A Most Enigmatic War: R.V. Jones and the Genesis of British Scientific Intelligence 1939-45

By James Goodchild.

Following publication of my book A Most Enigmatic War: R.V. Jones and the Genesis of British Scientific Intelligence, Helion have kindly asked me to write a short article about the importance of the research into this fascinating subject.

At the beginning of the Second World War, there was no such arrangement as British Scientific Intelligence – it simply did not exist! Owing to the advancements of warfare technology in the first four decades of the twentieth – obviously accelerated by the First World War – there had been mooted discussions within the small cadres of RDF ‘boffins’ that the Committee of Imperial Defence (that reported to the Cabinet of the British Government) knew very little of German scientific and technological capabilities. For this reason, Reginald Victor Jones – a young academic from the Clarendon Laboratory in Oxford – was attached to the Secret Intelligence Services (SIS, forerunner of MI6) to ascertain what Britain and the British military forces might encounter. Jones’s wartime experiences are well-known because of the 1978 publication of his war memoirs entitled Most Secret War. All historians have since accepted his account uncritically, which has created the common misconception that Jones was some kind of heroic lone crusader in the quest to understand Axis science and technology (S&T). My first book corrects this historical anomaly, and subsequently opens a new field of research into British scientific and technical intelligence (STI).

A Most Enigmatic War is the culmination of five years of research into wartime STI. Over fifty archival collections were consulted in order to understand the complexity of the extensive network of organisations, involving thousands of men and women who contributed to the intelligence on Axis S&T. What was especially amazing is that there were at least 25 members of Jones’s team who contributed to the successes (and failures) of ADI (Science)! This is certainly not the impression given by Jones in his memoirs. Of particular surprise and, again, something entirely forgotten by Jones (or perhaps he was concerned about national security even after the ULTRA secret was revealed in 1974) was the 3G(N) organisation housed in Hut 3 at Bletchley Park which contributed significantly to the discoveries made by ADI (Science).

Bletchley Park – Home of the Codebreakers, from where ADI (Science) obtained much intelligence, especially from 3G(N) in Hut 3. Source: Author’s own collection.

ADI (Science) did have some impressive successes, such as the scientific deductions that revealed the navigational radio beams used by the Luftwaffe to bomb the major cities in Britain, and the discovery of the Würzburg and Giant Würzburg radar dishes that that was the root cause of so many losses for Bomber Command from 1941 through to at least 1943.

Arguably, the greatest success of ADI (Science) during the Second World War was discovering the Giant Würzburg. With a 9-metre diameter, the Giant Würzburg was as tall as adjacent buildings and trees and could detect incoming aircraft from as far away as 50 miles. This particular Giant Würzburg was acquired by the Imperial War Museum at Duxford in 1981, photographed by the author in 2011. Source: Author’s own collection.

Yet the ADI (Science) watchdog was too late to bark in some situations, for example the Channel Dash of February 1942, the failure to discover the HS293 guided missiles that sunk battleships in the Mediterranean, and the lateness of intelligence on the V-1 ‘doodlebugs’ and V2 rockets that caused so much loss of live, especially in London and Antwerp.

The Hs293 guided missile was arguably the weapon that surprised British Intelligence the most during the Second World War. This photograph (taken in 2012) is of an Hs293 hanging in the Deutsches Technikmuseum in Berlin. Note the rocket engine attached to the underbelly of the missile. Source: Author’s own collection.

I can truly say that I loved researching for A Most Enigmatic War and, for readers interested in writing their own work of history, I would suggest that passion for the research project is the fundamental requirement to success. Ideally, there also has to be a gap in historical understanding. My initial motivation stemmed from reading Jones’s war memoirs, but then the more I read around wartime STI, the more I realised how remarkably influential Jones’s book had become since the late-1970s. And so, Jones and STI became the core of my doctoral studies at the University of Exeter, and then the subject of my first book. There is much in A Most Enigmatic War that should excite both the academic as well as the casually-interested reader. I am currently working on my next book – the research of which is complete – on the subject of S&T developments of the First World War. Inevitably, the modern pursuit of intelligence emerged during the Great War (the war Jones’s father fought). Yet the difference was that S&T became the root cause of many intelligence developments, rather than the target.

A Most Enigmatic War: R.V. Jones and the Genesis of British Scientific Intelligence 1939-45 is now available to order here.

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Defending Island Britain in the Second World War

By David Rogers.

