The Full List for 2017. 


War Talks at PCL – The Full Picture

At long last, I am able to confirm the full programme of War Talks at PCL for 2017 as follows:

Tuesday 4th July 2017 – Dr Matthew Ford (University of Sussex).  Dr Ford spoke on the subject, ‘Is it Gucci? What small arms can tell us about the military’s attitude to innovation and adaptation’.

Tuesday 25th July 2017 – Lt Gen (Ret’d) Sir John Kiszely KCB MC.  Lt Gen Kiszely spoke on the subject, ‘The British Campaign in Norway, 1940: Lessons for Today’.

Tuesday 12 September 2017 – Professor Gary Sheffield (University of Wolverhampton).  Professor Sheffield will speak on the subject, ‘The Duke of Wellington and the Tradition of British Generalship’.

Tuesday 26 September 2017 – Dr Stuart Mitchell & Dr James Kitchen (RMAS).  Drs Mitchell and Kitchen will speak on the subject, ‘Historical Perspectives on Contemporary British Army Doctrine’.

Tuesday 3 October 2017 – Dr Dan Todman (Queen Mary University London).  Dr Todman will speak on the subject, ‘a flat spin about the flying bombs’ – the ‘V’ Weapon Offensive and Allied Reactions, June – September 1944′.

Tuesday 10 October 2017 – Dr Jacqueline Hazelton (US Naval War College).  Dr Hazelton will speak on the subject, ‘Counterinsurgency: Fighting for a Better Peace’.

Tuesday 7 November 2017 – Dr John Greenacre (University of Suffolk).  Dr Greenacre will speak on the subject, ‘Flexible Enough to Adapt’: British Airborne Forces’ Experience during Post-Conflict Operations 1944-46′.

Wednesday 29 November 2017 – Maj (Ret’d) Mike Peters (Chairman of the Guild of Battlefield Guides).  Maj Peters will speak on the subject, ‘How to plan and deliver Battlefield Studies effectively’.

The final addition to the Talk series has been the talk by Drs Mitchell and Kitchen of the Royal Military Academy Sandhurst.  Dr Stuart Mitchell has an MA in the History of Warfare from King’s College London and a PhD from the University of Birmingham.  He is a Senior Lecturer in War Studies at RMAS.  Stuart’s PhD was entitled ‘An inter-disciplinary study of learning at the divisional level of the British Army on the Western Front 1916-18’.  He has contributed to several books and has published many articles in academic journals and is an editor of the British Journal of Military History.  Dr James Kitchen was formerly a Lecturer in International History at University College Dublin and is currently a Senior Lecturer in War Studies at RMAS.  James has published on the military and cultural history of the First World War in the Middle East, with a particular focus on the British Army’s campaigns in Egypt and Palestine.  He regularly gives papers at conferences and seminars.  Each will deliver a 40 minute talk on the subject and questions will be taken at the end, they have requested that their Talk be delivered under Chatham House rules to enable greater debate and for this reason access will be strictly limited.  Their Talk will be given on Tuesday 26 September 2017 from 1800 hrs.

I am now actively seeking academics, soldier-scholars, and experts from the wider Defence and International Relations communities to deliver talks during the period January – July 2018.  I am particularly keen to encourage female and ethnic minority speakers to volunteer to come and speak to the Army; diversity is a strength.  If any readers of this Blog have suggestions for subjects or possible speakers please contact me either by commenting here or by messaging me on Twitter.  I look forward to seeing many of you at Professor Sheffield’s talk on Tuesday, 12th September ’17.

