Five Wars The World Just Forgot About

War is a terrible thing. Soldiers come home haunted by it, if they come home at all. Families are devastated by it; whether they were stuck in the middle of the conflict, or left back home to worry about their loved ones as they march off to fight. It doesn’t seem like the kind of thing you easily forget, does it? Yet apparently history doesn’t share our views because it just plain forgets about wars all the time. Take these five examples, for instance:

5. The First English Civil War

When the complete history of the world is finally written, it will look an awful lot like the British were just constantly spoiling for a fight. We’ve invaded almost every country on the planet; and sometimes we even did it on purpose. What you won’t hear often is that the English tended to get a bit of practice in at home before going out to fight other countries.

Everyone’s heard of The English Civil War but decidedly fewer people know that “The” civil war is actually one of many. Historians disagree over exactly how many times England has fought itself but they all agree it’s definitely more than once. Which time was the first? Well, that’s up for debate but one regularly-cited incident would be a little thing called The Anarchy.

The word “anarchy” brings with it visions of rioting in the streets, looting, and an utter breakdown of law & order; which is precisely what didn’t happen during The Anarchy because history hates you and wants to confuse you. Instead, this period of English history began as a dispute over who would succeed King Henry, the first of a long line of King Henries who would absolutely never find themselves embroiled in all kinds of trouble. They’re all noted throughout the world as peace-loving and in favour of keeping themselves to themselves, those Henries. Never a bad thing to say about them.

Anyway, Henry I began his reign with a few battles and a handful of squabbles to secure his own place on the throne, then died without a male heir. He appointed his daughter, Matilda, as his successor but Matilda had a thing for making everyone really angry with her, so the nobility decided she could, and I quote, “do one”. They crowned Stephen as King instead, which annoyed Matilda but made most of Britain relatively happy. Except for Scotland, who invaded.

Hi, I’m King Stephen. You might know me from such… yeah, okay, you don’t know me. I’ll be going, now.

That was the least of King Stephen’s problems however, because Matilda went and married a rich guy called Geoffrey, Count of Anjou and also known as Geoffrey Plantagenet. That’s a surname to remember. Matilda invaded England with a Plantagenet army and proceeded to smash the place up.

Lots of battles ensued and King Stephen was captured; then released under a prisoner exchange because apparently civil wars don’t work on the rules of chess and when you capture your opponent’s King you can just keep on fighting if you fancy it. Matilda also captured London, then royally upset everyone and was forced to flee. Stephen managed to wrestle back control of his Kingdom and forced Matilda back to her husband’s territories in France.

Meanwhile, Matilda’s son, Henry, was building up his forces to the point where he held almost all of Western France. Then, Henry started paying attention to England. Around the same time, King Stephen’s son died and suddenly the English King had no successor; which threatened to spark this whole mess off once again. Henry and Stephen came to an agreement: Henry would succeed Stephen as King once Stephen died. Thus, the civil war was over, the Plantagenet Dynasty was about to happen and England never bothered anyone ever again.

4. The 45-Minute Anglo-Zanzibar War

Yeah, that last part was a lie. You’ll be seeing Britain show up a lot on this list because, let’s face it, we got about a bit. On this occasion, we managed to win a war in under an hour; using the Empire’s preferred method of battle: pounding the enemy with ship-mounted artillery because when the British say “gunboat diplomacy”, they mean it.

On 25th August 1895, the Sultan of Zanzibar, Hamad bin Thuwaini, died. His successor was not able to claim the throne unless the British consul agreed, because Zanzibar was a protectorate of the British Empire at the time and that meant Britain could stick its nose in anywhere it liked. This was the first time the consul would be required to give his consent to a new Sultan so, naturally, the locals thought it was a good idea to see how far they could push their luck with the British.

Apparently they couldn’t push it very far at all. The Empire considered not getting their consul’s agreement for a new ruler casus belli, i.e. they were prepared to go to war over it. They issued an ultimatum for the presumptive new Sultan to vacate the palace and when he did not vacate the palace, they shelled it.

The ensuing war lasted somewhere between half an hour and forty-five minutes before presumptive Sultan Khalid fled into the protection of the German consulate, vacating his post in the process. 500 of Khalid’s troops were killed or injured, while the British only had one man wounded. Thus ended the shortest war in recorded history.

3. The Original World War

Okay, we all remember Napoleon Bonaparte. He’s the tactical genius who wanted to kill Bill and Ted the moment he set eyes on them, then went to the future and utterly failed to look up reports of his battles to gain an advantage on his enemies. He’s also the guy who kick-started the first global war.

