The British Army would be the weakest field force of the four combatants at the First Battle of Ypres . In Britain there was a popular story that comparing the British Expeditionary Force (BEF) in France with the mass conscription European armies, Kaiser Wilhelm of Germany had dismissed it as a contemptible little army . It was probably an effective piece of recruiting propaganda by the British, but in essence it was not untrue .
The British saw their role as maintaining dominance of the seas, and offering financial support, whilst providing a small highly trained army to supplement the French . In equipment and resources the British Army a career force of professionals took second place to the Royal Navy . Later in the war as recruits were put through their training, exasperated Non Commissioned Of cers (NCOs) watching civilians struggling to become soldiers would utter Thank Gawd we ve got a Navy .
The role of the pre-war British Army was primarily policing the empire and units were deployed throughout Britain s imperial possessions, however this meant that often forces at home were understrength . Indeed, in echoes of current moves in the early twenty- rst century, prior to the First World War, the army itself had been reduced by 16,000 men as a politically acceptable cost-cutting exercise . However, it was those understrength units stationed at home that were to form the basis of the expeditionary force (later known as the British Expeditionary Force (BEF)) that was to be sent to France in 1914 .
The force was initially made up of six formed infantry divisions and a cavalry division, which would be created from existing brigades on mobilisation . To bring these formations up to war strength 60 per cent of their manpower were reservists . After the outbreak of war, units serving abroad were brought home to form additional Regular divisions .
Alongside the Regular Army, there was the Territorial Force (TF) of fourteen infantry divisions and fourteen Yeomanry brigades . The Territorials, as part-time volunteers, were often viewed with some suspicion by the Regular Army, as many of them had not seen active service . The Territorial Force s primary role was home defence and its members could only be sent overseas if they volunteered and only a small number of units had done so before the outbreak of war, but this soon changed .
During theearly weeks of the war, the BEF was to suffer heavy casualties and so individual TF units began to be sent to France in September 1914 (at the same time three TF divisions were sent to replace regular units overseas) . The first TF division did not, however, deploy to an active theatre of war until March 1915 . However, once in the frontline regular soldiers, though they were happy to tease them, were more than happy to be reinforced by Territorial soldiers .
Ri ’eman Henry Williamson of the London Ri ‘e Brigade (a Territorial formation) recalled that at Ypres in 1914: We were brigaded with regulars who wore balaclava helmets . The whole feeling was one of tremendous comradeship, and these old sweats who were survivors of Mons and the Aisne, they had no fear at all, and any apprehension we had of going in under re was soon got rid of in the trenches. (from Max Arthur, Forgotten Voices of the Great War) However, Lord Kitchener, Secretary of State for War, unlike the Germans, was prepared for a long war and realised that Britain would need a large army to see out the con ‘ict . He, too, did not hold the Territorials in high regard and therefore decided to raise a mass all-volunteer army (later dubbed Kitchener s Army), who would receive similar training to that of Regular Army units .
The men of the New Armies, as they were called, enlisted for four years or the duration of the war . Shortage of equipment and facilities meant that it would be many months before any of these new divisions deployed overseas . In the early months of 1914 Corporal Clarke of the Gordon Highlanders recalled that class still dominated the army and in Ypres while the men slept on ‘oors and in outhouses, the of cers slept in beds in the most af ‘uent houses in the town: The hell they were all about to enter was to virtually destroy that differential; when men are at their Maker s door and ‘ying shrapnel can open that door at any minute of the day, every day, there was to be a bond built up between the two. (from van Emden, The Soldier s War) Enthusiastic but untrained volunteers bolstered reserves, 51,647 enlisted in August 1914 and that figure rose to 174,901 by 5 September, just eight weeks prior to First Ypres .
While some 4,192 of the regular soldiers had more than fifteen years of experience, 46,291 had just under two years . The British Army elded just 4,000 gunners and seventy-six guns per division . Each infantry battalion contained just two machine guns .
The solitary Cavalry Division was comprised of only 9,000 men, twenty-four machine guns and the same number of light artillery pieces . The British could say that what they lacked in quantity they made up for in quality . Their NCOs and soldiers were highly trained .