All the best,


Falls to a Ten Rupee Jezail

As I sit here in my study listening to the buzz of the Long-Haired General’s horticultural efforts, I am more than aware that it has been a week since my last confession.  This week has been incredibly busy: the Battalion has returned from Summer Leave, is preparing to deploy on Exercise for a couple of months, and I am turning my attention once again to a combination of nugatory compliance, War Talks at the PCL, and the role of my Detachment in a Strike unit from 2020.  Overarching all this, however, has been memory, and the remembrance of events in Iraq fourteen years ago tomorrow.  I rarely indulge in navel-gazing but today is going to be an exception; instead of writing something original I am going to copy something I wrote in 2004 by way of therapy, which found its way into the Borderer’s Chronicle, the Regimental Magazine of the King’s Own Scottish Borderers, perhaps the finest Regiment with whom I have served.  I have redacted all names except two, mine and a man who cannot give his permission.  This Blog is done in memory of a big Glaswegian Territorial, Fusilier Russell Beeston, Beestie, who will forever be 26 but would have been 40 this year.

‘In every life there are moments of definition, points in time when one’s life seems to have a purpose and meaning.  A moment of clarity, of sharpness.  In most cases it is the birth of a child, a wedding or even a funeral, for me though it came at 2140 hrs at a small Iraqi town called Ali Ash Sharqi about 60 kms north of Al Amarah in Southern Iraq.

“Go, Go now, Go”, the OC shouted into his PRR.  The small convoy lurched into action and headed up the raised road which led from the centre of Ali Ash Sharqi to Route 6,the main artery of Southern Iraq. 20, 30, 40, 50, 60, then 70 kph, crashing through the gears, the warm night air rushing through the side window of my Land Rover Wolf.  A strange red glow like an errant firework flew, arcing over my vehicle; only when it exploded did I realise it was an RPG.  Just in time, I hit the brakes as a second dissected the space between us and the lead Land Rover.  Suddenly, the night was alive with the staccato rattle of machine-gun fire and the whizzing of bullets like angry hornets zipping past, my head was down over the steering wheel, my foot now flat to the floor, and my heart in my mouth as we dashed for the sanctuary of the Six.  The OC opened his side window and engaged an enemy machine-gun with his rifle, brass bouncing off the windscreen and rattling around the cab.

“Stop, Stop, Stop”, came the OC’s order and we screeched to a halt.  I stopped and turned off the engine somewhat surreally ensuring the vehicle was left in gear with the keys in the ignition.  I placed my hands on my rifle and was alone.  The time between halting and debussing was seemingly endless… I dismounted into the sultry night, alive with deadly fireflies and sought cover on the right hand embankment, suddenly we were illuminated by a Schermuly Paraflare and an enemy machine-gun opened up with rounds scything past our bodies.  Two yards away Fusilier Russell Beeston appeared to be dead, a round having hit him in the chest, having first shattered his arm on its deadly journey.  I ran for my life, instinct expecting another round to take my head off, I tasted blood, it was an expectation rather than fact.  I found cover behind my Land Rover, a Private came running past screaming “I’ve been shot, I’ve been shot”; his voice full of disbelief.  I grabbed him and dragged him to the ground, helping to administer First Aid; we managed to staunch the flow of blood and laid him in cover, behind the Land Rover.

The confusion cleared a little and I gathered a small band around me, the adrenaline hammering through my veins, as I directed a Private’s Minimi machine gun fire with my tracer rounds onto an enemy position, shortly thereafter it was neutralised.  Suddenly, the air was alive with someone shouting, “Beesty’s dead, Beesty’s dead” and I though this is real, this is not Salisbury Plain.  A Corporal shouted for a stretcher…no one moved…everyone was paralysed by fear, again he shouted and I headed off into the 30 metre gap in clear view of the enemy to the vehicle with the stretcher in it.  Every pace was alive with steel, I could feel it breathing on my face, the return journey was worse, the knowledge of what was to come.  I brought a cot bed to where Beesty lay on the road, a Lance Corporal kneeling astride his body, pounding his chest, screaming at him to come back, covered in blood, working in vain to save a life already gone. I returned to my firing position and told the Minimi gunner to move to the defensive position which had been established on the left-hand embankment, the road was now clear except for vehicles, the small team working on Beesty and me.  I stood on that vigil, and except for the barking of dogs, there was silence.

