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Rising Sun*
12-06-2008, 09:23 AM
Obviously wars are won by a range of factors to do with grand strategy; industrial production; technical superiority; troop training; good leadership; good fortune; and other things, but at the battlefield level who wins wars?

I'd say it's the NCOs, and especially the battle hardened NCOs, who are the ones who get the troops to act.

I've probably referred to it previously as it's one of my favourite examples of effective leadership under fire, but at Long Tan in Vietnam badly outnumbered Australian infantry were being clobbered by much more numerous and much more heavily armed enemy. A senior Australian NCO (RSM) moved among the troops, exposing himself constantly to fire when many of his troops were trying to find how far they could press themselves into the dirt. He gave them words of encouragement, Such as this, recalled by one grunt who was told by the RSM something along the lines "Lad, the Australian taxpayer is paying you to kill these people, so start earning your money."

32Bravo
12-06-2008, 10:12 AM
As I see it, what you're saying is that, all other factors considered, that which inspires the groups of individuals to give that extra that will make the difference, is a combination of their 'national' and 'soldier' cultures which is the fabric of all armies and is stronger in some, through national and regimental traditions, than it is in others.

e.g. the banter of the RSM in your example above. The boys probably pissed themselves laughing, and fear was allayed.

pdf27
12-06-2008, 10:13 AM
The people who run the logistics chain. If you get there at the right time with the right amount of ammunition, fuel and food the chances are you'll win. It dominates everything - in WW2 the North African campaign exactly mirrored the rate at which supplies were delivered to the two sides, while the initial stages of Barbarossa were totally dominated by logistics. Not just the rate of advance (which was set by the rate at which the Soviet railways could be put back in working order), but even the composition of the three main army groups (following the three main railways) and how much emphasis was placed on each group. Even the point at which the advance ground to a halt was set by this - it was the point at which the Germans could no longer maintain superior concentrations of force over the Soviets, so changed over from Attack to Defence.

Drake
12-06-2008, 11:51 AM
I'm with PDF, though I'd also mention and include production capabilities as integral part of the logistics chain, after all that's where the queue starts.

32Bravo
12-08-2008, 07:02 AM
I'd say it's the NCOs, and especially the battle hardened NCOs, who are the ones who get the troops to act.



This sort of thing:

"The last of the ammuntion was handed out on the 25th. Each man had 5 rounds, each bren gun one and half magazines, each sten gun half a magazine. The Chinese were blowing bugles and on that morning, sensing the end was near they reached a crescendo of noise. Farrar-Hockley ordered Drum-Major Buss to fetch a bugle and play every call he knew "Except Retreat !" As he played the Glosters cheered him on.

"I could see his tall, lean figure, topped by a cap comforter" wrote Farrar-Hockley; "he always played a bugle well and that day he was not below form. The sweet notes of our own bugle, which now echoed through the valley below him, died away. For a moment there was silence - the last note had coincided with a lull in the action. Then the noise of battle began again - but with a difference; there was no sound of a Chinese bugle. There are not many Drum-Majors in the British Army who can claim to have silenced the enemy's battle calls with a short bugle recital."

Rising Sun*
12-08-2008, 08:27 AM
I'm with PDF, though I'd also mention and include production capabilities as integral part of the logistics chain, after all that's where the queue starts.

I excluded those aspects in my first post as I'm interested in what matters on the battlefield.

Rising Sun*
12-08-2008, 08:31 AM
This sort of thing:

"The last of the ammuntion was handed out on the 25th. Each man had 5 rounds, each bren gun one and half magazines, each sten gun half a magazine. The Chinese were blowing bugles and on that morning, sensing the end was near they reached a crescendo of noise. Farrar-Hockley ordered Drum-Major Buss to fetch a bugle and play every call he knew "Except Retreat !" As he played the Glosters cheered him on.

"I could see his tall, lean figure, topped by a cap comforter" wrote Farrar-Hockley; "he always played a bugle well and that day he was not below form. The sweet notes of our own bugle, which now echoed through the valley below him, died away. For a moment there was silence - the last note had coincided with a lull in the action. Then the noise of battle began again - but with a difference; there was no sound of a Chinese bugle. There are not many Drum-Majors in the British Army who can claim to have silenced the enemy's battle calls with a short bugle recital."

All of that.

And Scots pipers marching into battle, the brave silly buggers, and all sorts of other inspiration and leadership at the section to perhaps company level, because above a company there is rarely much opportunity for one man to make a huge difference on the battlefield during any battle in the 20th century or since by raw leadership or inspiration.

