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News from a wargamer with a special interest in the military history of the Balkans. It mainly covers my current reading and wargaming projects. For more detail you can visit the web sites I edit - Balkan Military History and Glasgow & District Wargaming Society. I hope you find it helpful and entertaining.

Saturday, 21 June 2014

The British and Vis

Vis is an island in the Adriatic, part of modern day Croatia, that has a number of interesting connections with Britain. The first of these is covered in Malcolm Scott Hardy's book, 'The British and Vis: War in the Adriatic 1805-15'.

The British occupied and then fortified Vis (then known as Lissa) as a strategic base for their modest naval presence in the Adriatic. The aim was to interdict the French presence in Dalmatia; disrupt their trade; maintain communications with allies and prevent the French from acquiring shipbuilding capacity. Vis was well placed for this and had the added advantage of being relatively easy to fortify due to limited landing places, sheltered harbours and fresh water.

Despite these advantages there was considerable opposition to the expense of fortifying and garrisoning the island. This book covers the progress of that debate and arguably the island wasn't properly fortified until after any French threat to the island had receded. The locals were quite happy to be occupied and even formed their own militia unit. The advantages were mainly economic, with Vis being used as a base for smuggling and piracy.

The Garrison under the command of Colonel Robertson arrived in April 1812. The core was formed from the 35th Foot, with elements of the Royal Corsican Rangers and Swiss troops from De Roll's Regiment. Gun boats provided close naval support and a frigate squadron also protected the island.

Hardy provides a detailed account of the development of British involvement and life on the island for the garrison. Perhaps surprisingly, he provides only a passing reference to the British naval victory off the island in March 1811.

The British presence is easily recognisable today with the fortifications and the cricket pitch! I am spending my summer holidays on the island next month, so more on that later.

The British returned to the island in the Second World War. It was a commando, naval and air base in support  of the partisans. This is well covered in Michael McConville's book, 'A Small War in the Balkans'.

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