Today, the 13th August, in 1704 John Churchill, the Duke of Marlborough won his greatest victory. He and Prince Eugene of Savoy defeated a larger French and Bavarian army under the great Marshall Tallard at Blenheim, in Bavaria and saved Austria from invasion.
Tallard thought his army was safe, with one flank resting on the Danube, but superior English firing drill, better artillery and cavalry defeating shock tactics undid his strong defensive position.
The victory marked the end of French supremacy in the war of Spanish Succession, in which it was fought.
Marlborough noticed Tallard had put most of his strength on his right, so he sent 20 Battalions to hold him there, while Prince Eugene held the Bavarians on the left.
The Centre, which was mostly cavalry in two ranks, was then assailed and with few reserves, was routed using superior defensive tactics. Tallard realised too late that Marlborough had seen through his ruse and despite sending units to bolster the endangered centre, could not save his army.
The Bavarians on the left, seeing the French collapse in the afternoon, left the field. Many French units fought on hopelessly, but bravely, until nightfall, but the situation was hopeless. Tallard was captured and his army lost half its number, close to 30000. Allied losses were 12000 of his more than 50000.
It was a great campaign. Starting 250 miles away and marching through enemy territory, Marlborough had smashed the idea of French invincibility, held throughout Louis XIV’s reign.
The 18th Century would belong instead to England.