J. F. C. Fuller

From Infogalactic: the planetary knowledge core
(Redirected from J.F.C. Fuller)
Jump to: navigation, search
John Frederick Charles Fuller
JFC Fuller.jpg
J.F.C. Fuller
Nickname(s) Boney
Born (1878-09-01)1 September 1878
Chichester, West Sussex
Died Script error: The function "death_date_and_age" does not exist.
Falmouth, Cornwall
Allegiance  United Kingdom
Years of service 1899 – 1933
Rank Major General
Battles/wars Second Boer War
First World War
Awards Companion of the Order of the Bath
Commander of the Order of the British Empire
Distinguished Service Order
Other work Military historian, occultist, author

Major-General John Frederick Charles "Boney" Fuller, CB, CBE, DSO (1 September 1878 – 10 February 1966) was a British Army officer, military historian, and strategist, notable as an early theorist of modern armoured warfare, including categorizing principles of warfare. He was also an occultist, a Fascist, and the inventor of "artificial moonlight".

Early life

Fuller was born in 1878 at Chichester in West Sussex. After moving to Lausanne with his parents as a boy, he returned to England at the age of 11 without them; three years later, at "the somewhat advanced age of 14", he began attending Malvern College[1] and, later trained for an army career at the Royal Military College, Sandhurst, from 1897 to 1898. His nickname of "Boney", which he was to retain, is said to have come either from an admiration for Napoleon Bonaparte,[2] or from an imperious manner combined with military brilliance which resembled Napoleon's.[3]


Fuller was commissioned into the 1st Battalion of the Oxfordshire Light Infantry (the old 43rd Foot), and served in South Africa from 1899 to 1902. In the spring of 1904 Fuller was sent with his unit to India, where he contracted typhoid fever in autumn of 1905; he returned to England the next year on sick-leave, where he met the woman he married in December 1906.[1] Instead of returning to India, he was reassigned to units in England, serving as an adjutant to the 2nd South Middlesex Volunteers (amalgamated into the 7th Middlesex during the Haldane Reforms) and helping form the 10th Middlesex, until he was accepted into the Staff College at Camberley in 1913, starting work there in January 1914.

During the First World War, Fuller was a staff officer with the Home Forces and with 7 Corps in France, and from 1916 in the Headquarters of the Machine-Gun Corps' Heavy Branch which was later to become the Tank Corps. He helped plan the tank attack at the 20 November 1917 Battle of Cambrai and the tank operations for the Autumn offensives of 1918. His Plan 1919 for a fully mechanised offensive against the German army was never implemented. After 1918 he held various leading positions, notably as a commander of an experimental brigade at Aldershot.

After the war Fuller collaborated with his junior B. H. Liddell Hart in developing new ideas for the mechanisation of armies, launching a crusade for the mechanization and modernization of the British Army. Chief instructor of Camberly Staff College from 1923, he became military assistant to the chief of the Imperial General Staff in 1926. He was promoted to major general in 1930 and retired three years later to devote himself entirely to writing.

In what came to be known as the "Tidworth Incident", Fuller turned down the command of the Experimental Mechanized Force, which was formed on August 27, 1927. The appointment also carried responsibility for a regular infantry brigade and the garrison of Tidworth Camp on Salisbury Plain. Fuller believed he would be unable to devote himself to the Experimental Mechanized Force and the development of mechanized warfare techniques without extra staff to assist him with the additional extraneous duties, which the War Office refused to allocate.

