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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A Big Step to the Front...
Paddy Griffth's 'Forward into Battle' was a significant, ambitious - even ground breaking - study which looks at tactics of various periods in a new light. Specifically it consists of four main essays: on Wellington's troops in the Napoleonic era; the 'empty battlefield'; the role of the tank, and Vietnam. At the time of publication it was highly innovative, and remains...
Published on 7 Aug. 2007 by Stephen Bull

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4 of 23 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars Lies and nonsense about warfare
This is an incredibly bad book.
Paddy Griffith has a universal theory of tactics: you charge straight at the enemy, displaying your bravery. This causes the people on the other side get scared and run away. He also has a historical agenda: to convince people that British generals of the First World War such as Field Marshall Sir Douglas, Earl Haig, were not...
Published on 4 Feb. 2004 by Stephen M. St Onge


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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A Big Step to the Front..., 7 Aug. 2007
By 
Stephen Bull - See all my reviews
(REAL NAME)   
Paddy Griffth's 'Forward into Battle' was a significant, ambitious - even ground breaking - study which looks at tactics of various periods in a new light. Specifically it consists of four main essays: on Wellington's troops in the Napoleonic era; the 'empty battlefield'; the role of the tank, and Vietnam. At the time of publication it was highly innovative, and remains controversial. As its author was a Sandhurst lecturer it has doubtless also had influence on the 'real world' as well as being of purely academic interest.

Unashamedly revisionist throughout the thread that connects all the periods mentioned is that new technologies did not at any time extinguish the 'human contribution' - moreover failures of military morale or political will could have catastrophic consequences. A reasoned argument that movement remains important, even in the face of more destructive weaponry, similarly runs as a current through the work. There is also much here to counterweight what have become historical cliches, as for example the incorrect notion that Wellington always fought defensively and that his troops relied on firepower alone. The whole thing is an entertaining, engaging, and thoroughly thought provoking read.

Being a cautious reviewer who gives five stars only in the most extraordinary circumstances I have fought shy of going 'the whole hog' for one or two reasons which may seem pedantic, but could be significant. The first is that (with hindsight admittedly) we know that some of the ideas have been much more fully developed since the 1980s - not least by Griffith himself. Secondly There is something of a tendency to assume that the reader is already well informed - and knows and believes the 'established notions' which are being so well dismantled.

Nevertheless this is a significant book, an inspiration, and bears its genuine scholarship lightly, making it accessible and even fun to read. Anyone who has pretentions to know something of this field should be acquainted with 'Forward into Battle' even if they disagree with its conclusions. Highly recommended.
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4.0 out of 5 stars Interesting and Controversial View of the Tactics of the Last 200 Years, 10 Aug. 2014
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JWH (East Midlands, England) - See all my reviews
A very well-written, interesting book which covers tactical developments from the Napoleonic Wars up until the recent past. His basic argument, that up until WW1 successful assaults were possible - and he gives lots of examples of where this happened - with certain changes in training and doctrine, despite the gradual increase of the efficiency of defensive firepower. He makes the (controversial) argument that we should understand the background to this when judging the First World Ward generals, particularly in the first couple of years of that war. From this point onwards, Griffith charts the promises of various technologies (particularly tanks in WW2 and surveillance equipment in Vietnam) and shows how they half-delivered what was hoped from them, at best. There are some interesting asides about the way Vietnam in particular was fought more generally, in particular the amount of effort expended on extracting casualties.

Definitely worth getting if you are interested in the specific details of fighting over the last 200 years, whether you end up agreeing with him or not. Much modern research (David Rowland The stress of battle: quantifying human performance in combat & Jim Storr The Human Face of War (Birmingham War Studies) & Leo Murray Brains and Bullets) seems to basically agree with Griffith's emphasis on the humans fighting rather than the technology, where the disparity in technology employed is not too great.

Paddy Griffith's preface to this edition does speak to some of the criticisms made of his work as not being focussed on the technology enough.
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3 of 4 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A response to S. St Onge, 15 Dec. 2010
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This review is from: Forward into Battle: Fighting Tactics from Waterloo to the near Future (Paperback)
While I can only speak for the early chapters of this book (as that is what I know), I feel that Mr St Onge has misunderstood Paddy Griffith's point.

Griffith does not argue that battles are only won by charging forward and making a loud noise, nor does he claim that British musketry during the Napoleonic Wars created no casualties. What he does do, however, is closely interrogate the evidence of several key battles in which British musketry is supposed to have 'won the day' and come to a different conclusion.

At Vimeiro and Waterloo, he demonstrates using eyewitness evidence that the crucial factor which turned the tide against the French was a COMBINATION of surprise, as the British line rose from behind a reverse slope, one (or sometimes more) concentrated musket volley(s), and finally a bayonet charge which routed the enemy.
At Albuera he shows that despite a 45-minute firefight which caused huge casualties on both sides, the stand-off on the British right flank was only won when reinforcements were brought up and mounted a bayonet charge.

