Video appunto: British Armed Defense through the Centuries
British Armed Defense through the Centuries
Thanks to the fact that they constitute an archipelago completely detached from the European continent, the British Isles have been invaded only a few times throughout history and only in remote times. They were occupied by the Romans in the 1st century, by the Angles and Saxons in the 5th century and finally by the Normans of William I the Conqueror in 1066.
Afterwards there was no invasion. For the most part the conflicts were of an "internal" type with the aim of imposing the hegemony of England in Scotland or Ireland. Despite the fact that the English army was numerically smaller than that of the other European powers, England managed, since the Middle Ages, to put much more numerous armies in trouble, thanks to the invention of the Long Arc. And it was precisely this invention that assured the English victory against the French in the Hundred Years' War, fought from 1337 to 1453.
In the Middle Ages, ground forces prevailed, while they took second place to the modern age. For its part, the United Kingdom always relied on naval force as a form of defense. A first fleet nucleus was already in place before the Norman conquest, when the people living on the island were threatened by the Vikings. But the true origins of the British fleet date back to Henry VIII in the first half of the 16th century.
This progress continued with Elizabeth I who successfully faced the threat of Philip II's Invincible Spanish Armada, 130 galleons strong against 34 English warships. To add that the English fleet could count not only on naval guns, but also on the raids of the corsair Francis Drake.
Oliver Cromwell, protagonist of the English Revolution that interested the country between 1642 and 1651, refounded the land army. He introduced the heavy cavalry (= ironsides) and the "red coat" which later became the characteristic uniform of the English army. His men were well paid professionals and chosen from among the best fighters, very skilled and knowledgeable of ingenious military tactics. At the end of the seventeenth century, the army was reformed again, bringing in the very fearsome and fierce Scottish regiments.
In the 18th century, the army was implemented with the presence of German mercenaries and the Royal Navy took part in a series of wars that snatched many colonies from France and gained large territories in India and North America.
Led by skilled admirals such as Oratio Nelson, the British then innovated the naval deployment technique by which Napoleon was defeated at the Battle of the Nile and the Battle of Trafalgar. On the mainland, under the command of the Duke of Wellington, the British distinguished themselves in the campaigns against the French at Leipzig and Waterloo.
His Majesty's army included convicts and the dispossessed in general for whom the army was the only chance of survival because the pay was safe. Wellington's famous phrase, "Our army is made up of the scum of the earth."
In the 19th century, Britain became the centre of the Industrial Revolution and its army was increasingly strong and unbeatable because it was also composed of colonial troops. One of the most numerous contingents was the Britsh Indian Army, formed in 1858 and stationed in India, which made use of the Gurkha, a very fierce corps of Nepali-Indian ethnicity.
With the Naval Defence Act of 1889, it was established that the Royal Navy should have a larger fleet than the French and Russian combined.
During the two World Wars, the British military organization played a key role, albeit one overshadowed by that of the United States.
Today the situation has changed; in fact, if the British armed forces continue to maintain an important role, they are qualitatively and quantitatively outdated by those of the U.S.A.