Tuesday 26 June 2012

Paddy Griffith Obituary 1947-2010 Most viewed article

Sage publications have just emailed me to say the article below was one most viewed articles in 2011. It was first published in Simulations and Gaming Journal.

Paddy Griffith 1947-2010

Dr. Paddy Griffith was a leading historian on battlefield tactics. What made his contribution almost unique was his use of wargaming as a serious tool to develop academic understanding of the history of warfare.

Until the early 1990s, post–World War II military historians explored every aspect of war and society, but most avoided the study of the actual battle. It was no longer fashionable to comment on how the battles were actually fought and won. Paddy challenged this view and was instrumental in changing the practice of a generation of military historians by making tactics a valid academic subject. He became a well-recognized military historian, who commented on military organization, tactics and leadership on the battlefield. What was less well-known was his extensive use of games to help develop his understanding of battlefield tactics, military culture, and command decisions.

 His careful analysis of contemporary letters and memoirs, supported by his wargames, led him to challenge the orthodox explanation—proposed by Sir Charles Oman in his History of the Peninsular War and subsequently repeated by numerous popular military historians—that the greater volume of musketry delivered by British lines in repeated volleys had defeated the French columns in Portugal and Spain. Paddy argued that British officers aimed to keep their men in check until they could deliver one or two shattering volleys at the enemy, then ordered them to give a rousing cheer and charge with the bayonet to drive the enemy off in disorder, and his conclusions are now widely accepted and may be said to have completely supplanted the earlier “firepower” theories.

 Paddy Griffith was one of a team of academics who were recruited to the Royal Military Academy at Sandhurst by Brigadier Peter Young and David Chandler in the early 1970s. Peter Young knew Paddy through Donald Featherstone and the emerging hobby of wargaming. Paddy’s main job was lecturing on military history as part of the 2-year commissioning course and at the Camberley staff college. Always an innovative thinker, he introduced wargaming as part of the curriculum. He believed adults learnt by playing just as children did.

 At the staff college, Dr Griffith’s role was umpiring secret U.K. wargames and those of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO). Sometimes he participated as a member or leader of a Warsaw Pact command because of his recognized understanding of the doctrine of those Soviet Union–dominated forces. His wargames had a direct input into NATO policy. One of his key strategic views became public with the book Not Over by Christmas (1981) with the foreword by Field Marshal Lord Carver and cowritten with Colonel Elmar Dinter. The book was a critical, wargame-based analysis of NATO’s forward defense policy on the West German border against the threat of the Russian-led Warsaw Pact. The book suggested that a more flexible defense, involving falling back, would be more successful. It is interesting to note that NATO’s tactics did alter to the sounder “defense-in-depth” strategy that he and others advocated. However, it is for others to assess what part his book (and the wargames) played in this policy change.

While at Sandhurst, he was a prolific writer of military history books, with a smat- tering of wargaming publications as well. The Wikipedia entry for Paddy lists 34 books; perhaps the most significant books were the following:

  Forward Into Battle: Fighting Tactics From Waterloo to the Near Future (1981)

 Rally Once Again; Battle Tactics of the American Civil War (1987)

 Battle Tactics of the Western Front: The British Army’s Art of Attack 1916- 1918 (1984)

 What was not obvious was the input of wargaming to support the scholarship of these books.

 In addition to the professional games, he took the opportunity to run some high-profile historical wargames, to analyze key points in history. Probably the most well-known of these was on Operation Sealion, the planned German Invasion of England in 1940. The assembled team of players and umpires included senior officers from the British and German armed forces who took part in the preparations for the actual operation. The out- come of this game was written up by Richard Cox in his book Operation Sea Lion (1977). Paddy recently continued these “mega-games” at education events at the Imperial War Museum at Duxford with games on Operation Sea Lion, the Invasion of Crete, and the 1940 Norwegian Campaign. While in his hospital bed suffering from cancer, he was working on final preparations for his “what if” game of the Axis invasion of Malta in 1942.

