The War of the Spanish Succession


The Battle of Vigo Bay in 1701

War of the Spanish Succession (1701 – 1714)
This major conflict raged for 13 years at the beginning of the century and contained two of the three largest battles fought anywhere in the world in the 18th Century – Oudenarde in 1708 and Malpauquet in 1709, both of which had about 160,000 combatants.

Great Britain was a major player, Winston Churchill’s ancestor, the Duke of Marlborough, commanded the Allied armies at both Oudenarde and Malpauquet and many British troops took part. The Act of Union in 1707 occurred during the war and at the outset England and Scotland were listed as separate combatants. It was mostly fought in western Europe but had a North American theatre with small detachments of British and French regular troops with colonial militia and Native American allies; Iroquois in the case of the British and Wakaniki in the French case. This was a small-scale war in the wildernesses for control of key towns and forts, known also as Queen Anne’s war.
Conflict arose when Charles II, the last Hapsburg King of Spain died childless in 1700, having left his throne to his grandnephew Philip, Duc d’Anjou, the second eldest grandson of King Louis XIV of France. Other great powers were alarmed by the extension of French power into Spain and formed a Grand Alliance to press the claim of a Hapsburg candidate – Austrian Archduke Charles.

Spain divided along tribal lines, with Castille, including Madrid, supporting the Bourbon Anjou and Aragon (Catalonia) supporting the Hapsburg Charles. Two opposing alliances formed – France, Bavaria, Naples, Sicily and Mantua supported the Bourbon candidate whilst Austria, Britain, Dutch Republic, Prussia, Portugal, Savoy and Hanover supported the Hapsburg claimant, known as the Grand Alliance.

At the battle of Vigo Bay in 1701, a British / Dutch fleet captured a Spanish treasure convoy of 3 ships intact and captured or destroyed its entire French escort fleet of 15 ships of the line; in 1704 2,000 British and Dutch troops attacked and captured Gibraltar.
The Alliance was successful in defeating the Bourbons in continental Europe at the battles of Blenheim, Oudenarde, Malpauquet and Ramillies, albeit at a heavy cost, and overrunning the Spanish Netherlands (Belgium) before staging an invasion of Spain in 1710. The Hapsburg allies however began to falter; the Tories came to power in Britain in the same year with policy of ending the war. Britain ceased military operations in 1712, but the other allies fought on hoping for a greater share of the spoils to offset the huge cost of the war – the main reason that Britain withdrew. The Hapsburg invasion of Spain was defeated at the battle of Villaviciosa in 1710 and Philip confirmed as King. The treaties of Utrecht (1713) and Rastatt (1714) allowed Philip to keep Spain and South America, but he lost most of his European territories to Austria and ceded Gibraltar to Britain.


Copyright ©2018 Savereo John

The War of Jenkin’s Ear


The Battle of Cartagena de Indias (1741)

War of Jenkins’ Ear (1739 – 1748)

Fought between Britain and Spain, this small-scale war took place mostly in and around the Caribbean; its latter stages became subsumed into the War of the Austrian Succession. It is regarded as a Spanish victory. The bizarre name was not used at the time but was invented in Victorian times by Thomas Carlyle; a better name for it is the Spanish version – La Guerra del Asiento (”The Asiento War”). An Asiento was licence to trade in Spanish territories in South America, but those colonies were a closed market, except for one thing – slaves. Essentially it was a licence to sell slaves to the Spanish.

Robert Jenkins of Llanelli was a master mariner whose ship was detained by a Spanish privateer La Guardia in 1731 and accused of smuggling. It is alleged that the Spanish captain Juan de León Fandiño sliced off Jenkin’s ear with a cutlass and bade him show it to King George as an example of how to deal with smugglers. Although reported at the time it attracted little attention until 7 years later it was brought up as a pretext for conflict with Spain by South Sea company interests.

The British South Sea Company was a joint-stock corporation holding a monopoly on South American trade; the British Government was a major shareholder and had established it to pay off public debt. Included in its charter was an Asiento – a licence from the Spanish government to sell African slaves in its territories. Escalating tensions between Britain and Spain led to the withdrawal of the licence; this was a key revenue stream for the company, since South America was a closed market and slaves were practically the only thing they were allowed to sell there. Its removal was a spur to war, as was the opportunity to acquire fresh colonies in the Caribbean. The Jenkins incident became the casus belli (stated reason) for the conflict but protecting and improving revenues of the South Sea Company was the underlying cause.