As a result of their experiences in the war in South Africa, British infantry were very pro cient marksmen, capable of ring twenty aimed rounds per minute a rate that came to be known as the Mad Minute . The Royal Artillery also lagged behind the Germans and French in 1914 . Guns were still expected to provide infantry with close support in the frontline and the technique of indirect re was largely ignored .
It was the superiority of rifle fire that was considered decisive . There were fifty-four field artillery guns and eighteen Howitzers per division . There was no corps-level artillery control, no reserves in case of heavy losses, very little doctrine and there were not the appropriate numbers of staff or communications for effective artillery infantry cooperation .
Possibly the greatest defect was the lack of a High Explosive (HE) shells . Those that the gunners did have were few in number and hampered by a defective fuse, a problem which would not be fully resolved until 1916 . Ultimately, the lack of Treasury support meant that there was little the army could have done to rectify these problems before the war .
However, in the Mk I 18 pounder the British had an elegant and well-designed gun that would serve throughout the war .
It had a range of 7,000 yards but this was upped to between 9 and 11,000 yards in improved versions .
Such was the quality of the 18 pounder that it would eventually form the basis of the 25 pounder of the Second World War, which was eventually retired in the 1970s.
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Nick Carter will have to persuade the government about the army’s value . Photograph: Manpreet Romana/AFP/Getty Images After the huge mistakes in Iraq and Afghanistan 1 , and confronted now by new threats amid extraordinary geopolitical shifts, senior British army officers under the incoming chief of the general staff, Sir Nick Carter, are planning potentially far-reaching reforms . An eyecatching centrepiece is the formation of the 77th Brigade, inspired by the Chindits, the guerrilla unit which operated behind enemy lines during the Burma campaign against the Japanese during the second world war. “The brigade consists of more than just traditional capabilities .
It is an organisation that sits at the heart of trying to operate smarter” . said Carter . Russian activities in Ukraine 2 have confirmed what was becoming increasingly obvious in Iraq and Afghanistan but which Britain’s military establishment seemed slow to understand namely, that the character of war is changing. “One of the follies of our current age has been an unmatched ambition to change the world without bothering to understand it first”, said General Sir Nick Houghton, in his first annual lecture as chief of the defence staff in 2013 .
His refreshing and pointed aside is quoted in High Command 3 , by Christopher Elliott, former director of military operations in the Ministry of Defence, the latest book (published by Hurst) on the political and military follies of the Iraq and Afghanistan Wars . The emphasis now is not so much on military force but “political warfare”, including psychological operations (psyops), deception, and media operations (hence the numerous references in recent stories by defence journalists to “facebook warriors”) . The new Chindit brigade, consisting of reservists and civilian specialists as well as regular troops, is designed to help the army win non-kinetic battles in an age of internet warfare and cyber attacks .
The unit would “play a key part in enabling the UK to fight in the information age”, said an army spokesman . The comparison with the exotic Chindit force is appropiate mainly in that it was set up as a long range penetration force, sharing some of the characteristics of the SAS . The original Chindits (named after the Chinthe, fierce lion-like creatures that stood guard at Burmese temples) suffered from a high casualty rate from disease and sheer exhaustion, as a result of the extreme physical effort involved in disrupting communications and supply routes .
Disrupting communications and spreading and countering sophisticated propaganda will be the new Chindits’ priorities but the environment they will operate in will be very different from that of the Burmese jungle .
1,500 or so new Chindits, who will based near Newbury in Berkshire, could provide just the kind of help Ukraine was asking for on Monday jamming the communications of pro-Russian, and Russian, forces in the east of the country . Carter and his advisers, meanwhile, are planning to streamline the army’s hierarchy, culling perhaps a third of its 500 colonels and 200 brigadiers and generals . No senior officers were sacked over Iraq 4 or Afghanistan .
The idea is to change the culture of the top brass, to encourage individuals who have demonstrated their ability and confidence to understand the new world, of geopolitics as well as of conflict . It is noteworthy, perhaps, that the planned shakeup in the British army, in many ways one of Britain’s most conservative institutions, comes at a time when Vladimir Putin’s Russia is investing heavily in unconventional warfare, trying to undermine the Nato alliance by supporting the National Front in France, and such nationalists as Hungary’s Jobbik party, and hoping to develop close relations with the new government in Greece . Britain’s defence establishment, as well as its political leadership, will have to get used to a new security and geopolitical landscape, one in which nationalists and practitioners of unconventional warfare sometimes separately, sometimes together regard international institutions, both Nato and the EU, both based in Brussels, as an enemy .
