Wars, Battles and Campaigns in British History

Wars, battles and campaigns in British history. This historic theme considers the small battles as well as the large campaigns in British history. The timeline and maps help to put them in context and explore them in more detail.

British history is littered with the names of famous battles and wars. When set in a chronological timeline, it seems as if Britain has been fighting a war or battle somewhere for thousands of years.

On the large scale of wars such as the Napoleonic Wars, World War I and World War II, much has been written. The smaller battles or less well known wars, had an equal impact on those involved.

Wars, battles and campaigns

Round shot that hit the Victory at the Battle of Trafalgar, still lodged in the piece of timber it hit.

Majority of British Battles were fought on foreign shores

Many of these battles were fought on foreign shores and those who died in these far flung wars lie buried miles from home. The Afghan wars were fought over centuries, wars were fought in the Indian sub-continent and in the China Seas. The British have been engaged in conflict around the world for hundreds of years. Our Royal Navy, developed to become an invisible fighting force, was able to quickly move to the battleground. They kept many battles at sea and fought hard to ensure Britain was not invaded. So many well known conflicts, the Spanish Armada, the Napoleonic Wars, the English Civil War and our history textbooks of old reminding us of great battles, Waterloo and Ladysmith, of the Nile and Balaclava but what of those wars long forgotten except to enthusiasts, the Mahratta Wars, the Peninsular War or the Sikh Wars?

We will be building a chronology of British Wars and battles and putting them into context with British society at the time. If we find useful source material we will include that as well as all the intriguing aspects of this theme as we find them.

YearEvent Narrative
1066 Sep 20thBattle of Fulford Gate 1066
A key event that forces Harold North on a major amrch that leaves England exposed as William of Normandy invades. Much more than a skirmish the northern forces are defeated and within 5 days they must do battle again to cast out this Viking intruder and the king's treacherous brother
Harald Hardrada or Hardraada Tostig Northern English
1066Battle of Hastings
William the Conqueror invades and defeats Harold. The only time that Britain was conquered in 1000 years.
Hastings East Sussex England
1215Magna CartaMagna Carta
King John
Civil War and unrest
1265Battle of Evesham 1265Battle of Evesham13th Century
Civil war and unrest
1294Battle of of Lewes 1264
1294-1303Anglo-French Wars 1294-1303Anglo-French Wars
1295Battle of Evesham 1265
1324-1326Anglo-French Wars 1324-11326Anglo-French Wars
1337-1453100 Hundred Years War a term adopted in the late 19th century applied to the Anglo-French Wars. These were re-initiated in 1337 when under pressure from Flemish Allies Edward III assumed the title King of France and despite the superior wealth and size of France neither Philip VI or John II could outwit and defeat Edward III politically or militarily. Specific battles will be listed on this table and maybe cross referenced to the overall sequence of related events.Anglo-French Wars
1415Battle of Agincourt Victory for the EnglishAnglo-French War
1450-1499War of the Roses, War of the Roses19th century term for a complex sequence of events that became known as the War of the Roses.English Civil War Plantagenets Succession Lancaster Yorks and Tudor Houses and the battle for the crown of England.
1453Battle of Castillon Henry VI concedes defeat and has reigned over the loss England's remaining significant French assets in Normandy and Aquitaine. The lands of his Plantagenet Ancestors are lost to EnglandLancastrians, under Henry VI and France
1588, 1596, 1597Defeat of the Spanish Armada. Naval conflict between Spain and England, whilst 1588 is best known it qwas a series of events.Spanish-English Naval Battles
1756-1763Seven years War
1775-1783American War of Independence 1775-1783
