Friday, 8 May 2015


When Italy declared war on June 10, 1940 against Britain and France, The British position in North Africa seemed hopelessly outmatched. UK Army General Percival Wavell commanded 40,000 Dominion soldiers caught between 200,000 Italian troops in Libya and 250,000 to the south in Ethiopia and Somaliland.

Wavell made a bold gamble on June 10, sending a small force into Libya to show the flag. This was the opening battle in a long campaign that would frustrate both the Allied and the Axis.above from plastic warriors blog

The Italians under Marshal d’Armata Rodolfo Graziani invaded and occupied British Somaliland on August 17, 1940, possibly cutting off American merchant transit through the Red Sea and cutting of the British from India. On September 13, Graziani reluctantly invaded Egypt under pressure from Mussolini.

Wavell sent 30,000 troops on December 9 under UK Army General Richard O’Connor to reclaim Sidi Barrani, Egypt, 65 miles inside Egypt’s border with Libya. The Italians had heavily fortified the town, but the British caught them by surprise and took 20,000 prisoners. The enterprising O’Connor then turned the large-scale raid into a full-scale invasion of Libya, taking more prisoners and occupying Tobruk , Benghazi, and the whole of the Libyan province of Cyrenaica. 130,000 Italian prisoners march towards Egypt.

Then, a major shift in the balance of power occurred. Wavell was ordered to cut back his forces and send them to Greece. Hitler sent the Afrika Korps to help the Italians, led by the effective Generalleutnant Erwin Rommel. Rommel arrived on February 12, 1941. Technically under Italian command, Rommel led an armored attack that smashed through the smaller British force, capturing O’Connor and almost all of the British conquests except for the embattled port of Tobruk. The British settled in for a long siege.

Churchill overruled his advisors and sent precious military supplies and weapons to Wavell, who tried twice to beat his way through Rommel to Tobruk. Rommel developed new doctrines of desert warfare, using antiaircraft guns against tanks and employing Blitzkrieg tactics to outflank the British. Wavell had to resign in the face of these defeats.

General Sir Claude Auchinleck arrived in November 1941. The UK Desert Force became the UK Eighth Army. In Operation Crusader, he lifted the 242-day siege of Tobruk, drove Rommel back against El Agheila, and destroyed a quarter of the Afrika Korps and almost half of the Italian Army in LibyaThe Italians declared war on Britain and France on 10 June 1940 and in September began an advance into Egypt. Initial successes enabled them to reach Sidi Barrani, an advance of about 50 kilometres but on 10 December British and Indian troops counter attacked and forced them back to Bardia.

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On 3 January 1941 the 6th Division launched an attack on Bardia, which was quickly taken for the loss of 130 killed and 326 wounded. Two days later, the 6th was outside Tobruk, well into Cyrenaica. Tobruk, a major Italian fortress, was attacked on 21 January and captured the next day, with 49 Australians killed and 306 wounded.The retreating enemy was pursued relentlessly and by 6 February, the 6th Division had reached Benghazi. On 9 March the 9th Division began to relieve the 6th. In two months an Italian Army of ten divisions, some 1300 guns and 400 tanks had been destroyed.

Change was soon to occur, with advance elements of the German Afrika Korps landing in North Africa during late February. Their advance forced the withdrawal of British and Dominion troops from most of their recently captured territory in Cyrenaica. By 11 April, the 9th Division, 18th Infantry Brigade and British armoured and artillery units were besieged in Tobruk, with German forces as far forward as the Egyptian frontier.

Tobruk was heavily attacked on 30 April but, although a salient was forced on the defences, the garrison held firm. Another attack on 16 May was similarly defeated while the salient was steadily reduced by intense patrolling. During September and October the Australians were relieved for a well-earned rest. Some 3000 casualties had been sustained and 941 taken prisoner.

Further east, following a coup d’etat by Rashid Ali in early May, Iraq abrogated its treaty with Britain. The Iraqi Army was quickly defeated by British and Kurdish troops and the internal situation stabilised. However, the risk of German intervention, not just in Iraq but in areas under Vichy French control; made it strategically necessary to take control of Syria as well.

