War Talks – Fifth Season (May-July 2019)

The War Talks initiative enters its third year in July, by then it will have delivered 42 Talks on subjects as diverse as the career of Crown Prince Rupprecht of Bavaria, the genetics of war, and child soldiers in Africa.  We have welcomed academics and think-tankers from across the World, with speakers travelling from as far afield as the United States and Australia to speak to our dedicated audience.  The Talks have taken place in Aldershot at both the Prince Consort’s Library and the Aldershot Military Museum, in Portsmouth aboard HMS Victory, and at Tonbridge School in Kent.  From May, our Talks will take place in a wider range of locations,  be broadcast on social media, and feature an increasing diversity of speakers.  We are also incredibly fortunate to continue to be supported by the Royal United Services Institute for Defence and Security Studies (RUSI) and the British Army in the guise of the British Army Military Book of the Year (BAMBY) Competition.

The new season, our fifth, starts in May 2019.  My rationale for the Talks remains to deliver informal professional military education (PME) to service people and civil servants, filling the gaps between formal PME courses.  This season is very special, however, in that all of our speakers are women.  It is no secret that women are unrepresented as speakers in the areas of war studies and international relations; my aim in this, the centenary of the arrival in the House of Commons of Lady Astor as the first female MP to take her seat, is to highlight the quality of women speakers and to prove that it is possible to be diverse and preserve excellence.  I believe that our speakers are amongst the best available in their areas of expertise and hope that attendees looking to promote PME will look to women to fill panels in future.  Our season kicks off on Tuesday 7 May 2019.

Our first speaker, Sarah Ashbridge, is an Arts and Humanities Research Council (AHRC) PhD student based in Huddersfield.  Her studies concentrate on British and German identity disks and the administration of war dead in the period 1914-1921 but she is also an experienced battlefield archaeologist, having been involved in the recent excavation of Hill 80 in Belgium and the British Army’s Operation Nightingale project on Salisbury Plain.  Sarah will speak on the subject of ‘Identity Discs and the Administration of Death 1907-21′, her talk, at Aldershot Military Museum, will be essential listening for students of the Great War and for those with an interest in conflict archaeology.  Our second Talk takes place on Tuesday 21 May 2019 at the same location.  Our speaker on this occasion is Szabina Maguire.  Szabina is Hungarian and a former diplomat who now carries out research into Russian disinformation on behalf of NATO, her Talk will divulge many of her findings and promises to be fascinating for those examining the ‘Grey Space’.  Szabina’s Talk is entitled, The Role of Disinformation on NATO’s Eastern Flank’.

In June, we are privileged to have Dr Vanda Wilcox of the John Cabot University in Rome coming to speak.  Vanda is currently writing on a book on the Italian Empire in the Great War and working in Paris but will, on Tuesday 4 June 2019, be speaking on a subject related to her PhD and Cambridge University Press book, ‘How (not) to manage morale: Italy in the First World War’.  I’m very much hoping that she may have some suggestions for British soldiers in the twenty-first century.  Later in June, Veerle Nouwens, Research Fellow at RUSI will be speaking on the topic of China, having heard Veerle speak previously I can assure you all that her expertise and delivery is incredible.  She has lived and worked in China and has an encyclopaedic knowledge of Chinese politics.  The title of her Talk is yet to be confirmed, but will look at China’s place in the twenty-first century.  Veerle will speak at the historic Prince Consort’s Library on Tuesday 25 June 2019.

In July, we have two further Talks.  Our first is by Alicia Kearns, will take place on Tuesday 9 July 2019 and is entitled, ‘Weaponised Truth and the Democratisation of Information.  The subject is prescient, coming at a time when the British Army is closely examining the concept of information advantage, and when militaries around the world are struggling with the role of social media in engagement.  Alicia is a prospective parliamentary candidate for the Conservative Party and was previously a diplomat working in Iraq, where she was involved in countering ISIS, and in Ukraine, where she advised on countering Russian disinformation.  The final Talk in this season will be given by Cristina Varriale of RUSI.  Cristina will speak on the subject of North Korea and nuclear proliferation on Tuesday 23 July 2019.  Cristina has worked in Washington DC at the Centre for Strategic Studies, at the International Centre for Security Analysis, and at the British American Security Information Council and has appeared on Sky News and the BBC as the go-to expert on the politics of proliferation on the Korean peninsula.  Her expertise is formidable and she will bring our fifth season to a suitably explosive close just before the Army’s traditional break.

