Philip Sanders CBE

Philip Sanders CBE
Soldier and Military Historian

Philip was born and educated in Plymouth, Devon. After training at the Royal Military Academy Sandhurst, he served more than 30 years in the British Army retiring in 1993 in the rank of brigadier. He commanded the 4th Royal Tank Regiment, the British Army of the Rhine’s reconnaissance forces, the tri-national (British, French and American) Berlin Relief Force and was one of two directors of operations at the British Joint Force Headquarters during the 1991 Gulf War.

He attended the Army Staff College as both a student and instructor, and is a graduate of the Royal College of Defence Studies. He was awarded the CBE in 1986. Also in 1986 he was a defence fellow at Kings College. London studying under Professor Lawrence Freedman .

On retiring from the army he joined the National Health Service and was chief executive of a health trust for 7 years. This was followed by 3 years as managing director of an American-owned occupational health company. He then worked for 2 years in the commercial directorate of the Department of Health supporting private sector health companies recruiting and training overseas doctors and nurses to improve clinical productivity. He has now retired but returns to the front-line occasionally in non-executive roles.

Since 2012, he is enjoying his retirement by guest-lecturing on 3 or 4 sea cruises a year. His talks are tailored to the passengers and their destinations and, other than those topics specifically requested by cruise lines, he specialises in military and modern history. He has given talks for Noble Caledonia, Voyages of Discovery, Australia Pacific Travel (APT) and Captain’s Choice cruise lines. He has lectured on cruises to the Indian Ocean, Mediterranean, Baltic, Black Sea, Red Sea, Gulf of Oman and the Arabian Gulf. He is an accredited Viking Ocean lecturer with two Mediterranean cruises on Viking Star in 2017, followed by a Mediterranean cruise and a Scandinavian cruise with APT.

Cruise Lectures Delivered, Prepared for Delivery or in Preparation:

Baltic Sea

1. The Invasion of Norway 1940.

What was it like to be a resident of peaceful Norway when brutally invaded in 1940? Why did the Germans attack and what was the their plan? How did Norway, Great Britain and France respond on land, at sea and in the air? Discover the political cost of failure in London, and how the Norwegian people coped with five years of cruel occupation.

2. The Siege of Leningrad 1941-1944

Capture the unique horrors of the 872 day German and Finnish siege of the Soviet Union’s Leningrad, now St Petersburg. How did the population cope with daily air raids and artillery bombardment, minimal food, no fuel for cooking or heating and the deaths of 1.5 million of their families and friends? Consider the “Road of Life” across the frozen Lake Ladoga and Stalin’s Red Army desperate attempts to break the siege.

3. The Race for Berlin 1945

The prize was Hitler and Berlin. Which army, Soviet, American or British, would win the Race for Berlin in 1945? Powerful forces, led by colourful generals, fought from east and west towards Germany’s capital across the Rivers Oder and Rhine, before meeting in May on the banks of the River Elbe. What orders had been given them by the political warlords of World War 2: Roosevelt, Stalin and Churchill, and why?

4. "The Vikings are Coming"

Consider the early history of Scandinavia and the role of the Danes and Norwegians in 200 years of colonisation of England, Ireland and Normandy. What lifestyle was followed? Although the Vikings colonised Iceland and Greenland, did they colonise North America? Discover the explorations of the Swedish Vikings across the Baltic, and southwards through Russia to the Black Sea and beyond. Understand the importance of the English battles in 1066 and their impact on the Vikings.

The Black Sea

1. The Legacy of the Yalta Conference 1945

The Yalta Conference condemned the people of Eastern Europe to decades of virtual slavery under communism. Decisions taken by the “Big Three” would shape the world we live in today, and they were taken by a dying Roosevelt, triumphant Stalin and weakened Churchill. How was post-war Germany and Berlin carved up, and why did the Western leaders sell out Poland and her brave people?