Most scholars would not call the Napoleonic Wars “The First World War” because that would get it confused with, y’know, The First World War but that is essentially what it was. The Wars lasted from 1803 to 1815 and were fought in Europe, Asia, North America and South America. There were so many battles that you would be forgiven for thinking Napoleon was trying to get at least one fight to fit under each letter in an alphabetic list. He only missed out on X and Y; possibly because he didn’t manage to conquer Russia and start on China.

The list of belligerents in the Napoleonic Wars changed with each stage of the fighting, with some countries switching sides during the seven Coalitions like there was a concerted effort to keep the fighting going as long as possible. There was so much side-swapping and double-crossing you would be forgiven for thinking the whole thing was a poorly-written soap opera.

The final outcome laid out the countries of Europe much as we know them today but it also set the stage for decades of peace in Europe that would last until the outbreak of World War One. You might also know that one as The War To End All Wars, because apparently we have never learned to not tempt fate.

2. The War of the Stray Dog

Wars have been fought over very, very stupid things in the past but The War of the Stray Dog really takes the biscuit. On 18th October 1925, a Greek solider entered Bulgarian-controlled territory at Demir Kapia, in pursuit of his pet dog which had run off across the border. Seeking to ensure this incursion of only a few feet (literally and figuratively) did not turn into an international crisis, the Bulgarian sentries shot and killed the Greek solider.

Now this is a very unfortunate situation for all concerned and nobody wanted to see it escalate out of control so, as you would expect, Greece did what any level-headed people would do in a situation like this: they invaded Bulgaria and took over the town of Petrich. Greece then demanded 2,000,000 French Franks in compensation; the punishment of the sentries responsible for killing their soldier; and an official apology.

The resulting war lasted for six days and killed or injured 142 people (20 Bulgarians and 122 Greeks) before the League of Nations finally got the two sides to agree to a ceasefire. As part of the agreement reached between the two sides, Greece had to give back the territory it had stolen and pay Bulgaria 45,000 British Pounds. History does not record what happened to the stray dog.

1. The Football War

Football is a popular sport – a really popular sport. The World Cup is the most coveted trophy in football and desired by many countries around the world. Naturally, when two neighbouring countries who don’t like each other are pitted against one-another for a spot in the World Cup tournament, tensions can get… well… tense.

Football is a popular sport – a really popular sport. The World Cup is the most coveted trophy in football and desired by many countries around the world. Naturally, when two neighbouring countries who don’t like each other are pitted against one-another for a spot in the World Cup tournament, tensions can get… well… tense.

Honduras and El Salvador have been uneasy neighbours for many years and during the Sixties, El Salvadorans kept illegally occupying land in Honduras for farming. This caused a lot of Hondurans to be very angry and they often attacked the El Salvadoran farmers; sometimes with official backing, such as in 1962. That’s when Honduras passed a law taking back a lot of the El Salvadoran farmers’ land (which you will recall was often not legally occupied in the first place) to give to Honduran farmers.

This annoyed El Salvador, so things went from tense to very tense. Then Honduras and El Salvador were pitted against one-another for a place in the 1970 World Cup. There would be three play-off matches, with the overall winner gaining the last spot in the tournament. Honduras won the first match in overtime, which El Salvador fans thought was cheating.

Fights broke out after the match. Normally this isn’t a surprise because football is almost synonymous with riots these days (that Simpsons episode about a football riot was basically a documentary) but back then, it was far less common; so this was a big worry.

The second match took place in El Salvador. The night before the match, El Salvadoran fans partied outside the Honduran team’s hotel, causing so much noise the footballers couldn’t sleep. Naturally, they were too tired to play properly the next day and they lost the match. Again, fights broke out afterward because apparently making a concerted effort to stop a rival team sleeping is not considered fair play.

The final match came down to overtime but this time, El Salvador won. Fights broke out again; and more El Salvadoran farmers were chased off their land. In response, El Salvador invaded Honduras because they’ve obviously been learning diplomacy from Greece. Honduras appealed to the Organisation of American States to help negotiate a ceasefire.

This took four days despite the fact that El Salvador hadn’t thought through this whole “hey, let’s invade” thing and their soldiers had run out of ammunition quite a while before the ceasefire was agreed. Sometimes it’s difficult to calm people down is what we’re saying here.

The two nations still don’t like each other; which should come as no surprise since even though they agreed to a ceasefire on 18 July 1969, they didn’t actually sign the treaty until 1980. If a week is a long time in politics, how long must eleven years feel?

Zoë Kirk-Robinson is a cartoonist and comedian who writes every day because she thinks it keeps her sane. Her latest book, All Over the House: Book Three, is out now.

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