British commandos watch as an ammunition dump burns during Operation Archery, Vågsøy 27 December 1941.
  • Land
  • Air
  • Sea

Raiding, also known as depredation, is a military tactic or operational warfare "smash and grab" mission which has a specific purpose. Raiders do not capture and hold a location, but quickly retreat to a previous defended position before enemy forces can respond in a coordinated manner or formulate a counter-attack. Raiders must travel swiftly and are generally too lightly equipped and supported to be able to hold ground. A raiding group may consist of combatants specially trained in this tactic, such as commandos, or as a special mission assigned to any regular troops.[1] Raids are often a standard tactic in irregular warfare, employed by warriors, guerrilla fighters or other irregular military forces. Some raids are large, for example the Sullivan Expedition.

The purposes of a raid may include:


Tribal societies

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.[2]

Iron Age Ireland

Cattle raiding was a major feature of Irish society in the Iron Age and forms the central plot of the historical epic Táin Bó Cúailnge (English: Cattle Raid of Cooley).

Bedouin ghazzu

The traditional habit of Bedouin tribes of raiding other tribes, caravans, or settlements is known in Arabic as ghazzu.[3][4] Such activity was still noticed by J. S. Buckingham in 1820s Palestine not only among nomadic Bedouin, but also among the nominally sedentary villagers of er-Riha (Jericho), who left the little land cultivation he observed to women and children, while men spent most of their time riding through the plains and engaging in "robbery and plunder", their main and most profitable activity.[3]

Arabia during Muhammad's era

Main article: List of battles of Muhammad

The Islamic prophet Muhammad made frequent use of raiding tactics. His first use of raids was during the caravan raids, and his first successful raid was the Nakhla raid. In January 624[5] Muhammad ordered this raid to attack a Quraysh caravan and gather information.[6][7] [8] During the Invasion of Thi Amr he ordered a raid on the Banu Muharib and Banu Talabah tribes after he received intelligence that they were allegedly going to raid the outskirts of Medina.[9] One person was captured by Muslims during this raid.[9]

In August 627[10][11][12] he ordered the First Raid on Banu Thalabah, a tribe already aware of the impending attack. So they lay in wait for the Muslims, and when Muhammad ibn Maslamah arrived at the site, 100 men of the Banu Thalabah ambushed them, while the Muslims were making preparation to sleep, and after a brief resistance killed all of Muhammad ibn Maslamah's men. Muhammad ibn Maslamah pretended to be dead. A Muslim who happened to pass that way found him and assisted him to return to Medina. The raid was unsuccessful.[13]

Medieval Europe

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.[14] Typical of this style of warfare was the mounted raid or chevauchée, 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.[15]

Large scale raiding

The largest raids in history were the series undertaken during and following the Mongol invasion of Central Asia.[citation needed] Examples of lesser scale raids include those staged by the Cossacks of the Zaporizhian Sich, the Grande Armée, and cavalry raids that took place during the American Civil War such as Morgan's Raid,[16] and numerous examples of small group raids behind enemy lines that have taken place throughout all periods of history.[citation needed]

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 the 1930s.[17]


Main article: Amphibious warfare

Raiding by sea was known at the time of the Pharaohs, when the shipborne forces of the Sea Peoples caused serious disruption to the economies of the eastern Mediterranean.

In the early Middle Ages, Viking raiders from Scandinavia attacked the British Isles, France and Spain, 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) as looting and pillaging.[18] 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 of Dartmouth or the Castilian Pero Niño.[19] In the Mediterranean, raiding using oared galleys was common throughout the Middle Ages and into the Renaissance and was particularly a feature of the wars between the Christian powers and the Ottoman Empire in the 16th century.[20] Raiding formed a major component of English naval strategy in the Elizabethan era, with attacks on the Spanish possessions in the New World. A major raid on Cadiz to destroy shipping being assembled for the Spanish Armada was carried out by Sir Francis Drake in 1587.[21] Similarly the Dutch executed the Raid on the Medway during the Second Anglo-Dutch War and the Dutch Raid on North America during the Third Anglo-Dutch War.

