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Archive for September, 2014

Beyond the Golden Gate: The Byzantine Army at War

Relatively little has been discussed in relation to the Byzantine army. It is only recently that finds and historical academia have begun to put together a more coherent image of the Byzantine Army by analysing its tactics and formations.  This article will effectively outline the way the Byzantine army operated during its existence in brief and concise way.

Before I begin, it is important to analyse the context of the Byzantine Empire itself: indeed an ‘army’ is representative of the society it derives from and an army can provide context to social, economic and cultural structures. The word ‘Byzantine’ itself is inherently problematic. It was coined by the Historian Hieronymus Wolf in 1557, a century after Constantinople was conquered by the Ottomans, which referenced the Ancient Greek town Byzantion that existed before and during the Roman Empire. The Byzantines simply referred to themselves as ‘Romaion’ (Romans) and this is important in understand how the the inhabitants of the Empire perceived themselves. The Byzantines didn’t simply view themselves as successors to the Roman Empire, they saw themselves as the Roman Empire manifested in the present and the direct manifestation of God’s Kingdom on earth. Its introverted culture constantly analysed its own identity and this constant re-defining of identity was based on the celestial (its theological relation to God on earth), cultural and its past glories. From this, it justified itself as the synergy between Greco-Roman culture. With an abundance of economic wealth, one of the oldest surviving capital cities and a large standardised army, the Byzantine Empire can be regarded as the superpower of the medieval age.

It is also important to analyse the constant biases and prejudices that are attached to Byzantine sources. Byzantine sources followed the tradition of Greco-Roman Sources that held cultural and generalising connotations and this was not something exclusive to medieval times. There had always been an issue of biasness and source reliability in the Greco-Roman world. The ‘father of History’ Herodotus constantly makes generalising comments on ‘barbarian’ cultures (those who were considered non-Greek speaking/cultured) and places the value of his own culture as paramount. Indeed many Byzantine sources share similar features. For example, many Byzantine military manuals were prescriptive rather than descriptive.

This cultural biasness is also embodied by etymological generalisations. For example, in reference to the Vikings, there are constant problems made by Byzantine terminology. The word ‘Viking’ itself is a feminine Norse term which means ‘expedition’. This group was defined as Rus/ Rhos by the Byzantines, meaning ‘related to rowing’ but the terms was widely stretched to include a vast array of cultures which in appearance looked similar but in detail differed substantially. For example, this can be observed from linguistic, physical and cultural differences in Slavic, Rus Slavs and Scandinavians who formed the traders, explorers and warriors that came to Constantinople. Even the Thematic Emperor’s guards, the Varangians (meaning ‘sworn men’) consisted of a diverse group of Norsemen, Rus and Anglo-Saxons (which were grouped and separated from other Western Units in the Byzantine Empire). In this sense, these cultural definitions should be seen as generalisations, as the term ‘barbarian’ was in the Ancient Greco-Roman World, and should be taken for granted.

To gain an understanding of the Byzantine army and its constant changes in the Medieval Age, the Army will be split into Early, Thematic and Byzantine Armies. However there are similar overlaping themes. As with most medieval armies, the majority of Byzantine soldiers were seasonal fighters (with the exception of a few professional institutions such as the Athanatoi created by the Emperor John I Tzimiskes). However, unlike the armies of Western Europe, the Byzantine army was not dependant on feudal obligations to raise large amounts of manpower but was reliant on bureaucratic system and a stable system of pay by coin and land (which was known as the theme system). This, coinciding with adapting different methods of fighting, meant it could easily field a flexible and mobile army consisting of specialised elements.

Much of what we know of Byzantine warfare comes from the Byzantine military manuals- they provide us with a wealth of information on equipment, doctrines, tactics and deployment. However there is an inherit danger of readings these manuals as descriptive. Most of them, especially the Strategikon, were probably more prescriptive than descriptive in nature.

 

  1. The Early Byzantine Army

Cavalry

At the time of Justinian, the ideal soldier was the double-armed cavalryman, equipped with iron armour, a spear or a long cavalry lance (kontos), a buckler strapped to the shoulder and a powerful composite bow. In this way, the cavalry was considered at the forefront of medieval warfare (a method adapted from the Parthians and later the Sassanid Persians). As the Kontos was 12 feet long, it is likely that the role of elite cavalrymen in the army had the diverse skill to use both weapons. This differed from Germanic units which had little experience in horse archery and preferred the kontos or a shorter spear.

