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Duke of York's Campaign in the Low Countries.

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Re: Duke of York's Campaign in the Low Countries.

Postby jf42 » January 9th, 2015, 3:06 pm

Josh&Historyland wrote:
Never let it be said I don't listen. Note the title of the post now. (FYI ever since a convo on the VWF I no longer say Artillery teams but Artillery detatchemnts) :)


Oh yes, never to be forgotten. We are altogether more gentle here on NWF.
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Re: Duke of York's Campaign in the Low Countries.

Postby Josh&Historyland » January 9th, 2015, 3:28 pm

Tut tut the NAM!
jf42 wrote:
Josh&Historyland wrote:
Never let it be said I don't listen. Note the title of the post now. (FYI ever since a convo on the VWF I no longer say Artillery teams but Artillery detatchemnts) :)


Oh yes, never to be forgotten. We are altogether more gentle here on NWF.


It is the old world manners we pick up from the subject methinks.

Josh.
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Re: Duke of York's Campaign in the Low Countries.

Postby jf42 » January 9th, 2015, 5:46 pm

Josh&Historyland wrote: Usually passed off with stock sentences in most histories.


While I am in bilious mood, I feel obliged to draw attention to this extraordinary example of 'passing off' by an author whose account (I am trying to be polite as I can) is full of unforced errors, misconceptions and factual aberrance, some so strange as to make me wonder if he did this for a bet.

By 21st November York had 14 regiments on the northern bank of the Waal, spanning seven or eight miles of its length

By 21st November, York had 26 Battalions in six brigades (in some depth) on a 24 mile stretch (38.9 km) of the Waal from Oosterhout to Wadenoijen {EDIT: and that's not to mention the Hessians and Hanoverians- who, admittedly, don't count when there's fog in the channel} :geek:

Wellesley and the 33rd were deployed at TIel, seven miles west of Nijmegen and twenty from HQ in Arnhem

Tiel was 22 miles (37km) west of Nijmegen & 24 miles (39/40 km) southwest of Arnhem, respectively. In fact, the 33rd were cantoned at IJzendoorn 6-odd miles to the west of Tiel, with other battalions of Third brigade cantoned in nearby villages.

On 5th Dec a severe frost set in. Two days later the river was glazed with a sheet of ice

The severe frost is said to have begun on 15th December.

On the 8th and again on the 10th the French attacked but on both occasions they were repulsed

The abortive attack across the Maas - by boat- with diversionary assaults across the Waal farther east, took place on 11th December.

At the end of December they attacked again, this time in overwhelming force

This attack took place on 27th December. In fact just two brigades of Delmas’ division attacked the Bommelwaard- an entrenched ‘island’ between Maas and Waal.

puncturing the British defence in several places

The garrison of the Bommelwaard were Dutch. They either capitulated or retreated precipitately north.

On New Years Eve the British attempted a counter attack to capture a small fort at Tuil,

The counter-attack took place on 29-30th December. There was no fort at Tuil. There was a Dutch battery on the Waal dyke captured by the French on 27th December. The French took these guns and mounted them in fleches at road blocks facing inland and cut down surrounding apple trees to create an abattis.

four miles downstream from Tiel

Tuil is in fact over 10 miles (17.2 km) south west from TIel.

The fort commanded the Waal for several miles both directions

Apart from the limitations of terrain and range of guns available, since there was no fort and the captured Dutch guns were now facing inland, this statement is nonsense. The fortified town of Bommel on the opposite bank, however, was surrounded by an 'Italian' or 'bastion' trace. Guns on the walls of Bommel covered the dyke overlooking Tuil and caused the majority of allied casualties.

and if they gained this key French crossing point it should at least temporarily stem the French advance.

Since from Tiel downstream to Gorinchem the Waal was almost frozen solid by this stage, there was no key crossing point. It was virtually all one crossing point. That was the point.

As a delaying tactic the assault was successful

Yes, it was!

Dundas remained in Tuil until January 4th

No, he didn’t. He fell back on the 3rd as ordered, despite the Prince of Orange's plea that he should delay. Extensive source material.

When it was evacuated, and the British pulled back to the Rhine some ten miles north of Nijmegen

They pulled back five miles to the line of the Linge between Leerdam and Tiel. In any case, ‘the British’ at Tuil- i.e. the brigades under Dundas- (not to mention the highly effective Hessians ) - were considerably west of Nijmegen (roughly 30 miles). Meanwhile, the British troops opposite Nijmegen, (some 12 miles south of the Rhine, on the south shore of the Waal), er, stayed put.

I wonder if this author ever looked at a map of the Waal country.

This is the best bit-

This position was abandoned when the French managed to break through, cross the Rhine and station artillery on the Osterbeek Heights.

Er, really? From the 10th January onwards, the allies on the north bank of the Lower Rhine/Lek kept the French at bay all along the river between Arnhem and Rhenen until the retreat eastwards started on the night of the 14th-15th. The French were particularly short of artillery until the 'big push' across the frozen Waal on the 10th January.

From there they were able to threaten British headquarters at Arnhem

Well, that would have been difficult, since on the 3rd January Walmoden moved the GHQ from Arnhem to Amerongen 21 miles (33.9 km) to the west.

Meanwhile, the author mentions neither the action at Geldermalsen, where Wesley/Wellington's regiment, the 33rd, played a dramatic role, nor other actions in the critical phase of the British stand on the Waal before they retreated behind the Lek.

That all comes from just one page in Wellington's Wars: The Making of a Military Genius.
by Dr Huw J. Davies,(Senior Lecturer in Defence Studies at Kings College London and currently the Academic Course Director for the Advanced Command and Staff Course).

