Raid (military)
Raid, also known as depredation, is a military tactic
Military tactics
Military tactics, the science and art of organizing an army or an air force, are the techniques for using weapons or military units in combination for engaging and defeating an enemy in battle. Changes in philosophy and technology over time have been reflected in changes to military tactics. In...

 or operational warfare
Operational warfare
Operational mobility, beginning as a military theory concept during the period of mechanisation of armed forces, became a method of managing movement of forces by strategic commanders from the staging area to their Tactical Area of Responsibility....

 mission which has a specific purpose and is not normally intended to capture and hold terrain, but instead finish with the raiding force quickly retreating to a previous defended position prior to the enemy forces being able to respond in a co-ordinated manner or formulate a counter-attack. Within the tactical mission, a raiding group may consist of personnel specially trained in this tactic (such as commando
In English, the term commando means a specific kind of individual soldier or military unit. In contemporary usage, commando usually means elite light infantry and/or special operations forces units, specializing in amphibious landings, parachuting, rappelling and similar techniques, to conduct and...

s or guerrilla fighters
Guerrilla warfare
Guerrilla warfare is a form of irregular warfare and refers to conflicts in which a small group of combatants including, but not limited to, armed civilians use military tactics, such as ambushes, sabotage, raids, the element of surprise, and extraordinary mobility to harass a larger and...

), regular soldiers, or any organized group of combatants.

The purposes of a raid may include:
  • to demoralize, confuse, or exhaust an enemy
  • to ransack
    Ransack is the name of several fictional characters in the universe of the Transformers series. Ransack was first created in 1985 as one of the Insecticons...

     or pillage a location
  • to obtain property or capture people
  • to destroy goods or other things with an economic value
  • to free POW
    Prisoner of war
    A prisoner of war or enemy prisoner of war is a person, whether civilian or combatant, who is held in custody by an enemy power during or immediately after an armed conflict...

  • to kill or capture specific people
  • to gather intelligence
    Military intelligence
    Military intelligence is a military discipline that exploits a number of information collection and analysis approaches to provide guidance and direction to commanders in support of their decisions....



Among many tribal societies, raiding was the most common and lethal form of warfare. Taking place at night, the goal was to catch the enemy sleeping to avoid casualties to the raiding party. Cattle raiding was a major feature of Irish society in the Iron Age
Iron Age
The Iron Age is the archaeological period generally occurring after the Bronze Age, marked by the prevalent use of iron. The early period of the age is characterized by the widespread use of iron or steel. The adoption of such material coincided with other changes in society, including differing...

 and forms the central plot of the historical epic Táin Bó Cúailnge
Táin Bó Cúailnge
is a legendary tale from early Irish literature, often considered an epic, although it is written primarily in prose rather than verse. It tells of a war against Ulster by the Connacht queen Medb and her husband Ailill, who intend to steal the stud bull Donn Cuailnge, opposed only by the teenage...

 (English :Cattle Raid of Cooley).

Small scale raiding warfare was common in Western European warfare of the Middle Ages. Much of a professional soldiers' time could be spent in "little war", carrying out raids or defending against them. Typical of this style of warfare was the mounted raid or chevauchée
A chevauchée was a raiding method of medieval warfare for weakening the enemy, focusing mainly on wreaking havoc, burning and pillaging enemy territory, in order to reduce the productivity of a region; as opposed to siege warfare or wars of conquest...

, popular during the Hundred Years War. Chevauchées varied in size from a few hundred men to armies of thousands, and could range in scope from attacks on nearby enemy areas to the devastation of whole regions, such as that carried out by the Black Prince in Southern France in 1355. This last is notable not just for its success and scope but the fact that the raiders deliberately captured records in order to carry out a post-operational analysis of the impact of the raid on the enemy economy

The largest of raids in history can be considered that of the series of raids during and following the Mongol invasion of Central Asia
Mongol invasion of Central Asia
The Mongol invasion of Central Asia occurred after the unification of the Mongol and Turkic tribes on Mongolian plateau in 1206. It finally completed when Genghis Khan conquered the Khwarizmian Empire in 1221....

, while at lower level raids had been staged by the Cossacks of the Zaporizhian Sich
Zaporizhian Sich
Zaporizhian Sich was socio-political, grassroot, military organization of Ukrainian cossacks placed beyond Dnieper rapids. Sich existed between the 16th and 18th centuries in the region around the today's Kakhovka Reservoir...

, the Grande Armée
La Grande Armée
The Grande Armée first entered the annals of history when, in 1805, Napoleon I renamed the army that he had assembled on the French coast of the English Channel for the proposed invasion of Britain...

