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A Skull - Desperate Retreats, #18 of 100 Bloody Objects

75 minutes

'Wars are not won by evacuations' Winston Churchill

1. Fight or Flight 2. Deliverance 3. Embarrassing Retreats 4. Arduous 5. Catastrophic 6. ps Trafalgar

Today we are going to discuss the contentious issue of going backwards in war. And no, we are not just talking about certain nations driving their tanks with 10 reverse gears. We are talking about retreat, generally seen as a bad thing and withdrawal, sometimes seen as not such a bad thing. As Demosthenes put it ‘Sometimes you need to live to fight another day’. And we’ve seen leaders turn disaster into triumph – Rourke’s Drift, the evacuation at Dunkirk comes to mind. The US General Smith coined perhaps the best phrase for it when describing his military reverse ferret, at the Chosin Reservoir retreat by UN forces in the early stages of the Korean War in 1950. General McArthur ordered him to retreat and his reply, ‘Retreat, hell we’re not retreating we’re just advancing in the wrong direction’. It’s a known feature in war that the time of highest danger for men in battle is if they run, and the retreat turns into a rout. Many of the great massacres in battle begin with a disordered group of soldiers running from the battlefield, as happened in 1416 at the battle of Towton the greatest slaughter of men on English soil.

Today we’ll look at four categories of retreat, Deliverance, the Embarrassing retreat, the Arduous and the Catastrophic. We should remember Churchill’s line in his great Dunkirk speech, ‘Wars are not won by evacuations’. However, a successful withdrawal can allow those men to live, to fight another day. Jamie and Tom discuss.

So It Goes

Tom Assheton & James Jackson

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