Syria was invaded on 8 June by the 7th Division (less 18th Brigade in Tobruk), together with one Indian and two Free French brigades. The attack followed three routes: the direct road to Damascus, through the mountains to the Damascus/ Beirut road at Zahle, and the coast road to Beirut. The Vichy French fought courageously, but by 15 June the allied force had reached the line Kiswe-Merdjayoun-Jezzine-Sidon.

Despite a strong Vichy counter-attack in the vicinity of Merdjayoun, Damascus was captured on 21 June. Fighting continued until 12 July when the Vichy French were granted an armistice. This campaign resulted in 1600 Australian casualties, including 416 killed in action.

In addition to their military reversals in North Africa in February and March 1941, the Italians were in danger of being driven out of Greece. On 1 March 1941 German forces had entered Bulgaria and, on 6 April, Yugoslavia. Allied assistance had been ordered to Greece, and by 3 April a British armoured brigade and the ANZAC Corps (most of the 6th Australian Division and the New Zealand Division ) had arrived. On 10 April elements of this force made contact with the Germans some fifteen kilometres south of the Yugoslav.

Outnumbered and with the enemy in total control of the air, the force was forced back through the Aliakmon and Thermopylae Lines to Athens area. Resistance finally collapsed but the skill and resolution of the Navy ensured that almost every fighting unit was evacuated, by 28 April, to Egypt or Crete.

On 20 May Germany launched a parachute and airborne attack on Crete. Awaiting them was an 'ad hoc' mixed force of British, New Zealand, Australian and Greek troops, most recent evacuees from Greece, with little heavy equipment and almost no air support. By 26 May the position of the outnumbered allies was hopeless and evacuation ordered. Despite crippling losses the Navy saved 15,000 troops. A further 12,000 including 3000 Australians could not be evacuated and were taken prisoner.

Following the entry of Japan into the war on 7 December 1941, the 6th and 7th Divisions returned to Australia. The 9th Division remained in the Middle East. Late in May 1942 reinforced Axis forces began to advance in the Western Desert, and by 20-21 June had recaptured Tobruk. They were finally halted by three days of intense fighting at the El Alamein defensive positions, only some 90 kilometres of Alexandria., The 9th Division, then in Syria awaiting transport to Australia, was hurried forward to El Alamein. On 30 August the Axis forces again attacked but were defeated at Alam el Halfa. The German General von Mellenthin was later to describe this action as 'the turning point of the desert war’.

On 23 October the 8th Army attacked at El Alamein, the battle reaching a climax a week later. An attack by the 9th Division north toward the sea gained ground which successfully held against heavy German counter-attacks. After intense effort British armoured forces then broke out through the corridor originally secured by the 9th Division and by 9 November the Axis forces were in full retreat. This success released the 9th Division to return to Australia, where it arrived in February 1943. Australian losses for the whole period of the El Alamein operations from 7 July were 5809, including 1225 dead, 3638 wounded and 946 taken prisoner.