From the last decades of the 6th Century and onwards, the heavy cavalry units, both Cursores (‘runners’ or ‘attackers’) and Defensores (‘defenders) were combined formations, consisting of both lancers and bowmen (as opposed to the previous period where each cavalryman ideally carried both lance and bow). Their main defensive weapon was a complete set of armour, covering their entire body from head to toe (or angle as mentioned in the Strategikon). The most common type of armour was scale and chain mail, but lamellar armour was increasingly used. To complete the armour, a sturd, tasselled helmet and a shield was prescribed. The men in the front ranks used kontarion as their main weapon whilst the rear ranks used composite bows (or javelins if they lacked proper training). The front cavalrymen were expected to ride horses with frontal armour, made of either iron or felt.

Infantry

Although the Strategikon describes infantrymen equipped like Late Roman heavy infantry, it is highly unlikely that most Early Byzantine heavy infantry wore metal armour. The chapters on heavy infantry in the Strategikon were copied from an earlier Late Roman military manuscripts and there is little reason to believe that the best heavy infantryman had more than a shield, cloth armour and perhaps a helmet for protection. His main offensive weapon was a spear, around six feet in length that could be thrust or cast. In the Strategikon, infantrymen were instructed to throw their spears when facing infantry and thrust their spears when facing cavalry. Behind the first ranks of spearmen, archers or javalinmen were drawn up to provide missile support.

 

Appearance

Uniforms were probably only used by the elite of the infantry. Most infantry units were therefore distinguishable by their shield patterns and standards. Cavalry units and the best infantry were issued uniforms and equipment from the Imperial Factories- elite cavalry units are described as wearing white uniforms on parade. Colours for other units included different shades of red, greyish white, light green and light blue.

Late Roman Infantry carried draco standards, while the cavalry units had either draco or vexillatio standards. By the time of Maurice, the swallow-tailed bandae flags replaced the draco and vexillatio. Like other pieces of equipment this was probably adopted from the Avars. The bandum was a simple square or a rectangular flag with two, three or four streamers, each measuring several meters in length. Units in the same division (mere) were to use the same or similar banner, and the cavalry unit’s pennons, the flammulae, were used to distinguish one unit from another (although they were probably stowed away before battle).

The general’s banner stood out in both shape and design and would have been of a different pattern than the other banners in the army.

 

Deployment

In the earliest of Byzantine Armies, the standard battle deployment was to form one or several battle lines- the troops in each line supporting the line in front of them. As in Late Roman armies, the infantry (or dismounted cavalrymen) occupied the centre while the cavalry were placed on the flanks. From the second part of the 6th Century onwards, the Byzantines could field all-cavalry campaign armies with any infantry acting only as a rear guard. In such armies, the centre of the second battleline would be made up of the elite and best equipped heavy cavalry, such as the Optimates. A battle deployment several lines deep may have been used in historical battles, but in battle accounts, the armies seem to have been drawn up in a single line with only one or two units held back as an emergency reserve.

Tactics

As Justinian’s campaign armies were almost always outnumbered, they often chose to let the enemy come to them. The infantry or dismounted cavalry centre was expected to hold the enemy charge, giving the cavalry on the flanks time to decimate the enemy ranks with bowfire before moving against their flanks. This was the tactic used by Belisarus at Dara aginst the Persians, by Narses at Taginae against the Goths and at Casilinus against the Franks

The Strategikon introduced cavalry maneuvers that called for heavy cavalry to be able to fight as both attacker and defender in close order formation. Whole units or even army wings would take on the role of attackers while their comrades acted as defenders. The attackers would break out of each unit from their positions on both wings, and then advance towards the enemy, either in close or open order formation. The defenders in the centre of the unit remained in place in close order formation, providing the attackers with a safe rallying point. If the enemy was defeated, the defenders would advance with the attackers. Should both the attackers and defenders be swept away in an enemy charge, the troops in the second line would act as a rallying point and turn back the enemy. In the prescribed deployment of a cavalry army, the best and most reliable troops, such as the Optimates and the general’s Bucellarii, were stationed at the centre of the second line, while regular regiments, such as the Vexillationes, Foederati and Illyrikiniani regiments were drawn up in the first line.

