Defence of Duffers Drift Book Report

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The Defence of Duffers Drift was written by British Major General Ernest Swinton. Swinton’s main focus was to portray a series of events or battles he commanded during the South African War, occurring from 1899-1902. As a brand new officer, Swinton was giving the mission to protect Duffers drift at all costs. With no combat experience, this young officer had to devise a plan to protect his soldiers and to successfully complete his mission. As one reads this book they will gain knowledge and insight as to how one person can prevail by accumulating tactical combat mistakes and then devise a plan to use this power to defeat the enemy.

The first dream in the book tells a story of a brand new officer given a chance to have an independent command. His only guidance was to protect Duffers drift. This officer, Swinton, had no battle experience and only knew defensive measures from reading historical documents on the Battle of Bulls Run, Waterloo and Sedan. The first day, Swinton, his NCO’s, and soldiers did nothing to shield themselves from the enemy. They pitched tents, had bonfires, and even allowed farmers to walk around, talk, and sell goods on their camp. Needless to say, the operating base was never concealed and the troops advertised their positions freely. Their main source of communications from their sentries was for them to yell every thirty minutes back to camp to say they were good.

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This gave away all guard posts. All the soldiers not on duty fell asleep. They were awakened by gun fire and then enemy surrounding their camp with the farmer being a part of the crew ambushing them. The surviving soldiers to include Swinton were hauled off by the Boer enemy and stripped of their clothing. While marching Swinton took note of everything he did wrong to cause such a defeat of his army. He used this battle as a lessons learned so that he could apply it to other battles he would soon face.

Throughout this book Swinton portrays his battles as dreams, more or less, nightmares. He tells stories of six dreams in total learning and improving from his struggles and triumphs. He learns that in his battles, the natives are to never be trusted. They are spies that notify the enemy of his whereabouts. He captures all that his army can take to cut down on informants. This would include taking wives, children, and servants. He discusses how there is no flanks, nor rear, but all front lines. This would also mean ensure that your backs are not exposed so the enemy cannot sneak up on you and shoot Book Review on Defence of Duffers Drift by Ernest Swinton ou from behind.

Throughout all of Swinton’s battles he also discovered that putting his army on top of the obstacle was not the best tactical move. He needed to ensure that he strategically placed his army so they could see their enemies approaching and have the advantage. Trenches were best used as a distraction and he should scatter his soldiers instead of keeping them bunched up.

Another valuable lesson was to look over his area using the enemy’s point of view. Using trenches as purely a disguise would help divert the enemy’s attention, again given Swinton the upper hand. The most important lesson learned was to ensure the element of surprise from enemy. The best way to defeat another Army is to catch them off guard.

Overall, this book was worth reading. It shows a person that they should never be discouraged by defeat; telling a story about a man who fails miserably so many times and chooses to never give up. Instead he keeps improving his tactics with each passing battle to come out victoriously in the end. This book would be great to recommend for anyone to read.

After reading this book a person can see that everyone makes mistakes, but they will need to learn from them in order to rise above them. The lessons learned in this book do seem to carry out in today’s Army. First of all, Swinton talks above cover and concealment. That is one of the first things a person learns in the Army.

The uniform would be a perfect example to start out with. You learn that the best way to defeat the enemy is by the element of surprise to gain an advantage. Another key point that is very common in today’s Army is an after action review. Swinton may have not called what he was doing an after action review (AAR), but in reality he conducted one with himself after each passing battle. He was focusing on improvements and sustainments in order to improve his tactics for future engagements.

This book is a perfect example of why AAR’s are so important. After reading this book I will carry Swinton’s experiences over to my next duty station. This book helped me realize that it will be okay if I make mistakes just as long as I learn to rise above them and be victorious in the end.

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Defence of Duffers Drift Book Report. (2019, May 01). Retrieved from

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