 In 1980, while he was still a lecturer in War Studies at RMA Sandhurst, Paddy Griffith organized a conference titled New Directions in WarGaming. He was dissatisfied that hobby wargaming was not developing because of its focus on using toy soldiers and gained a reputation as a maverick in the hobby precisely because of his rejection of toy soldiers. He strongly believed that if hobby wargaming was going to be more than just entertainment, then it should reflect the cultural imperatives of the period being represented, the command perspective of the time, and the particular roles being taken by the players. Perhaps his favorite type of wargame was a modification of the military com mand postexercise, derived from the early 19th-century Prussian kriegsspiel training game for officers, where the players work in isolated cells with maps, limited communications and the “fog of war,” just like the real thing, as used in the Channel Four television series Game of War.

 The first conference was held at Moor Park College near Farnham, lasted over the weekend of 23 to 25, May 1980, and set the pattern for a series of subsequent conferences. Sessions consisted of lectures, workshops, papers, and practical experiments.

 At this conference, Dr Griffith was the primary force behind the foundation of Wargame Developments, a group consisting of professional military personnel, civil servants, educators, and both professional and amateur wargame designers. Since 1981, these conferences—the Conference of Wargamers (COW)—have been held in Northamptonshire, United Kingdom.

 Paddy Griffith’s legacy in establishing the conference lives on. The COW continues to be attended by professional military personnel, professional simulation designers, military historians, and amateur wargame enthusiasts. They all share a keen interest in developing accurate simulations of historical events and command problems as well as studying current events and foreseeable future situations from the perspective of simula- tion. They are not afraid to ask difficult moral and ethical questions, something that Paddy Griffith encouraged with what he termed black wargames.

 Paddy will never be remembered for devising a particular set of wargame rules—unlike H. G. Wells (Little Wars), Brigadier Peter Young (Charge), or Charles Grant senior (The War Game)—nor for one particular genre of wargame, in the way that Donald Featherstone will always be linked to the face-to-face, tabletop toy soldier game.

 Paddy was never interested in developing and perfecting one style of game or set of rules—he was far more concerned with the underlying structure of games than with the minutiae of mechanisms of rules. He will be remembered for proposing and experimenting with a wide variety of game designs, both in person at COW and in print in numerous articles in amateur and commercial wargame magazines and in his three wargame books.

 In Napoleonic Wargaming for Fun (1980), he presented not one but a variety of rules for wargaming different aspects of the Napoleonic Wars, ranging from fairly conventional toy soldier games portraying skirmishes between parties of light infantrymen and battle- field encounters between brigades, divisions, or army corps, via a siege kriegsspiel, to a highly stylized combined map and board game recreating an army commander’s daily routine while on campaign.

 In A Book of Sandhurst War Games (1982), he published four board games covering an expedition in medieval France by the Black Prince; battlefield tactics in Napoleon’s campaign in France against the Russians in 1814; a two-player naval game highlight- ing the problems encountered by Arctic convoys in the Second World War, and a role-playing skirmish based on S. L. A. Marshall’s analysis of infantry combat in the Pacific campaign.

 His final book, Sprawling Wargames Multiplayer Wargaming (2009), described his mega-games of various Second World War operations and other free–kriegsspiel style umpire-controlled games.

 While striding through military history and wargaming, Paddy “marched to the sounds of the drum he could hear” and so was not shy at challenging currently established methods, views, and understanding. This made him a lively character to deal with, but an engaging one.

 Many wargamers have been content to continue moving toy soldiers across a tabletop in sociable, entertaining wargames that are loosely based on military history. Paddy recognized that style of wargaming as a valid personal choice but believed wargaming had the potential to be more than that. For him the experimentation was, perhaps, more stimulating and important than the individual games. It is clear that he demonstrated to many the value of games to understanding of history. Others, such as Professor Phil Sabin with his book Ancient Battles Reconstructing the Great Clashes of the Ancient World (2008) or Andrew Roberts with The Storm of War: A New History of the Second World War (2010), have openly used wargaming as part of their scholarship. To what extent Paddy has influenced the general wargaming hobby may become apparent in future years—it is too early to say yet.