32Bravo
12-08-2008, 09:13 AM
This fellow seems to be overlooked by the popular media in favour of 'H' Jones.
But for my money his effort influenced the outcome of the battle for Mount London far more than Jones's sacrifice at Darwin Ridge:

"Falklands War Victoria Cross Recipient. He served in the British Army as a Sergeant in 4 Platoon, B Company, 3rd Battalion, The Parachute Regiment. A native of Wortley, East Yorkshire, he was awarded his VC for action at Mount Longdon, East Falklands, June 11-12, 1982. The enemy position on a ridge of the mountain was an important objective in the battle for Port Stanley. From his citation: “Coming under heavy fire from the enemy, the platoon commander, accompanied by Sergeant McKay, a corporal and a few others, and covered by supporting machine gun fire, moved forward to reconnoitre the enemy positions but was hit by a bullet in the leg, and command devolved upon Sergeant McKay. Sergeant McKay decided to convert this reconnaissance into an attack in order to eliminate the enemy positions, though he was in no doubt of the strength and deployment of the enemy. He issued orders, and taking three men with him, broke cover and charged the enemy position. The assault was met by a hail of fire. The corporal was seriously wounded, a private killed and another wounded. Despite these losses, Sergeant McKay, with complete disregard for his own safety, continued to charge the enemy position alone. On reaching it he dispatched the enemy with grenades, thereby relieving the position of beleaguered 4 and 5 Platoons, who were now able to redeploy with relative safety. Sergeant McKay, however, was killed at the moment of victory, his body falling on the bunker. Without doubt Sergeant McKay's action retrieved a most dangerous situation and was instrumental in ensuring the success of the attack. His was a coolly calculated act, the dangers of which must have been only too apparent to him beforehand. Undeterred he performed with outstanding selflessness, perseverance and courage. With a complete disregard for his own safety, he displayed courage and leadership of the highest order, and was an inspiration to all those around him.” Sergeant McKay and Colonel Herbert Jones were the only VCs awarded for the Falklands War."

http://www.findagrave.com/cgi-bin/fg.cgi?page=gr&GRid=9950623

Rising Sun*
12-08-2008, 09:20 AM
e.g. the banter of the RSM in your example above. The boys probably pissed themselves laughing, and fear was allayed.

No.

A number of the boys pissed themselves, but not with laughter, and fear was not allayed during a prolonged and confused firefight and infiltration during an afternoon and a long night.

But the RSM's example encouraged one of the isolated groups in the action to fight, and fight well and successfully.

Here's a couple of personal accounts of aspects of that action.


I rolled over on my side hoping that the mud would dry out the wound and help to stop the bleeding. The artillery was still coming in and it was dark by now and I knew I'd get no help till morning at least. I kept hoping that the artillery wouldn't get me.... I was worried about my mother, and I kept thinking if I died she would be up shit creek, so I prayed a lot and made a lot of promises, but I'm afraid I never really kept any of them after I got back home. It was the longest night I've ever known. The artillery was still coming in and I can remember thinking, "This one's going over, and this one's falling short, and this one's for you Jim." ... The other thing that was really worrying me was the thirst. I drank all my water and during the night I got painfully thirsty and reckoned if I could survive the Viet Cong troops and the artillery I'd probably finish up dying of thirst. I just lay there helpless and praying and trying to stay awake and wishing to hell it would get light soon.

(Private Jim Richmond at the Battle of Long Tan,
in Terry Burstall The Soldiers' Story,
University of Queensland Press, Brisbane, 1986, p. 129)

Vic Grice was in front of me and he got shot, and I said to someone, "What happened to Vic?" and I don't know who it was said, "He's dead." About ten or twenty metres after that I got shot in the leg and went down... It was getting fairly dark, so I kept on crawling. There was enemy movement about and I saw about six or eight VC moving back through the area where we'd come. About this time I looked up and there was a Viet Cong standing over me with a grenade in his hand but no rifle. I didn't know what to do so I just screamed at him to piss off. I think he got a bigger fright than I did, because he just ran off to the east. I found a dead Viet Cong and I pulled his gear apart and found a ground sheet, so took this with me, and looked around for some place to settle in for the night.

(Barry Meller in Terry Burstall The Soldiers' Story, University of Queensland Press, Brisbane, 1986, pp. 84-85 http://www.anzacday.org.au/education/activities/longtan/longtan01.html#Source%203

A general description of the action is here http://www.6rarassociation.com/battlelongtan.htm and a field officer's version is here http://diggerhistory.info/pages-battles/long_tan.htm

32Bravo
12-08-2008, 11:32 AM
Just a few examples

Military Cross - Afghanistan:

Fearless pursuit of an objective

When a company-level recce patrol came under intense fire near Musa Qala, the heroic actions of Acting Sergeant John Cockburn , 2 Yorks, ensured that the enemy failed to take the initiative.

