All posts by FF Admin

Thinking about the Unthinkable: Exploring Tactical Nuclear War

Vladimir Putin’s remarks in October 2022 that were a reminder that  nuclear weapons have not gone away. Even though most armed forces have concluded that the tactical nuclear weapons have limited utility on a twenty first century battlefield,  it would be unwise to be unaware of their characteristics, or how the might be used on the battlefield.

One of the best places to study the characteristics of tactical nuclear weapons is on the cold war “battlefield” of Western Germany. Here,  for several decades, NATO strategy was based  on the threat of nuclear escalation. British forces in Germany planned and practiced the use of nuclear weapons and operations under the threat of nuclear, biological and chemical weapons.

Before the introduction of precision guided munitions, nuclear weapons were regarded as key to stopping an armoured assault by  Warsaw Pact   forces. In the 1970s  British organisation and tactics were designed around the nuclear battlefield.

The battlefields where BAOR anticipated fighting the Warsaw pact is a good place to explore how the Soviets saw the nuclear era as a revolution in military affairs and how it changed the way the Soviets planned to fight and its legacy in Soviet and Russian  doctrine and equipment.

REME in their field with an Honest John Missile. (REME Museum website)
REME in their field with an Honest John Missile. (REME Museum website)

It is somewhere to explore the characteristics of nuclear weapons. How might they actually be used?   What would an army contemplating tactical nuclear weapons need to consider in planning and employing them?

Happy to discuss staff rides, battlefield studies or contributions to study days.


Waterloo Campaign 1815 Resources


440px-Napoleon_French_Lancer_by_BellangeBattle of Waterloo two armies versus one

Napoleons Guard at Waterloo

Wikipedia Waterloo

Karl von Clauswitz 1815 campaign

Wellington Waterloo Dispatch


Organisation tactics and technology

RICHAR~2Karl v Clauswitz Principles of War   Primer/ notes for educating Prussian princes to be generals. An idiots guide to commanding troops in battle.

Napoleon Military Maxims   Napoleon’s maxims dictated at St Helena

The Art of War Baron Jomini


1272Ensign Barton 3rd Battalion Grenadier Guards

Ensign William Leeke 52nd Light Infantry. Aged 17 at Waterloo.  His account is a free download from Google books.

Captain Gronow Grenadier Guards He memoirs are free on the internet

Harry Smith 95th Rifles  Brigade major to General Lambert – memoirs online

Captain John Kincaid. 95th Rifles   Adventures in the Rifle Brigade free online

Personal accounts by Lieutenant Hamilton in the history of the Royal Scots Dragoons

Two accounts by Dutch soldiers

Comments by Ensign George Keppel, aged 16 and one month in this article on the 3rd Battalion the 14th (Buckinghamshire) Regiment at Waterloo.

Research Papers

BattleHougamont1The Story of Thomas Plunkett 95th Rifles. Best shot in the army, died a homeless itinerant.

Rations in the Napoleonic Wars

Camp Followers

Two women soldiers. Sarah Taylor 21 years in the 15th Light Dragoons and Johanna Stain ten years in the Kings German Legion

Contemporary accounts of military executions

Where Have All the Regiments Gone? The Modern Descendants of the Regiments of the 1815 British Army  This link is to the Cavalry units.  There is a further link to the guards and infantry

Education in the British Army in Napoleonic times.

Training in Napoleon’s Army

Sir John Moore and the Universal Soldier: The Man the Commander and the Shorncliffe System of Training  Downloadable book on Academia

Advice to Officers of the British Army. Tongue in cheek commentary on military misbehavior at the end of the 18th Century.

To the Quarter-Master:  The leading maxim of your office is to receive whatever is offered you, or you can get hold of, but not to part with any thing you can keep. Your store-room must resemble the lion’s den….

To Subalterns: The fashion of your clothes must depend on that ordered in the corps ;  that is to say, must be in direct opposition to it : for it would shew a deplorable poverty of genius, if you had not some ideas of your own in dress.


