The First Two Generations of Modern War

First-Generation War

Although Lind and his fellow authors outlined the changes between the generations of modern war, it is essential to understand what caused these generational shifts. The article states that each of the first three generations evolved in response to technical solutions to specific tactical challenges.

Although tactical challenges clearly had an impact, attributing the generational changes in warfare primarily to military factors oversimplifies the problem. In fact, the forces involved could execute those tactics only because of the major political, economic, social, and technical changes that preceded them.

The first generation of war grew not just from the invention of gunpowder but also from the political, economic, and social structures that developed as Europe transitioned from a feudal system to a system of nation-states ruled by monarchs. The transition from the “chivalry” of feudal knights to the armies of Napoleon required centuries. This time was required not only to develop reliable firearms but, more important, to develop the political system, the wealth-generating national economies, the social structures, and the technologies capable of sustaining the mass armies of the Napoleonic era. During this time, the first generation of modern war evolved slowly, in consonance with the societies of western Europe. It peaked with the massive armies of the Napoleonic Wars of the early 19th century.

Politically, warfare of the size and complexity of Napoleonic war required the evolution of the nation-state. Only the resources of a nation-state could raise, train, equip, and sustain the massive armies of the French Revolution. The consolidation of the nation-state’s power and the nation’s transition from the private domain of a monarch allowed for the mobilization of its wealth, ingenuity, and manpower in support of a war.

The colonization of America provided a major economic stimulus that allowed countries to field larger, more technically advanced armies—the arrival of gold and silver from the New World. Although this led to tremendous inflation, it also vastly increased the coinage in circulation, which stimulated economic growth. Both the population and the gross domestic product (GDP) per person were increasing significantly faster than prior to 1500.

Economically, major advances in agriculture and transportation were essential to generating the wealth and resources required to field and sustain large armies. Improved agriculture and higher-yield crops arriving from America increased farmers’ productivity and reduced the labor necessary to achieve these levels of productivity. The combination increased the overall wealth of the nation, provided additional food for major armies, and, by freeing manpower from agriculture, provided an increase in the available manpower for mobilization.

As the wealth and trade of European society increased, so did the transportation network. Although the speed and displacement of ships at sea increased rapidly during this period, the dramatic increases came in the road and inland barge transportation networks across western Europe. Although these changes took place over centuries, they were essential to building the economic base that could both sustain and move much larger armies across Europe. In 1415 at Agincourt, about 31,000 men fought: 6,000 British and 25,000 French. In contrast, by 1815, at Waterloo, more than 200,000 men were present.

Socially, the development of a genuine feeling of patriotism in the mass of men making up the armed forces was essential to enable Napoleonic warfare. The French Revolution brought this feeling to the European continent, and the impact was obvious. Suddenly, warfare did not involve only royalty, a small professional army, and the treasure of a country—it involved the entire population. It was only this sense of patriotism that allowed the poorly trained French infantry to press home costly attacks against opposing armies. It was this enthusiasm that could provide a continuous supply of manpower to support the famous column attacks.

With the early success of the French, the other European powers had to widen the base of their forces, and the concept of nationalism began its transition to the other nations of Europe. This social change carried forward into succeeding generations of war.

Technically, mass production of the reliable, smoothbore musket, development of lightweight artillery, and the advent of rudimentary fast, long-distance communication via visual telegraph all contributed to the evolution of the first generation of modern war. Massed manpower had been the rule in ancient Greece and Rome and had even been a major part of war during the Middle Ages. However, the combination of changes across society provided the much larger armies and massed direct-fire weapons that marked the culmination of the first generation of war at Waterloo.

Clearly, evolution from medieval warfare to the first generation of modern war required significant change in the political, economic, social, and technological structures of the time.

Second-Generation War

Like the first generation of war, the second generation did not grow just from improvements in weaponry. It, too, required changes across the spectrum of human activity. Although the political structure of the nation-state was essentially in place at the end of the Napoleonic Wars, the state’s power to tax and enforce taxes increased dramatically during the hundred years between Waterloo and the Miracle of the Marne.

Even more important than an increase in the ability to levy and collect taxes was much vaster wealth to tax. The GDP per person in western Europe almost tripled from 1800 to 1915, while the population increased about fifty percent. The combination of increased GDP per person, major population increases, and significantly better government control massively increased the wealth available to the national governments of Europe.

A great deal of this increase in wealth can be attributed to the rapid industrialization of western Europe and North America. Second-generation war required both the wealth generated by an industrial society and the sheer volume of output that only such a society can produce. Industry had to first design and then mass produce the weapons and the huge quantities of ammunition they consumed.

Even these exceptional production capabilities alone would not allow nations to apply second-generation warfare. The transportation systems also had to mature. In particular, extensive rail systems and their supporting telegraph networks were necessary to move the armies and their mountains of supplies. Although telegraphs were built primarily to support railroads, they proved essential to the national level control and coordination of these greatly enlarged forces. In sum, the economies of all participants had to expand enormously before the massive armies of World War I could be raised, transported, and supported. Further, the European nations had to develop logistically effective general staffs to combine these national assets, mobilize them, transport them, and then hurl them against the nation’s enemies.

Finally, second-generation war was not possible without the patriotic enthusiasm that brought millions of men to the colors and held them there through four years of catastrophic losses. In fact, the collapse of Russia’s armies can be traced largely to the fact that the Czar and his officers could not generate that kind of patriotism in their ranks. Even in the West, it was a close thing, as evidenced by the French army mutinies of 1917.

All these factors—political, economic, social, and technical—came together to create the stalemate of World War I. Even at the earliest stages of the war, it was obvious that the defense had gained the upper hand. It is clear from numerous diaries and histories that most professional soldiers of 1914 were surprised by the way warfare had changed. The question we need to explore is, should they have been surprised, or should they have been able to anticipate the change by studying recent conflicts?

Stalemate Foreshadowed?

Several key factors normally associated with second-generation war (2GW) drove the supremacy of the defense over the offense: machine guns, magazine-fed rifles, rapid-fire artillery, and barbed wire. The combined effect of these elements took away freedom of movement and forced both sides to rely on firepower—mostly indirect firepower—in tactical engagements.

Just as important to the defense was the extensive use of railroads—first for mobilization, then to swiftly shift reserves behind lines. The ability to shift troops by rail and detrain them close to the fight gave the defense a marked advantage over the offense. The defense’s reserves and supplies moved directly to the point they were defending, over well-developed rail and then road networks. In contrast, the offense could move troops only by rail to their pre-offensive assembly areas. The troops then had to move by foot across the horribly chewed-up terrain between the trenches. Even more difficult, the attacker’s artillery and logistics had to traverse the same devastated terrain.

The telegraph also played a key role in the stalemate of World War I. It permitted the coordination of armies fighting over a continental land mass. It allowed both sides to communicate the need for reinforcements at critical points and then coordinate the railroad movement of those forces. Combined with the superior mobility on the defense side of the line, it allowed the defense to shift forces to defeat any initial offensive successes.

Unlike the weapons, which could be mass produced for the war, the rail and telegraph networks had to be essentially in place upon commencement of hostilities. Although both sides would lay branch rail lines and send telegraph communications forward to key command posts, the backbones of both systems were in place in 1914. Thus, professional soldiers had ample opportunity to study the utility of rail and communications right up to the start of the war.

In fact, the mobilization plans of both sides not only relied on, but were driven by, railroad timetables and the staffs’ ability to control them, using the telegraph. The remarkable thing is that, despite intensive prewar study of the effectiveness of railroads moving troops to distant points, neither side seemed to see how both rail and telegraph favored the defense as it retracted onto its own communications and transportation system while the attacker had to build his as he advanced.

These technologies were the final products of the political, social, and economic changes between Waterloo and 1914. If the thesis of this book is correct, that warfare evolves over time and that the elements of each generation are visible for decades before they “surprise” the world, then each of these elements should have been present in earlier conflicts.

In fact, everything commonly believed to be distinct to World War I was present by 1864 in the U.S. Civil War. In General Grant’s final drive south, we see a direct preview of World War I. What starts as a campaign of movement eventually bogged down in trench warfare. Just like their successors in 1914, both sides found it impossible to dislodge an entrenched enemy. Bruce Catton says, “The hard fact was that by 1864 good troops using rifles and standing in well-built trenches and provided with sufficient artillery support simply could not be dislodged by any frontal assault whatever.”

The net result of three years’ experience meant that the firing lines changed from the Napoleonic volley exchanged between standing battalions at point-blank range to individual fire from deep trench lines. The outcome was obvious: the soldier in a trench had only his head exposed, whereas the attacking soldier had his entire body exposed. Firepower could now stop any attacker.

Although troops learned fairly early that the combination of rifled musket fire and rapid-fire artillery could prevent an attacking force from overwhelming a defense, the commanders and staffs were much slower to learn. Throughout the 1863 and 1864 campaigns in the east, both Union and Confederate officers ordered repeated direct frontal attacks on dug-in positions. None succeeded.

Further foreshadowing the First World War was the extensive use both sides made during the Civil War of railroads to shift reserves and sustain forces. They also used the telegraph to coordinate campaigns over the breadth of a continent.

In summary, all the key elements that made defense supreme in World War I were present in late 1864. The outcome was the same as it would be in 1914: the defense had the upper hand. Yet somehow, the professional soldiers of all armies (including ours) missed the lesson. Even more remarkable is the fact that the lessons were repeated in both the Boer War and the Russo-Japanese War—and were still not understood by Western armies.

It is clear that the transition from first to second generation was anything but sudden. It evolved over decades. From the early battles of the U.S. Civil War to the battlefields of South Africa and the trenches of the Far East, war provided repeated, clear examples of the effect that political, economic, social, and technical changes were having on warfare.

Transition to Third-Generation Warfare

At 4:45 a.m. on September 1, 1939, the German army invaded Poland. By September 19, they forced the surrender of the last Polish army in the field. Eight days later, they completed mopping up the stubborn Polish resistance in Warsaw. The popular view is that Germany overwhelmed Poland with a massive mechanized attack that quickly overran the outdated Polish army.

In fact, the vast majority of the German army was foot mobile and was supplied by horsedrawn transport. Of the thirty-four German divisions in the attack, only six were Panzer divisions and an additional four were “light” divisions. The other twenty-four were essentially World War I infantry divisions, with horsedrawn wagons carrying all their heavy weapons, artillery, and logistics support.

Further dissipating the impact of massed mechanized formations is the fact that the Army Group South commander parceled out his armor throughout his infantry formations. Only Guderian, commanding Army Group North, massed his two panzer and two light divisions into a hard striking corps. Thus, the German army that overran Poland was not a transformational force but a highly competent army struggling to make use of new weapons and formations. Like all their predecessors, the soldiers were learning as they fought.

One of the most remarkable aspects of the birth and development of blitzkrieg is the action of the German army after its astonishingly rapid victory over Poland. Although most armies would have rested on their laurels, the German army conducted a detailed, even brutal critique of its own performance. It then began an intensive, demanding training program to overcome the deficiencies identified during its review of the Polish campaign.

In contrast to the Germans, who were training furiously in preparation for the inevitable clash, the French army remained inactive, snug in the Maginot Line, lacking the imagination to see how warfare had already changed. Its allies, the British, were desperately trying to expand their small peacetime army to a wartime footing. Lacking time, equipment, and trained personnel, they had no choice but to expand on existing-force structure and doctrine. They, too, had failed to understand what had happened in Poland. Neither army made a concerted effort to understand how Germany had so quickly defeated Poland. “Sitzkrieg” not only described the level of combat over the winter of 1939–40 but also the level of preparation on the Allied side.

