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The Defence of Duffers Drift
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The Defence of Duffers Drift

4.06  ·  Rating details ·  391 Ratings  ·  31 Reviews
In the 100 years since The Defence of Duffers Drift was first published in Great Britain, the face of modern warfare has changed dramatically. But what have not changed very much are the concepts of small unit tactics: Ground is held, buildings are searched, and individual enemy combatants are killed or captured by men with rifles. And those men are led by NCOs and junior ...more
Paperback, 72 pages
Published July 1st 1986 by Avery (first published 1904)
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Feb 05, 2013 rated it really liked it
Recommends it for: military history buffs. Young officers and NCO's
I first read this book when I was a young 2nd Lieutenant in the U.S. Army. It was on our reading list at the Armor Officer Basic Course at Fort Knox, Kentucky. That was twenty-two years ago. Over the years I have since read it many many times. It's a short book in which a young British Army officer is left in charge of a small detachment of soldiers and told to defend a river crossing site (the drift in "Duffer's Drift") in South Africa during the Second Boer War (1899-1902). Oh did I mention it ...more
Bruno Goncalves
May 25, 2016 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This book served as inspiration for Hiroshi Sakurazaka's All You Need is Kill, which served as inspiration for the Hollywood film "The Edge of Tomorrow".

The Defense of Duffer's Drift is deservedly still considered West Point reading material.
Oct 30, 2010 rated it really liked it
Shelves: reviewed
The Defense of Duffer's Drift is a fascinating little book that anyone can read in a short afternoon. Written by Capt. Ernest Dunlop Swinton around the dawn of the 20th century, it is a meditation on small unit tactics, based on experience gained in the Boer War.

The most fascinating thing about the book is its insouciant tone. The protagonist, Lieutenant Backsight Forethought, has a dream in which he is given command of 50 men and told to defend the ford to a river. Arriving with his men, he set
Les Howell
May 22, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Defense of Duffer's Drift

Short book and excellent book. Take time to read it! (Not for the weak in heart!) It states facts as it see's it!

Luke Crawford
so, for some reason someone linked me to a reading list for NCOs. I think 'matterhorn' was one, which was excellent... this was one, which was, I dunno, kinda heavy on the didactic. I mean, certainly, it was an entertaining read, a very well done book, but it doesn't hold up to the work of Marlantes.
Feb 20, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Very short book about an officer in the Boer War dreaming about defending a certain region and learning small unit tactics along the way. Character iteratively learns new rules for accomplishing his mission, and applies them to future situations.
Travis Lindeman
Sep 16, 2016 rated it it was ok
I am glad that Marine Officers have required readings as part of their course (the Army does not). And the principles are simple enough and good, but its not the most enjoyable or provocative book I've read.
Mar 27, 2012 rated it really liked it
Shelves: favorites
military book. Teaches you about ORM "Operational Risk Management" to ask yourself what can go wrong and figure out how to fix it before it happens.
I couldn't put this down once I started it. Each dream will have you wondering "what was he thinking!!??"
It took a lot of mistakes, lessons learned, and lives to get it down. Think it out before acting it out. I found a copy of this online i have printed it and am mailing bits and pieces to my son in bootcamp :).

Free download:
Mar 27, 2013 rated it really liked it
I orginally read this as part of the Infantry Officer Basic Course at Ft. Benning back in the mid-80's. At 72 pages (and with few multi-syllable words), most of the us 11B's were able to struggle through it - though a comic book version would have probably worked better. All kidding aside, it was a great learning tool for illustrating to junior officer that maybe college didn't teach us everything we need to know. I really appreciated that the POV character would dream in tactics so I didn't hav ...more
Sep 23, 2010 rated it really liked it
Amusingly written, this book has for the most part aged well. The successive dreams metaphor actually fits well with something many of my generation know - reloading save games repeatedly in video/computer games until you figure out how to solve the scenario. It's still good, though the extremely harsh tactics that are recommended for dealing with civilians somewhat ring false even for the time period. (Seriously, round up everyone, threaten to kill them, execute whatever livestock you can't ste ...more
In a series of six dreams, the protagonist learns how to lead 50 men in the defense of a river during the Boer War.

Why I started it: I checked it out when I realized that it was under 100 pages and I wanted to knock it off my professional reading list.

