Defining a "Battle"

#1
OK bit of a pointless question but, what is/defines a Battle?

I've seen the dictionary/thesaurus answers and various Wiki entries (which by the way are reeeaaaallly long winded).

I'm still a bit lost. I'm talking here about The Battle of Trafalgar, Battle of Waterloo, etc, etc.

Is there a reason that various military events throughout history have earnt the title "Battle of..." or was is just an overused word that has lost favour in recent times?

Posted this here as it seemed the most apt place.

Any answers or theories welcome.
 
T

Tremaine

Guest
#2
Of the cuff reply and in no particular order, Britain's no stranger to battle(s), military and civil, pedant on in hostile encounters or engagements between opposing military forces.pedant off Depends what the word Battle means to you. to me it conjures up monarchs, civil wars, rebellions, regional controls, tactics. The American War of Independence, and the Scots. For Battles there's Naseby, Medway, Watling Street (A5), Sevastopol, also Battle in Hastings, from the Conquest and one of the defining events in British history that changed Monarchies, politics, and culture.
We've been at War a fair bit and you mention the Napoleonic Wars, some of the most notable battles, personally, are all since 1800: The Peninsular war against Napoleon. Crimea.The Zulu wars. The Sudan. The Boer War. WW1. WW2. Korea. Suez. The Falklands. Gulf War I & 2 and Iraq and AFGN. And there's a lot missing off that list.

Recommended: British Battles - analysing and documenting British Battles from the previous centuries
 

seaweed

LE
Book Reviewer
#3
The Battle of the Atlantic lasted from 3.9.39 to 7.5.45. Beat that.
 
#4
Since Anglo- French Relations are on the increase.

Bataille de Diên Biên Phu
A vicious series of defensive offensive operations leading to a withdrawal of French Control of a SE Asian country. The French do not like to be reminded of the facts, they got humped although they Viet Minh took a drubbing.

Bataille de Hue
By liberating the city,USMC + ARVN took a month of house to house street fighting. Destruction of the city meant that although cleared of the NVA the population suffered badly.
 

Trans-sane

LE
Book Reviewer
#5
Some military sci-fi I read years ago, the main character defined a battle as "continuous contact lasting longer than a day". Anything else was a skirmish. However this would disqualify most of the battles fought in human history. Most of the medieval ones only lasted for an hour or two...
 
#6
They always forget that the units that bore the initial brunt of the Tet offensive in Hue and Saigon were the US Military Police.
 
T

Taffd

Guest
#7
How about battle being a set piece. Troops are manoeuvred in order to bring an enemy to a decisive fight, or significant engagement. Skirmishes form part of the battle. Series of battles constitute a war.

I wonder though, how many fights in Afghanistan or Iraq have been named battles?
 
#8
In days gone by, battle consited of several regiments, battalions, brigades, of army and marine forces, possibly along with aircraft and naval support fighting for days, weeks, months or even years. Casualties on boths sides running into the thousands or even tens of thousands. What was it Ypres during the First World War produced more casualties than what the British Army is soon to consist of? The Tommies nicknamed it Wipers, due to the amount of ppl who were wiped off the planet.

Some of the contacts in Iraq and Afghanistan would by those standards have been described as skirmishes. Possibly by the fact that modern British society is hit hard by a handful of British deaths in the same day. During WW1, we were losing hundreds of men some days, and our great grandparents were hardened to it.
 
#9
English Heritage require a battle to be an action which takes place between defined military units. Neither Bloody Sunday or Warren Point or Peterloo count as battles.

The distinction between a skirmish and a battle is of size and scale. A battle really ought to have more than one unit on each side. Thousands rather than hundreds. However, Nibley Green (1471) with hundreds a side is usually described as a "Battle" but that is probably because it involved private armies.

Before the 20th Century battles might last for a day or occasionally two or even three days. They also took place in a limited area. Otherwise they were actions in a campaign or a period of protracted mayhem called a pursuit or sack.

The C20th pattern of sustained operations by large armies defied the language used to describe war.

So the 1916 Allied Summer offensive in Picardy is known commonly as the Battle of the Somme. But that is not a particularly precise use of the term. The reality for the C20th Battles was a series of major pulses of action interspersed with days of preparation or rest. At the time it was "The Big Push" and the British film makers made films of "The Battle of the Somme" (1st July) and another called The Battle of the Ancre for 28th September(?) . The Thiepval Memorial, the Memorial to the Missing of the Somme, and the Anglo Frenhc Battle memorial, lists several "battles" around it. These list different events as seperate battles - thus the 1st Day of the Somme is also the battle of Albert. The Germans called the days of intense activity something like "Grosskampftag" "Major battle days", which is a fair description. WW2 campaigns follow a similar pattern.

The battle has to be a protracted struggle in the same place - with an identifiable name. Otherwise its hard to name it as a battle. So its the battle of Normandy or Stalingrad or the Ardennes even though each of these covered many thousands of square miles. But the smaller airborne operation in Brabant and Gelderland in September 1944 is only known as Operation market Garden. There is a "Battle of Arnhem" and a battle of Hells High way - but these are only parts of a whole which isn't ever called the Battle of anything. Just Op Market Garden.
 