I have been writing books for Helion and Company for a number of years now. In most cases these books have explored the infrastructure of war, that is to say the process of government and the effect of the war on civilians in Britain. Defending Island Britain is no different. I wanted to understand how the civil and military authorities interacted in the complex issues of defending Britain, and the preparations needed to ensure minimal casualties and disruption to civilian life should the unthinkable happen. In keeping with some of my other books the preparations for war started well before war was declared in 1939. There were still buildings bought or requisitioned during the war in government hands in 1950. The defence of Britain, at least the administration and infrastructure, lasted well over ten years, which is interesting in itself.

Relocating the young and vulnerable was a significant part of these preparations. Fortunately, I know a couple of people directly involved. Now 96 a near neighbour was a student teacher at the outbreak of the Second World War and found himself knocking on parent’s doors asking them if they wanted their child or children evacuated. I am also having lunch later in the year with a lady now in her mid to late 70s who was evacuated from the East End and relocated to my north west London Borough. Their personal experiences helped to shape my thinking on the whole issue of evacuation.

There was a complex debate concerning the need to evacuate the young and the vulnerable early in the war, yet the policy later was that those remaining in coastal areas were asked to stay put should the enemy come. Indeed, a leaflet was produced to that effect.

©Danercon Ltd 2017. The stay put leaflet.

Part of the rationale for this was that of keeping the road network free of evacuees. The experiences gleaned from France showed that vital roads were sometimes ‘clogged up’ with evacuees. In addition, evacuees moving to new areas invariably spread unrest when they relocated.

Whilst these and other preparations were invoked there was also the need to strengthen, and in some cases initiate defences, particularly along the coast and at vulnerable targets. These preparations took many forms. Mines, sea defences and barbed wire were standard in places of likely invasion, lookouts, RADAR, barrage balloons, AA guns etc for airborne attacks.

There are also sections of Defending Island Britain concerning the Blitz and the Battle of Britain. Where available, comments from those in the know who wrote up their work during the war, proved a valuable insight. In some cases, small sections of these documents are reproduced with references to their National Archives folios. In the case of the Battle of Britain, Air Chief Marshal Lord Dowding, the head of Fight Command at the time, wrote a comprehensive account. If you get the chance it is well worth reading the 40-50 page document in its entirety, the National Archives reference for which is in the book. The Few, as Churchill called those who fought in the Battle of Britain, have a fitting memorial on the north bank of the Thames in London.

© Danercon Ltd. The Few memorial

The 75th anniversary of the Battle which included some 20 Spitfire and Hurricanes was a sight and sound I will never forget.

Vulnerable targets took many forms. In some cases, they were factories the whereabouts of which were kept a secret for as long as possible. This was easier for factories not producing aircraft as it was obvious when new planes took to the skies! Other vulnerable targets were government buildings where vital war work was undertaken. There were literally thousands of vulnerable targets listed in a register, one of which was the Tower of London. Such is the nature of this and other ancient buildings that they were thought to be at risk of stray bombs if not a targeted sortie. For that and other reasons the Crown Jewels were removed to Windsor Castle for the duration of the war. Little was known concerning their movement to the Castle, however there were reports in the press in 1947 of their return to the Tower via the Bank of England. In the early weeks of 2018 a documentary concerning the Queen’s coronation was broadcast which detailed the Jewels storage in the Castle, of which the Queen knew nothing until that program was made. Documents detailing the removal of the Jewels from the Tower to the Castle are stored in the Royal Archives in the Round Tower of Windsor Castle and are not available to the general public. If only a copy of my book were available to the Queen, she would have known ahead of the program!

In keeping with my other books, I have spent a long time in the National Archives trawling through seemingly countless folios trying to piece together these and some of the other issues. I always enjoy the challenge of research, indeed my nine-year university ‘career’ involved six years of academic research during which I obtained a PhD in chemistry and a further three years as a postdoctoral demonstrator. Little did I realise at the time the literature searches would be of use to this extent in later life.

Defending Island Britain in the Second World War is now available to order here.

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Ken Wharton’s Latest Work on the Northern Ireland ‘Troubles’

By Ken Wharton

This latest edition continues Wharton’s remarkable compilation of the period of history which blighted Northern Ireland for around 30 years, known as the troubles. He uses thorough research, analysis and oral testimony from those who fought there, allied with his biting opinion and drawing heavily on his own experiences there.  The latest book covers the period of 1991-93, which included the murder of Protestant shoppers in a fish shop on the Shankill Road in Belfast, the machine-gun slaughter of both Catholic and protestant civilians at Greysteel, the slaughter of Catholic workers at a Council Cleansing department in West Belfast and the murder of protestant workers near Omagh.

