So, whats new

With the war in Iraq now extending longer than any other recent conflict, we have pundits and experts who ferret out where the army is failing. We hear much from the Brigadiers of the Press about shortages of kit and equipment. Morale hit at by attitudes amongst those safe in their beds back home. Poor discipline in the handling of prisoners. Stress disorders. Unsuitable mergers of regiments.

But, in my opinion, it was ever thus. I've dug deep and found these comments on the topics identified. Made a long while ago. Still valid today. I am just not sure if the lessons learned are widely enough distributed.

You do well apprehend that good order and military discipline are the chief essentials in an army. But you must ever be aware that an army cannot preserve good order unless its soldiers have meat in their bellies, coats on their backs and shoes on their feet. All these are as necessary as arms and munitions. I pray you will never fail to look to these things as you may do to other matters ... - Marlborough, to his Quartermaster-General, Dec 1703, quoted in J.M. Bereton, The British Soldier

Field-Marshal Montgomery warned, 'We must be very careful what we do with British infantry. They are the people who do the hard fighting and the killing.... Their fighting spirit is based largely on morale and regimental esprit de corps. On no account must anyone tamper with this.' - Byron Farwell, Queen Victoria's Little Wars, 1972

"But the main point is that soldiers, after fighting for some time, are apt to be like burned-out cinders. They have shot off their ammunition, their numbers have been diminished, their strength and their morale are drained, and possibly their courage has vanished as well. As an organic whole, quite apart from their loss in numbers, they are far from being what they were before the action; and thus the amount of reserves spent is an accurate measure on the loss of morale." - Carl Von Clausewitz, On War; ed and trans by Michael Howard and Peter Paret, (Princeton University Press, Princeton, New Jersey), 1984

The efficiency of an army depends on many different things, but one is outstanding- and that is morale. You can have all the material in the world, but without morale it is largely ineffective. You must have morale, first and foremost, and morale is determined by a great many things. Primarily it depends, of course, on leadership, the possession of equipment and, in the long run, on the people back home. - General George C. Marshall

Sometimes it is suggested that we do not need armed forces in peacetime because if war comes we will be able to find the necessary experts. It is true that we can recruit doctors, engineers and the logisticians from civilian life. However, what is not understood is that we cannot find and we cannot hire from any civilian profession men who are skilled in the art of leading and training men for war. This is the special expertise possessed only by those of you who are trained in the art of military leadership. Men like you cannot be hired, they must be grown and educated in Canada, in peacetime. - Address by Colonel Commandant RCAC; Major General Bruce F. Macdonald, DSO, CD, at Graduating Ceremony, Combat Arms School, August 1976, reprinted in the Armour Newsletter No 7, Jan 1977


Book Reviewer
So what you are saying then is that no-one has learned the lessons of history?

Will they ever?
It's plain for all to see.... that is, the lengths these clowns in Wesminster will go to to save money, or rather cut costs to try and save money but end up spending ten times as much to try and repair the damage caused. I am of the opinion though that the cuts and the strategy planning that have been made by this bunch are BLR and irreversable... this, unlike the contents of a sister thread in the naafi, is what grips my feckin' $hit!
And one from Old Nosey himself

From Duke of Wellington

To War Department

(circa 1812)


Whilst marching to Portugal to a position which commands the approach to Madrid and the French forces, my officers have been diligently complying with your requests, which have been sent to HM ship from London to Lisbon and then by despatch rider to our headquarters.

We have enumerated our saddles, bridles, tents and tent poles, and all manner of sundry items for which His Majesty's Government holds me accountable. I have despatched reports on the character, wit and spleen of every officer. Each item and every farthing has been accounted for, with two regrettable exceptions of which I beg your indulgence. Unfortunately, the sum of one shilling and nine pence remains unaccounted for in one infantry battalions petty cash, and there has been a hideous confusion as to the number of jars of raspberry jam issued to one cavalry regiment during a sandstorm in western Spain.

This reprehensive carelessness may be related to the pressure of circumstance, since we are at war with France, a fact which may come as a bit of a surprise to you gentlemen in Whitehall.

This brings me to my present purpose, which is to request elucidation of my instructions from His Majesty's Government, so that I may better understand why I am dragging an army over these barren plains. I construe that perforce it must be one of two alternative duties, as given below.

I shall pursue either one with the best of my ability, but I cannot do both to train an army of uniformed British clerks in Spain for the benefit of the accountant and copy boys in London or, perchance, to see to it that the forces of Napoleon are driven out of Spain.

I have the honour,

Consider yourself told off.

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