and Clarence as traitors. The two conspirators ignored Edward’s royal summons and instead made for the coast. Although Warwick’s ships were soon captured, the two outlaws were nevertheless able to depart from Exeter on 3 April.[lxxxi] Warwick and Clarence arrived off Honfleur on 1 May and on 8 June were given an audience with King Louis. Warwick was convinced by Louis that his best chance of recovering his position was through Margaret and Henry VI, who Warwick now agreed to support.[lxxxii] To sweeten the deal, Anne, Warwick’s younger daughter, would marry Edward Lancaster, Henry VI’s son, and in the interim Warwick would become Regent and Governor of England, a pattern that had played out under York and Bedford before him. On 25 July Edward Lancaster was betrothed to Anne Neville.[lxxxiii]

A Burgundian and English blockade was dispersed by storm and Warwick, Jasper Tudor, with Oxford and Clarence, returned to England. Edward was in Yorkshire suppressing rebellion and marshalling his forces when, on 13 September 1470, Warwick’s fleet landed his army at Dartmouth and Plymouth.[lxxxiv]

Warwick quickly assembled a large force estimated at between 30,000 and 60,000, joined by Lord Stanley and the Earl of Shrewsbury. Edward was at this point betrayed by Lord Montague, and realizing he now no longer possessed any chance of confronting Warwick on even terms, the King fled to Norfolk where, on 30 September, with Gloucester and Hastings, he departed for Burgundian Holland. On 6 October Warwick and his force entered London and promptly restored Henry VI, who had been confined to the Tower since his capture several years prior, and proclaimed him their lawful King.[lxxxv] The Earl of Oxford bore Henry’s Sword of State at the King’s ceremonial restoration on 13 October.[lxxxvi] The hated Tiptoft was captured and executed – a trial overseen by the 13th Earl of Oxford – being replaced as Treasurer by John Langstrother.[lxxxvii] Jasper Tudor arrived at Hereford where he liberated Henry Tudor, 13, who was now brought to London to meet Henry VI before he returned to Wales. With Warwick’s powerful support the Lancastrian cause was once again riding high. Edward’s usurpation was declared invalid, and all of the titles issued by him were revoked, including that of his brother Richard, the Duke of Gloucester.

 

Rogier van der Weyden’s c. 1460 portrait of Charles the Bold. Charles was defeated and killed at the Battle of Nancy, 5 January 1477.

Having toppled the pro-Burgundian Yorkists, Louis XI now took advantage of his position and declared war against Burgundy, hoping to drag England along with him. Warwick had no choice but to support the French alliance, which unfortunately for the Lancastrian cause imperilled London’s business interests. Charles the Bold, Duke of Burgundy, immediately agreed to finance Edward IV’s return to the English throne.[lxxxviii]

On 2 March 1471 Edward departed Flushing in his flagship the Anthony, and although  supported by a fleet of 36 Burgundian and Hanseatic ships, was denied a landing on 12 March at Norfolk due to the Earl of Oxford’s presence, and so landed two days later at Ravenspur, Yorkshire.[lxxxix]

Edward entered York on 18 March and was soon at the head of an army significant enough to confront Warwick, who had hastened with an army to Leicester. Edward confronted Warwick at Coventry, but Warwick refused to accept Edward’s challenges. Edward eventually withdrew, despatching a covering force to block Oxford at Leicester, who was marching to join Warwick. Oxford’s force was defeated on 3 April.[xc] Clarence, encouraged by Burgundy and Gloucester, now betrayed Warwick and deserted to Edward with as many as 12,000 men.

Margaret meanwhile prepared her army (Fortescue, Wenlock, Morton, and 3,000 French knights) and sailed from Harfleur on 24 March.[xci]

 

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Death of Warwick at the Battle of Barnet, 14 April 1471, from the Ghent Manuscript. & 1885 lithograph of Warwick’s defeat.

 

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Map of Barnet from A. H. Burne, The Battlefields of England (2002)

 

Edward marched to the capital and entered London. Warwick’s brother, the Archbishop Neville of York, facilitated Edward’s entry into the city.[xcii] Edward, after restoring himself to the crown, secured Henry VI and departed London with the army, intending to intercept Warwick. The two forces met at Barnet on 14 April, Warwick with 20,000 – 30,000 men, Edward IV with perhaps 10,000. The King commanded the center, 18 year-old Gloucester the right and Hastings the left.[xciii] Warwick’s center was commanded by Somerset, Oxford and Montagu took the right, while Exeter, supported by Warwick himself, held the left.[xciv] Both sides possessed a number of hand-gunners and cannon, with Warwick holding a slight advantage in artillery. In the ensuing battle, in which both Edward and Warwick fought on foot, a highly confused state of affairs developed due to mist that covered the field. Both Oxford and Gloucester won their respective flank battles, while Montague was killed and the Yorkist forces launched a devastating cavalry charge that broke the Lancastrian lines. Warwick, attempting to flee, was overrun and killed. Nearly 1,000 Lancastrians were killed to 500 Yorkists, including Lord Cromwell, Lord Say, Humphrey Bourchier, Sir John Paston and others.[xcv] Oxford, although he personally fought well, had “pursued recklessly” according to Charles Oman, and failed to tightly control his division, which at least partly contributed to the chaos in the Lancastrian lines that produced the defeat at Barnet.[xcvi] The Earl now fled to Scotland, but was captured several years later. He would yet play an unexpected and decisive role in the rebellion against Richard III.

Unfortunately for Queen Margaret the demise of her principal champion, Warwick, was unbeknownst when she landed with Prince Edward at Weymouth, where they were joined by Jasper Tudor (Pembroke) and the Earls of Devonshire, Courtney and the Duke of Somerset. Edward IV, immediately changing gears following his victory over Warwick, left Windsor Castle on 23 April to seek out Margaret and destroy her. After a long and exhausting chase Edward’s army confronted Margaret at Tewkesbury on 4 May 1471. Somerset led the Lancastrian army, and commanded the right wing. Prince Edward under Wenlock took the center, and Devon the left. Edward IV commanded the Yorkist center himself, with Gloucester, now Constable of England, the left, and Hastings the right.

 

tewks

Tewkesbury approach from A. H. Burne, The Battlefields of England (2002)

 

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Field sketch from A. H. Burne, The Battlefields of England (2002) & Battle of Tewkesbury, 4 May 1471, from the Ghent Manuscript.

The two armies were very nearly matched, about 5,000 strong, although Edward, who had captured Warwick’s artillery, by far possessed the larger train of gunpowder weapons. Gloucester led the Yorkists forward, developing a heavy fire with arrows and cannon and then feigned a retreat. Somerest ordered a charge but was soon caught in the trap and surrounded. Wenlock refused to move in support and Somerset’s men were destroyed. Managing to escape and return to the Lancastrian lines, Somerset located Wenlock and, in a fit of anger, killed him.[xcvii] Gloucester and King Edward meanwhile led a devastating charge that routed the Lancastrians, leaving 2,000 of their enemy slain on the field.

The Earl of Devonshire and Lord Wenlock were dead, as was John Beaufort, Sir Walter Courtenay, Sir William Vaux, Sir Robert Wittingham, Sir William Roos and Sir Edmund Hampden.[xcviii] The Duke of Somerset was captured and, under the auspices of the Gloucester, beheaded along with a dozen others on 6 May.[xcix] Prince Edward was either killed on the field, or captured and then murdered by the Dukes of Clarence, Gloucester, Lord Hastings and Sir Thomas Gray.

 

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Beheading of Somerset, 6 May 1471, at King Edward’s orders.

 

Margaret was captured by Lord Stanley,  and when Edward IV returned to London on 21 May, she was confined to the Tower. King Henry VI, 50 years old, son of Henry V, his cause utterly lost, was now murdered at Edward’s behest, possibly by 19 year-old Richard, Duke of Gloucester.[c] Whatever happened, it should be noted that in 1484 Richard, now Richard III, ordered Henry VI’s reburial at Windsor.[ci]

Pembroke and Henry Tudor, the exiled Earl of Richmond, were now the last remaining Lancastrian loyalists alive and at liberty, and for this reason they quickly fled to Brittany. Henry Tudor, upon whom the remainder of the civil war now focused, had a claim that derived initially from two sources: his mother, Margaret Beaufort, was the daughter of John Beaufort, the Duke of Somerset, descendant of John of Gaunt, and therefore Tudor’s mother was the great-great granddaughter of Edward III. In 1455 at the age of 12 she was married to Edmund Tudor, son of Owen Tudor and Catherine of Valois, the former Queen of England and France. Edmund Tudor died in 1456 and Margaret gave birth on 27 January 1457 (at age 13) to Henry, her only son.[cii]

 

London3

Jean de Waurin presenting his book to Edward IV, c. 1470-80. The figure at the bottom left wearing the Garter is believed to represent Richard, Duke of Gloucester. Reproduced in Alison Weir, The Princes in the Tower (1999). Edward IV’s court was noted for his patronage of printing, a rapidly expanding industry in 1470s England. See John Harvey, The Plantagenets (1972), p. 203

In England Edward IV was, for the moment, again triumphant, all his enemies having been crushed or driven before him. Henry VI and Warwick were dead and Margaret, her son killed and his claim extinguished, was imprisoned in the Tower. Edward, joined in alliance with the Duke of Burgundy, now prepared for his much delayed war with France. In 1475 Edward landed at Calais with an army of 1,500 men-at-arms and 15,000 archers. Burgundy did not uphold his end of the agreement, however, and when Edward marched to confront Louis, the latter agreed to terms that effectively paid off Edward, with the promise of money and marriage of the Dauphin to Edward’s daughter. Louis also agreed to pay Queen Margaret’s ransom, and she was released from the Tower and returned to France where she eventually died in 1482. Charles the Duke of Burgundy, for his part, foolishly struggled against the Swiss and then the French until he was killed at the Battle of Nancy in 1477. Louis promptly invaded and conquered Burgundy, a pivotal event in the national formation of France that likewise pushed the Netherlands towards Austria’s sphere of influence. The rump of Dutch Burgundy was swallowed by Maximillian I.

 

Albrecht_Dürer_-_Portrait_of_Maximilian_I_-_Google_Art_Project

Albrecht Durer’s 1519 portrait of Maximilian I, son of Emperor Frederick III, and husband of Mary, Charles the Bold’s only daughter, inheritor of the Burgundian estates.

 

Edward and Richard meanwhile consolidated their power. The Duke of Clarence was condemned to death by Parliamentary vote and forced to commit suicide in 1478.[ciii] Richard, accompanied by the Duke of Albany, invaded Scotland in 1481 and won a decisive victory at Berwick. The final phase of this century-long drama opens with Edward IV’s death in 1483 at the age of 42, leaving his two young sons, Edward, the Prince of Wales, and Richard Plantagenet. Edward, at age 13, thus became Edward V, although not yet crowned, and within three months he was deposed by his Regent and Protector, Richard of Gloucester.

Edward V was protected by the Earl of Rivers, who, at the time of the King’s death, had been campaigning in Wales. Both parties now set out for London, with Gloucester departing York whence he was joined by the Duke of Buckingham. Edward and Rivers were caught at Stony Stratford and, together with Sir Richard Gray and Sir Thomas Vaughan, were arrested by Richard’s authority.

Edward IV’s wife, the Queen Elizabeth, with her supporters and the young Duke of York, fled to Westminster Abbey when Gloucester entered London. The Queen however was soon compelled to turn over both herself and her son, and once these personages were secured, Gloucester ordered the execution of Rivers, Gray and Vaughan, who were despatched by the authority of Lord Hastings.[civ] Richard than struck the Wydvilles and Warwick’s brother-in-law, Lord Stanley, on 13 June 1483. As the purges accelerated Hastings was brought before Richard and condemned for treason, paying the usual toll for that offense. Lord Stanley, the Archbishop of York, and the Bishop of Ely, were all imprisoned in the Tower. Edward IV’s sons were soon murdered.[cv]

In the course of a few weeks what effectively amounted to a dynastic coup was orchestrated and, with the support of the Duke of Buckingham, Gloucester was proclaimed King Richard III. The deaths of Edward Lancaster, Henry VI, Edward V and his brother, made it clear that Richard would stop at nothing, including regicide, to achieve power. He was soon known as one of the most infamous tyrants in Europe.[cvi]

Richard III surrounded himself with supporters. Lord Thomas Howard was created Duke of Norfolk, his son Sir Thomas Howard, was made Earl of Surrey. Lord Lovel was made Viscount, and Lord Stanley was made Steward of the Household. Buckingham regained several estates and was promoted to Constable.

