Category Archives: Magazine Articles

The Unstoppable Panzer Count Strachwitz

Military Heritage Magazine

The Unstoppable Panzer Count Strachwitz

“With speed and daring and a knack for improvisation and organization, Strachwitz achieved near miracles in battle against overwhelming odds”

by Ludwig Heinrich Dyck

Count Hyazinth Strachwitz von Gross-Zauche and Camminetz’s incredible military career spanned two world wars and a civil war.

During World War I, the young Strachwitz served in the 1st Guards Cavalry Division:

“Leutnant Strachwitz exchanged his white Hussar dress uniform for field gray one and rode off to war at the front of his squadron. Soon the dashing Hussars found themselves stuck in clouds of dust, raised by thousands of infantry and supply wagons. Carrying out reconnaissance, Strachwitz impressed both his men and superiors. Because of his daring, the soldiers nicknamed Strachwitz the “last horseman.”

At the end of WWI, Strachwitz found his Silesian homeland torn by civil strife between Poles and Germans:

“Leading a counterattack, Strachwitz fought off eight Polish companies and retook his ancestral castle. During the ensuing fighting, Strachwitz captured an artillery battery and turned the guns the fleeing Poles.”

It was, however, during WWII, that Strachwitz’s military exploits made him a legend. Although assigned a rear-echelon position during the French campaign of 1940, Strachwitz could not be kept from the front. Setting out with on his own initiative, Strachwitz and his driver drove nineteen miles into French territory where he pulled up to a French signals garrison:

“Strachwitz got out of the car, calmly lit a cigarette, and demanded the surrender of the garrison in perfect French. He told the captain that his panzers were only minutes away. The bluff worked and 600 French soldiers surrendered.”

Strachwitz (2)
Count Strachwitz wearing his “Schiffchen” forage cap in a photo taken for postcards after he received the Swords to his Knight’s Cross.

With the German attack on Soviet Russia in 1941, Strachwitz was granted front line command as battalion commander with the 16th Panzer division. On June 26, 16th Panzer got hit by Col. Gen. Mikhail Kirponos’ spirited counterattack:

“Amid deafening explosions, fountains of earth, and clouds of smoke, an adjutant reported to Strachwitz that they were T-26 light tanks. Strachwitz’s binoculars zeroed in on more Soviet tanks in the woods to the rear. He ordered the heavier Mark IVs to counter the Soviet outflanking attempt. Soviet infantry swarmed through the panzers. A bullet grazed Strachwitz’s arm. Roughly bandaged, the wound continued to bleed into the cloth. At dusk, after hours of fighting, the Soviets were thrown back but the regiment had been cut off from the division. It was only the first day of the largest tank battle in Barbarossa so far.”

By 1943, Strachwitz had been promoted to Oberst der Reserve (Colonel of the Reserve) and commanded the panzer regiment of the elite Grossdeutschland Panzer Grenadier Division. During the night of March 15-16, Strachwitz hid his panzers in a deserted peasant village west of Belgorod:

“Strachwitz remained calm, letting the whole Soviet column enter the village. With a Soviet command tank within 70 yards, Strachwitz’s hidden Tiger fired and blasted the turret right off the T-34. The other panzers let loose, knocking out 18 T-34s and KV-1s in a few minutes. Strachwitz climbed on top of his turret and watched the inferno. “The Russians have recognized us, they’re broadcasting, “Watch out, it’s Strachwitz,” exclaimed Strachwitz’s radio operator.”

When on August 1st, 1944, the Soviets reached the Gulf of Riga at Tuckum they cut off 30 German divisions in northern Latvia and Estonia. Someone needed to break through to beleaguered Riga. “If anyone can do it, it’s Strachwitz,” said Chief of Staff Heinz Guderian.

“Strachwitz entered Riga on August 21. Driving by cheering Latvians and German troops, the count’s Panther stopped in the marketplace right in front of a number of high-ranking officers. In his sweat- and dirt-stained overall, his face smeared in oil, Strachwitz emerged from the cupola. “Hurrah Leutnant, you busted the cauldron,” called out an officer. To astonished gazes, Strachwitz replied that he was a full-fledged general. In three days, Strachwitz’s small battlegroup had captured 18,000 prisoners and destroyed numerous artillery pieces, tanks and anti-tank guns.”

