List of last stands

A last stand is a military situation where a (normally) small defensive force holds a position against a significantly more powerful attacking force, often (though not necessarily) as their final act before being defeated. The defending force usually takes heavy casualties. This can take the form of a rearguard action, holding a defensible location, or simply by refusing to give up a position. Last stands are a last resort tactic used when retreat or surrender is either impossible, or when fighting is essential to the success of their cause. While the defending force will most likely be defeated, they sometimes survive long enough for reinforcements to arrive and force the retreat of the attackers, or even force the enemy away by themselves.

List of land-based last stands[]

Name Year Defenders Attackers Description Outcome
Battle of Thermopylae 480 BC Greek City-States Persian Empire A force of 7,000 allied Greek soldiers blocked the pass of Thermopylae from the invading Persian army numbering between 70,000 and 300,000 soldiers. The Greek defenders held their position for at least three days before being overrun. The battle has since become a symbol of courage against overwhelming odds.[1] Persian victory
Battle of the Persian Gate 330 BC Persian Empire Kingdom of Macedonia A Persian force under Ariobarzanes held Alexander the Great and his hand-picked, 17,000-strong force back for a month behind the narrow pass reaching Persepolis before being attacked in a pincer movement. The Persians, who were unarmed at this time, fought to death. Greek victory
Siege of Numantia 133 BC Celtiberians Roman Republic The Roman consul Scipio Aemilianus with an army of 20,000 Roman legionnaires plus 40,000 allies and mercenary troops, surrounded the city of Numantia during the Roman conquest of the Iberian Peninsula. Scipio's army constructed a wall around the city, created an artificial lake between that wall and the city walls, and erected several 10 feet towers from which archers could shoot into Numantia. The Romans asked for the full surrender of the Celtiberians. The inhabitants of Numantia refused to surrender and decided to die free before becoming slaves. Little by little the Numantians succumbed either from starvation, Roman arrows, or mass suicide. Overall the siege lasted between 8 and 16 months (depending on the sources) and ended with the burning and complete destruction of the city.[2][3] Roman victory and culmination of the Numantine War and the Celtiberian Wars.
Battle of Lauro 45 BC Pompeians Caesarians After being defeated during the Battle of Munda, Gnaeus Pompeius the Younger unsuccessfully attempted to escape the Caesarian forces that pursued him and his remaining followers. Eventually the Pompeians were cornered and surrounded near Lauro. After one last breakout attempt that allowed some of his forces to escape, Gnaeus Pompeius (who was heavily wounded) and the remaining Pompeian defenders mostly fought to the death against the Caesarians.[4] Caesarian victory, death of Gnaeus Pompeius the Younger
Siege of Masada 74 AD Jewish Sicarii Rebels Roman Empire One of the final events in the First Jewish–Roman War, occurring at the hilltop fortress of Masada in current-day Israel, near the Dead Sea. The lengthy siege by Roman Empire troops culminated in the Roman legion surrounding Masada and constructing a siege ramp against the western face of the plateau, moving thousands of tons of stones and beaten earth over several months. Upon reaching the fortress, the Romans discovered that all 960 rebels had committed mass suicide. The siege of Masada is often revered in modern Israel as "a symbol of Jewish heroism".[5] Roman victory
Siege of Mecca (692) 692 AD Abd Allah ibn al-Zubayr's caliphate Umayyad Caliphate In 692 the armies of the Umayyad Caliphate besieged Mecca to put an end to the rival caliphate of Abd Allah ibn al-Zubayr. After six months of brutal fighting, with over 10,000 men including two of his sons having defected to the Umayyads, Abd Allah ibn al-Zubayr and his remaining loyal followers made a last stand at the Kaaba, where they fought to the death.[6] Umayyad victory
Battle of Roncevaux Pass 778 AD Franks Basques A large force of Basques ambushed Charlemagne's army. To escape, Charlemagne assigned a rearguard to delay the Basques until the Franks could retreat. The rearguard action was successful, but all of the soldiers who took part in it were killed.[7] Basque victory
Battle of Stamford Bridge 1066 AD Kingdom of Norway (872–1397) Kingdom of England The battle was part of the Viking invasion of England. The battle took place near the town of Stamford Bridge. A force of 9,000 Vikings were opposed by ~15,000 English soldiers who achieved a decisive victory after extremely heavy fighting.[8] Decisive English victory

Battle of Aljubarrota 1385 AD Kingdom of Portugal

Kingdom of England

Crown of Castille

Crown of Aragon

Kingdom of France

The battle represented a standoff between numerically superior Castillian and French forces against the Portuguese and a small number of English Longbowmen. The Portuguese managed to secure a solid victory and, consequently, rule out Castillian ambitions to the Portuguese throne. John of the House of Aviz is officially declared King of Portugal. Decisive Portuguese Victory
Battle of Agincourt 1415 AD Royal Arms of England (1399-1603).svg Kingdom of England France moderne.svg Kingdom of France The battle had a numerically inferior force of English soldiers fight against French forces. The English use of longbows is what allowed them to defeat the French, whose armor was ineffective against the fired arrows.[9] Decisive English victory
Fall of Constantinople 1453 AD  Byzantine Empire

 Republic of Genoa

 Republic of Venice

 Kingdom of Sicily

 Papal States

Fictitious Ottoman flag 1.svg Ottoman defectors

Fictitious Ottoman flag 1.svg Ottoman Empire The conquest of Constantinople was directly after a 53-day siege. It dealt a heavy blow to Christendom, as the Ottoman armies were able to freely invade Europe without fearing an attack from the rear. It also helped the Renaissance, as several intellectuals fled the city and immigrated to Italy.[10] Decisive Ottoman victory
Stand of the Swiss Guard 1527 AD  Holy See

 Papal States

 Habsburg Monarchy

 Holy Roman Empire Habsburg Spain

A war that took place during the War of the League of Cognac. 189 Swiss Guards under the command of captain Kaspar Röist were ordered by Pope Clement VII to defend Rome from the Habsburg Imperial and Spanish troops to loot the city. Long enough for Clement VII to escape with some survivors and refugees to escape across the Passetto di Borgo to Castel Sant'Angelo. Habsburg victory; escape of Pope Clement VII
Siege of Diu 1538 AD Portuguese Empire Gujarat Sultanate

