Thoughts on the military and military activities of a diverse nature. Free-ranging and eclectic.

Thursday, July 29, 2004

This is coolbert: Here is an analogy between the world of nature and the world of military intelligence I think may be applicable.

In the world of nature, the defensive phenomenon of scattering has been observed over and over in various species. Prey animals flocking or herding in enormous numbers. And when a predator makes an attack, say an eagle on a huge flock of birds, or a lion on an enormous herd of wildebeest, the prey animals scatter in all direction. No reason or rhyme as to where they scatter to, just that it is done. This creates a large degree of confusion in the predator. The predator goes into sensory overload from the scattering and is unable to concentrate on a specific prey animal. The prey animals escape and the predator is just holding the bag, watching the fleeing prey.

It has occurred to me that an analogous effect can occur in the world of military intelligence. This thought was stimulated by reading the web site describing the successful attack by the British bi-planes on the moored Italian fleet at Taranto. Go to that site by clicking here to refresh your memory if you have not already visited the site. At the time of the aerial attack, the British had a number of other naval operations going on simultaneously in the Mediterranean. All these operations, to not include the proposed attack on Taranto, would have caught the attention of Italian intelligence. Consider all this occurring at once:

"Six groups of British warships and four convoys of merchantmen were to have their movements co-ordinated in an operation that stretched from Gibraltar to the coasts of Greece and Turkey.

Force A: Battleships Warspite, Malaya, Valiant, aircraft-carrier Illustrious [bi-planes from this carrier carried out the attack on Taranto], 2 cruisers and 13 destroyers.

Force B: Two cruisers (Ajax and Sydney) would take troops and supplies from Port Said in Egypt to Suda Bay in Crete.

Force C: One cruiser (Orion) would take RAF supplies and personnel to Piraeus in Greece and then go on to Suda Bay.

Force D: Battleship Ramilles, two anti-aircraft ships (Coventry and Calcutta) 13 destroyers, 2 armed trawlers and 1 minesweeper.

Force F: Battleship Barham, 2 cruisers and 3 destroyers (3 more destroyers were temporarily attached from Force H).

Force H: Aircraft-carrier Ark Royal, cruiser Sheffield and 5 destroyers sailing out of Gibraltar would escort Force F as far as the island of Malta.

The merchant ships were gathered into four convoys:-
Convoy AN6: Three merchantmen and two armed trawlers were to take petrol and bunker fuel from Port Said to Greece.
Convoy MW3: From Alexandria, five ships to Malta and two to Suda Bay, Crete.
Convoy ME3: Four empty, fast transports returning from Malta
Convoy AS5: Empty merchantmen returning from Greece and Turkey to Egypt.

There were five main tasks to be accomplished; the Mediterranean Fleet was to be reinforced by warships from England, a convoy would be pushed through to Malta, other convoys would take supplies to Greece and Crete, empty merchantmen would be brought back to Alexandria and Taranto would be attacked.

Though a highly complicated series of movements needing great co-ordination, the very complexity caused great confusion within Supermarina, the Italian Naval Command, and at no point did the Italians have a clear picture of what was going on." [This last part says it all, doesn't it!!].

The Italians suffered from an information overload! Too many things occurring at the same time prevented them from concentrating on any one thing, much to the detriment of the Italians. They were unable to separate the wheat from the chaff!!

Whether it was witting or unwitting on the part of the British Naval commanders, this complicated and multiple operation of disparate units in disparate locations did confuse the Italians and contributed to British success!!



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