In a war and theater of operations that was characterized by a descending spiral of hatred and brutality, Strachwitz did his best to treat prisoners as best he could. He also helped ailing farmers, women and children. Often his men repaired local churches, further endearing him to the population. Unlike most senior commanders of the Third Reich, upon his death in 1968, Strachwitz was buried with full military honors:

“It was because of his bravery, which served as an example to all officers and soldiers, that he carried the highest decorations of the Knight’s Cross, the Oakleaves, the Swords and the Diamonds,” said General Heinz Georg Lemm of the Bundeswehr, himself a holder of the Oakleaves and Swords.”

Ludwig H. Dyck’s full article on Count Strachwitz is featured in Military Heritage Magazine’s July 2017 issue. Copyright L. H. Dyck.

 MH July 2017

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Janos Hunyadi “Scourge of the Turks”

Military Heritage Magazine January 2017

Janos Hunyadi “Scourge of the Turks”

By Ludwig Heinrich Dyck

janos-belgrade-001
The Ottoman Turks assault the walls of Belgrade in 1456.

“Hungary’s national hero, Janos Hunyadi was one of the great captains in the war between Europe and the Ottoman Turks. Hunyadi rose from obscurity to dominate Hungarian politics in the first half of the 15th century.

“The 15th century historian Thuroczi represented Hunyadi as a “man of war, born to bear arms.” A devout Catholic, Hunyadi would leave his bed at night to spent hours praying at the chapel. He believed in strict discipline for himself and for his men.

“During the spring of 1441, Mezid Pasha, Bey of Vidin, led 17,000 sipahis (Ottoman cavalry) into central Transylvania. The panic spread by Mezid’s ravages drew Hunyadi into an ill-prepared engagement at Santimbru. Hunyadi barely escaped but rallied peasant reinforcements and riposted only a few days later. Mezid ordered his best troops to take out Hunyadi. “To kill a lion, his heart must be pierced,” Mezid told his troops, advising them that Hunyadi “wears a silver helmet and carries a shield emblazoned with a raven. Mounted on a white horse, he is always found in the thick of battle.” Forewarned by a spy, Hunyadi let a volunteer, Simon Kemeny, wear his armor. Kemeny was slain but Hunyadi was left free to lead the attack and defeat Mezid on March 22. A wagonload of severed Ottoman heads was sent back to Buda.”

Hunyadi won many such victories against the Turks but also suffered reverses such as at Varna in 1444.  At the time, Hunyadi served under the teenage Wladyslaw III (Ulaszlo I) King of Poland and Hungary.

“Victory all but in his grasp, Wladyslaw entered the fray with 500 cavalry. The young king smote through the janissaries, but then his horse was killed under him. Wladyslaw was hurled to the ground where a janissary swooped off his head and hoisted it on the tip of his lance. Galloping back to the battle, Hunyadi tried in vain to stem the growing panic. The sun set upon a vanquished Hungarian army.”

The slain young king
The slain young king Wladyslaw III at the Battle of Varna 1444.

Though at times defeated, Hungary never faltered in his resolve to carry on the war: “We have had enough of our men enslaved, our women raped, wagons loaded with the heads of our people, the sale of chained captives, the mockery of our religion…we shall not stop until we succeed in expelling the enemy from Europe.”

Janos Hunyadi
Janos Hunyadi

Hunyadi’s greatest victory, no doubt was his 1456 relief and defense of Belgrade against Sultan Mehemed II “The Conqueror.”

“By nightfall the Turks were fighting in the streets. Hunyadi ordered his men to throw tarred wood and blankets saturated with sulfur into the moat. Set alight, the moat erupted in flames and burned the Ottomans trying to gain the walls. The isolated janissaries in the city were slaughtered.”

The fighting was so dreadful that to Ottoman historian Tursun Bey it seemed as if “even the dead climbed out of the fortress and fell upon the army of Islam.”

On August 11th, less than a month after forcing the Ottomans to retreat, Hunyadi passed away from illness. In all probability he succumbed to the plague that had spread from Mehemed’s army into Belgrade. With his last words, the dying Hunyadi pleaded for the continued defense of Hungary and Christianity.

“Hunyadi’s deeds elevated him into the realm of legend, to become Torokvero, the “scourge of the Turks.”

