What made leaders stop marching into battle with their soldiers? Watch

WarriorInAWig
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After watching a documentary on Rameses and hearing about how the Pharoah apparently killed scores with his scythe, I wondered if it is a modern thing that leaders nowadays send an army to the battlefield without joining them.

Who was our last British leader to lead from the front?
Why did the next British leader not lead their army personally?
Did other countries follow Britain in sending armies before their rulers or were Britain late to do it?
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Solemn Rain
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Bunch of pussies! Politicians are too!
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matt_g96
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no balls
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Swanbow
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Generals and political leaders have to make decisions on a strategic level. Serving on the front means that they are only able to make tactical decisions in a single battle, thus they delegate it to lower ranking officers. Also it seems a bit silly to lose a general who's plans could win the war simply to win a battle. Hopefully someone more knowledgeable might be able to tell us the last general or leader who served on the front during a conflict as I'm quite interested myself.
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Sir Fox
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(Original post by Swanbow)
Hopefully someone more knowledgeable might be able to tell us the last general or leader who served on the front during a conflict as I'm quite interested myself.
Depends on what you mean by 'served on the front'. Rommel was always quite on the front (in a tank) instead of sitting in a HQ behind the lines, but naturally he didn't fire shots himself.

OP, the reason is simply that 'leaders' have the duty to lead, which they cannot do when shells are raining down on them. If a country is at war, someone still needs to govern and administrate it. A general needs to make strategic decisions and in the trenches its hard to keep track of ongoing event.

As great a general as Rommel was, his staff was notoriously annoyed by him being nowhere to be found because he was dashing around in his command tank somewhere else.
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DZ1987
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I think it all comes down to separation of the powers. With that also came civilian control of the military, in which the military commits itself to be an apolitical force following the orders of an elected civilian government. I also think that the world has grown more complicated, necessitating both professional politicians and professional soldiers. You can no longer be both and be successful at either. Also interesting in this regard is the rationalisation theory of Max Weber which is also used to explain the division of labour.
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silverbolt
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(Original post by WarriorInAWig)
After watching a documentary on Rameses and hearing about how the Pharoah apparently killed scores with his scythe, I wondered if it is a modern thing that leaders nowadays send an army to the battlefield without joining them.

Who was our last British leader to lead from the front?
Why did the next British leader not lead their army personally?
Did other countries follow Britain in sending armies before their rulers or were Britain late to do it?
its not a modern thing - most leaders haven't gone into battle for hundreds of years

for a very simple reason - its tactically stupid.
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DZ1987
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(Original post by silverbolt)
its not a modern thing - most leaders haven't gone into battle for hundreds of years

for a very simple reason - its tactically stupid.
Well, George II did. So did Wellington (even though he wasn't PM back then). Some centuries back, but not that long.
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WarriorInAWig
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If it's always been tactically stupid to lead your countrymen into battle, how come Rameses to Richard of York were involved in hand-to-hand combat when they could have stayed behind and talked tactics?
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DZ1987
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(Original post by WarriorInAWig)
If it's always been tactically stupid to lead your countrymen into battle, how come Rameses to Richard of York were involved in hand-to-hand combat when they could have stayed behind and talked tactics?
Before the advent of the musket and rigorously trained government forces, fighting involved heavy melee fighting with troops of different quality, who could break easily when engaged in shock combat. Nothing better to boost morale than having your king fight besides you. Before the emergence of the modern nation state power was very personal and a man who could not defend his power on the battlefield was perceived to be weak. Where power is vested in an institutional state, such as the USA during the Civil War or the Roman Empire at its height, it isn't necessary for the head of state to demonstrate his power by military prowess on the battlefield. Emperor Hadrian never led troops in battle as Emperor (he did serve in the legions before though).
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WarriorInAWig
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Thanks. Add that explanation to the separation of the powers and it pretty much answers my questions. Still, it would be interesting to watch Tony Blair in fatigues looking for an IED.
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DZ1987
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(Original post by WarriorInAWig)
Thanks. Add that explanation to the separation of the powers and it pretty much answers my questions. Still, it would be interesting to watch Tony Blair in fatigues looking for an IED.
A famous Dutch historian, Maarten van Rossem, once said of Balkenende (our PM before the current one): "The moment you see Balkenende on horseback, you know you are in trouble". His contention being that politicians on horseback in uniform are invariably dictators. It would be very funny to see modern politicians leading an army, especially because it looks positively outlandish.
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Sir Fox
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Sending politicians into battle is an interesting thought, and not even that far fetched, if you think about it twice.