The devil is in the details.
Last edited by jf42 on January 10th, 2015, 11:18 am, edited 2 times in total.
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Re: Duke of York's Campaign in the Low Countries.

Postby Josh&Historyland » January 9th, 2015, 10:28 pm

Well they aren't stock phrases, but yes there does seem to be a problem with the details being passed off. An easy thing due to the lack of general knowledge about it, for instance I am familiar with the book, and the author, I believe he is on twitter and we've exchanged messages now and again. I had considered getting the book, since I had Muir's, and Muir isn't going for the military side to any great depth yet, I thought it would be good padding despite not being too impressed with Davies' apparently highly critical approach (I don't think that does very much good to anyone unless the commander is a proven nincompoop already). If I had got it I'd not have known anything was wrong or in doubt let alone that much! I'd have needed to get to India or Spain before recognising something was amiss (I assume if it starts off on the wrong foot more slips and slides are to come). It is obvious from the writeup (coincidentally Yale has published this too, and Muir actually Aknowlegmes Davies for having differing opinions to him, though as he have found Muir mixes up a date of this campaign too) the author is focusing on India as most do, thus the need to get past "The Low Countries" as speedily as possible due to the fragmentary record for Wellington's actions there, thus perhaps research was not as deep as might have been, a common mistake.

Publishers blurb.
"Arthur Wellesley, Duke of Wellington, lives on in popular memory as the "Invincible General," loved by his men, admired by his peers, formidable to his opponents. This incisive book revises such a portrait, offering an accurate—and controversial—new analysis of Wellington's remarkable military career. Unlike his nemesis Napoleon, Wellington was by no means a man of innate military talent, Huw J. Davies argues. Instead, the key to Wellington's military success was an exceptionally keen understanding of the relationship between politics and war.

Drawing on extensive primary research, Davies discusses Wellington's military apprenticeship in India, where he learned through mistakes as well as successes how to plan campaigns, organize and use intelligence, and negotiate with allies. In India Wellington encountered the constant political machinations of indigenous powers, and it was there that he apprenticed in the crucial skill of balancing conflicting political priorities. In later campaigns and battles, including the Peninsular War and Waterloo, Wellington's genius for strategy, operations, and tactics emerged. For his success in the art of war, he came to rely on his art as a politician and tactician. This strikingly original book shows how Wellington made even unlikely victories possible—with a well-honed political brilliance that underpinned all of his military achievements."

Yes invincible general. Loved by his men, that is new I must admit, admired by his peers, again new to me, yes formidable to his opponents. Controversial sends alarm bells ringing, the rest of it suggests that the book attempts to take the genius out of the picture and replace it with something more relatable. Everyhing else appears to be pretty much the usual stuff I have seen before. However I am judging a book by its cover.

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Re: Duke of York's Campaign in the Low Countries.

Postby jf42 » January 10th, 2015, 8:29 am

Josh&Historyland wrote: Well they aren't stock phrases, but yes there does seem to be a problem with the details being passed off. An easy thing due to the lack of general knowledge about it.... the author is focusing on India as most do, thus the need to get past "The Low Countries" as speedily as possible due to the fragmentary record for Wellington's actions there, thus perhaps research was not as deep as might have been.


In this case, I am not sure even the most feverish haste to "get past 'the Low Countries' as speedily as possible", can explain the sloppy reading and skewed narrative on display in this work. I used the phrase 'unforced errors' advisedly.

Perhaps the unsuccessful campaign is worth only a page or two in an account of Wellington's career but there is sufficient evidence in the sources to make an act of intelligent compression and sketch a coherent narrative that is both factual and vivid- as Guedalla and Longford demonstated admirably, for instance.

Gary Wills, in his monograph 'Wellington's first battle,' has turned a lens on a single event, the battle of Boxtel. His primary purpose is to provide data to wargame the engagement rather than reflect more generally on the young Wellington's actions and decisions; for obvious reasons. The evidence is not there. Wills' meticulous research nonetheless provides a very detailed account of the surrounding events, speculating intelligently and honestly when confronting ambiguity.

It's a matter, I believe, of both rigour and of engaging the historical imagination, admirably demonstrated on this forum on a regular basis.

Josh&Historyland wrote: However I am judging a book by its cover.


But now you have a page from inside to go on!
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Re: Duke of York's Campaign in the Low Countries.

Postby Josh&Historyland » January 11th, 2015, 10:36 pm

Indeed so!

There is a tendency to over inflate Wellington's part, when in reality at the time he is a background player, like any of his own battalion (brigade) commander's. Like you said Guedella and Longford do excellent jobs in their context's. Which reminds me, Guedella is backed up by Muir in speaking of quite allot of fraternisation between the two sides during the winter. Wesley speaks of men performing dances for the enemy across the river or some such frippery, and of officers going to meet the enemy officer's socially at crossing points.

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Re: Duke of York's Campaign in the Low Countries.

Postby Josh&Historyland » February 13th, 2015, 2:57 pm

While researching the Greys at Waterloo, I perused Anglesey's biography of Uxbridge "One Leg" and I was reminded that Paget had not only began his career in the infantry but commanded them (the 80th) in this campaign. I'll fill in details later.

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Re: Duke of York's Campaign in the Low Countries.

Postby FBC-Elvas, Portugal » February 13th, 2015, 6:30 pm

Here's a photo of the Russian monument in Bergen-op-Zoom in an earlier thread about the Duke of York's campaign in the Low Countries. viewtopic.php?f=47&t=1712&p=12462&hilit=Bergen#p12462

Sarah
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