L. H. Dyck’s  full article on the life of Janos Hunyadi appears in Military Heritage January 2017. 

 

Military Heritage Magazine January 2017, featuring "Janos Hunyadi" by Ludwig H. Dyck.
Military Heritage Magazine January 2017, featuring “Janos Hunyadi” by Ludwig H. Dyck.

 

 

 

Prince Eugene of Savoy versus the Turks at the Battle of Peterwardein

Warfare History Network and Military Heritage Magazine

Prince Eugene of Savoy versus the Turks at the Battle of Peterwardein

By Ludwig Heinrich Dyck
With Eastern Europe at stake, Prince Eugene confronts the Turks at the Battle of Peterwardein and Temesvár.

With Eastern Europe at stake, Prince Eugene confronts the Turks at the Battle of Peterwardein and Temesvár.

Thousands of dead Turkish soldiers choked the river and littered its bank. It was the fall of 1697 and the young Imperial Field Marshall, Prince Eugene of Savoy, had just vanquished the Ottoman army at Zenta (or Senta), on Hungary’s River Tiza. His decisive victory brought about the 1699 Peace of Karlowitz and the end of the Second Turkish War (1683-1699) that had pitted the Holy Alliance of Poland, Venice, Russia, and Austria’s Holy Roman Empire against the Ottoman Turks. With the exception of the Ottoman Banat (a border march) of Temesvár, the treaty left Austria in possession of all of Hungary and Transylvania.

Eugene thus became a European hero and Austria a major European power. But peace had scarcely been secured in the east when the War of the Spanish Succession (1701-1714) broke out in the west. It pitted the Grand Alliance of England, the Netherlands, and the Empire against the French and Spanish. Together with his friend, the brilliant Duke of Marlborough, Eugene won several great victories for the allies.

In the east, however, the smoldering Turkish Empire was not yet finished, not by a long shot. Like their foes, the Ottomans regarded the Karlowitz treaty as little more than an armistice. The Ottoman Empire of Sultan Ahmed Khan III Najib (who ruled between 1703 and 1730) still spanned over two million square kilometers. With such a vast territory and burgeoning population, it was only a matter of time before the Ottomans would recuperate their manpower losses. In 1710 that time came. Infuriated by Russian border violations and new fortifications in the Ukraine, the Porte (Ottoman High Command) declared war on Russia.

Submitting to the Ottomans After a Lengthy Standoff at River Pruth

A year later, an outmaneuvered Russian army submitted to the Ottomans after a lengthy standoff on the River Pruth. Humiliated, Peter the Great accepted an unfavorable peace treaty that returned Azov and other fortresses to the Ottomans. With the Russians cowed, the Ottomans used a Venetian-inspired uprising in Montenegro as an excuse to resume their war with Venice in 1714. Grand Vizier Damad (also known as Silahdar) Ali-Pasha, the Sultan’s son-in-law and personal favorite, led the Turks in an assault on the Venetian Kingdom of the Morea (the Greek Peloponnese). The Ottomans were not so foolish however, as not to realize that their victories in Russia and in the Morea unnerved their old archenemy, Austria.

Vienna basked in the summer heat of 1715 when, in a pompous ceremony, Ibrahim, the Sultan’s müteferrika (a member of the Ottoman palace ‘elite’) walked up to a seated, short and wiry individual who was surrounded by the chief Imperial officers of state. This was Eugene, now in his fifties and president of the Hofkriegsrat (the Imperial War Council). Though a plain brown tunic was his more usual attire, in light of the occasion Eugene now wore gold-embroidered red silk.

Wishing for the Moon

From under his broad brimmed hat, Prince Eugene eyed the Turkish representative. The müteferrika presented a letter from the Grand Vizier Damad by which Damad expressed his hope for the Emperor’s neutrality in the Ottoman war with Venice. It was a not to be. Damad might as well have wished for the moon.

Eugene fully realized that no matter how cordial the Turks presented themselves, it was only a matter of time before the Ottoman behemoth swung towards the Empire. In April 1716, on Eugene’s urging, Emperor Charles VI of the Imperial House of Hapsburg renewed Austria’s old alliance with Venice. Consequently, Charles VI insisted that the Ottomans adhere to the treaty of Karlowitz and return to Venice all the lands they had taken.