He was motivated to write extensively about one of Britain’s forgotten wars, by Sinn Fein and the British Left’s current attempts to re-write history in a way which masks and in some cases, actually glorifies the IRA’s terror campaign.

The author has a collection of over 60 books written on the troubles, and also relies on very detailed research from the Belfast Telegraph and by the Belfast Newsletter.  He also has paid access to the Daily Expressive on-line archives.

He is both motivated and excited by the opportunity to tell the story from the perspective of the front-line soldier who patrolled the tough and dangerous streets of Belfast, Londonderry, Rosslea, Newry and Crossmaglen.

The biggest misconception of the troubles is that it wasn’t a war; people claim that it was ‘peace-keeping duties’ and an ‘aid to the civil power’.  It was more than just that; it was a war against a well-organised, well-supplied, well-motivated and malevolent terrorist ‘Army’.

The author believes that the depth of the research, the everyday details and the level of violence by the paramilitary groups goes much, much deeper than TV and press news of the time revealed.

The casual reader will be able to live and re-live the horror which prevailed and judge for his or herself, whether or not it was a war, and see the depths of depravity to which the Republican and Loyalist paramilitaries sank to, in order to further their causes.  For academics, the sheer weight of explained statistics which have long been covered up by the British and Irish Governments and the Ministry of Defence.

The author has written 11 detailed books on the troubles, with a 12th planned.  He has been interviewed numerous times by the BBC and British newspapers and recently gave a lecture on the troubles to Officers at the elite Sandhurst Military Academy.

For new authors attempting to break into the world of publishing, he would offer one simple piece of advice: if you have a story to tell, never give up your dream, never stop trying and never lose hope of finding the right publisher.

The author currently lives in Queensland on the Gold Coast, having lived in Germany and in his native Yorkshire.  He is a former soldier, graduate from the University of Warwick and was a professional salesman for over 30 years.  He is a former football referee and is the veteran of 500 skydives.

He served in the Royal Green Jackets, although never achieved other than the basic rank of Rifleman.  He loves writing and is still dedicated to his beloved Leeds United and Yorkshire County Cricket Club.

For those who are not familiar with his works and, indeed with military terms and expressions, he includes a Glossary of Terms in his books.

Another Bloody Chapter In An Endless Civil War Volume 2. Northern Ireland and the troubles 1988-90 is now available. You  can order it from our website here.

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From Reason to Revolution Events Update

For fans of the From Reason to Revolution, we have two special events coming up in Spring 2018.

Firstly, Helion is co-sponsoring the 2018 East Midlands Napoleonic Days, taking place at the Long Acre Studios, Bingham (formerly the drill hall of the South Notts Hussars) on 3/4 March. The brainchild of historical novelist Peter Youds, the event covers all aspects of the Napoleonic era. In Peter’s own words:

The term Napoleonic refers to the period, not just the man, so there is a wide range of subject matter – social history as well as purely military affairs, costume balls as well as cannon balls!

As well as historical talks, there will also be displays of costume and needlework, wargaming, an art exhibition, and activities for children. For more information about the event, for which admission is free , please see http://www.bicorn.co.uk/NapoleonicDay.html.

Amongst the speakers will be From Reason to Revolution series editor Andrew Bamford, and series authors Carole Divall, Gareth Glover, and Eamonn O’Keeffe. We will be taking the opportunity to launch Gareth’s and Eamonn’s contributions to the series at the event (readers will have to wait a little longer for Carole’s book on the British Army in Egypt, due out in the Autumn). Both new titles, numbers 13 and 14 in the series, are memoirs and both are unusual in that they tell a complete life-story rather than just a series of military adventures. Beyond that, however, the similarities cease. John Harley’s The Veteran, edited by Gareth Glover, is a rip-roaring tale of scandal and adventure, full of scurrilous anecdotes. On the other hand, the Narrative of the Eventful Life of Thomas Jackson, edited by Eamonn O’Keeffe, brings us firmly back down to earth with its account of the brutal realities of war. Jackson, a sergeant in the Coldstreamers, lost a leg in 1814 and his account of his suffering and subsequent tale of trying to make ends meet on a post-war pension is harrowing stuff.

