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Britain is falling into the same military trap that defeated the Nazis.

In this week of 80th anniversary of D-Day, it is useful to pause and consider why the Allies prevailed that day and why, just 77 days later, they had completely destroyed two German armies in a crushing victory that ensured the outcome of the war was no longer in the cards. in Game. any doubt.

In recent anniversaries, attention has understandably focused on the men who jumped from landing craft or floated on their parachutes. But the world is a very different place even from 2019: we now have another brutal conflict in Europe on a scale reminiscent of World War II.

The moment of danger for the Allies was the celebration of D-Day in the first place and the days that immediately followed, when the race began as to who could provide a decisive amount of men and materiel at the bridgehead. This race was won hands down by the Allies, whose harnessing of air power ensured that the Germans could not quickly reinforce Normandy, and whose use of naval power allowed gigantic quantities of supplies to be rushed across the Channel.

It was also due to the preponderance of large amounts of firepower – mainly in terms of artillery – and basic equipment, whether tanks, trucks, bulldozers or the mass of other essential supplies to carry out an all-consuming global war.

And what the British and later the Americans realized early on was that the amount had considerable value in itself. Having the best qualitatively also helped, but numbers mattered. That is why Britain built about 132,500 aircraft in the war and the United States built about 83,000 (Twickenham’s capacity) in 1943 alone. Germany, by contrast, built about 94,000 during the war and many of these were in the later years. 18 months and at a terrible cost for the production of other essential weapons.

However, the World War II narrative has persistently praised German tactical skill and weaponry. The Tiger, for example, remains one of the best-known tanks of the war, a symbol of the Nazi war machine and its impressive power. However, it was indescribably complicated, cumbersome, and too sophisticated for solid front-line action. It was too wide for the loading gauge of European railways. Therefore, it had to have different, narrower tracks for when transported from A to B and then changed to wider combat tracks once unloaded. Because it was so heavy (about 55 tons), it also required larger, heavier maintenance equipment. About 50 percent was lost due to mechanical failure.

More specifically, as Germany did not have the industrial capacity for heavy mass production – except, perhaps, fighter aircraft – only 1,347 Tigers and 492 King Tigers were built, an insignificant number. By contrast, the Americans built around 49,000 Sherman tanks, while the Soviets built a staggering 84,000 T-34 tanks, according to one estimate. The most numerous German tank, the Panzer IV, numbered about 8,000 in total throughout the war. The Shermans (and T-34s) were lighter, more maneuverable, simpler, and much easier to maintain in the field. Both were winners of the war.

What lessons does this suggest today? The Russian T-80 and 90 may be no one-on-one match against the Challenger 2 and Leopard 2, but then again, a leopard is no match for a pack of hyenas. The old adage of “masses matter” is as relevant today in the battle for the Donbass as it was for the battles of Kursk, a few kilometers to the east in 1943. Surely, if Ukraine had hundreds of Western tanks, it could overwhelm Armor Russian, but in “monkeys and two” they are fodder to be displayed in Moscow, or kept in the rear for who knows what.

Of course, technology has the potential to change the battle, but it has to be timely and assumes the enemy has no immediate response. There is no doubt that the Porton Down Defense Science and Technology Laboratory is producing weapons such as the “Dragon Fire” laser, as well as “direct energy” weapons to knock thousands of drones and missiles out of the sky, which are globally successful. today. However, the British disease of “the perfect is the enemy of the good” means that, when they enter service in a few years, they may be redundant.

It would seem that we are doomed to repeat the mistake that Nazi Germany made in World War II: relying on sophisticated weaponry that is too expensive for mass production and will never produce decisive results on the battlefield. The “new” British tank, imaginatively called Challenger 3, will be limited to approximately only 150 models. Sure, it will outperform any adversary, although opting for a 120mm smoothbore main armament, when its predecessor’s 120mm rifled gun is considered the best in its class in Ukraine, may be a mistake. This is not mass by any means, and we wonder what scenario and battlefield the new British armor is being designed for.

Whoever the country’s next leader is needs an urgent defense review. Two huge aircraft carriers and 150 tanks are not a deterrent for countries like Russia or China. And it is these countries around which we must design our deterrence, not some imaginary enemy that caters to single-service rivalries. Ten billion pounds spent on tanks rather than transport vehicles would give us the conventional deterrent that is sorely lacking at the moment, for example.

There is nothing new, only things we have forgotten, so why do we persist in the dream that technology will always win? It didn’t work for Nazi Germany and it won’t work for us now. We seem to forget that the enemy also has a say in the fight, and assuming that their technology is inferior to ours will make us underestimate our enemies, which has never been a successful approach in combat.

The Russians have put “bean counters” in charge of their defense to ensure they have the mass needed to threaten the West. We too have “bean counters” directing our defense, but they seem unable to match their Russian counterparts.

As we try to dissuade the modern Hitler from heading west, let us not forget how we defeated the last one: through masses and “blood and guts.” We still have the latter in abundance, but not the former. It’s time for Westminster and Whitehall to wake up.


Hamish de Bretton-Gordon is a former commander of the 1street Royal Tank Regiment. James Holland is a historian.

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