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 (1945-1991) Cold War    
Geelong, Australia
top 10
E-9 Sergeant Major

Posts: 1217

The Pentropic experiment.
Posted on: 5/6/2017 6:06:05 PM
It appears that you can't make an omelette without breaking some eggs.

In 1960 the Australian Army did a major reorganisation of its field force into the Pentropic Divisional structure, based on the US Pentomic structure of 1957. Everything is based on 5s: 5 sections to the platoon, 5 platoons to the company, 5 companies to the battalion and 5 battalions to the division. The battalions were supposed to be battle groups of combined arms a bit like those the Wehrmacht had later in WW2 and it was supposed to dispense with the Brigade level of command.

In practice it was a failure, the theory didn't play out due to command failures at many levels, the US dropped the Pentomic division from 1961 and we kept the Pentropic division until 1965 but when reverting to the traditional triangular structure called the brigades 'Task Forces' as not to appear to be making a retrograde step. Apparently a disaster, I've long thought so anyway.

However it appears that there were what I now call 'Whole of Government' factors involved. Since soon after WW2 the strategic assumption was that Australia should prepare for a re-run of WW1/WW2, so we had a short term conscription scheme with an annual intake of 33,000 from 1951 and the Army was organised to be able (in theory) to have a Corps of 3 divisions available within 6 to 12 months. Of course the Government didn't buy any of the stuff that these 3 divisions needed, the CMF in particular relied on WW2 Matilda and Grant tanks, White and Staghound scout cars and 25pdr artillery. The ARA got 60 Centurions from 1952, another 2 batches of 57 gun tanks in 56-58 plus a handful of dozers/ARV/ALBV, not enough to equip a second ARA Armoured Regiment for 1st divisions (on paper) establishment let alone the 3 CMF tank units for the other 2 divisions. The same applies for wheeled AFVs and medium artillery like the 5.5".

In 1957 the strategic situation had changed, the Field Force of the ARA was organised into a Brigade Group able to operate independently of the Division/Corps and the CMF strength reduced from 82,000 to 51,000 with the NS intake dropped to 12,000. This released some 2000 Regulars from instructor roles and the Field Force re-org allowed the Army to retain the money saved by the limiting of conscription.

The next step was in 1959 when NS was to ended completely. This coincided with the re-org to the Pentropic division, which included light aviation and APC elements that the Army didn't not currently have. The re-org meant the CMF was gutted, the ending of NS meant its 30 btns were merged into 17 and then the Pentropic re-org smashed these into 9 big Petropic btn battle groups, their strength went from 51,000 well below the authorised 25,000 to 20,000.

However, as the Army was finding out that the Pentropic structure totally sucked for units in the field they were able to acquire their first Sioux helicopters and Cessna light aircraft and in 1962 the M113 and FV432 were competitively trialled to meet the Pentropic requirement for integral APCs.

But perhaps the most important change was the reduction in the power of the CMF in Australia's military culture. Already their career structure, equipment scales and training were miles behind the ARA: "by 1959-60 these [C.M.F.] officers spent about as much time training as the Regular Army officers spent on leave, but they claimed to be equals."

By the time it was dropped in 1965 the deed was done, selective service conscription was introduced in 1965, but unlike the 1951 scheme the conscripts went into the Regular Army to keep it up to strength to fight in Borneo and Vietnam.

Wow, that was long winded.
Vegetarian: the ancient tribal word for the villiage idiot; who was too stupid to hunt, fish and ride!

 (1945-1991) Cold War    
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