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      Special Upgrade 4 Tech Tips   12/27/2016

      Hi all! Now that Upgrade 4 is out and about in large quantities we have now discovered a few SNAFUs that happen out in the scary, real world that is home computing.  Fortunately the rate of problems is extremely small and so far most are easily worked around.  We've identified a few issues that have similar causes which we have clear instructions for work arounds here they are: 1.  CMRT Windows customers need to re-license their original key.  This is a result of improvements to the licensing system which CMBN, CMBS, and CMFB are already using.  To do this launch CMRT with the Upgrade and the first time enter your Engine 4 key.  Exit and then use the "Activate New Products" shortcut in your CMRT folder, then enter your Engine 3 license key.  That should do the trick. 2.  CMRT and CMBN MacOS customers have a similar situation as #2, however the "Activate New Products" is inside the Documents folder in their respective CM folders.  For CMBN you have to go through the process described above for each of your license keys.  There is no special order to follow. 3.  For CMBS and CMFB customers, you need to use the Activate New Products shortcut and enter your Upgrade 4 key.  If you launch the game and see a screen that says "LICENSE FAILURE: Base Game 4.0 is required." that is an indication you haven't yet gone through that procedure.  Provided you had a properly functioning copy before installing the Upgrade, that should be all you need to do.  If in the future you have to install from scratch on a new system you'll need to do the same procedure for both your original license key and your Upgrade 4.0 key. 4.  There's always a weird one and here it is.  A few Windows users are not getting "Activate New Products" shortcuts created during installation.  Apparently anti-virus software is preventing the installer from doing its job.  This might not be a problem right now, but it will prove to be an issue at some point in the future.  The solution is to create your own shortcut using the following steps: Disable your anti-virus software before you do anything. Go to your Desktop, right click on the Desktop itself, select NEW->SHORTCUT, use BROWSE to locate the CM EXE that you are trying to fix. The location is then written out. After it type in a single space and then paste this:

      -showui

      Click NEXT and give your new Shortcut a name (doesn't matter what). Confirm that and you're done. Double click on the new Shortcut and you should be prompted to license whatever it is you need to license. At this time we have not identified any issues that have not been worked around.  Let's hope it stays that way Steve
    • Battlefront.com

      Forum Reorganization   10/12/2017

      We've reorganized our Combat Mission Forums to reflect the fact that most of you are now running Engine 4 and that means you're all using the same basic code.  Because of that, there's no good reason to have the discussion about Combat Mission spread out over 5 separate sets of Forums.  There is now one General Discussion area with Tech Support and Scenario/Mod Tips sub forums.  The Family specific Tech Support Forums have been moved to a new CM2 Archives area and frozen in place. You might also notice we dropped the "x" from distinguishing between the first generation of CM games and the second.  The "x" was reluctantly adopted back in 2005 or so because at the time we had the original three CM games on European store shelves entitled CM1, CM2, and CM3 (CMBO, CMBB, and CMAK).  We didn't want to cause confusion so we added the "x".  Time has moved on and we have to, so the "x" is now gone from our public vocabulary as it has been from our private vocabulary for quite a while already.  Side note, Charles *NEVER* used the "x" so now we're all speaking the same language as him.  Which is important since he is the one programming them
JonS

Jon writes about war

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I believe that is the correct term for objects preserved from an earlier age?  This is far from my field of knowledge but I do find the whole period fascinating.  I've been to most of the Templar sites in Europe and having seen their architecture first hand I'm convinced that we still have much to learn about that organisation.  My late father wrote a thesis on the construction of cathedrals in medieval Europe, if you are interested I'll see if I can find a copy for your perusal, suffice it to say that Templar influence is inescapable, even long after the organisation's official dissolution.

No points for me I'm afraid.....First thing that sprang to mind was Soviet agents stealing nuclear secrets (I must be spending too much time around Americans) and I know that's not right!  :D

PS - Googling it didn't help much either.....All I found was a footballer (possibly not the most intensive search I've made though)!  :lol:

Edited by Sgt.Squarehead

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The term Rothen refers to a species of aliens in David Brin's space opera Uplift universe, where Humanity struggles to find its place amongst an ancient and complex multi-galaxy spanning confederation (of sorts) where "elder" species uplift "younger" ones by means of genetic and cultural manipulation.

The Human species is considered a "wolfling" civilisation, one whose "elders" are not known (and rumoured to be the fabled and mysterious Progenitor master race, the first "elder" species). This causes all kinds of troubles for Earthlings and as you may surmise, it is one of engines of the plot.

Going back to the Rothens... in Brin's books a major plotline has to do with this species infiltrating human society (since circa the 1950s) and stirring an underground movement/cult - the so-called danikians - that believe that humanity elder race were actually the Rothen. The reasons why the Rothen are so interested in influencing humanity are not made very evident in the books, though, but I have always found the whole plotline highly amusing.

-------

Interesting re: your dad's research. Cathedral construction is a fascinating topic.

Edited by BletchleyGeek

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The Emperor’s Greatest Campaign

the defeat of the Third Coalition in 1805

 

In 1805, when war once again broke out in Europe, the French army under Napoleon possessed a number of marked advantages over his enemies in the Third Coalition.  The factors which led to these advantages were due in part to the structure of the Coalition and its component armies, and in part to the way Napoleon had reorganised France and his own armies during the brief period of actual and relative peace since the Treaty of Amiens in March 1802.  One way of considering these factors is to examine how they affected the war effort at the strategic, operational, and tactical levels.

Throughout most of its history Great Britain has primarily been a maritime power and followed a strategic policy of attempting to limit major land commitments on the European continent.  Although substantial British armies were raised and sustained during the Napoleonic Wars, the overarching maritime strategy remained in effect during the Third Coalition.  The Royal Navy could – and did – prevent an invasion of England, nullified French power to the west and south, and expanded British power and influence outside Europe.  This maritime power was cemented by the stunning victory over the French and Spanish at Trafalgar on 21 October 1805.  Despite the modest attempt to project British power ashore with landings in Denmark, the Royal Navy could not really affect the French army while it remained on land.  This meant that the task of engaging and defeating Napoleon's armies fell on the other coalition partners, primarily Austria and Russia, assisted by loans and subsidies from Britain.  The net effect of this was that in 1805 France was a land power, primarily threatened from the east, and Napoleon was therefore able to safely concentrate his forces in that direction.

Strategically, the partners of the Third Coalition lacked trust in each other, and also held somewhat divergent objectives in the war.  The lack of trust was compounded by the lack of any binding commitment to pursue victory together, and the coalition partners remained free to make peace with France separately.  In effect the various Coalition partners were pursuing separate, parallel wars against France, employing a federated style of overall command.  Napoleon had the advantage of being the singular, unchallenged leader of both the Empire and its armed forces.  Once he decided on a course of action, the entirety of the French state worked towards achieving it.

Financially Britain was in a strong position, greatly aided by the reforms of Pitt the Younger during his tenure as Chancellor of the Exchequer.  Britain was able to apply that financial strength against France by subsidising the war finances of Austria and Russia, which neatly dovetailed with the policy of avoiding a major commitment of its own land forces.  This was fortunate since Austria, in particular, continued to struggle due to expenditures and losses incurred during the Second Coalition, and without British assistance would not have been in a position to contemplate another war so soon after their defeat in the Second Coalition.

'An efficient and lucrative financial system was indispensable for Napoleon's military campaigns.'  Imperial French finances were generally sound due to the financial reforms enacted by Napoleon during Consulate period, particularly the reorganisation of the system of tax collection. This improved mechanism for state income was assisted by the establishment of the Bank of France in 1800, through which loans could readily be raised.  Collectively these reforms meant that while he was Emperor Napoleon did not need to concern himself overmuch with the mechanics of paying his soldiers, or finding the funds to purchase new equipment and pay for his campaigns.

Strategically, then, France had the advantages of having a unified command supported by sound finances, and in Britain faced an opponent that was by design unable to intervene against the French army.

In addition to their strategic differences, the Third Coalition partners had difficulty coordinating operations due to their geographical dispersion around the periphery of Europe.  This meant that the Coalition found it difficult to concentrate forces.  An effort was made to turn this into a virtue through a plan of converging concentric attacks from the Tyrol, Austria, northern Italy, and Naples.  The plan looked good on paper since it sought to stretch the French forces by presenting Napoleon with multiple simultaneous dilemmas.  However in practice it proved overly complex and difficult to properly synchronise the various moving armies.  The attack north through Italy from Naples misfired, and Russian assistance to Austria was confounded by the distances involved and, compounded Mack's impetuous advance into Bavaria, led to the Kutusov's Russian army arriving several weeks too late as far as the Austrians were concerned.

France, meanwhile, occupied a central position and had ready access to relatively good and secure lines of communication.  Occupying a central position, and thus being able to use interior lines of communication, has long been recognised as a definite advantage.  From its position at Boulogne, the Grand Armée was able to maintain the threat of invasion against England, and then beginning in August moving quickly to the south east across the Rhine to invade Austria, arriving before either the English were able to  react or the Russians had linked up with the Austrian Army.

Napoleon had used the Peace of Amiens to considerably re-organise the higher level organisation of his forces.  Perhaps the most significant change was the formal adoption and expansion of the corps system, in which regiments of infantry, artillery, and cavalry were semi-permanently grouped together under a single commander.  In modern militaries this kind of grouping to achieve combined-arms effects is considered so fundamental as to be second nature, but in the early 1800s it was new and revolutionary.  The corps system meant that Napoleon could readily split his overall army into separate self-contained mini-armies, each one able to move and fight independently or come together and fight en-masse when necessary.  The ability to move each corps along separate routes meant that the French were able to achieve and sustain much faster rates of operational movement than any of their opponents, significantly increasing the opportunities to achieve surprise and favourable force ratios on the battlefield.  This became something of a hallmark of Napoleon’s operations, from as early as Marengo in 1800 where a small French force was able to engage and tie down a much larger Austrian force for long enough that French reinforcements marching to the sound of the guns and tipped the tide of battle.  At Marengo Napoleon faced the very real risk of defeat, and was only successful due to the lucky and timely arrival of Desaix's division.  By 1805, and with the corps system in place, this general approach became something of a deliberate hallmark of Napoleon's war of war, and far less risky than it had been five years earlier.

Compounding the advantage of the corps system were the logistical arrangements made for the campaign in Austria.  Napoleon realised that the vast logistical tail built up by 18th Century armies was primarily due to the need to regularly conduct sieges, which necessarily held armies in the same location for an extended period.  Under these circumstances it soon became impractical – and then impossible – to forage sufficient supplies to sustain the besieging army, and thus large and unwieldy logistical organisations evolved to support armies in the field.  Napoleon was determined to avoid sieges as far as practical, and the great size of his army meant he was able to mask enemy garrisons while the bulk of his forces kept moving.  Since they remained in motion living off the land remained viable and the corps system meant that multiple parallel lines of advance could be used which further increasing the ability of his entire force to forage for sustenance.  This increased ability to forage locally was supplemented by well organised lines of supply reaching back to France and bringing forward the food and other essentials to tide the army over periods when local supply failed or was insufficient.  Freed from a bulky logistical tail, Napoleon’s Grand Armée was able to move further and faster than its enemies, further increasing the opportunities for surprise and superior massing of force.

Unlike the armies of Austria and Russia, the French army in 1805 was a reasonably long-serving, professionally trained, and culturally homogeneous force.  While waiting and preparing over several years for the opportunity to invade England, the Grand Armée had the luxury of being concentrated in one area, with the definite expectation that it would be used in battle.  This meant that its training tended to be focused and relevant, and that officers and men got to know each other well over a long period.  This was particularly important due to the introduction of the corps system.  Since this was such a break with the past it took time for commanders and men to get used to the idea that they would habitually move and fight together, and for the new Marshals to work out how they would manoeuvre and employ their new commands.

Perhaps the most immediately obvious tactical factor in favour of Napoleon in 1805 was the sheer size of the Grand Armée, neatly encapsulated by Napoleon's remark that “God is on the side of the strongest battalion.”  Napoleon understood the importance of mass on the battlefield, and while the corps system helped ensure he would be able to assemble more mass than his opponents, the size of the Grand Armée, at around 194,000 men, ensured that he would usually have enough mass to assemble.

The corps system also benefited Napoleon in that it codified a clear and uncluttered chain of command.  Napoleon had relatively few subordinate commanders to directly manage, and those commanders had all been selected on merit.  The marshals were expected to, and able to, execute their devolved responsibility in accordance with the overall plan, without the requirement for continuous detailed management by Napoleon as supreme commander, and allowed them to move dispersed while still fighting to a common plan.

By contrast the Third Coalition lacked a overall commander, and even within each national force the command chain wasn't particularly robust.  Both Mack at Ulm and Kutusov at Austerlitz were talented military commanders who were nevertheless overruled by political appointments, with disastrous consequences in both cases. Mack and Kutuzov both had a clear concept and plan for what was required of them. Mack wanted to strike north west from Ulm across the French supply lines, cutting off the head of the Grand Armée which by then was south of the Danube. Kutusov wanted to avoid battle at Austerlitz, and instead continue to withdraw away from the, by then, logistically overstretched French and await the arrival of Austrian reinforcements and possibly even the Prussians. They were both overruled, with catastrophic consequences.

In sum, then, Napoleon had several significant factors working to his advantage at each of the strategic, operational, and tactical levels of war.  Strategically, he had the advantage of a moat separating him from his most persistent enemy the British, a unified command, and relatively sound finances. Operationally Napoleon enjoyed a central geographic position, and the advantages that accrued from his innovations in army organisation and logistical support. Tactically, the Grand Armée was a large, well trained, highly motivated force led by experienced commanders who held their positions based more on merit than patronage.

This formidable array of advantageous factors did not prevent the Napoleon's Grand Armée from making mistakes, as the example of the French wheeling blissfully past Mack's Austrians at Ulm in early October 1805 makes clear.  Napoleon had made a mistake, which left Mack in a position to seriously embarrass  him.  Yet within the month Mack had surrendered after watching his army be destroyed around him. The factors working to his advantage meant that when Napoleon did make mistakes they were an irritant, rather than deciding the outcome of battles or the campaign. There have been few armies, or military commanders, who have enjoyed the range of advantages Napoleon did in 1805, and which helped him to stamp his dominance over Europe in his greatest campaign.

Bibliography

Broers, Michael, Europe under Napoleon, 1799-1815. London: Arnold, 1996

Citino, Robert M., The German way of war, from the Thirty Years' War to the Third Reich. Kansas, 2005

Connelly, Owen, Blundering to Glory: Napoleon’s Military Campaigns. Wilmington, Delaware, 1987.

van Creveld, Martin, Supplying war, logistics from Wallenstein to Patton. Cambridge 1977

Dwyer, Philip G. (ed.), Napoleon and Europe. Longman, 2001

Elting, John R., Swords around a throne, Napoleon's Grande Armée. Oxford, 1988

Esdaile, Charles, Napoleon's wars, an international history, 1803-1815. Allen Lane, 2007

Evans, Eric J., The forging of the modern state, early industrial Britain, 1783-1870. London, 2001

Haythornthwaite, Philip J. (ed.), Napoleon, the final verdict. Arms and Armour, 1996

Keegan, J. and Holmes, R., Soldiers: a history if men in battle. Guild Publishing, 1985

Knight, Roger, Britain against Napoleon, the organization of victory 1793-1815. Allen Lane , 2013

Lieven, Dominic, Russian against Napoleon. London, 2009

Muir, Rory, Tactics and the experience of battle in age of Napoleon. Yale University Press, 1998

Rothenberg, Gunther E., Napoleon's great adversary, Archduke Charles and the Austrian Army, 1792-1814. Spellmount, 2007

... back to contents

Edited by JonS

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“A Very Interesting Report”[0]

T.E. Lawrence’s intelligence reports from the Hijaz, March-April 1917

 

In early 1917 Captain Thomas Edward (T.E.) Lawrence returned to the Hijaz area of the Arabian Peninsular. Unlike his first trip, in which he was investigating the practicality of sending regular military forces to the Hijaz, this second trip saw Lawrence conducting a wide range of activities; meetings with rebel leaders, direct combat and demolition activities, as well as terrain reconnaissance. These various activities were documented in a series of reports sent back to Colonel Wilson, the British Consul in Jeddah, and Lawrence’s immediate superior. This essay will examine these reports in terms of their scope and content, taking into account Lawrence’s background, and estimates their usefulness to British intelligence.

On the outbreak of war with Turkey in late 1914 Lawrence joined the Army and he soon found himself working in Military Intelligence in Egypt. Here he was able to put his extensive knowledge of Arabic and the eastern Mediterranean, gained over several years as a working archaeologist, to some use. His knowledge was not, however, put to great use. Before long Lawrence his office-bound work of making maps, interviewing prisoners, and other tasks tedious.[1]

In October 1916 Lawrence was selected to travel to the Hijaz to report on whether it would be practical to send regular military forces there in order to support the Arab Rebellion. Lawrence’s report recommended providing advice, finance, and arms rather than direct military support, and was welcomed in Cairo. This, in turn, led to Lawrence’s next foray to the Hijaz in March 1917.

General Wingate, of British Intelligence in Cairo, believed – incorrectly - that the Turkish forces in Medina were about to withdraw, and reinforce the main front at Gaza.[2] On March 6th Lawrence received orders to cut the Hijaz rail line, and the telegraph that ran beside it, to prevent the Turkish forces from moving out of Medina. Four days later Lawrence was on the move, and his experiences and observations over the following month are recorded in a series of four reports he wrote shortly after his return.

In outline, Lawrence’s four field reports consisted of:

  1. An untitled report, dated 16 April 1917. Six handwritten pages, providing a brief outline of his activities, along with extensive notes and observations on various topics of interest, including leading personalities.
  2. “ABU MARKLA TO ABA EL NAAM”, undated, but context suggests it was written around mid-April 1917. Four typed pages which are mostly a narrative of events between 15th March and 1st April.
  3. “ABU MARKHA TO MADAHRIJ”, dated 24 April 1917. Three typed pages, continuing narrative of events through to 7th April.
  4. Prisoner Interrogation. Again undated, but context suggests it was written around 25 April 1917. Two typed pages, providing a summary of prisoner interrogations. These prisoners were not taken by Lawrence, and this report is not strictly related to the previous three, although it was written by Lawrence in the same location as the other three, and at about the same time.[3]

Based on the content of these reports, it would appear that little direction was given to Lawrence beyond Wingate’s order to keep pressure on the rail line. It appears he took it upon himself to travel around, get involved, and maintain an extensive diary. The reports themselves are mainly in the form of a chronological diary, with little attempt to separate topics out thematically.

By the time Lawrence travelled to the Hijaz he had just over two years’ experience as an intelligence officer. However it seems he never received any formal training, thus any learning must have been intuitive and on-the-job. His training and experience as an archaeologist must have been useful to him, since archaeologists must tell stories based on fragments and scraps of information, which is a reasonable description of the work an intelligence officer conducts.

Nevertheless despite the lack of direction or training these field reports contain a lot of interesting and useful information.

Immediately obvious is the care Lawrence paid to recording details of all the various trips he took. The reports are full of phrases such as “We then rode up to Wadi MESEIZ, gradually turning West and South till till [sic] watershed at 5-15pm, and at 5-30pm had crossed the divide into W.TURAA,”[4] and “Started at 6am reached Rubiaan at 7am, and left it at 7-15am.”[5] When struck by a violet ‘hubub’ or dust storm on April 4th Lawrence notes specifically that it “lasted for 18 minutes[6] (emphasis added), rather than ‘15 minutes’ or ‘about 20 minutes’ which might be expected of someone recalling the event at a later time. This suggests that Lawrence was taking notes constantly during the trip, and also had the presence of mind to note the start and end times of particular events.

Initially his journey notes contain vague references such as the one on March 15 when “We went away down Wadi AIS till 8-50 when we turned slightly to the left[7] (emphasis added), but a fortnight later Lawrence reports “We rode 90 degrees till 7am and then 140 degr[ees] till 7-40am”[8] (emphasis added). The time duration of each leg is always carefully recorded but It is likely that Lawrence realised his impressionistic notes about the directions taken during the early stages of the trip would be of marginal usefulness to consumers of his intelligence, and so he started recording specific bearings.

By taking careful notes of the tempo of each day’s journey – how long was spent in the saddle, how long was spent resting, and when and where the rest periods were taken – Lawrence provides his audience with the kind of specific information that would be highly valuable to anyone planning a trip into the interior of the Hijaz. Lawrence even records the cumulative total time to ride from Abu Markha to Aba El Namm (14 hours, 20 minutes) and then back again (13 hours, 15 minutes).[9]

In addition to details on the duration and direction of each leg of his journey, Lawrence also noted what the going was like. Thus we discover that Wadi Meseiz “is a steep, loose ramp of shingle and stones, scored deeply by water, unfit for wheeled traffic”,[10] and that Wadi Gharid is “the quickest way to Abu Markham, but steep.”[11] There are also references to key landmarks, such as the J. Antar, “a castellated rock with a split head perched on a cone, most conspicuous about 10 miles off to the south.”[12]

Across the two typed reports these details provide a time-and-space appreciation of this part of the Hijaz, an area of the world that had yet to be mapped in 1917. What is absent, however, is an actual map, an absence made more surprising given Lawrence’s previous duty in the cartographic section in Cairo.[13] Lawrence’s word pictures are well written and full of detail, but would be extraordinarily difficult for anyone except himself to actually use to navigate in this area. This aspect of these reports would have been of far more use in conjunction with a hand drawn map of the routes taken during his expedition.

