Friday, 05 March 2021

The British Modern Military History Society

DURING 2021 the British Modern Military History Society will continue to hold monthly Zoom talks and look to resume live meetings as soon as we can and it is deemed safe to do so.

However, with the uncertainty over covid-19 and the restrictions, the meetings we have organised may revert to Zoom talks.

There is a mixture of afternoon and evening talks to give as many people as possible a chance to attend.

The next meeting will be on Wednesday (February 10) at 7.30pm when there will be a presentation given by broadcaster, historian and author Stephen Bungay on “Alamein”.

In October 1942, in a remote part of the desert between Libya and Egypt, the British army won an epic battle of attrition with Rommel’s Afrika Korps.

It was a defeat from which Rommel would never recover and a turning point in the war, famously celebrated by Churchill as “the end of the beginning”.

It was the line in the sand that Hitler’s forces were never able to cross.

This talk is a trenchant re-examination of an event that has been cloaked in myth.

El Alamein was the Second World War land battle that Britain had to win.

By the summer of 1942 Rommel’s German forces were threatening to sweep through the Western Desert and drive on to the Suez Canal.

Logistics was the key to keeping desert armies supplied with petrol and tank parts and had a significant impact on the combat strategies of Montgomery and Rommel respectively.

Other elements included the domestic political pressures on Churchill and the aerial siege of Malta, key to the control of the Mediterranean. In October, after 12 days of attritional tank battle and artillery bombardment, Montgomery’s Eighth Army, with Australians and New Zealanders playing crucial roles in a genuinely international Allied fighting force, broke through the German and Italian lines at El Alamein.

It was a turning point in the war after which, in Churchill’s words, “We never had a defeat”.

Stephen Bungay’s talk will answer a series of key questions, such as what were they all doing there, why did it go on for so long, why did it stop at Alamein, why did Churchill replace Auchinleck, what did Monty do differently, how was the battle won, how was the campaign won, why did the battle matter and was Monty good, bad or indifferent?

Stephen Bungay is the director of Ashridge Strategic Management Centre.

After graduating from Oxford and the University of Tübingen, West Germany, Stephen worked for the Boston Consulting Group for 17 years before joining Ashridge in 2001.

He teaches on executive programmes at several business schools, including Ashridge, and is a regular guest speaker at the Royal College of Defence Studies in London. He also works as an independent consultant and conference speaker.

His first book on military history, The Most Dangerous Enemy — A History of the Battle of Britain, published in 2000, has now become the standard work on the subject. A second work, Alamein, appeared in 2002.

His book about strategy execution, The Art of Action — How Leaders Close the Gaps Between Plans, Actions and Results, appeared in 2011.

Some of its key concepts are being applied in companies ranging from Shell to the Mercedes Formula 1 team and have featured in international conferences.

In 2004 he appeared as principle historian in the Channel 4 series Spitfire Ace and he has continued to contribute to a range of television programmes since then.

His current work is focussed on the most effective ways of developing strategy in an environment of high uncertainty.

The society’s meetings are becoming very popular with growing numbers attending.

We are grateful to those who make donations. which enable us to book speakers for the coming months.

For the latest information, visit www.bmmhs.org or email zoom@bmmhs.org

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