What was the greatest military victory?

Discussion in 'Military History and Militaria' started by Silvester, May 16, 2005.

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  1. I would like to nominate the Battle of Gaugamela won by Alexander the Great in 331 BC.

    Combatants
    Macedonians and Greeks under Alexander, 7,000 cavalry and 40,000 infantry. (According to Arrian)
    Persians under Darius, with maybe 40,000 cavalry, 200,000 infantry and 6,000 Greek mercenaries. (Arrian gives an exaggerated number of 1,000,000 infantry.) The actual Persian numbers are unknown, although it is fairly clear that they substantially outnumbered the Hellenic forces.

    Location
    Darius chose (or smoothed out, depending on accounts) a flat plain where he could deploy his numerically superior cavalry forces. The location of the battle - near Tel Gomel, east of Mosul in northern modern-day Iraq - was determined by Sir Aurel Stein in 1938 (see his Limes Report, pp. 127-1. After the battle, Darius fled to Arbela (modern-day Arbil) 120 km to the east.

    The battle
    The battle began with the Persians already present at the battlefield.

    Darius had recruited the finest cavalry from his satrapies and from an allied Scythian tribe. Darius also deployed scythed chariots for which he had prepared cleared terrain in front of his troops. He also had 50 Indian elephants supported by Indian chariots. Before the battle, Darius ordered bushes and vegetation removed from the battlefield, to maximize the chariots' effectiveness.

    Darius placed himself in the center with his best infantry (the Greek mercenaries and his guard infantry the "Apple Bearers"). On both flanks were the cavalry. Bessus commanded the left flank with the Bactrians and Scythians and Mazaeus commanded the right flank with the Syrian and Median cavalry.

    Alexander commanded the Macedonian right flank himself, with the Companion cavalry and the Hypaspists, and Parmenio the left flank, with the Thessalian and Greek allied cavalry. Both flanks were protected by lightly armed troops, such as the Agrianians on the right. In the middle stood the Macedonian phalanx infantry in two lines, forming a "double phalanx". The second line was to turn around if out-flanked by the Persians. The Companions were Alexander the Greats elite cavalry, the offensive arm of his army and also his elite guard.

    The Macedonians advanced, as if entering the trap laid before them. Suddenly the whole army changed direction and started to move to the right, taking them away from the prepared ground. Darius now launched his chariots, some of which were intercepted by the Agrianians.

    Darius ordered his left wing cavalry to encircle the Macedonian right and stop their rightward movement. This was countered by Alexander's Greek mercenary cavalry. As more Persian cavalry tried to encircle the Macedonian right flank, Alexander committed his last cavalry reserves to charge the point where the main Persian line joined the flanking cavalry. This caused a gap in the Persian line. Alexander turned his line and charged this gap with a wedge consisting of the Companion cavalry and the Hypaspists. The pursuing Persian cavalry was pinned down by peltists hidden behind Alexander's cavalry. It then advanced directly at Darius himself.

    Darius now saw his left flank crumbling and the Macedonians advancing, in order to kill or capture him. He turned around his chariot and fled from the battlefield. The cavalry on the left followed him in his flight.

    Aftermath
    The Persians lost maybe 40,695 men. Darius fled with his guard and some Bactrian cavalry. Alexander pursued him all the way to Arbil about 120 km from the battlefield. Darius managed to escape to Media, but was later killed by Bessus. This article is about the province of Iraq. ... The Medes were an Iranian people of Aryan origin who lived in the western and north-western portion of present-day Iran. ...

    Later Alexander was crowned "King of Asia" in a magnificent ceremony in Arbela. King of Asia was the title that Alexander the Great took after the Battle of Gaugamela in 331 BC.

    Surely only a military genius such as Alexander could have won against such odds.

    (Source: http://www.nationmaster.com/encyclopedia/Battle-of-Gaugamela)
     
  2. Greatest campaign:

    Genghis Khan, taking Beijing in 1211, and conquering Persia, Afghanistan, Armenia and the Crimea, and pretty much everything else in Eastern Europe/Asia. He returned home for the final time in 1225 and fell off his horse two years later.

    His empire was four times the size of Alexander's.
     
  3. Greatest Military Victory:

    D-Day.

    Bit obvious, but so overwhelmingly important in world history (certainly world history within the last 200 years) that it has to be up there.