Ottoman Empire

Portuguese forces, under the command of António de Silveira, withstand a 2-month siege in Diu. Suffering heavy casualties (with only 40 survivors in the aftermath), the Portuguese repelled several Gujarati and Ottoman assaults on the fort. This enabled Diu to be under Portuguese control until Operation Vijay during the annexation of Goa. Portuguese victory
Siege of Katsurayama 1557 AD forces of Uesugi Kenshin forces of Takeda Shingen In March 1557, Katsurayama castle was attacked and besieged by the Takeda clan. The castle garrison, consisting of the Ochiai clan and elements of the Murakami clan, was loyal to Uesugi Kenshin and defended the fortress furiously, but was eventually overwhelmed by the Takeda army. All defending warriors fought to death, while their families committed mass suicide and the castle was burned to the ground. Takeda victory
Siege of Szigetvár 1566 AD Habsburg Monarchy Ottoman Empire The siege of Szigetvár was fought from 5 August to 8 September 1566 and, though it resulted in an Ottoman victory, there were heavy losses on both sides. Both commanders died during the battle — Zrinski in the final charge and Suleiman in his tent from natural causes. More than 20,000 Turks had fallen during the attacks and almost all of Zrinski's 2,300 man garrison was killed, with most of the final 600 men killed on the last day. Although the battle was an Ottoman victory, it stopped the Ottoman push to Vienna that year. Vienna was not threatened again until the Battle of Vienna in 1683.[11] Ottoman Empire victory
Battle of Nishimonai 1601 AD Onodera clan Mogami clan Even though the Onodera clan that had ruled southern Akita, Japan, was completely defeated and exiled in 1600, one clan member, Onodera Shigemichi, continued to resist at his stronghold in Nishimonai and even refused to surrender when a large Mogami clan army arrived to eliminate this last remnant of Onodera resistance. Shigemichi and his loyal followers attempted to defend their castle against the Mogami, but were overwhelmed, whereupon he set fire to the fortress. According to some accounts, Shigemichi died in the flames, whereas others report that he managed to escape. Either way, Onodera Shigemichi is honored in Nishimonai until the present day. Mogami clan victory
Rokugō rebellion 1603 AD Satake clan Onodera clan loyalists Around 1,000 rōnin, still loyal to their defeated and exiled former lord Onodera Yoshimichi, decided to rebel to protest against his poor treatment by the Tokugawa shogunate. Though their uprising had no chance of success, the rōnin attacked Rokugō, Akita, where they were quickly defeated by the Satake clan. The rebellion has since been considered an exceptional display of loyalty by samurai to their master.[12] Satake clan victory
Battle of Naseby 1645 AD Royalists New Model Army The Battle of Naseby had the main army of King Charles I effectively destroyed by the New Model Army led by Oliver Cromwell. This last stand did not involve total Royalists casualties, as the majority of the army surrendered to Cromwell.[13] Decisive Parliamentarian victory
Battle of Pavan Khind July 13, 1660 AD Maratha Empire Bijapur Sultanate The Battle of Pavan Khind was a rear guard action by Marathas led by Baji Prabhu Deshpande to aid escape of Maratha King Shivaji Maharaj to Vishalgad. Baji Prabhu held an Adilshahi force of 10,000+ with a small Maratha army of 300 in a pass now known as Pavan Khind. The Maratha army perished in the Adilshahi assault, but only after achieving their objective of safe arrival of Shivaji Maharaj to Vishalgad.[14][better source needed] Tactical Adilshahi victory

Strategic Maratha Victory

Siege of Fort Bard May 14 - June 2 1800 AD Flag of the Kingdom of Sardinia (1728-1802).gif Kingdom of Sardinia
Habsburg Monarchy Habsburg Monarchy
French First Republic France Napoleon began his second Italian campaign by entering in Aosta Valley on April 6,easily defeating the few austrian garrisons in the territory.On May 14, 1800, the 40,000-strong French army was stopped by 400 Austro-Piedmontese soldiers at Fort Bard. They held the pass for two weeks, completely ruining Napoleon Bonaparte's plan of making a surprise attack on the Po Valley and Turin. When he heard the news, he named the fort vilain castel de Bard. Bonaparte then gave the order himself, that the fort should be razed to the ground. French victory
Battle of Tarvis (1809) May 18, 1809 AD Austrian Empire First French Empire The Storming of the Predil Blockhouse from 15 to 18 May saw the Franco-Italian army of Eugène de Beauharnais attacking Austrian Empire forces under Albert Gyulai. Eugène crushed Gyulai's division in a pitched battle near Tarvisio, then an Austrian town known as Tarvis. At nearby Malborghetto Valbruna (Malbotghet Wolfstal) and Predil Pass, small garrisons of Grenz infantry heroically defended two forts before being overwhelmed by sheer numbers. On 18 May, Predil fell to assault and the defenders were killed to the last man. Strategic French Victory
Battle of the Alamo 1836 AD Republic of Texas  Mexico The battle was part of the Texas Revolution. Following a 13-day siege of the Alamo, Mexican soldiers stormed the building, killing all of the defenders. In the following years, the battle is regarded akin to the legendary Battle of Thermopylae.[15] Mexican victory
Battle of Blood River 1838 AD Voortrekker flag.svg Voortrekkers Zulu Kingdom The Battle of Blood River had 464 Voortrekkers and 200 servants under Andries Pretorius attacked by 10,000 Zulu under Ndlela kaSompisi with an additional 70,000 held in reserve not taking part in the battle. Pretorius had set up a laager on a defensive position near the bank of Blood River. The Zulus attacked with overwhelming numbers over the course of several days, but Pretorius' technological advantage (muskets and two cannons) allowed him to successfully hold them off. By the end of the battle, three Voortrekkers were wounded while the Zulus had lost more than 3,000.[16] Voortrekker victory
Retreat from Kabul 1842 AD  British Empire Emirate of Afghanistan The 1842 Kabul Retreat took place during the First Anglo-Afghan War. Following an uprising in Kabul, Major General Sir William Elphinstone negotiated an agreement with Wazir Akbar Khan, one of the sons of the Afghan Emir Dost Mohammad Barakzai, by which his army was to withdraw to the British garrison at Jalalabad, more than 90 miles (140 km) away. As the army and its numerous dependents and camp-followers began its march, it came under attack from Afghan tribesmen. Many of the column died of exposure, frostbite or starvation or were killed during the fighting. The final stand was made just outside a village called Gandamak on 13 January.[17] Afghan victory
Battle of Chapultepec/Niños Héroes 1847 AD  Mexico  United States Mexico City's Chapultepec Castle served as the Mexican Army's military academy. In the 13 September 1847 Battle of Chapultepec, during the Mexican–American War, it was defended by Mexican troops under the command of Nicolás Bravo, including cadets from the academy. The greatly outnumbered defenders battled General Winfield Scott's troops for about two hours before General Bravo ordered retreat, but six cadets refused to fall back and fought to the death. Legend has it that the last of the six, Juan Escutia, leapt from Chapultepec Castle wrapped in the Mexican flag to prevent the flag from being taken by the enemy.[18] These Niños Héroes (Spanish: [ˈniɲos ˈeɾoes], Boy Heroes), also known as the Heroic Cadets or Boy Soldiers, are a key part of Mexico's patriotic folklore, commemorated by a national holiday on September 13. However, several modern Mexican historians claim that parts of the story are not factual.[19] American victory
Battle of Camarón 1863 AD France France Mexico The Battle of Camerón had 65 Foreign Legionnaires fight against 3,000 Mexican soldiers for over 10 hours. The Legionnaires only surrendered after an attempted bayonet charge, and a promise that they would receive medical attention and be allowed to keep their weapons and equipment.[20] Tactical Mexican victory