References ^ Afghanistan (www.theguardian.com) ^ Ukraine (www.theguardian.com) ^ Command (www.hurstpublishers.com) ^ Iraq (www.theguardian.com)
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British Army faces radical shakeup
I’m really pleased at how the posture worked out on this particular figure. I’m no horseback rider, but he looks comfortable and natural for being in a mounted pose, not straight and stiff. As with all my mounted pieces, I completely modeled the entire horse before sculpting and posing the figure, this ensures a tight fit of man and horse.
To supplement Tarleton’s British Legion here are some troopers of the 17th LD. Initially painted 10 or so years ago they have had their bases enhanced and an extra highlight put on their redcoats. The latter is a little brighter than needed for strict historical accuracy but brings them in line with the rest of my army and helps them to stand out on the table. I was tempted to redo the faces but have left them for now.
Rehana – ‘the angel of Kobane’ News media representatives will be escorted at all times . Repeat, at all times . Fifteen years ago, US Central Command circulated Annex Foxtrot 1 .
Centcom had had its fingers burnt by the reporting of Vietnam, and it wasn t going to make the same mistakes this time . The narrative of the Gulf war belonged to them . Today, the story couldn t be any more different .
Psy-ops and social media: the butts of a thousand jokes, and there were plenty after the British Army announced 2 the formation of a 1,500 strong social media unit . Reportedly named after the Chindits, the British guerrilla unit that operated far behind enemy lines in Burma during World War II, the 77 th Brigade s unconventional methods will focus on the digital fronts that have opened up over the last decade or so . The announcement that a unit focusing on social media was met by howls of derision in certain quarters .
Would such a unit be equipped with the mandatory fix-wheel bikes and thick-rimmed glasses of social media experts ? The thing is, social media is a step ahead . Its army of users have already begun using social media in fighting their enemies and they aren t part of any specialised unit .
The West was taken aback by the quality and volume of social media content coming out of Islamic State s (Isis) advances in Syria and Iraq . The Hollywood of Jihad flickered across our phones, causing outrage . All the time, however, this was happening on the front line, too .
Spare a thought for the resistance: the capture, torture and execution of their comrades is being beamed straight to them . In our work at the Centre for the Analysis of Social Media we found evidence of Isis fighters subverting hashtags that the Kurdish resistance used to communicate, using them to send photos of the fighters they had captured and killed . The same techniques were used in their early victories against the Iraqi army .
Images of comrades who had been killed were sent across no man s land . Perhaps the speed at which Iraqi units capitulated can in part be explained by this hand-to-hand propaganda . The resistance was quick to respond .
One of the stories of the conflict in 2014 was Rehana . A Kurdish fighter in the resistance, the image of the young woman became a symbol of the fight for Kobane after it spread like wildfire through social media . She came to be known as the angel of Kobane , and her image was used to bait Isis fighters .
Kurds took great delight in sending the photo to Isis fighters, joking that were they to be killed at her hands they would be denied the rewards of martyrdom . Some three days later, Isis responded . A gruesome image of a jihadi holding the severed head of a woman was circulated: the angel of Kobane had been killed, they boasted .
The resistance denied this (on social media, naturally) . And it isn t just those on the ground who are shaping the conflict . Hunched behind a computer screen somewhere in Texas lurks @robfit 3 .
It pushes a right-wing rhetoric so extreme it almost parodies itself . In between climate-change denial, racism and support for the pro-gun lobby, the account is in perpetual celebration of the US army . The account is followed by almost 18,000 people, and was particularly prominent during the early days of Isis s advances .
In August last year, pro-Isis accounts mounted a social media campaign aimed at its American enemies . Over three days or so, the hashtag #AMessagefromISIStoUS hosted eighty-thousand messages . Those sent by pro-Isis accounts were full of grisly reminders of America s war on terror : burning towers, wounded soldiers and coffins draped in the stars and stripes .
