Published on 5 Oct 2015
Thank you Plamen Ganev for helping with the research for this episode!
Bulgaria joined the ranks of the Central Powers in World War 1 in October 1915 and shortly after invaded neighbouring Serbia to support the German-Austro offensive on Belgrade. A lot of promises about territory were made towards Ferdinand I and especially the chance of getting back territories lost in the Balkan Wars was music to Bulgarian ears. Find out all about Bulgaria joining World War 1 in our special episode.
October 6, 2015
October 2, 2015
Published on 1 Oct 2015
After weeks of preparation the French and British Armies unleash a new offensive on the Western Front. Not only is it supposed to relieve pressure on the Russians on the Eastern Front but the Entente wants to achieve the decisive breakthrough. The French actually break through German trenches only to realise that they have a second line of trenches completely intact right behind the first line. The British attack at Loos also turns into carnage even though the British use gas for the first time.
September 29, 2015
James Lockhart discusses some recent revelations from the Argentine government on their side of the 1982 Falklands War:
Earlier this month, the Argentine army declassified documents showing that some officers abused other officers and soldiers under their command and subjected them to excessively harsh disciplinary measures, including torture, during the Falklands War of April to June 1982. Reportedly, this included beatings and mock executions. One lieutenant described how “another officer tied his hands and legs to this [sic] back and left him face down on the wet sand of a cold Falklands beach for eight hours.” Though declassified, these documents remain in the army’s archives, requiring a trip to Buenos Aires for anyone who wishes to read them.
Argentine Lieutenant General Benjamín Rattenbach, however, presided over an inquiry just after the war. The Rattenbach report, which Argentina’s Servicio Privado de Información, an independent news agency, has made available online, presents the junta‘s history of the Anglo–Argentine dispute from 1833 to 1982. The report critically reviews the junta’s strategic and operational planning that preceded its decision to invade the Falklands (which Argentina refers to as Las Malvinas) in 1982, and summarizes the negotiations that occurred both before and after the war. It contains insights that help us understand what was going on and why it led to some Argentine officers’ and soldiers’ maltreatment.
The Rattenbach report criticized the junta‘s political decisions, its ad hoc operational planning, and its commanders’ multiple failures in execution. In short, it found that the Falklands campaign represented an ill-conceived, poorly planned, and terribly implemented military operation, especially in the area of logistics.
The junta‘s multiple errors in judgment began becoming apparent just before its invasion began. As the report notes, “On 1 April, late in the evening, [Secretary of State] General [Alexander] Haig told Ambassador [Esteban] Takacs in Washington that he was aware of the invasion that was taking place. He asked that the operation, which would place two powers friendly to the United States at war with each other, be stopped. He offered to mediate the dispute and he warned him that if war were unleashed, the Reagan administration could not remain neutral. It would necessarily side with Britain.” Reagan telephoned the junta‘s leader, General Leopoldo Galtieri, reiterating this message to no avail.
Thus the junta‘s errors in judgment included its failure to anticipate and plan for Washington’s granting British forces use of American-controlled airfields on Ascension Island. But the junta‘s errors in judgment went deeper than this. It believed that by occupying the islands, it would force Britain to negotiate, and that would be the end of the matter. It did not plan for a British military response. Indeed, it did not begin planning for one until the Royal Navy had already put to sea.
The Rattenbach report also concludes that “logistical operations did not unfold in an acceptable manner.” In fact, Rattenbach and his colleagues describe an unmitigated disaster. When they began their investigation, they soon discovered that it was “useless to seek any coherence” in the junta‘s logistical planning before it launched the invasion, and they could discern only improvised logistical operations afterward. They cite the 5th and 12th Infantry Regiments to illustrate what this meant on the ground. These units lacked vehicles and in many cases, ammunition. There was no internal transportation system to move the supplies they did have. This reduced their combat effectiveness by 40–50 percent before anyone had even fired a shot. “LOGISTICS CANNOT BE IMPROVISED,” Rattenbach aptly insists in all caps.
Published on 28 Sep 2015
It’s time for the Chair of Wisdom again and Indy answers your questions about World War 1. In our new episode we talk about Persian and Albanian neutrality and how it was ignored by the Entente and the Central Powers. David, our producer, also explains how he creates the soundtrack for our show.
Trevor Dupuy was a US soldier and a military historian who took a statistical approach to evaluating combat performance. He paid particular attention to casualty statistics. Casualties – in case you did not know – include deaths but also include wounded, missing and captured. They answer the general’s question: how many men do I have who are able to fight?
Of course, statistics aren’t everything. For instance, the North Vietnamese took vastly more casualties in the Vietnam War than the Americans but they still won. But all things being equal, being able to kill more of your enemy than he can kill of you is a good thing to be able to do.
