Gordon Corrigan

Location: Folkestone Kent
About me...

Major JGH Corrigan MBE. After 30 years as an officer of the 6th Gurkha Rifles and then the Royal Gurkha Rifles I am now a professional historian, the author of a number of well-regarded books on military history and the presenter of a number of television documentaries. I am a regular lecturer on cruises world-wide with Noble Caledonia and on rail journeys in Russia and Central Asia with Golden Eagle. I conduct military history study tours world-wide and am a Member of the British Commission for Military History, a freeman of the City of London and a Liveryman of the Worshipful Company of Farriers.

About my Talks...

During the present pandemic all my talks are by Zoom, are illustrated by PowerPoint and last between 45 minutes and one hour.  If you can host – fine, if not I have a licence that allows me to host up to 300.  Questions are welcomed.
Once we return to normal (if we ever do) I am happy to travel within Hampshire, Sussex, Kent, Surrey and London and to anywhere in the UK or Ireland with the same expenses (quoted in my fee section) plus overnight accommodation if essential.

Fee:

My fee is £200.00  Travel expenses  £0.45 a mile from my home in Folkestone, capped at £100. I am happy to travel to anywhere in the UK or Ireland with the same expenses plus overnight accommodation if essential.

My Contact Details:
Phone:

07703356073

The American Civil War (2 Lectures, can be condensed to one)

Public Speaker Gordon Corrigan presents his talk  (virtual presentation if required) The American Civil War.

The war between the states, the war of the rebellion, the war of northern aggression, the freedom war, the war of secession – the greatest upheaval in the history of the United States of America, its strains are still evident today. Ostensibly a conflict between the indivisibility of the Union versus states’ rights it was about much more than that and caused more deaths than any other American war, before or since, although of course both sides were American.

The Art of War – and Where They Got It Wrong (the history of military painting)

Public Speaker in Kent Gordon Corrigan presents his talk (a virtual presentation is available) The Art of War.

Apart from religious art and portraiture probably more artistic effort and assets have been devoted to war than to anything else.  Paintings of battles, of campaigns, of generals and of soldiers abound.  This talk looks at 900 years of military art and asks: what was it for? Were they depictions of actual events, or inspirational, or motivational, or propaganda or just something to hang on one’s wall?

Central Asia Today

Public Speaker Gordon Corrigan presents his talk  (virtual presentation if required) Central Asia Today.

Conquered by Genghis Khan in the fourteenth century, four hundred years later the area was populated by marauding tribes constantly warring with each other, a realm of bandits, despots, spies, saboteurs, conquerors, pretenders, ambitious grabbers of territory rich in gold, silver, copper and zinc, and now oil, gas and pipelines.  With Russian expansion southwards in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries the Russian Tsarist empire extended to the borders of Afghanistan.  After the Russian revolution Kirgizstan, Kazakhstan, Uzbekistan, Turkmenistan and Azerbaijan became Soviet Socialist Republics, until the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991 when, somewhat to their bewilderment, they became independent with no experience of self-rule. The old Communist rulers changed their names and carried on pretty well as before but over the years, as modernisation has increased and dependence on Russia has diminished, the area is once again the scene of conflicting Russian, Chinese and Anglo American interests.

Chinese Gordon – the Life and Death of General Charles Gordon

Public Speaker Gordon Corrigan presents his talk  (virtual presentation if required) Chinese Gordon - The Life and Death of General Charles Gordon.

A Royal Engineer and religious fundamentalist, Gordon served in the Crimean War and was the successful leader of the Ever Victorious Army in the Taiping Rebellion in China.  As governor general of the Sudan he abolished slavery and reduced corruption.  Convinced that he had discovered the site of the Garden of Eden, Gordon became a hero to the British press and public and a thorn in the side of the British government.  Sent to South Sudan in 1884 to evacuate European civilians in the teeth of a Mahdist uprising,  he disobeyed instructions to leave Khartoum himself and was killed by the insurgents in June 1885.  This led to an outpouring of public grief, criticism of Gladstone’s government for not rescuing him, and the ousting of his Liberal government in the general election later in that year.

