BBC BLOGS - Newsnight: Paul Mason
« Previous | Main | Next »

A short, sharp - er, Strategic? - defence review

Post categories:

Paul Mason | 07:56 UK time, Thursday, 1 April 2010

OK, consider this. You are the pre-eminent military power in Europe. Suddenly out of nowhere you spot a "threat". But no worries: your officer corps is skilled in expeditionary warfare and you have the finest professional army in the world. You set your technologists off to develop new and secret weapons. Then you declare war on the "threat" at the first opportunity.

But the "threat" turns out to have three things you don't. A reserves system that can mobilise hundreds of thousands of trained part-timers; a railway system that can deliver them to the battlefield; and a level of social legitimacy for the military which your professionalised armed force never enjoyed.

Result: within six weeks your head of state is a POW and your army has surrendered. Within six months your capital city is surrounded by the "threat" and ruled by armed insurgents.

That is the story of France in the Franco-Prussian war, which was won, effectively, at the design stage between two military systems.

After the election, the UK armed forces will once again be going through a design stage, and in a world where threats are hard to predict.

There will be a Strategic Defence Review, 12 years on from the last, which is still worth a read as an example of how hard it is to anticipate a threat. The word "terrorism" appears 13 times in the document, almost always in a list of potential threats that goes: "drugs, terrorism and crime". The word Afghanistan appears once, in relation to heroin supply. There is no mention of Islamism or jihad.

The timescale for the upcoming SDR is looking very crushed. I understand both Labour and the Conservatives see the Strategic Defence Review as needing to be complete by the time of the departmental spending review they plan in October/November.

I also understand that, for the Conservatives, in addition to the usual efficiency savings and the perennial problem of the MoD's procurement culture, the issue of 1st Armoured Division in Germany is looming large.

The British Army has around 23,000 troops in Germany "facing nothing" as one senior Conservative put it to me. Though there would be a high upfront cost in moving or decommissioning this force it would have geo-political overtones as well, as the force forms the "framework nation" of the NATO Allied Rapid Reaction Corps, which is already moving its signals and logistics brigades back to the UK this year.

Labour meanwhile is also preparing to make "tough choices", though not necessarily the same ones. Here the dichotomy tends to be posed as "tanks versus digital warfare and drones" - but there is, I understand, a similar determination to get most of the big decisions done before the cuts packages are announced.

The problem is that some in the armed forces are looking for a more "strategic" and therefore more deliberate process to come out of the SDR.

There is the army-versus-navy lobbying effort that Newsnight has reported on before, essentially and argument about how much blue-water naval capability you need if your primary goal is to the ability to conduct expeditionary warfare.

But there is also some thinking going on in the UK Armed Forces about their role and "legitimacy" in society: that is, a much broader set of questions about the relationship between reserves and professional soldiers; military intervention versus stabilisation and humanitarian roles abroad; where soldiers and their families should live and who provides their health care etc.

Those I've spoken to are asking bigger questions than the politicians and over a longer time-horizon, in which the security threat to the UK may be very different to what it is now.

The Afghan deployment showed the UK's procurement system as out of step with the speed of change at the military level, leaving much of the kit to be procured out of "urgent operational requirement" budgets, and the long-term procurement plans needing hasty revision.

But the procurement process is only one part of the long-term agenda the SDR will have to address. The Defence, FCO and DFID budgets will be looked at as a whole under an incoming Conservative government's wider Security Review. But if the Institute for Fiscal Studies is right, we could be looking at a 25% real-terms cut whoever wins the election.

It is in this context that the SDR Green Paper, published in February, poses the following questions: what's the balance between defending the UK/ Europe and projecting force outside; if you do the latter, what kind of force do you need (ie do you need something like the US Marine Corps with one ethos for all its functions and one basic operational role); how do you square this with the armed forces' role in coping with disasters, terrorist attacks or banking collapse. Then, do you redraw the map of the NATO/EU command system and do you integrate forces more thoroughly within that?

I hear, among the military people I've talked to, a desire for these questions to be answered at the level of, well, strategy - by strategists. That is, politicians who take responsibility for designing armed forces that have the capability, wider societal support and resources for what they are going to ask them to do.

There is some doubt being expressed within the armed forces as to whether a process totally focused on delivering cuts by Christmas will deliver answers to these longterm questions.

Meanwhile there is also concern among civil servants - just as with the budget deficit issue - that if we get a hung parliament then none of the strategic decisions will get taken by the time the cuts have to happen.

