- Letter Writer
- Biographies and personal histories, WWII operations, History - WW2, Letter to the Editor
- None noted.
- RAN Ships
- None noted.
- June 2006 edition of the Naval Historical Review (all rights reserved)
Re: Admiral Karl Doenitz and his Leadership, Naval Historical Review, March, 2006
I realise that the opinions and judgements expressed in articles do not necessarily reflect the views of the editor, and also that this essay was published for form’s sake. However, I must observe that Hume would have done well to have read a little more widely; his internet-heavy bibliography is a sure danger sign of inadequate research for one writing in a well-published field, as he is. How could he have missed the critical biography by a former naval officer, Peter Padfield? Hume’s work amounts to hagiography, and reflects poorly upon the academic standards of the RANC.
Dr Anthony Cooper
Given Dr Cooper’s observations in the last sentence of his letter, I forwarded his letter to Lieutenant Desmond Woods, the organiser of RANC’s historical essay programme for his comment. His reply follows. Ed.
Thank you for forwarding Dr Anthony Cooper’s concerns about the poor academic standards of the RANC as revealed to him through reading of MID Hume’s (NEOC 33) essay on Grand Admiral Doenitz and for giving me right of reply to the points he raises.
While not wishing to deny the academic shortcomings of the Doenitz essay I shall attempt to explain below what is, and is not, the aim of the History Essay competition at the RANC.
Since the advent of ADFA the RANC no longer offers an academic programme, as it once did, of three years duration. Some of our New Entry officers go on to ADFA, most do not. We take in civilians with sometimes very average HSC marks from the full cross section of society and from the RAN’s lower deck, and in 22 weeks, including four at sea, we do our best to make up for the gross inadequacies of an under-funded, intellectually flaccid secondary schooling system which places almost no emphasis on correct written English, much less on academic research skills.
When I arrived here at the RANC the only writing New Entry officers did on Naval History was to find a naval member at Creswell, or beyond, who had been in the RAN longer than they had and write a report on their service to date. That hardly qualified, in my view, as Naval History, more ‘anecdotage!’
I have insisted that every NEOC will research and write a 2500 word referenced essay on a notable naval/military or war leader explaining their virtues and their failings and what, if anything, we can learn from these individuals about the nature of leadership in peace and war. Doenitz is one of the 130 possible subjects for study I have given NEOCs to research and write about. They choose which one they wish to do.
As Dr Cooper points out, over-reliance on the internet is a feature of under-researched academic work. Undoubtedly many young people who have grown up with the internet at their disposal rely far too much on short online articles rather than standard books and biographies as their primary reference sources. This is true of NEOCs despite encouragement from me to read biographies, and the availability of a good inter-library defence loan service provided by our Creswell librarian.
While I acknowledge freely the shortcomings as research scholars of our NEOCs I have to mark their essays bearing in mind that the people I am teaching have learned no history at school of the kind that was once standard; have no understanding of chronology, have been deliberately steered away from the study of individuals and biography onto nebulous sociological ‘themes’ and have never heard of the majority of the individuals that I require them to research.
Under these lamentable circumstances a certain degree of latitude and discretion must be preserved by the assessor who is alive to the intellectually impoverished education they have received thus far in life and the challenge that they find in constructing a sentence which is grammatically correct and not tautological.
No time can be set aside for academic study in NEOC’s very busy lives here at Creswell. The conscientious NEOCs make time at weekends to do their history research.
I shall certainly take steps to ensure that, if it is available, Peter Padfield’s biography of Doenitz is available in our Creswell library to future NEOCs who choose the Grand Admiral as their essay subject.