A year ago, I wrote a Blog outlining a new project I was originating at Aldershot. Back then I called them the Defence Studies Talk Series, one year later they are War Talks at PCL; the concept remains the same, only the name has changed. In this Blog I want to talk about the rationale behind the Talks, thank those who have helped me, outline the Talks planned for the remainder of the Summer, and let you know about some exciting future plans.
The War Talks at PCL Talk Series was originally devised with twin aims: firstly, it aimed to provide continuing professional military education for all serving personnel and civil servants, filling a gap where formal military education left off. Secondly, it aimed to highlight the incredible mid-Victorian Prince Consort’s Library at Aldershot and encourage serving personnel and civil servants to use the Library’s services. In the last ten months we have reached out to hundreds of people and provided high quality professional development; I am satisfied that we have begun to make some impact, we have attendees regularly travelling from as far afield as Devon, Staffordshire, and Leicestershire and speakers travelling from the United States and in July, from Australia.
Although this is a project without either a budget, or sophisticated equipment, and organised and run in entirety by one man, I am pleased with the results. I am assisted in producing the Talks primarily by the forbearance of my bosses at 1st Bn Scots Guards, I am under no illusions that they could turn it off with no notice, and I am thankful to them for allowing me to continue. Additionally, the staff at PCL and within ALIS have been supportive, helping to set up and put away, alongside my own soldiers from the SPS Detachment at 1 SG. My biggest thank you, however, must go out to the academics and soldiers who have spoken at my Talks and who have provided enormous food for thought. It must be said that without the speakers, library staff. and my Unit these talks would not happen.
The outline for the rest of the Summer is shaping-up nicely. Our next Talk will be by Dr David Morgan-Owen on Wednesday 23 May 18 speaking on the subject of ‘War as it might have been: British Sea Power and the First World War‘. This is a substantial departure for the Series and reflects my intent to move away from a purely Land Warfare bias, I hope to see some Matelots in Aldershot, eager to avenge last week’s Rugby result. I’m hoping to re-schedule Maj Gen Craig Lawrence’s talk on ‘Getting Strategy Right (Enough)‘ to the evening of Tuesday 5 June 18; this is much anticipated, but Craig is a busy man and more often than not he is outside the UK. I have booked Dr Nick Lloyd, the author of one of the BAMBY18 books, ‘Passchendaele: A New History‘ on Tuesday 12 June 18; the BAMBY is a really special award, judged by practitioners, I am very happy to be running it this year. Finally, Prof Theo Farrell will be speaking on his BAMBY shortlisted book, ‘Unwinnable: Britain’s War in Afghanistan 2001 – 14‘ in Aldershot on Tuesday 17 July 18.
As many of you will know, the Prince Consort’s Library will close for renovations, I will therefore be looking for alternative premises. Many of you have been generous with your offers of assistance but I have decided that the closure offers an incredible opportunity to spread the word, if not about PCL then certainly about the need to provide high-quality professional military education outside of the formal career path. In short, I intend to take ‘War Talks on the Road‘!! I intend to arrange Talks in London, Portsmouth, Shrivenham, Tidworth and Camberley before Christmas 18 and to Colchester, Stafford and York in 2019. This will take considerable organisation and any help readers can offer will be gratefully received; I am a one man band and pursuing a Fellowship at RUSI, working for DCDC, producing the Talks, the BAMBY, numerous battlefield studies, and several formation study days can be a difficult juggling act. Finally, for those who want to see the Talks recorded, I am also aiming to organise that before I start at RUSI in September.
Many thanks for all your help and support thus far,