Why I finished it: I read it in under an hour, it was quick, coherent and educational. If only all military tactics books were like this.
Jul 20, 2015 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
No wonder this book is still used by the British, Canadian, and U.S. military forces. It has even been updated to cover Support Battalions in the U.S. military as well as a similar format for "lessons learned" by the U.S. in Iraq. A nice quick read that gives the casual reader a feel of what it was like during the Boer War in South Africa.
Tom Mathews
Aug 14, 2014 rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: students of military tactics
This book was surprisingly entertaining. Although written to educate young officers on battlefield tactics it reads like Groundhog Day, with young Lieutenant Backsight Forethought has to fight the same battle over and over again until he gets it right.
May 14, 2015 rated it it was amazing
One of the comprehensive books for the new leaders to understand the peculiarities of the defence....imp of choosing the ground and evaluating it from enemies point of view...preempting the move of enemy etc. overall a good book.
Stanley Turner
Apr 17, 2014 rated it really liked it
I read this book at the recommendation of a friend. It's an interesting book that can be read in an afternoon of reading. I think it dovetails nicely with a couple of other books I am reading as the lieutenants final defense comes about not necessarily from his training but from gut feelings...
JP Aycox
Dec 16, 2012 rated it really liked it
I read "The defense of hill 781" prior to reading this book. It is a good book to give you an idea of how to open your eyes to different scenarios for a defensive situation. How to look at all angles of your position and to put you and your men I'm the best position for prosperity.
Jun 03, 2013 rated it liked it
The book is a great example of learning through experience. Even the basic or simple tasks may be flawed.
This also teaches the gap between the theoretical knowledge and practical knowledge. You have to select and apply your knowledge based on your circumstances !!
- A
Cal Faulkner
Apr 01, 2014 rated it it was amazing
It is a short read, easily dispatched in an afternoon by a dedicated reader. In essence, it is a study of the proper execution of a defense against a numerically superior enemy. A must read for military leaders, officers and NCOs alike, and an entertaining read for anyone with a spare afternoon.
Dec 12, 2007 rated it really liked it
Recommends it for: Anyone interested in military tactics
A funny and painless primer on basic defensive infantry tactics - this is somewhat dated, since it refers to the Boer War at the turn of the 20th century, but is still useful and interesting for professional soldiers and anyone else interested in military science.
This is a good read for military training and how thinking outside of doctrine is sometimes needed.
Sep 29, 2010 rated it really liked it
Recommended to Chad by: Jon Petty
The original "Groundhog Day" :-)
Wachlin007 Hotmail
Feb 22, 2008 rated it really liked it
This book is based off of the author's personal experiences. It takes place during the Boer War. It contains a lot of lessons that the lieutenant learned about defending his ground.
Jan 07, 2013 rated it really liked it
Good book outlining several tactical mistakes that one should be careful not to make.
Jun 07, 2013 rated it really liked it
Classic on military tactics...a 72 page book which I read every few years which can be read in an afternoon.
May 20, 2015 rated it really liked it
Presumably, most readers of Duffer's Drift are interested in military strategy. I was primarily interested in this as a description of learning from mistakes, however. Interesting.
Aug 23, 2008 rated it liked it
Recommended to Aaron by: Commandant of the USMC
This was a brief exercise in battle tactics. I found it enjoyable.

USMC Reading List
Paradip Thapa
Jan 03, 2015 is currently reading it
happy to read
Mar 19, 2016 rated it liked it
Shelves: war-studies, 2009
Both an intense lessen in guerrilla warfare & a brief on a bit of history rarely mentioned.
Apr 29, 2007 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Anyone in the Military
A required read for NCO's and potential leaders.
David Rose
Sep 12, 2016 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Solid 1905 infantry defence primer written with wit and evident compassion for young officers serving in their first independent command. Still very accessible 100 years later!
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Major General Sir Ernest Dunlop Swinton, KBE, CB, DSO, RE was a military writer and British Army officer. Swinton is credited with influencing the development and adoption of the tank by the British during the First World War. He is also known for popularizing the term "no-mans land". He published several books of non-fiction and fiction including two books under the pseudonym O'le Luk-Oie.

More about Ernest Dunlop Swinton...

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