 Paddy died unexpectedly while recovering from cancer. He is survived by his wife Geneviève and his son Robert.

—John Curry

The History of Wargaming Project, Bristol, UK

Reflections by Donald Featherstone

Paddy Griffith, history lecturer at the Royal Military Academy Camberley, came as a guest to an April Dinner of the Wessex Military Dining Club, staying overnight with me to avoid the perennial fear of drinking and driving. Returning to my home at near midnight, sated with good food and quite sufficient quantities of drink, we discussed a pet theory recently discovered to be a shared interest. It revolved around realism on the wargames table and whether the antics our armies got up to really simulated, even coin- cidentally, what actually takes place on the battlefield. We both strongly felt that there was much to be desired in the habits and activities permitted by the rules on wargames tables, particularly during the Napoleonic period that was under discussion. Despite the late hour, we retired to the wargames room where we stood around the table posing formations in belligerent attitudes as we sought solutions to our problems.

 Paddy (or Patrick as he wrote for his first article in August 1965 in my Wargamer’s Newsletter) believed that the British won their victories by firing a single volley, then charging. The French columns wavered and fell back in disarray. So we set up the figures on the table top in my attic to represent a particular battle (I do not remember which after 40 years) and talked through the sequence of events. I read from the various memoirs while he moved the figures. Time and time again, he sent me down the loft ladder to my study to retrieve another memoir from the Napoleonic Wars. (I had a large collection of the army historical journal and so had many relatively unknown accounts of these wars.) Again and again he laid the figures out and we studied the climatic encounters of the past. Eventually my wife grew tired of berating us to retire to our beds and she withdrew gracefully to hers.

Years later, I was pleased to see his write-up of his theory of battle and British feat of arms (Forward Into Battle: Fighting Tactics From Waterloo to the Near Future, 1981). I wish I had asked him to present it to the Wessex Military Dining Club.

 I remember the evening (and the long night) as it showed me that, although made of plastic and metal, the small warriors on the table top could speak to us about the past.

—Donald Featherstone

Thursday 21 June 2012

A tale of three novels

I have now printed three of Donald Featherstone's historical novels. Link

MacDonald of the 42nd is about a soldier in the Crimea and the Indian Mutiny. It is probably the best written.

Tales from a Victorian Barrack Room is about the soldier's life in British Colonial India. Grim.

The Badgered Men is another colonial era historical novel. This time it covers the life of cavalry man, in training, then in the Sikh War. Full of period detail, the first half is a bit slow, but the 2nd half of the book about the soldier on campaign is very well done.

Thursday 14 June 2012


I recently recieved the following which is doing the rounds of the MOD. Is is only after reading the first page, the joke becomes clear.
  (Not to be communicated to anyone outside HM Service without authority)
Title: Personnel on Defence RestructuringStrategic Defence and Security Review – Guidance to Defence Audience: All Regular and Reserve Service Personnel Applies: Immediately Expires: When rescinded or replaced Replaces:  Reference: 2012DIN01-666 Released: 1 April 2012 Channel: 01 Personnel Subject: Personnel, Equipment, TerminologyContent:
Restructuring following the Strategic Defence and Security Review
Guidance to Defence Personnel on Terminology used in Defence Sponsor: DCDS Media Ops (Newspeak & Spin) Contact:
 Keywords: Restructuring, Personnel, EquipmentRelated info:
Uncertainty: The Strategic Defence and Security Review
Defence White Paper 2010: Securing Britain in an Age of Classification: UnclassifiedIntroduction1. This guidance is being issued to remedy a perceived difficulty experienced by staff at all levels in understanding the rationale behind planned Defence restructuring. In particular many Staff Officers seem not to understand how reducing the numbers of ships, tanks, artillery pieces, aircraft and service personnel results in a more flexible, robust and effective fighting force.2. In particular it seems that much of the confusion stems from a systemic misunderstanding of the correct use of military terminology. A list of common terms and actual meanings follows. In addition, there follows an explanation of the key assumptions embedded within the Strategic Defence and Security Review (SDSR). All Staff Officers are encouraged to seek clarification through their Chain of Command if they still have any questions.
 Detail3. Staff Terminology used in the new Defence Plan:

