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STEMMING THE TIDE. OFFICERS AND LEADERSHIP IN THE BRITISH EXPEDITIONARY FORCE 1914

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Helion & Company November 2013 Hardback 234mm x 156mm 384 pages 15 b/w photos, 8pp colour maps

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The British Expeditionary Force of 1914 was described by the official historian as "incomparably the best trained, best organised, and best equipped British Army that ever went forth to war." The BEF proved its fighting qualities in the fierce battles of 1914 and its reputation has endured. However, the same cannot be said for many of its commanders, who have frequently been portrayed as old fashioned, incompetent, and out of touch with events on the battlefield.

Yet the officers who led the BEF to war were every bit as professional and hard-bitten as the soldiers they commanded. These officers had learned their craft in the unforgiving school of colonial warfare and honed their understanding of conflict in the period of reform that reshaped the army between 1902 and 1914. As this book reveals, when faced with the realities of modern combat, the officers of the BEF were prepared for the challenge.

This collection offers a broad picture of command at all levels of the BEF through a series of biographical essays on key officers. Drawing upon much original research, each chapter explores the pre-war background and experience of the officer and assesses his performance in combat in the opening months of the First World War. The book features insightful reappraisals of famous figures including John French and Douglas Haig, fresh studies of staff officers such as William Robertson and Henry Wilson, and a thorough discussion of officers at the sharp end, with chapters covering divisional, brigade, battalion and company commanders.

The essays reveal an officer class that, despite certain weaknesses, provided highly effective leadership during the chaotic fighting of August to November 1914. Without their influence it is unlikely that the BEF would have been able to survive the difficulties of the Great Retreat, much less halt the German invasions of France and Belgium.

This book will be of great interest to anyone who studies the First World War, and of particular value to those who seek a greater understanding of the British Army of the era.

Book contents

List of illustrations

List of maps

Abbreviations

Notes on Contributors

Series Preface

Acknowledgements

Introduction by Spencer Jones

 

GHQ

1          Sir John French and Command of the BEF by Stephen Badsey

2          Major-General Sir Archibald Murray by J.M. Bourne

3          Henry Wilson’s War by Brian Curragh

4          ‘The big brain in the army’: Sir William Robertson as Quartermaster-General by John Spencer

 

Corps Command

5          The Making of a Corps Commander: Lieutenant-General Sir Douglas Haig by Gary Sheffield

6           Lieutenant-General Sir James Grierson by Mark Connelly

7          ‘A Commander of Rare and Unusual Coolness’: General Sir Horace Lockwood Smith-Dorrien by Spencer Jones and Steven J. Corvi

 

Divisional Command

8          The Bull and the Fox Terrier: Edmund Allenby and Command in the BEF in 1914 by Simon Robbins

9          An Inspirational Warrior: Major-General Sir Thompson Capper by Richard Olsen

 

Brigade Command

10        ‘A Tower of Strength’:  Brigadier-General Edward Bulfin by Michael LoCicero 

11        ‘The Demon’:  Brigadier-General Charles FitzClarence V.C. by Spencer Jones 

12        David Henderson and Command of the Royal Flying Corps by James Pugh

 

Command at the Sharp End

13        The Infantry Battalion Commanding Officers of the BEF by Peter Hodgkinson

14        The Company Commander by John Mason Sneddon

15         ‘Amateurs at a professional game’: The Despatch Rider Corps in 1914 by Michael Carragher

 

Appendix: British Expeditionary Force Order of Battle 1914

Index

 

Nominated for the NYMAS Arthur Goodzeit Book Award 2013

Awarded second place for the SAHR Templer Medal 2013

Nominated for the ISG Special Award 2014. The ISG Special Award recognises the development of printed and electronic resources in a specific subject area.

 

“ … this volume is highly recommended on several levels – essential if your interest is the British Army in World War One; very desirable even for those with a more general interest.”  Newsletter of the Society of Friends of the National Army Museum

"Spencer Jones has edited a wonderful series of essays detailing the leadersof 1914 and the decision making process that held the fate of a relatively small British field army that continues to enjoy mythical status today. His contributors have given me as much food for thought as they have factual knowledge." War History Online

 “ … a valuable re-evaluation …” Stand To!

“ … well researched and highly readable portraits of BEF officers in the crucible of the opening months of the Great War. Any serious student of that conflict or of leadership and command in battle generally will enjoy and learn from the essays in Stemming the Tide.” Michigan War Studies Review

"... an outstanding examination of British military leadership at various echelons of command at the beginning of the Great War. This book definitely stands out - due to the consistent high quality of its essays, their depth of research, insightful analyses, and superb production standards - among the avalanche of books published to mark the centenary of the Great War. It definitely deserves a place on every military historian’s bookshelf.” International Bibliography of Military History

“ … an admirable overview of the combat challenges facing the BEF upon the outbreak of the First World War, and provides a welcome voice in the ongoing debate as to the manner in which those trials were overcome.” War in History

“ … Of great value to the reader is the frequent discussion of how post war memoirs shaped opinions about these officers, and the reputations of some of those who died before writing memoirs often suffered as a result. This is a valuable read for anyone interested in the first acts of the Great War, the British Army, and military leadership.” NYMAS Newsletter

 

Additional Information

Author Spencer Jones (ed.)
Publisher Helion & Company
ISBN 9781909384453
Date of Publication November 2013
Edition No
Binding Hardback
Book Size 234mm x 156mm
Number of pages 384 pages
Images 15 b/w photos, 8pp colour maps
Language English text
SKU HEL0402

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