A Seecktian Future?

This week finds me on an Armed Forces University Short Course at the Strategy and Security Institute of the University of Exeter.  The subject of the course is ‘Strategic Communications’, and although I cling to the healthy cynicism of the British Tommy regarding some aspects of Information Operations, I find it fascinating that both the lecturers and my fellow students identify the same frustrations with the current state of the Armed Forces.  Indeed,  I recall from my recent holiday reading of Chad C. Serena’s ‘A Revolution in Military Adaptation: The US Army in the Iraq War‘, that the American Army is similarly, and terminally, afflicted.  So what are these problems which bedevil professional militaries on both sides of the Pond? In short, the ethos of each organisation remains fundamentally anti-intellectual, imbued with a pride in amateurism, and dominated by the primacy of combat. These characteristics, it seems, act like a magnet, constantly drawing the Armed Forces back to the conventional combined arms paradigm, even when the evidence of our experience in the Middle East and Central Asia demonstrates that the character of warfare has changed and that our model requires reform.

At first glance, Colonel General Hans von Seeckt may seem an unlikely champion.  Hans von Seeckt, was the founder of the Reichsheer of the Weimar Republic in the period immediately following the end of the First World War (1921-27).  Von Seeckt was an acolyte of manoeuvrism and combined arms warfare, a dedicated reformer, and an ultra-nationalist, however, if we put his doctrinal and political beliefs to one side and instead concentrate on his reforms, I think we can see that much of his conclusions retain resonance, especially for a Future Force whose pre-eminent quality will be adaptability.  Von Seeckt was privileged to take over the German Army as a blank page, retaining the best of the Imperial Army and discarding its worst aspects.  He had to work within the limitations of the Treaty of Versailles, that is an Army of 100,000 men, an officer corps of 4,000, and no armoured vehicles or aeroplanes, and yet within a few short years he had created perhaps the most professional Army in the world, operating with modern weapons, modern doctrine, and educated personnel.  Von Seeckt did this by insisting on the highest standards of physical fitness, intellectual excellence, and moral conduct from his personnel, by depending on his NCOs to lead troops and deliver capabilities customarily delivered by Officers, and to encourage open (and often public) debate and ongoing and sometimes painful lesson-learning.  Von Seeckt’s Army offset this by improving the conditions of service of his personnel;  but most importantly it placed professional military education front and centre of its outputs.

Clearly, the modern British and American Armed Forces do not have the luxury of a blank page, however, there are important synergies with the German Army of 1918.  Firstly, we have accumulated a great deal of evidence demonstrating that the character of conflict has changed from our experiences since 9/11, we should be looking to assimilate them into our capabilities and organisational architecture by understanding that the answer is not always kinetic, empowering our NCOs by increasing the range of their responsibilities and allowing them to manage aspects of leadership and command which have been traditionally been the fiefdom of officers, and raising education and training to a pre-eminent role in the life of all personnel; as I have said many a time previously, we must Train for the Known and Educate for the Unknown.  Hans von Seeckt may have been a dreadful political reactionary, but he reformed his Army recognising that the character of warfare had changed and that there could be no return to 1914.  If we, like those who opposed von Seeckt, hope to turn the clock back for our Forces to 2001, insisting that we will only do war on our terms, we set ourselves up for defeat, and that, after Iraq and Afghanistan, should send a shiver down every soldier’s spine.

All the best,

Barney

 

 

 

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Monty’s Men?

Born into the British Army of the Rhine, and brought up in an Army family, I have admired Field Marshal The First Viscount Montgomery since boyhood.  Whilst not all those elderly relatives who had served under Monty in the Second World War felt the same way (my Stepfather’s father had a visceral hatred of Monty) the vast majority saw him as a great leader and a brilliant commander.  It is true, he was a man with considerable human shortcomings, but as a soldier he has been my professional role model for nearly thirty years.  On Tuesday evening, Professor Lloyd Clark, Director of Research at the British Army Centre for Army Leadership, gave the latest in the ‘War Talks at PCL’ talk series with Monty’s leadership in the Inter-War years as his subject.  A gifted trainer of men, an iconoclast, and a dedicated professional, Monty was portrayed as everything I had hoped.  I was drawn to one particular anecdote in which Monty challenged a number of officers by stating that soldiers were as likely to be leaders as officers, citing the conduct of a Private under his command at Ypres in 1914, this was not a popular view amongst his audience, but Monty stuck to his guns believing that all soldiers have it within them to be leaders, and that all should dedicate themselves to the study of their chosen profession.