Strategic French victory

Raid on Godfrey Ranch 1865 AD  United States Lakota
The ranch was defended by three or four men who fought against 130 Native American warriors. Godfrey was aware of the planned attack and had fortified his ranch in preparation. The attack happened at night and continued until morning when the attackers retreated.[21] American victory
Battle of Cerro Corá 1870 AD  Paraguay  Empire of Brazil The last engagement of the Paraguayan War, the Battle of Cerro Corá saw the complete destruction of all remaining forces of Paraguayan President Francisco Solano López. Although completely outnumbered, many of the Paraguayans refused to surrender and instead were killed in attempts to escape, made stubborn last stands or simply allowed themselves to be shot. Among those killed were President Lopez, Vice President Domingo Francisco Sánchez, Secretary of State Luis Caminos, and the son of the President, Juan Francisco López. According to one account, the President's last words were that he was "dying with [his] homeland". In this regard, historian Gabriele Esposito has commented that considering the enormous Paraguayan casualties during the war, López had "certainly ensured that most of [Paraguay's] people had died before him".[22] Brazilian victory, end of the Paraguayan War
Custer's Last Stand 1876 AD United States United States Lakota
Northern Cheyenne
Custer's Last Stand was part of the Battle of the Little Bighorn. George Custer  found himself on an open hilltop with a significantly larger force of Native Americans attacking them. Even though, according to Lakota accounts, the attack on Last Stand Hill produced the most casualties, the Lakota destroyed Custer's force within an hour.[23] Native American victory
Battle of Shipka Pass 1877 AD  Russian Empire

Flag of Stiliana Paraskevova.svg Bulgaria

Ottoman Empire Ottoman Empire During the second battle, 38,000 Ottomans decided to capture three positions guarded by 7,500 defenders. The Ottomans spent six days trying to capture the positions, but eventually retreated after Russian reinforcements arrived.[24] Russian/Bulgarian victory
Battle of Shiroyama 1877 AD Samurai of Satsuma Imperial Japanese Army 500 samurai were surrounded by 30,000 Japanese soldiers. The samurai held their position, engaging in close-quarter fighting, as the Japanese soldiers were not trained for it. They continued to hold until their leader, Saigō Takamori , was killed. They then decided to charge downhill and were subsequently killed.[25] Imperial Japanese victory
Battle of Rorke's Drift 1879 AD United Kingdom British Empire Zulu Kingdom The battle had 141 members of the British Army defend a mission station against a force of 3,000 to 4,000 Zulus. The battle happened soon after the British defeat at the Battle of Isandlwana. The British at Rorke's Drift had time to prepare defensive positions in anticipation of a Zulu attack. After several fierce assaults over 12 hours, the Zulu's attack was repulsed. Eleven Victoria Crosses were awarded to the defenders, among other decorations.[26] British victory
Battle of La Concepción 1882 AD Chile Chile Peru Peru A force of 300 Peruvian soldiers accompanied by around 1000-1500 guerillas assaulted a garrison of 77 Chilean soldiers at Concepción. The Chileans entrenched themselves in the town's church and withstood the attack for a period of 27 hours, eventually being totally annihilated by the Peruvian forces.[27] Peruvian victory
The Shangani Patrol 1893 AD Flag of BSAC .svg British South Africa Company Matabele Kingdom During the First Matabele War, 34 men of the Shangani Patrol were ambushed by ~3,000 Matabele warriors. The Matabele leader offered to spare the Shangani Patrol if they surrendered, but they refused and kept fighting. Under the orders of Major Allan Wilson , the remaining British took cover behind their dead horses and inflicted heavy casualties on the attackers. After they ran out of ammunition, the remaining survivors were finished off by an assagei spear charge. The British took total casualties, but killed ~500 of their attackers.[28]

Usually, the Matabele mutilate the bodies of the enemy, but made an exception for Wilson's men. One of the Matabele leaders explained after the battle, "The white men died so bravely we would not treat them as we do the cowardly Mashonas and others."[28]

Matabele victory
Lapa Siege 1894 AD BrazilBrazil Maragatos During the Federalist Riograndense Revolution, around 800 defenders composed mostly of civilian volunteers held a rebel force 3 or 4 times larger, for 26 days. The city surrendered after the death of their commander, Gomes Carneiro, however the rebel force had been delayed for enough time that the government managed to muster a counter-attack, which lead to the defeat of the rebel forces. Phyrric Maragato Victory
Battle of Saragarhi 1897 AD British India Pashtuns On 12 September 1897, 21 Sikhs of the 36th Sikhs defended an army post from the 10,000 Pashtuns trying to capture it. The defenders all chose to fight, buying enough time for a British Indian relief party to recapture the fort. September 12 is remembered as Saragarhi Day among Sikh military personnel.[29] Tactical Pashtun victory

Strategic British Indian victory

Siege of Baler 1898-1899 CE  Spanish Empire First Philippine Republic Philippine Republic The Siege of Baler was a battle of the Philippine Revolution and concurrently the Spanish–American War and the Philippine–American War. Filipino revolutionaries laid siege to a fortified church manned by 50 colonial Spanish troops in the town of Baler, Philippines for 11 months, or 337 days.[30]

The war had ended in December 1898 with Spain's surrender and cession of the Philippines to the United States. However, cut off from communications with their own government and military, the Spanish forces in Baler continued their defense against the Filipino forces until 1899.

