Anecdotes IV

    Mud-coated, dog-tired and laughing, Jeb Stuart rode into camp New Year's morning with another tale of hijinks behind Yankee lines.  Rampaging north, he had led 1,800 cavalrymen with four cannon and surprised the telegraph at Burke Station, 14 miles from the White House.  From there he send a message to the Union Quartermaster, complaining about the poor quality of the mules he was capturing of late.

    ---Ernest B. Furgurson

    SS Motivation

    "I yell to (Untersturmfuhrer) Emil Wawrzinek to get the attack moving.  But the good Emil just looks at me if he has doubts about my sanity.  Machine-gun fire smacks against the rock in front of us...How can I get Wawrzinek to take that first leap?

    In my distress I feel the round roundness of an egg handgrenade in my hand.  I shout at the group.  Everyone looks thunderstruck at me as I brandish the hand-grenade, pull the pin, and roll it precisely behind the last man.  Never again did I witness such a concerted leap forward as at that second."

    ---Kurt "Panzer" Meyer

    Rules is rules

    Helmut Fromm, who was serving as a teenage telephonist with a flak battery outside Heidelberg, once went to the cinema with some fellow gunners.  They were in the midst of watching a movie entitled Der Katzenstag when the manager appeared at the end of the row, and ordered them out.  "This film is not for young people," he said sternly.  Back at the battery, the boys pinned up a notice beside their 88mm gun proclaiming "This is not for young people".

    ---Max Hastings

    Go Canada!

    Green crosses by day and green lights by night guided soldiers to condom-issuing stations, which did not prevent the US Third Army from achieving an average monthly VD rate of 12.41 per 1,000, comfortably exceeded by the Canadian score of 54.6 per 1,000.

    ---Max Hastings

    The Black Watch of Canada, for instance, had suffered heavily in Normandy, and by October possessed only some 379 men in its rifle companies, of whom 100 were recent replacements.  ...   When they met German paratroops in an attack on October 13, they were heavily mauled, losing 183 casualties including 56 killed.  That night, the survivors were given a hot meal and moive show.  When the officers learned that the scheduled entertainment was entitled We Die At Dawn, a less provocative alternative was substituted.

    ---Max Hastings

    [At the Battle of Waterloo] And yet, having watched one of his men duck from time to time when the [cannon] balls flew too close, [Sergeant Major] Ballam stepped over to him and bawled him out: "Damn you, sir, what do you stoop for? You should not stoop if your head was off!" The man, a thin-skinned fellow, took this reprimand badly. A few moments later, a ball having hit the sergeant major in the face, killing him instantly, and the soldier leaned over his disfigured corpse and exclaimed, "Damn it, sir! What do you lie there for? You should not lie down if your head was off!"

    ---Alessandro Barbero

    [Admiral] Canaris had personal traits that many persons considered to be peculiar at best. No matter where the master spy traveled, at home or abroad in recent years, it had been his habit to telephone his headquarters in Berlin daily to inquire into the state of health of his two beloved dachshunds. An aide would give him a detailed briefing on the dogs' eating habits and bodily functions. When the animals were ill, the admiral was plunged into depression.

    At Abwehr headquarters an ambitious officer's chances for promotion would forever be squashed if Canaris even heard a rumour that he had spoken disparingly about dogs. Consequently the building at 72-76 Tirpitz Ufer was crammed with outspoken dog lovers.

    ---William B. Breuer

    Not exactly Knights of the Air

    This was illustrated by an incident involving [a] Soviet pilot, Lt. Vladimir Lavrinenkov, 35 victories, who shot down a Messerschmitt in Soviet territory. The German pilot belly-landed, and ran to a ditch to hide from the strafing he expected from his victor. Instead, the Russian landed his plane beside the German aircraft, ran to the ditch, and choked the Luftwaffe pilot to death. He then calmly took off and returned to his unit!

    ---Walter A. Musciano

    At the battle of the Yalu River in 1894 between the Chinese and Japanese navies, the Chinese flagship of Admiral Ting was unable to fire all of its guns because the crew had sold the ship's gunpowder and replaced it with cocoa. They had also had pawned one of their heavy guns and used the other to store pickles, rice and chopsticks.

    ---Geoffrey Regan

    The Wehrmacht in Normandy, for example had German sergeants standing behind foreign conscripts. A Pole in the Wehrmacht at Omaha Beach managed to be taken prisoner. At his interrogation, he was asked how the front-line troops stood up to the air and naval pounding.
    "Your bombs were very persuasive," he replied, "but the sergeant behind me with a pistol in his hand was more so."

