Sunday, March 29, 2009




27 MARCH 2009 While tailor made and apparently or at least outwardly speaking neat and logical,President Obamas policy speech on Afghanistanis vulnerable to many serious criticsms.The first criticism of the whole idea of US presence and success in Afghanistan is as following:--1-The USA for many years was the mastermind in financing,directing and waging war through proxies in Afghanistan.A war waged against a de facto government of Afghanistan.A brutal and criminal war which left some 14,000 Red Army soldiers,many of whom were Muslims dead,and some 35,000 wounded and maimed for life.A war which destroyed most of the infra structure that had been built in Afghanistan since some 200 years.Now that the USA by a twist of fate is in a similar position in Afghanistan as was the USSR ,how on earth does it expect Russia to just sit and watch the USA succeed in the same role which the USSR had embarked upon some 30 years ago.In terms of International law USA's position is far worse as compared to the USSR position.The USA invaded Afghanistan to displace a de facto regime.The USSR entered Afghanistan to save a leftist regime under threat of extinction by US paid mercenaries operating from Pakistan.2-Another very serious contradiction is the fact that the moral authority of the Pakistani state has been severely eroded since 9/11.The basioc resaon for is the fact that 30 years ago the Pakistani military junta was selling the idea that USSR is a non Muslim power which had occupied Afghanistan,so it must be repelled by fighting a holy war or Jihad. Ironically since October 2001 the Pakistani state became a shameless collaborator of a Christian power that occupied Afghanistan in November 2001 ! The motive being the same as in waging the Jihad of 1979 ! US Dollars !At least the balancing factor in favour of the Soviets was that they were not Christians !I am not a religious man at all but my criticism is philosophical rather than religious.Having said that it remains a hard fact that the above two contradictions are irreconcilable.When Obama says that 700 US soldiers were killed in Afghanistan he proves two facts.One that the US soldier is hardly fighting a war because 700 soldiers killed in 8 years means a 100 soldiers per year,which proves that the enemy that the USA is facing in Afghanistan is hardly that dangerous an enemy as claimed by USA.The second and more serious criticism of Obamas lamenting 700 over fed and over protected US lives is that 14,000 Red Army soldiers killed in Afghanistan were sub humans !It is hard to believe that non state forces alleged to have killed 3000 on 9/11 have killed a peanut 700 US soldiers.In any case it amply proves that the threat is almost non existent.Another grave issue , perhaps morally not as relevant is the dangerous precedent that US success in Afghanistan or Iraq would establish.Without sufficient proof that Afghanistan or the Taliban had anything to do with some aircrafts ramming the Twin Trade Centres,the US invasion of Afghanistan introduced an element of rash albeit,whitewashed civility in international relations.I say whitewashed because the UN then was headed by one of the most opportunbistic secretary generals in its history.Unfortunately one whose mediocrity has been eclipsed by another pathetic successor in the person of Ban ki Moon.Any US success in Afghanistan or Iraq would vindicate the fact that might is right in a world which follows laws of jungles in which Tarzans like Adolf Bush occupy any Poland they like at whim !Nevertheless whatever international law was followed while attacking Afghanistan , all was violated when the USA without any International sanction occupied Iraq.The central moral question now is that if the USA succeeds in Iraq and Afghanistan a new and dangerous precedent would be firmly established in intenational law.Hitory will go back to the time of Attilla the Hun and Genghis Khan.Although it would be below the military dignity of Mongols to compare them with the US Army, a far more bulky and clumsy outfit.The dangerous precedent that Adolf Bush's actions would set is that the stronger countries can occupy the weaker at whim and will.After all why were the First and Second World Wars fought ? For the sanctity of neutrality and Sovereignty of Belgium and Poland !This third contradiction appears more cosmetic but is the most dangerous aspect of the whole issue.It is a tragedy of US history that mediocrity in decision making has remained the hall marks of US policy since 1945. Obamas Afghan strategy with a peanut 1.5 Billion US Dollars per annum to the Pakistani government printed at leisure and at no cost to USA,would severely divide Pakistan.1.5 Billion US dollars straight into the gutter.Because these would not achieve any of USA's policy objectives.Since these are linked to fighting Taliban Pakistan would be severely weakened with the Pakistani forces crushed under