Recommended Modern Texts

French_cuirassiers_vs_NassauersAdkin, Mark (2001), The Waterloo Companion, Aurum, ISBN 1-85410-764-X  (Expensive but very good)

Barbero, Alessandro (2005), The Battle: A New History of Waterloo, Atlantic Books, ISBN 1-84354-310-9 (one of the best single volume histories)

Bassford, C, Moran D and Pedlow D, (Ed) Carl von Clausewitz and Arthur Wellesley, 1st Duke of Wellington. On Waterloo: Clausewitz, Wellington, and the Campaign of 1815., 2010. ISBN-10: 1453701508. ISBN-13: 9781453701508. 318pp. (Free online)

Burnod, General.,  (1827) The Military Maxims of Napoleon.  (Free via Digital attic)

Clausewitz, Carl von. Principles of War. [Originally “Die wichtigsten Grundsätze des Kriegfuhrens zur Ergänzung meines Unterrichts bei Sr. Koniglichen Hoheit dem Kronprinzen.” Clausewitz’s memorandum for the Crown Prince.] Trans. Hans W. Gatzke. Harrisburg, PA: 1942; reprinted in Stackpole Books, Roots of Strategy, Book 2: 3 Military Classics. Harrisburg, PA: Stackpole Books, 1987 (Free online)

Field, Andrew,  (2012) Waterloo The French Perspective, Pen and Sword. (The French point of view)

Hamilton-Williams, David (1993), Waterloo. New Perspectives. The Great Battle Reappraised, London: Arms & Armour Press, ISBN 0-471-05225-6 (Rehabilitating the Dutch and Belgians)

Hofschröer, Peter (1999), 1815: The Waterloo Campaign. The German Victory 2, London: Greenhill Books, ISBN 978-1-85367-368-9

Hofschröer, Peter (2005), Waterloo 1815: Quatre Bras and Ligny, London: Leo Cooper, ISBN 978-1-84415-168-4

Other Works

tartte28Bas, F de, and J. De T’Serclaes de Wommersom (1909), La campagne de 1815 aux Pays-Bas d’après les rapports officiels néerlandais. Tomes: I: Quatre-Bras. II: Waterloo. III: Annexes et notes. IV: supplément: cartes et plans, Bruxelles: Librairie Albert de Wit Beamish,

Black J,  Waterloo, (2012) Icon

Boller, Jr., Paul F.; George, John (1989), They Never Said It: A Book of Fake Quotes, Misquotes, and Misleading Attributions, New York: Oxford University Press, p. 12, ISBN 0-19-505541-1

Bonaparte, Napoleon (1869), “No. 22060”, in Polon, Henri; Dumaine, J., Correspondance de Napoléon Ier; publiée par ordre de l’empereur Napoléon III (1858) 28, pp. 292, 293.

Booth, John (1815), The Battle of Waterloo: Containing the Accounts Published by Authority, British and Foreign, and Other Relevant Documents, with Circumstantial Details, Previous and After the Battle, from a Variety of Authentic and Original Sources (2 ed.), London: printed for J. Booth and T. Ergeton; Military Library, Whitehall (Free online)

Boulger, Demetrius C. deK. (1901), Belgians at Waterloo: With Translations of the Reports of the Dutch and Belgian Commanders, London

Bowden, Scott (1983). Armies at Waterloo: a detailed analysis of the armies that fought history’s greatest Battle. Empire Games Press. ISBN 0-913037-02-8.

Chandler, David (1966). The Campaigns of Napoleon. New York: Macmillan.

Chandler, David (1981) [1980]. Waterloo: The Hundred Days. Osprey Publishing.

Chandler, David (1999) [1979]. Dictionary of the Napoleonic Wars. Wordsworth editions. ISBN 1-84022-203-4.Chandler, David (1966), The Campaigns of Napoleon, New York: Macmillan

Chandler David (1980) Atlas of Military Strategy: The Art, Theory and Practice of War, 1618-1878; Arms and Armour Press.

Chesney, Charles C. (1907), Waterloo Lectures: A Study Of The Campaign Of 1815, Longmans, Green, and Co, ISBN 1-4286-4988-3

Comte d’Erlon, Jean-Baptiste Drouet (1815), Drouet’s account of Waterloo to the French Parliament, Napoleon Bonaparte Internet Guid, archived from the original on 8 October 2007, retrieved 14 September 2007

Corrigan, Gordon (2006), Wellington (reprint, eBook ed.), Continuum International Publishing Group, p. 327, ISBN 9780826425904

Cotton, Edward (1849), A voice from Waterloo. A history of the battle, on 18 June 1815., London: B.L. Green

Creasy, Sir Edward (1877), The Fifteen Decisive Battles of the World: from Marathon to Waterloo, London: Richard Bentley & Son, ISBN 0-306-80559-6

Davies, Huw (2012), Wellington’s Wars: The Making of a Military Genius (illustrated ed.), Yale University Press, p. 244, ISBN 9780300164176

Eenens, A.M (1879), “Dissertation sur la participation des troupes des Pays-Bas a la campagne de 1815 en Belgique”, in: Societé royale des beaux arts et de litérature de Gand, Messager des Sciences Historiques, Gand: Vanderhaegen

