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Raising Churchill's Army


Greg

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French,David, Raising Churchill's Army:The British Army and the War against Germany 1919-1945 (Oxford:Oxford University Press,2000)

This is a stimulating read. French takes some revisionist ideas about developments in the British Army during the Great War and looks at the way in which the army implemented the ideas developed during the war, between the wars and into the Second World War.He argues that this process started in 1919, not after the Kirke report.

He argues that the idea of combined arms was adopted immediately after the war but that its implementation was thwarted by a failure to adopt a less autocratic command strucutre and the political failure to provide the necessary resoruces to implement the ideas. This accounts for the poor performance of the British Army in the Second War. He also engages with some of the arguments put forward by German writers and Dupuy amongst others, about British combat effectiveness and challenges the class based arguments about officer performance.

It is a pity that it does not make more direct comparisons with foreign practice. The challenges faced by German armour theorists have been hinted at in various books but the internal struggles between modernisers ( and the tank faction) with more conservative thinkers in Germany and indeed France, would be really useful, even if going beyond the parameters of the title.

Recommended as an interesting argument about the effects of the Great War on military thinking.

Greg

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Thanks, Greg. Talking of autocratic command structure, I was reminded of what Rawlinson is reported as saying during the planning for the Somme offensive - words to the effect that "Any criticism of superiors will rebound upon the heads of the critics". Did he really say that? Phil B

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Dear Phil,

I have read it somewhere too-might be in Prior and Wilsons Command on the Western Front. My memory (now that I am a fluffy liberal) is really getting very poor! There is another new book which I am eagerly awaiting by French and Holden Reid- The British General Staff (London: Frank Cass 2002) which sounds fascinating.

Greg

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This is an excellent book, and a more recent title goes with it well - Terry Copp's Fields of Fire which is a study of the Canadians in Normandy.

One interesting fact I remember from the French book is that live-fire exercises in the British Army finished when Ivor Maxse retired as Chief Training Officer in the 1920s; they didn't resume again until 1939!

Highly recommended.

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Guest woodyudet

This is indeed a very good book. And I don't say that just because French was my tutor for "The British Way in Warfare 1688-1914" and "British Strategic Policy 1914-1918"

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