One potential problem Lawrence’s reports manifests itself in the way he spells ‘Wedj’[14] or ‘Wejh.’[15] In other sources the name of this town is also spelled Wajh,[16] al Wajh.[17] This difficulty of transliterating Arabic worlds into English is a common one, and not limited to Arabic. The author experienced the same issue dealing with patrol reports in East Timor, where there was seldom common agreement on the spelling of people or place names. Lawrence isn’t even consistent in his own writing, so it is unlikely that the other British officers working in the Hijaz were using consistent spelling for either people of places. This would make collating and cross-referencing information from different sources, each spelling in their own idiosyncratic way, challenging.

Somewhat incongruously, for a military intelligence report, Lawrence pays close attention to the geology, flora and archaeology around him. We find out about various plants, including the little Hemeid, with its “fleshy green heart shaped leaves and a spike of white or red blossom. Its leaves are pleasantly acid, and allay thirst.”[18] We also learn about the rocks on the Dhula of Aba El Naam, which were of “glistening, sunburnt stone, very metallic in ring when struck, and which splits red or green or brown as the case may be”[19], leaving the suspicion that at times Lawrence became so bored observing the Turks that he started smashing rocks to pass the time. His interest in archaeology is understandable, given his background, but detailed information on the quality of the work of the masons who built the 4-foot high wall in Wadi Ais was probably of little use or interest to anyone except himself.[20]

More militarily useful – and the main reason he was sent into the Hijaz at all – are Lawrence’s observations on the rail line and the Turkish garrisons guarding it. Lawrence was involved in a number of direct attacks on the rail line and its garrisons during this expedition, and the notes he makes are useful in a number of ways.[21] He describes the technical construction of the line itself and the associated telegraph line quite well,[22] and the effectiveness and stealthiness of various types of mines and demolitions.[23] Information of this sort would be useful in planning future raids. Also noted are the sizes of the various garrisons, that at Aba Al Naam being recorded as “390 infantry and 25 goats.”[24] Even more useful are Lawrence’s comments on the reactions of the enemy to being attacked. The attack on Aba Al Naam on 29 March, for example, “persuaded the Turks to evacuate every out-post and blockhouse on the line, and concentrate the garrison in the various railway stations” which, Lawrence notes “greatly facilitated the work of the dynamite parties.” That the garrison Madahrij were goaded into “a paroxysm of rifle fire (4,000 yards, no damage)”[25], is interesting, perhaps indicating they were of poor quality and feared the Arabs, hoping to keep them at arm’s length, since even moderately trained and motivated troops wouldn’t bother opening fire at a range of over 3½ kilometres.

Lawrence perceptively outlines a proposed policy, based on the experience just gained, that the most efficient means of keeping the line closed is by “a constant series of petty destruction of rails”[26], and explicitly rejects spectacular large scale and attacks as being wasteful of time and resources. In this Lawrence is well ahead of his time. Three decades later during World War II the Allied air forces in Italy and France would discover the same basic truth; that effective interdiction of transport routes depending on hitting and re-hitting the same targets over and over, rather than expecting a single large scale attack to have any lasting effect.[27]

Lacking from Lawrence’s observations of the Turks and the rail line are answers to a number of key questions, such as how many trains were using the line, how often they ran, how many carriages the trains consisted of, and what freight was being carried. In fact, these questions aren’t even asked, let alone answered leaving the suspicion that Lawrence was just running around like a hooligan. Traffic analysis of any route can yield a staggering amount of information regarding capabilities and intent, but it depends on constant observation in order to identify routines and deviations from the norm. The Long Range Desert Group perfected this method of intelligence collection in the Western Desert in 1941 and 1942,[28] but in the Hijaz in 1917 there doesn’t seem to have been any awareness of the need or benefit of close and continuous observation.

The short report covering Lawrence’s interrogation of the prisoners has much information regarding the size, type and identity of Turkish forces in the region north and east of Akaba, but probably the most significant piece of intelligence is the eleven naval mines deployed in the bay in front of Akaba.[29] The knowledge of these mines made an amphibious assault risky, and reinforced the decision to capture Akaba via the overland route, an event three months later that would become one of the cornerstones of Lawrence’s legend.[30]

The final significant facet that can be gleaned from Lawrence’s reports is his observations on the usefulness and reliability of the various Arab leaders he encountered. Sidi Abdulla did not impress, being described as ‘ignorant, lacking in influence and character and, apparently without interest in the war. ... exercises little or no supervision, ... spends his time in reading the Arabic newspapers, in eating and sleeping.”[31] This is quite a damning judgement to make after spending just seven days in Abdulla’s company, most of them laid up with boils and dysentery. Lawrence must, nevertheless, have had some detailed discussions with Abdulla, as he was able to report on the latter’s strategic belief that Yemen was “the future basis of strength of the Arab movement,” and the implications of a successful operation in that direction.[32]

Daikilallah el Kadhi, on the other hand, made a very positive impression on Lawrence.  He is described in approvingly as “... so hard working, ... clever as sin, impenetrable, authoritative, eloquent, a renowned poet, well informed, cool headed and a mine of information of Beduin things and customs, ... head and shoulders above any Julina I have met in general ability, with considerable sense of strategy, and capable, not only of deciding on a course of action bur of pushing it through to a successful issue.”[33] Indeed, it almost seems as if Abdulla and Daikulallah were, in Lawrence’s mind, two sides of the same coin – one upright and dependable, the other venal and irresolute. So opposite are these two leaders, in Lawrence’s words and opinions, that they almost seem to have been caricatured.

Nevertheless, despite the snap judgements and harsh descriptions, Lawrence’s first impressions appear to have been sound. His impression of Feisal was positive,[34] and it would be Feisal – not Abdulla – who would successfully go on to be Lawrence’s Arab figurehead in future operations.

Lawrence’s four reports from the Hijaz contain a wealth of information about the local geographical and human terrain. However, they need to be read with some degree of caution since Lawrence was not a trained nor an experienced soldier. There are some notable - and at times surprising – omissions, but overall the reports contain some perceptive insights and provide a sound basis for future operations.

 

[0] Comment in covering letter to TNA, FO 686/6, Lawrence’s handwritten report, dated 16 April 1917

[1] Barr, James, Setting the desert on fire, T.E. Lawrence and Britain’s secret war in Arabia, 1916-18 (London: Bloomsbury, 1996), p.55. James, Lawrence, The Golden Warrior, the life and legend of Lawrence of Arabia (New York: Paragon House, 1993), p.75-79.

[2] Barr, Setting the desert on fire, p.106-107. In the event, Turkish forces remained in Medina till after the end of the war.

[3] The National Archives, Kew, FO 686/6 Jeddah Agency Papers, Lawrence’s Intelligence Reports 1916-17

[4] TNA, FO 686/6, Lawrence’s report, ABU MARKLA TO ABA EL NAAM, p.4

[5] TNA, FO 686/6, Lawrence’s report, ABU MARKHA TO MADAHRIJ, p.3

[6] TNA, FO 686/6, Lawrence’s report, ABU MARKHA TO MADAHRIJ, p.1-2

[7] TNA, FO 686/6, Lawrence’s report, ABU MARKLA TO ABA EL NAAM, p.1

[8] TNA, FO 686/6, Lawrence’s report, ABU MARKLA TO ABA EL NAAM, p.2

[9] TNA, FO 686/6, Lawrence’s report, ABU MARKLA TO ABA EL NAAM, p.4

[10] TNA, FO 686/6, Lawrence’s report, ABU MARKLA TO ABA EL NAAM, p.2

[11] TNA, FO 686/6, Lawrence’s report, ABU MARKHA TO MADAHRIJ, p.1

[12] TNA, FO 686/6, Lawrence’s report, ABU MARKLA TO ABA EL NAAM, p.2

[13] James, The Golden Warrior, p.78

[14] TNA, FO 686/6, Lawrence’s report, Prisoner Interrogation, p.2

[15] TNA, FO 686/6, Lawrence’s handwritten report, dated 16 Apr 17, p.1

[16] Barr, Setting the desert on fire, map p.xviii

[17] James, The Golden Warrior, map p.x

[18] TNA, FO 686/6, Lawrence’s report, ABU MARKLA TO ABA EL NAAM, p.3

[19] TNA, FO 686/6, Lawrence’s report, ABU MARKLA TO ABA EL NAAM, p.3

[20] TNA, FO 686/6, Lawrence’s report, ABU MARKLA TO ABA EL NAAM, p.1

[21] TNA, FO 686/6, Lawrence’s handwritten report, dated 16 Apr 17, p.5

[22] TNA, FO 686/6, Lawrence’s handwritten report, dated 16 Apr 17, p.6-7

[23] TNA, FO 686/6, Lawrence’s handwritten report, dated 16 Apr 17, p.6

[24] TNA, FO 686/6, Lawrence’s report, ABU MARKLA TO ABA EL NAAM, p.2

[25] TNA, FO 686/6, Lawrence’s report, ABU MARKHA TO MADAHRIJ, p.3

[26] TNA, FO 686/6, Lawrence’s handwritten report, dated 16 Apr 17, p.5

[27] Gooderson, I. (1998). Air power at the battlefront : allied close air support in Europe, 1943-45. London ; Portland, OR : F. Cass, 1998. p.210-212.

[28] Kay, R. (1950). Long Range Desert Group in the Mediterranean. Wellington, War History Branch, Dept. of Internal Affairs, 1950. p.4-5. Pitt, B. (2001). The crucible of war, vol. II Auchinleck’s command. London : Cassell, 2001. p.172-7

[29] TNA, FO 686/6, Lawrence’s report, Prisoner Interrogation, p.2

[30] Barr, Setting the desert on fire, p.145-6

[31] TNA, FO 686/6, Lawrence’s handwritten report, dated 16 Apr 17, p.1

[32] TNA, FO 686/6, Lawrence’s handwritten report, dated 16 Apr 17, p.2

[33] TNA, FO 686/6, Lawrence’s handwritten report, dated 16 Apr 17, p.4

[34] TNA, FO 686/6, Lawrence’s handwritten report, dated 16 Apr 17, p.8

 

Bibliography

Barr, J. (2008). Setting the desert on fire : T. E. Lawrence and Britain's secret war in Arabia, 1916 - 1918. New York [u.a.] : Norton, 2008.

Gooderson, I. (1998). Air power at the battlefront : allied close air support in Europe, 1943-45. London ; Portland, OR : F. Cass, 1998.

James, L. (1996). The golden warrior : the life and legend of Lawrence of Arabia. London : Abacus, 1995 (1996 [printing]).

Kay, R. (1950). Long Range Desert Group in the Mediterranean. Wellington, War History Branch, Dept. of Internal Affairs, 1950.

Pitt, B. (2001). The crucible of war, vol. II Auchinleck’s command. London : Cassell, 2001

The National Archives, Kew, FO 686/6 Jeddah Agency Papers, Lawrence’s Intelligence Reports 1916-17

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On 9/11/2017 at 1:26 AM, JonS said:

Alright then: No. I do not believe time travel is a thing.

Actually to get serious Columbus had some badly flawed views. He insisted the world was smaller (and egg shaped) than they suspected it was hence the nature of his voyage. Everyone else said the distance to sail west to China was too far for the means of the time. Columbus insisted they were wrong and could make it.  He lucked out that another continent existed or he'd have just died. 

http://www.smithsonianmag.com/travel/columbus-confusion-about-the-new-world-140132422/

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Intelligence and Victory in Battle

The effect of Intelligence on the Battles of Crete, Medenine, and Operation Overlord

 

Intelligence is a vital component in all military operations, and gaining an information advantage over the enemy can assist commanders conduct successful operations. Intelligence is not, however, sufficient to guarantee success because battles aren’t decided until the infantry have finished fighting. As one commentator has noted; intelligence in war “works only through force. It can focus and economize efforts, it can offer an advantage, but in the end, force is necessary for victory.”1

This essay discusses the effect of intelligence on the outcome of three battles; the Battles of Crete in May 1941 and Medenine in March 1943, and the invasion Normandy in June 1944. The Allied forces in each of these battles held a major intelligence advantage over the Germans, which had a significant influence on the conduct of the three battles. Despite this similarity, the course and outcome of each battle was quite different.

The Commonwealth forces which defended Crete in May 1941 largely consisted of poorly equipped evacuees from the Greek debacle.2 Balancing that, and providing some confidence in the attempted defence, was detailed intelligence obtained courtesy of the emerging ability of the Government Code and Cypher School at Bletchley Park to decrypt German radio traffic. In sum, this intelligence provided Freyberg with the date, locations, strengths, and methods by which the Germans would invade.3 By contrast the Germans only had very sketchy intelligence available, much of which seems to have been based on wishful thinking rather than rigorous analysis. Allied strength on the island was severely underestimated, and in a spectacular display of naiveté it was anticipated that the civilian population would be friendly to the invaders.4

Freyberg used the intelligence available to him to develop a solid appreciation of the situation, and from it a sound concept of operations and defence plan. In outline, Freyberg recognised that holding the few airfields on Crete would cause “the whole plan [to] fail”, and commanders were enjoined to hold out on them. A threat of sea borne invasion was noted, but clearly identified as being “of secondary importance.” Forces were positioned and plans prepared for prompt counterattacks to recapture any key terrain lost at the airfields.5

Freyberg’s simple plan of holding the airfields worked well, and by the end of the first day the German airborne invasion had suffered severe casualties and was in deep trouble.6 Greek forces had destroyed the German detachment landed at Kastelli in the far west.7 In the central and eastern sectors the British, Greek and Australian forces had bottled up the German paratroopers away from the airfields at both Rethymno and Heraklion.8 The German plan at Maleme was also floundering. Landings around Galatas and Suda had been contained, and the airfield itself remained under fire from New Zealand troops in dominating positions on Hill 109.9 All that was required to complete the German defeat was for the anticipated counter attacks by the New Zealand brigade under Brigadier Hargest to occur. Inexplicably Hargest failed to grip up his command, the counter attacks were repeatedly postponed. Eventually Lieutenant Colonel Andrews voluntarily abandoned Hill 109, thus gifting use of the airfield to the Germans.10

It was an opportunity that General Student seized with both hands, literally crashing his only operational reserve onto the airfield at Maleme. Student subsequently leveraged this slight advantage into a cascading success that ten days later saw the Royal Navy conducting the third emergency evacuation of the Army in less than a year.11

Superior intelligence had allowed Freyberg to prepare a workable defensive plan, but the forces under his command weren’t capable of carrying it out. In this battle “the Germans had the strength to off-set bad intelligence, [whereas] the British … were not in a position to make better use of an intelligence service that was … getting into its stride.”12

When Field Marshall Rommel moved east after his partial victory over the Americans at Kasserine Pass in February 1943, thought he would be able to catch General Montgomery off-balance and to defeat the forward elements of Eighth Army at Medenine.13 However, in a repeat of the Crete operation, German intentions were betrayed by Ultra decrypts of radio communications and photo reconnaissance (PR) showing the panzer divisions heading east.14 With this advance warning Montgomery had the time he needed to rush additional forces, including the 2nd New Zealand Division, forward from Tripoli and set up a carefully prepared ambush.15

The resulting battle on March 6th saw the largest commitment of German armour in any North African battle, yet the outcome was a rapid and decisive German defeat. Rommel lost over one-third of his engaged tanks in just a few hours, while inflicting only minor casualties on the British and New Zealanders. The outcome was so one-sided that the Germans suspected a leak. This suspicion was noted by the British and resulted in the flow of special intelligence from England to Montgomery being restricted for the remainder of the North African campaign.16

The Battle of Medenine appears to be a clear case of decisive intelligence advantage translating into decisive victory. However it should be remembered that it was less than a year since Rommel had run roughshod over a thoroughly demoralised British army from Gazala, through Tobruk, and all the way up to El Alamein, in the summer of 1942.17 Intelligence certainly helped Montgomery prepare his forces at Medenine, but crucially the British had learned how to beat the Germans in battle and had gained the confidence to do so. An Eighth Army report on the battle noted that

This action proved conclusively that if infantry are well dug in with their anti-tank guns properly concealed, and if they are well supported by artillery fire, they have nothing to fear from a tank attack18

Lt. General Leese, commander of XXX Corps, remarked that the Battle of Medenine “was a magnificent story ... [which] indicate[d] the will to win that was so evident everywhere in the Eighth Army.” Without the skill and will to win the outcome would likely have been much less favourable to Montgomery’s forces, despite the intelligence advantage.19

Operation Overlord formed the centrepiece of Western Allied strategy for 1944. A successful invasion of France would see the British and American armies grappling with a major part of the German army for the first time, and was expected to lead to the liberation of Western Europe and ultimately to the defeat of Nazi Germany.20

In order to ensure that the invasion would be a success a great deal of effort went in to ensuring that the invaders were well informed about all aspects of their impending task. The collection of this information depended on the employment of a variety of intelligence resources. Signals traffic analysis determined locations and command hierarchies, while decrypts of radio messages revealed strengths and intentions. Hundreds of PR flights revealed tanks, artillery, fortifications, obstacles, and supply dumps in the coastal regions. These missions were repeated at regular intervals so that trends could be discerned. The French resistance collected intelligence which required close observation, such as whether coastal fortifications contained real guns.21 Small commando raids captured prisoners to identify units and try and understand their morale. This effort revealed the locations, identities, strengths, quality, the nature of any fortifications, and the intentions of practically all German army, naval, and air forces in Western Europe.22

This massive effort ensured there would be few surprises for the invaders, and meant that assault forces could be prepared for the tasks they would face. Inevitably there were omissions. The two most significant were the unexpected presence of elements of the 352nd Infantry Division on Omaha Beach, and the 21st Panzer Division around Caen. While these two divisions were able to slow the tempo of the initial assault, they couldn’t unhinge the invasion.23

Amphibious invasions are risky operations, primarily because their success ultimately depends on the so-called “race to the foreshore,” with success going to the side which can get the most force to the invasion site first. The Germans held a major initial advantage since they already had over fifty divisions in France and the Low Countries, while the Allies starting from zero had to transport everything across the English Channel. Operation Bodyguard was the overarching Allied counter intelligence and security effort that sought to negate that advantage by concealing the location and strength of the actual invasion, and deflecting German interest onto locations well away from Normandy.24

Bodyguard consisted of 16 main deception operations of vary complexity and importance, coordinated by the London Controlling Section. The two main elements were Fortitude North and Fortitude South.25

Fortitude North sought to convince the Germans that Norway was under imminent threat of invasion. The aim was to draw additional German forces to that peripheral location, and ensure the ones already there remained. It is not clear that the Germans ever accepted Fortitude North as a genuine threat. Even so, Fortitude North still served a purpose. German intelligence expected the Allies would attempt to deceive them and penetrating the deception around Fortitude North supported their belief that Fortitude South was genuine.26

Fortitude South portrayed an invasion of France along the Pas de Calais by the fictional First US Army Group (FUSAG), from the south-east of England. This deception relied on a number of interrelated factors to be convincing. This part of the English Channel is the narrowest and therefore required the least time at sea, enabled aircraft operating from England to provide the maximum cover, and provided the shortest route to the Third Reich’s industrial heartland in the Ruhr. The Pas de Calais was also the launching point for the planned V-weapon campaign against England. Taken together, this made it seem to be the obvious place to mount an invasion.

Commanding FUSAG was General Patton, who the Germans held in high regard and it was assumed he would be at the forefront of the invasion. A theatrical flourish was added when Patton hosted a sick officer being repatriated to Germany to dinner. Every stage-managed thing General Cramer observed was duly reported when he arrived in Berlin, all of it designed to reinforce existing German fears and preconceptions.27

The Allies knew that German intelligence collection capabilities in England were limited to PR, signals intelligence, and secret agent reports. Poor procedures, coupled with Allied air supremacy, ensured that German PR coverage of England was poor to non-existent.28 This was exploited by denying any opportunity to observe the locations Overlord was actually being mounted from, whilst “allowing” some limited coverage of the FUSAG area and its concentrations of dummy tanks, installations, and landing craft.29

Supporting this visual deception were fictitious radio transmissions between non-existent headquarters. This gave German radio intelligence an active target to operate against, leading them to believe their own skill and cunning was revealing Allied capabilities and intentions.30

Shortly after the outbreak of World War II the British had imprisoned all German spies based in the United Kingdom, and a combination of good luck and good counter-intelligence captured every spy sent later. Most of these spies were convicted and executed or imprisoned, but a select few were turned to work as double-cross agents for the British. Controlled by the XX Committee, these men were used to feed scripted information to the Germans. This consisted of false information to deceive the Germans, mixed with true but unimportant and easily obtainable information build the agent’s credibility. Bodyguard made use of this group to feed corroborating information about Fortitudes North and South directly into heart of German intelligence, adding a third layer of apparently independent evidence to the overall picture.31

As the overall commander, General Eisenhower wasn’t prepared to rely on only passive counter-intelligence measures to hold German forces away from Normandy. Allied strategic and tactical bombers were actively used to isolate Normandy by ruining the railway infrastructure in northern France. However, even this authentic effort was integrated into Fortitude South. By happy coincidence, rail lines that fed Normandy also ran through the Pas de Calais so attacks that seemed to be isolating the latter were actually isolating the former. Additionally, any missions that were necessary to fully isolate Normandy were masked in intelligence “noise” created by a policy of conducting at least two bombing missions in the Channel area for each one conducted in Normandy.32

In these ways the Allies completely subverted German intelligence collection to tell a coherent but false story. Since the Germans believed their various sources to be independent, and since all were telling the same story, they deduced that the true Allied plan involved a main invasion along the Pas de Calais, led by Patton’s FUSAG.

As icing on their deceptive cake, the British used Ultra to monitor how the various components of their deception plans were succeeding. This insight allowed them to fine tune their efforts by “leaking” additional information when necessary.33

The success of this grand deception effort can be seen in a German operational map dated 3 July 1944, almost a month after the D-Day landings. This map identifies Allied forces in Normandy with reasonable accuracy. However, it still shows the fictitious Fortitude North and South forces located in England, and documents the retention of over seventeen German divisions in the Pas de Calais area defending against a non-existent threat.34

On the eve of D-Day Allied intelligence had produced an excellent picture of the strength of German forces in Normandy, while Allied counter-intelligence had blinded the Germans tactically and operationally. This dual advantage provided the confidence to carry out the invasion.

