The Battle of Dorking - the shape of things to come?

Discussion in 'Strategic Defence & Spending Review (SDSR)' started by napier, Aug 11, 2013.

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  1. napier

    napier LE Moderator Reviewer

    I know it's been referred to before, but I have just read this. Written in 1871 after the Prussians had given the Frenchies a good licking, it documents the invasion of an unprepared and overconfident England and the defeat of an overstretched Navy and an Army reliant on under trained and equipped reservists. Any parallels to today are purely worrying.

    The Battle of Dorking
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  2. Always liked Riddle of the sands by Erskine Childers.

    Mind you why would anyone want to invade when they can just come in on eurostar and claim asylum?
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  3. And i thought this was about the battle between Westcott & Westhumble?
  4. As I recall the answer was seen as a more modern Navy absorbing the bulk of the budget; and a quarter million strong Territorial Force to back up far fewer Regs - well, in the UK that is, I think most of the Regs were based overseas.

    So what we need is a larger Navy and more TA than regs then ?
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  5. napier

    napier LE Moderator Reviewer

    I didn't see any specific recommendations, but with quotes like:

    "Our handful of regular troops was sacrificed almost to a man in a vain conflict with numbers; our volunteers and militia, with officers who did not know their work, without ammunition or equipment, or staff to superintend, starving in the midst of plenty, we had soon become a helpless mob, fighting desperately here and there, but with whom, as a manoeuvring army, the disciplined invaders did just what they pleased"

    I don't see it as making a case for more reservists. I F Clarke says:

    "The issue was conscription. If the British could have created a vast army on the European scale, they would be more than ready for any invading force; and here Chesney had to give a hostage to fortune by arranging for the fleet to be far away in foreign waters at the time of the projected German landings. The "absence of the fleet" was a fictional device that left the British Isles open to invasion. The logic of Chesney’s story was arranged to show that conscription had to be the answer to the problems of living with the new military power." I.F. Clarke- Before and After The Battle of Dorking
  6. I am of course referring to what actually happened in response to a resurgent Germany; namely the formation of the TF. Given that conscription didn't arrive until 1916 when the TF was fully committed; and that some sources have Kitchener regretting he hadn't used them as a cadre for the class of 1916 before his untimely end, it's hard to argue that it was an incorrect decision.

    Arguably the message that untrained, ill equipped reserves would not be much use was received, and the decision made to make sure they were trained and equipped properly. Now there's an interesting parallel - guess we'll have to see whether the Army of 2013 can manage the TA as well as the Army of 1913 managed the TA.
  7. Mind you if they cant even get them through the door:
    BBC News - Army cuts: Reservists slow to enlist, leaked memo suggests

    We stand no chance.

    "He also criticised the handling of recruitment since it was outsourced to civilian firm, Capita." Say no more?
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  8. Don't panic,our friends from the Sub Continent might help us when it's finished.

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  9. Perhaps I read it from a different viewpoint. The content is interesting, almost as though the author had premonitions of future events spanning 150 years but chose to include only those features that would maintain credibility with his then audience - there were opportunities for flying machines and tanks to be mentioned but doing so would have led to the novel being categorised as science fiction. "No-one would have believed, in the last years of the nineteenth century, that human affairs were being watched from the timeless worlds of space...", anyone?

    The novel focusses on how the Volunteers and Militia were poorly supported in terms of materiel and opportunity to practice outside the Drill Hall and also on the resentment and disparagement displayed by the Regular Army. Public criticism of the Volunteers' officers by Regular officers set the seeds of doubt as to the capability of their officers in the minds of the Volunteer soldiers, so little has changed there. And yet, there is no evidence that the Volunteers fared any worse than their Regular counterparts. High Command dictated that the Regular forces be placed in the positions of "glory" - where they were overrun despite their greater level of training and equipping.

    Comparing fiction to reality, is there any documented evidence that a formed Territorial unit performed significantly worse than a Regular unit in the opening stages of either of the World Wars?

    I'm reminded of a parallel during the Firefighters' Strike of 2003. An empty building in Luton suffered damage while the Army was attending, eliciting comments by the FBU that if they'd attended, there would have been much less damage. A few months after the strike concluded, the same building was burned to the ground despite a much larger and better equipped attendance. The firefighters' response began "As there was no danger to life involved..." I suppose that if the TA had manned the Green Goddesses, it would be assumed that the conflagration would have been on a par with the Dresden firestorms... :roll:
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  10. On a different tack, the author chose to portray the bulk of the Royal Navy as being elsewhere. The enemy's defeat of the reduced naval presence resulted from the tactically-smart use of torpedos. Arguably, they could have expected similar success against a much larger RN presence, given the lack of defence against the new-fangled super weapon.
  11. Javing been involved in that uk op, but a bit further north, we had similar statement. A coy cmdr (no names no pack drill) when handing back to the fire service said "done, and next time you decide to have a strike how about we swap and you go to iraq for us...."

    Back on topic, the perception of tf officers being worse than regular counterparts was a populist view in the early 1900's eespite many being ex regular!

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  12. OK, I like all the clever parallels being drawn between then and now. But could someone please tell me who the modern equivalent of the Prussians are?

    Because unless we can find a new bogie man, there won’t be any new funding coming. I don’t think the Argentine/ Spanish axis of dog shit will quite cut it
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  13. There's the rub. We don't have a crystal ball so we don't know. All we can do is look for historic parallels... and in that vein, I think we'd be better served looking at 1924 than 1914.

    The High Seas fleet was on the bottom of Scapa Flow. The German Air Force has been disbanded, the French army occupied the west bank of the Rhein and the German economy was on it's arse.

    Nobody could see a threat then and thanks to a ropey economy, no politician was interested in spending on defence beyond the big ticket items like shiny new warships (limited in size, capability and number by the new Washington Naval Treaty).

    If you'd have stopped the man in street then in August 1924 and told him that in just 16 years (August 1940), France had surrendered and was being occupied and a British expeditionary force had been kicked out of Belgium having had to fight with the equivalent of WIMIKs and Scimitars against whole divisions of Leopard 2A5s and an invasion of the UK was expected at any moment... he would have have laughed his head off at you and dismissed you as a complete loon.

    It can't just be about bogeymen, it has to be about avoiding peacetime complacency, no matter how ridiculous people think that is.
  14. Well I can think of a couple of options, How about the Russians? Oops who mentioned being caught with our trousers down.......again