Messenger, Charles.


1st ed., 2005. 574 pp., photo-plates. D.j., 24 x 16cm. FINE. In 1914, the British Army was scarcely more than an imperial police force. Yet by the end of the war, over 8.5 million men had been recruited by Britain and it had become the most effective fighting force on the Western Front. In this exceptional account of the administration of the British Army in the First World War, the author charts how this unprecedented new force was raised, trained and deployed. He looks in detail at the problems of recruitment and training and at the difficulties of integrating regular troops with volunteers and, later, conscripted men. The central question of manpower, both on the home front and in the trenches, above all after the first enthusiastic flood of volunteers had dried up, is examined in illuminating depth. He describes how morale was sustained among men wholly unused to military life but fighting a war in which death was dealt out on an industrial scale. He looks too at the role of women, who for the first time played a significant role in a major conflict. Discipline, courts martial, the treatment of the wounded, the provision of clothing, the huge difficulties of feeding such a vast force, the awarding of medals and other honours, officer selection and the training of the Staff are just some of the themes in this magisterial survey.

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