Britain started trying to assert its imperial authority but the matters were badly handled and exacerbated the problems. From the Stamp Act to further repressive legislation the arguments for 'no tax without representation' just escalated. It culminated in the 'Boston Tea Party' which we all know was the final duty as yet to be repealed. This period in British, Anglo-American history has huge ramifications that still has ramifications for Britain today. with this closely following the 7 Years War Britain suffering from diplomatic isolation as its empire began to face serious challenges was the start of the beginning of the end for British Colonialism. Intriguing how Indians remains within the Empire so much longer than America.
America Britain France Spain Netherlands (Holland)
1787-1788Major public campaign against Slave Trade
Following success of the Somerset Case Granville Sharp with support of Quakers and Evangelicals sought to establish a campaign to reform British law and public opinion on Slavery. Opposition was mobilised from he slf-interests of the -expatriates in the West Indies, fear of the revolution in France and the slave insurrection taking place in what was St Dominique, now Haiti.
Empire Slavery Emancipation Social Reform Civil War French Revolution Abolitionists Slave Trade
1789-1799French Revolution and its impact on Britain
The French Revolution was part of an endeavour by France o reinvent itself under Louis XVI as a constitutional monarchy and begin a process of radical reform including the abolition of feudal rights. Fearing its own vulnerability within Europe France declared war on Austria in 1792 and the within a few months a popular uprising imprisoned the King and declared France a Republic. This was causing great concern in england with central government in fear of the spread of such radicalism following the French King being guillotined. Panic ensured in England and hostility was focused on British Jacobins and Corresponding Societies. The radical climate in France and the concern to keep such events beyond our shores also led to the start of social reforms including the ' Society for Bettering the Conditions and increasing the comfort of the Poor.' here was a real threat of a potential French invasion in 1798 and this provoked mass enlistment in The Volunteers. Out of this turmoil would surface an important change the abolition of slavery, see 1801 but england would be engaged in expensive war with France almost continuously from 1793 to 1815.
French Civil War French and British Aristocracy
1793-1802French Revolutionary wars 1793-1802
War was taking its toll and British government was in fear of the potential for revolutionary zeal being spread to Britain. The fear was of radicals at home combining with forces from France in particular with the London Corresponding Society. Problems in Britain were so bad that Pitt suspended Habeaus Corpeus. Leading radicals were arrested and Horne Took, Thomas Hardy and others were accused of treason. In 1795 Britain secured the Indian Trade Route by seizing Cape Town from the Dutch. The late 18th and early 19th Centuries were troubled times, much of which would originate from disputes over control of trade routes, colonies and the intense pursuit of economic exploitation of he resources of those territories.
France Britain Netherlands Napoleon Radicalism
1803-1815 Napoleonic Wars 1803-1815 for a brief outline of the France under Napoleon and England
1805 Battle of Trafalgar 20th OCT 1805
Victory for the English Navy under Nelson Villeneuve's French Navy is defeated by Nelson dies from his wounds.
1807 Parliamentary Ban on the Slave Trade William Wilberforce and the Clapham Sect Wedgwood Abolitionists
1812-1815 Anglo American War 1812-1815 also known as the American War of 1812. The British were attempting, far from their own shores to 'press' (press-gang) American sailors on their own ships arguing that they were by rights British and therefore subject to the right to pressed into Naval service for Britain. The Americans were fighting the British blockade of France during the Napoleonic wars as well as seeking to further their own territorial ambitions and in particular border disputes concerning Canada.USA America Britain Canada France
1815 Battle of Waterloo Belgium 18 Jun 1815 led by the Duke of WellingtonNapoleon is defeated.
1833Abolition of Slavery 1833