Death had come, visited in an instant and moved on.  I fully expected to die that night as eight others had done in the 1KOSB AOR in the previous two months, and yet I live, the randomness of it defeats me.  It was an experience I wished in vain never to repeat, although I’m privileged to say I was there. If there are such things as heroes in battle, the only one I saw that night was Beesty, who died quickly and quietly, with dignity in the service of his friends.’

This blog would not be complete without a word from Rudyard and so I offer one of his Epitaphs of War for Beesty,

Pity not! The Army gave

Freedom to a timid slave:

In which Freedom did he find

Strength of body, will, and mind:

By which strength he came to prove

Mirth, Companionship, and Love:

For which Love to Death he went:

In which Love he lies content.

Nisi Dominus Frustra

War Talks Breaking News

As I am on Leave this week, I thought I’d take the opportunity to preview the upcoming Talks in the Defence Studies Talk Series for which I have recently received titles.  The first two talks by Dr Matthew Ford (@warmatters), and Lt Gen (Ret’d) Sir John Kiszely (@johnkiszely) have been incredibly well received with an audience in excess of fifty at the last Talk.  Thematically, the Series will continue to look at innovation in the widest sense with an eye to the Army’s Master Question List, but suggestions from the floor regarding subject’s and speakers are always gratefully received.  In September 2017, we have Professor Gary Sheffield (@ProfGSheffield) speaking on the 12th and Drs Stuart Mitchell (@SBTMitchell) and James Kitchen speaking on the 26th.

The three Talks I’d like to preview begin with the talk by Dr Dan Todman.  Dan, a graduate of the LSE, received his PhD from the University of Cambridge and subsequently taught in the Dept of War Studies at RMAS.  In 2003, he moved to Queen Mary University of London where he is currently a Senior Lecturer.  In 2005 his book The Great War: Myth and Memory won the THES Best Young Academic Writer prize and his book Britain’s War: Into Battle 1937-41 has been shortlisted for the Longman History Today Prize 2017.  Dan’s subject for the talk will be ‘…a flat spin about the flying bombs’ – the ‘V’ Weapon Offensive and Allied Reactions, June – September 1944′.  His Talk will examine civil-military relations, reaction to shock, and adaptation and adaptability in contact, using Hitler’s vengeance weapons campaign in the Summer of 1944 as a case study.  The Talk will move us away from a purely Army-focussed subject to discuss a joint solution to a military problem.  I would therefore welcome attendance from our Light Blue and Dark Blue colleagues, to pose the really difficult questions for which the Talk Series has become well known.  Dan’s talk will be on Tuesday 3rd October 2017 at 1800 hrs at the Prince Consort’s Library, Aldershot.

Our next speaker, is Dr Jacqueline Hazelton.  Jill Hazelton is a graduate of the University of Chicago, receiving her PhD from Brandeis University.  Before returning to academia, Jill had a successful career as a journalist for the Associated Press, assigned to posts in New York, Washington, and Tokyo.  Jill is currently an Assistant Professor in Strategy and Policy at the United States Naval War College, Newport, Rhode Island.  Her recent article, ‘The Hearts and Minds Fallacy: Violence, Coercion, and Success in Counterinsurgency Warfare’ published in the Journal of International Security has been very well-received, but has proved controversial, challenging conventional wisdom and asking whether coercion is more likely to lead to a successful outcome in counterinsurgency than the creation of good governance.  Her Talk entitled, ‘Counterinsurgency: Fighting for a Better Peace’, will follow the theme of her recent article arguing that coercion is indeed more likely to bring a successful outcome to a counter-insurgency campaign than more population-centric tactics.  Jill will be both the first woman, and the first foreign, speaker to deliver a Talk in the series, I would encourage more of both to come and speak, drop me a line if you are interested and can address your subject to current military problems.  Jill’s Talk will take place on Tuesday 10th October 2017 at 1800 hrs in the Prince Consort’s Library, Aldershot.      