In A Genius for War Dupuy enquired into the nature of the German army. He found that the statistics told a remarkable story: the German army was very good and had been for a long time. From the Franco-Prussian War to the Second World War the Germans were consistently better at killing the enemy than the enemy were at killing them.
Now you may be thinking that such comparisons might be skewed due to the Russians and Dupuy found that that the Russians were indeed every bit as bad as you might think. But even when he removed the Russian numbers Dupuy found that the Germans still held a clear and consistent superiority over the French, British and Americans. This superiority existed regardless of whether the engagement was offensive or defensive.
Chauvinists might be surprised to learn that there seems to have been no great difference between the western allies. French and British performance was more or less equal in the First World War. British and American performance was more or less equal in the second. The Americans in the First World War and the French in the Second are special cases.
Having satisfied himself that the German army was indeed superior, Dupuy asked why this was. His key finding was that there seemed to be nothing inherent in being German. Dupuy found a number of historical examples where the Germans proved to be anything but good fighters. These included largely-German units in the American War of Independence and various battles between German mercenaries and the Swiss.
So, if being German didn’t make you a good soldier what did? Dupuy’s theory was that it was all due to the German General staff. So what was so good about the General Staff? Dupuy listed several criteria. These included selection by examination, historical study and objective analysis. In other words it was an institution that thought seriously about war.
Patrick Crozier, “What Trevor Dupuy says about the German military”, Samizdata, 2015-08-24.
September 28, 2015
Published on 17 May 2015
In 1815, eight miles south of Brussels, two of history’s greatest generals met in battle for the first and only time: Napoleon Bonaparte, Emperor of the French, and the Duke of Wellington. The result was an epic, brutal battle that would decide the fate of Europe.
September 27, 2015
Published on 27 Aug 2015
What’s the matter, Tommy… are ze Germans coming? Actually yes, they are and they’re in dirty great Battleships! I think we’re going to need bigger guns…
September 26, 2015
There’s this underlying tone, whenever you see people talking about the “Jewish-Bolshevik conspiracy to destroy Germany” and the “stab in the back” theory of why Germany lost World War I, that the latter was come up with out of whole cloth by the German aristocracy and military while the former was Hitler’s own insane twist on the theory.
Unfortunately, neither one of those statements is entirely true. First, while Germany would have ended up losing World War I even without its internal issues, the fact of the matter is that the morale issues and general disaffection that led the German high command to sue for peace in 1918 were exacerbated by socialist agitation. The most obvious result of this was the Kiel mutiny, when the sailors of the German navy refused to go out and have a last “glorious” battle with the British and proceeded to set up a socialist-led soldiers and workers council, and eventually forced the German government to overthrow the Kaiser. In other words, the “stab in the back” happened — it’s just that it was more of a result of Germany’s loss of the war than the cause of it.
As to the “Jewish-Bolshevik conspiracy” — well, the awkward thing is that a disproportionate amount of Jews were involved in leftism in this period. Many of the leaders of the Spartacus League, which was heavily involved in the 1919 Spartacist uprising that attempted to take over Berlin, were Jewish, as were many within the Bolshevik uprising in Russia itself. The reason for this, of course, was that a disproportionate number of Jews were intellectuals, and intellectuals are often attracted to leftism. Now, the emphasis on Judaism was part and parcel of a longstanding pattern of German and European anti-Semitism, while the destruction of Germany/the German people was a case of a toxic combination of “They believe, as I do, that their policies are bad for Germany” and projection.
However, it should be noted that both of these theories, like all the really powerful lies, had a little kernel of truth in them, and a lot of belief behind them. There had been a socialist uprising in Germany that served as the straw that broke the camel’s back, and there were a number of Jews involved in the German left.
Sarah Hoyt, “Social Injustice – 60 Guilders”, According to Hoyt, 2015-07-31.
September 25, 2015
Published on 24 Sep 2015
When the Germans take Vilnius, they set their plans of “germanizing” the whole area into motion. Erich Ludendorff believes that Courland and other areas near East Prussia are culturally German and that he’s returning them to the Fatherland. While the Russian Army is now in a much better defensive position after their Great Retreat, civil unrest across the country is becoming a problem. Huge losses and the difficult supply situation are making it difficult to maintain order. At the same time, Bulgaria is mobilizing her troops, foreshadowing yet another front in this World War.
September 22, 2015
Published on 21 Sep 2015
Even though there was only one major naval battle in the Atlantic during World War 1, the navies played a huge role during the entire conflict. From troop transports to supplies and from unrestricted submarine warfare to the landing at Gallipoli: The life of a sailor in the Great War was dangerous. And it wasn’t just the Atlantic Ocean, the Mediterranean Sea was full of navies and battle ships. Especially fairly new ship types like the submarine or the Dreadnought were a force to be reckoned with.