Moving on, the second event is the first in what is hoped to be an annual series of conferences, very much in the mould of those which have proved such a success for our Century of the Soldier series. The first From Reason to Revolution series conference will take place on 29 April, at the York Army Museum, and is generously sponsored by the Society for Army Historical Research.

The theme for this year’s event is Command and Leadership, within which we have eight papers spread across three panels, looking at leadership both at a regimental level and in terms of high command and generalship. Speakers include published series authors Arran Johnston, Will Raffle, and Yves Martin, as well as others whose papers are offshoots from works-in-progress which will be added to the series portfolio in due course. We will also be taking the opportunity on the day to launch book number 17 in the series, John Harding-Edgar’s biography of General Sir George Murray, Wellington’s chief staff officer for much of the Peninsular War. As with the East Midlands event, the full range of series titles will also be available to purchase on the day.

Just as with the Century of the Soldier conferences, the papers will be published as part of the series; all being well, we will launch the 2018 proceedings at the 2019 conference!

Tickets cost £30, which includes lunch and refreshments, and can be ordered from the Helion website where a full list of speakers is also available: http://www.helion.co.uk/events/from-reason-to-revolution-conference-2018.html

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Revisiting the French expedition to Egypt

By Yves Martin.

To most readers interested in the Napoleonic period the story of Egyptian conquest by the French seems like a familiar tale. Upon closer observation, especially when digging through the very rich French archives and memoirs, there are still many aspects to uncover.

Although wanted, planned, and initially led, by Bonaparte, he commanded it for barely more than a year, leaving at the end of August 1799. Kleber was then in charge, until his untimely death by the hand of an assassin in June of 1800. Menou was its ultimate, least popular, and least competent commanding officer until he surrendered to the British on 31 August 1801.

The fact that three very different French generals headed up the expedition over the three years it lasted is usually ignored. From a military history standpoint, the Egyptian campaign is all too often limited to Bonaparte’s command. Abercromby’s invasion of Egypt is the only other part which has received some decent historical treatment. The scientific part of the expedition ultimately achieved greater and more global fame than the rather dubious military adventure Bonaparte had sparked.

Yet, this endeavour gave the French, a renewed taste for colonies and some experience of the Orient. It was therefore no surprise that in 1830, the French royal army stormed Algiers and started a conquest which would lead to French presence there until 1962.

The invasion plans for Algeria had been drawn up based on spy reports which Napoleon had ordered, as he, again dreamt of the Orient in the early part of his reign as Emperor. At least one interpreter in 1830 had been part of the Egyptian expedition, and, as he approached to discuss the surrender of the Bey of Algiers, he vividly remembered the fate of French negotiators in Syria, whose leader had been beheaded. Finally, as the French army set in to conquer the rest of the country, they, like their forefathers in Egypt, raised native troops and organized a dromedary corps. I happen to be the descendant of some of these French colonists of Algeria. I feel cousin to those men who embarked in 1798 for an unknown, exotic land. Without them, I probably would be here today.

I first came across the French army of the Orient through the articles published by the French military artist Albert Rigondaud (RIGO) in the early 1970s. I was struck by the dazzling colourful unusual uniforms worn by those men.  I started reading all I could on the topic.

Yet, the more I read, the more I felt many questions were left unanswered. As I enjoyed a professional break some 20 years ago, I decided to dive into the French military archives in Vincennes. Since that day, I’ve never stopped. As technology progressed and digital photography became a medium of good enough quality, this enabled me to collect thousands of pages from the very rich B6 series devoted to the expedition.

Oddly enough, few researchers have systematically collected and reviewed the daily orders issued for the army by its successive commanders. These primary sources, published on a quasi-daily basis, paint a living image of the army. The topics mentioned in these documents range from the very mundane (theft of an officer’s watch) to fascinating precisions (soldiers should not wander off alone for risk of being assaulted). The B6 series is composed of 199 individual items: registers, boxes of correspondence, army returns etc. One can estimate this to roughly at least 150,000 individual documents of variable sizes. I have to confess I am far from having gone through all of these.

But as I went through them, cross-checking them with memoirs, publications of the period, a new image of the French Army of the Orient surfaced. It was both somewhat similar to what I knew, but it also had some more tragic aspects and also some rather comic ones. This book is the fruit of all this research. It is the story of men stranded in a land so foreign they could not comprehend its culture, nor, in reverse, could its inhabitants understand them. It is the story of an army which managed to survive three years cut from its main supply source with almost no reinforcements. It is the story of the incredible ingenuity and adaptability of the human being.

