from the Guinness Book of Military Blunders.
THE TACTICS OF DEFEAT- The Fog of War
At the battle of Philiphaugh in 1645 during the English
Civil War the failure of the Marquis of Montrose - otherwise
a brilliant commander - to anticipate the effects of an
early morning fog led to defeat. He had camped near Selkirk
on very low ground, apparently to save the trouble of fetching
water from the nearby river. However, the month being September,
a thick dawn mist enshrouded his whole camp, and the Parliamentarian
army of David Leslie, coming from the hills, was able to
descend on him and take him unawares. The poor visibility
made it impossible for Montrose to form up his army to receive
the attack and his camp was simply overrun.
FIRST, COMMAND YOURSELF- Bloody Braggadocio
At the battle of Marston Moor
in 1644 the rash behaviour of Lord Byron, one of the Royalist
commanders, was to cost King Charles I dear. Commanding
the right wing of the Royalist army, Byron had strict orders
from Prince Rupert on what strategy to follow. Facing the
Parliamentary left flank of 5,000 men led by Oliver Cromwell,
Byron's 2,600 men needed more than mere courage to succeed.
Rupert had skilfully mixed musketeers with cavalry in Byron's
front line and had emphasised that he must not quit his
position. In front of him was marshy ground and a ditch,
and before Cromwell's men could reach Byron they would have
been slowed not only by the terrain but by musket and cannon
fire from 1,500 musketeers under Colonel Napier. It was
crucial therefore for Byron's cavalry to wait until Cromwell's
troops had been disordered before making their attack.
Byron was not a patient man and waiting in position for
much of the day stretched his nerves to breaking point.
Surrounded by courageous but reckless young cavaliers, he
must have faced countless questions as to why they had to
submit to delay in the face of a persistent bombardment
from the enemy. When Cromwell's cavalry erupted towards
them , Byron's nerve broke and all the Prince's careful
planning was forgotten. Ordering his cavalry forward, Byron
charged pell-mell against Cromwell's troopers, scattering
his own musketeers in the process. The ditch and the marsh
which should have acted as a brake on Cromwell's progress
instead slowed Byron's men and when the clash came they
were swept away and broken, opening up the entire right
wing of the Royalist army. Sweeping around the back of Rupert's
army, Cromwell's cavalry next fell on General Goring's left
wing cavalry, who had actually defeated their opponents.
It was Cromwell's cavalry - and Byron's blunder - that won
the battle for Parliament and lost the King the whole of
the north of England - an expensive price for disobedience.