Despite this, grave concerns remained about the invasion. Alan Brooke confessed to his diary the day before the invasion that he was “very uneasy about the whole operation”, and feared that it may turn into “the most ghastly disaster of the whole war,” which says a lot given some of the disasters Brooke had presided over earlier in the war.35 On the same day General Eisenhower prepared a dispatch, which was fortunately never used, to inform the public that

Our landings in the Cherbourg-Havre area have failed to gain a satisfactory foothold and I have withdrawn the troops. My decision to attack at this time and place was based on the best information available. The troops, the air and the Navy did all that bravery and devotion to duty could do. If any blame or fault attaches to the attempt it is mine alone.36

That Eisenhower and Brooke both retained grave doubts about the success of their great endeavour - despite knowing exactly how well the intelligence and counter-intelligence efforts had prepared the battlefield - indicates the limits of intelligence in winning battles.

Even though the German high command was thoroughly deceived, none of the Allies’ geographical objectives on D-Day were achieved.37 But despite this, heavy fighting got the well prepared Allied forces ashore and kept them there, ensuring that the worst fears of Brooke and Eisenhower were not realised.

Before the Battle of Crete intelligence allowed Freyberg to develop a viable plan to counter a novel form of warfare, but failures by subordinate commanders wasted the advantage, and this superior intelligence failed to avert defeat. At Medenine intelligence provided the information which allowed Montgomery to ‘balance’ himself, but defensive positions on the ground still had to be developed, and the men had to fight well to avoid defeat. At Normandy a vast array of intelligence provided Allied commanders with unrivalled insight, while a complex counter-intelligence effort blinded the Germans. Intelligence provided the opportunity for success, but a hard fighting was required to secure it.

These examples demonstrate that intelligence can enable success in battle, but only effective force can realise it. The relationship between intelligence and success has been summarised by noting that

nformation cannot win wars by itself. Information helps commanders make their operations more effective and efficient. It magnifies physical resources by enabling troops and guns to be better used in combat. It improves will and morale by reducing anxiety and steadying command. But ultimately its effect is secondary: it works only as a multiplier and guider of force and determination.38

As the Battles of Crete, Medenine, and Normandy show, it is superior use of force that wins battles, not simply superior intelligence.

 

Bibliography

Unpublished Sources

anon, OL-series messages sent to Freyberg, Crete, Apr-May 1941, DEFE 3/894, The National Archives.

Eisenhower, Dwight D. "In case of failure" message drafted before D-Day. Dwight D. Eisenhower Library, Pre-Presidential Papers, Principal File: Butcher Diary 1942-1945.

Hargest, James, Notes from Normandy, WAII 1 DA 491.5/3, Archives New Zealand.

Stewart, K.L., ‘BGS Appreciation – German Plan for Attack on Crete’, Force Headquarters, 12 May 1941, Freyberg Papers, BGS File March-May 1941, WAII 8/16, Archives New Zealand

Williams, Bill, Enemy reaction to Overlord: Allied intelligence assessment, 6 May 1944, WO 219/1837, Operation Overlord: disposition of enemy forces, appreciations of possible reactions etc. The National Archives.

 

Books

Behrendt, H. Rommel’s intelligence in the Desert Campaign. London: William Kimber & Co., 1985.

Buckley, J.(ed.). The Normandy campaign 1944: sixty years on. London; New York: Routledge, 2006.

Davin, D.M., Crete. Wellington, N.Z.: War History Branch, Department of Internal Affairs, 1953.

Danchev, A., & Todman, D. War diaries, 1939-1945: the diaries of Field Marshal Lord Alanbrooke. London: Weidenfeld & Nicolson, 2001.

Ellis, L. (1993). Victory in the West. Vol.1. The battle of Normandy. London: H.M.S.O., 1962.

Hamilton, N., Monty: master of the battlefield, 1942-1944. Sevenoaks: Coronet, 1985.

Hastings, Max, Overlord: D-Day and the battle for Normandy, 1944. London: Pan Books Ltd., 1985.

Hellenic Army General Staff. The battle of Crete, May 1941. Athens: Army History Directorate, 2000

Hinsley, F.H., Thomas, E.E.. et al., British intelligence in the Second World War: its influence on strategy and operations, vol 1. London: H.M.S.O., 1979

__, British intelligence in the Second World War: its influence on strategy and operations, vol 2. London: H.M.S.O., 1981

__, British intelligence in the Second World War: its influence on strategy and operations, vol 3, part 2. London: H.M.S.O., 1990

Hinsley, F.H., Simkins C., et al, British intelligence in the Second World War: security and counter intelligence, vol 4. London: H.M.S.O., 1990

Holmes, R., The D-Day experience. London: Carlton, 2004

Hughes-Wilson, John, Military Intelligence blunders. London: Robinson, 1999

Jones, R.V., Most secret war. London: Penguin, 2009

Kershaw, R., D-Day; piercing the Atlantic Wall. Surrey: Ian Allan 2010

Kippenberger, H. Infantry brigadier. London: Oxford University Press, 1949

Latimer, J. Deception in war. New York: Overlook Press, 2001.

___, Alamein. London: John Murray, 2003

Liddell Hart, B.H. (ed.). The Rommel papers. London: Collins, 1953

Murray, W., & Millett, A. A war to be won: fighting the Second World War. Cambridge, Mass.: Belknap Press of Harvard University Press, 2000.

Pemberton, A.L., The development of artillery tactics and equipment. London: British War Office, 1951

Playfair, I.S.O., Molony, C.C., et al. The Mediterranean and Middle East, vol II, “The Germans come to the Help of their Ally” (1941). London: H. M. Stationery Office, 1956.

Reit, S. The hidden war: the amazing camouflage deceptions of World War II. London: Corgi, 1980.

Stevens, W. Bardia to Enfidaville. Wellington, N.Z.: War History Branch, Department of Internal Affairs, 1962.

 

Journal Articles

Kahn, David. ‘The rise of intelligence’ Foreign Affairs, Vol. 85, No. 5 (Sep. - Oct., 2006), pp.125-134.

anon, Secret History Files Series GARBO: the spy who saved D-Day, Public Record Office, 2000.

anon, War diaries 1944, Jan-Jun, County of London Yeomanry (Westminster Dragoons), WO 171/864, The National Archives.

Overy, R. Why the Allies won. London: Jonathan Cape, 1995.

Essberger, R.R., ‘Military surprise and the environment’. GeoJournal, 37(2) (1995), pp. 215-224.

Buckingham, W. F. (2004). D-Day: the first 72 hours. Stroud, Gloucestershire: The History Press, 2009.

D'Este, C. Decision in Normandy: the real story of Montgomery and the Allied campaign. London: Penguin, 2004.

Freidin, S., & Richardson, W. (eds.). The fatal decisions. New York: W. Sloan Associates, 1956.

Masterman, John, The Double-Cross system. Yale University Press, 1972

 

Theses

Bendeck, Whitney Talley, The art of deception: dueling intelligence organizations in World War II. M.A. thesis, Florida State University, 2004.

Bliss, James C., The fall of Crete 1941: was Freyberg culpable? M.M.A.S. thesis, U.S. Army Command and General Staff College, 2006.

Cording, Rex F., The other bomber battle: an examination of the problems that arose between the Air Staff and the AOC Bomber Command between 1942 and 1945 and their effects on the Strategic Bomber Offensive. Ph.D. thesis, University of Canterbury, 2006.

Cox, Kenneth J., The Battle for Crete (Operation Mercury): an operational analysis. Naval War College, 2001.

Ehlers, Robert S., BDA: Anglo-American air intelligence, bomb damage assessment, and the bombing campaigns against Germany, 1914-1945. Ph.D. thesis, Ohio State University, 2005.

Emmert, James Clinton, Operation Overlord. M.A. thesis, Louisiana State University, 2002.

Jarymowycz, Roman Johann, The quest for operational maneuver in the Normandy Campaign: Simonds and Montgomery attempt the armoured breakout. Ph.D thesis, McGill University, 1997.

Kostic, Andrew J., Self inflicted wound: Allied defeat in Crete, May 1941. M.M.S. thesis, USMC Command and Staff College, 2002.

London, Sheila, The bombing of Chambery, France, May 26th, 1944. M.A. thesis, University of New Brunswick, 1999.

Perlberg, Miriam F., Intelligence lessons learned from the Battle of Crete, May 1941. Naval War College, 1992.

Stanley, David P., Omaha Beach: a tragedy of errors. M.A. thesis, New Jersey Institute of Technology, 2002.

 

Bibliography

1 Kahn, David. ‘The Rise of Intelligence’ Foreign Affairs, Vol. 85, No. 5 (Sep. - Oct., 2006), pp.125-6.

2 Kippenberger, H. Infantry brigadier. London: Oxford University Press, 1949, p.46-9.

3 Hinsley, F.H., Thomas, E.E., et al., British intelligence in the Second World War: its influence on strategy and operations, vol 1. London: H.M.S.O., 1981, p.415-18. anon, OL-series messages sent to Freyberg, Crete, Apr-May 1941, DEFE 3/894, The National Archives, OL 2154 (30 Apr 41) – OL 14/375 (19 May 41), in particular message OL 2/302.

4 Murray, W., & Millett, A. A war to be won: fighting the Second World War. Cambridge, Mass.: Belknap Press of Harvard University Press, 2000, p.106. Playfair, I.S.O., Molony, C.C., et al. The Mediterranean and Middle East, vol II, “The Germans come to the Help of their Ally” (1941). London: H. M. Stationery Office, 1956, p.130.

5 Stewart, K.L., ‘BGS Appreciation – German Plan for Attack on Crete’, Force Headquarters, 12 May 1941, Freyberg Papers, BGS File March-May 1941, WAII 8/16, Archives New Zealand

6 Playfair, The Mediterranean and Middle East, vol II, p.133-4

7 Hellenic Army General Staff. The battle of Crete, May 1941. Athens: Army History Directorate, 2000, p.58-9.

8 Playfair, The Mediterranean and Middle East, vol II, p.133.

9 Davin, D.M., Crete. Wellington, N.Z.: War History Branch, Department of Internal Affairs, 1953, p.172-3.

10 Davin, Crete, p.164-71.

11 Hellenic Army General Staff. The battle of Crete, p.82-3. Playfair, The Mediterranean and Middle East, vol II, p.142-6.

12 Hinsley, British intelligence, vol 1, p.421.

13 Behrendt, H. Rommel’s intelligence in the Desert Campaign. London: William Kimber & Co., 1985, p.218. Liddell Hart, B.H. (ed.). The Rommel papers. London: Collins, 1953, p.412-13. Stevens, W. Bardia to Enfidaville. Wellington, N.Z.: War History Branch, Department of Internal Affairs, 1962, p.131-2. Hamilton, N., Monty: master of the battlefield, 1942-1944. Sevenoaks: Coronet, 1985, p.152-3.

14 Hinsley, F.H., Thomas, E.E., et al., British intelligence in the Second World War: its influence on strategy and operations, vol 2. London: H.M.S.O., 1981, p.593.

15 Kippenberger, Infantry brigadier, p.270-272. Stevens, Bardia to Enfidaville, p.136-45. Pemberton, A.L., The development of artillery tactics and equipment. London: British War Office, 1951, p.151.

16 Kippenberger, Infantry brigadier, p.274. Stevens, Bardia to Enfidaville, p.153. Liddell Hart, Rommel papers, p.415-16. Hinsley, British intelligence vol 2, p.595.

17 Latimer, J. Alamein. London: John Murray, 2003, p.43-72.

18 Pemberton, Artillery tactics and equipment, p.152.

19 Hamilton, Monty, p.170.

20 Ellis, L. (1993). Victory in the West. Vol.1. The battle of Normandy. London: H.M.S.O., 1962, p.9-10.

21 Hinsley, F.H. and Thomas, E.E, British intelligence in the Second World War: its influence on strategy and operations, vol 3, part 2. London: H.M.S.O., 1990, p.778. Jones,R.V., Most Secret War, London: Penguin, 2009, p.361

22, Hinsley, British Intelligence, vol. 3, pt 2, p.69-87. Williams, Bill, Enemy reaction to Overlord: Allied intelligence assessment, 6 May 1944, WO 219/1837, Operation Overlord: disposition of enemy forces, appreciations of possible reactions etc. The National Archives. Holmes, R., The D-Day experience. London: Carlton, 2004, facsimile dossier of German beach defence works. Fenris, J., ‘Intelligence and OVERLORD; a snapshot from 6 June 1944’, in J. Buckley (ed.), The Normandy campaign 1944: sixty years on. London; New York: Routledge, 2006, p.188-94, 195-6. Hargest, James, ‘The Anticipated Scale of German Air Force Effort Against “OVERLORD”’ in Notes from Normandy, WAII 1 DA 491.5/3, Archives New Zealand.

23 Fenris, ‘Intelligence and OVERLORD’, p.196-7.

24 Kershaw, R., D-Day; piercing the Atlantic Wall. Surrey: Ian Allan 2010, p.409. Barbier, M.K., ‘Deceptions and the planning of D-Day’, in J. Buckley (ed.), The Normandy campaign 1944: sixty years on. London; New York: Routledge, 2006, p.170-1.

25 Hughes-Wilson, John, Military Intelligence blunders. London: Robinson, 1999, p.19, 25. Barbier, ‘Deceptions and the planning of D-Day, p.170.

26 Hughes-Wilson, Military Intelligence blunders. p.24. Hastings, Max, Overlord: D-Day and the battle for Normandy, 1944. London: Pan Books Ltd., 1985, p.75. Latimer, J. Deception in war. New York: Overlook Press, 2001, p.214, 222.

27 Hughes-Wilson, Military Intelligence blunders. p.31-2.

28 Jones, Most secret war, p.422-3.

29 Reit, S. The hidden war: the amazing camouflage deceptions of World War II. London: Corgi, 1980, p.20-1, 22-3, 31-2, 37.

30 Hughes-Wilson, Military Intelligence blunders. p.25. Latimer, Deception in war, p.224-5.

31 Hughes-Wilson, Military Intelligence blunders. p.24. Hinsley, F.H., Simkins C., et al, British intelligence in the Second World War: security and counter intelligence, vol 4. London: H.M.S.O., 1990, p.237-43. Latimer, Deception in war, p.227-9.

32 Ellis, Victory in the West, vol I, p.103

33 Hughes-Wilson, Military Intelligence blunders. p.23.

34 Holmes, The D-Day experience, facsimile of map ‘Lage West, 3.7.44, OKH – Gen St d H, Op.Abt/IIIb’

35 Danchev, A., & Todman, D. War diaries, 1939-1945: the diaries of Field Marshal Lord Alanbrooke. London: Weidenfeld & Nicolson, 2001. p.554.

36 Eisenhower, Dwight D. "In case of failure" message drafted before D-Day. Dwight D. Eisenhower Library, Pre-Presidential Papers, Principal File: Butcher Diary 1942-1945. Eisenhower explicitly recognises the importance of intelligence in this message.

37 Hastings, Overlord, map on p.96-97 showing Allied objectives and advances on D-Day

38 Kahn, ‘The Rise of Intelligence’ p.134.

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To Be or Not To Be

The nation of France at the end of the Hundred Years War

 

During the Middle Ages the political entities in Europe were developing the political and social attributes that would later become the identifying characteristics of nations and states.

The degree of ‘nation-ness’ held by a country, kingdom, or state is a location on a continuum rather than a simple binary 'yes this place is a country no that one isn't', or journey not a destination. The degree to which each location is a nation is constantly being redefined, even today.[2]

In the 1400s, of course, a nation was defined differently than it is today. The word nacio or natio was used to refer to distinct groups of people with shared characteristics, encompassing some aspects of Smith's definition, but was not used to refer to what we would now call nations. Nevertheless, even though the word didn't mean then what it does now, the peoples of the Middle Ages did embrace the concept of nations. The French, for example, viewed themselves as distinct from – and of course superior to – the English.[3] They viewed their French culture as superior, and they knew the geographical location of France even if the exact boundaries were somewhat fluid. As Reynolds has stated, “medieval ideas about kingdoms and peoples were very like modern ideas about nations”[4]

In National Identity (1991), Smith defined a nation as comprising six elements; a named human population, a shared historic territory, common myths and historical memories, a mass public culture, a common economy, and common legal rights and duties for all members.’ These features are easily seen in modern nations, but some aspects – particularly the  economy and legal rights and duties – are less clear in the Middle Ages. By 2002, in his article ‘When is a Nation?’, Smith softened his definition. He now defined a nation as a named community in an historic territory with shared myths and memories, having a common public culture and common laws and customs. Compared to 1991 the ‘mass' has gone from public culture, the economy has ceased to be a defining characteristic, and and the force of legal rights and duties has been diluted.

France was in a privileged position to be at the forefront of the development of nations during the Middle Ages, and by the end of the Hundred Years war in 1453 it demonstrated all the characteristics required by Smiths 2001.

Perhaps the easiest of Smith's elements for any nation to achieve is being a named community. Since before Roman times the territory of France had been populated by the Gauls. By the Middle Ages the Franks controlled most of Western Europe Century, a name which gradually morphed into the 'French' by the late Middle Ages. The French were not, of course, in exclusive occupation. The Bretons in the northwest, the various peoples to the south along the Mediterranean coast, and to the east in Burgundy and along the Rhine were all less 'French' than the core of the Kingdom around Paris, yet they all nevertheless identified themselves, and were identified by others, as belonging to the French more than any other named community.

The historic territory of France was first formally created by the Treaty of Verdun in 843 and consisted of the land west of the Rhone excluding the Bretagne, which remained independent. By the end of the Hundred Years War this was still roughly the territory controlled by the French King, although to the east the situation remained fluid. Four main rivers – the Meuse, Escaut, Saone, and Rhone[5] - now delimited the eastern edge of France, although the exact boundary flexed east and west with the changing fortunes of various kings.

In the second half of the 15th Century control over this historic territory was further complicated by the 'breakaway' of Burgundy, which eventually established it's own realm sandwiched between France and the German states further east. Although Burgundy asserted a large measure of independence – and even sided with the English during the Hundred Years War - the Duchy was still more-or-less considered to be part of France, or at least French. The death in battle of Charles the Bold in 1477 near Nancy ended Burgundian independence, bringing the region back under the control of the French king. During this same period Bretagne came increasingly under the sway of France, eventually losing its independence too.

Jean of Arc demonstrated during her trial in 1431 that she was unclear on boundaries of France.[6] This ignorance is to be expected of an uneducated peasant, especially given that printed maps – let alone Google Earth – were extremely rare outside the royal courts, and commoner's geographic knowledge beyond their immediate region was acquired by word of mouth. Nevertheless, the general extent of France was know, and remained recognisably similar to that granted in 843.

The French in the late 1400s shared many myths and memories. It was believed that the people were descended from Trojans who had migrated westwards. It was widely believed that France was  the ‘most Christian nation’[7], a belief buttressed by the residence of the Avignon Papacy in France until  1379, and that the global centre of learning had migrated from Greece to Rome to Paris, a shift referred to as Translatio Studii.[8]  These myths often had little or no basis in fact, but that mattered little – the myths were believed, shared, and thus provided a common shared picture of the self. There were also more recent myths, whose factual foundations were somewhat more robust, although fabulist elements were still introduced. For example the legend soon grew that Jean of Arc was divinely sent to save France, and had been guided by angels. Since the late Middle Ages French myths and memories have continued to evolve, with new concepts such as Liberté, Egalité, Fraternité taking centre stage in the national mythos.

The common public culture of France included aspects of the shared myths and memories, as well as other characteristics. Significantly the French language grew in importance until by the late 1400s it was the dominant language for all uses. For a long time Latin had been used for official communications. This was in part due to Latin being the language of the Catholic Church, and since France was ‘the most Catholic nation’ it of course followed suit. Furthermore, since church and state were to a significant extent the same thing, and most bureaucrats had been trained by the church, Latin became the language of court. However, one of the ways the French Kings asserted their increasing independence from the church was by replacing Latin with French, a language understood by all the king’s subjects.

The University of Paris played a role in shaping French due to the pride is generated as a respected centre of European education. It also created an homogeneous group of bureaucrats who spread a common conception of France across the nation. Religious figures such as St Denis and St Michael provided common cultural heros, figures who were known and revered across the nation.

At the end of the Hundred Years War the King of France emerged victorious against England, which placed the Valois monarchy in a strengthened position to assert its authority. The King of France was now able to use his authority to set policy and laws, and raise taxes across the nation. These impositions were reasonably consistent, and overseen by government officials. But the rules weren’t completely consistent. Large areas of the kingdom, notably Burgundy and Bretagne, remained ruled by powerful nobles who asserted their independence from Paris, but by the end of the 1400’s the power of these nobles had been defeated and their regions integrated with the rest of France. Even so, there remained variations in these between different regions due either to the king’s favour, powerful local princes, or historical precedent. While this demonstrated that the power of central government to define common legal rights and duties for all members was immature compared to later periods, in principle at least these variations existed with the king’s consent rather than because he lacked the power to set and enforce a common standard.[9] Too, there was residual cultural inertia that different regions of France were actually different and should be treated as such, and were therefore entitled to different taxation or locally variations of specific laws. Truly common laws and duties have become more enforced and enforceable as communications have improved, but flexibility at the local level remains, as evidenced in almost all countries by the ability of states and regional councils to set laws that suit their specific context, independently of central government.  Despite that, the concept of a common law and duties for all was reinforced by the increasing importance of the King's court as a court of appeal – people unsatisfied with the justice they had received in their home regions were increasingly inclined to take their dispute to Paris for final arbitration.

