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Monday, 21 October 2013


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Although I have read factual accounts of Trafalgar, the book that made most impression on me was Bernard Cornwell's book of that name. It was about the unlikely appearance of Richard Sharpe at sea!

One thing that has always impressed me was the clearness of the aim - to kill the French. No mucking about with not upsetting the b*****s, just kill them all!

"Richard Sharpe at sea!" Typical bloody MoD, another cock-up in the paper work!

Austerlitz wasn't a Cannae, it was the diametric opposite: a manoeuvre of the central position. Bonaparte induced the Austrians and Russians to move apart, and then deliberately moved into the central position - actually inviting a Cannae against himself. He then held off one (the Russkies) with a small force, while he walloped the other (the Ozzers) with a large force, thereby gaining local advantage in numbers, even though outnumbered overall. With the Ozzers routed, he re-concentrated on the Russkies, who then outnumbered, legged it.

Lest we forget. My God, was that 8 years ago? "I wasted time, and now doth time waste me".

Also, I thought Bonaparte heard about Trafalgar while in Boulogne readying to invade Blighty, and the loss of Trafalgar was what made him abort the invasion, turn East, and start the Ulm / Austerlitz campaign?


You're right, it was the inconclusive forerunner to Trafalgar, the Battle of Finisterre, that caused Boney to quit his invasion plans: -

For all the military geniuses around at the time, it was two bumbling poltroons, Calder and Villeneuve, who effectively saved Blighty, sealed Boney's fate, and dictated the future course of Europe.

Perhaps having two poltroons in charge is the secret to a successful future, in which case we seem in an ideal position to fulfil whatever European ambitions we might wish for (yeh, you saw that coming).


Yeah I'll admit you Brits had a coupla "important" Navy things - Trafalgar NOT being one of 'em:

(But thanks for being in the one of 'em anyway.]

Lawrence, I think he received the news after the battle of Ulm whilst on his way towards Austerlitz. Bonaparte must have been biting his finger nails waiting for Villeneuve to get on with it because during the summer he was under pressure to do something about the Russian/Austrian alliance which was by then assuming dangerous potentialities. Also, let me remind you that he deliberately withdrew his main forces from the central heights at Austerlitz precisely to induce his enemies to commit themselves to it - much as Hannibal did to the Romans at Cannae and hence my comparison.

JK, thanks for that link, very interesting and I would hesitate to cross swords with such an eminent scholar who has forgotten more about naval history and strategy than I know! However, I do rate Trafalgar as "decisive" even though ten years were to pass before final victory. Apart from the slow but relentless strangling of the European economy by blockade, it also allowed the British to transport armies to Spain thus opening another front.

Similarly, I am surprised that the writer did not consider Midway in his list. Again, in my view decisive, but only over the long term.

"Also, let me remind you that he deliberately withdrew his main forces from the central heights at Austerlitz precisely to induce his enemies to commit themselves to it - much as Hannibal did to the Romans at Cannae and hence my comparison."

Still gotta disagree with that. The valley in Napoleon's centre was filled with fog, which disguised his main force, is correct. But the "false weakness" he displayed to induce the Russkies and Ozzers to separate was his right flank. This flank lead South to Vienna and was his supply line. He also knew there was a corps coming up that route to support him later. But he calculated that the Ozzers would be tempted to attack deep to his right to cut him off from Vienna. He calculated right, and when the Ozzers parted company by a sufficient distance from the Russkies, the Austerlitz sun rose and burnt off the fog, and Boney's two crack divisions came marching out of the valley, like legions of zombie soldiers from hell, and up the Pratzen heights to take the enemy's central position.

Text book ruse and manoeuvre of the central position; game over in 5 hours.


I don't disagree with any of that but first and foremost he did what no other commander would have even contemplated - he abandoned the Pratzen Heights at his centre which absolutely dominates the countryside and this empty space drew his enemies in.

Now get on with your work!

Trafalgar was a momentous day for the British and our opponents still have an antipathy towards us. But fuck them they lost. Then Waterloo and fuck them they lost again. The Frogs and the Spanyards still have a problem with freedom and all sorts. They do not seem to like our Queen who does not bend to the Vatican whims. That is why we are British. So get it up them with a bayonet in a nice British way!

Calm down, Jimmy, "it's all blood under the bridge" now!

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