Due to the intensive retraining, the force the Germans unleashed on France on May 10, 1940, incorporated the lessons learned from the Polish campaign. The Germans succeeded in making these lessons part of their operational and tactical art. Although still primarily an infantry army, the Germans organized their armored forces into Panzer Corps and used them to shatter the cohesion of the Allied forces. The result was another astonishing victory. Britain was evacuating its forces from Dunkirk only sixteen days after the invasion. France lasted only another month. In contrast to four bloody years of stalemate in World War I, the German’s conquered France in weeks. The victory stunned the Western powers. They were certain the Germans had created an entirely new form of warfare.

Third-generation warfare had arrived. Yet, as with previous generations of war, it was not just the militaries’ response to specific tactical problems that drove the evolution of this generation of war. The evolution of 3GW required political, economic, social, and technological conditions to be right.

The political and social atmospheres of the opposing sides were critical to the difference in development. While the politically unified state that permitted 3GW still existed throughout Europe, the social contract between governed and governors had been dramatically altered by the First World War.

In the democracies, people no longer had blind faith in the institutions of government. Virtually every family in Britain and France had lost at least one male relative to the apparently pointless slaughter in the trenches. The Allies had mobilized almost twenty-eight million men and had suffered almost twelve million casualties. The populace of the Allied nations rightly blamed these staggering losses on failures of both their governments and their militaries.

The German people, despite suffering proportionately heavier casualties—six million of eleven million mobilized—did not react in the same fashion at all. They never withdrew support from their armed forces. In fact, the armed forces remained a respected institution in the German government. Over time, the Germans developed the myth of the “stab in the back.” They came to believe that their army had not been defeated on the field of battle but, rather, had been betrayed by subversive elements in the civilian sector.

Thus, the political conditions were very different in the interwar period. Hitler was able to use the myth as part of his propaganda and rise to power. Although the Treaty of Versailles was specifically designed to keep Germany from developing a powerful army, Hitler’s political will allowed the German army to begin rebuilding years ahead of the Allies. Although the Versailles treaty restricted Germany’s technical research to a certain degree, it did not prevent the army from applying the lessons it learned from World War I in building the new army.

Despite Hitler’s buildup and the understanding by many British officers that Germany was the primary threat to Britain, the Chamberlain government did not change its official policy until February 1939. Only seven months before the outbreak of hostilities on the mainland, the British army was finally given permission to prepare for that war.

Although no French government adopted the open hostility toward and neglect of its armed forces that the British did, neither did the French prepare for war. Content to focus on the deeply flawed concept of the Maginot Line, they simply failed to prepare their army until it was too late.

Although the political climate varied greatly between the future belligerents, the economic factors were similar. The Great Depression severely limited funds available during the early to mid-thirties. But the impact varied greatly, according to each government’s willingness to expend scarce resources on its military forces—and its officers’ willingness to test new concepts without the actual equipment they would use.

Hitler willingly spent Germany to the brink of bankruptcy in building up his armed forces. In contrast, the French and British governments severely restricted military spending until just before the outbreak of war. Similarly, the German army worked extensively to develop combined arms tactics—even though it had to use motor cars for tanks, light planes as fighters and dive bombers, and small formations to simulate large ones. The French did little, and the British rejected the experiments they did conduct.

Despite the Great Depression, all three nations, as well as the United States, had the economic base to build the combined-arms forces that made blitzkrieg possible. Although no nation had the technology or industrial capacity at the end of World War I, the rapid technological changes in aviation, armor, motor transport, artillery, and communications meant that the capacity existed in all three nations by 1939. This was essential to the birth of blitzkrieg. Only a society producing sufficient numbers of mechanics, drivers, electricians, and so on, can build, man, and equip a modern armed force.

The French built what were regarded as the best tanks of their days. They were certainly more than a match for the German Mk I, Mk II, and Czech tanks that made up over seventy-five percent of the German tanks in the invasion. Unfortunately, despite some forward-thinking officers, the French did not concentrate their armored forces but parceled them out among their infantry forces. Their inability to adapt intellectually squandered their technological edge. Only the Germans had the political will and strategic imperative to build a complete combined-arms team to execute the tactics they had developed in World War I.

As discussed in the previously, the development of a new generation of war is evolutionary rather than revolutionary and should therefore be visible in the decades prior to the appearance of blitzkrieg. In fact, it was.

We can see the thought process behind blitzkrieg developing as early as 1915. In August, Captain Rohr took over the Assault Detachment of the German army. This was in essence a laboratory to refine tactical techniques for breaking through the increasingly sophisticated Allied trench system. Rohr’s commander, General Gaede, gave him a simple, mission-type order: “to train his unit according to the lessons that he had learned during his front line service.” General Gaede then provided him with a mix of mortars, machine guns, infantry guns, and standard weapons in an innovative way, to restore the offensive capability of the German army. In addition to these close-supporting weapons, Captain Rohr ensured that artillery support was an integral part of his operations.

From this beginning, the Assault Detachment developed the small-unit tactics of infiltration and refined them. In a series of attacks increasing in scale, it worked out the tactics, techniques, and procedures of combined-arms operations at the small-unit level. Based on the Assault Detachment’s success, the German army systematically retrained its forces to use assault tactics. These were combined-arms tactics that relied on small-unit initiative to penetrate the enemy’s trenches and then move rapidly to exploit those breaches in the enemy lines.

Rather than rigid employment driven by a timeline, the new German tactics emphasized flexibility and reconnaissance pull. No longer would leaders remain in the rear and push forces forward on a predetermined front. Instead, leaders would have to be forward, just behind their lead elements, so that they could lead their units into the gaps those lead elements created.

By 1918, the German army had been retrained to use these tactics in Ludendorff’s major offensive. The tactical successes of the new approach allowed the Germans to punch a huge hole in the Allied defenses. Fortunately for the Allies, the Germans had no practical operational or strategic objective. Nor had they solved the problem of pushing fresh troops and supplies across the devastated terrain of no-man’s-land. Therefore, the Allies were able to shift reserves faster than the Germans could exploit the gaps they created. Soon, the Allied were able to contain the penetration. This was a last-gasp offensive by the Germans, and the Allied counterattack culminated in the German surrender.

Although the new tactics failed to win World War I, they introduced an entire generation of German officers to the idea of mission-type orders, reconnaissance pull, penetrating a front, and expanding from the penetration. Thus, the intellectual foundation of 3GW was firmly in place in 1918. In addition to the intellectual basis, World War I saw the introduction of tanks, aircraft, long-range artillery, and, on the eastern front, great battles of maneuver.

Not content with a superficial understanding of what had happened in World War I, the German army undertook an intensive historical study of what really happened. They focused on several major issues: the reasons the Schlieffen plan failed, solving the problem of the trenches to restore mobility to the battlefield, the British use of tanks at Somme and Cambrai, the tactical success of the German 1918 offensive and why it failed operationally, and the use of airpower by the Allies against the German 1918 offensive.

It is interesting to note that their studies explored the key components of what would become blitzkrieg. During the interwar period, the Germans continued to study these ideas and to integrate the separate successful tactical and technical innovations into a coherent operational weapon.

So if blitzkrieg was in fact evolutionary, why didn’t the British and French militaries learn from World War I and apply those lessons in the interwar period?

The British actually attempted to learn but suffered from the fits and starts of chiefs of staff who exhibited varying tastes for learning. At the end of World War I, the British army did successfully conduct combined-arms mechanized warfare. As Millett and Murray point out:

It can be seen, therefore, that the BEF (British Expeditionary Force) really conducted two kinds of warfare in the second half of 1918: first, mechanical warfare in July and August; and secondly, traditional or semi-traditional open warfare, from the end of August to the Armistice. Yet the fact that the large scale mechanical attacks did not take place in the last months, while the war was won by means that were familiar to most officers, did strongly influence the way that mechanization and mechanical warfare were debated in the 1920s and 1930s. It is important, however, to note that this debate did not actually start after the war, but in fact commenced in late 1917 and early 1918.

In 1918, the British were equal to the Germans in tactical thinking and ahead in the application of technology, in the form of armor. Unfortunately, they did not undertake a detailed study of the lessons of the war until 1932. Even then, they did so only because Lord Milne, a progressive thinker, became chief of the Imperial General Staff (CIGS). However, the report was not finished until the new CIGS, Field Marshal Montgomery-Massingberd, took over.

Montgomery-Massingberd was adamantly against discussing the army’s problems in public, so he severely restricted distribution of the report. Unfortunately, he set a trend. Until the outbreak of World War II, all chiefs of the Imperial General Staff after Lord Milne refused to study the lessons of World War I. They tied all armor developments to support of infantry and cavalry, squandering numerous opportunities for Britain to develop true combined-arms tactics.

Further reducing any chance for change was the anti-intellectual bent of the British army. Simply put, unlike the Germans, who saw war as a profession requiring intense study by the best minds in the army, the British seemed to consider the army a pleasant occupation for second sons. The closed-mindedness of the British regimental mess was staggering. Thus, the few innovators who did appear in the interwar period were kept firmly in place by the CIGS, regimental traditions, and their fellow officers.

The French, in contrast to the British, conducted an intensive study of World War I, seeking doctrinal and organizational lessons. Unfortunately, the institutional bias toward “methodical battle” ensured that the study was limited to battles that “proved” that a tightly controlled, centrally directed battle, emphasizing firepower, was the key to victory. Reinforcing the institutional bias was the requirement that “all articles, lectures, and books by serving officers had to receive approval by the high command before publication.”7 The uninspired interwar army leadership, the stifling of discussion, and emphasis on the “methodical battle” ensured that the French army completely missed the evolution that drove blitzkrieg.

It is interesting to note the similarities in the French interwar “discussion” and our current DOD “discussion” of future war. The French general staff defined the discussion and then ensured that all “experiments” and “developments” adhered to the definition. Currently, DOD has defined the future as technology and is driving all experiments and developments in that direction. Much like the French, DOD has not seen the evolution of war taking place in our time but instead insists war is evolving according to its preconceived vision.

Although more compressed than the evolution of first- and second-generation warfare, 3GW also evolved over time. The time frame was shortened for numerous reasons, not the least of which is that the rate of change across society, which had been accelerating during the last few centuries, increased even more in the twentieth century. Further, innovation always accelerates during modern warfare, because the entire society devotes itself to war. With the rise of Hitler, Germany essentially went on a wartime footing—not full mobilization but definitely a level of effort well beyond the peacetime efforts of their past and future enemies.

Summary of First Three Generations

In these first posts, we traced the evolution of the first three generations of war. A couple of facts leap out. First is that none of them consisted of a sudden transformation—each evolved over time. Each could be seen developing over the conflicts that preceded it

Second, each new generation required developments across the spectrum of society. Technological change alone has never been sufficient to produce a major change in how man wages war. It requires a complete societal change—political, economic, social, and technological—to create the conditions necessary for major changes in war.

Finally, we can see the logical progression of the three generations. First-generation war focused on the direct destruction of the enemy’s close force. Second-generation war relied on firepower but still focused on the destruction of the enemy fighting forces. Both were restricted by the warfighting capabilities of the societies from which they sprang. As society progressed and was able to project power over much longer ranges, third-generation war took advantage of those changes to focus on destruction of the enemy’s command and control and logistics as the fastest way to destroy his will to fight.

Each succeeding generation reached deeper into the enemy’s territory in an effort to defeat him. If 4GW is a logical progression, it must reach much deeper into the enemy’s forces in seeking victory. We will see that 4GW has in fact evolved to focus deeply in the enemy’s rear. It focuses on the direct destruction of the enemy’s political will to fight.

