Ten things you probably didn’t know about Julius Caesar

As my enormous seven-volume ‘Opus Magnum’ creeps ever-closer to completion, I have taken a little time to draw up a small book on one of history’s greatest ever generals – Julius Caesar.

Caesar was a truly magnificent general and has been termed ‘The Greatest name in history’ and yet most people don’t know too much about him barring “I came, I saw, I conquered” and that he was the first person to invade Britain. Due to the inaccuracies of popular TV, most people now believe that he spent half his time fighting Spartacus – which he absolutely did not, so I thought I’d throw in a bit of trivia to explain just who he was, how good he was, and to help whet the appetite of those history buffs who aren’t quite as up on Caesar as they should be…after all, the stuff they taught us about him in school was so very boring, wasn’t it? – Here’s a more fun version.

1/ He claimed a Divine Lineage – Caesar’s family claimed semi-divinity through their ties to the Royal House of Troy and the Goddess Venus. It was not uncommon for many families to make this kind of claim in ancient Rome and further afield. His most famous ancestor was Gaius Marius – seven time Consul of Rome and considered as one of the top 100 greatest generals in the world even today.

2/ He was a war hero – At the age of 19 Caesar had his first military experience at the siege of Mytilene in 81BC. Having fled to the army to avoid the politics of Rome (where Sulla had defeated and exiled his uncle Gaius Marius in the Social War) he joined the invasion of Cilicia as an under-officer and was awarded the Civic Crown – Rome’s second highest decoration for bravery, for saving the life of a comrade.

3/ He was captured by Pirates – On his return from the war in Cilicia, Caesar was captured by pirates who determined to ransom him for 20 talents of silver – he remonstrated that he was worth more and had them ask for fifty, which they duly received. Whilst in captivity he had joked with the pirates that he would come back, find them and crucify them, and they had laughed at him. Upon his release, he raised several ships and crews at his own expense and set out after them, soon capturing them and making good on his promise.

4/ He was the Pope! – Okay specifically he was ‘Pontifex Maximus’ a term still used today for the Pope although being High Priest of Rome – since there was no Christianity then, obviously! He was elected to the post in 63BC after one of the most corrupt elections ever seen in Roman history.

5/ He was Consul for 59BC – The highest political rank in Rome, always held for a year in tandem with a second consul. The election was described as ‘sordid’ – topping even his election to the Pontifex with bribery, violence, murder and blackmail. One of his first acts was to get rid of the second Consul Bibulus, which he did by having his supporters beat up Bibulus and his men in the senate before throwing a bucket of excrement over him. Satirists soon changed ‘The Consulship of Bibulus and Caesar’ into a more correct ‘The Consulship of Julius and Caesar’.

6/ He was the first man to conquer Gaul – Roman armies had ventured into Gaul before, but the land was unknown and vast tribes of hundreds of thousand fierce warriors roamed about, who towered over the Roman soldiers. In 105BC just five years before Caesar’s birth, Rome had suffered her worst defeat ever at the battle of Arausio in Gaul, with losses double that of Cannae, and since then, the Romans had been content to let the Gauls be. Caesar conquered Gaul in six years between 58BC-52BC during which time he killed 1.3 Million Gauls, subjugated 300 tribes and destroyed over 800 major towns.

7/ He was the first man to invade Britain – Actually he invaded twice, both times to gain a better knowledge of the land and its people, though never with a view to actually conquering the place. He was very impressed by the British chariots, which were sent back to Rome and soon became a favourite amongst the gladitorial crowds. Caesar came up against his foes defending the line of the River Thames at what is now Embankment. The cavalry began to swim the river, but what really won the day was Caesar’s sending of an elephant into the river with riders. The Britons had never seen such an enormous beat, and by the time the elephant made the far bank, the Britons had all scarpered! – Think about that next time you’re on the Thames Embankment!

8/ He has one of the best battle records in history –  Before Caesar the record number of battles fought by a general was 39 by Marcus Marcellus – Caesar fought fifty in total with a creditable 48 wins, 2 defeats and one Pyrrhic victory (he won but lost more men than his opponent). His defeats were minor, being thwarted in attacking the camp of Vercingetorix at Gergovia and being out-sieged by Pompey at Dyrrachium. His only Pyrrhic victory came against his excellent former lieutenant, Titus Labienus at Ruspina. Napoleon was to go on to fight sixty battles, though the record still stands as held by Marshal Suvurov at 63 battles and no losses!

9/ He was one of the first autobiographers of history – Caesar wrote his ‘Commentaries’ – a series of autobiographical books covering the Gallic War, the Civil War, the Alexandrian War, the African War and the Spanish War, which was to be his last.  These books are taken as one of the greatest literary works in history and are still studied by the armed forces of every world nation today. They were also a favourite of such great generals as Gustavus Adolphus, Turenne, Frederick the Great and Napoleon, who had a copy by his bed every night of his life.

10/ His death was predicted – Several days before Caesar’ death, he was dining with Marcus Lepidus who asked him his preferred method of death, to which Caesar replied; “The unexpected.” A soothsayer had warned him just days before to “Beware the ides of March” (March 15th) and when that day came, he made his way to the Senate. Seeing the soothsayer, he called out; “See, the Ides of March have come!” – to which the old man replied; “Aye, Caesar, but not gone.” Upon entering the Senate, Caesar was stabbed twenty-three times by the conspirators led by Brutus and Cassius, finally collapsing at the feet of the statue of his vanquished foe Pompey.

So there we have it; ten things you probably didn’t know about Julius Caesar – one the the greatest commanders in military history, and a name which will be as remembered two thousand years from now as it is today.

Oh yes, and “Veni, Vidi, Vici” (I came, I saw, I conquered) did happen after the Battle of Zela, in case you didn’t know. It was nowhere near Britain, as many seem to think!!

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Waterloo – The ‘great decider’ of the Thousand Years’ War

What I love most about it being the 200th anniversary of Waterloo today is not that it was Napoleon’s – and indeed Wellington’s last foray, nor even that it was the ‘decider’ of a war which had raged on and off for over 20 years, but that in actuality, Waterloo decided the longest war in history; that of Britain versus France.

Forget the Thirty, Eighty or even Hundred Years’ War, Waterloo settled a thousand year war between the two cross-channel neighbours for good. Who was dominant? Who was right? Who was best? – We both knew the answer was ‘us’ but one had to come out on top, and in the end, it was old Blighty that stood over the prostrate carcass of France.

