Category Archives: Case Studies

Richard Haking’s Staff Rides

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Riding a bicycle was an important pre 1914 military skill.

General Sir Richard Cyril Byrne Haking GBE, KCB, KCMG is best remembered, if at all, as the commander of XI Corps in the First World War, in particular for the high casualties suffered by his forces, including many Australian troops at the second Battle of Fromelles. However, he was a bit of an expert in using military history as the basis for officer training and wrote a book about planning staff rides and regimental tours. Lots of his ideas are still relevant.

Here is an extract from his book which says a lot about the training of the

In modem war it is far more important than it has ever been in the past for junior officers to be highly trained. In the old days companies, battalions, brigades, and even divisions went into battle in close order side by side, or one behind the other. The General in chief command was able to conduct the operations even of the firing line, and orders could be conveyed rapidly to every part of the field.

Under modern conditions of war the Commander-in-Chief, by bold and skillful strategy, can bring his army into battle under favourable circumstances to himself and under unfavourable circumstances for the enemy, by skilful tactics he can prepare a blow against the enemy’s weakest point, but it is the company commander, assisted by the battery and squadron leaders, who must deliver that blow. It is these subordinate officers who to a great extent will win the battle, and it is of vital importance, therefore, that they should be highly trained, so that they will know at all times what to do, and will be prepared to do it without waiting for instructions.

It should be remembered that the battles of the Franco- German War were won mainly by the highly trained German captains. The strategy was good, but the subordinate Generals, though they showed great initiative and determination,did not display great tactical skill when bringing their troops into battle. The company commanders, however, by their bold and skilful leading, always pressing forward, always taking advantage of ground, and helping each other, assisted by the close co-operation of the artillery, were the chief cause of the German success. In Manchuria we learn the same lesson: the stubborn defence of the Russian captains, and the brilliant attacks of the Japanese company leaders, had quite as much effect on the campaign as the higher direction. It also appears that the battles were won by the successful attack of a comparatively small portion of the army that was engaged, and this fact accentuates the necessity for subordinate commanders to be men of great determination and highly trained in the art of war.”

LI527244B0D0290Staff Rides and Regimental Tours meant something different in the pre-First World War British Army to today. They were much closer to what would now be known as a Tactical Exercise Without Troops (TEWT). A situation would be taken complete from some campaign in history and transferred to a desired locality in England, India etc. For example, a staff ride held by the Chief of the General Staff from 3 to 7 September 1906 created a scenario based on problems encountered in operations that took place in the Po Valley in Northern Italy in 1703-04, 1706, 1799 and 1859. The military budget did not stretch to travelling to Italy, so they held it in Gloucestershire. Astaff Rides were seen as better than wargames because they used the ground rather than a map and cheaper and less constraining than field exercises. RUSI has some of the reports of these staff rides.

Haking2Haking’s book included detailed instructions for planning and running Staff Rides, even offering practical advice for travel arrangements, and even specimen letters to send to hotels to negotiate food and accommodation for men, horses, cars and bicycles. Cars might be used by the directing staff, but bicycles were considered the most effective method of transport for participants. Though “senior officers should not be expected to ride bicycles.”

There is a lot to be said for this approach to designing staff rides and battlefield studies as a straight forward way to link history events to modern tactical problems. The trick is to find the patch of ground and the history that has the most modern application.

The logic behind the use of historic settings was expressed in a remarkable quote.

We will take a simple tactical example, and we shall find that the formula we can construct whilst we are working out this problem will he useful to us in dealing with any other military situation, from a question whether it would be better to send forward a section or half a company to the future strategy involved in an attack by Mars against the Allied Powers of the Earth and Venus.

Not only is it a statement of the “eternal realities of war” but is the first mention in non fiction of the concept of interplanetary warfare.

If you want to read Haking’s “Staff Rides and Regimental Tours,” there is a copy in the staff ride services drop box.

27 Regiment RLC Bosworth and Lichfield

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Syndicate discussion on the tactics to tackle the Religious extremist terrorists who had barricaded themselves into Lichfield cathedral

The aim of this two day all ranks battlefield study was principally as a team building exercise for the Regiment’s Op Olympic contingent. The exercise was intended to achieve the the following:-
• Introducing and refreshing awareness of doctrinal concepts (Principles of war, defence and attack)
• Developing their understanding or the eternal truths about the reality of war, the relevance of the core values and the importance of logistics on operations.
• Develop an understanding of the impact of ground on operations
• An opportunity to develop an understanding of all arms tactics
• Having fun.