The state of France, measured against Smith's later definition, at the end of the Hundred Years War was that the nation had a strongly developed albeit constantly evolving collection of myths, memories, and public culture. The French language had moved into the ascendant for almost all purposes, and although the territory of France flexed and changed, particularly along the eastern border, the core of the territory was much as it had been since 843, and indeed all the way back to Roman times at least. There were common legal rights and duties, although much less so than would be seen in later periods and this was probably the most weakly developed characteristic of nation in France in the second half of the 15th Century. Even though France wasn't as fully mature as it would later become, France in the late Middle Ages definitely met the full definition of a nation.

 

 

Bibliography

Beaunne, Colette. The birth of an ideology; myths and symbols of nation in Late-Medieval France. Berkley, 1991

Blockmans, W., and Hoppenbrauwers, P. An Introduction to Medieval Europe, Routledge, 2007

Davies, Rees. ‘The Medieval State, the Tyranny of a Concept?’ Journal of Historical Sociology, Vol. 16, No. 2 (June 2003), pp.280-300.

Davies, Rees. ‘Nations and National Identities in the Medieval World; An Apologia’ BTNG, Vol. XXXIV, No. 4 (2004), pp.567-577.

Gueneé, B. States and Rulers in Later Medieval Europe, transl. J Vale, Oxford, 1985

Reynolds, Susan, “Medieval Origines Gentium and the Community of the Realm,” History, Vol. LCXVIII, (1983), pp.375-390

Reynolds, Susan. ‘There were states in Medieval Europe: a response to Rees Davies’ Journal of Historical Sociology, Vol. 16, No. 4 (December 2003), pp.550-555.

Smith, Anthony. National identity. London, 1991

Smith, Anthony. ‘When is a nation?’ Geopolitics, Vol. 7, Iss. 2 (2002), pp.5-32.

Taylor, C. Joan of Arc, La Pucelle. Manchester, 2007

Vale, M. 'The civilisation of court and cities in Northern Europe 1200-1500' in The Oxford Illustrated History of Medieval Europe, ed. Holmes, G., Oxford, 1998


[2] Davies, Rees. ‘Nations and National Identities in the Medieval World; An Apologia’ BTNG, Vol. XXXIV, No. 4 (2004), p.568.

[3] Beaunne, Colette. The birth of an ideology; myths and symbols of nation in Late-Medieval France. Berkley, 199, p.270, 286

[4] Reynolds, “Medieval Origines Gentium and the Community of the Realm,” History, LCXVIII, 1983, pp.375-390

[5] Beaune, Ideology, p.311

[6] Taylor, C. Joan of Arc, La Pucelle. Manchester, 2007, p.5

[7] Beaune, Ideology, p.19

[8] Beaune, Ideology, p.275

[9] (V Vale, M. 'The civilisation of court and cities in Northern Europe 1200-1500' in The Oxford Illustrated History of Medieval Europe, ed. Holmes, G., Oxford, 1998, p.299-303

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When who was king?

The validity of Rodriguez’s assertion that in the film "When We Were Kings" ‘there is no real Ali ... only white writers’

 

 

In 1960 an 18 year-old Cassius Clay won the Olympic gold medal for heavyweight boxing in Rome. Four years later in 1964 he won the heavyweight title from Sonny Liston, and shortly after that converted to Islam, changing his name to  Muhammad Ali. Three years after that, in 1967, the title was stripped from him over his refusal to be conscripted for the Vietnam War. Unable to fight for the next four years, he became increasingly active politically, and became an icon in the civil rights movement. Throughout the 1960s Ali had been active member of the Nation of Islam, and an outspoken critic of white America. Able to box professionally again from late 1970, Ali worked his way through a number of fights, until he was able to challenge George Foreman for the world heavyweight title in 1974. Two decades after that Leon Gast released When We Were Kings. In those two decades Ali had renounced Nation of Islam, lost and won the heavyweight titles again, and become one of the most recognisable athletes in America[1].  This timeline is important because practically none of it appears in Gast's documentary. Instead of describing the context and milieu of the famous 'Rumble in the Jungle,' Gast produced an tightly focused moment in time that is mainly concerned with just the fight itself.[2] It is highly ironic then, that, shorn of context, the fight – and Ali's accomplishment in the ring against George Foreman – is greatly diminished in Gast's telling of it.

Surprisingly little footage of the actual fight is shown in the film, which is strange given that the fight is by default the core of the film. Gast was unable to shoot the fight himself, and thus had to purchase footage of the fight to include in the film.[3]  His decision to not use much of that footage is therefore understandable, but it's absence is notable. It also prevents the viewer from coming to their own conclusions about what occurred during the fight.

Gast spends little time outlining the background either of the fight, nor of the two boxers' journey to it.[4] He may, perhaps, have assumed that viewers watching the documentary would be familiar with the background. However, consider again the timeline outlined above. Two decades passed between the fight and the release of the film. In 1994 most filmgoers under the age of 40 would have little personal memory or experience of either the turbulent sixties or Ali's comeback from boxing exile in the early seventies.

In particular, there is a notable lack of politics. Arguably, this is consistent with a focus that is primarily on the fight itself. However Muhammed Ali at this time was almost as active politically as he was in the sporting arena. As Farrad has noted, Ali presented himself as ...

… not only an extraordinarily skillful boxer, but as a politically outspoken pugilist who saw his fight extending far beyond the ring.[5]

There are hints of Ali's political activism left behind by Gast, such as his sound but highly unexpected advice on dental care, and a thoughtful discussion about winning the fight to raise prestige “not for me, but for my brothers and sisters who are living on concrete floors,” and to use his own position to help others. But generally all we get is Ali's 'amusing loquacity', leaving practically a caricature of the man.[6]

The other political absentee is Mobutu Sese Seko. Norman Mailer uses a jocular tone to relate an anecdote or two about Mobuto's atrocities, but there is no thorough consideration of the African ruler's motivations in underwriting the music festival and the fight.[7] Nor is there any enquiry into the fighter's complicity in supporting  Mobuto's regime. Five million dollars – the purse Foreman and Ali each received – buys a lot of looking the other way, enough to overcome even Ali's usual political awareness. In 1974 the true nature of Mobuto's rule may not have been public knowledge, but the same cannot be said of the early 1990's when the film was assembled. Gast's decision to avoid that unsavoury aspect of the politics surrounding the 'Rumble in the Jungle' is another example of context being stripped away.

Zaire's post-colonial history is given some screen time, most tellingly in the way it is used to set Foreman up to be the narrative 'bad guy.' Arriving in Kinshasa with a German-shepherd just years after de-colonisation was certainly a tone-deaf action.[8] We are told this alienated Foreman from the Zairan public, but never get to hear from Foreman what affect this had on him, or if he was even aware of it.

The film uses a mix of Gast's own footage, shot in 1974 when he was intending to only make a documentary on the accompanying music festival, and footage shot by others.[9] The footage is well used, and some nice editing eloquently juxtaposes most of the Americans appearing well out of their element in a deeply foreign country against Ali's easy familiarity and building of rapport with the locals. The most memorable example is the constant refrain 'Ali Bombaye!' Ali encouraged the locals to chant as a way of building a home side advantage.

The two main characters, the ones we hear most from, are George Plimpton and Norman Mailer. Both were in Zaire in 1974 covering the fight for their respective magazines, and both are intelligent and articulate men of words. Mailer, in particular, displays his deep knowledge and affection of boxing and boxers. The stories that Gast allows them to tell about the Kinshasa in the weeks before the fight are engaging and well told. However, what they don't talk about – either by omission or commission is illuminating of Gast's motivations. The most obvious example of this is due to  the lack of footage of the fight itself, leaving viewers to rely on the narration of the fight provided by Plimpton and Mailer years after the event. Both writers were there at the fight, and Mailer especially has a good eye for the nuances and details of the tactics on display, but crucially, neither of them is Ali, or Foreman for that matter. Their opinions of what they saw are valid and informed, but they are not the boxers. This makes the lack of interviews with either Ali or Foreman especially apparent. Neither fighter is given the opportunity to reflect 20 years later on what he was doing or thinking at different stages of the fight, or on any aspect of that time in Kinshasa. In the early 1990's Ali was already very ill with Parkinson's Disease but he is still capable of communicating even now in 2016, and George Foreman was and is certainly still able to speak for himself.[10] But they are never given the opportunity, other than through their words recorded in 1974.

Plimpton and Mailer do a professional job of dissecting the fight but the issue is that often put their own assessment on the motivations for Ali's actions, effectively putting words in his mouth. This goes straight to the motivation and thinking behind Ali's pivotal decision to have Foreman physically wear himself out with what became known as 'rope-a-dope' tactics – Ali essentially turned himself into a human punching bag. But when was this decision made? Both Plimpton and Mailer present it as being made in the ring, when Ali suddenly discovered in the first few rounds that he couldn't go toe-to-toe with Foreman.[11] Little consideration is given to it being a deliberate plan worked out well in advance, and covered with a deception Ali built with boasting before the bout and leveraging off Foreman's certain knowledge of how Ali typically fought. It is a potentially very interesting line of investigation, which Gast essentially ignores.

 

When We Were Kings is a enjoyable look at the legendary 'Rumble in the Jungle'. The footage and interviews are artfully editing to tell an engaging story. Unfortunately the  story told excises most of the pre-history of the event, and the politics that swirled around it. The story also stops abruptly at the end of the fight, giving neither Foreman nor Ali a chance to update their 1974 selves with changes in their politics and outlook over the following two decades. Rodriguez is therefore correct when he asserts that  Ali is essentially missing from the film, with his thought, actions, and emotions either being ignored, or ascribed to him by the white writers Plimpton and Mailer, and Gast. The 'kings' referred to in the title of the film presumably excludes Ali.

In 1996 Gast produced a hagiographic snapshot of a moment-in-time, intended to celebrate the accomplishment of one of the 20th Century's greatest sportsmen. It is highly ironic then, that, shorn of context, Ali's accomplishment in the ring is greatly diminished in Gast's telling of it.

 

 

Bibliography

Farred, Grant, When kings were (anti-?)colonials: black athletes in film, Sport and Society, vol 11, No 2/3, March/May 2008, p.240-252

Davis, Jack E., review of When we were kings, Journal of American History, December 1997, p.1182-1183

Goldberg, Jonah, Politics & Pugilists, Commentary, June 1997, p.51-55

Kauffman, Stanley, review of When we were kings, The New Republic, February 1997, p.26-27

Rodriguez, Julio, 'Documenting myth, racial representation in Leon Gast's When We Were Kings', in Bloom, John and Nevin, Michael, Sports matters, race, recreation, and culture, New York: New York University Press, 2002, p.209-222

 


[1]               Goldberg, Politics & Pugilists, Comentary Magazine, June 1997, p.55

[2]           Rodriguez, Julio, 'Documenting myth, racial representation in Leon Gast's When We Were Kings', in Bloom, John and Nevin, Michael, Sports matters, race, recreation, and culture, New York: New York University Press, 2002, p.212

[3]               Goldberg, Politics & Pugilists, p.52

[4]               Davis, Jack E., review of When we were kings, Journal of American History, December 1997, p.1182

[5]               Farred, Grant, When kings were (anti-?)colonials: black athletes in film, Sport and Society, vol 11, No 2/3, March/May 2008, p.243-4

[6]               Kauffman, Stanley, review of When we were kings, The New Republic, February 1997, p.27

[7]               Farred, Grant, When kings were (anti-?)colonials: black athletes in film, Sport and Society, vol 11, No 2/3, March/May 2008, p.246

[8]               Rodriguez, Julio, 'Documenting myth, racial representation in Leon Gast's When We Were Kings', in Bloom, John and Nevin, Michael, Sports matters, race, recreation, and culture, New York: New York University Press, 2002, p.215

[9]               Goldberg, Politics & Pugilists, Comentary Magazine, June 1997, p.52

[10]             Goldberg, Politics & Pugilists, p.51

[11]          Rodriguez, Julio, 'Documenting myth, racial representation in Leon Gast's When We Were Kings', in Bloom, John and Nevin, Michael, Sports matters, race, recreation, and culture, New York: New York University Press, 2002, p.218

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Edited by JonS

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The Irredeemable Hour

Allied Strategy, Operations, and Tactics in Italy 1943

 

 

 

There is a tide in the affairs of men,

Which, taken at the flood, leads on to fortune;

Omitted, all the voyage of their life

Is bound in shallows and miseries.

On such a full sea are we now afloat;

And we must take the current when it serves,

Or lose our ventures.

Julius Caesar, Act IV, Scene III. Quoted by Winston Churchill when advocating continued operations in the Mediterranean, 13 July 1943[1]

 

 

Every hour is of irredeemable value.

Dr. Goebbels, diary entry for 16 Sept 1943[2]

 

 

By mid-1943 the Western Allies could be well pleased with their progress in the war against Germany and Italy.  In May they accepted the surrender of some 250,000 Axis soldiers in Tunisia and became “masters of the North African shore.”[3]  Mussolini was deposed in July, and the replacement regime appeared on the verge of surrender.[4]  Sicily was cleared in August, opening up the Mediterranean once again to Allied shipping.[5]  In the Atlantic the campaign against the U-boats had been won, while in the skies over Germany the strategic bomber offensive was finally making an impression with devastating attacks on Hamburg and the Ruhr.[6]

The A llied run of success continued into September with the invasion of mainland Italy, timed to coincide with the Italian surrender.[7]  In early October Eisenhower cabled Marshall optimistically that “we will have Rome by [the end of] October.”[8]  However this was not to be.  At the end of the year the Allied armies were locked in a bloody stalemate on a line running from Cassino to Orsogna, well south of Rome.  The front line would remain static there until mid-1944, and fighting in Italy would not end until the last days of the war.  This essay will examine how the Allied hopes of mid-1943 for a quick campaign in Italy would be frustrated due to failures at the strategic, operational, and tactical levels of war.

1943 opened, for the Allies, with the inter-Allied conference at Casablanca. This fortnight of argument and discussion established “[a] realistic strategy for the entire war.”[9]  Two of the twelve decisions made at Casablanca directly concerned Italy.  Pressure would be maintained in the Mediterranean by assaulting Sicily after clearing North Africa, and the Allies would pursue the unconditional surrender of Axis Powers.  In addition to maintaining pressure on the Axis forces, invading Sicily would free up around a million tons of Allied shipping being used on the much longer route via South Africa.[10]

With the intention so clearly spelt out at Casablanca Eisenhower, supreme commander in the Mediterranean, could commence planning the invasion of Sicily.  But although they provided an overarching framework, the decisions at Casablanca notably omitted exactly what the next step after Sicily would be.

This indecision was the result of a fundamental split in strategic outlook between the British and Americans.  Britain, guided by General Alan Brooke and encouraged by Churchill, wanted to continue offensive action in the Mediterranean as long and as far as possible.  Their rationale was that by engaging German forces on the periphery of Europe – especially in Italy and the Balkans – they would disperse German force into areas with comparatively limited transport links, and tie them up in attritional campaigns.  This would ease the pressure on the Russians immediately, and reduce the force Operation Overlord would eventually have to confront in France.  The Americans, on the other hand, firmly believed that the best way to defeat the Germans was to invade France as soon as possible, and that subsidiary operations conducted anywhere else would only serve to reduce the Allied force which could be committed to France.

There was also a strong suspicion amongst the Americans that Britain was attempting to expand operations in the Mediterranean in order to restore the British Empire, and to enhance their post-war position.  Neither was seen as an especially compelling reason to get US forces involved in fighting there.

Therefore it was not until late July, while Hamburg burnt and well after the Allied forces were firmly ashore on Sicily, that the Combined Chiefs of Staff (CCS) gave a clear directive that Italy was to be invaded.  Helping that decision was the eventual realisation that the Italian government was about to collapse.  Mussolini had just been removed from power, and Marshall Badoglio soon sent out feelers seeking to surrender, and some guarantee that Allied forces would prevent a German takeover.

The Allies were understandably circumspect in their dealings with the Italian emissaries, but in retrospect it is hard not to conclude that they were too circumspect.  While the two sides circled each other seeking terms and advantage – in direct contradiction to ‘unconditional surrender’ announced by President Roosevelt at Casablanca – the Germans were taking decisive action.

In May the German High Command had already identified that Italy was probably going to surrender soon.  Hitler responded by giving Rommel responsibility for preparing forces in southern Germany to swiftly descend on Italy as soon as it surrendered, and seize control of key locations and resources.[11]  Rommel made it clear that the forces available to him would not be sufficient to defend all of Italy, and the decision was made to surrender the south and centre, but to hold the industrial regions of the Po Valley.

A masterfully conducted withdrawal from Sicily, Sardinia, and Corsica changed this calculus.  Now Kesselring – the German military commander in the Mediterranean – felt he had sufficient forces to defend southern Italy also, and started lobbying for a more ambitious defence.  Kesselring demonstrated after Salerno that a slow and deliberate withdrawal was feasible, and Hitler reversed his decision.  While Alexander and Eisenhower continued to believe in early October that the conquest of Rome was only weeks away,[12] Kesselring now had a clear mandate to defend central Italy.

While the Germans consistently moved faster at a strategic level, operationally the Allies flat-footed themselves.  Planning for the invasion of Sicily progressed inconclusively during the first six months of 1943 because there was no single headquarters designated to take clear and sole responsibility.  Instead multiple commanders separated by thousands of kilometres sporadically worked on aspects of it while simultaneously trying to win the North African Campaign.[13]  Planning for the invasion of mainland Italy was also hampered by delay in confirming that there would even be an invasion.[14]  As a result, instead of being able to immediately follow up successes in North Africa and Sicily, there were operational pause which the Germans were able to use to consolidate their hold on Sicily and Italy.

The major operational advantage the Allies held in the Mediterranean in mid-1943 was uncontested control of the air and the sea.  In principle, they should have been able to use this to descend on Italy at any – or many – locations along its long coast, and this was a major concern for the German commanders.[15]  In practice, once Sicily had been secured the only practical location for a major amphibious invasion was felt to be the broad beaches of the Gulf of Salerno.  This was at the extreme practical range for fighter aircraft based in Sicily.  Certainly fighter cover would be important for any amphibious operation, but in allowing it to dictate the geographical limits the Allies overlooked other considerations, ignored viable alternatives, and handed central Italy back to the Germans.

By mid-1943 the German Air Force – the Luftwaffe - was rapidly become a pale shadow of its former self.  Decisions taken in the 1930s and earlier in the war regarding pilot training and production of aircraft were coming home to roost.[16]  Due to demands all over Europe, and the resulting attrition of pilots and aircraft, there were only 200 fighters and bombers available to the Germans in Italy.[17]  With the bomber offensive over Germany reaching new levels of destructiveness, and the Russians mounting massive offensives at a quickening tempo, there would be no expansion of this small force.

The Allies failed to recognise this, and thus the ability to accept more risk in terms of reduced air cover over future invasions.  Furthermore, they were unable to effectively augment ground based aircraft with naval fighters flying off aircraft carriers.  For the landings at Salerno the Royal Navy was only able to provide five small carriers with a total of 108 Seafires, while the US Navy provided none.[18]  At that time there were fifteen large fleet carriers, plus many more escort carriers, available to the Allies globally, but they had all been tasked to other operational theatres.  By not fully conforming to the decisions made at Casablanca – maintaining pressure in the Mediterranean and pursuing the surrender of Italy – the Allied Navies committed the armies to a campaign that would be fought from one end of the country to the other.

When Montgomery’s army landed on the Italian toe at Calabria in early September they came face-to-face with the factors that would dominate the entire Italian campaign: small forces exploited difficult terrain to slow the Allied rate of advance to a crawl.  It took Montgomery two weeks to advance 300km and link up with the Salerno beachhead, mainly due to extensive demolitions to the extremely mountainous terrain.  Small rearguards also imposed maximum delay on British forces moving along the narrow winding roads.  This combination of demolitions and rearguards continued north of Salerno, buying time for the construction of permanent defences across the narrow waist of Italy south of Rome.

Kesselring responded with speed and violence to Allied amphibious invasions.  In mid-September the landing at Salerno was very nearly split and driven back into the ocean.  Montgomery attempted an amphibious flanking movement at Termoli in early October, but a lack of landing craft meant the force was too small for the task, and faced a similarly robust response.[19]

Nevertheless, both were successful and by mid-October the Allies came up against the permanent fortifications of the Winter Line stretching across Italy at its narrowest point.  Kesselring felt so confident of the tactical situation that he was able to start sending German ground forces out of Italy to reinforce other theatres, while still maintaining absolute superiority in the number of divisions in Italy.[20]  This undercut the Allied strategic rationale of using Italy to draw in German forces to relieve pressure on the Russians and help set the necessary pre-conditions for an invasion of France.[21]

It was at this point that Allied intelligence appears to have failed.  With German forces having already demonstrated a commitment to fight and impose significant delay in terrain well suited to that task, Allied commanders still believed they would retreat to Northern Italy and Rome would be liberated by the end of the year.[22]

General Montgomery launched an offensive on the Adriatic coast, aiming to drive up the coast to Pescara then across to Rome.[23]  The attack initially met with some success, but in worsening weather, and attacking across a seemingly endless series of ridges and rivers, the attack bogged down.  While the New Zealand Division fought in the mountains around Orsogna, the Canadians slogged their way forward to Ortona on the coast.

The fighting by the Canadians on the approaches to Ortona and the New Zealanders on the ridges around Orsogna was typical of that experienced by the Allies in the last months of 1943.  German paratroopers and panzergrenadiers made excellent use of the ground to negate Allied superiority in mobility and firepower.  Farley Mowat, a Canadian lieutenant who suffered nervous breakdown at Ortona, recalled that

[t]he battle we were about to enter promised nothing but disaster – a frontal attack in daylight over open ground, in full view of determined paratroopers manning prepared and fortified positions and well supported by heavy weapons. Only a massive weight of accompanying armour could have given an infantry attack the ghost of a chance, and we had only a troop-three tanks-in support. Furthermore, it was obvious to all of us, tankers and infantrymen alike, that neither wheels nor tracks could move far through the morass of mud in the bottom of the valley.[24]

By the end of the year Montgomery had taken some of his objectives, but was halted well south of Pescara where he posed no threat to Rome.

