THE TEMPLER LECTURE
CHALLENGES FACED BY THE UK HIGH COMMAND IN IRAQ AND AFGHANISTAN.
Over 60 members and guests assembled in The Army & Navy Club in Pall Mall on Wednesday 16 November for the 2017 Templer Lecture. This year it was delivered by Major General Christopher Elliott, author of ‘High Command – British Military Leadership in the Iraq and Afghanistan Wars’, winner of this year’s Templer ‘Best First Book’ award. A qualified Engineer, Professor and accomplished off-shore sailor as well as a successful soldier – Christopher Elliott is the very model of a modern major general.
With penetrating insight and brutal but modestly-delivered honesty, General Elliott brilliantly analysed the nature of modern warfare – deducing that in today’s wars it is brains not brawn that win the peace. The complexities of modern warfare, he argued, are comparable to the most demanding organisational challenges of international business or space projects – and few of today’s military or senior civil service (and certainly not political) leaders proved up to the task in Iraq and Afghanistan – despite the undoubted loyalty and bravery of the men and women they led. It was a telling but constructive indictment of military leadership in a changed world and there are clear lessons to be learned in terms of the way strategic leaders should be selected and trained in future.
We were left with optimism that the lessons would indeed be learned – but also reminded of the old adage: that there is only one thing more difficult than getting a new idea into the military mind – and that is getting the old one out! In that philosophical frame of mind we enjoyed a fascinating question session and then rounded off a stimulating evening with a most convivial Dinner.
This was an evening of really modern history – most of the military leaders concerned are still serving or alive - and this added a new perspective and hugely relevant dimension to our concept of Army Historical Research.
Major General Elliott getting the point across.
A question from Field Marshal Sir John Chapple.
CAMBRIDGE EVENING LECTURE
Boys Smith Room, St. John’s College, Cambridge
Manpower and State Power in the Eighteenth Century: Technologies of Knowledge in Franco-British Wars
SAHR was delighted to present a talk in Cambridge on 21 November from Dr. Erica Charters, Associate Professor at the University of Oxford. Dr. Charters spoke on ‘Manpower and State Power in the Eighteenth Century: Technologies of Knowledge in Franco-British Wars’, discussing the use of muster rolls and returns on troop strengths by the British and French during the eighteenth century. She noted the much greater use of statistical returns by the British, which made it much easier for them to assess troop numbers and plan strategy.
The talk was well attended by a cross-section of the Cambridge academic community, including the Chair of the Cambridge History Faculty and numerous graduate and undergraduate students. A lively discussion on military record-keeping in the eighteenth century followed, and was continued over dinner with the speaker afterwards.