Filipino Victory
Battle of Tirad Pass 1899 CE First Philippine Republic Philippine Republic United States United States The Battle of Tirad Pass is a famous battle where a rearguard of 60 Filipino soldiers fought a delaying action against a 300 strong American advance. The defenders suffered near total casualties, but fought long enough for President Aguinaldo and his troops to escape. The battle is now sometimes called the "Philippine Thermopylae."[31] Tactical United States victory

Strategic Filipino victory

Gavrilović's defense of Belgrade 1914 CE  Serbia  Austria-Hungary Gavrilović lead the Serbian defensive action that delayed the Austro-Hungarians in fully taking Belgrade during the first World War. The attacking force vastly outnumbered the Serbians, and were only gaining reinforcements. They also had a vast superiority in artillery. Gavrilović was forced to engage the Austro-Hungarians in close-quarter combat. Eventually, the defenders mounted a final charge in an attempt to destroy the enemy's bridgehead. A memorial planted by the enemy commander still stands today, reading "Here Lies Serbian Heroes."[32] Failure to destroy Austro-Hungarian Bridgehead
Battle of Gravenstafel Ridge 1915 CE  Canada  German Empire The Battle of Gravenstafel was one of the six engagements that made up the Second Battle of Ypres. The battle had members of the Canadian Expionary Force hold their position, as well as the position of the French Moroccan and Algerian divisions, who had retreated after the gas attack. The Canadians fought for three days, despite being surrounded on three sides, gassed again, outnumbered, and outgunned.[33] German attack repulsed
Meuse-Argonne Offensive 1918 CE United States 77th Division  German Empire The Meuse-Argonne Offensive began on the morning of September 26, 1918. General Evan Johnson, the commander in charge of the Argonne part of the offensive, had a "no retreat" command for his divisions. Their communication line was cut and so they could not receive supplies of food or ammunition. Holderman tried to lead an assault out through the back of the pocket, but failed to break out, incurring heavy casualties in the process. This infuriated Whittlesey, but seeing that there was nothing he could do he simply sent the survivors back to their defensive positions. Next came a grenade assault followed by mortars raining in on them, but the Americans did not stagger. On the morning of 4 October, patrols were sent out on their morning routes, and Whittlesey was unsure that any of the carrier pigeons had actually made it through. He was unsure if command actually knew of the desperate situation that was unfolding. Whittlesey believed that his orders to hold this position still applied, because the position was the key to breaking through the German lines.

Major Whittlesey (right) talking to Major Kenny, 307. Infantry, after the battle. Kennys 3rd battalion took part in the relief attempts for the "Lost Battalion".

While Whittlesey and his men tenaciously defended their position, their parent 154th Brigade and the entire 77th Division launched a ferocious series of attacks to get to them. But with each attack, these efforts grew weaker and weaker as the combat power of the 77th ebbed. In the first 4 days of these attacks, the rest of the 308th infantry alone lost 766 men

For the next few days, the Pocket held firm and the powerful American attacks started to push the Germans back and the 77th Division was now trying to infiltrate troops into the pocket.

Whittlesey, meanwhile, asked for a volunteer to sneak through the lines and lead back help. Private Abraham Krotoshinsky undertook this mission and skillfully left the pocket by a circuitous route to the north which ultimately led to an infiltrating company of the 307th Infantry. Krotoshinsky acted as a guide to lead this group to help rescue the trapped company and establish a route for further fresh troops to come into the pocket. So on 8 October, the 77th relief force had linked up with Whittlesey's men. Immediately upon their relief, Whittlesey was promoted to Lieutenant Colonel.

Of the over 500 soldiers who entered the Argonne Forest, only 194 walked out unscathed. The rest were killed, missing, captured, or wounded. Major Charles White Whittlesey, Captain George G. McMurtry, and Captain Nelson M. Holderman received the Medal of Honor for their valiant actions. Whittlesey was also recognized by being a pallbearer at the ceremony interring the remains of the Unknown Soldier.

Allied victory due to the Armistice of November 11, 1918
Battle of Zadwórze 1920 CE Poland Poland Flag of the Russian Soviet Federative Socialist Republic (1918–1937).svg Russian SFSR The Battle of Zadwórze was a battle of the Polish-Soviet War. It was fought on August 17, 1920 near the train station of Zadwórze [uk], a small village located 33 kilometres from the city centre of Lwów (now Lviv). The battle, lasting roughly 24 hours, resulted in the complete destruction of the Polish forces but at the same time halted the Soviet advance, preventing the forces of Siemion Budionnyi from seizing Lwów and so contributing to the successful defence of Warsaw. The battle has been called the Polish Thermopylae. Soviet victory
Defence of the Polish Post Office in Danzig 1939 CE Poland Poland Nazi Germany Nazi Germany The Defence of the Polish Post Office in Danzig (Gdańsk) was one of the first acts of World War II in Europe, as part of the Invasion of Poland. On September 1, 1939, Polish personnel defended the building for some 15 hours against assaults by the SS Heimwehr Danzig (SS Danzig Home Defense), local SA formations and special units of Danzig police. All but four of the defenders, who were able to escape from the building during the surrender, were sentenced to death by a German court martial as illegal combatants on October 5, 1939 and executed. German victory
Battle of Westerplatte 1939 CE Poland Poland Nazi Germany Nazi Germany The Battle of Westerplatte was the first battle in the Invasion of Poland and marked the start of the Second World War in Europe. Beginning on September 1, 1939, German naval forces and soldiers and Danzig police assaulted the Polish Military Transit Depot (Wojskowa Składnica Tranzytowa, or WST) on the peninsula of Westerplatte, in the harbour of the Free City of Danzig. The Poles held out for seven days in the face of a heavy attack that included dive bomber attacks. German victory
Battle of Hel 1939 CE Poland Poland Nazi Germany Nazi Germany The Hel Peninsula, together with the town of Hel, was the pocket of Polish Army resistance that held out the longest against the German invasion. Approximately 2,800 soldiers of the Fortified Region Hel unit (Helski Rejon Umocniony), part of the Coastal Defence Group (Grupa Obrony Wybrzeża) under [Kapitan Stanislaw Zwartynski], defended the area against overwhelming odds from 9 September until 2 October 1939, when they surrendered. German victory
Battle of Wizna 1939 CE Poland Poland Nazi Germany Nazi Germany The Battle of Wizna was fought during the early stages of the Invasion of Poland. The 700 Polish defenders held a fortified position for three days against a Nazi force that outnumbered them ~ 60-1. Captain Władysław Raginis  eventually ordered the last two bunkers to surrender after they ran out of ammunition, then committed suicide.[34] German victory
Siege of Calais (1940) 1940 CE United Kingdom United Kingdom

