The Minute Book
Tuesday, 24 September 2013

Principles of War for the Platoon Commander; 1943
Topic: Military Theory

The Eight Principles of War as Applicable to the Platoon Commander's Job

Canadian Army Training Memorandum, No 22, January 1943

Lieutenant W. Smith, a platoon commander, and Sergeant F.G. White, a platoon sergeant, both of The Royal Canadian Regiment, resting after the capture of Pontecorvo, Italy, 24 May 1944.
Photographer: C.E. Nye; Mikan Number: 3202714. From the Library and Archives Canada presentation Faces of War.

1.     Maintenance of the Object:

Never forget your job. Remember you are here to turn out a platoon of fully competent soldiers. Stick to it night and day. Before you take time off- Think! Is there anything you slacked on that you could make up Now I Time lost can never be regained, keep on the job.

2.     Concentration:

Are you using all the stores available to you for the job. Are you wasting time on useless "palaver and bitching"? Are your N.C.Os doing their best, are they concentrating on the job? Do you find yourself for hours in the Mess or at the Show. Put all your excess time and energy on your job, that's where it does the most good!

3.     Economy of Force

Don't send a man to do a boy's job, a boy to do a man's job. Distribute your N.C.Os to the best advantage. Keep your men fit, in camp a full strength platoon each day. See that your men get only a fair share of fatigues, training is the thing.

4.     Offensive Action:

Don't dodge your problems, sink your teeth into them and tear them apart. Work hard! Think hard! Play hard! You are in this thing to win I Give it everything you've got I When the day is done, and your dog tired, the O.C.'s a grouch, the Adjutant is cracked and the Company Commander a bloody fool-forget it! Be a man and give that extra bit to show the world you are.

5.     Surprise:

Get a new idea, surprise the C.O. with a bright suggestion, if you are shy and distant with the platoon-surprise 'em. Show them that you are human- If your crowd is slack-surprise 'em, show them you can crack down. Bowl them over with something new-if it makes sense, you can keep them interested every minute.

6.     Security:

Keep your mouth shut, train your men to do the same. Don't be a cad, your rank and appointment gives you the dangerous privilege of knowing information on which may depend the lives of thousands of men, if one dies because you talked, his blood is on your head, you have dishonoured your rank and betrayed your country's trust in you. Be Thoughtful! Be Cautious! Be Honourable!

7.     Co-operation:

Do your job with regard to the jobs of others, you are a small cog in the machine but if you don't click the whole machine is out. Think before you curse the Q.M., he's human, think before you call the M.O. a bloody fool, he only has two hands and a small staff. Remember the Adjt. is a harassed careworn individual, when he wants information get it fast and straight. Learn to work with others and they'll work with you.

8.     Mobility:

Keep your mind open and agile. Don't become a slave to Manuals and Pamphlets. Learn to meet the situations as they arrive and be alert to change your plans accordingly-remember a fast mind is often better than a fast vehicle-out of it comes the practicable application of all the other principles.

The Senior Subaltern


Posted by regimentalrogue at 12:01 AM EDT
Monday, 16 September 2013

Elements of War; JFC Fuller, 1943
Topic: Military Theory

Canadian Army Training Memorandum No. 26, May 1943

Elements of War

Major-General J.F.C. Fuller

1.     The three elements of war are so closely related that they cannot be separated one from the other. This, both weapons and protection depend upon movement, and in war movement must have some offensive purpose, and in turn it must be protected if force is to be economized.

2.     There are three forms of movement—human, animal and mechanical. There are three vehicles of movement—earth, water, and air. And there are three dimensions of movement: one-dimensional, such as movement along rods and railways; two-dimensional, such as movements over land and water surfaces; and three-dimensional, such as movement under water and through the air.

3.     There are also three types of military movement—strategical, tactical and administrative. Tactical movements, which are the ultimate aim of strategy and administration, may be divided into protective and offensive movements. The first "approach movements," and the second "attack movements." During the former the one thought of the soldier is to prevent himself from being hit, and during the latter it is to hit his enemy. The more he can hit, the less he will be hit. Therefore, indirectly, though it may be, not only is the whole action protective in character, but it becomes more and more secure as the offensive succeeds.

