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"‘Barbarity more suited to Savages’: British soldiers’" Topic

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825 hits since 6 Jan 2023
©1994-2023 Bill Armintrout
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Tango01 Supporting Member of TMP06 Jan 2023 8:37 p.m. PST

… views of Spanish and Portuguese violence during the Peninsular War, 1808–1814

"This article explores British soldiers' reactions to the violence that Iberian soldiers, guerrillas and civilians perpetrated against wounded French soldiers and prisoners of war during the Peninsular War. Whilst they saw this violence as retaliatory, and sympathized with the suffering of the occupied, British soldiers were shocked, disturbed and outraged, often leading them to self-identify with their very enemy — the French. On one level, this violence was seen as a fundamental violation of customary rules of war. Yet further, in British minds it revealed a deeper Iberian culture of violence and way of war, which set the Iberian peoples apart from ‘civilized' nations."

See here



Storm and Sack

British Sieges, Violence and the Laws of War in the Napoleonic Era, 1799–1815

See here



Legionarius06 Jan 2023 8:58 p.m. PST

Professional soldiers of the era were under strict rules of discipline enforced with violence by an aristocratic officer class that fancied themselves as "gentlemen." War was the "sport of kings" and officers belonged to an international caste that set and played by their rules. When the French armies made up of the leveee en masse entered Spain (and other parts of Europe such as Naples and Russia) these masses of soldiers took what they wanted from the people. This often included raping women, comandeering their houses, and abusing the men. It is no wander then that peasants who did not give a damn for the "rules of gentlemanly war" would react savagely when their wives or sisters were raped, their crops pillaged, or their houses burned. The war they waged had no rules and was waged with pure savagery. Such are the wages invasive war. The master painter and engraver Francisco de Goya y Lucientes captured this depravity and violence in his famous series of etchings "The Disasters of War."

Arjuna06 Jan 2023 10:45 p.m. PST

we have in the service the scum of the Earth as common soldiers.

Arthur Wellesley, Duke of Wellington about British soldiers in a letter to Henry, Third Earl Bathurst, from Huarte Spain, on 2 July 1813

Fast forward to 4 November 1831, he declared in a conversation with Philip Henry, Fifth Earl Stanhope:

I don't mean to say that there is no difference in the composition or therefore the feeling of the French army and ours. The French system of conscription brings together a fair sample of all classes; ours is composed of the scum of the Earth—the mere scum of the Earth. It is only wonderful that we should be able to make so much out of them afterward. The English soldiers are fellows who have enlisted for drink that is the plain fact—they have all enlisted for drink.

I suppose he knew what he was talking about.

42flanker07 Jan 2023 4:09 a.m. PST

Those quoted remarks say as much about Wellington as the men who served under him, if not more, and were made in very specific contexts.
As it is, demographically it was simply not true, in 1813 any more than it was in 1773.

As for the conduct of British troops in certain notorious episodes of the war in the peninsula, the effects of five years harsh and bloody campaigning in an unforgiving land, in the course of a long war should probably be taken into account. The same might go for the Frenchmen and their allies.

Lilian07 Jan 2023 5:06 a.m. PST

again the déjà-vu-threads-mania on TMP

Barbarity more suited to Savages: British soldiers views 5th Season

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Tango01 Supporting Member of TMP07 Jan 2023 3:09 p.m. PST

What about "Storm and Sack"…?


Brechtel198 Supporting Member of TMP07 Jan 2023 3:10 p.m. PST

The French and British soldiers shared the same view of the Spanish…

BersaThunder07 Jan 2023 7:21 p.m. PST

Dear Armand.

Storm and Sack is not an easy buy. Even on Kindle it's not cheap.

It's on my Wishlist.

" During the Peninsular War, Wellington's army stormed and sacked three French-held Spanish towns: Ciudad Rodrigo (1812), Badajoz (1812) and San Sebastian (1813). Storm and Sack is the first major study of British soldiers' violence and restraint towards enemy combatants and civilians in the siege warfare of the Napoleonic era. Using soldiers' letters, diaries and memoirs, Gavin Daly compares and contrasts military practices and attitudes across British sieges spanning three continents, from the Peninsular War in Spain to India and South America. He focuses on siege rituals and laws of war, and uncovering the cultural and emotional history of the storm and sack of towns. This book challenges conventional understandings of the place and nature of sieges in the Napoleonic Wars. It encourages a rethinking of the notorious reputations of the British sacks of this period and their place within the long-term history of customary laws of war and siege violence. Daly reveals a multifaceted story not only of rage, enmity, plunder and atrocity but also of mercy, honour, humanity and moral outrage."

Arjuna08 Jan 2023 2:32 a.m. PST

So, some Nappy Froggies invade Spain and Portugal, and the Spanish and Portuguese are a little bit cross about it and revolt because their piss-poor nobles and military can't get their act together.
The Froggies brutally put down the revolt, and as a result the guerrillas behave a bit naughtily toward them.
Because, well, they can't retreat to the Urals like the Russians and let the Froggies bleed out in the cold of Mother Russia's bosom.
Still, some posh Albions turn up their noses at the bloody stench of the national resistance's revenge against an invader.
It's a bit like talking about a King of England and his rabble on a marauding campaign in France circa 1415.
Meanwhile, another genteel and probably well-informed Albion is thumbing his nose at his own fine young cannibals over some minor incidents on an otherwise fine trip to the Iberian Peninsula.

Am I about right?

42flanker08 Jan 2023 6:47 a.m. PST

No, not really.

Ruchel08 Jan 2023 12:45 p.m. PST

The French and British soldiers shared the same view of the Spanish…

Yes, they shared the same hypocritical view.

Ruchel08 Jan 2023 12:54 p.m. PST

Am I about right?

Yes, you really are.

Tango01 Supporting Member of TMP08 Jan 2023 3:17 p.m. PST



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