Sgt Cockburn's Brigade Reconnaissance Force (BRF) patrol was pushing forward from the west bank of Musa Qala Wadi into its basin when the British troops came under fire from two heavy machine gun positions on November 27 last year.

Further incoming rounds from enemy fighters using RPGs, small arms and mortars followed and Sgt Cockburn and his men were left pinned down in an exposed position. Despite facing heavily-armed and well-dug-in adversaries, Sgt Cockburn kept cool under pressure to identify an opportunity to move his six-man patrol forward and outflank the combatants' main position, a trench 250m away.

As Sgt Cockburn pushed ahead, the weight of enemy fire was directed onto his patrol and the team had to take cover 30m away from their objective after being engaged from a previously unseen position.

Realising how close he was to his target, Cockburn ordered three of his men to suppress the new position while he dashed towards the trench, eventually reaching it and capturing an enemy fighter on the way.

His selfless courage allowed other sections of the patrol to surround the remaining positions and swung the advantage away from the enemy.

His Military Cross citation paid tribute to his "fearless pursuit of an objective", adding:

"He could see that action was needed, he was only too aware of the dangers, yet it made no impact on his mindset. Cockburn's actions saved the lives of his fellow soldiers, but in so doing he took a remarkable risk with his own."


Prevented significant casualties from being taken

A junior non-commissioned officer (NCO) who showed exceptional courage aiding the crew of a stricken Mastiff armoured vehicle under repeated enemy attacks has been awarded the Military Cross.

Corporal Richard Street , Royal Electrical and Mechanical Engineers (REME), was commanding a lightly armoured Foden recovery vehicle in support of The King's Royal Hussars (KRH) when they were ambushed on the road from Gereshk to Musa Qala.

He braved Taliban RPGs and small-arms fire to dismount and hook the Foden to the KRH squadron leader's Mastiff, which had been immobilised during the attack.

Cpl Street's citation praised his leadership of the Foden crew and personal courage in recovering the vehicle under sustained fire.

The patrol fought through the ambush but came up against a bridge that would not take the weight of the 23-tonne Mastiffs. With no alternative but to backtrack into the danger zone, the patrol returned to the ambush site. The Taliban were waiting and launched two more attacks.

Small-arms fire destroyed the front left wheel of the Foden but Cpl Street pushed forward and fired his pistol from the window while driving one-handed and encouraging his crew. Cpl Street's citation said:

"His decision to continue to drive a partially disabled vehicle with no serious ballistic or mine blast protection through two enemy ambushes kept the route free for the squadron, maintained tempo at a critical time and undoubtedly prevented significant casualties from being taken.

"He was an example to all around him, particularly given the paucity of protection he enjoyed and the vicious nature of a contact that saw an armoured squadron post more than 20 grenades and left more than 20 enemy dead. He was a credit to his squadron and corps and his was a conspicuous display of gallantry."


Lifting morale and driving men to continue their fight

Rescuing a mortally wounded soldier and defending the evacuation against a tenacious enemy has earned Lance Corporal Agnish Thapa the Military Cross.

The junior Royal Gurkha Rifles NCO displayed conspicuous gallantry during a fierce battle to destroy a Taliban stronghold in the Uruzgan province of southern Afghanistan.

ISAF troops engaged the enemy in a surprise attack but the Taliban retaliated and ferocious fighting ensued.

During the close quarter combat that followed, LCpl Thapa charged across open ground to go to the aid of a severely injured ISAF comrade.

Under constant, intense enemy fire, he dragged the soldier 100 metres to the nearest sparse cover and continued to administer first aid until relieved by the medical officer.

The enemy was not giving up ground and doggedly pushed forward an attack as the coalition troops tried to airlift the casualty.

LCpl Thapa ordered his section into a firing position. They returned fire so effectively that the Taliban assault faltered and ISAF soldiers caught in the killing zone were able to withdraw.

These actions turned the battle in the coalition troops' favour and immediately boosted morale.

LCpl Thapa's citation said he richly deserved the Military Cross for showing a complete disregard for his own safety and acting above and beyond his rank and experience.

The citation added:

"His bravery was inspirational and had an immediate positive impact on all involved in the battle, lifting morale and driving men to continue their fight, despite the infliction of casualties by the enemy.

"His effective leadership proved pivotal in swinging the initiative in favour of coalition forces, enabling casualty evacuation to be completed despite grave tactical circumstances."

32Bravo
12-11-2008, 04:07 AM
This fella, Jack, did more than inspire his comrades, which is self-evident in this documentary where the cameras follow him into combat.

http://www.bbc.co.uk/iplayer/episode/b00dyhs1/Jack_A_Soldiers_Story/


Following on from the BAFTA-shortlisted Panorama programme Taking on the Taliban, Ben Anderson catches up with 24-year-old Lance Corporal Jack Mizon of the Queen's Company, Grenadier Guards.