Chapter 2 of this little book was intended to challenge the received wisdom of the time, which almost universally believed that British musket fire was the decisive factor in most Napoleonic battles. His arguments, while deliberately overstated, have, I believe proved persuasive and many military historians now subscribe to his theory that rise-volley-charge was the standard modus operandi of the British Infantry on the Spanish Peninsula. This conclusion is also borne out by quotes from commanders of the day which speak of the need to keep their troops moving forward for fear of getting bogged down in ineffective firefights. It is a conclusion which is similarly reached by modern platoon commanders, who know that once their troops go to cover it is extremely difficult to get them moving forward again.

Similarly, Griffith's contention in Chapter 3 that the advent of the rifle did not significantly alter the effectiveness of infantry firepower during the American Civil War, while not universally accepted even to this day, has informed the study of that conflict for the better. Since his article was published (to general ridicule from most ACW experts at the time), further studies have vindicated his conclusions (cf. Nosworthy, Bloody Crucible of Courage (2005) & Hess, The Rifle Musket in Civil War Combat: Reality & Myth (2008)). It is also worth pointing to the archaeological discoveries on several ACW battlefields of rifles with up to 13 unfired cartridges stuffed down the barrel by their panicked soldiers: attesting to the ineffectiveness of that individual soldier's firepower.

Paddy Griffith was a maverick who set out to challenge some of the received orthodoxies of his day. In so doing, he often overstated his case, but that should not detract from the value of this book, which deserves to be read in the spirit with which it was written.
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4 of 23 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars Lies and nonsense about warfare, 4 Feb. 2004
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This review is from: Forward into Battle: Fighting Tactics from Waterloo to the near Future (Paperback)
This is an incredibly bad book.
Paddy Griffith has a universal theory of tactics: you charge straight at the enemy, displaying your bravery. This causes the people on the other side get scared and run away. He also has a historical agenda: to convince people that British generals of the First World War such as Field Marshall Sir Douglas, Earl Haig, were not incompetent butchers, madmen, and liars.
Alas, the theory of tactics isn't true, and neither is the agenda. People in combat only get scared when they think they might get hurt. Even when they're scared, they frequently stick around and fight. As a result, a lot of people get hurt, or killed. As for WWI generalship, most British commanders were unfit to command anything.
But if Griffith dealt with these facts in a straightforward way, he'd have to explain that hundreds of thousands of British soldiers in WWI were REPEATEDLY ordered to march slowly toward the the enemy, creating not fear but just a large target, dying for nothing. Apparently this truth is too painful for him to acknowledge.
So instead, we get fantasy. In chapter two, for example, Griffith tells us that Wellington's troops typically fired their muskets at the enemy for the sole purpose of making a loud noise, did one volley only, then walked forward shouting and waving their bayonets in the air. Supposedly,this display panicked their opponents, despite the fact that no one had actually been hurt (Well, after all, they were only frenchmen, what would you expect?).
As evidence of this, Griffith shows the British officers arguing over what ammunition was the most effective (p42), but discounting mere noise as ineffective (p 25 & 27); presents data from 19 battles, in which AT LEAST 74% (14/19) featured more than one musket volley (p39); quotes eyewitnesses saying British musketry "carried destruction into the heart of the French line (p36)," or "produced a commencement of carnage and destruction (p18);" and by showing several cases where muskets alone broke the French (p23 & 25), but none where the redcoats used noise and swagger alone.
What, you say that evidence completely contradicts Griffith's claim of harmless scare tactics? Congratulations, you can read! Apparently, Griffith can't.
Such nonsense continues throughout the book. In Ch. 3, Griffith claims that battlefields from 1808 to 1915 were really much like WWII, with soldiers trying to be invisible, and anonymous firefights the order of the day. Thus, everyone could reasonably expect that the tactics of WWI would be rather like the tactics of the Napoleonic Wars. Aside from the fact that it completely contradicts the claims of Ch. 2, it's also false. In Ch. 4 we find out that tanks are almost harmless, and that what was really important in WWI was the new infantry tactics developed by all armies 'after the begining of the Battle of the Somme.' This contradicts ch. 3, and is also inaccurate (the new tactics were developed by the Germans in 1915, with the Allies acting later; tanks were what won the war for the Allies). In ch. 5, we hear how ineffective USAmerican technology was in Viet Nam, compared to N. Vietnamese guts. This undoubtedly explains why the U.S. won every battle, the Viet Cong guerillas were wiped out, and S. Viet Nam was conquered in 1975 by an armored force with more tanks than Hitler used to invade Russia.
And btw, although Griffith frequently cites original sources, he does so unreliably. When I checked some of them, they often said quite different things then Griffith wants you to believe they said. But that's not surprising, considering how often the evidence he reprints contradicts his own judgements.
We've only scratched the surface of Griffith's misrepresentations, but I don't have space to refute every page of the book. It's a pity, really. Griffith has read, or at least looked at, a great deal of material on tactics and combat. There are times it looks like he might have very interesting and important things to say about men in battle, if he allowed himself to think clearly. As it is, the only useful part of the book is the notes and bibliography. You can learn some truths about tactics from the information there. Pity that Griffith didn't.
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