Combined Operations

Another aspect of my thesis that has required explaining is what is meant by the term Combined Operations as its meaning has change din the years since the Second World War. 

Combined Operations in modern military parlance does not equate to how it was viewed in the inter-war period and during the Second World War. RAF doctrine of the 21st century, AP 3000, defines combined operations as, ‘Military operations in which elements of two or more Allied nations participate.’[1] This definition is akin to coalition warfare and is not what is meant by the term combined operations as will be used throughout this thesis. RAF doctrine of the Second World War era, AP 1300, defines combined operation as:

‘…the term to de-scribe those forms of operations where naval, military or air forces in any combination are co-operating with each other, working separately under their respective commanders, but with a common aim.’[2] 

Thus, with this definition we are closer to what is meant by combined operations during the Second World War. If combined operation were to be discussed in the modern military the vernacular to be used would be one of jointness where operations take place ‘…in which elements of more than one service of the same nations participates.’[3] Therefore, combined operations in this context involves more than one service operating together to achieve a common aim. However, the definition can be taken further, as does the doctrinal manuals of the time, AP 1300 and the Manual of Combined Operations,[4] do, as there are several forms of combined operations which can be taken into consideration, such as raids, invasion, demonstrations and withdrawals.[5] By the time the revised Manual of Combined Operations had been published in 1938 the definition had been modified to:‘…forms of operations where, naval, military, or air forces in combination are co-operating with each other, working independently under their respective commanders, but with a common strategical object.’[6] 

While this definition does not offer a satisfactory definition for the topic of this thesis it is what the British military understood by the term as they went into the Second World War. It does, despite several salient shortcomings, provide a sound basis as to what combined operations are. Within the context of this thesis a combined operations can be defined as a raid against a hostile shore utilising forces from each of the three services operating independently under the command of their respective service chiefs but with common tactical, operational and strategic aim as laid down by the supreme commander, in this case the Chief of Combined Operations, Mountbatten. This contains the key tenants of the 1938 definition under which Mountbatten and his force commanders, including AVM Leigh-Mallory, were operating.

[1] Anon AP 3000: British Air Power Doctrine, 3rd Edition (London: HMSO, 1999) p. 3.13.3
[2] TNA, AIR 10/1910 ‘Royal Air Force War Manual Part I – Chapter 13: Combined Operations’ p. 1. AP 1300 was originally published in 1928 and subsequently republished in 1935 and 1940. A useful online version of the manual is available at
[3] Anon, AP 1300, P. 3.13.6
[4] TNA, DEFE 2/709 ‘Manual of Combined Operations, 1938’. This manual is a revision of the 1925 and 1931 manual that was born out of exercise at the three service staff colleges.
[5] Ian Speller and Christopher Tuck Amphibious Warfare: The Theory and Practice of Amphibious Operations in the 20th Century (Staplehurst: Spellmount, 2001) p.
[6] Cited in Kenneth Clifford Amphibious Warfare Development in Britain and America from 1940 – 1940 (New York: Edgewood, 1983) p. 1

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