Fitchett, W. H. (2006) [1897], “Chapter: King-making Waterloo”, Deeds that Won the Empire. Historic Battle Scenes, London: John Murray (Project Gutenberg)

Fletcher, Ian (1994), Wellington’s Foot Guards, 52 of Elite Series (illustrated ed.), Osprey Publishing, ISBN 1-85532-392-3

Frye, W. E. (2004) [1908], After Waterloo: Reminiscences of European Travel 1815–1819, Project Gutenberg, retrieved 2013-06-14

Glover, G. (2004), Letters from the Battle of Waterloo: the unpublished correspondence by Allied officers from the Siborne papers, London: Greenhill, ISBN 978-1-85367-597-3

Glover, Gareth (2007), From Corunna to Waterloo: the Letters and Journals of Two Napoleonic Hussars, 1801–1816, London: Greenhill Books

Graf v Gneisenau,  The life and campaigns of Field-Marshal Prince Blücher of Wahlstatt translated in part from the German of Count Gneisenau. London: Constable. 1815 repr. 1996. ISBN 0-09-476640-1.

Gronow, R. H. (1862), Reminiscences of Captain Gronow, London, ISBN 1-4043-2792-4

Hoorebeeke, C. van (September–October 2007), “Blackman, John-Lucie : pourquoi sa tombe est-elle à Hougomont?”, Bulletin de l’Association belge napoléonienne (118): 6–21 Houssaye, Henri (1900), Waterloo (translated from the French), London

Hugo, Victor (1862), “Chapter VII: Napoleon in a Good Humor”, Les Miserables, The Literature Network, archived from the original on 12 October 2007, retrieved 14 September 2007

Jomini, Antoine-Henri (1864), The Political and Military History of the Campaign of Waterloo (3 ed.), New York; D. Van Nostrand (Translated by Benet S.V.) (free online)

Kincaid, Captain J., Rifle Brigade., Waterloo, 18 June 1815: The Finale, website Letters of War by Christopher Cook, archived from the original on 27 September 2007, retrieved 14 September 2007

London Lozier, J.F. “What was the name of Napoleon’s horse?”. The Napoleon Series. Retrieved 29 March 2009.

Longford, Elizabeth (1971), Wellington the Years of the Sword, London: Panther, ISBN 0-586-03548-6

Low, E. Bruce (1911), “The Waterloo Papers”, in MacBride, M., With Napoleon at Waterloo,

Ludlow, N.  (1995) [1832], History of the King’s German Legion, Dallington: Naval and Military Press, ISBN 0-9522011-0-0

Mantle, Robert (December 2000), Prussian Reserve Infantry 1813–1815: Part II: Organisation, Napoleonic Association, retrieved June 2013.

Mercer, A.C. (1870), “Waterloo, 18 June 1815: The Royal Horse Artillery Repulse Enemy Cavalry, late afternoon”, Journal of the Waterloo Campaign: Kept Throughout the Campaign of 1815 2, retrieved 14 September 2007

Miller, David (January 2006), Duchess of Richmond’s Ball, Spellmount, ISBN 1-86227-229-8


Parry, D.H. (1900), “Waterloo”, Battle of the nineteenth century 1, London: Cassell and Company, retrieved 14 September 2007

Pawly, Ronald (2001), Wellington’s Belgian Allies, Men at Arms nr 98. 1815, Osprey, pp. 37–43

Roberts, Andrew (2001), Napoleon and Wellington, London: Phoenix Press, ISBN 1-84212-480-3

Roberts, Andrew (2005), Waterloo: 18 June 1815, the Battle for Modern Europe, New York: HarperCollins, ISBN 0-06-008866-4

Siborne, Herbert Taylor (1891), The Waterloo Letters, London: Cassell & Co.

Siborne, William (1990) [1844], The Waterloo Campaign (4 ed.), London: Greenhill Books, ISBN 1-85367-069-3

Smith, Digby (1998), The Greenhill Napoleonic Wars Data Book, London & Pennsylvania: Greenhill Books & Stackpole Books, ISBN 1-85367-276-9

Summerville, Christopher J (2007), Who was who at Waterloo: a biography of the battle, Pearson Education, ISBN 978-0-582-78405-5

Uffindell, A (2006) The Eagle’s Last Triumph: Napoleon’s Victory at Ligny, June 1815; Greenhill.

