Guide British General Staff: Reform and Innovation (Military History and Policy)

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Consequently, Entente plans were forced surrender the strategic initiative to the Germans. No potential conflict of interest was reported by the author. Collet, , Witte et al. Brussels, , Thomas Publishing, ; Samuel R.

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Cass, , 68; and Matthew S. Cohn , Barnardiston, M. Churchill, The World Crisis — vol. Temperley ed. Sir E.

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It cannot be induced to march, nor operate. It can absolutely not exist in the long run. It may only be induced to strike. View all notes Thus, the staff expended much effort on drawing up detailed mobilisation plans involving the extensive use of railways.

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View all notes He, therefore, actively encouraged its incorporation into the Army and wrote much on its use. But understanding of the French positions was vague and many assumed that the French would not concentrate in Metz but continue their movement westward.

'Selection by disparagement': Lord Esher, the General Staff and the politics of command, 1904-14.

The 1st Army, on the Prussian right, was to attack St Privat, IX Corps from 2nd Army, in the centre, was to attack at Verneville and the remainder of 2nd Army was to sweep round to the west and conduct an enveloping movement from the north. That the Prussians carried the day, and encircled the French in Metz, had more to do with the failure of the French to switch to the attack having won the defence than overall Prussian superiority in battle. While Moltke must carry some of the blame for the Prussian disasters the main responsibility for misjudging the positions of the French must lie with Prince Frederick Charles.

On 21 August Moltke gave orders for a continued advance westward and reorganised the Prussian forces from three armies into two groups. The first group, which consisted of four corps from 2nd Army and 1st Army under Prince Frederick Charles was left to invest Metz.

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Moltke had very limited information on the dispositions of the French and did not get firm indications that Marshal Patrice MacMahon had moved north until the night of 25 August. Taking a risk Moltke wheeled the Prussian armies round to the right to march north towards Sedan and directed that two additional corps join the force from Metz. On 27 August when Prussian forces had occupied Stenay and virtually barred French movement westwards Moltke and his staff realised what lay within their grasp: the possibility of encircling the French against the Belgium frontier. On 30 August Moltke ordered the Meuse Army to march down the east bank of the river and 3rd Army to move north and seal off the French with its left wing.

The two armies responded enthusiastically and on the evening of 31 August he ordered 3rd Army to close the mouth of the trap and attack at dawn the next day. Moltke could not believe that MacMahon intended to accept battle in so unfavourable position and thought that he would attempt to move but issued no further orders and he left it to the army commanders to continue the advance lines as laid down on 30 August. The battle fought on 1 September was one in which an encircled French army, with no clear direction, was doomed to failure.

The Germans lost 9, officers and men while the French had losses of , killed, wounded or captured. Fuller, one of the foremost military thinkers of his time, came from a nation, which, at the time of his writing, did not ascribe to a command doctrine. Rather the British way was to rely on improvisation and the hope that the right man would turn up. He argued that the directive system prevented Moltke seizing opportunities and that he had not foreseen the French encirclement at Sedan.

He developed a staff system that placed small numbers of elite, highly trained staff officers in key appointments and gave them considerable authority and influence — well beyond what we currently assign to our chiefs of staff — but the system could not cope with commanders who did not understand the concept of directive command or take the advice of their staff.

General Steinmetz, the commander of 1st Army, whose appointment had been greeted with surprise, is a case in point. Despite the fact that Steinmetz had emerged from the war with Austria with an excellent reputation he was wilful, obstinate and did not understand what Moltke had been trying to achieve with the Prussian Army during his tenure as CGS. But there were many cases where it worked. For example, his instructions to the Crown Prince of Saxony at the head of the Army of the Meuse, on 27 August, to wheel north in pursuit of the French empowered the Prince to act on his own, but Moltke sent him Lieutenant Colonel Julius von Verdy Head of the General Staff Intelligence section to ensure that the Prince acted in accordance with his intent.

With the right commanders the system of directive command was very powerful, allowing the Prussian Army to make considerable use of the many opportunities with which it was presented. The rapid Prussian victories over Austria in and France in compelled European armies to examine their own systems. The Cardwell reforms of the early s being the British product, but his reforms did not give much attention to adopting the German staff system.

It was with the publication of the Esher report in that the British Army General Staff began to take shape. Lord Esher, and his committee, could see the tensions in central Europe and felt that it was only a matter of time before Britain was drawn into conflict. They proposed that the War Office be reorganised to prepare the Army for war. The General Staff was to consist of three directorates: military operations, staff duties and military training with a number of posts in the Field Army bringing it to a total strength of Importantly the Directorate of Military Operations was given the sole task of planning for war.

The result was a compromise, in which it was decided not to form a special corps but that general staff officers would receive accelerated promotion. The appointment of Lord Kitchener as Secretary of State for War in was a set back for the staff as he neither understood nor recognised its function and the dispatch to France, with the British Expeditionary Force, of a large proportion of its members depleted its numbers. The General Staff structure survived, in concept, through both world wars and is little changed today.

From to , with the exception of World War I the British Army was a colonial force in both organisation and outlook. Small wars and vastly differing theatres, required differing solutions, encouraged the dominance of individualism over the standardisation and doctrine adopted by the larger European armies, whose focus was on war in central Europe.

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The large influx of men into the Army for World War II, who were not well trained, constrained commanders in what they could do with the forces at their disposal. View all notes Montgomery attempted to eliminate risk from the planning process by exhaustive study and thought, but his approach was not the result of a common command doctrine: it was developed from the British tradition of individualism. Surprisingly in the aftermath of World War II and the Cold War, when for the first time we had a large standing army committed on mainland Europe, it took until the late s for a command doctrine to be formally adopted: Mission Command.


Undoubtedly many commanders had practised this style of command in the previous years but what had been missing was a common doctrine. View all notes Mission command is designed to promote a robust system of command and to achieve unity of effort at all levels; it is dependent on decentralisation. At its heart it requires mutual trust and understanding between commander and subordinates at all levels of the chain of command. In , he became lecturer in war studies at King's College London.

He was promoted to reader in war studies in , professor of military history in , and professor emeritus in Bond served as visiting professor at the University of Western Ontario in —73 and was visiting lecturer at the U. Naval War College in —