Wednesday, 25 April 2018

The Italian Army's Greatest Achievement on British Soil During WWII

Italian PoWs
In World War II the Italians achieved little of merit on the battlefield. Despite having 20 years of Fascist rule to harden their bodies and minds to turn them into ruthless fighting machines, they tended to surrender in droves when not backed up by their formidable German allies. 

However, one major achievement they can claim was pulling off what was by far the largest POW escape in Britain. The site of this daring escapade in Italian military history was Camp 14 at Doonfoot, located on the south side of the town of Ayr in Scotland.

What Was the Ethnic Composition of the Hapsburg Army?

In 1906 a survey found that out of every 1000 men enlisted in the Austro-Hungarian army, there were 267 Germans/Austrians, 223 Hungarians, 135 Czechs, 85 Poles, 81 Ukrainians, 67 Croats and Serbs, 64 Romanians, 38 Slovaks, 26 Slovenes, and 14 Italians.

Sunday, 21 January 2018

The Romanian "Night of the Long Knives" - Ion Antonescu and the Overthrow of the Iron Guard

Adolf Hitler, far from being an "extreme radical," as he is often portrayed, quite frequently sided with Conservative and establishment elements at key points in his career. This goes back to his sidelining of the more radical Strasser faction in the National Socialist Party in 1930, as well as his famous Night of the Long Knives purge in 1934, when he reined in the power of the Brownshirts and other populist elements in his party, in order to win the favour of the German ruling elites. 

Another example of Hitler's inherent conservatism was the position he took during the revolt launched by the Romanian Iron Guard on this day -- January 21st -- in 1941, when the German Fuhrer sided with the relatively "moderate" Romanian dictator Ion Antonescu.

Friday, 8 December 2017

Pearl Harbor: How Japan Saved the World for "Democracy"

The "dastardly attack."

December 7th is the anniversary of Japan's attack on Pearl Harbor. Once again we have the opportunity to either look back in anger or, now that the embers of history have grown cold, to rake through them and ask what was the real significance of that fateful day.

It is often said that history is written by the winners. Although every nation committed horrendous atrocities in World War II, Japan is still cast as a pure villain. But, considering that many historians now believe the Japanese were unwitting dupes in one of the most complicated games of propaganda, espionage, and diplomacy ever played out across the world stage, isn't it time to revise the Hollywood version of history and admit the existence of gray areas, especially as the Americans would have been unable to play their full part in the defeat of Fascism without the cooperation of Japan?

Sunday, 15 October 2017

Napoleon's Decentered and Disastrous Invasion of Russia

This October 19th marks the 205th anniversary of the start of Napoleon's fateful retreat from Moscow. The march lasted nearly two months and cost tens of thousands of lives, with the remnants of Napoleon's army re-crossing the Russian border on December 12th.

Much is made of the destruction of the "Grand Army of 500,000" by the cold weather and the Cossacks, but this is yet another cliche of World history that doesn't accord entirely with all the facts. 

The first point to make is that the actual force that started the retreat from Moscow was only around 95,000 men, not the half million that is given as the force invading Russia. This force was then joined by an additional 36,000 men on its march home. These were the remnants of 82,000 men detached previously to guard the Northern flank of the advance. From this "retreating force" of 131,000 men, around 10,000 finally exited Russia on the 12th of December.

Friday, 29 September 2017

Italy's Pocket War and Its Dwarf Imperialsm

Italians fighting Turks at Tripoli
Italy was the site of one of the greatest empires -- the Roman -- but, to its shame, it was also the site of one of the more laughable empires, namely the Neo-Italian Empire that emerged following the unification of the country in the 19th century. 

Just as Italian unification owed more to the power machinations of the great states of Europe than the efforts of the Italians themselves, so too did the rise of the Neo-Italian Empire. This is demonstrated by what was the main chapter in this story, the Turkish Italian War of 1911-12, which started today 106 years ago.

Tuesday, 1 August 2017

The Battle of Minden: the Great British Art of Bumbling Through

1759 was the Annus Mirablis ("Miracle Year") of the British Empire, with impressive military victories in all theatres of war—India, North America, Europe, and the open seas—against the power of France. The events of that year decided the course of the Seven Years War, as well as the history of the next 300 years, ensuring that the World would be dominated by Anglophone powers.

On August 1st, one of the key battles of that year took place in Northern Germany. An Anglo-German army (British, Hanoverians, Hessians, and a few Prussians) defeated a Franco-Saxon army, with the key part being played by six British regiments. Because of their remarkable exploits on that day, these regiments (or their successors) are still known as the "The Minden Regiments."