The third of my previews will be delivered by Dr John Greenacre.  John Greenacre retired from the British Army as a Major in the Army Air Corps in 2011 after a twenty-four year career.  He holds an MA from Cranfield University in Military Studies and received his PhD from the University of Leeds.  John is a Lecturer in History at the University of Suffolk and will be the first ‘soldier-scholar’ to deliver a Talk in the Series.  His PhD thesis, ‘The Capability Development of Britain’s Airborne Forces during the Second World War’ was published in 2010 by Pen & Sword Books under the title ‘Churchill’s Spearhead’.  John’s talk subject will be, ‘Flexible Enough to Adapt’: British Airborne Forces’ Experience during Post-Conflict Operations 1944-1946.’ The Talk will examine the experience of British airborne engaged on ‘stabilisation operations’ either side of the end of the Second World War, namely Greece 1944, Norway 1945 and Java 1946. John will also look at whether there are common threads to the experience of all three operations, how the airborne forces committed coped with them, and what we can learn from their experience in the era of hybrid warfare.  John’s Talk will be held at Prince Consort’s Library, Aldershot on Tuesday 7th November 2017 at 1800 hrs.

Finally, I’d like to say a big thank you to you all for supporting the War Talks/Defence Studies Talk Series (be sure to vote in the Twitter poll!), and this Blog.  The other day, Major James Elliott, a real friend of this project, discovered a tag line which I think encapsulates the spirit of both the Blog and the Series, ‘Training prepares for the Known: Education prepares for the Unknown’.  I would encourage anyone reading this, particularly our young NCOs, to seek out the expertise of the ETS Branch and look to improve their professional military knowledge now.  It is too late to learn when you are deployed; trust me, you’ll wish you had.

‘If your Officer’s dead and the Sergeants look white,

Remember it’s ruin to run from a fight: So take open order, lie down, and sit tight,

And wait for supports like a soldier’

All the best,





Defence Studies Talk Series – Update

Some of you will be relieved that this is not going to be a standard musing.  Instead, I’m going to write about the Talk Series and give some background on our speakers up to December this year.  Last night, we were fortunate to host Lt Gen (Ret’d) Sir John Kiszely KCB MC; Sir John spoke about the British campaign in Norway from April – June 1940 relating its failures to those experienced by the UK and her allies in Iraq and Afghanistan since 2001.  Sir John’s argument was compelling, highlighting charismatic leadership combined with poor judgement, a failure to speak truth to power, a lack of planning, and inter-service rivalry as being key factors in the Norway fiasco.  Sir John was questioned closely by an informed audience including three senior members of the RMAS War Studies Department, and the CO of the Centre for Army Leadership.  It was a riveting evening and has helped to cement the Talk Series in the Army’s Conceptual Calendar.

Following on from Dr Matthew Ford and Sir John Kiszely in the Series, our next speaker, on Tuesday 12 September 2017, will be Professor Gary Sheffield.  Professor Sheffield is currently Professor of War Studies at the University of Wolverhampton, having previously been Professor of War Studies at both the University of Birmingham and King’s College, London.  Professor Sheffield’s relationship with the Armed Forces date back to 1985 when he became a Lecturer in War Studies at RMAS, he would later become the Land Warfare Historian on the Higher Command and Staff Course at the UK Defence Academy.  Professor Sheffield’s subject matter for the Talk will be ‘The Duke of Wellington and the Tradition of British Generalship‘.  Continuing with our twice monthly scheduling, our next Talk will be delivered by Drs Stewart Mitchell and James Kitchen of the War Studies Department, RMAS and will examine the limitations of the British concept of leadership and British military doctrine.  Stewart and James will speak from 1800 hrs on Tuesday, 26 September 2017.