2. The Crimean War 1854-56

A watershed in military history, the Crimean War was fought in Bulgaria, the Ukraine and Crimean Peninsular. Why did France and Great Britain get involved a mainly religious war between Russia and Turkey? Follow the progress of a bungling allied expeditionary force through the battles of the River Alma, Balaclava and Inkerman and the deadly siege of Sevastopol. Why and how was the Charge of the Light Brigade a disaster? Was Florence Nightingale a saint?

3. The Rise of Ataturk: Father of Modern Turkey

No visit to Turkey is complete without an understanding of the rise and role of Ataturk, first President of Turkey. We review his childhood, education and military career including his pivotal role at Gallipoli in 1915. How important were the post-war achievements of Ataturk in uniting the defeated Turkish people, winning a bloody War of Independence, removing the victorious Allied occupation forces, eliminating the Muslim Caliphate and creating a secular modern state? How is Turkey managing his legacy today?

4. The Black Sea

Gain an understanding of how the Black Sea and Sea of Azov was formed; how it has changed over the millennia and the impact of those changes on the people who lived on the shores. Examine the physical characteristics of the geology of the waters and sea bed and their impact on military operations, historical research, trading, oil exploration, fishing and modern tourism. How is the Sea managed today?

5. The Situation in Ukraine and the Crimea Today.

The dangerous situation in Ukraine and the Crimea today is the most serious in Europe since the end of the Cold War. Why did Russia seize the Crimean Peninsular, and how is the Russia Federation exploiting ethnic and political divisions in Eastern Ukraine? Are the roles being played by the European Union and NATO positive or negative? What should be the world’s response to Russian sponsored military aggression and land grab?

6. Georgia on My Mind.

Less than 10 years ago there was a hot war being fought between Russia and recently independent Georgia on the south-eastern border of Europe. Why did it start? How was it fought? What was the outcome? Will Georgia, apparently committed to the west through applications to join the European Union and NATO, be allowed to become fully independent? Will Mr Putin allow it? How could he stop it?

7. A Potted History of Europe Post World War 2

To the victors the spoils! At the Yalta Conference in 1945, post-war Europe was carved up by the Big Three: the USSR, USA and Great Britain. The Iron Curtain and Cold War followed. How did the collapse of communism, and break-up of the USSR, in the 1990s enable the states of Eastern Europe secure their independence? But how independent are they? What roles are the European Union, NATO and the Russian Federation playing today in shaping the future of Europe and the wider world?.

Central Europe (for river cruises) (in preparation and on offer)

1. General Patton’s Campaigns in 1945

General George Patton is considered American greatest World War 2 general. He had his faults and was punished for them, but his campaigns in 1945 to relieve Bastogne during the Battle of the Bulge, crossing the Rivers Saar and Rhine and his army’s advance to the River Elbe, mark him out as a commander of the highest order. Travel in his command car and understand the driving force leading the US 3rd Army in Europe.

2. Crossing the River Rhine in 1945

The Western allies needed to cross Germany’s River Rhine to continue their broad advance from Normandy to Berlin in 1945. Delay would allow Stalin’s Red Army to drive deeper into Western Europe, occupying most of Germany and possibly even Norway, Denmark and Greece. Why did Operation Market Garden in 1944 fail, and how did the Western Allies mount their successful crossings via the bridge at Remagen and airborne and amphibious attacks across the upper Rhine in March 1945?

3. The Battle of Blenheim 1704

The Battle of Blenheim is one of the most important battles in military history. In 1704, the English Duke of Marlborough led a daring march across Europe to defeat a superior Franco-Bavarian army at Blenheim on the River Danube. Why was the march carried out? The victory secured not only the safety of the Habsburg Empire’s capital of Vienna, but also Marlborough’s reputation as one of the greatest commanders in history. But how did his army live and fight so far from home?

4. The Siege and Battle of Vienna 1683.

The Siege and Battle of Vienna in 1683 marked the high tide of 300 years of Islamic expansion into Central Europe. How did the Pope raise a Christian army in Germany, Poland, Hungary and Lithuania to defeat a 150,000 strong Islamic army? How did the largest cavalry charge in military history break the back of the Ottoman position and hasten the demise of the Ottoman Empire in Europe?

