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DateOriginal Topic
19th March 200498 versus 4000
By Leigh Tarrant
Apart from the incredible feat of our heroes in the Rorkes Drift campaign, of which a mere handful of 98 men fought back 4,000 Zulus (Although the American one-sheet poster suggests' 40,000!) Can anyone think of some other memorable pieces of war history that is of similar circumstance of which a mere handful of men fight and hold out against an impending army greater in numbers, against all the odds?? Apart from the ALAMO and LITTLE BIG HORN....that is........anythin else???
DateReplies
19th March 2004Robert Jones
Leigh,
What about THERMOPYLAE ?
19th March 2004John Young
Leigh,

A couple of things before I reply in earnest to your posting. The Defence of the Mission Station at Rorke's Drift was a battle, not a campaign. '98 men' that's a new one on me, the site does have a roll of the defenders, off the top of my head it was closer to 150 +/-.

Other examples, of fights against overwhelming odds:
The Spartans at Thermopylae, against the Persians, 480 B.C.
The French Foreign Legion at Camerone, against the Mexicians, 1863.
The Wilson Patrol near the Shangani River, against the Matabele, 1893.
The stand of IInd Corps, B.E.F. at Le Chateau, against the Germans, 1914.
The Defence of Wake Island, by American forces against the Japanese, 1941.
Arnhem Bridge, British & allied airborne forces against German forces, 1944.
The Glosters & other British units against the Chinese & North Korean forces, Imjin River, Korea, 1951.

Just a few that I have to hand, I'm sure others will have more.

John Y.
19th March 2004Andrew Holliday
How about Abu Klea, in 1885where the 1,500 British soldiers formed square, and even though the square was broken into because of a Gardner Machine Gun jamming and the sqaure broken into in one sector, the British repelled the Mahdi forces out of the square and then won the battle.
19th March 2004Chris
Peking (1900) - Boxers attack foreign embassies in China, 500 foreign troops (mostly marines and sailors) hold off Chinese hordes for 55 days until rescued.

LZ X Ray (1965) - 400 US soldiers battle thousands of NVA/VC troops in Vietnam.

Mogadishu (1993) - 200 US Army Rangers and Delta Force commandos fight the US Army's biggest firefight since Vietnam, killing over 1,000 Somalis

Im sure theres plenty of other battles
20th March 2004Frank Muscal
Wagon Box Fight - US Army vs Indians (Lakota?), 1867
Murbat - SAS vs rebels in Oman, 1972
20th March 2004Edward Garcia
Adobe Walls – June 1874

Some 150 miles Southwest of Dodge City, Kansas this small outpost defended by 28 buffalo hunters and one woman was attacked by over 700 Comanche, Kiowa and Cheyenne warriors. They were led by the great Comanche war chief Quanah Parker. The siege lasted some five days before the Indians finally withdrew as white reinforcements began to arrive. Amongst the defenders were a 20-year-old Bat Masterson and one William “Billy” Dixon who made what is probably the most famous shot in the history of the American West. Using a borrowed “Big Fifty” .50 caliber Sharps Rifle Dixon shot a taunting Indian off his horse at a distance of 1,538 yards or 9/10ths of a mile. Four of the hunters lost their life in the fight as well as an unknown number of attackers.
20th March 2004John Young
Majar al-Kabir, Iraq, 2003, six men of the Royal Military Police, iIll-armed, ill-equipped,
against 400 +/- Iraqis.

Lest We Forget...

20th March 2004John Young
Another action from 1879, the defence of the Residency, Kabul, Afghanistan by the Corps of Guides, against overwhelming Afghan odds.

John Y.
20th March 2004Peter Ewart
Leigh

Hadn't realised the defending force at Little Big Horn had held out! Still, among some of the other noteworthy examples suggested above are actions in which there were no survivors among the defeated.

On a larger scale, what about Dien Bien Phu, or does the number of defenders render the odds not overwhelming enough, perhaps? And no-one has mentioned the famous tennis court at Kohima, surely one of the most astonishing and heroic examples from the 20th century. (The original wooden cross bearing the words "When you go home .." etc., survives here in Kent, home of the Dirty Half Hundred).

On a much larger scale, but still holding out against overwhelming odds & changing the course of history in the process, how about the entire BEF in the late summer and autumn of 1914 - from which, taking the sheer breadth & scope of the whole campaign and size of the army, there were, in fact, comparatively few survivors.

Which brings us round to the Old Contemptibles again ...