Geographically and historically, of course, ‘England’ fought France more than Britain, but there were Scots and Welsh at Crecy and Agincourt, and we’re basically all the same. Conversely, France didn’t look anything like it does today…still we’re British and they’re French, so let’s tidy that niggle up quickly.

Since before Hastings in 1066 we were bickering, but Hastings was the real ‘kick-off’ of the Thousand Years War. France started it…and they finished it too. The next really big event was the Hundred Years’ War – which lasted a hundred and twenty years, by the way, and despite us handing the French a series of embarrassments at Crecy, Poitiers, Agincourt and Verneuil, they won again because of Joan of Arc, the siege of Orleans and a few other victories. Britain had won after Agincourt and claimed the throne, but eventually they kicked us out.

In a thousand different places, we fought the French across the globe. Briefly we were on their side in the 1600’s and even regained control of Dunkirk by diplomacy, but sold it back soon after, and then came the Nine Years’ War (or the war of the League of Augsburg) and we British got spanked under our Dutch King William of Orange at Fleurus, Steenkirke, Neerwinden and a few other places…so far we were not doing that great!

Within a few years though, came the War of the Spanish Succession: Donauworth, Blenheim, Ramillies, Elixheim, Oudenarde, Lille, Malplaquet and Douai – all battles and sieges in which we hammered the evil French across a continent under the brilliant Duke of Marlborough. Britain was on the winning side at the end – at least diplomatically, but France pretty much won after Britain pulled out of the war, only to return to reap the spoils.

Finally, Britain looked like being the winner in this great contest, and this looked even more likely when we began to spank the French in the wars of the Austrian Succession, but then came Marshal de Saxe – the brilliant French commander who beat the Duke of Cumberland in some hard-fought battles, and forced him to withdraw. France again looked dominant, but then came the Seven Years’ War: And this was the turning point.

The Seven Years’ War was in reality the First World War – forget 1914-1918 that was World War 3 – and Britain and France battled across the globe for supremacy. This time the victory was clear-cut. France lost chunks of her Empire including India – which was won by the outstanding General Robert Clive, and Canada which was taken by the genius of Wolfe. In Europe, France was humiliated by Frederick the Great’s beating them at Rossbach, and then again by a British and Hanoverian force at Minden. France was humbled, and Britain was now the dominant power for the first time in 1700 years of this epic conflict.

The forces of Red and Blue clashed again in America, this time at Yorktown, which wrested the American Colonies from Britain, and France counted this as her own victory, with a little American help. In reality, this freed up British troops, who began to take more parts of the French Empire and to consolidate their hold in India, which the French aimed to get back.

Finally came the French Revolution, and Britain was only too keen to stomp out France once and for all. In Egypt, we forced their army to surrender after the Battle of the Nile and of Alexandria whilst in India they had roused forces against British rule and trained and equipped armies of Maharajas, the Tippoo Sultan and the Mahrattas. Yet Britain won that war at Assaye, Laswari, Argaum and Gawilghur in 1803-1804, then crushed the French fleet at Trafalgar in 1805 and even scored a neat victory at Maida in 1806. Finally with Sir Arthur Wellesley and Horatio Nelson having taken the stage, Britain was in the ascendant.

Then came Napoleon – not then ‘General Bonaparte’ of the French Revolution, but the towering figure now known to history by that one name, and now France became once more the most powerful and dominant force in the world. Britain fought France under Wellington in Spain between 1808-1813, and now France was handed beating after beating; at Rolica, Vimeiro, Corunna, Oporto, Talavera, Bussaco, Torres Veedras, Barrossa, Fuentes de Onoro, Cuidad Rodrigo, Badajoz, Salamanca, Vittoria, the Pyrenees, the Nive, Nivelle, Orthes and Tolouse until Napoleon abdicated and World War Two had ended with Britain feeling mighty proud.

Waterloo was the last outing of this epic war which had rolled across the world for eighteen-hundred years, and now it would be seen if the unconquerable Napoleon could win France’s glory back against the undefeated Wellington, but he could not, and by the end of June 18th 1815 his armies were streaming away towards Paris.

Today I celebrate Britain’s last and final victory over the French. Our oldest enemy was defeated, and in thee end we became grudging friends, yet still the British hold a little pride and the French a little rancour for the decider of the Thousand Years’ War: Waterloo.

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How good was Napoleon really?

It is one of the things I hear asked of me often; “So how good was Napoleon really?” – followed by the inevitable; “Yes, but he lost…so he can’t have been that good!” – It is a hard one to get out of!

Let’s set matters straight. For myself, Napoleon was the greatest general or military commander the world has ever seen. The briefest look at his victory count tells you pretty much everything: He fought sixty battles..sixty! That’s ten more than Caesar. It is more than Wellington, Prince Eugene of Savoy, Marlborough and Frederick the Great put together…and still then by a little way.

Of those sixty, he lost seven, and only two of those were major defeats; Leipzig – where the armies of the entire world surrounded him, and Waterloo – where he fought two armies with one, and against the very best commanders the allies had. Of the others, we might say that they were setbacks from which he quickly recovered and beat the enemy roundly the next time.

Yes, he still lost, but then who hasn’t? How many generals from history can you name who have survived a career of fighting and come away with not a single defeat or reverse? Alexander the Great, Jan Ziska, Marlborough, Wellington (if we close our eyes to the Burgos debacle) Marshal Luxembourg…a few others, but not that many. Caesar fought fifty battles and lost two, Hannibal – perhaps the greatest battlefield general in the world, still lost half a dozen battles, Gustavus Adolphus lost at least two and the incomparable Turenne lost three – “A general who remains undefeated cannot have been very long at his trade” as that great man himself said.

But let us focus on the victories – all fifty three of them, fought in France, Russia, Belgium, Germany, Austria, Italy, Egypt, Syria, Spain and probably a few other places too. In snows, in mountains, in deserts, in plains – pretty much anywhere a man could place his feet, Napoleon fought and won.

The people he fought were often more numerous and as well armed, and their commanders were no slouches, either. His first opponents; Generals Beaulieau and Colli were veterans of the seven years war, both noted for bravery, ability and coolness under fire. When Napoleon gained his first command at the age of twenty-six, Beaulieau had declared that he would teach this young pup of a Bonaparte some manners, but within a month, Napoleon had already wrecked both of his opponents’ armies. He had started with a frozen, ragged, starving army of scarecrows with no ammunition for their guns and facing two enemy armies, but he had moved like lightning, raining blows upon his opponents and darting left and right, smashing them at Montenotte, Dego, Millesimo, Ceva, Mondovi and Lodi and sending them reeling in panic and confusion. This was a man of twenty-six years old in his first command. Suvurov – the greatest general of that age, had watched on with interest and wrote that the boy Bonaparte was a magician; that he turned mountain ranges like they did not exist and that he moved like the wind – “My God, how he moves!” as he said himself.