MoD Meaning
Flexiblea. Smaller
b. Unable to operate unless under protection of USA
Robusta. Smaller
b. Lacking reserves or regeneration capability
NetworkedSmaller, but still unable to talk to each other
AgileReally, really small
DeployabilityMethod of making the Forces, primarily the Army, able to send higher percentages of their manpower to a distant location. This is achieved by reducing the overall numbers involved; e.g. ‘in future the Army will be able to send 50% of its manpower to Africa in the back of a Cessna, thus achieving greater deployability’.
ReachThe distance the USA is willing to fly us
EfficientMuch, much smaller
StreamlinedJust unbelievably small
Just in time…for the funeral
IntegratedProcess by which all three Services get to brief against each other in public leaks, attempting to justify their own budget against cuts, thereby doing the Treasury’s work for it. Taken to extremes by the Army, with Corps and Regiments fighting each other, and perfected within the Infantry.
Technically ambitious
a. Slang, as in, "he was being a bit technically ambitious when he tried to drive that car through the wall." (c.f. ‘To propose a Bowman’)b. Description of the far future
ReservesIntegral part of current Operational Manning
Rationalisationa. Cuts
b. Psychological term, meaning to use complicated arguments to avoid facing unpalatable truths. e.g. "we don’t need to pay for both servicemen and expensive equipment, because we will be networked, agile and technically ambitious."
RapidUsed in a comparative sense, as in, ‘the rapid erosion of the Himalayas.’
RadicalDeep Cuts
TransformationReally Deep Cuts
Sustainable…assuming zero casualties, no leave and no emergencies.

Sentences such as, ‘these proposals capture our aim for a speedily deployable, agile, joint and integrated, technically ambitious defence capability,’ will make more logical sense to the experienced Staff Officer once the above definitions are applied. 
2 4. It will also help if Staff Officers bear in mind the following Planning Principles. Point ‘b’ will be of particular relevance in explaining the rationale behind restructuring to junior personnel. 4

g. In the past the Regimental System has been seen as the corner-stone of British Army success, creating a system in which the individual is made to feel part of a greater family, often stretching back hundreds of years, in which he is nurtured and developed, and to which he feels such great loyalty that he is inspired to sacrifice himself if need be for his Regimental comrades. However, the British youth of today are so naturally self-sacrificing and community spirited that additional incentives are now unnecessary, and in any case the threat to soldiers on the ground has been assumed away. There is therefore no further need for a system whose main purpose is to generate fighting spirit, and it can be safely emasculated to achieve administrative efficiency (see ‘Efficient’ above).

 Further Guidance6. More detailed guidance can be found in JSP 4708 – ‘Magic Mushrooms: their consumption, effects and results in the MoD’ and ex-Secretary-of-State Liam Fox’s soon
to be published Autobiography ‘What Colour is the Sky in My World?’
Key Assumptions: Current levels of operations are an aberration, will never be repeated and should form no guide to current manning requirements, let alone future ones. We can see that Gerry Adams and Martin McGuinness have embraced peace, there are no more requirements for crowd control in Northern Ireland, the FBU have forsworn strikes as have all other key public workers, Ayman al-Zawahiri (the new head of Al Qaeda) is about to hand himself in, the Taliban are currently planning to give up their weapons, campaign for equal rights for women and join the International ‘Israel is Always Right’ Federation, and the Easter Bunny will be providing Area Air Defence for the Olympics in London.

k. Successive efficiency measures can be made to reinforce each other. For example, each time troop numbers are cut, a unit can then be tasked to conduct the same jobs as before. Provided there are no actual massacres of Friendly Forces, the new troop numbers can be seen to have been fully as effective as the previous numbers, and so can form a baseline for achieving efficiency cuts to new troop numbers. Savings can then be invested in new equipment, in the same way that British Airways fires half its pilots every time it needs to buy a new plane. The ultimate aim is to have one man, but equipped like Dr Octopus. He will sleep with one eye open at all times to replicate full manning.5. 
i. Savings will be ploughed into the purchase of large numbers of hats. This will be essential as in future everyone will be at least treble- or quadruple-hatted. Wars will be fought in rotation, on a strict ‘first come, first served’ basis.

