Does anyone know the source for this photograph of Arthur O’Neill or has access to a better copy than this? This was copied off the excellent “The History of Parliament” blog which noted O’Neill as the first Member of Parliament to lose his life in active service during the Great War. All suggestions gratefully received!
This is the first volume in the Wolverhampton Military Studies Series and is an examination of command at all levels of the BEF in 1914 through a series of biographical essays on its key officers. Having finished my MA in 2011, I was approached and asked to contribute a chapter on Henry Wilson, the Sub-Chief of Staff during the opening months of the war. Wilson is a controversial figure who provokes a wide range of views on his military effectiveness – and in particular, his political “scheming” to achieve his ends. While his role as Sub-Chief did not entirely cover him in glory, he played a vital part in readying Britain for a Continental war through his activities initially as Commandant of the Staff College (1907-1910) and then as Director of Military Operations in the War Office (1910-1914).
I am very pleased with my chapter and to be included in such august company is a real honour. If you would like to read more – the book is out this month and will be officially launched at the University of Wolverhampton on 12th December.
Book description from the Helion & Co website:
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.
List of illustrations
List of maps
Notes on Contributors
Introduction by Spencer Jones
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
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
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
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
Richard Van Emden – “Boy Soldiers of the Great War”
The story of Jack Auguste Pouchot, the fifteen year old who won a Distinguished Conduct Medal for attempting to rescue two wounded men lying in No Man’s Land and who subsequently went on to join the Royal Flying Corps. Jack was killed flying a SE5a near Le Cateau on 5th October 1918 and is buried in Marcoing British Cemetery
Peter Barton – “La Boisselle: Archaeology, History, Technology and Genealogy”
The fantastic work being carried out by the La Boisselle Study Group in a truly multi-disciplinary study of a unique segment of the Great War frontline situated in the village of La Boisselle on the Somme. The surviving brick floors of the original farm buildings are covered only by inches of turf, while 100 feet underneath, the tunnels cut within the chalk still look pristine.
Peter Hart – “1914 – the French at War”
The true cost paid by the French nation in the Great War – in particular the 27,000 killed on 22nd August 1914 in the Battle of the Frontiers – is an area frequently ignored by those who focus solely on British activities on the Western Front.
Simon Justice – “Drawing the Line: British Plans for Defence of the Western Front 1917-18”
That Martin Samuels was mistaken when he accused GHQ of an incomplete application of mis-understood & ineffective German defensive principles in the run-up to the Spring Offensive. Papers within the National Archives demonstrate that “defence in depth”, “blobbing” etc were all present in 1916 planning. The role and achievements of “warrior-gurus” such as Ivor Maxse, Cecil Pereira & Richard Haking is emerging through academic research.
Alan Wakefield – “Carry On Up The Tigris – the experiences of British and Indian troops in Mesopotamia 1914-1918”
That the 27,000 “British” dead from the fighting in Mesopotamia could have been largely avoided if we had simply stopped after securing the oil ports and not decided to take the 400 mile distant prize of Baghdad as well.
This post has been provocatively titled to see if anyone else shares my confusion as to exactly what impression the people behind the “In Flanders Fields” museum in Ypres are trying to put across. While the new format is a distinct step up from the previous message-heavy style – albeit that I still think that exhibit labels might be an idea worth considering – I really do not understand why having “finished” the museum tour you find the following exhibits sidelined in the restaurant area.
In some display cases at the bottom of the stairs are some very impressive and personal memento’s of the senior British commanders of the BEF.
Why are these important exhibits not included in the main exhibition area and consigned to what is effectively a corridor used by people leaving the museum? If anyone can dispel my view that this is more than poor decision making – I would be pleased to hear it.