After retirement, Fuller served as a reporter during the Italian invasion of Ethiopia (1935) and the Spanish Civil War (1936–39).[4]

On his retirement in 1933, impatient with what he considered the inability of democracy to adopt military reforms, Fuller became involved with Sir Oswald Mosley and the British Fascist movement. As a member of the British Union of Fascists he sat on the party's Policy Directorate and was considered one of Mosley's closest allies. He was also a member of the clandestine far right group the Nordic League.[5]

Fuller's ideas on mechanized warfare continued to be influential in the lead-up to the Second World War, ironically less with his countrymen than with the Nazis, notably Heinz Guderian who spent his own money to have Fuller's Provisional Instructions for Tank and Armoured Car Training translated.[6] In the 1930s the German Wehrmacht implemented tactics similar in many ways to Fuller's analysis, which became known as Blitzkrieg. Like Fuller, practitioners of Blitzkrieg partly based their approach on the theory that areas of large enemy activity should be bypassed to be eventually surrounded and destroyed. Blitzkrieg-style tactics were used by several nations throughout the Second World War, predominantly by the Germans in the invasion of Poland, Western Europe, and the Soviet Union. While Germany and to some degree the Western Allies adopted Blitzkrieg ideas, they were not much used by the Red Army, which developed its armored warfare doctrine based on deep operations, which were developed by Soviet military theorists Marshal M. N. Tukhachevsky et al. in the 1920s based on their experiences in the First World War and the Russian Civil War.

Fuller was the only foreigner present at Nazi Germany’s first armed manoeuvres in 1935. Fuller frequently praised Adolf Hitler in his speeches and articles, once describing him as "that realistic idealist who has awakened the common sense of the British people by setting out to create a new Germany".[7] On April 20, 1939 Fuller was an honoured guest at Hitler's 50th birthday parade, watching as "for three hours a completely mechanised and motorised army roared past the Führer." Afterwards Hitler asked, "I hope you were pleased with your children?" Fuller replied, "Your Excellency, they have grown up so quickly that I no longer recognise them."[8]

As might be expected, during World War II Fuller was under suspicion for his Nazi sympathies, however he continued to speak out in favour of a peaceful settlement with Germany.[7] Alan Brooke (in his war diaries, p. 201) comments that "the Director of Security called on him to discuss Boney Fuller and his Nazi activities", though Alanbrooke commented that he did not think Fuller "had any unpatriotic intentions". Although he was not interned or arrested, he was the only officer of his rank not invited to return to service during the World War II. There was some suspicion that he was not incarcerated in May 1940 along with other leading officials of the BUF because of his association with General Edmund Ironside and other senior officers. Mosley himself admitted to "a little puzzlement" as to why Fuller had not been imprisoned.[7]

Fuller died in Falmouth, Cornwall in 1966.[4][9]


Fuller was a vigorous, expressive, and opinionated writer of military history and of controversial predictions of the future of war, publishing On Future Warfare in 1928. Seeing his teachings largely vindicated by World War II, he published Machine Warfare: An Enquiry into the Influence of Mechanics on the Art of War in 1942.[4]

Magic and mysticism

Fuller had an occultist side that oddly mixed with his military side. He was an early disciple of English poet and magician Aleister Crowley, and was very familiar with his and other forms of magick and mysticism. While serving in the First Oxfordshire Light Infantry he had entered and won a contest to write the best review of Crowley's poetic works, after which it turned out that he was the only entrant. This essay was later published in book form in 1907 as The Star in the West. After this he became an enthusiastic supporter of Crowley, joining his magical order, the A∴A∴. within which he became a leading member, editing order documents and its journal, The Equinox. During this period he wrote The Treasure House of Images, edited early sections of Crowley's magical autobiography The Temple of Solomon the King and produced highly regarded paintings dealing with A∴A∴ teachings: these paintings have been used in recent years as the covers of the journal's revival, The Equinox, Volume IV.[10][11]

After the Jones vs. The Looking Glass case, in which a great deal was made of Aleister Crowley's bisexuality (although Crowley himself was not a party to the case), Fuller became worried that his association with Crowley might be a hindrance to his career. Crowley writes in chapter 67 of his book, The Confessions of Aleister Crowley:

...to my breathless amazement he fired pointblank at my head a document in which he agreed to continue his co-operation on condition that I refrain from mentioning his name in public or private under penalty of paying him a hundred pounds for each such offence. I sat down and poured in a broadside at close quarters.