the burden of carrying the US albatross of 1.5 Billion US Dollars , as shameless mercenaries of a Christian power !Russia and China perceive any US success in Afghanistan as a prelude to a US sponsored Phase Two Guerrilla war in Singkiang and later US encroachments into Central Asia as Phase Three.It is hard to imagine why these two crucial regional players would allow the USA to succeed in Afghanistan ? Russia is a key player in Afghanistan thanks to the brilliant intelligence appreciations done by Dr Najeeb and General Yaqubi in 1980-1992.Any US success in Afghanistan would be a grave strategic failure for Russia.After all what has the USA done for Russia except creating trouble for Russia by enlarging NATO,deploying missile shields in Poland and subverting Ukraine and Georgia.Thus there is logic in Russia deciding to re-establish bases in Syria,Libya and Yemen and in deploying strategic bombers in Venezuela and Cuba !US policy makers forget the most important Clausewitzian concept of the indeoendent will of the enemy.How on earth do they expect this independent will not to sabotage the USA in Afghanistan ! Was the USA sending candies and doughnuts for the Red Army in Afghanistan from 1979 to 1989 !Afghanistan and Pakistani states are past masters in syphoning foreign aid in private accounts.Once again USA intends playing the same corruption game ! I am inclined to become a fan of Dr Eric Bernes book " Games People Play".The South Vietnamese Army was far better than the Afghan National Army.Yet it failed to defeat the NVA.So the outcome of war in Afghanistan in case of any US withdrawal remains a foregone conclusion.India Russia China and Iran apart from lip service have been laegely ignored in the proposed strategy which means that US strategy lacks strategic vision.The right thing from the USA should have been to incorporate these three players.The very concept that Al Qaeda needs some tribal areas to train is fallacious and incorret.The boundaries of Al Qaeda are much wider,although at the same time the Al Qaeda has proved incapable of inflicting any substantial damage to USA in the last 8 years.So the whole theory that the Al Qaeda is a threat to USA's national security is a non seller.At the same time insisting that Al Qaeda is in the tribal areas is absurd.Obama stated that the tribal areas are a vast expense whereas these are small strip of territory approximately 300 miles north to south and average 100 miles east to west.The US Army has a far greater tail to teeth ratio than Red Army in Afghanistan.Seen in this context 17,000 US troops would be peanuts.I have yet to see any construction solicitation in US Army Corps of Engineers website proving that 17,000 troops would be actually coming to Afghanistan ! Its possible that this increase is more of rhetorical jugglery than anything actual .And in any case what would these 17,000 musketeers achieveWould the US forces be able to seal Afghanistans 5000 Km plus borders and specially the 2400 Km border with Pakistan !The most central part of the whole discussion is that the Afghan issue cannot be solved by USA and Pakistan alone.Specially the military and political effetiveness of the Pakistani government in achieving even a fraction of what the USA wants is highly questionable.The Pakistani military establishment has an institutional stake in ensuring that Pakistan remains vulnerable so that the military calls the shots.They see the Talibans as useful allies and cheap cannonfodder in any war with India..The Saudis see the Taliban as useful allies against Shias.In the final summing up the bottom line is that the Pakistani politicians and generals will juggle with 1.5 Billion US Dollars per annum and deliver little or nothing at all.Even the US assertion that drone attacks have achieved great success is largely rhetorical and political .Whereas the USA is facing Taliban , how does the theory that Al Qaeda from tribal areas is controlling the war on terror is questionable and fallacious !The simple truth is that war in Afghanistan is about the presence of US and other Christian troops and not about Al Qaeda.Hardly 5 % of USA's opponents in Afghanistan are Al Qaeda.What to conclude ? All one can say is that Obamas speech was a speech designed to win 2012 elections for Obama rather than the war on terror.Obama made a speech because it was a political requirement and not because any strategy was planned or evolved.Hillary Clinton is more suited as a civil attorney or on the bolard of Walmart than as a secretary of state !The USA cannot win in Afghanistan because the equation involves many strong players.All it can do is mark time and ultimately withdraw without achieving much.After hearing the Obama speech one can safely conclude that the USA has no anti Al Qaeda strategy in Afghanistan.Its a case of either supreme strategic incompetence or the first phase of a secret war against Russia and China !