Weller, J. (1992), Wellington at Waterloo, London: Greenhill Books, ISBN 1-85367-109-6

Wellesley, Arthur (1815), “Wellington’s Dispatches 19 June 1815”, War Times Journal (Archives)

White, John (14 December 2011), Burnham, Robert, ed., Cambronne’s Words, Letters to The Times (June 1932), the Napoleon Series, archived from the original on 25 August 2007, retrieved 14 September 2007

Wit, Pierre de. “Part 5: The last Anglo-Dutch-German reinforcements and the Anglo-Dutch-German advance”. The campaign of 1815: a study,. p. 3. Retrieved June 2012.

Five- six day tour to the Operation market Garden Area for Engineers


Day 1 Travel Out

Illustration 1: Troops of 7thn Armoured Divisdion liberate Wetteren Belgium

Depart UK

Stand 1 Wetteren (Belgium) en 4th Field Squadron RE were involved in the capture of Wetteren Bridge which, in the absence of infantry was defended for two days in September against German attacks. It is an opportunity to break the journey at a location where sappers demonstrated that they were soldiers first in a troop level action.

Arrive Eindhoven area – overnight Eindhoven,

Day 2 Operation Garden.

downloadFollow the path of the 30 Corps as they sought to link up with the airborne troops landed on the bridges from Eindhoven to Arnhem. It is an opportunity to explore the role played by the engineers in this dramatic battle which focused on bridges and the tenuous route up which 30 Corps advanced.

Joe’s Bridge We will start at De Groote Barrier bridge (Joe’s Bridge) over the Meuse Escuat Canal – captured intact by the Irish Guards and the part played by 615 Field Squadron RE. This bridge would carry the whole of 30th Corps and all of the engineering stores needed to bridge any demolished briodges and repair the route to Arnhem. This might be a good place to consider the logistics of engineering.

Stand 3 Son

The Bailey bridge at Son

We follow the path of 14 Field Squadron RE with the Guards Armoured Division in the advance to Nijmegen. The bridge at Son was demolished by the Germans just before the US Paratroops from 10st Airborne Division could capture it. A replacement was built by the Royal Engineers of Guards Armoured Division on 18/19th September. It was subject to repeated counter attacks by the Germans,

Stand 4 Nijmegen

US Military map of Nijmegen area

The Road and Rail bridges over the Waal at Nijmegen were prepared by the Germans for demolition. However the Germans did not demolish the bridges because they wanted to use them to transport their own armour to a counter attack the airborne corridor. When a troop of tanks of the Grenadier Guards ruched the bridge the Germans failed to demolish it. We can also find a location to discuss route improvement.

Overnight Nijmegen

Day 3 Op Market.

British Royal Engineers 1st Para Squadron Cpl John Humphreys Cpl Charles Weir Lt Dennis Simpson Cpt Eric Mackay at Nijmegen Holland recreating their escape

We spend a day Arnhem, visiting the actions in the area including a visit to the Osterbeek museum

Stand 5 is the landing grounds near Wolfheze

Stand 6 Actions of 1 Para Engineer Squadron at the Arnhem bridge.

Stand 7 explores the actions of 4th Para Squadron who operated as infantry in the defence of the Osterbeek perimeter.

Stand 8 covers the river crossing launched by 43 Division to recover the survivors of 1st Airbiorne Division.

Overnight Nijmegen

Day 4 Overloon – Mine clearance

Flail tanks and Royal Engineers Overloon October 1944

The battle of Overloon took place East of Eindhoven in early October 1944, after the end of Market Garden. Including this battle is an opportunity to look at mine clearance and the role of armoured engineers.

The Germans had laid extensive minefields on the their western border. There is a museum on the preserved battlefield of Overloon. This has a very extensive collection of military vehicles ,including Allied and german tanks knocked out during the battlefield. Some of these show the evidence of the effects of anti tank mines on tanks and armoured cars and British fatalities are buried in a Commonwealth War Cemetery a close by.

After the museum visit we explore a series of stands looking at the challenges facing the 3rd Infantry Division in the woods and stream bisected fields between Overloon and Venrij and the way the tactical and engineering problems were tackled by engineers and armoured engineers.

Overnight Eindhoven

Day 5

Ex Washup and Recovery


Day 5 – Rhine crossing

If wished we could extend the tour by a day to include Op Plunder the Rhine Crossing. This was a major opposed river crossing and is a chance to look at amphibious operations.

XIII Corps 1 July 1916

18 Infantry Division Artillery 1 July Reduced
This map was issued with the 18th Division artillery orders dated 19th June 1916. 

18 Infantry Division Artillery 1 JulyThe above map is shows the divisional and group boundaries and lifts.  It is very similar to the map issued by RA 29th Division except the individual battery targets are not marked.

The innovative procedure is the barrage map, which is unlike any other maps for 1st July 1916. It is a technical drawing from which individual gun data can be calculated.