Changes in Society: Generations of Modern War I

(clockwise from top left) Chinese forces in the Battle of Wanjialing Australian 25-pounder guns during the First Battle of El Alamein German Stuka dive bombers on the Eastern Front in December 1943 US naval force in the Lingayen Gulf Wilhelm Keitel signing the German Instrument of Surrender Soviet troops in the Battle of Stalingrad.

We have seen that 3GW or maneuver warfare really started in 1915 and came to maturity in 1940. The previous posts have also shown that major changes in warfare were always preceded by changes in the political, economic, social, and technical segments of society. Given that changes in these areas are apparent precursors to changes in warfare, we have to ask if the changes in society since the evolution of the third generation are sufficient to indicate that it is time for the fourth generation.

We know it took about a hundred years to move from the height of 1GW conflict, as represented by the Napoleonic Wars, to 2GW conflict, as represented by World War I. It required that long for society to develop the industrial, societal, and technical base to support the huge armies during a four-year struggle. We also know that although all the tactical elements of 3GW war were present in World War I, it required the twenty-one years between World War I and World War II for society to develop the base required to generate full-fledged maneuver war (3GW). Therefore, to explore the possibility that 4GW is evolving, the logical period to examine for political, economic, social, and technical changes is the time between the start of World War II and today.

Obviously, a single post cannot begin to provide a definitive list of the enormous societal changes since that time. However, this post provides an abbreviated listing of some of the key changes. It is designed to stimulate thought concerning the breadth and types of changes in society since the 1940s—and lead the reader to consider how those changes have affected warfare during the same period.

Politically, there have been extensive changes since the end of World War II. The most obvious is the exponential increase in the number of players on the international stage. Prior to the war, the nation-state was the only significant player on the international scene. Immediately after the war, both the political and economic spheres begin changing rapidly, and each added numerous and varied players to the political stage.

The most obvious change in the political scene was the creation and growth of international organizations. The first was the United Nations. It provided an international forum that had been lacking and was the precursor for numerous other international organizations. While it had little real power, the United Nations was immediately a part of any international political struggle. Initially, one of its prime functions was to provide an appearance of international approval for action taken in defense of both national and international interests, primarily of Western powers. However, as the United Nations expanded to include an ever-increasing number of Third World nations, it became an effective place for those nations to express their disapproval of the actions of Western powers, in particular the United States. Further, the United Nations was only the first of a series of international organizations that now have significant impact on the negotiations and relations between nations. The United Nations alone has given birth to the International Bank for Reconstruction and Development (World Bank), the International Monetary Fund,, and the International Atomic Energy Agency. Each of these international agencies infringes on national sovereignty in one way or another. Nations are no longer free to set their own tariffs, their own interest rates, their own safety standards, their own constructions standards, and so on. These basic elements of national sovereignty were considered integral to a nation-state’s power prior to World War II.

Although the enforcement power of these bodies is sharply limited by the nature of the United Nations, we should not underestimate the influence they have through their member nations. Although the United Nations as a whole may not use military force to punish those who transgress, individual states certainly express their disapproval—in the political, economic, social, and even technical realms. A pariah state suffers from reduced contact in all areas. This translates into direct economic harm and may even lead to changed behavior. Although the final causes of South Africa’s transition to a majority black government are varied, its status as an outcast in the international community undoubtedly had significant impact.

In a similar vein, subordinate organizations of the United Nations and other independent international organizations, such as the World Trade Organization (WTO), have a major impact on the actions of nations. Membership in the WTO or attempts to join it require nations to yield power concerning labor and trade practices. They must meet international standards that prior to World War II were mostly internal matters. Today, the World Bank can demand that nations comply with their “recommendations” on interest rates, internal distribution of funds, and international borrowing if they wish to continue receiving international funds.

Parallel to the growth of worldwide organizations, we have seen the growth of numerous regional organizations that place real limits on the powers of sovereign nations. Even the United States is not immune to their power: witness the impact of the North American Free Trade Association (NAFTA) on political and economic policies internal to our country. The European Union has an even greater impact on member nations than NAFTA has on its members. Similar regional organizations with varying degrees of power are now present throughout the world.

The second major change in the political structure was the huge increase in the number and diversity of nations. The postwar breakup of the European colonial empires gave birth to dozens of new nations—all theoretically equal partners in the United Nations. As a rough measure of the increase in players, the United Nations had fifty-one members when the Charter was originally signed in 1945. It now has 189 member states.

The proliferation of states and their varying stages of development create a complexity in international relations that did not exist before 1945. In 1945, the fifty-one nations were mostly political entities of long standing—the majority in the developed world. In contrast, the vast majority of the states that have joined since then are new nations, many artificially created by a colonial power. These nations naturally have different needs, concerns, and motivations than do developed nations of long standing.

The third significant change is the number of stateless actors that influence the international scene. These include both transnational and subnational elements.

On the transnational level, the players are numerous. They range from peaceful transnational movements such as Greenpeace to violent, radical Islamic movements such as al-Qaeda to the business-oriented transnational drug traders. The key element these organizations have in common is that they are not controlled by any nation or group of nations. They are literally free agents on the international scene and will interject themselves into international relations where and when they see fit, to meet their goals. They may seek something simple, such as involvement in elections. They may choose to influence elections through money, volunteering to support a candidate, or official endorsements of a candidate or position.

At the other end of the spectrum, transnational entities may choose to support an insurgent uprising to gain control of a portion of a country. They may simply choose to assassinate key opponents. Today, these transnational organizations employ a variety of techniques and have an impact on national and international events that simply was not present prior to World War II.

On the subnational level, we have numerous nations that lack states. Many of these groups fall either within a single state or straddle various states as a result of the artificial boundaries that evolved from the colonial era. Although these are not powerful organizations, they can play notable roles on the international scene. One only has to consider the impact of the Kurds, the Serbs, the Croats, the Palestinians, or the Irish Republican Army on recent events to see that, although relatively minor players, these subnational organizations can and do have impact.

Perhaps the most powerful and least controlled new international players are the international financial markets. Although there were markets prior to World War II, their impact was small compared to today’s markets. Then, market transactions took time, and the various nations could control many of these markets’ assets. Today, billions of dollars, pounds, euros, or yen can be moved instantaneously to any of millions of locations. Further, the decision to move those assets is not made in any one place or by any identifiable group of people or organizations. These decisions are made by two networked entities that Thomas Friedman has labeled the “Electronic Herd” and the “Supermarkets”:

The Electronic Herd today consists of two basic groups. One group I call the “short-horn cattle.” This includes all those people involved in the buying and selling of stocks, bonds and currencies around the world, and who can and often do move their money around on a very short-term basis. The short-horn cattle are currency traders, major mutual and pension funds, hedge funds, insurance companies, bank trading rooms and individual investors. They include everyone from Merrill Lynch to Credit Suisse to Fuji Bank to the Charles Schwab web site, where anyone with a PC and a modem can trade on line from his living room.

The other group I call the “long-horn cattle.” These are the multi-nationals—the General Electrics, the General Motorses, the IBMs, the Intels, the Siemenses—which are increasingly involved in foreign direct investment, building factories around the world or striking international long-term production deals or alliances with overseas factories to make or assemble their products. I call them the long-horn cattle because they have to make longer-term commitments when they invest in a country. But even they now move in and out, like a herd, with surprising speed.

This electronic herd monitors international conditions on an hour-by-hour basis. If they determine that a state is creating conditions hostile to profits, they can punish that state severely via the market. Credit will simply not be available for states that fall into disfavor. Whether political leaders admit it or not, their freedom of action is distinctly limited by the herd.

The second set of key economic players Friedman identifies, the “Supermarkets,” are the big stock exchanges in major cities: “According to University of Chicago globalization expert Saskia Sassen, by the end of 1997 twenty-five Supermarkets controlled 83 percent of the world’s equities under institutional management and accounted for roughly half of global market capitalization—around $20 trillion.”

This is ten times the size of the U.S. government’s annual budget—and it moves worldwide based on the independent and essentially uncontrollable decisions of millions of individual decision makers.

Although on the surface the markets seem to be purely economic, their impact is that of a powerful political player. This player can dictate trade policies, influence elections, determine interest rates, place limits on national social policy, decide acceptable banking practices, and drive many other activities of nations.

Even the United States is not immune. Despite the United States’ great size and dominant economy, the herd did not hesitate to rush from the market after the numerous revelations concerning CEO corruption and dishonest accounting practices. The sudden outflow of money from the market during July 2002 resurrected strong new regulatory legislation. Before the sudden descent of the Dow-Jones average below 8,000, the administration and Congress had buried the new regulatory laws. The herd responded by driving the Dow down, and Congress acted swiftly to pass the legislation. Clearly, the international markets themselves are now a major player in all political and economic decisions made by rational governments.

The cumulative effect of this proliferation of players on the international scene is a distinct reduction in the power and freedom of action of nations. Although they remain the primary players in international affairs, the wide variety of new players places restrictions on these states that simply did not exist at the beginning of World War II. The multitude of players also provides additional avenues for our enemies to influence U.S. policy.

As great as the political changes have been, economically the shift has been even more distinct. Just prior to World War II, a nation’s wealth was frequently measured in terms of tons of coal produced, tons of steel rolled, number of automobiles manufactured—all measures of an industrial power, with an emphasis on mechanical power. In fact, the fundamental sources of wealth in an industrial society were the raw materials and the manufacturing facilities that converted them to finished products. Mass production was the key to efficiency and to meeting customer demand. In a world of durable goods with long service lives, low cost and standardization were critical.

Today, the most rapidly growing sector of the international economy is information. Unlike industrial plants, these wealth-generating assets are easily moved—and are often part of geographically distributed networks in their day-to-day operations. Nations can no longer compel compliance from companies by threatening their physical assets—simply because many of a company’s most important assets exist only in cyberspace and can be moved anywhere in the world virtually instantaneously.

Further complicating the allegiance of economic entities is that a fair percentage of wealth today is generated by using knowledge developed in one nation to build factories that exploit resources (people, raw materials, markets) in another—yet all involved know the commitment is not long term. The relationship will continue only as long as it is advantageous economically.

Finally, the stock markets ensure that ownership of any public corporation may well be distributed worldwide, with large and small stockholders having little or no interest in the political needs of the “home” country of the corporation they own.

Changes in Society: Generations of Modern War II

Fast advances and maneuvering allowed Allied cavalry forces to quickly penetrate deep into Iraq during the Gulf War.

Warfare is coming to parallel this model. The knowledge of how to conduct an attack is developed in one country, then that knowledge is combined with the raw materials, personnel, and training available in other countries, which can include the target country, to create a weapon in the target country. Both the 9/11 and Madrid attacks were conducted using this approach. Further, “ownership” of the action may belong to contributors who are distributed around the world but provide funding to the terror networks planning the attack.

In the past, it has been possible to at least intercept terrorist weapons at our borders. Now, the modern concept of manufacturing weapons in the target country means there are no materials to intercept. No longer can we as a nation recognize and intercept a weapon before it reaches our shores. Only the knowledge of the attack and the weapons cross our borders—all other materials can be purchased within our borders. Just as some elements of a knowledge-based economy move only knowledge and personnel across international boundaries, so do some practitioners of 4GW.

Socially, prior to World War II, citizens of developed nations dealt almost exclusively with people from within their own country, and often just locally, within their own city or county. Although a limited number of businessmen had regular communication with foreigners, the vast majority of the citizens of even well-developed nations had little or no contact with foreigners. Communication was expensive; travel was time-consuming and very expensive. Only the wealthy few could travel abroad. The middle class relied on local newspapers, national newsmagazines, and radio for their information. Nation-states, like their economies, were hierarchical. Internally, information moved up and down but internationally, information moved only at the top levels of society.

