Poles Apart: Language and Cultural Barriers Pertaining to the Polish Army's 1st Armoured Division in Normandy, August 1944
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This thesis is a study of the effects language and culture on military operations using the experience of the 1st Polish Armoured Division under command of the II Canadian Corps in North Western Europe in August 1944. The challenges in multinational operations have been, and remain, understanding both allies and the environment in which one is going to be conducting operations. Rapid mutually intelligible communication is a key factor to mission success, whether during high tempo operations or while conducting deliberate planning and administrative work with non-English speaking allies. This dissertation begins with background material on the cultural and linguistic effects on multi-national military operations, examining literature on the diaspora Polish communities and what has been said about the Polish and Canadian armies’ performances in North-West Europe in August 1944. This is followed by a description of the Pigeau-McCann common intent factors that will be used as a framework to highlight what could be done to overcome the effects of language and culture on the employment of military units and formations. Particular emphasis is placed on the effects of culture on leadership in both interpersonal and staff interactions, using the Pigeau-McCann Balanced Command Envelope (BCE) as a subsidiary model to help describe the effect that two commanders, Maczek and Simonds, had on the achievement of common intent. Despite the linguistic and cultural challenges encountered, the 1st Polish Armoured Division fared well in combat and could possibly have done better had more emphasis been placed on bridging the gaps caused by linguistic and cultural differences, joint training, common understanding of the use of liaison teams and liaison officers and emphasis on concise written directions. These conclusions remain relevant in making more effective today’s multinational and, more often than not, multi-lingual military coalitions. There are valuable lessons that have been identified from the past; the time to learn from them is before commitment to operations.