, and the cavalry raids during the American Civil War
American Civil War
The American Civil War was a civil war fought in the United States of America. In response to the election of Abraham Lincoln as President of the United States, 11 southern slave states declared their secession from the United States and formed the Confederate States of America ; the other 25...

 such as the Morgan's Raid
Morgan's Raid
Morgan's Raid was a highly publicized incursion by Confederate cavalry into the Northern states of Indiana and Ohio during the American Civil War. The raid took place from June 11–July 26, 1863, and is named for the commander of the Confederates, Brig. Gen...

, and numerous examples of small group
In English, the term commando means a specific kind of individual soldier or military unit. In contemporary usage, commando usually means elite light infantry and/or special operations forces units, specializing in amphibious landings, parachuting, rappelling and similar techniques, to conduct and...

 raids behind enemy lines from all periods in military history.

In the operational level of war, raids were the precursors in the development of the Operational Manoeuvre Groups in the Soviet Army as early as 1930s.


Raiding by sea was known at the time of the Pharoahs, when the shipborne forces of the Sea Peoples
Sea Peoples
The Sea Peoples were a confederacy of seafaring raiders of the second millennium BC who sailed into the eastern Mediterranean, caused political unrest, and attempted to enter or control Egyptian territory during the late 19th dynasty and especially during year 8 of Ramesses III of the 20th Dynasty...

 caused serious disruption to the economies of the eastern Mediterranean.

In the early Middle Ages
Middle Ages
The Middle Ages is a periodization of European history from the 5th century to the 15th century. The Middle Ages follows the fall of the Western Roman Empire in 476 and precedes the Early Modern Era. It is the middle period of a three-period division of Western history: Classic, Medieval and Modern...

, Viking
The term Viking is customarily used to refer to the Norse explorers, warriors, merchants, and pirates who raided, traded, explored and settled in wide areas of Europe, Asia and the North Atlantic islands from the late 8th to the mid-11th century.These Norsemen used their famed longships to...

 raiders from Scandinavia attacked the British isles
British Isles
The British Isles are a group of islands off the northwest coast of continental Europe that include the islands of Great Britain and Ireland and over six thousand smaller isles. There are two sovereign states located on the islands: the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland and...

, France
The French Republic , The French Republic , The French Republic , (commonly known as France , is a unitary semi-presidential republic in Western Europe with several overseas territories and islands located on other continents and in the Indian, Pacific, and Atlantic oceans. Metropolitan France...

 and Spain
Spain , officially the Kingdom of Spain languages]] under the European Charter for Regional or Minority Languages. In each of these, Spain's official name is as follows:;;;;;;), is a country and member state of the European Union located in southwestern Europe on the Iberian Peninsula...

, attacking coastal and riverside targets. Much Viking raiding was carried out as a private initiative with a few ships, usually to gain loot, but much larger fleets were also involved, often as intent on extorting protection money (English : Danegeld
The Danegeld was a tax raised to pay tribute to the Viking raiders to save a land from being ravaged. It was called the geld or gafol in eleventh-century sources; the term Danegeld did not appear until the early twelfth century...

) as looting and pillaging. Raiding did not cease with the decline of the Viking threat in the 11th century. It remained a common element of the medieval naval warfare. Extensive naval raiding was carried out by all sides during the Hundred Years War, often involving privateers such as John Hawley
John Hawley
John Hawley was Mayor of Dartmouth and MP for Dartmouth.He was the son of John Hawley of Dartmouth. His family reportedly came from the hamlet of Allaleigh and this may account for the origins of his name....

 of Dartmouth
Dartmouth, Devon
Dartmouth is a town and civil parish in the English county of Devon. It is a tourist destination set on the banks of the estuary of the River Dart, which is a long narrow tidal ria that runs inland as far as Totnes...

 or the Castilian
Crown of Castile
The Crown of Castile was a medieval and modern state in the Iberian Peninsula that formed in 1230 as a result of the third and definitive union of the crowns and parliaments of the kingdoms of Castile and León upon the accession of the then King Ferdinand III of Castile to the vacant Leonese throne...

 Pero Niño. In the Mediterranean, raiding using oared galleys was common throughout the Middle Ages and into the Renaissance
The Renaissance was a cultural movement that spanned roughly the 14th to the 17th century, beginning in Italy in the Late Middle Ages and later spreading to the rest of Europe. The term is also used more loosely to refer to the historical era, but since the changes of the Renaissance were not...

 and was particularly a feature of the wars between the Christian powers and the Ottoman Empire
Ottoman Empire
The Ottoman EmpireIt was usually referred to as the "Ottoman Empire", the "Turkish Empire", the "Ottoman Caliphate" or more commonly "Turkey" by its contemporaries...

 in the 16th century. Raiding formed a major component of English naval strategy in the Elizabethan era, with attacks on the Spanish possessions in the New World
New World
The New World is one of the names used for the Western Hemisphere, specifically America and sometimes Oceania . The term originated in the late 15th century, when America had been recently discovered by European explorers, expanding the geographical horizon of the people of the European middle...