October will see two talks, the first on Tuesday 3 October 2017 will be given by Dr Dan Todman, Senior Lecturer in History at Queen Mary University of London (QMUL).  Dan taught at RMAS prior to taking up a post at QMUL.  He was named the Times Young Academic Author of the Year 2005 for the book of his thesis The Great War, Myth and Memory and has been shortlisted for the Longman-History Today Book Prize 2017 for his book Britain’s War: Into Battle 1937-41.  I hope to be able to reveal the title of Dan’s talk later in the Summer.  Our second speaker in October will be Dr Jacqueline Hazelton, Assistant Professor of Strategy and Policy at the United States’ Naval War College.  Her research interests include compellence, asymmetric conflict, military intervention, counterinsurgency, the uses of US military power, and US foreign and military power.  Jill will speak on the future of COIN warfare post-Afghanistan.  It may well be that we may run a third talk in October ’17 if I can find a suitable subject and speaker, if you want a subject covered or are an academic speaker who wants to speak at PCL, Aldershot then please let me know by e-mailing me on

November 2017, will again see two talks both by former officers in the Army Air Corps.  The first will be given by Dr John Greenacre, Lecturer in History at the University of Suffolk.  John retired as a Lt Col and Chief Operations Officer of the UK Attack Helicopter Force based at Wattisham Station in Suffolk.  John’s subject on Tuesday 7 November 2017 will be Flexible Enough to Adapt: British Airborne Forces Experience during Post-Conflict Operations 1944-46, it promises to be a fascinating look at the need for adaptability.  Our second speaker is Maj (Ret’d) Mike Peters, the current Chairman of the Guild of Battlefield Guides.  Mike’s talk will effectively act as a workshop, aiming to inform young officers and SNCOs how best to organise Battlefield Studies avoiding the pitfalls of bureaucracy and taking advantage of a unique training opportunity.  We are fortunate that Staffride, one of the foremost Battlefield Tour companies in the UK, has agreed to sponsor the event which will have refreshments as a result.

What next I hear you all say, well in December 2017 I am negotiating to host the prize-giving of the inaugural Sir Michael Howard Prize of the BCMH at PCL, Aldershot.  From January 2018, I propose that the Talk Series will move from a twice monthly to a monthly format with a day conference looking at 1918, planned for late March 2018.  In short, this Series is here to stay but it is dependent on your attendance and support.  I believe this Series is a really important piece of Professional Military Education but it is here for your benefit so if you can think of a subject you want covered drop me a line and I’ll try to find a speaker and date.  A more normal Blog will ensue shortly, but thank you for reading this and supporting the Defence Studies Talk Series at Prince Consort’s Library, Aldershot.

All the best,



A Call to Arms – Build it and they will come!

Last night, in the historic Prince Consort’s Library, Dr Matthew Ford proposed a thesis of military innovation that cast doubt on the conventional views of ‘top-down’ and ‘bottom-up’.  Instead, Matt suggested that the real drivers of innovation are not to be found either in the Cabinet Office or the back of a Warrior, rather they sit behind desks in Units; in short, innovation comes from the middle and is driven by Warrant and Field Officers.  Matt’s argument was compelling, but as I looked around I couldn’t help but notice that there were more Lance Corporals than Warrant Officers in the audience.  How are we to innovate then, if the innovators aren’t motivated and don’t understand the importance of innovation? How are we to learn if we don’t invest in the military education of 85% of Army personnel?

The Army is a good employer; it offers opportunities for transferable qualifications, apprenticeships, and myriad sport and adventure training challenges. Unfortunately, however, it does not invest in the professional education of Other Ranks; in a 24 year career there are only three weeks of professional education available to NCOs and WOs, much of which is not dedicated to the theoretical battlefield, but to the practicalities of management of soldiers in barracks.  Even when educating WOs, the Army’s educators barely get beyond Clausewitz’s definition of War, and never the intricacies of his Trinity; they cover the Strategic Corporal, but never the Tactical Minister! Never one to criticise without offering a solution, and with a care to the Army’s empty pockets, I would suggest that Warrant Officers should be subject to the same officer education provided to Junior Officers; a Warrant Officer should be expected to complete MK,to attend Officer Education events, and yes, to write essays and read books.  If we can add a line about E & I into our objectives, we can add a line about professional education!  The Middle has the experience to innovate, it just needs to learn how; if the learning is mandated and WOs empowered, we will see real transformation.