From then on, every single one of Napoleon’s battles was something special, something never before seen in the annals of war. Something new, crushing, devastating and unforseen – and every one of them was different. Many commanders had a style or a way of fighting which suited their tastes or the qualities of their army, but not Napoleon. He could do anything!

He crossed the Alps like Hannibal to get behind his enemies in Italy and beat them at Marengo, he tore apart the armies of Austria and Russia at Austerlitz, flummoxed and shredded the Prussian army at Jena as if they were rank amateurs and not the finely-honed professionals of Frederick the Great, ground the dogged Russians out by attrition at Eylau and Friedland until even they could not take the punishment, and brutalised the Austrians of Archduke Charles at Wagram so bloodily that they would never dare to rise up against him again. These battles were bigger than anything ever seen before, and each was a model of brilliance and perfection. Throw what or whom you liked at Napoleon and he could adapt, overcome and defeat it. One thing began to become clear after Wagram though; his battles were becoming less pretty and less imaginative. By turns they were bigger, more protracted and more brutal than those before, and often without the same outstanding results.

Many say that Napoleon was past his best, that he became complacent and lost in his own dream – and maybe they are right. After the failure of the Russia campaign though, something hit him, and even Napoleon seemed to have learned the error of his ways, for cut off and surrounded by the Russians in the deep snows around Krasnoe he cast off his Emperor’s robes to reveal what had been beneath them all along; the uniform of a General of France. “I am tired of playing Emperor!” he had roared, with such a note of derision that we may guess he had been fooling himself for too long; “It is time to play General!” – And with that he surged forward at the head of his men and gave the Russians a beating which allowed him to escape. Napoleon was back.

Now in Germany, and with the armies of Russia and Prussia massing against him, Napoleon’s generals urged him to make peace, stressing that there was no army to fight with. But Napoleon made one out of bits and pieces and led them out, hammering the enemy with his army of conscripts and old men at Lutzen and Bautzen. The battles were bloody and brutal, but at Lutzen he had ridden all day in the front line and led up attack after attack, and at Bautzen he very nearly had his most brilliant victory yet, which was snatched from him at the last moment. The Napoleon of old was back and in charge, but his army was not the army of Marengo, of Austrelitz, of Jena or of Friedland. The allies, now joined by Austria attacked him at Dresden, but here he handed them the biggest single defeat he had ever given them. Still, by now, it was not enough.

After this disaster, the allies – now joined by Sweden led by Napoleon’s brother-in-law and former Marshal Bernadotte, hit upon a new plan. Unable to defeat Napoleon “Whom only God alone could beat” – as the Tsar Alexander said after Bautzen, they determined to attack his armies wherever he was not, to concentrate against them and destroy them piece by piece until he was surrounded. This new initiative – the ‘Trachtenberg Plan’ worked to perfection, and Napoleon’s armies were battered and defeated at Kulm, Katzbach, Gross-Beeren and Dennewitz. everywhere he showed himself, they retreated and concentrated elsewhere, until closing in from all sides, they trapped him at Leipzig – the greatest battle the world had ever seen until the first world war, and known as “The battle of the Nations”.

Here Napoleon fought for three days in a circle as his German allies deserted him in the middle of the action, going over en masse to the enemy and leaving gaps in his lines which he desperately tried to plug. By the third day, each side had lost 50,000 men and Napoleon decided to pull back over the river Elster to save his army, blowing the bridge up behind him. Then disaster struck; a Corporal guarding the bridge took panic and lit the fuse, blowing the bridge sky high and forcing the French army to swim for its life as the allies closed in. Twenty thousand men were left to fight a desperate rear-guard action on the east bank until their ammunition ran out and they were forced to surrender. Napoleon had lost 73,000 men at Leipzig, the allies 54,000 – all because of a bridge.

By now, everybody was closing in and from all sides, and Napoleon was left with a tiny army and forced to defend France, but here something interesting happened. Maybe it was the reminder of his earlier days when France was surrounded and fighting for its survival with tiny and ragged armies, but the Napoleon of Montenotte, of Dego, Mondovi and Lodi suddenly flared brighter than ever before. No longer the man of the vast slugging-match battles, Napoleon became again that lithe, super-fast animal of which Suvurov had written years before. The country was in the gravest danger, the army was but a skeleton and the entire world was closing in, but Napoleon would not give up.

Dashing for the Prussian headquarters at lightning speed, he attacked them at Brienne, forcing them back and almost capturing the Prussian commander marshal Blucher. The Prussians brought up Russian aid and fought him for two days in a blizzard at La Rothiere, from where Napoleon, in danger of being surrounded, again pulled back. The allies closed in around him once more but he struck like lightning. In six days he wrecked army after army at Champaubert, Montmirail, Chateau Thierry (where he almost cut off and captured an entire corps) and then at Vauchamps. For losses of 3,400 men he had caused 18,000 casualties to the enemy, but still he was not done, and now dashed to the west to face an army which was coming up on Paris from the south.

At Mormant he crushed a force of 4,000 allied cavalry and then the next day hammered the main allied army at Montereau and bowled them back over the river Yonne. Two days, two battles, 10,000 casualties to the allies, 3,000 to Napoleon. And still he was going.

Swinging north now, he went after the Prussians who were reforming, hit them at Craonne, where they fought him doggedly, but then came up short at Laon, where the Prussians held a great hill in strength, from where they pounced upon one of his detached corps. Two more battles in four days; 9,000 casualties to the allies, 12,000 to Napoleon. Surely they had him now?

Napoleon swung south, to where the Russians were advancing to close the trap against him and now demolished them at Rheims with losses of 6,000 to his 700 and then dashed on to strike the Austro-Russian army at Arcis where he fought for two days with 20,000 men against an army of 80,000, successfully disengaging after the enormity of the task overcame his army, though leaving the enemy with 4,000 casualties to 3,000 of his own. Still undeterred, he now swung around behind them, crushed another allied corps at St. Dizier, severing the allied supply lines and then circled around behind them again aiming to get to Paris, but the capital had been surrendered just before he got there and he was now forced by his generals to abdicate to save the country.

