Changing the army - how?

Cold_Collation

LE
Book Reviewer
I echo and amplify this thought (and extend it beyond the up close and personal bit). War isn't typically a particularly intellectual problem: there is scope for genius in battlefield and strategic command, but a lot of it is doing often fairly routine things diligently and well. Too much intellectualism and overthinking the problem is likely to hinder you here.

From reading this thread, I wonder if the Army's problem is making an intellectual business out of what should be sensible, straightforward thought about processes?
Being intellectual does not preclude pragmatism. If pragmatism is absent, it’s because creativity is being stifled.

The army’s issue is orthodoxy.
 
Because for the most part, most of what it does (the essential up close and personal bit) is not intellectually challenging.

Arguably the whole tactical doctrine empire plus associated faffing demonstrates what happens if you try to be intellectual about the mechanics of combat.

And I don't regard it as a huge intellectual challenge to work out what orbat and equipment you need. The Army lacks clarity of vision because it lacks (and has lacked for some decades) VSO who are genuinely commanders and leaders.
Yes and No.

The Army's biggest weakness is that it seriously lacks the ability to learn and innovate. The Falklands partly changed the Section Attack but ignored all the lessons learnt as they were too difficult to quantify.

Misson Command hasn't really taken off, regardless of all the bullshit spouted, as commanders aren't left in post long enough to learn how their subordinates will respond in given situations so they can plan to devolve downwards.

The Army can't abandon it's obsession with mico management so can't innovate as no one will trust a junior rank to play with ideas. It's obsessed with easy tick box answers to problems. Do something not labelled as the DS answer that works and you're still wrong.

Intellectually the Army comes across as stuck in a weird time warp that it had briefly escaped in the BAOR days when commanders had to accept that trying to grip the situation would kill them and their HQ element .
 

jrwlynch

LE
Book Reviewer
How many were left behind, dead or captured, on the routes to Dunkirk?
A fair few - we lost our small part of the Battle of France.

But there was the slight, teeny, tiny problem that we remained undefeated, and continued to cut off Germany from all overseas trade, with crippling results to their economy and military production; having sunk or crippled most of the Kriegsmarine surface fleet already, and went on to write the Luftwaffe down by 25% while holding the RAF's strength steady (and this is just in 1940)

The German solution? Decide that the historically-disastrous option of war on two fronts was actually a plan of pure genius, and attack the USSR that was supplying a third of their oil and half of their grain. And, just as they're grinding to a frozen halt short of Moscow... declare war on the United States as well.

How can anyone argue with that sort of military brilliance?
 

PhotEx

On ROPS
On ROPs
How many were left behind, dead or captured, on the routes to Dunkirk?

The British put up such a determined resistance during the fall back to Dunkirk, the allegedly better German Army took to a spot of massacring prisoners in frustration.
 
The British put up such a determined resistance during the fall back to Dunkirk, the allegedly better German Army took to a spot of massacring prisoners in frustration.
My dad was invited to take a walking holiday from Belgium to Poland, then glamped on a farm for 5 years.
The Red Army put a stop to all that nonsense, and pressganged him into riding a tank for a while, before passing him on to the US army, who sent him back to Belgium.

Five years back pay and a posting to Palestine cheered him up a bit.
 
And yet they almost managed to conquer most of Europe, from the Bay of Biscay to the walls of Moscow. There are shades of excellence and perhaps they were not the very brightest, but they were not very far from it either. The Kriegsmarine almost defeated us in the Battle of the Atlantic despite our famed naval supremacy.
But they didn’t did they.
 

jrwlynch

LE
Book Reviewer
And yet they almost managed to conquer most of Europe, from the Bay of Biscay to the walls of Moscow. There are shades of excellence and perhaps they were not the very brightest, but they were not very far from it either. The Kriegsmarine almost defeated us in the Battle of the Atlantic despite our famed naval supremacy.
This would be the Kriegsmarine that spent its war choosing between "fleeing", "hiding" and "sinking" for its courses of action?

While Churchill liked to create drama to demonstrate his genius in winning against the odds ("History shall be kind to me, for I intend to write it") the Kriegsmarine needed to sink more than 0.5% of the trans-Atlantic traffic to win.

(Just for comparison, we smashed 20% of the Mediterranean shipping going to North Africa, and that wasn't enough to bring easy victory...)
 
The withdrawal to Dunkirk was a rout, though.
Far from it -
The fact there was a Dunkirk is in itself evidence there was no rout.

British (and to be fair French forces) were being hard pressed by the Germans in Belgium and were having to come to terms with the Stuka and German CAS.

