What is Guerrilla Warfare?

            Guerrilla warfare is a war by irregular forces, generally in small scale often in enemy held territories. Guerrilla is a Spanish word which means little war. The word came into use during the duke of Wellington’s campaigns to help the Spanish Portuguese guerillas to drive the French out of the Iberian Peninsula. Col T.E. Lawrence, better known as Lawrence of Arabia, a great force behind the guerrillas in their struggle against the Turks in the First World War, once remarked: guerrilla war is much more intellectual than a bayonet charge.


            Guerrilla warfare is generally preferred when the enemy is a large, well-organized force with sophisticated weapons and when it becomes practically difficult to defeat the enemy in face-to-face conventional warfare. Guerillas are hit-and-run fighters or use similar methods as they lack manpower and other resources. The guerillas seldom use army uniforms and secretly take the help of friendly local people. Sometimes they attack under the cover of darkness at night and do agricultural or pastoral work along with the local people during daytime to avoid their enemy’s attention. They are an extremely mobile force. Earlier, they used indigenous and self-made weapons, t times relying on the arms and ammunition captured from the enemy and sometimes helped by their sympathizers with modern weapons. The technical organization of guerrilla units varies according to their operational demands. They may be in a squad of 4, 5, 11 or more. They usually live in places where they can easily hide, such as forests and mountains. Guerrillas have fought in many wars in the 20th century in Europe, Africa, Asia and Central America.


            Guerrilla warfare underwent significant changes after World War II, when it received the intellectual support, direction and guidance from various quarters. As times, the fight was for some revolutionary cause, to overthrow an oppressive government or to change the social order of the time. Shivaji, the great Maratha warrior, used the technique of guerrilla warfare to fight the powerful Mughals, while Mao-Tse-Tung of china chose it to establish communism in china. The LTTE militants use this warfare in their fight against the Sri Lankan army.

Ernesto Che Guevara

            The guerrilla won their wars whenever they got the support of the local people. But over the years, the nature of guerrilla warfare has changed completely s it has become more city-oriented, individualistic but less idealistic.

            A guerrilla force cannot fight all the time. They control safe areas wherein they can retire for rest, recuperation. Repair of arms and where new recruits can be indoctrinated, trained and equipped.

            One of the most famous guerrilla leaders of our times was Ernesto ‘Che’ Guevara of Cuba who led guerrilla armies to many places of the world and was very popular among the masses. He was killed while leading a band of guerrillas against the Bolivian army in 1967. Among the other well-known leaders who led guerrilla wars were Lenin, Trotsky, Mao, Tito, Ho Chi Minh and Yasser Arafat.