The biggest challenge we face is that of mind-set, adjusting to the reality of possible conventional high intensity all arms combat after decades of peace enforcement and counter-insurgency. The rest, doctrine development, force generation, training and equipment, should follow.
This first challenge has been addressed.
The British Army is not staffed by idiots, they have recognised the need, instigated additional training and fully understanding of the lessons from Ukraine.
But is it enough, are we going too slow in adjusting?
That is not for me to answer, I suspect the answer lies between two extremes, they often are.
Perhaps a series of self-assessment questions might be asked;
- What percentage of the training estate has significant digging restrictions
- When was the last time a Javelin was live fired from a trench with overhead cover
- What is the G10 stores holdings for picks, shovels and chainsaws per Infantry Battalion
- When was the last time a Trojan or Terrier was used for digging vehicle pits, and how often is this done
- Do relevant courses have content on felling trees and using logs for overhead cover
- When was the last time a Challenger or AS90 live fired from a protective slot
- When was the last time an Infantry Battalion dug itself in using hand tools on an exercise
- Are holdings of pickets, corrugated steel and sandbags sufficient
- How much engineering plant do we hold that is operable in severe cold weather
- Do the Royal Engineers hold any equipment for the high volume processing of logs and for their efficient transport
- What hydraulic post/log driving equipment is available
- Do any courses at the Royal School of Military Engineering include shelter construction using logs
These are just a random collection of questions, but the answers would be most interesting.
As the British Army evolves to the Strike Brigade concept and what is in reality, a light, medium and heavy delineation, with the additional split between the Reactive and Adaptable force, the reality of ‘digging and working with wood’ will not be a one size fits all.
But I think it is an area that needs a lot of thought and a lot of doing, neither of which are easy.
In short, are we doing enough with shovels and logs?
Perhaps the Sappers up at Kinloss, in the heart of the Scottish forestry industry and with access to lots of space and potential for secondments, could take the lead for the British Army?
To end, a treat for those of a certain vintage, with the second video courtesy of our Finnish friends