Last Updated 27 May 2020

The Importance of Developments In Military Technology

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Assess the importance of developments in military technology as a factor in the changing nature of military strategy in the period c1850 –c1985. The development of military technology can undoubtedly alter the way in which a war or battle is fought. Major military innovations have allowed for strategies to be adapted and refined. For example the invention of tanks allowed for strategic usage of movement to end the stalemate of World War One. The advances in technology have reformed the way in which a war is fought in the air as well as on the ground and sea.

If one side was in control of more advanced technology, it could be said they had a greater advantage over the enemy, with increased military capability. However the relationship between the technology and the strategy behind its deployment is essential. For the technology to achieve its goal, the planning, conduct and organisation must be beneficial. Technology however is not entirely responsible for the changes in military strategy, Leadership and tactics also play a part, but which is ultimately the most accountable?

The key technology that fundamentally affected the battles of the Crimean war was the invention of an effective rifle. Neil Stewart states that “The greatest change in land warfare was the substantial increase in the range, accuracy and firepower of the percussion cap rifles and the rifled artillery. ” This resulted in the attacking force standing little chance of succeeding and enabled the British to fight from greater distances with a higher chance of hitting the enemy. The infantrymen no longer had to load one bullet at a time, as a magazine could now take up to nine bullets in their magazine.

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This meant loading time was reduced and the British were more likely to cause greater damage to the enemy over a shorter period. Furthermore Massie announces “The introduction of the Minie rifle and then the Enfield, revolutionised the battlefield. The ordinary infantry soldier now possessed a weapon long-ranged and accurate enough to enable him to operate it independently. ” This shows that now lines of infantry were now not needed and concentrated fire was not used. From the Crimean war, it is clear one strategy should never have been used.

The charge of the light brigade saw a cavalry charge against infantry and artillery. A report by Lieutenant-General Liprandi states “The English cavalry appeared, more than 2,000 strong…The enemy made a most obstinate charge…notwithstanding the well-directed fire from six guns of the light battery No. 7, and that of the men armed with carbines…In this attack the enemy had more than 400 men killed and sixty wounded, who were picked up on the field of battle, and we made twenty-two prisoners. ” Thus by the First World War, the cavalry were no longer used to attack against enemies laden with artillery.

The dominance of the machine gun in the First World War led to great strategic changes. Whereas a rifle could fire around fifteen rounds a minute, a machine gun could fire six hundred. The stalemate of the War meant that the guns could be set up in permanent positions resulting in the war becoming a defensive one. Stewart states “Unprotected troops could not expose themselves to this deadly onslaught of fire for long…and this meant digging into the ground. ” This explains how trenches became a popular method of escaping machine gun fire.

Trenches were not only a defensive method, but were ideal for launching an attack from within. The machine gun meant that military strategy was now in fact to keep killing until there was nothing left of the enemy, otherwise known as a war of attrition. The Battle of the Somme was designed to simply mow down as many of the German enemy as possible and try to break their morale. However this tactic proved to unsuccessful by Corporal W. Shaw. Shaw states “Our artillery had been bombing their line for six days and nights…the result was we never got anywhere near the Germans…they were just simply slaughtered. The stalemate of trench warfare leant itself for the reintroduction of mobile tactics. Stewart explains “By 1918 the British troops had moved away from the long linear advance; their attacking force was now built around a heavily armed, mobile, semi-independent platoon of 40 men. ” It could be said that long range tactics were now used, making the attacks depersonalised. The introduction of tanks meant that a preliminary barrage was no longer needed and attacks often now had the element of surprise. Their main tactic was to clear the trenches of the enemy and make a clear pathway for the infantry to follow behind.

A report by the war office in 1918 states, “At the end of the campaigning season of 1917 we tried the experiment at Cambrai of using tanks in large number to take the place of artillery bombardment. ” The use of tanks meant that there was a saving to be made in infantry, compared to that required to follow up an artillery bombardment. To finally break the Hindenburg line, the coordination of sophisticated artillery cover along with tanks, aeroplanes and armoured cars was used as the military strategy and according to Stewart “The battle tactics of the Second World War had emerged at the very end of the First World War. The tactics and strategies used in the Second World War were often based upon those used in the First World War. Many of the weapons used were simply the same but improved versions of those used before, thus you would think the same military strategy would be used. However the main military strategy of World War Two was to use the coordination of all available weapons and forces to strike the enemy at its weakest point instead of over a long front. The British and French went into the war believing it was going to be a defensive one; however the Germans were planning on it being an offensive one and to win it quickly.