I have not focused my writing on the narration of the expedition. This has been told many times before. I have written a book about the men; officers and privates. How they lived. How they were organised. How they dressed. The book details the unit organisations and orders of battles that a wargamer or military historian may need. It describes, for the military dress enthusiast, the latest findings on the uniforms worn, including some never seen before period iconography.

It is the book I would have loved to have when it all started. I hope readers will take as much pleasure in reading it, as I had in researching and writing it.

What will be next? I am putting Egypt to rest for a while. I have multiple other topics of interest which I have also researched in the Vincennes archives, as well as through my own collection of iconography. There have been some publications on Polish troops during the 1792-1815 period. However, just as for Egypt, archival research and lesser-known memoirs have much to bring which is new. The Imperial Guard, despite being a favourite area for publications and research, has still some shadowy areas. It probably had the most complex organisational evolution, and an in-depth overview of this could probably be of help to historians as well as hobbyists.

So, there is no lack of subjects for me and I have to say, I have been delighted working with Helion and look forward to our future new projects!

The French Army of the Orient 1798-1801. Napoleon’s Beloved ‘Egyptians’ is now available here.

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Upcoming book on the life of the Earl of Derby

By John Callow

When does an interest in an historical figure begin? In my own case, it started as a boy with a rain storm that drummed against the windows of Turton Tower, blotted out the pale spring sunshine and threw shadows against the portrait of James Stanley, which was on-loan to a visiting exhibition about the English Civil Wars. Wrapped in the folds of his cloak, here was the 7th Earl of Derby and Lord of Man in all his doomed, Cavalier grandeur, set among flickering lights, oak panels and armour, waiting for ‘the King to Enjoy his Own Again’.

I’d seen his face before and knew something of his story – thanks to a book on the Royalist army by Brigadier Peter Young and my Dad’s willingness to encourage my interest in history. But this was very different and far more immediate. There was the keen intelligence of his eye, captured by the rapid strokes of Van Dyck’s brush; a melancholy born out of hindsight rather than from historical reality, as the knowledge of a tragic end on the scaffold – deserted and reviled – contrasted with the essential optimism of the image that displayed the handsome, young, pre-war nobleman under blue skies; swathed in silken opulence and framed by his long chestnut curls. Dangerous, chivalric and counter-cultural, his image seemed to defy the stultifying conformism and growing materialism of the 1980s. That afternoon, James Stanley seemed to live again in the fabric of the old Lancashire hall and in every fold and furrow of the surrounding countryside.

This sense of place, of a link to the land, and of the 7th Earl as the ‘Great Stanley’ who created a glittering court society – of arts, letters and of theatre – about himself at his castle on the Isle of Man, and looked upon the farms and fields of Lancashire as his own particular patrimony, has remained with me through a writing career that has come full circle to focus upon the disjunctures of the Civil Wars, the quest for a lasting settlement, and the lordship of the Isle of Man under the House of Stanley. This has been made possible by a research and travel grant from Culture Vannin (the charity tasked with supporting the culture heritage of the Isle of Man) and the support of Helion Publisher’s who, through the ‘Century of the Soldier’, have commissioned the biography of the Earl to commemorate the 370th anniversary of his leading an invasion army into England, in 1651, in support of Charles II.

My own study seeks to explore the Earl’s harnessing and direction of the Royalist war record in the North West; his record as a highly capable peacetime administrator; and role as a religious visionary and extremely gifted writer. His tragedy was that while, as a regional magnate, his dealings had been marked by tolerance and compromise; his record as a soldier saw him branded as a war criminal on account of his part in the Bolton massacre of 1644 and his presiding over the unprecedented militarisation and brutalisation of Manx society, from 1643-51.

Curiously, until now, there has never been a biography devoted to the 7th Earl. Cumming’s ‘The Great Stanley’ (published in 1867) is, in essence, a novel – though one crammed full of useful appendices and antiquarian discoveries. In the literature of the Civil War, he suffers from the ingratitude of the very kings he gave everything to serve and from the spite of Clarendon’s pen; while his reputation for military prowess was eclipsed – in the eyes of both his Parliamentarian detractors, in his own day, and by Romantic novelists in a Victorian age of steel and steam – by that of his wife during the siege of Lathom House. However, James Stanley deserved better than the suspicion of Stuart sovereigns and the condescension of later historians who celebrated him as martyr rather than as a man of bravery, intelligence and principle.  With any luck, my own book might just put that right!

