Quotulatiousness

June 6, 2017

Austro-Hungarian Uniforms of World War 1 I THE GREAT WAR Special

Filed under: Europe, History, Military — Tags: , , , , — Nicholas @ 05:00

Published on 5 Jun 2017

For more details on Austro-Hungarian Uniforms: http://www.austro-hungarian-army.co.uk/

Austria-Hungary fielded probably the most diverse army of World War 1, the troops also had a proud tradition going back decades that influenced their uniform design as much as local customs. During the course of the war, the Habsburg Empire also suffered from a lack of supplies and still needed to modernise their equipment.

Where was the Luftwaffe on D-Day? – German Response to Operation Overlord, Normandy

Filed under: France, Germany, History, Military — Tags: , , — Nicholas @ 04:00

Published on 26 May 2017

The 73 Anniversary of D-Day is nearly upon us so let us talk about the Luftwaffe‘s involvement in the Battle of Normandy!

Should the UK general election have been postponed?

Filed under: Britain, Politics — Tags: , , , , , — Nicholas @ 03:00

Colby Cosh discusses the (relatively few) calls to postpone the British general election in the wake of the recent terror attacks on British cities:

History repeats itself, first as tragedy, then as farce: so said Marx. He was making a joke about the second Emperor Napoleon, and it is still the first thing everybody remembers about the man; it is thus one of the greatest bon mots in the history of journalism. And it is, incidentally, the only law of history devised by Marx that actually works.

We have seen it applied in England by Muslim fanatics this past fortnight. The May 22 attack on Manchester Arena by a radicalized local seems to have involved high technical sophistication, and possibly assistance from an international network of terrorism suppliers. The target was chosen so as to victimize children and to involve a celebrity. (Ariana Grande had been on nobody’s list of people likely to provide a shining global example of civil courage, but here we are!) The killer’s plan was followed through with heartbreaking competence.

Then came the Saturday night attack on London Bridge. I have to be careful in discussing it: seven people are dead and dozens more have suffered life-altering injuries or horror in the rampage. But we are also under an important obligation to keep these things in perspective. Next to the attack on Manchester the London Bridge assault—undertaken with a van, some knives, and fake (!?) suicide vests—looks like a poorly considered, even improvised, terrorist lark. You would say it sounded like something out of a satirical movie parody of Muslim terrorists if Chris Morris hadn’t already made Four Lions.

[…]

Even the “suspension” of political activity by the major parties was more hypothetical than real after the London Bridge incident, with both Prime Minister Theresa May and Opposition Leader Jeremy Corbyn using the time to needle one another in public statements. May is a former home secretary, and was thus a longtime head of a public security apparatus that seems to have been deaf to warnings about the murderers behind both terror incidents. Corbyn, meanwhile, spent decades as the sort of leftist-bookshop-haunting radical uncle who never has an unkind word for a terrorist or rogue state.

An election campaign is not a good time to stamp out talk about terrorism. And under these circumstances, the argument between the main parties could not fail to be somewhat sharp and personal. But what are the general principles for interrupting or diminishing election campaigning in the face of terror? We can imagine harder cases than this one. And the problem is not quite the same as the mere logistical issue of when an election must be delayed or prolonged because of terrorism. It is, as I say, an issue of etiquette, one that perhaps defies formula.

D-Day in Colour

Filed under: Britain, France, Germany, History, Military, USA — Tags: , , — Nicholas @ 02:00

Published on 1 May 2017

(c) D-Day in Colour (2004), narrated by John Hurt

D-Day, 6th June 1944: the launch of Operation Overlord. The battle that began the liberation of Europe. The last moment the German Army might have rescued the fate of Adolf Hitler. The beginning of the end of the Second World War. D-Day is a date permanently etched in our nation’s memory.

From the makers of Britain At War In Colour, this documentary takes an in-depth look at the events and experiences of the greatest sea-borne invasion in history, focusing on the personal stories of those involved including not only the men in combat but also the family and friends anxiously awaiting news of their loved ones.

Narrated by John Hurt, D-Day In Colour relives the events of those decisive yet perilous days and reflects on the private triumphs and personal tragedies that proved crucial to the outcome of the Second World War. It provides an intimate first-hand account of the arduous months and crucial hours that shaped the future peace of the civilised world. The vivid colour film and personal witness material combine with original sound archive to illustrate the reality of battle, the complexity of human emotions and the sacrifices that were made in the fateful summer of 1944.