Meanwhile General Clark underwent his own anabasis on the approach to Cassino.  Mountainous terrain, rivers, appalling weather, and stout defence slowed the advance then bought it to a halt on the Garigliano River.  Fighting through the mountains south of Cassino was extraordinarily difficult.  In November a British infantry brigade was on Monte Camino, where they

... lived in caves and holes in the ground, sometimes sharing them with Italian peasants whose homes had been destroyed. The weather was terrible and life a struggle, with wind and rain. The whole Brigade was maintained over a most primitive jeep track that was two feet deep in mud. At one place this track went in the front door of a cottage, out of a window, and then down some steep steps.[25]

In such difficult weather and terrain the Allied forces were unable to generate enough violence to quickly overcome the German defences.

In 1943 the Allied failed at the three levels of war.  British and American politicians and CCS took too long to agree on a strategy, resulting in avoidable delays prior to the invasions of both Sicily and Italy.  Operationally, the failure to concentrate resources in the Mediterranean in accordance with the policy of ‘Germany First’ meant that, instead of outflanking defensive positions, the armies were committed to a grinding campaign stretching from one end of Italy to the other.  Tactically the Allied ground forces were unable to generate enough violence to shift an enemy who outnumbered them, and which was usually entrenched on excellent defensive terrain.  Strategic indecision combined with self-imposed operational limitations and limited tactical effectiveness to ensure that the Germans would be able to impose their will on the development of the campaign in Italy.

Allied prosecution of the war against Germany from El Alamein onwards, when viewed in retrospect, sometimes appears as an inexorable sequence of deliberate steps leading to the ultimate defeat of German in 1945.  However in 1943 the Allies did not seem to know what they wanted to do next, where they wanted to do it, or how to do it.  Holding the initiative was a new draught, and it took some time to become accustomed to the taste of it.  The Allies failed to follow the tide when it served, and wasted the irredeemable hour.

 

 

Bibliography

Atkinson, Rick, The Day of Battle (London: Little Brown, 2007)

Bowlby, Alex, Countdown to Cassino (London: Leo Cooper, 1995)

Bryant, Arthur, The Turn of the Tide (London: Collins, 1957)

Bryant, Arthur, Triumph in the West (London: Collins, 1959)

Carver, Field Marshal Lord, “The War in Italy 1943–1945”, The RUSI Journal, Vol. 146, No 5 (Oct., 2001), pp.62-66

Gooderson, Ian, A Hard Way to Make a War (London: Conway, 2008)

Graham, Dominick and Bidwell, Shelford, Tug of War (New York: St Martin’s Press, 1986)

Liddell Hart, B.H.(ed), The Rommel Papers (London: Collins, 1953)

Molony, C.J.C., The Mediterranean and the Middle East, vol V, The Campaign in Sicily and the Campaign in Italy, History of the Second World War (London: HMSO, 1973)

Mowat, Farley, And No Birds Sang (Mechanicsburg, PA: Stackpole, 2004)

Murray, Williamson, Strategy for Defeat, The Luftwaffe 1933-18945 (Alabama: Air University Press, 1983)

Phillips, N.C., Official History of New Zealand in the Second World War, Italy vol I; The Sangro to Cassino (Wellington: War History Branch, Department of Internal Affairs, 1957)

Stevens, W.G., Official History of New Zealand in the Second World War, Bardia to Enfidaville (Wellington: War History Branch, Department of Internal Affairs, 1962)

Tooze, Adam, The Wages of Destruction (New York: Viking, 2006)

Wilt, Alan F., “The Significance of the Casablanca Decisions, January 1943” The Journal of Military History, Vol. 55, No. 4 (Oct., 1991), pp. 517-529

 

 

 

 


[1] Quoted in Molony, The Mediterranean and the Middle East, vol V, p.186

[2] Quoted in Bryant, Triumph in the West, p.32

[3] Stevens, Bardia to Enfidaville, p.368

[4] Atkinson, The Day Of Battle, p.187-189

[5] Gooderson, A Hard Way To Make A War, p.33

[6] Tooze, Wages of Destruction, p.601

[7] Gooderson, A Hard Way To Make A War, p.194

[8] Quoted in Atkinson, The Day of Battle, p.248

[9] Wilt, ‘The Significance of the Casablanca Decisions’, p.529

[10] Molony, The Mediterranean and the Middle East, vol V, p.357-358

[11] Liddell Hart, The Rommel Papers, p.432-435

[12] Bryant, Triumph in the West, p.47

[13] Atkinson, The Day of Battle, p.53-55

[14] Bryant, The Turn of the Tide, p.670-671

[15] Liddell Hart, The Rommel Papers, p.432

[16] Murray, Strategy for Defeat, p.17, 94, 120, 136-139

[17] Gooderson, A Hard Way To Make A War, p.190

[18] Molony, The Mediterranean and the Middle East, vol V, p.263

[19] Graham and Bidwell, Tug of War, p114-116

[20] Bryant, Triumph in the West, p.48

[21] Carver, ‘The War in Italy 1943–1945’, p.63

[22] Bryant, Triumph in the West, p.47

[23] Phillips, Italy vol I; The Sangro to Cassino, p.44

[24] Mowat, And No Birds Sang, p.224

[25] Bowlby, Countdown to Cassino, p.104

Edited by JonS

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Let our hearts be dark

The role of mana and rangatiratanga in the conflicts in New Zealand during the 1840s

 

To the soldiers only, who are enemies to our power, to our authority over the land, also to our authority over our people, let our hearts be dark.

Hone Heke, 1844[1]

 

In the 1840's the British settlers and Māori were each striving to achieve different aims in New Zealand.  Following the signing of the Treaty of Waitangi the British believed they had sovereignty over New Zealand and therefore the right – if not the physical wherewithal – to expand immigration, purchase land wholesale, and impose British legal norms across the country.  On the other hand, based on their understanding of the Māori translation, Māori believed the Treaty secured their right to rule as they saw fit, and only sell land to the British as and when they wanted.  This subtle mismatch would drive the first round of the New Zealand Wars.

At the core of the Māori grievances which led to conflict were the related concepts of mana and rangatiratanga. Mana was the prestige, influence, and spiritual capital that an individual held, and was thus the root of chiefly authority and status.[2]  It derived in part from birth and whakapapa, but was sustained and enhanced by demonstrated leadership, particularly in war.[3]  Indeed, “the purpose of war was to restore the integrity of chiefly and/or group mana, or to redress its loss after a defeat.”[4]  This was significantly different from the European view of war; in Māori culture, war was fought for mana rather than simply for conquest.  Conquest of another hapu or their land might be the outcome of a war, but it would not generally be the cause.

Rangatiratanga was the leader's chiefly authority, which was in turn derived from mana.[5]  The two concepts were bound tightly together, such that a reduction in mana reduced a chief's rangatiratanga.  Similarly a curtailment in the ability of a chief to wield his rangatiratanga reduced his mana.

By examining the three main conflicts of the mid-1840's – the Wairau Affray, Hone Heke's Northland War, and the Hutt Valley Campaign – it is possible to see the role that mana and rangatiratanga had in their outbreak and conduct.

In the early 1840's Captain Arthur Wakefield of the New Zealand Company came into possession of a deed, apparently signed in 1839, in which Te Rauparaha had apparently sold the Wairau area.  Te Rauparaha claimed that the treaty was fraudulent, and it is clear that he was never recompensed as stipulated in the deed.[6]  The following year he signed the Treaty of Waitangi and indicated he was prepared to negotiate for the sale of land, but in 1843 the Company began attempting to enforce the existing deed.

Te Rauparaha advised the Company that he refused to recognise the 1839 contract, and wrote to William Spain to request assistance. Spain had been appointed Land Claims Commissioner, with the role of investigating land purchase agreements made before the Treaty of Waitangi.  Spain agreed to review the Wairau deed, but not immediately.[7]  In the meantime the New Zealand Company began surveying the Wairau Plain north of what is now Blenheim.

Te Rauparaha recognised the threat this activity posed to his rangatiratanga over the land, and demanded they stop.  He was reluctant to use violence as he realised this would hinder his efforts to trade with the British, and would quite possibly involve the crown with whom Te Rauparaha wished to maintain relations.  However it became clear that more forceful means would be needed before the Company ceased its activities.  Still reluctant to spill blood, but needing to challenge the surveyors in order to preserve his mana, Te Rauparaha damaged or destroyed the surveyors’ tools and equipment, and burnt their huts and sheds.

This angered the settlers, and Wakefield resolved to bring Te Rauparaha into line. Gathering an armed posse, Wakefield confronted Te Rauparaha and a group of his tribe, including a number of armed warriors, on 17 June 1843.[8]  Still seeking to avoid bloodshed, Te Rauparaha attempted to negotiate with Wakefield.  This was effort was abruptly halted when one of the English party fired their weapon, leading to a general exchange of gunfire, and what became known as the Wairau Affray[9] was in full swing.  Despite not seeking violence, Te Rauparaha’s party were more than ready to respond in kind, and soon gained the upper hand, killing several of the British, including Wakefield. In a running battle more of the scattering British party were killed, with the first survivors reached Wellington the following day.

Once the fighting began Te Rauparaha no longer attempted to show restraint.  He had not sought a fight, but would not risk his mana by preventing his tribe restore balance through utu on the British.  Further, because the brief battle was so successful, and swept the British out of the Wairau, Te Rauparaha’s mana was enhanced and his rangatiratanga over the both the land and his tribe confirmed.

Subsequently there were calls from the British settlers in Wellington to bring Te Rauparaha to justice.[10]  However after reviewing the original contract, the operations of the NZ Company in the upper South Island, and Wakefield’s conduct on that fateful day, Governor FitzRoy felt that although Te Rauparaha’s behaviour in killing 22 British was deplorable, it was justified. No further action would be taken by the crown – yet.[11]  This outcome further enhanced both Te Rauparaha’s mana and his rangatiratanga; his mana was protected then enhanced by confronting the British and beating them in battle, confirmed his authority over the Wairau, and used the British laws to shield himself and his people from retaliation.  As the custodian of his tribe’s mana, he had admirably fulfilled his role.

Prior to the signing of the Treaty of Waitangi, Northland tribes were in the happy position of being able to dictate terms of trade, and also being the first port of call for most traders.  This gave them a steady income through tariffs, as well as first call on any imported products and a superior ability to sell their own goods.  The Chiefs saw much advantage in maintaining the status quo since their mana was enhanced as their tribes prospered.

However, once the Treaty was signed, the right to impose tariffs passed to the crown.  Shortly afterwards the capital moved from Kororareka to Auckland, and with it went many of the ships that had previously called into the Bay of Islands.  This double blow to the economy of the Northland Māori threatened the mana of the Chiefs, and with it their rangatiratanga.[12]  Some of the Chiefs, such as Waka Nene, felt that continued support of and trade with the British would be best, even if not as lucrative as previously.  Some chiefs adopted a wait-and-see approach.  Hone Heke chose a third course, and adopted a policy of confrontation, although he was disciplined in the application of violence.  Like Nene, Heke wanted to continue trading with the colonists, but he felt that the loss of the right to impose tariffs and the loss of trade to Auckland could not be overlooked.[13]

Heke was clear that his quarrel was with the crown, and throughout his war he ensured that civilians and missionaries were allowed to continue their business unmolested.  This policy reflected Heke’s understanding of mana; how it could be enhanced, and how it could be damaged.  Since the crown was responsible for the loss of tariffs and trade, it was only by successfully confronting them that his mana could be restored and rangatiratanga maintained.  Attacking civilians would undermine that objective and would further threaten the trade that still remained in Northland, while attacking the missionaries would threaten the source of education for his people.[14]

Having identified his target, Heke also considered his objectives.  These were strictly limited to restoring mana and maintaining rangatiratanga.  Heke desired to defeat the British in battle in order to demonstrate his superiority and fitness to be chief, his rangatiratanga.  But he did not seek to conquer the British, nor drive them from Northland.  This seems like a very fine line to tread, but it was in fact a conceptually simple and traditional limited war for specific aims.[15]

Heke’s problem was that he knew that in a straight up fight against the British Army he would lose because his warriors lacked numbers and firepower.  His genius was to recognise these shortcomings, and develop the modern pa to overcome them.  At Puketutu, Ohaewai and Ruapekapeka Heke built pas in locations which were easy to approach and attack from one direction yet difficult surround.  He equipped them with artillery proof shelters, trenches to protect his warriors while they engaged the British, protruding bastions to allow enfilade fire, obstacles to slow the assaulting infantry and expose them to fire for longer, and dispensed with elevated or exposed positions.  Unlike traditional pa, these modern versions were not intended to defend villages or resources, they were purely locations at which the British would be fought, and they could be readily abandoned at any time with no penalty.[16]

The British commanders were singularly unable to develop a tactical response to Heke’s modern pa, and suffered defeat at each of them.  Although claiming victory on the basis that they held the ground at the end of each battle, the Governor nevertheless agreed to peace on terms that were favourable to Heke.  By defeating the British in battle his limited aims were accomplished so Heke was satisfied that his mana was enhanced and his rangatiratanga assured, and therefore had no wish to continue the war.[17]

The causes of the third conflict in the mid-1840s were broadly similar to the Wairau Affray.  The colonists that had been landed in Wellington by the New Zealand Company sought land, especially flat land that could be farmed.  The only ready source was in the Hutt Valley, and tensions soon rose when both sides believed the other wasn't abiding by settled agreements.  The New Zealand Company's earlier purchases had largely been overruled by Spain, nevertheless the limits of the land he had granted to the Company were unclear.[18]

The chief, Te Rangihaeata, had been a member of Te Rauparaha's party at Wairau, and felt a similar challenge to his mana from the steady encroachment.  Matters came to a head when Governor Grey bought the power of the government in unambiguously on the side of the colonists and ordered the destruction of the pa at Makahinuku.  Te Rangihaeata responded by murdering settlers and attacking a British stockade.  However, as was the case with both Te Rauparaha and Heke, Te Rangihaeata's response was proportional and measured – he did not seek total war with the British, or to drive them from the Wellington region.  He did however demand that they respect Māori claims to land in the Hutt Valley, and his could not allow his mana and rangatiratanga be diminished by allowing the encroachment and attacks on Māori villages go uncontested.  At the tactical level Te Rangihaeata was reasonably successful, generally inflicting more casualties than he suffered during fights in the Hutt Valley, slipping smoothly away from the pa at Pauatahanui as it was being invested, and deftly checking the British advance at Battle Hill.[19]  Although Te Rangihaeata was able to retain his role as chief, he was driven out of the Wellington region, and only settled in the flax swamps west of Shannon. As part of Grey's campaign against Te Rangihaeata, Te Rauparaha was illegally arrested and held for many months.  Although it had taken several years, Grey thus extracted a revenge for Wairau by diminishing both men's mana.[20]

During the New Zealand Wars of the 1840s the British and Māori were each seeking to achieve quite different objectives, and both could therefore claim victory.  The three conflicts were each started by affronts to mana and rangatiratanga, and from the Māori perspective were waged within that context.  These were not wars for territory, per se, nor for conquest.  This confused the British no end since it was far outside their traditional understanding of war.  Given this narrow context, the Māori chiefs were far more successful at the tactical level, restoring or maintaining their mana and rangatiratanga through fighting and winning in on Māori terms.  However in the longer term, and with the benefit of hindsight, these three conflicts can perhaps best be seen as holding or delaying actions.

 

Bibliography

. (21 June 1843). New Zealand Gazette and Wellington Spectator. Retrieved from https://paperspast.natlib.govt.nz/newspapers/new-zealand-gazette-and-wellington-spectator/1843/6/21 , 26 Mar 2017.

Ballara, A. (2003). Taua : 'musket wars', 'land wars' or tikanga? : warfare in Māori society in the early nineteenth century. Auckland, N.Z.: Penguin Books.

Belich, J. (2015). The New Zealand Wars and the Victorian interpretation of racial conflict (This edition 2015. ed.). Auckland: Auckland University Press.

Bohan, E. (1998). To be a hero : Sir George Grey : 1812-1898. Auckland, N.Z.: HarperCollins.

Keenan, D. (2009). Wars without end : the land wars in nineteenth-century New Zealand. Auckland, N.Z.: Penguin.

King, M. (2003). The Penguin history of New Zealand. Auckland, N.Z.: Penguin Books.

Moon, P. (2009). Hone Heke : Nga Puhi warrior. Auckland, N.Z.: D. Ling.

Prickett, N. (2002). Landscapes of conflict : a field guide to the New Zealand wars. Auckland, N.Z.: Random House New Zealand.

 


[1]Quoted in Belich, James, The New Zealand Wars and the Victorian interpretation of racial conflict, Auckland University Press, Auckland, 2015 (1986), p.32

[2]Ballara, A. (2003). Taua : 'musket wars', 'land wars' or tikanga? : warfare in Māori society in the early nineteenth century. Auckland, N.Z.: Penguin Books, p.79

[3]Belich, J. (1986). The New Zealand Wars and the Victorian interpretation of racial conflict . Auckland: Auckland University Press (2015. ed.), p.23-24

[4]Ballara, A. (2003). Taua : 'musket wars', 'land wars' or tikanga? : warfare in Māori society in the early nineteenth century. Auckland, N.Z.: Penguin Books, p.26

[5]Belich, J. (1986). The New Zealand Wars and the Victorian interpretation of racial conflict . Auckland: Auckland University Press (2015. ed.), p.21

[6]King, M. (2003). The Penguin history of New Zealand. Auckland, N.Z.: Penguin Books. p.182

[7]King, M. (2003). The Penguin history of New Zealand. Auckland, N.Z.: Penguin Books. p.181-2

[8]Keenan, D.(2009). Wars without end: the land wars in nineteenth-century New Zealand. Auckland, N.Z.:Penguin. p.135-7

[9]The Affray was initially known as the Wairau Massacre, reflecting British-centric reporting, and attempting to colour the narrative by falsely hinting that the only reason the Māori won the fighting was because the British had fallen victim to an underhanded ambush. Ballara, A. (2003). Taua : 'musket wars', 'land wars' or tikanga? : warfare in Māori society in the early nineteenth century. Auckland, N.Z.: Penguin Books. p.182

[10]New Zealand Gazette and Wellington Spectator, 21 Jun 1843, p.2

[11]Belich, J. (1986). The New Zealand Wars and the Victorian interpretation of racial conflict . Auckland: Auckland University Press (2015. ed.), p.21

[12]Moon, P. (2009). Hone Heke : Nga Puhi warrior. Auckland, N.Z.: D. Ling. p.19

[13]Belich, J. (1986). The New Zealand Wars and the Victorian interpretation of racial conflict . Auckland: Auckland University Press (2015. ed.), p.34-5

[14]Belich, J. (1986). The New Zealand Wars and the Victorian interpretation of racial conflict . Auckland: Auckland University Press (2015. ed.), p.232-3

[15] Ballara, A. (2003). Taua : 'musket wars', 'land wars' or tikanga? : warfare in Māori society in the early nineteenth century. Auckland, N.Z.: Penguin Books.

[16]Moon, P. (2009). Hone Heke : Nga Puhi warrior. Auckland, N.Z.: D. Ling. p.140

[17]Belich, J. (1986). The New Zealand Wars and the Victorian interpretation of racial conflict . Auckland: Auckland University Press (2015. ed.), p.58-64

[18]Keenan, D.(2009). Wars without end: the land wars in nineteenth-century New Zealand. Auckland, N.Z.:Penguin. p.152-3

[19]Prickett, Nigel, Landscapes of Conflict; a field gide to the New Zealand Wars, Auckland, 2002, p.49-53

[20]Bohan, E. (1998). To be a hero : Sir George Grey : 1812-1898. Auckland, N.Z.: HarperCollins. p.84-85

... back to contents

Edited by JonS

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It's funny - it's pretty big and significant part of our history, yet it totally gets glossed over. Not as much as in the past, but still a lot. Titokowaru, for example, was spectacularly successful against the British and colonists in the 1860s, for which he was paid the honour of being written out of our history. At school I learnt more about British kings and the British Civil War than I did about our own wars.

I very much recommend that you make space for Belich, J. (2015). The New Zealand Wars and the Victorian interpretation of racial conflict, Auckland: Auckland University Press in your library and reading schedule. It was first written in the 1980s, but has aged well.

Edited by JonS

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Napoleon's Ulcer


When Napoleon invaded his erstwhile ally Spain in 1808 to complete his Continental System, he had little reason to think that his campaign on the Iberian Peninsular would be anything other than brief, glorious, and profitable. Instead he got none of those, and brutal French efforts to assert control over Spain only made the situation worse. French failure on the Peninsular was not due to lack of determination – the French attempted to control the guerillas through an extreme example of what today would be called ‘enemy-centric counterinsurgency’.1 However, according to Boot this approach of savage repression can only succeed ...

if the insurgents are devoid of outside support and if the counterinsurgents have some degree of popular legitimacy, if they can muster overwhelming force, and if they are willing to engage in mass murder on a scale that would be intolerable to a more liberal government.2

French revolutionaries had been able to meet all four conditions during The Terror in the 1790s, and thus succeeded in retaining their power, although at some cost to the legitimacy of the Revolution itself.3 Similarly the uprisings in Calabria in 1806 and in Tyrol in 1809 failed because external support was denied to them, and both were relatively modest affairs – geographically and demographically – so mustering overwhelming force against them was a practical proposition.4 Nevertheless, in Spain the same broad approach failed. Boot's four conditions provide a lens through which to examine the French failure in this longest running of the Napoleonic campaigns.

