The ‘Inherent Military Probability’ hypothesis Alfred Burne, a military historian and specialist in medieval warfare, formalised the concept of Inherent Military Probability (IMP). He proposed that where there is doubt or uncertainty about some military actions, the probable action taken was the one that a modern, trained military-mind would take. The hypothesis implies that ancient leaders were well-trained, intelligent, and thoughtful warriors. The key criticism of IMP is that modern military thinking and doctrine might not be the same as for medieval generals. But one might reasonably counter this by saying that the military mind, with its focus on avoiding death and defeat, has not fundamentally changed over the centuries. The use of the ground, understanding obstacles and exploiting the weapons and resources available has also not changed. Modern soldiers study past battles because there are lessons to be learnt. Another criticism levelled at IMP is that it cannot be used to find a battlefield.
The hypothesis can only test sites and make suggestions about courses of action that are more or less likely, given the terrain. However, selecting and testing various sites would provide a workable way to check sites and could be employed to guide researchers to investigate possible sites. Fulford has provided a way to blind test the IMP hypothesis. My work with the Territorial Army required me to entertain visiting senior, military officers who often arrived at weekends and it would fall to me to entertain them. A contemplation of York’s many local battlefields certainly provided entertain¬ment.223 Fulford was especially convenient as the Officer’s Mess is located a short walk from Germany Beck and there are a number of pubs conveniently sited for the contemplate of this problem. It gradually became clear that the military minds unanimously favoured Germany Beck as a sensible fit for the limited literature and a defensible ‘choke point’. A modern soldier would not employ a shieldwall but would site their defences along the beck to provide interlocking and overlapping support with their weapons. By contrast, the Fulford Ings, was the popular choice among non-military commentators (and I confess that I used to favour this as a possible place for the battle) was always brusquely dismissed by the modern military mind as being utterly indefensible. In my defence, I should point out that nearly all these visits predated any formal investigation of the battle. I suggest that this was in fact a ‘double blind trial’ of the IMP hypothesis since there was no archaeology available at the time, nor did the military men have any pre-knowledge of the battle. We tested several sites against the descriptions of the battle. Because I was not even aware of the IMP hypothesis myself, this can claim to be a double blind trial. Between 1995 and 2000 the trained military minds all selected Germany Beck. The investigative work which began after 2000 provides physical evidence that the battle took place along the beck. This provides one successful test of Burne’s hypothesis. The following sections extend this hypothesis by examining several aspects of the battle to see if the location proposed is reasonable. As noted earlier, this will not prove that the battle took place in this location but it will show that the location is feasible and matches the available data.