Within a few minutes, however, the hashtag was hijacked by pro-American users, including @robfit . Any Isis sympathisers following the hashtag would have been confronted with huge volumes of anti-Isis propaganda: the might of the American military, pornography aimed at upsetting devout Muslims, and in the end just about anything offensive they could find to throw at them . This kind of crowd-sourced propaganda represents a new frontline in an age when many of us use social media to understand what s happening around us .
Pew Research estimates that half of those on social media platforms use it to find and read news . The very nature of the content, carefully curated by thousands of algorithms to show us stories we might relate to most, mean that expressing anti-Isis sentiment is likely to bring you into contact with more of the same . Never has propaganda been so widely sourced and distributed .
One can only imagine the panic a 1991 Centcom official would have felt scrolling through an Isis Twitter feed . The British Army is right to acknowledge the significance social media can play on the bloodiest of front lines . The narrative of war in this century will be shaped by the individuals fighting it .
Facebook and Twitter have become powerful weapons, capable of inspiring and demoralising fighters . In the right hands, they might prove to be important tools in the much-maligned battle for hearts and minds . Through its channels, every fighter can document their fight, producing instant-speed, personalised and realistic propaganda .
For all the derision, social media is a battlefield: a fight over who gets to write the story of the conflict . It is fought over by millions of people every day . Recognising this is an important first step .
Alex Krasodomski is a researcher at the Centre for the Analysis of Social Media at Demos .
He can be found tweeting You might also enjoy reading: References ^ Annex Foxtrot (www.nytimes.com) ^ announced (www.theguardian.com) ^ @robfit (twitter.com)
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The British Army is right social media is a new …
It will be a poignant moment when Prime Minister Modi lays a wreath at the IPKF memorial in Sri Lanka When the good folks at Swarajya requested me to write a piece on the visit of India s Prime Minister to the IPKF memorial in Sri Lanka, it brought back personal memories. One of my close friend from school, had finished his stint with NDA and IMA and his very first posting was in the IPKF leading a company. The young Lieutenant fought bravely and after a successful tour of duty came to Chennai and we friends met up.
Excited to meet him and know more about life in the army, we plied him with many questions. It was apparent that he was a changed man by then. He had the soldier s discipline, the precise manner in which he answered revealed that he had been through a lot in his first tour of duty.
We asked him about his stint and he shared many a story of the battlefront. It was then that we realized what a life-changing stint that it had been for the young officer. He led from the front, lost men under his command and although he did not spell out his disappointment of the political leadership, he gave a glimpse of the blurred lines of morality that war often poses on men in the frontlines of battle.
One vignette he shared was particularly searing and is still etched in my mind. He was leading a platoon on a search, apprehend and disarm mission. Young men from a distant part of India were under his command.
The fact that he was a Tamilian officer meant that he was preferred for such missions as it meant interacting with the local population. The entire mission was based on intelligence inputs of LTTE cadre operating from a remote village. They entered a small cottage.
Men were asked to stand down but be on alert. He entered the cottage with one JCO. They saw an old Tamil lady and a young teenaged girl.
He greeted the old lady and made enquiries. They took a quick look and turned to leave. The teenager lunged forward and fetched an AK 47 from under concealment in the floor and opened fire.
The bullet narrowly missed his head; the JCO opened fire and shot the girl down. They secured the place, but that was the kind of peace that they had to secure. It was not something that he or the JCO was proud of.
They broke down when they reached camp. Why should I recount the above story on this occasion? Many a tale has been left untold.
There are many stories that the powerful LTTE propaganda unleashed which were lapped up by the chauvinistic regional media and made IPKF to be seen as a villain. The then CM of Tamil Nadu, Karunanidhi, went on record to state in the Legislative Assembly that he would not receive the IPKF soldiers when they came back. I will not recount here what my friend had to say about that.
It is best left to be in private. Ask any army commander, he will tell you the primary principles of an operation for the armed services are always two key ones Clarity of Purpose and Unity in Action supported by a clear Chain of Command. The saga of IPKF was an outcome of its time.