One hundred years ago Britain was in the grip of a political debate about strategy which enthralled parliament and the popular press (the so-called "big navy" debate within Asquith's Liberal administration).

One byproduct of the parties' lack of candour about the cuts in general is that Labour and the Conservatives are keeping their detailed strategic defence proposals under wraps until after the election.

Whoever wins, finding out what is to be cut and why is going to be a signal moment of the next nine months.

Comments

  • Comment number 1.

    Probably quite controversial but if it were down to me there would be a return to national service on a similar basis as many countries on the continent. Not necesarily for the military aspect but for the sense of belonging and contribution to society such a principal engenders in its youth (but without being overly nationalistic). I think a lot of our youth would benefit from getting paid a basic wage to learn survival skill, personal fitness and discipline with a bit of graffiti clearing and community projects thrown in.

    Society would benefit in many ways from that, it must be better than paying them to do training courses for jobs that dont exist or simply paying them to surf the net and watch tv.

    Beyond that there would still be a professional army but very focussed on regional policing / rapid response to ad-hoc threats etc and it would be very high tech, the cold war capability would largely be scrapped, high technology and nuclear should prevent the need for any further huge standing armies with column upon column of sitting duck tanks that can be taken out by a single high tech missile from 50 miles away.

    Things have moved on.









  • Comment number 2.

    Thatcher's "enemy within" is the threat that the political elite face.

    The days of imperialism are too costly for the UK.
    It was always resources & markets not civilisation & democracy.

    Is spending on 'internal security' going to be cut?
    Less police, less spooks?
    Of course not, all these protesting trouble makers need 'discipling'.

  • Comment number 3.

    Okay, consider this

    Your big military engagements for the last seven year have been expensive in lives and maimings, and very expensive to a national budget that definitely cannot afford even a strictly and truly defensive war.

    But these wars have been er kind of er defensive because its er against 'fundmentalist Islam', or is that er Islamic fundamentalists'??

    Anyway - we're fighting them and we are getting them to stop being FIs or IFs and come over to our side. So its all worth it. Because that will keep us safe here cos the IFs (FIs) wont come here. Cool - must be worth it. Carry on.

    Except that - meanwhile we are doing all we can to encourage, and if not encourage, at least turn a blind eye, but a facilitating one, to hand all our space, resources, housing, historic buildings, grants, borough council rerouces, government 'anti-terrorism' millions, to a fifth column of FIs (or is it IFs ) here.

    So fighting them overseas will stop them coming here...
    but hang on - they are here...
    and in a much more subversive fashion???

    While our guys are across the world getting blown up to stop FIs (IFs?) coming here, to protect us against them ....


    And none of your 'defence' discussion, Paul, looks at any of these contradications. Head in the air as usual, refusing to see anything real.







  • Comment number 4.

    facing the unknown is called risk management and involves the development of a futures market. the history of risk is embedded in the days of merchant sailing then a highly risky endeavour. So the strategy that came out of it was the diversification strategy. ie you do not put all you goods in one boat but in many boats at different times and some goods by land by different routes.

    in the same way when facing an unknown military 'futures market' one can use the principle of diversification. A broad mix of skills and assets.

    the uk military force should not be bent or dominated by a neocon spreading 'democracy' by military means strategy ie putting all your goods in one boat. The first and last rule is can the force defend the uk. anything else is optional.

    and anyway what does spreading democracy mean? Does it mean the good taliban are taking uk sponsored classes in political science covering topics like The Mixed Regime and the Rule of Law, The Sovereign State in Hobbes' Leviathan, Constitutional Government in Locke's Second Treatise perhaps mixing in a bit of criticism like Marx and Sartre when the lads can back from the poppy harvest?

    Will there be plane loads of good Taliban on cultural exchange visits turning up to walk about Westminster and meet MPs?

    given the science shows occupation leads to more suicide bombing then such vainglorious exercises increase threats to the uk and do not diminish them.

    but since when has the last 10 years of war been about military sense? it has been about political bias and prejudices based on false beliefs impacting upon military strategy. what they call in behavioural finance as 'framing'.

    the politicians framed for us a picture. that was/is a load of 'pixies are to blame' analysis'.

  • Comment number 5.

    Who was it who said that you always plan to fight the last war? Can't remember who it was but it was the same in the Crimea, the Phoney Way of 1939, the Troubles in Northern Ireland and the shambles in Iraq. The only one that seems different was the Falklands which was in many ways a lash-up job cobbled together at the last minute.

