Anecdotes II

Outside the walls of Acre during the Third Crusade,a Welsh and a Turkish archer agreed to a trial of skill.   Each promised to stand still while his adversary took a shot at him.   The Turk fired and missed, then suggested they allow themselves two shots each.   The Welsh archer - says the Norman poet Ambroise - agreed, but while the Turk was getting his second arrow ready, the Welshman took careful aim and shot him through the heart:

"You kept the pact not," so he spoke,
"So, by Saint Denis, mine I broke."
---Ronald Finucane

'Tis but a scratch
[During the Battle of the Nile, 1799]   "The brave [Captain] Brueys, having lost both legs, was seated with torniquets (sic) on the stumps in an armchair facing his enemies; and giving directions for extinguishing the fire, which had started near the mizzen chains, when a cannonball from the Swiftsure put a period to his gallant life by nearly cutting him in two."

Captain Dupetit-Thouars of the Tonnant was also badly mangled.   He lost both arms and a leg.   He refused to go below, but had himself placed in a tub of bran and sawdust to soak up the blood.   He continued to give orders until he mercifully lost consciousness.
---Coley Cowan

The Arab Camp at the Battle of Yarmuk, 636 AD
As [Abu Sufyan] retreated he encountered his wife, the ferocious, fat and fifty year old Hind Bint 'Utba - a lady of character if unorthodox morals.  After forcing Abu Sufyan back into battle with a tent pole, she began singing...

    We are the daughters of the night;
    We move amongst the cushions,
    With the grace of gentle kittens
    Our bracelets on our elbows.
    If you attack we shall embrace you;
    And if you retreat we will forsake you
    With a loveless separation.

One soldier reportedly said, "It is easier to face the Rumi [Byzantines] than our wives!"
---David Nicolle

"Airplanes are interesting toys but of no military value."
---Marshal Ferdinand Foch, Professor of Strategy, Ecole Superieure de Guerre.

Before rising to commmand the British expeditionary force in the Crimean War, Lord Raglan served as the Duke of Wellington's military secretary at Waterloo.  He had never actually commanded a unit before the war, but merely standing beside the Iron Duke during the Napoleonic Wars apparently was enough to make him the most qualified general in the British Army.   Although incompetent as a commander, he was personally rather brave and courageous.   At the Battle of Waterloo Raglan lost his right arm.   After the surgeon removed the wounded limb, Lord Raglan requested that he see the arm once more.   He wished to retrieve a ring on one of the fingers.

...Antigonos [one of Alexander the Great's Successors] once saw some soldiers occupying their leisure playing ball but still wearing their armour.   When he sought out their officers to commend them for instilling such zeal in their men, he found them busy drinking, and accordingly demoted them instead and promoted the zealous soldiers in their places.
---Richard Billows

In the closing years of the sixteenth century, Ireland was so unpopular with English soldiers that a troop of one hundred recruits from Cheshire numbered only sixteen by the time that they reached Connaught, mostly through desertion.   Often, recruits were shipped to Ireland without weapons, shoes or even items of clothing, so that they would not be tempted to run away and sell their equipment.
---Pete Gritton

Charades anyone?
One of the (many) difficulties that plagued the Austrians in the Seven Weeks War were the multiplicity of languages used by the various nationalities that made up the army.   Officers spoke German, the language of command.   Unfortunately the soldiers often did not speak German; nor did the regimental commanding officers speak the regiment's native tongue.   Understandably this made communication difficult.   One regiment at Münchengrätz was accused of cowardice after the regiment did not obey an ordered bayonet charge at the Prussian positions.   One officer retorted, "The regiment fought bravely until nightfall, when the officers could no longer pantomime examples [of what was needed]."

[By the 1500s, the English Longbowmen's skill had sadly declined from their peak in the Hundred Years War]   Even enthusiasts for the bow had to admit that Frenchmen and Reiters in battle were apt in contempt to "...turn up their tails and cry: 'shoot English!'", though maintaining that an archer of an earlier generation would have had "the breech of such a varlet nailed to his bum with one arrow, and another feathered in his bowels, before he should have turned about to see who shot the first".
---George Gush

[During the Albigensian Crusade in 1209]  Contemporary accounts say that over 7000 people were slaughtered, locked in the church which was then set on fire.   Those who were not burned were put to the sword.   During the massacre, one horrified onlooker rushed up to the papal legate, the Abbot of Cireaux, and reminded him that there were Catholics as well as heretics in the burning church.   The papal legate then made a remark that has resounded through the centuries.   "Kill them all", he said, "God will know his own."
---Malcolm Billings

Caveat Emptor
[During the Dark Ages, Arab raiders often scoured Italy in search of slaves]   ...some raiders on the Adriatic side of the [Italian] peninsula had abducted a bishop and were holding him for ransom when he suddenly died; unfazed they delivered him back propped up in full regalia, and collected the ransom before the ransomers discovered they had redeemed a dead body.
---Barbara M. Kruetz

Tactful Ancient Diplomacy
Heraclius Noblest of the Gods, King and Master of the whole Earth, Son of the great Hormisdas, [Persian King] CHOSROES, to [Byzantine Emperor] Heraclius, his vile and insensate slave;
Refusing to submit to our rule, you call yourself lord and sovereign.  You seize and distribute our treasure, you deceive our servants.  You never cease to annoy us with your bands of brigands.  Have I not destroyed you Greeks?  You say that you trust in God; why then has he not delivered out of my hand Caesarea, Jerusalem, Alexandria?...Could I not also destroy Constantinople?
---Letter from Chrosoes II to Heraclius.

The .45 inch calibre Martini-Henry rifles had a tremendous recoil.
...[England's] soldiers have gallantly fired on the enemy when they knew full well what a horrible punishment they were to receive from the brutal recoil of their weapons, and have borne their torture with true English grit.  An English officer informed the writer that the practice was a great aid to gallantry in battle in South Africa, for "when a fellow has been so brutally pounded by his own rifle half a hundred times, he doesn't so much mind having an assegai as big as a shovel stuck through him; it's rather a relief, don't you know."
---W.W Kimball, 1889.

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