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Small Wars by Colonel C E Callwell : a Military Times Classic – Military History Monthly

BooksMilitary Classics. Posted by Military History Monthly. Their Principles and Practice. The military academies are buzzing with counter-insurgency theory. Recent wars in Iraq, Afghanistan, Chechnya, Somalia, Lebanon, Gaza, and elsewhere are putting a premium charlew anti-guerrilla doctrine. Charles Edward Callwellan Anglo-Irish officer, had a long and distinguished military career, finishing with the rank of major-general and a knighthood. Having retired in to devote himself to writing, he was recalled in to serve as Director of Military.

Small Wars was first published in and then republished with revision in and It quickly established itself as a standard British military manual. Others also found it useful. As well as being translated into French, copies were highly sought after by IRA officers during the Irish War of Independence ! Smmall is encyclopedic charlez form, with each chapter annotated with marginal key-notes, and an exhaustive glossary-index at the back.

Charles Edward Callwell

It is impossible to get lost, easy to find anything you need, and the text is always clear and concise — Small Wars is a practical manual for learning and use. A man of the landed elite, of the Late Victorian officer caste, and of solidly conservative outlook and values, it clearly never occurred to him to question the imperial mission. We may choose not to follow him in these assumptions. But let that not detract from the richness of military theory and historical insight to be found in the pages of Small Wars.


Callwell stresses the diversity of small wars. Terrain varies from the open veldt of South Africa, through the boulder- strewn mountainsides of the North-West Frontier, to callwelo dense bush of West Africa.

Opponents might be Ashanti tribal warriors armed with primitive firearms, Sudanese Dervishes launching massed charges with spear and sword, or skilled long-range snipers equipped with modern rifles like the Boers.

European imperialists were often waging war against charpes and social systems that were essentially tribal or feudal in character.

Naval History and Heritage Command

Against them, the invaders pitted not just superior armament, but method, discipline, and cohesion. By such means — by the aggressive delivery of firepower concentrated and close-up — its moral as well as its physical effects were maximised.

A British convoy under attack chares mounted Boer guerillas – South Africa, Colonial war, Callwell repeatedly argued, had to be proactive: European colonial armies employed not only the superior armaments of modern capitalist industry, but also cwllwell higher-level organisation and mentality. But there are clues in Small Wars to a different future.

The Boers he places in a category of their own. It was also that Afrikaner nationalism, embodied in the two Boer republics, the Transvaal and the Orange Free State, gave to the farmers of the veldt an identity, a social cohesion, and a politico-military organisation that were thoroughly modern.


Charles Edward Callwell – Wikipedia

The Second Boer War contained the germ of modern guerrilla warfare. Long-range, rapid-fire, precision weapons cut two ways. In the hands of Europeans facing a rush of Dervish or Zulu spearmen, they can engineer a massacre, a one-sided slaughter that is hardly battle at all. In the hands of guerrillas, they can contribute to a new paradigm of war.

Strategy favours the guerrilla, tactics the regular. This made them vulnerable to the superior firepower of their opponents. Modern magazine rifles shift the military balance in favour of the guerrilla. They make it possible to kill at long range, or to kill fast in a close-range ambush.

The Pathan tribesmen of the North-West Frontier were also evolving into more formidable opponents as Callwell wrote.

He quotes the words of a British general to his troops during the Tirah Campaign of Small Wars is rich in lessons about both the past and the present. A facsimile edition of Small Wars: Operations and Intelligence Small Wars was first published in and then republished with revision in and Royal Navy personnel operate a Nordenfeldt machine-gun – Egypt, Leave a Reply Cancel reply.