The good folks at Strategy Page look at the last decade or so of the Canadian military, with an emphasis on the Canadian Special Operations Regiment:
In the last decade the Canadian defense budget has stayed about the same ($18 billion a year, adjusted for inflation) but the emphasis has changed. Now it’s all about new equipment for Canadian special operations troops, especially the Special Operations Regiment, a unit similar to the American Special Forces which Canada began forming a decade ago. That effort was a success, especially for the peacekeeping type operations Canada is so active in. Despite the enthusiasm for special operations the situation was different in 2006. That was because after cutting defense spending sharply since 1991 (and the end of the Cold War) there were more serious military problems to deal with. Back then it was agreed that the 1990s cuts were too deep and over $15 billion was allocated to improving transportation and logistical capabilities. Most of the new money went to replacing aging transport helicopters, and buying two logistical support ships, 21 transport aircraft and 2,300 trucks.
Canada’s defense spending, like everyone else’s, shrunk after the Cold War ended in 1991. For Canada, their lowest annual defense budget was $8.4 billion in 1998. Per capita, that was less than a third of what the United States was spending. At that point, spending began to increase in the face of a growing number of media stories on how Canadian troops were struggling with worn out, inoperable or unavailable weapons and equipment. A decade ago a new government got into office partially on its pledge to finally address all the material shortcomings in the military. Canada’s current defense budget is much higher as a result of that. Yet the Canadian defense spending is still less than half of what the United States spends, per capita. But during the Cold War, Canada deferred to the United States in most defense matters, including dealing with nuclear weapons threats, and protecting North America from foreign attack. While Canada outspent the United States, per capita, during both World Wars, this was reversed after World War II, when America became the main participant in the Cold War effort to contain the Soviet Union.
Apparently, the 750 man Canadian Special Operations Regiment is not a clone of the U.S. Special Forces. That’s because the basic training for Special Forces troops takes two to three years, and it then takes another few years in the field before the troops are ready for anything. Canada has had a small commando force for decades [the JTF2], and that provided the initial cadre of trainers and training facilities for the new regiment. The r Special Operations Regiment was, at least, initially closer in capability to the U.S. Army Rangers, who are very well trained light infantry. Over the next decade more members of the regiment will be put through the years of specialized training that will bring them up to something approaching the U.S. Special Forces standard. The American and Canadian ground forces have worked together for generations, so there will probably be some assistance from the U.S. Special Forces, to help the Canadians get going.
September 19, 2015
Published on 7 Jun 2013
After great feedbacks from my previous Gurkha videos I decided to upload another one, this time more in depth and informative. Thanks for all the support guys and enjoy 😀
Gurkhas have been part of the British Army for almost 200 years, but who are these fearsome Nepalese fighters?
“Better to die than be a coward” is the motto of the world-famous Nepalese Gurkha soldiers who are an integral part of the British Army.
They still carry into battle their traditional weapon – an 18-inch long curved knife known as the kukri.
In times past, it was said that once a kukri was drawn in battle, it had to “taste blood” – if not, its owner had to cut himself before returning it to its sheath.
Update: Pound-for-pound, the Gurkhas are the baddest of bad-asses you’d never want to meet on a battlefield.
Polite Canadian society does not like to admit, though it is perfectly understood, that Canada’s presence is but dust in the military balance. It’s been about half a century since anyone regarded the Canadian military as a significant player. Current events in Iraq are not, whatever some conservatives might imagine, a replay of World War Two. This is a minor policing operation in which the middle powers are providing diplomatic cover for the actions of the Great Powers.
Among the relatively large nations of human history Canada is almost unique in one respect: We don’t strictly speaking need a military. There has not been a direct existential threat to Canada in more than a century. The only nation capable of invading is the one nation that would never try. Our security has been under written by either Britain or the United States for over two centuries. Tomorrow we could dispense with the whole of the Canadian Forces and, leaving aside the communities in which our few military bases are located, I doubt anyone would notice.
So why have a military when we don’t really need one?
Richard Anderson, “Macho Man”, The Gods of the Copybook Headings, 2014-10-10.
September 18, 2015
Published on 17 Sep 2015
This week Indy dissects a contemporary source from autumn 1915 – the Hobart Mercury newspaper from Australia. You can find the whole newspaper right here: http://trove.nla.gov.au/ndp/del/article/10429329
While the French and British prepare a new offensive on the Western Front, their Entente ally Russia is still suffering in the East when Germany is moving on the last big Russian city of Vilnius. Even though the propaganda says otherwise, the situation for the ANZACs in Gallipoli still looks grim.