British Military History For Dummies

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If states planned to go to war to fulfil policy objectives, then armies and navies ought to have prepared operational plans to carry out those intentions. Taylor put it. This approach suffered from three major defects.

Africa under colonial domination, 1880-1935

First, it assumed that states had the governmental machinery to integrate general staffs within their policy-making structures. Most did not as it required the experience of war itself for states to learn how to manage the making of strategy at the civil-military interface. Secondly, it assumed that general staffs focused upwards on the links between operations and their policy effects. In reality, they tended to look downwards to tactics and how their forces would fight. As a result, they failed to address the real demands of a fully-fledged war plan : the need for economic mobilisation, alliance coordination, and integration across theatres and fronts and between land and sea.

Collectively, these sorts of criticism have downplayed the role of the general staffs in the coming of the war. Moreover, the lack of governmental structures to manage general staffs gave those bodies leeway, which meant that what they did and said had political effect. Germany dominates these discussions: a large power in central Europe with exposed land frontiers to east and west, it relied on its army for its security. Britain was in a very different geographical situation.

Seven Years' War

Its island status made it principally reliant for home defence on its navy. Its proximity to Europe, however, led it to pursue a balance of power strategy, and to seek a continental alliance on which to predicate its conduct of a future war. Finally, its banking, trading, and mercantile power meant its contribution to the war would be increasingly important the longer the war lasted. However, if it fought, its war-making would be more limited, given its status as an island, than for continental powers. While comprehensible, these expectations had little basis in sustained thought.

Chaired by the prime minister, it was attended not only by the relevant ministers but also by representatives of the armed services themselves.

American Strategy:

Its great strength was its capacity to unite political and professional opinion around one table. However, it was an advisory committee only, without executive powers. It focused on the core questions of home and imperial defence, and the relationship between the two. It addressed the possibility of invasion, the capacity of the navy alone to protect against it, and the risks attendant to deploying the bulk of the army overseas, particularly to India.

The navy proposed amphibious operations in the Baltic, an option rejected by the CID in Alarmed by the poverty of naval planning, the prime minister appointed Winston Churchill to be First Lord of the Admiralty with the specific remit to form a naval staff. Set up in January , it never fulfilled its promise. The post of chief of the War Staff, as it was called, was not merged with that of the First Sea Lord, the senior serving officer, and the War Staff was not represented on the Board of Admiralty, the joint civil-naval body which ran the service.

As a result, the Royal Navy had no settled war plan in place by , but only individual elements which cumulatively reveal its intentions. In , the British adopted the Dreadnought , a revolutionary battleship, armed with ten inch guns and capable of 21 knots. In the latest Dreadnought , the Queen Elizabeth , mounted inch guns, burnt oil, not coal, and could reach 25 knots.

In the public mind, the Royal Navy was being optimised for a battle in the North Sea, especially after the Anglo-French naval agreement of left the French responsible for the Mediterranean and the British the North Sea and the Channel. However, Britain was also a global maritime power, and its long-term rivals elsewhere in the world were not the Germans, but France and Russia , its allies in Fisher therefore planned a development of the Dreadnought, the battle-cruiser, for oceanic warfare. An all-big gun ship from , the battle-cruisers had It exploited speed and manoeuvrability to engage better armoured ships at long range around 20, yards.

As battle-cruisers replaced Dreadnoughts, Fisher planned to remove capital ships from the closed waters around Britain and to use submarines and mines in the North Sea and for coastal defence. The Dreadnought suggested that the Royal Navy was focused on battle and would achieve its strategic purpose by tactical effect. This expectation was challenged by Julian Corbett , the naval historian. Corbett like Mahan was more geopolitical and political in his focus than material or tactical. He also questioned the value of battle at sea.

Battle would only risk a dominance which it would hold without fighting. He argued that, as men live on land, the effects of maritime warfare need to be felt there. After the repeal of the Corn Laws in , British agriculture no longer enjoyed protection. With the agricultural depression of the s, the United Kingdom became increasingly reliant on imported food, especially grain. However, this argument did not just go one way. As Germany industrialised, and its population both grew and moved to towns, it lost self-sufficiency.

By Germany imported 20 percent of its annual grain consumption. The trade division of the Naval Intelligence Department, which acted as a de facto naval staff, realised that Germany was also becoming vulnerable to blockade.


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If British maritime dominance were eroded by its own use of economic warfare, it would be self-defeating. It planned to mount a distant blockade by closing them. In the Declaration of London sought to extend the rights of neutral powers in the event of war by narrowing the definition of contraband and lengthening the list of goods which could be freely traded in war.

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The House of Lords refused to ratify the terms, so preserving the possibility of a blockade with a wide definition of contraband. By , when Fisher retired as First Sea Lord, Britain had floated and resourced a number of maritime options for major war, ranging from the purely tactical and operational to the economic and legal. They had not been moulded into something coherent enough to call a war plan. For some, blockade was not an end in itself but a means to provoke the German navy into battle.