"My dear man," I said in effect, "do recover your sense of proportion, to say nothing of your sense of humour. Your contribution, indeed! I can do in two days what takes you six months, and my real reason for ever printing your work at all is my friendship for you. I wanted to give you a leg up the literary ladder. I have taken endless pain to teach you the first principles of writing. When I met you, you were not so much as a fifth-rate journalist, and now you can write quite good prose with no more than my blue pencil through two out of every three adjectives, and five out of every six commas. Another three years with me and I will make you a master, but please don't think that either I or the Work depend on you, any more than J.P. Morgan depends on his favourite clerk."[12]

After this, contact between the two men faded rapidly. The front pages of the 1913 issues of the Equinox (Volume 1, nos. 9 and 10), which gave general directions to A∴A∴ members, included a notice on the subject of Fuller, who was described as a "former Probationer";[13] the notice disparaged Fuller's magical accomplishments and warned A∴A∴ members to accept no magical training from him. However, Fuller continued to be fascinated with occult subjects and in later years he would write about topics such as the Qabalah and yoga.

Military theories

The Foundations of the Science of War (1926)

Fuller is perhaps best known today for his "Nine Principles of War"[14] which have formed the foundation of much of modern military theory since the 1930s, and which were originally derived from a convergence of Fuller's mystical and military interests. The Nine Principles went through several iterations; Fuller stated that ...the system evolved from six principles in 1912, rose to eight in 1915, to, virtually, nineteen in 1923, and then descended to nine in 1925...[15]

The Nine Principles of War

The Nine Principles involve the uses of Force (combat power). They have been expressed in various ways, but Fuller's 1925 arrangement is as follows:

  1. Direction: What is the overall aim? Which objectives must be met to achieve the aim?
  2. Concentration: Where will the commander focus the most effort?
  3. Distribution: Where and how will the commander position their force?
  4. Determination: The will to fight, the will to persevere, and the will to win must be maintained.
  5. Surprise (Demoralisation of Force): The commander's ability to veil their intentions while discovering those of their enemy. Properly executed Surprise unbalances the enemy - causing Demoralisation of Force.
  6. Endurance: The force's resistance to pressure. This is measured by the force's ability to anticipate complications and threats. This is enhanced by planning on how best to avoid, overcome, or negate them and then properly educating and training the force in these methods.
  7. Mobility: The commander's ability to maneuver their force while outmaneuvering the enemy's forces.
  8. Offensive Action (Disorganisation of Force): The ability to gain and maintain the initiative in combat. Properly executed Offensive Action disrupts the enemy - causing Disorganisation of Force.
  9. Security: The ability to protect the force from threats.

Triads and Trichotomies

Cabalistic influences on his theories can be evidenced by his use of the "Law of Threes" throughout his work.[16] Fuller didn't believe the Principles stood alone as is thought today,[17] but that they complemented and overlapped each other as part of a whole, forming the Law of Economy of Force.[18]

Organization of Force

These Principles were further grouped into the categories of Control (command / co-operation), Pressure (attack / activity) and Resistance (protection / stability). The Principles of Control guides the dual Principles of Pressure and of Resistance, which in turn create the Principles of Control.[16]

  • Principles of Control (1, 4, & 7): Direction, Determination, & Mobility.
  • Principles of Pressure (2, 5, & 8): Concentration, Surprise, & Offensive Action.
  • Principles of Resistance (3, 6, & 9): Distribution, Endurance, & Security.