Mizon was a hero in Aghanistan, in the thick of some of the fiercest fighting that left two of his fellow soldiers dead and many more seriously wounded. He was honoured for his bravery, but back home in the UK he is struggling to readjust to civilian life and has become involved in frequent fights near his Aldershot barracks.

Anderson follows his exploits for two months in Afghanistan and then back home as Jack is charged with assault and GBH, stripped of his rank, and faces the prospect of four years in a civilian prison.


He left the Army after being awarded 240 hours community service, and a fourteen hundred pounds fine.

In my opinion he deserved more than an MID.

Richie B
12-11-2008, 05:23 AM
In my opinion he deserved more than an MID.

Absolutely right.

A very fine programme.

Sadly, I think this shows quite a common problem.

Combat soldiers, after what they've seen and done, experience great problems when they return to "normal" society.

Its a good job we have soldiers like Jack and its a bad job the way we treat some of them once they leave the mob.

Just look at the high percentage of ex-forces people who are homeless in the UK.

Richie

Rising Sun*
12-11-2008, 05:47 AM
Absolutely right.

A very fine programme.

Sadly, I think this shows quite a common problem.

Combat soldiers, after what they've seen and done, experience great problems when they return to "normal" society.

Its a good job we have soldiers like Jack and its a bad job the way we treat some of them once they leave the mob.

Just look at the high percentage of ex-forces people who are homeless in the UK.

Richie

Agree 110%.

A large part of the problem is that armies, as distinct from air forces and navies which don't engage in the same sort of close contact combat, have become very good at training men to fight and kill at a person to person level. That process inevitably dehumanises many men, to a greater or lesser degree. Armies never bother to reverse that process before men are discharged. What is remarkable is not that there are so many men who become violent and otherwise disruptive in civilian life but there are so few.

Nonetheless, the usual story is that governments take men, and nowadays women, to use for their political purposes in combat and combat support areas and when those purposes have been served they cast them aside as they have always done. Little or no care, no responsibility.

32Bravo
12-11-2008, 07:34 AM
Absolutely right.

A very fine programme.

Sadly, I think this shows quite a common problem.

Combat soldiers, after what they've seen and done, experience great problems when they return to "normal" society.

Its a good job we have soldiers like Jack and its a bad job the way we treat some of them once they leave the mob.

Just look at the high percentage of ex-forces people who are homeless in the UK.

Richie

The homeless and the prisons.

The reason I posted to this thread is that he was such an inspiration to his mates and the Afghans that fought with them.

For those that are not able to access the BBC ipod, he constantly drew enemy fire by standing up in the middle of contacts, usually in the enemy killing area, and returned fire with his GPMG, firing from the hip, with incoming rounds zipping all about him. If he wasn't at the front when at the beginning of a contact, he placed himself there.

There are so many like him. He was much relieved not to have received a custodial prison sentence and vowed to himself that he would keep himself out of trouble. More should be done to help our people.

32Bravo
12-11-2008, 08:41 AM
Here it is on Youtube:

http://tw.youtube.com/watch?v=oNvJf6Vj460

Rising Sun*
12-11-2008, 09:02 AM
An outnumbered bloke out of ammo who wades into an enemy on the battlefield with a trenching tool and kills or disables them is a hero.

The same bloke who wades with fists and boots into a bunch of loudmouthed, dole bludging little shits winding him up in a fish and chip shop for being a derelict no-hoper is a threat to society.

Really? :rolleyes: :(

(I base this in part on a mate's uncle, who several decades ago was becoming visibly more depressed and erratic as a result, so the family thought, of his experiences in WWII with the Black Watch.

Until he wandered into a fish and chip shop in a provincial town in Australia where a bunch of louts started giving him lip and then pushed him around. As uncle said, he suddenly decided not to feel guilty any more about what he had had to do in the war to give little shits like them the freedom to shit on him. So he put several of them in hospital, while the others fled.

After that, uncle became rather proud of himself and got a new lease on life and became quite successful in business. Which, oddly enough, was designing and installing killing chains for abbatoirs. :D )

32Bravo
12-11-2008, 10:04 AM
Things change little.

Here's what Mr Kipling had to say:

I went into a public-'ouse to get a pint o' beer,
The publican 'e up an' sez, 'We serve no red-coats 'ere.'
The girls be'ind the bar they laughed and giggled fit to die,
I outs into the street again, an' to myself sez I:
Oh, it's Tommy this, an' Tommy that, an' 'Tommy, go away':
But it's 'Thank you, Mister Atkins,' when the band begins to play -http://home.clara.net/stevebrown/html/expeience_of_war/kipling_tommy.htm