The Problems of the encounter battle etc RE Journal and subsequent discussion in Army Quarterly

Discussion in 'General' started by Sheldrake, Jul 18, 2021.

  1. Andreas

    Andreas Working on two books

    The issue with Norrie's plan was that it didn't take account of the enemy. It was solipsism masquerading as military planning.

    All the best

    TTH likes this.
  2. idler

    idler GeneralList

    Struggling to keep up with it all, but picking up on one of the more straightforward points:
    I'm not entirely sure that Hamilton's primary concern was positioning himself against scholarly attacks. I can understand academics trying to ringfence their subject but that's not a realistic option on a biography of such scope. I still feel the academics would struggle to prove him wrong on that point, though.

    The point re: essays was that some (could be a little, could be a lot) thinking was done without any real intention of being 'published'. Obviously, some officers were aware that there was a game to be played, but there was always the risk of it backfiring. Some of the better essays were probably steered towards the journals or AQ, either on merit or possibly as filler. Other than that, if and how original thinking from, say, staff college courses was captured, discussed and disseminated, I don't know.

    The higher level publications don't seem to have turned over a great deal during the war. Was this because they were vague enough to not be wrong? Or were doctrine and procedures moving too quickly for presses and presentation to keep up?

    I lean towards the former. The British Army taught 'principles' that applied at all levels. The main issue was that the lower levels had correspondingly less time to find the optimum compromise between the often conflicting principles for the situation confronting them. The solution was the development of procedures, then drills, as standardised shortcuts that gave commanders more time to focus on the key variables. At the extreme end of the scale, drills aimed to initiate a programmed response to work through the shock of contact.

    On the face of it, Montgomery's article is an attempt to close - or at least consider - a particular reality gap between the theory and practice. If nothing else, it demonstrates that he'd developed his 'house style' before the balloon went up.
  3. MarkN

    MarkN Banned

    I am certain that Hamilton's primary concern was not about positionning himself against scholarly attacks; surely his primary endeavor was an attempt to convince the reader that Montgomery was deserving of even greater respect or adulation or .... (insert noun of choice) than hitherto bestowed. And the manner in which he chose to do that was to (a) create the illusion that being published was evidence of greater professionalism and (b) demean Montgomery's peers. Whether the vagueness in the words he chose to define this separation were by design or accidental is open to speculation.

    Does it?

    Consideration of the encounter battle - in thought and practice - was widespread at the time. The continued development and practice of the encounter battle in light of new organization and equipment was widespread at that time. Documentary evidence shows Montgomery's thoughts were little different in detail and wholly aligned with collective understanding at the time.

    The article only demonstrates that Montgomery was thinking the same thoughts as his peers. In other words, what you call Montgomery's "house style" was really just the way the army was doing things enmasse.

    Interestingly, when it came to practice at and around the time in question, his peers were practising exactly that issue whilst he had his brigade practising something else. That comment, in isolation, may come across as a slur on Montgomery: it is not. It is a simple statement of historical fact.
  4. MarkN

    MarkN Banned

    Hello Andreas,

    Norrie gave himself a clear objective and formulated a plan to deliver it. It was wholly considerate of the enemy. It was considerate of the enemy to the extent that he even had a Plan B (of sorts) should the enemy not oblige with the ideal movement conforming to his Plan A.

    Norrie's succession of bad judgements, choices and decisions began with his impatience. On the hoof, he implemented a modified Plan B when the enemy was conforming perfectly to his original Plan A!

    I guess, in that respect he was not taking account of the enemy's actual movements, but those were battlefield decisions not planning assumptions.
  5. MarkN

    MarkN Banned

    The content of the article suggests it was formulated not long before its publication date. But how long exactly is impossible to deduce.

    From the Army List:

    MONTGOMERY, Bernard Law, C.B., D.S.O., p.s.c^.

    G.S.O.2 N.Comd. 11/5/23 to 7/1/25.
    D.A.A.G. Staff Coll. (temp.Lt.-Col.) 23/1/26 to 20/1/29.
    Inst. (G.S.O.1) Staff Coll. Quetta 29/6/34 to 28/6/37.
    Brig. Comdr. S.Comd. (temp.Brig.) 5/8/37 to 27/10/38.
    Div.Comdr. Palestine and Trans-Jordan (temp.) 28/10/38 to 22/8/39.

    It does not seem unreasonable to think he may have penned the bulk of the article whilst sailing home from India and maybe polished it after arrival.

    In the decade leading up to becomming commander 9th Brigade, his appointments were related to developing and teaching doctrine. In historical context, that he should pen such an article in 1937 is hardly extraordinary.
  6. Andreas

    Andreas Working on two books

    Not sure what you refer to by 'Plan A' and 'Plan B'?

    All the best

  7. MarkN

    MarkN Banned

    I fear if we continue this here we shall incur the wrath of the 'on topic' police. :D
  8. Andreas

    Andreas Working on two books

    Oh no!

    All the best

  9. MarkN

    MarkN Banned

    Further to the false notion that Montgomery may have been the originator or the beholder of the 'know how to win in advance' thinking, Sheldrake argued that since FSRs are at a higher level of doctrinal principle, they should not be considered in the debate - presumably due to higher level of platitude.

    War Office pamphlet 26/Manuals/1447 Infantry Training - war and training dated 31 August 1937 details guidance to infantry battalion commanders.

    It contains the following:
    Should doctrinal platitudes aimed at a lower tactical level also be discounted?

    The pamphlet was written specifically to address the doctrinal changes flowing from the reorganization of the infantry battalion and Chapter XI dealing with the Attack is predominatly concerned with encounter scenarios although the phrase "encounter battle" is not used.

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