Calling you military types

So, Army to have a unit to deal with Twitter:

The Army is setting up a new unit that will use psychological operations and social media to help fight wars “in the information age”.

Head of the Army General Sir Nick Carter said the move was about trying to operate “smarter”.

The 77th Brigade, made up of reservists and regular troops and based in Hermitage, Berkshire, will be formally created in April.

OK. But do they actually mean “brigade”? Something above regimental formation? With a Major General in charge? To do Twitter?

27 thoughts on “Calling you military types”

  1. That’s presumably already part of the job for the folks at Cheltenham.

    Still, war by facebook bullying. Bring it on! (“Sir, Sir, he called me a wanker!”)

  2. We already have 15 PsyOps Group within the Army Reserve, therefore if you are significantly expanding the capability, the next step up is a Brigade.

    As far as GCHQ is concerned, there are significant differences between the fairly well defined legal status of “Law of Armed Conflict” and what is got up to by everybody’s intelligence services (which is, barring aspects of the domestic surveillance role, usually extra-legal.) If you are going to be sourcing int or actively playing in “cyber” as part of a military operation (which has to be within the LOAC constraints of military necessity, distinction and proportionality), it is usually easier to use people with military rank within the military chain of command.

    The conceit that PsyOps is just “to do Twatter” is the sort of journalist tosspottery that leads to threads like “Am I the only one to hate these designs.”

    Although I’m surprised SMFS hasn’t been in to deign to grant us the fruits of his extensive military experience. Or maybe he’s worn himself out ranting on the pension thread?

  3. I’m sure there must be some variation of Parkinson’s law to cover it, but it is an interesting aspect of the military and the civil service that as numbers of soldiers, sailors, airmen and the corresponding aeroplanes, ships, subs, tanks etc. have reduced to historic lows the number of civil servants supporting the MoD and the serried ranks of senior officers have not thinned at all. So we have more Admirals than ships, Flights are commanded by Squadron Leaders, Squadrons are commanded by Wing Commanders and so on and on.

    There is also inter-service rank inflation. I once went to a project meeting about some kit which was of mutual interest to the RAF and the Navy. (For the elucidation of the un-military, while we may occasionally have to bomb Johnny Foreigner, the real historic enemy of the RAF is the Royal Navy.) The senior RAF guy was a Squabbling Bleeder. The Navy pitched up with a Commander, one step further up. So next time we turn up with a Group Captain, one above a Commander. Alas, to no avail – the clever bastards from the Navy, anticipating our move, arrived with a Rear-Admiral, one above a Group Captain, and so on up until it ended up in a squabble among the Joint Chiefs. The nation’s real defence interests come a distant second to winning inter-service leapfrog and capturing the budget. In turn the budget is of course controlled by the upper echelons of the Administrative Civil Service, which is why they have all the nicest offices and the best desks, and are immune from budget cuts. Which is why we have 20,000+ people engaged in defence procurement, buying shit (yes, shit – not one procurement project has delivered decent world-beating kit since the De Havilland Mosquito) for a combined total of less than 200,000 personnel, while the Israelis perform the same function with fewer than 600 people.

    If we instantly retired everyone above the rank of Captain/Group Captain/Colonel we would simultaneously save the country a large fortune and clear out the dead wood. We could just shoot the upper echelons of the administrative civil service. And if we strangled all the PPE graduates the entire country would be better governed in perpetuity, denuded of dilettante cunts as we would become.

  4. bloke (not) in spain

    I do note, on the other thread, we’re being told of the strategic necessity for being able to field a detachment of armoured horsemen.

    “there must be some variation of Parkinson’s law to cover it”

    Supports my submission, made recently, the entire State & all its works serve the self interests of various factions of the middle-classes.

  5. JuliaM – ‘I reTweeted, son. I reTweeted…’ *thousand yard stare*

    Given some of the inane, stupid and monumentally retarded things people tweet, I could understand it causing PTSD…or at least minor brain damage.

  6. Sebastian Weetabix

    Word perfect – you could lose thousands from the civil service’s upper echelons and no-one would be any the wiser in terms of service received…

  7. Sebastian,

    You are so spot on man, it is unreal.

    I read somewhere that at the height of the British Empire, round about the time of Boer War, the Commonwealth office employed less than a thousand souls. Last time somebody counted, early 2000’s, there were more than 10000 souls staffing the Commonwealth office.

    So, you don’t have to look at the Israelis for a president, we have it right here.

    Why civil servants have the right to unionise I don’t know. I believe that is the root cause of problem. The Union bastards are milking us.

  8. Jolly greenman (The Hulk?)–Unions are guilty of being led by socialist scum. Unions however cannot order employers to take on staff. This is down-in the UK state– to the Senior Civil Service. Which is why they need to be sacked on the spot en masse without compensation and their pensions confiscated.

  9. … the number of civil servants supporting the MoD and the serried ranks of senior officers have not thinned at all …

    Don’t let the facts get in the way of a good rant now. MOD Civil servant posts, in particular, have reduced massively. As for squadrons being led by Wing Comds, that’s been going on since WWII.

    Overall, despite my sympathies with the sentiment, that’s a very shallow and partial analysis.

    Gen Nick Carter might, just might, be the man to reshape the army for the better: there’s plenty of indications that he intends to cut the General Staff considerably.

    And no, 77 Bde will not mean 2-3000 more troops. Bdes are organisational components that manage and deliver differing capabilities. In this case I suspect it is merely a regrouping of diverse assets to meet a common objective.

    Information operations are just a bit wider scope than Twitter.

