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From Boer War to World War: Tactical Reform of the British Army, 1902-1914 (Campaigns and Commanders) [Hardcover]

Spencer Jones
5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (3 customer reviews)
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From Boer War to World War: Tactical Reform of the British Army, 1902-1914 (Campaigns and Commanders) + British Generalship during the Great War (Birmingham Studies in First World War History)
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Product details

  • Hardcover: 314 pages
  • Publisher: University of Oklahoma Press (4 Jun 2012)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0806142898
  • ISBN-13: 978-0806142890
  • Product Dimensions: 23.1 x 16.3 x 3 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (3 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 197,519 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

Spencer Jones is Senior Lecturer in Armed Forces and War Studies at the University of Wolverhampton. In addition, he currently serves as the Regimental Historian of the Royal Regiment of Artillery. He holds wide ranging interests in history, with a particular focus on the battle tactics of the Anglo-Boer War and the First World War.

Product Description

From Boer War to World War: Tactical Reform of the British Army, 1902-1914 The British Expeditionary Force at the start of World War I was tiny by the standards of the other belligerent powers. Yet, when deployed to France in 1914, it prevailed against the German army because of its professionalism and tactical skill, strengths developed through hard lessons learned a dozen years earlier. In October 1899, the British went to war against the South African Boer republics o Full description

Customer Reviews

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews
4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Lessons from the South African War 18 Jun 2013
Format:Kindle Edition|Verified Purchase
I think this is an extremely interesting and well argued account of the South African War's influences on developments in the British Army in the years 1902-1914. I was particularly impressed with the part referring to developments in the infantry. The book argues a strong case for a reassessment of the 'contemptible British Army' which went to war in 1914, and the claim that it was probably the best trained of all the armies that went to war in 1914 is strongly argued. The real problem for this army was that it was far too small, and this is a situation which seems to be common in the history of the British Army. I hope we are not making the same mistake now in 2013.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Masterly and so readable 23 Feb 2014
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
The author breaks down this huge subject into bite size and ever so readable chunks. The research is very deep and very well indexed and evidenced. This is a great addition to the bookshelves of anyone who professes to know about the Great War, because Spencer Jones illustrates finely that the Boer War was a training ground for the later larger conflict. Excellent book.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Brilliant 2 Dec 2013
By Ronald
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
An absolute must for any serious students of the pre-war regular British Army. The book is well researched and provides a detailed analysis of the lessons of the Boer War and the subsequent reform of the Army. Highly recommended
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on (beta) 3.9 out of 5 stars  7 reviews
9 of 9 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars How the British Army Learned from Disaster in the Great Boer War 12 April 2013
By A. A. Nofi - Published on
A summary of the review on StrategyPage.Com:

'Spencer Jones looks at how disaster in the field during the Second Anglo-Boer War (1899-1902) transformed the British Army. The British entered the war with great confidence. But opening rounds were disastrous. The Boers, a largely irregular force ignorant of "proper" tactics but armed with modern rifles, using five round clips and smokeless propellant, served in mounted Kommandos, aided by a small "professional" artillery force, armed with modern field guns. In the opening weeks, the British suffered numerous reverses, as they found themselves fighting an invisible enemy, who shot from long range and with great accuracy. Even as the war unfolded, the British Army went back to school. Jones concentrates on the series of reforms initiated during the war and during the years that followed it, from 1902-1914. New weapons and tactics were adopted, mounted riflemen were introduced, and, perhaps most importantly, professionalism in the Officer Corps was encouraged, no longer was it sufficient for an officer merely to be brave, he had to think, and even NCOs and ordinary soldiers were expected to display higher levels of skill and initiative than had previously been demanded. Jones does an excellent job of explaining these developments, which led to the highly effective British Army of 1914. A volume in the University of Oklahoma Press series "Campaigns and Commanders", From Boer War to World War is a an excellent read, and a valuable guide for those seeking further study.'

For the full review, see StrategyPage.Com
5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Panzergrenadier is clearly German for armored idiot 9 Nov 2013
By Mr. T. J. Denman - Published on
Excellent book.

The reviewer who gives this one star calls himself Panzergrenadier. A strange choice, but very revealing. I think what we have here is a closet fascist and pro-German racist. He certainly hates Brits. His comments on the British contribution to both world wars are ignorant prejudice and not proper history. No one with a proper historical understanding would take them seriously. He is big on emotion but short on facts.