Monday, March 23, 2009






Friday, March 20, 2009


Costing only US$ 485 million…the royal yacht has recently been delivered to H.H. Sheikh Khalifa bin Zayed al Nahyyan, the ruler of Abu Dhabi emirate and the president of UAE. This ocean worthy yacht contains 12 bedrooms, several Jacuzzis, three swimming pools, a helipad with helicopter, a life boat to carry 12 persons a cinema hall, and a discothèque.

Tuesday, March 17, 2009


When the 62 Punjabis Saved the Suez Canal

(Note-62nd Punjab is now known as Ist Punjab Battalion of Pakistan Army

Major Agha H Amin (Retired)


The British Indian Army played a central and decisive role in the defence of Suez Canal when attacked by the Ottoman Army in February 1915. When the 62nd Punjabis along with Allied Warships saved the Suez Canal


How many people in today’s Pakistan know that there is one battalion in the Pakistan as well as Indian Army which played a major role in saving the strategic jugular vein of the British Empire i.e “The Suez Canal”. The reasons for this ignorance can be squarely ascribed to lack of interest in military history in Pakistan and to the fact that the British as an habit always downplayed battles in which non-White troops had performed well albeit under White Officers!

It was through the memorable poetry of Ex Brigadier Siddique Satti MC of the Pindi Conspiracy fame that I discovered what the Indian Army had gone through in the First World War.

“My brother was blown to bits in Flanders, my cousins died of Maggots in their wounds at Kutalmara” so ran Siddique’s verses.

Siddique had spent some years of his life incarcerated in the notorious Mach Jail and it was a treat to spend an evening with him!

His anecdotes, recollections and yarns were a finer substitute for a chemical substance of another kind! It was through Siddique that I discovered that the Indians had done something at the Suez Canal in the First World War! Initially I thought that this was one of those yarns that is the result of senility that finally overcomes all men at a certain stage in life!

Later research, however, proved that Siddique had a point! The 62nd Punjabis a battalion of Punjabi, Jat, Sikhs and Muslims had done something in Egypt! They had saved the Suez Canal from being captured by the Turks in February 1915 !



The Ottoman Army was lucky to have many Germans who were as patriotic as many Turks. These Germans fought for Ottoman Turkey in many theatres in Europe, Asia and Africa. It was an interesting contest! Christian Europeans fighting for the Ottoman Muslim when Indians including a very large number of Muslims fought against the Ottoman Empire as part of the British Indian Army!

The bulk of the Turkish forces were concentrated in Caucasus against the Russians or in Mesopotamia against the British-Indian Army. Turkey had very few troops to spare for the Suez Canal but they possessed one German who had the vision and the courage to plan an operation aimed at threatening the British Empires jugular vein with just 25,000 men! This was Colonel Baron Friedrich Von Kessentein, a blueblooded German from Bavaria.
The reader may note that as early as 1881 out of total of 2,727 vessels which crossed the Suez Canal some 2,250 were British. Thus the British presence in Egypt which at least theoretically was a part of the Ottoman Empire as late as 1911!

Allied Dispositions
The Suez Canal at this time was defended by a relatively stronger British-Indian Land-Naval force comprising eight Allied Warships (Floating Batteries). Major General Wilson was commanding the British Force with the designation “GOC Canal Defences”. He had about 70,000 troops which included a large number of Indians.

These included the 10th and 11th Indian Divisions, Imperial Service Cavalry Brigade, Bikaner Camel Corps. The Indians, some 25,000 or more were assigned the task of defending the Suez Canal while the 42nd East Lancashire Division, British Yeomans, some Australian and New Zealanders were held in depth as reserve/counterattack force.

The artillery supporting this force consisted of three batteries of Indian Mountain Artillery (now illustrious self propelled artillery units of the Pakistan Army), one battery of Egyptian Artillery and some other units.
To beef up this lack of artillery eight British and French Warships were positioned in the Suez Canal. These included “HMS Ocean” (armament-Four 12 Inch, Twelve 6 Inch, and 12 Twelve Pounder Guns), “HMS Swiftsure” a former Chilean Navy ship (armament-Four 10 Inch, Fourteen 7.5 Inch, Fourteen 14 Pounders), “HMS Minerva” (Second Class Cruiser), “HMS Clio” (Sloop),” HMS Himalaya (armed merchantman), “Royal Indian Marine Troopship Hardinge”, French Cruiser “D’ Entrecasteaux”, French Coast Guard Ship “ Requin” etc.

The British also had about thirteen aeroplanes for recce and surveillance. These included “Maurice Farmans” and some French Seaplanes. The operating range of these aircraft was short, hence their inability to perform medium or long range recce.

