A forlorn hope
is a band of soldiers or other combatants chosen to take the leading part
in a military operation, such as an assault on a defended position, where the risk of casualties is high.The term comes from the Dutch verloren hoop
, literally "lost heap", and adapted as "lost troop".Oxford English Dictionary
: "forlorn hope"
In the days of muzzle-loading muskets
, it was most frequently used to refer to the first wave of soldiers attacking a breach in defences during a siege
. It was likely that most members of the forlorn hope
would be killed or wounded. The intention was that some would survive long enough to seize a foothold that could be reinforced, or at least that a second wave with better prospects could be sent in while the defenders were reloading or engaged in mopping up the remnants of the first wave.
A forlorn hope was typically composed of volunteers and led by a junior officer with hopes of personal advancement. If they survived, and performed courageously, they would be expected to benefit in the form of promotions, cash gifts and adding glory to their name. The commanding... Read More