Wednesday, 6 May 2015

death march of the goths

The summer and fall of 376, tens of thousands of displaced Goths and other tribes arrived on the Danube River, on the border of the Roman Empire, requesting asylum from the Huns. Fritigern, a leader of the Thervingi, appealed to the Roman emperor Valens to be allowed to settle with his people on the south bank of the Danube, where they hoped to find refuge from the Huns, who lacked the ability to cross the wide river in force. Valens permitted this, and even helped the Goths cross the river, probably at the fortress of Durostorum (modern Silistra), Bulgaria.
Valens promised the Goths farming land, grain rations, and protection under the Roman armies as foederati. His major reasons for quickly accepting the Goths into Roman territory were to increase the size of his army, and to gain a new tax base to increase his treasury.
The selection of Goths that were allowed to cross the Danube was unforgiving: the weak, old, and sickly were left on the far bank to fend for themselves against the Huns.The ones that crossed were supposed to have their weapons confiscated;however, the Romans in charge accepted bribes to allow the Goths to retain their weapons.The Huns were a nomadic group of people who are known to have lived in Eastern Europe, the Caucasus, and Central Asia between the 1st century AD and the 7th century. They were first reported living east of the Volga Ulyanovsk-oliv.jpgVolga River, in an area that was part of Scythia at the time; the Huns' arrival is associated with the migration westward of a Scythian people, the Alans.(The Alans, or the Alani, occasionally termed Alauni or Halani or Yancai were an Iraniannomadic pastoral people of antiquity.
The Alans are first mentioned by Chinese authors in the 1st century BC as living near the Aral Sea AralSea1989 2014.jpgas vassals of the Kangju under the name of Yancai, and were later mentioned by Romanauthors in the 1st century AD.At the time they settled the region north of the Black Sea, and frequently raided the Parthian Empire and the Caucasian provinces of the Roman Empire.
Upon the Hunnic defeat of the Goths on the Pontic Steppe around 375 AD, many of the Alans migrated westwards along with other Germanic tribes.Picture They crossed the Rhine in 406 AD along with the Vandals and Suebi, settling in OrléansThe statue of Jeanne d'Arc, Place du Martroi. and Valence. Around 409 AD they joined the Vandals and Suebi in the crossing of the Pyrenees into the Iberian Peninsula, settling inLusitania and Carthaginiensis.The Iberian Alans were soundly defeated by the Visigoths 418 AD, and subsequently surrendered their authority to the Hasdingi Vandals. In 428 AD, the Vandals and Alans crossed the Strait of Gibraltar into North Africa, where they founded apowerful kingdom which lasted until its conquest by the Byzantine Emperor Justinian I Meister von San Vitale in Ravenna.jpgin the 6th century AD.
The Alans who remained under Hunnic rule are said to be the ancestors of the modern Ossetians.
The Alans spoke an Eastern Iranian language which derived from Scytho-Sarmatian and which in turn evolved into modern Ossetian. They were first mentioned as Hunnoi by Tacitus. In 91 AD, the Huns were said to be living near the Caspian Sea and by about 150 AD had migrated southeast into the Caucasus.) By 370 AD, the Huns had established a vast, if short-lived, dominion in Europe

With so many people in such a small area, famine struck the Goths, and Rome was unable to supply them with either the food they were promised or the land; they herded the Goths into a temporary holding area surrounded by an armed Roman garrison. There was only enough grain left for the Roman garrison, and so they simply let the Goths starve. The Romans provided a grim alternative: the trade of slaves (often children and young women) for dog meat. When Fritigern appealed to Valens for help, he was told that his people would find food and trade in the markets of the distant city of MarcianopleHaving no alternative, some of the Goths trekked south in a death march, losing the sickly and old along the path.When they finally reached Marcianople's gates, they were barred by the city's military garrison and denied entry; to add insult to injury, the Romans unsuccessfully tried to assassinate the Goth leaders during a banquet. Open revolt began. The main body of Goths spent the rest of 376 and early 377 near the Danube plundering food from the immediate region. Roman garrisons were able to defend isolated forts but most of the country was vulnerable to Gothic plunder.In late winter 377 war began in earnest and would last for six years before peace would be restored in 382. The remaining Goths moved south from the Danube to Marcianople, and next appeared near Adrianople. The Roman response was to send a force under Valens to meet and defeat the Goths. In 378 Valens moved north from Constantinople and was defeated (and himself killed) at the Battle of Adrianople (378) (modern Edirne). Selimiye Mosque, commissioned by Selim II and designed by Mimar Sinan in 1575.The victory gave the Goths freedom to roam at will, plundering throughout Thrace for the rest of 378. In 379 the Goths met only light Roman resistance and advanced north-west into Dacia, plundering that region.In 380 the Goths divided into Terving and Greuthung armies, in part because of the difficulty of keeping such a large number supplied. The Greuthungi moved north into Pannonia where they were defeated by western emperor Gratian

