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Short Rounds

"So He is a Fool, and a Damned Fool!"

In 1823 war threatened between the Kingdom of Burma and Britain.  Fearing the worst, the government of Lord Liverpool consulted the Duke of Wellington as to who would be the best man to command in a campaign to capture Rangoon and impose a favorable settlement on Burma.

Wellington promptly replied, "Send Lord Combermere."

"But," protested the Cabinet, "We have always understood that your Grace considered Lord Combermere a fool?"

"So he is a fool, and a damned fool; but he can take Rangoon!" replied the Duke.

Lord Combermere began life as Stapleton Stapleton-Cotton (1773-1865).  The son of the Baronet of Combermere Abbey, Stapleton-Cotton joined the British army through purchase in the early 1790s, and over the next 25 years had a career rather typical of a British aristocrat of his times, serving variously in India, Africa, Ireland, and on the continent, and, from1808 in Spain and Portugal, rising to command Wellington's cavalry.  In the Peninsula he earned the nickname "Golden Lion" from the French, both for his battlefield prowess and his rather spectacular taste in uniforms -- reportedly he could compete with Joachim Murat in sartorial splendor.  By the end of the Napoleonic Wars, Cotton, who had in the meanwhile succeeded to his father's baronetcy, was a lieutenant general, a Knight of the Bath, and the newly created Baron Combermere.  After Waterloo, at which he was not present, Combermere -- as he was now known -- commanded the British cavalry during the Allied occupation of France until 1817.

Over the following yeas, Combermere served as governor of Barbados, and was later commander-in-chief in Ireland, which was the post he held in 1823 when Wellington proposed sending him to Burma

Despite Wellington's curious endorsement, the Cabinet decided not to place Combermere in command of the Burmese expedition.  Nevertheless, the First Burma War (1824-1826) turned out favorably for Britain, and perhaps for Combermere as well, for he had a more than adequate consolation prize, crowning his career with the capture of Bharatpur, one of the stoutest fortified cities in India, on January 19, 1826, liberating the infant maharaja from imprisonment by a usurper, for which he was created First Viscount of Combermere.  Retiring from active service, over the following decades Combermere held various posts of honor and was promoted to field marshal.

Note: Combermere was the father of Wellington Henry Stapleton-Cotton, the Second Viscount (1818-1891), who had an honorable if unspectacular career in the British Army, rising to colonel in the Guards and followed by many years of service in the House of Lords, who is nevertheless today more famous than his father, his ghost having allegedly been photographed sitting in the family home.

 

The Fleet Has a Busy Year, 1925

Between the world wars, the U.S. Fleet led a rather routine existence, devoting itself to intensive training and only once engaging in a major movement outside of the Western Hemisphere, in 1925.

Fleet Problem V.  In preparation for the annual fleet maneuvers, the Battle Fleet, composed of most of the battleships and supporting lighter forces, sailed from the West Coast to the vicinity of Hawaii, while the Scouting Fleet, a handful of older battleships and some lighter forcer, sailed from the East Coast to Panama.  With both forces in position by February 23rd, the Battle Fleet undertook an offensive against Panama, which was defended by the Scouting Fleet, with the maneuvers taking place in the Pacific west of Mexico

Movement to San Francisco.  On March 13th, the fleet exercises over, the combined forces of the fleet, over 75 ships, proceeded from the maneuver area to San Diego, for rest and replenishment, and thence to San Francisco, for "Fleet Week" and final preparations for joint maneuvers with the Army in Hawaii.

Grand-Joint Army and Navy Exercises No. 4.  The fleet sortied from San Francisco on April 14th, and, aided by surprise and the new aircraft carrier Langley (CV-1), by the 27th had effected landings in Hawaii, against resistance by local Army and Navy forces.

Fleet Tactical Exercises.  After replenishment, various elements of the fleet maneuvered against each other in routines exercises designed to keep both parts of the fleet on the same sheet of music.  These ended in on May 29th Reorganization.  Upon replenishment, the Scouting Fleet steamed for home on the East Coast, arriving in mid-July, after making several port calls, having traveled more than 30,000 miles since February, while the Battle Fleet undertook extensive preparations for its next mission. Antipodean Cruise.  On July 1st the Battle Fleet, with eleven battleships, four light cruisers, about 32 destroyers, and thirteen auxiliaries, manned by some 27,000 personnel, departed from Hawaii for a good will cruise to Samoa, New Zealand, and Australia, returning to San Diego by the same route, save for a cruiser squadron that went home by way of Tahiti and the Marquesa Islands, to arrive in October, having covered over 17,000 miles.

The Fleet's movement's in 1925 were extraordinary, and fore-shadowed the great ocean-spanning operations that would take place during the Second World War.

 


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