Small armies which changed history

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Kimptonite
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Small armies which changed history

Postby Kimptonite » Thu Nov 03, 2011 12:16 am

I'm researching examples of small contingents of soldiers having a significant impact upon a campaign, war or even history in general.

The Battle of Thermopylae is a key example, as is the Spanish conquest of the Aztec Empire. Any other ideas?



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Re: Small armies which changed history

Postby Stuart Quayle » Thu Nov 03, 2011 12:41 am

Henry V's bedraggled army against the huge French army at the Battle of Agincourt in 1415 AD springs to mind. This stunning victory let the English springboard onto a number of other following victories in the Hundred Years War, before the French got their act together and began to turn the tables with their superior firepower.



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Re: Small armies which changed history

Postby acecat999 » Thu Nov 03, 2011 1:06 am

the great escape

76 escapees tied up entire population of germany looking for them


paul von lettow-vorbeck (probably the most successful guerilla born into pomeranian nobility) 5000 men against 45000.



if you went onto navies though - any one of the german surface raiders in the second world war tied up infinately more ships searching for it.


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Re: Small armies which changed history

Postby Marcus Woodhouse » Thu Nov 03, 2011 8:11 am

Given that most pre modern armies numbered the very low thousands that's a hard call.


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Re: Small armies which changed history

Postby steve stanley » Thu Nov 03, 2011 10:03 am

I would guess...The 70-odd men who stood at Lexington Green?


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Re: Small armies which changed history

Postby uksimes » Fri Nov 04, 2011 12:47 am

I second Stuart Q, with his suggestion of Henry V's army at Agincourt

May I add Patrick Leigh Fermor’s activities during WW2in Crete with the Special Operations Executive (SOE), and the incredibly brave Cretan resistance fighters, notably their kidnapping, and abduction to Cairo of Heinrich Kreipe, Commander of the Infantry Division that was occupying Crete in 1944?


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Re: Small armies which changed history

Postby Langley » Fri Nov 04, 2011 5:27 pm

The two hundred "spearmen" who thwarted Somerset's flank attack at Tewkesbury which had the chance of winning that battle for Lancaster. No Edward IV, no Richard III, no Tudor overthrow?



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Re: Small armies which changed history

Postby Neil of Ormsheim » Fri Nov 04, 2011 5:51 pm

How about the defenders of Rourkes Drift?

The pilots of fighter command in the summer of 1940?

The Scottish spearmen at Bannockburn?

The Boer Kommandos?

The U-boat crews of WWII?

Kamakazi pilots and other suicide bombers?


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Re: Small armies which changed history

Postby acecat999 » Fri Nov 04, 2011 10:59 pm

if we are going to get vague though


alan turing, tommy flowers, max newman, marian Rejewski
Henryk Zygalski

on their own in a shed in buckinghamshire or in a polish forest before the war.


screwed up the entire german military forces?



just no one knew


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Re: Small armies which changed history

Postby Simon Atford » Sat Nov 05, 2011 12:45 pm

Neil of Ormsheim wrote:How about the defenders of Rourkes Drift?



But did they really change history though? They saved British prestige after the distaster at Islandawana but the battle have any wider significance.



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Re: Small armies which changed history

Postby Marcus Woodhouse » Sun Nov 06, 2011 5:32 pm

If you read Prof. Anne Curry's recent research into Agincourt there is reason to believe that there were a lot more English/Welsh/ Gascons and a lot fewer French/Burgundians/Breton/Savoyards present.


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Re: Small armies which changed history

Postby EnglishArcher » Sun Nov 06, 2011 7:15 pm

Marcus Woodhouse wrote:If you read Prof. Anne Curry's recent research into Agincourt there is reason to believe that there were a lot more English/Welsh/ Gascons and a lot fewer French/Burgundians/Breton/Savoyards present.


Indeed; and the major reason for the English victory was the French army slipping over in the mud and drowning. The English archers meanwhile, between bouts of soiling themselves, whistled "Yakety Sax" to encourage the French.


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Re: Small armies which changed history

Postby gregory23b » Mon Nov 07, 2011 8:04 pm

Spanish Guerilla units in the Peninsular campaigns.

The French sniper that took out Nelson, who knows what more Nelson might have done.



re Rowke's Drift.
"They saved British prestige after the distaster at Islandawana but the battle have any wider significance."

luckier that they were simply a base station watching loads of stuff. No long term impact, except for British sentiment perhaps. The small wars were by nature small and simply part of the broader Empire workings.

I would argue that Azincourt was not that big a deal, in the short term for English morale and Harry's prestige perhaps, but we eventually lost most of the French possessions, the French got to grips with beating the English/Gascons. Henry the sixth comes about, sees through the last throws then has troubles of his own at home. It was another event that has more significance for its immediate romantic outcome than its long term results.


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Re: Small armies which changed history

Postby Captain Reech » Wed Nov 09, 2011 10:10 am

I can't think of any that "Changed History" that would be impossible....quite a few "Made History" though!

My vote would be for the 18 Gloucester Gladiators used during the defence of Malta in 1940, a testament to the skill and bravery of the pilots and the herculean efforts of their groundcrew.


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Re: Small armies which changed history

Postby steve stanley » Wed Nov 09, 2011 11:58 am

I would guess the ultimate would be the crew of "Enola Gay"........


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Re: Small armies which changed history

Postby Marcus Woodhouse » Wed Nov 09, 2011 10:02 pm

The Jewish commandos from Englorious Basterds, they killed Hitler and ended WW2.


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Re: Small armies which changed history

Postby acecat999 » Wed Nov 09, 2011 10:09 pm

operation gunnerside, grouse and although unsucessful freshman = although it was unlikely the nazi's would have made the bomb, they made sure.

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Re: Small armies which changed history

Postby Marcus Woodhouse » Thu Nov 17, 2011 12:10 pm

The Dirty Dozen they nearly got away with it.


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Re: Small armies which changed history

Postby Foxe » Fri Nov 18, 2011 10:49 pm

1565 Siege of Malta.

Accepting the vagaries of period accounts, around 6-7,000 Christian troops, consisting of around 500 knights, a couple of thousand professional soldiers, and the rest Maltese militia, held out for three months or so against a Turkish army numbering in the region of 40,000 until the arrival of a relief force.

There is little dissent that the successful defence of Malta was a decisive action in limiting Ottoman expansion. Even good Queen Bess, who had no particular love for the Catholic order, feared that "if the Turks should prevail against the Isle of Malta, it is uncertain what further peril might follow to the rest of Christendom".


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Re: Small armies which changed history

Postby Moment in Time » Mon Nov 21, 2011 6:39 pm

Garabaldi (debate)


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Re: Small armies which changed history

Postby Gockee » Wed Dec 07, 2011 9:40 pm

One small contingent might be Horatius and his two companions. History (or myth?) recalls that they held the bridge over the Tiber long enough for it to be torn down behind them preventing a combined Etruscan / Tarquin army entering and destroying Rome, hundreds of years before the Roman Empire.



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Re: Small armies which changed history

Postby acecat999 » Wed Dec 07, 2011 10:44 pm

Moment in Time wrote:Garabaldi (debate)



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