The exercises was based at Swynnerton Training Camp in Staffordshire and the historical subject matter expertise was provided by Frank Baldwin and Julian Humphrys pro bono, for the Battlefields Trust.

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A handling collection of weapons and armour helps to bring pre-twentieth century warfare to life.

While the technology of the Wars of the Roses and the English Civil War are very different to today, the political setting of failed states, regime change civil war and religious extremism has a very modern context.

On each battlefield group discussions were focused on the similarities and differences between the armies and warfare of the 15th and 17th Centuries and those of today, combined with low level TEWTS based on the historic setting.

The exercises ended with an act of Remembrance at the Arm,ed Forces memorial at the National Memorial Arbouretum.

If you would like to talk about any ideas inspired by this article, please drop me a line at enquiries@staffrideservices.com or call the office +44 207 387 6620 or my mobile +44 781 317 9668.

All Ranks Battlefield Study Crete 2014

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Following in the footsteps of thousands of allied troops down the 8 km evacuation route of the Imbros Gorge to Hora Sfakia.

53 Louisburg Battery’s Exercise Louisburg Pegasus took place in Crete with aims that encompassed developing an ethos and a pride in the air assault role, understanding information, surveillance and  target acquisition.

Airborne Ethos. The graves of German Fallschirmjaeger are on the vital ground overlooking Maleme Airfield.
Airborne Ethos. The graves of German Fallschirmjaeger are on the vital ground overlooking Maleme Airfield.

One of the most impressive aspects of this exercise was the way that the unit had organised planned syndicate discussions on doctrinal concepts. The exercises used the German invasion and occupation of Crete in the Second World War as a vehicle for introducing all ranks to doctrinal concepts.

STAND 1 (MALEME) Questions: Syndicate A: Discuss the attacker's problem in an air assault, using the 6 tactical functions. Syndicate B: Discuss the defender's problem in an air assault, using the 6 tactical functions. Syndicate C: Maleme was in many respects a "soldiers' battle". Nonetheless, the three most fundamental components of fighting power (physical/conceptual/moral) played a part even at the lowest level; discuss. Syndicate D: What are the similarities/differences between the actual action and how we would tackle it today?
Stand 5 – The Abduction Of General Kreipe.car.

“Stand 5” was the site where the British and Cretan Resistance abducted general Kreipe, the German Commander of the Island.   His vehicle was stopped at gun point and he was driven away in his own  When he was in command he was known for responding to challenges by sentries with “Don’t know who you know who I am?” A policy he might have regretted when held at gun point in the back of his staff car while Patrick Leigh Fermor wore his cap.

These are the questions considered by the syndicates:-.

Syndicate A: Sometimes, effect can be achieved by minimal tactical engagement (eg through influence or strategic SF ops). Discuss the similarities and differences between the approach here and the way in which it would be conducted now (mentioning LOAC if needs be).

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One of the Bofors guns abandoned in 1941

Syndicate B: Security and surveillance in a cluttered and contested battle-space: how might events such as this be avoided?

Syndicate C: The German COIN problem: the similarities and

Suda Bay Commonwealth War Cemetery
Suda Bay Commonwealth War Cemetery

differences between their approach and our own experience (post Boer War, Malaya, Afghan…).

Syndicate D: Planning and executing an abduction…how would you go about executing this operation?

The intellectual discussion didn’t take place at the crossroads, but over an ice-cream and a lemonade in nearby Archanes.

If you would like to talk about any ideas inspired by this article, please drop me a line at enquiries@staffrideservices.com or call the office +44 207 387 6620 or my mobile +44 781 317 9668.

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Cold War Battlefield BAOR Study – Ex Mansergh NorthAG 2015

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26 Regiment RA at the Inner German Border; once a death strip covered by mines and automatic shotguns, now part of a European Green-way. Note the Captain General’s Baton to the right of the sponsor’s banner.

In June 2015, a  party from 26 Regiment, based in Guetersloh,   Germany, carried out Exercise Mansergh NorthAG,  a battlefield study of the Cold War   battlefields of Western Germany and Berlin. This was their leg in Ubique 300 taking the Captain General’s Baton everywhere the Royal Regiment of Artillery served in the past three centuries.

