Crit­i­cal lessons we have learned from con­flicts

Sunderland Echo - - Armistice 100 -

As we mark one hun­dred years since the end of the First World War this Sun­day, many of us in the Armed Forces will re­flect upon the lega­cies of that con­flict and oth­ers.

For me, as Joint Forces Com­man­der, two lessons stand out, in the form of in­no­va­tions and part­ner­ships. The First World War was a con­flict that prompted rapid leaps for­ward in tech­nol­ogy, from the birth of the tank to the growth of air war­fare. Along­side tech­no­log­i­cal gains there have been pro­found de­vel­op­ments in the way we serve those who serve us, which have ben­e­fited us right up to 2018. In Afghanistan for ex­am­ple, our state-of-the-art med­i­cal fa­cil­i­ties at Camp Bas­tion used tech­niques first de­vel­oped on the fields of Flan­ders. The meth­ods of emer­gency blood trans­fu­sion and chains of evac­u­a­tion for in­jured troops were ground-break­ing and saved mil­i­tary and civil­ian lives.

The sec­ond area of part­ner­ship has been equally crit­i­cal. Coun­tries have gone to war in al­liance for cen­turies, fa­mously at the Bat­tle of Water­loo and in the Crimean War. But even if coun­tries are po­lit­i­cally well aligned the process of mould­ing huge armies to­gether into an ef­fec­tive force to fight a com­mon en­emy is a dif­fi­cult thing to achieve. On the Western Front we grad­u­ally moved from en­tente cor­diale to ef­fec­tive mod­ern coali­tion.

By 1918 the armies of Bri­tain and its do­min­ions, the USA and France had grown to­gether and moved closer to­wards a tight for­mal al­liance. We learned that coali­tion war­fare can’t be a sim­ple mu­tual ar­range­ment of na­tion’s forces.

To tri­umph there needs to be joint high com­mands, sim­i­lar train­ing and tac­tics, com­bined op­er­a­tions and the shar­ing of high tech­nol­ogy weaponry. It was a les­son well learned and a gen­er­a­tion later we saw suc­cess­ful and re­mark­able in­te­gra­tion be­tween al­lies on the beaches of Nor­mandy.

Since 1918 the world has be­come smaller. Today coun­tries rely on each other for trade, tech­no­log­i­cal re­search and mu­tual de­fence more than ever. It is timely that a cen­tury af­ter we fought along­side our al­lies we are en­gaged in joint train­ing ex­er­cises with part­ners across the globe. Bri­tish troops have just vis­ited Ja­pan to train for the very first time. In Oman we are test­ing the UK and Oman’s abil­ity to op­er­ate to­gether in an ex­er­cise in­volv­ing air­craft, ve­hi­cles, ships and around 5,500 UK mil­i­tary per­son­nel. In Nor­way 40,000 troops from NATO na­tions in­clud­ing the UK are tak­ing place in the big­gest ex­er­cise there since the 1980s.

It is in­con­ceiv­able that we will ever again have to fight the at­tri­tional, large-scale bat­tles seen at the Somme and at Pass­chen­daele. But we are faced daily by a range of in­ten­si­fy­ing threats, which is why our part­ner­ships and al­liances such as NATO are firmly at the heart of our de­fence.

Main­tain­ing the dy­nam­ics of coali­tion is an es­sen­tial in­vest­ment in re­duc­ing the risk of an­other con­flict of the scale and cost of the First World War.

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