Thursday, December 22, 2011

The Malayan Campaign

70 years ago this month the Japanese, led by Tomoyuki Yamashita invaded Malaya with the ultimate goal of conquering Great Britain's prized Asian colony of Singapore. For his effort and inspired leadership Yamashita would gain the nickname "Tiger of Malaya."

The campaign began on December 8th, 1941 when the Japanese 25th Army landed in northern Malaya. Making generous use of bicycles to move quickly through the jungle Japanese troops surged southwards towards Singapore.

For Great Britain, the situation took a critical turn for the worse on December 10th. Force Z, a naval battlegroup composed of the battleship Prince of Wales, battlecruiser Repulse and four destroyers was overwhelmed by Japanese aircraft. Losing both the Prince of Wales and the Repulse, the British were left without a naval force to counter the invasion.

Operating with impunity in the air and at sea the Japanese arrived at Singapre in less than two months. On January 31, 1942 British engineers blew the causeway connecting Singapore with the mainland. Singapore would only hold out until February 15th.

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

    One of the many aspects of the American Civil War that amazes me is how Richmond and Washington D.C. lasted so long without an assault despite only being located approximately 100 miles apart. One major reason that the South never seriously threatened Washington was the extensive series of forts that encircled the Union capital.
    Sixty-five forts ringed the capital, providing support form one another and giving good reason for even the boldest of Confederate commanders to contemplate the cost of an attack. Government concern for the upkeep of the forts waned in the days after the Civil War. While evidence of some of the forts has vanished, others, such as Battery Kemble are well-preserved and today constitute a series of parks overseen by the National Park Service as the Fort Circle Parks.

Saturday, December 10, 2011

Looking for a last-minte Christmas present for a young person in your life? Written by the author of the Battle Maps blog and in the tradition of John Haaren's Famous Men series Alacrity Press is proud to introduce a new entry to biography-driven history, Famous Men of the Second World War. In this book adults, youth and older children can learn about history's most complex event through the eyes of the people who played pivotal roles in the conflict. Oh, just so you know it is relevant, the book contains over a dozen battle maps. Joy!

A support website with a sample chapter and other neat goodies (click on downloads) may be found at The book is also available from the Alacrity Press bookstore.

Battle of Prague (1757)

One of the major battles fought during the Seven Years' War was Frederick the Great's bold attempt to capture the city of Prague. Known as the
Battle of Prague or Battle of Štěrboholy, the engagement took place on May 6, 1757. Considered by some to be the first true world war, the European battles during the Seven Years' War centered around Prussia. Beset on all sides by Austrian, French, Russian, Saxon, and Swedish forces, Frederick managed not only to survive but to lead tiny Prussia to victory over its foes.

In early spring Frederick divided his forces into four groups which converged on the city of Prague. The Austrians, under Field Marshal Maximilian Ulysses Count Brown, had spent the winter constructing fortifications east of the city. With 60,000 troops and a position protected by a swamp to the west, the town to the east and a steep ravine to the north, the Austrians were confident of victory.

Though typically outnumbered during the war, the Prussians boasted over 100,000 men. 30,000 were dispatched to cut off the Austrian retreat route. 67,000 were ordered to attack the Austrian positions. Attacking from the southeast, Frederick's men soon found themselves struggling to work their way through marshy ground. The Austrians pressed the attack but in doing so opened up a hole in their line. Seeing the hole, generals Hautcharmoy and Bevern filled the hole with Prussian infantry. The tide of battle turned to the Prussian's advantage. Mortally wounded by Prussian fire, Brown and his troops retreated into the city of Prague.

Austrian losses were 12,000; Prussian were 14,000. With a much smaller population Prussia could ill-afford heavy losses. Though Prussia had won the battle, Frederick decided against an assault on the city. An Austrian force under Count von Daun would relieve the besieged city the following month.