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Storming the breach at Badajoz!!!

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  • Storming the breach at Badajoz!!!

    I've just been reading about the 'Valiant Stormer' patch that was issued to some of the survivors of the Peninsula war's two great sieges. It got me to thinking as to what other bloodletting's there were in a breach during the Napoleonic Wars?
    I seem to recall Marbot waxing lyrical atop a storming ladder, but for the life of me cannot recall where?


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  • #2
    Storming parties weren't known as "The Forlorn Hope" for nothing. The Sharpe series presents several such assaults.
    Quis Custodiet Ipsos Custodes? Who is watching the watchers?

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    • #3
      Not from the Napoleonic wars but contemporaneous with these the British fought a number of wars in India where there were (and still are) some mighty fortresses. The British forces in India at the time were light on siege guns and were forced to take them by storm. In a number of cases they were surprisingly successful - in part because their approach was contrary to the Indian way of war in which sieges were leisurely long drawn out affairs. Normally when an attacking army hove into sight there was no call for alarm as nothing much happened whilst they laid out their siege lines and held formal parleys with the besieged. All of this could take many days or even weeks. The British sometimes launched a storm within hours of arriving and before the defenders were ready, this was considered most unfair but the result was usually to keep the casualties light. On at least one occasions a storming party was able to pelt along a long causeway, through a complex set of outer defences, carrying a mine (petard) and blow the main gate before the defenders realised what was happening. However at the storming of Seringapatam in 1799 there were significant casualties on both sides. This general success of the storm may have given Wellington the illusion that it would work as easily in the Peninsular
      Human history becomes more and more a race between education and catastrophe (H G Wells)
      Mit der Dummheit kaempfen Goetter selbst vergebens (Friedrich von Schiller)

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      • #4
        Originally posted by Mountain Man View Post
        Storming parties weren't known as "The Forlorn Hope" for nothing. The Sharpe series presents several such assaults.
        Actually it's the other way round The meaning of the words have changed over the centuries and forlorn used just to mean foremost and a hope was a small band of men so that a forlorn hope was what any group in advance of the main body was called. It was because leading a storm became increasingly a bloody and high risk affair that the term came to mean what it does today.
        Human history becomes more and more a race between education and catastrophe (H G Wells)
        Mit der Dummheit kaempfen Goetter selbst vergebens (Friedrich von Schiller)

        Comment


        • #5
          Marbot's comments and action were at the storming of Ratisbon in 1809. He was then one of Lannes' ADCs.

          Comment


          • #6
            Originally posted by MarkV View Post
            This general success of the storm may have given Wellington the illusion that it would work as easily in the Peninsular
            Unfortunately for Wellington, the British had no engineer troops until 1813 when the Sappers and Miners were finally formed and some sent to Spain.

            British engineer officers were not well-educated in conducting a siege and they had to learn by experience, which tended to be bloody.

            See Wellington's Engineers by Mark Thompson. The Royal Engineers were an officers-only organization until the activation of the Sappers and Miners, that were also commanded by engineer officers. The French had remedied that problem in the early 1790s, but they also had miner companies for quite some time which belonged to the artillery and were sometimes commanded by artillery officers. The French engineer officers, however, were trained at their excellent engineer school at Mezieres on siege techniques and procedures as were the French artillery officers so that the two would work together during a siege.

            If you compare the French conduct of a siege in the Peninsula with what Wellington was forced to do, there is quite a difference. The most successful 'siege team' of the period worked for Suchet in eastern Spain-the engineer General Rogniat, and the artilleryman General Valee who would later design and field the new artillery system that replaced the Gribeauval System in the 1820s.

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            • #7
              Originally posted by Massena View Post

              Unfortunately for Wellington, the British had no engineer troops until 1813 when the Sappers and Miners were finally formed and some sent to Spain.

              British engineer officers were not well-educated in conducting a siege and they had to learn by experience, which tended to be bloody.

              See Wellington's Engineers by Mark Thompson. The Royal Engineers were an officers-only organization until the activation of the Sappers and Miners, that were also commanded by engineer officers. The French had remedied that problem in the early 1790s, but they also had miner companies for quite some time which belonged to the artillery and were sometimes commanded by artillery officers. The French engineer officers, however, were trained at their excellent engineer school at Mezieres on siege techniques and procedures as were the French artillery officers so that the two would work together during a siege.