The Defeat of the Spanish Armada

Public Speaker Gordon Corrigan presents his talk  (virtual presentation if required) The Defeat of the Spanish Armada.

The Spanish Armada, exasperated by raids on treasure ships from America by English privateers, all deniable by Elizabeth I’s government, Phillip of Spain assembled a huge fleet to sail up the Channel, embark an army from Flanders (then the Spanish Netherlands) and invade England.  Had they done so there was little to stop them save ill equipped and half trained local militias and the Trained Bands.  But tiny though the English navy was, it had developed a form of naval warfare that used cast iron cannon at long range which compensated for Spanish numerical superiority and larger ships.  Harrying the heels of the Armada as it made its stately way up the Channel the critical point arrived when the Spaniards anchored to board the invasion army.  English fire ships forced the fleet to cut their ships’ anchor cables and flee north , becoming scattered.  Now unable to anchor they could only get back to Spain by going round the north of Scotland and west of Ireland, where due to bad weather and an inability to calculate longitude many of their ships were driven ashore or foundered at sea.  It was a terrible disaster, with only sixty-seven of the 130 ships that had started out eventually limping into Spanish ports, and most of them only fit to be sent to the breaker’s yard.  England was secure, and Elizabeth reigned for another fifteen years.

Douglas Haig – Hero or Villain?

Public Speaker Gordon Corrigan presents his talk  (virtual presentation if required)  Douglas Haig - Hero or Villain?

Commander of 40,000 men in 1914 and over two million by 1917, Sir Douglas Haig, a field marshal from January 1917, was the commander-in-chief of the British Expeditionary Force from December 1915 until the end of the First World War.  As the commander of the largest army Britain has ever put in the field, before or since, Haig has been the subject of more critical examination that any other British commander since Cromwell.  To some he was an uncaring butcher and  a bungler, responsible for the unnecessary deaths of hundreds of thousands of young men; to others he was the only man qualified and capable of directing British military operations on the Western Front, which he did with consummate skill in a war the nature of which no one had anticipated or prepared for.

 

Frocks versus Brass Hats – Civil Military Relations in the UK

Public Speaker in Kent Gordon Corrigan presents his talk (virtual presentation if required) Frocks and Brass Hats.

It has long been a tenet of British civil military relations that the military is subservient to the civil power and that the armed forces do not involve themselves in politics. But until 1927 serving officers could stand for parliament, be elected and sit as members while still serving, and even today members of the Territorial Army or Army Reserve still can (although few do).  However, in a democracy with universal suffrage the aim of a politician is to get into power, and stay there.  He achieves this by bribing a greedy and ignorant electorate which wants instant gratification and is only interested in what affects it directly, and the Defence budget is an easy cash cow to pillage.  Relations between the generals and the politicians, from Cromwell to Johnston, have rarely been easy, often difficult and sometimes downright disastrous.

 

Gallipoli 1915

Public Speaker Gordon Corrigan presents his talk  (virtual presentation if required) Gallipoli 1915

The brainchild of Winston Churchill, then the politician with responsibility for the Royal Navy, the purpose of the Gallipoli campaign was to force the Dardanelles so that Russian shipping could pass from the Black Sea to the Mediterranean and that allied convoys could deliver armaments to Russia, to keep her in the war.  Originally conceived as  a purely naval operation, the army became involved when the Navy alone could not knock out the forts that protected the straits.  Despite the eventual deployment of 400,000 British Empire and 80,000 French troops, the campaign was a disaster.  Ill-conceived from the start the defence was much stronger than anticipated and the troops, magnificent material, were inexperienced and only partly trained. Only one brigade, and that from the Indian army, knew what it was doing and that was not enough. The British simply could not support two major campaigns a thousand miles apart, and the Western Front had to take priority.

