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Reasonable Latitude: Learning and Adaptability in British Army Despatch Riders
During the Second World War

MCCOOK, SARAH,LOUISE (2023) Reasonable Latitude: Learning and Adaptability in British Army Despatch Riders
During the Second World War.
Doctoral thesis, Durham University.

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Communications are essential for success in war. Armies capable of reliable, sustained communications have a distinct advantage over armies who experience communications failures. This thesis uses communications as its main case study to examine the degree to which the British Army was capable of learning, innovation, and adaptability during the Second World War. Utilising the development and experience of the Royal Corps of Signals, it demonstrates that a pattern of informal and formal learning processes emerged during the war, shedding light onto how the wider British Army not only learned but made use of the knowledge it generated.

This study utilises oral histories and archival documents to find evidence of both informal and formal learning, focusing specifically on the role of despatch rider where possible. It finds that a complex process developed as the war developed, integrating battlefield adaptations, innovative strategy, and lessons-learned committees to evaluate and institute best practice. It determines that communications policy, strategy, and practice changes originated at all levels as the British Army sought to respond to a rapidly changing war.

This thesis contributes to a wide range of fields within history: the Second World War, learning during war, communications, policy and strategy formation, oral history studies, lived experiences, and even that of the motorcycle during war. It relies on the stories of individuals alongside broader developments in both British and Allied operational decisions. Though it looks deeply at individuals and their understandings of the war, this thesis considers broader issues of executing changes during war, integrating new knowledge, and determining the best path forward. My research demonstrates that looking at both individual and collective responses are crucial in answering these questions.

Item Type:Thesis (Doctoral)
Award:Doctor of Philosophy
Keywords:Second World War; military; learning; oral history; adaptation; lived experience
Faculty and Department:Faculty of Arts and Humanities > History, Department of
Thesis Date:2023
Copyright:Copyright of this thesis is held by the author
Deposited On:03 May 2023 11:28

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