 

  1. The Thematic Byzantine Army

During the reign of Leo and that of his successor in the Syrian Dynasty, vast territories were lost By the Islamic and Bulgar conquests. A new organisation of provinces, probably found by Heraclius in 660 AD- 662 AD was employed. Anatolia, and later the Balkans and Greece, were divided into themes. The themata (roughly meaning provinces) was almost an entitiy in itself, with an army of soliders who received land grants as payment for their military service. During the reign of Constantine V (741- 775 AD), the Byzantine army was further strengthened by the introduction of the tagmata– an imperial force of professional soldiers based in and around Constantinople.

The themata became the backbone of the Byzantine Military. In Each theme, a strategos held command of the theme’s troops which consisted of both cavalry and infantry units. Through the hard and attritional struggles with Bulgars and Islam, the Byzantines devised a new way of dealing with intruding enemies: shadowing warfare- essentially guerrilla tactics. Avoiding most pitched battles, the themata soldiers would retreat to strongholds, then make hit-and-run attacks on an advancing army’s flanks and baggade train. The most famous such border warriors were the Akritai cavalrymen, described in the heroic poem Digenes Akrites.

In early themes, the strategos had the command in each theme. The theme was divided into turmai of up to 5,000 men, commanded by a Turmaches. Each turma was further sub-divided into druggoi of up to 1,000 men, commanded by Comites (counts).

From the mid-10th Century, theme armies became gradually smaller, and as a consequence, units decreased in size. In such smaller themes, a Doux, not a strategos held command. Druggoi, commanded by Drungarios, were now usually up to 400 men in size. Several in so called taxiarchia or chiliarchia of around 1000 men, which were commanded by a Taxiarches or Chiliarches. Two such units (2000 men) were collectively called turma, commanded by Turmaches. In the mid- 10 Century, Emperor Nikephorus II phokas added a fiscal dimension to the theme system- basically meaning that individuals with enough money could avoid military duty. As a result, each theme now had a small professional force in addition to its regular semi-professional units. Such professional provincial forces were called tagmata– however, these should not be confused with the ‘real’ Imperial Tagmata.

The Imperial Tagmata armies were based around Constantinople. In case of larger enemy incursions, one or more tagmata armies, led by a Domestikos or the Emperor himself, could rapidly support a themata army. This was founded by Constantine V to limit the power of themata Armies. For example, troops from the large Obsikion theme had rebelled five times since the creation of the theme. The tagmata he created consisted of six tagma (units), each with 2000-4000 men.

 

Thematic Byzantine Army at War

In a number of military treatises written in the 9th and 10th centuries, various emperors and generals emphasised the importance of thorough training and the issuing of good equipment. The best deal with the different enemies the Byzantines faced, specialised troop types and formations appeared. The theme system was generally effective and ensured troop morale was high. As many generals moved on to become emperors, the army had high priority and it showed on the battlefield.

The 10th Century marked the pinnacle of Byzantine military sophistication. The expected standard of drill and discipline in the 10th Century manuals were high; the importance of well-trained heavy infantry was repeatedly stressed. Unlike the 6th Century, heavy infantry were now seen as an indispensible part of any campaign army.

The Paecepta Militaria, attributed to Emperor Nikephorus II Phokas, described the role of both cavalry and infantry and detail. As in previous manuals, the main shock arm of the army was the heavy cavalry, but blocks of heavy infantry augmented by slingers, javalinen and archers were deemed essential as they provided the cavalry with an effective rearguard and a safe rallying point. As in the Strategikon, it also described the enemies of the Byzantines, their tactics and how to counter them.

In broad terms, the development during the Thematic period moved towards increasingly specialised and better equipped troops. Armies became more professional as the size of themata armies decreased.