Peter

P.S. And Maiwand?
20th March 2004Derek Johns
What about Colour-Sergeant Booth 80th Reg. retreat from the Intombi River, it could of been a last stand if he had lost control of his men.
21st March 2004Bernie Drummond.
Thank you Peter for remembering Maiwand. This battle fought by the 66th Regiment in 1880 may well have had no survivors, as the print that I have of their famous last stand literally shows a handful of survivors (plus one dog) surrounded by hundreds of the enemy. I believe that the 66th was The Royal Berkshires Regt, in which my Father served during W W1.
21st March 2004Steven Sass
Edward,

Could you kindly refer me to any further sources or information regarding the Adobe Walls battle?

Thanks,

Steven
21st March 2004Robert Jones
Steven,
You could try the web-site www.oldwestlibrary.com----there,s a lot of info. on it.
Regards,
Robert
21st March 2004Chris
Dident something like only 10 men of the 66th survive the battle?
22nd March 2004Steven Sass
Thank you Robert.

Steven
22nd March 2004Graham Alexander
As there seems to be some confusion with the casualty figures at Maiwand, I hope that the following may help :-
The 66th regiment started the battle with a strength of 364 men. Before the line broke, they had suffered only minor casualties ( 8 killed and 6 wounded ) . Their main casualties occured when they started to retire to the village of khig. During this operation, the regiment suffered 216 men killed in the confused fighting. At Khig, a group of 11 men, led by Ltn Chute, stood their ground and were all killed during their gallant final stand. Some of the regiment continued their withdrawal back to Kandahar, and despite suffering a further loss of 42 men killed or missing, eventually struggled back to the city. Not complete destruction , but a major blow to the regiment.
22nd March 2004AMB
Maiwand and indeed, Gandamack, are interesting battles. The terrain is incredible - I've flown over Gandamack & have been in the locality of Maiwand - sadly never got to land. As with most operations, if a formation can maintain its cohesion during a wathdrawal, then you'll have a better chance of survival.
22nd March 2004Simon Copley
There was a battle in the old West when a group of cavalry got trapped on an island by loads of indians. Can't remember the name...anybody?
22nd March 2004John Young
Simon,

Beecher's Island.

John Y.
22nd March 2004Leigh Tarrant
Beechers island - sounds like a good one for a movie....
(Something simplistic and fairly well known I'm looking for though)....Where's John prebble when you need him?? Thanks guys - for so many replys....

I'm not really a historian, but any of the Waterloo campaign?? Or do we class that as one big battle??

Does anybody know of the story 'Ten men at Daybreak'
I think a few chechz assasins get caught up against a big German army in Liditz or Prague, and get held up for days in a crypt,. Can anyone enlighten me please.
22nd March 2004Lukas
Their was a battle of the Swiss Guard which protect the pope during the storm of a mixed troop of 20000 German, Italian and Spanish troops plunder the holy city of rome!
198 Swiss fight back these troops untill the pope fled! This without any firearms just with sword and halberd. Or the battle of "St.Jakob" were 1600 Swiss fight against 40000 Armagnaken (mercenaries of the King of France) they lost the battle and no Swiss survived, but they killed nearly 8000 French mercenaries. I think every country have such history of enormous bravery.
22nd March 2004Lukas
Their was a battle of the Swiss Guard which protect the pope during the storm of a mixed troop of 20000 German, Italian and Spanish troops plunder the holy city of rome!
198 Swiss fight back these troops untill the pope fled! This without any firearms just with sword and halberd. Or the battle of "St.Jakob" were 1600 Swiss fight against 40000 Armagnaken (mercenaries of the King of France) they lost the battle and no Swiss survived, but they killed nearly 8000 French mercenaries. I think every country have such history of enormous bravery.
22nd March 2004Peter Ewart
Leigh

"Seven [not ten] Men at Daybreak" was written by Alan Burgess and published in the late '50s or around 1960. (Got a copy somewhere but can't lay my hands on it). Describes the assassination of Heydrich by the Czech paratroopers trained in Scotland & their eventual capture in the church of SS Cyril & Methodius in Resslova Ulice (going by memory here!)

I traced the church on one of my first visits to Prague 35 years ago - the bullet pock-marked hole in the wall made by the Germans as they finished the patriots off were still there (as also were the Soviet ones in Wenceslas Sq., only a few months a old!) I also found the suburbian street corner where Joseph Gabcik & Jan Kubis had done the business, which wasn't that easy when almost no-one in Prague spoke English & my German was rudimentary!

The Lidice atrocity followed in the same month but the museum on the site was (in 1969) still a pawn of the post-1948 propaganda.

But yes, the Resslova Ulice siege fits your criterion.

Peter
22nd March 2004John Young
Leigh,

Re-your query about the Czech fight. On 27th May, 1942, during 'Operation Anthoropoid' two British-trained Czech soldiers - Sergeants Josef Gabcik & Jan Kubis - attacked Reinhard Heydrich, Reich Protector of Bohemia-Moravia, in an attempt to kill him. They wounded Heydrich, and made good their escape.

