The public relations gurus would have us believe that, in all its modern technological glory, warfare is something akin to an exact science, but in reality the best-laid plans go out the window when the shooting starts, and it was ever thus. The term military precision may be accurate describing parade drills but often becomes something of a sick joke in the field, as Great Military Blunders
, published to accompany the Channel 4 television series, amply demonstrates. Drawing his subjects almost exclusively from the past two centuries (only the Battle of Hattin in 1187 falls outside this period), Geoffrey Regan, who has written widely on the subject of military incompetence, still finds more than enough material for this survey. The book comprises six chapters, each examining one of the major reasons that leads to military blunder, although there is, of course, a good deal of overlap with the common ground being serious misjudgement at some point along the chain of command. These are, broadly, over-promoted leaders stretched beyond their abilities and with subordinates unwilling to challenge their obvious errors; incompetent and unrealistic planning; scornful underestimation of the enemy, with, conversely, overestimation of ones own abilities mirroring it; political meddling by non-military men; and over-reliance on technology incapable of fulfilling the wishful thinking of commanders. Several battles or operations are held up as examples for each case and are dissected with the aid of a wide array of experts and eye-witnesses.
The extensive use of quotation does at times make it seem as if one is reading the script for the series but there is much fascinating stuff here and particularly so on the more recent cock-ups such as the nearly apocalyptic race for Pristina airport and the abject failure of the Patriot missiles in the Gulf War. As you would expect, the book sports an extensive selection of colour and black and white photographs adding plenty of colour and background, although the lack of any maps and diagrams illustrating movements is an oversight in what is, altogether, a very attractive and engaging book. --Alisdair Bowles
About the Author
Geoffrey Regan was a History Master at Charterhouse School, Godalming and Deputy Headmaster and Acting Headmaster at Halliford School. He wrote 30 historical and educational books including, Naval Blunders, Historical Blunders, Royal Blunders, Flying Blunders, Blue on Blue and Fight or Flight. He was the Series Consultant for Channel 4's 'Great Military Blunders' series, broadcast in 2000 and Historical Consultant for ABCs 'Blue on Blue' (Autumn 2000).
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