Its been a while. This blog will be a rather self-indulgent piece looking back on what has been a wonderful 2018 and looking forward to 2019. It has been one of those vintage years that I wish would never end, but at the same time I’m excited for the opportunities which I know are just around the corner in the New Year. At the start of the year I set myself some goals: to spread the footprint of the War Talks series, to deliver a successful British Army Military Book of the Year 2018 (BAMBY18), and to throw myself into my new post at the Royal United Services Institute for Defence and Security Studies in Whitehall. I think I also said that I wanted to lose weight and return to fitness, in that regard, Reader, I have utterly failed.
Since the start of the year, I have delivered fifteen War Talks in four locations, Prince Consort’s Library in Aldershot, Aldershot Military Museum, HMS Victory, and Tonbridge School. The delivery of these talks is far from a solo effort, I am indebted to the staff at the Library, the Museum, the Dockyard, and the School for allowing me to use the venues but especially Mrs Kirsty Hoyle, Commander Kay Hallsworth, and Mrs Becky Lamb who have done much of the organisation for the Talks. In addition to the War Talks, I have also been privileged to speak to military personnel at 104 Logistic Brigade in South Cerney, 3 Regiment RLC at Abingdon, the Royal Navy’s Medical Services Officers and Warrant Officers at Gosport, and the Officers of the Intermediate Command and Staff Course (Land) at Shrivenham; I will be speaking to the Directorate of Special Forces and the Union Jack Club in 2019. The BAMBY18 was a resounding success, with a superb win by Dr Aimee Fox for her book ‘Learning to Fight’. Dr Fox’s win, the first for a woman, will be celebrated with the presentation of her prize at Prince Consort’s Library in February 2019. Whilst I will continue to organise the War Talks series, the BAMBY will return to being run by the Army Libraries and Information Service in 2019.
In addition to Talks and the Book Prize, I have also organised a Conference on the First World War on the Western Front in 1918 on behalf of HQ Regional Command and been fortunate to have articles and reviews published in the UK and America, with a book review in the British Journal of Military History, an article on 1918 in ‘Soldier’ magazine, a Newsbrief and Commentary for RUSI, and a commentary on the ‘Death of Precision’ for War on the Rocks. Being published has been enormously gratifying, with a RUSI Journal article due to publish in the Spring of 2019 in conjunction with my colleague Ali Stickings and an article with the Wavell Room in editorial as we speak. I have also completed a paper for Defence’s Developments, Concepts, and Doctrine Centre (DCDC) on how Defence could enhance adaptability. Perhaps the activity from which I draw the greatest satisfaction is providing support and guiding the First World Wars School Children’s Battlefield Tours, I have done eight tours this year, with a real highlight being the Amiens 100 international schools tour, during which I was fortunate to record a podcast on the Battle of Le Hamel with Professor Sir Hew Strachan which will be published in the early New Year. I aim to continue to support the Tours and expand my interest in guiding in the New Year, in 2018 I enjoyed planning and delivering a Battlefield Study for the Army’s Educational and Training Services (South), in 2019 I will guide a tour by a battalion of the Mercians around Berlin.
By far the biggest occurrence in 2018 has been the posting to RUSI. Intellectually, it has been an enormous learning curve but it has delivered in spades. The role of the Military Sciences is to convene Defence related activities, to research Defence related matters, and to challenge Defence policies both at home and abroad. I am permitted to research anything and everything I like, there is no party line, and my superb boss, Professor Peter Roberts prefers an atmosphere of articulate and informed debate. I have written on such things as Recruiting and Retention, the Army Reserve, and even the vulnerability of satellite-enabled precision, attended conferences and round-tables on NATO policy in the Black Sea, the employment of the British Army Reserve, the Swiss Army’s policy on Modern Deterrence, and challenges to Israelis, Greeks, and Ukrainians. I cannot recommend the post of Army Visiting Fellow at RUSI enough and would encourage all ranks to apply, my replacement is an infantry Lieutenant Colonel, I would sorely have hoped for a Senior Non-Commissioned Officer.
Finally, I was humbled to be awarded the RAF’s Salmond Prize in June 2018, it was a special moment which I will always remember. I was lucky enough to be awarded a GOC’s Commendation for Op TELIC 2 in 2003 but I think this prize was the most special thing I have been awarded in 24 years of military service. So what next in 2019? More Talks, more articles, more conferences, more travel, a new job, and the opportunity to meet more fascinating and committed people. I will lose weight and get fit this year and I’m keen to mentor other Warrant Officers and Senior NCOs in using education to make a difference for Defence. I’ll outline my plans in the New Year but for now, Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year to you all.
All the very best,