The war began with a British success; the capture of Porto Bello in Panama in 1739 in a surprise attack by just 6 British warships was celebrated throughout Britain and British America. Portobello Road in London, Portobello district in Edinburgh and Porto Bello in Virginia are all named after it.

After that little went right for the British. Small forces and an unfamiliarity with fighting in the tropics led to mounting losses, many from disease. In 1741 they launched a major amphibious attack on Cartagena de Indias in Columbia by 12,000 marines and 15,000 sailors in 54 ships but were bloodily repulsed with 10,000 dead and 6 ships sunk. This is noted in British histories as Britain’s worst ever defeat at sea. In 1742 a force of British American troops from Georgia failed in an attempt to capture St Augustine in Florida – the failure of Royal Navy to prevent the Spanish from re-enforcing the town was a key factor in the Spanish Victory. A Spanish attempt to invade the colony of Georgia was also defeated in the same year. In 1748, a British force ambushed a treasure fleet and its escorts as it left the harbour Havana, Cuba; it defeated the escorts, but the treasure ships got away. This was the last action of the war.

By now the conflict had become merged into the War of the Austrian Succession which had broken out in Europe, so Britain withdrew its forces from the Caribbean and combat operations ceased. The treaty of Aix-la-Chapelle in 1748 formally ended the war, but the issue of the Asiento was not mentioned. This was finally resolved in 1750 with an agreement that Britain would renounce any claim to the Asiento in return for a payment of £100,000 and improved trading rights in South America. This turned out to be to the Company’s advantage; even with an Asiento the Company made surprisingly little money from the slave trade – there was a glut of slaves and the price was low – they made far more from smuggling goods in the slave ships, since Spanish colonies were a closed market for all other goods. Prior to the war the Company had struggled to make a profit; wild expectations of profit growth had pushed up the share price and led to the Financial crash of 1720, known as the “South Sea Bubble”. The ending of its slave trading activities and the opening up of legitimate markets led to a revival in the Company’s fortunes and it finally began to turn a profit and continued to do so until it was wound up in 1853 at the outbreak of the Crimean War.


Copyright ©2018 Savereo John

British Battles of the 18th Century – Sea

Battle Year Country Conflict Outcome
Vigo Bay 1701 Spain War of the Spanish Succession Allied Victory
Málaga 1704 Spain War of the Spanish Succession Inconclusive
Cape Passaro 1718 Spain War of the Quadruple Alliance British Victory
Nassau 1720 Bahamas War of the Quadruple Alliance British / French / Dutch Victory
La Guaira 1739 West Indies War of Jenkins’ Ear Spanish Victory
Porto Bello 1739 Panama War of Jenkin’s Ear British Victory
San Lorenzo el Real Chagres 1740 Panama War of Jenkin’s Ear British Victory
Cartagena de Indias 1741 Columbia War of Jenkin’s Ear Spanish Victory
Toulon (1744) 1744 France War of the Austrian Succession Inconclusive
Santiago de Cuba (1748) 1748 Cuba War of Jenkin’s Ear Spanish Victory
Havana (1748) 1748 Cuba War of Jenkin’s Ear British Victory
Minorca (1756) 1756 Spain Seven Year’s War Pro-French Victory
Negapatam (1758) 1756 Tamil Nadu Seven Year’s War Inconclusive
Lagos 1759 Portugal Seven Year’s War Pro-British Victory
Pondicherry 1759 Tamil Nadu Seven Year’s War Inconclusive
Quiberon Bay 1759 France Seven Year’s War Pro-British Victory
Valcour Island 1776 New York American Revolutionary War French Victory
Ushant (1778) 1778 France American Revolutionary War Inconclusive
St. Lucia 1778 West Indies American Revolutionary War British Victory
Grenada 1779 West Indies American Revolutionary War French Victory
Cape St. Vincent (1780) 1780 Portugal American Revolutionary War British Victory
Martinique (1780) 1780 West Indies American Revolutionary War Inconclusive
Porto Praya 1781 Cape Verde American Revolutionary War French Victory
Fort Royal 1781 West Indies American Revolutionary War French Victory
Dogger Bank (1781) 1781 North Sea American Revolutionary War Inconclusive
Chesapeake 1781 Virgina Capes American Revolutionary War French Victory
Ushant (1781) 1781 France American Revolutionary War British Victory
Saint Kitts 1782 West Indies American Revolutionary War British Victory
Sadras 1782 Tamil Nadu American Revolutionary War French Victory
Saintes 1782 West Indies American Revolutionary War British Victory
Providien 1782 Sri Lanka American Revolutionary War French Victory
Negapatam (1782) 1782 Tamil Nadu American Revolutionary War Inconclusive
Trincomalee 1782 Sri Lanka American Revolutionary War French Victory
Cuddalore (1783) 1783 Tamil Nadu American Revolutionary War French Victory
Prairial  (Glorious First of June) 1794 France First Napoleonic War British Victory
Cape St Vincent (1797) 1797 Portugal First Napoleonic War British Victory
Camperduin 1797 Netherlands First Napoleonic War British Victory
Nile (Aboukir Bay) 1798 Egypt First Napoleonic War British Victory