Today, while discussing a project with which I am involved at Tidworth, the subject of Professor Clark’s Talk and soldier education came up, I instantly hopped onto my soapbox!  Those of you familiar with this Blog know that I argue passionately that the current professional education of soldiers is poor, at less than one month in a twenty-four year career, certainly insufficient for the success of the adaptable Future Force.  Without mandated, through-career, professional education what hope is there for our junior leaders?  In an archaic, hierarchical system, which in part would still be shocked at Monty’s suggestion that even Privates can be leaders, how can we hope to get the best from our men when we refuse to give them an adequate professional education, and fail to encourage them to exploit educational opportunities? Recently, Lieutenant General (Ret’d) Sir John Kiszely wrote reminding those at the top of the Armed Forces of the importance of professional education and warning against easy cuts which would undermine Defence, Sir John is right it would be easy to make savings in professional education but it would be disastrous to future operations.  We need more education, greater rigour, and more opportunity…Train for the Known, Educate for the Unknown.  Monty for all his human failings was right, soldiers are leaders and must be educated.  I am one of Monty’s Men.

On a lighter note, the next Talk in the ‘War Talks at PCL’ series will see Dr Jonathan Boff, a man to whom I am personally indebted for my education, speaking on the subject of his new book, ‘Haig’s Enemy: Crown Prince Rupprecht and Germany’s War on the Western Front’.  Jonathan will speak at Prince Consort’s Library from 1800hrs on Tuesday 8th May 2018.  Later in May, we have Dr David Morgan-Owen of King’s College London and the Defence Academy, talking about the Royal Navy in the Great War.  I am still firming up arrangements for Talks in June, but we expect to see Dr Matthias Strohn, Dr Nick Lloyd, and Professor Theo Farrell before the August break.  Professional Military Education is everyone’s business, I’d ask those military amongst you whether you feel you have done enough to promote it?  We are all busy, but as professionals we should dedicate ourselves to our profession, to misquote Alexander Suvarov, ‘Educate Hard, Fight Easy’ and be one of Monty’s Men.

Have a good weekend,

Barney

War Talks and BAMBY18 Update

As some of you who regularly attend the Talk Series may know, we have been awaiting news on the temporary closure of our venue, the Prince Consort’s Library in Aldershot, for several months.  It has recently been confirmed that the building will close from late July – early December 2018.  During that period, the Library be emptied and a temporary, limited service established by the Army Libraries Information Service (ALIS) within New Normandy Barracks, Aldershot.  This is good news for the Library, which will receive new electrics for the first time in a century, securing its use as a venue for the education of the soldier long into the future.  It is also good news for both the War Talks at PCL Talk Series and the British Army Military Book of the Year 2018, as it gives me a definitive guideline within which to operate.  I had only booked guest speakers up until 8 May 2018 in anticipation of an earlier closure, but can now book-in up to four more speakers before the Library closes, and find a temporary venue for our Talks from September – December 2018.

I have received some kind offers regarding accommodation, notably from within the Royal Military Academy Sandhurst, however, this would both limit our audience and create a temptation to stay in the bosom of our academic colleagues at Camberley.  The purpose of the Series and BAMBY18 is essentially twofold: to encourage service personnel and civil servants to carry out informal Professional Military Education (PME) as an enabler of military adaptability, and to support the continued work of the PCL.  Given these aims, it is essential that the Series and BAMBY 18 remain in Aldershot, both the Home of the British Army, and home to four major Army headquarters and six Army major units.  I will therefore be looking for a venue, outside the wire, and easily accessed by military and civilian audiences alike for the Autumn period.  I have had some suggestions, the churches for example, and look forward to hearing your suggestions.  It is anticipated that the Talk Series and BAMBY18 will return to the PCL in December 2018 for the presentation of the BAMBY Prize.

