Command Or Control?: Command, Training, and Tactics in the British and German Armies, 1888-1918
Statistical analysis in the 1970s by Colonel Trevor Dupuy of battles in the First World War demonstrated that the German Army enjoyed a consistent 20 per cent superiority in combat effectiveness over the British Army during that war, a superiority that had been asserted in the 1930s by Captain Graeme Wynne. In attempting to explain that advantage, this book follows the theory that such combat superiority can be understood best by means of a comparative study of the armies concerned, proposing that the German Army's superiority was due as much to poor performance by the British Army as to its own high performance. The book also suggests that the key difference between the two armies at this time was one of philosophy.
The German Army saw combat as inherently chaotic: to achieve high combat effectiveness it was necessary to decentralise command, ensure a high standard of individual combat skill and adopt flexible tactical systems. The British Army, however, believed combat to be inherently structured: combat effectiveness was deemed to lie in the maintenance of order and symmetry, through centralised decision-making, training focused on developing unthinking obedience and the use of rigid tactics.
An examination of the General Staff systems, the development of minor tactics and the evolution of defensive doctrines in both armies tests these hypotheses, while case studies of the battles of Thiepval and St Quentin reveal that both forces contained elements that supported the contrary philosophy to the majority. In the German Army, there was continual rear-guard action against flexibility, with the General Staff itself becoming increasingly narrow in outlook. In the British Army, several attempts were made to adopt German practices, but misunderstanding and opposition distorted these, as when the system of directive control itself was converted into that of umpiring.