Callwell versus Graziani: how the British Army applied ‘small wars’ techniques in major operations in Africa and the Middle East, 1940–41

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10 Citations (Scopus)

Abstract

The period from December 1940 through to the spring of 1941 saw the British Army win a series of rapid and decisive victories over Italian and Vichy French forces in North and East Africa and the Middle East. A key feature of these operations was the extensive British use of fast-moving all-arms mobile formations utilising superior speed and mobility to out-manoeuvre considerably larger Italian formations. A number of reasons have been given for the British Army adopting this mode of warfare, but the paper contends that the best explanation is that they were an organic evolution from methods used by the British Army in ‘small wars’ throughout the early twentieth century, use of mobile ‘frontier columns’ at the operational and tactical level of war being described and recommended by Callwell himself and visible with the Army in practice in operations in India and the Middle East in particular. The inter-war period saw the combination of this model of warfare with post-First World War military technology, notably tanks, close air support and coordination by wireless. Colonial operations in this period also saw some utilisation of what would later be identified as ‘Special Forces’ – also used extensively in the Desert War – the most obvious example being Captain Orde Wingate's Special Night Squads in Palestine in 1938.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)588-608
JournalSmall Wars and Insurgencies
Volume19
Issue number4
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 26 Jan 2009

Keywords

  • Charles Callwell
  • Second World War
  • British Army
  • Military History
  • Military Doctrine
  • Military art and science
  • North African Campaign
  • Wavell
  • Auchinleck
  • Wingate
  • Special Forces

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