1854 — The Battle of Balaclava

Beginning about a year into the Crimean War (1853-6), the Battle of Balaclava is perhaps the best known engagement of the war. Its outcome was indecisive; it did not end the siege of Sevastopol, but neither were the Allied losses so great as to constitute a major defeat.

But in its very unimportance, it became something else. An inspiration and a beacon of courage and chivalry. For this one bloody day of fighting saw the famous charge of the Light Brigade, immortalised in poetry by Kipling and Tennyson. As such, its effect on British morale helped that nation and its allies hang on until victory was achieved. (Ironically, the legendary charge was an error resulting from a misinterpreted order.)

Referenced in:
Broken Heroes — Saxon
The Trooper — Iron Maiden

1916 – the Battle of the Somme begins

The Somme river derives its name from a Celtic word meaning ‘tranquil’. Which just goes to show that the Celts were crap at predicting the future. It was at the mouth of the Somme that William the Conqueror’s forces assembled to invade England in 1066; the battles of Agincourt in 1415 and Crécy in 1346 were both connected to crossings of the river; and the valley was the site of some of the most important battles that halted the German Spring Offensive in 1918.

But the largest battle ever fought there was the Battle of the Somme, which began on July 1, 1916 and November 18 the same year. It was an offensive mounted by British Empire and French combined forces against German emplacements in France. The Somme would be a landmark in many ways: it was the first battle to demonstrate the importance of air power in modern warfare; it saw the first battlefield deployment of a tank; and finally, it was the single bloodiest battle of the entire First World War, claiming upwards of a million lives in total. While it ended in victory for the Allied forces, the heavy cost in lives has made it a contentious issue in history ever since.

Referenced in:
Broken Heroes — Saxon
For King and Country — Eric Bogle

1942 – The German push to Stalingrad commences

The big German push on Stalingrad and points east was originally intended to begin earlier, but finally got underway on June 28, 1942. Ironically, the push towards Stalingrad was primarily a flanking maneuver, intended to provide cover for the main objective of Case Blue (the official name for the offensive), which was the oil fields of the Baku region (in what is now the Republic of Azerbaijan).

The offensive initially proceeded well for the Germans, but unexpectedly strong resistance at Stalingrad (combined with tactical withdrawals by the Soviet Army which allowed in to resupply and find better defensive positions) led to the drive on Baku stalling as Stalingrad consumed the attention and resources of Case Blue’s commanders. In the end, Stalingrad would be the site of one of the bloodiest battles of the entire war, lasting nearly six months altogether, and the site of the first major German defeat on the Eastern front.

Combined with the near simultaneous defeat of the German North African army at El Alamein, the German forces had precious few victories and were steadily pushed back on all fronts.

Referenced in:

Broken Heroes — Saxon

1982 – The Battle of Goose Green

One of the relatively few land engagements of the Falklands War, the Battle of Goose Green began at about 2:30AM when elements of the British 2nd Paratroops attacked Argentine positions at Goose Green.

They had expected to be able to capture the site ‘before breakfast’, but resistance was greater than anticipated, and the battle lasted into the following day, finally concluding the following day after the British brought in reinforcements and soundly defeated the defenders. The Argentine forces on East Falkland Island surrendered in their entirety on May 29, and the British reclaimed the rest of the Falkland Islands a little over two weeks later.

Referenced in:

Broken Heroes — Saxon