 

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The Danish Volunteers of the Waffen-SS

By Lars Larsen

On 29 June 1941 the Frikorps Denmark was created. It was a Danish battalion inside the Waffen-SS. The battalion took part in the hard battles at the Demjansk pocket in the summer of 1942, and the 1942/43 winter campaign in Velikie Luki/Nevel, with heavy losses and casualties. On 20 May 1943, the Frikorps Denmark was disbanded and was renamed Regiment Denmark.

This book tells the story of Frikorps Denmark through photos and text. The book is a project that the authors, Jens P. Bjerregaard and Lars Larsen, have talked about for some years. Throughout the last 15 years there have been many books published about the Danes who joined Frikorps Denmark. Most of these books are biographies from some of the members.

Frikorps Danmark members, taken in January 1943 at Velikie Luki/Nevel.

However, there has never been a book that tells the story in pictures until now with The Danish Volunteers of the Waffen-SS.

The subject is still today associated with taboo and is controversial. The authors have a lifelong interest in the story in the Danes who joined Frikorps Denmark during the Second World War and during the last 20 years they have visited many of the veterans to hear their stories. Besides that, they have travelled in Russia together with former Frikorps Denmark veterans to come as close to the history as possible.

Many of the photos have never been seen or published before, and the material in the book is from original photos that the authors have received from veterans and their relatives.

The authors are both located in Denmark, and have both earlier published books about Danes in the Waffen-SS.

Danish Volunteers of the Waffen-SS. Freikorps Danmark 1941-43 can be ordered on our website here.

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Between Olmütz and Torgau: Horace St Paul during the Third, Fourth and Fifth Campaigns of the Seven Years War

By Neil Cogswell

Horace St Paul in 1748

In his lifetime, Horace St Paul had prepared his ‘Journal of the First Two Campaigns of the Seven Years War’ for publication, but it was not until a century after his death in 1812 that, under the guidance of his descendent George Grey Butler, it finally appeared in its original French in a publication by Oxford University Press. It took another century before the first English language version ‘From Lobositz to Leuthen’ became available from Helion Books. Horace

St Paul would continue to serve with the Austrian army throughout the campaigns of 1758, 1759 and 1760 and papers from his Journal are now lodged in the Northumberland County Archives at Ashington. It was to those papers that I turned to try to reconstruct the account that St Paul might have written. By comparison with his accounts of 1756 and 1757, the Journal of St Paul is somewhat fragmented – he was then a valued volunteer member of the staff of Field Marshal Daun and busy about his duties. Nevertheless, his papers provide a good framework; this I have expanded by drawing upon accounts to which, in principle, Horace St Paul might have himself have turned.

Order of March of the Austrian Army to attack Hochkirch, 14th October 1758.

The account opens in the Spring of 1758. Following the disaster at Leuthen the Austrian army in Bohemia seeks to recover its poise and recruit its strength. Frederic of Prussia meanwhile re-establishes his control of all of Silesia and then turns his eyes South to complete his victory. Only the fortified town of Olmütz – a town that his armies had captured with ease some 17 years before – lies between him and Vienna.

Geographically, Olmütz lies at the South-Eastern extremity of the theatre over which the Austrians and Prussians fought. Some 400 km (about 250 English miles) to the North-West, the town of Torgau marks an important crossing point of the Elbe River. There, two and a half years later, as Winter gripped the land, the King of Prussia would face no less a peril; his resources at an end, he controlled only the ground on which his army stood. Between these two tidelines the fortunes of war flowed back and forth in the intervening years.

Horace St Paul is made Colonel, January 1759.

Between those two crises, the very nature of warfare also changed, but not for technological reasons. Battles no longer adhered to the rigid formality of earlier times; often the more decisive movements take place under the cloak of darkness and the objective of battle becomes no less than the encirclement and total destruction of the opposing force. In siege warfare, brutality – in the form of bombardment – takes the place of the more scientific methods beloved of the students of Vauban. Whilst great battles, such as Hochkirch, Kunersdorf, Maxen, Landeshut, Leignitz and Torgau and major sieges, notably of Dresden, Glatz and Breslau necessarily occupy many of the pages it is the connective tissue, charting the movements of the armies between such major actions that is, to me, the most interesting element of St Paul’s Journal. Often for days – sometimes weeks – the contending armies lie close to each other; here the text is ripe with ‘what if’ scenarios that are suitable for translation to the tabletop.