Overlooking Lutter-am-Barenberg, two officers give their terrain analysis of the Hainberg feature north of the Harz mountains
Overlooking Lutter-am-Barenberg, two officers give their terrain analysis of the Hainberg feature north of the Harz mountains

Fortunately,  the armed forces of NATO and the Warsaw Pact never came into armed conflict, but for nearly 50 years this is where armies planned to fight at short notice. The North IMG_1210German Plain is one

of the few places where it is possible to study how the Britain and its allies would fight against a modern well equipped army.  It is sobering to consider how chemical and tactical nuclear weapons might have been used, and how and why they were replaced by more effective precision weapons.

26 Regt Gun No1 describes how he would deploy AS 90 in the villages around the Bockenem bowl
26 Regt Gun No1 describes how he would deploy AS 90 in the villages around the Bockenem bowl

There were casualties including fatalities. Hundreds of Germans died trying to escape Eastern Germany in addition to servicemen and women injured in training.  The marks of the divided city of  Berlin are evidence of the human and economic cost and a reminder of the psychological and intelligence war that took place throughout these decades.

It was fascinating and impressive to see how the soldiers of the modern army explored the past, considered the lessons for the current day and how to apply them in the future.

Ferry site across the Weser, It featured heavily in exercises but was an alternative crossing had the Soviets captured or destroyed other crossings.
Ferry site across the Weser at Grossenwieden.  This featured heavily in exercises, as can be seen in the video from Ex United Shield 2008.

In wartime it would  have been an alternative crossing had the Soviets captured or destroyed other crossings.

39 Heavy Regiment Veteran of Ex Iron Hammer talks about service in the Cold War in the village of Bierbergen  on the North German Plain "Pin Table" east of Hannover. The Zur Linde has a photo on the wall of the landlady as a young woman sitting on the back of an RTR Chieftain tank.
39 Heavy Regiment Veteran of Ex Iron Hammer talks about service in the Cold War in the village of Bierbergen  on the North German Plain “Pin Table” east of Hannover. The Zur Linde has a photo on the wall of the landlady as a young woman sitting on the back of an RTR Chieftain tank.

It is a forgotten battlefield, not least because the mainly classified documents associated with the Cold War were destroyed as part of the peace dividend in the 1990s.

 It was only possible to assemble the information to carry out the study with support from many retired soldiers and officers who taxed their brains to retrieve what were once state secrets. Many thanks to Generals Mungo Melvin, Jonathan Bailey and John Milne and to the various RA Regimental associations, in particular the 50 Missile Association.

The Brandenburg Gate - the symbol of a divided city
The Brandenburg Gate – the symbol of a divided city

Major Simon Fittock, the exercise director, gave his view:-

“I requested Frank’s assistance to deliver a battlefield study, based on the ‘Functions in Combat’ that was designed to look at the Cold War and specifically the multinational Northern Army Group (NORTHAG) centred around the North/Central area of Hannover, West Germany. The tour also visited Berlin to continue its studies of the Information and Intelligence Wars.

Model of the Stasi buildings inside the old Stasi HQ
Model of the Stasi buildings inside the old Stasi HQ

Right from the off Frank’s engaging style kicked in. His impromptu introduction on the coach during the journey to our first stand set the context fantastically,

An aircraft of the Berlin airlift
An aircraft of the Berlin airlift

bringing the scenario to life and immediately putting the troops in the era and whilst relating his own memories to our current dispositions and our approach to the very high readiness lifestyle that those in the 70-80’s lived through.

IMG_1200His insight into the era, having lived through exercises and deployments, combined with an acute ability to translate the issues into modern day language and engage with all ranks worked fantastically.

I cannot recommend him highly enough and will certainly be using him again in the future.”

One of the results of this exercises is that we have assembled a useful collection of information and documents about the Cold War.

If you would like to talk about any ideas inspired by this article, please drop me a line at enquiries@staffrideservices.com or call the office +44 207 387 6620 or my mobile +44 781 317 9668.

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Ex Wanders Return – a Battlefield Study to the Sangro River and Cassino

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Harry Goslin’s Original Grave (Courtesy W Goslin)

This battlefield study was part of Ubique 300 and a special battlefield study to Italy, in the footsteps of the Bolton and Manchester Artillery on the battlefields of the Sangro and Moro Rivers and Monte Cassino, as part of Ubique 300. 53 (Bolton) Field Regiment were the nearest thing in the Second World War to the pals or sports battalions of Kitchener’s Army raised in 1914. In March 1939 Hitler reneged on the Munich agreement and invaded Czechoslovakia. The following weekend the team captain of Bolton Wanderers football club, Harry Goslin addressed the crowd and called for supporters to join the TA. It was not enough to deplore what was going on in the world. Hitler would need to be stopped. He and the team were joining up.

