Monday, 11 August 2014

In military history this week

The end of the Wanshan Archipelago Campaign of the Chinese Civil War, 7th August 1950. 

While the proclamation of the People's Republic on 1st October 1949 is what most people regard as the moment that heralds the Communist victory in the civil war, few realise that active hostilities in mopping up campaigns continued well into the late 1950s.  The Wanshan Archipelago is a chain of islands at the mouth of the Pearl River delta, stretching from Macau to Hong Kong, creating a strategic choke point. Held by Nationalist forces after the main retreat to Taiwan, the islands, flanked by Portuguese Macau and British Hong Kong allowed the Nationalists to potentially blockade the Pearl River and the critical port of Guangzhou.  A series of naval and amphibious operations by Communist forces with its headquarters in Zhongshan between May and August 1950 resulted in Communist victory despite significantly inferior naval forces.  This battle was the last major campaign against Nationalist holdouts in south China, although an active counter-insurgency campaign continued against Nationalist guerrillas well into the 1951.  It marked the final defeat of the Nationalist Party and the Republic in its spiritual home of Guangdong province.

The Wanshan Archeipelago campaign of 1950 is the third historically significant naval battles that have taken place at mouth of the Pearl River in Guangdong province in south China.  The first was the Battle of Yamen in 1279, when the Song Dynasty fought the last battle against the Mongol invasion, which resulted in the death of the last Song Emperor, Huaizong. The tomb of the Huaizong Emperor is in Shenzhen, though he is thought to have been lost at sea. The second was the Second Battle of Chuenpee during the Opium War in 1841, when the first ocean going iron steamship, the Nemesis spearheaded the British campaign, which forced south China open to trade, and ultimately, contributed to the fall of the Qing Dynasty. Much of the fighting of the opening battles of the First Opium War took place around Zhongshan.  The creek that flows past my ancestral home is marked on British Admiralty charts as 'Nemesis Creek'.

What interests me is that not only do these battle mark significant turning points in Chinese and indeed world history, but they are intimately and directly intertwined with my own family's personal histories, with the fall of the Song, the fall of the Qing and the fall of the Republic. 

It tells me that history isn't just about the great and the good. It tells me that history's hand reaches down to each of us - and connects us all to the great journey of humanity.

Edwin H. Lowe Publishing - Ideas, Research, Writing, Editing, Publishing.

No comments:

Post a comment