Throughout the campaign in Spain and Portugal the Royal Navy controlled the Atlantic and Mediterranean coasts of the Peninsular. This conferred a number of significant advantages on the forces opposed to Napoleon. For one thing, it meant that they always had a secure flank, and a potential means of escape. Moore took advantage of this at Corunna in 1809, when he was able to extract his outnumbered force rather than watch it be surrounded and destroyed. It also allowed the positive movement of forces, such as when the Spanish army in Denmark was relocated home in 1808, and when in 1811 Wellington was able to relocate his heavy siege train 230 miles from Lisbon to Lamego in just 18 days. The speed of this move can be judged by comparing the final stage of the move from Lamego to Ciudad Roderigo, a distance of just 130 miles which nevertheless took 26 days as it was conducted by road.5 Throughout the campaign the British were able to exploit the speed of maritime movement, whilst the French were limited to much slower land-bound transportation.

Similarly, controlling the ocean provided the British with the means a secure and efficient supply chain back to England, which was vital to the maintenance of Wellington's forces at Torres Vedras in Portugal and the last Spanish stronghold at Cadiz.6 Because of this, British supplies were able to arrive faster from England than the French were able to move their supplies from just across the Pyrenees border in France. This meant that the British forces were able to exploit opportunities and ward off defeats much more easily than their French opponents.

The oceanic flank also meant that the British were able to keep the Spanish supplied with arms, money, and other goods to keep the insurgency fighting. This suited the purposes of both the Spanish and the British.7 The British needed the insurgency to remain active and potent in order to keep significant French forces tied down across the length and breadth of Spain on occupation and security duties. For if the French had been able to concentrate their forces exclusively against the modest British forces, Wellington's forces would surely have been forced back into the ocean. Similarly, the Spanish guerrillas required a steady stream of munitions and money to sustain their means to continue the fight.

To meet the conditions of Boot's model the French had to either deny the insurgents popular legitimacy, or provide an alternative which had greater popular legitimacy. Prior to the French invasion in 1808, Spain was politically divided and ineffectually governed, and its army was small and powerless. Portugal was in an even worse position due to a weak economy and army that was poorly organised and had terrible leadership.8 As a result Napoleon was soon able to claim complete control of Portugal, and nearly complete control over Spain, and promptly installed his brother Joseph as king.9 For any other country in Europe between 1790 and 1815 that would have been the end of the campaign. However, on the Peninsular something unusual happened. Although their governments had failed them, the peoples of Spain and Portugal never collectively accepted defeat, and instead continued to resist the French on a regional basis. The central government in Spain had lacked popular legitimacy, so when the Napoleon replaced it many in Spain viewed the change not as a defeat but as an opportunity, one they weren't about to let the French usurp.10

The third factor in Boot's model that Napoleon required – overwhelming force – was almost achieved. Napoleon did commit large forces to Spain and, apart from some reduction prior to the invasion of Russia, maintained the force and improved its quality as time passed. Throughout the campaign the total number of French forces in the Peninsular seriously outnumbered the British, Spanish and Portuguese regular forces there. Despite that the French were never able to concentrate their superior numbers to achieve a decisive victory.

The most obvious reason the French forces were unable to bring their numbers to bear was due to the Spanish insurgency. The insurgents were spread across the length and breadth of Spain, and so the French forces were similarly spread in their efforts to combat them.11 However the insurgency itself depended on a number of additional factors which further hampered the French. The Iberian Peninsular is generally poor farming country, with a low population and meagre productivity. This meant that the land wasn't able to support large-scale foraging, which in turn meant that the French forces – who primarily depended on local foraging to support themselves – had to disperse to survive.12 This dispersal, plus large areas of mountainous terrain, made survival easier for the insurgents, and allowed them to conduct raids and ambushes on the dispersed French.

The lack of local foraging opportunities forced the French to establish supply lines back to France, with carts hauling supplies into the country. But these convoys were easy prey for the insurgents, which in turn forced the French to disperse their forces still more by establishing secure waypoints and providing close escorts to the convoys as they moved slowly across the countryside.13 British naval domination meant that the faster and safer route of carrying supplies into Spain on ships was not practical.14

There were also structural problems with the organisation of French forces which worked against their ability to concentrate. When Napoleon was personally in command he was able to effectively coordinate his Marshals. However he soon left, and thereafter showed curiously little interest in the continuing Spanish campaign.15 His brother Joseph wasn't able to command the same cooperation from the marshals, despite his titular position as King of Spain. Napoleon exacerbated this when he undermined Joseph's position by making the marshals answerable to himself rather than the King, and then worsened the situation by making them each the supreme ruler of their assigned regions, responsible for maintaining control and raising their own finances. This divided French command, and set the marshals up as competing rivals. Any incentive for them to coordinate their forces or even cooperate with each other was thus removed. Therefore, instead of a single powerful force, Napoleon perversely created for himself several small independent armies scattered across Spain, and each army was itself scattered across its area of responsibility as it tried to impose order and retain control.16

The French forces attempting to concentrate to defeat their enemies faced a paradox; they couldn't defeat the British army in Portugal without first clearing their lines of communications which ran through Spain, but they couldn't defeat the insurgency in Spain without first defeating the British in Portugal. The French failure to do either contributed directly to their eventual defeat.17

The third factor required in Boot's model is that the French were willing to engage in mass murder on a scale that would be intolerable to a more liberal government. The French invasion, occupation and attempt to rule Spain was culturally tone deaf from start to finish. Napoleon's diplomatic humiliation of the Spanish throne at the 'ambush of Bayonne' in 1808 might have allowed him a bloodless conquest if he'd considered how his arrogant actions would play out with the Spanish people. Instead of crowning Ferdinand VII in place of his discredited father Charles IV, Napoleon treated Spain much the same as any other conquered territory and peremptorily installed his own brother as king.18 Murat effectively opened the guerrilla war two months before Joseph's coronation with his Dos de Mayo massacre, behaviour which was subsequently emulated by other French commanders in other regions.19

As the campaign ground on murder and retaliations and counter-retaliations became the norm, in an ever escalating spiral of violence. Napoleon appears to have realised that this was counter-productive and attempted put a halt to it. On 12 December 1808 he noted the undesirable effects of plunder and ill-discipline, and ordered that

1) Any individual who stops or mistreats an inhabitant or peasant carrying goods into the city of Madrid will be immediately tried before a military tribunal and condemned to death;

2) Any individual who pillages and prevents the establishment of order will be tried before a military tribunal and punished with death.20

Despite the savage punishments - and the apparent disregard for due process - Napoleon’s general lack of interest in the Spanish campaign inevitably allowed his attention to be distracted, and incidences of mass murder by French forces soon resumed. However, since the other factors required by Boot's model for the French to suppress the Spanish by brutal repression – lack of external support, denying the insurgents popular legitimacy, and overwhelming force – were absent, continued murder only fueled ongoing resistance by the Spanish people.

Contrary to the usual French experience in Spain, General Suchet was able to subdue the guerrilla uprisings in Aragon and Valencia once the Spanish regular army there had been defeated and the ports closed to British. He also used a lighter touch than was the norm in other parts of Spain, seeking to win the goodwill of the Spanish people through measures such as easing trade restrictions to increase prosperity, treating the clergy with respect, and providing effective controls against graft. In contrast to most French forces, Suchet waged a population-centric counter insurgency, rather than the typical enemy centric approach of Napoleon and the other Marshalls. As a result his forces were able to control their corner of the Peninsular without living in constant fear of being ambushed.21

Suchet was made a Marshal for his successful operations in Spain, but his experience remained the exception. Overall Napoleon's long and futile Peninsular campaign caused a drain on French manpower because of the steady stream of casualties, and also due to the distraction required of maintaining the large standing garrison army needed to retain even some control. Financially the campaign was a failure, despite the efforts of the Marshals to make their forces self-supporting through local imposts.22 Furthermore, the campaign lowered morale throughout the French forces with a posting to Spain being seen as akin to a death sentence.23 A marker of this effect on morale is the high rate of desertion amongst French forces – in one case eight out of ten conscripts in a levy headed for Spain had deserted before they even reached the Pyrenees.24 Another marker of poor morale was suicide, tragically common amongst the French in Spain.25

Napoleon's personal prestige also suffered because of his ill-advised decision to install his brother as king, only to have him hastily evacuate Madrid within a few months. His prestige fell when he left Joseph in position to fail again and again, even while Napoleon was removing the levers of power Joseph might have used to attempt to restore the situation.

Overall the Peninsula War, once started, was such an ongoing military problem for Napoleon because when he attempted to use brutal repression to control the Spanish guerillas he was never able to separate the insurgents from the external support provided by the British, he was not able to install a central ruler with greater popular legitimacy than the provincial guerrilla leaders, and the French forces were never able to muster sufficient overwhelming force to defeat either the regular forces led by the British out of Portugal or the insurgencies spread across Spain. Napoleon attempted to use the same approach that worked elsewhere without recognising that the Spanish context in which he was trying to apply it was different to France, the Tyrol, or Calabria. Then, once the campaign began to go off the rails, he was unable to develop and implement an alternate strategy, despite the success Suchet demonstrated with his population-centric approach. Instead the spiraling cycle of murder and reprisal only served to inflame passions, making the soldier's experience in Spain all the worse.


 

Bibliography

Asprey, Robert B., War in the shadows. Little, Brown and Co., 1994

Boot, Max, Invisible armies. Liverlight Publishing, 2013

Connelly, Owen, Blundering to Glory: Napoleon’s Military Campaigns. Wilmington, Delaware, 1987.

Dwyer, Philip G. (ed.), Napoleon and Europe. Longman, 2001

Dwyer, Philip G. (ed.), The French Revolution and Napoleon, a sourcebook. Routledge, 2002

Ellis, John, From the barrel of a gun, a history of guerrilla, revolutionary and counter-insurgency warfare, from the Romans to the present. Greenhill Books, 1995

Elting, John R., Swords around a throne, Napoleon's Grande Armée. Oxford, 1988

Haythornthwaite, Philip J. (ed.), Napoleon, the final verdict. Arms and Armour, 1996

Jaeger, Matthew C., Imperial Soldiers and the experience of guerrilla war in Spain, 1808-1814. M.A. thesis, University of North Carolina, 2003

Kilcullen, Dave, Two Schools of Classical Counterinsurgency, Small Wars Journal Blog. http://smallwarsjournal.com/blog/two-schools-of-classical-counterinsurgency January 27, 2007

Knight, Roger, Britain against Napoleon, the organization of victory 1793-1815. Allen Lane , 2013

Record, Jeffrey, Beating Goliath, why insurgencies win. Potomac Books, 2007

 

Notes

1 Kilcullen, Two Schools of Classical Counterinsurgency, on Small Wars Journal blog

2 Boot, Invisible armies, p.81-82

3 Dwyer, Introduction, in Dwyer, Napoleon and Europe, p.6-7

4 Esdaile, Popular resistance to the Napoleonic Empire, in Dwyer, Napoleon and Europe, p.143-144, 150-152

5 Knight, Britain against Napoleon, pp.202-3, 241-2, 427

6 Knight, Britain against Napoleon, p.427-8

7 Tone, The Peninsular War, in Dwyer, Napoleon and Europe, p.231-2

8 Esdaile, Popular Resistance to the Napoleonic Empire, in Dwyer, Napoleon and Europe, p.149

9 Asprey, War in the shadows, p.77

10 Tone, The Peninsular War in Dwyer, Napoleon and Europe, p.226

11 Dempsey, The Peninsular War: a reputation tarnished, in Haythornthwaite, Napoleon, the Final Verdict, p.106

12 Elting, Swords around a throne, p.565

13 Ellis, from the barrel of a gun, p.75-76

14 Jaeger, Imperial Soldiers and the experience of guerrilla war in Spain, p.37-8

15 Arnold, Napoleon and his men in Haythornthwaite, Napoleon, the Final Verdict, p.239

16 Tone, The Peninsular War in Dwyer, Napoleon and Europe, p.231. Dempsey, The Peninsular War: a reputation tarnished, in Haythornthwaite, Napoleon, the Final Verdict, p.101, 103

17 Record, Beating Goliath, p.36-37

18 Connelly, Blundering to Glory, p.120-122

19 Jaeger, Imperial Soldiers and the experience of guerrilla war in Spain, p.51, 53

20 Napoleon, Order of the Army, 12 December 1808, quoted in Dwyer The French Revolution and Napoleon, A sourcebook, p173-174

21 Elting, Swords around a throne, p.151-2

22 Connelly, Blundering to glory, p.132

23 Jaeger, Imperial Soldiers and the experience of guerrilla war in Spain, p.78

24 Tone, The Peninsular War, in Dwyer, Napoleon and Europe, p.231

25 Jaeger, Imperial Soldiers and the experience of guerrilla war in Spain, p.72-5

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Edited by JonS

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Quickly picked up a little error before the edit deadline :

Instead of crowning Charles IV in place of his discredited father Ferdinand VII

Charles IV was Ferdinand's father and not the other way around. 

 

Also, no works of Charles Esdaile in the bibliography?  His "Peninsular War" is considered almost definitive even by Spanish historiography, that remains divided interpreting this period to this day on pretty much everything else.

 

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Thanks.

Esdaile; nope. To paraphrase one of the great statesmen of the 21st Century; as you know, you go to the typewriter with the bibliography you have, not the bibliography you might want or wish to have at a later time :P

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The Command Style of Air Vice-Marshal Keith Park during the Battle of Britain in 1940

 

 

If ever any one man won the Battle of Britain, he did. I don’t believe it is realised how much that one man, with his leadership, his calm judgment and his skill did to save not only this country, but the world.

Marshal of the Royal Air Force

Lord Tedder, GCB, KCB, CB

February 1947

 

In mid-1940 a resurgent Nazi Germany rapidly defeated France in an astonishingly successful campaign, leaving Britain to face the Wehrmacht alone. Germany attempted to end the war by mounting an aerial campaign to destroy the Royal Air Force (RAF) as a precursor to invasion. This aerial campaign was met and ultimately defeated by the RAF’s Fighter Command.

During the Battle of Britain particular responsibility fell on 11 Group, and its New Zealand born leader Air Vice-Marshal Keith Park, in the south-east of England.1 Never before or since has the responsibility for such a critical battle been borne by a New Zealand commander.2 The aim of this essay is to analyse Park’s conduct of the Battle of Britain against Keegan’s ‘Masks of Command’ leadership model in order to determine his command style, and how that style contributed to his success.3

Park enlisted as a private soldier in New Zealand in 1914 and saw action at Gallipoli, where he was soon commissioned, and on the Western Front until he was wounded in late 1916.4 Throughout this period Park showed initiative and physical courage, and observed leadership traits in action that he would later either emulate or avoid, such as relaxed authority and lack of pomposity.5 After recovering Park transferred to the Royal Flying Corps (RFC). His timing was fortunate. The RFC was in the process of becoming more professional about the way it prepared pilots for combat. As a result he was far better prepared than earlier pilots.6 After training Park was posted to a fighter squadron, where he was largely left to his own devices, but he learnt quickly and soon became an ‘ace.’ Park also paid unusual attention to his aircraft and his ground crew. In mid-1918 Park gained command of his own squadron, and started developing his own ideas. He introduced new tactics, and often flew alone to observe his men in action. Park also proved adept at the staff work needed to get the best out of his unit.

Between the wars Park held an increasingly senior series of command and staff positions, perfecting his craft as a fighter commander. In the late 1930’s Park worked intimately with Dowding, head of Fighter Command to develop the command and control systems that he would later use. Park fully grasped Dowding’s intent, and the two of them were able to integrate the Observer Corps, intelligence, balloons, anti-aircraft artillery, RDF7, and the high-performance Hurricanes and Spitfires coming in to service, into a powerful and flexible air defence organisation, the principles of which are still in use.8

Park was often seen as been dogmatic or abrupt by others, particularly peers or superiors he disagreed with,9 and was not prone to small talk. But this view was not shared by his subordinates, who demonstrated a remarkable degree of affection for the man.10 It did, however, cause strained relations between himself and Sholto Douglas at the Air Ministry and Trafford Leigh-Mallory at 12 Group. Park’s inability to resolve these differences would cause him tactical difficulties during the Battle of Britain, and eventually cost him his job.11

When Keith Park took command of 11 Group in mid-1940 he was uniquely qualified to command the premiere fighter group in RAF, and to take responsibility for the major part of the forthcoming battle with the German Luftwaffe. He had long personal experience as a pilot and commander of fighter squadrons, and was intimately familiar with the detailed functioning and intent of the British air defence system. Furthermore, he was able to gain the confidence of those who served under him by his demonstrated professionalism and attention to their needs.

In 1940 Park’s Group was one of four defending Great Britain. Located in the south-east it was thus closest to German-occupied France, covered any likely invasion beaches, and astride the shortest route to London. Commensurate with this it was numerically the largest Group, with nearly half the modern day fighter squadrons.12 RAF pilots were generally well trained, but as a group they lacked combat experience and were wedded to Fighting Area Attack tactics, which required more time spent trying to maintain formation than in looking for the enemy.13 Some pilots and squadrons ignored the official tactics14, but others adhered to it and suffered badly.15 Park directed that squadrons use looser formations during the Battle once he realized the old tactics were still being used.16

The Luftwaffe also heavily outnumbered Fighter Command.17 The only way that Park, and Dowding, could expect to a win in a protracted battle was to make the best use of their slender resources. The principle employed was that instead of standing patrols that relied on luck to find and engage the enemy, Park would keep his fighters on the ground until needed then only send aloft sufficient to meet and defeat actual raids. This avoided unnecessary fatigue on both pilots and aircraft, and ensured that enemy raids would be met with sufficient strength before reaching their target. While simple in concept, the challenge was that it took only a few minutes to fly across the English Channel, and about 20 more to get to London, while Park’s fighters required 15-20 minutes to get off the ground and gain altitude. The key was early warning, continuous monitoring, rapid reporting and dissemination of information, coupled with prompt and accurate orders. This was the system Park and Dowding had perfected together before the war. RDF stations picked up enemy aircraft while still over France, and with practice the operators learned to tell the difference between fighters and bombers, and to count the approximate number of aircraft. This advance warning gave Park the crucial time he needed to get his fighters into the air. Then the web of Observer Corps posts across south-east England to reported the location, height, direction, speed and strength of raids as they moved inland. All this information passed back to Park’s headquarters where it was filtered and presented to him as a simple but richly detailed visual display. From this, and his own experience as a pilot and commander, Park could send his fighters into battle at the right time and place. This command and control network was the vital force-multiplier that other air forces crushed by the Luftwaffe had lacked.18

Park’s force consisted of the pilots, their aircraft, and the network that controlled and guided them in the air. In 1940 the RAF possessed the world’s most sophisticated – in many ways the world’s only – integrated air defence system. The fighter squadrons were undoubtedly the cutting edge, but without the whole system their efforts would have been ultimately in vain.

Within 11 Group command and control was handled at three levels. Park’s headquarters at Uxbridge looked over the whole of the Group’s area, issued orders to the seven Sectors, and liaised with 10 and 12 Groups on the flanks. Each Sector had its own area of responsibility and three or four fighter squadrons, gave the orders for squadrons to ‘scramble,’ and then directed them in the air. Each Squadron, once in the air, took general direction from its Sector but the Squadron Commander had the responsibility of getting his aircraft into position, and deciding when and how to attack. Authority was thus progressively delegated downwards, from Fighter Command under Dowding at Bentley Priory, to Park at 11 Group, then out to the Sectors, and finally to the Squadron Commanders.19 So, for example, Park might identify a raid heading towards Croydon and order Biggin Hill Sector to scramble a squadron and get it over Maidstone to intercept. The Biggin Hill Sector Commander would select a squadron that was ready to take off, scramble and vector it towards Maidstone, giving a direction, altitude, and word picture of what they would be engaging. Finally, the squadron commander would chose a formation, make use of the sun and any clouds to maneuver into position, then attack to destroy the cohesion of German formations - and of course the aircraft. But simultaneously Park would also be juggling other raids, the other 20 squadrons in his Group, and calling for reserves from the flanking Groups. This style of mission command relied on Park trusting his subordinate commanders to do the right thing, and they in turn trusting that the information and orders they were getting was accurate, sensible, and timely. Park pushed his controllers to get the fighters into position quickly by scrambling them in sufficient time, and he felt that any sortie that did not result in an engagement was a sortie wasted. Park pushed his Group not to waste any.

Park’s staff at all levels were well trained and drilled, and the whole Group achieved a very high pitch of efficiency as the fighting progressed. Although Fighter Command was a vast operation, information from the sensors flowed up for a decision then back down to squadrons as coherent orders within a matter of minutes.

Park commanded his battles from his headquarters. This was the only place where he had the necessary machinery to receive and make sense of the plethora of information coming in, and from which he could reliably and rapidly communicate with his superiors, his peers, and his subordinates. Typically raids would start in the late morning, and continue till the early evening, and throughout that time Park would be watching, assessing, estimating and judging to decide exactly when, where and in what strength to commit his forces.20 Park produced regular reports that summarised lessons learned and deduced new tactics.21 In fact, Park’s tactics changed quite noticeably over the course of the Battle, as he tried to stay in step with changes in Luftwaffe tactics and manage the growing strain on his own forces. Initially raids were numerous but small and he tended to send flights of three to six fighters to engage, but as the raids grew in strength so Park responded by scrambling full squadrons. When it became clear that the Me-109 was superior to the Hurricane he stipulated that Spitfire squadrons be used to engage and draw off the German fighters, while the Hurricanes concentrated on the bombers.22 Later still, as the Luftwaffe resorted to fewer but larger raids, Park instructed controllers to send squadrons up in pairs. Regardless of these changes, Park maintained an approach of attacking enemy raids early and repeatedly to minimise damage to the target. He didn’t try to mass his own fighters and then send them at the enemy, instead Park to selected locations he wanted to engage then directed fighters to mass at those times and spaces. The RAF pilots often felt they were attacking alone, but were actually part of a continuous grinding machine that wore down German formations from the time they crossed the coast, all the way to the target, then back to the coast.