The story of what happened to Harry Goslin is told in an earlier post, written close to the 70th anniversary of his death. It was mainly based on general histories of the battle and material available on line.

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Map showing the attack by the 8th Indian Division on 14 Dec  1943, updated to show the attack from the South . (1) The “Impossible” Bailey bridge, built from the enemy side. (2) Position secured before the attack (3) 17th Indian Brigade attack (4) Canadian attack on Casa Beradi on the same day.

updated to show the

updated to show the

A visit to the National Archives and the war diary of 53 Field Regiment revealed more details about the story and the experience of the soldiers.

We can interpret documents such as fireplans. Harry Goslin, the Bolton Wanderers fotball team captain was killed as an artillery forward observer in this battle
Fireplan Trace overlaid on 1943 1:50,000 map sheet.

The maps in the general histories portray the attack mounted by the 8th Indian Division on 14th December as an arrow from Villa Rogatti west north west to to Villa Caldari. The fire plan in the 53 Rd Regiment War diary shows a barrage by the divisional artillery supporting an attack north from the road between these villages, which curves first west then north. When superimposed on the 1:50,000 map the first line of the barrage is 50 yards north of the candy stripe road, an obvious start-line. 52 and 116 Field Regiments fired the lines of the barrage. 53rd Field Regiment fired a flanking barrage, three lines of shells fired at right angles to the main barrage to protect the left flank of the attack, exposed to enemy fire from the lateral road. All points calculated by hand in damp, cold dug out command posts.

members of 209 (Manchester) Battery pay respects to a Manchester Gunner in Sangro War Cemetery
Major T J Fox BC and members of 209 (Manchester) Battery, and the Captain General’s Baton  pay respects at the grave of a fallen Manchester Gunner in Sangro War Cemetery

The war diaries referred to the abysmal quality of the maps, with features up to 500 metres from their true location. It wasn’t much easier to find locations on modern maps. It is hard to find maps with more detail than 1:200,000 and the information on different publications can be contradictory, and at variance with the features on the ground.

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After the ceremony, Major A J Gledhill, BC and members of 216 Battery pose behind Harry Goslin’s Grave photographed by Philip Mason Chaplain of Bolton Wanderers FC

But the 53 Field Regiment gun positions seemed obvious. Plotting the battery locations on the 1944 map showed East of the road between S. Vito Chietano and Lanciano. west of Treglia The best fit of the 1944 map with Google maps put the gun positions just to the side of what is now a road through the edge of a village. This made sense. The fire plans called for hundreds of rounds of ammunition per gun per day. The weather in December 1943 was bad with the fields and tracks reduced to mud. The War diary noted that it was difficult to extract the guns from their old positions and that it took six hours before two of the batteries were ready after moving a couple of miles. Gun positions would need to be close to the driest ground. An old lady remembered, “yes. The guns were just over there”. What is now an olive grove was a field in 1943.

Grave of Gunner Plummer, a 53 FGiled Regiment OP Signaller who fell on the same day as Harry Goslin.
Grave of Gunner Plummer, a 53 Field Regiment OP Signaller who fell on the same day as Harry Goslin.

There were also some VIPs. Harry Goslin’s son Bill and grandson Matt came to make a visit, their first to Harry’s grave, and to find out about what happened to him. Lieutenant Harry Goslin was mortally wounded as a forward observer, a task usually carried out by a captain troop commander. Harry’s normal role should have been on the gun position, either in a troop or battery command post or as a gun position officer. The command post officers were responsible for supervising the soldiers who calculated what direction the guns should point to hit any given target. This was difficult and tiring work, but not as dangerous as accompanying the infantry, with the higher risks from bullet, shell or mortar bomb.

