The impact of terrain on British operations and doctrine in North Africa 1940-1943

Discussion in 'North Africa & the Med' started by davidbfpo, Jan 3, 2021.

  1. davidbfpo

    davidbfpo Patron Patron

    The author Neal Dando appears in another thread on forthcoming books in 2013, with an article 'From ‘Jock Column’ to Armoured Column: Transformation and Change in British and Commonwealth Unit Tactics in the Western Desert, January 1941 to November 1942'.

    I expect the article is based on his 2014 PhD thesis ' The impact of terrain on British operations and doctrine in North Africa 1940-1943', with 219 pgs. and available on:;sequence=1

    The Abstract:
    BFBSM and Chris C like this.
  2. MarkN

    MarkN Banned

    I'm in the middle of a very interesting and informative discussion (via PM) with another member on the wider topic of Battleaxe but specifically the efforts of 7th Armoured Brigade at Pt.208 (Hafid position) on 15 June.

    The failure of that particular effort was placed in no uncertain terms by 7th Armoured Division on the specific terrain at Pt.208. Or, to be more precise, map makers were blamed for not indicating the nature of the terrain adequately and those who had previously fought on the position not describing it in a suitably comprehensive fashion.

    This was, perhaps, a perfect opportunity for Dando to demonstrate precisely the degree to which terrain can effect battlefield results.

    He failed. He failed miserably. Indeed, for a Ph.D thesis with the title he chose, his effort was superficial to the extreme.

    Indeed, the entire section on Battleaxe read more to me as though he was writing an entertaining narrative for the amateur with a passing interest in the subject than making a serious effort to analyse the battle to evidence his thesis.

    Very disappointing.

    However, if his principle objective was to get his Ph.D signed off, and what he produced was the best way to achieve that, then kudos to him.
    davidbfpo and James Colvin like this.
  3. James Colvin

    James Colvin Member

    Have to agree, was disappointed with neil's work, which I read while researching for my book 'Eighth Army V. Rommel: Tactics, Training & operations in N Africa 1940-42 - published by Helion - seems well liked by those who have read it !

    My uncle commanded the Battleaxe Operation - have always been fascinated by the desert war.

    James Colvin
  4. Andreas

    Andreas Working on two books

    There have been some underwhelming PhDs on the desert. This is one by the looks for it, and don't get me started on 'the lost battle of Mersa el Brega'.

    All the best

  5. James Colvin

    James Colvin Member

    Oddly enough, just started working my way through the Mersa el Brega PhD yesterday, a bit of an oddity. I suppose the academic world demands that approach.

    Have been following the online updates on the Crusader Project. When is the book due for publication? It certainly fulfils a need.
  6. Staffsyeoman

    Staffsyeoman Member

    Having just been awarded my PhD from Wolverhampton, and knowing Neal Dando personally, I would simply wish to say to those dubbing PhDs "underwhelming" and "disappointing" to exercise better grace - especially if you have not written one. The demands of a PhD are quite different from those of a book.
    Chris C likes this.
  7. Andreas

    Andreas Working on two books

    Congratulations on your PhD.

    Regarding Mr. Dando's book, I stand by my opinion. I paid for it, so I consider that gives me the right to have a view on it.


  8. MarkN

    MarkN Banned

    I'm afraid your educational snobbery does not wash with me.

    As a body of work to increase knowledge and understanding, I consider Dando's thesis to have been not just "disappointing" but "very disappointing".

    Perhaps, it would have been more graceful of me to have delivered that disappointment through a scholarly 100,000 word rebuttal of his work and had said rebuttal published through the medium of a credited, peer-reviewed historical journal rather than the medium of an open internet forum.

    However, I did not consider Dando's topic, nor the standard of content of his written work, to be of sufficient import to justify that sort of effort in response. Grace, therefore, was not even in my time-management calculation.