18th Century Naval Battles With British Involvement


Copyright ©2018 Savereo John

Great War Bibliography

Poilus Small

Poilu by Gaston Pierre 1917

The following is a list of books, not exclusive used as sources for the Great War sections of this blog.

Purnell – History of the Twentieth Century, Vol 2 (1969)

Originally published a a magazine serial in the 1960’s and 1970’s. Started them when they first came out and I was 9 years old. My interest in The Great War started then.

Leon van der Essen – The Invasion and the War in Belgium (1917)

Detailed account of the German invasion and occupation of Belgium. At the same time an informative primary source for many mainstream histories yet also a piece of Entente propaganda written while the country was still occupied.

Malcolm Brown – The Imperial War Museum Book of 1914 (2004)

Malcolm Brown – The Imperial War Museum Book of the Somme (1996)

Terrible titles, great books !

Lyn Macdonald – Somme (1983)

The Pity of War – Niall Fergusson (1998)

Brilliant and controversial essays about the Great War, especially its economics

Max Arthur – Last Post (2005)

Eye witness accounts with the last few British survivors

Robert Doughty – Pyrrhic Victory (2005)

French strategy and tactics in The Great War

Alexander Watson – Ring of Steel (2014)

Germany and Austria-Hungary in the Great War

Prior and Wilson – Passchendaele (1996)

Alastair Horne – Verdun : The Price of Glory (1962)

Probably the best english language account of Verdun

Norman Stone – The Eastern Front 1914 – 1917 (1975)

Russia v Germany and Austria Hungary in the Great War

Quintin Barry – The War in the North Sea (2016)

The Royal Navy and The Kaiserlich Marine in the North Sea

Edwyn E Gray – The U-Boat War 1914 – 1918 (1972)

The U-Boat war, told from the point of view of the U-Boat crews

Robert K Massie – Castles of Steel (2003)

The Great War at sea

Savereo John 2017




Great War Statistics – General Military

Military Balance

Military k Navy k Tons People m % Forces
France 3,700 665 39.8 9.3%
Britain 975 2,158 45.7 2.1%
Russia 5,970 271 170.1 3.5%
Japan 800 520 55.1 1.5%
Belgium 216 0 7.6 0.1%
Serbia 200 0 3.0 6.6%
Entente 1st Wave 11,861 3,614 321.3 3.7%
Germany 4,500 952 67.0 6.7%
Austria-Hungary 3,000 222 47.5 6.3%
Ottoman Empire 600 100 23.0 2.6%
Central Powers 8,100 1,274 137.5 5.9%
Italy 1,251 285 35,420 3.5%
USA 140 774 96,500 0.1%
Entente 2nd / 3rd Wave 1,391 1,059 131,920 1.1%

1 – First Wave Combatants – Military Balance in 1914

Columns –

Military k – Size of armed forces in 1,000’s

Navy k tons – Size of Navy by tonnage

People m – Population in millions (home territory only – excludes overseas possessions)

% Forces – Percentage of the population under arms (= Military / Population)

Battleships  / crusiers Cruisers Destroyers Sub’s k tons
Britain + Dominions 59 107 301 65 2,158
France 25 39 83 55 665
Japan 17 34 50 12 520
Russia 4 10 21 11 271
Entente 105 190 455 143 3,614
Germany 36 54 144 28 952
Austria-Hungary 12 13 25 6 222
Ottoman Empire 2 3 8 0 100
Central Powers 50 70 177 34 1,274
USA 31 25 51 30 774
Italy 12 15 36 19 285
Second / Third Wave 43 40 87 49 1,059

2 – Comparative Naval Strengths 1914

Columns –

Battleships / Cruisers – Battleships and Battlecruisers of all types, including pre-Dreadnaught