Cavalry

Heavy Cavalry-Throughout this period, heavy cavalry formed the backbone of the Byzantine army. Themata Kavallaroi were generally less well-equipped and trained than their tagmata counterparts, but in some themes, heavy cavalry participated in campaigns frequently, and had years of experience in cavalry warfare. Tagamta cavalry wore chain or lamellar armour, wooden or iron greaves, mail hoods and iron helmets. Themata heavy cavalry probably had more modest protection. The main close combat weapon was the kontarion (which unlike it’s early counterpart measured 10-12 feet)- other weapons included long spathion straight sword and the sabre-like paramerion sword. From the rear ranks, archers equipped with comparatively short composite bows supported by their front rank comrades. Like their predecessors, Byzantine Kavallarioi were trained to fight as Cursores and Defensores.

Light Cavalry- Two types of light cavalry are described: hyperkerastai (acting as outflankers on the right flank and as guards on the left flank) and the prokousatores (scouts or forerunners). The prokousatores forerunners had few archers than regular kavallarioi.

The Kataphraktoi were a unique unit of extra-heavily armoured cavalry. They were drawn up in a new blunt-nosed wedge formation, especially designed to smash the enemy infantry line. The front and sides of the wedge formation was made up of cavalry clad in armour from head to toe. The majority of these cavalrymen were armed with siderorabdion– heavy all-rion maces, almost a metre in length, with a sharp three, four, or six cornered heads. The formation had a ‘soft’ centre, consisting of horse archers.

Infantry

Heavy infantry- The basic equipment of a themata Kontaratoi (‘spear bearers’) was his shield and his spear. Byzantine infantrymen were noted for their spears, 3 meters (9 feet) or more in length. Shields came in both regular and large sizes. In the early Thematic period, oval shields were used- from the mid-10th Century and onwards, almond-shaped, and later kite shields, became increasingly common. Body armour was fairly modest in nature, and consisted of a coat of coarse silk padded with cotton, ‘as thick as can be stitched’. Though fairly effective against missiles, it must have offered less protection against lance heads and concussive weapons. To complete their protective equipment, kontaratoi wore cloth wrappings around a felt hat, meaning they effectively wore turbans. Veteran kontaratoi probably had access to such prized pieces of equipment such as iron helmets and even lamellar armour or chain mail armour.

Light infantry- By the mid- 10 Century, each taxiarchia of heavy infantry spearmen (approx. 1000 men) had two light infantry attachments: 200 javalinmen, archers and slingers, and 100 menulatoi. Archers and slingers wore no armour, but were protected only a small circular shield strapped to their left arm. Javalinmen had a slightly higher degree of protection- they wore padded armour and carried medium sized shields.

The Menulatoi First described in the Tactica treatise by Emperor Leo VI, the Menulatoi were especially courageous spearmen equipped like heavy infantrymen though with smaller, round shields. Instead of the standard spear, the Menulatoi carried shorter, sturdier spears made from a single piece of cornel wood. Each Kontaratoi spearman unit had an attachment of Menulatoi who were used specifically as a countermeasure against enemy heavy cavalry charges. In case of a cavalry charge, the Menulatoi rushed forwards from their position behind the kontararoi. They then formed a line in front of the kontaratoi and lowered their spears to only a foot or two above ground, thus striking the unprotected bellies of the charging horses.

Appearance

From the early Thematic period onwards, the appearance of the Byzantine army changed markedly. In each theme, the imperial work shops were responsible for manufacturing arms and equipment for the troops, and as a result, a typical Byzantine force looked much more uniform than in the 6th and 7th Centuries. Shields, banners and uniforms of each unit were if not identical, then at least similar.

Theory and practice

Much of what the treatises describes (or prescribes) is echoed in accounts of battles in the Thematic period. Especially in the reigns of Nikephorus II Phokas and his successor John Tzimisces, heavy Byzantine cavalry supported by infantry were fielded in battles in both the East and West. From Arab historians, we have accounts of Byzantine extra-heavily armoured cavalry, ‘who advanced on horse which seemed to have no legs’, completely covered in iron.

By the time Basil II led his campaigns against the Bulgars, elite heavy infantry, most notably the Varagian guards, had become the army’s most important troops- the rugged Balkan terrain simply was not suitable for heavy cavalry.