The Unity of the Principles of War

They were also grouped into Cosmic (Spiritual), Mental (Mind / Thought / Reason), Moral (Soul / Sensations / Emotions), and Physical (Body / Musculature / Action) Spheres, in which two Principles (like the double-edged point of an arrowhead) combine to create or manifest a third, which in turn guides the first and second Principles (like the fletches on an arrow's tail). Each Sphere leads to the creation of the next until it returns to the beginning and repeats the circular cycle with reassessments of the Object and Objective to redefine the uses of Force. The Cosmic Sphere is seen as outside the other three Spheres, like the Heavens are outside the Realm of Man. They influence it indirectly in ways that cannot be controlled by the commander, but they are a factor in the use of Force. Force resides in the center of the pattern, as all of these elements revolve around it.[19]

  • Cosmic Sphere: Goal (Object) & Desire (Objective) = Method (Economy of Force)
    • Goal is the overall purpose or aim of the mission (what Goals must the mission complete or achieve?).
    • Desire concerns the priority of the achievement or acquisition of the Goal (how important and essential is the Goal to the overall mission effort?).
    • Method is how the forces available will carry out the mission (How much of the mission's force will be assigned - or are available - to accomplish the Goal?).
  • Mental Sphere (1, 2, & 3): Reason (Direction) & Imagination (Concentration) = Will (Distribution)
  • Moral Sphere (4, 5, & 6): Fear (Determination) & Morale (Surprise) = Courage (Endurance)
  • Physical Sphere (7, 8, & 9): Attack (Offensive Action) & Protection (Security) = Movement (Mobility)

These Principles of War have been adopted and further refined by the military forces of several nations, most notably within NATO, and continue to be applied widely to modern strategic thinking. Recently they have also been applied to business tactics[20] and hobby wargaming.[21]

Armament and History (1945)

Fuller also developed the idea of the Constant Tactical Factor. This states that every improvement in warfare is checked by a counter-improvement, causing the advantage to shift back and forth between the offensive and the defensive. Fuller's firsthand experience in the First World War saw a shift from the defensive power of the machine gun to the offensive power of the tank.


Fuller was a prolific writer and published 45+ books.[22]

  • The Star in The West: A Critical Essay Upon the Works of Aleister Crowley (London: Walter Scott Publishing Co., 1907) read online
  • Tanks in the Great War: 1914-1918 (New York: E.P. Dutton and Company, 1920) read online
  • The Reformation of War (London: Hutchinson and Company, 1923) read online
  • Yoga: A Study of the Mystical Philosophy of the Brahmins and Buddhists (London: W. Rider, 1925) read online
  • Atlantis, America and the Future. (London: Kegan Paul, 1925) read line
  • The Foundations of the Science of War. (London: Hutchinson and Company, 1926) read online
  • Pegasus (New York: E.P. Dutton and Company, 1926) read online
  • On Future Warfare (London: Sifton, Praed & Company, 1928)
  • The Generalship of Ulysses S. Grant (London: J. Murray, 1929) read online
  • The Dragon's Teeth: A Study of War and Peace (London: Constable and Company, 1932) read online
  • Lectures on Field Service Regulations III (1932) analysis
  • Grant & Lee: A Study in Personality and Generalship (London: Eyre & Spottiswoode, 1933) read online
  • Memoirs of an Unconventional Soldier (London: Nicholson & Watson, 1936) read online
  • The First of the League Wars: A Study of the Abyssinian War, Its Lessons and Omens(London: Eyre and Spottiswoode, 1936) read online
  • Generalship: Its Diseases and Their Cure: A Study of the Personal Factor in Command (Harrisburg, Pennsylvania: Military Service Publishing Company, 1936) read online
  • The Secret Wisdom of the Qabalah: A Study in Jewish Mystical Thought (London: W. Rider & Co., 1937) read online
  • Machine Warfare: An Enquiry into the Influence of Mechanics on the Art of War (London: Hutchinson, 1942)
  • Warfare Today; How Modern Battles are Planned and Fought on Land, at Sea, and in the Air (Joint editors: J.F.C. Fuller, Admiral Sir Reginald Bacon, and Air Marshal Sir Patrick Playfair) (London: Oldham's Press Ltd., 1944) read online
  • Armament and History: The Influence of Armament on History from the Dawn of Classical Warfare to the End of the Second World War (London: Charles Scribner's Sons, 1945) read online
  • The Second World War, 1939-1945: A Strategical and Tactical History (Eyre & Spottiswoode, London, 1948) read online
  • The Decisive Battles of the Western World and Their Influence upon History (3 vols.) (London: Eyre & Spottiswoode, 1954-1956). A 2-volume edition, abridged by John Terraine to omit battles outside the European continent, was published in 1970 by Picador; not to be confused with the original edition of 1939-40, also in two volumes, of which the 3-volume edition is a substantial revision, as described in its preface. The U.S. ed. is A Military History of the Western World (3 vols.) (New York: Funk and Wagnalls, New York, 1954-1957); Republished by Da Capo Press, New York, 1987-8. search online
  • The Generalship of Alexander the Great (London: Eyre & Spottiswoode, 1958). read online
  • The Conduct of War, 1789-1961: A Study of the Impact of the French, Industrial, and Russian Revolutions on War and Its Conduct (Rutgers University Press, 1961) read online
  • Julius Caesar: Man, Soldier and Tyrant (Eyre & Spottiswoode, London, 1965) read online
  • Lua error in package.lua at line 80: module 'strict' not found.


