I have a Masters Degree (Distinction) in British First World War Studies from the University of Birmingham’s Centre of War Studies – with my dissertation focussing on the Queen’s Own Oxfordshire Hussars. I also won the Max Rosen Essay Prize for my essay on the effectiveness of tanks during the Hundred Days campaign.


14 thoughts on “About

  1. Hello, I am currently working on an article (2nd of 3) for Britain at War on models used during WW1, covering relief, clay and terrain models. The third article will be on the excavation of the concrete Messines model on Cannock Chase this summer. I was wondering if it would be possible to use a couple of your photos of the Haig relief maps at Sandhurst? If so, what creditation would you require?

    If you are wondering about the Messines model, check out – http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=uYrGCuTGlz4 or I can send you a Press Release.

    Thank you
    Richard Pursehouse

  2. Hello Brian,
    I am just over half way through my MA at Birmingham in British First World War studies and was part of the audience you spoke to at the start of the course about your dissertation and the course in general. I really enjoyed that talk and it has given me food for thought with regard to my own dissertation, which is likely to be on the 1st/14th County of London Regiment (1st London Scottish) in the early months of the war, going beyond first Ypres and looking at them from the point of view of a lost opportunity, were they an elite unit wasted at Messines when they could have been used to lead the new armies or just more cannon fodder to ‘plug the gap’ in the line.

    So it is your idea about the Oxfordshire Hussars that give me the idea. Is your dissertation published online anywhere so I can read through it for further inspiration?

    I was given ‘Stemming the tide’, as an early Christmas present (all I seem to get these days are books on WW1!) and really enjoyed it, did you ask to do Wilson or was he ‘given to you’ as a fellow Ulsterman? Really good book, opened up a lot of thought provoking items, would things have been different if Grierson hadn’t have died, could Haig have done more to support II Corps during the retreat? Would recommend it to anyone interested in the BEF of 1914.

    Many thanks for your thoughts at the start of the course, they were a great help, and for your part in ‘Stemming the tide’. I shall keep your blog in favourites for future reference! I hope you have a very happy and peaceful Hogmanay.

    Kind regards
    Murdo Durrant

    • Murdo – many thanks for your kind comments! I will email you a copy of the QOOH dissertation – when you’ve read it, if you have any questions, let me know. Gary Sheffield asked me to do Henry Wilson – and I must admit I haven’t asked him why – but the Ulster connection might well explain things. Enjoy Hogmanay – the dissertation will be on you before you know it!

      Best wishes, Brian

      • Dear Brian,
        As you stated above the dissertation is upon me! I am lucky enough to have prof. Peter Simkins as my supervisor, and my outline question is now: ‘Fit for purpose; The Territorial Force and the London Scottish in 1914’.
        I would very much like to read your dissertation as there may well be a cross over in the early parts of it. My e-mail address is murdodurrant@yahoo.co.uk
        Many thanks

  3. Murdo

    Good to hear from you – I will get the dissertation over to you over the weekend if that’s OK?

    Best wishes & I look forward to reading the results of your research!

  4. Hi Brian – My name is Steven Moore and like yourself I am from Belfast though now live in Bangor, County Down. Can’t claim to be a scholar but have always had a great interest in the Great War and have been fortunate to have a book published and another couple on the way. One of those still to appear in print is an attempt to tell something of the Irish experience of the First World War in 100 stories. I came across your site (which I have now bookmarked for future reading) while trying to find an image to illustrate the article on Captain Arthur Edward Bruce O’Neill, the first MP killed during the war, and was wondering if I could have your permission to use your photograph of the tablet at Westminster bearing his name in the book. I would also be keen to read your piece on Henry Wilson.
    Regards, Steven

    • Hi Steven – thanks for the comment. I am guessing your book is “The Irish on the Somme” – which I have a copy of? I will check my photos of the Westminster tablets as I have photographed them a couple of times to see which one is the best quality & then send you the original fullsize file as the ones on the website have been compressed I suspect. I will also dig out a PDF of the Wilson chapter from “Stemming The Tide” & send that. My mother lives in Bangor so we do get over every month or so. Best wishes Brian.

  5. Thanks Brian. My book is, indeed, Irish On The Somme. Hope to have another one out soon called The Chocolate Soldiers, which is the story of the Young Citizen Volunteers and the 14th Royal Irish Rifles, and another later in the year, for which I need the O’Neill Memorial picture, which attempts to tell the Irish experience of the war in 100 stories. Looking forward to reading the Wilson piece – he was a remarkable character.
    Regards, Steven

    • Steven

      Just sent the Wilson chapter, O’Neill photo to follow.

      I had a relative in the YCV but only for 59 days as he contracted TB and was medically discharged. I have his service file if it’s of any use.

      Where does “Chocolate Soldiers” come from? Derogatory comment from a Regular battalion?

      Regards, Brian

  6. Hi Brian – No definitive answer to that with a couple of suggestions doing the rounds. It certainly was derogatory in its intention, though the Inniskillings apparently used it as a term of endearment. George Bernard Shaw had a play, later turned into a comedy, that featured a soldier who preferred to enjoy soft centred chocolates in a lady’s bedroom rather than go to war. It played Belfast a couple of times before the war and the term might have come from there. It was certainly the belief of the Belfast Brigade of the 36th Division that the 14th were getting it a lot softer than them, which added to the resentment already felt among the UVF of Belfast that when the YCV joined it in 1914 it was treated with more respect and generally regarded as better trained. There was also an incident during a training exercise when the men of the 14th apparently showed great reluctance to march back to barracks and as a result a special train was laid on for them – that rattled a lot of feathers and could well have been the start of the ‘Chocolate Soldiers’. It may be too late for your relative’s service file to be used in the book as the publishers are moving apace at present but I would certainly love to see it.



    • Steven – just been looking on Amazon – is “The Chocolate Soldiers” out soon?
      I ended up writing an article on Arthur O’Neill for the Conservative History Journal which seems to have been well received.
      Best wishes

      • Hi Brian – it is with the printer with the intention of producing enough copies to satisfy the pre-orders and mail orders this side of Christmas. Probably not in the shops until next year. Regards, Steven

        Sent from my Windows Phone ________________________________

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