Fight to the Last Man - Why?

Discussion in 'General' started by Drew5233, Oct 13, 2011.

  1. Drew5233

    Drew5233 #FuturePilot Patron 1940 Obsessive

    Why do soldiers do that ?

    There was a phone in today about this subject on the Jeremy Vine (Not Kyle) Show on BBC Radio 2 but it never really got to the reason why. The main reason for the subject was the fact that forces loyal to Gadaffi were still fighting and refusing to surrender. Lots of people called, texted and emailed etc with examples like Arnhem (Only because Nicol was plugging his new book, copious amounts of), Custers Last Stand, Charge of the Light Brigade, The Glosters with their two cap badges and Stalingrad also got a mention amongst others. I was waiting for someone to mention Cassel and the BEF but that never happened.

    So why do Soldiers fight to the last man? Discuss....
     
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  2. Owen

    Owen -- --- -.. MOD

    Different reasons for each person.

    For example: The French Waffen-SS in Berlin didn't have much choice, die fighting the Soviets , get shot by the Soviets if taken prisoner or shot by the French as traitors.
     
  3. wowtank

    wowtank Very Senior Member

    I did not think many soldiers do if they have a choice.


    For English troops I guess fighting to the last man would go back to the traditions of Anglo Saxon times with the Oaths to king and elderman.
     
  4. Owen

    Owen -- --- -.. MOD

  5. CL1

    CL1 116th LAA and 92nd (Loyals) LAA,Royal Artillery Patron

    Possible assumption of belief that the last man scenario will not happen and they will pull through.


    Out and out belief that it is their duty to defend to the last.
     
  6. Jonathan Ball

    Jonathan Ball It's a way of life.

    In terms of the British Army two of the more well known incidents of fighting to (almost) the last man were at Isandlwana and at Gandamak. Was it not the case that men fought with almost fanatical zeal to defend the Colour and to avoid what was then seen as a disgrace if the Colour was lost?

    Just a thought.
     
  7. Owen

    Owen -- --- -.. MOD

    Here's a Last Stand from an earlier time that I was reading about last month.
    1644: The York March and Marston Moor
    Marquis Of Newcastle's Whitecoats at Marston Moor, 1644.
    As the battle-line collapsed, Newcastle's regiment of Whitecoats made an heroic stand in a ditched enclosure called White Syke Close. Refusing to surrender, they resisted repeated charges by the Ironsides until no more than 30 were left alive. The last stand of the Whitecoats is one of the most famous episodes of the civil war. It was probably a desperate rearguard action to cover the surviving Royalist infantry as they retreated towards York.
     
  8. Jonathan Ball

    Jonathan Ball It's a way of life.

  9. Mike L

    Mike L Very Senior Member

    As Wowtank says, I don't think many British soldiers would. At Arnhem the Airborne suffered many more captured than killed.
    One thing that has been mentioned is fear of what might happen in captivity. I don't know how the Zulus treated prisoners but we all know how the Japanese did. I wonder if some FEPOWs would have fought on if they had known beforehand what conditions in captivity would be like.
    I think in the vast majority of cases self-preservation comes before pride in Regiment, Colours etc. Of course there are celebrated exceptions.
     
  10. Drew5233

    Drew5233 #FuturePilot Patron 1940 Obsessive

    There was a few mentions of Rorkes Drift and a interesting one was briefly touched on - The French Foreign Legion in Africa I believe. They all stood firm until there was only one man left and he even refused to surrender his weapon. The enemy let him live because of his bravery and the Legion celebrate him every year.

    I seem to recall a documentary about this event - I believe they march his remains/or a part of his body out on the parade :unsure:
     
  11. Owen

    Owen -- --- -.. MOD

    Here's book I ought to get .
    Maiwand - Last Stand of the 66th Berkshire Regiment - The Wardrobe

    On 27 July 1880 the 66th (Berkshire) Regiment fought a terrible battle on the dusty plains of Afghanistan. The battle went down in history as a disaster which effectively wiped out the regiment. They lost 10 officers and 275 men.


    Battle of Maiwand - Second Afghan War

    [​IMG]
    The last stand of the 66th Foot at Maiwand against the Afghans: the Eleven (2 officers and 9 soldiers) sell their lives dearly outside the village of Khig. Bobbie the dog can be seen at their feet.
     
