119 years ago, today, the unthinkable happened, as far as the Europeans were concerned. The Ethiopian army trounced the Italians in the Battle of Adwa. Headlines such as ‘Abyssinia (Ethiopia) Defeats Invading Italians’; ’80,000 Ethiopians Destroy 20,000 Italians at the Battle of Adwa’; ‘Italian Premier Crispi Resigns’; and ‘Abyssinia and Italy Sign Peace Treaty.’ peppered the European press. Adwa was placed on the world map and remained a historic story because of Ethiopia’s decisive victory against the Italian army on March 1st 1896 (Yekatit 23, 1888 according to the Ethiopian calendar).
'I am a woman. I do not like war. But I would rather die than accepting your deal."attributed to Empress Taitu Bitul*, Wife of Menelik II [more inside]
On 16 April 1746, the Jacobite forces of Charles Edward Stuart fought loyalist troops commanded by William Augustus, Duke of Cumberland near Inverness in the Scottish Highlands. In 1964, Peter Watkins wrote and produced a docudrama for the BBC, from the perspective of a documentary crew on the ground, depicting the battle and its aftermath: Culloden. [1:12:14]
Many years ago, I found a quarter inch audio reel in a rotting cardboard box, covered in dust, while helping my dear friend and mentor, Lighting Cameraman John B. Peters, clean up his garage. He told me it had been recorded in Vietnam during his coverage of that war. On the box, still legible, was handwritten: “Firefight, no name village, near Chu Lai, September 10, 1966, Nagra 3, 3,75 I.P.S.” John recalled that he was out with a patrol that day, and when the Vietcong ambushed them, they all had to duck for cover, but his soundman kept the audio recorder rolling throughout the duration of the fierce firefight that followed.
In 1971, the newly-created US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) hired a bunch of freelance photographers to collectively document environmental issues around the country. They were given free rein to shoot whatever they wanted, and the project, named Documerica, lasted through 1977. After 40 years, the EPA is now encouraging photographers to take current versions of the original Documerica photos and are showcasing them on flickr at State of the Environment. There are location challenges, and a set has been created with some of the submissions, making side-by-side comparisons. [more inside]
PhotosNormandie is a collaborative collection of more than 3,000 royalty-free photos from World War II's Battle of Normandy and its aftermath. (Photos date from June 6 to late August 1944). The main link goes to the photostream. You can also peruse sets, which include 2700+ images from the US and Canadian National Archives.
Today is the 200th anniversary of the Battle of Borodino, in which Napoleon's armies met Russian troops 75 miles east of Moscow on 7 September 1812. The huge battle, involving quarter of a million troops, was the strongest stand the Imperial Russian Army made against Napoleon's forces, and it resulted in heavy casualties on both sides. Although the Russian army withdrew, the French tactical victory in the Battle of Borodino was a Pyrrhic one, and Napoleon ultimately left Russia in defeat. The battle was reenacted at Borodino last weekend, as is done annually. A cultural symbol of Russian national courage, the Battle of Borodino has been famously commemorated in Russian literature, music, art, and poetry. [more inside]
The Vikings Of Bjornstad a "a living history and educational group, concentrating on the Viking age " reviews every viking movie ever made for its authenticity in depicting Vikings and Viking Culture. Every. single. one. [more inside]
In the scale of its intensity, its destructiveness and its horror, Stalingrad has no parallel. It engaged the full strength of the two biggest armies in Europe and could fit into no lesser framework than that of a life-and-death conflict which encompasses the earth. - The New York Times, February 4, 1943 [more inside]
That afternoon, American signals operators picked up bin Laden speaking to his followers. Fury kept a careful log of these communications in his notebook, which he would type up at the end of every day and pass up his chain of command. “The time is now,” bin Laden said. “Arm your women and children against the infidel!” Following several hours of high-intensity bombing, the Al Qaeda leader spoke again. Fury paraphrases: “Our prayers have not been answered. Times are dire. We didn’t receive support from the apostate nations who call themselves our Muslim brothers.” Bin Laden apologized to his men for having involved them in the fight and gave them permission to surrender.
Gallipoli is one of the most famous battles of World War I. Fought in on a Turkish peninsula in 1915 it was, like most Great War battles, a huge waste of life and largely fruitless. Jul Snelder's site has a wealth of information, the causes, history and aftermath of Gallipoli, the slang of the ANZAC forces, placenames in both English and Turkish, interesting little factoids, how Allied troops used subterfuge to hide their evacuation, the Turkish perspective, pictures of the battlesite today juxtaposed with old photographs, a mini-travel guide to Gallipoli and much more. One of the most famous units at Gallipoli was the Australian 12th Light Horse Regiment. To learn more about this type of unit, responsible for the "last successful great cavalry charge" two years after Gallipoli, I direct you to the excellent website of the Australian Light Horse Association, where you can learn anything you might reasonably want to know about the subject.
The Battle of Gettysburg started on this day in 1863. Here are some essays on Gettysburg from MilitaryHistoryOnline. Here is a virtual tour with photos and maps.
90 years ago today, whistles blew around the river Somme in France as British troops prepared for an attack on German trenches. By the end of the day they had suffered 57,470 casualties. By the battle's end in November, there were over 600,000 Allied casualties, with perhaps the same number of German casualties. The Imperial War Museum has launched an online exhibition, where you can find out more about how the battle was planned, personal stories of those involved, and myths about the attack. Elsewhere you can find copies of Army reports on the first day, look at film of the attack, diaries and letters home from the troops, go on tours of the trenches, listen to contemporary songs and music inspired by the battle, and see some more modern responses.
The Battle of Glorieta Pass is considered the turning point of the Civil War, in terms of the New Mexico Territory. It happened March 26-28th, 1862. Initially Charles L. Pyron and William Reed Scurry's Confederate force, based at Johnson's Ranch, thought that they had won the battle. They would soon learn that the Union troops, lead by John P. Slough, had circled and destroyed their supplies, leading to Scurry's retreat towards San Antonio. More detailed battle info:  -Some site photos.
Come into the Channel ... If you are only here for twenty-four hours, all will be over and six centuries of shame and insult will be avenged'. See you at Pompey tomorrow to celebrate the 200th anniversary of Trafalgar.