Alfred Burne

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Alfred Higgins Burne (1886–1959) was a soldier and military historian.[1] 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.

He 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.[1] He retired as a Lieutenant-Colonel.[2]

He was Military Editor of Chambers Encyclopedia from 1938 to 1957 and became an authority on the history of land warfare.[1] He was a contributor to the Oxford Dictionary of National Biography.[3]

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.

Burne lived in Kensington and his funeral was held at St Mary Abbots there.[2]


  • 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)


  1. ^ a b c A.H. Burne, The Battlefields of England
  2. ^ a b The Times, 6 June 1959; Deaths
  3. ^ Alfred Burne, ‘Campbell, John Charles (1894–1942)’, rev. K. D. Reynolds, Oxford Dictionary of National Biography, Oxford University Press, 2004