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  12. Susan Smethurst

    Susan Smethurst Senior but too talkative

    There was a few mentions of Rorkes Drift and a interesting one was briefly touched on - The French Foreign Legion in Africa I believe. They all stood firm until there was only one man left and he even refused to surrender his weapon. The enemy let him live because of his bravery and the Legion celebrate him every year.

    I seem to recall a documentary about this event - I believe they march his remains/or a part of his body out on the parade :unsure:


    Now Rorkes Drift (at least the film) shows a few of the reasons for standing up to the enemy until the last man....

    Self preservation (the guy faking it in the hospital but gets a VC-name escapes me)
    Duty (Sjnt major and officers)
    Bloody mindedness (all of above)
     
  13. Jonathan Ball

    Jonathan Ball It's a way of life.

  14. sol

    sol Very Senior Member

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  15. Mike L

    Mike L Very Senior Member

    Andy: re FFL it's Camerone Day and they carry Captain Danjou's wooden hand on Parade.
    Camerone is in Mexico and the battle took place on the 30th April 1864. 62 Legionnaires and 3 Officers fought, only 3 survived their final bayonet charge. The Mexicans allowed them to keep their rifles and bury their dead. Danjou had lost his left hand in the Crimea.
     
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  16. Owen

    Owen -- --- -.. MOD

    I have to mention the destruction of 4 GG in April 1918 .
    The British XV Corps were tasked to hold the line to give the Aussies chance to set up better defences behind them.
    No retirement to be made without written orders.
    It's where Capt Pryce died fighting to the last & was awarded a VC.
    Determined that there should be no surrender, he once again led his men forward in a bayonet charge, and was last seen engaged in a fierce hand-to-hand struggle with overwhelming numbers of the enemy. With some forty men he had held back at least one enemy battalion for over ten hours. His company undoubtedly stopped the advance through the British line, and thus had great influence on the battle.


    If any of you have watched ANZACS that mini-series from the 1980s one of the episodes is about the Aussies setting up the defence line & are joined by 2 Guardsmen , survivors of that battle.
    I knew a Veteran who was in 4GG & wounded on the Somme. He wanted to return to his old Bn in 1918 when he went back to the Front but was posted to 2GG instead.
    He was quite thankful he didnt return to his old Bn after all.
    He didnt escape unscathed, he was wounded in Sept 1918 anyway.
     
  17. Assam

    Assam Senior Member

    Against the Japanese, on March 8, 1944 Brigadier Tim Hope Thompson (50th indian Parachute Brigade) gave the order to the Assam Regiment who were garrisoned at Kohima "To the last round & the last man".

    That is the last confirmed order that I am aware of for WW2.

    (see p42 "Not Ordinary Men" - John Colvin - the battle of kohima re-assessed)

    I think also, it has a lot to do with the demographics.

    In the case & mention, the regiment was defending home soil, that has to make a difference as to how one reacts psychologically

    Regards

    Simon
     
  18. von Poop

    von Poop Adaministrator Admin

    Not letting your mates down seems as strong a motivation as any?..

    Have you read Keegan's 'The Face of Battle', Andy?
     
  19. canuck

    canuck Token Colonial Patron

    Or, in the confusion of battle, simply being unaware that you are, in fact, the last man!
     
  20. idler

    idler GeneralList Patron

    I think in the vast majority of cases self-preservation comes before pride in Regiment, Colours etc. Of course there are celebrated exceptions.

    Playing the Devil's advocate: Were Melville and Coghill trying to save the colour? Or themselves? :unsure:

    A direct answer to Andy's original question must be: because they've read his thread on Wormhoudt. An understanding of the enemy's attitude to prisoners must play a large part (not that a last stand situation lemnds itself to rational decisionmaking). I suppose if you get to the point where you realise that you aren't going to get out of it you either crack up and lose it, or crack on with nothing to lose.

    I wouldn't underestimate the factor of people being pissed off in the extreme. There was a strange documentary a couple of years ago on the psychology of killing that wound up with Hollis VC as one of it's subjects. For the life of me I can't remember how they tried to explain away his actions, but I got it into my head that he, as a CSM, was simply provoked into taking a mixture of responsibility and revenge for his men who were getting shot up.

    In the final reckoning, the higher motives of god, king/queen, country, regiment, colours I think are the exception - most will have been fighting for themselves, their mates, or simply to hurt the other bastards as much as possible while they could.

    All spoken as a meanly-thinking career civvy, I should add.
     

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