    Looking elsewhere for slightly more 'clever' choices, perhaps Kohima, Waterloo, Trafalgar, Agincourt or my personal favourite as the defining battle of its era would be the Battle of Tours.

    15,000 or so "Franks" against anything up to 400,000 Moors. (Guestimates vary from 60,000 up to 400,000. Either way, a massive army to take on)

    This battle was the high watermark of the Moors and was the beginning of the end for the Moors. In terms of ideological giants clashing, this is possibly bigger than Russia/Germany/Communism/Fascism. Had the Franks lost, we would be living in a Moslem Europe almost certainly. The Pilgrim Fathers who landed in America would have been Sunnis or Sh'ite!

    Quite a puch up and quite a long reaching legacy.
     
  4. One of the arguments about Hastings is that, had Harold kicked the frogs out, Britain would probably have been the bread basket and economic heart of the Viking empire of the time, that stretched across from Greenland and Newfoundland, up the Russian rivers and all the way to Constantinople. A major grain-growing region was all they lacked for stability. In that case, Europe's centre for many centuries would have been the North Sea and the Baltic, not the Mediterranean. Britain's capital would have been York.
     
  5. Crecy, 26th August 1346. Twelve thousand beleaguered English troops,riddled with dysentry, short of rations, water and ammunition (arrows) slaughtered thirty six thousand predominantly French troops, including thousands of heavily armoured knights. This wasnt simply a victory, we massacred them with very few losses on our side.

    This is also my birthday. Makes me proud to be English! :D
     
  6. Hastings...

    How rock hard was Harolds Army?

    To fight at Stamford Bridge, having just pushed his troops through a 4 day , 180 mile advance to contact, fight and win, and then march south in 19 days to face the Normans , and damn near win, but for that famous arrow....
     
  7. Granted PTP, but thank God the Normans won. For one thing, they were led by William the bast*rd (with a name like that you deserve to win) and one of his knights was my great, great...........................................grandfather.
    Harold Godwinson was a Dane, and look at the wonderful contribution the Danes have made to history, errr..............bacon? :? :wink:
     
  8. Sleeper: That's exactly my point - at the time, the Danes/northern English/Swedes/Varangians(look it up) were on the cusp of being the moving force of history. They had two vital achievements: a free trading system, and the ability to sail the North Atlantic, as well as the rivers. Anywhere without a decent road or rail infrastructure, water is always the easiest way to move. All they needed to consolidate was a source of scoff exports to the rest of their territories - as it was, the cooling of the climate not much later did the Greenland colony in and impoverished the heartlands in Scandinavia. And the New Forest would have come in very handy for shipbuilding, just like it did when we decided to have a navy.

    Still, they did give the world Russia; it was them who founded the first Russian state with its capital in Kiev, and the oldest recorded words in Russian are fifty or so borrowings from Swedish. They also tried three times to take Constantinople from the north when the Byzantine empire was the world's biggest power. Although they didn't get there, they instead hired themselves out to the Byzantines as mercenaries and became the power behind the throne. Fascinatingly, most of this outfit, the Varangian Guards, were actually from England
     
  9. I know you're right, I was just being facetious. The Norse/Scandinavians types were far more culturally advanced than most people realise. The decisive factor in the Norman victory was the bow (short) as Harolds superb Housecarls had no effective missile weapons. Whats really incredible, is that we were the only nation that adopted the bow in any great numbers, although it was clearly the force-multiplier par excellence.
     
  10. Surely the Normans were just an earlier wave of 'emigrants' from Scandinavia anyway? I must admit that my knowledge of the Dark Ages is somewhat sketchy but that was always my understanding.
     
  11. Hannibal vs Scipio in the Punic Wars!

    I remember reading all the epic battles and the sheer numbers alone didn't happen in world history until the US Civil War.
     
  12. And the English repeated the feat, sixty-nine years and two months later at Agincourt!

     
  13. CP: Yep, that's why they were called "Normans". Those ones cut a deal with the King of France after they invaded Normandy; he threatened all kinds of hell unless they signed a treaty, although he couldn't have delivered. The treaty put them in charge of Normandy, with the responsibility to defend it - but also made them vassals of the French. That was why they wanted to invade England - it got increasingly clear that they were being absorbed into France and they wanted the critical mass to remain independent, which is why rather than France getting us, we eventually had French kings who called themselves kings of England, but kept a large chunk of France as Dukes of Normandy.

