What Barney did next…

If you are easily bored leave now, this promises to be a rather self-indulgent piece being the third instalment in the story of my 2018.  Regular readers may recall that at the outset of the year I set myself some targets on which I promised to update them as the year progressed, what follows is my account for the Third Quarter.  In case you were wondering whether to slip off un-noticed, I will give you a brief summary: it’ll talk about my new job and the Army’s External Placement programme, the First World War centenary, prizes and surprises, and give a look forward to the run up to Christmas, the BAMBY and War Talks.  If you have already gone I’d also like to thank you; thus far in 2018 my blog has been visited by over 6000 people and been viewed over 8000 times. Thank you all.

What can I say about RUSI?  I am surrounded by young, and not so young, people researching the defence and security problems of our time.  They are continually thinking and analysing, writing and convening, networking and connecting, and adding a degree of balance to the assumptions and fears of government, industry, and anyone with an interest in the future of our world.  They are exceptionally bright and hugely talented but with incredible intellectual humility, with strong camaraderie, and a sense of fun.  It is a hothouse, we in the Military Science team are working flat out on projects as diverse as the security implications of space, the development of cyber capabilities, and the future character of land warfare, I am learning fast and developing my ideas somewhat faster.  In the last three weeks I have completed my paper ‘Enhancing Adaptability’ for DCDC, written a brief on localising strategic engagement for the Army, attended round tables on NATO strategy in the Black Sea and developments in the Ukraine, collaborated in the planning of the Land Warfare Conference 2018, and begun work on a major new project looking at ‘Prototype Warfare’.  It is challenging and demanding, but without a shadow of a doubt the best assignment I have ever had in the Army.  I would strongly encourage anyone with a Master’s level education or above and an interest in defence and security to apply for the job through the Army’s External Placement programme, regardless of rank.  I may be the first non-commissioned soldier, but there is no reason I should be the last!

Since the end of June I have also been heavily engaged in projects outside of work, guiding on the Amiens Centenary International Student Battlefield Tour was a highlight, especially getting to create podcasts with Sir Hew Strachan, but I’ve also worked on a battlefield study for the Army’s Education and Training Services (South) group, planned the third season of War Talks, and brought the British Army Military Book of the Year prize, BAMBY18, to fruition.  I am indebted to all those who have helped particularly my friends Simon Bendry and Kirsty Hoyle who are inspirations to me and all with whom they come into contact.  In July I was honoured to receive the RAF’s Salmond Prize for an article I wrote for the Air Power Review about aerial re-supply at Kut in 1916 from the Chief of the Air Staff at the Air Power Conference, its not often a soldier gets rewarded by the professional head of the RAF.  The War Talks series continues to go from strength-to-strength, with seven talks booked in before Christmas and a further fourteen planned thus far for 2019, if you haven’t managed to get along to one please do you are all welcome…and its free!!  It hasn’t all been plain sailing, a health scare in July, luckily turned out to be relatively minor, but on balance my projects outside of work have been a joy.  What does the future hold?  More War Talks obviously, the privilege of attending the Armistice 100 commemoration at Westminster Abbey, seeing ‘Enhancing Adaptability’ and other work published, lots more battlefield guiding, and getting to meet lots of new and fascinating people are top of my list.

To close, I’d like to remind everyone what ‘this’, by which I mean volunteering for the RUSI Fellowship, the War Talks, the BAMBY, the guiding etc, is all about.  The British Army’s strength is its personnel, in future we will require them to be more adaptable to cope with an era of continuous competition and change, one of the key enablers of adaptability is education.  Education brings confidence in oneself and together with experience enables commanders to trust and to risk; education, particularly professional military education, is thus critical to the Army of tomorrow.  In Defence we spend around 0.3% of the budget on the conceptual component, the vast majority of our personnel receive less than a week of military education in their entire service, and some officers continue to stand aghast in incredulity at non-commissioned ‘thinking soldiers’.  If we want to be an Army which is effective in future we will have to empower. educate, and engage the whole of the force to create a competitive advantage.  ‘This’ then is about convincing everyone that professional military education is far more important than we currently believe, and that we must educate our untapped resource, the 85% of soldiers without a commission, to gain the competitive advantage necessary to retain our position as a reference army.

Have a great Sunday,

Barney

Air Power Conference Personalities

And the Winner is….

Last night saw the first Talk in the third season of War Talks.  Thirty-five guests joined the guest speaker, Professor Charles Esdaile of the University of Liverpool, and me on board the First Sea Lord’s Flagship, HMS Victory.  Charles gave an engaging, witty, and informative talk on the mythology of the Battle of Waterloo with the help of props including the Mess Bar, tables, and more than a few members of the audience.  His intimate knowledge of the battlefield, highlighted the various national mythologies and helped illuminate his thesis: that all nations carefully craft myths and it is the job of historians to clear them away.  Charles succeeded admirably, receiving fulsome praise from the predominantly Royal Navy audience.  Following the Talk, the audience were treated to a tour of the ship, the Officer of the Day pointing out the stories and tall tales associated with Victory.  We are much the wiser having discovered the purpose of a tow rag, why the cat is out of the bag, and why all’s well at eight bells.  This War Talk, perhaps my all time favourite, was facilitated by Cdr Kay Hallsworth and Victory’s WO, I am extremely grateful to them both, and indeed to the rest of her crew who have the privilege to serve on that 260 year old warship, protecting her for the nation.

