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Royal Armouries Museum

Band of brothers

Friday afternoon lecture
25th October - 2:00 pm - 3:00 pm

The British and German infantrymen of WWII

Speaker: Dr Alex Shaw, Royal Armouries & University of York

The Second World War saw mechanised and industrialised warfare on an unprecedented scale. Yet there was another side to this war. It was also an infantryman’s conflict where the individual fighting man and the squad of comrades to which he belonged played a more diverse and decisive role than hitherto. It was as much a war of small units as of big battalions.

This talk will explore what this emphasis on small units meant for the men who fought in the Second World War. It focuses upon the infantry squad; the most common building block of the army. this group of 8 – 10 men lived and fought together. We will consider and contrast the British squad (the ‘section’) and its German counterpart (the ‘gruppe’).

To better understand the nature of infantry combat in the most far-reaching conflict in world history, we must bring together the history of the weaponry soldiers used, the tactics which were built around these small units, and the personal experiences of the men who fought in them. Combining these strands creates a compelling narrative of Britain and Germany’s fighting philosophies and the roles played by the individual fighting man. What impact did different weapons have upon soldiers’ experiences of war? Why did Britain and Germany utilise similar weapons but quite different tactics? How did soldiers feel about the weapons and equipment they carried into battle? These are just some of the questions to be considered.

Friday afternoon lectures

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13 December Japanese armours
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10 January The big bang
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24 January Rebellion and revolt
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14 February Daggers from the deep
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13 March When Britain was in turmoil
A remarkable gun made in the Tower during the Glorious Revolution of 1688

27 March Women in war
The story of a Special Operations Executive (SOE)