Journal of Horace St Paul, July 21st/22nd 1760.

Because of his duties, St Paul had less time to compile his journal than in the first two campaigns. In places it is necessary to include material from other sources and to balance his perspective with the view from the ‘other side of the hill’. In this latter role, I often call upon the Memoirs of Henri de Catt, Reader to the King of Prussia, to whom Frederic often explained what was going on. When possible, I have tried to constrain my choice of such additional material to accounts that might, in principle, have been available to St Paul during his lifetime. In particular, I value those accounts where the author writes without knowledge of what is to come after.

You can order ‘Olmütz to Torgau’ on our website here.

 

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Gerhard Fieseler: The Man behind the Storch

By Nigel Holden

On 23 October 1943 the owner of a medium-sized aircraft company in Kassel drove in shock and horror from his home to his main factory. The city was little more than smoking ruins following a massive RAF bombing the night before. Some 6,000 people had died as a direct result and the death toll would reach 10,000. Gerhard Fieseler resolved that his brain-child – to him it was his brain-child – would bring deserving retribution to the accursed Tommies. This was the Fieseler 102, which the world would come to know as the V-1 flying bomb. But his dream was not to be fulfilled. He rued years later that it was an idiotic decision by the Nazi leadership to neglect the war-winning potential of his Luftwaffe-backed weapon by favouring the parallel development of the vastly more expensive Wehrmacht-sponsored V-2.

Fieseler in 1927 about to set his mark as a great aerobatics pilot.

Hardly anyone these days links the name of Fieseler to the V-1. He is better known for the creation of the legendary Storch reconnaissance aircraft, one of the most acclaimed planes in its class ever built. The great British military test pilot, Eric ‘Winkle’ Brown, memorably described the Storch as ‘a virtuoso of slow flight’ and even ranked it in his top 20 best aircraft of the 487 he flew during and after the Second World War. Fieseler was not the designer behind the Storch, but he was intimately involved in its creation.

During the First World War Fieseler had been a fighter pilot and then in the 1920s and 30s an aerobatics pilot. He was German national champion four times and world champion in 1934. By that time he had set up a small aircraft manufacturing company in Kassel. He built first gliders then sports aircraft. From 1936 to 1945 he was building military aircraft for the Nazis, becoming a favoured manufacturer. He was not a trained engineer, but in peace and war he treated the air as a personal aeronautical laboratory, where he learned, as he put it, ‘the alpha and omega of flying.’ He had the precious knack of getting his designers and engineers to build into his aircraft, and especially the Storch, all his intuitions and experience. Some 10 countries tried to produce their own versions of the Storch. They failed. It had what today is called uncopiability, the only guarantor of technological leadership.

In 1938 Fieseler’s company beat over 80,000 other German companies to be one of just 73 enterprises to receive the Nazi’s top award for creating ‘an exemplary National-Socialist industrial community.’ His company won the award four years running. As for the Storch, it first saw operational service during the Spanish Civil War and was later involved in all the major Nazi campaigns of the Second World War. Its passenger list (as it were) includes Rommel, Speer, Mussolini, Churchill and Eisenhower. While it is possible to build up a heroic picture of the Storch, there is one unpleasant reminder of the regime which was its godfather. Female inmates of the Flossenbürg concentration camp nicknamed an especially unpleasant overseer Fieseler Storch on account of her spindly legs.

A letter from Rommel, published in the Fieseler company newspaper in 1941, praising the Storch’s ability to land on rock-strewn terrain.

I was working in Kassel from 2001 to 2003, when by chance I was shown copies of the Fieseler company newspaper which was published from 1938 to 1943. I realised as a management professor and not a military historian that these newspapers were a treasure trove about a Nazi SME. Thus began my interest in Fieseler, who exemplified all the ideals of ‘a technocrat of rearmament,’ who could not resist entering into a Faustian pact with the Nazis. Probing his long life – he died in 1987 aged 91 – I made use of his admittedly selective autobiography published in 1982. With that and other works in German I discovered more about Fieseler, who was not necessarily fascinating in himself, but whose life filled in minor, but intriguing gaps in many accounts of military aviation and Germany’s wars in the first half of the 20th century.

