Brendan Hogan


This article examines the operational research conducted by the counter-battery staff office (CBO) in the headquarters of the Canadian Corps during the First World War. It challenges the argument presented by most historians of operational research, who contend that the discipline originated with the 1935 Tizard Committee and came to fruition during the Second World War and expands upon the initial inquiry performed by scholars J.S. Finan and W.J. Hurley in a 1997 journal article. While the staff of the CBO never used the term “operational research” to describe their scientific studies, they were undoubtedly its practitioners through their innovating, trialling, experimentation and dissemination of knowledge–the four pillars of the discipline. These artillerymen applied science to their weapon systems and, in doing so, made them as efficient and effective as possible. And they shared best practices with other formations in the British Expeditionary Force. Through their studies, the Canadian Corps perfected the use of counter-battery fire to attrit the German Army and strike their most important systems. Several of the studies conducted by these staff officers were mirrored by investigations carried out by No. 2 Operational Research Section during the Second World War. As a result, this study offers a new interpretation of adaptation to technology, scientific approach to operations and learning within the Canadian Corps during the First World War.