Thoughts on the military and military activities of a diverse nature. Free-ranging and eclectic.

Thursday, June 08, 2006


This is coolbert:

"Hasten, oh fyrdsmen, down to the river
The dragonships come on the in-flowing tide
The linden-wood shield and the old spear of ash-wood
Are needed again by the cold water-side
Draw up the shield-wall, oh shoulder companions
Later whenever our story is told
They'll say that we died guarding what we call dearest,
Land that the sons of the Saxons will hold!"

Perhaps the most difficult tactic/maneuver/ruse to be found in warfare is the feigned retreat.

ONLY "troops" of the most disciplined variety, working according to a plan, can execute such a maneuver. The danger is that a retreat, even a feigned one, will become contagious and unanticipated actions will occur. It is a big gamble. But a gamble that can pay off with big dividends.

[I use the word troops in a figurative sense. Troops can mean both warriors and soldiers both!!]

"Feigned retreat

The act of feigning a withdrawal or rout in order to lure an enemy away from a defended position or into a prepared ambush is an ancient tactic, and has been used throughout the history of warfare. Ancient Mongols were famed for, among other things, their extensive use of feigned retreats during their conquests, as their fast, light cavalry made successful pursuit by an enemy almost impossible."

As quoted above, the Mongols were famous for their ability at feigned retreat. Lure the opposition into a planned ambush from which they would not emerge [the opposition].

A description of the Mongol feigned retreat at Mohi [1241]:

"When news of the Hungarian battle strategy reached the Mongol commanders they slowly withdrew, drawing their enemies on. This was classic Mongol strategy, perfected by Subutai. He prepared a battlefield and waited."

A feigned retreat on a somewhat macro scale, leading the Hungarian forces into a prepared trap.

American Indians fighting American settlers and the U.S. Cavalry were also masters of the feigned retreat. Cavalry officers were well told in advance that if you saw a group of Indian warriors on the horizon watching you, and they turned on their horses and rode off in the opposite direction, "don't blindly follow them!!" They were trying to lure you into an ambush.

Yet, human nature being what it is, cavalry officers did follow the "retreating" Indians, rode into a trap, and were massacred. This did happen!!

Another example of feigned retreat MAY have occurred at the Battle of Hastings [1066].

Norman invader versus Saxons. From the onset of the battle, the Saxons, forming a shield wall [here a song about the shield wall] and defending from the military crest of a hill, had the upper hand.

Normans, charging uphill, were not able to penetrate the shield wall of the Saxons, and suffered inordinate casualties.

Norman victory only became possible when Breton vassals of the Norman ruler William executed a feigned retreat. The Saxons, pursuing the Bretons, overcome by desire to "finish off" the Normans, broke ranks, the shield wall disintegrating, a general melee' ensuing, a general melee' going NOT in favor of the Saxons, William carrying the day!!!

"The Bretons, due to their Alannic influence, were experienced in cavalry tactics and may have set up a feigned retreat."

"The Breton name Alan (rather than the French Alain) and several towns with names related to 'Alan', such as Alanville are popularly taken as evidence that a contingent settled in Brittany."

[as long as the Saxons maintained a defensive battle with shield wall at the military crest of a hill, they stood little chance of losing. Only when they broke ranks in pursuit of the Bretons did the battle go against them.]

"'one side attacking with all mobility, the other withstanding as though rooted to the soil'."

Once uprooted by the feigned retreat, the Saxons lost their advantage and as a consequence the battle. Simple as that.



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