j. Future savings will be made by abolishing all training for the Chiefs of Staff. After all, they haven’t proven remotely as effective at manoeuvre warfare, disruption, dislocation or divide-and-rule as the Treasury.
h. High divorce rates within the Services will solve manpower crises, by ensuring all service personnel will be happy to conduct back-to-back tours forever, as no one will have any families or friends to miss.
a. Much of the current crisis in Defence Spending can be directly traced to the high costs of legacy equipment. These were ordered at a time of ignorance in the past when Planners naively seemed to believe that the threat they identified as imminent would remain the same for the 20-30 year service life of the equipment they were ordering. The assumption in the 1980’s and 90’s that tanks, artillery, and aircraft would be needed in the future was ridiculous, as none of these equipments have been used by the British Armed forces to any degree since the Falklands war. However, current financial planners possess better foresight and are able to predict future threats for at least the next 40 years. We are therefore able to be certain
that Britain is unlikely to need any tanks, aircraft, submarines etc. past about 2015.
b. The new Defence Plan is not resource driven. A comprehensive strategic estimate has been conducted, from first principles, identifying the current and potential threats to the UK and its interests, allowing a reserve for the unexpected, and also allowing for recurrent non war-fighting tasks such as Fire Strike cover and Foot and Mouth disease. Against the tasks identified an ideal manpower establishment and Task Org has been identified. By an amazing coincidence it fits almost exactly within current Treasury expenditure plans for the MoD and even allows the MoD to carry more than half the costs of operations in Afghanistan.c. Use of Special Forces. No one in the general public has a clue how many there are, so they can be announced as deploying to every country in the world.d. Britain no longer needs a significant anti-submarine capability. No other nation possesses submarines in any numbers, submarine technology is unlikely to advance at all over the next few (i.e. 30) years and should anti-submarine technology or skills be required at any point in the future they can be reconstituted overnight from the reserves (once the reserves have been reconstituted). In any case, by 2020 the UK will be fully integrated into mainland Europe and will therefore no longer have a coastline to defend or be reliant upon sea-supply.

e. Similar arguments apply to air defence.
f. Aggressive use of terminology can compensate for lack of actual forces. For example, in the past effective deterrence of a reasonably capable Maritime threat would require the despatch of a task force, consisting of destroyers, frigates, submarines and possibly even a carrier. In the future a task force will still achieve this task; but task force will be the new description for a minesweeper.
Sqn Ldr I M Promoted, SO2 Spin, Orwell Building, Ministry of Truth in Defence, MoD Ext 1984

Saturday 9 June 2012

The British Army Desert War Game MOD Wargaming Rules (1978)

New publication from the History of Wargaming Project
These rules were written in 1968 to wargame, at a tactical level, the desert warfare battles in a potential invasion of Iraq in the mid-1970’s. They are a piece of wargaming ‘archeology.’
The Land Rules for a Wargame in a Desert Setting in 1978 are an example of a military map based wargame. Written both for training and analysis, they have detailed information on matters important to the military and often ignored by hobby wargamers.

Deployment times, lead times for preparation of assaults, ammunition constraints, shadowing retreating units and communications are all dealt with by the rules.

Although based at platoon level for the British and company level for the Russians, the rules have both unit based combat results and individual vehicle fire combat tables.

Military wargames are traditional heavily umpired, with a large supporting case of assistants to help run the game, but this book contains guidance on how a modern wargamer can recreate the original game in a practical form on a single map. 

New online military magazine from Pen and Sword

I was just pointed to a new online military magazine from Pen and Sword. Produced by a sister company of Pen and Sword it contains miliary news, reviews etc. I found the various book extracts from various military history books (all reproduced with permission of Pen and Sword) very interesting.