. A major raid
Singeing the king of Spain's beard
Drake's 1587 expedition took place in the Bay of Cádiz, in April and May 1587. The English privateer, Francis Drake, led a military expedition against the Spanish naval forces assembling at Cádiz. Much of the Spanish fleet was destroyed, and substantial supplies were destroyed or captured. There...

 on Cadiz
Cadiz is a city and port in southwestern Spain. It is the capital of the homonymous province, one of eight which make up the autonomous community of Andalusia....

 to destroy shipping being assembled for the Spanish Armada
Spanish Armada
This article refers to the Battle of Gravelines, for the modern navy of Spain, see Spanish NavyThe Spanish Armada was the Spanish fleet that sailed against England under the command of the Duke of Medina Sidonia in 1588, with the intention of overthrowing Elizabeth I of England to stop English...

 was carried out by Sir Francis Drake in 1587.

During the Second World War, the British set up the Combined Operations Headquarters to organise harassing raids against the Germans in Europe. operations varied from small scale with the No. 62 Commando which numbered only 55 men to the Dieppe Raid
Dieppe Raid
The Dieppe Raid, also known as the Battle of Dieppe, Operation Rutter or later on Operation Jubilee, during the Second World War, was an Allied attack on the German-occupied port of Dieppe on the northern coast of France on 19 August 1942. The assault began at 5:00 AM and by 10:50 AM the Allied...

 which was a large scale raid (employing about 6,000 soldiers, over 200 ships and 74 squadrons of aircraft) intended to take and hold Dieppe
Dieppe, Seine-Maritime
Dieppe is a commune in the Seine-Maritime department in France. In 1999, the population of the whole Dieppe urban area was 81,419.A port on the English Channel, famous for its scallops, and with a regular ferry service from the Gare Maritime to Newhaven in England, Dieppe also has a popular pebbled...

 sufficiently to cause sufficient destruction to the port. In practice the Dieppe raid was a failure.

Aerial Bombardment

The Royal Air Force
Royal Air Force
The Royal Air Force is the aerial warfare service branch of the British Armed Forces. Formed on 1 April 1918, it is the oldest independent air force in the world...

 first used the term "raid" in the Second World War when referring to an air attack
Strategic bombing
Strategic bombing is a military strategy used in a total war with the goal of defeating an enemy nation-state by destroying its economic ability and public will to wage war rather than destroying its land or naval forces...

. It included those by one aircraft or many squadrons
Squadron (aviation)
A squadron in air force, army aviation or naval aviation is mainly a unit comprising a number of military aircraft, usually of the same type, typically with 12 to 24 aircraft, sometimes divided into three or four flights, depending on aircraft type and air force...

, against all manner of targets on the ground and the targets defending aircraft. "Raid" was different than "battle", which was used for land, sea, or amphibious conflict. An aircraft "raid" was always planned ahead of time. Aircraft patrol
A patrol is commonly a group of personnel, such as police officers or soldiers, that are assigned to monitor a specific geographic area.- Military :...

(against U-Boat
U-boat is the anglicized version of the German word U-Boot , itself an abbreviation of Unterseeboot , and refers to military submarines operated by Germany, particularly in World War I and World War II...

s) and defensive launches of carrier aircraft (against recently detected enemy ships) are differentiated from raids.

See also

  • List of raids
  • Battleplan
    Battleplan is a military television documentary series examing various military strategies used in modern warfare since World War I. It is shown on the Military Channel in the U.S. and UKTV History...

    (documentary TV series)
  • Blitz
    -Armed conflict:*The Blitz, the German aerial attacks on Britain in WWII. The name Blitz was subsequently applied to many individual bombing campaigns or attacks.*Blitzkrieg, the "lightning war", a strategy of World War 2 Germany-People:...

  • Chevauchée
    A chevauchée was a raiding method of medieval warfare for weakening the enemy, focusing mainly on wreaking havoc, burning and pillaging enemy territory, in order to reduce the productivity of a region; as opposed to siege warfare or wars of conquest...

  • Trench raiding
    Trench raiding
    Trench raiding was a feature of trench warfare which developed during World War I. It was the practice of making small scale surprise attacks on enemy position. Raids were made by both sides in the conflict and always took place at night for reasons of stealth...


  • Simpkin, Richard and Erickson, John, Deep Battle: The brainchild of Marshal Tukhachevskii, Brassey's Defence Publishers, London, 1987
  • Black, Robert W., Col., Cavalry raids of the Civil War, Stackpole Books, Mechanicsburg, Pennsylvania, 2004
  • Gat, Azar, "War in Human Civilization", Oxford University Press, Oxford, 2006
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