World War I was perhaps the greatest catalyst for military innovation in modern history. The speed in which the doctrinal, technical and tactical changes were developed and implemented was astounding. At the end of World War I, Britain was at the forefront of doctrinal and technological innovation in the field of armor and aircraft warfare. The factors which caused Britain to lose their innovative edge in these areas prior to World War II was the 10 year rule policy, operational attitude of the British Army, and an emphasis on land based aviation.
At the conclusion of World War I, Britain had the largest navy in the world, a brand new Royal Air Force (RAF) and an army that had extended its technical, tactical and operational capabilities. Although the British military was strong, their economy was on the brink of collapse at the end of the war. The fiscal burdens of the rebuilding the economy required the British government to carefully consider their expenditures after the war. In 1919, it was decided for planning purposes the armed forces would not plan on fighting a major war for 10 years; the policy would be known as the 10 Year Policy. The policy reduced the military budget to funding levels lower than allocated in 1914.
This reduced budget limited the size of the Armed Forces and supplied limited funds for the research and development of new equipment. This discouraged civilian companies in Britain from investing large sums of their capital into research and development for military products, because the British military did not have the funds to purchase equipment on a large scale. The policy was made permanent in 1928, with the result that each year the ten year clock would be reset back to year one; this ensured the military would not get to the end of the ten year window eliminating the need to spend money on modernization of the Armed Forces. The ten-year policy was used by the British Government to continually decrease defense spending until the policy was ended in 1932.
The second factor that stifled the innovation of the British military is the operational attitude of the military leadership. The British military failed to study the lessons learned from World War I until 1932. This failure to study the battles of the war in a timely manner resulted in the development of inferior doctrine and training concepts. If the lessons would have been learned earlier than 1932, substantial changes could have been made to the British doctrine and professional military education system prior to 1932.
The structural, leadership and cultural changes to the British Army after World War I contributed to a pervasive disinterest in innovation. The ideas and attitudes of the military leadership remained those of the prewar army. Those who seemed to be innovators were outcast and the leadership of the British Army did not take their ideas seriously. Between 1923 and 1928, the...