Talking of the Prize, I’m sure you will have seen my earlier Blog posts regarding the shortlist and judging criteria for the BAMBY18, our judges are busying themselves as we speak, reading and deliberating.  As a matter of fact, on Tuesday 10 April 2018, Dr Aimee Fox will speak on her shortlisted book at PCL.  Aimee will be the second of the shortlisted authors to speak at PCL this year, with Lt Gen (Ret’d) Sir John Kiszely KCB MC having spoken there in July 2017.  Now that I have a little room for manoeuvre, I hope to be able to welcome several more of the shortlisted authors along to speak.  Indeed, it is likely that we have tempted Professor Theo Farrell all the way from Australia for a Talk in July!!  The extension to the available time for talks has also allowed me to book an academic whose work I greatly admire and who I have been chasing for several months.  I am pleased to announce that on Wed 23 May 18, Dr David Morgan Owen of King’s College London and the Defence Academy of the United Kingdom will speak to us on the subject of, ‘War as it Might Have Been: British Sea Power and the First World War’.  Hopefully, by moving to a naval topic, we will expand the War Talks audience and broaden the interests of our loyal followers.

I look forward to seeing you all at an event in Aldershot soon,

All the best,

Barney

 

We Will Remember Them?

Tomorrow sees the 101st anniversary of the death of my Great Great Uncle, 28337 Lance Corporal Joshua Bartle Gailes of the 20th Bn Durham Light Infantry.  He was killed by German artillery as he emerged from the Queen Victoria Communication Trench at St Eloi, near Ypres on Tuesday, 3rd April 1917 and is buried in the Klein Vierstraat Cemetery only a few miles away.  There are, as far as I can tell, another two family members who met their end serving in the First World War: a cousin, PLY/911(S) Private Robert Thomas Platten of the 2nd Bn Royal Marine Light Infantry who fought at Gallipoli, on the Ancre, was killed during the Battle of Arras at Gavrelle on 28th April 1917, and is ‘known unto God’.  The other, another cousin, 143023 Private Adam Barron McClellan of the 25th Bn Machine Gun Corps (Infantry), died of his wounds on 16 April 1918, having been captured at Bailleul in the Georgette Offensive; he is buried at Ghent.

In addition, there are perhaps a dozen other family members, miners and labourers in the Edwardian era, for whom the Army represented a release.  My Great Grandfather, who fought on the Somme and at Passchendaele, survived the War, and died an alcoholic in 1961.  A Great, Great Uncle joined up in 1915 and apart from a brief spell at Gallipoli spent the war guarding Malta, being famously wounded by a bullet in the arse!  His brother manned a howitzer on the Somme.  In recent weeks, I have discovered cousins who fought on the first day of the Battle of the Somme, with differing degrees of success; one, a Lance Sergeant in the Tyneside Irish, witnessed over 50% casualties in his Unit and subsequently fought at Ypres and during the German Spring Offensives, the other, a Private in the 8th Bn, Norfolk Regiment had a far more successful first day and survived the War albeit after taking part in numerous other actions.

In recent weeks, I have been involved in four Battlefield Tours taking children from England out to Ypres, and down to the Somme.  In all, I would imagine I have escorted almost 200 children, of whom only a handful profess to have family members who fought or died, but all of whom will stand at the Menin Gate in Ypres and respectfully repeat, ‘We Will Remember Them’ at eight o’clock each evening.  Now, I am not being supercilious; I was brought up in a Service family, told to keep the Silence on Remembrance Day on pain of death, and had no knowledge of family members who would then have been elderly veterans (yes, I am that old).  I was thus in the same boat as all the kids taken to Flanders in the last two months at their age, it wasn’t that I didn’t care, just that I didn’t know!!  I have only become aware of the ‘Barnes Platoon’ since 2010, and was the first of my family to visit Joshua’s grave. in almost a hundred years, in February 2015, perhaps one has to turn 40 to find these things vital.