Below is a list of all the Talks and the dates on which they will be held, I look forward to seeing you all there.

All the best, have a good weekend,

Barney

20190401-War Talks – Fifth Season (May - July 2019).

Winter turns to Spring!!

I’m sure you will have inferred from my prolonged absence that the period since Christmas has been incredibly busy for me.  I last wrote in my Blog at the end of January, so this is going to be one of those catch up pieces where I tell you what I’ve been up to and what I have planned for the next few months; needless to say the first quarter of 2019 has been a whirlwind.  In January, I was working full-time at RUSI in London, living in Aldershot, and spending most of my time writing, none of that is now true and it makes me a little sad.  The only thing that hasn’t changed is Brexit, that will still be rumbling on when I finish my next posting!

I suppose all good things have to come to an end; working full-time at RUSI was an absolute honour.  I loved working in Whitehall, learning from the incredibly informed young people in the Institute, and being mentored by people like Peter Roberts and Ewan Lawson.  I like to think I have made real friends amongst the researchers, friends for life. In the period from New Year until the end of March, I was fortunate to have articles published in the Wavell Room and by the Modern War Institute at West Point, to work on a RUSI Journal article with the superb Ali Stickings, and a chapter for a special report to be published by RUSI in May 19.  I was also immensely privileged to be allowed to go to Georgia as a representative of RUSI to teach at the Defence Academy in Tbilisi alongside Ewan Lawson.  I think I made the most of my academic placement, I’m still full of ideas for articles on such topics as Mission Command, the Changing Character of Warfare, and Adaptability amongst others, I will get round to them, one thing RUSI has taught me is to keep writing!  The good news is that I am still working part-time at RUSI, assisting the Land Warfare Fellow, Jack Watling, with the RUSI Land Warfare Conference 2019.

In March I was formally assigned to the Army Media Centre at Andover, where I am the SO3 Media Ops (Digital), its a great job working with a great bunch of people.  I love that I am able to use my head and be creative and that I’m able to run projects for the wider Engagement and Communications at the same time as doing my day job.  In addition to the projects publicising CGS’s Innovation Prize and ensuring streaming is available for the Army at the RUSI Land Warfare Conference, I am also able to help deliver Battlefield Studies for UCL’s Institute of Education, HQ 3rd (UK) Division, and the Yorkshire Regiment, lecture to groups such as HQ Directorate of Special Forces, my Corps’ WOs and Sgts’ Conference and the Chief’s of Staff of the FINABEL nations, and organise and run the War Talks series, our 35th talk is on Tuesday!  I hope to announce the details of the six Talks in the Fifth Season this weekend, what I can divulge tonight is that it will be an all-female season, particularly apt in the centenary year of Lady Astor’s arrival in Parliament.   Additionally, I will be running the British Army Military Book of the Year competition in 2019 on behalf of the COS of Army Education; the Competition opens on the 23rd April and we have seven books for the judges to consider.  Judges come from all across Defence ranking from Trooper to Colonel, Regular and Reserve.

Those of you that know me will also know that my real passion is Professional Military Education (PME).  Ewan Lawson and I have been discussing this for some time and I was fortunate to be able to organise a RUSI roundtable event with Maj General Mullen, the Commanding General of the USMC’s Training and Education Command, it was clear that the appetite for a more twenty-first century approach to PME is not just an aspiration in the UK nor is it seen as officer sport.  The times they are a changing!  To that end, I’m hoping to run more events with a PME theme for RUSI in the late Summer of 2019.  So what of my other aspirations?  Well, I don’t think I’m going to get promoted or offered a commission any time soon, but that’s never been the point, my aspirations are in spreading the word about PME, its utility as a driver for change, and developing my career as a military academic.  To that end, I am determined to start a PhD this year, to apply for more Fellowships, to do some more work in the area of Force Development, and to write lots more!

Right its time to read, Raphael Marcus’ ‘Israel’s Long War with Hezbollah’ is on my night stand!! Hope to catch you all very soon.

All the best,

Barney