A New Declaration of War

On May 15, 1716, the Porte answered Austria’s demands with a declaration of war. The Morea had already fallen to Grand Vizier Damad in the late summer of the previous year and the Venetians were hard pressed to hold onto Albania and the Dalmatian coast. The Porte was free to direct the brunt of its martial might against Austria. Leading it would be none other than the Grand Vizier Damad Ali-Pasha.

At Modon in the Morea, Damad had paid a reward for every Christian brought to his tent so he could personally relish the sight of their decapitations. He also executed any Turks who had been foolish enough to embrace Christianity while under Venetian rule. Now he wrote to Eugene, “there is no doubt that the blood which is going to flow on both sides will fall like a curse upon you, your children and your children’s children until the last judgement.” Damad inspired his own commanders with the words, “attack the infidels without mercy … Be neither elated nor down-hearted, and you will triumph.”

By Fluke More Than by Design

For the first time since Suleiman the Magnificent (1490-1566), war in the Balkans was forced upon the Ottomans instead of the other way around. This suited Eugene just fine because by fluke more than by design, European power politics following the end of the War of the Spanish Succession in 1714 resulted in an unusual period of peace in the west.

The chief catalysts for this peace were the 1715 death of Austria’s old European enemy, France’s dynamic Louis XIV, and the resurgence of the Whig party in England in 1714. Louis XIV was succeeded by his great grandson Louis XV. In the event of the child King’s death, his regent, the Duke of Orleans, was more worried about safeguarding his own claim to the throne from his rival claimant, Philip V of Spain, than in starting new wars. England’s Whigs meanwhile were too occupied with the Jacobite opposition and the danger of rebellions to get involved in Continental struggles.

The Pope Weighs In

Thus, Eugene was free to concentrate on the Turks in the east, which is what he really wanted to do. Moreover, Pope Clement XI offered 500,000 florins from church lands for the effort, which he considered a crusade. Nonetheless, the brunt of the war costs would fall on Austria. Indeed, unlike the previous two Turkish Wars, this one was to be virtually an almost exclusively Austrian war. The Venetians were busy defending the Ionian Islands, and of the German princes, only Max Emmanuel of Bavaria sent a sizeable contingent of troops.

The collection of an army had commenced and made substantial progress even before the Porte’s declaration of war. Difficulties in the form of droughts and floods intervened and Eugene himself remained in Vienna until July 2, 1716, to make sure of sufficient supplies and funds, but his diligence paid off. After a ride of only seven days he reached the village of Futak, north of the Danube and west of the fortress town of Peterwardein (Petrovaradin), the “Gibraltar of Hungary.” There he beheld his army of 65,000 men, which he described to be “in a very fine serviceable condition.” His comments were in stark contrast to those he made in 1697 when he had been given command of an Imperial army in which there “are many diseases but only a little money.”

Fighting For Money, Not Country

Through their thick walrus mustaches, Prince Eugene’s troopers no doubt cursed and muttered over the usual hardships of war. Theirs was a hard life. They fought not for cause and country but for money. Though hardy peasant louts were the favorite source of recruits for the Imperial Army, most of the soldiers—like those of all 18th-century armies—were from the bottom of society: vagabonds, criminals and beggars, especially in the infantry. Productive tradesmen and farmers were usually exempt from military service because they kept the economy healthy. Only through strict, at times excessively brutal, discipline were recruits welded into formidable fighting machines. Nevertheless, Eugene’s soldiers, flushed with recent victories in the Rhineland and with unabated confidence in a leader who genuinely cared for their well being, were ready for a fight.

Military Heritage 2005 featuring the article "We Will Attack," by L.H. Dyck.
Military Heritage 2005 featuring the article “We Will Attack,” by L.H. Dyck.

This article, originally titled “We Will Attack”  is from the August 2005 issue of Military Heritage Magazine, republished on August 7, 2014 on Warfare History Network. For the the rest of this article visit the order page at Military History Network.

Teutonic Fury

Military Heritage Magazine March 2016

Teutonic Fury

The AD 9 Battle in the Teutoburg Forest

By Ludwig Heinrich Dyck

TeutonicFury2016
A centurion meets the attacking German tribesmen in battle, Military Heritage Magazine March 2016, Artist Peter Dennis

 

Arminius, Prince of the Cherusci, had grown up as a child hostage in Rome. Arminius gained the coveted Roman citizenship and fought for Rome suppressing insurrections in Pannonia. However, after being moved to the headquarters of the Roman governor Publius Quinctilius Varus at Vetera (Xanten) on the lower Rhine, Arminius secretly began to plot against Rome.