France France

Nazi Germany Nazi Germany The siege of Calais was a battle for the port of Calais during the Battle of France in May 1940. The siege was fought at the same time as the Battle of Boulogne, just before Operation Dynamo, the evacuation of the British Expionary Force (BEF) through Dunkirk. German victory
Battle of Belgium (1940) 1940 CE Chasseurs Ardennais Nazi GermanyNazi Germany When the German armies, which included Rommel’s Ghost Division, approached the unit, they were supposed to retreat but due to communication failure the order never reached them. Instead they honored their original orders, which were to defend the border at all cost. They fought so bravely and on such a large front, that they tricked the axis into believing that they were facing a force much larger than 40 rifles strong. When finally they were captured and their captors asked them -”where are the others?” they simply laughed and answered. -”There are no others, we are all!”. German victory
Defense of Brest Fortress 1941 CE Soviet Union USSR Nazi Germany Nazi Germany The defence of Brest Fortress took place 22–29 June 1941. The Brest Fortress, defended by the Red Army against the Wehrmacht, held out longer than expected and, after the Second World War had finished, became a symbol of Soviet resistance. In 1965 the fortress received the title of Hero Fortress for the 1941 defense. German victory
Pavlov's House 1942 CE Soviet Union Soviet Union Nazi Germany Nazi Germany Pavlov's House was a fortified apartment building that was defended against heavy German attack during the Battle of Stalingrad. The defense would be led by Sergeant Yakov Pavlov, whose understrength platoon would hold the tactically vital building for 60 days, following Stalin's Order No. 227. Sergeant Pavlov would be awarded the title Hero of the Soviet Union for his actions.[35] Soviet victory
Last stand of the Italian-Croatian Legion 1942 CE Italy Independent State of Croatia Italian-Croatian Legion Soviet Union Soviet Union In course of the Operation Little Saturn, the Italian-Croatian Legion (a unit of about 1000 Croatian volunteers fighting for the Royal Italian Army) was surrounded by the Red Army at the Hills 168 and 210 near Meshkov. For two days, the Croatians fought fiercely against the Russians, but on 21 December their ammunition ran out - nevertheless, the legionaries did not surrender and when the final Soviet assault overrun their position, all were killed in battle.[36] Soviet victory, Italian-Croatian Legion completely destroyed
Last stand of the 44th Infantry Division's Panzerjäger-Abteilung 46 1942 CE Nazi Germany Nazi Germany Soviet Union Soviet Union As part of Operation Koltso, the Soviet 21st and 65th Armies attacked the Marinovka salient of the German Stalingrad pocket with hundreds of tanks, hoping to easily overrun the three weakened German divisions in their way. Despite this, the Germans fiercely and desperately resisted. In one of the most notable cases, the German 44th Infantry Division's Panzerjäger-Abteilung 46 ("tank-hunter unit 46"), counting 128 soldiers, repulsed four waves of attacking heavy and medium tanks (including KV-1s and T-34s) with just three 7.62 cm Pak 36(r) anti-tank guns. The unit inflicted heavy losses on the Soviets, destroying dozens of tanks, while suffering 64 killed and 58 wounded. By the end, just six men and one anti-tank gun were still combat-ready, but eventually their ammunition ran out and their position was overrun by the Soviet Army. Panzerjäger-Abteilung 46 was completely destroyed.[37][38] Soviet victory, Panzerjäger-Abteilung 46 completely destroyed
Last Battle of Pohorje Battalion 1943 AD Liberation Front of the Slovene Nation Nazi Germany Nazi Germany The Pohorje Battalion was an armed unit of Slovene Partisans, resistance army of the Slovenian people, organized on territory occupied by Third Reich during the Second World War. As other units of Slovene Partisans, it performed its actions in a guerrilla-like way, avoiding larger conflicts against a much stronger opponent. Their last battle was fought in winter camp, where they were planning to spend the winter. On 8 January, 69 fighters (among them women and children) were surrounded by some 2000 men of the German armed forces. In a two and half hour long fight, all but one of the defenders, who was too severely wounded to kill himself, were killed (their commandant gave the order that none should be captured alive). The captured partisan was shot subsequently, yet the last stand of the battalion became a symbol of a heroic stance against occupation and a legendary action of the Slovenian people in a fight for their freedom.[39] Germany victory
Warsaw Ghetto Uprising 1943 AD Jewish Resistance

Polish Resistance

Nazi Germany Nazi Germany The Warsaw Ghetto Uprising was an act of Jewish resistance in the Warsaw Ghetto, opposing Nazi Germany's final effort to transport the remaining Ghetto population to Treblinka extermination camp. They fought for 27 days until the Ghetto was burnt down by the Waffen-SS.[40] German victory
Battle of Tali-Ihantala 1944 AD  Finland