When I was stood at the Gate a fortnight ago, I heard several people complaining that the young kids had ‘no respect’, I would challenge that; they respect what they know and it is down to us Oldies to ensure that kids understand both Remembrance and their own personal stories.  We need to take the plank from our own eyes before we worry about kids’ splinters!  So grown-ups, research your family platoons and tell your kids about them before Remembrance becomes meaningless.  Lets not lose faith with those who lie in Flanders Fields.

All the best,

Barney

 

 

#BAMBY18 – Judging Criteria

The British Army Military Book of the Year 2018 is well and truly off the ground with one of our authors, the excellent Dr Aimee Fox already booked to talk to the ‘War Talks at PCL’ audience on Tuesday 10 April 2018.  In the meantime, if you’d like to judge the books alongside our panel of British Army judges, please have a look at our criteria in the link below and feel free to comment!!

All the best,

Barney

British Army Military Book of the Year

 

Coalition Warfare

‘If I must make War, I prefer it to be against a Coalition’ – Napoleon Bonaparte

A little over two months ago, I set myself an ambitious set of goals for 2018.  Those who follow this Blog will recall I wanted to continue the ‘War Talks at PCL’ series which I founded in July last year, try to breathe life into the British Army Military Book of the Year Prize, which had not run since 2016, and complete a think-piece on ‘Adaptability’ for DCDC, the sponsor of my Army Fellowship at RUSI.  In essence, I have achieved all that and much more: The Talk series has just had its eleventh talk in seven months and enjoys audiences considerably larger than those of last Summer, the British Army Military Book of the Year 2018 is on its feet, with a launch last week and the announcement of a winner due in September, and a think-piece which has grown into a Joint Concept Note almost overnight.  In addition, I have conducted two battlefield tours in Belgium and Northern France, with two more to come in March, organised a First World War Study Day on behalf of HQ Regional Command, and had a book review published in the British Journal of Military History.

Last week, I was privileged to speak at the Defence Research Network’s Workshop at Anglia Ruskin University in Chelmsford, on the value of networking and collaborative working for postgraduate students and Early Career Researchers.  The Defence Research Network is a group of students and young academics from across the UK, all of whom are conducting research in the broad church that is ‘war studies’.  The audience varied in age and interest, with those interested in cybersecurity sitting alongside those investigating the social problems associated with being a veteran.  The variety was eye-opening and so was the friendly, helpful way in which the members of such a diverse group conducted themselves.  It seemed to me that whether practitioners, academics, or students these people had laid ego down and agreed to collaborate in pursuit of their passion for learning.  Of particular interest was the Veterans and Families Research Hub, a virtual meeting place for those investigating that area of ‘war studies’; how wonderful it would be for every area of our subject to have a similar site, operating under a collaborative umbrella, encouraging a cross-pollination of ideas between historians, practitioners, social scientists, and scientists! In turn, I thought of all those people to whom I am grateful for allowing me to do what I do, and who lend an often unseen hand in my projects: my soldiers who help to set up the auditorium for the Talks, my Chain of Command who allow me the time to pursue my objectives, my family and friends who encourage and support at every turn.  No project is truly a lone effort, ‘Every man is part of the continent’.

If only it were possible for us all working in ‘war studies’ to get along, lay down the egos, and forget the schoolyard politics.  Perhaps there is something about the very study of war which creates an atmosphere in which many of the participants want to fight and strategise, the subject area certainly seems replete with factionalism and skulduggery?  I am a historian of operational military history, this is my interest and my passion, others are interested in gender and war, others in the cap-badges of the 25th of Foot, none is invalid, all are equally important in understanding war. Some are Professors, some have no formal qualifications, some are Generals, others are Private soldiers; does this matter?  Surely the only thing that matters is the quality of the output and the advancement of knowledge?  So, my message is that we should stand up for each other, assert the importance of education, and through compromise and maturity seek to promote our study in all its glorious diversity.  In the end, if we don’t study the scourge of mankind in width, depth, and context what hope can there be to understand it, and ultimately tame it?  Oh and Napoleon, Old Chap, you were wrong, it was a series of coalitions which finally defeated you!!