5. Ottoman Wars on the River Danube

The River Danube is one of the great trading waterways of Europe. It has been fought over for centuries. Why was it so fiercely contested by the Ottoman Empire and Tsarist Russia in nine separate campaigns? Why are there so many fortresses on the river? Who built them? How did warfare astride the river change between the siege of Vienna in 1529 and the Russo-Turkish War of 1877-78?

India and Sri Lanka

1. The Duke of Wellington in India 1796-1805

How did the Duke of Wellington, a dull, gawky and poorly educated third son of an aristocratic Anglo-Irish family, become Great Britain’s most successful general? Did this “sepoy general” succeed simply through nepotism or were there greater influences in play? How did he win his spurs in India fighting Tippoo Sultan and the Holkar of Indore? We review Arthur Wesley’s formative years fighting in India

2. The Defence of India in World War 2

No visit to India is complete without some understanding of the huge role played by Indian armed forces in World War 2. With 2.5 million troops in the field, what was India’s land, sea and air contribution to the global campaigns fought by the British and Commonwealth armies? How did General Slim’s 14th (Forgotten) Army, with a high proportion of Indian troops, defeat the previously invincible Japanese invaders at Imphal and Kohima on the eastern border of India?

3. The Work of the Commonwealth War Graves Commission

1.7 million Commonwealth servicemen and women died during World War 2 and since 1945. The Commonwealth War Graves Commission manages their graves in some 2500 war cemeteries in 153 countries. I have family, friends and colleagues in some of them. Established after the 1st World War, the Commission grew from humble beginnings with graves registration units, into a major activity funded by the governments of Great Britain, Australia, New Zealand, Canada, South Africa and India.

4. The Japanese Attack on Ceylon (Sri Lanka) on Easter Day 1942

Described by Prime Minister Churchill as his worst moment of the war - in that, if the Japanese had invaded and used Ceylon as a military base, they could strangle the critical Commonwealth reinforcement and supply lines passing through the Indian Ocean, and perhaps even join up with powerful German forces fighting in Egypt and the Caucasus. The war could have been lost before American strength became available. How was the attack launched, what impact did it have and how did British India respond?

Mediterranean, Adriatic and Aegean Seas

1. The Struggle for Greece 1941-49

How should Europe respond to Greece’s present challenges? Are they all of their own making? We reflect on the wartime history of Greece: the Italian attack via Albania in 1940 and Germany and Bulgaria’s attack via Yugoslavia in 1941. Why did a large British led army deploy to Greece and fail? Why did the Greek resistance movements lead to post-war civil war? Why did Churchill intervene - again - but Stalin didn’t?

2. The Rise and Fall of Yugoslavia

A story with a beginning, a middle and a bloody end, we review the many attempts to form a single state from several quite different nations: first at the end of World War 1, then under the Serbian monarchy of King Alexander, then under President Tito and again when he died. All failed, the last failure marked by the worst fighting in Europe since World War 2: violent civil war, ethnic cleansing, war crimes and a legacy of hatred. How did it come to this in Europe in the 20th and 21st Centuries? Why and how did the United Nations, European Union and NATO fail to halt the slide to violence and mayhem.

3. Churchill’s Folly: Britain’s East Mediterranean Strategy in World War 2

Why was Winston Churchill fixated on the Eastern Mediterranean as a theatre of war? Despite his experience of Gallipoli, Churchill retained an enthusiasm for the indirect approach into Europe from the Balkans.We follow the failures of his World War 2 strategy in Greece, on Crete, in Yugoslavia and the Italian Dodecanese Islands. Could the US forces in Europe done more to help Churchill - and should they have?

