I've long considered doing book reviews of military books. I just never get round to it, like a lot of things.
But one book I have just finished and thought might be interesting to bring up is "Achtung - Panzer!" ("Attention - Tank/Armour!") by Heinz Guderian (1937). As a piece of reading material it's about as gripping as watching a murder mystery film that you've already seen twice before.
But as an insight into the way that militaries prepare for the future and study new technologies it does have some merit.
What's interesting is how accurately Guderian seemed to be peering into the future. He identified from his studies three key elements to armoured warfare; concentration of force, surprise, and correct terrain selection. The German invasion of France was the epitome of this theory as it concentrated most of the German armoured forces to one area, achieveing great surprise by attacking out of the Ardennes forest, and targeting an area that was mostly flat and ideal terrain for the operation of armour. The coalition "left hook" during the 1991 Iraq war shared similar attributes.
He also showed foresight in understanding the immense value of armoured reconnaissance forces, radios in tanks, mobile infantry and engineers able to accompany the tanks, and the use of aircraft as mobile artillery and scouts.
In an era where everyone is keen to deduce whether will be fighting the next war the same way as the last one or indeed in a completely different manner, it would be most helpful if we had someone to hand who could so accurately peer beyond the mists of the modern horizon.
And the book does raise a number of questions about our contemporary environment.
For a start, why is it that we've reverted to the old model ratio for armoured brigades of 1 regiment to 3 infantry battalions (Money being the most likely answer) when, as Guderian pointed out and time and experience reinforced, a near 50:50 mix of tanks with infantry, or even a slight bias towards the armour, tended to provide the best results.
And secondly why is it that we always seem so unprepared for what the future holds? As mentioned above Guderian came to the conclusions he did by studying the past in great detail. He correctly surmised that many of the problems with British tank use in the last war stemmed from their piecemeal deployment, their use on unsuitable terrain, and the fact that that this new weapon was gradually rolled out over time, giving the Germans the chance to prepare new weapons and tactics to try and counter them.
Why then did we not learn the past lessons of our peace keeping interventions/counter insurgency work with regards to the dangers posed by mines and IEDs for example? (though thankfully we do seem to be learning that lesson now).
It does make me wonder whether we will see the next great development in warfare coming? Or will we have another "the bomber will always get through" moment instead?