Nazi Germany Nazi Germany

Soviet Union Soviet Union The battle saw 50,000 highly trained Finns with German equipment defend against 150,000 poorly-supplied Soviet forces. The Finns defended against heavy Soviet attack for 14 days. The Red Army failed to make their planned breakthrough, so the battle is regarded as a Finnish victory.[41] Finnish defensive victory
Battle of Hill 262 1944 AD Poland Poland Nazi Germany Nazi Germany Hill 262 had encircled and entrenched Polish soldiers fight against German soldiers retreating from the Falaise Pocket. The Poles were able to direct heavy artillery fire on the Germans, which prompted a counterattack. Exhausted and low on ammunition, the defenders resorted to close-quarter combat to defeat a German attempt to overrun their position. They ensured the closure of the pocket and were relieved by the Canadian Grenadier Guards.[42] Polish victory
Battle of Arnhem 1944 AD  United Kingdom
Poland Poland
Nazi Germany Nazi Germany The Battle of Arnhem had the British 1st Airborne Division and the 1st Polish Parachute Brigade trapped and unable to be relieved. They put up a heavy resistance and fought for several days. Five of the British soldiers that fought would be awarded the Victoria Cross. The 1st Airborne suffered very heavy casualties, and would never recover.[43] German victory
Warsaw Uprising 1944 AD Home Army Nazi Germany Nazi Germany The Warsaw Uprising was planned by the Polish Government-In-Exile and Home Army. The purpose was to liberate Warsaw from the occupying Germans. The Home Army was to resist for four days, then be relieved by the advancing Red Army. The Soviets stopped their advance on the city outskirts and the Home Army was forced to fight for 63 days before they surrendered.[44] German victory
Siege of Bastogne 1944 AD United States United States Nazi Germany Nazi Germany Members of the 101st Airborne were ordered to defend the vital crossroad at Bastogne from capture by the XLVII Panzer Corps. Outnumbered, under-equipped, and surrounded, the Americans held out for seven days, before being relieved by elements of General Patton's Third Army.[45] American victory
Battle of Berlin 1945 AD Nazi Germany Nazi Germany Soviet Union Soviet Union

Poland Poland

The Battle of Berlin was Hitler's attempt at delaying the Soviets long enough so that the nearby 12th army could arrive and defeat the Soviets. The battle lasted 16 days before the unconditional surrender of Nazi Germany was declared.[46] Decisive Soviet victory
Battle of the Imjin River 1951 AD  United Nations  China The Chinese had attacked positions on the lower Imjin River in an attempt to breakthrough and recapture the South Korean capital, Seoul. The primarily British forces, alongside Philippine and Belgian forces with a small Luxembourg detachment, fought a delaying action against the numerically superior Chinese and held their position for three days, inflicting enormous casualties upon their opponents. This allowed the UN to prepare defensive positions to the north of Seoul and halt the Chinese advance.[47] Disputed
  • Successful UN delay action
Battle of Kapyong 1951 CE United Nations United Nations China China

 North Korea

The battle had most of the Chinese People's Volunteer Army in the area attack the Australians on Hill 504 and Canadians on Hill 677. The Australians and Canadians were outnumbered, but refused to give up their positions. The two battalions defended against the entire Chinese division and eventually forced them to withdraw and regroup. Their fighting was key in preventing a breakthrough on the United Nations Command central front.[48] United Nations victory
Siege of Jadotville 1961 AD United Nations ONUC State of Katanga State of Katanga 155-158 Irish UN troops were attacked by ~3,000 Katangese troops. The Irish were able to repel attacks for six days before their ammunition and supplies were exhausted. The attackers suffered heavy casualties, before the defenders (none of whom were killed) surrendered. The Irish were captured, but released one month later.[49] Katangese victory
Battle of Hill 488 1966 AD United States United States Vietnam North Vietnam

FNL Flag.svg Viet Cong

A small reconnaissance platoon was attacked by ~250-300 PAVN and Viet Cong soldiers. They held out for three days, losing few men. Before they were evacuated, the Marines had to forbid automatic fire, resort to hand-to-hand combat, and throw rocks in the hope that they would be confused for grenades. The commander of the platoon, Jimmie E. Howard, would be awarded the Medal of Honor.[50] Tactical American victory
Battle of Longewala 1971 AD  India  Pakistan The Battle of Longewala (4–7 December 1971) was one of the first major engagements in the western sector during the Indo-Pakistani War of 1971, fought between assaulting Pakistani forces and Indian defenders at the Indian border post of Longewala, in the Thar Desert of Rajasthan state in India. About 120 Indian soldiers from the 23rd battalion of the Punjab Regiment held on and fought against the invading force of 2000 Pakistani soldiers.[51] Decisive Indian victory
Badaber uprising 1982 AD Soviet Union Soviet POWs
Afghanistan Afghan POWs
Mujahideen (Jamiat-e-Islami)
The Badaber uprising was an armed rebellion of 52 Soviet and Aghan prisoners who were held at the fortess of Badaber on 26–27 April 1985. Though the prisoners managed to seize the complex from their guards and looted the local armory for weapons, they were quickly put under siege by Mujahideen reinforcements and the Pakistan Army. For two days, the prisoners managed to hold off the attackers, but their situation remained desperate as they could not escape and negotiations with the Mujahideen failed. The battle eventually ended when the fortress exploded, either because the armory had been detonated by the prisoners or because an artillery shell had struck it. Almost all prisoners were killed in the explosion. Pyrrhic Pakistani and Mujahideen victory: almost all POWs killed, Badaber fortress is completely destroyed

List of naval last stands[]