The Abolition of Slavery Act was passed. For more see Social Reform and Law Themes.
1839-1842 2nd Opium Wars 1856-1860 Hong Kong is seized for the British
1848Napoleon comes to Power and Europe struggles with pervasive revolutionary change
1853-1856Crimea War 1853-1856 Britain and France seek to halt Russian Expansion

Initially an invasion of Moldavia and Walachia against the Ottoman Turks because o their rejection of Russia's demands for a protectorate over Orthodox Christians living within their borders. The Turks encouraged by French support declared war on Russia. Britain joined with France in a declaration of war in 1854. It was a war ruled by incompetence on the British side, under-funded as usual after a period of peace the British forces were ll-prepared and under equipped. This war would see British Battles including Balaclava and the ill-fated disasterous Charge of the Light Brigade. 4600 died in battle, 13,000 were wounded and a staggering 17,000 died of disease. The appalling conditions were real but really no worse than other campaigns of the period. The difference was largely communications, in that the British public were informed and aware due to the 1st War Correspondent W H Russell reporting in the \times, photographers like roger Fenton and the work promoted for better medical care by Florence Nightingale. The outcome of this Crimean War as much more favourable in terms of containing Russia than subsequent attempts by Napoleon and Hitler would prove to be. But when you see the details its far to easy to ask why was Britain fighting this war. But look to the Crimea now...in 2015. Russian expansionism at work again under Putin playing out old stories.
Britain Russia France Crimea Moldavia Wallachia
1856-1860 2nd Opium Wars 1856-1860
1857-1858 Indian Mutiny 1857-1856
1871German Empire formed Germany Anglo-German Rivalry Empire War and Conflict Business and Industry
1895-1914 Anglo German Rivalry 1895-1914 two Empires and the buildup to War. A series of events that many historians believe to have been key factors in the origins of WW1. One imperial power and industrial power on the rise Germany and Britain in relative decline. The events are individually referenced here and elsewhere on this site. Germany and Britain WW1 Empire and Colonialism
1895Kiel Canal Opens
Under Kaiser wilhelm II the German navy wanted to link its bases in the Baltic and the North Sea without the need to sail around Denmark and to meet commercial needs. It took 8 years to build and was widened during 1907-1914 to accommodate the larger Dreadnought Warships which in agreement with Britain it was now permitted to build.
Anglo-German Rivalry
Britain Germany
1895-1896 Dec JanJameson Raid Failed Raid on Kruger's Transvaal Republic 29 December 1895 – 2 January 1896
The subject of the Kruger Telegram and a British botched raid conducted under the leadership Dr Storr Jameson, Administrator of the British South African Company. Jameson was captured, Rhodes had to resign (as in Rhodes Scholars) and Joseph Chamberlain was exonerated but subsequently evidence shows he may have supported and approved the attack as Colonial Secretary. But there was more to his raid than just wanting to create an uprising. Rhodes had merged his De Beers diamond business with Beit and they wanted to combine their Diamond business with Gold Mining in the Transvaal. Hard cash drove their enterprise with Beit funded to the tune of £400k a large sum at that time.
South Africa War and Conflict Empire Boer War Kruger Wilhelm II
1896 Jan
Wilhelm II was the grandson of Queen Victoria. He sen this telegram o the South AFrican Boer leader congratulating him on the outcome Jameson Raid. It was an act, if somewhat foolish one designed to urge Britain to join the German led Triple Alliance. Not only did it fail but it raised British public opinion against Germany and made clear the need for Britain to escape from the diplomatic isolation as the world's greatest imperial power in decline from diplomatic isolation. See Jameson Raid of Dec 1895.
Anglo-German Rivalry
Kruger South Africa War and Conflict
Empire and Colonialism Government Politics and Power
1898Chamberlain attempt to negotiate Anglo-German Alliance Fails 1898

The alliance proposed was to defend British interests in the Far East but Germany refuses to be drawn into potential war with Russia on behalf of the British. This is the start of problems in the Middle East before WW1. German Navy Bill begins build-up for a battle fleet under Wilhelm II. Germany under his leadership looks to race a German Railway from Berlin to Baghdad and positions itself as the protector of Muslim peoples, both regarded as a direct challenge and threat to British interests in the Middle East. The Middle East is the gateway to India and Britain's Empire, plus the need for control of Oil as well as access to India and control of the Ottoman Empire would soon heighten tensions and rivalry. Against this backdrop it is difficult to understand why the Chamberlain's continue to back a path of AppeasementNeville Chamberlain Prime Minister and his family
Berlin-Baghdad Railway Anglo-British Rivalry Chamberlain Appeasement Buildup o WW1
1900German Navy Bill
provides the platform in the years leading to WW1 for an expanding battle fleet.
Anglo-German Rivalry War and COnflict Britain Germany WW1 Buildup
1901Germany pushes Britain too far and drives Government toward alliance with French
Serious miscalculation leads to rejection of further German overtures towards the British, who pursue an Entente Cordiale with the French. Supported in part by a new King Edward VII who proves himself a useful diplomatic support in negotiations with the French.
1904Anglo French Entente Cordiale agreed during Edward VII's short reign.Edward VII
1906Dreadnought Class 1st British Ship Launched 1906