Genghis Khan and the Making of an Empire

Public Speaker Gordon Corrigan presents his talk  (virtual presentation if required) Ghengis Khan.

From being a twelve year old outcast from a small Mongol tribe that lived by fishing and trapping, in 1206 Temujin at the age of forty-five was elected as the first supreme leader of all the Mongol clans – Genghis Khan.  In the next twenty years he went on to create an Empire greater than the Roman, which had taken 200 years to build, and which lasted long after his death.  We think of him and his Mongols as savage barbarians, but while they did kill a lot of people there was much more to them than that.  Free trade throughout the empire; one universal law with some surprisingly modern clauses; religious toleration and the encouragement of education.  This talk shows how he did it.

Gurkhas – Yesterday, Today and Tomorrow

Public Speaker Gordon Corrigan presents his talk  (virtual presentation if required) Gurkhas

From 1814 to 1816 the British fought a war with the rising kingdom of Nepal, and at the end of it both sides concluded that they would much rather be friends than enemies, and so the birth of Gurkha regiments in British service.  Since then Gurkhas have fought in every British war, including battalions on the Western Front, Gallipoli, Salonika and Mesopotamia in the First World War and in Burma, North Africa and Italy in the Second.  Post war Gurkhas have fought in Malaya, Borneo, Cyprus, the Falkland Islands and more recently in Iraq and Afghanistan.  Commanded by a tiny handful of British officers, themselves steeped in the language and culture of their men, Gurkha units, infantry, engineers, signals and logistic, are a vital part of today’s British army. The talk explains how this extraordinary symbiosis of British and Mongolian comrades in arms came about, how it works and why it is an essential element  of British defence policy today.

Haig and Montgomery – A Comparison

Public Speaker in Kent Gordon Corrigan presents his talk (virtual presentation if required) Haig v Montgomery.

Commanders respectively of the British Empire’s largest army in the First and Second World Wars, many of their responsibilities were similar.  Both were products of their times, both became field marshals, both were raised to the peerage, but their characters and methods of working were very different.  Can they be compared, and if so whose reputation will survive?

Hannibal – History’s Greatest General?

Public Speaker in Kent Gordon Corrigan presents his talk  Hannibal. This can be presented as a virtual talk if you require.

Far from home, in command of a multinational army whose languages he did not speak, whose pay arrived late or not at all, the Carthaginian Hannibal Barca nevertheless managed to keep the rising superpower of Rome at bay for seventeen years, inflicting huge casualties and disastrous defeats upon them.  Using innovative tactics and deception and with enormous personal charisma he led his army the length and breadth of Italy, only withdrawing when ordered back to defend the homeland.  Although eventually committing suicide to avoid capture at the age of sixty-four, by any standards of generalship Hannibal must be regarded as among the greats.

The Hundred Years War

Public Speaker in Kent Gordon Corrigan presents his talk The Hundred Years Way. This can be presented virtually if you require.

Fought in the name of Edward III and his successors’ claim to the throne of France by right (Edward was the closest male relative to the last Capetian king of France), and to reclaim English lands in France lost by King John, the war was a series of campaigns lasting for 120 years, punctuated by a series of truces.   Tiny English armies, made up of professional soldiers fighting on foot supported by archers, commanded by officers who owed their positions to merit rather than birth, regularly defeated far larger French armies raised by feudal array.  England won all the battles, but could not hold the ground captured, and eventually withdrew from Europe, except for Calais, in 1453.  The war turned Anglo Normans into Englishmen and men of Burgundy, Artois, Gascony, Brittany et al into Frenchmen.

The Indian Mutiny of 1857

Public Speaker Gordon Corrigan presents his talk  (virtual presentation if required) The Indian Mutiny.