              If you compare the French conduct of a siege in the Peninsula with what Wellington was forced to do, there is quite a difference. The most successful 'siege team' of the period worked for Suchet in eastern Spain-the engineer General Rogniat, and the artilleryman General Valee who would later design and field the new artillery system that replaced the Gribeauval System in the 1820s.
              My point still stands. The British forces in India were equally deficient, and , given that much of Wellington's practical command experience was gained there, he may still have been over optimistic about the effectiveness of the storm
              Human history becomes more and more a race between education and catastrophe (H G Wells)
              Mit der Dummheit kaempfen Goetter selbst vergebens (Friedrich von Schiller)

              Comment


              • #8
                Originally posted by MarkV View Post

                Actually it's the other way round The meaning of the words have changed over the centuries and forlorn used just to mean foremost and a hope was a small band of men so that a forlorn hope was what any group in advance of the main body was called. It was because leading a storm became increasingly a bloody and high risk affair that the term came to mean what it does today.
                And yet anyone who volunteered for these suicide missions was assured of their transgressions being forgiven, and of advancement if they survived.

                You'll find that "forlorn" meant exactly what is says - no hope. If you have ever visited the battlefields of Europe during that period you will immediately understand why.
                Quis Custodiet Ipsos Custodes? Who is watching the watchers?

                Comment


                • #9
                  Originally posted by MarkV View Post
                  Not from the Napoleonic wars but contemporaneous with these the British fought a number of wars in India where there were (and still are) some mighty fortresses. The British forces in India at the time were light on siege guns and were forced to take them by storm. In a number of cases they were surprisingly successful - in part because their approach was contrary to the Indian way of war in which sieges were leisurely long drawn out affairs. Normally when an attacking army hove into sight there was no call for alarm as nothing much happened whilst they laid out their siege lines and held formal parleys with the besieged. All of this could take many days or even weeks. The British sometimes launched a storm within hours of arriving and before the defenders were ready, this was considered most unfair but the result was usually to keep the casualties light. On at least one occasions a storming party was able to pelt along a long causeway, through a complex set of outer defences, carrying a mine (petard) and blow the main gate before the defenders realised what was happening. However at the storming of Seringapatam in 1799 there were significant casualties on both sides. This general success of the storm may have given Wellington the illusion that it would work as easily in the Peninsular
                  Why not? We did exactly the same thing in 1944 on the beaches at Normandy and in the Pacific conflict, with horrific casualties every time.
                  Quis Custodiet Ipsos Custodes? Who is watching the watchers?

                  Comment


                  • #10
                    Originally posted by Mountain Man View Post

                    Why not? We did exactly the same thing in 1944 on the beaches at Normandy and in the Pacific conflict, with horrific casualties every time.
                    In case you haven't noticed there is more difference than in mere spelling between storming a beach and a breach
                    Human history becomes more and more a race between education and catastrophe (H G Wells)
                    Mit der Dummheit kaempfen Goetter selbst vergebens (Friedrich von Schiller)

                    Comment


                    • #11
                      Originally posted by MarkV View Post

                      In case you haven't noticed there is more difference than in mere spelling between storming a beach and a breach
                      Yes, there is-especially logistically.

                      And if you lose on the beach, you'll be driven back into the sea. That doesn't happen with a breach.

                      Comment


                      • #12
                        Originally posted by Mountain Man View Post

                        Why not? We did exactly the same thing in 1944 on the beaches at Normandy and in the Pacific conflict, with horrific casualties every time.
                        Define 'horrific.'

                        Comment


                        • #13
                          Originally posted by Mountain Man View Post

                          Why not? We did exactly the same thing in 1944 on the beaches at Normandy and in the Pacific conflict, with horrific casualties every time.
                          However the Beach at Anzio in 1944 saw remarkably few casualties (the cock up came later) and Dragoon (also 1944) was not 'horrific'
                          Human history becomes more and more a race between education and catastrophe (H G Wells)
                          Mit der Dummheit kaempfen Goetter selbst vergebens (Friedrich von Schiller)

                          Comment


                          • #14
                            Originally posted by MarkV View Post

                            However the Beach at Anzio in 1944 saw remarkably few casualties (the cock up came later) and Dragoon (also 1944) was not 'horrific'
                            Neither was Utah beach at Normandy. And the Canadians and British got ashore without heavy casualties. Omaha was rough, but successful in the end with heavy casualties.

                            Conducting an amphibious landing on a heavily fortified island is quite another thing. There is no room for maneuver, and except for a few exceptions, casualties were heavy, but not always. MacArthur's landings in both New Guinea and the Philippines were quite different from the islands the Marines were assigned to assault and take.

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                            • #15
                              Originally posted by MarkV View Post

                              My point still stands. The British forces in India were equally deficient, and , given that much of Wellington's practical command experience was gained there, he may still have been over optimistic about the effectiveness of the storm
                              He may have been over optimistic, but the fact still stands that the Royal Engineers were generally inadequate when it came to sieges. They had some outstanding engineer officers who learned by experience and finally convinced the powers that be to activate and organize engineer troops.

                              There was also the factor of being maneuvered against and attacked while besieging a fortified place. He had to raise the siege of Badajoz twice because of French field armies in the area. And his failure at Burgos is noteworthy in 1812.

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