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on 9 July 2006
I like books of two types. Firstly, those that take a subject apart and push it back together again, adding to what you know, and secondly those that you can dip into, and learn a little that may be you didn't know before. This book is of the latter type. Covering many different aspects of the war, the book is well written and ideal for that longish train journey, or sit in the garden. For the casual reader, there is much of interest and yet for the 'in depth' reader there'll be much new or unmet stuff too.
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VINE VOICEon 12 August 2005
Wow. Before I say anything else about this book, go away and buy it. Charles Messenger, already well known as a respected and highly readable military historian, has written a magnum opus here and I cannot recommend it highly enough to anyone interested in the facts of the development of the British Army during the Great War.
Do not expect tales of campaigns here nor much on battle tactics. This is a serious examination of the changes in structure and methods that took the army from being a relatively small, professional body whose technology was largely that of the late 19th century to a vast citizen army that had learned to fight an all-arms war using a new array of fighting technologies in just four years. The depth of research and sweep of coverage is simply amazing, and I was not at all surprised to discover that it took Charles five years to compile it. In truth, it is really a lifetime's work.
Barely a nook or cranny of the army escapes Charles's attention, from the formation of obscure labour units to the rules of recruitment, the adoption of new weaponry, morale, discipline and training. Inevitably, being full of facts and detail, "Call to arms" is not perhaps a fast paced, can't put down, bedtime reading book. What it is, is an indispensible reference which deserves a place on the shelf of any military historian.
I am especially proud to see that Charles lists my own website in his bibliography. Respectable internet sources are becoming just as important as the traditionally published work and Charles is among the first to acknowledge their value. He has also made reference to the Great War Forum and our network of "pals" who are so free with their own expertise.
Interested in the British Army of 1914-1918? What are you waiting for?
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on 1 February 2007
At the outbreak of the Great War, Britain's army was little more than an imperial police force and although it was professional in nature, it was not prepared for conflict of this magnitude. Numbering less than 250,000 men it was severely stretched, due to the requirement to serve both at home as well as in the far flung corners of the empire. Our army was also considerably smaller in size than those of our European neighbours and more often than not even at home, was considered to be the poor relation of the Royal Navy, who at that time were projected to be the true defenders of the realm.

There was now an immediate need to recruit, train and equip a new and more efficient army and as the war continued and the years passed, the number of men in uniform grew to an amazing 8.5million. This in itself brought its own problems in respect of feeding, clothing, accommodation, equipment, discipline, transportation and administration, not to mention health and fitness, together with morale issues.

The highly respected author of this most informative book has over 30 splendid titles to his credit and in this important volume, has provided the reader with a wealth of accurate and highly detailed information covering all of the above matters together with a wide variety of other fascinating subjects from the role of women in uniform through to officer selection, new weapons and arms of service, conscription, territorials and even the distribution of honours and awards.

The reader will also find many superb black and white photographs together with a full breakdown of infantry units and commands around the globe. There is a superb bibliography included and a very useful list of military acronyms too, making this splendid book not only interesting, but invaluable to military historians, laymen and family history researchers alike.

My honest opinion, is that this book is a must have. I feel sure it will soon become a standard reference work covering one of the bloodiest wars this world has known.
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on 18 March 2009
If you want a history of how the war went, this is not the book for you but if you want to know how a small colonial army grew to a beast some 4 million strong, READ THIS!
We often read just about the big campaigns of the war, which skip over the details. Yet Charles Messenger covers all the facts of running an army that will amuse you as well as astound you. He covers how the Army was organised, recruited and trained. But also how just the labour organisation grew to over 100,000 strong, how the postal service ran, how the army disciplined its people, the life of a staff officer and loads more. He will challenge any pre-conceptions you have in the process, so approach this with an open mind.
If you have an interest in the British Army of 1914-1918, you will hopefully find this book as interesting as I did. It is accessible to the historian as well as the passing interest. I would, however, consider it essential reading for any serious amateur or professional military historian of the period.
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on 17 December 2013
This book is without doubt a superb piece of research, but I must admit it bored me rigid. I was looking for a book that explained what it was like for the WWI Tommy; what his routine was like in training, in the line and at rest, how the army fed and clothed him, what the equipment was like from a users point of view etc., etc. Whilst there were certainly some parts of the book that gave some insight into these subjects, I found at least 75% of it too biased towards the administrative organisation of the army to be of interest to me. Much of it is taken up with changes in command structure, the re-naming of various organisations through their history, the movement from one location to another and the like. This will no doubt be of interest to others and I don't wish to detract from Mr. Messenger's efforts, which were obviously monumental and professionally executed. It is a book that needed to be written, but not for me I'm afraid.
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on 28 June 2005
There has been a need for many years for information on the administration and organisation of the British Army in the Great War - to present what is a mass of information in a single book easily obtained by all.
Administration of an Army involves the "personnel side" - recruitment, pay and allowances, promotion, movement of troops to their units in the line, policies on wounded and their travails through the system either to return to their unit or to another or discharge, and of course the dead. The book also touches the "politics" in the Army hierarchy, the training of personnel, the organisation of the home and field armies, equipment, etc though there are many works which cover these aspects in greater detail.
There apparently another book in the offing from this author on the demobilisation - how they returned to civilian life at the end of the war - which he was unable for reasons of space to devote time to in this book.
From the outset, it must be said that it does not cover the operations of the British Army except, in as much as it effects the administration of this vast war machine.
From a force designed and equipped by the politicians for colonial policing (though far sighted members of the British Army prepared for a continental war), in four years arose one that could defeat THE continental power of the time - Imperial Germany - and to sustain forces in all theatres of war..
This is the story of how it was done.
It takes the reader through the pre-war planning, the organisation of the Regular Army and Territorial Force and their movement to the front, the embodiment of the "New Armies", their training and equipment. It gives a good view of the administrative arrangements that applied (personnel replacement, return of recovered casualties, military law), to the training and equipping of the troops and to a certain extent logistics.
It goes into a wealth of detail for the serious student of the war but is extremely well written so is available to the casual reader as well. It would also appeal to a market that is yet really untouched are those seeking to understand their ancestors' experiences in the war and how it shaped them.
It did answer for me the major question of early war - why did Kitchener insist on the "New Armies" rather than use the Territorial Force as the expansion base for the intake of millions of volunteers and eventual conscripts. I leave the why to you to purchase the book and find out!
An extremely well written examination of the administration of the British Army in World War One.
Highly recommended and Charles is to be congratulated for what must have been an immense research effort. It will be used as a standard reference for many years to come.
(Now for my pet wish - that works of a similar nature and detail would be written in English for the combatants of the this war)
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on 17 November 2015
An excellent book & a 1st class read.
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