( LatinFlavius Gratianus Augustus; 18 April/23 May 359 – 25 August 383) was Roman emperorfrom 375 to 383. The eldest son of Valentinian I, during his youth Gratian accompanied his father on several campaigns along the RhineLoreley mit tal von linker rheinseite.jpg and Danube frontiers. Upon the death of Valentinian in 375, Gratian's brother Valentinian IIStatue of emperor Valentinian II detail.JPG was declared emperor by his father's soldiers. In 378, Gratian's generals won a decisive victory over the Lentienses, a branch of the Alamanni, at the Battle of Argentovaria. Gratian subsequently led a campaign across the Rhine, the last emperor to do so, and attacked the Lentienses, forcing the tribe to surrender. That same year, his uncle Valens was killed in the Battle of Adrianople against the Goths – making Gratian essentially ruler of the entire Roman Empire. He favoured Christianity over traditional Roman religion, refusing the divine attributes of the Emperors and removing theAltar of Victory from the Roman Senate.)Gratian was the son of Emperor Valentinian  by Marina Severa, and was born at Sirmium (now Sremska Mitrovica, Serbia) in Pannonia. He was named after his grandfather Gratian the Elder. Gratian was first married to Flavia Maxima Constantia, daughter of Constantius II.Bust of Constantius II (Mary Harrsch).jpg His second wife was Laeta. Both marriages remained childless. His stepmother was Empress Justina and his paternal half siblings were Emperor Valentinian II, Galla and Justa.

On 4 August 367 he received from his father the title of Augustus. On the death of Valentinian (17 November 375), the troops in Pannonia proclaimed his infant son (by a second wife Justina) emperor under the title of Valentinian II.
Gratian acquiesced in their choice; reserving for himself the administration of theGallic provinces, he handed over Italy, Illyricum and Africa to Valentinian and his mother, who fixed their residence at Mediolanum. The division, however, was merely nominal, and the real authority remained in the hands of Gratian.
Gratian's general Mallobaudes, a king of the Franks, and Naniemus, completely defeated the Lentienses, the southernmost branch of the Alamanni, in May 378 at the Battle of Argentovaria. Upon receiving news of the victory, Gratian personally led a campaign across the Upper Rhine into the territory of the Lentienses. After initial trouble facing the Lentienses on high ground, Gratian blockaded the enemy instead and received their surrender. The Lentienses were forced to supply young men to be levied into the Roman army, while the remainder were allowed to return home. Later that year, Valens met his death in theBattle of Adrianople on 9 August. Valens refused to wait for Gratian and his army to arrive and assist in defeating the host of GothsAlans and Huns; as a result, two-thirds of the eastern Roman army were killed as well.
In the same year, the government of the Eastern Empire devolved upon Gratian, but feeling himself unable to resist unaided the incursions of the barbarians, he promoted Theodosius I on 19 January 379 to govern that portion of the Empire. Gratianus and Theodosius then cleared the Illyricum of barbarians in the Gothic War (376-382).
For some years Gratian governed the Empire with energy and success but gradually sank into indolence, occupying himself chiefly with the pleasures of the chase, and became a tool in the hands of the Frankish general Merobaudes and bishop St. Ambrose of Milan.
By taking into his personal service a body of Alans, and appearing in public in the dress of a Scythian warrior, after the disaster of the Battle of Adrianople, he aroused the contempt and resentment of his Roman troops. A Roman general named Magnus Maximus took advantage of this feeling to raise the standard of revolt in Britain and invaded Gaul with a large army. Gratian, who was then in Paris, being deserted by his troops, fled to Lyon. There, through the treachery of the governor, Gratian was delivered over to one of the rebel generals, Andragathius, and assassinated on 25 August 383.

The reign of Gratian forms an important epoch in ecclesiastical history, since during that period Nicene Christianity for the first time became dominant throughout the empire.
Gratian also published an edict that all their subjects should profess the faith of the bishops of Rome and Alexandria (i.e., the Nicene faith). The move was mainly thrust at the various beliefs that had arisen out of Arianism, but smaller dissident sects, such as the Macedonians, were also prohibited.