The Suez Canal was 107 Miles long and had a width varying between 65 to 100 Yards in 1915. It was about 34 feet deep. The British had excellent logistics with all the resources of Egypt while the Turkish logistics were non-existent with the waterless Sinai Desert at their back!

Turkish Plan of Attack

Ban Von Kessentein was the German military advisor with the “Turkish Expeditionary Force” tasked to capture the Suez Canal with its base at Beersheeba in Palestine. The total strength of this force was 25,000 men.

It was supported by nine batteries of field artillery, one 150 mm (5.9 Inch) Howitzer battery and a sizeable quantity of mines to attack British ships stationed in the Suez Canal.

The main Turk problem was not the Britisher or Indian defending the Suez Canal but “Water” ! Providence was on their side in the sense that winters of 1914 saw very heavy rain in Sinai and there were some waterholes and wells which could support the otherwise arduous march across the 140 Miles Sinai Desert.
The German advisers had estimated that 5,000 camels would be required to carry water to support the attack force. 5,000 more camels were required to carry other stores including ammunition, ration etc!

The Turkish Arab Colonial 23rd Homs and 25th Damascus Divisions were to lead the attack while the decisive breakthrough after establishment of bridgehead on the West Bank was to be made by the crack Turk 10th Infantry Division!

Surprise was the key element in Baron Von Kessentein’s plan ! The traditional attack route in the Sinai was along the Mediterranean Coast.

Baron Von Kessentein, however, decided to go through the central route Beersheba-Jifjaffa-Tussum-Ismailia. Ismailia was the strategic target since its loss could demobilize all shipping in the Suez Canal.

It controlled the Canals’ sluice gates and the sweet water canal that supplied water to the troops along the canal. Kressenstein planned two diversionary attacks to deceive the British at Kanatra in the north and Kubr-Suez in the south.

The Battle for Suez -1915

The Turks crossed the Sinai through the waterless central route in ten days without losing a single man or animal! The Northern and Central Diversionary Forces comprised Bedouin Irregulars and some Turkish units.

The Central Main Attack Force consisted of some 20,000 troops.

Baron Von Kessentein was in the leading column!

The British were already clear in late 1914 that the Turkish would attack Suez Canal. Thus their aerial recce confirmed that the main Turkish attack was coming in the centre.

Thus they reinforced the Central Sector where the 62nd Punjabis, later more famous as the First Punjabis was stationed in Tussum Area. The Sector was reinforced with the 2nd Rajputs.

Naik Safdar Ali of 62nd Punjabis played a crucial role in repelling the main Turkish attack and was killed in action.He was awarded a posthomus Indian Order of Merit .

The advance Turkish elements reached the Suez Canal opposite Tussum on the night of 3rd February 1915.

This was one of the strongest sectors of the British defences and included some ten infantry companies including the 62nd Punjabis.

Three posts containing six companies in all were deployed on the East bank of the Suez Canal. The West Bank was held by six more companies.

The Turkish attack commenced at 0400 Hours with Turkish infantry dragging rafts and pontoons into the canal. The Turkish rafts and pontoons were obsolete, extremely heavy and difficult to handle!

Nevertheless, the Turks were Turks and they carried them! They were engaged by the 62nd Punjabis, one of whose subalterns was a Britisher named Claude Auchinleck and the 128th Pioneers.

Turkish pontoon

The Turks were engaged by extremely heavy fire of machine guns and the Naval Ship Hardinge, but they pressed home the attack, some crossing the canal and reaching the west bank.

These indomitable men were bayonet charged by the 62nd Punjabis. Most of the Arabs (and some Turks) from 23rd Homs and 25th Damascus Division were killed while some were taken prisoner.

The Turks had their own revenge! Their artillery engaged the Hardinge and forced it to withdraw. Subsequently Requin and D’ Entrecasteaux” came into action and destroyed the Turkish artillery.

The ships were too much for the Turks and they withdrew the next day! naval Guns in the final reckoning made the Turks abandon their attack! The main Turkish attack division i.e the purely Turk 10th Division which was supposed to launch the main attack was never launched! The British were too psychologically shattered to pursue and allowed the Turks an uninterrupted withdrawal!

The Turks lost some 192 Killed, 371 Wounded and 727 Missing. The British Indian losses were 32 Killed and 132 Wounded. One of the Turkish killed included a German Staff Officer! The Germans had preserved the tradition of leading from the front!