    ---Stephen Ambrose

    Three were eventually pardoned, but five were hanged, as was their custom, by their own shipmates from the arm of the foreyard on 15th January, 1795. Asked afterward if he could recognize a potential mutineer [Captain] Tronbridge declared
    "Whenever I see a fellow look as if he were thinking, I say that is mutiny"

    ---Richard Woodman

    Countless Indians of all races performed feats of individual heroism fighting not for India, but for a foreign commercial organization, the British East Indian Company, which was controlled by anonymous directors in distant London.  Far from being inspired by any religious motives, their masters' faith was an abomination to most Indians, to a point that if a British officer's shadow fell across an Indian sepoy's food, it became defiled and he could not eat it!

    ---Nigel Davies

    Diplomacy, Meso-American Style.

    The Chalcans (who, judging by their previous treatment of Moctezuma I in 1428 showed a peculiar disregard for diplomatic immunity), seized the Tlatelolcan ambassadors and handed them over to Axayacatl, who had them killed; their bodies were returned to Chalco, boiled, and served at a banquet in honour of Moquihuix, present in person in Chalco to plead his case.

    ---Nigel Davies

    First Canadian Parachute Battalion, Normandy, 1944.

    While leading the forced march, Hill was wounded by shrapnel, which took a chunk out of his backside. Hill used a borrowed bicycle pushed by one of his men to reach his objective. For the next forty-eight hours he issued orders sitting on "one cheek" some distance from his men "because his wound smelled so bad." When asked why he refused evacuation to get immediate treatment, he replied somewhat sharply that he "hadn't trained his Brigade for ten months to let someone else command it in action."

    ---Terry Copp. (My old history prof!)

    Pricus became something of a legend - it was rumoured that on one occasion the general's bellowing cry had caused twenty-seven soldiers to drop dead.

    ---Anthony R. Birley

    Mongol Problem Solving

    [Bayan] saw the whole problem as one of excessive Sinicisation, and is said to have proposed (unsuccessfully) that it should be dealt with by the execution of all Chinese named Chang, Wang, Liu, and Chao. This, if effectively implemented, would have removed about nine-tenths of the population, and no doubt Toghun Temur's immediate problem as well.

    ---David Morgan

    Peace loving monks in the Angevin Empire

    Unfortunately the court's verdict still had to be enforced. When a steward of the Abbot of Bury read out the king's letter he was "treated with great abuse and violence", so Abbot Samson ordered a night raid by 600 well-armed men. They carried off all their adversary's cattle and did what damage they could.

    ---John Gillingham

    Not everyone thought Charles was Great

    The abbot-elect Potho was accused of open disloyalty to [Charlemagne]; a commission containing Frankish and Roman officials and clerics heard the accusations of one monk, Rodicausus: the abbot had refused to pray for Charles, saying that if it were not his duty to think for the monastery and Beneventan territory, he would esteem Charles as highly as a dog, and that he valued those Franks in the district as so many vegetables.

    ---Peter Llewellyn.

    Henry "Scourge of God" V's Justice

    The king maintained discipline in his own imaginative way. When dauphinists ambushed and cut to pieces an English foraging party, one man escaped by running away. On being informed, Henry had a deep pit dug and ordered the deserter to be buried alive in it.

    ---Desmond Seward.

    Henry "Scourge of God" V's Standing Orders

    ...under pain of death, that there must be no arson, that churches and church plate were to be left alone and that women and priests must go unmolested. No harlots might come within three miles of the camp; after a first warning any harlot who did so would have her left arm broken. Nor must there be any swearing.

    ---Desmond Seward.

    Succession struggles...there's nothing new under the sun.

      Who was king?  Who was not king?
      Was Igigi king?
      Was Nanum king?
      Was Imi king?
      Was Elulu king?
      Their tetrad was king, and reigned 3 years!

    ---Sumerian King List, c2193 BC.

    Military Bureaucracy

    The winter of 1917-18 was a severe one for the camels.  Lawrence's [of Arabia] army was at Tafileh in January, at an altitude of five thousand feet.  The snow drifted to a depth of four feet, impassable for the camels unless their riders dismounted and dug a path with their hands.  Many of them, both camels and Arabs, perished from the cold.

    Lawrence sent a request to headquarters, Cairo, for heavy clothing and boots for his men.  Instead of receiving them, he got a wireless message telling him that Arabia was a "tropical country"!

    ---Lowell Thomas.
    (My thanks to Allen Hansen for sending this in)

    A Roman Description of the Huns

    [They] eat the roots of wild plants and the half raw flesh of any kind of animal whatever, which they put between their thighs and the backs of horses and thus warm it a little.


    A popular Incan ditty

      We'll drink chicha from your skull
      From your teeth we'll make a necklace
      From your bones, flutes
      From your skin we'll make a drum
      And then we'll dance

    Decisions, decisions

    In 1914, an officer of the Russian Imperial Guard wondered whether he should take his full dress uniform with him, for the triumphant entry into Berlin, or leave it to be brought by the next courier.

    ---J. F. Lazenby

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