This, they say, was a man past his prime…savour that for a moment. He had been rebutted at La Rothiere and Laon, but not crushed, never beaten, and had handed the allies ten defeats in the space of five weeks!

Finally we cut to Waterloo – the last waltz of Napoleon, and once again, just as in his first ever campaign, he faced two armies under experienced veteran commanders. This is the only time in his career that Napoleon used the same plan twice, and he now moved between the allied armies of Wellington and Blucher as he had those of Beaulieau and Colli nineteen years before, advancing with the speed of an avalanche, catching them separated and unprepared and smashing Blucher’s Prussians at Ligny. Now he concentrated against Wellington at Waterloo, but here all went wrong that could go wrong. Subordinates let him down, misunderstood orders and 33,000 men went wholly missing until the Prussians came up on his flank, and Wellington, who had proved immovable all day, led the advance to sweep him from the field.

This was the only time in his career that Napoleon had been truly swept away, and it was his last battle. Still he came close, so very close to winning it; “The damned nearest run thing you ever saw in your life” as Wellington himself said.

So how good was Napoleon really? – Incomparable. Magnificent. Brilliant.

And to the usual “But he lost in the end” reply, I shall say this…did he? Go to Waterloo and you’ll believe that you are at the site of a French victory. All of Europe still uses Napoleon’s set of laws and infrastructure. Long after people have forgotten Wellington’s name, that of Napoleon will still be remembered – indeed because of Napoleon they will never forget Wellington. In a thousand years time they will still talk of Alexander, of Caesar and of Napoleon, and really that’s all he ever wanted.

So did he lose? – In the end, only a fool could say yes.

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Nine reasons why Waterloo is the greatest ‘action-story’ ever told.

Everybody knows the Battle of Waterloo, of course – it is the most famous battle in all of history, but why?

I’ll be honest; it isn’t my favourite battle in all of history. It probably makes the top ten on posterity if for nothing else, but despite being a great pounding match, it wasn’t really all that exciting, I’m sorry to say. For me, Gettysburg has all the makings of a truly exciting, last-ditch, seat-of-your-pants battle…indeed I count that as my personal favourite. Breitenfeld, Lutzen (either of them), Blenheim or Leuthen were all more exciting battles, with more movements and evolutions, more exciting stuff for the ‘armchair general’ or the student of tactics…so why Waterloo?

Wellington himself sounded a little underwhelmed by the whole thing, stating that; “The French came on in the same old style – in columns, and were driven off in the same old style” whilst Napoleon on the other hand said much the same. He was disappointed with Wellington; a man of whom he had heard there was much to be feared, but barring praising his bravery and staunchness, he complained that Wellington made no manoeuvres nor did anything particularly exciting on the day – indeed that he did everything possible to lose the battle.

Yet Waterloo holds a place in the hearts of the military historian like no other battle in history. It is the most written about battle in history, the most studied, the most conjectured and the most argued-over. So why the fascination?

Well the answer is simple; Waterloo is the grandfather of every action story ever told!

1) The Comeback – Firstly there’s the ‘comeback’ angle. Forget that this was history and think up some magical land, be it Middle Earth or something out of ‘Game of Thrones’ – an Emperor, once the terror of the known world is imprisoned on an island when suddenly he breaks free, takes back his country and his armies and goes on one last mad dash to take on the world, to change everything and re-write history. This is the ultimate finale to an epic tale. You couldn’t have written a more exciting story, but yet it truly happened. Napoleon must surely credited with the greatest comeback in all of history!

2) The Showdown – How better to create a story than the two greatest generals of the age – men who had never met before in battle, sizing up for the final battle? Rarely if ever has history given any parallels on such a scale. Forget Hannibal Vs. Scipio, Caesar Vs. pompey, Gustavus Adolphus Vs. Tilly or Turenne Vs. The Great Conde – this was bigger, grander and more epic! The unbeaten Wellington against the incomparable Napoleon – this was the “Rumble in the Jungle” of the military world; the most anticipated showdown of all time! Odds were on for Napoleon; the man who had beaten everyone, whilst Wellington was still the challenger; the the man who had never been beaten by anyone, yet had never faced Napoleon. Take away the ‘Waterloo’ myths we all know, and put this into a different context. Imagine you didn’t know, or that it was something and somewhere else and now look again…how exciting a story can you get? This is the “Rocky” of the 19th century and then some!

3) Defeat and Opportunity – In making a story – imagining this was all some tall tale of fictitious heroes and villains, there comes a point where the bad guy has to look very much like he is winning, and boy, did the Waterloo campaign give us that in bundles?? Napoleon charges up the Charleroi road and smashes the Prussians at Ligny, and even Wellington is severely battered at Quatre Bras and forced to retreat to Waterloo. The allies separate, the Prussians look like fleeing and leaving Wellington to fend for himself; the chances of winning are halved as the Prussian army streams away into the night, but then comes a mistake – a glimmer of hope for our hero Wellington, as Marshal Grouchy, in hot pursuit of the Prussians, overshoots them, and suddenly they are closer to Wellington than he is. Can the Prussians come back into the game, or is Wellington to be abandoned and defeated?? – This is every action movie you ever saw!

4) The hero fights alone – Cornered and confronted at last by the giant, unstoppable ogre, Wellington turns and fights, absorbing the blows, hitting back where he can, soaking up the punishment but getting worn down. The great Napoleon can’t manoeuvre for the mud and must now come on head-down like a juggernaut, hammering wildly with everything he has as Wellington picks his shots, absorbs the battering and wonders if he can withstand it much longer. Go and watch the “Rumble in the Jungle” and the rope-a-dope of Ali, with Big George Foreman smashing away as our hero rolls on the ropes, hitting back where he can and tiring out his mighty opponent…epic struggles don’t come more brilliant than this!

5) Here comes the cavalry! – The clinching moment in every action-movie! As our hero struggles to hold on, and we convince ourselves that he must be defeated, that last forgotten shred of hope arrives in the nick of time! The Prussians arrive, the pressure on Wellington slackens and now our hero is back in the game and fighting like ‘John Champion’. The beast roars and fights like never before, but we get the feeling that the good guys are winning…until.

6) The bad guy is still too strong! – Despite all the odds, our plucky hero Wellington and his friend Blucher are hitting the Emperor with all they have, but it still isn’t enough! Our hopes, once soaring high are now dashed as the bad guy gets up again, shrugs off the flurry of blows which we – the compelled audience – were sure would see the end of him, and now he gets angrier and scarier! His Imperial Guard; the toughest soldiers in the world who have never been conquered on a hundred battlefields march to the front. They are too strong! Surely this is the end??