In the strategic sense the Turks were the winners. Their tremendous feat of crossing the Sinai shattered the earlier British belief that the Sinai was impassable for a large force beyond 5,000 troops.

The British were forced to give greater importance to the Suez Canal and forced to increase their garrison in Egypt to some 400,000 men!

This was a very heavy drain on the resources of the British Empire. The Turks had crossed the Suez Canal without any six year effort like the Egyptians in 1973!

They had done so in face of the naval guns without any MIG aircraft supporting them!

The 62nd Punjabis also fought well! They did their duty despite the fact that they were mercenaries and had no reason to hate the Turks!

Baron Friedrich Von Kressentein later rose to the rank of a general and commanded the Turkish 8th Army in the Caucasus against the Russians in 1917 with great distinction!

Great credit goes to the British infantry battalion officers leading the 62nd Punjabis and other Indian units. They had prepared their defences meticulously and played a major role in defeating the Turk infantry assault.

The infantry on both sides equally well, but the Turkish position was far more arduous than the British in the logistic sense and the final credit goes to the warships who destroyed the Turkish artillery!

The infantryman however always magnifies his role while reducing the more decisive role of artillery ! This is a human failing in all armies !

Francois's Disobedience at Tannenberg-Such Intellectual Honesty Does not Exist in Pakistan or Indian Armies

12 July, 2008

Von Francois and Max Hoffman at Tannenberg

7 March, 2009

Francois's Disobedience at Tannenberg-Such Intellectual Honesty Does not Exist in Pakistan or Indian Armies

Francois’s Monumental Disobedience at Tannenberg


Von Francois was one of the outstandingly genuine higher commanders of World War I.
His “Magnum Bonum” achievement being his role in the famous “Battle of Tannenberg”.

Francois played a decisive role in “complete destruction” of the Russian Army at Tannenberg by disobeying General Ludendorf’s orders of attacking in a north easterly direction. 

Francois assessed that if he attacked northeastwards as he was ordered most of the Russian Army would escape. 

Thus Francois disobeyed Ludendorf’s orders and attacked south eastwards thus ensuring that the vast bulk of the Russian Army was encircled. 
Francois’s action resulted in a complete German victory but also ensured that Francois was not promoted to the rank that he deserved because Francois’s mission oriented disobedience of orders annoyed Ludendorf who made it a point that Francois was sidelined !

The Battle of TannenbergThe Battle of Tannenberg was a classic battle in the history of warfare! Its significance did not lay in the fact that the Russians were decisively defeated but in the fact that Germany was saved from instant defeat in 1914. 

Initially two Russian Armies invaded East Prussia which was defended by just one, much smaller German Army. The German Army Commander Prittwitz lost his nerve and wanted to withdraw east of Vistula River. 

This was refused by German General Staff and Hindenburg was sent as a replacement army 
 In the meantime the brilliant staff officer Max Hoffman had formulated a brilliant plan (rehearsed in pre-war games but forgotten once Prittwitz was exposed to the friction of actual operations!) to leave a cavalry screen opposite the Eastern Russian Army (Rennenkampf) and concentrate the bulk of the German troops to destroy the Southern 2nd Russian Army (Samsonov) in general area Tannenberg.
General Max Hoffman the man who did the real planning before both Ludendorff or Hindenburg had even taken charge of the German Forces
Von Francois receives a captured Russian Imperial Army general
It was a brilliant but highly risky plan but Hoffman took the calculated risk based on intercepted Russian telegraphic messages which indicated that Rennenkampf (who had earlier resorted to fisticuffs with Samsonov at Mukden railway station in Russo-Japanese War of 1904-5) was in no hurry to advance.
General Von Rennenkampf

Ludendorf arrived in the operational area as Chief of Staff with Hindenburg the new army commander. 
General Von Hindenburg
Hindenburg was a retired general and had been recalled for active military service. The duo were briefed by Hoffman the acting Chief of Staff and Hoffman’s plan was approved. 
Von Francois was commanding the corps which was to function as the right most corps in the attack on the Russian Army of Samsonov at Tannenberg. Francois was a highly independent minded commander. 

