Defence Studies Talk Series – 2017

Everyone has one thing that irritates them about their job.  Those of you who follow me on Twitter will not be surprised to hear that my pet hate is the Army’s failure to deliver effective professional development outside of mandatory Officer training.  There have been efforts of late to improve the situation, but in the belief that you’re either part of the solution or part of the problem, I devised a Defence Studies Talk Series.

The Series will be delivered on a monthly basis at the Prince Consort Library on Knollys Road in Aldershot.  Historically, the Prince Consort Library was at the heart of British Army professional learning.  In the nineteenth century, senior officers like Field Marshal Viscount Wolseley and Major-General Sir Charles Callwell spoke frequently to their peers in the Library on matters of military and political moment, and officers like Douglas Haig were regular attendees; it is one of the aims of the Series to return the Library to a more important place in the future of Army learning.  It is envisaged that guest speakers will be mainly academics, with hopefully some senior officers or the elusive soldier-scholars in the future.  The audience will comprise of personnel of all ranks and grades from the Army, Navy, RAF and Civil Service.  The Talks will be challenging and delivered in the spirit of Chatham House rules, it is for this reason that only invited civilians will attend.  The audience is limited to 120 on a first-come, first-served basis.

So who are the speakers? I have asked some of the most eminent academics to deliver talks on a range of questions.  In the coming months, you can expect academics from all over the UK to deliver talks on a wide range of subjects of interest as continuous professional development to Servicemen and Civil Servants I am delighted that Dr Matthew Ford of Sussex University will be our first speaker on 4th July 2017.  Matt has recently had a book, ‘Weapon of Choice’, published and is interested in military innovation and adaptation.  He is also the Honorary Historical Advisor to the Royal Armouries, a former Fellow at West Point, and the founding editor of the British Journal of Military History.  Matt’s subject will be, ‘Is it Gucci? What small arms can tell us about the military’s attitude to innovation and adaptation’.  If anyone would like to suggest a subject or a speaker please let me know.

Clearly the delivery of this project is not a one-man effort, and I would like to thank the Librarian and staff of Prince Consort Library without whom this Series would not have been possible.  That it is being delivered without additional cost should tell you the enormous amounts of goodwill which have been expended in getting this to fruition.  It will be difficult balancing a full-time Army career, the organisation of these talks, a course of PhD study, and the writing of academic articles but it must be done; if not me, then who?  Please watch this space for updates on the series and my random musings.

Thank you and all the best,



University Short Course, Exeter 17-19 May 2016.

The Armed Forces University Short Course Scheme is an education initiative open to serving personnel of all three Armed Services, regardless of Rank, run by the Ministry of Defence.  The courses, in subjects as diverse as languages, management and strategic studies, are held at universities across the U.K and are of no more than a week in duration.  They represent a valuable personal and professional development resource and an opportunity to mix with sailors, soldiers and airmen in a learning environment.

I have attended five University Short Courses since 2009.  The latest considered the development and formulation of Foreign Policy and was convened at the University of Exeter under Professor Patrick Porter.  The courses are intellectually demanding but incredibly stimulating.  In my opinion, the University of Exeter delivers the best overall package: cutting-edge academic knowledge, superb delivery and high quality accommodation.  The subject matter was challenging, covering areas as diverse as the history of the development of British foreign policy and the psychology of groupthink, but the thing that brought the course to life was the valuable experience of the students.  The student body consisted of 22 Servicemen and women, 12 from the Army and 5 each from the Royal Navy and RAF.  Students had wide experience in military operations, from peacekeeping in the 1990s, to post 9/11 operations in Iraq and Afghanistan and current operations in Libya, the Mediterranean and the Indian Ocean.  The application of their knowledge made the experience educational for all, including the academic staff.

The question which I think those of you who are not serving will probably be asking is what is the value and why is the MoD paying for this course? My reply is that as well as being an investment in the intellectual development of our military personnel, they are a useful retention tool and invaluable in educating people to deal with the range of operations from warfighting to peacekeeping, from deploying to deal with flooding, disease and natural disasters to supporting the NHS and other services during times of industrial strife.  If only formal Command, Leadership and Management training was as challenging and useful, but that is another story…