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Thread: Why is the British Military so good? ?

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  1. #1
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    Default Why is the British Military so good? ?

    The British had the biggest empire in History covering more than 1/3 of the worlds land surface,we stopped Napoleon in his tracks in the battle of Waterloo, In ww2 Britain stood against Germany and the Axis and defeated them in the Battle If Britain even though they were Outnumbered and Outgunned, same story goes with the Falklands, yes Britain has lost some wars but why is it the British military tends to pull it's weight above the world,

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    Default Re: Why is the British Military so good? ?

    Its the Magic of Black Pudding, does it every time.

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    Default Re: Why is the British Military so good? ?

    Quote Originally Posted by jieri01 View Post
    In ww2 Britain stood against Germany and the Axis and defeated them
    No, it didn't.

    Germany won in Europe and expelled the British forces.

    Britain had no hope of invading Europe on its own.

    Britain made a major contribution to the defeat of Germany, but a much greater contribution was made by the USSR and the USA, and in the USA's case in industrial as well as military contributions as without the American industrial contribution Britain would have had a lesser ability to fight.

    The country that punched well above its weight in WWII was Germany, even if it was eventually defeated by substantially superior forces of countries with a far stronger industrial base.

    As for defeating Japan, Britain didn't. It suffered the greatest defeat in British military history in Malaya / Singapore and was then expelled from Burma by the Japanese.

    The major contribution to defeating Japan was made by the USA in its naval and land engagements in the South West Pacific and Central Pacific theatres. Again, Britain had no hope of defeating the Japanese or even regaining lost territory without the American contribution.

    Quote Originally Posted by jieri01 View Post
    why is it the British military tends to pull it's weight above the world,
    I don't think it does.

    British military forces are as competent as those of any other developed nation. They've had their fair share of victories and losses, but if you want to start with the British Empire as evidence of the superiority of British forces, how did Britain manage to lose its American colony to a bunch of local insurgents who didn't even have a standing army at the start of the revolution?
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    Quote Originally Posted by Rising Sun* View Post
    British military forces are as competent as those of any other developed nation. They've had their fair share of victories and losses, but if you want to start with the British Empire as evidence of the superiority of British forces, how did Britain manage to lose its American colony to a bunch of local insurgents who didn't even have a standing army at the start of the revolution?
    Damn French lol
    IN the days of lace-ruffles, perukes and brocade
    Brown Bess was a partner whom none could despise
    An out-spoken, flinty-lipped, brazen-faced jade,
    With a habit of looking men straight in the eyes
    At Blenheim and Ramillies fops would confess
    They were pierced to the heart by the charms of Brown Bess.

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    Default Re: Why is the British Military so good? ?

    Quote Originally Posted by Rising Sun* View Post
    ....

    British military forces are as competent as those of any other developed nation.
    Correct...

    They've had their fair share of victories and losses, but if you want to start with the British Empire as evidence of the superiority of British forces, how did Britain manage to lose its American colony to a bunch of local insurgents who didn't even have a standing army at the start of the revolution?
    It should be noted that many of those colonists had extensive military training and there were militia units that were active duty during the French and Indian Wars. I believe Gen. George Washington got his start as a "wunderkind" major in the Virgina colonial militia and had had extensive experiences in combat and in handling troops. I think the ongoing conflicts with Native Americans also contributed to the steeling of American forces in the war and influenced their Southern Strategy of avoiding large set piece battles...

    Quote Originally Posted by leccy View Post
    Damn French lol
    By the same token, while the French set enormous aid to the Americans, and while French infantry were also storming British positions in the final battle of the war at Yorktown while their fleet cut the Brits offshore, some of the war's most decisive battles had little to to with them directly. Possibly one of the greatest strategic defeats a British army ever suffered was at the conjoined Battles of Oriskany & Saratoga in New York, which convinced the French to forge an alliance with the fledgling U.S.

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    Default Re: Why is the British Military so good? ?