However it was the break through in the Ardennes that caused the rapid withdrawal from Belgium towards the channel ports, as there was absolutely nothing between the Ardennes and the British rear in Belgium. A rapid withdrawal conducted in the face of determined attacks was the only option

They couldnt get clear but they got to the channel

They didn't though, did they? The rout of the British and French by the Germans in 1940 must go down as one of our worst (the worst?) military defeat of our history.

No that would be singapore

You also seem unaware that Dunkirk wasnt the end of fighting in France for the French or the UK.

It can be argued that as the German army was at the end of its logistical tether and exhausted that

The German military, much more thoroughly professional and prepared than ours could ever imagine,

Well yes large experienced conscript Army vs small rapidly expanding proffessional army learning its trade - It was inevitable Germany had the advantage in 1940.

France is another story the French army being crippled by politicians pre war.


were only finally defeated by the Soviets' capacity to sacrifice million upon million for Holy Mother Russia and by the ruthlessness of Uncle Joe.

Not at all - Which isnt to dissagree with the statement Russia carried a lot of weight on land - but as ever other aspects to the war where Russia didnt contribute are ignored giving a skewed perception.

1) It ignores the fact that from 1942 the Germans were being pushed back everywhere - the allies had learnt and despite the uber soldier mythology - the allied forces were becoming better than the Germans accross the board

2) Russia was huge the troop density in Russia was much less than in Normandy in 1944

3) The split in Panzer divisions was about equal accross both fronts - thus the force arrayed in the West was a far stronger proportion of German fighting strength than counting noses implies

4) High Russian death toll doesnt really prove anything as regards effectiveness - more so if you factor in not a small amount of the Soviet death toll was self inflicted

5) The West alone conducted the airwar over Germany

6) The West alone fought the battle of the atlantic and 99% of the North sea and Arctic - without this and the convoys Russia was in trouble - We pretty much fed the red army


68% of German (Army) Manpower was lost on the Eastern front ( not 95%) as claimed by some, but the Naval losses were concentrated in the West and more significantly - the Germans lost more Trucks in North Africa than they had in Russia - which seriously hampered them.


We had a supporting role, not the lead.
No - it was a combined effort remove any ally the war becomes harder - but the west could have won without the East and the East could have won without the West**

see points 5 onwards


** In both cases assuming they make it until 42 ish when there armies are gaining experience not just size and going to total war footing starts to pay dividends
 

jrwlynch

LE
Book Reviewer
Being thrown out of France in a matter of weeks (which never occurred during the Great War) is, surely, a rout by any standards.
Which makes the Germans getting kicked from Normandy to the Rhine in a dozen weeks.... what, exactly?
 
The German solution? Decide that the historically-disastrous option of war on two fronts

Ive allways wondered why the "Germany only lost because it was fighting a war on 2 fronts" crowd never ask thmselves - whos fault that was or realise that the UK was fighting on multiple fronts as well.

Mind you theres a fashion for comparing German manpower and resources and comparing it to the British Empire and proving Britain only won because the Uber soldiers were out numbered / we cheated building more kit. Never dawns on them the by the time Germany is facing the Empire rather than pretty much the UK alone - Germany has most of Europes resources and not a short while later half the Empire is required to face Japan.

Not forgetting the war with France
 
Because for the most part, most of what it does (the essential up close and personal bit) is not intellectually challenging.

Arguably the whole tactical doctrine empire plus associated faffing demonstrates what happens if you try to be intellectual about the mechanics of combat.

And I don't regard it as a huge intellectual challenge to work out what orbat and equipment you need. The Army lacks clarity of vision because it lacks (and has lacked for some decades) VSO who are genuinely commanders and leaders
Couldn’t agree more about the over-intellectualisation of doctrine and the move from the small, agile formation headquarters of the BAOR to the large headquarters needed to dance todays doctrinal dick dance.

However, I think you are very wrong about the challenge of working out what orbat and what equipment you need. The working out bit is the easy bit. Actually delivering it is a significant intellectual challenge. Not least because doing so means engaging with and persuading some very bright people.

Operational command is mostly a short term thing. At the more junior levels, horizons are rarely more that a week or so. Even at the highest levels, the horizon is months. Planning at the strategic level requires a significant degree of futurism; the strategic vision CGS is crafting today is shaping the Army of the 2040s.
 

bob231

War Hero
Errrr... I found it the most intellectually challenging activity of my life, just training to do infantry stuff. I can't see that doing it on operations would be any easier.