Take care, and before you start scheming, think am I the solution, or part of the problem.

All the best,

Barney

 

 

The British Army Military Book of the Year Prize 2018

After a year long hiatus, the British Army Military Book of the Year is back!  The shortlisted books in the #BAMBY18 are, in no particular order:

Unwinnable: Britain’s War in Afghanistan 2001-2014 by Prof Theo Farrell.

Learning to Fight: Military Innovation and Change in the British Army, 1914-18 by Dr Aimee Fox.

The Future of War: A History by Professor Sir Lawrence Freedman.

Anatomy of a Campaign: The British Fiasco in Norway, 1940 by Lt Gen (Ret’d) Sir John Kiszely KCB MC.

Passchendaele: A New History by Dr Nick Lloyd.

We Were Warriors: One Soldier’s Story of Brutal Combat by Johnny Mercer MP.

If you want to judge the books alongside our judges, we look forward to hearing your thoughts and opinions!!

The British Army Military Book of the Year (BAMBY) Prize 2018.

I have been involved with the British Army Military Book of the Year prize, colloquially called the BAMBY, since 2010.  The competition has been in abeyance for the last year, due to a staff shortage at the Prince Consort’s Library, Aldershot, but I am pleased to announce that my offer to organise the BAMBY for 2018 has today been accepted by the Education Branch of the Army.

Historically, the BAMBY considered a shortlist of six titles on military subjects, the judging panel consisting of serving and retired Army personnel each of whom received a complimentary copy of each book.  The shortlist was announced in March each year, judging completed by September, and the winner announced in October.  An important part of the competition was the accompanying Talk Series, which allowed each author to speak to a predominantly military audience about their book.  The competition concluding with the prize-giving and a further talk by the winning author just before Christmas.  The model I offered to Education Branch is subtly, but importantly different.

The Prize will continue to consider a shortlist of six books but the judging panel will be far more representative of the Army than it was previously.  I was a Judge on the BAMBY for seven years, but was the only Other Rank; there were no female or BAME judges and the average rank of judges was Lt Col.  In future, the judging panel will be far more representative, transparent, and will change annually.  I will also be standing down as a judge to concentrate on organising the programme, and shortlist.  The Judges will no longer receive a free copy of each book, instead they will be able to take a copy out from the Prince Consort’s Library, and will use a judging template to make a more objective decision. The Prize will thus become more affordable for the Army.  Another cost-saving measure is the decision to purchase a perpetual trophy rather than an annual prize; the trophy will be held at Prince Consort’s Library.

It is intended that the shortlist will be available by Easter 2018.  The criteria for shortlisting is that the book must be on a broadly military subject, must be published in the United Kingdom in the preceding twelve months, for our purposes 1 January – 31 December 2017, and must be a first edition.  The Judging Panel will be appointed from amongst volunteers, regular attendees at the ‘War Talks at PCL’ Talk Series, and ex officio appointees. The Panel will be ten in number: five Officers and five Other Ranks, representing the full spread of ranks and Corps.  The 50:50 rank split representing the use of the Library by different ranks.  The BAMBY Talks will sit as a sub-set of the ‘War Talks at the PCL’ Talk Series and will run from April – September each year.

Although owned by Education Branch, the BAMBY sits easily alongside the ‘War Talks at PCL’ Talk Series, with a shared aim to encourage soldier education, and library use, as well as my personal aim to return PCL to a pre-eminent position for the discussion of military affairs within the Army.  I am really pleased to be running the Prize, and look forward to meeting you all soon!!