    When it comes to small wars, the answer is in the fact that British armies have historically consisted of long-service professionals rather than conscripts. In wars like the Falklands, that can prove decisive.
    In larger wars, the answer is in the propensity of the British to form alliances and use the "Cavalry of St. George" to persuade others to fight for us.
    I have neither the time nor the inclination to differentiate between the incompetent and the merely unfortunate - Curtis E LeMay

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    Default Re: Why is the British Military so good? ?

    Quote Originally Posted by pdf27 View Post
    In larger wars, the answer is in the propensity of the British to form alliances and use the "Cavalry of St. George" to persuade others to fight for us.
    And in the case of the Jewel in the Crown, being India, until a bit after the middle of the 19th century the nominal British army was in fact the private army of a commercial corporation, being the East India Company, which goes back to Clive of India etc.

    Which leads us into the next step about the British Empire, which is that it was not necessarily the consequence of military conquest but occupation of other lands unable to resist that occupation (and I live in a rather large version of one of them) and subtle or even sneaky diplomacy which, like the Roman Empire, enabled a small nation to control a part of the globe out of all proportion to its size, albeit backed by superior military and naval force.
    Last edited by Rising Sun*; 12-21-2013 at 08:12 AM.
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    Default Re: Why is the British Military so good? ?

    British Colonial strength (and indeed how they won in many of the post war Brush Fire Wars or Small Wars) was the ability to divide and conquer.

    They were good at getting the disparate peoples who often had long standing rivalry's and feuds to do most of the actual fighting for them, this enabled relatively small professional British forces to control huge swaths of the world.

    The US were quite successful with this tactic in the Indian Wars if I recall - many nations hated each other more than the white man.
    IN the days of lace-ruffles, perukes and brocade
    Brown Bess was a partner whom none could despise
    An out-spoken, flinty-lipped, brazen-faced jade,
    With a habit of looking men straight in the eyes
    At Blenheim and Ramillies fops would confess
    They were pierced to the heart by the charms of Brown Bess.

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    Default Re: Why is the British Military so good? ?

    Quote Originally Posted by leccy View Post
    British Colonial strength (and indeed how they won in many of the post war Brush Fire Wars or Small Wars) was the ability to divide and conquer.

    They were good at getting the disparate peoples who often had long standing rivalry's and feuds to do most of the actual fighting for them, this enabled relatively small professional British forces to control huge swaths of the world.

    The US were quite successful with this tactic in the Indian Wars if I recall - many nations hated each other more than the white man.
    The Romans did the same and controlled, by the transport and communications etc standards of the day, a more impressive empire than Britain. Both the Romans and British installed local governments responsible to their respective head offices but didn't need a constantly oppressive police or military force to maintain their possessions. Indeed, if one looks at India, the Indians were in many cases enthusiastic participants in that administration, not to mention the army of the East India Company.

    Which provokes the thought that the Roman and British empires, along with the Dutch, (don't know enough about the Portuguese, Spanish and French) were exploitative but not especially oppressive and lasted for hundreds of years, but other empires and regimes which were especially oppressive as well as exploitative didn't last all that long, notably the Nazis, USSR and, less dramatically and more slowly, the People's Republic of China.

    The skill of the Romans and British in acquiring their empires was undoubtedly based on military conquest or the threat of it, but once acquired they maintained their empires by an administrative system which didn't require the huge and oppressive secret police / military apparatus of the Nazis, Soviets and Chinese, albeit with occasional harsh military and civil action such as that following the Indian Mutiny.

    How did the Romans and British manage this?
    ..
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    Default Re: Why is the British Military so good? ?

    This is a complex issue. The British acquired the empire they enjoyed at its peak at different times, in differing circumstances, and by a variety of methods. Furthermore, the form of their "occupation" varied from the establishment of colonies composed of British nationals (for example, America, Australia) through slave dominions run largely on commercial lines (West Indies) right over to the 19th century "informal empire". In most cases, a degree of local government autonomy was involved; this, however, varied considerably in degree and form, depending on the circumstances of the dominion. In most cases, strong British influence over the mechanics of government was involved, again varying with circumstance. The answer to this question would appear to call for a different answer for each colony or dominion. Over all, the possibility of severe military response to outright rebellion was an important factor. Such responses often occurred - the American war of independence, the Indian mutiny, and the Boer Wars are major examples; there are many others, major and minor.