18 Inf div barrage map reduced
This barrage map is unlike any other maps for 1st July 1916. It is a technical drawing from which individual gun data can be calculated.

From 1916 to 1945 the creeping barrage was an important artillery technique favoured by the british Army.

sangro barrage map

Artillery map for XIII Corps Heavy Artillery.

XIII_Corps_HA_1 July

Cold War Material


Strategic Setting

Operational setting



I BR Corps Deployment

Approximate 1 BR Corps deplopyment 1988

NorthAG Counterstroke

Counter stroke trace


BAOR Road Map

BAOR Road Map Reduced
Extract from BAOR Road map 1:500,000 GSGS 5070 series 9 – 1980s roadmap

3 MB file here

I BR Corps Road Map Extracts

Hildesheim -Braunschwieg – the Pin Table
1 BR Corps map extract_Northern Extension_reduced
1 BR Corps 1:100,000 Map the Pin Table Area NC 6077 – PD0005

3 MB image here

Area of 1 BR Corps 1:100,000 map extract NC/PC Eastings 62-02 Northings 49-77
Area of 1 BR Corps 1:100,000 map extract NC/PC Eastings 62-02 Northings 49-77

3 MB image here

Weser Valley Minden-Hameln
1 BR Corps map extract_R Weser_reduced
1 Br Corps 1:100,000 map extract Weser Valley 9568-3695

3 MB image here

Abberode -Lochtum Inner German Border

BAOR Road map 1:100,000 IGB area PD0755- 6212

4Mb image here

Briefing material

NATO’S Northern Army Group


Download here

Threat Material


This poster sized publication folded down to a pocket sized  aide memoir covering Warsaw Pact equipment , organisations and tactics.

Threat Aide Memoir side 1_Reduced

High resolution version here

Threat Aide Memoir side 2 reduced

High resolution version here



Richard Haking’s Staff Rides

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 officer training.

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 skillful 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.

The British Army First World War Battlefield Guide Volume 1 The Western Front

afwwbg_coverThe British Army First World War Battlefield Guide should be the background reading for any battlefield study to the western Front.  It has been edited by retried major general Mungo Melvin, one of the leading practitioners in the art of the staff ride.

He has drawn on the resources of the British Commission for Military  History, of which he is currently the Secretary General.  The  contributors are from across the spectrum of contemporary British military history, illustrated by Barbara Taylor.

This has been made widely available for the officers and NCOs accompanying the  schools centenary programme.

An electronic version is available here.


Preface Lord Astor of Hever
Foreword Sir Hew Strachan
Introduction Mungo Melvin
The Principal Commanders, 1914-1918
Introduction to the Second Edition Mungo Melvin

The Battles

1. The Battle of Mons, 23 August 1914   Mungo Melvin
2. The Battle of Le Cateau, 26 August 1914 Spencer Jones
3. The First Battle of the Marne, 5-12 September 1914 Tim Gale
4. The First Battle of the Aisne, 12 September — 15 October 1914 Frank Baldwin
5. The First Battle of Ypres, 19 October — 22 November 1914 John Lee
6. The Battle of Neuve Chapelle, 10-12 March 1915 Michael Orr
7. The Second Battle of Ypres, 22 April- 25 May 1915 John Lee
8. The Battles of Aubers Ridge and Festubert, 9 & 16-27 May 1915 Michael Orr
9. The Second and Third Battles of Artois, 9 May- 18 June & 25 September-15 October 1915 Christophe Gue
10. The Battle of Loos, 25 September — 15 October 1915 Michael Orr
11. The Battle ofVerdun, 21 February — 20 December 1916 Frank Baldwin
12. The Battle of the Somme, 1 July — 18 November 1916 John Ross
13. The Battle of Arras, 9 April- 16 May 1917, John Peaty
14. The Second Battle of the Aisne (the Nivelle Offensive), 16 April-9May 1917 Frank Baldwin
15. The Battle of Messines, 7-14 June 1917 Edward Madigan
16. The Third Battle ofYpres (Passchendaele) 31 July — 20 November 1917 Jeremy Pughe-Morgan
17. The Battle of la Malmaison, 17-25 October 1917 Christophe Gue
18. The Battle of Cambrai, 20 November — 6 December 1917 Charles Messenger
19. Operation MICHAEL, 21 March — 5 April 1918 David T. Zabecki
20. Operation GEORGETTE (The Battle of the Lys), 9-29 April 1918 David T. Zabecki
21. The First Tank vs. Tank Action in History, Villers-Bretonneux, 24 April 1918 Geoffrey Vesey Holt
22. Operation BLUCHER (The Third Battle of the Aisne), 27 May — 5 June 1918 David T. Zabecki
23. The Battle of Belleau Wood, 6-26 June 1918 David T. Zabecki
24. The Battle of le Hamel, 4 July 1918 Geoffrey Vesey Holt
25. The Second Battle of the Marne, 15 July — 6 August 1918 Tim Gale
26. The Battle of Amiens, 8-11 August 1918 Gary Sheffeld
27. The Meuse Argonne Offensive, 26 September — 11 November 1918 Douglas Mastriano
28. The Battles for the Hindenburg Line, 27 September — 9 October 1918 Jonathan Boff