“To Rome the German tribes were not equals, as he once thought. Germania’s sons fought and died for Rome while her daughters served the conquerors and her wealth fattened the pockets of men like Varus, who knew nothing of honor and battle.”

With false rumors of a tribal insurrection, Arminius led the unsuspecting Varus and his legions into the wilderness of the Teutoburg Forest and into an ambush.

“The path to the rebels led through heavy wood. Dark clouds of the northern fall hovered over the horizon. Soon Varus had his hands full just moving his army ahead. Oak and birch, beech and alder, boulders and rocks hemmed in the legions as if the very woods and mountains were turning against the Romans.

“Whistles cut the air. Here and there, all along the convoy, javelins and slingshot showered upon the Romans. The wind carried guttural bellows: the barbarians calling upon their spirits and their gods. Ghostly figures, pale-skinned, near-naked bearded giants, appeared and disappeared among the trees.

“The barbarians, lightly armed, carrying nothing but large oval shields were at home in the woods. They struck at wherever the Romans were at their weakest.

“Fortunately for the legionaries they came upon  good defensive ground for the next marching camp. Behind the mauled convoy, back along its 20-mile passage to the southeast, lay 13,000 dead that were left as food for flocks of ravens and packs of wolves.

“From all directions, barbarians charged at the camp, plunging through the shallow ditch and storming the ramparts. Released of their pent-up frustration, of not being able to come to grips with their foes, the legionaries fought with renewed vigor. The barbarian waves pounded against the Roman shield wall…

L. H. Dyck’s article “Teutonic Fury” appears in Military Heritage’s  March 2016 issue.  The article is based on a more detailed chapter in Dyck’s book, “The Roman Barbarian Wars, the Era of Roman Conquest.”

Military Heritage Magazine March 2016, featuring Teutonic Fury by L.H. Dyck.
Military Heritage Magazine March 2016, featuring “Teutonic Fury” by L.H. Dyck.

Prince Eugene’s Balkan Masterpiece

Military History Quarterly Summer 2002

Prince Eugene’s Balkan Masterpiece

By Ludwig Heinrich Dyck

Prince Eugene of Savoy-Carignan (Military History Quarterly 2002)
Prince Eugene of Savoy-Carignan (Military History Quarterly 2002)

In 1697, the Second Great Turkish War had been going on for fourteen years. In it the Holy League – a coalition composed of the Holy Roman Empire, Poland, Venice and Russia, was arrayed against the vast empire of the Ottoman Turks. Although the war had begun promisingly for the Europeans, the intervening Nine Years War (1688-97) against the belligerent Louis XIV, the Sun King of France, allowed the Turks time to recover. The Ottomans re-conquered lost lands and were further inspired by the personal bravery of their new Sultan, Mustafa II (r. 1695-1703).

After the fighting against the French came to an end, the Holy Roman Empire prepared to regain the initiative against the Turks. However, just before the summer campaigning season of 1697, the commander of the Imperial army, the flamboyant Frederick Augustus “the Strong” of Saxony, entered the election of the vacant Polish throne. He left the army in the hands of his second in command, Prince Eugene of Savoy, a veteran of the Turkish and French wars.

“Eugene, trained as a scholar, was of Italian heritage and French upbringing. His mother, Olympia Mancini, wife of the late duke of Savoy, had been involved in many illicit love affairs at the court of Louis XIV until she was banished from France for dabbling in potions and magic. Physically unimposing and burdened with his mother’s scandalous legacy, Eugene seemed a poor candidate for a military career, and Louis denied his request to join the French army. The young nobleman, however, was determined to follow the martial footsteps of his father and defected from France to join the Imperial army of Holy Roman Emperor Leopold I prior to the 1683 Battle of Vienna.”

“Wholly devoted to his military career and wounded several times, Eugene was steadily promoted and earned the rank of field marshal in 1693 at thirty years of age.”

“As it was too late to chose a new commander-in-chief, Eugene was left in sole command of the Imperial army in Hungary. Early in July he joined his troops, who were drawn up with their regimental and Imperial standards at Esseg (Osjek) to greet their new commander. To the Austrian, Saxon and Brandenburg soldiers, the puny Eugene, in his plain brown coat instead of the usual pearl gray and gold trimmed officer’s tunic, must have contrasted sharply with their former commander. But what Eugene lacked in appearance, he more than made up for in character. Upon being informed that his army numbered only 31, 142, he replied: “Thank you for the information. I am the 31, 143rd, and soon we shall have more.”