Francois assessed that if he attacked as he was ordered to by Ludendorf now firmly in seat as the chief of staff the bulk of Samsonov’s army would succeed in withdrawing southwards. Initially Francois’s 1st Corps had been ordered as per the plan evolved by Hoffman to attack south eastwards towards Neidenburg.1
Ludendorf was a man who lost his nerves at the last moment and vacillated and procrastinated. 
General Luddendorf
Once the Tannenberg battle started the German centre 20th Corps ran into difficulties. Ludendorf ordered Francois to “close northwards to Lahna”2. 

Francois disobeyed this modification in orders and continued advancing towards Neidenburg leaving a part of his corps to watch Lahna. Francois had a close understanding with Hoffman, kept Hoffman posted about his plans and on his own decided to divide his corps into two parts “left half where it was, and strung out the other in a screen of small posts and patrols”.3 

This was in direct disobedience to what Francois was ordered to do but Francois was a “Von” and the Prussian Army had the tradition of Seydlitz disobeying Frederick his king to win a battle! 

The result — Francois’s corps captured 60,000 out of the total 92,000 Russians which were captured at Tannenberg! 4

Analysis of Francois’s Disobedience of 

Orders at Tannenberg

Francois’s disobedience at Tannenberg led to a decisive victory while obeying orders would have merely resulted in pushing the Russians backwards!

While Francois’s disobedience did endanger the German 20th Corps, Francois was convinced that he must attack towards Neidenburg, which he did!
There was a reason in Francois’s outward madness! 

Had there been a general of any of the British or the Indo-Pak armies in Francois’s place no victory would have been achieved! The Germans of that time were an altogether different breed! 

They thought in terms of “Envelopment” “finding the true flank of the enemy” not about “what would happen in the next promotion board”! Francois was “competent” but he was also a “NOTORIOUSLY UNRULY SUBORDINATE”.5

Ludendorf knew this fact well and was all set to ensure that Francois obeyed his orders. Thus he made it a point to visit Francois to over insure that his orders were being obeyed. Francois proved sharper! He adopted a policy of “passive resistance”6.

He outwardly obeyed Ludendorf but in reality went his own way i.e Neidenburg! Francois writes in his memoirs 

“On the 25th of August Hindenburg and Ludendorf called upon me at battle headquarters. I was instructed to make a frontal attack upon the hills of Usdau on the morning of 26th. I objected that by that time the bulk of my artillery and ammunition columns would still be on the way, and that consequently my corps would not be ready for action.To this Ludendorf replied ‘In that case you must attack with the infantry alone’.

There followed a somewhat acrimonius discussion which Ludendorf concluded by saying ‘The Corps must attack’. At the same time he referred the matter to Hindenburg saying ‘the final decision, however, rests with the C-in-C. The latter made no remark and both left my battle headquarters. At 8.30 p.m, I received orders in writing, signed by Hindenburg, instructing me to attack the lines of Usdau, on the 26th not later than 10 a.m. Once more I voiced my objection, but once more was overruled.

To attack Usdau without artillery and ammunition would have been a tactical blunder which might have led to the annihilation of my corps, for the Russians were holding the position with three divisions”7. 

Francois then narrates the fateful incident about the Lahna affair i.e 

“a new order arrived instructing me to take the pursuit of the Russians in the direction of Lahna.Lahna is six miles north of Neidenburg and would have led me into wooded and hilly country where artillery would have been useless and the troops would have advanced very slowly.

The gravest objection, however, was that such a movement would have afforded the Russians a golden opportunity of escaping towards the south. Consequently I did not change the orders I had already given and gave instructions to have this non-compliance with orders reported with my 
reasons to army headquarters”.8

Thus Francois pretended that he was attacking on 26th towards Lahna but in reality he delayed everything that anything to do with moving towards Lahna!

This does not mean that Francois was selfish but simply that he was mission oriented! 

Francois took the precaution of asking the German 20th Corps on the night of 25th “whether they were really so hard pressed that he must make an attack without artillery support (having deliberately delayed his artillery deployment!) and before he was ready, in order to save them!” 9 

The 20th Corps “replied reassuringly that they were alright and that there was no need for him to compromise his preparations.”10 Ludendorf only realized on the evening of 26th that he had been fooled by Francois!11 

Thus while Tannenberg was a great German victory, it also sealed Francois’s future advancement! 

But Francois was a blue blooded Prussian Junker for whom self- advancement in rank was not as important as for a man with a middle class or more humble origin!

Here comes the difference in the British and German tradition! The British generals waited for orders while the Germans were mission oriented! 