Supporting Essays

29. The Royal Navy and the First World War Stephen Prince
30. The First World War — A Revolution in Military Affairs (RMA) and the Birth of the Modern Style ofWarfare Jonathan Bailey
31. The Development of Air Power, 1914-1918 Seb Cox
32. The Development of Artillery on the Western Front James Cook
33. Tanks in the First World War David Fletcher
34. The Development of Military Engineering on the Western Front Michael Crawshaw
35. Mapping and Survey on the Western Front John Peaty
36. Logistic and Medical Support on the Western Front Alistair McC|uskey
37. A Brief Overview of British Communications on the Western Front Bob Evans
38. The Commonwealth War Graves Commission Colin Kerr


The past is a foreign Country they do things differently there. –  LP Hartley The Go Between

Syndicate considering the Seven Questions at Edgehill

There strong reasons for looking at running battlefield studies and staff rides on UK Battlefields.  There are financial constraints on travel. But to have value, any military training needs to have demonstrable contemporary relevance.  UK based staff rides and battlefield studies looking at land warfare will need to consider pre 20th Century Warfare.  This poses some challenges, but can be overcome with a little thought.  Using pre C20th Britain also offers opportunities use the cultural political and social differences between different periods of British history as a model for exploring conditions in different parts of the contemporary world.


These are summarised as follows:-

  • Technology and minor tactics are far removed from modern experience.
  • Lack of information about the course of medieval battles
  • Changes to topography

Technology and Tactics.

IMG_20130308_100035_craftsmen 2
Body Armour at Bosworth

The radical differences in accuracy, lethality and range between modern and pre 20th Century military technology means that the tactical level of warfare is very different.  At first sight it is questionable how much relevance study of the pre 20th century warrior for the modern soldier.  By comparison with the warriors of the past, modern combat is at a distance and the soldier is isolated from the immediate contact with comrades and from face to face contact with the foe.

Drilling at Naseby -a concurrent activity in poor visilbility

Yet there is much in common. As ever, soldiers must face the hardships of campaign, the enemy in battle and their own mortality.   Some pre modern engagements have a timeless feel. British soldiers have attacked at the point of cold steel on several occasions in the past ten years.  Furthermore, changing modern circumstances can through the experience of ancient warriors into a new light.  Thirty years ago, at the height of the cold war , we would not see the experience of the Norman mail clad warrior dominating the landscape from the security of the motte and Bailey castle. Now we have an army equipped with personal protection that would be the envy of the 15th Century r operating from Heskco forts that William the Conqueror would have recognised.

Many battlefield concepts are eternal. Tactical constraints that can be recognised across time include fire and manoeuvre, use of ground, tempo and the value of enfilading fire and defilading positions. Leadership is as eternal as the human spirit as is Moltke’s grit in the machine – the Realities of War

Lack of information about many early battles.

There is very little information about Pre 20th Century battles compared to more recent operations.  There were no official histories, war diaries and definitely no army of military historians combing over the evidence for new interpretations.  The documentary evidence for many battles can be fragmentary and unsubstantiated by archaeological evidence.  There may be no “exercise Pink”.

Try out the Great Warbow at Towton

Topography changes.

Worse still the battlefield itself may have changed over time. Even if we know exactly where the battle was and what happened, the ground itself may have changed. The tactical significance of the ground may not be obvious from the current topography.

Some Battlefields have been preserved.

There are over 450 battlefields skirmishes and sieges in England alone.  Not all of these can be located with certainty and in others the battlefield topography has changed beyond recognition. There are 43 battlefields on the English Heritage Battlefield Register. These are battlefields that a panel of experts has agreed can be identified with some certainty, have historic significance and can be viewed within their historic landscape.

Battlefields Trust Walk – Barnet Battlefield

The Battlefields Trust is a charity dedicated to preserving and developing battlefields for heritage purposes.  Their Battlefield Resource centre was funded by the Heritage Lottery fund and has information on over 70 battlefields, collated by professional historians and archaeologists.   These include the English Heritage Registered Battlefields.  Information on each battle typically includes a reconstruction of the historic terrain, source material on each battle as well as an interpretation of what happened.  This should be a key resource for anyone planning a visit to a UK battlefield.