4.     If we remember that the object of all attack movements is to develop weapon power against an enemy, and of all approach movements to prevent the enemy developing weapon power against ourselves, we shall at once understand that, when we are not attacking, we are approaching, even should we be sitting in a camp five hundred miles away from the battlefront. If the soldier remembers this, he will seldom be surprised, and surprise is far easier to effect to-day than in the past, because aircraft can almost as safely attack back areas as front lines. The correct appreciation of the approach and the attack carries with the maximum of security and offensive power. These can never, without danger, be divorced.

5.     Rising from battle tactics to campaign tactics, the same holds good. we are confronted first by strategical movements, and secondly by tactical. In brief, the whole of strategy consists in placing an army in such a position that tactical movements can be carried out with the greatest economy of force.

elipsis graphic

The same page included the advice for officers that:

"Rigidity of thought and action is suicidal when fighting an enemy whose whole regime is revolutionary."

The Senior Subaltern


Posted by regimentalrogue at 12:01 AM EDT
Thursday, 8 August 2013

The Essence of War
Topic: Military Theory

Journal of the Royal United Service Institution
Vol. LXXV, Feb to Nov, 1930.

The Essence of War

By Captain B.H. Liddell Hart

A series of articles have recently appeared in the Journal dealing with the Principles of War; but what seems to be no more important than abstract principles are practical guides. Napoleon knew that only the pratical is useful when he gave us his maxims. Yet the modern tendency had been to search for a "principle" which can be expressed in a single word—and then need several thousand words to explain it. Even so, these "principles" are so abstract that they mean different things to different men, and, for any value, depends on the individual's own understanding of war. The longer the search for such omnipotent abstractions is continued the more do they seem a mirage, neither obtainable nor useful, save as an intellectual exercise.

In contrast, certain axioms seem to emerge from a close and extensive study of war. These cannot be expressed in a single word, but they can be put in the fewest words necessary to be practical. They apply both to strategy and tactics, unless otherwise indicated.

1.     Always try to choose the line (or course) of least probably expectation—from the enemy's point of view.

2.     Follow the line of least resistance—so long as it can lead you to any objective which would contribute to your underlying object. In tactics this axiom applies especially to your use of reserves. (In strategy it applies to the exploitation of any tactical success.)

3.     Aim to make these two lines coincide by taking a line of advance which threatens alternative objectives. Thus you will have your opponent on the horns of a dilemma, and have the opportunity of swerving to gain whichever objective he guards least. (This axiom applies most to strategy, but should be applied where possible in tactics.)

4.     Ensure that both your plans and your dispositions (or formations) are elastic. Your plan should foresee and provide for a next step in case of success, or failure, or of partial success—which is the most common case in war. Your dispositions should be such as to allow the exploitation or alternation in the shortest possible time.

5.     Don't lunge when your opponent can parry. A general has more resources, and should have more resource, than a bayonet-fighter. And in contrast, a body of troops has not the same power of quick recovery as an individual.

The experience of history shows that no effective stroke is possible until the enemy's power of resistance or evasion is paralyzed. Hence no commander should launch a real attack upon an enemy in position until he is satisfied that such paralysis has developed. (Although worded tactically, this axiom should also be construed strategically.)

6.     Never renew an effort along the same line (or in the same form) after it has once failed. A mere reinforcement of weight is not sufficient change, for it is probably that the opponent also will have strengthened himself in the interval.

elipsis graphic

The critic may well advance the usual objection to the first axiom, "What will the enemy be doing meantime?" The historical answer is that he will be doing the obvious and assuming that you are doing likewise. The experience revealed in history is sufficiently abundant to justify this hypothesis. Each side tries to frame the plan which seems most sound: it credits its adversary with similar soundness; and the result is stalemate. Then they attempt further moves on similar calculations—until at last exhaustion or despondency calls "time" to the struggle.

Very infrequently a commander has rejected the obvious and pursued the unexpected. He has won a decisive success—unless fortune has played foul. For luck can never be divorced from war, as war is part of life. Hence the unexpected cannot guarantee success. But it guarantees the best chance of it. That is why the successes of history, if not won by abnormally clever generalship, have been won by generalship that is outrageously foolish. Perhaps that is why Britain has had such a long run on the world's stage.

The Senior Subaltern


Posted by regimentalrogue at 12:01 AM EDT

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