QotD: Comparing general staff “systems”

Filed under: Germany, History, Military, Quotations — Tags: , — Nicholas @ 01:00

Throughout the 20th century and into the 21st there have been, largely, two staff systems:

  • The continental system ~ which is used by most European armies and also used by the American and many, many Asian armies;
  • The imperial, or British staff system which was used by the Canadian Army throughout most of the 20th century.

The two are fundamentally different.

The continental system is based on the great and impressive German General Staff system which grew up in the 19th century based on lessons learned in the Napoleonic Wars and then relearned in inter alia the Franco-Prussian Wars. The imperial system came later and reflected British thinking about what the Germans had formalized.

The best way to see the difference is to look at how the commanders and staff relate. In a French or German battalion ~ at least this was the case a few years ago ~ a company (100 to 150 soldiers) is commanded by a captain; there are only two or three officers in the company. The battalion, three, for or five companies, is commander by a lieutenant colonel, and there is a major deputy commander. The battalion staff consists of:

  • S1 – personnel officer – a captain
  • S2 – intelligence officer – a captain, sometimes a major
  • S3 – operations officer – a major
  • S4 – logistics officer – a major
  • S5 – plans officer – a captain, often a major

For the German captain, company commander, looking “up the chain,” all he sees is higher ranks and he will never be blamed for being unsure if the commanding officer or the operations officer is the real “boss.” Ditto for French and American officers whose command-staff relationships are very, very similar. One of the great strengths of the German General Staff system was it “coherence.” The staff, at every level, was part of a single, coherent whole that stretched top to bottom from Berlin to the smallest battalion in the field. It is part of what made the German General Staff so famous and so feared by enemy armies. But the British, especially in 1914-18, saw a flaw in the continental system. The soldiers and commanders in the battalions and brigades in the trenches saw the general staff as being too remote, and even comfortable ~ removed from the horrors of combat and, consequently, many felt, making poor staff decisions. The system of the staff out-ranking subordinate commanders extends all the way to the top of the US Army and most European armies. Higher rank staff officers tend to build bigger and bigger HQs, too.

The British adapted the imperial system so that is was always crystal clear that commanders, from company up, always outranked and “out-appointed” the staff. Consider a British or Canadian battalion, also with, say, five companies. Like the US or European battalion the commanding officer is a lieutenant colonel, but each company commander is a major and the staff are:

  • Adjutant (S1/personnel) – a captain
  • Intelligence officer (S2) – a lieutenant, maybe a captain
  • Operations officer (S3 and S5) – a captain, but, after about 1944 usually a major by “misemploying” the HQ Company commander
  • Quartermaster (s4) – a captain

So a British or Australian or Canadian or Indian major, company commander, looking “up the chain” saw that there was no one between him (or her) and the CO except officers of equal or lower rank. The same applied, top to bottom: Field Marshal Montgomery’s (famously able) chief of staff was a major general … but you can be 100% certain that when Major-General Sir Francis Wilfred “Freddie” de Guingand, a two star level officer, phoned General (four stars) Henry Duncan Graham “Harry” Crerar, commander of the 1st Canadian Army in 1944/45 was wakened up and took the call because Monty’s chief-of-staff only dealt with important people and important matters. Rank didn’t really matter: de Guingand didn’t need any more stars ~ his appointment and ability both spoke (loudly) for themselves.

One result was that imperial (Commonwealth) armies tended to have smaller and lower ranked HQs, top to bottom.

There is no empirical proof that the continental staff system is better than the imperial one. The German General Staff was, indeed, superb, but that didn’t help, in 1944/45 when the German divisions and regiments and battalions were being defeated in detail on the front lines. Ditto in Korea and Vietnam: large numbers of excellent staff officers and superior communications systems didn’t help (and may have hindered) when the (first French and then) American brigades and battalions were being beaten in the jungles and rice paddies. The British, too, were defeated in battle ~ Dunkirk, Hong Kong, Singapore ~ but there is no evidence that bad operational staff work was to blame.

Ted Campbell, “The foundation (2)”, Ted Campbell’s Point of View, 2017-02-21.

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