Warfare in Elizabethan Ireland

Michael Morrogh shows that Renaissance men like Sir Walter Ralegh had a decidedly darker side.

Killing a lot of unarmed people was hard work in the old days. Once nations acquired automatic weapons it all became easier. At Babi Yar the executioners were Einsatzgruppen who sat behind machine guns, smoking cigarettes, and mowing down the victims into a mass grave. Thousands could be killed in that way in just one day. Nowadays we rely upon surgical bombing raids to do the business. But consider the task facing Elizabethan troops in Ireland on 10 November 1580. Lord Grey, the governor of Ireland, had just received the surrender of around 600 Italian and Spanish troops at fort Del Oro, near Smerwick on the Dingle peninsula. These were inexperienced soldiers, many recruited for the first time and with little idea of where they were or what they were doing. Grey decided they should be killed. ‘And then I put in certain bands, who straight fell to execution. There were 600 slain.’ 

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