Is this reviewer actually Terence Zuber?
2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars The making of the Old Contemptibles 24 Jun 2014
By Graves - Published on
In 1914, as the world descended into the madness of the first world war, and Germany and France were fielding armies with 70-80 divisions each Britain’s small army of 6 infantry divisions was referred to by the Kaisers as a ‘Contemptible little army.’ Yet after hard fights at towns with names like Mons, Le Cateau and Ypres, this small army of professional soldiers had stemmed the tide of the advancing Huns and taken the sobriquet “Old Contemptibles” as a badge of pride. More than one German officer reported up the line that his force had been stopped by massed machine guns. The idea of aimed rifle fire being so fast and accurate was something he couldn’t imagine from his men. But the British army hadn’t always been this way and The army of 1914 would scarcely have recognized the army of 1897. The difference was the Boer war.

Of all the European powers only Britain fought a colonial war against an enemy armed with modern weapons and the hard lessons learned at the hands of the Boers led to massive reforms of the army in the decade before the start of World War One. In his book Jones goes through these changes in detail, giving a chapter to each arm- over all doctrine, infantry, cavalry, artillery. How they performed in the Boer war, the lessons they learned and the resistance to change from the establishment. For example it became clear that NCO’s had to have training to take over when the officers were hit. And although an NCO’s training school was given top marks, it was seen as dangerously breaking social mores to have men of the NCO class doing the work of gentlemen-the school was disbanded.

Jones goes into great details with sources not only from the official books but diary entries from officers and men who were there and saw the need for change and how it came about. If I have one complaint with the book it is that Jones all too frequently uses phrases like “I will be telling you” or “I will explain in this section…” When I was in 6th grade I was warned off this habit by teachers who would say “Don’t tell me what you’re going to do, just do it.” This regular, literally grade school level, mistake broke up the flow of an otherwise very good book.
2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Fills in the gap 27 Jan 2014
By R. S. Rehmel - Published on
Format:Kindle Edition|Verified Purchase
This time frame was important for the British army. The Boer war opened the eyes of the British army that it needed to change from tactics that worked in colonial battles and needed to adapt to modern warfare. By WW1 some the lessons had been forgotten.
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Lends wieght to Edmond's words 16 Jun 2014
By Alexander Falbo - Published on
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
Sir James Edmonds (Official Historian for the British Army's WWI volumes), famously remarked that the British Expeditionary Force of 1914 was the best army Britain ever put into the field. Was he right? Are the tales of the Regular's legendary musketry exaggerated or complimentary to more significant changes made during the Edwardian military reforms?

Spencer Jones' book bridges a significant gap in both World War I and Anglo-Boer War history and military history at large. Concise and focused, the author concentrates on the Boer War's implications on British tactical, technical, and doctrinal development. Whilst the Germans and French used their 1870-71 lessons and the world witnessed the Russo Japanese 1904 and Balkan Wars 1912-13, Britain was able to grapple with a European foe in both conventional and unconventional warfare. Jones highlights the importance of both stages on debates within the British army high command.

Doctrine, ethos, infantry, cavalry, artillery, and historiography are provided in succinct chapters which one can pause to digest. In accessible language and with plenty of archival research, the book is useful to amateur and expert alike. Expect excellent images of Boer artillery, British snap shooting, and the development of skirmish formations.

Jones also presents a balanced case and does not shy from the deficiencies in inter-service learning for combined arms evolution, the problem of dissemination and the army's pre-war financial struggles to complete everything it sought to do. Machine guns, musketry, siege warfare, dismounted fighting, operational code, and a plethora of other topics span the scope of the book to give the reader understanding as to why Edmonds' arrived at his conclusion of the 1914 Regulars.

I loved the book as it fits within a scantly covered area of British military history. I wanted to know more than the myths about the mad minute and how tactical doctrine was propagated throughout the army before and during the creation of the Chief of Staff. Stephen Badsey took on cavalry reform and Ian Beckett examined generalship and ethos in the late Victorian era, but this is the first synthesis that takes a look at why the BEF of 1914 was able to survive its clashes and act as a functioning part of the French Army's northern left without centralisation from GHQ during very critical moments.
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