I have been away from the blogoshpehere for a while because of various reasons. The most pressing of which has been my work. It is that time of year again in education and I have been busy marking coursework for submission and preparing and running revision sessions. I sure some of you can imaging the joy of marking the same 3,000 word essay over and over again. The other pressing reasons was because I was preparing a symposium paper for uni and preparing a submission for a conference that is coming up in July. Also I have been trawling through the 2000 or so pics I took at the National Archives at Easter.
My symposium paper, delivered at the Postgraduate Symposium for the Centres for First and Second World War Studies, was entitled ‘The Embattled History of Operation JUBILEE.’ The paper sought to explore some of the various reasons why the writing about the raid on Dieppe has been so divisive over the past sixty years. As I mentioned at the symposium if one does a search on the British Library database for Dieppe Raid it brings up about 30 books dedicated to the raid. This is quite a lot for an operation that did not even last a full day. If we compare it the Normandy Campaign that has about 330 books dedicated to it and that is a 90 day campaign. Also we must bare in mind that many of these books on Normandy will also include a discussion of Dieppe as the traditional argument for the raids purpose was as a necessary precursor for OVERLORD. I brought out several stands which for me showed the problems that have surrounded the writing about the raid. These were as follow: (Sorry Gavin should have written this early to go in the carnival!!)
This concentrated on the role nationalism play in forming our national myths and in particular I concentrated on the role that C P Stacey had played in forming the national myths of Canada in his CMHQ reports and the Canadian official history. I also touched upon some of the difference between the accounts of Canadian historians and British historians.
- Narrative Vs. Analytical
This area detailed some of the critical difference that have occurred over the writing of the raid. The most notable difference is the the narrative works details the actions of the raid where as the analytical works only deal with issues of planning and the aftermath of the raid. As such we still do not have a holistic work of the raid that merges both the planning issue and the operational and tactical problems occurred during the the operation.
- Amateur Historian Vs. Professional Historian
This then led me on to consider why this has happen and in my eyes the difference comes very much from the audience the works have been written for and by whom. The narrative works, going all the way back to the early piece written after the raid, have tended to be written by non-academics, and in many cases journalists, this has show up in the concentration on the ‘face’ and experience of the battle and skimping over some of the larger issues. For the more analytical pieces there has been a tendency to concentrate on documentary evidence and the use of sources to come up with an analysis of the raid. Thus, there remains a dichotomy between the two strands and in my minds brings up the questions of is it the case that the narrative historians have produced that type of work because a lack of training?
- Official Vs. Revisionist
I also explored the problems that occurred when writing about the raid and the pressure placed upon the official historians by Mountbatten to produce his version of events and the control he placed over the Ministry of Information over the writing of the Combined Operations pamphlet in 1943. This is a position that has now been heavily challenged by historians.
I finished the piece by looking at some of the operational issue that came out of the raid and the posited the questions of whether there was a need for another analysis of the raid, thus, playing devils advocate to my own thesis. Obviously, my answer is yes, as there is a need for a more operationally orientated history. Hopefully more people will agree with this.
Of the other papers at the symposium 2 that I really enjoyed were Air Commodore Peter Gray’s piece of Strategic Leadership in Bomber Command. Peter is trying to create an understanding of the relationship between Harris and his superiors using contemporary leadership theory and pushing this theory further by utilising a historical case study. Also I enjoyed Trevor Harvey’s piece on the formation of the CEF in the First World War. This was particular interesting because of my discussion of Canadian nationalism in the planning of Dieppe. This theme also resonates in Trevor’s piece with relation to the formation of the CEF.
The other thing that I have been playing with was a submission for a paper for an upcoming conference at KCL and the IWM in July. The conference is on Allied Fighting Effectiveness in North Africa and Italy, 1942 – 1945. The conference will explore the following key themes:
Tactical effectiveness: doctrine, training and experience; combined arms tactics; urban and mountain warfare; technology; morale and combat psychology. Operational art; command, control and communications; logistics. The war in the air: the counter-air battle, the employment of tactical airpower; the effectiveness of air-to-ground operations. Naval operations, specifically the development and evolution of amphibious technique. Intelligence, propaganda, partisans and irregular warfare. Inter-Allied cooperation and aspects of coalition warfare.
I put a proposal in entitled ‘A Case Study in Army-Air Force Co-Operation: The Western Desert Air Force and the Battle of the Mareth Line, 19 – 29 March 1943’ I am pleased to say it was accepted so I have now got to prepare that. I hope to explore the following key issues:
- To examine the role the Western Desert Air Force (WDAF) played in Operations PUGILIST and SUPERCHARGE II
- To understand the affect that WDAF planning had upon the conduct second half of the battle around the Mareth Line, Operation SUPERCHARGE II
- To examine the operations in their operational and tactical context
- To examine the affect of the operations on the future conduct of the air war, specifically in North-West Europe
I have obviously continued buying and these are some of the more recent title that have landed on my doorstep, I must get another bookshelf at some point.
- Richard Overy The Air War, 1939 – 1945
- C P Stacey Six Years of War
- Henry Probert “Bomber” Harris
- David Mets and Harold Winton (Eds.) The Challenge of Change: Military Institutions and New Realities, 1918-1941
- Randolph Bradham To the Last Man: The Battle for Normandy’s Cotentin Peninsula and Brittany
- Hugh Henry Dieppe Through the Lens of the German War Photographer
- William Slim Unofficial History
- James Corum The Luftwaffe: Creating the Operational Air War, 1918-40
- Geoffrey Till (Ed.) The Development of British Naval Thinking