What follows are some examples of transposing contemporary strategic settings onto Britain’s past.  These are far from exhaustive.

479px-MS_Ghent_-_Battle_of_Barnet_retouchedThe Age of Treason- Wars of the Roses 1453-85

Central government was paralysed. The hereditary ruler was ineffectual, even when not confined to his sick bed.  Government appointments were made through nepotism within cliques and its business was notorious for inefficiency and corruption.  The ruling elite was divided into factions with an opposition forming around one of the few military leaders to emerge with credit from the disastrous failure of a long war with a neighbour.   Large parts of the country were in a state of anarchy, dominated by regional warlords who dispensed partisan justice.  Pirates operated with impunity in the seas off its shores.

This could be a failing state in one of the hot spots of conflict in Africa.  But it’s England in 1453 at the start of the Wars of the Roses.  Technology may have developed, but political and military problems of rebuilding a state are recognisable across the years.

AfricaThis is also an era that saw rapid development in military technology and in the evolution of weapons and tactics.  At a low level campaigns and actions offer opportunities to view relevant ground. There are opportunities to explore doctrine through comparing and contrasting modern and medieval components of force, or different arms of service. .

The political and military leaders of this war deserve modern study as examples of leadership in battle and in conflict resolution.   Some of these men were cable of major feats of arms including night marches and deployments and forced marches that would test a modern force.

There are many evocative locations from this era.  Many of the most important battlefields are well preserved and accessible, including St Albans, Barnet, Towton  Bloor Heath and Bosworth as well as many of the castles of the period.  The battles of Barnet and Tewksbury are well documented and we have archaeological evidence for others…

The military and political careers of Edward IV, Richard III and Henry VII offer an opportunity to explore contrasting leadership styles.  Several of the strategies used for nation building by these 15th Century leaders have a surprisingly modern flavour, including reconciliation parades, and unity governments of erstwhile enemies.

The social and economic world of the 15th Century allows modern Britons an opportunity to understand and empathise with people whose lives are dominated by different attitudes to loyalty, justice and faith.


When The King Comes Home in Peace Again – The British Civil Wars 1642-51

Some regarded the collapse of the state as inevitable.  Creating a united country from two traditional enemies would be doomed to fail. Worse still, the state included four ethnic groups two of which were dominated by radically opposed religious sects. The fact that this artificial country had existed for over thirty years was a tribute to the political skill of the leader who created the country.  His successor was less adept and less able to play the different factions off against each other. The situation spiraled out of control and entered into a series of civil wars lasting nearly a decade.

YugoslaviaThese wars were some of the bloodiest in the country’s history, with major pitched battles and sieges fought by the field armies, while local scores were settled between villages and individuals.

It could be the Balkans after Tito, but it’s Great Britain in the mid 17th Century.  The English Civil War is an opportunity to look at warfare in a setting with a modern context.  It has the ethnic and religious tensions that bedevil many nations.  The atrocities of the war provide a context for a modern discussion about legal and moral issues.  It is also the birthplace of the Modern British Army, formed from Cromwell’s new Model Army.

There are battlefields, sieges and skirmishes across the UK.  Many of the battlefields can be easily interpreted and lend themselves for study.  These include battles of Naseby, Marston Moor, Newbury, Cheriton, Lostwithieal, Roundway Down Adwalton Moors and Langport; Large scale sieges of York, Newark Hull, Bristol and Gloucester and small scale sieges at Tisbury and Basing House.


Regime Change: Monmouth’s Rebellion and the Glorious Revolution

Uneasy is the head on the throne.  The authoritarian ruler is increasingly at odds with many of the key stakeholders in the country.  He is introducing policies that seek to impose fundamentalist religious orthodoxy of one sect over that held by the majority.  Exiled opposition groups are seeking allies and funding for an attempt to change the regime.  This takes place against a back drop of a struggle for world dominance between the major power blocks of the time.

The events of 1685-90 in the British Isles offer an opportunity to explore the strategic and operational challenges of regime change.

Monmouth’s rebellion offers parallels with the abortive revolt against Saddam Hussein in 1991. The Glorious Revolution of 1688 saw an occupying power take control over England and Scotland with less resistance than that offered in the early stages of Gulf War 2.  Even the protracted struggle in Ireland from 1690 and the influence of the events of the war on Ireland’s subsequent history parallel the later problems of post occupation Iraq.


