Alfred Higgins Burne DSO (1886–1959) was a soldier and military historian. He invented the concept of Inherent Military Probability; in battles and campaigns where there is some doubt over what action was taken, Burne believed that the action taken would be one which a trained staff officer of the twentieth century would take.
|Years of service||1906-1945|
|Commands held||121st Officer Cadet Training Unit|
|Awards||Distinguished Service Order|
Alfred Burne was educated at Winchester School and RMA Woolwich, before being commissioned into the Royal Artillery in 1906. He was awarded the DSO during the First World War and, during World War II, was Commandant of the 121st Officer Cadet Training Unit. He retired as a Lieutenant-Colonel.
Inherent Military Probability
Burne introduced the concept of Inherent Military Probability (IMP) to the study of military history. He himself defined it thus :
My method here is to start with what appear to be undisputed facts, then to place myself in the shoes of each commander in turn, and to ask myself in each case what I would have done. This I call working on Inherent Military Probability. I then compare the resulting action with the existing record in order to see whether it discloses any incompatibility with the existing facts. If not, I then go on to the next debatable or obscure point in the battle and repeat the operation
More succinctly, John Keegan defined IMP as
Burne's approach has been criticised on the grounds that his concept of Inherent Military Probability puts modern military thinking and doctrine into the minds of mediaeval monarchs. However, it does treat war leaders as intelligent, thinking creatures, and veteran mediaeval leaders were often likely to come to the same conclusion as British staff officers, albeit by different thought processes.
- Mesopotamia, The Last Phase (1936),
- Lee, Grant and Sherman (1938),
- The Art of War on Land (1944),
- The Noble Duke of York (1949),
- The Battlefields of England (1949),
- More Battlefields of England (1953),
- The Crecy War (1954) and
- The Agincourt War (1956).
- A military history of the First Civil War (1642-1646) (with Peter Young, 1959)
- A.H. Burne, The Battlefields of England ISBN 9781473819023.
- The Times, 6 June 1959; Deaths
- Alfred Burne, ‘Campbell, John Charles (1894–1942)’, rev. K. D. Reynolds, Oxford Dictionary of National Biography, Oxford University Press, 2004
- Keegan, John (1976). The Face of Battle: A Study of Agincourt, Waterloo, and the Somme, p.32. Penguin Classics. ISBN 978-0-14-004897-1.