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Raising Churchill's Army: The British Army and the War against Germany 1919-1945: The British Army and the War Against Germany, 1919-1945 [Kindle Edition]

David French
4.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (10 customer reviews)

Print List Price: £43.99
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Book Description

This is the first serious analysis of the combat capability of the British army in the Second World War. It sweeps away the myth that the army suffered from poor morale, and that it only won its battles through the use of 'brute force' and by reverting to the techniques of the First World War. David French analyses the place of the army in British interwar strategy and during the Second World War. He shows that after 1918 the General Staff tried hard to learn the
lessons of the First World War, enthusiastically embracing technology as the best way of minimizing future casualties. In the first half of the Second World War the army did suffer from manifold weaknesses, not just in the form of shortages of equipment, but also in the way in which it applied its
doctrine. Few soldiers were actively eager to close with the enemy, but the morale of the army never collapsed and its combat capability steadily improved from 1942 onwards. Professor French assesses Montgomery's contributions to the war effort and concludes the most important were his willingness to impose a uniform understanding of doctrine on his subordinates, and to use mechanized firepower in ways quite different from Haig in the First World War.

Product Description


With considerable verve French takes up the thankless task of defending the army's performance ... French's analysis of the doctrinal debates of the interwar period is a refreshing and at times startling revision of the standard account. (Canandian Military History )

A work which is both rich in its documentation and provocative in its conclusions ... an important book as well as a rewarding one. (English Historical Review )

Raising Churchill's Army is wide-ranging, thorough, lucid, and compelling. It will deservedly become a central text on the British Army in the Second World War ... deserves to be read by anyone seriously interested in the emerging debates surrounding the nature and performance of the British Army in World War II. (Twentieth Century British History )

It will become required reading for any study of the British experience in the Second World War. (The Journal of Military History )

David French cuts through both the cant of the memoirs and the claims of the revisionists in a study that is scholarly, cogent and profoundly important. (Hew Strachan, Army Historical Research )

Masterful and fascinating book ... not just a military history but a carefully woven account of the political, economic, social, and personal elements that illustrate the way that an army is equipped and led, and how and why it fights. (CHOICE )

A formidable study of the British Army before and during the Second World War. (Dr. Matthews Hughes, University College Northampton, RUSI. )

This book makes a key contribution to the debate about how the British fought the Second World War, and why the Allies took so long to win it ... David French's book makes compelling reading for any serious student of the Second World War. (Max Hastings, Yorkshire Post )

Arresting new study ... a bold book - the boldness of its conception too easily taken for granted - as stimulating and discriminating as anything in the field since the iconoclastic Firepower: British Army Weapons and Theories of War 1904-1945 (1982) by Shelford Bidwell and Dominick Graham ... His work is a comprehensive exercise in ground-clearing, and a searching assessment of each element of fighting power ... It is a noble calling, and it makes a convincing book. (Alex Danchev, Times Literary Supplement )

Dr. Matthews Hughes, University College Northampton, RUSI.

"a formidable study of the British Army before and during the Second World War."

Product details

  • Format: Kindle Edition
  • File Size: 898 KB
  • Print Length: 332 pages
  • Page Numbers Source ISBN: 0199246300
  • Publisher: OUP Oxford (8 Jun. 2000)
  • Sold by: Amazon Media EU S.à r.l.
  • Language: English
  • ASIN: B005H0CC5O
  • Text-to-Speech: Enabled
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  • Word Wise: Not Enabled
  • Average Customer Review: 4.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (10 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: #512,330 Paid in Kindle Store (See Top 100 Paid in Kindle Store)
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews
18 of 19 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Clear sighted account of Britain's army in WW2 15 Feb. 2003
David French presents a very clear and sensible account of why Britain's army developed as it did. He opens with a review of how the army was seen after the war, the boosterism that was replaced by revisionism and discusses especially well the German assessments of British performance (and some were pro, even if the most quoted were con).
He describes how from much the same experience the British and German armies went in different directions. I found especially useful the section on national perceptions. The British who favoured individuality avoided the harsher training and command structures of the Germans, but were consequently left issuing detailed orders while the more rigidly trained Germans could operate more freely because of this training.
French reviews the shortcomings of British tank design and of the opposing German vehicles. His work on artillery is very informative - one gets the impression that the Germans (Achillies-like) felt the artillery (so like Paris) was an ungentlemanly (or just unmanly) way to win wars. French clearly feels that its massed use was a sensible response to the tactical problem. Considering Alan Brooke was a gunner it was surely to be expected.
A judicious history.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
By Big Uig
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
This is an exceptional overview of the British Army's performance in the West during WW2 and why it came about the way it did. It highlights the development of doctrine which built on the lessons of WW1 and reflects on the failures, mainly due to the lack of cultural change, to go as far as the changes in doctrine demanded. It also explains the political context and consequences which throughout caused a significant lack of resource being invested in the Army both in the interwar years, and then subsequently during the war where for understandable reasons the Navy and RAF were seen as more critical. Professor French also shows how the Army developed its tactical and operational techniques, using machines and firepower instead of the declining manpower pool to achieve ultimate victory over the Germans. These techniques included integration of the RAF and airpower into the land battle, sorting out command and control structures, developing artillery capability to new heights, properly grasping the importance of logistics and its inherent limitations, specialised armour, improved staffwork, the use of SOPs and battledrills, and the use of deception and intelligence in ways that the Germans could not comprehend. Where appropriate, relevant comparisons are made to the German experience. The book also provides a good perspective of how Montgomery, the consumate profesional, was, for all his faults, a key architect of the resurgence of the British Army in the West.
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12 of 13 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars The story of the British WWII 'New Model Army'. 28 Oct. 2001
This book details the story of the development of the British Army from the end of WWI through until the close of WWII. It illustrates a failure to match interwar doctrine to training procedures and equipment. It shows the frustrating early failures of the army to try to carry out this doctrine and it's steady realisation that the Germans were better at it. With this realisation it changes the rules that it is prepared to play by and is then almost universally succesful.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
By Carl
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
If anyone wants to understand why the British Army fought the Second World War the way they did, this is the book for you. In fact I would say it is essential reading for anyone interested in the British contribution during the war.

French looks at how the British Army learnt from the lessons of the First World War and applied them in the inter-war years but points out how they did not go far enough and establish common doctrine. He analyses how the various factors of the inter-war years, lack of common doctrine, lack of the needed equipment, economic and political factors played their role in the setbacks the British Army saw during the first half of the war; but also how they played their role in the few successes the army was able to achieve at the same time.

French then examines the second half of the war and when the equipment the army needed finally started to arrive in the numbers required, how manpower shortages effected the operational and tactical ability of the army, and how key personalities, such as Bernard Montgomery, asserted their influence on the army and began to correct the flaws within; leading to a force that was confident it could take on and defeat their opponents, which it did.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Review of 'Raising Churchill's Army' 4 Mar. 2010
By Exno
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
This book should be read by anyone with a serious interest in the military aspects of the history of the Second World War, and the war's subsequent conduct. Professor French provides an objective assessment of the role of the army that emerges from the development of a defence policy in the post-First World War period, the period of appeasement of Germany in the inter-war years and the results of the implementation of that policy in the early days of the war. The assessment concludes with the final years of the war when the army, still laboring under some difficulties , emerges slowly but successfully on the victorious side with its major wartime allies, America and Russia.
The analyses,assessments, and conclusions drawn in this excellent book are the result of research into an ample list of primary sources backed by the reading of a generous list of secondary sources.
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