Outnumbered and outgunned, George Washington led the fight for American Independence against the British, which at the time was the world’s most powerful Nation. Washington has always been a hero to Americans, and the Brits recently gave the legendary man another title: Britain’s most outstanding military opponent in history.
In a contest run by the British National Army Museum, historians organized a list of 20 opponents that the country had met on battlefields since the 17th century. The adversaries were then whittled down to a list of just five, including the likes of Irishman Michael Collins, Frenchman Napoleon Bonaparte, the German Erwin Rommel and the Turkish Mustafa Kemal Atatürk.
Washington won the title in an online vote in which he took 45 percent of the whole.
Here is a breakdown of the top five from The Telegraph:
George Washington (1732-99) – 45 percent: Guided the American rebels to victory over the British in the War of Independence. Often outmaneuvered by British generals with larger armies, his leadership enabled him to hold together an army of secessionists from 13 different states and keep it in the field – and ultimately prevail – during the protracted struggle.
Stephen Brumwell, author and specialist on eighteenth century North America, said: “Washington scores highly as an enemy of Britain on three key grounds: the immense scale of damage he inflicts upon Britain’s Army and Empire – the most jarring defeat that either endured; his ability to not only provide inspirational battlefield leadership but to work with civilians who were crucial to sustain the war-effort; and the kind of man he was. As British officers conceded, he was a worthy opponent.”
Michael Collins (1890-1922) – 21 percent: Helped transform the Irish Republican Army into a powerful force which fought the British to a standstill in the Irish War of Independence, securing the separation of most of the island of Ireland from the rest of the United Kingdom.
Under him, the force waged a guerrilla campaign, mounting attacks and ambushes on barracks, police stations and convoys before quickly withdrawing. His tactics made much of Ireland ungovernable – with an army that never exceeded 3,000 active volunteers at any given time.
Gabriel Doherty, lecturer at University College Cork, said: “He was much more than just a great military leader. He had many different hats and his political and administrative skills tend to be a lot more overlooked.”
Napoleon Bonaparte (1769-1821) – 18 percent : Emerged from the turmoil and terror of revolution to become France’s greatest military commander, conquering much of Europe. His greatest victories were against other countries, but his final campaign, culminating in the Battle of Waterloo, tested the Duke of Wellington to the limit.
Alan Forrest, professor of modern history at the University of York, said: “Napoleon was, of course, a supremely gifted general and military tactician, and he also had an unerring gift for propaganda and self-promotion. He recognized in Britain his most implacable opponent, and concentrated all his resources – political and economic as well as military in his attempt to defeat him.”
Erwin Rommel (1891-1944) – 10 percent : A decorated veteran of the First World War, he led the German “Blitzkrieg” of France in the Second World War before making his name battling British forces in North Africa, where he earned the nickname “Desert Fox”. His skill at handling armoured formations enabled his “Afrikakorps” to consistently outmatch his opponents, often against heavy odds.
Dale Clarke, a reservist officer in the Royal Artillery, author and technical adviser on historical films and television shows, said: “A myth may have grown up around Rommel but there is an underlying truth that he was a superb leader who knew that in war you have to instantly grasp the initiative and keep your men moving forward. He is still the ultimate enemy, because of his sheer tenacity and skill.”
Mustafa Kemal Atatürk (1881-1938) – 6 percent : Fought a tenacious defensive campaign at Gallipoli in 1915 which forced the Allied invasion force to withdraw. Displayed great leadership and tactical acumen, reacting immediately to the landing at Anzac Cove to launch successful counter-attacks, preventing his opponents from securing high ground.
Matthew Hughes, from Brunel University, said: “Atatürk resisted the British-led amphibious landings and was the man at the front who stopped the enemy troops taking the peninsula, advancing on Istanbul and knocking Turkey out of the war.”