Most significant British-Commonwealth defeat

The most significant one was...

  • Battle of Almansa, 1707

    Votes: 0 0.0%
  • Siege of Cartagena, 1741

    Votes: 2 5.7%
  • Siege of Fort William Henry, 1757

    Votes: 0 0.0%
  • Siege of Yorktown, 1781

    Votes: 11 31.4%
  • British invasion of the River Plate, 1806 and 1807

    Votes: 1 2.9%
  • Retreat from Kabul, 1842

    Votes: 1 2.9%
  • Siege of Cawnpore, 1857

    Votes: 0 0.0%
  • Battle of Isandlwana, 1879

    Votes: 2 5.7%
  • Siege of Khartoum, 1884-1885

    Votes: 1 2.9%
  • Gallipoli campaign, 1915

    Votes: 0 0.0%
  • Battle of Singapore, 1942

    Votes: 13 37.1%
  • Battle of Arnhem, 1944

    Votes: 1 2.9%
  • Other

    Votes: 3 8.6%

  • Total voters
    35
#21
Walcheren was a badly managed waste of life. But it holds little significance in British cultural history or in the narritive of the Napoleonic wars..
In modern times most of the battles listed including Cartagena and Islandlwlana are forgotten as well, I think that in about 100 years or so the Somme and Singapore might fade too, these battles are fairly recent and are still fresh in the public mind.

Walcheren had an impact at the time it was fought, tactically it was relatively minor and strategically rather insignificant but at the time it did have an impact psychologically and is a big event in the naval history of the Napoleonic Wars.It might be forgotten now but in 1809 and some time after it was present in the public mind.
 
Likes: martin76

Edratman

Ad Honorem
Feb 2009
6,177
Eastern PA
#24
The Munich Agreement, 1938.

The failed attempt to appease Nazi Germany was a huge stepping stone towards WWII, which led to the end of the British Empire. While it would be nothing but unfounded speculation to predict events if France and Britain chose not to grant Hitler someone else's nation, it is also easy to select that particular moment as the beginning of the end for the British Empire.
 
Apr 2014
337
Istanbul Turkey
#25
Yorktown back then did not seem like a big defeat (loss of thirteen colonies which became a superpower in one and a half century felt later when US economy began to outproduce British and began to expand in overseas markets) Back in 18th Century British strategic and economic priorty had been Caribbean where majority of sugar production came in as well as India where they just got a good foothold. They could afford to lose Thirteen Colonies but not Caribbean islands or Jamaica.

Siege of Toulon 1793 ? (though most of the defenders were Royalist French , Spanish and Naples troops , Royal Navy except holding little Gibraltar overlooking bay and harbour only provided naval support)

Siege of Kut ul Amare (1915 -1916) an entire Indian division commanded by British was wiped out and relief force also suffered heavy casaulties (they gave Ottoman Turks only battlefield sucess after Gallipoli and First and Second Battles of Gaza)

Fall of Crete (1941) and Dordenecesse Campaign in Aegean Sea (1943)

Singapore 1942 , it literally sounded death knell for the Empire , after that complately preventable military disaster for British/Commonwealth military suddenly every other Asian realised Crown's military and civic authority was not invincible against other Asians and they could take matters in their own hands. Thousands of Indians joined Indian National Army founded up by Chandra Bose under Japanese command and support as a result. (though they were utilised by Japanese extremely inefficiently and brushed aside)

Battle of Gazala and Fall of Tobruk 1942 , defeat of numerically superior (at least on paper not overwhelmingly so in combat personnel) 8th Army , shook British public confidence so much against invincible wargod Rommel and his Afrikakorps supermen promoted by both British propaganda and Churchill (to cover up incompatence of British generals and their very bad operational methods in desert and Churchill's own distracting interfarence in strategy) Churchill was summoned up from Washington to Commons to deal with a Vote of no confidence. As a result even after 80+ years every amateur history buff knows and hails Rommel the greatest general of WWII while British generals fought against him were brushed aside

Second and Third Battles of Cassino (1944)

Compared to these Arnhem 1944 was a small affair. Actually while British airborne screwed up bad in Arnhem and suffered on point of extinction before retreating across Neder Rjin towards south , 30th Corps fought extremely well , carved up and secured a 90 km long airborne corridor that cut Brabant into two , shielded Antwerp from a counter attack from north by northeast , captured Eindhoven airfields and Nijmegen airborne salient at Dutch-German border (which German commander in Chief West Field Marshal Gerd Von Rundstedt called a dagger to heart of Reich) that was utilised by Allies to attack and invade Rhineland in 1945. If you look at full half of glass , Market Garden had solid strategic gains for Allied just not ultimate strategic success (unlike Huertgen Forest or Battle of Metz in Lorreine later , none provided any strategic gains for Allies)
 
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Corvidius

Ad Honorem
Jul 2017
2,364
Crows nest
#26
Singapore as the final act of the entire Malaya debacle including the defeat of Force Z. In fact the entire disaster suffered at the hands of Japan all the way back to India.
 