Cruisers – Types including Light, Armored and Protected



k Tons – Tonnage in 1,000’s

Sources for statistics

Savereo John 2017


Great War Statistics – U-Boat and Merchant Shipping


Great War - Shipping Losses

1 British and Neutral Merchant Tonnage Sunk (1,000 tons) – by Cause

Britain 7,760
Norway 1,177
France 889
Italy 846
USA 395
Other Countries 1,785
Total 12,852

2 Entente and Neutral Merchant Tonnage Sunk (1,000 tons) – By Country

Germany 187
Turkey 62
Austria-Hungary 15
Total 264

3 Central Powers Merchant Tonnage Sunk (1,000 tons) – By Country


Great War - U Boat Losses

4 U-Boat Losses 1914-1918


Rank Name 1,000 tons
KK Lothar von Arnauld de la Periere 400
KL Walther Forstmann 380
KK Max Valentiner 300
KL Hans Rose 210
KL Otto Streinbrink 210
KL Waldemar Kophamel 190
KL Walther Schweiger 190
KL Hans von Mellenthin 170
KL Claus Rücker 170
KL Otto Wünsche 160
OL Reinhold Salzwedel 150
OL Wolfgang Steinbauer 140
KL Konrad Gansser 140
KL Robert Moraht 130
KL Willhelm Werner 130
KL Leo Hillebrand 130
KL Otto Schultze 130
KL Rudolf Schneider 130
KL Ernst Hashagen 130
KL Kurt Hartwig 130

5 Top Twenty U-Boat Aces 1914-1918

Sources used for statistics

Savereo John 2017


The Battle of Heligoland Bight (1914)

churchill and tirpitz 2

Alfred von Tirpitz and Winston Churchill


Battle of Heligoland Bight (28th Aug 1914)

Entente – 5 battlecruisers, 8 light cruisers, 33 destroyers, 8 submarines

Central Powers – 6 light cruisers, 19 torpedo boats, 12 minesweepers

Result – Entente victory


Entente – 1 light cruiser and 3 destroyers damaged. 35 dead, 45 wounded

Central Powers – 3 light cruisers, 1 destroyer, 2 torpedo boats sunk and 3 light cruisers, 3 destroyers damaged. 715 dead, 149 wounded, 338 POW.

This was the first full-scale naval battle of the Great War.

By the end of Aug 1914, the war on land for the Entente looked grim. On the western front, the Germans had overrun Belgium, and in the east, they had turned inflicted such a defeat at the battle of Tannenberg that the Russian commander, Gen Alexander Samsonov, shot himself.

The war at sea was a different story. As soon as war was declared all the telegraph cables between Germany and the outside world were cut. A minefield was laid across the Straits of Dover with lanes patrolled by submarines and airships. The North Sea was declared a war zone patrolled by destroyers, submarines and weaponised trawlers. A blockade was imposed on all goods, even food and medicine. Germany’s GDP was the 2nd highest in the world in 1914, but the blockade ended the multi-billion dollar trade with the Americas and crippled the economy.

To counter bad news from France, First Sea Lord Winston Churchill a ordered a flotilla from Harwich to ambush a regular patrol north of the main German base at Willhelshaven.

Attacking in patchy fog, they achieved complete surprise and despite poor visibility, sheer weight of numbers won out and the Germans took heavy losses. In the final action, two German cruisers, SMS Arethusa and the flagship Cöln, were caught by the flagship of Grand Fleet, the 26,000 ton HMS Lion and sunk, with the dead including the German Commander Rear Admiral Leberecht Maas. The British picked up over 300 German survivors before withdrawing, including Wolfgang von Tirpitz, son of Winston Churchill’s opposite number in the Kreigsmarine – Großadmiral Alfred von Tirpitz.

The Entente followed a containment policy in the North Sea from this point on and relied on the long term effect of the economic blockade to cause the most harm to the enemy. By the wars end, 400,000 German civilians would be dead from shortages of food and medicines; the biggest impact came from the end of imported fertilisers which caused agricultural yields to fall at a time when Germany needed to become self-sufficient in food.

The Germans for their part realised the futility of trying to match the British ship for ship. Instead they looked to attack commerce with surface raiders stationed in the oceans and the new naval weapon, and the one for which the Kriegsmarine would become famous – the U-Boat.


Copyright ©2017 Savereo John

The First Air-Raid on Britain in WW2


HMS Southampton, Edinburgh and Mohawk by the Forth Bridge


Battle of the River Forth (16th Oct 1939)
Allied : 6 – 12 Supermarine Spitfires, 2 cruisers and 1 destroyer at anchor
Axis : 12 Junkers 88

Allied : Three ships damaged, 16 dead, 44 wounded
Axis : 2 Junkers shot down, 1 damaged. 8 dead, 4 POW
Result : Axis victory

British air attacks on German coastal targets began on the same day as war was declared, 3rd Sep 1939, and targeted military and merchant shipping in the North Sea and Heligoland Bight. Very little damage was done and no ships sunk for losses in bombers of over 30%; to be frank, the raids’ main value was as an unwitting live fire exercise for the Germans to tighten up their defences.