 

Henry Stafford, Second Duke of Buckingham, by William Sherlock, 18th C.

 

Buckingham, like so many others in this story of civil strife, soon changed sides and vowed to support the Earl of Richmond, Henry Tudor, who was then living under the custody of the Duke of Brittany. In November 1483 Tudor’s party had attempted a landing, with six ships and 390 Breton soldiers, but was delayed due to bad weather and forced to return to Brittany.

On 24 December 1483 Henry was pledged into marriage with the Princess Elizabeth of York, eldest daughter of Edward IV, a marriage that would effectively unite the claims of Lancaster and York under the Tudor name. Thus, in his person, after more than a century, the old dilemma of which of the descendants of Edward III would inherit the crown was solved. All Henry Tudor now had to do was land in Wales, gather up support, defeat Richard, and march on London.

Richard III continued his tyrannical regime, brutally centralizing power through the execution of Buckingham, who was confronted by Richard and charged with treason, on 2 November 1483. Richard summoned parliament in 1484 to formalize his kingship, hoping to appoint his young son Edward as Prince of Wales. Edward did not live long, however, and died at age 10 in April 1484.

In March of that year, to prevent another attempt by Henry, Richard ordered Lord Scrope, with Arundel’s son, to patrol the Channel,[cvii] and Lord Bergavenny was ordered to sea in the spring of 1485, likewise with orders to prevent invasion.[cviii] Richard was also pressuring Brittany to turn over Henry. On 16 May 1485 Anne Neville, the mother of Richard’s son Edward, died. She may have been murdered so that Richard could arrange his marriage to the Princess Elizabeth, his niece, upon whom the legitimacy of the Yorkist claims were focused.[cix] However, it is also possible Richard was attempting to foist off Elizabeth on Portugal in exchange for a royal marriage and that Anne died of natural causes.[cx]

 

AnnaRichard

RichardIII

Stained glass depiction of Richard III and Anne Neville from Cardiff castle, & Late 16th c. painting of Richard III. From Bicheno, Blood Royal: The Wars of the Roses, (2017), & Richard III and Queen Anne from St. Stephen’s Hall statues, New Palace of Westminster

 

Nottingham2

Castle Nottingham, the stronghold nearest to Richard’s HQ at Bestwood Lodge, from whence he summoned his retainers, prior to marching to Leicester to intercept Henry Tudor.

In the summer of 1485 Richard was planning to raise a force to support Brittany against France, however, Charles VIII arranged a truce with Brittany on 9 August 1485. Richard, expecting a French landing, had been waiting in Nottingham since 22 June. Henry Tudor was on his way, having set out from Harfleur and/or Honfleur on 31 July – 1 August, to land at in Wales at Milford Haven six days later.[cxi]

 

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Tudor, and his small but determined and experienced army, landed at Milford Haven on 7 August 1485.

 

Part Three: Battle at Bosworth, 22 August 1485

battles

Battles of the Wars of the Roses, Bosworth, 1485, Foard & Curry, 2013, loc. 312

 

Armies

Reconstruction of Richard & Henry’s forces, specifying the various nobility brought by each region and including the Stanley’s, who ultimately sided with Henry, but not including Tudor’s 2,000 French & Scottish mercenaries. From Hugh Bicheno, Blood Royal: The Wars of the Roses: 1462-1485, (2017), p. 389 et seq.

 

The Forces of Richard III

Anne&Richard.jpgRous_Roll_Richard_III_detail

19th c. etching of the Rous Roll, also showing Queen Anne & original 1483 illumination of Richard III showing the king in Gothic armour.

 

London granted Richard £2,000 for protection of the realm and raised 3,178 men to guard the capital while the King set out to confront Henry Tudor.[cxii] With action imminent, Richard ordered the Great Seal to be brought to him, and so it was delivered on 1 August in the presence of the Archbishop of York – John the Earl of Lincoln – Lord Scrope, Lord Strange and John Kendall, Richard’s secretary.[cxiii] On 11 August Richard was informed of Henry’s landing and the King now issued summons to his nobles to join him, beginning with Northumberland, and including Sir Robert Brackenbury, Constable of the Tower and keeper of the Royal artillery, and John Howard, Duke of Norfolk, plus Henry Vernon and others.[cxiv]

Oddly, until this point, Richard had waited to assemble his army, and instead of relying on the mass shire-levy, preferred summoning veterans he could trust. As he had learned at Barnet, 14 years before, ill-disciplined conscripts could be as much of a burden as they were a numerical advantage. The late feudal system of pay for English levies relied on small groups raised for only a few weeks.

Richard needed only to send out writs of summons and his lords would arrange themselves. Of these major peers, so critical to his cause, Richard assembled certainly seven or more at Bosworth: Henry Percy, the Earl of Northumberland, commanding the rearguard, his retinue in 1475 had consisted of 9 knights, 51 men-at-arms and 350 archers. John Howard, Duke of Norfolk, whose military capacity in 1484 was between 760 – 1,000 men, commanded the vanguard.[cxv] Also present was Norfolk’s son, the Earl of Surrey, plus Richard’s nephew, the Earl of Lincoln, with Francis the Viscount Lovell, Baron Walter Devereux, John Lord Zouche of Haringworth and Lord Ferres of Chartley, the last who in 1475 had raised 20 men at arms and 200 archers.[cxvi]

 

John NOrfolkpercy4

John Howard, the Duke of Norfolk, commanded Richard III’s vanguard, the right wing, while Henry Percy, 4th Earl of Northumberland, commanded the left, rearguard.

Six others may have been present: the Earl of Westmoreland (Ralph Neville), the Earl of Shrewsbury (George Talbot), Baron John Tuchet (Lord Audley), Lord Grey of Codnor – 20 men-at-arms, 160 archers in 1475, Lord Scrope of Bolton – 20 men-at-arms, 200 archers in 1475, and Thomas, Lord Scrope of Masham.[cxvii] Individual knights were accounted as anyone owning a single manor, or £5 per annum, to more than a dozen properties valued at £100 per annum, as was the case amongst small barons.[cxviii] These knights and gentry typically brought with them a collection of ean-at-arms and two or three dozen archers. A man-at-arms was usually paid 12d a day.[cxix]

 

Konradknight

Knight and squire, 1435 by Konrad Witz.

The Stanleys, who would play a critical role in the battle, can also be accounted based on their contributions to Edward IV’s 1475 French expedition. At that time Lord Stanley marshalled 40 men-at-arms and 300 archers while his brother, Sir William Stanley, provided 3 men-at-arms and 20 archers. At Bosworth it is likely they had marshalled somewhere around 1,000 soldiers, arranged in two battles, or sections, each.[cxx]

 

Richard’s household establishment numbered 600 various servants, significantly including 50 picked knights, 108 esquires, and 138 Royal Yeomen (bowmen and archers).[cxxi] These knights comprised Richard’s bodyguard and headquarters and included Thomas Dalande, in charge of tents and pavilions, Sir Robert Percy, controller of the household, and Sir Ralph Bigod of Yorkshire.[cxxii] Sir Juan Salazar, a Basque knight, was in the service of Maximilian of Hapsburg and accompanied Richard as a foreign ambassador.[cxxiii] Salazar may also have commanded a small contingent of Flemish mercenaries.[cxxiv]

 

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The King’s contingents originated from Yorkshire, Norfolk, and the North. Richard had little time for his summons to be fulfilled after Henry’s landing, and the support of certain magnates, including the Stanleys, was suspect. Henry’s strongest echelons came from Wales, the Midlands, and Oxfordshire.

 

The Forces of Henry Tudor

Infantry2

Henry was joined by John de Vere, 13th Earl of Oxford, in November 1484 to begin planning for the next invasion. Charles VIII, to make the planned invasion legitimate, on 12 May 1485 promoted Tudor to Princeps Angli, with rank in the French royalty after the Dukes of Orleans, Bourbon and Lorraine.[cxxv]

Charles VIII was eager to leverage Henry Tudor’s claim to negate Richard III’s scheming in Brittany. Henry was thus financed by a grant of £4,400 (40,000 livres) after Charles’ formal entry into Rouen with Henry on 14 April 1485. In the event Charles, strapped for cash, was only able to pay £1,100 upfront and Henry was forced to loan a further £3,300 (30,000 livres) from Philippe Luilllier, Captain of the Bastille.[cxxvi]

The expedition force was soon assembled, the core being composed of nearly 2,000 soldiers, mainly French and Scottish mercenaries. The French-financed and Lancastrian-backed force included a mix of professionals, trained in the Swiss pike style that Charles VIII was to use in his Italian campaigns a decade hence.[cxxvii] Henry also had his share of freebooters, Channel pirates, and hired swords, such as the rebellious knights, Sir Robert Willoughby, Edmund Hampden, and Sir Richard Edgecumbe [cxxviii] Henry’s retinue was composed of the 300 to 500 elites who supported his claim to the throne.[cxxix]

 

Charles_VIII_Ecole_Francaise_16th_century_Musee_de_Conde_Chantilly

Charles VIII of France.

The most powerful echelon in Henry’s army was under the command of the Earl of Oxford, who was a kind of 15th century English Odysseus. Described by one historian as a “tactical genius” and “wily and experienced” by another, Oxford’s role at Bosworth was of decisive importance.[cxxxi] [cxxx] Following his imprisonment in the Tower during 1468 for suspected loyalties to the Lancastrians, not surprising since Edward IV had ordered the execution of his father and brother in February 1462,[cxxxii] Oxford had in fact, after a pardon granted for a confession, sided with Warwick and Clarence in 1469.[cxxxiii] John de Vere had married Warwick’s sister Margaret, and so his fortunes were intimately connected with both the Lancastrian and Neville causes.[cxxxiv] 

footman2

Oxford commanded a wing at Barnet and, after Warwick’s demise, led pirate raids against Edward IV’s shipping in the Channel.[cxxxv] Wounded in the face by an arrow while besieged at St. Michael’s Mount, Cornwall, he surrendered to John Fortescue on 15 February 1474 and was shortly thereafter imprisoned at Hammes Castle outside Calais. Although imprisoned in relative comfort, the Earl’s fortune seemed to have reached a nadir. In early October 1484 he escaped with the aid of his gaoler, Sir James Blount, so that both could join Henry the following month. Not a moment too soon in fact as Richard’s agent William Bolton arrived at Hammes on 28 October with orders to collect Oxford for re-imprisonment in England.[cxxxvi] Oxford, free again at the age of 43 and with a powerful vendetta against Richard, was now appointed by a grateful Henry Tudor to command the vanguard.

 

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Shortly before Bosworth, Oxford was joined by Sir Gilbert Talbot, Sir John Savage, “that hardy knight” with Sir Humphrey Stanley, Sir Robert Tunstall, Sir Hugh Persall, “with shield and spear” amongst others.[cxxxvii] These were all actually Lord Thomas Stanley’s retainers, who had joined Tudor the day before the battle when the Stanley’s met with Henry at Atherstone.[cxxxviii] These were key reinforcements as Oxford needed experienced captains to take command of his various contingents. Talbot, with 500 men, was given the right, while Savage took the left.

Other late joiners included Sir Richard Corbet, who brought 800 men, accompanied by Roger Acton.[cxxxix] Thomas Croft arrived with a contingent from Herefordshire, John Hanley one from Worcester, and Robert Pointz led men from Gloucestershire.[cxl] Also present were Lord John Wells, Henry Tudor’s uncle, and Edward Wydville, Elizabeth of York’s brother, “a most valiant knight.” Others named in the Croyland Chronicle are William Berkeley, Thomas Arundel, Edward Poynings and Richard Guilford.[cxli]

A Scottish contingent of perhaps a thousand men, primarily longbowmen, was led by John de Coningham, but also included knights, under Sir Alexander Bruce, and men-at-arms under Captain Henderson, son of Robert Henderson.[cxlii] Henry’s Welsh contingent, more than a thousand strong, included Rhys ap Thomas, “with a goodly bande of Welshmen” according to Holinshed, plus Arnold Butler, Richard ap Gruffydd, Rhys ap Maredudd, John Morgan of Tredegar and others.[cxliii]

footman4

Henry was not interested in simply assuming the mantel of the Lancastrians in their essentially lost-cause struggle with York, but rather in uniting both houses under his personal, Tudor, leadership. As a result the Tudor cause became the haven not only for old Lancastrian defenders but also for anyone displeased with Richard III’s tumultuous rule.[cxliv] John Mortimer, one of Richard’s esquires, defected to join Henry. Likewise, Thomas Bourgchier and Walter Hungerford, hostages held by Sir Robert Brackenbury, escaped imprisonment on 20 August to join with Henry.[cxlv] The night before the battle Brian Sandford, Simon Digby and John Savage “the younger” deserted from Richard’s army, with their fighters, to join the Tudor army.[cxlvi] A number of banished clergy and clerks were also present, including Peter, Bishop of Exeter, Master Robert Morton, Clerk of the Rolls of Chancery, Christopher Urswyk, afterwards Henry’s almoner, and Richard Fox, afterwards Henry’s secretary.[cxlvii] From these high-profile desertions it should be clear that Richard’s support was waning even before he took to the field.