“On August 19 the Turks crossed the Danube at Pancsova. Brimming with confidence, Sultan Mustafa’s one-hundred-thousand-man army was followed by cartloads of chains with which they planned to bind the defeated German generals and soldiers.”

Late in the day, on September 11th, 1697, Prince Eugene reconnoitered with his hussars on the high ground above the burnt village of Zenta. From there he beheld the Ottoman army in the process of crossing the river Tisza.

“Below him, just to the south of the village, the bulk of the Turkish infantry, along with seventy pieces of artillery and a handful of sipâhî (Ottoman noble and regular cavalry), remained on the west of the Tisza. An incomplete semicircle of ramparts, wagon barricades, and ditches protected the troops as well as the bridgehead.”

“The Imperial army arrived at Zenta with only a few hours of daylight left. Although his troops were exhausted from another forced march, Eugene immediately deployed his arriving columns for an attack.”

“Like madmen the Imperial troops stormed the ramparts, engaging the Turks at close quarters. The Ottomans, in turn, threw down their muskets to slash about with their sabers.”

The decisive battle of Zenta established Prince Eugene as one  of Europe’s leading commanders. Ludwig H. Dyck’s article “Prince Eugene’s Balkan Masterpiece,” is featured in Military History Quarterly Summer 2002 issue.

Military History Quarterly Magazine Summer 2015, featuring "Prince Eugene's Balkan Mastepiece," by L. H. Dyck.
Military History Quarterly Magazine Summer 2002, featuring “Prince Eugene’s Balkan Masterpiece,” by L. H. Dyck.

Boudicca, Britain’s Warrior Queen

Military Heritage Magazine November 2015

Boudicca, Britain’s Warrior Queen

By Ludwig Heinrich Dyck

"Boudicca leads her troops into battle," Military Heritage Magazine November 2015
“Boudicca leads her troops into battle,” Military Heritage Magazine November 2015

“I thank thee Andraste and call upon you woman to woman…I pray to thee for victory,”1 Boudicca

The Roman eagle had sunk its claws deep into Britannia but all that Rome had gained was nearly lost, when Roman avarice and cruelty drove the tribes into revolt.

“The lash bit into the flesh of the woman’s back, beaten raw by metal balls tied into the ends of leather thongs. Her arms bound to a post, she wallowed in a pool of her own blood. She was Boudicca, queen of the Iceni.”

“Boudicca’s late husband’s goodwill meant nothing to the Romans. Surrounded by Roman provincial territory, the Iceni lands seemed ripe for exploitation.”

“Nothing is any longer safe from [the Romans’] greed and lust…cowards seize our homes, kidnap our children, and conscript our men” such were their common sentiments according to Roman historian Tacitus. Iceni nobles, their warrior routines and rural tribesmen, all were ready to follow Boudicca into battle. Fields remained unplowed and unsown but forges blazed, with the smithing of axe, spear and sword blade.

“Boudicca proudly ascended a raised platform of earth to face an ocean of humanity. Over 100,000 Briton men and women, veterans and youngsters looked to her for inspiration. Her hair cascading down to her hips, her eyes fierce and wild, her hands grasping a spear, Boudicca was tall, beautiful and terrifying.”

Governor Suetonius was busy demolishing the druid groves on Mona when news arrived of Boudicca’s rebellion. One of Rome’s leading commanders, Suetonius had previously crushed a Moor uprising in Africa. In the conquest of Mona, Suetonius had sought an equal to his rival Gnaeus Domitius Corbulo’s re-conquest of Armenia. Suetonius’ men had faced black-robed women, their hair wild like that of the Furies, who brandished torches while druids, according to Tacitus, raised “their hands to the heavens and screamed dreadful curses.” Suetonius recalled the faces of his legionaries, paralyzed with superstitious fear at the sight of fanatical women, until, urged on by their centurions, the legionaries had charged forward to destroy the enemy “in the flames of their own torches.”

Again it was a woman, Boudicca, who was Suetonius’ most formidable foe and who gave the misogynist Romans, in Dio’s words, “the greatest shame.”

