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As someone who actually was involved in the production of this book, this review should be taken with a pinch of salt (as it is possible I am slightly biased). However let me assure you I will not make any money out of this review, (even if it convinces you to buy the book).
This is a fun book if you are interested in understanding how human performance in combat (such as the desire to fight, the benefits of experience, shock and suprise) can be modelled. The book consists of 6 chapters: Chapter 1 covers the History of Operational Research as a subject and how it was set up to help the UK military forces and Government. Chapter 2 and 3 covers from Field Trials (realistic combat trials for training) and the birth of Historical Analysis within the UK. Chapter 4 Discusses the development of HA to quantify the effect of different weapon systems from real infantry combat. Chapter 5 Looks at how HA was applied to the armoured battles (battles of Tank Vs. Tank). Chapter 6 This chapter looks at the afroementioned wllingness to fight. Chapter 7 Finally Shock and Surprise on the battle field are discussed particularly in terms of how they effect the Infantry combat battle. The analysis was conducted primarily using WWII data (as that is the best documented campaign with the appropriate level of data) but does also include many operations post WWII.
This is a great work of Operational Research by David Rowland and his team at the MOD. The Stress of Battle: Quantifying Human Performance in Combat is the end result of years of work by David Rowland and his team at the Ministry of Defence. Rowland was the father of historical analysis as a branch of Operational Research.
This particular work looks at a combination of field analysis experiments in the 1980s using lasers, well documented WW2 engagements and a handful of battles from other wars. Almost every page in it is packed with evidence or explanations of the complex methodology used to ensure that you could get controlled results from an otherwise messy and chaotic environment. If you are playing or designing wargames then this is one of the books that you absolutely must have on your book shelves (and have read too).
When I was reading the book I was often underlining or marking sections with post-it flags. Really worth reading. Not only that it is fantastically well illustrated with loads of graphs, diagrams and pictures from the field exercises to illustrate the points in the text.
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A very interesting book which uses historical analysis to look at several intractable issues in tactical warfare and attempts to illuminate them for the reader by the use of historical analysis - basically extracting data from a large quantity of different types of reports and other evidence.
The first chapter gives a brief history of operational analysis, with particular reference to its use in the British Armed Forces and the incorporation of historical analysis within that, as the only means to represent the very important human factor within operational analysis. The second chapter shows how better equipment enabled more realistic field exercises to be conducted. These exercises were essentially laser-tag, but with tanks and missiles and artillery involved too. This is summed up in a fascinating table, which sums up for various subjects issues which were thought to be important and proved not to be so (or not as important as thought) in comparison with what was actually important. It also showed that a `battle' at battle group level can be something of a misnomer - it is a framework for a series of mini-battles. Exercises revealed that various factors (non-participation, lower rates of fire and moving targets) seriously degraded infantry fire, compared to previous estimates.
The next chapter describes the beginning of historical analysis, which turns out to be linked to the first tentative steps to get some facts about the single most important facet of combat - morale - via the controversial writings of Wigram and Marshall (the latter in the book, Men Against Fire). This led to research on the effectiveness of infantry fire more generally, using data from the beginning of the rifle age onwards.Read more ›
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