    The major expansion of the British empire in the 19th century generally involved the establishment of informal or semi-informal dominions or hegemonies. In most cases, military action required to establish these entities was limited; the opposition was, usually, militarily weak. The observation of the fictional Captain Blackadder, that the opposition fought by the British Army in the colonial sphere in the late 19th century generally consisted of a lot of natives armed with spears, in opposition to the increasingly deadly modern rifle and the Maxim gun, is not far of the mark. Whether this phase of British expansion could, in that period, have succeeded in the face of better armed opposition, or in the absence of the diplomatic framework in which the Powers played the game of carving up the world, is questionable. By the time of Queen Victoria's great Jubilee, when the Empire was, in territorial terms, at its peak, Britain had probably overreached its ability to hold it; the cultural dominance of the various administrative systems of the dominions and colonies was as important in holding the whole complex entity was probably at least as important as the threat of the Tommy's gun in maintaining the Empire at that stage. The confrontation with Captain Blackadder's "two million heavily armed Germans" in 1914 initiated the disintegration of the Imperial illusion. Best regards, JR.
    Last edited by JR*; 01-08-2014 at 05:53 AM. Reason: Fear of "timing out".

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    Default Re: Why is the British Military so good? ?

    Quote Originally Posted by JR* View Post
    The observation of the fictional Captain Blackadder, that the opposition fought by the British Army in the colonial sphere in the late 19th century generally consisted of a lot of natives armed with spears, in opposition to the increasingly deadly modern rifle and the Maxim gun, is not far of the mark.
    Spears worked rather well at Isandlwana against a well armed British force. Although the tide turned later.
    ..
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    Default Re: Why is the British Military so good? ?

    True, Rising Sun - but Isandlwana was, for the British, one of the greatest cock-ups in their military history (the highlight of the comprehensively cocked-up first British invasion of Zululand in 1879), all the worse because it was a result of the planner of the very sound overall strategy determined for the campaign ignoring his own perfectly sound specifications in this instance.

    The British commander, Lord Chelmsford, does appear to have been an arrogant clot, but his overall strategy for the campaign was simple, and perfectly sound. The objective was to force the Zulu armies to battle (rather than fade back into the veldt to look after their cattle and allotments), where they would charge to their destruction in a hail of bullets from the Brits' Martini-Henry single-shot breech-loading rifles (with, where available, Gatling guns). In order to achieve this, three British columns invaded Zululand, the principal of which was commanded by Chelmsford in person. The intention was that when threatened by Zulus, the columns would laager their wagons for protection, and to establish secure firing positions from which the vastly outnumbered British and Colonial troops could blast away the attackers at leisure. Since the Zulus were armed principally with assegais (thrusting spears) and knobkerries (Zulu equivalent of the Irish shillelagh), along with a bewildering range of obsolete trading muskets and other such firearms, for which they were woefully deficient in training and, indeed, in ammunition), it was far from unreasonable to expect that this approach would result in the usual massacres of natives, and the eventual capture of the Zulu royal krall. Game, set and match.

    Unfortunately, at least for the British, none of the columns were entirely successful in the laagering business, least of all the main, central column led by Chelmsford himself. On arriving on the plain beneath Isandlwana, Chelmsford deemed it unnecessary to laager the camp, ostensibly because it would take too long, but more likely because he underestimated the fighting abilities of the Zulu army and misjudged the speed at which it could move (and therefore its proximity to his force). He then compounded the error by splitting his force, leading about half of it to pursue a Zulu force with which contact had been made, but which turned out to be a minor unit placed at some distance either as a deliberate decoy/lure or accidentally due to disputes among the Zulu prince/generals. To make matters worse, he left the camp under the command of Brevet Colonel Pullene, a lifelong staff officer with no combat experience. Following Chelmsford's departure on his wild goose chase, Pullene seems to have seen no need to amend his chief's decision regarding laagering. Pullene was little helped by the arrival of a force of colonial cavalry under Brevet Colonel Anthony Durnford, an old colonial soldier who claimed seniority over Pullene; Chelmsford had left no definitive order as to who should command the Isandlwana position in such an event. Durnford insisted on taking a position far forward of the camp, an action that turned out to be a liability as the battle developed.

