The Battle of Shiroyama, 1877. The twilight of the Samurai. Surrounded and outnumbered 50-1, the last remnants of the renegade saumari Saigo Takamori rejected the imperial army's pleas to surrender, and fought with such ferocity they initially forced back a regiment of imperial troops, before being overwhelmed and slaughtered to the last man.
"Praise be to God I have done my duty" Arthur William Devis' The Death of Nelson, contemporary depiction of the final moments of the Admiral, struck down at the moment of his greatest triumph - at the defeat and capture of Napoleon's planned invasion fleet at Trafalgar, 1805.
26 February HM troop transport “Birkenhead” sank in Gansbaai with 643 people on board and the call “women and children first!” was used for the first time during a ship disaster.
The Battle of Bazeilles, 1870. A French army, outnumbered 10-1, battled against a Bavarian vanguard as they covered their main army's retreat from Sedan, fighting to the last man and the last cartridge in one of the most valiant stands of the Franco-Prussian war.
"To surrender the city to you is beyond my authority or anyone else's who lives in it, for all of us, after taking the mutual decision, shall die out of free will without sparing our lives" Constantine XI On 29 May 1453, as Constantinople fell to the Ottomans, its last emperor, refusing either surrender or passage to safety, threw himself into the face of the invading army, falling along with his beloved city.
1863, Battle of Camaron, 62 members of the French Foreign Legiom faced 2,000 Mexicans. The mortally wounded French Captain, Jean Danjou, made his men swear on his prosthetic wooden hand to fight to the last man, a promise they kept, fighting till the last cartridge, after which the 12 or so survivors fixed bayonets and charged the opposing army. Their enemies were so impressed by this display of valour did not mow them down, but gave them free passage out of the fort.
A Pathan man who cried was said to be fit for nothing but being whipped from his village by the womenfolk, yet an all Pathans at Delhi burst into uncontrollable fits of tears at hearing of the death of their commander John Nicolson. Fearless, known as the best swordsman in the Frontier and, until the 1857 Siege of Delhi, seemingly bulletproof, Nicolson was such a towering presence many of his Hindu followers revered him as "Nikal Seyn," an avatar of Vishnu
The Destruction of ‘L’Orient’ (caused by the explosion of her powder magazine) at the Battle of the Nile, 1 August George Arnald, (via National Maritime Museum)
Contemporary print of 17th century Samuai general Honda Tadakatsu. Known as The warrior who transcended death, he is renowned for never having sustained a significant wound, in spite of fighting nearly 100 battles.
'William Nelson Hall VC April 1827 – 27 August was the first black person, first Nova Scotian, and third Canadian to receive the Victoria Cross. He received the medal for his actions in the Siege of Lucknow.
Steady the Drums and Fifes, a painting of the 57th Middlesex foot at Albuera by Lady Butler. The phrase Die Hard was born on this day, courtesy of Colonel Robert Inglis of the 57th Middlesex Foot Regiment, severely wounded in the neck, refused to relinquish command, and repeatedly shouted "Die hard 57s, die hard!" The French were eventually forced to retreat, in spite of 2/3rds of the Regiment being killed or wounded.
The Battle of Saragarhi, 1897, one of history's greatest last stands. 21 soldiers of the 4th Battalion of the British India’s Sikh Regiment faced an advancing army of 10,000 Afghan Pathans. Every Sikh present refused both retreat or surrender. All 21 men died defending their fort, taking 600 of the invading Pathans with them.
The capture of the French king John II at Poitiers in
Yue Fei. Born into a poor tenant farmer's family in the Henan province in 1103 AD, he rose to become one of China's most celebrated generals, losing none of the 126 battles. Yue Fei epitomised the martial qualities of discipline, prowess and, above all, fidelity, as exemplified by the words his mother tattooed across his back: "Serve your country with utmost loyalty."
The tomb of William Marshall. Such was his prowess and loyalty to his king, William was praised by Cardinal Stephen Langton as the greatest knight that ever lived. He was still acting in front line service in his 70s, leading English forces in the decisive victory at the Battle of Lincoln in 1217.