Monmouth’s rebellion offers the best English battlefield of the era in Sedgemoor, with other battles taking place at Killicranckie and Dunkeld in Scotland.  Other engagements of the war take place in Northern Ireland ;( e.g. the siege of Londonderry) and the Irish Republic, including the battles of Aughram and the Boyne and the siege of Athlone.  However, a staff ride that contemplates Ireland or Central Scotland may also consider Flanders.

These battles are also inside the period of recorded history of the Regimental history. Several of the senior regiments were present at Sedgemoor, including the Life Guards Foot Guards and Royal Regiment of Scotland and the Princess of Wales’ Royal Regiment.   The Royal Regiment of Scotland has forebears at both Scottish battles and Bonnie Dundee is immortalised in a rousing canter for several mounted units.

Hereward the Wake

Counter Insurgency

Almost every ruler from the Romans onwards has needed to undertake counter insurgency operations in some part of the British Isles. The problems of counter insurgency are eternal.  Culture and technology evolve, but the problems of combating hostile elements within a population are eternal.

The Norman and Roman operations against the indigenous populations have left limited traces that can be directly linked to battlefields. There are better opportunities to explore counter insurgency campaigns in the pacification of Wales by Edward 1st and of Scotland after the 1745 rebellion.

Edward’s campaign from 1275-95 includes several engagements with a contemporary resonance.  The battle of Llandeilo Fawr is an ambush of an All Arms Brigade sized force by Welsh insurgents as they return to their FOB.  At the battle of Moel-y-don the Welsh surprise the English as they attempt to cross the Menai Strait on a pontoon bridge.   Edward’s chain of castles across North Wales has a parallel with modern concepts of operating from bases.


The campaign also contains one of the good examples of tactical development.  The battle of Orewin Bridge is one of the first to use the combination of firepower and manoeuvre, using the combination of archers and cavalry to defeat a strongly positioned Welsh force.


A pre C20th Battlefield Study will broadly follow good practice for staff rides or Battlefield Studies. The design should start with the aims in terms of training objectives.  There are some implications for designing staff rides and battlefield studies using a pre 20th Century setting.

Introductory scene setting.

It is harder for modern soldiers to relate to pre 1914 weapons and tactics.  If the essence of the tour is to consider counter insurgency or stabilisation operations, the social and political environment is important.  It will take more preparation and time on scene setting than may be necessary with  eras and battlefields familiar from screen and computer game.  Ideas for bringing the era alive include the use of living history re-enactors and role play exercises as well as visits to suitable interpretation centres or museums.  .

Edgehill Battlefield

Making the Best Use of Battlefields and siege sites.

Visiting the ground is at the heart of a battlefield study or Staff ride.  The challenge is to obtain contemporary lessons from actions that involve troops, weapons and tactics as alien as those of the pre gunpowder era.

  • The significance of the micro-terrain in influencing battle is independent of period.    Indeed, the alien nature of the historic conflict should encourage the question: How would this be tackled today?
  • There are “eternal lessons” that can be extracted from our ancient past. For example, at the battle ot Barnet, 1471 Edward IV defeated his uncle Richard Neville Earl of Warwick in a battle that seems to have been a hand to hand melee of little modern relevance.  However, it is possible to recognise Edward’s tactical skill and leadership in the night approach march  to a few hundred  metres of his enemy. The friendly fires incidents and situational awareness problems experienced by his enemy on a foggy day have a contemporary relevance.
  • Some historic actions have a contemporary flavour regardless of the differences in technology.  For example, the battle of Llandeilo Fawr  1287 takes place when the Welsh ambush an English force returning on foot to their castle (FOB) Dinefwr Castle after an attack on Carreg Cennen Castle four miles away.
  • Exploring a modern problem based on the historic setting.  Perhaps the historic landscape and limited industrial and economic infrastructure, but assuming modern technology.
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Possibly the Largest battle on English Soil was fought on here on the banks of the river Medway in AD43. An opposed river crossing by 40,000 Roman soldiers

Obtaining Value for Money.

In theory UK based tours should be cheaper than overseas tours. There are savings on accommodation if suitable military accommodation can be found and there is no need for ferry or air tickets or toll road fees.  However, the travel costs to Scotland can be almost as expensive as NW Europe and will involve long transit times.  Furthermore in some cases UK destinations impose higher costs:-

  • The UK does not have the hostels and hotels geared towards battlefield travel that can be found in Flanders and France.
  • The UK does not have the museums and interpretation centres that enable a group to quickly become familiar with the nature of warfare and society. In order to do so in the UK may require some expenditure of input from living history societies or hiring a handling collection.

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