Soviet Motor Rifles, 1970s-80s

For many young men, life in the Soviet Union was one of extreme militarisation. Once a youth turned 18, he would be conscripted into the armed forces for at least two years; aside from the violent process of dedovshchina (‘initiation’) that saw NCOs bully and harass their men, the average Soviet conscript was given basicContinue reading “Soviet Motor Rifles, 1970s-80s”

Elite guardsmen, 5th century BC – present day

From left to right: Persian Immortal, 5th century BC The Immortals were among the finest warriors in the Achaemenid (Persian) Empire during its invasions of Greece. This elite corps numbered around 10,000 men; if a soldier was put out of action, he would quickly be replaced to keep the number of men the same. ThisContinue reading “Elite guardsmen, 5th century BC – present day”

Naval battle of the Imjin War, Korea, 1592-98

In 1592, Japan was united and ready to expand after years of continuous internal conflict. Under Toyotomi Hideyoshi, the neighbouring Chinese tributary state of Joseon (Korea) was the perfect target for Japanese expansion towards China. On land, the battle-hardened samurai made several swift advances, but at sea they suffered enormously. With their naval supply linesContinue reading “Naval battle of the Imjin War, Korea, 1592-98”

Last stand at Gandamak, 13th January 1842

The First Anglo-Afghan War (1839-42) saw forces of the British Army and East India Company support former ruler Shah Shuja Durrani, in the hopes of curbing Russian expansion towards India. Whilst they had successfully completed their objectives and reached Kabul by 1840, constant rebellions forced them and their camp followers to retreat from Kabul toContinue reading “Last stand at Gandamak, 13th January 1842”

The Eight-Nation Alliance, Boxer Rebellion, 1900

In the 19th century, China suffered at the hands of Western powers, with numerous wars and internal insurgencies plunging the once-mighty Qing Dynasty into decline. In 1899 a secret society- yi-he quan, ‘Boxers United in Righteousness’ – began attacks on foreigners and Christian missionaries who they felt had tarnished their nation’s dignity. By 1900 theseContinue reading “The Eight-Nation Alliance, Boxer Rebellion, 1900”

Mughal heavy cavalryman and war elephant, 17th-18th centuries

The Mughal dynasty of Indian rulers has its origins in the 16th century; its founder, Babur, was of Turco-Mongol heritage, and expanded out from Central Asia. Islam had a presence in India long before Babur’s capture of Delhi in 1526, but Islamic rule gradually stretched across all of India, introducing a unique culture and strongContinue reading “Mughal heavy cavalryman and war elephant, 17th-18th centuries”

The Siege of Malta, 1565

As part of a period of expansion in the Mediterranean, the powerful Ottoman Empire under Sultan Suleiman I (r. 1520-66) waged an epic siege on the island of Malta, guarded by a small force of Hospitaller knights and troops. With superior numbers, the Ottomans used their heavy cannons and siege towers, but were repulsed timeContinue reading “The Siege of Malta, 1565”

Mamluks, Egypt, c.1500

The mamluks were among the most professional soldiers in the Medieval world, with their origins going back to the 8th century. Largely recruited from Turkish peoples, they were the property of their masters as ‘slaves’, but because of their status as the military elite, they were well-treated and could rise to prominent positions. Following theirContinue reading “Mamluks, Egypt, c.1500”