On 10 May 1857 many regiments of the Bengal Army, one of three British Indian armies, rose in rebellion against their British officers.  The causes were many and varied, although the claim (untrue) that the grease on the cartridges for the new rifles was composed of pig and cow fat was the final straw.  The mutiny spread to disaffected sections of the community and became a rising against British rule.  For a time British power in India hung by a threat, until loyal regiments, including Sikhs, Punjabis and Gurkhas were deployed, and by the end of 1858 the rising was effectively over, put down in the main by Indian rather than British troops. The East India Company was abolished and Britain assumed direct rule of British India.

 

King George’s Army – the British Army in the Napoleonic Wars

Public Speaker in Kent  Gordon Corrigan presents his talk (virtual presentation if required) King George's Army.

Described by a French critic as a mob of flocked criminals led by coffee house fops, King George’s army nevertheless consistently beat far larger French armies.  Unlike its European counterparts the British army was composed of long service regulars, rather than conscripts, and by rigorous training and good discipline were able to manoeuvre and bring down a far higher rate of accurate musketry than their enemies.  While officers bought their commissions and subsequent promotion, the system was not as iniquitous as it may seem to us today.

King George’s Navy – the Royal Navy in the Napoleonic Wars

Public speaker in Kent Gordon Corrigan presents his talk (virtual presentation if required) King George's Navy.

‘I do not say they cannot come’ said Admiral Sir John Jervis apropos an invasion scare of 1792 ‘but I do say they cannot come by sea’. For centuries the defence of Britain had been the Royal Navy.  With an empire to protect and dependent on global trade for her wealth, Britain had more sailors and more ships than any other seagoing nation, but there were weaknesses.  The ships were built with English oak but the masts were Baltic pine, so the entry and exit to the Baltic was a vital strategic necessity.  Manned by the Imprest Service, the ‘Press Gang’, sailors were achieved by compulsory enlistment in and around ports, usually of merchant seamen, and the practice of stopping ships on the high seas and impressing what seemed to be British citizens brought war with America in 1812.  The talk explains how the Royal Navy built its ships, how it obtained and treated its sailors and how it consistently won its battles.

Marshal Berthier – Napoleon’s Right Hand Man

Public Speaker in Kent Gordon Corrigan presents his talk (virtual presentation if required) Marshal Berthier – Napoleon’s Right Hand Man

Before the French Revolution there were 300 generals in the French army.  Only 5 survived, the rest being guillotined, imprisoned or fled into exile, and of those five only one survived into the Napoleonic period.  Of the more junior officers seventy-five percent were similarly executed or otherwise removed.  Of Napoleon’s twenty-six marshals – the corps and army commanders – eleven had been sergeants in the pre-revolutionary Bourbon army, seven had begun their military career as volunteers on the outbreak of the revolution, seven, including Napoleon, had been lieutenants at the outbreak of the revolution, one had been a lieutenant colonel and one a general.  The result was that French armies were led by men brave as lions but with no training in staff work, the management of campaigns.  The one exception was Louis Alexandre Berthier, who had survived the revolution despite being imprisoned, reduced to private and then reinstated.  As Napoleon’s chief of staff he was vital to Napoleon.  When the Emperor paid attention to Berthier the result was usually victory, when he did not, as in the Russian campaign of 1812 and Waterloo, when Berthier declined to serve, the result was disaster and defeat.

The Romanovs – Rulers of Russia for 300 Years

Public Speaker in Kent Gordon Corrigan presents his talk. (Virtual presentation if required). The Romanovs - Rulers of Russia for 300 years.

There were eighteen Romanovs.  Four of them were women, five of them were murdered, nine of them married Germans, one was a German.  They were appointed by God and responsible only to God, and they ruled Russia for three hundred years.  They were an extraordinary dynasty in an extraordinary land.

 

 

The Russo Japanese War 1904

Public Speaker in Kent Gordon Corrigan presents his talk. (Virtual presentation if required) The Russi Japanese War 1904.

