Gooner1 wrote: MarkN wrote:
"Constant learning and adaptation
". Indeed. But the small-war colonial policing mentality meant the British ignored that simple and sensible concept almost as soon as WW1 ended. Took until 1942 at the earliest to recognise the need to apply it once again.
Blimey when did you decide to give up learning?
That thought crossed my mind about you a good while back!
I read French's book many years ago and no longer have a copy. The paper I also read a good while back, but can still refer to it.
Gooner1 wrote: And what do you call the Bartholomew Committee and report of Summer 1940 if not an example of constant learning and adaptation?
I also have a copy of this report - albeit from a different Kew file so the 'extras' along with the file are different. For example, my copy also includes annexes with the recommended structure and formation for the 'new' brigades and divisions. It also has a set of papers giving feedback from the "Director's Meeting
" held on 26 July 1940.
Amongst many other sources, those three play a large part in shaping my opinion. In the book, French goes into (if I remember well) great detail explaining how the British had conducted their "constant learning and adaptation
" (as you put it) between the wars, but when tested, were found wanting. Why? Because they'd got it wrong somehow. And yet, when you read up on the doctrine, the FSRs, it's pretty good stuff. How come the disconnect between education (doctrine) and practical outcome?
In his paper, French writes in Part IV (the conclusion), "the fact remains that the army's ability successfully to practise mechanized, mobile, warfare in the first half of the Second World War was so limited as to cast doubts on the fact that it had learnt very much at all.
" So, lots of "constant learning and adaptation
" but seemingly NOT learning the right thing. Why? French first mentions a resistence to Liddle Hart and Fuller's 'mechanized doctrine'. Why was there such resistence to mechanization? Was it only about donkey wallopers fears of being subsumed by the Tank Corps? French also reminds us of the political, social and financial constraints. But they only affect the scale
not the mentality
French then discussed the German command system and compares it to the British. He looks at it from a practical perspective and he is quite right - in my opinion - with the conclusions he draws regarding the practical implementation of command.
In the final sentence of the paper, French, using Montgomery, explains this as "'the army as a whole was given no clear doctrine on which to base its tactical training; senior commanders evolved their own doctrines; when you changed your commander you changed your doctrine
." I believe Montgomery and French are correct. But does French offer an explanation why this was so?
What did you learn
when you read these sources?
that a large part of the reason why performance didn't match expectation and training didn't follow written down education (doctrine) was because the Army was instututionally biased towards a small-war colonial policing mentality.
French touches on this without going into detail, He wrote: "The British believed that continental military doctrines, which they thought were based upon prescriptive theories, were only of limited applicability to them because of the peculiar strategic circumstances of their island empire.
" This was paraphrasing what was considered as Sir George Milne's thinking. The words indicate the focus being on British flexibility over rigidly proscribed doctrine - where flexibility
is perceived by the British as being of utmost importance due to the small-war colonial policing bias in thinking. In truth, it was often the flexibility
of German commanders that made them so much more effective. The problem for British thought was not flexibility
, but their institutional bias as to their fundamental raison d'etre.
Gooner1 wrote: Except for you all roads inevitably lead back to your idée fixe.
At least my idée fixe can be rationalised and evidenced. Your idée fixe is simply a denial of the evidence and the historical facts.
The Home Commands were to provide the Corps headquarters. That had been the idea since 1901. I guess your idea is to turf the officers out of their quarters and force them to live in tents thereby creating a 'field' corps.
Was III Corps formed from one of the Home Command HQs? If not, why not?
After the return from France and the rapid introduction of a number of new corps, how many were derived from Home Command HQs?
You have seeming learned that big scale
= big-war mentality
. I disagree. One can have a very large force but still emply them with a small-wat approach.
You have seeming learned that technological modernisation and mechanisation
= big-war mentality
. I disagree. One can still use a truck and tank instead of the horses and carts in a small-war manner.
You seem to have learned that having a big-war written doctrine
= the practical ability of all to implement
that big-war doctrine. I disagree. As did Montgomery and French.
Leaning how mechanization provides mobility and practising driving around the country does not equal the learning of a big-war mentality. Mobility
are different concepts. I my opinion, a big-war mentality requires then knowledge and practical ability (learned over time through repeated experimentation, training and practise) of senior commanders being able to handle the manouevring
of their divisions against a 'first rate' opponent - not just having the capacity to order them to get in their tracks and change position quickly and in gord order. The British were experts at the latter - as demonstrated repeatedly in their numerous retreats. The former, they failed at with equal regularity as their retreats. Bartholemew notes the need to separate the (administrative) GHQ function from the (operational) Army level HQ. The British went to France with a GHQ which had the ability to command administratively, very well I suspect, a small-war colonial policing skirmish. It didn't do so well against the Wehrmacht doing big-war.