4. The Battle of Crete 1941

Why were British and Commonwealth troops fighting on Crete in 1941? Despite a wealth of intelligence, much from Bletchley Park, how were they so poorly deployed and defeated so easily? Just how good were the German paratroops and what was Hitler’s reaction to the virtual destruction of his airborne force? How great was the sacrifice of the Royal Navy in evacuating the surviving troops to North Africa? Crete offers many questions, but also some illuminating answers.

5. “Damn the Dardanelles. They will be our grave”.

Reflections on the Gallipoli Campaign of 1915-16. The failure of British and French ships and troops to force the Dardanelles and Gallipoli Peninsula, attack Constantinople and take Turkey out of World War 1 is a tragic story. How did British commanders so under-estimate the fighting qualities of Turkish troops? Why was there so little understanding of the terrain and climate? Why was the cream of Australian and New Zealand manhood sacrificed for so little? What crucial roles did Winston Churchill and General Mustafa Kemal, the future Ataturk, have in the campaign?

6. “La Serenissima”. 1000 years of the Venetian Republic

How did a town built by refugees in a muddy lagoon at the head of the Adriatic become the richest Mediterranean city state in the medieval world? We follow the development of Venice and the growth of La Serenissima and its colonies along the Dalmatian Coast and Greek Islands. What impact did Titian and Galileo and the High Renaissance have on Venetian society? We review centuries of conflict between the Venetian Republic, the Holy Roman Empire and Islam, before Venice fell to Napoleon in 1797.

7. The Rise of Ataturk: Father of Modern Turkey

No visit to Turkey is complete without an understanding of the rise and role of Ataturk, first President of Turkey. Review his childhood, education and military career including his pivotal role at Gallipoli in 1915. Consider the importance of the post-war achievements of Ataturk in uniting the defeated Turkish people, winning a bloody War of Independence, removing the victorious Allied occupation forces, eliminating the Muslim Caliphate and creating a secular modern state. How is Turkey’s managing his legacy today?

8. "England Expects": Admiral Nelson's Mediterranean Odyssey

Review the Mediterranean career of Great Britain's greatest admiral. Consider the early life of the man and sailor and then his victories at the Battles of the Nile, Cape St Vincent, Copenhagen and, greatest of all, Trafalgar. Recognise Nelson the man: his marriage to Fanny and his very public affair with Emma Hamilton. Discover how his legendary bravery led to the loss of an arm at Tenerife and an eye on Corsica, before his death in battle on the quarterdeck of HMS Victory at Trafalgar.

9. Empires of the Mediterranean

Trace the amazing military history, religion and culture of 5000 years of Mediterranean Empires: the Egyptians, Hittites, Greeks, Carthaginians, Romans, Byzantines, Venetians, Islamic, British, French, Spanish and Italian.

10. The Byzantine Empire: Europe's Medieval Bastion against Militant Islam

Review the 1000 year history of the Byzantine Empire, from early Greek merchants through the division of the Roman Empire and the rule of Emperor Constantine the Great. Consider the impact of militant Christianity on the Empire and the struggle with militant Islamic forces, through the Crusades to the siege and fall of Constantinople and the Empire in 1453.

11. "Over There, Over There": The US Doughboys in Europe in World War 1

Trace the changes in American foreign policy leading to the decision to declare war on Germany in 1917. Follow the build up of a huge American army which fought in France and Italy in 1917 and 1918, tipping the balance on the Western Front and leading to the collapse of the German army in the field, the abdication of the Kaiser and German surrender. Review the role of General John Pershing and his battle with the British and the French to deploy an American field army.

12. Malta GC. The Story of Malta in World War 2

Consider how a tiny central Mediterranean archipelago was defended against the might of German and Italian sea and air forces, to eventually mount effective offensive air and sea operations on Rommel's supply line from Italy to North Africa. Examine the Battles of Taranto and Cape Matapan, the Malta Convoys, the Island's role in the invasion of Sicily and the surrender of Italy. Discover when and why the people of Malta were awarded the George Cross, for civilian bravery in the face of the enemy.