In the undeveloped nations, citizens—or, more commonly, peasants—rarely traveled more than a day’s journey from their place of birth. Their view of the world came almost exclusively from oral tradition and family beliefs.

In contrast, today’s communications revolution has completely changed how people get information. In the same way governments, businesses, and trade associations are becoming networks rather than hierarchies, so are relations between people of different states. Citizens of today’s developed nations have virtually unlimited access to the people and ideas of other cultures. With the advent of cheap communications and transportation, international connections have multiplied exponentially. For the first time in history, it is easy for average residents of one state to develop strong interests and common bonds with those of other states.

For instance, a member of Greenpeace in the American northwest may have more in common with another Greenpeace member in Germany than with the logger who lives next door. Using email, web sites, and inexpensive long distance, they may communicate more often with each other than with their neighbors.

This has major implications for all government, but particularly for democracies. Although this free association may seem powerless, it was a purely volunteer effort by the International Committee to Ban Land Mines, organized primarily over the Internet, that drove the treaty to ban land mines. Another purely volunteer effort created Linux as an alternate operating system to Microsoft. A volunteer effort organized over the Internet built the coalition of anti-globalization activists that shut down the WTO meeting in Seattle during the summer of 2001.

The same technology that enables Greenpeace and the International Committee to Ban Land Mines also facilitates organizations such as the Islamic fundamentalist groups. Even more challenging from a security point of view is that the people do not have to go out to establish these networks. They do not have to be in the same country or even be on line at the same time. The old police technique of tracking illegal activity by watching certain places and certain people does not work when communication is carried out on line. Although police agencies around the world are beginning to track some activity in cyberspace, the sheer volume makes it daunting. Later we will explore how much of the new technology favors the terrorist rather than the government.

In short, citizens of developed nations are no longer limited to living in a hierarchical nation-state. They can now live in a networked international community.

At the other end of the spectrum, citizens of even the poorest nations have access to television and magazines that portray the riches of the developed world. Although a generation ago the most they could hope to see was the next village, now they can see Park Avenue. This creates a much greater sense of relative deprivation and unrest in those nations. Along with the Internet, it also eliminates the government’s monopoly on information. No longer can any state assume its citizens will believe only what the government tells them.

This unrest, combined with the artificial nature of the boundaries of many states, has resulted in the severe breakdown of order within many of these postcolonial “nations.” Often it has led to the effective, if not the official, dissolution of many of these creations of the colonial powers. The result has been the reversion to much earlier social organizations—tribal, clan, or gang. The result is a major change in whom we might fight and how they see a fight. In the last hundred years or so, Western nations have become accustomed to fighting disciplined, uniformed soldiers of another nation. Now we are faced with fighting warrior or clan societies. The difference between a soldier and a warrior is essential.

Soldiers are disciplined members of a specific profession. As such, they are under the control of a political entity and do not have specific financial or social benefits from continuing to fight. Although there is increased prestige and opportunity for promotion during war, most professional soldiers will at least pay lip service to a preference for peace.

In contrast, a warrior society thrives on and exists for war. Often, the young warrior has everything to lose (except his life) if he stops fighting. Consider the young clansman in Somalia. As a member of a fighting clan, he has prestige and income. They combine to give him access to money, food, property, and women. If he puts his weapons down, he loses that prestige and the income—and with them everything else. Although the risk of death from fighting is always present, it is actually less than the risk of death from starvation if he stops fighting.

Unfortunately, most of these warrior societies’ mechanisms for keeping violence to a manageable level are based on traditional systems. For instance, in Somalia, clan elders would meet and determine fines imposed on an individual or family who killed another during a camel raid. However, the advent of powerful new weapons has escalated the killing beyond the control of the old social systems. The young warriors have learned new techniques to employ the new weapons. Like all human organizations, they have adapted.

This creates a major problem for Western soldiers facing such a warrior society. These societies have learned that pushing women and children to the front, even in close combat, will often neutralize the superior firepower of Western soldiers. Sometimes the women and children are armed, sometimes not. Further, women and children at the front shows that the entire society has mobilized against a perceived threat to its livelihood, territory, or customs. Even when the confrontation does not include weapons, warrior societies have learned that Western soldiers have trouble dealing with large numbers of women and children—and have added them as a tactical tool when it creates an advantage.

In sum, there has been an enormous social change from what Western forces faced at the beginning of World War II. The societies of rich nations have fragmented and are beginning to align by interests rather than nationality. Many poor nations have failed completely, with their populations breaking up into the tribes or clans that preceded the nation-state imposed by the colonial powers. Unfortunately, the tribal organizations were never designed to deal with the challenges inherent in a failed nation. Thus, many of the poor face little hope. In short, social changes since World War II have been extensive and wide-ranging.

The cumulative changes in political, economic, and social arenas since World War II are clear and distinct. The changes in the technical area are overwhelming. Frankly, they are much too extensive, and too familiar to the reader, to explore in depth here. Still, consider the following examples. In 1940, the first computer had not even been developed. The first satellite was almost twenty years away. Television did not exist. Commercial aviation was in its infancy—transpacific flights took days. The total capacity of all transoceanic cable and phone lines was less than one of today’s fiber optic cables.

Further, as technology continues to evolve, it is just as rapidly reordering every aspect of our lives. The entirely new fields of complexity and network theory are changing how we see the world. Our understanding of biology is increasing at an ever faster pace. In each of these areas, the world has leapt ahead since World War II.

It is intuitively obvious to any observer that almost unimaginable change has occurred in the last sixty years. Although not all sectors of a society evolve at the same rate, all are moving in the same direction. As we evolved into the industrial era, governments, business, and social organizations moved to a hierarchical structure that was often national in scale. In the same way, as we move into the Information Age, all sectors of society are becoming networked on an international scale. What is less obvious is that the rate of change has been accelerating—and not just over the last sixty years but over recorded history.

Consider world population alone. It took from year 1 until 1800 to grow from three hundred million to one billion. Yet the population doubled in only the next 150 years, reaching two billion by 1950. Then it tripled in a mere fifty years, reaching six billion by 2000.

It took more than 1,700 years for the first democracy to evolve after Rome became an empire, yet the next 200 years saw democracy spread around the world.

It took almost a hundred years from the invention of the steam locomotive for it to become a central element of national economies. It took less than twenty-five years for the personal computer to do the same. It took less than five years for instant messaging to penetrate most societies.

In warfare, change is also accelerating. It took hundreds of years from the development of the musket and cannon for first-generation warfare to evolve. Second-generation warfare evolved and peaked in the hundred years between Waterloo and Verdun. Third-generation warfare came to maturity in less than twenty-five years. Clearly, third-generation warfare cannot be the leading edge of war more than sixty years later.

English Civil War Tactics I

The commanders on both sides during the Great Civil War were fully aware of the military in European warfare and adapted them to English circumstances and then modified them in the light of experience. Our objective is to ascertain the extent to which tactical developments on their own were responsible for Parliament’s victory and the king’s defeat.

As Parliament had control of the royal arsenals and the ironworks of the Weald of Kent, it was able to equip its armies with large numbers of good quality cannon from the start of the war. The Earl of Essex, for example, took at least thirty-seven with him on the Edgehill campaign and lost forty-two at Lostwithiel. The king lagged behind initially, but by the time of the Gloucester campaign he too had a formidable train of artillery. However, on the battlefield the generals were never able to lure enemy forces into a position in which they could pound them into submission using the concentrated fire of their cannon. Thus artillery on its own was no more a winner of battles in the Great Civil War than elsewhere in Europe at the time, and this is reflected in contemporary comment. Cannon `caused more terror than execution’, opined one Parliamentary commander, and in the words of another seventeenth-century writer, `great artillery seldom or never hurts’. As for killing power, a Royalist officer at the first battle of Newbury commented on the rareness of the sight of six dead enemy infantrymen, whose heads had been taken off by a single round.

Bombardments by heavy cannon preceded the battles of Edgehill and Marston Moor and the second battle of Newbury, but they had no positive impact on the outcome of any of them. Indeed, it could be argued that Waller’s decision to spend up to an hour bombarding the western flank of the Royalist position at Speen before attacking brought nightfall that much closer and possibly saved the king’s army from being overwhelmed. At the first battle of Newbury a preliminary bombardment would have been counter-productive, as Essex wanted to conceal his troop movements from the enemy for as long as possible. At Naseby, on the other hand, the generals on both sides decided that an initial softening up by the heavy cannon was not needed. After the battle, a Parliamentarian wrote that `the ordnance began to play, but that [as] at Marston Moor and other places it was but a loss of time’, while the Royalists did not deign to reply, so anxious were they for the fighting to begin (although afterwards Lord Digby described this as a stupid mistake in an attempt to discredit Prince Rupert). Only at Langport was cannon fire of some significance. A bombardment by Fairfax’s artillery train knocked out two cannons guarding the top of a lane along which he intended the New Model Army cavalry to charge.

The most interesting use of artillery in a major engagement in the Great Civil War was at the first battle of Newbury, where, for the first and only time, both sides were able to use roads and tracks to move light and heavy cannon quite rapidly into the central part of the battlefield once the fighting had begun. Indeed, if Essex had not been able to establish an artillery position defending the northeast corner of Wash Common, his vanguard might have been unable to repulse the massed Royalist assaults on their position and been pushed back in defeat into the valley of the Kennet. The battle also provides the first example in the war of small artillery pieces operating with infantry and cavalry units in the Swedish manner. The red regiment of the London trained bands, for example, suffered badly from the artillery fire that accompanied Royalist cavalry attacks and could do nothing about it because its own field pieces were slow to arrive, while several small cannons were lost at the top end of Wash common when one of Essex’s infantry regiments retreated. Similarly, at Cheriton, Waller used light cannon to reinforce the mixed force of infantry and cavalry that he had moved into Cheriton wood and its surroundings to outflank the Royalist advance guard, but they were not flexible enough to defend it when Hopton altered the direction of his attack. Later, however, assaults by the Royalist cavalry brigades on the centre of Sir William Waller’s position seem to have been blunted in part by artillery fire; and at the end of the day it was Waller’s bringing forward of his cannon to bombard the hill to which the enemy had retreated that caused their final withdrawal. However, the length of time it took to move the cannon to their new position gave Forth and Hopton the breathing space in which to plan a structured and, in the event, very successful withdrawal.

Infantry tactics drew heavily on continental models. At Edgehill, after a heated discussion, the king’s generals decided to draw up in the Swedish manner rather than the Dutch. However, at that stage in the war, their musketeers cannot have acquired sufficient training and experience for all six ranks to fire a simultaneous volley. On the other hand, requiring them to rotate firing by rank in the Dutch manner may have caused even greater confusion. Another possible reason for preferring the Swedish model was that muskets were in short supply in some of the king’s regiments, and the Swedish formation incorporated a higher ratio of pikemen to musketeers (although for a quite different reason). However, the five large battalions thus formed were incapable of giving one another supporting fire once the fighting started, as the two second-line battalions moved forward to fill the gaps between the three to their front, thus creating one continuous line. The Earl of Essex drew up his infantry in three large bodies, each containing about 3,000 men, an antiquated type of formation, which also probably reflected a lack of confidence in his foot soldiers’ level of training. However, half an hour after the fighting began, what was left of his infantry also formed up in a line, and, to the amazement of the future King James II, the musketeers of both sides spent the rest of the encounter firing almost continuously at one another in the open rather than taking cover.

