The long awaited sequel is finally here. Last week we gave you the first 5 of the best military commanders of all time. But who sits in our all-time top 5? Let’s find out…
5. Erwin Rommel.
Our first modern military leader. Also known as the Desert Fox, Rommel would become one of the most prestigious tank commanders of the Second World War. He was the mastermind behind the 7th Panzer division which smashed through France’s Ardeness’ forest and encircled Allied forces in 1940. It took 46 days for France to fall. He later embarked on a series of campaigns in North Africa, contributing to early Nazi success.
Finest hour: The Invasion of France, 1940. After 46 days of calculated Tank movements and Blitzkrieg warfare, Britain was forced off the beaches of Dunkirk and some 360,000 allied forced were dead. A further 1.9 million were captured. Absolute. Victory.
4. Arthur Wellesley, The Duke of Wellington.
The Iron Duke famously defeated the dominant French forces of Napoleon Bonaparte. Working with a British army that never exceeded 25,000 men, Wellesley was able to push the French, gradually, out of Spain. When Bonaparte returned from exile in 1815 Wellesley did the double, guiding a united army of Prussians, Brits and Dutch in a crushing victory. All done with troops that Wellesley himself called ‘the scum of the earth’.
Finest hour: The battle of Waterloo, 1815. Immortalised in history, the Duke of Wellington and Napoleon faced off in one of the biggest battles ever seen at the time. Napoleon attempted comeback was cut short as he was routed.
3. Emperor Napoleon Bonaparte.
Napoleon wasn’t just a military genius but a revolutionary figure who changed war forever. Emperor Bonaparte engineered the idea of military corps and the French column formation and used his tactical genius to decimate Europe’s finest. His skill in wielding the Grande Armee, saw him conquer much of middle-Europe by 1811, his empire stretching from Spain to Sweden. Only a brutal Russian winter and the sturdy Duke of Wellington could truly unseat him in the field.
Finest hour: The battle of Austerlitz, 1805. Some battles can end wars, destroy armies or even nations. This one did all three and brought the thousand year tenure of the Holy Roman Empire crashing down.
The greatest military general of all time – bar one. Charlemagne, or Charles the Great, conquered an empire in middle-Europe which would last until that Napoleon bloke came along in 1805. Known as the father of Europe, Charlemagne was an incredible leader and tactician who defeated all manner of 8th-century peoples, from Muslims to Lombards and later Saxons. His only defeat came at Roncevaux Pass in 778 when Basque forces ambushed his rearguard. Charles would also continue to fight well into his sixties.
Finest hour: Charles would not have the grandeur of his forefathers in winning impressive single battles like Tours in 732 but he did strike the anvil with the hammer of Empire when he occupied Rome and expelled the Lombards. He was crowned Holy Roman Emperor on Christmas Day in 800 forging a dynasty that would dominate Europe for centuries.
1. Alexander the Great.
The undefeated man. Alexander succeeded his father to the Macedonian throne at the age of 20. By the time he was 30, he had conquered most of the known world, including Asia Minor, Greece, Egypt and India. He was proclaimed King of Persia, Macedonia and Asia as well as Pharaoh of Egypt and had an empire that covered 2 million square miles. When he died in 326 BC he had never lost in battle. Military academies still teach his tactics to this day.
Finest hour: There are too many to choose from: Granicus, Gaugamela, Hydaspes, Issus – they’re all tactically phenomenal.