It was the first time that a European great power was not only defeated but humiliated by an Asiatic enemy.  At sea it led to the destruction of the Russian Far East and Baltic fleets with minimal losses to the British trained Japanese, and almost led to war with Britain when  Russian ships shelled British trawlers in the English Channel thinking they were Japanese gunboats.  On land it led to Russian troops being driven out of the Korean peninsula, and overall to the weakening of the position of the Tsar, Nicolas II, who would himself be murdered in 1918.

A Short History of the Black Sea

Public Speaker in Kent Gordon Corrigan presents his talk A Short History of the Black Sea. (Virtual presentation if required).

From an inland lake to the world’s youngest sea, the scene of migrations and conflicts, the birthplace of myth and legend, the Black Sea has been the transit point for conquerors, religions, and ideologies.  Only easily accessible since the end of the Cold War, the sea is an archaeological treasure trove.  This talk gives an overview of this fascinating area.

Myth and Reality in the Great War

Public Speaker Gordon Corrigan presents his talk (virtual presentation if required) Myth and Reality in the Great War

The First World War, the Great War, the Kaiser’s War, whatever one wants to call it, is probably more deeply ingrained in the psyche of this nation that any other event in our long military history.  The general public believe that the British army took the youth of this country, and of the empire, and threw it away in an unnecessary war, managed by butchers and bunglers, who cost the nation a whole generation lost.  This talk looks at the general beliefs about the war and asks: does the evidence support the belief? And if it does not, why do we believe it?

The Nuremberg Trials 1945/46

Public Speaker in Kent Gordon Corrigan presents his talk (virtual presentation if required) The Nuremberg Trials 1945/46

At the conclusion of the Second World War twenty-two men, the surviving heads of the defeated German armed forces and government departments were put on trial in front of a team of British, American, Russian and French judges in Nuremberg.  Never before had the losers in a war been brought to trial and there was considerable doubt as to its legality.  Of the twenty- two three were acquitted, eight were imprisoned and eleven were executed by hanging.  This talk describes the legal manoeuvring necessary to obtain the agreement of all the victors, how the trial was conducted and what the consequences were.

 

.

 

 

The Peloponnesian War – Athens versus Sparta

Public Speaker in Kent Gordon Corrigan presents his talk (virtual presentation if required) The Peloponnesian War – Athens versus Sparta

The Peloponnesian War fought between the Delian League led by Athens and the Peloponnesian League led by Sparta spanned twenty-seven years from 431 BC to 404 BC.  Sparta won the battles but due to the Athenian ability to retire behind their walls and be resupplied by sea, could not win the war.  And then Sparta decided that if you can’t beat them, join them and started to develop a navy.  The culmination was the Battle of Aegospotami in the Dardanelles when Sparta destroyed the Athenian navy and starved Athens into surrender.  It was the end of the Glory that was Greece; the currency was worthless, trade had dried up, crops and buildings had been destroyed.  The eventual result was to allow Rome, and not Greece, to become the world’s superpower with consequences that are still with us today.

 

Operation Barbarossa – the German invasion of Russia 1941

Public Speaker in Kent Gordon Corrigan presents his talk (virtual presentation if you require) Operation Barbarossa– the German invasion of Russia 1941

The Second World War cost Germany five million military deaths.  four million of those were on the Russian front.  From June 1941 onwards never less than seventy-five percent of German military assets were deployed on the Russian Front. In the Second World War Britain lost 0.4 % of her population and the USA lost 0.3% of hers.  At a conservative estimate Russia lost 20% of her population, ten million military and seventeen million civilian deaths.  It was on the Russian front that the European war was won and lost.  This talk tells the story of the Eastern Front in the Second World War

Vladimir Putin and Russia Today

Public Speaker in Kent Gordon Corrigan presents his talk (virtual presentation if required) Vladimir Putin and Russia Today

Seen by much of the western media as returning Russia to the old Soviet tactics of suppression at home and bullying abroad, Vladimir Putin has now been President or Prime Minister of the Russian Federation for twenty years.  What has he achieved in that time, what is Russia’s view of herself and how does current Russian policy influence western attitudes towards her?