  10. Just to inject some shocking facts to the discussion, you can look at manpower numbers and trends over at

    Shockingly, the regular Armed Forces have been slashed from 212,700 full-time equivalents in 2000, down to 166,200 last year: while the civilian personnel has risen from 121,300 in 2000 to a truly shocking 62,500 in 2014.

    Quite obviously the civilian side of the MoD is breeding out of control and urgent action is required to cull their numbers.

  11. Bloke in North Dorset

    January 31, 2015 at 3:26 pm
    … you could lose thousands from the civil service’s upper echelons and no-one would be any the wiser in terms of service received…”
    When I started working on a Government contract it really did surprise me how many me how many senior civil servants there are in a department. Even more surprising is that a number of them are Directors; not ‘Directors of’ which is a meaning less appointment but Directors. I’m betting that they don’t have the same legal responsibilities as a company Director! From my direct experience they has the slopiest shoulders of all the civil servants I worked with and for.

    @SW, whilst I agree with your rant you have temper it with the fact that a lot of civilian posts were just the demilitarisation of a role. At least one of the roles I had in the Signals went that way and I witnessed quite a few others. The argument is that a civilian is cheaper but I’m not convinced it ended that way.

  12. Pigeons were often the only means of sending a dispatch from the front line when trench telephones were damaged by artillery bombardment or troops were rapidly moving forward. One message flown from the front, turned out to be very different to that expected. During the Somme offensive of 1916, Major Bernard Montgomery was at Brigade Headquarters when a long expected messenger pigeon was seen on the horizon, bringing what was hoped would be important news of the British offensive. Monty said, “At last the cry went up; ‘The Pigeon’, and sure enough back it came and alighted safely in the loft.”

    As the soldiers rushed to get the news the Brigade Commander brushed them aside and roared out, “give me the TWEET.” This is what it said; “I am absolutely fed up with carrying this bloody bird about France.”

  13. @John & Jason – you make my point for me. All the useful ‘civilianised’ jobs like signals and third line servicing are disappearing. The tossers at the top in the administrative civil service are all STILL THERE.

  14. A brigade is a major tactical military formation that is typically composed of three to six battalions plus supporting elements. It is roughly equivalent to an enlarged or reinforced regiment. Three or more brigades constitute a division.

    The use of the term “battalion” varies by nationality and branch of service. Typically a battalion consists of 300 to 800 soldiers and is divided into a number of companies. A battalion is typically commanded by a lieutenant colonel.

    Brigades may be specialized and comprise battalions of a single branch.

    A brigade’s commander is commonly a brigadier, brigadier general or colonel.

    Brigadier (abbreviated Brig) is a senior rank in the British Army and the Royal Marines. Brigadier is the superior rank to colonel, but subordinate to major-general. While the corresponding rank of brigadier general in many other nations is a general officer rank, the British Army considers it a field officer rank.

    So odds are this guy is a Colonel or Brigadier (which, for you Brits is in between Col and BGen – in (US) naval parlance, a Commodore) and you guys don’t have Brigadier Generals.

  15. Be careful using the term “regiment”. In the UK, it is a historical thing that has no operational meaning: it is where battalions (the actual operational unit) come from. However, in many other countries it is an operational group of battalions.

    So, for example, I was in Winchester Cathedral today and say a memorial to the Hampshire Regiment (which is a formation which raised troops in Hampshire and sent them off to various battalions around the world) in the South African War. The Regiment had several battalions: the 2nd lost a lot of men, the 3rd a few, the various reserve battalions a few each. The 1st battalion lost only the colonel, who was shot in Afghanistan. This is because the various battalions were deployed entirely independently, brigaded with other battalions of other regiments, as the service saw fit (and the reserves fed troops in to the line battalions). The 1st battalion never went to South Africa.

    By contrast, a Soviet motor rifle regiment of the ’70s and ’80s was a fixed operational formation of three motor rifle battalions and one tank battalion (plus supporting troops). in that sense, the Soviet “regiment” was equivalent of the British “brigade”. You would never see the 1st battalion without the others (unless you only needed one battalion).

    (I have, reluctantly, deleted the reference to “A Soviet motor trifle regiment”… 🙂 ).

  16. So Much for Subtlety

    Surreptitious Evil – “Although I’m surprised SMFS hasn’t been in to deign to grant us the fruits of his extensive military experience. Or maybe he’s worn himself out ranting on the pension thread?”

    No, I just prefer to read your displays of childish butt-hurt to making an actual contribution here. Especially as pretty much everyone is on the same page.

  17. Pellinor,

    While the corresponding rank of brigadier general in many other nations is a general officer rank, the British Army considers it a field officer rank.

    Unsurprisingly, this was a 1922 savings measure, to do with the difference in retired pay between Generals and lower ranking officers. Us, obviously, having a lot of spare retired brigadiers after the resolution of the German unpleasantness.

    SMFS – And you’ll claim that was irony?

  18. @SE,

    Don’t forget that among his other accolades, SMFS was awarded the Nobel Prize in Literature, for writing Wikipedia.

  19. SMFS was awarded the Nobel Prize in Literature

    Whatever his faults in his choice of assumptions, sources of evidence and subsequent analysis, he puts recognisable words together in an understandable and, usually, correct order.

    Iirc (no, I don’t before you reach for Google {other search engines are available}) the last Nobel Literature laureate to do that was the Great Commoner himself.

  20. So Much for Subtlety

    I take it the utter lack of any substantive response to anything I say means that no one here has any substantive reason for disputing anything I said?

    Now we have that settled, back to the Mean Girls impersonation.

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