Park regularly flew himself around to command his men in person.23 He went to see and talk to his pilots and ground crews, explain how he thought the battle was progressing, and outline their role in it.24 He also listened intently to their views, and the way they said it, and thus determine their morale for himself.25 Park also used these highly informal meetings to pass on bits of information26, and to confirm that directives he’d sent out were actually reaching the squadrons and pilots. Park further motivated his Group in a number ways, such as authorising medalic recognition generously and quickly,27 and organizing such entertainments as string bands to visit airfields and “remove some of the drabness.”28

Throughout the long months of the Battle of Britain, Park maintained a relentless focus on Dowdings intent to prevent the destruction of Fighter Command while inflicting maximum damage on the Luftwaffe.29 Park couldn’t know how long the battle would continue, only that he had to keep meeting raids as long as the Luftwaffe sent them. As a fighter pilot, Park perceptively intuited that his pilot’s claims were unreliable, and that those claims became increasingly unreliable in proportion to the size of an aerial battle.30 He knew he was hurting the Luftwaffe, but not how much. On the other hand, he knew exactly how much his own force was hurting, and constantly strove to decrease the later even as he increased the former.

Air Vice Marshall Keith Park’s command style during the Battle of Britain was anti-heroic. Park answered the question of “in front sometimes, always, or never?” with a resounding … sometimes. Fighter Command’s command and control system meant he could only effectively fight battles from his operations room at Uxbridge, but he also knew that he needed to command his men, and the only place he could do that was out on the ground or in the air. Park used this to achieve success in battle by making the best possible use of his slender material resources, and inspiring his men with the knowledge and determination to succeed. Although ignominiously shunted off to a training command immediately after winning the Battle of Britain, history has vindicated Park and his leadership and there is now a statue of him in London, looking anti-heroic, pulling on his flying gloves as he transitions from commanding the battle to commanding his warriors.31

 

Bibliography

Addison, Paul and Crang, Jeremy A. (eds.), The burning blue; a new history of the Battle of Britain (London: Pimlico, 2000)

Avery, Cass (Producer). (2010). The Kiwi who saved Britain [documentary] New Zealand: Greenstone Pictures

Bishop, Patrick, Fighter boys; saving Britain 1940 (London: HarperCollins, 2003)

Bungay, Stephen, The most dangerous enemy; a history of the Battle of Britain (London: Aurum Press Ltd, 2009)

Churchill, Winston S., The Second World War; Volume II; their finest hour (London: Cassell & Co Ltd, 1949)

Deere, Air Commodore Alan C., Nine lives (Manchester: Crécy Publishing Ltd, 2005)

Ferris, John, “Fighter Defence before Fighter Command: The Rise of Strategic Air Defence in Great Britain, 1917-1934,” The Journal of Military History, Vol. 63, No. 4 (Oct, 1999), pp. 845-884.

Harper, Glynn and Hayward, Joel (eds.), Born to lead? Portraits of New Zealand commanders (Auckland: Exisle Publishing Ltd, 2003)

Johnstone, Air Vice-Marshall Sandy, Spitfire into war (London: William Kimber & Co. Limited, 1986)

Keegan, John, The mask of command; a study of generalship (London: Pimlico, 2004)

Orange, Vincent, Sir Keith Park (London: Methuen, 1984)

Overy, Richard, The Battle of Britain; the myth and the reality (London: Penguin Books Ltd, 2001)

"Fourth Plinth RAF hero unveiled”, BBC News, 04 Nov 2009. Retrieved from http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/uk_news/england/london/8341772.stm on 10 Apr 2010

 

Notes

1 Park ultimately rose to be Air Chief Marshal Sir Keith Park GCB, KBE, ME, DFC, DCL. At the time of the Battle of Britain Park’s rank was Air-Vice Marshal.

2 Bungay, Stephen, The most dangerous enemy; a history of the Battle of Britain (London: Aurum Press Ltd, 2009), p.392-393

3 Keegan, John, The mask of command; a study of generalship (London: Pimlico, 2004). The four facets of a commander that Keegan’s model examines are; 1) the commander’s background, 2) his army or in this case air force, 3) his staff, and 4) his routine and conduct of battle.

4 Orange, Vincent, Sir Keith Park (London: Methuen, 1984), p.6-14

5 Orange, Park, p.10

6 Orange, Park, p.16-17

7 Radio Direction Finding. Later in the war RDF would become – and remain – known as radar. Bungay, The most dangerous enemy, p.61

8 Bungay, The most dangerous enemy, p.60

9 Harper, Glynn and Hayward, Joel (eds.), Born to lead? Portraits of New Zealand commanders (Auckland: Exisle Publishing Ltd, 2003), p.92

10 Orange, Park, pp.136-37

11 Addison, Paul and Crang, Jeremy A. (eds.), The burning blue; a new history of the Battle of Britain (London: Pimlico, 2000), pp.66-67

12 Bungay, The most dangerous enemy, Appendix II

13 Bungay, The most dangerous enemy, p.250

14 Bungay, The most dangerous enemy, p.261

15 Bungay, The most dangerous enemy, p.294

16 Orange, Park, p.108

17 Exact numbers of any military force over a period are notoriously tricky to pin down, however it is generally accepted that the RAF fought the Battle of Britian with about 700 Hurricanes and Spitfires, while the Luftwaffe had roughly the same number of single-engine fighters plus about 1,200 bombers. Overy, Richard, The Battle of Britain; the myth and the reality (London: Penguin Books Ltd, 2001), pp.34-41

18 Ferris, John, “Fighter Defence before Fighter Command: The Rise of Strategic Air Defence in Great Britain, 1917-1934,” The Journal of Military History, Vol. 63, No. 4 (Oct, 1999), p.883

19 Interview with Stephen Bungay in Avery, Cass (Producer). (2010). The Kiwi who saved Britain [documentary] New Zealand: Greenstone Pictures. Bungay refers to “devolved authority” throughout Fighter Command. Dowding and Fighter Command HQ were not involved in the minute-to-minute conduct of the aerial battles.

20 Churchill, Winston S., The Second World War; Volume II; their finest hour (London: Cassell & Co Ltd, 1949) pp.293-297 for a vivid description of Park in action.

21 Orange, Park, p.102

22 Deere, Air Commodore Alan C., Nine lives (Manchester: Crécy Publishing Ltd, 2005), pp.168-169

23 And women. WAAFs made up a significant proportion of 11 Group’s strength, with 200 WAAFs at Biggin Hill alone. Bishop, Patrick, Fighter boys; saving Britain 1940 (London: HarperCollins, 2003), p.325

24 Bungay, The most dangerous enemy, p.382

25 Bungay, The most dangerous enemy, p.382

26 Johnstone, Air Vice-Marshall Sandy, Spitfire into war (London: William Kimber & Co. Limited, 1986), p.150

27 Orange, p.117

28 Overy, The Battle of Britain, p.84

29 Deere, Nine lives, p.171

30 Bungay, The most dangerous enemy, p.382

31 “Fourth Plinth RAF hero unveiled”, BBC News, 04 Nov 2009. Retrieved from http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/uk_news/england/london/8341772.stm on 10 Apr 2010

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World War One, Technology, and the Royal Artillery

Modern artillery is technology intensive - radars, computers, thermal imagers, Global Positioning Systems, and many other high technology devices are employed as elements of a weapon system that can strike with great power over many kilometres. Less than a century ago, at the start of World War One, artillery technology was primitive. Few tools other than the guns themselves were in regular use, indirect fire was understood but only occasionally practised, and most armies relied on direct fire.1

Between 1914 and 1917 most of the technologies associated with modern gunnery were developed and brought into devastating use by the Royal Artillery, taking them being from an optional extra to an indispensable support arm.

Early War - Problems

In 1914 even primitive artillery was sufficient to halt attacks – if only just. At Le Cateau British gunners fired shrapnel rounds directly at the massed ranks of attacking Germans, inflicting grievous casualties. The battle was a defensive success,2 but at a cost of roughly 10% of the guns then in France.3 Direct fire tactics could not be sustained if the Royal Artillery expected to remain viable. The guns hastily moved back to cover and supported the infantry with indirect fire.4 From there they were able to blunt and eventually halt the Germans by generating superior defensive firepower.

When the British took the offensive they discovered their artillery wasn’t effective enough to successfully support an attack, especially against a dug in and prepared defence.5 It became clear over a series of battles that the offensive firepower that could be generated was woefully inadequate.6

The varied approaches to solving this problem affected virtually all aspects of gunnery. New generations of heavier guns were designed and deployed.7 New types of ammunition were developed to supplement the pre-war reliance on shrapnel.8 While shrapnel was very effective against troops advancing in the open, it was virtually useless against entrenched troops.9 Soon vast demands were being made for high explosive (H.E.) rounds to physically destroy the enemy’s defensive positions.10 Additionally, smoke shells for screening, and gas rounds to attack the enemy’s morale and combat effectiveness, were developed.11 The most significant advance in fuzes came with the introduction of the ‘Graze’ Fuze 106, which would detonate on contact, rather than burying itself a few feet into the ground. This dramatically improved the reliability of H.E. as a tool to cut barbed wire entanglements.12

Perhaps most significantly the Royal Artillery moved towards scientific gunnery. Calibration of guns,13 and discipline in the handling of ammunition meant that variations between guns, ammunition lots, and a propellant batches14 could all be corrected for. This, plus the technology required for high quality maps, aerial photography, and flash- and sound-ranging, enabled targets to be accurately engaged even when they couldn’t be observed.15

All this meant that the Royal Artillery was able to provide effective support to attacking infantry. German infantry firepower, and other close targets, could be defeated through increasingly sophisticated barrages. Deep targets, including the enemy’s artillery firepower and reserve forces, could be neutralised by accurate predicted fire.16

Mid War – Solutions

Unfortunately, that was some way in the future. The sheer number of technologies being explored required a huge amount of experimentation and development. It also meant that new technologies would not become available together.

The disaster on the first day of the Somme was a direct result of this. Most of the technologies had not yet borne fruit. In particular predicted fire was not yet practical. Furthermore, the importance of German artillery to their defensive schemes was not yet appreciated.

The first of the new technologies available by mid 1916 were quantities of the new medium and heavy weapons, and more ammunition.17 As a result, ‘destruction’ of the first line of trenches was the primary task, while little counter-battery effort was made.18 Thus when the British infantry went over the top at dawn on the 1st of July, German firepower – buttressed by their own artillery and infantry firing from depth positions – remained devastatingly intact.

Lessons were rapidly learned. Within days the tasks and expectations of artillery had changed.19 Over the next four months additional lessons about the strengths and limitations of the available artillery technology were learnt and applied to successful effect. Also, more and more of the innovations commenced in 1915 were completed and added their bit of technology to the overall artillery system.20

Eventually, ‘destruction’ came to be seen as impractical.21 Instead ‘neutralisation’ was gradually recognised as being both sufficient to support successful attacks, and being something achievable by the available technology. This change in emphasis saw a change in the way attacks were planned and organised, with gunners and their technological system playing a full part in developing plan of attack, becoming advisors and peers, rather than mere service providers.22

The culmination of this was a series of stunningly successful attacks at Vimy Ridge,23 Messines Ridge,24 and Cambrai.25 Even at Passchendaele, the late-September series of attacks under Plumer were so successful that the Germans had run out of defensive ideas and were only saved by the appalling weather in October.26

In all of these attacks the artillery used a sophisticated combination of technologies to fire short bombardments that achieved neutralisation and maintained surprise; predicted fire, made possible by calibration plus effective aerial reconnaissance plus flash- and sound-ranging, all but silenced the enemy guns; new smoke, gas, and high-explosive ammunition and fuzes blinded the enemy, cut wire, and fatigued and demoralised the men; complex barrages, made possible by corrections for non-standard conditions, reliable communications, and consistent ammunition, assisted the infantry forward and protected them once on the objective.

These attacks showed that the British could now take any German position - as long as the guns were allowed sufficient time to fully organise their support of the attack, and the objective was not too distant.27 By late 1917 the myriad artillery technology innovations had shifted the balance between offensive and defensive firepower such that British offensives would reliably succeed.

Late War - Refinement

Between late 1917 and November 1918 relatively few new artillery technologies were introduced. Instead continued improvement came from further advances in tactics, organisation, doctrine, and combined arms.28

Between 1914 and 1917 the Royal Artillery underwent a massive change in the way it did business, and in its power to influence the outcome of battles. This revolution was underwritten by a wide range of successfully implemented new technologies. As a result, the Royal Artillery and its technology was a powerful contributor to the success of The 100 Days.


 

Bibliography

Bailey, J.B.A., Field Artillery and Firepower (London: Routledge, 2004)

Bidwell, Shelford, Gunners at War (London, Arms and Armour Press, 1970)

Bidwell, Shelford and Graham, Dominick, Fire-Power: British Army Weapons and Theories of War 1904-1945 (Winchester, Mass.: Allen & Unwin Inc., 1985)

Brown, Ian M., “Not Glamorous, But Effective: The Canadian Corps and the Set-Piece Attack, 1917-1918,” The Journal of Military History, Vol. 58, No. 3 (Jul 1994), pp.421-444.

Cook, Tim, “Dying like so Many Rats in a Trap: Gas Warfare and the Great War soldier,” The Army Doctrine and Training Bulletin, Vol. 5, No. 4 (Winter 2002-2003), pp. 47-56

Corrigan, Gordon, Mud, Blood and Poppycock (London: Cassel, 2003)

Finan, J.S., and Hurley, W.J., “McNaughton and Canadian Operational Research a Vimy,” The Journal of the Operational Research Society, Vol. 48, No. 1 (Jan.,1997), pp. 10-14..

Griffith, Paddy, Battle Tactics of the Western Front: The British Army’s Art of Attack 1916-18 (Great Britain: Yale University Press, 2000)

Harper, Glyn, Dark Journey: Three key New Zealand battles of the Western Front (Auckland: Harper Collins, 2007)

Henderson, A., Green, D., and Cooke, P., The Gunners: A History of New Zealand Artillery (Auckland: Penguin Group, 2008)

Marble, Sanders, The infantry cannot do with a gun less: The Place of the Artillery in the British Expeditionary Force, 1914-1918, accessed via http://www.gutenberg-e.org/mas01, August 2003

Palazzo, Albert P., “The British Army’s Counter-Battery Staff Office and Control of the Enemy in World War I,” The Journal of Military History, Vol. 63, No. 1 (Jan 1999), pp. 55-74.

Terraine, John, The Smoke and the Fire: Myths and Anti-Myths of War, 1861-1945 (Sussex: Sidgwick and Jackson Ltd., 1980)

Van der Kloot, William, “Lawrence Bragg’s Role in the Development of Sound-Ranging in World War I,” Notes and Records of the Royal Society of London, Vol. 59, No. 3 (Sep. 22, 2005), pp. 273-284.


 

Notes

1 Marble, Sanders, The infantry cannot do with a gun less: The Place of the Artillery in the British Expeditionary Force, 1914-1918, retrieved from http://www.gutenberg-e.org/mas01, August 2003. Chapter 2 – “Background through the end of 1914”, sub-chapter “Field Artillery Tactics”. Bailey, J.B.A., Field Artillery and Firepower (London: Routledge, 2004), p. 120.

2 Bidwell, Shelford, Gunners at War (London, Arms and Armour Press, 1970), p. 28-29.

3 Terraine, John, The Smoke and the Fire: Myths and Anti-Myths of War, 1861-1945 (Sussex: Sidgwick and Jackson Ltd., 1980) notes, p. 127, that the BEF had 410 guns of all types in Aug 1914. Bidwell, Gunners, notes, p.23, that 7 of 12 batterys deployed for direct fire were battered into silence by the German artillery and machine guns, and a total of 38 guns were lost guns over the course of the day. This represented a loss of approx 10% of the BEFs total gun park in France at that time. It also represented a loss of 10% of potential artillery firepower in any future battles.

4 Bidwell, Gunners, p. 29

5 The first British attack – at Neuve Chapelle in March1915 – almost succeeded, due to an almost accidental concentration of guns coupled with a neutralisation methodology, but also because the German defences there were very immature. Marble, Infantry, Chapter 3 – “Preparing the attack: Part I, 1914-1916”, sub-chapter “1915: Neuve Chapelle”.

6 The main attacks in this period were Aubers Ridge (early May 1915), Festubert (late May 1915), Loos (September 1915). All were failures. Griffith, Paddy, Battle Tactics of the Western Front: The British Army’s Art of Attack 1916-18 (Great Britain: Yale University Press, 2000), p.150 and Marble, Infantry, Chapter 3 – “Preparing the attack: Part I, 1914-1916”, sub-chapter “The Next Attacks: Aubers Ridge and Festubert”.

7 The overall size of the Royal artillery grew from 554 batteries in 1914 to 1796 in 1918, Corrigan, Gordon, Mud, Blood and Poppycock (London: Cassel, 2003), p. 127. Of this, 5% of guns in 1914 were classed as medium or heavy, compared with 35% in 1918, Griffith, Battle Tactics, p. 147-148.

8 1914 and for most of 1915 only shrapnel was available for the 18-pr, which made up the bulk of the BEF’s gunpark, Bailey, J.B.A., Field Artillery and Firepower (London: Routledge, 2004), p. 122. Production and expenditure figures given in Griffith, Battle Tactics, p. 139 and 148-149, indicate that in 1916 slightly more shrapnel than HE/smoke/gas were being used. By 1917-18 this ratio was more than reversed with over two HE/smoke/gas rounds were being fired for every shrapnel round.

9 Essentially, this meant that shrapnel rounds were really only effective when the British were on the defensive, as they were in the opening months of the war. Against troops in any kind of protective cover it was little more than a nuisance. Shrapnel would, however, find favour again later in the war as a component of complex barrages to suppress the enemy since it was very effective at keeping the enemies heads down – i.e., neutralising them - yet when properly employed it presented little danger to friendly troops advancing. Bidwell, Shelford and Graham, Dominick, Fire-Power: British Army Weapons and Theories of War 1904-1945 (Winchester, Mass.: Allen & Unwin Inc., 1985), p. 84 and 97.

10 Monthly production of HE/smoke/gas shell rose from 800,000 in Mar 1916 to 5,600,000 in June 1917, a seven-fold increase in just 15 months. Griffith, Battle Tactics, p. 139.

11 Cook, Tim, “Dying like so Many Rats in a Trap: Gas Warfare and the Great War soldier,” The Army Doctrine and Training Bulletin, Vol. 5, No. 4 (Winter 2002-2003), pp. 47-56, makes the case that while gas caused relatively few casualties, it greatly reduced the effectiveness of troops being gassed by forcing them to fight in gas masks, which made command and control exceptionally difficult, and rapidly fatigued troops so encumbered. For tactical use of smoke see Griffith, Battle Tactics, p. 140-142.

12 Bidwell and Graham, Fire-Power, p. 124.

13 Van der Kloot, William, “Lawrence Bragg’s Role in the Development of Sound-Ranging in World War I,” Notes and Records of the Royal Society of London, Vol. 59, No. 3 (Sep. 22, 2005), p. 280

14 Marble, Infantry, Chapter 8 – “Training and Schools”, sub-chapter “What to Teach”.

15 Van der Kloot, “Lawrence Bragg”, p. 279-280.

16 Palazzo, Albert P., “The British Army’s Counter-Battery Staff Office and Control of the Enemy in World War I,” The Journal of Military History, Vol. 63, No. 1 (Jan 1999), p. 62.

17 Although shrapnel was still the overwhelmingly the most common round, accounting for the majority of the 1.5 million rounds fired in the week before 1 July, Corrigan, Poppycock, p. 262. Nevertheless, ammunition production had moved from being a virtual cottage industry to full scale mass production, with all the ancillary and supporting technologies that implied, Corrigan, Poppycock, p. 273.

18 Marble, Infantry, Chapter 5 – “The ‘Counter Blaster’ and Counter Battery Work”, sub-chapter “1916: Grappling with Organization”. Palazzo, “Counter-Battery Staff Office”, p. 60 notes that in one of the Corps preparing for 1 July Counter Battery ranked seventh of a list of ten missions allocated to the artillery.

19 The second phase of the Somme campaign began on 14 July at Longueval. The bombardment was drastically shortened compared to that for 1 July to retain surprise, and the creeping barrage used exclusively HE (rather than a mix of HE and shrapnel). The attack at Longueval was a success. Corrigan, Poppycock, p. 281-283.

20 A lot of the technology was developed on quieter parts of the front. With ammunition and quantities of guns generally constrained, and the big offensives have first call on what was available, “[a]ccuracy—through all the technical aspects of gunnery—was the goal, since the few shells available needed to be used to greatest effect … scarcity in the quiet sectors encouraged accuracy and good gunnery.” Marble, Infantry, Chapter 5 – “The ‘Counter Blaster’ and Counter Battery Work”, sub-chapter “1916: Grappling with Organization”. See also Finan,

J.S., and Hurley, W.J., “McNaughton and Canadian Operational Research a Vimy,” The Journal of the Operational Research Society, Vol. 48, No. 1 (Jan., 1997), pp. 10-14 for the development of sound-ranging in quiet areas.

21 Indeed destruction of selected targets at a reasonable expenditure of ammunition has, to all intents and purposes, remained beyond the reach of artillery until very recently with the introduction of the XM982 “Excalibur” round by the US Army.

22 Marble, Infantry, Chapter 3 – “Preparing the Attack: Part I, 1914-1916”, sub-chapter “1916 – The Somme: Planning”.

23 Finan and Hurley “McNaughton”

24 Henderson, A., Green, D., and Cooke, P., The Gunners: A History of New Zealand Artillery (Auckland: Penguin Group, 2008), p. 122-125.