During the Second World War, the British set up the Combined Operations Headquarters to organise harassing raids against the Germans in Europe. The first operation conducted by a "commando" formation, known as Operation Ambassador, took place in July 1940, but it was a small-scale operation that resulted in negligible success. The next major raid was Operation Claymore, which was launched in March 1941 against the Lofoten Islands.[22] Throughout the war there were many other operations of varied size, ranging from small scale operations like those undertaken by Z Special Unit against the Japanese in the Pacific, such as Project Opossum,[23] to Operation Chariot – a raid on Saint-Nazaire – and the Dieppe Raid, 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 sufficiently to cause sufficient destruction to the port.[24]


Air landed

Paratroopers and glider-borne troops have been landed by aircraft on raids, including offensive counter-air missions such as those carried out by the Teishin Shudan and Giretsu Kuteitai commandos. In the modern era, the helicopter, allowing for both insertion and extraction, offers a superior method of raid transportation, although it comes at the cost of noise.[citation needed] During the Second World War, several air-landed raids were undertaken, including the German glider-borne raid on Fort Eben-Emal in Belgium in 1940,[25] and the British Operation Colossus and Operation Biting, which were raids in Italy and France in 1941 and 1942.[26]

Aerial bombardment

Main article: Strategic bombing

The Royal Air Force first used the term "raid" in the Second World War when referring to an air attack. It included those by one aircraft or many squadrons, against all manner of targets on the ground and the targets defending aircraft. "Raid" was different from "battle", which was used for land, sea, or amphibious conflict. An aircraft "raid" was always planned ahead of time. Aircraft patrols (against U-boats) and defensive launches of carrier aircraft (against recently detected enemy ships) are differentiated from raids.

See also


  1. ^ The Handbook Of The SAS And Elite Forces. How The Professionals Fight And Win. Edited by Jon E. Lewis. p.312-Tactics And Techniques, Landings And Raids On Enemy Territory. Robinson Publishing Ltd 1997. ISBN 1-85487-675-9
  2. ^ Gat (2006)
  3. ^ a b van der Steen, Eveline (2014). "Raiding and robbing". Near Eastern Tribal Societies During the Nineteenth Century: Economy, Society and Politics Between Tent and Town. Routledge. ISBN 9781317543473. Retrieved 23 May 2019.
  4. ^ Bray, Barbara; Darlow, Michael (2012-06-15). Ibn Saud: The Desert Warrior Who Created the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia. Skyhorse Publishing, Inc. ISBN 9781620874141.
  5. ^ Safiur Rahman Mubarakpuri (2005), The sealed nectar: biography of the Noble Prophet, Darussalam Publications, p. 245, ISBN 978-9960899558
  6. ^ Muḥammad Ibn ʻAbd al-Wahhāb, Mukhtaṣar zād al-maʻād, p. 346.
  7. ^ Muḥammad Ibn ʻAbd al-Wahhāb, Mukhtaṣar zād al-maʻād, p. 346.
  8. ^ Mubarakpuri, The Sealed Nectar, pp.128-131. (online)
  9. ^ a b Strauch, Sameh (2006), Biography of the Prophet, Darussalam Publications, p. 472, ISBN 9789960980324
  10. ^ Hawarey, Mosab (2010). The Journey of Prophecy; Days of Peace and War (Arabic). Islamic Book Trust. ISBN 9789957051648.Note: Book contains a list of battles of Muhammad in Arabic, English translation available here
  11. ^ Abū Khalīl, Shawqī (2003). Atlas of the Quran. Dar-us-Salam. p. 242. ISBN 978-9960897547.(online)
  12. ^ Al-Tabari (2008), The foundation of the community, State University of New York Press, p. 119, ISBN 978-0887063442
  13. ^ Safiur Rahman Mubarakpuri (2005), The Sealed Nectar, Darussalam Publications, p. 205, ISBN 9798694145923[permanent dead link]
  14. ^ Rogers (2007), Chapter 7 Little War
  15. ^ Rogers (2000), pp. 304–324
  16. ^ Black (2004)
  17. ^ Simpkin and Erickson (1987), p. 72
  18. ^ Griffith (1995), Chapter 4 The Viking Notion of Strategy
  19. ^ Longmate (1990), pp. 314–382
  20. ^ Crowley (2008), Chapter 6 The Turkish Sea
  21. ^ Hanson (2003), pp. 111–122
  22. ^ Chappell (1996), pp. 5 & 13
  23. ^ Smith (2012), pp. 48–54
  24. ^ Chappell (1996), pp. 19–26
  25. ^ Evans (2000), p. 42
  26. ^ Thompson (1989), pp. 11 & 18