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Thread: British Military....?

  1. #16
    Join Date
    Jul 2008
    South West

    Default Re: British Military....?

    The poem is worded quite well for me - some liberty with the occasions

    IN the days of lace-ruffles, perukes and brocade
    Brown Bess was a partner whom none could despise –
    An out-spoken, flinty-lipped, brazen-faced jade,
    With a habit of looking men straight in the eyes –
    At Blenheim and Ramillies fops would confess
    They were pierced to the heart by the charms of Brown Bess.

    Though her sight was not long and her weight was not small,
    Yet her actions were winning, her language was clear;
    And everyone bowed as she opened the ball
    On the arm of some high-gaitered, grim grenadier.
    Half Europe admitted the striking success
    Of the dances and routs that were given by Brown Bess.

    When ruffles were turned into stiff leather stocks,
    And people wore pigtails instead of perukes,
    Brown Bess never altered her iron-grey locks.
    She knew she was valued for more than her looks.
    "Oh, powder and patches was always my dress,
    And I think am killing enough," said Brown Bess.

    So she followed her red-coats, whatever they did,
    From the heights of Quebec to the plains of Assaye,
    From Gibraltar to Acre, Cape Town and Madrid,
    And nothing about her was changed on the way;
    (But most of the Empire which now we possess
    Was won through those years by old-fashioned Brown Bess.)

    In stubborn retreat or in stately advance,
    From the Portugal coast to the cork-woods of Spain,
    She had puzzled some excellent Marshals of France
    Till none of them wanted to meet her again:
    But later, near Brussels, Napoleon - no less –
    Arranged for a Waterloo ball with Brown Bess.

    She had danced till the dawn of that terrible day –
    She danced till the dusk of more terrible night,
    And before her linked squares his battalions gave way,
    And her long fierce quadrilles put his lancers to flight:
    And when his gilt carriage drove off in the press,
    "I have danced my last dance for the world!" said Brown Bess.

    If you go to Museums – there's one in Whitehall –
    Where old weapons are shown with their names writ beneath,
    You will find her, upstanding, her back to the wall,
    As stiff as a ramrod, the flint in her teeth.
    And if ever we English had reason to bless
    Any arm save our mothers', that arm is Brown Bess!
    IN the days of lace-ruffles, perukes and brocade
    Brown Bess was a partner whom none could despise
    An out-spoken, flinty-lipped, brazen-faced jade,
    With a habit of looking men straight in the eyes
    At Blenheim and Ramillies fops would confess
    They were pierced to the heart by the charms of Brown Bess.

  2. #17
    Join Date
    May 2011
    Dublin, Ireland

    Default Re: British Military....?

    Don't disagree, leccy - Kipling was no Spenser, but he did have a great way with words and, as here, hit a nail on the head. The final verse, regarding museums, is interesting. I have not managed to visit the French Museum of the Army for a long time (HERSELF tends to object to spending the day in the company of Napoleon's horse, or mangled, blood-spattered uniforms of French generals killed in WW1), and the museum was undergoing major "upgrading" when last I saw it. I hope that this "upgrading" has not affected my favourite room, at the entrance to the "Napoleonic" wing. This contained a series of glass cases containing a sequence of French musketry from about 1660 up to near-present day. A very striking feature is the lack of any substantial change or innovation (as distinct from minor upgrading and standardization) from the beginning of the series up to about 1840, at which point percussion lock muskets were adopted. It really is true that one of Napoleon's Grenadiers would have had had little difficulty in mastering a late-17th century musket, and vice versa for the musketeer of Louis XIV. It is equally striking that, following 1840, technological advance in musketry advanced (at least relatively speaking) at breakneck pace, a fact with which the generals of the period were seldom fully up to speed.

    To be fair, this is partly from the absence, not of course of wars, but of "suitable" wars to demonstrate the point. For example, the emergence of practical muzzle-loading military rifles was, indeed, very influential in the conduct of the Crimea War; but muzzle-loading rifles, in that war, were present only on the British/French side. Only one great war in which muzzle-loading rifles dominated on both sides was the American Civil War and, for European generals, that was a little war far away. To be fair, it is not clear that even American commanders entirely appreciated the effects of the muzzle-loading rifle on combat, although their troops usually did, for obvious reasons. Likewise, the move through the early single-shot breechloaders, through the tube magazine single shot rifle, to the single-shot magazine-fed rifle, took place in a relatively short period in which "major" wars were relatively thin on the ground, at least in Europe. There was one sharp warning - in the early phase of the Second Anglo-Boer War, in which early Lee-Enfields faced Gewehr 88 Mausers - indicated the effects on the conduct of battlefield operations of rapid-fire modern rifles. This was taken on board to some extent by the British (who adopted heavy training in rapid fire in their small professional army) but other initiatives (such as the run-dive-run tactics developed by the British towards the end of the "conventional" stage of the Boer War) seem to have passed over the heads of most European generals - even British generals. Only the butchery of the early actions on the WW1 Western Front - when the modern magazine-loading rifle, along with its "ally", the Maxim gun - inflicted slaughter all round - seems finally to have convinced the military establishment of how completely the battlefield world had changed. Not that they had any immediate answer to this huge shift of advantage to the defence - hence the following four-odd years of mud and blood. Best regards, JR.

    French "Charleville" musket, about 1760 - the French "Brown Bess", first standardized about 1720.

    Click image for larger version. 

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    Last edited by JR*; 05-05-2015 at 06:40 AM. Reason: Typo correction (substantive)

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