 

 

The Wars of the Roses

Public Speaker in Kent Gordon Corrigan  presents his talk (virtual delivery if required) The Wars of the Roses.

Following on from the Hundred Years War, the Wars of the Roses – given that name by Walter Scott in 1829 – were a series of struggles from 1452 to 1485 between descendants of different sons of Edward III for the throne of England.  Marked by factionalism, shifting loyalties, betrayal, patronage, accusations of child murder, disagreement over land titles, the wars culminated in the Battle of Bosworth which saw the future Henry VII – whose claim to the throne was of doubtful legitimacy – prevail over Richard III.

 

 

Waterloo – the Battle for Europe

Public Speaker in Kent Gordon Corrigan presents his talk (virtual presentation if required) Waterloo – the Battle for Europe

Waterloo was the culmination of twenty-two years of almost continual warfare, where Britain was the one constant obstacle to French ambitions of world domination; it was Britain who financed the seven coalitions formed to fight the French, Britain who blockaded France, captured her colonies, cut off her trade, bled her manpower in what Napoleon himself called the ‘Spanish ulcer’ and finally faced the mighty emperor himself at Waterloo. This lecture examines anew the campaign of the Hundred Days that culminated in the great battle of Waterloo, and places it in the political, economic, social and military context of the times.  It analyses the tactics of the various armies and the abilities of the men who led them.

 

 

Wellington, the Man

Public Speaker in Kent, Gordon Corrigan presents his talk (virtual delivery if required) 'Wellington, the Man.'

A duke, a field marshal in seven nations’ armies, prime minister twice, chancellor of Oxford University, Lord Lieutenant of Hampshire, Warden of the Cinque Ports, Arthur Wellesley was born a younger son of an impoverished Anglo Irish Family in 1769.  Joining the army because there was nothing else for him to do, he purchased his way up to the rank of lieutenant colonel and command of an infantry battalion without ever seeing the outside of a soldier or the inside of a barrack room.  Turned down in a proposal of marriage, he went with his regiment to India where he made his name as a natural leader, a sound tactician and, unusually in a soldier, aware of the political parameters in which he had to operate. Arriving as a twenty-seven year old colonel deeply in debt, he left seven years later as a major general, knighted and with his debts paid.  During the war with Napoleon he was the only allied commander to consistently beat the French, and when Napoleon left Elba and regained the French throne the Tsar of Russia turned to the now Duke of Wellington and said ‘it is for you to save the world again’.

 

 

The Winter War – Russia and Finland 1939/40

Public Speaker in Kent Gordon Corrigan presents his talk (virtual presentation if required) The Winter War - Russia and Finland 1939-1940.

In 1939 the USSR demanded from Finland certain concessions including land along the Finnish border in exchange for land of less strategic importance elsewhere. The Soviets claimed that this was necessary for the defence of Leningrad (now St Petersburg) which was only 20 miles from the Finnish border.  The Finns refused and on 30 November 1939 the Red army invaded Finland.  While it should have been a walk over – the USSR had a far larger army, and far more aircraft and tanks – the Finns gave the invaders a very bloody nose indeed, until in March 1940 numbers eventually prevailed and the Finns were forced to sue for peace, losing much of their economically valuable territory.

 

Yalta 1945 – Prelude to the Cold War

Public Speaker in Kent -  Gordon Corrigan presents his talk (virtual presentation if required) Yalta 1945 - Prelude to the Cold War

The Yalta Conference, eight days in February 1945, shaped the world for the next fifty years and left a legacy that we live with still.  It was the last conference of the ‘big three’ – Stalin, Churchill and Roosevelt – before the end of the Second World War.  The Russians were fifty miles from Berlin, the British and Americans 375 miles.  The aim of the conference was to decide the final course of war and to agree post war arrangements. The British and Americans had failed to agree a common agenda, whereas Stalin knew exactly what he wanted – and got most of it.

Gordon Corrigan Contact Details:
Phone:

07703356073