All the best,

Barney

Resolutions

It seems rather apt that my first blog in 2018 should be about my resolutions for the New Year.  This isn’t going to be some boring post about losing weight and getting fit, there is enough of that about at the moment, rather it is going to describe the projects with which I am involved in 2018, and the changes I’ll be making in my professional life.

Inevitably, I will start with the second season of the War Talks at the PCL talk series which commences later this month. The establishment of the Series has been perhaps the greatest achievement of my career; in 2017 the eminent speakers who gave their time without recompense spoke to hundreds of people in the historic Prince Consort Library, Aldershot, and I’m hoping to build on that success in 2018.  The Series is booked up until May 2018; I am hoping to book more speakers after that, however, there is a strong possibility that the Library may be closed for restoration over the Summer, and I will be forced to find a new, temporary venue.  The other news on the War Talks front is that I’m looking to record the Talks in future and upload them to the Web.  In a related project, I am hoping to re-invigorate the British Army Military Book of the Year Prize this year and have a model which, like the Talk Series, is at no added cost to the MoD, representing a significant saving to the Department; I will Blog on this subject when I have the appropriate permissions.  Finally, I am planning two Study Days at Prince Consort’s Library, one on behalf of HQ Regional Command, and another in conjunction with Mr Simon Bendry, the organiser of the government’s School Childrens’ Battlefield Tours which promises to be a fabulous opportunity for teachers and children.

The School Children’s Battlefield Tours have been running since 2014 and I have been lucky enough to have been involved in the delivery of them since 2015.  I am hoping to provide support to three tours this Spring, including a first outing as a Battlefield Guide in February.  I am also hoping to Guide on a special tour on behalf of 7th Infantry Brigade in March, which will take BAME students out to France and Belgium to examine the role of the Indian Army on the Western Front in the First World War.  I have a real passion for taking children out to the Western Front both to counter some of the rather unfortunate mythology surrounding the Great War, and to use my experience in the British Army to help the students understand both the organisation today and what it feels like to be a soldier on operations, albeit in a wholly different context.  My interest in the First World War is lifelong, but was really engaged by my MA in Military History; whilst I have extracted an article from my dissertation for the Air Power Review (April 2017), I intend to write a wider article for the British Journal of Military History on the full MA dissertation in 2018.  The BJMH will also publish my first Book Review in February.  I have plans for a further article on bayonet training in the Victorian Army but that will have to wait until the Summer!

The biggest change for me in 2018 will be the assignment in September to be the Army Visiting Fellow at RUSI.  This tremendous opportunity, will see me working on a paper on behalf of the Army at RUSI whilst helping to build a closer relationship between both organisations on behalf of CGS.  I am really excited by this move and the other doors it has opened for me.  Perhaps the biggest is writing a Think Piece on behalf of my academic sponsors at Shrivenham on the subject of ‘Adaptability in the Future Force Concept’; I will be working on this paper until June, it promises to be challenging, interesting, and to keep me busy until summer leave.  There are a few other bits and bobs on the go currently, not least of which is the eminence grise of a PhD proposal, but I’ll talk about later in the year.  I have the small matter of being a Warrant Officer in the Army to contend with too, but look at the opportunities the Army has afforded me!!  Whatever the press may say, ‘Be The Best’ is an appropriate tagline for the most professional Army in the World and I intend to try my hardest to be just that!

Happy New Year in 2018

Barney

 

For Want of an Audience.

As 2017 draws to a close, I look at my middle-age spread and realise that most of my leisure time is spent either eating or drinking. I love good food and a nice pint; I enjoy both in a place with good service, great atmosphere, and most importantly with good company.  This year I have been lucky enough to have sampled tea on a London bus, dined at the Ritz and a club in St. James’, indulged my love of oriental cuisine in the Nepali heartland of Aldershot, and enjoyed luncheon and supper in my two favourite local gastropubs.  Indeed, only last week I had a lunch meeting with a very good friend at one such hostelry, the Foresters’ Arms in Church Crookham.  In a three hour conversation, one particular topic stood out for me though: Cherished and long-established organisations searching for a new audience, and in the process being prepared to throw the baby out with the bathwater.