T

Taffd

Guest
#10
English Heritage require a battle to be an action which takes place between defined military units. Neither Bloody Sunday or Warren Point or Peterloo count as battles.

The distinction between a skirmish and a battle is of size and scale. A battle really ought to have more than one unit on each side. Thousands rather than hundreds. However, Nibley Green (1471) with hundreds a side is usually described as a "Battle" but that is probably because it involved private armies.

Before the 20th Century battles might last for a day or occasionally two or even three days. They also took place in a limited area. Otherwise they were actions in a campaign or a period of protracted mayhem called a pursuit or sack.

The C20th pattern of sustained operations by large armies defied the language used to describe war.

So the 1916 Allied Summer offensive in Picardy is known commonly as the Battle of the Somme. But that is not a particularly precise use of the term. The reality for the C20th Battles was a series of major pulses of action interspersed with days of preparation or rest. At the time it was "The Big Push" and the British film makers made films of "The Battle of the Somme" (1st July) and another called The Battle of the Ancre for 28th September(?) . The Thiepval Memorial, the Memorial to the Missing of the Somme, and the Anglo Frenhc Battle memorial, lists several "battles" around it. These list different events as seperate battles - thus the 1st Day of the Somme is also the battle of Albert. The Germans called the days of intense activity something like "Grosskampftag" "Major battle days", which is a fair description. WW2 campaigns follow a similar pattern.

The battle has to be a protracted struggle in the same place - with an identifiable name. Otherwise its hard to name it as a battle. So its the battle of Normandy or Stalingrad or the Ardennes even though each of these covered many thousands of square miles. But the smaller airborne operation in Brabant and Gelderland in September 1944 is only known as Operation market Garden. There is a "Battle of Arnhem" and a battle of Hells High way - but these are only parts of a whole which isn't ever called the Battle of anything. Just Op Market Garden.

Doesn't really fit with the 'Battle of Mirbat'.
 
#12
A "Battle" is an altercation that takes place at the join of at least two map sheets......
 
#13
They always forget that the units that bore the initial brunt of the Tet offensive in Hue and Saigon were the US Military Police.
No one's forgot anything' shit for brains and you're talking B*ll*xs as usual - Are you called Buzz cos you're like an annoying Wasp?


For sure, the US Embassy's and US led Civil/Political offices were amongst the first attacked but so were Airfields/Supply Depots/Training Establishments/etc.

Try reading a few books about 'Tet' , you ADHD Retard.
 
#14
Is it not (or has it not become) a more loosely defined term which describes the importance of an encounter rather than one of scale, necessarily? The point above about Mirbat, for instance, is a good one: it wasn't an encounter of two large bodies of combatants - which one might take to be a 'classic' definition of a battle - because one side was at a distinct disadvantage when it came to numbers, and even the larger side was small if one considers, say, massed armies in the formation sense. But it was unquestionably an epic and pivotal one.

Respectfully, in terms of scale and in comparison with, say, some of the encounters of WWI and II (or GWI and II, for that matter), some of the actions in the Falklands campaign were hardly massive but I don't think anyone can have issue with them being called battles.

In that sense, I can't see that any definition has become distorted.
 
#15
For what it's worth, a battle seems to be large scale, high intensity and mark some sort of turning point in a conflict... It also needs a catchy name, I guess. Hence D-Day is not The Battle of Normandy. D-Day sounds cooler.
D-Day is also known as 'The Invasion of Normandy'. I suppose an invasion is not the same as a battle, as there isn't the same static element in the fighting and/or field of battle.
 
#17
There was (maybe still is) something called the Battle Nomenclature Committee that defined and named 'battles and engagements' for the purpose of allocating battle honours to Brit units. I assume they had a set of criteria that actually defined what a 'battle' was in the eyes of British officialdom.
 
#18
What was it Ypres during the First World War produced more casualties than what the British Army is soon to consist of? The Tommies nicknamed it Wipers, due to the amount of ppl who were wiped off the planet.
JBM is right it was called Wipers because of the spelling. St Omer was called 'sent home' and Etaples was known as 'eat apples'. There are more.

In a similar vein a battle is a fight or a struggle. It does not have to be of any duration or intensity. To assign those values to it is simply too autistic.

The battle of the river plate. Not one shot fired.
 
#19
How about considering similar terms 'n playing spot the difference?

War - can involve many battles, even on the same battlefield
Skirmish - indecisive, the tactical objects of both sides aren't effected?

So, a battle has a specific location and time interval; involves continuous effort towards tactical objectives; an outcome - even if it's negative for both sides.

might have missed summet - sure you'll tell me!
 
#20
How about considering similar terms 'n playing spot the difference?

War - can involve many battles, even on the same battlefield
Skirmish - indecisive, the tactical objects of both sides aren't effected?

So, a battle has a specific location and time interval; involves continuous effort towards tactical objectives; an outcome - even if it's negative for both sides.

might have missed summet - sure you'll tell me!
The battle for hearts & minds?

No location.
 

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