Thereafter, Royalist and Parliamentary generals showed considerable flexibility in fitting their tactics to the landscape and considerable expertise in moving battalions around during the course of a battle, particularly in encounter-type engagements like Cropredy Bridge, where armies did not have the time or the space to draw up in the orthodox cavalry-infantry-cavalry formation. From the start, however, the Parliamentary field armies proved more competent in combining infantry and cavalry units in the continental manner to destroy parts of the opposing army. Sir William Balfour and the Earl of Essex showed the way at Edgehill with the attack on Sir Nicholas Byron’s brigade. A similar process can be seen at work in the destruction of Prince Rupert’s regiment of foot at Naseby, and on a much larger scale at Marston Moor, where the cavalry and infantry of the Eastern Association army combined with some Scottish cavalry and dragoons in the closing stages of the battle to destroy the Royalist infantry that remained in the field. But combined operations did not always work. Balfour’s attack on the Royalist left wing at the second battle of Newbury, for example, although initially successful, was repulsed with heavy losses before night fell.

The king’s commanders, on the other hand, tended to show greater imagination in the use of the infantry on its own. Commanded parties of musketeers were used as shock troops in battles as well as during the course of campaigns, at first unsuccessfully, as in the initial attack on Round Hill during the first battle of Newbury, but later with much greater success, as in the Newark and Severn valley campaigns in March and June 1644 and in the capture of Cheriton Wood. However, the most effective use of musketeers on their own in the entire war was by Fairfax at Langport, where the battle was won as much by the efforts of Rainsborough’s men driving back the Royalist foot opposing them from hedge to hedge and then breaking into the ranks of the Earl of Cleveland’s brigade of horse, as by the more spectacular eruption of three troops of New Model cavalry into the midst of Goring’s army. Evidence of the skill of the king’s infantry after two years of war can be seen in the successful defence of Shaw House by Sir George Lisle’s brigade against overwhelming numbers during the second battle of Newbury. The king’s veteran infantry have also been praised for their performance in the opening stages of the battle of Naseby, where they pushed back the first line of the opposing foot, which outnumbered them, inflicting heavy casualties. However, the veterans would not have been able to win the battle by their own efforts had the cavalry engagements on the wings taken longer to resolve. When they came unexpectedly upon a second line of enemy infantry, their attack faltered. But there were battles in the Great Civil War that were won by the infantry. The engagement at Nantwich in January 1644 between Lord Byron’s troops and a scratch force of northerners led by Sir Thomas Fairfax was decided almost entirely by a series of infantry engagements in a countryside dominated by small fields and watercourses where cavalry were at an obvious disadvantage. At Cheriton, however, Waller’s infantry managed to win a major encounter in more open country when the Parliamentarians pushed the outnumbered Royalist foot back relentlessly on the right wing and on the left, bypassing the cavalry of both sides caught up in a vast melée in the centre of the battlefield.

In the Great Civil War, the cavalry of both sides were very largely harquebusiers like those of Gustavus Adolphus, although other types do occur. At Edgehill, the charges of Essex’s lifeguard, the jeunesse dorée of the Parliamentary army mounted on the best horses, showed what cuirassiers could do if given the opportunity to play to their strengths, that is short periods of violent activity interspersed with long periods for rest and recovery. On the other hand, the experience of Sir Arthur Haselrig’s `lobsters’ at Roundway Down in July 1643 showed that cuirassiers were as easily routed as the rest of Parliament’s horse at the time, and although the regiment performed better at Cheriton, it was not incorporated into the New Model Army in 1645. Indeed, by the last year of the war, neither side had any more than the odd troop of cuirassiers still in arms.

There were no lancers in the English field armies, but the Scottish army contained several regiments armed with lances, which played an important, possibly crucial, role in the allied victory at Marston Moor. However, they were certainly not heavy cavalry, as they were mounted on ponies and can have worn only a small amount of body armour. It was well understood at the time that they could not stand up to harquebusiers in equal combat, which explains why they were in the reserve line, and also why the Scots quickly abandoned the lance when they acquired decent-sized horses in any numbers.

Both sides employed dragoons in considerable numbers at the start of the war, but as time passed those regiments that survived tended to be converted into infantry or cavalry units. There was a single regiment of dragoons in the New Model Army, whose colonel claimed they performed well at Naseby, but there were no Royalist dragoons in the main field army in 1645. Prince Rupert seems even to have lost interest in his own regiment, which remained in the west of England with George Goring.

However, the two sides diverged in the ways in which they used cavalry on the battlefield. In none of the major battles did the Parliamentarians station a cavalry reserve of any size behind the army, or station any horse in the centre as direct support for the infantry. Instead, the reserves formed up behind the two wings in every major battle in open country. At Edgehill, the fact that Balfour’s and Stapleton’s troops acted as a form of central reserve was probably an illusion. Insofar as the former were concerned, it was probably an accident that they were where they were at the start of the battle, whereas the latter may have been kept out of the way because of their poor performance at Powick bridge. The king’s generals, on the other hand, failed to win a decisive victory at Edgehill because they kept all their horse on the wings, with the result that the reserve squadrons in the second line ignored their orders to remain where they were and chased after the victorious first line of horse. That mistake was never made again. At Roundway Down, Lord Wilmot and Prince Maurice kept their reserves in the rear and used them to very good effect to stop a counter-charge. At the first battle of Newbury, there was plenty of cavalry action in which the horse were sometimes substituted for infantry in assaults on enemy positions, but the Royalist horse was not drawn up in the orthodox manner, that is flanking the infantry, because of the shape of the Parliamentary attack. Insofar as there was a cavalry reserve, it was stationed on the green as a precaution against the enemy left wing attempting to break through defences in the Kennet valley. However, at Marston Moor Prince Rupert adopted a more thorough-going Swedish model, that is strong forces on both wings but a single cavalry brigade in the centre with the infantry and another placed in reserve behind the army with the prince’s lifeguard of horse, which could be used wherever it was needed on the battlefield. Despite the Royalist defeat, the way in which the cavalry had been deployed must have been regarded as a success, as the cavalry were to have drawn up in a very similar manner in the battle that never happened, the third battle of Newbury. At Naseby, Rupert went a stage further with the reserve in the third line increased to almost 1,000 men and the brigade stationed among the infantry in a support role split up into two or three divisions. In his diary, the prince gives only the haziest indication as to why he used so complex a formation, but whatever the plan it failed completely, as he was not present when the reserve was brought into action. Against his orders, its components were fed into the battle in penny numbers and, unlike at Marston Moor, it did not succeed even temporarily in stemming the enemy advance.

English Civil War Tactics II

From the start, Rupert trained his troopers to take an active role on the battlefield. In the words of Richard Bulstrode, who fought with the king’s lifeguard of horse at Edgehill:

Prince Rupert passed from one wing to the other, giving positive orders to the Horse to march as close as possible keeping their ranks with sword in hand . . . without firing either carbine or pistol, till we broke in amongst the enemy and then make use of our firearms as need should require, which order was punctually obeyed.

This reflected Swedish practice, but the length of the charge and the speed at which it was delivered suggests Polish or French influences. It remained Royalist practice to charge the enemy in this manner for the rest of the war when they were given the opportunity, but they were also capable of biding their time, as on the left wing at Marston Moor, where Goring timed his charge so that it hit the enemy as they were making their way across a patch of difficult ground. One significant change in Royalist tactics during the war, which had strong Swedish precedents, involved stationing small bodies of musketeers among the cavalry on both wings, thus increasing their firepower if they were not intending to charge. The casualties among his cavalry caused by the Royalist musketeers was a matter of comment in Fairfax’s account of Marston Moor, but he did not himself employ them in that manner at Naseby, a sure sign that he intended to charge the Royalists, not wait to be charged. De Gomme’s plans of the Royalist battle formation at Naseby show Rupert deploying musketeers among the horse on the right and left wings as at Marston Moor, but they do not appear in Streeter’s plan. Possibly it was Rupert’s original intention to do so, but the decision to attack on both wings meant that they would have served no useful purpose, while weakening the infantry formation.

The orders given to the Parliamentary horse at Edgehill were very different. The right wing was to remain stationary in the hope that the fire of its dragoons and musketeers would blunt the Royalist charge. The left may have been on the move as Rupert charged, but they fired their pistols and carbines at too great a distance to have any real effect. Both suggest Dutch practice, and both were completely unsuccessful. However, despite what had happened at Edgehill, army commanders in the south of England were reluctant to change. Although individual units charged or counter-charged during a battle when the opportunity offered, the wing as a whole tended to wait for the Royalist attack and then to fire on them as they approached. Essex’s horse behaved in this way at the first battle of Newbury, and Waller’s at Roundway Down and Cheriton. It was not until the second battle of Newbury that both wings advanced on the enemy rather than waiting to be attacked.

The deployment of cavalry on the battlefield in a defensive formation had come to an end a year earlier in the north of England, and it is to Oliver Cromwell’s credit that the Eastern Association horse were the first to abandon the Dutch model, although Sir Thomas Fairfax was very quick to follow suit. Insofar as Cromwell was concerned, the penny seems to have dropped almost by accident at the battle of Grantham in May 1643. He describes the moment of enlightenment as follows:

After we had stood a little above musket shot the one body from the other . . . for the space of half an hour or more, they not advancing towards us, we agreed to charge them . . . and came on with our troops at a pretty round trot, they standing firm to receive us, and our men charging fiercely upon them by God’s providence they were immediately routed and ran all away, and we had the execution of them two or three miles.

However, Cromwell did not slavishly copy Prince Rupert’s Swedish model with a Franco-Polish gloss. Cromwell was concerned with keeping his troops in formation from the very beginning. He almost certainly saw the drawbacks of the charge taken at the gallop in terms of maintaining close order and controlling his men. He also never employed musketeers interspersed with his horse squadrons, as they could easily get in the way and disrupt the cavalry formations’ close order. Finally, he never positioned a cavalry reserve behind the infantry to be used as appropriate. This may have been an accidental consequence of his never being in overall command of an army during the Great Civil War with carte blanche to place his cavalry where he wished. On the other hand, he did claim that Fairfax left him in complete charge of the cavalry at Naseby.

At the next engagement, at Gainsborough two months later, both sides charged, but Cromwell’s men, although surprised, were able to deploy quickly from column into line while `keeping close order’, that is each man keeping cheek by jowl with his neighbour, thus creating an equine battering ram that would gain momentum as the horse picked up speed in the charge. Once the main body of enemy horse had been routed, Cromwell allowed most of his cavalry to pursue the enemy, but he successfully recalled three troops of his own regiment and used them to rout the Royalist reserves. These are the first sign of Cromwell’s training of his men having an effect on the outcome of an action. At Winceby, the third battle to take place in Lincolnshire in 1643, Cromwell was unhorsed when both sides charged. As a result his account of the engagement lacks detail, but Fairfax’s Yorkshire horse seem to have won the engagement by charging the enemy in the flank while they were engaged in a melée with the Eastern Association horse. A Royalist account of the battle described Cromwell’s men as absorbing the initial shock with great success and as being `very good and extraordinarily armed’. Oliver himself was very sound on the latter point: `If a man has not got good weapons, horse and harness, he is naught’.

Cromwell commanded an entire wing of between 3,000 and 4,000 horse at Marston Moor in what was probably the biggest cavalry engagement of the war. There, despite being charged in the flank, he not only routed the Royalists facing him in a fight lasting half an hour, he also stopped his men pursuing the enemy. They then turned to the right and attacked those regiments of enemy horse that were still on the battlefield in a manoeuvre closely resembling one that the Duke of Enghien had used to destroy the Spanish cavalry at Rocroi the year before. In the process, Cromwell turned a near disaster into an undoubted victory.