Name Year Defenders Attackers Description Outcome
Battle of Myeongnyang 1597 AD  Joseon Navy Goshichi no kiri.svg Fleet of Toyotomi Hideyoshi The battle had Admiral Yi Sun-Sin take the remaining 13 ships of the Joseon Navy and hold the Myeongnyang Strait against the 133 warships and over 200 supply ships of the attacking Japanese force. Due to Admiral Sun-sin's remarkable skill as a naval commander, he destroyed 33 enemy ships and forced a Japanese retreat. Admiral Sun-sin only lost 10 sailors as none of his ships were sunk.[52] Joseon Victory
The Iceland Gap Action 1939 CE United Kingdom Royal Navy Nazi Germany Kriegsmarine The engagement was between the armed passenger ship HMS Rawalpindi (8 6" guns) and two of the most powerful German battle cruisers Scharnhorst and Gneisenau (18 11" guns and 24 6" guns in total). The Rawalpindi sighted the German ships and the captain elected to go down fighting rather than fleeing. The Rawlpindi was sunk in 40 minutes, with the loss of 238 men. German victory
HMS Glowworm action 1940 AD United Kingdom Royal Navy Nazi Germany Kriegsmarine The engagement was between the 1,370 ton destroyer HMS Glowworm and the 16,170 ton cruiser Admiral Hipper. The Glowworm had attacked two German destroyers, who requested help from the cruiser. After the British destroyer fired all her torpedoes, and having her guns destroyed, she collided with the Admiral Hipper, and sunk. The Germans recovered 40 British sailors. Its commanding officer, Lieutenant Commander Gerard Roope  was posthumously awarded the Victoria Cross on the recommendation of the German captain.[53] German victory
The Sinking of Bismarck 1941 AD Nazi Germany Kriegsmarine United Kingdom Royal Navy After the German victory at the Battle of the Denmark Strait, the Royal Navy deployed a large force tasked with the destruction of the Bismarck to counter the destruction of the battlecruiser HMS Hood. Three days after the engagement, the Bismarck was found and engaged in its final action. Over the course of the night, the British forces crippled the Bismarck's steering gear and repeatedly harassed the Germans with attacks by British destroyers. On the morning of May 27, the HMS King George V, HMS Rodney, and the cruisers finally sank the Bismarck.[54]

Admiral Tovey, who commanded the engagement, said that "The Bismarck had put up a most gallant fight against impossible odds worthy of the old days of the Imperial German Navy, and she went down with her colours flying."[54]

British Victory
Battle off Samar 1944 AD United States United States Empire of Japan Empire of Japan The Battle off Samar had Task Unit 77.4.3 ("Taffy 3") fight against Japanese Center Force. The Japanese flagship was the Yamato, which alone outweighed all of Taffy 3 together. The Americans had a few destroyers, escort carriers, destroyer escorts, and 400 aircraft. The Japanese fleet had several battleships and heavy cruisers. Despite the mismatch, the Americans put up so much resistance, Admiral Kurita thought he was facing the entire Third Fleet and retreated.[55] American Victory

List of last stands in aviation[]

Place of Action Year Defenders Attackers Description Outcome
Over Nanjing, China 1937 AD Taiwan Republic of China Air Force Imperial Japanese Navy Air Service On 3 December 1937, a large Japanese bomber formation, escorted by 11 Mitsubishi A5Ms, attacked the airfield of the Republic of China Air Force's 21st Pursuit Squadron/4th Pursuit Group at Nanjing. At the time, the whole 21st Pursuit Squadron had only two operational Hawk IIIs left, flown by Captain Tung Ming-teh and Lieutenant Yue Yiqin. Despite their massive numerical disadvantage, Tung and Yue took off and engaged the Japanese attackers by themselves. In course of the following dogfight, the Japanese were victorious, with Yue shot down and Tung driven off. Yue was posthumously promoted for his courageous actions and buried at the Memorial Cemetery to the Anti-Japanese Aviator Martyrs, while Tung rose in rank to command the 4th Pursuit Group by 1939.[56] Japanese success, Yue Yiqin is killed
Over Oschersleben, Germany 1944 AD United States United States Luftwaffe The United States sent out a heavy bomber group that was escorted by a formation of P-51 aircraft led by Col. James H. Howard. During the mission, they met with a Luftwaffe force that attacked the bomber group. The Americans, in the process of defending their bombers, became separated from the bomber formation. Howard lost contact with his group and decided to return to the bomber formation, only to see that it was being attacked by the Germans. Instead of waiting for the rest of his group, he chose to defend against the 30 German planes alone. He fought by himself for 30 minutes, nearly out of fuel and out of ammunition; he continued to dive at the Germans until they withdrew. Howard would be awarded the Medal of Honor for his actions.[57] Successful defense of American bombers

List of last stands with few defenders[]