Talks like that given by Dr Matt Ford can become a vital part in the education of the Middle, taking NCOs and turning them into WOs, ready to exploit the best war-winning asset we have: our people.  Our next Talk will be on the 25th July 2017 starting at 1800 hrs; I offer a challenge to my fellow WOs, and to Officers who employ WOs, ask them to come and give it a go, they won’t be disappointed. Since the last update, I’m pleased to say that we have secured Major (Ret’d) Mike Peters, the Chairman of the Guild of Battlefield Guides who will deliver a lecture and workshop session on how to plan a successful Battlefield Study on Wednesday 29 November 2017, our full Talk list is as follows:

Tue 4th July 17 – Dr Matt Ford, University of Sussex, Innovation and Adaptation.

Tue 25 July 17 – Lt Gen (Ret’d) Sir John Kiszely KCB, MC, Norway 1940.

Tue 12 Sep 17 – Professor Gary Sheffield, University of Wolverhampton, British Generalship.

Tue 26 September 17 – Drs Stuart Mitchell and James Kitchen, RMAS, British Military Doctrine.

Tue 3 October 17 – Dr Daniel Todman, QMUL, Tbc.

Tue 10 October 17 – Dr Jacqueline Hazelton, US Navy War College, COIN.

Wed 29 November 17 – Maj (Ret’d) Mike Peters, Chairman of the GBG, Battlefield Studies.

Many thanks and all the best,







The Talk Series – Why?

Last Autumn I attended a Firepower Demonstration on Salisbury Plain.  In addition to the entertaining pyrotechnics and impressive armoured equipment on display, there was also a static display manned by personnel from the First Battalion, The Royal Welsh Regiment.  It was this less showy production, and the majestic regimental mascot, which left the most enduring impression.  The message they had to impart, gleaned from their experience of exercising on the Albertan prairie, was that the doctrine needed revision.  Having spent the Summer of 2002 taking part in similar exercises on the same Canadian plains, I was surprised/amused to find that the lessons they had identified were precisely the same lessons the First Battalion, The King’s Own Scottish Borderers had identified fourteen years earlier (less the sheep).

The premise of John Nagl’s book, ‘Learning to Eat Soup with a Knife‘, is that the British Army was successful in Malaya because it was a learning organisation, whereas the Americans lost in Vietnam because they were inflexible.  David French, in his superb examination of the British way in counter-insurgency, counteracts this narrative by suggesting that the British Army learns over and over again.  Rather than being a Learning Organisation, the British Army is a Forgetting Organisation.  Many writers have observed that the British Army is anti-intellectual, in my experience this is undoubtedly true.  Soldiers’ military education is incredibly low-level, delivered by young officers with little more, in the main, than Batchelor’s degrees and the results of their training from the RMA Sandhurst.  The education that tends to be encouraged is technical and based around giving soldiers transferable skills for civilian life; for all the rhetoric, the soldier-scholar is a rarer breed than the Royal Welsh’s sheep!

The subject of the Army’s cultural aversion to study and learning has been talked about regularly on Twitter over the last few weeks, it seems academia and practitioners are in agreement that something needs to be done, and I don’t mean vanity projects attempting to capture ‘lessons learned’.  My decision to start a talk series at the Prince Consort’s Library in Aldershot stems directly from the military’s lacuna (a word a soldier should not know, as it is not really a word within his trade) to educate it’s personnel to identify the lessons training identifies.  I won’t pretend its a panacea for the Army’s cultural ills, nor that it’s easy to organise, nor even that it will definitely bear fruit, but if we soldier-scholars (?) don’t grasp the nettle, who will?