    Because it prevented the northern kingdoms from consolidating into a state, though, this meant they would decline and Britain would swing into the influence of Latin Europe as Normandy was rolled up into the French state. Fairly soon after that, it was no longer a dispute between Viking princes over England and who should be first among equals, but between the French King of England and the French King of France about who was on top.
     
  14. At Agincourt they now reckon that one of the reasons the Bristish Bowmen were so effective in killing so many is that the heavily armoured French Cavalry and Foot Soldiers got caught in mud.

    Apparently the weather had been crap, the fields were sodden and muddy and the French got bogged down. Archers poured fire onto them and then the lighter aroured English infantry got in amongst them. The French literally slipping around and not able to get up under weight of armour.

    Only time the British Armies inability to issue Body Armour ever did any good....
     
  15. The Battle of Omdurman-Sudan 1898
    In 1898 Kitchener led a force of 8,200 British troops, 17,600 Sudanese and Egyptians up the Nile to capture a city in the Sudan called Omdurman, the Dervish capital across the river from Khartoum. The army camp formed an arc with it's back to the Nile river, in which there were several armed gunboats anchored. Macdonald's brigade was posted in the center of the arc.

    It was feared the Dervishes would launch a night attack on the camp from the surrounding hills, so the troops slept with their rifles. In the morning the men in the camp could see the Dervishes advancing, the 1st battle began with a charge from the Dervish army. With the British army pounding the oncoming force with howitzers and machine guns, the attack was short lived and after the battle 2,000 Dervishes lay dead in front of the British lines.

    Kitchener assuming the battle was over ordered the troops to advance on Omdurman. Hector Macdonald's brigade was in reserve about a mile or two north of the main body of Kitchener's force, Macdonald commanded a force of 3,000 Sudanese and Egyptians and most unlikely would not be used. Later a Camel Corps' officer arrived at Macdonald's line and informed Macdonald that a sizable force of about 20,000 Dervishes was advancing towards Macdonald's line.

    Macdonald's 3,000 troops were all that stood between the main force and the oncoming Dervishes. Kitchener was unaware of the danger and had his troops marching in columns with their rear flank to the attacking Dervishes, and ordered Macdonald to break camp and join the rest of the army. Macdonald had gotten the order from Kitchener, Macdonald replied: "I no do it. I'll see them damned first. We maun just fight!" Macdonald called his commanders to order and quickly mapped out in the sand a plan of defense. Macdonald wheeled his troops into a half circle and had the task of meeting the attacking Dervishes from two directions. If Macdonald's line was to fail, it could result in the destruction of the army. Dervishes attacked in wave after wave, the attack was so heavy that one of the lines of Macdonald's Sudanese battalions broke, and had to resort to hand to hand fighting.

    "The valiant blacks prepared themselves with delight to meet the shock, notwithstanding the overwhelming numbers of the enemy"- Winston Churchill

    Meanwhile Kitchener was now aware of the grave danger the army was in and ran about desperately shouting orders and trying to reverse his army, and put them back into fighting formations. Macdonald's brigade met the attacking Dervishes with heavy fire, Macdonald kept his troops well organized and disciplined, he continually maneuvered the lines to meet the ongoing threat of the attacking Dervishes.

    "Amid the roar of the firing and the dust, smoke and confusion of the charge of front, the general Macdonald found time to summon the officers of IX Sudanese around him, rebuked them for having wheeled into line in anticipation of his order, and requested them to drill more steadily in brigade."- Winston Churchill

    Before long other regiments began to arrive and backup Macdonald's lines, the firing upon the Dervishes was so intense that they began to retreat, fleeing into the desert. At the battles end 10,000 Dervishes lay dead, 16,000 wounded, and 5,000 prisoners. The battle was over the British army saved, the army lost 48 men and 382 wounded. At the end of the day, when the ammunition from Macdonald's brigades was counted, there were two rounds per man. The British army won the battle and avenged the death of General Gordon of Khartoum. Macdonald was the hero of the day and truly saved the British army.

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    the greatest battle in my opinion in that a small force destroyed a bunch of Fuzzy wuzzies with the Maxim gun , loss and kill ratio is in our Favour and it could have easily gone wrong with loads of massacered British soliders as i don't think they would be very merciful.
    the icing on the cake was that it is payback time for them killing General Gordon in Khartom