According to Foley “The Allied armies, completely unprepared for the rapid, mobile operations of the Germans, had simply been out-fought at every turn. ” Stewart backs this up with his quote “A large part of the effectiveness of blitzkrieg was the panic and confusion produced by this unimagined mobility and advance. Opponents became quickly demoralized and surrendered rapidly. ” It can be said that this strategy was only effective with the use of advanced technology. Stewart states “A number of strategists…had advanced the theories of rapid mobile attack based upon concentrations of tanks. Putting this military strategy into practice resulted in the success of blitzkrieg. For example the French and British may have a higher number of tanks than Germany; however they chose not to concentrate them into large masses. Therefore it was not am advance in technology that forced the military plan to change, it was in fact then way in which the leaders chose to deploy it. Stewart also states “The intensification of the bombing offensive in 1943, however, had only limited results and incurred disastrous losses. This produced a change of strategy by the allies. This explains that perhaps Germany had superior technology in the air and therefore the Allies formed a military strategy which consisted of the total destruction of the German air force to achieve air supremacy. The commander in chief of the American air forces issued the instruction to “Destroy the enemy air force wherever you find them in the air, on the ground and in the factories. ” This shows how the Allies military plan was adapted to fully concentrate on the effectiveness of how to attack Germany’s air force. Leadership could also be considered a factor as to why military strategy changes.

For example Haig has often been criticised for the tactics he used in the First World War. Laffin says “A great commander knows exactly what he’s sending his men into but Haig didn’t. The principle which guided him was that if he could kill more Germans than the Germans could kill his men, then he would inevitably win. Now that is an appalling kind of strategy. It’s not a strategy at all, it’s just slaughter. ” Therefore it could be said that others would have chose a different strategy to Haig and not risked thousands of lives, meaning different leaders would address situations differently.

However on the other side many have argued that in fact Haig’s tactics did finally work in 1918 when he had more tanks and artillery to support him, perhaps making technology responsible. Furthermore Clarke tells of a conversation apparently held between Hoffman and Ludendorff. “Ludendorff: ‘The English soldiers fight like lions’ Hoffman: ‘True. But don’t we know that they are lions led by donkeys. ’ This shows perhaps if the leaders had provided a better military strategy, the brave soldiers could have been ‘lions’ which accomplished greater achievements.

Moreover Spilsbury states “Raglan…arrived at the top of this elevation Raglan was now in one of the most extraordinary positions ever taken up by a commander on the battlefield…Calthorpe reported ‘Lord Raglan at once saw the immense importance of getting guns up here, where they could enfilade all the Russian guns…” This shows Raglan to be an intelligent leader who could formulate and execute military strategy well and therefore having considerable influence in the way in which the battle was fought.

Logistics should also be considered. Johnson states “The logistical difficulties of the war prompted army reform in Great Britain. ” Speaking of the Crimean War, this quote shows that military strategy had to be adapted to fit around these problems. He then goes on to say “The first, and most important was the rationalisation of the chain of command for organisation in the field. ” This shows how rationalising as a strategy was bought in due to complications with logistics.

Moreover Overy states “Yet an operation designed to move 4000 ships, 2 million men and 12000 aircraft to France, from a base only a few minutes flying time from German airfields, appeared an impossible secret to keep for six long months. ” This is regarding the d-day landing of World War Two. A large amount of men and supplies had to be landed without being seen by the Germans, which would mean an excellent military strategy would be needed. The moving of these men and supplies resulted in a strategy being produced like no other.

Overall the tactics in Second World War had changed dramatically from the First World War. The technology was present in the First World War however its full potential had not been realised until later. From that it could be concluded that it was in fact factors other than technology that changed the nature of military strategy, such as leadership for example. If the leaders in the Second World War had not realised the mistakes made in tactics of the First World War, then perhaps they would not have been successful with their military planning.

However as technology progressed, its users were capable of achieving success in many different ways. In the Crimean War, due to the innovation of a successful rifle, strategy changed from fighting together to being able to fight independently. Tanks and armoured cars brought back mobility and therefore strategies changed to overcome the stalemate of trench warfare in World War One. A good leader could be assessed by the way in which he managed to supply his troops, in other words logistics.

So therefore logistics itself may have limited effect on military strategy as it is in fact the way in which a leader uses logistics to their advantage which is responsible for the change. To conclude, technology is forever changing and will carry on doing so long into the future. As it does so, the strategy behind the way it is deployed will have to change with it if it is to be a success. However whether or not a leader produces a high-quality military plan that supports the deployment of this new technology will also play a role in the development of military strategy.

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