Ludwig H. Dyck’s article about Boudicca, the defiant queen of the Iceni and her fateful struggle with the redoubtable might of Rome is featured in the Soldiers column of Military Heritage Magazine’s November 2015 issue.

Boudicca 001
Military Heritage Magazine November 2015, featuring “Britain’s Warrior Queen” by L. H. Dyck.

1. Dio, Roman History, translated by Earnest Cary (London: William Heinemann LTD., 1914) 62. 6, 7

 

Islam at Vienna’s Gates

Military Heritage Magazine October 2002

Relief came out of the woods and down from the heights

Detail from painting of 1683 relief battle of Vienna (Military Heritage Magazine, October 2002)
Detail from painting of 1683 relief battle of Vienna (Military Heritage Magazine, October 2002)

Islam at Vienna’s Gates

By Ludwig Heinrich Dyck

“For nearly two long months, from July 14 to early September 1683, Vienna endured the siege of a vast Turkish army. The Turkish Serasker (Supreme Commander), Grand Visier Kara “Black” Mustafa, demanded surrender but Count Ernst Rudiger von Starhemberg, commander of Vienna’s garrison spat back, “Let him come; I’ll fight to the last drop of blood.”

“The last drop of blood had almost been reached. Turkish mines and bombardment opened huge gaps in the city walls. Sewage, rubble, and corpses littered the streets and disease ran rampant.”

The Holy Roman Emperor Leopold I (1658-1705) had fled from Vienna.  A bookworm and music composer, the pious Leopold was not much of a warrior but he wasn’t going to abandon his capital to the Ottoman Turks either and feverishly petitioned German and Polish nobility to come to Vienna’s aid.

Leopold’s cries for help did not remain unanswered. By September a mighty relief army, over 66, 000 strong, had gathered in the Tulln valley…

“With so many prominent nobles, quarrels over command were unavoidable but were resolved through the selflessness of the Duke Charles of Lorraine. Although cursed with a pockmarked face and a limp leg, his proven combat history against both the Turks and the French, his personal courage, humility, and charm gained everyone’s affection and admiration. On Lorraine’s recommendation, Supreme command was given to Sobieski, King of Poland.”

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA
Commemoration in honor of John III Sobieski, King of Poland, supreme leader of the allied army, for the relief of Vienna and the saving of Christendom on the 300th day of the year 1683 (St. Joseph Church on the Kahlenberg , L. Dyck, 2013).

“The idea was to march the army from Tulln through the Vienna Woods to the Kahlenberg heights. From the heights a broad, sweeping descent would squeeze the Turks against the city, the Danube arm, and the Vienna River.”

Church of St. Leopold on the Leopold Berg, east of the Kahlenberg heights (L. Dyck, 2013).
Church of St. Leopold on the Leopold Berg, east of the Kahlenberg heights (L. Dyck, 2013).

“With the cry of “Jezus Maria ratuj (Jesus Maria help me) the whole Polish line rode down upon the Turks. Encased in glittering steel that covered head to thighs, with their tiger and leopard pelts fluttering in the wind and eagle wings fixed to their backs, the leading units of Hussars presented an almost unearthly spectacle. Armed to the teeth with a 19-foot pennon-tipped kopia lance, a curved and a straight sword, four pistols, and a battle hammer, and mounted on a powerful armored steed, the hussar was the epitome of the Polish cavalier.”

“In the Ottoman center, Kara Mustafa entered the fray personally to prevent the imminent capture of the Holy Banner by Waldeck’s steadily advancing Franconian-Bavarian foot. Flanked by sipahi and silahdar cavalry, the Grand Visier charged against a rain of German cannon and musket fire.”

Ottoman Turkish arsenal, note the famous re-curve, composite bows, Vienna Museum of Military History, L. Dyck.
Ottoman Turkish arsenal, note the famous re-curve, composite bows (Vienna Museum of Military History, L. Dyck, 2013).

“Islam at Vienna’s Gates,” Ludwig H. Dyck’s account of the 1683 battle for Vienna,  a battle on which hinged the fate of Europe, is featured in Military Heritage Magazine, October 2002.

Military Heritage Magazine June 2002, featuring "Islam at Vienna's Gates" by Ludwig H. Dyck
Military Heritage Magazine October 2002, featuring “Islam at Vienna’s Gates” by Ludwig H. Dyck