7) Our hero finds his inner strength – As in every good action film, our hero finds himself alone and staring defeat in the face as the monster gets back up and comes at him, and now with no tricks up his sleeve, he must battle for his life! Remember ‘Aliens’ where Ripley finds herself alone and confronting the Queen Xenomorph? Suddenly our hero manfully stands up and now pounds the Imperial Guard and then suddenly, as they have never done before, they are running back across the field! “La Garde Recule!” they shout as they tumble back, and suddenly the whole French line is falling back from the field and the ogre is gone for good! Roll the credits!!

8) No sequel! – This was ‘the decider’ – no ‘bad guy comes back’ routine – everyone knows that this is the last chapter in the book. Like Darth Vader or Voldemort, we know that they are beaten, and we celebrate, for now we know that good conquers evil in the end, and that the world is at peace!

9) Or is it…? – That little ‘Easter-egg’ at the end of the film…like when Vin Diesel turns up after the credits have rolled on ‘Fast & Furious Tokyo Drift’ or when Carrie’s hand comes out of the grave in the dream; the Emperor sits on his island of St Helena and stares out to sea….maybe, just maybe, he might still come back…

Think about Waterloo next time you are watching a good action flick and you will see that it is all there. Rocky, the Alien Films or some of the world’s greatest boxing matches…heck the WWE Wrestling is a perfect example, and you will see why Waterloo is truly the greatest action story ever told; indeed it is the great-grandfather of every action story ever told!

Nothing else comes close, and why should it? Waterloo is the very model upon which almost every action story you have ever watched or read is based…so yes, the actors might have been a little unimpressed with each other’s performance, but to you and I, it had everything we ever needed…and more guns than any Hollywood production too!

N.B – Please feel free to join me on my Facebook page ‘Ricky D Phillips – Military History Author‘ – https://www.facebook.com/rickydphillipsauthor – and why not join the world’s biggest on-line Military History forum; the British Military History group on LinkedIn?

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The Great Conde – The greatest General you never heard of…

“The Great Conde” – sounds like a magician, doesn’t he? – Well he was.

The student of history has rarely heard his name, and indeed many people have forgotten or simply never heard of Louis II de Bourbon, Duc d’Enghien and Prince de Conde – for my money one of the best, and definitely one of the coolest generals in history. Now “Cool” isn’t exactly a word we tend to use when we describe military commanders, but this guy exuded cool, and I think it’s time to put one of my favourite commanders of all time back on the world stage with a little introduction.

So Louis was a Bourbon ‘Prince of the Blood’ in the 17th century, which pretty much gave him the right to command an army without a single piece of training or combat experience; a recipe which usually ends in disaster, but not so him. At the tender age of just twenty-one he was fighting the Spanish on France’s northern borders as his colleague – and soon to be friend, nemesis and friend once more, Marshal Turenne fought the Austrians along the Rhine.

Spain was the dominant power in Europe, with a military machine which was unbeaten and considered unbeatable, and yet at the battle of Rocroi, the 21 year-old trounced the greatest army in the world off of the field in a battle still studied at Sandhurst and West Point military colleges today as one of the greatest battles in history. Here the young Conde showed all the elements which would categorise his career; the eye and the timing – that thing the French call coup de oeil – for the perfect moment for a charge, that precise feeling or instinct which cannot be taught, and then a mad and unstoppable charge into the fray. At the end of this gory day, he asked the Spanish prisoners how large their army had been, to which one Spaniard replied to him to count the prisoners and the dead, for that was all.

Cut next to his second great battle at Freiburg, where coming upon the enemy behind thick entrenchments and on a steep hill, Conde saw his men beaten back time and again. Advancing to the front, he now produced his marshal’s baton and hurled it into the enemy entrenchments, ordering his men to go and get it back…they did. At Allerheim, his third great battle, he was stabbed twice, shot, had all of his aides killed around him, three horses shot from under him, three more wounded and over twenty sword cuts across his cuirass, and still he came away with the victory, having joined in the last great charge to sweep the enemy from the field.

At Lens – ‘the second Rocroi’ – he was hugely outnumbered again by the Spanish, and yet drew them into the open field and crushed them from both flanks at once, again being in the madness of the charge and the thickest of the fighting. Amazingly, soon after this, he was arrested on trumped-up charges of treason, and soon after his release, began to wage a war of revenge against France and the Cardinal Mazarin, wrecking the army of Marshal Hocquincourt and only being stopped by Turenne – a man who throughout Freiburg and Allerheim had grown to be his second in command and close friend.

Now one of history’s most exciting duels was about to take place; the mad and dashing Conde against his best friend, the exact, cunning and brilliant Turenne. The two best generals in the world were in opposing camps and facing each other for control of France. Turenne cornered him with his back to the gates of Paris, which were barred to stop the fight tearing through the streets, and Conde, though outnumbered, fought one of the most brilliant actions of his career; the battle of Faubourg St Antoine. It was a brutal street fight in which the Prince led every counter-attack, was in the thickest of every fight and even turned and cut down three would-be assassins who attempted to murder him in the confusion of the fight, before plunging back into the fray.

Pushed back to the very gates of Paris, Conde stood and fought like a demon as the walls above became crowded with the citizens of Paris who now began to cheer for his epic stand. Spying the ladies of Paris swooning over him, the handsome young Prince even found the time to strip off and roll around in the grass to dry the blood and sweat from his body, which now sent his admirers into raptures and soon had the Paris mob opening the gates and allowing him to escape from certain destruction – what a guy!

Now Conde and Turenne fought with everything they had across the plains of Northern France and Flanders in an epic battle of Bull Vs. Matador – of the wild, unstoppable onslaught of Conde against the scientific genius of Turenne. This was ‘The Rumble in the Jungle’ of all military history! Turenne won a brilliant victory at Arras, Conde swept his enemy away in another mad charge at Valenciennes, and finally came the decider; the battle of the Dunes outside of Dunkirk, where Turenne was victorious once more, but not before Conde had cut his way into the opposing army and then cut his way out again, swinging an enemy soldier up behind him on his saddle (a la Nathan Bedford-Forrest at Shiloh) to protect himself against a hail of bullets.