Given that all Cromwell’s horse had been committed in the first stage of the engagement, it is difficult to understand how he could have kept them together to such an extent that they were capable almost immediately of marching off in a different direction in good order. All that we can imagine is that when the Royalist right wing fled, Cromwell’s cavalry were at a virtual standstill. If so, this makes it highly likely that Scottish claims that David Leslie’s three regiments of lancers, drawn up in reserve immediately behind the Eastern Association horse, charged the Royalists in the flank and put them to flight are correct. Otherwise, if the enemy horse had broken slowly or rapidly, Cromwell’s formation would have splintered as one Royalist troop after another turned tail.

Cromwell’s triumph at Naseby was far less spectacular, and also far less of a personal achievement, given the New Model Army’s strength in cavalry and Rupert’s orders for the Northern Horse to leave their good defensive position and advance to attack him on an uphill slope. On this occasion, despite numerous claims to that effect, Cromwell did not first rout the enemy horse and then turn on the enemy infantry. The first and part of his second line defeated the Northern Horse, and the Newark brigade sent to their support. The assault on the enemy infantry reserves that followed was carried out by the rest of the second line, supported by the third line. The first regiments to charge were almost certainly no longer in close order and therefore unlikely to have been able to make a successful attack on the Royalist infantry. The conflict had been quite lengthy, there had been numerous casualties, and the ground over which they had fought – a rabbit warren, furze bushes, and steep, though short, inclines – must have disrupted their formation. However, the discipline of those who had routed the Northern Horse was such that they did not pursue the enemy over the horizon but stopped in a position where they could watch their movements and ensure that they took no further part in the fight.

As battlefield tacticians, Royalist cavalry generals have been compared unfavourably with Cromwell in one important respect. Although their horse often routed the enemy wing facing them, the commanders were unable to control their men, who rode off in pursuit of the fleeing Parliamentarians or in search of plunder instead of regrouping and turning their attention to the enemy infantry formations. Not surprisingly, this opinion was first publicized by Clarendon, the originator of so many errors and halftruths about the Royalist army and its commanders. Barratt has recently challenged this, and we agree with his rather tentative conclusions. At Marston Moor, the second line of the Royalist left wing did almost exactly what Cromwell’s wing did at Naseby. While the first line followed the enemy to prevent their reforming, it turned on the enemy infantry. At Naseby, the victorious Royalist right wing is alleged to have lost complete control as at Edgehill and attacked the New Model baggage train instead of reordering itself and returning to the battlefield. We have suggested that it may have done this because Parliamentary infantry regiments were blocking the most direct route for an attack on the rear of Cromwell’s wing, but we also acknowledge that they were unlikely to have been able to do much against the enemy other than hope to take them by surprise, as the length of the encounter must have meant that they were no longer in close order.

Insofar as tactics are concerned, it therefore seems most unlikely that Parliament would have won the Great Civil War as soon as it did without the change in cavalry tactics introduced by Oliver Cromwell. Similarly, it is becoming increasingly clear that the relative failure of the Royalist horse on the battlefield from Cheriton onwards was not because they combined lack of discipline and training with slavish adherence to what had worked at Edgehill. What the king’s generals lacked above all else at Marston Moor, and even more so at Naseby, was sufficient cavalry to defeat a large, well-trained and well-motivated enemy, and that was the result of poor strategy, not poor tactics.

However, it is certainly not our intention to downplay Cromwell’s contribution to winning the war. His achievement was to combine elements from the Dutch and the Swedish traditions to create a formula for cavalry attack that was appropriate for English conditions: disciplined, controlled charges delivered at a brisk trot, which developed an impressive momentum as the formations were still in close order when they struck the enemy. Finally, Cromwell used sound training and religious zeal as mutually reinforcing elements to create the most dedicated cavalry on either side in the Great Civil War. By encouraging those ideologically committed to religious reform to join his regiments, and by promoting men for their competence and their commitment rather than their social class, he created cavalry formations that could only experience an incremental enhancement of both characteristics as victory followed victory and they saw themselves more and more clearly as God’s instruments in a holy war. Here, too, he was building on the work of Gustavus Adolphus, who had tried to create a godly army renowned for its military virtue and its piety, but he failed ultimately because he had to employ mercenaries in order to bring his army up to a competent size. Cromwell, however, succeeded. In the words of Michael Roberts, he `united in his own person the military and moral heritage of the Swedish king’. In the process, he also created a cavalry arm that would serve in his eyes and those of many of his radical Protestant contemporaries as the humble instrument of the divine will. His were literally the `shock troops of God’.

Argentine Military Effectiveness at the Falkland’s I

In particular, General Menendez, the supreme commander of Argentine forces in the Falklands, was a political appointee with little understanding of conventional military operations and no desire to command Argentine troops in battle against the British. His leadership was disastrous during the war, and he and his senior subordinates must bear much of the blame for Argentina’s poor showing.

Argentine Invasion

Overall, Argentine forces performed poorly in the Falklands War, but even at this level of generalization, they appear to have still performed better than most of the Arab armed forces in most of their wars. Of far greater importance, however, much like the South Vietnamese armed forces, the strengths and weaknesses of the Argentine forces were very different from those of the Arab militaries since 1945.

Morale, Unit Cohesion, and Weapons Handling. At the bottom of the military hierarchy, Argentine soldiers performed poorly throughout the course of the Falklands War. In their defense, Argentina’s enlisted personnel were ill-prepared for war. Fully 75 percent of the troops in the Falklands were conscripts with less than six months of military service, while many of the remaining 25 percent were reservists called up for duty after the dispatch of the British fleet and sent to the Falklands without any refresher training. Only a few units, notably the 5th Marine Battalion, had troops that had served for more than six months, and even in the case of the Marines, few had served for more than a year. To make matters worse, Argentine Army training was notoriously poor, instilling little discipline or actual military skills in the short time each conscript was in the Army. As a result, Argentine conscripts “didn’t know one end of a gun from the other.”

Still, not all of the problems among Argentine enlisted ranks can be blamed on the military system. The troops brought other problems with them. Many of the Argentine enlisted men were illiterate. Most were from the tropical regions of the country and so were unused to the Arctic weather of the Falklands. Personal hygiene among the troops was poor, and in the climate of the Falklands, this led to rampant medical problems. Although most Argentines were ecstatic about the seizure of the Falklands, few wanted to fight Great Britain for them. Consequently, many of the troops lacked any commitment to their mission, and the winter weather and supply problems turned apathy into misery. British special forces units reconnoitering the Argentine positions “formed an impression of an indolent, apathetic army careless of military routines, indifferent to their officers, suffering acutely from the weather.”

On top of all this, Argentine ground units suffered from severe officer-enlisted frictions. The officer corps was a professional body with tremendous pride in its professionalism. Most officers saw their troops as useless, ignorant “short-timers” possessed of few militarily useful skills. Similarly, the enlisted personnel mostly considered their officers (and NCOs) martinets unconcerned with their well-being and pursuing a profession alien to their own lives. Argentine military culture had developed a severely stratified command structure by which the officers were encouraged to remain aloof from their troops as much to preserve their cherished corporate identity as to maintain a proper air of authority. After deploying to the islands, most Argentine officers made little effort to train their men, house them properly, or even see that they were warm, dry, and fed on a regular basis.

Given this background it should not be surprising that Argentine troops performed poorly in battle; it is actually surprising they did not perform worse than they did. Argentine enlisted personnel generally displayed little personal bravery or commitment in combat, and unit cohesion was mediocre at best. Some units threw away their weapons at the first sign of battle and waited to surrender. On many other occasions, they put up a determined fight at first, but when the British began to push through their lines, they broke and ran. Argentine officers frequently had difficulty putting together counterattacks or shifting forces from quiet sectors to stem British assaults because their troops simply refused to obey their orders to get out of the trenches and go into battle. Nevertheless, there were instances, such as at Goose Green, Mt. Longdon, and Tumbledown where Argentine troops stuck together, fought hard, maneuvered, and counterattacked until they were physically overpowered by the British.

Argentine enlisted personnel had a mixed record with weapons handling. Most Argentine soldiers were not good with their small arms, and neglected regular maintenance and cleaning. However, the British consistently reported receiving accurate fire from enemy machine guns, mortars, and artillery. This seems incongruous given the inadequate training given to Argentine enlisted personnel. One possible explanation is that a high percentage of the small number of career soldiers (or an unusual number of NCOs and officers) were assigned to heavy weapons crews to ensure that they were employed properly.

Tactical Leadership.

In contrast to Argentina’s enlisted personnel, its junior officers were actually quite good. As noted above, their officer corps cherished a corporate identity that gave them great pride in their skills as military officers, and while they generally disdained their troops, they were committed to their profession and turned out to be reasonably good tactical commanders. In addition, Argentine junior officers (and NCOs) generally remained at their posts and did not desert. Indeed, in most cases, it was the Argentine officers who tried to fight on while their troops fled. In his own account of the conflict, Brigadier Julian Thompson, commander of 3rd Commando Brigade, notes that “On Mt. Harriet, as elsewhere, the Argentine officers and senior NCOs fought hard and on several occasions towards the end of the battle tried to prevent their men surrendering by firing at them.”

Argentine tactical leadership was creative, aggressive, able to act independently in pursuit of the larger goals of an operation, and able to react quickly and efficiently to unforeseen events. Argentine units frequently tried to maneuver on the battlefield to ambush or outflank British units, even though the British were on the offensive. Similarly, many Argentine units reacted rapidly to British maneuvers, repositioning themselves to best meet the assault. Argentine platoon, company, and battalion commanders shifted reserves to bolster threatened sectors and counterattacked entirely at their own discretion. Indeed, in a few cases, Argentine junior officers disobeyed the orders of their superiors to retreat and instead counterattacked to try to retake a fallen position. In many cases, however, their initiative was not rewarded because the troops under their command were unwilling to execute their orders. Argentina’s junior commanders also were very diligent about maintaining a constant cycle of reconnaissance patrols. However, Argentine troops hated patrolling: they made only halfhearted efforts and generally came running back at first contact with British forces.

As another mark generally in favor of Argentina’s junior officers, Argentine artillery fought quite well during the course of the war. Firsthand accounts of the fighting from the British side make numerous references to the accuracy and lethality of Argentine artillery and its ability to complicate British operations in a wide range of situations and conditions. Argentina’s artillery batteries demonstrated a good ability to conduct pre-planned and preregistered fire missions in support of established Argentine defenses. More impressive still, Argentine artillery demonstrated an ability to shift fire quickly and effectively around the battlefield. On numerous occasions, immediately after an Argentine defensive position fell, their artillery would quickly bombard the fallen position to try to prevent the British from consolidating their hold and to allow Argentine troops time to regroup and counterattack or fall back to new lines. When British units attacked from unexpected sectors, and even when they got into the rear of Argentine positions, Argentina’s artillery and mortars usually were able to redirect their fire within minutes and take the force under bombardment. Although British artillery usually prevailed in counter-battery duels, this was not always the case, and in some instances the British could not silence Argentine guns. The Argentines also had a small number of Rasit battlefield surveillance radars that they used well and could fire artillery missions accurately based on readings from these systems.

Although the evidence is limited because there were no mechanized units in the Falklands, Argentine forces seem to have done adequately in combined arms warfare. Argentina’s combat arms did reasonably well working together both in set-piece and ad hoc operations. As I noted above, Argentina’s artillery supported its infantry formations very well. Artillery missions were closely tied to the actions of the infantry and were quite flexible in their ability to support the infantry as the course of battle ebbed and flowed. In addition, the Argentine air force did a good, but not great, job providing support to ground forces in combat. The air force was good about flying reconnaissance missions in support of the ground operations. On a few occasions (most notably at Goose Green), Argentine strike aircraft flew close air support (CAS) missions that were timely and responsive to the needs of ground commanders. The greatest problems for the Argentines was that British command of the air made it very difficult for Argentine strike aircraft to conduct any kind of sustained effort in support of the ground troops. In addition, the Pucaras—Argentina’s primary ground attack aircraft—lacked the right munitions and so did little damage when they did fly CAS missions.