Our next Talk is only a little over a week away and will be held at the Aldershot Military Museum.  This Museum is yet another important heritage gem tracking the history of the home of the British Army since 1850.  It is run by the indomitable Mrs Kirsty Hoyle who is working miracles in updating the Museum and turning it into a fantastic community asset for the people of Aldershot and Farnborough.  Our speaker, at the twenty-first War Talk since July 2017, will be Professor Jim Storr who will speak on the subject of ‘War and Warfare in the Twentieth Century’ on Tuesday 25th September.  Like the talk on Victory, there is a bonus in coming to talks at the Aldershot Military Museum: a free tour of the Museum with its fabulous exhibits including Sir Brian Horrocks’ Jeep which he drove during the campaign in North West Europe 1944-45, and Field Marshal Viscount Montgomery’s barn which once held his Tac HQ caravans now at Duxford.  These two talks are just the start of what promises to be an incredible season, together with some one off specials, it creates what I believe to be one of the best military talk series’ in the country.  Please come along to the talks, they are free, fun, and informative.

Right, I know what you have all been waiting for…the results of the British Army Military Book of the Year Prize 2018.  The six books have caused considerable debate amongst the six judges on the panel.  They have done a fabulous job, reading the books without any reward; they represent different Corps, Ranks, and Genders and are a real cross-section of the modern British Army.  They are Regulars and Reservists with a love of reading and desire for professional military education and I am very grateful to them.  So without more ado, the winner of the British Army Military Book of the Year 2018 is Dr Aimee Fox for her book ‘Learning to Fight: British Military Innovation and Change in the British Army, 1914-1918’.  The scores out of a maximum of 300 were as follows:

Dr Aimee Fox:                                229

Dr Nick Lloyd:                                226

Lt Gen (Ret’d) Sir John Kiszely:   224

Prof Theo Farrell:                          221.5

Prof Sir Lawrence Freedman:     213.5

Johnny Mercer MP:                        165

The result was extremely close, but I’d like to personally congratulate Dr Fox on an excellent book, well done Aimee, you have done yourself and your Alma Mater very proud.

Have a great weekend,

Barney

Fellowship…No Ring.

On Monday, I started work as the Army Visiting Fellow at the Royal United Services Institute for Defence and Security Studies (RUSI) in Whitehall.  It had been almost fourteen months since I’d applied for the post under the Army’s new External Placement Scheme; I’m the first non-commissioned Fellow in the 187 year history of the Institute.  The External Placement scheme replaced the previous Postgraduate scheme in 2017, but whilst the new scheme incorporated many of the Fellowship, Masters, and PhD opportunities from the old scheme, it added a new Visiting Fellowship at RUSI, numerous other courses of postgraduate education and, perhaps most importantly, a number of external placements with industry.  This change represented an enormous step forward for the Army, especially as some of the opportunities are either rank-less or aimed at relatively junior officers.  There remains a considerable divide based on rank but it is, I believe, being eroded steadily and I am proud to be in the vanguard of equality.

The original Briefing Note notifying the new scheme only gave around a month to produce an application, in that time I had to produce three questions reflecting the themes of the Chief of the General Staff’s Questions, get the approval of my Commanding Officer, find an academic sponsor, and a 1* sponsor for my application.  My Commanding Officer was really helpful and gave me a strong recommendation, Dr Dan Whittingham, the convenor of the excellent Military History MA at Birmingham, agreed to be my academic reference, and the 1* Head of Concepts at the Developments, Concepts, and Doctrine Centre (DCDC) offered huge amounts of support. By the start of Summer leave 2017 I’d applied, and a few months later I was selected to fill the post commencing in September 2018.  The application was the start of the transformation of my Army career: I began working for DCDC shortly after Christmas 2017, and have seen a request to write a ‘Think Piece’ on Adaptability for them turn into a Joint Concept Note, and its importance snowball.  I am unbelievably grateful for this opportunity and am very much looking forward to being able to publicise it in November 2018.  Those of you who read this blog regularly will also know about my other activities which have grown and blossomed in the last year, the War Talks, the British Army Military Book of the Year competition, the Salmond Prize; I consider myself very lucky.

Since my arrival, I have been introduced to some incredible people, studying the key defence and security problems of our time, it is like being in an intellectual greenhouse and I feel challenged and nurtured in equal measure.  Although, it has been made clear that I am there to study and to answer the question I set myself, the head of Military Science, Professor Peter Roberts, has ensured that my time at RUSI will be an enormously positive experience.  I am challenged to write six opinion pieces over my tenure, as well as a Journal article, I will also help organise the academic input to the RUSI Land Warfare Conference in 2019, host the Intermediate Command and Staff Course (Land) in October 2018, teach on a foreign military’s Staff Course, and perhaps most excitingly, attend the Association of the United States Army Conference in Washington DC next month. I feel really privileged to have been given this wonderful opportunity, but I don’t want to be the first and only non-commissioned Fellow, its really important that other soldiers with a Masters Degree and a desire to learn and further their education join this Fellowship ring and apply for places at RUSI, for Masters courses, or to complete PhDs and Fellowships.  It seems bizarre to me that more than two years after the foundation of the Centre for Historical Analysis and Conflict Research (CHACR), there is no consolidated list of ‘soldier scholars’, or much discernible effort to leverage the untapped academic ability of soldiers of all ranks to help solve the problems of the modern British Army. Perhaps that’s an important oversight?

I look forward to hearing your opinions, in the mean time have a great weekend!

All the best,

Barney