    The Cold War is over but we seem to be allowing ourselves to be run ragged in Afghanistan by a bunch of people we don't understand. I suppose this is the price of fighting other peoples' wars for which you are never ever going to be prepared.

    When my father was dying we talked about his war. We had to as the effects of him winning an MC & Bar plus couple of French decorations had eventually wrecked the family. He told me a lot about the period 1940 to 1943 and the unnecessary losses sustained by his generation due to inadequate equipment. He told me that the greatest crime any government can commit is to enter military action without the kit necessary to allow the forces to do the job. I have heard him turning in his grave these last few years.

    Any strategic defence review has to take in the need to equip our forces properly. However, we no longer have an Empire on which the sun never sets and this has to be reflected in what we expect our people to do.

    Firstly, we have to maintain our own territorial integrity. Being an island this necessitates a reasonably effective navy. Furthermore some sort of citizen militia, a bit between the TA, the Home Guard and Special Constables would not go amiss.

    Secondly, whatever our feelings may turn out to be over the Euopean Union we are geographically parked beside France and Ireland and so we should exist in a friendly and mutually supportive role with them and their friends and allies. NATO is the umbrella for this although the stresses and strains of the Afghan conflict does not bode well for that alliance.

    Lastly, we have our own protectorates scattered far and wide, plus allies and friends all over the world and we need to have some sort of reach to support them if ill comes their way. So some sort of strike force is needed.

    Whilst I accept the need for a couple of properly equipped aircraft carriers, suitable escorts plus some state of the art fighters and fighter bombers, my family background is in special forces and covert action. Submarines, choppers and small teams of well trained and extremely violent people would be my preferred option. Can't see the Armoured Brigade fitting into that structure somehow which is a pity as I had a great-uncle who was a tank pioneer. He drove a tank at Cambrai.

  • Comment number 6.

    With our soldiers fighting and dying I am loathe to say this but feel it must be said.

    I fear that some of our senior Army officers are 'enthusing' in the war in Afghanistan as it allows them to 'do their stuff', to do the things that they joined the Army for in the first place and to be, well, 'real soldiers'.

    No doubt, some will deliberately take the above in the wrong way and for their own end. So, I will say it again - I am loathe to say this whilst our brave young men and women are fighting and dying and being injured in Afghanistan... but I think it needs to be said.

    I think that there is a serious danger to this country by focussing on the terrorist threat to the UK being either the only foreeseable threat or just the main threat. Just because conventional 'big wars' between powerful neighbours has not happened in recent times does not mean that they will not happen again. Any study of the past thousand years will show one war after another supposedly being the last one... only for a nastier, bigger and more vicious war to follow years later.

    The war in Afghanistan, if it is not simply the wrong war, could well be being fought in the wrong way in order for us to win? How many within the British Army are honestly and truthfully even pausing for thought on this?

    There is much talk by Army generals about us spending too much on the Royal Air Force - but the Army needs the RAF to get anywhere and, as we at first and then the Germans discovered in WW2, you cannot win a ground war without adequate air cover. No air cover, no air superiority, and Army tanks, transports, guns and infantry are just targets on the ground to be destroyed - just ask the Iraqi armies in 1990 and 2003 for evidence of that.

    At the same time more and more nations are accquiring modern submarine fleets - the Chinese especially so - and an island nation like ours, dependent upon the sea for trade and to feed ourselves, has a real and serious need for a strong and modern Royal Navy with modern hunter-killer submarines with which to deter and defend ourselves.

    Yes, our Army Generals are using the war in Afghanistan to argue for a bigger slice of the defence pie but are they serving the short or long-term interests of this country in doing so - or are they merely serving their own short-sighted ambitions? If the Generals will not ask this of themselves, and give a truthful answer, then someone else needs to.

  • Comment number 7.

    we are not seriously considering renewing Trident, are we?

  • Comment number 8.

