11 of 11 people found the following review helpful
Scholarly and detailed, yet easy to read,
This review is from: British Generalship on the Western Front 1914-1918: Defeat into Victory (Military History and Policy) (Paperback)
There has been a huge amount of tosh written about the British generals of the First World War. Other than a ridiculous overemphasis by some on Douglas Haig and every detail of the mans character and behaviour, many authors have chosen to treat the rest of the hundreds of senior officers of the staffs and regiments as a faceless, uniform bunch who did little but send men to the slaughterhouse. This is clear nonsense. As in any walk of life there were men of differing abilities and ambitions; men who did or did not get on with each other; men who were visionary, men who were laggards. The war would not have been won as quickly as it was - or indeed at all - without the generals. No brave Tommy advancing with rifle and pack at Arras would have had the faintest idea of how to beat an entrenched, skilful and well armed enemy.
Simon Robbins' "British Generalship on the Western Front" dissects the beast, diagnoses the problem areas and shows how generals and generalship developed to create by 1918 an efficient, professional and highly advanced system of command. It is a masterly work in terms of citing its sources. Virtually every sentence contains a quote or a reference. But the core element is a statistical study of more than 700 officers: their background, school, class; their army training, regimental associations and career development; their battle performance, and so on. Simon brings alive the colourful mixture from Indian army "dugouts" dragged from years of comfortable retirement into the training of the New Armies right up to the battle experienced young men who were holding Brigade commands when the war was won. While the book is scholarly and detailed, it is remarkably easy to read.
One very serious gripe about this book is that it is fearsomely expensive. The copy I read came from the University of Birmingham main library. I enjoyed it and thought I would see if I could find a copy: wow. £65 and upwards for the hardback on the used market! £20 for a "print on demand paperback"! It's good - but it's not that good. Join your library and get it on interlibrary loan.