The war ended and the two greatest generals of the age became friends once more, but Conde had not had the last of his victories yet. Now aged, crippled with gout and with good living, the Prince fought his toughest battle yet at Seneffe against a mighty army of the Dutch and Spanish – 60,000 men in all. Any commander in history would have backed down, pulled away or called for reinforcements, but not Conde – with a mad charge he now tried to surround the enemy with his much smaller army, leading attack after attack and breaking them by his sheer will alone until they were routed from the field with crippling casualties, the old Prince having to be pulled by his son from under the carcass of his fallen horse.

Returning to Paris, Conde was greeted by King Louis XIV at the top of a grand staircase adorned with the captured flags and banners of the enemy. Hobbling with the gout and his wounds, Conde called up apologising for his slowness, but King Louis replied that when one was as laden down by laurels as was Conde, that he could not be expected to move so fast.

Conde’s last action was to be against the outstanding Austrian Field Marshal Raimondo Montecuccoli in a campaign in which neither could gain the advantage, and both made life so hard for the other that they both retired that year, having yielded no advantage to the other.

This is the Great Conde – a man whose enemies as often as not ran from his name alone. He was a Murat, a Lasalle, a Prince Rupert, a Tarleton and a Bedford-Forrest all in one – and that was just with the cavalry. One of the maddest SOB’s who ever cried ‘Charge!’ – and yet he could lay a siege like a master, lead infantry to perfection and could quote Caesar’s Commentaries verbatim. In his career, he only truly lost three battles, and all of which to Turenne who is rightfully adjudged  amongst the greatest generals of history and the greatest French general of all time save Napoleon himself.

Conde is, perhaps, the single most dashing, heroic, rambunctious madman to be found in the annals of history, and for this reason he ranks for me as not just one of the greatest generals of all time, but the most fun to write about as well. I have covered a swathe of the man, his battles and his career in the fifth volume of my epic seven-book series which is currently under production, and every moment with him is fun and pure devilment.

We know Turenne was better but we do not care…it all comes down to ‘cool’ in the end.

N.B. – For more information on my upcoming books, please ‘Like’ Ricky D Phillips – Military History Author on Facebook  or at the following link: https://www.facebook.com/rickydphillipsauthor – and why not join the conversation on the LinkedIn ‘British Military History’ group – the biggest and still fastest-growing military history forum on the web.

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Ricky D Phillips – About the Author (Get to know me!)

Today I just started my ‘About the Author’ profile on http://www.abouttheauthor.co.uk – but there’s so much I can’t quite put down there for a while, so I thought I’d put it here instead! One of the things I hear often seems to be a recurring question amongst lovers of military history; “Who the hell is Ricky D Phillips?” – I guess it’s a form of flattery…

Actually it isn’t the world’s most ridiculous question, and there have been quite a few, so I thought I would answer some of the most common questions in a ‘get to know me’ kind of way, and of course invite anyone to ask me pretty much anything by reply. I don’t have any ‘off’ subjects, so feel free.

Here are what we might term the ‘FAQ’s’ about me and my work:

Who am I? – Born in Whetstone, North London back in the deepest, darkest 1970’s, the second of identical twins, I spent fifteen years in Engineering & Technical Recruitment, won a stack of recruitment awards (which gather dust in a cupboard full of books) and moved to Edinburgh in late 2008. I owned my own recruitment company for a while before moving on to my passion of writing military history…does that cover it?

Why the ‘D’? – Google ‘Ricky Phillips’ and find out…he’s a middle-aged hairy bass-player for the band Styx! The name started back in my early recruitment days; one of the senior guys said I sounded about twelve with a name like ‘Ricky’ (and yes that is my name, I’m NOT a ‘Richard’!) so he told me to put the ‘D’ in which he said sounded better. It has sort of become the differential between my personal and professional status!

How did you get started in Military History? – Two people are to blame for this; Bernard Cornwell and my Mum. I was about fifteen and was ranting to my Mum about the latest girl in my life (I think we had broken up after a long and serious relationship, which when you’re fifteen is about a week and a half!) and after half an hour she hadn’t looked up from her book, contenting herself with conciliatory mumbles and ‘making the right noises’. She was engrossed in ‘Sharpe’s Enemy’ by Bernard Cornwell and in the end I gave up ranting and asked her what was so interesting…she gave me the first book in the series; ‘Sharpe’s Rifles’ and I was hooked from there. I guess you could say that I write Military History because my Mum wouldn’t listen to me!

What have you written? – I actually have a few books and other pieces to my name, including a day-by-day account of everything that happened in the Peninsular War (it is hand written and would take a year to type up!), several articles and a local history of my new home-town of Stockbridge Edinburgh. I did try my hand at some fictional work and produced three books but it was all a bit well….a bit ‘Sharpe’. I also write my blog with some dedication! My only real published book so far has been a book on the Recruitment & Employment industry, but it sold quite well, though things have moved on and it needs an update…I’ll get around to it one day.

What are you writing now? – Currently I have several projects on the go at once, including the modernisation and republication of a World War Two autobiography which was written by an Admiral – but only for his family’s consumption. I read it even though WW2 isn’t my pet subject, but it was one of the most fascinating books I have ever read, so I really want to bring it to a new audience. I also have a book in the final draft stages on Caesar and have undertaken a new commission to write a short book covering Stockbridge’s own recipients of the Victoria Cross. All of this takes a back-seat to my ‘main book’ which is a seven-volume history of Napoleon and the art of war, which is in the editing stage right now. That’s the one I am ‘most famous’ for, even though it isn’t out yet!

Tell us about that last book again? – As I say, my main focus is this seven-volume history. It takes Napoleon as its central theme. He is my icon and, at least for me, the greatest military commander of all time. Don’t get me wrong; he wasn’t perfect – far from it indeed, but I suppose that’s why he is so fascinating: True perfection is imperfect, or so they say! The book discusses Napoleon and his art of war, looking at his influences, his plans, his battles and campaigns, his subordinates and more, but in the final stages of the first draft, I made a huge new discovery which turns the whole of history on its head. Sadly, this forced endless re-writes and searches for new information to make it fit nicely. The book grew into something it was never intended to be, but hey, that’s history for you! So here I am sitting on a two-hundred year-old secret which now has the experts begging to know…hence I am ‘famous’ for a book which nobody except me has ever read!