    #5 Stanilic
    At last, at last some clear strategic thinking without the prejudice caused by wrapping us up in the national flag.
    I'm also convinced our major contribution and investment must be in technologically advanced warfare (drones, intelligence gathering and well trained multi role forces). The steady drip drip of coffins returning from Afghanistan, whilst poignant and an opportunity to honour our dead, is very much of our age. One shudders to think the impact on morale in WW2 if Bomber Command's finest returned home in this way, all 55-60,000 of them. This points to the lack of capacity for a media dominated society to stomach large scale personnel losses.
    I was fascinated by your reference to your family history, SOE perhaps? none of my business I know, but I have a running interest in that area and have just finished reading Leo Marks' 'Between Silk & Cyanide' on the code war and the internecine conflict within UK security services, a very good read.
    I can't see how we could defend the Falklands again, so would expect to see diplomatic moves to develop energy sources thereabouts in a collaborative way, otherwise I guess the oil stays in the ground (under the sea). Imperialism is still out there but it is China that is ironically wielding the power in Africa, Myanmar etc. In contrast to the 1930's, I expect the informed defence community to be able to get a strategy together with much common ground, outwith interservice conflict, fairly soon. I don't have such high hopes for the politicians.

  • Comment number 9.

    7 stevie

    I wouldn't but then I am not looking for votes around the Clyde.

  • Comment number 10.

    We're spending £40 billions per annum of total managed government spending on defence? 6% of £700bn odd. But, since Blair's 2001-2003 initiatives in Iraq/Afghanistan we've been sucked into not just war-fighting but nation-building. We've been funding operations with Reserve funding. Panic-funding operations to kit our boys with the stuff they should have had first-off.

    Its all about modestly re-evaluating our role in the world. Permanent membership of the Security Council tempts our leaders, sometimes with the best of intentions, to go beyond our means to better the world and get some kudos in the history books at the same time. Start with homeland defence. Let's get that right and get the best brains to "imagineer" the threats. Then, evaluate our alliances and collective commitments. Only then, should we consider whether we can afford any role in nation-building.

    I see no reason why we shouldnt also go to first principles - the silly spectacle of Army v Navy v RAF bickering and pulling on their respective establishment allies to ring-fence their domains. Traditions need to be put aside. What's good for us. If we can create a merged single service with hollistic procurement strategies, maybe our defence pounds can go much further.

    I agree, let's be strategic but let's push aside the empire-building.

  • Comment number 11.

    WILL SOMEONE PLEASE CLIP-BOARD OUR 'EXTREME PAINTBALLERS'?

    QUESTION 1: How many of our mercenaries JOINED THE ARMED FORCES TO PROTECT QUEEN AND COUNTRY? How many are simply 'doing the job they love'?

    How many British civilians has Johnnie Foreigner (or his confused proxies) killed in UK, in the Terror War? What would be a realistic INCREASE if we were not paintballing in Afghanistan (number corrected down, for 'new extremists' directly engendered from our invasion)?

    Top brass at Chilcot, made clear (inferentially, to those who had ears) that the military were itching for action, and would have gone to war, issued only with Don Quixote armour and a bent papier-mache lance, IF THE ALTERNATIVE WAS NO FIGHT. This is the MALE PRINCIPLE writ large, a political/military collusion. We should call a hormone a hormone, and have done with pretence that the 'threat' bears any relationship to our action.

  • Comment number 12.

    Start with foreign policy and in particular going cold turkey over poodle to USA. Then look for serious down sizing especially our brave troops in Germany in their unequal struggle against the umlauts. Leave Afghanistan as soon as credible and be a lot nicer to the rest of the world offering not to buy two new aircraft carriers and upgrade Trident. Why not offer to give up being nuclear while we are about it - QED?

  • Comment number 13.

    Great blog Paul. No time to comment right now, but just a question: when are we going to get Newsnight overseas (I just moved to the States). BBC America News is great n' all but very much focussed on the US audience ...

  • Comment number 14.

    13 expatscot: -

    Yes, odd that isn't it. When I travel and find myself in hotels in Europe watching the various US News shows they are giving stories about what has happened in the US and the odd bit of World coverage.

    When I switch on to whatever the BBC service is called they aren't telling me about what has happened back home in the UK but focus on stuff from around the World.

    I can only assume that everyone else on the planet now pays the BBC licence fee also.

  • Comment number 15.

    14. At 4:30pm on 02 Apr 2010, tawse57

    Maybe the Brits are aware of the planet while the Americans think there is America and not much else worth talking about?


    13. At 2:23pm on 02 Apr 2010, expatscot wrote:
    Maybe your local cable TV will broadcast BBC World Radio on a local channel while they put on their text pages of local info - they used to do that in some counties in Maryland.

  • Comment number 16.

    14. tawse57 'When I switch on to whatever the BBC service is called they aren't telling me about what has happened back home in the UK but focus on stuff from around the World.'

