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Arnhem

“Where is the Prince who can afford so to cover his country with troops for its defence as that 10,000 men descending from the clouds, might not, in many places, do an infinite deal of mischief before a force could be brought together to repel them?”. Benjamin Franklin, 1784.

Following the success of the D Day landings in June 1944, the Allies expected to make a steady advance eastward, but found themselves bogged down for many weeks in the bitter Battle for Normandy.

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Richard the Lionheart - Hero or Villain?

Richard was born at Oxford on 8th September 1157, the third son of Henry II, and, as such, never expected to succeed to the English throne. History has glamorised his reign, endowing it with an air of romance and chivalry as epitomised by his statue outside the Houses of Parliament.

Another description could be that of absentee warlord, forever seeking to expand his rule through the force of arms and spending only six months of his ten year rule in England. His undoubted military prowess earned him the title of Lionheart in Europe, while in the East, mothers would threaten their children with his Arabic name Melec Ric - “King Ric”.

He was recorded as a handsome figure, 6’5” tall with the fair hair and blue eyes of the Plantagenets. He was a bright scholar and a talented linguist; he could make jokes in Latin and recite poetry in French and Provencal. A man of some intelligence and insight, he realised that there was more to successful warfare than just being skilled in arms. He combined these qualities with a gift for strategy and tactics that enabled him to consolidate his rule in both his duchy of Aquitaine and kingdom of England.

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Stephen and Matilda

Following the deaths by drowning of his two legitimate sons, William and Richard, plus their half brother Outtel, Henry I did all he could to ensure that his daughter Matilda would succeed him to the throne and forced his nobles to swear to this on more than one occasion, the last being at Oxford when all present, including Stephen of Blois, son of the Conqueror’s sister Adela gave his word. Stephen was a pleasant, affable and likeable man and a favourite of Henry who gave him so much land and property both sides of the channel that he became one of the richest and most powerful of noblemen. He lacked the moral strength and ruthlessness however to be a firm leader which ultimately proved to be the cause of his failure to secure his line through the accession of his son. He was one of the party intended to travel to England in 1120 on the White Ship, but declined due to diarrhea, an attack which probably saved his life.

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Ayo Gurkhali!

Seldom in the history of warfare has an enemy so won the admiration of its opponents that it gets invited to join them. The 19th century redcoats recognised a kindred spirit and the bond between the Gurkhas of Nepal and the British army has remained unbroken ever since. Here is one example of the Gurkha fighting spirit.

In 1815, the British East India Company sought to expand its rule and marched into the Kingdom of Gorkha (Nepal). The fierce fighting that followed with neither side gaining the upper hand resulted in a peace treaty being signed plus an agreement allowing Gurkha soldiers to serve in the Company's army. The agreement continued when this army was taken over by the British government.

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Beyond Agincourt

The overwhelming success of the English at Agincourt had so demoralised the French that the invaders were considered invulnerable. Many Scots travelled to France to help fight the common enemy and did achieve a Franco Scottish victory at Bauge in 1421, raising hopes of a reversal. The English invaders would however continue to dominate militarily for a further eight years before another French victory at Beaugency and a further twenty five until the English defeat at Castillon marked the end of the 100 Years War.

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Operation Barras

Sierra Leone is a former British colony in West Africa, about the size of Scotland and has been wracked by civil war since 1991, when rebels calling themselves the Revolutionary United Front (RUF) attempted to bring down the government. A militia calling itself “The West Side Niggaz”, later amended to “The West Side Boys”, originally fought on the rebel side but later changed allegiance to the government and were expected to assimilate into the newly reformed Sierra Leone Army, but they refused and began operating as bandits from the abandoned villages of Magbeni and Gberi Bana on opposite sides of Rokel Creek.

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