Henry and the Earl of Pembroke, for their part, fought on foot, behind the battle line. Henry’s standards were prominently displayed, both the banner of St. George and the Red Dragon of Cadwallader.[cxlviii] While he was still making preparations in France, Henry ordered William Bret, his merchant in London, to purchase six sets of armour, 12 brigandines (mail coats) and 24 sallets (helmets), to provide Henry and his guard with appropriate English armour upon their landing.[cxlix]

 

longbowmen

Henry’s army could have been supplied with cannon by the French,[cl] although his quick moving amphibious force was reliant on infantry rather than guns or cavalry. At any rate, had he wanted cannon, Henry could have raided the Calais garrison, which included 233 guns then under the command of Sir James Tyrell.[cli] Shortly after Bosworth one Sir Richard Guildford, who had traveled with Henry during the campaign, was made master of ordnance, suggesting his probable role in command of whatever artillery Henry did possess.[clii] A. H. Burne pointed out that the rate of Henry’s march slowed after he reached Lichfield, and this may have been from collecting heavier cannon (and other reinforcements) as the army advanced.[cliii] Whatever the case it is certain that Henry’s artillery was far outnumbered by Richard’s.

 

The Approach

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Roads in England, c. 15th century.

The exact location of the battlefield has been a subject of controversy in the historiography. By 2004 the probable location based on archaeological recoveries and historical analysis, in particular of early modern maps, narrowed the probable battle location to a 6 km survey area.

 

The approach of the Tudor and Yorkist armies in 1485. Henry Tudor’s approach (red) from his Calais – Wales landing, Lord Stanley (green) joining him. Richard marches from Nottingham (blue), his forces assembling in Leicester.

 

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Brackenberry marches from London with Richard’s artillery, Howard comes from Kent, and Percy from the north to join Richard at Leicester. Henry lands near Pembroke and is joined by Welsh supporters before arriving at Shrewbury and marching inland. Richard moves to intercept Henry before he can advance on the capital. From Hugh Bicheno, Blood Royal: The Wars of the Roses: 1462-1485, (2017), p. 388

 

On 19 – 20 August Richard moved to Leicester as his force continued to assemble. It was at this time that Henry Tudor met with Sir William Stanley, no doubt to discuss the Stanley’s potential support in the coming battle. Henry’s army, about 5,000 strong, had been marching 16 miles a day (Henry V averaged 14.5 miles per day between Harfleur and Agincourt), for over 225 miles, in the two weeks since their landing.[cliv] Richard’s scouts soon located Henry’s force and reported back to the King. On 21 August Richard marched his army, about 8,000 or 9,000 men, roughly twice that of Henry’s,[clv] to intercept Tudor as the pretender marched down the Roman road just north of Dadlington.

Both sides camped on the night of 21 August. Richard no doubt camped near or on Ambion Hill with at least part of his force. The Stanleys, in all probability, camped near Crown Hill from where they would be well positioned both to observe the battle and decide upon their moment of intervention. The following morning the Royal artillery and gunners were deployed so that they covered the Fenn Lane and approaches. It would be necessary for Henry to fight if he intended to continue his march towards London.

 

The probable battle locations within Leicestershire by 2005, survey by the Battlefield Trust.

 

Advance, Deployment & Contact

approach4

Approach phase map, Figure 8.1 in Bosworth, Foard & Curry (2013), also showing round shot scatter. See also, Hugh Bicheno, Blood Royal: The Wars of the Roses: 1462-1485, (2017), p. 388

 

paymentsarea

Townships in battle-area where Henry VII paid compensation incurred by his army’s movement, Figure 3.2 in Bosworth, Foard & Curry

 

approach5

Alternative version of the advance by Michael Jones, Bosworth, 1485: Psychology of a Battle (2014). & map by A. H. Burne, Battlefields of England.

View west from Sutton Cheney Ridge into Redemore basin, & looking north on Redemore from Crown Hill, Stoke Golding, photographs by Glenn Foard.

 

Field sketch by A. H. Burne, Battlefields of England.

 

This battle near Bosworth Market, although completely decisive, possesses an illusive quality. Tudor supporters suppressed information about Richard III after the battle, while Yorkists no longer had any reason to prove their allegiance to Richard through incriminating written documents. What can be pieced together is done so from various contemporaneous historical chroniclers, county records, and fragments of letters.  Analysis of the battlefield, only in the last quarter decade, has added the crucial archaeological evidence. What is known is that Richard outnumbered Henry, although both sides produced comparable numbers of elites, knights and men-at-arms. Richard possessed a large artillery train including a great number of cannon of various kinds, although how much ammunition he had for these guns is questionable. Henry, although outnumbered and lacking in artillery and horses, had the advantage of possessing a more highly motivated and professional army. Henry’s commanders, crucially, proved to be a caliber above anyone willing to support the King.

 

Lord Stanley and his brother Sir William waited for their moment to intervene. Richard III certainly knew Stanley’s commitment was uncertain, most of all because Thomas, Lord Stanley, was married to Henry Tudor’s mother and was thus Tudor’s stepfather. Born c. 1433, Stanley had been made a squire by the time he was nine. The mercurial Stanley changed allegiance with the weather during the civil war. Although he initially supported Queen Margaret, his close family connections with the Yorkists soon drew him into Warwick’s orbit. Stanley supported Warwick when he turned against Edward IV in 1470, but was forgiven by Edward after the rebellion and even made Steward of the King’s Household later in 1471.[clvii] In 1475 Stanley collected 40 knights and 300 archers for the planned French campaign, and later took part in the re-conquest of Berwick from Scotland with Richard Duke of Gloucester in 1482.[clviii] Richard, to insure the Stanley’s loyalty, was holding Lord Strange, Thomas Stanley’s son, as a hostage. Stanley, as we have seen however, had already met with Henry Tudor and in fact loaned him several of his picked knights.

Richard, after deploying his intimidating yet disunited force, delivered a speech to encourage his men. The King had drawn up his army in a long line, with Norfolk on the right, in the vanguard, supported by the Earl of Shrewsbury, on the left, and Northumberland in the rear. The cannon were deployed along the line in their great variety, “seven scores Serpentines without doubt,” and “many bombards that were stout”.

 

approach2

Bicheno’s version of the approach, from Blood Royal

 

deployments

Richard’s potential deployment positions, Figure 8.2 in Bosworth, 1485, Foard & Curry, 2013.

 

The Cannonade and Melee

Appraoch3

Oxford’s opening charge and Richard’s cannonade. Bicheno suggests that Northumberland’s position was along the Fenn Lane road, from where he could screen the Stanleys.

What happened next is perhaps best described in Molinet’s Chroniques: “The king had the artillery of his army fire on the Earl of Richmond [Henry Tudor], and so the French, knowing by the king’s shot the lie of the land and the order of his battle, resolved, in order to avoid the fire, to mass their troops against the flank rather than the front of the king’s battle.”[clix]

At the critical moment Oxford’s compact vanguard developed its oblique attack against Richard’s flank, quickly closing the distance with Norfolk’s vanguard (Richard’s right wing).[clxii] Oxford, as Captain of Archers, led Henry’s left wing forward, approaching Richard’s lines while avoiding the worst of the King’s firepower.[clxi] Oxford’s concentrated longbow and infantry formation would have broken through the flank of Richard III’s extended defensive line. As Peter Hammond and others have pointed out, Oxford’s arrangement of his battle in close order was a continental technique that took advantage of a combined pike and halberd formation learned in France from the Swiss during their wars with the Burgundians.[clxiii]

 

wheelerbattle

A particularly ‘clean’ version of the battle, showing Richard’s position covering the Fenn Lane (Roman road), Oxford’s decisive flank attack around the King’s guns, and Richard’s desperate charge against Henry’s HQ beside the Fenn Hole marsh. Reproduced in Peter Hammond, Richard III and the Bosworth Campaign (2010), Chapter 6, Map 3.

 

For roughly fifty years (1470-1520) the Swiss pike formations  – like massed longbows a century prior – were the dominant paradigm of battle in central Europe.[clxiv] If Oxford, who had every reason to maintain tight control over his force given his experience at Barnet, had indeed formed his lead echelon into such a pike wedge, or similar formation, the Royalists opposing him would no doubt have been surprised by the dense mass attacking in this audacious manner. Whatever happened next, it is clear that Norfolk’s division was destroyed, his men fleeing. Norfolk was either slain in battle, or captured and killed in the ensuing pursuit, possibly by Sir John Savage near the Dadlington windmill.[clxv] Northumberland, either because of prior arrangement with Henry or because he was engaged screening Sir William Stanley, failed to relieve Norfolk in time.[clxvi]

 

Location of battle related finds: artifacts, bullets and round shot, from all eras. Bosworth, 1485, Foard & Curry, 2013, Chapter 5, loc. 4050

 

Metal detectorist Simon Richardson, photographed by Glenn Foard while scanning the Bosworth survey area for the £154,000 Leicestershire County Council and Heritage Lottery Fund archaeological study.

A systematic metal detector survey, using the same methods as deployed in surveys of Towton (1461), as well as US and UK Civil War battlefields, was carried out between September 2005 – December 2010. The survey produced significant findings that firmly located the battlefield in the region Upton – Shenton – Dadlington – Stoke Golding, covering an area roughly 2 kms in size.

Projectiles recovered from the Bosworth battle site demonstrated a mixture of weapons, including guns and small cannon. Gun bullets are counted as those projectiles below 20 mm in size, and of the 251 lead or lead composite projectiles of all sizes recovered, it was determined that most of the smaller calibres originated from post-Bosworth dates, in particular, from a Civil War era cavalry skirmish that took place in 1644.

 

Distribution of bullets, coins and spurs originating from Civil War era, c. 1644

 

Distribution of medieval artillery shot, Bosworth, 1485, Foard & Curry, 2013, Figure 8.4, calibre in mm.

 

The larger projectiles, however, were found to represent ammunition for late 15th century cannon types. Of the 31 projectiles above 28 mm in size, 52% were of solid lead, 32% were of lead wrapped around a stone ball, and 16% were of lead wrapped around an iron cube or “dice” – all types favoured during the later 15th century but prior to the replacement of lead and stone with iron spheres in the 16th & 17th centuries.

 

gunners

15th c. handgunners, from Hammond, Richard III and the Bosworth Campaign, chapter 5.

 

serpentine

19th century drawing of a 15th c. serpentine-type cannon

 

falconetbreech

3D model of a 15th c. Burgundian muzzle-loading falconet, & diagram of 15th c. breech-loading cannon.

 

stoneshot

Calibre distribution of medieval era round-shot recovered from the Bosworth battlefield. Note the demi-culverin or saker ball at upper right. Figure 7.26 in Bosworth, 1485, Foard & Curry, 2013.

 

Foard & Curry conclude, based on the analysis of the larger projectiles, that a number of unique muzzle and breech loading cannon were used at Bosworth, ranging from small 28.6 mm “base” guns, to 35 mm “robinet” guns, also in 38, 43, & 44 mm varieties, 56-58 mm “falconets“, 63 mm “falcons” (there were 31 in the Tower of London in 1495, and Henry VII ordered a further 28 in 1496-7), and at least one demi-culverin firing a 97 mm ball. English cannon from this period were primarily derived from Burgundian models, manufactured in Flanders and Brabant, Calais, and in England proper. See, Bosworth, 1485, Foard & Curry, 2013, Chapter 7: Gunpowder Weapons, loc., 4641, 5408-5448 & Appendix One, Catalogue of Round Shot and Large Calibre Bullets

 

The various medieval artifacts recovered from the battlefield, including pendants, straps, buckles, buttons, spurs, studs and other military implements. Bosworth, 1485, Foard & Curry, 2013.