From a purely military objectives perspective, there was clarity of purpose at the beginning. The IPKF was to be the guarantor of peace and provider of security to the region. It was clear that the SL Army would withdraw from the region and in return, the armed rebels of all hues were to disarm and the agency to carry out the disarmament was the IPKF.
The IPKF, in good faith, came prepared for the tasks on hand. Now, whether there was clarity of purpose on the political front is a matter of intense debate. I would think, that Rajiv Gandhi as PM wanted to have a settlement that would secure the rights of Tamils within the framework of united Sri Lanka.
He was a man in a hurry. On the Sri Lankan side, President JR Jayawardene was a seasoned politician who was willing to strike a balance on his own penchant for retaining enormous power and ensuring that the Tamil uprising was put down. When the young PM from India came forward to mediate, he made sure that India would be made party to the dispute and it had a role.
The LTTE supremo, Prabhakaran, was not yet the undisputed leader of the Tamils. There were others, including moderates who were willing to work with India, provided India became a party to the dispute as well. The hardliners, especially Anton Balasingham and his wife were the ones who resisted.
The advisors to the Indian PM led by the JN Dixit and the then External Affairs Ministry mandarins, ill advised him to pressurize Prabhakaran at the now famous Thimpu talks. The troika of people executing the political part for the Indo-Sri Lanka agreement ran things in a manner that proved to be the key impulse for the classic betrayal that followed. On the Sri Lankan side the then PM, Premadasa, was not willing to concede to any legitimate demand of the Tamils.
He bided his time and then what followed was one of the most disastrous misadventures of Indian foreign policy. The present so-called-champions who are indulging in the propaganda of immortalizing Prabhakaran cannot hide the simple truth that he made a deal with one of the most hardline Sinhala leaders in Premadasa to scuttle and sabotage the peace process. Every step of the way, the Indian Armed Forces were constrained by a civilian leadership that did not understand the real politics that was being played nor did they understand the ground level realities that they were facing based on the unholy and unprincipled covert alliance between Premadasa and Prabhakaran.
Several times the IPKF were in a position to neutralize the LTTE leader and under instructions had to back off. There was no Unity in Action. Added to that was a disconnect between the commanders on the ground and the generals in HQ.
There was clearly a misjudgement of the strength, capability and resources that LTTE had. The initial forays by the IPKF were fraught with risk and they paid a heavy price in terms of men as well as local support from the population. The high cost was epitomized by the Battle for Jaffna University.
Despite these odds, the IPKF did a tremendous job of fighting back and delivering what was expected from it. They did make the region secure enough for an election to be held despite the active sabotage attempts by the Premadasa government. In the blurred world of urban guerilla warfare, the IPKF troops were asked to make tough operational choices.
That they did so, without considering the costs involved in exposing its troops to unnecessary danger is clear in the number of people India lost. There were, I am sure, quite a few mistakes made by the IPKF which may have resulted in innocents being caught in the cycle of violence. The IPKF, however held firm to the ethos of the Indian Army and did a thorough and professional job.
Despite being in an environment that was stacked against them, coupled with a political leadership that was oscillating between ramming through an agreement and running rough shod over operational decisions of the IPKF, the IPKF was able to deliver on the objectives. It was a body blow to the LTTE and they unleashed a propaganda of falsehood and canards to besmirch the work of IPKF. Unfortunately, the were buyers to this propaganda were the chauvinistic leaders of Tamil Nadu.
The badly wounded LTTE swore then to take revenge on Rajiv Gandhi. The rest is tragic history. The political scenario that changed in Delhi also brought to power V.P.
Singh, whose regime is probably the most damaging one India has ever had in terms of National Security. His ally, Kurananidhi, by his acts of omission and commission ensured the re-emergence of the LTTE. Once the LTTE was given a life-line, the war continued for more than a decade and half which cost thousands of lives.
It is in this context, that the political leadership of India forgot IPKF. No one wanted to associate with, or recognize, the IPKF for its stupendous efforts. After the tragic loss of Rajiv Gandhi , even the Congress regimes that came to power did not give their due respect to the men who lost their lives in one of the most challenging military engagements by India, since the Bangladesh Liberation.
