Alfred Burne

Last updated
Alfred Burne

DSO
Born1886
Died1959
NationalityBritish
OccupationMilitary Historian
Military career
Allegiance United Kingdom
Service/branch British Army
Years of service1906-1945
Rank Lieutenant Colonel
Unit Royal Artillery
Commands held121st Officer Cadet Training Unit
Awards Distinguished Service Order

Alfred Higgins Burne DSO (1886–1959) was a soldier and military historian. [1] He invented the concept of Inherent Military Probability; in battles and campaigns where there is some doubt over what action was taken, Burne believed that the action taken would be one which a trained staff officer of the twentieth century would take.

Distinguished Service Order UK military decoration

The Distinguished Service Order (DSO) is a military decoration of the United Kingdom, and formerly of other parts of the Commonwealth, awarded for meritorious or distinguished service by officers of the armed forces during wartime, typically in actual combat. Since 1993 all ranks have been eligible.

Contents

Career

Alfred Burne was educated at Winchester School and RMA Woolwich, before being commissioned into the Royal Artillery in 1906. He was awarded the DSO during the First World War and, during World War II, was Commandant of the 121st Officer Cadet Training Unit. [1] He retired as a Lieutenant-Colonel. [2]

Royal Artillery artillery arm of the British Army

The Royal Regiment of Artillery, commonly referred to as the Royal Artillery (RA) and colloquially known as "The Gunners", is the artillery arm of the British Army. The Royal Regiment of Artillery comprises thirteen Regular Army regiments, King's Troop Royal Horse Artillery and five Army Reserve regiments.

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He was Military Editor of Chambers Encyclopedia from 1938 to 1957 and became an authority on the history of land warfare. [1] He was a contributor to the Oxford Dictionary of National Biography. [3]

Burne lived in Kensington and his funeral was held at St Mary Abbots there. [2]

Kensington district within the Royal Borough of Kensington and Chelsea in central London

Kensington is a district in the Royal Borough of Kensington and Chelsea, West London, England.

St Mary Abbots Church in London

St Mary Abbots is a church located on Kensington High Street and the corner of Kensington Church Street in London W8.

Inherent Military Probability

Burne introduced the concept of Inherent Military Probability (IMP) to the study of military history. He himself defined it thus :

My method here is to start with what appear to be undisputed facts, then to place myself in the shoes of each commander in turn, and to ask myself in each case what I would have done. This I call working on Inherent Military Probability. I then compare the resulting action with the existing record in order to see whether it discloses any incompatibility with the existing facts. If not, I then go on to the next debatable or obscure point in the battle and repeat the operation [1]

More succinctly, John Keegan defined IMP as

The solution of an obscurity by an estimate of what a trained soldier would have done in the circumstances [4]

Burne's approach has been criticised on the grounds that his concept of Inherent Military Probability puts modern military thinking and doctrine into the minds of mediaeval monarchs. However, it does treat war leaders as intelligent, thinking creatures, and veteran mediaeval leaders were often likely to come to the same conclusion as British staff officers, albeit by different thought processes.[ citation needed ]

Bibliography

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References

  1. 1 2 3 4 A.H. Burne, The Battlefields of England ISBN   9781473819023.
  2. 1 2 The Times, 6 June 1959; Deaths
  3. Alfred Burne, ‘Campbell, John Charles (1894–1942)’, rev. K. D. Reynolds, Oxford Dictionary of National Biography, Oxford University Press, 2004
  4. Keegan, John (1976). The Face of Battle: A Study of Agincourt, Waterloo, and the Somme, p.32. Penguin Classics. ISBN   978-0-14-004897-1.