The Indians who the British commanded were worse since they were mercenaries!Ludendorf took Francois disobedience to heart and started actively gunning for Francois. 

Francois was naturally cheesed off and unfortunately for German Army only partially disobeyed Ludendorf’s orders at the Battle of Masurian Lakes as a result of which the German victory was not as complete as it could have been!12

The Aftermath of Tannenberg

Ludendorf was a highly self-centred man and claimed the entire credit for Tannenberg. Hindenburg his army chief during Tannenberg was a large hearted man and did not take any credit.

It was only after the war once Hoffman’s two volume memoirs were published that the world came to know about Francois’s role at Tannenberg. 
General Max Hoffman extreme left who revealed the truth about Tannenberg in his book below

Ludendorf and Hindenburg had not aimed at making the Tannenberg battle an encirclement battle! 

They were happy that the Russians were checked thus they sent a signal to the German Supreme Headquarters on the night of 28th

 “The battle is won; pursuit will continue.The surrender of the two Russian Corps may well not be achieved”.13 

In reality Francois’s disobedience which cost him his advancement, his service achieved surrender of both the Russian Corps. 

Samsonov being a man of honour despite not being from a subcontinental martial race chose to commit suicide with his military revolver in a remote part of the East Prussian forests rather than 
General Samsonov

Churchill’s verdict is not wrong when he states 

“The credit of the victory belongs in large measure to General Hoffman, but its glory must be associated with General Von Francois, who though commanding only a single corps acted with that rare alternation of prudence and audacity which is the characteristic of true soldierly genius”.14 

Francois’s true contribution was realized some two decades after the battle when Hindenburg, by then elected President of Germany, to make Francois sit in the centre while sitting on his right in the group photograph of the decennial celebrations of the Battle of Tannenberg.15

Carl Tschupik after the war defended Ludendorf and criticized Francois asserting that Francois did nothing extraordinary! 

Tscuppik went on to compare Francois with General Steinmetz who had been sacked by Moltke the Elder for disobedience in the Franco German War of 1870-71.

The exact occasion being the Battle of Saint Privat which the French may have won because of Steinmetz’s blunder!16 Thus the sacking of Steinmetz! 

The comparison was fallacious since the Commander German 1st Army’s Steinmetz’s disobedience had led to a serious operational failure while that of Francois had led to a great victory! 

Tschupik’s line of thought was not supported by biographer of Hindenburg Emil Ludwig who also thought that Ludendorf did lose his nerve at the critical moment in the Battle of Tannenberg and changed the original orders of advancing towards 


Its an irony of history that Tannenberg was the foundation of Ludendorf’s fame and future rise in the German military hierarchy as the principal staff officer who made all critical decisions of WW One! On the other hand the real hero was sidelined!

Many years earlier, while serving in the Tactical Wing of the School of Armour Nowshera, I had a discussion with then Colonel Naeem (now Major General) on this topic. 

Naeem observed that in the Indo- Pak scenario mission oriented orders would lead more to retrogade and negative results than positive and offensive movements as had happened in Francois’s case!

