When the Learning Curve Falls: The Ordeal of the 44th Battalion, 25 October 1916

William Stewart


On 25 October 1916, a battalion of the 4th Canadian Division suffered a stinging repulse in a poorly planned operation. This paper examines how, sixteen weeks into the Somme campaign, senior commanders could launch such a poorly conceived operation that violated current operating principles. The attack ran counter to the overarching notion that the British Army experienced a ‘learning curve’. The paper describes the reasons for the failure and argues the learning curve was not a simple monolithic process but multiple curves contingent on circumstances, commander competence, and the pressures from superiors.

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