Place of Action Year Defender(s) Attackers Description Outcome
Rome 69 CE Sempronius Densus  Followers of Otho On January 15, 69, the Roman emperor Galba and his heir Piso were attacked on the streets of Rome by Praetorians who had defected to the usurper Otho. Instead of defending them, Galba and Piso's bodyguards promptly fled or joined the rebels. Only one centurion, Sempronius Densus, refused to abandon the emperor, even though he felt no particular affinity to Galba. Sempronius first attempted to remonstrate with the assassins, and then fought them to the death. While he managed to buy time for Piso to escape, he and Galba were killed. Soon after, however, Piso was found by Otho's followers and also killed. Due to his extraordinary sense of duty and bravery, Sempronius Densus's last stand was recorded by Roman historians as being the only heroic act done in Rome that day.[58][59] Galba and Piso are killed, Otho becomes Roman emperor.
Battle of Karbala 680 AD Husayn ibn Ali and followers (the Shias) Umayyad Caliphate Muhammad's grandson Husayn ibn Ali was asked by the people of Kufa to lead an uprising against the new Umayyad ruler Yazid I, who was appointed by his father in breach of a previous agreement with Husayn's brother, according to which the Muslim world themselves should be choosing their future ruler. As Husayn and his small caravan was heading toward Kufa, the city's people shifted their loyalty out of fear. Husayn continued nevertheless, and his caravan was intercepted by the Umayyad army. He and his 72 followers fought to death, refusing to pledge allegiance to Yazid I. The dead are considered as martyrs by Muslims, and the event has a central place in forming the identity of the Shia Muslims. Umayyad victory
Siege of Shahdiz 1107 AD Nizari Ismailis (the Assassins) Seljuk Empire A small remaining group of the besieged Nizari Ismaili defenders (around 80 men) at Shahdiz fortress refuse a safe withdrawal as per an initial agreement with the Seljuk army, which had laid a siege for a year. The ensuing battle is fought from tower to tower with most of the defenders being killed. Seljuq victory
Monchy-le-Preux, Pas-de-Calais, France 1917 CE Dominion of Newfoundland James Forbes-Robertson German Empire German Empire After a German counterattack at the village of Monchy-le-Preux, one wounded soldier of the Essex Regiment limped to the field headquarters of the Royal Newfoundland Regiment, and reported that every man in his battalion had been either killed or captured. After Lt. Kevin Keegan returned from a scouting expion to the other side of the bombarded village, he reported that about 300 German troops were approaching within several hundred yards of the Eastern edge of the village. The tenacious Lieutenant-Colonel Forbes-Robertson ordered all remaining personnel, some 20 men, to take up arms. After making a dash towards a well defended parapet opposite the village's assembly trench, the soldiers came under heavy German fire, and only nine arrived safely at the parapet, eight from the Newfoundland Regiment, and the one Essex soldier. The soldiers seized the opportunity presented by their superior positioning, and opened rapid fire from both rifles and the parapet's machine gun mount upon the advancing Germans, killing more than 40 men, many of whom were runners and scouts, thereby causing a delay in the German army's relay of intelligence, and creating the false impression that a much larger British Imperial force was waiting at the other end of the village. The fierce firefight continued until the nine men were reinforced by a contingent of the 2nd Hampshire Regiment, and an artillery barrage was opened up on the German-occupied assembly trench, killing most of the soldiers within.[60] German takeover of Monchy-le-Preux prevented
Sutoki-Byakovo, Novgorod Oblast 1942 CE Soviet Union Natalya Kovshova  and Mariya Polivanova  Nazi Germany Nazi Germany After Soviet soldiers repulsing the German offensive were gunned down or too injured to fight, only Kovshova and Polivanova, snipers, remained in battle, gunning down as many Nazis as possible. After running out of ammunition and having only four grenades left they waited to be surrounded by German soldiers, and when fully surrounded they pulled the pins on their grenades, killing themselves and surrounding enemy soldiers in order to avoid capture.[61][62] Kovshova and Polivanova killed in action
Taungdaw, Burma [now Myanmar] 1945 CE United Kingdom Lachhiman Gurung Empire of Japan Empire of Japan Gurkha Rifleman Gurung was manning the forward post of his platoon when they were attacked by 200 Japanese soldiers. He had already returned two thrown grenades when a third detonated in his trench. Despite being alone and his now severe injuries, he defended his position for four hours until he was relieved.[63] Japanese withdrawal
  • Awarded the Victoria Cross
Saipan, Mariana Islands 1944 CE United States Thomas A. Baker  Empire of Japan Empire of Japan On 7 July 1944, Thomas Baker's position came under attack by a significantly larger Japanese force. He was wounded in the initial assault, but refused to be evacuated and fought at close-range until his ammunition was expended. Baker insisted he be left behind when his comrades were forced to retreat. He was propped up against a tree with a pistol and eight bullets. When the position was retaken, he was found dead with the bodies of eight Japanese soldiers around him.[64] Baker is killed in action
  • Posthumous Medal of Honor
Saipan, Mariana Islands 1944 CE United StatesBen L. Salomon  Empire of Japan Empire of Japan Captain Salomon was the Surgeon for the 2nd Battalion, 105th Infantry Regiment, 27th Infantry Division when they were attacked by a massive Japanese force numbering somewhere between 3,000 and 5,000 soldiers. The Japanese bypassed the perimeter and started to attack Salomon's aid station. After killing seven of the attackers, he ordered the wounded back to the regimental aid station. He exited his aid station and manned a machine gun position to hold off the Japanese and cover the retreat of the wounded men for as long as possible. The American force retaking his position found him with 98 dead soldiers in front of him.[65] Salomon is killed in action
  • Posthumous Medal of Honor
Near the Po Valley, Italy 1945 CE Brazil Arlindo Lúcio da Silva 

Brazil Geraldo Baeta da Cruz 

Brazil Geraldo Rodrigues de Souza 

Nazi Germany Nazi Germany The three Brazilians were on patrol near the Po Valley when they were attacked by German forces, who requested their surrender. They took cover and returned fire, eventually running out of ammunition. They then mounted a bayonet charge against the German attackers, but were killed in the process.[66] The Brazilian soldiers are killed
Near Holtzwihr, France 1945 CE United States Audie L. Murphy Nazi Germany Nazi Germany Murphy commanded Company B, which was attacked by six tanks and waves of infantry. Murphy ordered his men to withdraw to a prepared position in a woods, while he remained forward at his command post and continued to give fire directions to the artillery, killing large numbers of the advancing enemy infantry. He then climbed on a burning tank destroyer and employed its machine gun against the enemy. He was alone and exposed to German fire from three sides, but he killed dozens of Germans and caused their infantry attack to waver. The enemy tanks, losing infantry support, began to fall back.[67] German withdrawal
  • Awarded the Medal of Honor
Machairas Monastery Near Lazanias, Cyprus 1957 CE Cyprus Grigoris Afxentiou United Kingdom United Kingdom On March 3, 1957, after an informant had betrayed his location, the British forces surrounded Afxentiou outside his secret hideout near the Machairas Monastery near Lazanias, Nicosia.[68] At the time, inside the hideout were Afxentiou and four fellow guerrilla fighters. Realising he was outnumbered, Afxentiou ordered his comrades to surrender but stayed behind to fight to the death.[69] The British asked Afxentiou to surrender his arms but he replied "molon labe" ("come and take them"), quoting King Leonidas of Sparta. Unable to drive him out and after sustaining casualties, the British forces resorted to pouring petrol into his hideout and lighting it, burning him alive. In fear of a popular uprising, the British buried his scorched body at the Imprisoned Graves, in the yard of the Central Jail of Lefkosia,[70] where he lies today. The British also never reported on this crime, opting to tell the public newspapers in Britain that Afxentiou was already dead when they scorched his body, in fear of it being seen as a Crime Against Humanity.


Death of Grigoris Afxentiou
Near Babaji, Helmand province, Afghanistan 2010 CE United Kingdom Dipprasad Pun Taliban Dipprasad Pun of the Royal Gurkha Rifles was guarding his unit's compound when he was attacked by 30 insurgents. He was surrounded and was certain of his death, so he resolved to kill as many of the attackers as he could. He expended all 400 rounds of his ammunition, launched 17 grenades, detonated a Claymore mine, and beat the final attacker to death with his tripod.[72] Taliban defeated
Near Palmyra, Syria 2016 CE Russia Alexander Prokhorenko  Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant Islamic State Alexander Prokhorenko was discovered by Islamic State forces while identifying targets for Russian airstrikes. He was quickly surrounded, and requested evacuation, which was 12 minutes away. He found himself unable to reach the evacuation point, and low on ammunition. Knowing capture or death was inevitable, he requested an airstrike on his position to kill as many of the enemy as he could.[73] Contributed to the liberation of Palmyra

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