When the Learning Curve Falls: The Ordeal of the 44th Battalion, 25 October 1916


  • William Stewart


On 25 October 1916, a battalion of the 4th Canadian Division suffered a stinging repulse in a poorly planned operation. This paper examines how, sixteen weeks into the Somme campaign, senior commanders could launch such a poorly conceived operation that violated current operating principles. The attack ran counter to the overarching notion that the British Army experienced a ‘learning curve’. The paper describes the reasons for the failure and argues the learning curve was not a simple monolithic process but multiple curves contingent on circumstances, commander competence, and the pressures from superiors.

Author Biography

William Stewart

DR WILLIAM STEWART earned his PhD from the University of Birmingham (UK) in 2012, after a thirty-year career in senior management positions in high tech. His interests include tactics, operations, and administration in the First World War with a focus on the Canadian Expeditionary Force (CEF). His book The Embattle General: Sir Richard Turner and the First World War was published in November 2015. He is currently working on an operational history of the CEF during the Somme campaign of 1916.