As you all probably know by now the Talk Series commences on Tuesday, 4th July 2017 with a talk by the irrepressible Dr Matthew Ford.  If you are interested in tickets please drop me a line at and I’ll book you in to what promises to be a superb evening.  The series will continue to bring superb speakers to Prince Consort’s Library all year round, I hope you will find the talks inspirational and surprising, sheep not included!!

All the best,


Defence Studies Talk Series Update

A couple of weeks ago I outlined a new initiative which aims to deliver valuable CPD to the Field Army.  This blog will update that information and give an idea of the progress I have made in driving it forward; it will also give further details of the speakers and subjects.  I cannot emphasize strongly enough how important I think this Series is to the British Army; the Army desperately needs opportunities to think about War and Warfare, and encourage military education for officers and soldiers alike.

Our first speaker is Dr Matthew Ford, Senior Lecturer in International Relations at the University of Sussex.  Matt Ford holds a PhD from the Department of War Studies at King’s College, London and had a very successful career in management consultancy before entering academia.  A former West Point Fellow and winner of the Society for Military History’s Russell F. Weigley Graduate Award, Matt has written extensively about military-technical change, especially as it relates to the infantry and their experience of battle.  Matt is an Honorary Historical Consultant to the Royal Armouries at Leeds.  Matt’s subject is ‘Is it Gucci?  What small arms can tell us about the military’s attitude to innovation and adaptation’.  Matt will be selling his new book, ‘Weapon of Choice’ following his talk at PCL, Aldershot on Tuesday, 4th July. 2017.

Our second speaker will be Lt Gen (Ret’d) Sir John Kiszely KCB MC.  Sir John is a former CO of the 1st Bn, Scots Guards and commanded 7th Armoured Brigade, 1st UK Armoured Division and Regional Forces.  He has seen operational service during the Falklands Conflict, the Bosnian War and in the Iraq War, where he was Deputy Commanding General, Multinational Force, Iraq in 2004-5.  Sir John’s last post was as Director-General of the UK Defence Academy, retiring from the British Army in 2008 after almost 40 years service.  Following his military career, Sir John was National President of the Royal British Legion from 2008-12.  Sir John’s subject is ‘The British Fiasco in Norway, 1940 – Lessons for Today’.  Sir John will be selling his new book, ‘Anatomy of a Campaign: The British Fiasco in Norway, 1940’ following his talk at PCL, Aldershot on Tuesday, 25th July. 2017.

After the Summer break, our first speaker will be Professor Gary Sheffield FRHistS, FRSA.  Gary is the Co-Director of the First World War Research Group at Wolverhampton University, having previously held Chairs at King’s College, London (2006-06) and the University of Birmingham (2006-13).  He has huge experience with the British military having been a Lecturer at RMA Sandhurst and JSCSC Shrivenham.  Whilst at Shrivenham, Gary was the Land Warfare Historian on the Higher Command and Staff Course, the UK’s senior operational course for senior officers.  Gary has been instrumental in the revision of military and academic thought on the British Army’s role in the First World War, his work has been inspirational to many historians of that War.  Gary is also President of the Guild of Battlefield Guides and Vice-President of the Western Front Association.  Gary’s subject is ‘The Duke of Wellington and the tradition of British Generalship’.  Gary will be selling his new book, ‘Wellington: Pocket Giants’ following his talk at PCL, Aldershot on Tuesday, 12th September. 2017.

I also have a talk booked with Drs Stuart Mitchell and James Kitchen of RMA Sandhurst  in late September 2017 examining current British military doctrine, and an exciting talk by Dr Daniel Todman on Tuesday, 3rd October. 2017 with details to be announced later.  I hope this blog has whetted your appetite for this exciting new Talk Series.  If you’d like more details or if you’d like to book a place, please e-mail me at

Thank you.


Defence Studies Talk Series – 2017

Everyone has one thing that irritates them about their job.  Those of you who follow me on Twitter will not be surprised to hear that my pet hate is the Army’s failure to deliver effective professional development outside of mandatory Officer training.  There have been efforts of late to improve the situation, but in the belief that you’re either part of the solution or part of the problem, I devised a Defence Studies Talk Series.