Still, Argentine junior officers were hardly perfect. Virtually all of Argentina’s tactical commanders appeared to know parts of the right way to conduct modern military operations, but none understood the entire range of command responsibilities and operational methods. For instance, at Goose Green, the Argentines had a good security screen but their counterattacks were weak and ill-timed. By contrast, at Mt. Longdon and Tumbledown, the Argentines failed to deploy an adequate security screen but counterattacked forcefully and immediately. Clearly, these officers were reasonably competent, and mostly had the right idea as to how best to conduct their operations, but they regularly forgot certain elements or executed others improperly.

This pattern of behavior suggests that the greatest problem among Argentine junior officers was inadequate training. They had been taught the proper techniques and seemed to have some intuitive understanding of military operations, but had not had the opportunity to practice frequently enough to get down the mechanics of military tasks to the level necessary to execute them in the chaos of battle. This explanation is supported by numerous references to the limited amount of time Argentine units spent training and exercising.

Strategic Leadership.

The performance of Argentina’s senior military commanders was mostly awful. The biggest exception to this rule was the planning of the initial invasion, which was quite competent even though it was not a terribly demanding assault. Beyond this, it is difficult to find bright spots. In particular, General Menendez, the supreme commander of Argentine forces in the Falklands, was a political appointee with little understanding of conventional military operations and no desire to command Argentine troops in battle against the British. His leadership was disastrous during the war, and he and his senior subordinates must bear much of the blame for Argentina’s poor showing.

The broad patterns of Argentina’s senior Army leadership on the island were a constant hindrance to their defense. Argentine tactical commanders enjoyed considerable freedom of action not because Menendez consciously decentralized authority, but because he and his staff mostly failed to exercise command. As a result of this negligence, the Argentines had great difficulty conducting operations involving forces from more than one battalion, nor could they shift forces from different units quickly to aid those in danger. Without the coordinating abilities and command authority of Menendez’s headquarters nothing could move, and he and his staff rarely recognized the need for such leadership.

When it did react at all, the Argentine strategic command moved painfully slowly, allowing minor setbacks to turn into major defeats. Part of this problem stemmed from the fact that Menendez never kept a reserve and never expected British attacks at night, even on the eve of the final battle of the war. Throughout the campaign, Menendez and his staff were passive and plodding, demonstrating not the least bit of creative flare or aggressiveness. Whenever he was pressed either by his tactical commanders or by the leadership in Buenos Aires to move against the British, Menendez found excuses to do nothing. Sir Michael Carver remarked with expected British understatement that General Menendez was “particularly unenterprising.”

Menendez also made appalling decisions regarding specific aspects of Argentine strategy, preparations, and operations. He opted to defend only Port Stanley, and chose not to contest the landings, when British forces were at their most vulnerable. Menendez then undermined his own strategy by sticking two of his nine infantry battalions on West Falkland Island—where they were cut off by British naval and air power and incapable of supporting the defense of Stanley—and putting another at Goose Green, where it too was out of position to help defend Port Stanley. That left Menendez only six battalions to defend Stanley against eight British infantry battalions possessing far better firepower, training, and motivation as well as air and naval superiority. He simply wasted one-third of his force by deploying them where they could not contribute to his strategy of defending only Port Stanley.

Menendez and his staff created a bizarre and highly damaging command and control scheme. Rather than keep his battalions subordinate to their three organic brigade commands, he sent one brigade commander back to Argentina, placed all six battalions around Stanley under the command of another brigade commander, and then assigned the three battalions at Goose Green and on West Falkland to the third brigade commander. The six battalions around Stanley were more than one brigade headquarters could effectively control, while the other brigade headquarters had tremendous difficulty commanding battalions scattered over several hundred square miles on two different islands. Menendez and his staff exacerbated these problems by constantly dividing up battalions and recombining subunits into new formations. In most cases, those subunits were left under the command of their original formation rather than creating an ad hoc command to control all elements of the new formation. In other instances, such as at Two Sisters, Menendez divided key terrain features between two or more units not under the same commander.

Even in executing his preferred (and misguided) strategy of defending only Port Stanley, Menendez did poorly. First, he failed to defend Mt. Kent and Mt. Challenger, two major heights that dominated the hills around Stanley. The British were astonished that they were able to take these two positions without a fight. They were extremely strong natural defensive positions, and without them the British could never have attacked Stanley. In addition, control of these mountains allowed the British artillery and mortars to hammer the Argentines on the other hills with impunity.

Second, Menendez failed to pull troops off the beaches around the capital to reinforce the line of hills facing west even when it became clear that this was the direction of the main British thrust. Argentine intelligence had predicted time and again that the British would attack Stanley overland from the west. While Menendez was not the first field commander in history to ignore intelligence assessments that later turned out to be accurate, by early June he probably should have realized that they were spot on. Argentine patrols and aerial reconnaissance gave a good picture of the extent of the British buildup around Stanley and made it clear that this would be the direction of the main British assault. This being the case, Menendez should have had more than half his force covering this axis.

Even giving him the benefit of the doubt and assuming that it might have been reasonable for him to have believed that the British could still have had one or more battalions at sea on June 11 for use in an amphibious assault on Stanley, after June 11 there was no possible reason not to reinforce the western defenses. On that day, the British smashed five Argentine companies in the outer ring of hills west of Stanley. Consequently, there was no reason to believe that the remaining four companies defending the inner ring of hills (with less extensive fortifications) could hold back the British. So on June 12 Menendez should have recognized that, regardless of whether the British were going to land on the beaches around Stanley, they were going to cave in his left flank and take the capital from the west if he did not pull troops off the beaches and reinforce this sector. He never did, and three more battalions—another third of his force—were left sitting on the beaches, irrelevant to the battle.

The Argentine high command on the mainland was little better. Reinforcements to defend the islands were plucked from all over the country with little thought given as to whether they were the right forces for the job. In some cases, units were sent for political reasons, such as to ensure the support of particular cities or regions for the war by sending units raised and garrisoned in those areas. None of the units sent had any training in Arctic operations, and very few had any winter clothing or equipment. In general, the Argentine high command failed to think through what forces would be needed to defend the Falklands and then make the necessary arrangements to move them there. The entire 10th Mechanized Brigade deployed without its armor or other heavy weapons, combat engineers were sent without any of their specialized vehicles and equipment, and many anti-aircraft units were sent without their guns or SAMs. Conscript units were sent into battle with little or no training, and reserves were not given any refresher training before being shipped off to the Falklands, while the best units in the army were held back against an unlikely Chilean attack.

British Army Firepower in the mid-eighteenth century I

Horse Guard and Horse Grenadier Guard.

Lord Ligonier

Major-General Sir Charles Howard

British regiment of foot: Battle of Lauffeldt 21st June 1747 in the War of the Austrian Succession: picture by Richard Simkin.

When writing about the tactics and doctrine of the British Army in the mid-eighteenth century modern historians invariably turn to Humphrey Bland’s A Treatise of Military Discipline. Houlding describes it as being of ‘commanding influence in the army’. In the preface Humphrey Bland laid out his aims and his reasons for writing. He pointed out that there had been nothing written on the art of war by a British author for fifty years. He went on to say that as there were then so few old officers with experience of war he felt it necessary to write what he knew of military matters for those ‘who are yet to learn’. Bland’s Military Discipline was thus a statement of how things were at the time of writing. It contained nothing that would be considered innovative by his fellow officers; if anything it looked backwards. It was also very comprehensive, which probably explains its widespread appeal at the time and its endurance. For the historian it allows developments since the War of the Spanish Succession to be identified.

Brigadier General Richard Kane’s book was not published until after his death. The writer of the preface says of Kane: ‘With great Contempt he read some Books, which pretended to Teach the whole Military Art; and often assured his Friends, that those mean Performances provoked him, to attempt something on the same Subject, which, if not perfect, might be free from those gross Errors and glaring Absurdities, which abound in them.’ This may be a reference to Bland’s Military Discipline; indeed it is difficult to think that it could refer to anything else for the simple reason, as Bland himself said, that there were no other books. Kane himself is also scathing of the 1728 regulations. After quoting its title in full he called it a ‘poor performance’.

Kane is particularly adamant concerning the division of a battalion into four grand divisions. This is, he wrote, ‘the Groundwork of all our Performances, of which our Martinet gives but a faint Idea’. Although Bland wrote initially of dividing a battalion into three grand divisions he also wrote of four when it came to how to form a square. The 1728 regulations contain no mention at all of forming grand divisions, which makes it seem likely that Kane’s ‘Martinet’ is a reference to the official regulations. These were drawn up by a committee of very senior and distinguished officers and approved by the king, George II, who took a great interest in his army. It is therefore perhaps not surprising that Kane’s ideas were not published until after his death.

Kane was also flexible in the number of platoons to be formed by a battalion. His preferred number was sixteen hat platoons in addition to the grenadiers, but he also wrote that twelve was possible for a weak battalion, particularly one on a reduced peacetime establishment. He divided the platoons into three firings but as he considered it ‘absolutely necessary’ to have a reserve he held the front rank as a reserve or fourth firing, leaving the second and rear ranks to carry out the firings. The front ranks of the two central platoons, however, were not reserved, but were to fire with the rest of their platoons. This was so that the battalion commander, out in front of the battalion, had somewhere safe to stand when the reserve fired.

Kane insisted that all the platoons of a firing should fire together and not one at a time, according to their order in a firing, which he describes as normal practice at reviews: ‘they are not to keep popping by single Platoons.’ He required the full weight of six platoons’ fire to be delivered together. Kane described how the simultaneous firing of six platoons scattered along a battalion frontage could be achieved by the battalion commander making use of drum beats to transmit commands. The platoon officers and sergeants were simply to ensure their men acted as ordered by the battalion commander. In particular he mentioned ensuring that the soldiers ‘level well their Arms, so that their Fire may have Effect on the Enemy’. Kane does seem to suggest that extended firefights might be necessary; describing the battalion going through its firings, he wrote: ‘And thus the Colonel continues his Firings standing, without Intermission between them.’ If the enemy were not broken by that fire he wrote that the battalion should be advanced closer by the commander who then ‘continues his Firings as fast as he can, until he obliges them to give Way’.

Like Bland, Kane writes that infantry in line fighting cavalry should fire by platoons, but in contrast to Bland Kane wrote that when in square each side of the square was to fire by ranks. Unfortunately he did not explain his reasons for his preference. Kane also completely omits any mention of the bayonet in attack or defence. Another officer writing in 1744 deliberately omits anything on firings, writing that they ‘have long ago been very clearly and fully laid down by Mr. Bland’, but mentions firing by ranks as one way of firing. Despite the comprehensive nature of Bland it would seem that there was still a considerable amount of variety of opinion over the details of how a battalion of infantry should fight. This was not helped by the brevity of the 1728 regulations, which would have left officers with no alternative but to consult Bland on the finer points of drill. What is clear is that the underlying principal of close-range firing by platoons organised into firings and the subsequent assault with the bayonet against infantry, if necessary, was still the basis of the way British infantry intended to fight.

A further change to the process of loading and firing made its first appearance in the 1740 edition of the 1728 regulations. Until then, officially at least, muskets had been primed from a small flask before a cartridge was opened and loaded into the barrel. The 1740 edition allowed for the musket to be primed direct from a cartridge, thus saving valuable seconds in the loading process. During the mid-eighteenth century wooden ramrods were gradually replaced by steel ramrods and despite some early problems with them bending or being too brittle and breaking they also seem to have speeded up the rate of fire. Houlding suggests that these changes, combined with the platoon exercise, increased the rate of fire of the infantry from two to three rounds a minute.

