Future Directions in Second World War Studies Workshop

Yesterday, 26 June 2013, The Second World War Military Operations Research Group held its inaugural workshop in conjunction with the Centre for the History of War, King’s College London. The theme of workshop was ‘Future Direction in Second World War Studies’ with a focus on operational military history. There was an excellent turnout amongst the members of the group with lots interesting discussion generated.

A cursory glance at the shelves of any bookshop illustrates that operational military history of the Second World War remains a present and popular subject. Despite claims that there is nothing left to be said about the conduct of military operations in the era of the Second World War there remain gaps in our understanding. For example, as Robert Citino has noted, we know little about the experience of smaller wars in this period such as the Italo-Ethopia of 1935-36 and what these experiences tell us about the challenges of military operations and planning more broadly.[1] Additionally, we still know little about the roles of lesser powers in the Second World War. On top of this is the need to challenge widely held assumptions that distort our view of the war.

This workshop seeks to start a dialogue that explores the question of what is left to write about operational military history in the era of the Second World War. The two panels will address three important interrelated themes and suggest future directions in the study of the operational military history of the Second World War. The first panel explores historiographical and methodological issues and offers thoughts on the current state of the panelist’s respective fields and future developments within them. The second panel highlights gaps in our understanding by exploring operational examples and illustrating alternative means of examining operational military history. Together they focus on the question of where we go from here concerning understanding operational military history in this period.

Here is the programme for the workshop. A precis of the workshop will in due course appear as a research group paper.


1:30 – Welcome and Introduction – Ross Mahoney (University of Birmingham)

1:45 – Panel 1: Historiographical and Methodological Perspectives

Chair: Dr Matthew Ford (University of Hull)

Alan Jeffreys (Imperial War Museum) – ‘Where Now Sahib: Current and Future Directions in Indian Military History of Second World War’’

Trevor Stone (University of Exeter) – ‘The Logistics of Air Power: Future Research Directions’

Ross Mahoney (University of Birmingham) – ‘Alternative Strategies: Rearming the Historian’s Toolkit and the Military History of the Second World War’

3:05 – Break

3:20 – Panel 2: Operational Perspectives

Chair: Professor Gary Sheffield (University of Birmingham)

Dr Christopher Mann (Royal Military Academy Sandhurst) – ‘Douglas Wimberley and the 51st Highland Division in North Africa: An Assessment of Command at the Divisional Level’

Andrew Wheale (University of Buckingham) – ‘British Airborne   Pamphlet Doctrine in May 1943′

Dr Marcus Faulkner (Kings College London) – ‘Command and Naval Operations during WWII: Admirals Wilhelm Marshall and Willis Lee as Case Studies’

Simon Moody (King’s College London) – ‘Looking Back to Future War: Operational History and the British Army Operational Research Group after 1945’

4:40 – General Discussion

5:00 – Close

The Second World War Military Operations Research Group is a community of scholars based in the United Kingdom with a focus on operational aspects of military history in the era of the Second World War.

[1] Donald A. Yerxa, ‘Military History at the Operational Level: An Interview with Robert M. Citino’, Historically Speaking, Vol. 12, No. 3 (June 2011) pp. 10-12.


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