Armed with the largest guns rather than a variety of sizes, initially powered by steam but subsequently supported by Churchill converted for power by oil making the ships faster, this was a new class of Naval warfare in the making. This first ship was designed and built in just a year, a record then and since. within 10 years the class would be replaced with Super Dreadnoughts but the naval arms race had begun with Britain having the upperhand.
Anglo German Rivalry
Britain Germany
Naval Warfare
Steam power oil
war and conflict
WW1 Buildup
1907Germany introduces and accelerates its Naval Programme and Ship Building under leadership of Admiral TirpitzWW1 BuildUp Anglo-German Rivalry
Britain Germany
War and Conflict
1909Constitutional Crisis People’s Budget 1909People's Budget and Constitutional Crisis 1909
1909-1912Britain build 18 Battleships to Germany's 9 a huge acceleration in British Shipbuilding The bitter battle for Naval ships against the People's budget had been partly resolved and Britain's industrial might got set tow work building 18 warships in just 3 years, whilst today it takes years to build 1-2 aircraft carriers. How far has technology really come?Anglo German Rivalry
Naval Power WW1 BuildUp
War and Conflict
1911Agadir Crisis 1911 French-German rivalry reaches boiling point in Morocco
Frace was annexing Morocco under the guise of assisting the Sultan to resist a local rebellion Germany reacted quickly and in a hostile manner by the despatch of its warship anther to the area. Britain feared that Germany would build a naval base at Agadir and threatened war in response. An international conference resolved the dispute temporarily, giving territory in the Congo to Germany as compensation. The French continued control of Morocco and the British and French drew diplomatically closer. Britain and France agreed that in the event of war France would deploy its navy in the Mediterranean and Britain would defend its Northern coast via the Channel. The defence of France had in one stroke become central to British foreign policy and further alienated Germany from Britain.
France Britain Germany WW1 BuildUp
Anglo-German Rivalry
Agadir Morocco Empire
1913Britain requests mutual halt to naval reconstruction programmes but ignored by GermanyAnglo-German Rivalry
Britain Germany
Naval forces and fleet
War and Conflict
WW1 Buildup
1914 False dawn of hope of avoiding war when Britain and Germany discuss Africa and reach Agreement on Southern Persia
It was hoped these negotiations would head-off war but that was not to be the case.
Anglo German Rivalry
WW1 WWI Buildup
Britain germany Middle East Persia Iran Africa
War and conflict
1914-1918WW1 First World War
1914 Jun 28Arch Duke Ferdinand Assassinated by Slav Nationalists
Austria-Hungary seek to exploit blaming Serbia. Reaction across Europe leads o multiple declarations of War between Jul-Aug. When Germany invaded neutral Belgium Britain declared war on Germany
WW1 War and conflict
1917Balfour Declaration 1917
A short letter with arguably massive consequences or at least symbol of the Middle east protracted conflict in Palestine that continues to this day. It was a letter written to a British member of the Rothschilds who was representative of British Jewish Society and at least sympathetic to the Zionist cause. Follow this site and watch our Middle East collection for more to follow on the importance of a single short letter written and redrafted many times, agreed by the British Cabinet which set momentous events in motion.
Palestine British Government Zionists British Jewish Community Middle East Israel Arthur Balfour Asquith Churchill
1919Paris Peace Conference and Treaty of Versailles
The treaty agreed by the Allies after WW1 but with the exception of the USA which withdrew its support for the treaty due to a backlash against President Wilson's policy by the American congress. Britain had want a more balanced settlement but the eventual punitive agreement imposed very harsh terms on Germany and was part of what would contribute in the years that followed to the conditions that at least least that led to WW2, with the resentment by Germany of the loss of all its territories as part of a treaty it had no say in and argued it had never agreed to as part of the terms of surrender in 1918.
WW2 German Resentment Britain France WW1 Treaties War and conflict
19221st Cairo Conference about British Interests and the Middle EastBritain Middle East
Iraq Syria Palestine
Interwar Years
1935Anglo German Naval Agreement 1935

A compromise agreement between Germany and Britain enabling Germany post Treaty of Versailles to increase its naval tonnage to up to 35% of the British capital ships and up to 45% of Britain's submarines. This was part and parcel of Appeasement and the circumstances that would build-up to the 2nd world war known as the Appeasement as Pragmatic PolicyAppeasement led by Stanley Baldwin and Neville Chamberlain as Britain's Prime Ministers.
Interwar Years
1936Anglo-Egyptian Treaty 1936
This treaty formally ended British occupation of Egypt. whilst Britain retained a garrison and control over the Suez Canal Zone. Britain retained the right to occupy again in the event of war and unrestricted use of roads, ports and airports if required. This legitimised the use of Egypt as a pivotal base for Middle East operation in WW2. See also Suez Crisis and Anglo-French joint invasion of 1956.
Interwar Years
Middle East Africa Egypt
1939-1945WW2 Second World WarWar and Conflict WW2
1947 Indian Independence Lord Mountbatten was the last Viceroy.
1954-1956 Suez Crisis 1954-1956
Further treaty re Suez Canal Zone in Egypt was signed in 1954 relinquishing British control of the Suez Canal Zone. Oct 1956 British government under Sir Anthony Eden feared that President Nasser was a dangerous aggressor. This was due to his nationalising the Suez Canal, the Anglo-French action caused the Suez debacle whih the SA refused to support wanting resolution by diplomatic means. See more on the Suez crisis to follow.

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