 

The 97mm shot recovered. Bosworth, 1485, Foard & Curry, 2013, various figures.

 

archerline

 

A Warrior’s Death

“Every man’s conscience is a thousand swords,

To fight against that bloody homicide.”

The Earl of Oxford, William Shakespeare’s Richard III

 

approach3

Map of Richard’s desperate charge, from Hugh Bicheno, Blood Royal: The Wars of the Roses: 1462-1485, (2017), p. 390

Richard, with his cannon ineffective and Norfolk slain, was at this point desperate to secure the support of the Stanleys, but Lord Stanley made no indication that he was going to side with Richard. The King thus ordered the execution of Stanley’s son, his hostage, Lord Strange, although this was not in fact carried out. There had been a break in the fighting, either caused by a feigned retreat from Oxford or as a result of exhaustion after the action in which Norfolk was killed (pauses in battles were common at this time), and as a result a slight gap had opened on Henry’s right flank. It was now that Richard spotted Henry’s standard. Seizing the moment with the commitment of desperation, Richard led a cavalry charge against Henry’s guard.

At Barnet in 1471 Edward IV had won the day despite early setbacks with an audacious charge that Richard had been an instrumental figure in. No doubt also the memory of his father’s demise against insurmountable odds at Wakefield influenced Richard’s thinking at this moment. Richard and his bodyguard slipped around the right-hand side of Oxford’s battle, the flank covered by Sir Gilbert Talbot’s men. Sir Gilbert saw what was happening and attempted to block Richard’s charge, but his men were overrun, Talbot being injured in the process.[clxvii] Richard plowed into Henry’s guard, unhorsed Sir John Cheyne “a man of surpassing bravery” and killed Henry’s standard bearer, Sir William Brandon.[clxviii] Henry Tudor was out of reach, and behind Richard the trap was closed by Sir William Stanley. Pressed back against the Fenn Hole marsh with no chance of escape Richard’s guard was whittled down.

 

knightdead2

The King was at last unhorsed and then killed by a Welsh halberdier, perhaps one Thomas Woodshawe, later a member of Henry VII’s Yeomen of the Guard, or by Ralph Rudyard of Staffordshire,[clxix] or by someone in the retinue of baron Rhys ap Thomas, whose prominent role in the battle was recognized when Henry knighted him three days later.[clxx] One such individual was Rhys ap Maredudd, subsequently known as Rhys Fawr (the mighty), who was recorded as carrying Henry’s standard following the death of William Brandon.[clxxi] Richard’s retinue, including Sir Richard Ratcliffe, Thomas Pilkington, Thomas Gower, Thomas Markenfield, Alan Fulthorpe, William Conyers, Sir Robert Percy, Sir Robert Brackenbury, and John Kendell, were all slain in the fighting.[clxxii] With Richard slain there was now no longer any cause to fight for, and so the Royal army melted away.

In addition to the King and his guard, the Yorkist losses varied from a few hundred to more than a thousand, including the Duke of Norfolk and Lord Ferrars of Chartley. Sir William Catesby was captured and executed on 25 August while Henry was at Leicester, becoming the only senior Ricardian so condemned.[clxxiii] John, the Earl of Lincoln, along with Thomas, Earl of Surrey (Norfolk’s son), and Francis Viscount Lovell, managed to escape, although Surrey and Lincoln were rounded up when Catesby was captured and Northumberland surrendered to Henry after the battle. Some years later Northumberland was killed by an anti-Tudor mob.[clxxvii]

After the battle, Lord Stanley presented Henry Tudor with King Richard III’s crown, and the new King and his army advanced to Leicester with Richard’s body in tow. Richard was then buried at the Franciscan Greyfriars church after Henry VII departed Leicester three days later.

leicester

Greyfriar’s church (circled) in 15th century Leicester, location of the skeleton exhumed from the church ruins, beneath a modern carpark.

 

Skeleton believed to be that of Richard III.

 

On 4 September 2012 an excavation at the site of the Greyfriar’s church in Leicester exhumed a skeleton that was identified, after a battery of scientific tests, as almost certainly being that of Richard III. The skeleton was determined to be that of a 30 to 34 year-old male, who had been living most likely between 1450 and 1540. The skeleton was described by the team of scientists responsible for the investigation as, “an adult man with a gracile build and sever scoliosis of the thoracic…”[clxxiv] The cranium of the skeleton had received nine blows, with an additional two wounds to the body, these latter both being post-mortem blows to the pelvis. The blows to the skull included a sword blow through the back of the head. The scientists concluded that, due to the lack of defensive wounds, the skeleton had most likely still been armoured at the time of death, with the helmet crucially missing.

 

gr4.jpg

Skull of the skeleton suspected to be that of Richard III, showing fatal sword and halberd blows to the back of the head.

The findings suggest that Richard had been unhorsed, his helmet removed or lost, before he was overwhelmed by his enemies who proceeded to stab him to death, careful to leave his face un-damaged for later identification. Such was the end of the last Plantagenet King, that “child of a violent age” destined to become the last King of England killed in battle.[clxxv] Almost 419 years had passed since Harold Godwinson had been killed at the Battle of Hastings.

 

crown.jpg

Lord Stanley presents Richard III’s crown, retrieved after the battle, to Henry VII, copy of 15th c. Castle Rushen tapestry.

 

The Tudor King

HenryVII

Painting of Henry VII by unknown Dutch artist, made in October 1505 by order of Herman Rink, agent of Holy Roman Emperor Maximilian I. Note the Tudor rose, combining both Lancastrian (red) and York (white). See also engraving, drawn by J. Robert.

Henry arrived outside the capital on 28 August and was formally welcomed into London on 3 September. On the 15th he summoned Parliament, to assemble on 7 November. Henry then issued a general pardon, on 24 September, with the exceptions of Sir Richard Radcliff, Sir James Harrington, Sir Robert Harrington, Sir Thomas Pilkington, Sir Thomas Broughton, Sir Robert Middleton, Thomas Metcalf and Miles Metcalfe.[clxxvi] Only 29 individuals, including Richard III, were dispossessed by attainder, a relatively low number that stressed Henry Tudor’s policy of reconciliation rather than revenge. 

On 30 October Henry Tudor was crowned Henry VII by the Archbishop of Canterbury. Tudor married Elizabeth of York on 18 January 1486.

 

lizofyorks

Elizabeth of York, 16th c. copy of 15th c. painting.

 

Spoils were distributed to the victors. Jasper Tudor, the Earl of Pembroke, was promoted to Duke of Bedford. Sir William Stanley, whose timely intervention on 22 August had in all probability saved Henry Tudor’s life, was made Chamberlain of the King’s Household.[clxxviii] Thomas, Lord Stanley, was made Earl of Derby, and Edward Courtney the Earl of Devonshire.[clxxix] Chandos of Brittany was made Earl of Bath, Sir Giles Daubeny was made Lord Daubeny and Sir Robert Willoughby was promoted Lord Broke.[clxxx] John Morton was made Bishop of Ely and then Archbishop of Canterbury, and Richard Fox was promoted Bishop of Exeter and eventually Privy Seal and Bishop of Winchester. Edward Stafford, Henry Stafford’s son, was returned to his title as Duke of Buckingham.

 

knight

Oxford, whose “adroit leadership” in the oblique attack at Bosworth had made the Tudor dynasty possible, was promoted to Admiral of England and then Constable of the Tower.[clxxxi] The King would now be protected at the state’s expense, represented by the creation of the Yeomen of the Guard,  50 picked archers to attend to the King’s safety. The demise of Richard III was met with international approval and in 1486 Innocent VIII granted Henry VII a papal bull that verified all of his claims. Richard’s former supporters were denounced and demoted, but pardoned, except for the Earl of Surrey and the son of the Duke of Clarence, Edward IV’s nephew, young Edward (Plantagenet), the Earl of Warwick, whose existence was dangerous to the Tudor claim and who was therefore imprisoned in the Tower. On 16 June 1487 the Earl of Oxford and Jasper Tudor led the Royal army that annihilated the Earl of Lincoln’s rebellion in Edward Plantagenet’s name at Stoke Field. Edward, the last Plantagenet, was executed, after being condemned on 21 November 1499, by the Constable of the Tower, Knight of the Garter, Lord High Admiral, Sir John de Vere.[clxxxii]

 

Johnrous.jpg

John Rous (1420-1492), author of the History of the Kings of England, 18th c. engraving from 15th century illumination

 

Jean_Molinet_presents_his_book_to_Philip_of_Cleveschroniques2

Poet and chronicler Jean Molinet presents his translation of the Roman de la Rose to Philip of Cleves, c. 1500. Molinet wrote an important historical Chronique covering the years 1474 – 1504, as published in Paris in 1828.

 

Polydorvergil2Polydor England2

Polydore Vergil wrote his Anglicae Historiae manuscript in 1512, which was later published in 1534.

 

croyland4

crowland2Crowland3

The Croyland Chronicle & Continuations, record of the Benedictine Abbey of Croyland, Lincolnshire, published in 1908. The Second Continuation covers 1459-1486 and is suspected to have been written by John Russell, Bishop of Lincoln. The ruins of the Abbey church as they appeared prior to reconstruction and restoration in 1860. The church today.

 

Holinshed2Holinshed3

In 1548 Reginald Wolfe began work on a universal history of England. The project was finally completed by Wolfe’s assistant, Raphael Holinshed, and published in 1577, & again in 1587. Holinshed’s Chronicles were immensely influential, not least upon William Shakespeare.

 

holbien2

Holbein

Drawing for painting of Henry VII and Henry VIII by Hans Holbein. Henry VIII from the workshop of Hans Holbein the Younger, c. 1537-47. The original was destroyed in the Whitehall Palace fire of 1698.

 

holbien4

 

London 1620b.jpglondon2.jpgLondon1559.jpglondontower.jpg

View towards London (left) and Greenwich (right) in 1620. Map of London c.1579, made in Colonge & Detail of London in 1559, print from copper plate engraved in the Netherlands. &  Claes Visscher panorama of London, 1616 compared with 2016 view & The Tower as it appears today.

 

claes1616

 

Notes

[i] David Hume, The History of England, Henry III to Richard III, Kindle ebook, vol. 1, 3 vols. (Philadelphia: J. B. Lippincott & Co., 1901)., p. 148. Robert Balmain Mowat, The Wars of the Roses, 1377 – 1471, Kindle ebook (London, 1914)., Chapter 1, loc. 78

[ii] Hume, The History of England, Henry III to Richard III., p. 156.

[iii] Hume., p. 157.

[iv] Hume., p. 160-1.

[v] Hume., p. 163

[vi] Hume., p. 172-3

[vii] Hume., p. 176

[viii] Hume., p. 177

[ix] Hume., p. 186

[x] E. F. Jacob, The Fifteenth Century, 1399-1485, The Oxford History of England 6 (New York: Oxford University Press, 1993)., p. 150-2.

[xi] Jacob., p. 157.

[xii] John Keegan, The Face of Battle: A Study of Agincourt, Waterloo and The Somme, Random House eBooks (London: Pimlico, 2004). p. 64-6.

[xiii] Keegan., p. 66-7

[xiv] Jacob, The Fifteenth Century, 1399-1485., p. 156.

[xv] Hume, The History of England, Henry III to Richard III., p. 188

[xvi] Charles W. C. Oman, England and the Hundred Years’ War (1327-1485), Kindle ebook (Uckfield: Naval & Military Press Ltd, 1898)., Chapter 10, loc. 1605-39.

[xvii] N. A. M. Rodger, The Safeguard of the Sea. A Naval History of Britain, 660-1649 (New York: W. W. Norton & Company, 1998)., p. 143-4.

[xviii] Rodger., p. 144.

[xix] Hume, The History of England, Henry III to Richard III., p. 191

[xx] Mowat, The Wars of the Roses, 1377 – 1471., Chapter 3, loc. 240.