    Congratulations on your Ph.D. Please don't let it go to your head though, as in the real world outside academia, educational snobbery is likely to be more a hinderance than a help in going places. It will, however, be of greatest help if you have no intention of going places but desire to remain in academia.
    Andreas likes this.
  9. James Colvin

    James Colvin Member

    No real need to knock Dando or anyone else for being lucky or clever enough to live in academia and aim at being the next Saul David or Richard Overy. Having attempted an external MA with the University of Buckingham, I was impressed by the rigour and precision that was demanded for the higher academic qualifications. It was a useful lesson in the importance of clarity of thought. What did put me off was the remark by my (excellent) tutor that 'It's all about the argument', when I was more interested in the actual research. Arguing for the sake of arguing just doesn't appeal.
    Chris C likes this.
  10. Andreas

    Andreas Working on two books

    That's actually quite amusing, given that the opening pages of your book are the equivalent of throwing a live grenade into a room and watching everyone scramble. I doubt this would have gone past some of the eminences grises of English military history *cough* Wolverhampton *cough*.

    All the best

    Chris C and James Colvin like this.
  11. MarkN

    MarkN Banned

    My experience was that they were rather poor.

    But then, different people have different perspectives on what aspects of the whole demand attention and to what extent.

    I spent five years on the editorial/peer review board of the political science journal of a University on the European continent. I was asked to do it by the editor in chief who was also dean of the university's faculty. I did it as a favour to him and in exchange for unlimited and favourable access to their extensive library. The vast majority of the papers submitted were absolute dross. Almost all were submitted by Ph.D candidates of other universities across Europe. True, the journal itself was pretty gash so did not attract the better candidates and papers. But nevertheless, it was a pretty dire indictment of the underlying quality being produced by further education these days.

    Still, maybe it was just me and my perspective that the principle purpose of academic study is to advance knowledge.
    Andreas likes this.
  12. MarkN

    MarkN Banned

    Indeed they are. Hence my initial comment to which you have taken umbrage.

    Here is what Dando wrote, his analysis of Battleaxe in respect to his thesis: The impact of terrain on British operations and doctrine in North Africa 1940-1943

    [​IMG] [​IMG] [​IMG] [​IMG] [​IMG] [​IMG] [​IMG] [​IMG] [​IMG] [​IMG]

    In my opinion, that is more "an entertaining narrative for the amateur with a passing interest in the subject than making a serious effort to analyse the battle to evidence his thesis".

    Others can decide for themselves where this excerpt lies on the book - Ph.D thesis scale.

    Here is an excerpt from O'Moore Creagh's post-battle report:


    7th Armoured Brigade failed at Hafid / Pt.208. The divisional commander is explaining away that failure based upon the nature of the terrain: he and his staff understood there was a single ridge where, he claims, in reality there were three. Here is example of a field commander highlighting what he believed was the impact of terrain on operations. How does Dando address this?

    Within these 10 pages alone there are a number of factual errors and flaws and his prediliction for published works over archive material is more than "very disappointing".

    It is an interesting and entertaining read, albeit not particularly accurate, for anybody not aquainted with the wider subject. But, these pages demonstrate that Dando did not have his thesis proof read by somebody knowledgeable in the subject and he was (un)fortunate in not having a supervisor and teaching staff that had much knowledge of the topic either. To what extent did they attempt to 'fact check' and review the content of his work?
    Ramiles, Andreas and timuk like this.
  13. Staffsyeoman

    Staffsyeoman Member

    I take very great offence to having been labelled an educational snob by someone who clearly had not looked in a mirror of late. Who is clearly so vastly superior to the 99.999% of the rest of us suffering inferiors.
  14. Andreas

    Andreas Working on two books

    I'm afraid that from where I stand, telling people they cannot use standard English words when criticising a book based on a PhD unless they have one themselves is the very epitome of intellectual snobbery. Someone in this thread needs to look in the mirror indeed.

    You brought this upon yourself. Maybe go, reflect, stop digging that hole.

    All the best

  15. MarkN

    MarkN Banned

    Since you've got Dando's book Andreas, how does it compare to his Ph.D thesis in content, style and wording?

    I'm interested to know to what extent he modified his section on Battleaxe (the one I posted above) for the wider non-academic audiance.

    As Staffsyeoman wrote,
  16. Andreas

    Andreas Working on two books

    I'll have a looksee.

    All the best


Share This Page