Our love of military history, specifically the Great War, is our common bond.  We are both keen visitors to the Western Front battlefields and have an interest in how that conflict is seen.  We bemoaned the way in which three organisations in particular had recently revised their ‘offer’, the Commonwealth War Graves Commission, the Imperial War Museum, and the National Army Museum.  In each case, in the hunt for a new, younger audience each organisation has, to differing extents, abandoned what it was that made them attractive to their traditional older audience.  The most notorious of these is probably the National Army Museum which, following a multi-million pounds refurbishment, has re-cast itself to tell the social history of Britain through a lens of the British Army.  This apparently, will bring in people who aren’t really interested in the Army, but who are interested in how the Army developed alongside society.  In short, in the hunt for an audience, the National Army Museum, and the other two to a greater or lesser degree, has ceased to be a military museum and, like so much else, a museum which reflects social change which may or may not have coincided with war.  War, that disastrous, human activity, has become something which we as a society can only discuss in hushed whispers, through a politically correct medium; War is, for my younger readers, something like the Dark Lord Voldemort, we know what it is an what it isn’t but we never speak its name.

I understand the problems facing museums and other ‘heritage’ organisations, revenue is tight and their natural audience is getting older and, in fact, dying.  Indeed, this year  saw the closure of the Durham Light Infantry Museum which told the story of that fine Regiment in which many of my ancestors were proud to serve.  The Museum closed because finance was tight and the audience was static, in short it could not pay its way.  The problem here is threefold, first in chasing a younger demographic by pursuing social history, one alienates the older demographic seeking military history, leaving them disinclined to visit and commit revenue. Secondly, we are all getting older, that’s physics, in fact we, as a society, are getting older at an accelerating rate; people come to heritage as they get older, so Q.E.D  an aging population represents a growth market for museums, Finally, perhaps it isn’t the museum that is wrong but the location or quantity, in other words it is the delivery model that is broken not the subject matter; in the case of the Durham Light Infantry museum it sat in a country park on the edge of the historic city of Durham, away from its cultural heart and within a landscape of numerous military museums within a thirty mile radius, The Green Howards at Richmond, the Northumberland Fusiliers at Newcastle, and the Historic Dockyard at Hartlepool.  In short, there is still a demanding and lucrative audience, but we must learn to deliver to it rather than deciding to take our ball away to play with the cool kids in a different neighbourhood.

And so to the meat of my blog, apologies for the delay, it is Christmas! Chapter Four of ADP Land Operations talks about the importance of knowing your audience and communicating your message in the all new concept of ‘Integrated Action’.  At the same time, in a rush to recruit from parts of society which have not been traditional recruiting grounds, the emphasis in the Army has become one of diversity in recruiting, this would be a dangerous strategy at anytime but is even more so at a time when recruiting amongst the traditional audience is falling.  Instead, the Army should look to the problems with the model: Why is it failing to recruit amongst the young in the urban North? What is it about the Army that puts off teenage boys?  If we can find the answers to those two questions, and engage with children from a young age and society as a whole, even on a commercial level, we can solve the recruiting problem.  Looking for recruits in different demographics is not going to answer the problem, it will just drive away the traditional audience, neither will appealing to humanitarianism, we must not wrap War in a euphemism or shield it with tender images.  If we want to improve recruiting we must re-connect with ‘the scum of the Earth’, improve the offer by giving the audience what it wants, and concentrate on the business of closing with the Queen’s enemies, rather than navel-gazing over a new logo or strapline.

And now I’m off to my favourite little pub in the world, The Anchor at Lower Froyle, near Alton in Hampshire for a pint and a bite to eat.  The management at The Anchor know their audience, there are no gimmicks, they give us what we want and we reward them in turn.  Not for them a new image or an appeal to a different demographic, build it and they will come one might say, they did and so did we!!

Cheers all and a Merry Christmas.

Barney