[xxi] Hume, The History of England, Henry III to Richard III., p. 197; Shakespeare’s John Falstaff is based in part on Sir John Oldcastle (1378 – 1417). https://www.britannica.com/biography/John-Oldcastle

[xxii] Hume., p. 213

[xxiii] Hume., p. 216

[xxiv] Hume., p. 195 & 219

[xxv] Hume., p. 223

[xxvi] Hume., p. 225

[xxvii] Alison Weir, Lancaster and York: The Wars of the Roses, Kindle ebook (London: Vintage, 2011)., Chapter 15, loc. 4034

[xxviii] Weir., Chapter 15, loc. 4072

[xxix] Weir., Chapter 15, loc. 4149

[xxx] Hume, The History of England, Henry III to Richard III., p. 227

[xxxi] Weir, Lancaster and York: The Wars of the Roses., Chapter 15, loc. 4225

[xxxii] Weir., Chapter 16, loc. 4372

[xxxiii] Weir., Chapter 16, loc. 4409

[xxxiv] Weir., Chapter 16, loc. 4439

[xxxv] Weir., Chapter 16, loc. 4554

[xxxvi] Matthew Lewis, Richard Duke of York: King by Right, Kindle ebook (Stroud: Amberley Publishing, 2016)., Chapter 25, loc. 5185

[xxxvii] Lewis., Chapter 25, loc. 5209

[xxxviii] Hume, The History of England, Henry III to Richard III., p. 229

[xxxix] Weir, Lancaster and York: The Wars of the Roses., Chapter 17, loc. 4955

[xl] Weir., Chapter 17, loc. 4832

[xli] Hume, The History of England, Henry III to Richard III., p. 228-9

[xlii] Weir, Lancaster and York: The Wars of the Roses., Chapter 17, loc. 4992

[xliii] Weir., Chapter 18, loc. 5013; see also, Jacob, The Fifteenth Century, 1399-1485., p. 565

[xliv] Weir, Lancaster and York: The Wars of the Roses., Chapter 18, loc. 5050

[xlv] Weir., Chapter 18, loc. 5078

[xlvi] Weir., Chapter 18, loc. 5107

[xlvii] Weir., Chapter 18, loc. 5174 – 84

[xlviii] Weir., Chapter 18, loc. 5194

[xlix] Weir., Chapter 20, loc. 5568

[l] Weir., Chapter 19, loc. 5348 – 77

[li] Winston S. Churchill, The Birth of Britain, A History of the English-Speaking Peoples, vol. 1, 4 vols., (Toronto: McClelland & Stewart Limited, 1956)., p. 452

[lii] Weir, Lancaster and York: The Wars of the Roses., Chapter 19, loc. 5415.

[liii] Jacob, The Fifteenth Century, 1399-1485., p. 564

[liv] Weir, Lancaster and York: The Wars of the Roses., Chapter 19, loc. 5425.

[lv] Weir., Chapter 20, loc. 5540

[lvi] Weir., Chapter 20, loc. 5675

[lvii] Jacob, The Fifteenth Century, 1399-1485., p. 530

[lviii] Weir, Lancaster and York: The Wars of the Roses., Chapter 20, loc. 5780

[lix] Weir., Chapter 20, loc. 5827

[lx] Jacob, The Fifteenth Century, 1399-1485., p. 531

[lxi] Weir, Lancaster and York: The Wars of the Roses., Chapter 21, loc. 5898

[lxii] Jacob, The Fifteenth Century, 1399-1485., p. 531

[lxiii] Weir, Lancaster and York: The Wars of the Roses., Chapter 21, loc. 5918

[lxiv] Weir., Chapter 21, loc. 6032-43

[lxv] Weir., Chapter 21, loc. 5870

[lxvi] David Grummitt, A Short History of The Wars of the Roses (London: I. B. Tauris, 2013)., p. 87-8

[lxvii] Jacob, The Fifteenth Century, 1399-1485., p. 554-5; see also, Rodger, The Safeguard of the Sea. A Naval History of Britain, 660-1649., p. 154

[lxviii] Weir, Lancaster and York: The Wars of the Roses., Chapter 21, loc. 6167

[lxix] Weir., Chapter 22, loc. 6226 – 35.

[lxx] Weir., Chapter 22, loc. 6245

[lxxi] Charles W. C. Oman, Warwick, The Kingmaker, Kindle ebook (Perennial Press, 2015)., Chapter 13, loc. 1890

[lxxii] Jacob, The Fifteenth Century, 1399-1485., p. 553

[lxxiii] Weir, Lancaster and York: The Wars of the Roses., Chapter 22, loc. 6293

[lxxiv] Weir., Chapter 22, loc. 6331-41

[lxxv] Weir., Chapter 22, loc. 6369

[lxxvi] Weir., Chapter 22, loc. 6379

[lxxvii] Weir., Chapter 22, loc. 6445

[lxxviii] Weir., Chapter 22, loc. 6454

[lxxix] Weir., Chapter 23, loc. 6504; see also, Jacob, The Fifteenth Century, 1399-1485., p. 558

[lxxx] Weir, Lancaster and York: The Wars of the Roses., Chapter 23, loc. 6533

[lxxxi] Weir., Chapter 23, loc. 6570

[lxxxii] Weir., Chapter 23, loc. 6608

[lxxxiii] Churchill, The Birth of Britain., p. 466

[lxxxiv] Weir, Lancaster and York: The Wars of the Roses., Chapter 24, loc. 6737

[lxxxv] Weir., Chapter 24, loc. 6792

[lxxxvi] S. J. Gunn, “Vere, John de, Thirteenth Earl of Oxford (1442-1513),” in The Oxford Dictionary of National Biography (Oxford University Press, 2008).

[lxxxvii] Cora L. Scofield, “The Early Life of John de Vere, Thirteenth Earl of Oxford,” The English Historical Review 29, no. 114 (April 1914): 228–45., p. 234

[lxxxviii] Weir, Lancaster and York: The Wars of the Roses., Chapter 24, loc. 6963

[lxxxix] Weir., Chapter 25, loc. 6989.

[xc] Weir., Chapter 25, loc. 7057

[xci] Weir., Chapter 25, loc. 7048

[xcii] Hume, The History of England, Henry III to Richard III., p. 243-4

[xciii] Weir, Lancaster and York: The Wars of the Roses., Chapter 25, loc. 7155

[xciv] Oman, Warwick, The Kingmaker., Chapter 17, loc. 2511

[xcv] Weir, Lancaster and York: The Wars of the Roses., Chapter 25, loc. 7203

[xcvi] Oman, Warwick, The Kingmaker., Chapter 17, loc. 2531

[xcvii] Weir, Lancaster and York: The Wars of the Roses., Chapter 26, loc. 7334

[xcviii] Weir., Chapter 26, loc. 7353

[xcix] Alison Weir, The Princes in the Tower (London: Folio Society, 1999)., p. 27

[c] Hume, The History of England, Henry III to Richard III., p. 245; Weir, Lancaster and York: The Wars of the Roses., Chapter 26, loc. 7469; see also, Weir, The Princes in the Tower., p. 25-6

[ci] Weir, Lancaster and York: The Wars of the Roses., Chapter 26, loc. 7548

[cii] Michael Jones, “The Myth of 1485: Did France Really Put Henry Tudor on the Throne?,” in The English Experience in France c. 1450-1558: War, Diplomacy and Cultural Exchange, ed. David Grummitt (Aldershot, Hants: Ashgate Publishing Limited, 2002), 85–105.

[ciii] Hume, The History of England, Henry III to Richard III., p. 249-50

[civ] Hume., p. 254

[cv] Weir, The Princes in the Tower., p. 138-42

[cvi] Keith Dockray and Peter Hammond, Richard III From Contemporary Chronicles, Letters & Records, Kindle ebook (Croydon: Fonthill Media LLC, 2013)., Chapter 9, loc. 2007-164

[cvii] Glenn Foard and Anne Curry, Bosworth 1485: A Battlefield Rediscovered, Kindle ebook (Oxford: Oxbow Books, 2013)., Chapter 2, loc. 1019

[cviii] Foard and Curry., Chapter 2, loc. 1031

[cix] Weir, The Princes in the Tower., p. 198-9

[cx] Foard and Curry, Bosworth 1485: A Battlefield Rediscovered., Chapter 2, loc. 1041

[cxi] Churchill, The Birth of Britain., p. 496; Foard and Curry, Bosworth 1485: A Battlefield Rediscovered., Chapter 2, loc. 1489, 1554

[cxii] Foard and Curry, Bosworth 1485: A Battlefield Rediscovered., Chapter 2, loc. 998 – 1071, 1206

[cxiii] Foard and Curry., Chapter 2, loc. 1113

[cxiv] Foard and Curry., Chapter 2, loc. 1227 & 4559

[cxv] Foard and Curry., Chapter 2, loc. 1323

[cxvi] Foard and Curry., Chapter 2, loc. 1354

[cxvii] Foard and Curry., Chapter 2, loc. 1354

[cxviii] Christopher Dyer, Making a Living in the Middle Ages: The People of Britain, 850-1520 (Yale: Yale University Press, 2013)., p. 148

[cxix] Foard and Curry, Bosworth 1485: A Battlefield Rediscovered., Chapter 2, loc. 1196

[cxx] Foard and Curry., Chapter 2, loc. 1385; The Ballad of Bosworth Field, ed. M. Bennet, Battle of Bosworth (Stroud, 1985), p. 155-7. Quoted in Appendix 3, Joshua Flint, “A New Reassessment of the Importance of Gunpowder Weapons on the Battlefields of the War of the Roses.” (MA Thesis, University of Huddersfield, 2014).

[cxxi] Foard and Curry, Bosworth 1485: A Battlefield Rediscovered., Chapter 2, loc. 1426

[cxxii] Foard and Curry., Chapter 2, loc. 1437

[cxxiii] Foard and Curry., Chapter 2, loc. 1468

[cxxiv] Ralph A. Griffiths and Roger S. Thomas, The Making of the Tudor Dynasty, Kindle ebook (Stroud: The History Press, 2005)., Chapter 11, loc. 2624

[cxxv] Jones, “The Myth of 1485: Did France Really Put Henry Tudor on the Throne?”

[cxxvi] Foard and Curry, Bosworth 1485: A Battlefield Rediscovered., Chapter 2, loc. 1554

[cxxvii] Stephen Turnbull, The Art of Renaissance Warfare, From the Fall of Constantinople to the Thirty Years War, Kindle ebook (Yorkshire: Frontline Books, 2018). Chapter 4, loc. 995

[cxxviii] Foard and Curry, Bosworth 1485: A Battlefield Rediscovered., Chapter 2, loc. 1554

[cxxix] Foard and Curry., Chapter 2, loc. 1521

[cxxx] James Ross, The Foremost Man of the Kingdom: John de Vere, Thirteenth Earl of Oxford (1442-1513) (Woodbridge: The Boydell Press, 2011)., p. 85

[cxxxi] Dan Jones, The Hollow Crown: The Wars of the Roses and Hte Rise of the Tudors (London: Faber & Faber Ltd., 2014)., Chapter 19, loc. 4986

[cxxxii] Scofield, “The Early Life of John de Vere, Thirteenth Earl of Oxford.”

[cxxxiii] Foard and Curry, Bosworth 1485: A Battlefield Rediscovered.

[cxxxiv] Scofield, “The Early Life of John de Vere, Thirteenth Earl of Oxford.”, p. 230

[cxxxv] Scofield., p. 238

[cxxxvi] Ross, The Foremost Man of the Kingdom: John de Vere, Thirteenth Earl of Oxford (1442-1513)., p. 82

[cxxxvii] The Ballad of Bosworth Field, ed. M. Bennet, Battle of Bosworth (Stroud, 1985), p. 155-7. Quoted in Appendix 3, Flint, “A New Reassessment of the Importance of Gunpowder Weapons on the Battlefields of the War of the Roses.”

