On 11 March 1943, the Chief of the British Imperial General Staff, Field Marshal Sir Alan Brooke, made a momentous decision in committing an entire British armored division, the 79th, to the task of developing equipment, tactics, and capabilities to penetrate the “Atlantic Wall,” in anticipation of an Allied amphibious invasion of northwest Europe. British leaders chose Major-General Sir Percy Hobart to command this division, largely because of Hobart’s affinity for leading and training armored formations, but also due to Hobart’s reputation as an individualist, known to seek out unique solutions to unforeseen challenges.
This thesis examines the wartime history of this unit—concentrating on aspects of equipment, tactics, organization and leadership that enabled it to ultimately succeed beyond anyone’s expectations. More important, this organization provides valuable lessons for current transformation efforts. The key lessons that this subject provide include: the need for leadership that combines vision with action; a close cooperation between the military-industrial complex and the end user; and allowing space in the force structure for a unit that can perform not only standard combat missions, but can also serve as experimentation test-bed and conduit for new ideas, whether in the form of capabilities, organizational structure, or doctrine.