Originality is the most vital of all military virtues, as two thousand years of wars attest. In peace it is at a discount, for it causes the disturbance of comfortable ways without producing dividends, as in civil life. But in war originality bears a higher premium than it can ever do in a civil profession. For its application can overthrow a nation and change the course of history in the proverbial twinkling of an eye. (Aug. 1930.) - Liddell-Hart, Thoughts on War, 1944
...decisions are often taken with an eye as to how they will be viewed by reporting officers and thus help or hinder the decision makers future promotion. Often inactivity is the safest course, hoping that "things will sort themselves out". Even in 1944 one eminent British psychologist believed that this was still the rule rather than the exception within the British Army:
NCOs and officers... still do the same stupid things . . . there is a reluctance amongst most officers to delegate responsibility. NCOs and men are very rarely asked to do things on their own initiative. If they are, they hesitate to do anything lest they should do wrong. I think this is largely due to a system which wants to tie down an individual should anything not go according to plan. - Captain R.A.D. Applegate, RA, Why Armies Lose in Battle: An Organic Approach to Military Analysis, Royal United Services Institute, Vol 132, No 4, Dec 87
A favourable situation will never be exploited if commanders wait for orders. The highest commander and the youngest soldier must always be conscious of the fact that omission and inactivity are worse than resorting to the wrong expedient. - [The elder] Moltke, quoted in Captain R.A.D. Applegate, RA, Why Armies Lose in Battle: An Organic Approach to Military Analysis, Royal United Services Institute, Vol 132, No 4, Dec 87
Parades are not manoeuvres; whilst the one is formal, regular and rigid, the other is informal, broken and flexible; whilst the one demands implicit obedience, the other depends largely upon intelligent self- expression. - JFC Fuller, quoted in Captain R.A.D. Applegate, RA, Why Armies Lose in Battle: An Organic Approach to Military Analysis, Royal United Services Institute, Vol 132, No 4, Dec 87
"The actual tasks of the Infantryman require from him a much higher standard of training and a much greater power to think and act for himself, and think and act guickly, than that needed by any other arm." - source unknown
LCpl R. Mitchell, a Regimental Policeman (RP), halted a Guardsman returning to barracks [in Germany] with a full glass in his hand. "Give me that glass, Guardsman." The Guardsman tipped it back, draining it, then handed it to the RP, who told him to pass. Mitchell's reasoning was that any Guardsman that smart was needed on the outside, not on the inside. Left to himself, a Guardsman usually made the right decision. - William J Patterson, A Regiment Worthy of its Hire; The Canadian Guards, 1953-1970, 1997
As well, disease continued to take its deadly toll, including Private Smith from the CMR under the most unusual circumstances. He had fallen ill on the march and reported to the ambulance, only to find that the doctor was absent. The medical supplies were carried in a large wicker chest. On the inside of the lid was a printed sheet with a list of diseases, followed by a diagnosis for each as well as a remedy which had a number. Thus, if a soldier was constipated, he should take a number nine pill. Smith read the sheet carefully and decided he needed a number seven pill. Alas, the number seven bottle was empty. Instead, he decided to take a number two and a number five. In the words of Private Griesbach, "Mathematically he seemed to be deadright, but ... we buried him that night. - Brian A. Reid, Our Little Army in the Field; The Canadians in South Africa 1899-1902, 1996
...the essential qualities of the individual good soldier are endurance, skill at arms, and the valour of discipline with some pungency of independence. - Field-Marshal Earl Wavell, The Good Soldier, 1948
Thompson also saw the need for soldiers to be flexible on this idea: "Too much, however, has been claimed for theoretic discipline--not enough for intelligent individual action. No remark was oftener on the lips of officers during the war than this: 'Obey orders! I do your thinking for you.' But that soldier is best whose good sense tells him when to be merely a part of a machine and when not." - Gregory A. Coco, The Civil War Infantryman; In camp, on the march, and in battle., 1996
A British General after viewing the work of the Canadians in attack at Paardeberg [sic], said: "Those men can go into battle without a leader, they have intelligence and resourcefulness enough to lead themselves."
