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

Spencer Jones
5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (5 customer reviews)
Price: £13.64 & FREE Delivery in the UK. Details
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Book Description

20 Sep 2013 Campaigns and Commanders (Book 35)
Volume 35 in the Campaigns and Commanders Series. How fighting the Boer War changed the British Army 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 of Transvaal and Orange Free State, expecting little resistance. A string of early defeats in the Boer War shook the military's confidence. Historian Spencer Jones focuses on this bitter combat experience in From Boer War to World War, showing how it crucially shaped the British Army's tactical development in the years that followed. Before the British Army faced the Boer republics, an aura of complacency had settled over the military. The Victorian era had been marked by years of easy defeats of crudely armed foes. The Boer War, however, brought the British face to face with what would become modern warfare. The sweeping, open terrain and advent of smokeless powder meant soldiers were picked off before they knew where shots had been fired from. The infantry's standard close-order formations spelled disaster against the well-armed, entrenched Boers. Although the British Army ultimately adapted its strategy and overcame the Boers in 1902, the duration and cost of the war led to public outcry and introspection within the military. Jones draws on previously underutilized sources as he explores the key tactical lessons derived from the war, such as maximizing firepower and using natural cover, and he shows how these new ideas were incorporated in training and used to effect a thorough overhaul of the British Army. The first book to address specific connections between the Boer War and the opening months of World War I, Jones's fresh interpretation adds to the historiography of both wars by emphasizing the continuity between them. Spencer Jones teaches at the Centre for First World War Studies at the University of Birmingham, England.

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From Boer War to World War: Tactical Reform of the British Army, 1902-1914 (Campaigns and Commanders) + Stemming the Tide. Officers and Leadership in the British Expeditionary Force 1914 (Wolverhampton Military) + Challenge of Battle: The Real Story of the British Army in 1914 (General Military)
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Product details

  • Paperback: 312 pages
  • Publisher: University of Oklahoma Press; Reprint edition (20 Sep 2013)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0806144157
  • ISBN-13: 978-0806144153
  • Product Dimensions: 23 x 15 x 2 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (5 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 314,666 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.


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Most Helpful Customer Reviews
6 of 6 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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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
The British generals in the First World War were often objects of satire, 'Lions led by donkeys' but this book shows that the British Army was the best prepared of the European powers to fight a modern war, and apart from the Russians, the only one with experience of modern warfare. Unlike the various native tribes the Boers were well-equipped with modern weapons, artillery, quickfire guns, rifles, and smokeless powder. These modern weapons they could buy from Germany. They were expert too at digging trenches, and concealing them so the British forces approached within lethal range.

In time the British generals and officers devised tactics to deal with the Boers. Some of the things learned were not obvious at first, like the importance of dismounting from a horse on the march, or when stopped. This meant that the horses did not get sore backs, and were fresh at the end of a long day..

Between 1902 and 1914 there were endless discussions about what should be the proper tactics, and these were gradually incorporated into training. The army was always the poor relation of the navy and always got the worst recruits. These had to be retrained in accurate individual marksmanship to equal the standard of the Boers as engagements took place at much longer distances. They had to be trained to fight in extended order, so that men were not bunched together. The cavalry had to learn to fight dismounted and not rely on the cavalry charge with sword in hand. Khaki became the common uniform. The artillery found that high angle howitzers were better than field guns.
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4 of 4 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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4 of 4 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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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Five Stars 18 Aug 2014
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
Fascinatining. Well written and very informative. Definitely one for your bookshelf.
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