May be Naeem had a point! The army was not just a career like WAPDA for the Germans of Francois’s generation! Those men were the product of a historical process in which the Fatherland was more important than personal self-advancement.
Fear of forfeiture of rank had little meaning for men of that breed!
Born in Luxembourg to a noble family of Huguenot extraction, François was exposed to a military life from an early age. His father Bruno von François was a Prussian general and commander of the 27. (Preußische) Infanterie-Brigade. He was killed in action leading his men during the Battle of Spicheren on 6 August 1870, only a few days before the Battle of Sedan.
François, who had enrolled as an officer cadet, was by 1875 based in Potsdam as Leutnant of the 1.Garde-Regiment zu Fuß. From 1884 - 87, he attended the Military Academy at Berlin, and by 1889 had been promoted to Hauptmann (Captain) and had joined the General Staff.
By the early 1890s, François was posted to the XV.Armeekorps as a general staff officer based inStrasbourg. After a brief stint as company commander in 151. Infanterie-Regiment of the 31.Division, François devoted all his energies to the General Staff. In 1894 he was promoted to major and transferred to the 8. Division in Mannheim. By 1899, François was the Chief of Staff for the IV Corps, commanded by General der Infanterie Paul von Hindenburg and based in Magdeburg.
In 1901, François's mother, Marie took the family to German South-West Africa to follow her youngest son, Hugo von François who was a Hauptmann (Captain) in the Colonial Army. The family was based in the region during the Herero Wars, in which Hugo fought. François' other brother, Curt von François, was a well known scientist and researcher specialising in Africa.
In 1908, François was promoted to Generalmajor and placed in command of the Hessischen-Brigade inDarmstadt. François was promoted to Generalleutnant in 1911 and given command of the 13. Division for a brief period before his promotion to General der Infanterie and posting to command of I Corps under the8th Army based in Königsberg.
World War I
François began the war stationed in the province of East Prussia, where he was commander of the I Corps of the German Eighth Army. His task was to defend the easternmost regions of East Prussia against aRussian attack directed at the key city of Königsberg. The Eighth Army would be expected to hold out against significantly larger Russian forces until it could be reinforced by troops coming from the west after the expected quick defeat of France, in accordance with the Schlieffen Plan, which would guide German forces in the opening phase of a war in which Germany faced both France and Russia.
When war broke out in August 1914, François' corps faced the right wing of a two-pronged Russian invasion of East Prussia, led by Paul von Rennenkampf's Russian First Army. On August 17, the overall German theatre commander, General Maximilian von Prittwitz, nervously eyeing the advance of the Russian left wing far to the south, ordered Von François to retreat while under heavy attack from Rennenkampf.
François, reluctant to surrender any of his beloved Prussia, and naturally pugnacious, also felt breaking off while engaged would be deadly, and so he ignored Prittwitz' order, responding with the famous reply "General von François will withdraw when he has defeated the Russians!" He counterattacked Rennenkampf's massive army, bringing on the Battle of Stalluponen, and won a surprising victory while inflicting 5,000 casualties and taking 3,000 prisoners.
After winning the battle, François obeyed Prittwitz's order and withdrew 15 miles (24 km) to the west, where three days later he fought Rennenkampf to a draw at the Battle of Gumbinnen. Von François' aggressiveness resulted in the cautious Rennenkampf halting his advance westward.
Following that battle and a change of overall commanders (Prittwitz was judged to have lost his nerve by the German High Command), François' corps was transferred by rail to the southwest, to confront the Russian Second Army advancing into southern East Prussia under the command of General Alexander Samsonov. Although not trusted by the new German commanders Paul von Hindenburg and Erich Ludendorffdue to his previous disobedience, François played the decisive role in the upcoming Battle of Tannenberg (1914). On August 27, François attacked the lead elements of Samsonov's army and began to make steady advances into their rear. Ludendorff, fearing a Russian counterattack by Rennenkampf, now ordered him to break off the advance. However, François twice ignored his direct orders and played a decisive role in the following encirclement and defeat of Samsonov's army.
When Hindenburg and Ludendorff went south to lead the 9th Army in Russian Poland, François remained with his corps in East Prussia and led it with much success in the First Battle of the Masurian Lakes the following month. When General von Schubert, the new commander of the 8th Army, ordered him to retreat, he dispatched a telegram to the OHL describing his success and stating "the Commander is badly counselled." The telegram impressed the Kaiser so much that he immediately relieved Schubert and, on 3 October, gave von François the command of the 8th Army. Not long did he hold it. When Hindenburg and Ludendorff prepared their counter-attack from Thorn in the direction of Łódź, François was reluctant to send the requested I Corps, sending badly trained and ill-equipped XXV Reserve Corps instead. That was too much for his superiors. In early November 1914 von François was removed and replaced by General Otto von Below.
After some time spent "on the shelf", François received the command of the XLI Reserve Corps on 24 December 1914, and after a spell in the West, he returned to the Eastern Front in April 1915 where he took part in the Spring Offensive that conquered Russian Poland. He continued to distinguish himself. He won the Pour le Mérite, Germany's highest military decoration, on 14 May 1915 for his performance in the breakthrough at Gorlice, and had the Oak Leaves attached to it in July 1917, for outstanding performance during the Battle of Verdun. In July 1915 he was transferred back to the Western Front to take command of the Westphalian VII Corps in France, and in July 1916 Meuse Group West in the Verdun sector. However he never received any further promotion or serious commands under Ludendorff, and gave up his command in July 1918 and was placed on the standby list until October 1918 when he retired.[1]
After the war ended, François returned home and wrote several books on military history, including the best-seller (in Germany) Marneschlacht und Tannenberg in 1920.