They did not stand beside stones waiting for an order to get behind them and save their lives. They saved their lives first and were living to get the order afterward, I am not trying to reorganize the training of the men of the British Army, nor recommending that they all receive their preliminary training in Canada. I only wish to point out clearly why the Canadians, unaccustomed as they were to the work, were able to cope successfully with the competitors taken from the best regiments of the Imperial service. - Stanley McKeown Brown, With the Royal Canadians, 1900
Auftragstaktik is the term used by German military leaders in the post-World War II years to describe the system of command that evolved in the Prussian and German Army in the 19th and 20th centuries. Auftragstaktik is usually translated into English as "mission tactics." This is appropriate because German commanders at all levels assign missions to subordinate leaders but do not prescribe the methods by which the subordinates are to accomplish them. Auftragstaktik also includes the expectation that junior leaders will use their initiative to find the best way of carrying out the commander's intent even if it entails deviating from the mission and/or disobeying orders. During the past two decades many American soldiers have come to understand and embrace these aspects of Auftragstaktik, and have incorporated them into U. S. Army doctrine. But respect for the judgment and trust in the initiative of subordinate leaders are only two manifestations of the complex set of values, perceptions, and behavior that comprise Auftragstaktik. - Faris R. Kirkland, Ph.D., LTC, USA-ret., Self-Care, Psychological Integrity, and Auftragstaktik, 1996
We were concerned with the suppression of the drug traffic, though it was primarily a matter for the Lebanese gendarmerie, some of whom alas were not above being themselves implicated. Someone had the bright idea that our mobile army bath unit might have been exploited and used for this traffic, for it passed freely and frequently through army posts at borders on its cleansing missions. The bath unit was halted, the young officer in charge interrogated, vehicles examined, the large boiler searched: no hashish but, hauled unceremoniously out of the boiler, was a Syrian dancing girl. So much for the young officer who deserved promotion for his initiative. The incident amused me, and the mobile laundry, free once more and complete with its Syrian, went on its way. - Francis Law, A Man at Arms; Memoirs of Two World Wars, 1983
"One of the first regulations might be to think." - Maj. Gen. Orlando Ward
The cavalry officer
The officer of horse was under a constant pressure to exercise his own discretion:
"I allow that the strength of an army consists chiefly in its infantry, but cavalry service requires more judgement and presence of mind on the part of the officer, and more speed, bearing and skill in manoeuvre and tactics than in the work of the infantry, which fights in a slower and more mechanical way, and whose success depends merely on its endurance and cohesion." (Warnery, C.E., Campagnes de Frederic II, roi de Prusse, de 1756 a 1762, Amsterdam, 1785-91, III, 119-20) - Christopher Duffy, The Military Experience in the Age of Reason, 1987
When I am without orders, and unexpected occurrences arise, I shall always act as I think the honour and glory of my King and Country demand. - Horatio Lord Nelson
As initiative, far more so than method, will prove to be the secret of success in all operations other than siege warfare, plans will have to be exceedingly simple and flexible. Much will have to be left to the initiative of subordinate commanders, consequently the leading idea of an operation must not only be known to all, but alternative movements must also be considered. - Armoured Warfare; An Annotated Edition of Fifteen Lectures on Operations Between Mechanized Forces, by Major-General J.F.C. Fuller, 1943
The magazine rifle with its low trajectory and smokeless powder, spoke volumes to the captain of 1899-1902. It told him he could still conduct his company into the zone of aimed fire, but that, having got them there, he must either--
(1) Keep his direct command at the cost of double losses.
(2) Let each little group understand the common objective. Then leave them to the promptings of their own consciences of what was right rather than to the dread of doing wrong. - General Ian Hamilton, G.C.B., The Soul and Body of an Army, 1921
New conditions require ... new and imaginative methods. Wars are never won in the past. - MacArthur
Downsizing has also spawned a careerist outlook within the officer corps and the perception of a "zero-defects," or unforgiving, professional climate. The net effect is that many officers are demonstrating greater commitment to promotion (or job security) than to the army itself and are unwilling to display initiative for fear that honest mistakes will be "career-busters." - David McCormick, The Downsized Warrior; America's Army in Transition, 1998
The German soldier was not stupid and displayed ingenuity in constantly changing his methods. He was a cunning and determined soldier who never appeared at a loss as to what to do. - Notes From Theatres of War, Canadian Series, Number 1, "North Africa" December 1942 to March 1943, May 1943
Battle Drill.--The teaching of battle drill undoubtedly proved to be of the greatest value in instilling dash and determination into troops and junior leaders. The best results have been obtained from battle drills on a platoon level, but training in the drills up to company level proved useful.
It is important, however, that junior leaders should not regard battle drill as a universal panacea to be applied in toto in every situation. Battle drill training aims at teaching the basic "strokes," and thus represents only the first rung in the ladder. The drills must be intelligently applied in accordance with the nature of the ground and the particular tactical situation. There were many occasions when unnecessary casualties resulted from poor leadership because junior leaders blindly followed a set drill and failed to apply it with common sense. - Notes From Theatres of War, No. 16, North Africa November 1942-May 1943; The War Office, October, 1943
NOTES ON TANK TACTICS
The notes that follow set out the tactical teaching of a tank brigade commander in North Africa.
14. In considering any tactical teaching it is, in my opinion, necessary to maintain a completely flexible mind. A training memorandum once issued on tank tactics stated that the detail of that particular memorandum would "not be departed from under any circumstances." This is evil teaching, and means that no progress can be made.
15. It is agreed that system is of great value. Thus the so-called "drill" of Orders Groups or fire direction by artillery FOOs saves time, prevents muddle, and ensures cooperation. On the other hand, rigid drills and dogmatic statements as to how tanks are to be used can only lead to faulty tactical handling. ... Current Reports From Overseas, No. 17, The War Office, 25th September 1943
There is among the mass of individuals who carry rifles in war, a great amount of ingenuity and initiative. If men can naturally an without restraint talk to their officers, the products of their resourcefulness becomes available to all. Moreover, out of the habit grows mutual confidence, a feeling of partnership that is the essence of esprit de corps. An army fearful of its officers is never as good as one that trusts and confides in its leaders. - Gen Dwight D. Eisenhower in 'Crusade in Europe'
All delays are dangerous in war. - John Dryden
A good plan executed violently today is better than a perfect plan executed at some indefinite point in the future. - Gen. George S. Patton