He gives for example a detailed account of his flying experiences in Macedonia, a rarely discussed First World War campaign. He chronicles his close friendship with Ernst Udet, describing their less than complimentary assessment of Manfred von Richthofen, otherwise the most glorified pilot of the First World War. He gives his version of the creation of the V-1. There are pen portraits of the ‘obnoxious’ Hitler and of Göring in full swagger. If these two are despised, pure hatred is reserved for the Americans for their ‘infamous treatment’ of him as their prisoner during 1945-1946.

Fieseler is careful to stress his political indifference to the Nazi regime, even if in his company newspaper he had dedicated himself and his company to ‘serving an incomparably higher purpose.’ He regarded his post-war trial for war crimes as an employer of slave labour as a travesty. It should have been Hitler on trial, not him. Exonerated, he proved to be a failed entrepreneur, but did some judging of aerobatics contexts.  All his later life Fieseler craved recognition as a pioneer of the air, words he had had inscribed on his epitaph. On the other hand, he did miss his chance. In 1953 he received an invitation from the USA to be one of three representatives from Germany to attend ceremonies to mark the 50th anniversary of the Wright Brothers’ flight. He turned down this singular honour, saying cryptically that it was against his principles. By this he meant he had not forgiven the Americans for their humiliating treatment of him after the war. He never saw the magnanimousness of their gesture.

You can order ‘Gerhard Fieseler’ from our website here.

 

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The Other Norfolk Admirals: Myngs, Narbrough and Shovell

By Simon Harris

The careers of the three Norfolk admirals were intimately related. Narbrough and Shovell came from the small North Norfolk hamlet of Cockthorpe and Myngs from nearby Salthouse. In the 1660s, Myngs was the captain, Narbrough the lieutenant and Shovell the lowly cabin boy in the same ship. It is also possible that they were all related at least by marriage. In the majority of the naval wars of the second half of the 17th and the early 18th centuries one or other of them was invariably present.

Cloudesley Shovell

In this work, I have been able to revise and add new material on the unfortunate Cloudesley Shovell. Born to a yeoman farmer, he entered the Navy whilst still a boy and, in 1676, came to national prominence by burning the four ships of the Dey of Tripoli right under his castle walls. This led to conflict with Samuel Pepys over a gold medal that the generous Charles II had awarded Shovell. Later there was another spectacular falling out with James II over the new king’s Catholicism. Following Narbrough’s premature death, Shovell married his widow: effectively the cabin boy marrying the admiral’s widow which is unique in British naval history. Brave to a fault, in the reigns of William and Mary and Anne, Shovell became the leading fighting admiral of the age. In 1707, at the very height of his considerable powers, Shovell and nearly 2,000 men drowned after his ships were wrecked on the rocks of Scilly. According to his grandson, Shovell arrived on the shore alive and was then brutally murdered for the sake of an emerald ring on his finger. Faulty navigation was at the heart of Shovell’s demise; did he keep his appointment with the celebrated scientist, Sir Isaac Newton, to discuss longitude? New theories concerning the causes of the disaster are examined and also the fate of his gold dinner service.

Explorer, navigator, consummate sailor and naval administrator: John Narbrough was all this and more. No biography of Narbrough has been produced for 85 years and much new material has come to light in this time. For example the rediscovery of the ship, the Nuestra Senora de la Concepcion from which Narbrough was trying to salvage sunken Spanish silver when he died from a mysterious illness. In addition, the British Library recently raised a large sum of money to buy Narbrough’s journals of his voyage [1669-71] into the Pacific Ocean and up to what is now modern day Chile. He illustrated his journals with paintings of the flora and fauna plus accurate depictions of the harbours that he visited. On his return journey, Narbrough became the first Englishman to sail through the Strait of Magellan from west to east.

An Action of the Barbary Wars

Both Narbrough and Shovell owed so much to Christopher Myngs and yet I do not believe that any biography of him has yet been written. In the 1650s, out in the West Indies, he played very much the part of an Elizabethan buccaneer with repeated attacks on the Spanish Main. After helping himself to treasure that more properly belonged to the state, he was shipped home to England in semi-disgrace. However, in the run-up to the Restoration of the monarchy, the authorities did not think it appropriate to discipline the most popular man in the Navy. Later, at the Four Days’ Battle of 1666, Myngs leading the English van would attempt to fight on despite having his face shattered by a musket ball. Six days later, he died at his home in London and was buried in an East London churchyard which has now become a seedy park. He deserved better.

The Other Norfolk Admirals is available now on our website here.

 

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