North America (In preparation and on offer)

1. The Age of Discovery, Exploration and the British Colonisation of Canada

What was the Age of Discovery and why did European countries endeavour to build communities in the New World? We follow the expeditions of Christopher Columbus, John Cabot, Henry Hudson and Vasco de Balboa, and the development of colonies in North America. How did the colonists survive and thrive? Was early Canada important enough for France and Great Britain to fight over?

2. The American War of Independence 1775-1782

The American War of Independence was the first of a series of wars that ejected European rule from North and South America. We explore the fundamental differences between the North American settlers and the British government, culminating in the “Boston Tea Party” and war. How was it that an amateur settler army was able to defeat the professional armies of Great Britain at Bunker Hill, Saratoga and Yorktown? How did George Washington develop his military skills? What role did the French play in the war?

3. Roosevelt and Churchill: Brothers in Arms 1939-1945

Great Britain would have been defeated in World War 2 without the support and assistance of the United States of America - and in particular President Franklin Delano Roosevelt. From the outbreak of hostilities in Europe in 1939, he and the half-American Winston Spencer Churchill worked hand in glove to secure victory in Europe in 1945. How did this relationship work? What were the peaks and troughs? We review America’s role in the European war, including lend-lease and the generous post-war Marshall Plan.

4. Canada’s Role in the Battle of the Atlantic 1939-1945

From the harbours of Nova Scotia, huge convoys of men, war materials, oil and food formed up to make the perilous journey to Great Britain. Each mile was contested by German submarines in the Battle of the Atlantic. If the Germans won, Great Britain would have had to surrender. It is a story of desperate courage at sea coupled with improvisation and scientific advances. What was Canada’s role in the Battle?

Red Sea, Horn of Africa, Muscat and the Emirates

1. British Involvement in Small Wars in South Arabia in the 20th Century

Why was Great Britain involved in the Arab Revolt of 1916-18, and the Yemen Civil War and the armed insurrection in Aden in the 1960s? What were the roles of TE Lawrence, David Stirling, founder of the Special Air Service, and Fiona Fraser, daughter of Lord Lovat? What was the impact of these wars on politics in the Arabian Peninsular today?

2. Military Operations in the Horn of Africa 1940-42

In 1940 Italy gained it first military success in World War 2. Italian armed forces ejected the British from Somaliland, in the Horn of Africa. How was this success achieved and what was the British and Commonwealth response? Why did Emperor Haile Selassie become involved, and what were the roles of Bletchley Park, Orde Wingate, Bill Slim and Wilfred Thesinger? We meet the first Indian Army winner of the Victoria Cross in World War 2: Second Lieutenant Premindra Singh Bhagat of the Royal Bombay Sappers and Miners.

3. Imperial Policing in the Trucial States and Oman.

A personal perspective as I reflect on my role as an imperial policemen in an armoured car in Sharjah, Dubai and Oman in the 1960s? But just what was imperial policing? How did the British Government initially outsource the role to the British East India Company, and then take it back in house courtesy of the Royal Navy, Royal Air Force offensive operations in Iraq and India and British Army punitive expeditions in Oman and the North West Frontier?

4. The Secret War: the Dhofar rebellion in Oman 1962-76

This long, undeclared and secret war was fought to contain and then defeat a communist armed insurgency in Western Oman. The insurgency was intended to overthrow the Sultan of Muscat and threaten British oil and other interests in Oman and the Trucial States. How did Britain’s Special Air Service (SAS) become involved? What role did the SAS play from bases deep in the Dhofari Jebel? How did the war expand to include Royal Air Force and British Army regular troops before the Yemen based rebels were defeated?

ExpertiseHistory - General History - Military History
Cruise Experience as Speaker/TutorNearly 10 years of cruise lecturing with Viking Ocean, Voyages of Discovery, APT, Captain's Choice, Saga, Noble Caledonia


History - Classical
History - Naval
History - General
History - Art & Culture
Politics & Current Affairs
History - Military
History - Maritime
Diplomacy & International Affairs