Why not make those involved in the process of decision participate and experience war to some extent? That could, for example, mean that if parliament votes to go to war, one in two MPs is sent to the front lines as well - 'who' will be determined by a lottery, and the government is naturally included. They would be commissioned according to their abilities, that is they could be anything from a private at the front lines to higher ranking officers (if they have served before). I think it wouldn't be too difficult for the parties to fill the ranks of parliament with members again and keep the legislative running.

The political process wouldn't be disrupted too much and politicians would not only experience what they are brining upon their soldiers (and those of the enemy), they would also be more cautious to go to war for their own sake.
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Creat0r
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Sometimes the whole of history was changed in an instant because a leader would die in battle. I would say that a long time ago people were generally tougher, not so much physically but mentally and less "civilised", it makes sense to me that a leader would have to be seen as a warrior to the rest of the army. Nowadays how wars are fought has changed so much it's unthinkable to send a leader into battle. Can you imagine what the Germans would be doing if they heard Churchill was at the front of a group of soldiers attacking a city? They would have every sniper within 30 miles aiming at him!
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Manitude
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I think part of the reason is that the weapons of war have changed. A very skilled, well drilled man has no more chance at surviving a gunshot than someone fresh out of basic training. At least in hand to hand combat, experience keeps you alive.

Also the role of strategy has changed. A long time ago a battle would consist of two lines which closed in on each other and whoever broke the other line first won. When more sophisticated tactics came about it became more important for the commander to be able to give orders and respond to changes as required. It's quite hard to do that from the front line.

Also I'd hazard a guess that the move from conscription to volunteering may have an impact. You need to give your conscripts everything you can to motivate them to fight and keep their morale up, so fighting alongside their king would help with that. Nowadays our army is made up entirely of volunteers who in principle want to be on the battlefield.
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DanB1991
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(Original post by WarriorInAWig)
After watching a documentary on Rameses and hearing about how the Pharoah apparently killed scores with his scythe, I wondered if it is a modern thing that leaders nowadays send an army to the battlefield without joining them.

Who was our last British leader to lead from the front?
Why did the next British leader not lead their army personally?
Did other countries follow Britain in sending armies before their rulers or were Britain late to do it?
The main reason it stopped was the instability it caused.

Firstly the person suppose to be running the country would be oversea's.... think richard lionheart during the crusades and his susequent ransom on the way home. The country suffered.

Secondly it can cause civil wars... In Richard the lionhearts case his brother decided to take over....

Finally if the leader is killed it can cause all of the above, especially if they do not have a heir, many countries would also surrender straight away if their leader was killed. As such many countries actually made it illegal for the head of state to engage directly on the battlefield and eventually even lead armies... I think that is also the case in britain.

The last british monarch to "lead" and army was George II durign the austrian wars of succession....

At the end of the day most Royalty and head of states often realised it was much better to have the best general possible, than fighting for personal glory and potentially putting the country at risk.
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goonermk
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It's also interesting that in modern days a very common anti-war argument is 'why don't the politicians fight the wars themselves'

Up until the 1970's with Edward Heath as PM, many of the highest politicians in Britain had served in army on the front lines.

With Cameron, Boris Johnson etc. it looks like the posh boys with no life experience will rule the roost for a while.
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DanB1991
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(Original post by goonermk)
It's also interesting that in modern days a very common anti-war argument is 'why don't the politicians fight the wars themselves'

Up until the 1970's with Edward Heath as PM, many of the highest politicians in Britain had served in army on the front lines.

With Cameron, Boris Johnson etc. it looks like the posh boys with no life experience will rule the roost for a while.
None of which served "while" being PM.... you have to remember because of WW1 and WW2 almost all british politicians would have been in the army beforehand... politics is an old mans game after all.... I don't think I've heard of any MP's in the 1970's serving in the army and being in the commons at the same time.
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the mezzil
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(Original post by WarriorInAWig)
After watching a documentary on Rameses and hearing about how the Pharoah apparently killed scores with his scythe, I wondered if it is a modern thing that leaders nowadays send an army to the battlefield without joining them.

Who was our last British leader to lead from the front?
Why did the next British leader not lead their army personally?
Did other countries follow Britain in sending armies before their rulers or were Britain late to do it?
Prince Harry has been on two tours of duty in Afghanistan.
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WarriorInAWig
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Good point! Also, Queen Elizabeth before she reached the throne helped out on the home front during WWII
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