Have you ever been on TV? – Yes and no. I have done talks and lectures which have been mentioned on STV News, but my sole TV work has been a local history which was shown on Japanese TV! It was very hard to do, as I had to present to a plastic cat on a stick (I kid you not!!) and when it aired there was all that funny cartoon stuff going on and a strange man doing my voice (I was dubbed, obviously) – it was a surreal experience, but then that’s Japanese TV! At least it wasn’t ‘Endurance’!!

Did you study history? – No, completely not. History as a subject – or at least as it was taught on the curriculum, was boring. I loved the subject, but the lessons were dull. British history in particular is very self-deprecating these days, and we like to paint ourselves as the big evil bad guy finally humbled but turned into a nice guy at the end as our reward. I don’t buy that. I wanted the ‘evil’ stuff and the action, not some recital of the crimes of the past judged by the ethics and moral standards of today, but that’s all you got. Recently I found and contacted my old History Teacher and he felt much the same about what he was forced to teach us. A ‘one sided’ history is no history at all – I hated the lessons but I always wanted to know more and see what was on the other side of the hill.

Why do you write? – I started writing as a way to order my thoughts. As I say, my Mum was a great military history buff and really got me into it. When she became ill in 2003 I used to write at her bedside as she slept and would read it out, just to keep myself going, but one of the last things she told me was to take up writing professionally. It turns out she could hear me still, and was enjoying what I wrote. I suppose it’s that which fires me, and which also makes me strive to get it right and still make it entertaining…anything less and I always think Mum might still be watching!

What do you write? – My main ‘thing’ is 1800’s history, but I have covered swathes of time in my work and my study and in planning future works. Military History goes back to 1469BC and the battle of Megiddo and it ends today with whatever is happening. Generally I avoid the World Wars; I’m good on them, but I’m not an expert, and there are many real experts. My expert subject really is Napoleon.

What’s your writing style? – I got into Military History through Bernard Cornwell and the Sharpe novels, and that has never really left me. My particular ‘bent’ is towards great heroes and great battles, so it doesn’t differ much in subject matter either – except that my heroes lived and Sharpe did not. In that sense, I always write with a fast-paced narrative which rockets the reader through the action. I want them to instinctively flinch as a cannon goes off or to feel themselves swept up in the charge, and ultimately to feel as if they were there, as we do when we read Sharpe or Flashman or Jack Lark. So I write pure history with no fiction, but it reads like a story, which I think is much more entertaining. Without good narrative, a history book reads just like a shopping list: “And then this…and then that…” – Who would read that??

Do you have a website? – Not yet, no, though one is in the works. Right now my best ‘touch points’ are my professional Facebook page “Ricky D Phillips – Military History Author” and my LinkedIn group “British Military History” of which I am a main contributor.

Any advice for aspiring writers of military history? – Absolutely there are some things I wish I had known before I started. The first is to know where you’re going. Plan the book as well as you can and know the point you are trying to make. There is endless scope for deviation in any tale, so keep it relevant and learn to cast out that which is not ‘core subject’. Secondly, keep an open mind and remember to shun the idea of bias. Just because it’s what you think, or think should have happened, remember that the facts are the facts. Don’t omit evidence because you don’t like it, or it doesn’t fit, and never try to be someone’s apologist. I am a self-confessed ‘Napoleon worshipper’ but I am also the first to say that he could be a bastard, a megalomanic and something of a fantasist at times – without the whole picture, all you have is opinion. Finally, research is key. Learn to write down everything you have used, be it a website or a book, and ensure that you credit it as a source. Sadly, I have used so many that I can’t go back and do this as well as I would have liked. Remember anyone can write anything, but be prepared to back up what you say.

Any other questions for me? – Readers of this blog can comment and ask me questions about myself, my work or pretty much anything else, and I will answer!

N.B – Please feel free to ‘Like’ Ricky D Phillips – Military History Author on Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/rickydphillipsauthor or why not join the ‘British Military History’ group on LinkedIn – the biggest and still fastest-growing military history forum on the web.

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Twelve things you didn’t know about Frederick the Great

As readers of my work will know, I am something of a fan of Napoleon and Wellington in particular, but perhaps less well known is my fascination with several other great generals of world history, and none (or few) more so than Frederick the Great.

Oddly, Frederick and his campaigns and battles are not very well known, indeed you would have to go far to find someone who knows more than the absolute basics. Napoleon steals all of the glory and then Hitler managed to overshadow anything good about Germany at all! When I wrote the last volume of my seven-book series on Frederick, therefore, I really had to do my homework. But boy, was it rewarding!!

So I thought it would be fun to dedicate a post to “Old Fritz” himself and tell you, the reader, why he was indeed “Great”.

1/ He had a miserable upbringing – Frederick’s father wanted a son who could make Prussia into a great military power-house. Unfortunately for him, his eldest son Frederick turned out weak of stature, slightly effeminate in his ways, studious and determined to become a flautist. His father upbraided him constantly in public, punished him often and even sought to have his younger son succeed him. When he was a boy, Frederick ran away from home with his best friend, but being captured and returned home, Frederick’s father forced him to watch his best friend beheaded and then imprisoned him for a while as a punishment; an act which would haunt Frederick for the rest of his life in recurring nightmares and visions.

2/ His genius for war was spotted early – Frederick’s father took him to war with him in the hope of stirring some martial ardour into his son, although by this time, he deemed young Frederick as a lost cause. It was only Prince Eugene of Savoy – the commander-in-chief and one of the greatest generals of all time who spotted the talent of the young man, and when asked if he thought his son would ever amount to anything, Eugene told the king flatly that he would one day be not just a good soldier but a great general. Prince Eugene himself undertook to give the young Frederick as few lessons in the art of war, and his gentle manner worked where his father’s beatings had not. Frederick later said he owed everything to the brief education given to him by Prince Eugene of Savoy.

3/ His first battle was a disaster – The battle of Mollwitz was to be Frederick’s first battle in command, and being wholly ignorant of how to command such an action, it turned into a shambles. Despite arriving behind the Austrian army, who were all asleep and in camp (an advantage gained by pure accident) – Frederick deployed his men for battle too early and too far away, giving the startled Austrians more than enough time to raise the alarm and turn about to face him. At the first charge of Austrian cavalry, Frederick’s own cavalry was swept from the field and his infantry line started to roll back from the right flank. In the panic, Frederick was sent by his generals to flee the field as the battle was lost. He rode almost into the arms of some roving Croatian irregulars and fled back the way he had came, finding refuge in a flour mill, emerging later coated head to foot in flour. When he returned to the battlefield, he was informed that against all expectations, his army had won the battle. He never forgave the men who made him leave the field, but hereafter he devoted himself to learning the art of war.

