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The "Demon of Discord" and "Most Perfect Harmony": command cooperation on British amphibious operations 1739-62

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posted on 2024-04-26, 02:06 authored by Buchanan, GI

Conjunct, or combined, amphibious operations constituted one of the more complex and difficult military undertakings during the pre-industrial age of ‘musket and sail’. In the period from 1739 to 1763 Britain, via the War of Austrian Succession and the Seven Years War, intensified the employment of this method of warfare as a significant component of the blue water policy developed during this period and intended to project British military power across the world. Combined amphibious operations underpinned the conquest of Canada, by expeditions that secured Louisbourg and Quebec, and in the Caribbean the sugar rich Windward Islands and the vital port of Havana; Manila in the Philippines was also similarly occupied. However, prior to 1758 Britain had little success with these ventures and suffered some disastrous failures that involved large scale loss of life, huge cost and public controversy. This thesis contends that these military disasters were largely due to the inability of the army and navy elements to develop an effective system of combined command and control. The pursuit of separate service interests and the resultant ‘demon of discord’ fatally undermined these expeditions. The successful latter campaigns of this period all demonstrated effective cooperation, a harmony, between the service element commanders even though faced with similar or even greater difficulties as those of the failures. Using case studies, the thesis argues that, while some logistical and technical advances were made during this period, successful operations relied on the creative intelligence of individual commanders to cooperate effectively. A stratagem, implemented in late 1757, of selecting more determined officers attuned to the need for coordinated command changed the dynamic of these expeditions and therefore represented a vital process in enabling successful combined operations. From this selection process these officers generated a methodology of coordinated command and development of a doctrine of combined operations that, by the end of this period, underpinned Britain’s operational proficiency in this vital mode of warfare.

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School of Humanities

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Copyright 2022 the author

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