While Kane probably wrote his book around 1730 it was not published until 1745 and, although he shed a little light on the way British infantry were intended to fight, it was with Bland and the 1728 regulations to guide them that they embarked upon the War of the Austrian Succession.

La Fausille’s manuscript, written around 1750–2, contained a considerable amount of information that cast light upon the battlefield practices of British infantry during the War of the Austrian Succession in a manner that a theoretical drill book could not. Not least he identifies the French contribution to British success. He first emphasised the importance of preventing ‘the men from throwing away their Fire to no purpose, or at too great a distance, as our men, being then Novices, did at the Battle of Dettingen’, explaining that the first discharge of fire in a battle is the one that does the greatest execution as it was properly loaded. As well as happening at Dettingen he added that long-range fire almost happened again at Fontenoy. He then stated that ‘the French generally begin to Fire at a great distance.’ Amherst, later to be commander-in-chief in North America recorded that at Fontenoy the French opened fire at ‘about 80 yards distance’. Citing Laffeldt as an example, La Fausille described how the British infantry continued to advance, ignoring the French fire; the French then hurried to reload, doing so without using the ramrod, but simply dropping the open cartridge into the musket and then banging the butt on the ground to get the cartridge and ball to drop into the breech. The effect of loading in this manner, now commonly referred to as tap-loading, is that the balls do not travel far or with any great force – in fact, if the ball lodges in the barrel some way short of the breech, it can result in the barrel bursting. La Fausille added, ‘this Preserved many of our men at the Battle of Laffelt.’ He then described how they advanced against the French, ignoring their fire, until they came up to the hedge and ditch in front of the French. The British then fired and ‘leaping in among them immediately after it, thus struck them with such a terror, that they gave way’. He made the observation that British battalions were able to attack in this manner three times and lost fewer men than allied battalions who tried to rely entirely upon firepower to defeat the French.

La Fausille observed that once an engagement had begun the pressure of combat ‘rarely affords the men time to Prime, Load and Ram down their Cartridge properly’. That tap-loading was a common practice in British infantry regiments was clear from his advice on what to do after an enemy had been broken. First the battalion was to be put in order and then it was to ‘fresh Prime, Load or Ram down the charge of such as are Loaded’. Ramming tap-loaded charges and freshly priming muskets would have ensured that the battalion’s next fire was as effective as any first fire: it was effectively starting again.

Bland also wrote about tap-loading in his manual, reinforcing that it was a common practice. He advised that loading quickly was facilitated by ensuring that the cartridges were made so that after being placed in the barrel a thump on the ground with the butt end of the musket would make them drop to the breech. Like La Fausille he did not greatly approve of it and listed his objections. First, if the barrel was dirty, the cartridge could stick part way down, risking the barrel bursting. Secondly the paper of the cartridge could get between the powder and the touch-hole. Thirdly, the power of the shot could be greatly reduced so that ‘the Ball will either drop within two or three Yards, or not have Force enough to do much Execution.’ He added that if the men ‘are not press’d too close by the Enemy, the Ramming down of the Cartridge should not be omitted in Service’.

Despite Bland’s objections there are clear indications in order books that tap-loading was not only acceptable, but was planned for in the preparation of ammunition. An order of February 1743 to the British Army in Europe instructed that if any unit had balls too big for their muskets they were to hammer them ‘on every side, to reduce them to such a size as they may go easily down in a Cartridge, allowing for the fouling of a piece by often firing’. It would appear that, while the dangers of tap-loading and the benefits of properly loaded muskets were well understood, at short range the benefit of an increase in the speed of loading, and thus the rate of fire, outweighed any loss in effectiveness. Loading without using the rammer could have shortened the loading time by as much as half. This meant that the well-loaded first shots of the firings could be fired with shorter intervals between each firing as the first firing to fire would have reloaded in half the usual time. This would have increased the intensity of the firing and thus its effect on an enemy.

The first battle of the war, Dettingen, 1743, was also the last occasion upon which British troops were commanded in the field by their monarch, in this case George II. The British with their Hanoverian and Austrian allies were outmanoeuvred by the French and found themselves trapped between the river Main and forest-covered hills with the French in front, behind and across the river. Fortunately, errors by the French gave the British and their allies a chance to fight their way out when the French force blocking their march launched an unnecessary attack.

It is generally stated that the platoon firing of the infantry pretty much fell apart with every man firing in his own time, despite which the British and their allies were able to achieve a notable victory over the French. The main source for this assertion is a letter from Lieutenant Colonel Russell of the Guards in letters to his wife.

That the Austrians also behaved well is also true; that except one of their battalions which fired only once by platoons, they all fired as irregular as we did; that the English infantry behaved like heroes, and as they were the major part of the action, to them the honour of the day was due; that they were under no command by way of Hide Park firing, but that the whole three ranks made a running fire of their own accord, and at the same time with great judgement and skill, stooping all as low as they could, making almost every ball take place is true; that the enemy when expecting our fire, dropped down, which our own men perceiving, waited till they got up before they would fire, as a confirmation of their coolness as well as bravery, is very certain; that the French fired in the same manner, I mean like a running fire, without waiting for words of command, and that Lord Stair did often say he had seen many a battle and never saw the infantry engage in any other manner is as true.

Russell is clearly stating that the British infantry did not fire by platoons as practised in Hyde Park. The London-based Guards’ regiments drilled in Hyde Park and the term Hyde Park became synonymous with doing things strictly according to regulations. In another letter Russell wrote: ‘our men and their regimental officers gained the day; not in the manner of Hyde Park discipline, but our foot almost kneeled down by whole ranks, and so fired upon ’em a constant running fire.’ He goes on to say that each man fired as an individual, and that Lord Stair stated that was what always happened in a battle. The extent to which this sweeping statement, which could be read as applying solely to the French, can be relied upon is open to question. Lord Stair had been the army’s commander-in-chief until his position was usurped when George II took personal command and there is little doubt that Stair was sulking. Similarly Russell was in no mood to pay compliments to the line battalions as the Guards had been with the rearguard of the army and saw no action. In fact Russell wrote to his wife that his view of the battle was from a hill two miles away. More reliable are the accounts of those in the infantry who were directly involved, including a young James Wolfe with Duroure’s regiment. He is clear on the point that his battalion and several others opened fire at far too great a range. Colonel Duroure, acting as adjutant general, wrote that the British infantry fired ‘not by Platoons but with perpetual Volleys from Right to Left, loading almost as fast as they fired without ceasing, so that the French were forced to retreat’. La Fausille described how, once some battalions began to fire, firing broke out right along the line of British infantry even though in places the French were even out of cannon shot. He also recounted how, when a battalion commander asked a general whether he should order his battalion to fire by platoons or ranks the general advised him to keep his men in good order, try to hold their fire to a very close range and he would be delighted to see either fire by platoon or ranks as he ‘never did yet but on a Field day or at a Review’. However, at least one British infantry battalion seems to have managed to fire correctly, by platoons, in firings. An officer in the Royal Welch Fusiliers described how they advanced to within sixty paces of the French before firing:

Our people imitated their predecessors in the late war gloriously, marching in close order, as firm as a wall, and did not fire till we came within sixty paces, and still kept advancing; so that when we had soon closed with the Enemy, they had not retreated: for when the smoak blew off a little, instead of being among their living we found the dead in heaps by us; and the second fire turned them to the right about, and upon a long trot.

This describes the battalion continuing to advance after giving the first firing and on emerging from the smoke of their fire finding the French had taken heavy casualties. The battalion’s second firing then caused the enemy to run. This feat was then repeated against three other French regiments, including a Guard’s regiment that retreated before the fusiliers could fire. This officer was clear in his views about the reasons for the success of his regiment, emphasising the importance of getting close to the enemy before firing: ‘What preserved us was keeping close order, and advancing near the enemy ere we fir’d. Several that popp’d at one hundred paces lost more of their men, and did less execution, for the French will stand fire at that distance, tho’ ’tis plain they cannot look men in the face.’

In his official report Colonel Duroure not only gave his account of what happened, but also made mention of how the infantry had been ordered to fight. It was ‘judged that the whole fire had been given without Orders, against the Directions to preserve ours, and first to receive the Enemy’s, then giving ours and charging with Bayonets’. A clear statement that if Dettingen had been won by firepower alone that had not been the intention.

At Dettingen the French cavalry enjoyed an initial success against the British infantry. The French Household cavalry broke through the first line of British infantry, but did not cause it to retreat. Rather the words of Bland about the superiority of infantry over cavalry were vindicated when the grenadier company of Huske’s 32nd, in the second line, held off the cavalry while the battalion finished forming. Then, trapped between the first and second line of infantry, the cavalry were shot to pieces.

For events at Fontenoy in 1745 there is a French account of cavalry attacking British infantry. ‘Our Cavalry, which advanced before them immediately, could not sustain the terrible Fire made by that Line of Infantry . . . Several of our Squadrons rallied, but were again repuls’d by the prodigious Fire of the Enemy’s Infantry.’69 Although Fontenoy was a defeat for the allied army under the Duke of Cumberland the British infantry more than held their own against both French cavalry and infantry.

Following Dettingen the infantry had trained hard in their battalion firings, as shown by an order of 1 December 1744: ‘The Regt which fired ball against the wall of ye Capuchin’s near the Nonnen Bosh, are to do so no more, but to find some other place, if they have occasion to fire anymore.’ Whilst not a great deal of detail of the infantry battle at Fontenoy has come down to us, the notable exception to this is the firefight between the British and French Guards early on in the battle, when the benefits of such training were clear. Three battalions of British Guards were on the right of the first line of the British infantry attacking the French position. In an incident immortalised by Voltaire they came face to face with the French Guards, the Swiss Guards and the Regiment Courten. According to Voltaire, Lord Hay, a captain in the First Guards, stepped forwards and invited the French to fire first. A French officer responded, saying that they never fired first. The truth, as related by Lord Hay, was more prosaic. He saluted the French, toasted them from his hip flask and told the French he hoped they would not swim the nearby Scheldt as they had the Main at Dettingen, a reference to their rout at that battle. It is unclear who did fire first. Voltaire suggests that the French infantry were so stunned by the British fire that they did not fire at all. An account in a British newspaper stated that the French fired first. Whether they fired first or second the effect of the British fire was devastating. Voltaire says that the fire was by platoons and it seems most likely that the Guards fired twice by firings at a range of less than thirty yards. The total strength of the three guard’s battalions at Fontenoy was approximately 1,970 rank and file, meaning that the French received approximately 3,900 rounds of musket fire. Voltaire records this fire as causing a total of 912 killed and wounded, giving the Guards a hit rate of about 23 per cent. By contrast the three battalions of Guards suffered a total of 736 killed and wounded for the whole battle.

British participation in the War of the Austrian Succession was interrupted by the Jacobite Rebellion of 1745 when Prince Charles Edward Stuart, with French support, landed in Scotland and raised a Scottish army to attempt to recover the Crown for his father. The eyewitness descriptions of combat that survive from that domestic affair allow a far more detailed analysis of how the British infantry fought than has so far been possible. From the beginning it was recognised that the threat posed by Highland forces was quite different from that of conventional European forces. Their tactics had been described by Lieutenant General Hugh Mackay who had been beaten by them at Killiekrankie.

Their way of fighting is to divide themselves by clans, the chief or principal man being at their heads, with some distance to distinguish betwixt them. They come on slowly till they be within distance of firing, which, because they keep no rank or file, doth ordinarily little harm. When their fire is over, they throw away their firelocks, and everyone drawing a long broad sword, with his targe (such as have them) on his left hand, they fall a running toward the enemy.