The Defence of Duffer's Drift

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A CRITICAL REVIEW

OF

THE DEFENCE OF DUFFER’S DRIFT

IN PARTIAL FULFILLMENT

OF THE REQUIREMENTS FOR THE COURSE

HISTORY 102

Swinton, Ernest Dunlop. The Defence of Duffer’s Drift. New Jersey: Avery, 1986. The Defence of Duffer’s Drift is a concise, allegorical book that would be a valuable asset to young, inexperienced military service members. The author, Sir Ernest D. Swinton, was a former British Army officer that rose to the rank of Major General. He served in the Anglo-Boer War as a Lieutenant and was awarded the Distinguished Service Order for his actions against the enemy. Swinton wrote The Defence of Duffer’s Drift to educate the military minded on small unit tactics. Swinton postulates that unconventional tactics must sometimes be adopted to suit a specific battlefield. The author supports his thesis by relating a series of progressive lessons he learned while serving as a lieutenant in the Anglo-Boer War. The main character in the story is Lieutenant Backsight Forethought, a young, inexperienced British Army officer that has a succession of six dreams in which he is given the same task. He has been left with fifty men and charged with defending a river crossing, until a larger force can arrive in the next few days. In his first dream, young Forethought makes little preparation to ensure the defense of the crossing and even allows some of the local populace a look inside his camp. His grossly inadequate defenses result in the loss of over half of his detachment to the wounded or dead. The Boers barely suffer any casualties, capture the British, and now control the crossing. As Forethought is nursing his wounds, he recounts the four lessons he has learned from the battle. Through Forethought’s pondering, Swinton gives the reader the first four lessons he learned through his own experiences: “Do not put off taking your measures of defence till the morrow… Do not in war-time show stray men of the enemy’s breed...
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