by Mitch on March 24, 2011 0 Comments

The Great Game: The Struggle for Empire in Central Asia (Kodansha Globe)by Peter Hopkirk

The borders of the Russian imperial territories of Khiva, Bukhara and Kokand in the time period of 1902-1903.


Perhaps an even greater concern for nineteenth-century British India than threats to the Suez Canal route was the perceived continental ambition in Central Asia of Britain’s other great European rival: imperial Russia. The landlocked Herat proved much more difficult to control than the more southern maritime frontiers in the Indian Ocean. War, diplomatic intrigue, and political posturing with Russia over this region ensued through most of the nineteenth century.


Known as the ‘‘Great Game,’’ perhaps exemplified most famously in British author Rudyard Kipling’s novel Kim (1900), this century of conflict centered to a great extent on British efforts to unite and secure Afghanistan against rival Persian and Russian claims. Its first attempt came in the ...

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Airpower in Colonial Wars

by Mitch on March 23, 2011 0 Comments

Military force, especially airpower, was used by colonial powers to conquer, dominate, and preserve control over their territories despite resistance and struggle for independence by local populations. There were some 40 wars, conflicts, and military actions of this kind in the twentieth century. The most distinctive feature was their one-sided character: the indisputable air dominance of colonial powers. In the two exceptions (the Italo-Ethiopian War of 1935–1936 and the First Chechen War of 1994–1996), the European powers rapidly and decisively eliminated their potential air opponents.


The colonial experience also had a significant influence on technological development, organizational evolution, and expansion of major world air forces as independent services, as well as their air doctrines, combat performances, tactics, and operations.


The first recorded attempt to use airpower in colonial conflicts was by Napoleon in Egypt in 1799, with he used balloons to undermine the morale of the hostile population ...

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Volunteers in the South African War

by Mitch on March 23, 2011 0 Comments

The Battle of Majuba hill

Anglo Boer War in South Africa

In an attempt to drive the Boers away from their stronghold at "Laing’s nek", the British had entrenched themselves in a strategic position on the top of the Amajuba "koppie" (hill). The "Boer" forces, having noticed them, found a way to climb the Majuba hill largely unnoticed, surprising the British. The British suffered great losses, including their commanding officer General George Colley.


Unwilling to get further involved in a war they were not prepared for, the British government signed a peace treaty on 23 March 1881, returning the Transvaal Republic to the "Boers".

Despite some serious challenges in the 1970s posed by historians of the left, most of the historical community has now come to accept that the South African War was, at least at the beginning, a popular war in Great Britain. It is true that, as ...

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Operation Azalee

by Mitch on March 10, 2011 0 Comments

The Comoros Islands had been a French colony until July of 1975, when they gained their independence. The islands are a poorly developed agricultural economy that relies heavily on foreign grants to sustain roughly 550,000 people. There is little industry and little natural resources. The terrain is mountainous, with only 750 km (450 miles) of roads, 540 km (324 miles) of which is gravel.


On September 28, 1995 Bob Denard and 33 mercenaries took control of the Comoros islands in a coup (named operation Kaskari by the mercenaries) against President Djohar. Despite having received advanced notice and hints about the coup, France did nothing until the day of the invasion; when they severely denounced it.

President Jacques Chirac requested that the Minister of Defense and the Army Chief of Staff begin drafting plans for the retaking of the Comoros Islands. Intelligence was gathered ...

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An Empire to Police

by Mitch on March 7, 2011 0 Comments


Few westerners traveled to Tibet before the twentieth century. In 1707 Capuchin friars established a Catholic mission in Lhasa, and the Jesuit Ippolito Desideri (1684– 1733) lived there from 1716 to 1721. The Catholic mission was abandoned in 1745. Soon the Tibetan authorities closed Tibet to westerners. Nonetheless, by the end of the nineteenth century, two Western empires, British India and Russian Central Asia, abutted Tibet. Despite British suspicions of Russian designs on Tibet, however, Russia had little influence in Lhasa. Britain, on the other hand, was eager to develop trade with Tibet, but the Tibetan government rebuffed British diplomatic contacts. In 1904 a British military expedition commanded by Francis Younghusband (1863–1942) fought its way to Lhasa, forcing the flight of the Thirteenth Dalai Lama (1876–1933) to Mongolia. The British established a consular office in Lhasa, the only Western country to do so. In 1947, upon independence ...

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Air control operations in Iraq

by Mitch on March 5, 2011 0 Comments

The “nine-ack”

The RAF air order of battle (AOB) did not change radically during the two decades between 1919 and 1939. The first units deployed to Mesopotamia were holdovers from WWI. In 1919, two units were in operation. Based at Baghdad West were Numbers 6 and 30 Squadrons flying Bristol Fighters and R.E. 8s. The following year, Numbers 84 and 55 Squadrons were added to the theater and all squadrons converted to DH9As except 6 Squadron which continued to operate the Bristol Fighter. In 1921, Number 8 Squadron was added also operating the “nine-ack”. In 1922, the start of air control implementation saw the arrival of Numbers 1, 45, and 70 Squadrons. More RAF bases of operation opened that year also.

A seldom discussed mission was that conducted by the Short Rangoons of 203 Squadron based from RAF Basrah. The Rangoon was a large three-engined flying boat that operated ...

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Zulu Rebellions (1886–1906)

by Mitch on March 2, 2011 1 Comment

King Dinuzulu kaCetshwayo

German interest in the Zululand coast during the mid-1880s prompted British action to secure the area. In October 1886 the New Republic Boers agreed to limit their territorial ambitions and dropped their protection of Zulu King Dinuzulu. In January 1887 a British commission defined the boundary of the New Republic, and in May the Reserve Territory and central Zululand became the British Colony of Zululand. Extending the indirect rule system from Natal to Zululand, colonial officials planned to gradually diminish the power of traditional leaders. Dinuzulu refused to appear before the British Resident Commissioner, and local chiefs complained about having lost authority over their people within the New Republic. The payment of a colonial stipend to Zulu chiefs divided Usuthu (royalist) leaders as some like Mnyamana accepted it that represented a sign of submission but Dinuzulu rejected it. British regular soldiers, a company of mounted infantry and ...

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Colonial Singapore

by Mitch on March 1, 2011 0 Comments

A busy Victoria Dock, Tanjong Pagar, in the 1890s.

Two Royal Australian Air Force Avro Lincoln heavy bombers flying over Singapore Naval Base 1953

With the advent of steam shipping, Singapore’s advantages increased even further due to its location as a coaling depot. The expansion of steam-based commercial transport threatened to increase congestion and undermine trade, but this was averted with the development of the New Harbour (later known as Keppel Harbour), which began in earnest in the 1860s. Between 1860 and 1912, a number of companies competed against each other for contracts related to dock building and wharfing facilities. In 1912 the Singapore Harbour Board was reconstituted and the government began an extensive program of wharf accommodation and dock building.


The emergence of Singapore as the seventh largest port in the world in 1916 was a consequence of its strategic location as the hub of Southeast Asian steamship ...

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