Even the NDA regime of Atalji forgot these brave men who gave up their lives for the cause of peace and reconciliation in a neighboring land. That is why, the step of PM Narendra Modi is a welcome one. It will be a poignant moment when he lays a wreath to their memorial in Sri Lanka.
Indian government and indeed the Indian public at large do not have a strong legacy of recognizing the brave martyrs of their Armed Forces be it to the thousands who gave their lives in distant lands in the two World Wars or in the many wars that we as a nation had to face post independence. I am sure of one thing, that my now middle aged friend, would surely say a Thank You to PM Modi when he lays that wreath in the memory of the young lads who he had led in battle and had the honour to give their lives in the cause of peace. I hope that by this single act, the Government of India and the people of India will bring a bit of solace to the brave soldiers who served the IPKF.
They deserve the honour and respect that has long been denied to them. On the larger context of the visit, I also hope that this visit will bring solace, support and closure to the Tamil people of Sri Lanka and bring about a national reconciliation that has long eluded their beautiful but tragic land. If the visit reaffirms that faith among both sides in Sri Lanka that India is their closest and best well-wisher, it will be a lasting tribute to the sacrifice made by the IPKF.
It is an opportunity that comes rarely in Indo-Sri Lankan history; an opportunity to break from the past and usher in an era of peace in Sri Lanka. An economically resurgent northern and eastern Sri Lanka with close economic, political and security ties will be in the abiding national interests of both countries. PM Modi, I am sure, will articulate the vision of possibilities and I do hope that the southern states in India, especially Tamil Nadu, lead in bringing about peace to the war torn and weary Tamils of Sri Lanka.
They deserve no less.
That will be the abiding tribute to the IPKF.
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Finally The Bugle Calls For The Fallen Heroes
Today, Wednesday 28 November
1st Royal Tank Regiment exercise Freedom of Bury St Edmunds.
Tomorrow, Thursday 29 November
Funeral in Glencorse of Captain Walter Barrie1, from 1st Battalion The Royal Regiment of Scotland, who was killed in Afghanistan on Sunday 11 November 2012
Inquest in Hertfordshire into the death of Senior Aircraftman Ryan Tomlin2, from 2 Squadron Royal Air Force Regiment, who was killed in Afghanistan on 13 February 2012.
His Royal Highness The Duke of Gloucester presenting Afghanistan campaign medals to 4 Logistic Support Regiment Royal Logistic Corps at Dalton Barracks, Abingdon.
1st Battalion The Royal Welsh homecoming parade, Wrexham.
King’s College London War Studies Book Launch: Media Power and The Transformation of War.
Royal United Services Institute event: Nuclear Stability at Low Numbers.
Friday 30 November
St Andrew’s Day.
3rd Battalion The Yorkshire Regiment Op HERRICK medal parade, Warminster.
1st Battalion Welsh Guards exercise Freedom of Cardiff.
TV programme of interest: ‘Scotland’s Greatest Warrior’, BBC2 (Scotland only), 2100hrs – features the 3rd and 7th Battalions of The Royal Regiment of Scotland.
Saturday 1 December
1st Royal Tank Regiment homecoming parade, Liverpool.
Monday 3 December
King’s Royal Hussars homecoming parade and church service, Winchester.
Tuesday 4 December
1st Battalion The Royal Welsh homecoming parade, Swansea.
King’s Royal Hussars medal parade, Tidworth.
1st Battalion Welsh Guards homecoming parade, Hounslow.
3rd Battalion The Yorkshire Regiment homecoming parade, Halifax.
Light Dragoons thanksgiving service, Norwich Cathedral.
Wednesday 5 December
Inquest in Cornwall into the death of Sapper Elijah Bond3, from 35 Engineer Regiment, who died at the Queen Elizabeth Hospital Birmingham on 8 December 2011 as a result of wounds sustained in Afghanistan.
Light Dragoons homecoming and medal parade, Dereham, Norfolk.
3rd Battalion The Yorkshire Regiment thanksgiving service, York Minster.
Armed Forces Community Covenant signing by Tower Hamlets Council at the Tower of London.
King’s College London War Studies Seminar: Maritime Operations and Security.
King’s College London War Studies Book Launch – War from the Ground Up: Twenty-first Century Combat as Politics.