Broken square usually refers to an infantry square collapsing or breaking up in battle.
Specific incidents that this expression may refer to are, both in the Mahdist War in the Sudan:
- At the Battle of Abu Klea: the breach was small and soon closed itself. Afterwards, the poet Sir Henry Newbolt got his information very wrong and wrote a poem describing a disastrous collapse: see Battle of Abu Klea#Aftermath
- At the Battle of Tamai:
- The Black Watch formed one side of a big square under attack, and was ordered by top command to leave that post and attack another enemy force which was hidden down a desert gully.
- In that gully, they formed a square to resist attack; that square came under intense attack from Sudanese (here, mostly Hadendoa). The square broke and was flooded with a rush of tribesmen and a brutal hand-to-hand fight resulted. The Black Watch nearly fled, but were mustered by able non-commissioned officers to stand and fight and eventually won the contest, driving the Sudanese out, and reforming their square. It is one of the most embarrassing events for the Black Watch, even to this day. Even now, if Welsh soldiers yell out "Broken Square" at a Scotsman, particularly associated with the Black Watch, a fight is liable to ensue.
See also Fuzzy-Wuzzy.
References[edit | edit source]
- Farwell, Byron (2009). Queen Victoria's Little Wars. Pen & Sword Books. ISBN 9781848840157.
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