Famous 'special orders of the day' question

Jun 2016
Question are there any of these 'before the battle' messages from a British (or other) commander that was famous for being:

Too long, too verbose, to obtuse or thought to have been odd, strange or misplaced?

Thanks in advance


Ad Honorem
Oct 2012
Not sure if it is exactly what you are looking for but during the battle of Antietam there was a Union colonel who had a mental breakdown and started calling out parade ground maneuvers to a brigade he was supposed to be moving forward.

Christian’s brigade, however, was being sucked into a situation that few of the brigade’s officers and men would ever fully understand. At least some of the officers knew they were supposed to be moving down the Smoketown Road in support of Hartsuff and Duryee’s attacks in the open field on the opposite side of the East Woods. Few, if any, of the men in ranks had any idea what they were supposed to be doing just then but within a few minutes, nearly all of them knew that something was horribly wrong. While the battle raged and as Hartsuff’s men passed to their right, Colonel Christian decided that now would be a good time to run the men through the manual of arms. As the men stood in ranks moving unnecessarily from “Right Shoulder, shift!” to “Support, arms!” and back, Confederate batteries on Nicodemus Heights and the Dunker Church ridge poured a continual stream of missiles into the woods, sending huge, sharp chunks of wood flying through the air and felling entire trees with one blow. Perhaps to avoid these missiles, Colonel Christian suddenly ordered the brigade to move. But soon enough, it was clear to the men that they were going nowhere fast. “First it would be “Forward, guide center,” then “By the right flank,” and then “Forward, guide center,” again,…and then we would oblique to the left, and so on, complained Private John Vautier of Christian’s 88th Pennsylvania. Something was horribly wrong, but what? [vii]

As the brigade returned to the swale in the woods from which they’d started their maneuvers, up dashed Colonel Coulter. He immediately found Colonel Christian and begged “For God’s sake, come and help us out, our ammunition is exhausted!” [viii]

With that, the officer turned and ran back toward the corn, showing Christian the way to go to provide that aid. But Colonel Christian stood glued to the spot as if he’d grown roots and become a part of the forest that now marginally protected him and his command.

Perhaps knowing that this plea meant he could no longer carry out the elaborate charade of the past half hour, William Christian snapped. He simply turned and led his horse away, muttering something that would later be recorded as “he’d always had a great fear of shelling.” Had he been Irish, the men’s prejudice would have told them he was drunk but they’d seen him now acting stranger than any drunken man and could find no explanation. The colonel would later explain that his sunstroke had again overtaken him at that moment and two days later, this once-gallant soldier would resign in disgrace. Few of the men would ever know that William Christian would spend much of the rest of his life in various sanatoriums and homes, battling what today would almost certainly be diagnosed as some form of mental illness. Or, perhaps it was simple cowardice… But what mattered right now, in the middle of this terrible fight, was that Colonel Christian abandoned his brigade and the men of Coulter’s command to their own fates.
Cowards in the Cornfield - The Sorry Story of Colonel William Christian


Ad Honorem
Nov 2011
The Dustbin, formerly, Garden of England
Still the best---Colonel Tim Collins, to 1st Battalion of the Royal Irish Regiment in Iraq in 2003.

We go to liberate, not to conquer.
We will not fly our flags in their country. We are entering Iraq to free a people and the only flag which will be flown in that ancient land is their own.
Show respect for them.
There are some who are alive at this moment who will not be alive shortly.
Those who do not wish to go on that journey, we will not send.
As for the others, I expect you to rock their world.
Wipe them out if that is what they choose.
But if you are ferocious in battle remember to be magnanimous in victory.
Iraq is steeped in history.
It is the site of the Garden of Eden, of the Great Flood and the birthplace of Abraham.
Tread lightly there.
You will see things that no man could pay to see
- and you will have to go a long way to find a more decent, generous and upright people than the Iraqis.
You will be embarrassed by their hospitality even though they have nothing.
Don't treat them as refugees for they are in their own country.
Their children will be poor, in years to come they will know that the light of liberation in their lives was brought by you.
If there are casualties of war then remember that when they woke up and got dressed in the morning they did not plan to die this day.
Allow them dignity in death.
Bury them properly and mark their graves.
It is my foremost intention to bring every single one of you out alive.
But there may be people among us who will not see the end of this campaign.
We will put them in their sleeping bags and send them back.
There will be no time for sorrow.
The enemy should be in no doubt that we are his nemesis and that we are bringing about his rightful destruction.
There are many regional commanders who have stains on their souls and they are stoking the fires of hell for Saddam.
He and his forces will be destroyed by this coalition for what they have done.
As they die they will know their deeds have brought them to this place. Show them no pity.
It is a big step to take another human life.
It is not to be done lightly.
I know of men who have taken life needlessly in other conflicts.
I can assure you they live with the mark of Cain upon them.
If someone surrenders to you then remember they have that right in international law and ensure that one day they go home to their family.
The ones who wish to fight, well, we aim to please.
If you harm the regiment or its history by over-enthusiasm in killing or in cowardice, know it is your family who will suffer.
You will be shunned unless your conduct is of the highest - for your deeds will follow you down through history.
We will bring shame on neither our uniform or our nation.
It is not a question of if, it's a question of when.
We know he has already devolved the decision to lower commanders, and that means he has already taken the decision himself.
If we survive the first strike we will survive the attack.
As for ourselves, let's bring everyone home and leave Iraq a better place for us having been there.
Our business now is North.

Sorry, I didn't read the OP properly--but re-reading Collins speech is too good to be missed.
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Ad Honorem
Mar 2010
"Lord Raglan wishes the cavalry to advance rapidly to the front, follow the enemy, and try to prevent the enemy carrying away the guns. Troop horse artillery may accompany. French cavalry is on your left. Immediate."

The order itself was sound, however Nolan's wipe sweep of his arm taking in the entire Russian front and the guns dug in at the far end of the valley was not.

paranoid marvin

Ad Honorem
Aug 2015
England expects that every man will do his duty. Hardly a battleplan, but the what more really needs to be said on the eve of battle? Especially from a commander who personally will be at the forefront of the action.
Jan 2017
Question are there any of these 'before the battle' messages from a British (or other) commander that was famous for being:

Too long, too verbose, to obtuse or thought to have been odd, strange or misplaced?

Thanks in advance
Churchill got a bit carried away.

Haig or Kitchener, can't remember whom, probably said more than he needed to in March/April 1918 with his "backs to the wall" speech.

Hitler and associates must have come up with a few seeing as they were all mental.
Oct 2014
Poole. UK
Sprcial Order No6. Issued the day befor the Battle Of Cambrai.

Tomorrow the Tank Corps will have the chance of which they have been waiting for many months – to operate on good going in the van of the Battle.

All that hard work and ingenuity can achieve has been done in the way of preparation.

It remains for Unit Commanders and tank crews to complete the work by judgement and pluck in the battle itself.

In the light of past experience, I leave the good name of the Corps with great confidence in your hands.

I propose leading the attack of the centre Division.

Major-General M. J. Elles. CB, DSO
Commanding the Tank Corps in France

Cambrai, 19th November 1917

Distribution: To Tank Commanders



Ad Honorem
Nov 2011
The Dustbin, formerly, Garden of England
yesterday was Trafalgar Day--so this is apt.

It was hard to give a speech in the days of sail--to one's own ship's crew, let alone the fleet, so flags had to do and it had to be kept short.

Everyone knows Nelson's last message:-

But less well known is the punchline:-


Singing "Hearts of Oak" is permissible.