[cxxxviii] Foard and Curry, Bosworth 1485: A Battlefield Rediscovered., Chapter 2, loc. 1385; see also, Griffiths and Thomas, The Making of the Tudor Dynasty. Chapter 11, loc. 2564-72

[cxxxix] Foard and Curry, Bosworth 1485: A Battlefield Rediscovered., Chapter 2, loc. 1709; see also, Griffiths and Thomas, The Making of the Tudor Dynasty. Chapter 11, loc. 2503

[cxl] Foard and Curry, Bosworth 1485: A Battlefield Rediscovered., Chapter 2, loc. 1709

[cxli] Henry T. Riley, trans., Ingulph’s Chronicle of the Abbey of Croyland, with Continuations (London: George Bell and Sons, 1908)., p. 502

[cxlii] Foard and Curry, Bosworth 1485: A Battlefield Rediscovered., Chapter 2, loc. 1621

[cxliii] Foard and Curry., Chapter 2, loc. 1676; http://english.nsms.ox.ac.uk/holinshed/texts.php?text1=1577_5327

[cxliv] Foard and Curry., Chapter 2, loc. 1447

[cxlv] Griffiths and Thomas, The Making of the Tudor Dynasty., Chapter 11, loc. 2555

[cxlvi] Griffiths and Thomas., Chapter 11, loc. 2572; http://english.nsms.ox.ac.uk/holinshed/texts.php?text1=1577_5327

[cxlvii] Riley, Ingulph’s Chronicle of the Abbey of Croyland, with Continuations., p. 503

[cxlviii] Churchill, The Birth of Britain., p. 497

[cxlix] Foard and Curry, Bosworth 1485: A Battlefield Rediscovered., Chapter 2, loc. 1532

[cl] Foard and Curry., loc. 4605

[cli] Foard and Curry., Chapter 2, loc. 1510

[clii] Foard and Curry., loc. 4611

[cliii] A. H. Burne, The Battlefields of England (London: Penguin Books, 1996)., p. 304

[cliv] Foard and Curry, Bosworth 1485: A Battlefield Rediscovered., Chapter 3, loc. 1963

[clv] Foard and Curry., Chapter 2, loc. 1815

[clvi] Michael J. Bennett, “Stanley, Sir William (c. 1435-1495),” in The Oxford Dictionary of National Biography (Oxford University Press, 2008).

[clvii] Michael J. Bennett, “Stanley, Thomas, First Earl of Derby (c. 1433-1504),” in The Oxford Dictionary of National Biography (Oxford University Press, 2008).

[clviii] Bennett.

[clix] Foard and Curry, Bosworth 1485: A Battlefield Rediscovered., chapter 3, loc. 2247

[clx] Peter Hammond, Richard III and the Bosworth Campaign (Barnsley, South Yorkshire: Pen & Sword Military, 2010)., Chapter 6, loc. 1671

[clxi] The Ballad of Bosworth Field, ed. M. Bennet, Battle of Bosworth (Stroud, 1985), p. 155-7. Quoted in Appendix 3, Flint, “A New Reassessment of the Importance of Gunpowder Weapons on the Battlefields of the War of the Roses.”

[clxii] Hammond, Richard III and the Bosworth Campaign., Chapter 6

[clxiii] Hammond., Chapter 6; See also, Turnbull, The Art of Renaissance Warfare, From the Fall of Constantinople to the Thirty Years War., Chapter 2, loc. 611.

[clxiv] Geoffrey Parker, The Military Revolution, Military Innovation and the Rise of the West, 1500 – 1800 (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2011)., p. 18

[clxv] Foard and Curry, Bosworth 1485: A Battlefield Rediscovered., chapter 3, loc. 2501

[clxvi] Hugh Bicheno, Blood Royal: The Wars of the Roses: 1462-1485, Kindle ebook (New York: Pegasus Books, 2017)., Chapter 33.

[clxvii] Bicheno., Chapter 33.

[clxviii] Foard and Curry, Bosworth 1485: A Battlefield Rediscovered., chapter 3, loc. 2343; see also Bicheno, Blood Royal: The Wars of the Roses: 1462-1485., Chapter 33.

[clxix] Hammond, Richard III and the Bosworth Campaign., Chapter 6

[clxx] J. Molinet, Chroniques of Jean de Molinet (1474 – 1506), ed., M. Bennett, Battle of Bosworth, (Stroud, 1985), p. 138. Quoted in Appendix 3, Flint, “A New Reassessment of the Importance of Gunpowder Weapons on the Battlefields of the War of the Roses.”; see also, Foard and Curry, Bosworth 1485: A Battlefield Rediscovered., chapter 2, loc. 1543, 1697

[clxxi] Bicheno, Blood Royal: The Wars of the Roses: 1462-1485., Chapter 33.

[clxxii] Bicheno., Chapter 33.

[clxxiii] Foard and Curry, Bosworth 1485: A Battlefield Rediscovered., chapter 3, loc. 2611

[clxxiv] Jo Appleby et al., “Perimortem Trauma in King Richard III: A Skeletal Analysis,” The Lancet 385, no. 9964 (January 17, 2015): 253–59.

[clxxv] Weir, The Princes in the Tower., p. 27

[clxxvi] Foard and Curry, Bosworth 1485: A Battlefield Rediscovered., chapter 2, loc. 1396

[clxxvii] Steven G. Ellis, “Percy, Henry, Fourth Earl of Northumberland (c. 1449-1489),” in The Oxford Dictionary of National Biography (Oxford University Press, 2008).

[clxxviii] Bennett, “Stanley, Sir William (c. 1435-1495).”

[clxxix] David Hume, The History of England, Henry VII to Mary, Kindle ebook, vol. 2, 3 vols. (Philadelphia: J. B. Lippincott & Co., 1901)., loc. 125

[clxxx] Hume., loc. 188

[clxxxi] Gunn, “Vere, John de, Thirteenth Earl of Oxford (1442-1513).” & Ross, The Foremost Man of the Kingdom: John de Vere, Thirteenth Earl of Oxford (1442-1513)., p. 86

[clxxxii] Gunn, “Vere, John de, Thirteenth Earl of Oxford (1442-1513).”

 

 

 

Operation Urgent Fury, Cold War Crisis in Grenada, October – November 1983

URGENT FURY

Operation Urgent Fury: Cold War Crisis in Grenada

Prelude 

C14159-28A

US President Ronald Reagan and First Lady Nancy at Andrew Air Force Base, 23 April 1983, honouring victims of the 18 April Beirut US embassy bombing.

On Friday, 21 October 1983, President Ronald Reagan was in a budget overview meeting. Afterwards, the President met with Henry Kissinger and the Commission on Central America. Communist infiltration into Nicaragua was discussed. Finishing up the week, the President departed the White House for the Eisenhower cottage at the Augusta Country Club in Atlanta. With Reagan went Secretary of State George Shultz and his wife, along with the newly appointed National Security Advisor Robert “Bud” McFarlane.[i] The President was expecting developments in the Lebanese crisis, bright on the National Security Council’s (NSC) radar after the US embassy bombing in Beirut that April

The President turned in for bed after dinner, but was awoken hastily at four in the morning. It was Bud McFarlane and George Shultz. The President had been requested to authorize the invasion of Grenada, led by the United States, and supported by the Dominican headed Organization of Eastern Caribbean States (OECS), formed in 1981 and composed of St. Lucia, Montserrat, St. Christopher-Nevis, Antigua, Barbuda, St. Vincent and the Grenadines, and Grenada.

schultz.jpg

Secretary of State George Shultz being updated by satellite phone while staying at the Augusta Country Club, Atlanta Georgia, 21 October. From Edgar F. Raines, The Rucksack War (2010).

The US President spoke to Margaret Thatcher by phone on the 22nd and the British Prime Minister requested calm, emphasizing that no immediate military action should take place. For the British government, the twin crisis in Grenada and Lebanon came too soon on the heels of the 1982 Falkland’s war, itself involving a major amphibious operation requiring carriers and assault ships acting against an island base.

C17822-15telephone.jpg

President Reagan at the Eisenhower cabin in Atlanta, Georgia, consulting with Secretary of State George Shultz and National Security Advisor Robert “Bud” McFarlane early on the morning of 22 October. & Teleconferencing with NSC staff, 22 October.

Discussion and a 9 am teleconference followed, after which the President approved Operation Urgent Fury – the invasion of Grenada – and then went back to sleep.Since the end of American military involvement in the Vietnam war in 1973 and the subsequent over-running of Saigon in 1975, there was a perception that the United States was reticent to utilize military action in a potential conflict. Jimmy Carter had put his presidency on the line over Operation Eagle Claw – the effort to rescue American Iranian embassy hostages in 1980 – and so the decision to intervene weighed heavily on the mind of his successor.

Reagan spent the rest of Saturday, October 22nd playing golf, a normally mundane event punctuated by the incident at the 16th hole: A gunman held up the golf shop, taking hostages and demanding to speak to the President. While he was being escorted away from the country club, Reagan called the gunman as requested, but the man on the phone hung up every time the President got through.[ii] The man was duly apprehended after his hostages escaped.[iii]

At 2 am the following morning, Sunday 23 October, Reagan was awoken again and informed about the Beirut barracks bombing and the enormous death toll, later reports finalizing at 242 Americans and 58 French dead.[iv] The suspects included the Iranians, Syrians, or the organization that eventually became Hezbollah.[v] The killing of so many American marines and French peacekeepers – one-fourth of the US component of the four nation peacekeeping force – came as a shock. This second major attack followed closely on the heels of other United States Marine Corps (USMC) casualties, resulting from sniper-fire and a car-bombing incident against a convoy on 19 October.[vi]

The President returning to Washington on 23 October.

The morning of Sunday, 23 October President Reagan, Shultz and MacFarlane returned to Washington D.C. Hurried meetings with the National Security Council followed, and it was decided to continue with the invasion of Grenada. Special Operations Forces (SOF) were going in immediately, flown 1,500 miles by C-130s to investigate landing beaches for the Tuesday morning attack.

Before finishing for the evening, the President briefed congressional leaders Tip O’Neill, Jim Wright, Bob Byrd, Howard Baker, and Bob Michel about the invasion, and then took a phone call from Margaret Thatcher, who, again, warned of the potentially negative international reaction to American military action and advised against rushing the operation.[vii]

In the Caribbean waters around the small Windward Island nation of Grenada, nevertheless, an amphibious assault ship and an aircraft carrier battle group – hundreds of thousands of tons of warships – laden with United States Marines, aircraft, helicopters, artillery and commandos, was assembling under the command of Vice Admiral Joseph Metcalf,[viii] and Major General H. Norman Schwarzkopf,[ix] to overwhelm Grenada’s small People’s Revolutionary Army (PRA), and its Cuban and Soviet bloc fighters. Combined Joint Task Force (CJTF) 120 was steaming steadily towards Grenada. Operation Urgent Fury was about to begin.

SR-71 TR-1

SR-71 Blackbird and TR-1 (U-2), high altitude reconnaissance aircraft of the type used by the CIA and Defense Intelligence Agency (DIA) to photograph Grenada between 20 – 24 October 1983

CJTF 120, responsible for carrying out Operation Urgent Fury, led by Vice Admiral Metcalf, has itself become a model for joint operations. Meltcalf’s career and resolute decision-making during the thirty-nine hour planning phase prior to Operation Urgent Fury’s execution are now considered a military case-study in leadership during an international crisis.[xiii] Furthermore, the future commander of Central Command, Major General H. Norman Schwarzkopf, had been significantly influenced by his role as Metcalf’s deputy during Urgent Fury, and thus the otherwise brief campaign in Grenada is of interest to those studying the Gulf War and the end of the Cold War.

This post examines Urgent Fury and its planning, providing the reader with the essential battle-narrative and conclusions required to understand the nature of the conflict and judge why, in a House Appropriations Committee meeting on 26 February 1986, Secretary of the Army John Marsh and Chief of Staff of the Army General John Wickham testified that Urgent Fury had been a great success and, as General Wickham put it, “…a whale of a good job”.[xiv] Likewise, the seventh edition of the Marine Officer’s Guide describes Urgent Fury as a, “coup de main”. On the other hand, Norman Schwarzkopf would later write that, “the coup de main had failed utterly” and Sean Naylor, in his history of JSOC, described Urgent Fury as, “a fiasco”.[xv]

Bishop.jpg

Maurice Bishop, Revolutionary Prime Minister of Grenada (1979 – 1983)

Ultimately a successful joint campaign, the brief struggle over the future of Grenada is a watershed moment in the history of the Caribbean during the Cold War.[x] The United States was set to reassert itself through a massive conventional arms buildup and a more aggressive foreign policy.[xi] Utilizing a combined force architecture that included Navy, Marines, Army Rangers, Airborne, and JSOC Special Operations Forces (SOF), components, the planning and execution of Operation Urgent Fury should not lightly be dismissed as a brief example of US imperialism or a distraction in some calculated Machiavellian dry-run for a futuristic cold-war doctrine.[xii]

Far from it, the Caribbean leaders outside of Cuba could see where the political situation in Grenada was heading. The US, with historical interest in the integrity of the Caribbean states, especially those members of the British Commonwealth, including Grenada, had a responsibility to protect the islands from internal conflict and their exploitation by the Soviet Union. The United States was requested to enable what the local Caribbean forces did not have the capacity to implement: the capture of the traitorous members of Bishop’s cabinet, and the People’s Revolutionary Army (PRA) junta who had overthrown the island’s government and murdered Maurice Bishop.