Gratian, under the influence of his chief advisor the Bishop of Milan Ambrose, took active steps to repress Pagan worship.
 This brought to an end a period of widespread, if unofficial, religious tolerance that had existed since the time of Julian. "In the long truce between the hostile camps", writes historian Samuel Dill "the pagan, the sceptic, even the formal, the lukewarm Christian, may have come to dream of a mutual toleration which would leave the ancient forms undisturbed but such men, living in a world of literary and antiquarian illusions, know little of the inner forces of the new Christian movement."
In 382, Gratian appropriated the income of the Pagan priests and Vestal Virgins, forbade legacies of real property to them and abolished other privileges belonging to the Vestals and to the pontiffs. He confiscated the personal possessions of the colleges of Pagan priests, which also lost all their privileges and immunities. Gratian declared that all of the Pagan temples and shrines were to be confiscated by the government and that their revenues were to be joined to the property of the royal treasury.
He ordered another removal of the Altar of Victory from the Senate House at Rome, despite protests of the pagan members of the Senate, and confiscated its revenues. Pagan Senators responded by sending an appeal to Gratian, reminding him that he was still the Pontifex Maximus and that it was his duty to see that the Pagan rites were properly performed. They appealed to Gratian to restore the Altar of Victory and the rights and privileges of the Vestal Virgins and priestly colleges. Gratian, at the urging of Ambrose, did not grant an audience to the Pagan Senators. In response to being reminded by the Pagans that he was still the head of the ancestral religion, Gratian refused to wear the insignia of the Pontifex Maximus as unbefitting a Christian, renouncing the title and office of Pontifex Maximus under the influence of Ambrose, declaring that it was unsuitable for a Christian to hold this office. Gratian was quickly faced with a revolt from Magnus Maximus to the throne because he was more sympathetic to the Pagan cause.
Notwithstanding his actions, Gratian was still deified after his death.

The Tervingi under Fritigern moved south and east to Macedonia, where they took "protection money" from towns and cities rather than sacking them outright. In 381, forces of the western Empire drove the Goths back to Thrace, where finally in 382, peace was made on October 3.By the end of the war, the Goths had killed a Roman emperor, destroyed a Roman army and laid waste large tracts of the Roman Balkans, much of which never recovered. The Roman Empire had for the first time negotiated a peace settlement with an autonomous barbarian tribe inside the borders of the Empire, a situation that a generation before would have been unthinkable.The lesson was not lost on other tribes, as well as the Goths themselves, who would not remain peaceful for long. Within a hundred years the Western Empire would collapse under the pressure of continued invasions as the Empire was carved up into barbarian kingdoms.

Sunday, 3 May 2015


All soldiers are sold unpainted unless you ask first.
toy soldiers are painted (these are the garibaldi series.
a compendium of the soldiers I have for sale at the moment all designed by myself and made in the u.k. These pieces are based on a tale told by RIFLEMAN Harris. all pieces are 10.00 and build into a set of 7 pieces.Apart from these I have Terence Hill character from french foreign Legion film MARCH OR DIE firing machine gun plus US/Mexican war 8 figures here plus Garibaldi in naples. all sets come in wooden boxes and we are the best value of any company.Post 10 per cent or cost. To the USA its just 5% at the moment as a way of enticing our USA friends.You may purchase any of the soldiers here in kit form.

The Recollections of Rifleman Harris is a memoir published in 1848 of the experiences of an enlisted soldier in the 95th Regiment of Foot in the British Army during the Napoleonic Wars. The eponymous soldier was Benjamin Randell Harris, a private who joined the regiment in 1803 and served in many of the early campaigns in the Peninsula War. In the mid-1830s, Harris was working as acobbler in London when he met an acquaintance, Captain Henry Curling, who asked him to dictate an account of his experiences of army life. This account was then held by Curling until 1848, when he succeeded in getting the manuscript published, preserving one of the very few surviving accounts of military service in this era from a private soldier.The account begins with a description of Harris’ recruitment in the army via the militia and the 66th Regiment of Foot in Stalbridge, from where he was sent on garrison duty to Ireland and joined the 95th Rifles. The account reveals many details of army life in the period, including a graphic depiction of an execution by firing squad and a description of the actions and progress of a recruiting party through Ireland, which reveals the endemic alcoholism and religious rivalry which Ireland and the army of the time was subject to. Harris notes particular difficulty in separating Catholic and Protestant Irish recruits.