There was always something to think about, something to anticipate; lines of sight, ranges, distance/demand/duration, likely threats, actions on, alternatives. There was never enough time to think about it, either; my brain was running at full tilt just to come up with reasonable plans, now (not "excellent plans, late" stuff). Not to mention the imagination required to figure out what cold, tired, and occasionally confused section and platoon commanders would probably do / might be doing, doubly so for platoon commanders who were gifted with bright ideas, or sh!t with a map and weren't where they thought they were (assuming they actually knew).

And that was just on FTXs - planning decent training, constantly trying to figure out who and where and what and how, to get the best quality training and outcomes from the limited time and resources available? Fvck, that took some hard thinking. I'm not claiming individual heroism, either; most of us were working as hard as we could, to deliver the best we could.

I suppose instead I could have just wandered along with my thumb up my arrse and my brain in neutral, but that hardly seems the best way to approach things, does it?
I sit corrected. And thank you for a comprehensive and interesting post.

I did consider some hair-splitting over what "intellectually challenging" actually means, but will row back a bit and incorporate @bobthebuilder's post above.

Is the Army good at encouraging diligence and persistent application to knotty problems, and in creating people who will think in a structured* and thorough fashion about how to solve its challenges?

*In the sense of having some means of approaching a problem that lacks a DS answer, rather than making an informed or uninformed guess.
 
I sit corrected. And thank you for a comprehensive and interesting post.

I did consider some hair-splitting over what "intellectually challenging" actually means, but will row back a bit and incorporate @bobthebuilder's post above.

Is the Army good at encouraging diligence and persistent application to knotty problems, and in creating people who will think in a structured* and thorough fashion about how to solve its challenges?

*In the sense of having some means of approaching a problem that lacks a DS answer, rather than making an informed or uninformed guess.
At what stage on the path to starred glory does an officer get to think and reflect? Their career is one of short, high pressure appointments interspersed by intensive, doctrinal courses. Maybe those who get to the top in the other services do get more reflection time. Their whole experience is dealing with short term problems.

We shouldn’t underestimate how very intelligent people often struggle with strategic thinking because their professional work has short time spans. I have an occasional mentor who built a very successful corporate veterinary practice; enough to get him a seat on Shark Tank, the Aussie equivalent of Dragons Den. Ask him about the biggest challenges he faced and getting vets to think beyond the next consult is one of them. These are people who are very diligent in solving knotty problems and who think in a very structured way. But their horizon is the next consult because that’s the next problem.

The first step would be to admit its an issue.
 

Mölders 1

War Hero
A more nuanced appraisal turns up questions such as the German performance in Op OVERLORD (from June to August 1944), where - despite four years of preparation and planning time, holding some of the most wonderfully defensible terrain imaginable, and fighting an enemy who had to bring every soldier, every tank, and every bullet, bean, battery and drop of fuel across by sea and land it across open beaches… the “highly regarded” German forces were kicked from Normandy to the Seine in a few weeks of fighting, losing half a million men (twice as many as their Allied opponents) and most of their equipment. Yes, they put up a fight… but they lost, and lost hard, and most of the elite Panzer forces were being thrown against the British (and Commonwealth) .
Talking of "Elite Panzer Forces"......The Waffen-SS PanzerDivisions, Leibstandarte and Das Reich, were still rebuilding after their respective near anhiliation in Russia the previous Winter and were mainly made up of unwilling transferees from the German Navy and Lufwaffe.

The much vaunted 12th SS Hitlerjugend PanzerDivision were still under-trained as a PanzerDivision and lacked some important equipment and was desperately short of Junior Officers and capable N.C.O.s. Their "Death Or Glory" Counterattacks were often disorganised and were driven off with excessive casualties.

The 9th and 10th SS PanzerDivisions were hastily transferred to Normandy but they were mostly made up of Conscripts rather than hand-picked volunteers as was the case in the pre-war years.

I believe that the "Elite Status" afforded to a lot of the PanzerDivisions in Normandy in 1944 is something of a myth by that stage in the war......NO matter how good a PanzerDivision may be it cannot keep on taking severe losses and keep being rebuilt to it's original standard.
 
I fundamentally disagree.

For my money, the Army (more correctly, Wegiments) continue(s) to advance "Chaps Like Us" - almost by definition practical, tactical, pragmatic souls, lacking imagination or vision, or the capacity for leadership of a strategic nature.

Such folk exist. It's impossible that the Army doesn't recruit any.
Yes, this practice of POs visiting Regiments before RMAS to see if 'they fit in' is hardly going to encourage diversity of thought.
 

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