  1. 1.0 1.1 Fuller, Memoirs of an Unconventional Soldier, Ivor Nicholson and Watson Ltd., London, 1936, ch. 1
  2. Brian Holden Reid, "J. F. C. Fuller: Military Thinker", Macmillan, 1987, p. 3.
  3. Trevor N. Dupuy, Curt Johnson, David L. Bongard, Harper Encyclopedia of Military Biography, HarperCollins, 1992, p. 268
  4. 4.0 4.1 4.2 www.britannica.com
  5. Richard Thurlow, Fascism in Britain: A History, 1918-1985, Basil Blackwell, 1987, p. 80
  6. Lua error in package.lua at line 80: module 'strict' not found.
  7. 7.0 7.1 7.2 Lua error in package.lua at line 80: module 'strict' not found. (p. 217)
  8. Lua error in package.lua at line 80: module 'strict' not found.
  9. www.biography.com
  10. Lua error in package.lua at line 80: module 'strict' not found.
  11. Lua error in package.lua at line 80: module 'strict' not found.
  12. Lua error in package.lua at line 80: module 'strict' not found.
  13. Lua error in package.lua at line 80: module 'strict' not found.
  14. The Foundations of the Science of War (1926 ed.); Chapter IX, Section 6
  15. Lua error in package.lua at line 80: module 'strict' not found.
  16. 16.0 16.1 Foundations of the Science of War (1926 ed.); Chapter IX, Section 6
  17. Foundations of the Science of War (1926 ed.); Chapter IX, Section 6; Diagrams 17, 18 & 19
  18. Foundations of the Science of War (1926 ed.); ...be reduced to three groups, namely, principles of control, resistance, and pressure, and finally to one law - the law of economy of force...
  19. Foundations of the Science of War (1926 ed.); Chapter IX, Section 6; Diagram 17.
  20. Lua error in package.lua at line 80: module 'strict' not found.
  21. Lua error in package.lua at line 80: module 'strict' not found.
  22. Lua error in package.lua at line 80: module 'strict' not found.

Further reading

  • Gat, Azar. Fascist and Liberal Visions of War: Fuller, Liddell Hart, Douhet, and Other Modernists (1998)
  • Holden Reid, Brian. J.F.C. Fuller: Military Thinker (1987)
  • Searle, Alaric. "Was there a 'Boney' Fuller after the Second World War? Major-General J. F. C. Fuller as Military Theorist and Commentator, 1945-1966", War in History, 11/3 (2004), pp. 327–357.
  • Trythall, A.J. "Boney" Fuller: The Intellectual General (London, 1977)
  • Urban, Mark. Generals (London, 2005) - the chapter on Fuller is available as a downloadable PDF

External links

For examples of the use of Fuller's campaign theories in the business world see: