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Thread: When learning goes bad: lessons from 1917

  1. #1
    Council Member davidbfpo's Avatar
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    Mar 2006

    Default When learning goes bad: lessons from 1917

    In late 1917 the British Army on the Western Front adopted a new strategy 'bite & hold' and new research by Dr. Jonathan Boff, Birmingham University, sets out to explore the German reaction:
    It demonstrates three points relevant to modern commanders:
    • Find solutions which address the real problems you face, not those which you best know how to fix;
    • Don’t assume that a solution exists, much less that you’re the person to find it;
    • Intellectual honesty about the past is crucial to the integrity of ‘lessons learned’ processes. Infection by present-day concerns risks misrepresenting the past and drawing the wrong conclusions.

    I found it interesting that this long war, in it's third year, found the German Army lacked time to train, poor leadership and attrition. He writes:
    The lessons of this episode are threefold. First, the German general staff sought tactical solutions to what was in fact the operational challenge of ‘bite and hold’ and attrition. Culturally they were, like most militaries, ‘can-do’ institutions and natural problem solvers; but they were more comfortable offering tactical tweaks than in confronting operational reality.
    His final sentence:
    Their example reminds us that more history is not necessarily the answer. But better history may be.
    As another thread asks, there is a podcast @ KIngs War Studies(58 mins; half is Boff's talk).

    On a quick scan of this arena there maybe other threads that refer to learning lessons.
    Last edited by davidbfpo; 03-12-2017 at 08:16 PM.

  2. #2
    Council Member AmericanPride's Avatar
    Join Date
    Mar 2008
    "Turn left at Greenland." - Ringo Starr


    Interesting read. Thanks.
    When I am weaker than you, I ask you for freedom because that is according to your principles; when I am stronger than you, I take away your freedom because that is according to my principles. - Louis Veuillot

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