PART ONE

 A Revolutionary Spark

Grenada in 1983 was a favourite tourist destination, only 133 square miles in size, with a population of 110,000. Grenada’s significant domestic product was nutmeg, of which the island produced a third of the world’s supply. Grenada had been a French colony until captured by Admiral Rodney’s forces in February 1762 and then ceded to Great Britain by the Treaty of Paris at the end of the Seven Years War.[xvi] Although briefly captured by France during the American Revolutionary War, the island remained a member of the British Commonwealth into the 20th century. In 1983 Grenada was home to more than 600 medical students at the island’s St. George’s University, comprising the majority of the 800 Americans and 120 other foreign nationals then visiting Grenada.

grenadabishopcastroortega

Daniel Ortega, Maurice Bishop and Fidel Castro.

In March 1979 Maurice Bishop’s New JEWEL (Joint Endeavour for Welfare, Education, and Liberation) movement, including Colonel Hudson Austin (chief of the Grenadian armed forces), seized power in a bloodless coup, overthrowing the corrupt Sir Eric Gairy. 1979 was a critical year in the Cold War. That year the Somoza family, led by Anastasio Somiza, was overthrown in Nicaragua, General Romero was ousted by a coup In El Salvador,[xvii] and Ayatollah Khomeini returned to head the revolutionary government in Iran.

Fidel-Castro-and-Maurice-BishopCastroBishop.jpg

Fidel Castro greeting Maurice Bishop; The Grenada Papers by Paul Seabury and Walter McDougall (1984).

In Havana, Castro’s Cuba quickly aligned with Bishop’s Marxist government, agreeing to finance the construction of a modern airport at Point Salines on the southern-most tip Grenada.[xviii] US analysts believed this airfield, scheduled for completed in January 1984,[xix] would enable the operation of MiG-23s from Grenada, while also acting as a staging ground for guerrilla deployments to Central America and West Africa.[xx]

letterstoandropov.jpg

Letters from the New JEWEL government to Yuri Andropov, then the Chairman of the State Security Committee of the Politburo, and the future General Secretary of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union, requesting counter-intelligence training. Also a letter to the Ministry of Defence of the USSR requesting military training. From The Grenada Papers by Paul Seabury and Walter McDougall (1984).

Bishop, despite his revolutionary Marxism, had recently shown signs of gravitating towards the United States, and had met with US officials in Washington in June 1983. Although Bishop then met with Castro early in October, hardliners in Bishop’s cabinet now decided to remove him from power. Cuban and Soviet backed Marxist revolutionaries, led by Deputy Prime Minister Bernard Coard and the Leninist General Hudson Austin, placed Bishop under house arrest during the night of 13 October.[xxi]

Spurred by counter-revolutionary broadcasts supporting Bishop from Radio Free Grenada, a mob began to form outside the government run newspaper office. By 18 October General Hudson’s government was in crisis, with five cabinet members, including foreign minister Unison Whiteman having resigned to join the pro-Bishop mob, now more than 1,000 protester strong.

On Wednesday, 19 October 1983, the mob, led by Whiteman, freed Bishop from his house arrest and proceeded to march towards Fort Rupert, the police headquarters, and the entry point to St. George’s harbor. At this point troops loyal to Bernard Coard and General Austin, including armoured personal carriers (APCs), surrounded the mob and opened fire. Bishop and his cabinet were arrested and marched to Fort Rupert where they were executed. 18 people altogether, including education minister Jacqueline Creft and others, were killed.[xxii] General Austin declared himself head of the new Revolutionary Military Council and imposed a 24-hour curfew, in addition to closing the island’s commercial airport at Pearl, Grenville, on the island’s east coast.[xxiii]

coard.jpgAustin.jpg

Bernard Coard, Deputy Prime Minister & General Hudson Austin, Chief of the People’s Revolutionary Army, from the Associated Press newsreel archive.

Fort Rupert.jpg

Fort Rupert being stormed by the coup forces. Soviet BMP armoured vehicles lead the charge to capture Maurice Bishop, who was shortly thereafter executed by the junta. From The Grenada Papers by Paul Seabury and Walter McDougall (1984).

On 20 October Tom Adams, the Prime Minister of Barbados, denounced the violence on Grenada, followed shortly by Prime Minister Eugenia Charles of Dominica.[xxiv] On 21 October it became known, at an OECS meeting held on Barbados, that the US was looking for a reason to intervene in Grenada, and would be willing to do so at the OECS’s behest. A written request for intervention was thus drawn up,[xxv] and on 21 October, Antigua, Dominica, St. Lucia and St. Vincent, supported by Jamaica and Barbados, agreed to respond militarily to the overthrow of Bishop.[xxvi]

Prime Minister Adams of Barbados formally appealed to President Reagan for US military intervention in Grenada on 23 October.[xxvii] The OECS’s eight point request for information was also sent to the US State Department.[xxviii]

grenadaGeographical map of Grenada and the Grenadines from 1990

Grenada’s Governor-General, Sir Paul Scoon, had long before requested American assistance towards countering the rise of Cuban guerrillas on the island. Indeed, fighters from all over the Eastern bloc had been arriving in Grenada, including operatives and technical personal from Cuba, Russia, North Korea, Libya, East Germany and Bulgaria.[xxix] Castro, himself a promoter of Bishop’s government, however, refused to further support Austin,[xxx] no doubt concerned about directly confronting the United States over the crisis.

The Cuban dictator did, however, despatch Colonel Tortolo Comas to organize defensive measures on the island. Colonel Comas’ force included 43 Cuban soldiers and 741 Cuban construction workers, many of whom were also army reservists.[xxxi] Comas organized the Cuban fighters into companies to resist American intervention and deployed Soviet quad 12.7 mm Anti-Aircraft guns around the island, also authorizing the blocking of the runway at Point Salines with heavy equipment.

The People’s Revolutionary Army

PRA.jpgPRA strengh.jpg

From Edgar F. Raines, The Rucksack War (2010). There were about 40 Cuban guerrillas fighters on Grenada, plus handfuls of fighters from the Soviet Union, North Korea, Syria and other Soviet bloc countries. There were 650 Cuban construction workers on the island, many of whom had military reservist training. The PRA was composed of a large battalion of soldiers, more than 450, supported by a small company sized militia.

19 October – 24 October: The Crisis & Planning

The Americans had become aware of the imminent possibility of action on 12 October. Assistant Secretary of State for Inter-American Affairs, Langhorne A. “Tony” Motley, convened the Regional Interagency Group of the National Security Council (NSC),[xxxii] and Motley informed the representative from the Joint Chiefs of Staff (JCS), Colonel James. W. Connally (USAF) – the Chief of the Western Hemisphere Division of the Plans and Policy Directorate – that the Pentagon should begin a planning process in the event a US evacuation were ordered and military support required.[xxxiii]

crisisThe rungs of “Traditional Crises” in Herman Kahn’s On Escalation (1965)

This started the ball rolling, and on 14 October the Latin American desk officer for the NSC, Alphonso Sapia-Bosch, got in touch with Commander Michael K. McQuiston, USN, at the Joint Operations Division (JOD), Operations Directorate (J3), who informed Lieutenant General Richard L. Prillaman, US Army, the Director of Operations, who in turn raised the problem of military intervention with the National Military Command Center. A crisis unit composed of officers from the Western Hemisphere Branch of the JOD, an officer J5, and a member of the Defense Intelligence Agency (DIA) were assembled to consider the possible program of operations.[xxxiv]

Meanwhile, on Barbados, the US Ambassador (also responsible for Grenada) began to receive reports of threats to the US medical students on Grenada. The NSC’s Regional Interagency Group met on 17 October to consider the ambassador’s reports, and, during this meeting, Assistant Secretary of State Motley asked Lt. General Jack N. Merritt (US Army), the Director of the Joint Staff, to prepare plans for a military rescue of the students. On 18 October Lt. General Merritt asked Lt. General Prillaman to contact Admiral Wesley L. McDonald (CINCLANT) to consider options.[xxxv] The group met again on 19 October, with Vice Admiral Arthur S. Moreau Jr., Assistant to the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, in attendance.

The Deputy Director of the State Department’s Office of Caribbean Affairs, Richard Brown, briefed the group, specifically mentioning that at least 600 Cubans, mainly workers for the Point Salines airfield construction, were on the island, and two Cuban vessels were currently moored in St. George’s Harbor. At this point Vice Admiral Moreau pointed out that the JCS crisis unit was working on the problem, and that Lt. General Prillaman was monitoring the situation and in touch with USCINCLANT. It was decided to brief the Vice President (Special Situation Group) and the President (National Security Planning Group) to get authorization for military action.[xxxvi]

800px-Gen_John_Vessey_Jr.JPGJames Watkins

General John W. Vessey, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of StaffAdmiral James D. Watkins, Chief of Naval Operations, 1982 – 1986

That evening Lt. General Prillaman sent Admiral McDonald the JSC Chairman’s warning order, requiring Admiral McDonald to submit plans covering various evacuation contingencies by the morning of the 20th. Readiness Command (USCINCRED) and Military Airlift Command (USCINCMAC) were to be in close touch with USCINCLANT. This planning group now requested DIA photoreconnaissance coverage of Grenada.[xxxvii]

As it happened, USLANTCOM had carried out rescue operation exercises involving Ranger and Marine landings in the Caribbean back in August 1981, and thus Admiral McDonald was able to reply speedily to the JCS, providing a full briefing to the Chairman later on the 20th. The need for higher resolution photography of Grenada, combined with better information on Grenadian forces (believed to number 1,200 regulars from the People’s Revolutionary Army (PRA), 2,500 – 5,000 militia, and four torpedo boats) was paramount.[xxxviii] It was known from DIA sources that a Cuban vessel (Vietnam Heroica) had delivered Cuban workers to the Point Salines airfield site, and that on 13 October more Cuban ships had delivered arms caches to the island.

Given the unknown nature of possible resistance on Grenada, the Atlantic Command staff recommended two general positions: first, diplomatic negotiations followed by civilian airlift of the hostages, if possible, or, in the event of opposition, the deployment of Marine Amphibious Ready Group (MARG) 1-84 and the USS Independence battle group, both in the process of transiting from the continental United States to Lebanon, with the possibility of a follow-on attack by multiple airborne forces from USREDCOM.[xxxix]

Chairman of the Joint Chiefs, General Vessey, now briefed the Crisis Pre-Planning Group (CPPG) of the National Security Council, in a meeting chaired by Rear Admiral John M. Poindexter (USN), the Military Assistant to the NSC (and Bud McFarlane’s deputy). Also present were John McMahan, the Deputy Director of the CIA, and Lawrence S. Eagleburger, Under Secretary of State for Political Affairs, Assistant Secretary of State Langhorne A. Motley, the CIA’s Latin American specialist, Constantine Menges, and Lieutenant Colonel Oliver North.[xl] This meeting essentially passed the buck up to the Special Situation Group (SSG),[xli] although the lack of intelligence on Grenadian defences was discussed, with the CIA being requested to provide additional information. The CIA, however, had no agents actually in Grenada. Eventually the Defense Intelligence Agency (DIA) was contacted to provide immediate intelligence and, under this authorization, TR-1 and SR-71 overflights took place.[xlii] Although the results of these high-altitude reconnaissance missions were passed on to JSOC, they did not reach the assault force in time for the invasion.

At 6 pm on the 20th the Special Situation Group of the National Security Council was convened by the Vice President. Present at that meeting were Secretary of State George P. Shultz and General Vessey, who briefed Vice President Bush, the Secretary of Defense (Caspar Weinberger), the Director Central Intelligence (William Joseph Casey), the Counselor to the President (Edwin Meese), the President’s Chief of Staff (James Baker), the Deputy Chief of Staff (Michael Deaver), and the National Security Advisor (Robert McFarlane) on the Grenada situation. The Vice President approved an expanded mission including “neutralization” of the Grenadian forces, although both “forceful extraction” and “surgical strike” plans were also considered.[xliii] Both Casey and Shultz favoured an invasion followed by the restoration of democracy, a plan supported by the CIA’s Menges.[xliv]

The timeframe was an issue, as the forces diverted to Grenada were needed to relieve MARG 2-83 in Lebanon, while the naval forces were required for the CRISEX ’83 exercise to be held with Spain. Nevertheless, as evening fell on 20 October, orders were issued to divert the task force.