    They seem to think they are National Geographic at times. It gives the journalists the opportunity to travel widely ;-)

    Watching French TV news one gets a positive feel for the regions. Not UK TV news though. Meanwhile, Britain becomes ever more devolved, Balkanized, anarchistic. It doesn't help when Brown mutters something disparaging about the evils of Xenophobia, nationalism and protectionism either - but as New Labour's part of the Socialist International, it's inevitable that any hint of national socialism or statism is strictly verboten. At whose cost though? The major collateral damage was in fact to Old Labour!! :-(

  • Comment number 17.

    #10 shireblogger

    ''Traditions need to be put aside. What's good for us. If we can create a merged single service with hollistic procurement strategies, maybe our defence pounds can go much further.''


    A difficult and brave thing to do you suggest but the right thing. I dont see why the traditions cant still remain embedded in the background within an amalgemated 'uk defence force' or similar fit for purpose entity that recognises that things have moved on.

    Eveything from eonomics to defence to religion and even some aspects of 'reason' itself are crying out for fundamental change to suitably recognise the changed landscape we now operate in.

    I find where we are at the moment in terms of our development as a species absolutely fascinating...and infuriatingly frustrating in approx equal proportions.

    It is absolutely amazing what could be achieved now if we choose to collectively crawl out of Plato's Cave.

  • Comment number 18.

    8 tonyparksrun

    You are right my old man was SOE although I never knew until I was forty; although I had known that something wasn't right since I was very young. I am glad you are enjoying Leo Mark's book. I snap up every source on the SOE I can find: trying to find out more so that I can understand the context of my origin. I learned that even my Christian name was once an SOE code.

    I have a more distant relation who is still recovering from being in the SAS. I stress the word recovery as these people are quite remarkable but push their sanity to the extreme. I both admire them and think they are completely bonkers: a view I have heard expressed by members of the Parachute Regiment who admit to being a bit nuts themselves.

    We can defend the Falklands quite easily now as there is an airport there. Given the prospect of oil and access to the Antarctic this is of immense strategic importance to the UK. It could be our get-out-of-the- coming-slump-relatively-free card.

    Compared with the casualty lists of the First World War and the civilian toll of the Blitz the drip-feed of soldiers coming home dead from Afghanistan is something the people of this country can absorb so long as they are clear as to the purpose and the prospect of an eventual end. I am more concerned at the number of NCOs being killed and injured as these guys are the backbone of the army. I suspect that this is more class solidarity on my part: too many sergeants in the background!

  • Comment number 19.

    7, the Trident subs were, any replacements would be, built at Barrow In Furness.
    Though most of what else floats with the White Ensign IS from the Clyde.

    My own view is that if you look at the last 20 year, again and again the unexpected has cropped up.
    Starting in 1990 with the invasion of Kuwait.
    Therefore, flexibility should be the key.

    Aircraft carriers, in particular the VSTOL kind now being built in the UK, (which critics of them seem unaware of) are inherently flexible, so what if they spend half their (40 year) life carrying helicopters and Marines?
    Size means flexible, impressively their crew size (a major cost in a professional force), is only a few hundred more than the current ships despite their replacements being three times larger - steel is cheap, air is free.

    The other big ticket Naval programme, the Trident replacement, is NOT flexible.
    The offer by France to share patrols should be taken up, this could extend the life of the current Trident subs by some years, thus putting back a replacement.
    However, though I've never been a nuclear disarmer (I don't recall CND being right about the Cold War), it does seem odd to completely commit to a vast new sub based ballistic missile based replacement.
    Trident should be up for review.

    France is looking to replace it's air launched ASMP missile, a 100 mile or so range air launched weapon.
    The UK, which is already cooperating with them on a range of guided weapon systems, should buy into this.
    To be carried by F-35 and/or Typhoon aircraft.
    It might be the case that 'strategic' weapons, like Trident, end up as part of international moves to reduce such systems, beyond the US and Russia.
    But I do not think it wise to have France as the only European nuclear power.
    It also might be worth looking at a cruise missile based system to be carried by Astute class subs too.
    This would keep the UK's nuclear capability, but without the massive expense of a Trident based system.
    To retain the UK's sub building technology base, the planned future Trident subs would be substituted by more of the Astute Class and/or a follow on design to retain a 12 sub Navy.

