back to the wall, with one's

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back to the wall, with one's

Hard-pressed; making a last-ditch defensive stand. The term embodies the idea that backing up against a wall prevents an attack from behind, but it also indicates that one has been forced back to this position and no further retreat is possible. Although it had been used since the sixteenth century and was already colloquial in nineteenth-century Britain, the term became famous near the end of World War I through an order to the British troops given by General Douglas Haig and reported in the London Times on April 13, 1918: “Every position must be held to the last man. . . . With our backs to the wall, and believing in the justice of our cause, each one of us must fight on to the end.
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