Combined Joint Task Force 120

At 3 am on October 21st MARG 1-84 started heading in the direction of Puerto Rico, while the CV-62 (USS Independence) group made for Dominica.[xlv] At 10 pm on 22 October orders were received for the entire force to combine near Grenada.[xlvi]

Urgent Fury org.jpgOrganization Chart for Operation Urgent Fury, reproduced from Edgar Raines, The Rucksack War (2010).

General Vessey was in contact with Admiral McDonald the morning of the 21st by which time it had been decided to add the two battalions of US Army Rangers and components of the 82nd Airborne Division to the invasion force. Vessey, due to attend a speaking engagement that evening, was briefly replaced by Admiral James D. Watkins the Chief of Naval Operations, to continue the planning processes. By now it was suspected that as many as 240 Cuban soldiers were on Grenada, plus as many as 50 Soviet citizens.[xlvii]

Vessey, about to depart for Chicago, contacted Atlantic Command, Military Airlift Command, Readiness Command and JSOC, instructing them to manage the deployment of Rangers, airborne and special operations forces to Grenada, in conjunction with the CINCLANT naval force deployments, all while maintaining operational secrecy and security. Grenada’s message traffic, being intercepted at the Pentagon, was, at Lt. General Prillaman’s behest, transferred to SPECAT (Special Category restrictions) channels. This was prudent, and helped to reduce later leaks, however, the story was nevertheless about to break: CBS had gotten wind of the Task Force diversion and ran the story on the 21 October evening news.[xlviii] Staff planners from the Rangers, JSOC, and 82nd Airborne were already aboard flights to Norfolk to meet with planners from the USMC, MAC and Atlantic Command headquarters.

Norfolk.jpg23mcdonald_190.jpg

Atlantic Command, Norfolk, Virginia. From Edgar F. Raines, The Rucksack War (2010). & Admiral Wesley L. McDonald, CINCLANT, October 1983

Meanwhile, Donald Cruz, the consular officer in Barbados, traveled to Grenada to meet with Major Leon Cornwall, a senior figure in the Revolutionary Military Council. Cruz met with the students at St. George’s university, who expressed concern about their situation. Cruz then departed by plane after it was cleared for Grenadian airspace.[xlix] At Bridgetown, Barbados, the OECS convened, and invoked Article 8 of the 1981 treaty, requesting the intervention of Barbados, Jamaica and the US in a multinational peacekeeping effort aimed at Grenada. Governor-General Sir Paul Scoon requested OECS support to liberate the island. These requests were relayed to the US State Department from Barbados between 21 and 22 October.

On the evening of the 21st Constantine Menges and Lt. Colonel Oliver North drafted an invasion order under the authority of a National Security Decision Directive for Reagan to sign. The order was sent to the President in Augusta, Georgia, but Reagan delayed.[l]

JCS.jpgThe Joint Chiefs of Staff, from Edgar F. Raines, The Rucksack War (2010). Vessey seated.

At 1:30 in the morning of 22 October, General Vessey returned to Washington, and the SSG was convened. At 4:30 am, as we have seen, the SSG phoned President Reagan, Secretary of State Shultz and National Security Advisor McFarlane, who were staying at the Eisenhower cottage at the Augusta Country Club in Atlanta. A teleconference was arranged for the complete National Security Planning Group at 9 am.[li] In that conference, Bush, Poindexter, McMahon, Motely, Menges and North consulted with Reagan, Shultz and McFarlane. By 11:30 am the NSC had reached a consensus decision on intervention.[lii]

The Joint Chiefs had prepared two force packages, utilizing combinations of Army Rangers and other JSOC elements (Team Delta and Navy SEALs), supported by a Marine Corps landing and 82nd Airborne assault. The primary objectives involved capturing the Port Salines and Pearls airfields, followed by capture of the Grenadian capital at St. George’s (including radio station, government buildings and police HQ), the St. George’s medical school, the Grand Anse beach, and then the Grenadian army barracks at Calivigny. All objectives would be secured within the first four hours. The airborne force would then deploy to consolidate and reinforce. D-Day would be Tuesday, 25 October, requiring an action decision no later than 8pm, 22 October.[liii] In fact, the decision for action and the order to carry out Urgent Fury had been issued at 4:45 pm.[liv]

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President Reagan’s evening meeting with the National Security Council in the White House Situation Room, 23 October. George Shultz to Reagan’s left, Vice President Bush to his right.

When Reagan, Shultz and McFarlane arrived back in Washington on the 23rd, they discussed the Lebanon crisis and the Grenada operation. After discussing Lebanon, Secretary of Defense Casper W. Weinberger briefed Reagan on the Grenada plan. Reagan was wary of the risks, both to the medical students, and to the American forces. The Joint Chiefs assured the President that the the risks were marginal.[lv] Reagan signed the formal invasion order.[lvi] With the President’s approval, operation planning kicked into high gear. Secretary Weinberger authorized General Vessey to take control over of the operation, with the objective of speeding the decision cycle now that the political choice for action had been made.[lvii]

As with any action in the Cold War dynamic, American intervention in one hemisphere could prompt a Soviet response elsewhere. Reagan would brief Congress (under Section 3, War Powers Resolution) or inform Congress within 48 hours of the legality of the mission. The State Department would inform the United Nations Security Council and the Organization of American States regarding the justification for the invasion under UN Charter Article 51 and Rio Treaty Article 5. The United Kingdom would also be informed, considering Grenada’s status as a member of the Commonwealth. Shultz argued that Article 22 of the OAS and Article 52 of the UN charter, in addition to Prime Minister Eugenia Charles’ request for American assistance, provided the legal background for the intervention in Grenada.[lviii] With these issues outlined, new intelligence from the DIA (high-altitude reconnaissance) placed Grenadian and Cuban forces at as many as five thousand with eight Soviet made BTR-60 APCs and 18 ZU-23 anti-aircraft guns, in addition to 81-mm mortars and several 75-mm recoilless rifles located around the island.[lix] Grenada had no radar, ships or air units. The National Security Planning Group decided upon a maximum effort utilizing all available assets, and thus issued the Go order to Admiral McDonald.

After concluding his secure telephone call to Admiral McDonald, General Vessey contacted Strategic Air Command (SAC) and informed them of the operation. SAC immediately prepared KC-135 and KC-10 tanker aircraft to support the operation from Robbins Air Force Base, Georgia and Roosevelt Roads Naval Air Station, Puerto Rico. SAC also approved reconnaissance missions over the Eastern Caribbean.[lx]

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Grenada and Carriacou.

On 23 October Secretary Shultz despatched Ambassador Francis J. McNeill, supported by Major General George B. Crist, USMC (future CENTCOM commander), the Vice Director of the Joint Staff, to meet the OECS representatives and determine their willingness to join in a peacekeeping force, coordinated by the State Department, the Joint Chiefs and the CIA.[lxi]

Meanwhile, Admiral McDonald’s staff revised the operational plan, now composed of four phases: Transit, Insertion, Stabilization/Evacuation, and finally, Peacekeeping. The US assault force would manage the first three phases, which essentially amounted to maneuver, special operations forces landing, full invasion, including US Marines, and pacification followed lastly by the OECS force being assembled to act in the constabulary role in the fourth phase during which an interim government would be created.[lxii]

Admiral McDonald flew to Washington to brief the JCS on the evening of the 23rd. He proposed placing Vice Admiral Metcalf (CINC Second Fleet) in command of the Combined Joint Task Force 120.

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Vice Admiral Joseph Metcalf III, Second Fleet, Atlantic Command, selected to command Combined Joint Task Force 120, photographed here in October 1986. & Major General H. Norman Schwarzkopf  (centre, as Lt. General I Corps in 1987) was assigned as the Army – Navy liaison for Atlantic command, and then appointed by Metcalf as the operation Deputy Commander.

The Joint Chiefs were aware that the Navy needed access to consultation from someone with experience commanding combined operations, including Rangers, Airborne and Marines, and decided to appoint an Army-Navy liaison to Metcalf’s staff. On the afternoon of Sunday, 23 October, Major General H. Norman Schwarzkopf, then the divisional commander of the 24th Mechanized Division, received a phone call from Major General Dick Graves, informing him that he was being considered for the position of Army – Navy liaison. Schwarzkopf soon discovered that this operation was the full-scale plan for the Grenada invasion.[lxxx]

urgentfuryUSN.jpgList of USN warships involved in Operation Urgent Fury

The core of the CJTF was Task Group 20.5: the reinforced USS Independence (CV-62) battle group, commanded by Rear Admiral Richard C. Berry. Captain John Maye Quarterman Jr. in USS Guam (LPH-19) provided the base for amphibious operations and the flagship for Vice Admiral Metcalf. Amphibious Squadron Four itself was commanded by Captain Carl R. Erie (Task Force 124), with Commander Richard A. Butler as his chief of staff (Butler would later prove invaluable as one of the few naval officer in the squadron with knowledge of Grenadian waters).[lxvi] Captain David Bennett was also on hand in USS Saipan (LHA-2), part of Destroyer Squadron 24, in addition to two modern nuclear attack submarines (SSNs) amidst a host of destroyers, frigates and landing craft.

USS_Independence_(CV-62)_underway_in_the_Mediterranean_Sea_on_8_December_1983USS Independence, Air Wing CVW-6 and a Wichita-class refueler operating off Lebanon in December 1983.

The JSOC force element, including Rangers, SEALs, Delta, and 160th Aviation Battalion pilots, was designated Task Force 123. JSOC had received the notice to prepare on 21 October.[lxvii] The MH-60A Black Hawk Helicopters from the newly formed 160th Aviation Battalion,[lxviii] composed of pilots selected from brigades of the 101st Airborne division, would lead the way in their battlefield debut. Delta Force and US Army Rangers, received orders to surge on 23 October, deploying to Barbados in C-5A aircraft before assembling their seven UH-60 helicopters.[lxix]

USS Independence (CV-62), Task Group 20.5, Carrier Group Four

DN-ST-85-08955.jpegTask Group 20.5 CO, Rear Admiral Richard C. Berry, photographed in 1983, to the left of Vice Admiral Edward Briggs (center), Commander US Surface Forces, Atlantic Fleet)

The centrepiece of the USN task force was Carrier Group Four’s fleet carrier, USS Independence (CV-62), a 60,000 – 79,000 ton Forrestel class aircraft carrier.

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CV-62 photographed alongside USS Savannah, (AOR-4), in the early 1980sCV-62 CO, Captain William Adam Dougherty Jr. (seen here as Rear Admiral)

CJTF 120 was created on 23 October with Vice Admiral Joseph Metcalf, Second Fleet, appointed as Operation Urgent Fury’s commander. Metcalf’s amphibious force was designated Task Force 124, placed under the command of Captain Carl R. Erie, with attached 22nd Marine Amphibious Unit under Colonel James P. Faulkner.[lxiii] Additional elements included Task Force 121, which was comprised of components of the 82nd Airborne. Major General Edward Trobaugh, commander 82nd Airborne Division, had received the warning order on 22 October. The Division Ready Brigade at the time was 2nd Brigade’s three battalions, 2/325th, 3/325th, 2/508th, plus fire-support from B & C batteries 1/320th AFAB.[lxiv]

82nd Airborne Division, US Army

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82nd Airborne troopers waiting to deploy for Operation Urgent Fury air assault, MSG Dave Goldie colleciton. & Major General Edward Trobaugh, CO 82nd Airborne Division.

airborne4.jpgB Company, 2nd Battalion, 505th, December 1983 in Grenada, reproduced in Stephen Trujilo, Grenada Raiders (2017). Major Edward Trobaugh’s 82nd Airborne Division’s Ready Brigade, three battalions of the 2nd Brigade, 2/325th, 3/325th, 2/508th and B & C batteries 1/320th AFAB.

82nd Org.jpg

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Organization of the 82nd Airborne Division, with units then on readiness selected for Urgent Fury. From Edgar F. Raines, The Rucksack War (2010).

In addition to SAC and MAC air support, the USAF would provided Task Force 126: eight F-15s from the 33rd Tactical Fighter Wing and four E-3As from the 552nd Airborne Warning and Control System (AWACS) detachment, with the explicit objective of preventing Cuban