4/ He was an accomplished writer and musician – Frederick became one of the most enlightened men of his time through study, and became a prolific writer and musician. He undertook the first written history of Charles IX of Sweden, wrote his famous book “The Anti-Machiavel” and several large tomes on the history of the house of Brandenburg. He also jousted in letters with the great Voltaire, the two enjoying a tempestuous relationship. Musically, Frederick also produced four symphonies and over a hundred sonatas, and his head was carried at a permanent tilt due to his constant playing of the flute.

5/ He dug up his battles from history books – Through endless study of his subject, Frederick looked for a way to give himself an advantage over his more numerous enemies; something from the ancient past which could be applied in modern times, and he found it by combining the ‘manoeuvre battles’ of Cyrus the Great (notably Thymbra) with the ‘oblique order battle’ of Epaminondas of Thebes (notably Leuctra and Mantinea) – a tactic which saw him crush his opponents in many great battles by concentrating his entire strength against one wing of his enemy’s much larger armies, producing such victories as Sohr, Rossbach, Leuthen and Liegntitz with what he termed the ‘Schwehrpunkt’ manoeuvre.

6/ He fought alone for seven years – During the Seven Years’ War, Frederick successively fought and beat the armies of Austria, Russia, France and Sweden. Of these, the Austrians were his most ardent opponents; the Russians the toughest. His tiny army was forced to run from one corner of his domains to the next to stave off disaster after disaster; “Always running!” as he used to say, yet despite having a small army and being surrounded from all sides, he still managed to win the war against all expectations.

7/ He was saved by two miracles – The first and second ‘Miracle of the House of Brandenburg’ were what saved him from inevitable annihilation. The first occurred after his crushing defeat at Kunersdorf by the combined armies of Austria and Russia, after which his army disintegrated and Frederick gave up command of the army and prepared to abdicate. Then the impossible happened; the Russians, short of supplies, simply left Prussia and went home instead of marching to Berlin, and the Austrians, left alone, marched south again, leaving Frederick able to take the field once more. The second miracle occurred when Russia changed sides and joined him at Burkersdorf for the last battle of the war. Suddenly a messenger came fresh from Russia with the news that Russia had pulled out of the conflict completely and that the Russian army must march away, leaving Frederick with his small army to confront the more numerous Austrians alone. Luckily, he persuaded the Austrian commander to delay and hit upon a plan for the Russian army to stand to attention against one Austrian flank and not to fight, but to merely stand and watch, forcing the Austrians to deploy half of their forces to meet them whilst he attacked the other. The plan worked and the Russians had a marvellous view of the battle whilst the Austrians opposed to them stood confused and wondering why they simply just stood there!

8/ He was a noted wit – Frederick was never at a loss for something funny to say, and whilst fighting desperately for his survival, still bombarded Europe with disparaging cartoons and mock plays typically aimed at Marie-Louise Empress of Austria and the Madame de Pompadour – the mistress of the French King who were portrayed as two wanton bitches in heat. When Sweden pulled out of the war against him, he was recorded as laughing; “Oh, was I at war with Sweden?” and even in his later years, he used to baffle visitors to his palace by pretending to be the gardener. Once, upon being pressed by one of his generals to inform him of his plans, Frederick winked, waved him over and asked “Can you keep a secret?” – “Yes sire!” said the man, eager to be taken into his King’s confidence; “Good,” said Frederick, “so can I.”

9/ He was a master statesman – Frederick was not just a great military commander, but also a great King, statesman and ruler. He set up infrastructure and agriculture in Prussia, reclaimed great tracts of swampland along the river Oder for cultivation, introduced the potato to Prussia and set up schools and academies often at his own expense. He referred to himself as ‘King of the beggars’ and passed a law which allowed the most humble peasant access to his King for arbitration in disputes, resolving everything from private quarrels to arguments between neighbours over land. His opinion was sought by the entire civilised world, and he always gave his opinion bluntly and honestly. One little-known fact is that after America gained independence from Britain, the American Congress wrote to him and begged him to offer his own brother Prince Henry as the King of America (they don’t teach you that in school, now do they?) in fact they asked twice and Frederick refused twice, also blocking his brother’s acceptance of an offer to become King of Poland. In the instance of Poland, Frederick saw that it would inevitably drag him into a war with neighbouring Russia, whilst Henry as King of America would doubtless upset France or Britain and again cause another war, neither of which Prussia needed for stability.

10/ He was the first celebrity of modern Europe – In his old age, Frederick became the greatest and most famous attraction in Europe, being visited by royalty, nobles, army officers and peasantry alike. His door was always open, and he greatly enjoyed conversing with everyone who came to see him. Notable visitors to his table were Gideon von Loudon – the Austrian Field-Marshal who had battled him throughout the seven years’ war, Kutusov – a Russian Major whom Frederick convinced not to give up his profession (and who later was to be beaten by Napoleon at the battles of Austerlitz and Borodino) and Alexandre Berthier (later Napoleon’s chief of staff, Marshal of the Empire and Prince of Neuchatel and Wagram) who had been present at Yorktown and who gave Frederick a lively account of it. One more notable visitor was Sir John Moore – later to be the hero of Corunna, and one of Frederick’s grenadiers even showed him how to fire five shots in a minute with a musket in the Prussian style. Years later, this was to be Moore’s own party trick.

11/ His last words – Frederick’s last recorded words were “Cover the dog, he’s shivering.” He lay in bed with his favourite Italian Greyhound, and it was noted that it was a warm night, but yet the dog was definitely shaking. Frederick’s orderly did as he was bid, but the next morning found him dead. The clock in Frederick’s room stopped at the exact moment of his death. It has never been wound since.

12/ Napoleon visited his tomb – Napoleon worshipped Frederick, but had a desire to surpass him and declared that though he loved his memory, he would tear down all that Frederick had built. In 1806 Napoleon destroyed the Prussian army at the battle of Jena, captured Berlin and took up residence in Frederick’s old office before expressing a wish to visit his tomb. Upon entering the crypt, Napoleon walked forward slowly and in awe before turning to his generals and declaring; “Hats off, gentlemen! If he were alive, we would not be here.”

Can anyone deny that he was not great?

N.B – For more updates on my books, blogs and musings on all things military, please visit my professional Facebook page http://www.facebook.com/rickydphillipsauthor – or why not join the ‘British Military History‘ group on LinkedIn; the biggest and still the fastest growing military history forum on the web today.

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