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Retreat

 

Disciplines > Warfare > Tactics > Retreat

Action | Analysis | Example | Analogy | See also

 

Action

When you are being worn down and there is little sign of victory, it can make sense to withdraw.

There are two broad ways you can retreat: flight or disengagement.

In headlong flight, you stop fighting, turn and run, literally for your lives.

In steady withdrawal you may continue to fight whilst falling back in an ordered and controlled manner, disengaging from the fighting without allowing the enemy to overrun you.

Analysis

Beyond irrational panic, headlong flight is based on the principle of speed. When in fear of death, a person's adrenaline helps them run very fast. They may also cast away weapons and other encumbrances to help go faster. An unarmed person is less of a target and may be permitted to live by opposing troops.

Fleeing people make easy targets and an excited enemy might pursue, seeking to do maximum damage. This can lead to total destruction. It can also be used to lead the enemy into a trap.

In a steady withdrawal, some troops typically provide covering fire whilst others fall back and prepare to provide cover in return. Provided you are not overrun by the advancing enemy this can be an ultimately more successful approach.

Example

The retreat of the British and Allied forces from Dunkerque, France in the Second World War was facilitated by a huge flotilla of over 900 mostly small boats from England. Only 50,000 were expected to escape the German advance, but in practice 338,000 got away.

Analogy

In an argument, if you know you are beaten, you can suddenly walk away or change the subject. If they pursue you, snipe at them or otherwise make comments that dissuade them from chasing you.

See also

Discipline, Speed in war, Scorched Earth

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