    Many fear that the number of top class Naval escorts will slip too low in numbers, (The Type 45 Destroyers has been cut from 12 to 6 ships).
    While a core of top line ships are needed to escort carrier/amphibious vessels, there is a case for building a class of ocean going Corvettes/Light Frigates.
    Here the UK has experience and recent success in making and exporting such vessels.
    Such ships could do the anti pirate task and other routine jobs such as the West Indies Guardship - where RN vessels have a strong record in catching sea borne drug smugglers.
    These would be a lot cheaper to build and run too.
    For many years, France - who are the most comparable military power, have run a fleet with a smaller core of high end vessels, with a larger group of less sophisticated ships for the sorts of tasks above.

    Despite all the usually very ill informed media commentary, the Typhoon is becoming a flexible system, all new types in this class, French, American ones included, have incremental upgrades for new weapons, sensors to expand their capabilities, this aircraft is no different.
    Involving millions of lines of software.

    Though the stated number of 232 is too large, (now the target looks like being around 206) if as looks likely, Oman buys 24 of them, these should be taken from the RAF order, the first 24 of the Saudi order were too, this would leave the RAF with around 180.
    Enough to run squadrons at the high operational level (they are moving to being 'swing role' units - being able to be doing routine policing of UK airspace to being deployed abroad rapidly in air to air and air to ground roles).
    As well moving around airframes to keep the average per airframe of flying hours down - extending their lives (this is why the RAF buys rather more fast jets than a glance of their actual numbers of operational units seem to need. Also for new capabilities there will be incremental upgrades, numbers are needed for running the day to day operations while a portion of the fleet are being upgraded).

    The balance of fast jet airpower will be the F-35.
    Again, the actual numbers may not be realised as originally planned.
    There is a large amount of (high tech) UK content in this aircraft, it is not a high energy ultra agile type like Typhoon, rather it is a low observable plane with particular abilities in sensor performance and data sharing.
    Around 60 of the VSTOL F-35B for operation either on the new carriers and from austere land bases, will suffice. from operation from the middle of this decade.

    Considering the funding situation, a follow on order for more will have to be delayed until after 2016/17.
    This however dovetails with the need to replace the remaining and aging RAF Tornado GR.4's.
    So from the early 2020's, replace some of these with a second batch of land based F-35's, around 40-50 aircraft of the F-35C version, which will have the longest range of the three F-35 versions.

    The rest of the Tornado fleet replaced by unmanned combat aircraft, BAE are working on two systems, a prop driven one rather like the Predators that the RAF have got and are using in Afghanistan through an Urgent Operational Requirement.
    The second is a concept for a more advanced, longer ranged jet powered type, this should form the basis of a system to be introduced in the 2020's to take on the role of remaining Tornado aircraft.
    These systems are also cheaper to build, much cheaper to run too.
    It is also a technology that an advanced military force will find crucial, for the armed forces and the defence industry.
    Put it this way, even the USA expects the F-35 to likely be the last manned fast jet combat aircraft.

    While the army needs the core capability of some heavy armour, clearly the forces in Germany are too much of an inflexible burden. Cuts are needed there.
    A presence could be retained there with a small care and maintenance group, with some pre positioned equipment for NATO training, but the ground forces need to move further along to being more rapidly deployable.
    It would be a folly however, to structure the army for operations in Afghanistan, by the time this was done, we'll probably be withdrawing from there anyway.
    Which would only to repeat the mistakes of the past of equipping for the last war.

    We cannot easily predict security threats anymore, defence procurement is about choices, with a limited budget it's all about flexibility.



  • Comment number 20.

    #18 Stanilic

    Thanks for replying, you must be very proud.

    Agree re NCO's - ordinary people doing extraordinary things(often like SOE), they say you can train this, but I'm not so sure. To deal with scores of IED's takes bravery to another level IMHO. Monty was roundly criticised by the Yanks (and others) for being slow, but had spotted, like you, that the cream of British forces NCO's & trained infantry was being slowly wiped out - Monty tried to preserve them from Normandy onwards, and let the Yanks take the strain. Explains why he tried Market Garden, which almost came off aiming to end the war early.

 

More from this blog...

Latest contributors

BBC iD

Sign in

BBC navigation

BBC © 2014 The BBC is not responsible for the content of external sites. Read more.

This page is best viewed in an up-to-date web browser with style sheets (CSS) enabled. While you will be able to view the content of this page in your current browser, you will not be able to get the full visual experience. Please consider upgrading your browser software or enabling style sheets (CSS) if you are able to do so.