They took refuge in the Church of St. Cyril & St. Methodius, in Prague, where they were joined by another party of Czech fighters. Sadly they were betrayed and the church was attacked on 16th June, 1942.

The story was told in the book, 'Seven Men at Daybreak', in the film 'Operation Daybreak'.

John Y.
22nd March 2004John Young
Peter & I were obviously furnishing our answer at the same time!

John Y.
23rd March 2004Leigh Tarrant
Beechers island - sounds like a good one for a movie....
(Something simplistic and fairly well known I'm looking for though)....Where's John prebble when you need him?? Thanks guys - for so many replys....

I'm not really a historian, but any of the Waterloo campaign?? Or do we class that as one big battle??

Does anybody know of the story 'Ten men at Daybreak'
I think a few chechz assasins get caught up against a big German army in Liditz or Prague, and get held up for days in a crypt,. Can anyone enlighten me please.
23rd March 2004Leigh Tarrant
Beechers island - sounds like a good one for a movie....
(Something simplistic and fairly well known I'm looking for though)....Where's John prebble when you need him?? Thanks guys - for so many replys....

I'm not really a historian, but any of the Waterloo campaign?? Or do we class that as one big battle??

Does anybody know of the story 'Ten men at Daybreak'
I think a few chechz assasins get caught up against a big German army in Liditz or Prague, and get held up for days in a crypt,. Can anyone enlighten me please.
24th March 2004Leigh Tarrant
Thankyou for your kind replies guys - Especially the story of those poor guys trapped in the crypt.....A very sad tale. Must track down the book.
24th March 2004John Young
Leigh,

There's a documentary on Heydrich this weekend on the History Channel, plus they have previously shown a documentary on 'Operation Anthoropoid', which was made in the Czech Republic.

John Y.
24th March 2004Peter Weedon
Graham

Do you know whether a list has been compiled of members of the 66th Foot who survived Maiwand?

Thanks

Peter
25th March 2004Graham Alexander
Peter
If you wanted a full casualty list, I could have given you every mans name. Survivors are more difficult to come by. I do know that of the officers, Captain Quarry, 2nd Ltn Mellis and Surgeon-major Preston survived. Of course we should not forget " Bobby ", the regimental mascot either.
I think that the best thing for you to do is contact the regimental museum at 58, The close, Salisbury, Wiltshire - phone 01722 334211 or try the records office at Kew for muster rolls July - August 1880
25th March 2004John Young
Agincourt, 25th October, 1415, odds of six to one.

"Cry God for Harry...!"
26th March 2004AMB
John,

Agincourt can't really count can it?- they were only French!!

AMB
26th March 2004David Alan Gardner
John,
Is it just a documentary on Heydrich? -I've been looking for the German version of the Wannsee Conference-you may remember the Branagh version-well the German is far superior with an actor who actually looks like the Reichsprotektor-ie ghastly, actually speaking in German.Far more realistic, but can't get it anywhere except the US which uses as we all know, a different format.
27th March 2004John Young
David,

2 hour documentary entitled 'The Face of Evil: Reinhard Heydrich' 19:00hrs - 21:00hrs.

I have to wait for the repeat as it clashes with the battle in France.

John Y.
1st April 2004Marc Jung
Yes, too many to mention, but some of you are right, some didin't have the outcome of 'holding out' but courageous nontheless. Thanks to Peter Ewart, because my dad was a major at Kohima. Also what about Alexander the Great - always outnumbered, and never defeated. e.g: Arbela with 6,000 to about 40,000 - 50,000 Persians. This truly is a great site guys!
1st April 2004Marc Jung
Oh, yes, and what about the American marines at Khe Sanh, that was a classic battle. And all the elements of superb logistics, even though it was harrowing. Air support, apparently, yes America didn't win that particular war (And it's been said it was not a war 'cause 'war' wasn't 'declared' - though to fight is a war surely!) but the USAF/Marine air power dropped more TNT in that one battle than all that in WW2. Correct me anyone if I am wrong!
1st April 2004Marc Jung
And wasn't there another French Foreign Legion action in the desert somewhere? I believe it was a 'bit' like Rorke's Drift (Not against black warriors) and that the commander's false hand is stored in the Legion headquarters or something, I've seen it somewhere, dammit and it's not the Mexican one!
1st April 2004John Young
Marc,

Sorry but it is the Battle of Camerone, 1863, three officers, including Captain Jean Danjou of the wooden hand fame, & 62 other-ranks of the French Foreign Legion. The action occurred during the ill-fated "Mexican Adventure" of Napoleon III.

Khe Sahn has obvious parallels with Dien Bien Phu, but with a different outcome.

John Y.
4th April 2004Marc Jung
Thanks for that, John, keep your vast knowledge coming!

thanks again, Marc