For others, battle was a means rather than an end, in this case to tighten the blockade. Even more uncertain than the relationship between battle and blockade was what economic warfare itself meant. In the trade division of the Naval Intelligence Division was dismantled. The Declaration of London raised the question as to what Britain could legitimately stop. Food was contraband if it was to be supplied to the army but not if it was for civilian consumption. Munitions of war were contraband, but little specific thought had been given to how to target them.

Their vision of economic war predicted chaos on the stock exchanges, the collapse of capitalism, and revolution. In Planning Armageddon , Nicholas Lambert has extracted this strand of blockade thinking to argue, selectively, that the navy had a coherent plan for a quick victory from which the British government resiled almost the moment the war broke out.

It did not. From Hankey sought to impose order on these disparate ideas by preparing a War Book, setting out the legal and financial measures required of government departments to put economic warfare in place, stop German trade, and blockade the neutral ports serving Germany.

British & American Strategies in the Revolutionary War

Hankey expected blockade to presage a long war, and he did not see it as the path to a quick victory or as an alternative to amphibious operations and the despatch of the army overseas. If the navy was a weapon intended for use against a European opponent, and an instrument of deterrence, the army was optimised to secure the British Empire. A regular, professional, and long-service force, its structure was very different from that of its European peers. In Europe, armies were conscripted and tripled in size on mobilisation to become mass armies of almost 3 million men.

The total strength of the British army on 1 August was , men. Barely a third of them, fewer than ,, were regulars, of whom almost half were then serving overseas, predominantly in India, and so were not immediately available. The balance was made up of various types of reserve, but only , were in the army reserve, ex-regulars who were liable for immediate call-up in the event of war. Britain was slow to create a general staff, the body which in other armies devoted its energies to planning. Liberals objected that, if it existed, a general staff would look for a European war.

They were right: when it was created in , it set about reviewing its options in the event of major war. A war was successfully fought with Argentina in when the latter attacked the Falkland Islands, a colony inhabited by British settlers since The most populous of Britain's remaining colonies, Hong Kong, was only handed over to China in As empire receded fast, Britain seemed a diminished power.

Nonetheless, it became the third state in the world to gain the atom bomb in, followed by the hydrogen bomb in Defence in the post-war era largely consisted of the protection of Western Europe against the threat of Soviet invasion, and Britain played a key role in this confrontation which became known as the Cold War.

The History of the British Army: From Flanders to the Falklands

Britain became an active member of international organisations, not least the United Nations, of which it was a founder member and held a permanent seat on the Security Council. Closer to home, troops were deployed in Northern Ireland from in response to an outbreak of sectarian violence, which rapidly became a major terrorist challenge. In the s, a peaceful end to the 'Troubles' was negotiated, but tension continues. In contrast to the situation in Northern Ireland, Welsh and Scottish nationalism remained essentially non-violent, and in each gained a devolved assembly exercising a considerable amount of local control.

At times, Britain itself appeared to be going the same way, as entry into the European Economic Community EEC - later European Union EU - in led to a marked erosion of national sovereignty and to a transfer of powers to Europe.

At the national level, government was controlled by the Labour Party - , - , - and onwards and its Conservative rival - , - , - , with no coalition ministries. These two parties shared major overlaps in policy throughout the post-war period, for example in maintaining free health care at the point of delivery - the basis of the National Health Service. But there were also major contrasts, particularly between and when Margaret Thatcher held power as the country's first female prime minister. The Conservatives tended to favour individual liberties and low taxation, while Labour preferred collectivist solutions and were therefore happier to advocate a major role for the state.

This was particularly evident in Labour 's support for the nationalisation of major parts of the economy during their pre governments. Most, in turn, were denationalised again under the Conservatives between and Uncertain public policy in the post-war period played a role in the marked relative decline of the British economy, which was particularly pronounced in the field of manufacturing. This contributed to a sense of national malaise in the s, which also owed much to very high inflation and to a sense that the country had become ungovernable, as strikes by coal miners led to the failure of government policies on wages.

Spending became a major expression of identity and indeed a significant activity in leisure time.

British Military History for Dummies by Perrett, Bryan. - PDF Drive

Manufacturing decline was matched by the rise in the service sector, resulting in a major change for many in the experience of work. This rise was linked to a growth in consumerism that also owed something to an extension of borrowing to more of the population. The move to hour shopping and the abolition of restrictions on Sunday trading were symptomatic of this shift. Shopping patterns also reflected social trends in other respects with, for example, a major change in the diet, as red meat declined in relative importance, while lighter meats, fish and vegetarianism all enjoyed greater popularity.

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