25 Palazzo, “Counter-Battery Staff ”, p. 69-70

26 Corrigan, Poppycock, p. 354.

27 Harper, Glyn, Dark Journey: Three key New Zealand battles of the Western Front (Auckland: Harper Collins, 2007), p.54 and 103-104, discusses two attacks by the NZ Division at Passchendaele in October 1917. The first, with excellent artillery support, succeeded. The second, with poor artillery support, was a ‘disaster.’

28 See, for example, Brown, Ian M., “Not Glamorous, But Effective: The Canadian Corps and the Set-Piece Attack, 1917-1918,” The Journal of Military History, Vol. 58, No. 3 (Jul 1994), pp. 435-436, discussing the various combat elements combined for the very successful attack at Amiens, 8 August 1918.

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Tactics on the Western Front, 1914-1918

Evolution and adaptation in technology and doctrine

How to surprise, overrun, and penetrate a well-sited defence system some four miles deep, the front edge of which was only a short distance from one’s own, protected by massive wire entanglements and covered by the flanking fire of machine-guns and a wall of fire from artillery and mortars of all calibres sited in depth.

Major General R.C. Money1

 

In 1914 the armies that would face each other on the Western Front went to war with broadly similar tactics, doctrine, and equipment. However, the three elements were badly out of step with each other, leading directly to the stalemate experienced there. In an attempt to achieve success several principles of war were first abandoned, then gradually recovered as technology, tactics, and doctrine recovered a new equilibrium, allowing offensive success and a more mobile campaign by all armies in 1918.

Current New Zealand military doctrine recognises ten distinct Principles of War.2 Although modern in their description, these principles are timeless in that they are applicable to all levels of war through the ages. They can therefore be used to make sense of the changes in warfare during the course of World War One. Of particular relevance are the principles of Surprise and Flexibility. This essay will describe and explain the evolution of doctrine and technology, and their impact on tactics on the Western Front from 1914 to 1918 through the lens of these two principles.

The opening battles of the war featured infantry moving in the open, supported by field artillery firing directly at an enemy they could see, and be seen by. In these early battles speed and the needs of infantry dominated all planning considerations, to the extent that attacks would proceed regardless of whether the artillery was ready or not.3 The common doctrine sought the flanks in order to encircle and annihilate the enemy.

Artillery firing from open positions proved terribly vulnerable to enemy small arms fire, as the British discovered as early as Le Câteau. Similarly, the defensive firepower of the infantry alone, using only long range, quick firing rifles and very modest numbers of machine guns, came as a shock to all concerned. Casualties were high, even when attacks succeeded. As each side sought to outflank the other, the battle extended north until a continuous line from the Channel to Switzerland was formed. This continuous front was enhanced by extensive digging and wire obstacles. Trenches protected the defender from the worst of the enemy’s offensive firepower, while infantry were desperately vulnerable as they slowed to negotiate the wire.

German defensive doctrine at this point emphasised holding the shoulders of any break-in, then the use of reserves to seal off the penetration and counter-attack.4 This doctrine was demonstrated at Neuve Chapelle – a brief but heavy bombardment was sufficient to get the British through the under-developed defensive positions and onto their first objectives.5 However at this point they halted, unsure what to do next, and further orders took nearly twelve hours to be disseminated due to poor communications. Meanwhile the Germans held the flanks, and moved up reserves. An attempt to continue the attack on the following day failed. Similarly, German counter-attacks failed when the roles were reversed.6

Following Neuve Chapelle attacks became characterised by larger and longer artillery preparation. In attempting to literally blast defenders out of their positions, the principle of Surprise was deliberately sacrificed. However artillery was not yet capable of delivering the effects sought. After the early battles in 1914, the guns had retreated out of sight of the enemy and began using indirect fire to engage targets. While this drastically reduced attrition amongst artillery crews and equipment, it also exposed the lack of pre-war doctrinal development. The theory of indirect fire had been under development since the late 19th Century, but few gunners were practiced in it, and few of the essential elements required had been recognised, let alone resolved.7 During 1915 the gunners sought to refine their ability to hit targets they could not see. This included the air arms supplying photographs of potential targets and for creating increasingly detailed and accurate maps.8 Ammunition was found wanting, both in terms of quantity – all armies went into the war with sufficient for only a few days firing at high rates – and also in terms of types.9 Shrapnel was a fine weapon when used by trained crews against targets in the open, but used by conscripts against dug-in positions it was practically useless.10 What was required were high explosive (HE) and gas projectiles which could destroy equipment, entrenchments and neutralise positions, and a larger number of higher calibre guns.11 Despite the evident limitations, efforts were made to better shield the infantry as they attacked and consolidated positions by the use of standing and moving barrages. When the infantry was able to move in conjunction with the barrage, the combined effect was powerful, with the infantry arriving just after the barrage and before the enemy was able to man their defensive positions.12 Barrages rapidly became a standard part of the artillery tactical repertoire, but although techniques, sophistication and coordination improved tremendously, the core problem of communication beyond the frontline remained – once the barrage became desynchronised from the infantry’s movement, there was little ability to bring them back into line again, which generally left the infantry advancing without effective artillery support.13

1916 saw the culmination of artillery used as a sledgehammer. The development and execution of the artillery fireplan dominated the planning and execution of The Somme Offensive, obviating any attempt at Flexibility.14 The fireplan was allowed to extend over eight days in a failed effort to destroy the German barbed wire obstacles. In the process any surprise was also lost.15

German artillery was somewhat more effective at Verdun since they had a greater proportion of heavier calibre artillery and HE. However the same limitation applied - planning for the battle was artillery led and therefore ponderous, allowing the French just enough time to react before a decisive outcome was achieved.16

German defensive doctrine had been undergoing steady development, and by the Somme they routinely built three separate defence lines, with reserves ready to conduct counter-attacks. The layout of defences also increasingly began to make use of reverse slopes, rather than simply digging in as far forward as possible. Use of the reverse slope made observation and engagement by all enemy systems difficult or impossible, and also meant attackers cresting the high ground could be engaged by the entire depth of the defences, whilst only having their own modest firepower to bring to bear.17 This defensive schema was fully realised when the Germans stepped back to the Hindenburg Line, constructed on carefully selected ground.18

The sanguinary lesson from both Verdun and The Somme was that artillery destruction did not work. Despite extraordinary expenditure of lives and ammunition, advances remained nugatory and the enemy undefeated. It was realised that the entire depth of the enemy defensive position must be engaged simultaneously, over a short period, in order to disrupt the enemy’s defensive scheme and to maintain surprise. In 1916 that was still beyond the abilities of the forces engaged, but the doctrine and supporting technology to enable it was being developed.

By late 1916 or early 1917 the technological elements required for accurate predicted artillery fire were largely ready.19 This included the methods required to produce accurate mapping, and survey techniques to relate all guns to a common grid. Intelligence from photography had always been a primary role of the air arms, and technology continued to develop to accurately and precisely locate key enemy positions.20 This was coupled to sound ranging and flash-spotting to locate hostile batteries, and a dedicated organisation to direct the fight against them.21 Gathering metrological data became routine, and the results disseminated to all artillery headquarters. Variations between batches of propellant and shells were assessed by test firings, and the effects of barrel wear calibrated on specially instrumented ranges.22

Significant changes were also underway in the infantry battalions. A greater variety of weapons were becoming available, including grenades, more machineguns, and mortars. At the same time, platoons and companies were reorganised to increase their independence, firepower, and reduce casualties.23 These changes, allied to improved doctrine, meant the infantry was increasingly able to fight its own way forward. The inflexible waves which were the norm until the start of The Somme soon disappeared, replaced by looser, more flexible formations that made use of available cover, and conducting minor manoeuvre to overcome or avoid local enemy positions. The later stages of The Somme also saw the debut of the tank. Noisy, unreliable, blind, and slow, these first machines nevertheless carried firepower forward over bullet-swept ground to directly engage enemy positions.24

By the end of 1916 the nature of the problem on the Western Front was broadly understood; the technological means of overcoming it were increasingly in place, and doctrinal and tactical methods for employing them were being developed.

During 1917 the lessons from earlier campaigns were applied in conjunction with these new technologies to produce viable, if limited, tactics. General Herbert Plumer refined the approach known as ‘Bite and Hold.’25 Following the disastrous Nivelle Offensive, the French adopted the same approach.26 This deliberately eschewed a breakthrough by limiting the maximum depth of advance to that which could be adequately supported by the available artillery. The infantry would be protected by an integrated fireplan that included a variety of barrages, and neutralised the enemy’s key positions and batteries by combinations of HE and gas shells. Hostile observation was restricted by smoke shells, and obstacles either cut by HE triggered by super-sensitive graze fuzes, or crushed by tanks. Properly prepared attacks could now be reliably expected to gain two to three kilometres of ground with tolerable casualties.

Plumer proved the viability of this approach during a series of three battles on the ridges northeast of Ypres in September and early October. In each of these assaults the German defences were overrun, driving them back towards the Passchendaele Ridge, and forcing a change in their defensive tactics. The German Army was forced to thin out defences and abandon continuous trenchlines, relying instead on separated platoon and company positions located irregularly across the battlespace.27 Even so, Plumer’s continued success caused despair amongst the German High Command.28

However ‘bite-and-hold’ doctrine was self-limiting. Although each attack was a success, with the Germans suffering debilitating casualties, Plumer was not able to generate sufficient tempo to break through before the rains came in mid-October. The battle stagnated as the ground transformed into a bottomless bog, nullifying all the advances made over the previous year.29

To the south a different approach was being trialled. At Cambrai in November artillery showed it had truly come of age, and was now the decisive factor on the battlefield. To keep the Germans unaware of what was being planned, all targets were silently predicted, and all guns were calibrated before they moved into position.30 The infantry began moving at the same time that the artillery commenced firing, restoring the element of Surprise. The artillery programme supported the infantry with the usual barrages, along with a very effective counter-battery programme.31 The most celebrated feature of Cambrai was the large numbers of tanks, tasked with crushing wire obstacles and engaging the enemy at close range while the infantry infiltrated forward. Aircraft roamed overhead, attacking enemy gun positions and reserves that were moving to the battle. This was fighting in depth and across three dimensions, and broke clean through the formidable defences of the Hindenburg Line within hours.32

Thus by 1918 the major armies on the Western Front understood the doctrine, technology, and tactics required for successful offensive action – brief hurricane bombardments to suppress the enemy and protect the infantry as they advanced; close integration of all arms; and the use of small unit infiltration tactics by the infantry vanguard to work around and behind enemy positions and quickly achieve deep penetrations.33 The Germans applied also this these principles in a series of tactically successful but operationally disconnected attacks between March and July.34

Although German defensive doctrine had been studied and disseminated by the British and French, it was not widely understood and often poorly implemented.35 In particular their positions generally lacked depth. For the French this was partly due to a reluctance to cede any further ground to the invader. The British too were loathe to relinquish ground, and anyway lacked the numbers to man or even fully develop three complete defensive lines. As early as Messines some perceptive commanders were pushing back against the tendency to pack frontline positions with men, preferring instead to hold the positions with more firepower and thus expose fewer men to risk.36 The logic of this took time to sink in, and the lack of men for depth positions in early 1918 was partly due to habitual packing of the foremost lines.37

At Hamel and then again Amiens British showed they fully understood three-dimensional machine offensive warfare, successfully applying the new doctrine by integrating the various arms and technologies to enable their tactics.38 Subsequently, during the Hundred Days, increases in relative tempo meant that these blows fell more often, thereby decisively shifting the advantage in favour of the Allies.39 In the last months of the war ‘the German army was unable to match British tempo’.40

At the start of the First World War the principle of Flexibility was not a significant concern, and over the next two years Surprise was discarded as the combatants sought to achieve success through ever increasing applications of poorly guided firepower. This approach reached its apogee – or perhaps its nadir - in the twin battles of Verdun and The Somme where attempts to sweep the enemy away with massive bombardments were consistently thwarted by the time to prepare, allowing the defender time to move reserves into position. After 1916, Surprise was again seen as being key to success, and advances in artillery command and control, along with other technology such as tanks and ground attack aircraft, allowed offensives to begin with much fewer obvious preparations. Simultaneously, tactical forces were speeding up their battle rhythm and becoming more adept at employing different combinations of technology to solve tactical problems, restoring Flexibility. By 1917 it was understood by all sides that properly directed artillery fire in depth allowed tactical break-ins of two to three kilometres practically at will. During 1918 this approach was extended to allow tactical breakthroughs to become routine. The restoration of Surprise and Flexibility through the intelligent use of technologically advanced firepower restored to the battlefield the mobility which had been lost in 1914 due to the unexpected power of massed infantry weapons.41

 

Bibliography

anon., NZ Defence Doctrine (NZDDP-D), NZDF Wellington, 2012

Bailey, J.B.A., Field artillery and firepower, Routledge, London, 2004 (1989)

Bailey, Jonathan, The First World War and the birth of the modern style of warfare, Strategic and Combat Studies Institute Occasional Paper No. 22, British Army Staff College, Camberley, 1996

Bidwell, Shelford, and Graham, Dominick, Firepower, British Army weapons and theories of war 1904-1945, George Allen & Unwin, London, 1985 (1982)

Boff, Jonathan, Winning and losing on the Western Front; the British Third Army and the defeat of Germany in 1918, Cambridge University Press, Cambridge, 2012

Curtis, Vincent J., The elastic defence, 1917-1943, Canadian Army Journal, vol. 8.1 (Winter 2005), pp. 53-72

Ekins, Ashley, ed., 1918, Year of victory, The end of the Great War and the shaping of history, Exisle, Auckland, 2010

Griffith, Paddy, Battle tactics of the Western Front, the British Army's art of attack 1916-18, Yale University Press, London, 2000 (1994)

Harper, Glyn, Dark Journey, three key New Zealand battles of the Western Front, Harper Collins, Auckland, 2007

Harper, Glynn, and Hayward, Joel, Born to lead? Portraits of New Zealand commanders, Exisle, Auckland, 2003

Harris, Paul and Marble, Sanders, The ‘Step-by-Step’ Approach: British Military Thought and Operational Method on the Western Front, 1915–1917, War in History, 2008 15 (1) pp. 17-42

Herwig, Holger H., The First World War, Germany and Austria Hungary, 1914-1918, Arnold, London, 1997

Keegan, John, The face of battle, a study of Agincourt, Waterloo and the Somme, Penguin, London, 1978 (1976)

Keegan, John, The First World War, Hutchinson, London, 1998

Knox, MacGregor, and Murray, Williamson, eds., The dynamics of military revolution, 1300-2050, Cambridge University Press, Cambridge, 2001

Lupfer, Timothy T., The dynamics of doctrine: the changes in German tactical doctrine during the First World War, Leavenworth Papers, No.4, 1981

Millett, Allan R., and Murray, Williamson, Military Effectiveness, volume 1, the First World War, new edition, Cambridge University Press, New York, 2010 (1988)

Palazzo, Albert P., The British Army's Counter-Battery Staff Office and Control of the Enemy in World War I, The Journal of Military History, Vol. 63, No. 1 (Jan., 1999), pp. 55-74

Sheffield, Gary and Todman, Dan, eds., Command and control on the Western Front, the British Army's experience 1914-18, Spellmount, Gloucestershire, 2007 (2004)

Strachan, Hew, The First World War, Simon & Schuster, London, 2003

Terrain, John, To win a war, 1918, the year of victory, Papermac, 1986 (1978)

Van der Kloot, William, Lawrence Bragg's Role in the Development of Sound-Ranging in World War I, Notes and Records of the Royal Society of London, Vol. 59, No. 3 (Sep. 22, 2005), pp. 273-284

Watson, Alexander, Ring of steel, Germany and Austria-Hungary at war, 1914-1918, Penguin, 2015 (2014)

 

Notes

1 Quoted in Kennedy, Paul, ‘Britain in the First World War,’ in Millett, Allan R., and Murray, Williamson, Military Effectiveness, volume 1, the First World War, new edition, Cambridge University Press, New York, 2010 (1988), p.63

2 anon., NZ Defence Doctrine (NZDDP-D), NZDF Wellington, 2012, paragraphs 4.12 – 4.27

3 Bailey, Jonathan, The First World War and the birth of the modern style of warfare, Strategic and Combat Studies Institute Occasional Paper No. 22, British Army Staff College, Camberley, 1996, p.8. Lupfer, Timothy T., The dynamics of doctrine: the changes in German tactical doctrine during the First World War, Leavenworth Papers, No.4, 1981, p.1-2

4 Keegan, John, The First World War, Hutchinson, London, 1998, p.210. Lupfer, dynamics of doctrine, p.3

5 Bailey, J.B.A., Field artillery and firepower, Routledge, London, 2004 (1989), p.131-132. Keegan, The First World War, p.210-211

6 Keegan, The First World War, p.211

7 Bailey, The First World War and the birth of the modern style of warfare, p.7-11. Bidwell, Shelford, and Graham, Dominick, Firepower, British Army weapons and theories of war 1904-1945, George Allen & Unwin, London, 1985 (1982), p.7-13.

8 Bidwell and Graham, Firepower, p.103

9 Bailey, Field artillery and firepower, p.129-130. Strachan, Hew, The First World War, Simon & Schuster, London, 2003, p.163-166

10 Bidwell, Shelford, Gunners at war, Arms and Armour Press, London, 1970, p.24, 35

11 Griffith, Paddy, Battle tactics of the Western Front, the British Army's art of attack 1916-18, Yale University Press, London, 2000 (1994), p.140-141

12 Griffith, Battle tactics of the Western Front, p.141-144

13 McCarthy, Chris, ’Queen of the battlefield: the development of command, organisation and tactics in the British infantry battalion during the Great War’ in Sheffield, Gary and Todman, Dan, eds., Command and control on the Western Front, the British Army's experience 1914-18, Spellmount, Gloucestershire, 2007 (2004), p.181

14 Bailey, Jonathan, 'The First World War and the birth of the modern style of warfare', in Knox, MacGregor, and Murray, Williamson (eds.), The dynamics of military revolution, 1300-2050, Cambridge University Press, Cambridge, 2001, p.142

15 Keegan, John, The face of battle, a study of Agincourt, Waterloo and the Somme, Penguin, London, 1978 (1976), p.231-241

16 Herwig, Holger H., The First World War, Germany and Austria Hungary, 1914-1918, Arnold, London, 1997, p.190. Strachan, The First World War, p.184-185

17 Lupfer, dynamics of doctrine, p.7, 11-16

18 Herwig, The First World War, p.246-250. Curtis, Vincent J., The elastic defence, 1917-1943, Canadian Army Journal, vol. 8.1 (Winter 2005), pp. 56-57

19 Bailey, The First World War and the birth of the modern style of warfare, p.14-17

20 Kennedy, ‘Britain in the First World War,’ in Millett and Murray, Military Effectiveness, vol 1, p.49

21 Palazzo, Albert P., The British Army's Counter-Battery Staff Office and Control of the Enemy in World War I, The Journal of Military History, Vol. 63, No. 1 (Jan., 1999), pp. 55-74. Van der Kloot, William, Lawrence Bragg's Role in the Development of Sound-Ranging in World War I, Notes and Records of the Royal Society of London, Vol. 59, No. 3 (Sep. 22, 2005), pp. 273-284

22 Bidwell and Graham, Firepower, p.108-109

23 McCarthy, ’Queen of the battlefield’ in Sheffield and Todman, Command and control on the Western Front, p.176, 183, 188-189

24 Strachan, The First World War, p.189, 304-304

25 Harper, Glyn, Dark Journey, three key New Zealand Battles of the Western Front, Harper Collins, Auckland, 2007, p.28, 31-32. Harris, Paul and Marble, Sanders, The ‘Step-by-Step’ Approach: British Military Thought and Operational Method on the Western Front, 1915–1917, War in History, 2008 15 (1) p. 20-22, 39-40.

26 Porch, Douglas, ‘the French Army in the First World War,’ in Millett, Allan R., and Murray, Williamson, Military Effectiveness, volume 1, the First World War, new edition, Cambridge University Press, New York, 2010 (1988), p.216-217

27 Lupfer, dynamics of doctrine, p.35. Keegan, The First World War, p.392

28 Harper, Dark Journey, p.54

29 Strachan, The First World War, p.247-248. Harper, Dark Journey, p.74-76

30 Bidwell and Graham, Firepower, p.134

31 Bailey, Field artillery and firepower, p.129-130. Strachan, The First World War, p.142. Palazzo, The British Army's Counter-Battery Staff Office, p. 69-70. Bailey, The First World War and the birth of the modern style of warfare, p.41-42

32 Herwig, The First World War, p.332-333. Keegan, The First World War, p.396-397

33 Bailey, Field artillery and firepower, p.143-145

34 Watson, Alexander, Ring of steel, Germany and Austria-Hungary at war, 1914-1918, Penguin, 2015 (2014), p.514-523. Herwig, The First World War, p.392-420. Strachan, The First World War, p.285-291

35 McCarthy, ’Queen of the battlefield’ in Sheffield and Todman, Command and control on the Western Front, p.184-185

36 Harper, Glyn, 'Major General Sir Andrew Russell: divisional commander on the Western Front' in Harper, Glyn and Hayward, Joel (eds.), Born to lead? Portraits of New Zealand commanders, Exisle, Auckland, 2003, p.61

37 Terrain, John, To win a war, 1918, the year of victory, Papermac, 1986 (1978), p.48, 60, 71, 73-74

38 Strachan, The First World War, p.308-310

39 Pedersen, Peter, 'Maintaining the advance: Monash, battle procedure and the Australian Corps in 1918' in Ekins , Ashley (ed.), 1918 Year of Victory, the end of the Great War and the shaping of history, Exisle, Auckland, 2010, p.130-145

40 Boff, Jonathan, Winning and losing on the Western Front; the British Third Army and the defeat of Germany in 1918, Cambridge University Press, Cambridge, 2012, p.226

41 Bailey, The First World War and the birth of the modern style of warfare, p.11

 

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