Sunday, July 22, 2012

Horrors of War

In his book, "Adventures with The Connaught Rangers 1809 - 1814", William Grattan gives a first hand account of his experiences with Wellington's British army fighting against Napoleon's French forces in the Spanish Peninsula.


As the French army retreats it leaves horrors in its wake.

"As we approached the town the road leading to it was covered with a number of horses, mules and asses, all maimed.  But the most disgusting sight was about fifty of the asses all floundering in the mud, some with their throats half cut, while others were barbarously houghed (crippled or maimed) or otherwise injured.   What the object of this proceeding meant I never could guess; the poor brutes could have been of no use to us, or indeed anyone else, as I believe they were unable to have travelled another league.  The meagre appearance of these creatures, with their backbones and hips protruding through their hides, and their mangled and bleeding throats, produced a general feeling of disgust and commiseration."


"Two wounded French soldiers had been abandoned to the fury of the Portuguese peasants who invariably dodged on the flanks or in the rear of our troops.  These poor wretches were surrounded by half a dozen Portuguese, who, after having plundered them, were taking that horrible vengeance too common during this contest.  On the approach of our men they dispersed, but, as we passed on, we could perceive them returning like vultures that have been scared away from their prey for the moment, but who return to it again with redoubled voraciousness.  Both the Frenchmen were alive, and entreated us to put an end to their sufferings.  I thought it would have been humane to do so, but Napoleon and Jaffa flashed across, and I turned away from the spot."

(The discredited story is that at Jaffa Napoleon poisoned all his non-transportable wounded during his retreat to Egypt, in order to prevent them being massacred at the hands of the turks.)


In the Second World War, Japanese troops were instructed to become self sufficient when they found themselves cut off from supplies.  This effectively gave them carte blanche to adopt whatever measures, no matter how extreme, were necessary to keep alive.  This included cannibalism of both Allied prisoners of war and the local inhabitants.  It is not clear whether they killed the prisoners or waited for them to die naturally.  This story was suppressed at the end of the war and was not brought up at the Tokyo war crimes tribunal because the authorities did not want the families back home to be left forever wondering if their sons had been cannibalized.

From Antony Beevor's book, The Second World War.

No comments:

Post a Comment