Major John Young in the "Dorway to Valhalla" The entrance to the German War Cemetery Caira
Major John Young in the “Dorway to Valhalla” The entrance to the German War Cemetery Caira

The 53 Field Regiment War Diary provides evidence of the pressure on the officers and soldiers who served at the sharp end. On1st December, after a week long battle on the Sangro Rover one battery commander had been evacuated with exhaustion The nearby 1st Canadian RCHA attacking on the right of the Indians lost four out of six FOOs over four days. Officers and signallers from the guns would have to take their turn at the OP. It was as a stand in OP Officer that Harry Goslin crossed the start line.

The Rapido Valley looing towards Cassino from Caira German War Cemetery
The Rapido Valley looing towards Cassino from Caira German War Cemetery

The attacks along the Adriatic coastal plain halted a month later on the next river line, the Arielli, with winter snow.  Four months later, the 8th Indian Division with the 52nd Manchester Artillery and 53 Bolton Artillery crossed the Apennine mountains  in secret to deploy South of Cassino.   Here the allies had tried battering a way through what was the strongest part of the German defences between December 1943 and March 1944.

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Memorial to the 36th Texan Division which suffered heavy losses attempting to cross the River Gari in January 1944. Four months later the 8th Indian Division, supported by the 52 nd and 53rd Field Regiments crossed the river near here.

The allies concentrated both of their armies to break through the German army on the front facing Rome.  This time the allies assembled a force of 1600 guns, including those of 52 (Manchester) Field  and 53rd  (Bolton) Field Artillery Regiments. These blasted a path across defences which had stopped the allies over the preceding months. Not without a hard fight or losses. The commonwealth War

Down time in the Adriatic sea., close to the mouth of the River Sangro
Down time in the Adriatic sea., close to the mouth of the River Sangro

Graves Commission records list 184 members of the Royal Artillery who died in Italy during May 1944. 110 are buried or commemorated in the Cassino War Cemetery. Twelve of the dead served in the 52 (Manchester) or 53 (Bolton) Field Regiments.

If you would like to talk about any ideas inspired by this article, please drop me a line at enquiries@staffrideservices.com or call the office +44 207 387 6620 or my mobile +44 781 317 9668.

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Ex Tartan Musket – Bringing Eighteenth Century Warfare to life

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Firing muskets on the battlefield of Minden

Exercise Tartan Musket was a Battlefield Study that took place in Germany in 1992. It originated with the intention of the Commanding officer fo 40 Field Regiment Royal Artillery to provide an opportunity for one of his battery commanders to demonstrate his command and leadership in the shadow of Options for change. It was a battlefield tour than a staff ride.

The exercise took place after the end of the first Gulf War and before the Balkan conflict. It shows what can be done to bring a historic battle to life given time and resources.

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A reproduction cannon in a 250 year old gun pit from the battle of Hastenbeck

The study covered two battles of the Seven Years war wehich took place close to British Army Garrison Towns. Hastenbeck 1757 is an infrequently studied or remembered battle that took place south of Hameln. Minden August 1759 has a place in British military heritage for the remarkable role of the british infantry in defeating the French Cavalry, and for the court martial of one British commander for cowardice.

The Battlefield Guide was Frank Baldwin with Dr Christopher Duffy as a subject expert, revered ion Germany for his biography of Frederick the Great.

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Guide CO 40 field Regiment and Re-enactor CO

It is harder to understand pre twentieth century battlefields dues to the unfamiliarity with the weapons, tactics and ethos of the time. A range of techniques were used to help participants understand.

  • A team of re-enactors with infantry weapons and a cannon.
    Half a dozen volunteers from the Sennelager Polo Club to illustrate the nature of cavalryy.
  • 100 re painted figure 11 targets lined up to represent an infantry battalion, which were visible as a “thin red line” at 1,500 metres.
  • Large screens erected at key points to label battlefield features.20160102_122716LR
  • 80 staves,a flag and drill instructor supported by a fife and drum to allow participants to re-enact an assault using the tactics of the time.
  • Battlefield manouvres demonstrated by colour parties and left and rright markets.
  • Support from local historians identifying the archaeological evidence of these battles.
  • Support from local black powder enthusiasts to demonstrate the weapons of the time.
  • Meals with historic menus.

The use of re-enactors and offered some real insights about the nature of warfare at the time. It was surprising how effective slow time foot drill was in maintaining order, spacing and alignment over rough terrain and steep hills.

If you want to find out more about planning exercises to Pre C20th battlefields or the ideas used in this exercise, please drop me a line at enquiries@staffrideservices.com or call the office +44 207 387 6620 or my mobile +44 781 317 9668.

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