Hitler was at first reluctant to countenance heavy air attacks against Britain; in these early days of the war he still hoped that the British would come to their senses and reach an accommodation with him rather than risk another conflagration like 1914-18. Added to this both sides had an eye to neutral opinion elsewhere in the world, particularly the USA, and trod carefully in their selection of targets. Just as with the Baedecker raids and the V-weapons program later in the war, Germany launched this raid as a retaliation for the earlier British attacks. Even so, 6 weeks had elapsed before the first German attempt to attack the British coast with aircraft took place.

At 09.40 on the 16th, the radar station at Coldingham detected aircraft approaching the Forth Estuary in Scotland. Ground observation confirmed a Heinkel 111 at high altitude over Dunfermline heading towards Rosyth naval base, a major installation with many ships at anchor; protected by anti-aircraft batteries and a fighter squadron nearby at RAF Leuchers. Three spitfires led by FL George Pinkerton were scrambled to intercept and spotted the aircraft as it was turning away, having photographed the ships in the estuary. Pinkerton opened fire, but the Heinkel dove into a cloud bank and contact was lost – it returned safely to its base on the German island of Sylt, near the Danish border, at that time the closest Luftwafe base to Britain. Those were the first shots of the air war over Britain.

Heikel and JU88

Junkers 88 and Heinkel 111

The plane radioed that it had spotted several warships in the estuary including a battleship, which they thought was HMS Hood – actually it was the Repulse. About two hours later, 12 JU88’s, each carrying 2 500kg bombs, and led by Hauptmann Helmuth Poule took off from Sylt to attack the ships. The JU88 was designed as a multi role aircraft, used for reconnaissance, anti-submarine, bombing and as a night fighter. Its slow speed and lack of a tail gun however made it vulnerable to fighters – over 300 were shot down in the battle of Britain, more than any other aircraft.

As the Luftwafe formation approached the coast, it split up into 3 waves of 4 aircraft each, which separated and attacked the target from different direction. Radar picked them up at 14.00 and Spitfires were scrambled from Leuchars; the RAF managed to get 20+ machines into the air, but most were spread out across east-central Scotland trying to find the bombers and took no part in the battle. Consequently, the first wave was able to attack before being intercepted. Repulse was docked in Rosyth by now, as was aircraft carrier HMS Furious, but Poule’s orders forbade attacks near built up areas. Instead he attacked 2 light cruisers, HMS Southampton and Edinburgh anchored by the Forth Bridge and a destroyer HMS Mohawk, heading for the base. A civilian travelling on a train crossing the bridge witnessed the raid

“ …. there was a giant waterspout as high as the bridge alongside one of the capital ships and a barge tied up alongside; it seemed to fly up in the air! In later life I discovered it was HMS Southampton. There were two or three other explosions further off and one of the ships was actually struck.”

In fact, all three ships were hit; Mohawk took the most damage with 13 dead. Southampton also took a direct hit, but the bomb passed through the ship and out the other side, finally detonating when it hit the water. As the second wave arrived, the Spitfires intercepted them and a running air battle developed over the estuary and the Pentland Hills, south of Edinburgh, with 2 Junkers shot down and 1 damaged; that aircraft made it back to Sylt, but crashed on landing killing all 4 of the crew.

The British press presented the incident as a victory, but in reality it was anything but that. The RAF squadrons contained a high proportion of auxiliaries, basically reservists only just called up; none had ever been in combat before. Also, the squadrons had only recently been upgraded to Spitfires; 6 months earlier they were still flying Gloucester Gladiator biplanes. The Luftwafe men however were all veterans of the Polish campaign; their superior tactics and skill in the attack were very apparent.

Despite powerful fighters and radar, raid had reached Rosyth naval base. HMS Repulse and Furious were recently docked and had their full complements on board – 2,000+ men and were sitting ducks. Where it not for Hitler’s early scruples about bombing built up areas in Britain, there might have been a mini Pearl Harbour that day. A year later, during the Blitz, 12 lumbering JU88s in daylight with no fighter cover would have been easy meat for the RAF – they would have got every one.

Copyright ©2017 Savereo John