The Series will be delivered on a monthly basis at the Prince Consort Library on Knollys Road in Aldershot.  Historically, the Prince Consort Library was at the heart of British Army professional learning.  In the nineteenth century, senior officers like Field Marshal Viscount Wolseley and Major-General Sir Charles Callwell spoke frequently to their peers in the Library on matters of military and political moment, and officers like Douglas Haig were regular attendees; it is one of the aims of the Series to return the Library to a more important place in the future of Army learning.  It is envisaged that guest speakers will be mainly academics, with hopefully some senior officers or the elusive soldier-scholars in the future.  The audience will comprise of personnel of all ranks and grades from the Army, Navy, RAF and Civil Service.  The Talks will be challenging and delivered in the spirit of Chatham House rules, it is for this reason that only invited civilians will attend.  The audience is limited to 120 on a first-come, first-served basis.

So who are the speakers? I have asked some of the most eminent academics to deliver talks on a range of questions.  In the coming months, you can expect academics from all over the UK to deliver talks on a wide range of subjects of interest as continuous professional development to Servicemen and Civil Servants I am delighted that Dr Matthew Ford of Sussex University will be our first speaker on 4th July 2017.  Matt has recently had a book, ‘Weapon of Choice’, published and is interested in military innovation and adaptation.  He is also the Honorary Historical Advisor to the Royal Armouries, a former Fellow at West Point, and the founding editor of the British Journal of Military History.  Matt’s subject will be, ‘Is it Gucci? What small arms can tell us about the military’s attitude to innovation and adaptation’.  If anyone would like to suggest a subject or a speaker please let me know.

Clearly the delivery of this project is not a one-man effort, and I would like to thank the Librarian and staff of Prince Consort Library without whom this Series would not have been possible.  That it is being delivered without additional cost should tell you the enormous amounts of goodwill which have been expended in getting this to fruition.  It will be difficult balancing a full-time Army career, the organisation of these talks, a course of PhD study, and the writing of academic articles but it must be done; if not me, then who?  Please watch this space for updates on the series and my random musings.

Thank you and all the best,



University Short Course, Exeter 17-19 May 2016.

The Armed Forces University Short Course Scheme is an education initiative open to serving personnel of all three Armed Services, regardless of Rank, run by the Ministry of Defence.  The courses, in subjects as diverse as languages, management and strategic studies, are held at universities across the U.K and are of no more than a week in duration.  They represent a valuable personal and professional development resource and an opportunity to mix with sailors, soldiers and airmen in a learning environment.

I have attended five University Short Courses since 2009.  The latest considered the development and formulation of Foreign Policy and was convened at the University of Exeter under Professor Patrick Porter.  The courses are intellectually demanding but incredibly stimulating.  In my opinion, the University of Exeter delivers the best overall package: cutting-edge academic knowledge, superb delivery and high quality accommodation.  The subject matter was challenging, covering areas as diverse as the history of the development of British foreign policy and the psychology of groupthink, but the thing that brought the course to life was the valuable experience of the students.  The student body consisted of 22 Servicemen and women, 12 from the Army and 5 each from the Royal Navy and RAF.  Students had wide experience in military operations, from peacekeeping in the 1990s, to post 9/11 operations in Iraq and Afghanistan and current operations in Libya, the Mediterranean and the Indian Ocean.  The application of their knowledge made the experience educational for all, including the academic staff.

The question which I think those of you who are not serving will probably be asking is what is the value and why is the MoD paying for this course? My reply is that as well as being an investment in the intellectual development of our military personnel, they are a useful retention tool and invaluable in educating people to deal with the range of operations from warfighting to peacekeeping, from deploying to deal with flooding, disease and natural disasters to supporting the NHS and other services during times of industrial strife.  If only formal Command, Leadership and Management training was as challenging and useful, but that is another story…