    The battle commenced when a British cavalry patrol accidentally discovered the main Zulu army in a valley on the far side of Isandlwana. The Zulu main army - about 20,000 strong, immediately attacked, adopting their usual "horns of the buffalo" enveloping tactic (this came so naturally to them that it was initiated without question or confusion). However, because the Zulu wings were concealed from Pullene by the bulk of Isandlwana mountain and by relatively high ground between the Natal-side wing and the British camp, and in the absence of a laager, he sent forward a firing line to hold a linear defensive position; with later reinforcement, this eventually involved most of his combat infantry. The accurate rapid fire of the British infantry pinned the Zulus down for a considerable time, and inflicted significant casualties. However, tiredness, (possibly) difficulties with obtaining ammunition top-ups, and the arrival of the outflanking Zulu right wing from the mountain side eventually forced the British back on their indefensible camp, where they were enveloped and overcome by sheer weight of numbers. As I recall, some 1,300 British and colonial soldiers were killed; few men without a horse escaped. Even these escapees had to deal with the Zulu left "horn", which swept down on the area between the Buffalo river and the battlefield, cutting off (and cutting up) many of those who had managed to get away from the battlefield. One Hell of a cock-up, indeed.

    Other engagements - notably, in the course of the more seriously-undertaken and reinforced second invasion of 1879 - indicated the basic soundness of the approach originally planned by Chelmsford. As, indeed, did the action at Rorke's Drift, in which some 150 British infantrymen, in a far-from-ideal, but enclosed defensive position, repelled some 3,000-4,000 Zulu warriors of regiments of the largely unengaged left "horn" that had crossed the Buffalo in contravention of their king's orders, inflicting fatalities (not casualties - fatalities) on their attackers that may be conservatively estimated at 12 to 15 per cent. Ultimately, when properly employed, the Martini-Henry trumped the spear any time. The problem at Isandlwana was that it was not properly employed. Best regards, JR.
    Last edited by JR*; 01-09-2014 at 11:36 AM.

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    Default Re: Why is the British Military so good? ?

    Quote Originally Posted by JR* View Post
    (possibly) difficulties with obtaining ammunition top-ups
    Can't decide now whether this vague recollection is from history or some fictional / film source, but wasn't there some bureaucratic idiocy / obstructionism by quartermaster staff and or problems with correct tools to open ammunition boxes, which caused delays in distributing ammunition at Isandlwana?
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    Quote Originally Posted by Rising Sun* View Post
    Can't decide now whether this vague recollection is from history or some fictional / film source, but wasn't there some bureaucratic idiocy / obstructionism by quartermaster staff and or problems with correct tools to open ammunition boxes, which caused delays in distributing ammunition at Isandlwana?
    There was a documentary that looked into this - the packaging crates were screwed together and there was claims that the boxes were not opened before the fighting began (in Zulu you see the QM slowly undoing each box but the soldiers smash them open with the butts after a short while).

    The documentary team visited the battlefield and found parts still there from the battle and the conclusion they made was it would have had no effect on the battle as the troops disposition was bad and they were surprised (they actually found several of the battle lines that were formed).
    IN the days of lace-ruffles, perukes and brocade
    Brown Bess was a partner whom none could despise
    An out-spoken, flinty-lipped, brazen-faced jade,
    With a habit of looking men straight in the eyes
    At Blenheim and Ramillies fops would confess
    They were pierced to the heart by the charms of Brown Bess.

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    Default Re: Why is the British Military so good? ?

    Quote Originally Posted by leccy View Post
    There was a documentary that looked into this - the packaging crates were screwed together and there was claims that the boxes were not opened before the fighting began (in Zulu you see the QM slowly undoing each box but the soldiers smash them open with the butts after a short while).
    From memory they've also unearthed evidence at some point that the boxes were designed to be bashed open with rifle butts in seconds, so the idea that them being screwed together was an issue sounds suspiciously like a modern idea of "they were all stupid back in the day".
    I have neither the time nor the inclination to differentiate between the incompetent and the merely unfortunate - Curtis E LeMay

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