Major General John Drewienkiewicz CB CMG
Retired Engineer in Chief and expert in 20th Century continental warfare
Major General John Drewienkiewicz CB CMG, or DZ, as he has been known for about 40 years, is a former Engineer in Chief of the Army who spent over five years in Bosnia and Kosovo between 1996 and 2006 in both military and civilian organisations. He has been studying and walking battlefields since attending Staff College in 1978. Initially focussing on the 1940 Flanders Campaign, he wrote his RCDS Thesis on the Territorial Army in 1939/40 and wrote a chapter of the BCMH France and Flanders - 60 years on. His study progressed to the American Civil War, and he served two years as President of the ACW Round Table (UK), as well as leading staff rides for the British Army. During his long service in the Balkans his attention turned to Austria's wars in the mid 19th Century. Periods based in Vienna enabled him to access the period, and to walk and research the battlefields of the 1866 Seven Weeks' War in Bohemia (modern Czech Republic). He has written five books which examine campaigns through the lens of wargaming, his latest on Königgrätz.
Q&A with Major General John
Who would you regard as the greatest military commander of all time?
Von Moltke, because he understood that the age of heroic leadership had passed.
What is your favourite battlefield and why?
Gettysburg, because you can illustrate every phase of war on one battlefield.
What piece of weaponry has been the most influential on the battlefield throughout history?
The reproducible map, which enables complicated manoeuvre to happen.
What is the best book on military history you have ever read?
The Gettysburg Campaign by Coddington
What is the most memorable event that has ever happened to you on a tour?
Discovering that, at Koniggratz, the Swiepwald woods had been partially felled, which alters the understanding of the battle and that this fact had been entirely overlooked by all modern historians
What do you regard as the greatest mistake a military commander has ever made?
A difficult one this, spoilt for choice. Probably Hitler invading Russia.
What is your favourite military anecdote?
To Robert Holbrooke at the time of the Racak Massacre in Kosovo in early 1999: there goes your Nobel Peace Prize.
What do you consider as the greatest military quotation?
Sosabowski to Horrocks: when are you Brits going to get professional? You have been at war with the Germans for 5 years and you approach a major river with your bridging at the back of a 30 mile long traffic jam. (Original in highly accented English).
What is your favourite historical film?
The Aubrey and Maturin novels of Patrick O'Brien.
What do you consider as the greatest military myth that requires 'de-bunking'?
That military conscription is a bad thing. Done well it is a powerful national cohesion tool which teaches social responsibility. Unfortunately the Brits are not very good at conscription, so we think it is a bad thing and instead rely on skimpily trained part-timers.