The British experience in executing amphibious operations during the First World War proved decidedly mixed. Against the failures of Gallipoli and Tanga stand the successes of the Cameroons, South West Africa, and Togo. Meanwhile, the examples of Zeebrugge and Ostend in 1918 offered a more nuanced reading. Securing indifferent operational results, they provided a fillip to morale at a time when clouds appeared their darkest. Thus, the previous raises the question of prior planning in the years of peace, the joint training conducted by the Royal Navy and British Army, and the place and adequacy of the Manual of Combined Naval and Military Operations.
The paper will argue that British efforts at codifying the doctrine of joint operations were far from a dead letter in the pre-war period but hampered by poor strategic direction from the centre combined with the artificialities of most peacetime training serials where factors of cost and time prevailed. Based on the findings of the author’s pending Against a Distant Shore: The British Experience and Development in Amphibious Operations, 1882-1916, the evolution and the Manual of Combined Naval and Military Operations in the pre-war period will be traced along with its centrality in the landings made at Gallipoli, East Africa, and Mesopotamia. Finally, the lessons the services derived from their very mixed experience will be recounted as the treatise underwent revision in the immediate post-war period. Beginning as a unique and handy adjunct to the Army’s Field Services Regulations, the Manual of Combined Naval and Military Operations now risked becoming a veritable encyclopaedia.
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