Ichon

Ad Honorem
Mar 2013
3,481
#27
Singapore. A major psychological step in the eventual end of the British Empire.
I agree it was a major blow to the Empire but also to the colonial order. Smaller numbers of non-white peoples had not only defeated but forced to surrender one of the strongest European powers. It marked the abandonment of most of Asia by colonial powers (only the French in Vietnam did not get the memo and dragged in the U.S.) and I am not sure if Singapore hadn't occurred that Britain would have given up India the way it did.

In the Malay campaign which lasted only 70 days almost 12,000 Commonwealth dead (not including civilians) and 130,000 captured of whom a further 18,000 died in captivity. Then the repercussions of such a large number of trained Indian soldiers joining the Japanese sponsored resistance had lasting political repercussions.

Finally it demonstrated that Europe was unable to intervene to the degree necessary to really win a war in Asia and strengthened the Vietnamese and Communist Chinese insurgencies.
 
Oct 2016
933
Merryland
#28
I'd replace Yorktown by the sea battle at Chesapeake (although connected), a little known but significant British naval defeat that sealed their fate in North America.
I believe its called the 'Battle of the Capes'. French Navy under Admiral D'Estang drives away the British fleet that was supposed to evacuate the Yorktown force.

probably the most significant victory of the French Navy, even though it was more a defeat for Britain than helpful for La Belle France.

how about the Battle of the Frontiers (1941)? BEF driven to the sea. much is made of the Dunkirk adventure but they still lost troops and equipment; and of course they were forced out of the continent for years. mostly a French defeat obviously but John Bull was an active participant.

Islandawa and Singapore were significant defeats, even if they didn't really change history.
 
Nov 2009
3,865
Outer world
#29
There are two ways to consider the term "significant":
1) In terms of casualties and blood, then the Somme, Passchendaele, Gallipoli as well as most of the Western Front can be considered defeats in terms of casualties (before the brigade assaults me, I am saying that never in history so little was paid so much). In addition, I'd also add the retreat from La Coruna in 1809 when John Moore's army was badly mauled and Moore killed in combat.
2) In terms of strategic effects, then Yorktown most certainly has the greatest effects. I'd also mention WWII as a "defeat" in this sense as it relegated the British Empire to a subordinate position with Suez cementing the renewed hierarchy among nations.
 

martin76

Ad Honorem
Dec 2014
6,028
Spain
#30
Yorktown back then did not seem like a big defeat (loss of thirteen colonies which became a superpower in one and a half century felt later when US economy began to outproduce British and began to expand in overseas markets) Back in 18th Century British strategic and economic priorty had been Caribbean where majority of sugar production came in as well as India where they just got a good foothold. They could afford to lose Thirteen Colonies but not Caribbean islands or Jamaica.

Siege of Toulon 1793 ? (though most of the defenders were Royalist French , Spanish and Naples troops , Royal Navy except holding little Gibraltar overlooking bay and harbour only provided naval support)

Singapore 1942 , it literally sounded death knell for the Empire , after that complately preventable military disaster for British/Commonwealth military suddenly every other Asian realised Crown's military and civic authority was not invincible against other Asians and they could take matters in their own hands. Thousands of Indians joined Indian National Army founded up by Chandra Bose under Japanese command and support as a result. (though they were utilised by Japanese extremely inefficiently and brushed aside)


)
Not about Toulon. British were in the same proportion than Spanish, Sardinian, Napolitan and Royalist.

About casualties in Malaya-Singapore campaign: 2.000 KIA-WOD, 6.000 WIA-MIA. Not really a bloody battle... Higher casualties in Almansa, Cartagena, Buenos Aires, Fontenoy etc than in Singapore.. in the latter lot of POW.. but not blood. In three first days in Gallipoli, British lost 9.000 men (KIA-DOW-WIA).. higher casualties than in the whole of the Malayan campaign (almost not battles in that campaign).

In 18th Century the greater defeat was Cartagena de Indias
In 19th Century.. Buenos Aires
in 20th Century: Somme.