Harris was sent to Denmark in 1807, where he participated in the campaign which surrounded the bombardment of Copenhagen,Copenhagen on fire 1807 by CW Eckersberg.jpg including seeing his first fighting near KøgeandKøge Torv  with its statue of Frederick VII observing Congreve rockets in action for the first time. Harris also recounts further experiences of drunkenness and ill-discipline amongst the largely inexperienced soldiery. He also served in 1808 with several men who had participated in the South American expedition of 1807La Reconquista de Buenos Aires.jpg, and offers comment and anecdotes on that campaign and the subsequent trial of General John Whitelocke,John whitelocke.jpg whom Harris holds in contempt.

In the summer of 1808 Harris was dispatched to Portugal to participate in the opening actions of the Peninsula War, seeing action in the opening skirmish at Óbidos and subsequently the Battle of Rolica, where Harris’ unit was heavily engaged and Harris offers a vivid description of the engagement, at which a number of his close friends were killed. This is followed by a description of the Battle of Vimeiro Batalha do Vimeiro.jpgwhere he was again heavily engaged and follows the army on the ensuing march to Salamanca View of Salamancaand the clash with the French at Sahagún. This is followed by a graphic depiction of the horrific march northwards during the Galician campaign culminating in the Battle of Corunna.36 214430~death-of-sir-john-moore-(1761-1809)-january-17th-1809,-from-'the-martial-achievements-of-great-britain-and-her-allies-from-1799-.jpg Harris and his regiment were amongst the final troops evacuated from the beaches, and they returned to England where Harris served in recruitment and training positions, thus providing readers with a rare insight into rural Georgian England from a lower class perspective.

From England Harris and the 95th were sent to Walcheren to participate in the catastrophic Walcheren Expedition. The narrator acutely demonstrates the squalid conditions and indecisive generalship which led to the ensuing disaster in the marshy land and high summer of Holland. Harris himself fell ill from the ague which killed two thirds of the expeditionary force, and thus also provides an insight into the medical care and treatments available to soldiers during the Georgian period, a disease from which he never fully recovered. For the next three years, despite determined efforts to rejoin his unit in Spain, Harris was unable to participate in the wars due to his recurring malarial fevers. During this period of inactivity and ill-health at the depot in Hythe, Harris recounts many stories told to him by his comrades and contemporaries of their service on the Peninsula, including tales of the Siege of Badajoz, by Richard Caton Woodville Jr.jpgSiege of Badajoz and the Siege of San Sebastian.
In 1813 and 1814, Harris was attached to the 8th Veteran's Battalion based in London, having been rejected from foreign service by the Duke of Wellington, who decreed no survivors of Walcheren were to serve in his army as none were fit for marching or fighting. There he served alongside several detachments of French deserters, again witnessing the frequent brutal punishment of the day, when a man was given 700 lashes for desertion. Stricken with illness, he was unable to rejoin his regiment during the Hundred DaysCampaign and thus forfeited his pension. Nonetheless, Harris’ final words on the subject are very revealing. "I enjoyed life more whilst on active service than I have ever done since, and I look back on my time spent on the fields of the Peninsula as the only part worthy of remembr
The book is perhaps most important in the manner in which it provides the viewpoint of one of Wellington's foot soldiers at a time when so many were illiterate. Whilst many officers kept diaries or wrote memoirs of their service, ‘’The Recollections of Rifleman Harris’’ is rare because unlike the grand actions or great people recalled by his superiors, Harris mentions dozens of men whose history is no longer remembered and whose names would otherwise be lost, and records the details of daily ennui with interesting and colloquial prose. He describes medicine from a patients’ point of view, punishment from a friend of the victim's view and military life from the bottom up, giving otherwise unknown insight to the daily life of a soldier in the Napoleonic Wars, as well as a unique primary source to some of the British campaign.During Harris’ life the book was neither popular nor well-received critically, fading into obscurity for many years before being rediscovered in the early years of the twentieth century. The book has since been republished many times, with a number of commentaries, some rather poorly researched, even reporting Harris’ first name as John.
In more recent times a freshly researched volume by historian Eileen Hathaway has been published which removes many of the older mistakes and contains a foreword by the authorBernard Cornwell, who used the memoir as a source for his Sharpe series, even basing a minor character on Harris, albeit with a very different career. Likewise in the Sharpe TV series, the actor Jason Salkey played a rifleman very loosely based on Benjamin Harris. Salkey later recorded an audiobook version of The Recollections of Rifleman Harris.