 

 

  1. The Late Byzantines

The battle of Manzikert in 1071, loses by Alexios Komnenos and the distintergration of the theme system due to large landowners becoming increasingly powerful, meant the Byzantine army began to slowly disintegrate. It could no longer provide the army with a body of trained and equipped semi-professional soldiers. During the ten years following Mazikert, a civil war rendered the Byzantine army useless and the victorious Turks quickly seized most of Asia Minor where they found their own empire with the impudent name of Rum (Rome). As most of the eastern themes had been lost, the Theme system was now finally shattered. Although the old Tagmata were reinforced with newly found regiments, the major part of the army was now drawn from allies and mercenaries.

The military successes of the 10th and early 11th centuries were followed by a period of complacency and eratic government. The army and navy were left to decline, and were subject to drastic reductions. From the middle of the 11th century, the Theme system was largely replaced by wholly professional regiments, and the number of mercenary units grew. As mentioned, both the standing and imperial forces were now called tagmata. Initially there were differences in quality and equipment between the two types of tagmata, but by the end of the Komnenian period they had largely become indistinguishable. Formally, the thematic names and titles of regiments and commanders remained unchanged until Manzikert, but both the size of units and their efficiency shrank.

In the late 11th Century, various emperors tried to re-establish a reasonably dependable military, Emperor Romanos IV Diogenes being the most successful. But his efforts failed to produce any long term results, and after the defeat at Manzikert and the civil wars that followed, the army become almost non-existent. When Alexios Komnenos assembled forces in Constantinople in 1081, a mere few hundred men was all that could be mustered. Needless to say, Alexios Komnenos had to start from scratch. He and his successors did manage to recreate some native Byzantine regiments (such as the Athnatoi), but as a whole, Komnenian Byzantine Emperors had to rely mostly on mercenary troops; European knights, Turkish horse archers, Slavic and Balkan warriors and horsemen all served under the Imperial banner. Most guard units were also made up of foreigners: Turcopoloi (descendants of settled Turks), Skythikoi (horse archers from various nomadic tribes), Latinikoi (Western knights) and Varangoi (increasingly consisting of mercenaries of from all over Europe).

Some of Alexios’s successors tried to revitalise the Byzantine army by reintroducing militia systems (such as the Pronoia system introduced b John II Komnenos) but neither proved very successful.

To some extent the Komnenian Byzantine armies used the tactics and deployment described in the great treatises of the 11th Century. Although the overall quality and skill had declined, the Byzantine army still managed to restore some of its previous glory. But as a large part of the army was made up of mercenaries, the hired unit’s individual type of tactics dictated the way they were used. The fighting style was no longer distinctly Byzantine but more a reflection of whatever mercenaries were employed at that particular time.

While European military technological advances had resulted in improved armour, better crossbows and bows, the Byzantines stubbornly held on to their tactics and armoury.

 

Bibliography

  1. Early Byzantine Armies
  • Macdowall, Simon: “Late Roman Infantryman/Cavalryman”. Osprey
  • Dennis, George T.: “Maurice’s Strategikon. The Strategikon, attributed to Emperor Maurice”.
  • Regan, Geoffrey: First Crusader- Byzantium’s Holy Wars. On Emperor Heraclius’ campaigns against the Persians”.
  • Procopius: “The Persian Wars”, “The Vandalic Wars”, “the Gothic Wars”.
  • Agathias: “The Histories”
  • Theophylacy Simocatta: “The History: The history of Byzantium in the late 6th Century”.

     2. Thematic Byzantine Armies

  • Blondal, Sigfus: “The Varangians of Byzantium”.
  • McGeer, Eric: Sowing the Dragon’s Teeth”.
  • Dennis, George: “Three Byzantine Military Treatises”.
  • Theophanes Continuatus Leo the Deacon and Johannes Skylitzrs (These are in German and are hard to come by!)

3. Late Byzantine Armies

  • Heath, Ian: “Armies and Enemies of the Crusade”.
  • Heath, Ian: “Byzantine Armies 1181-1461 AD”. Osprey
  • Nicolle, David: Hungary and the Fall of Eastern Europe. Osprey.

 

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The last stand

The sound of the flickering light in the room festered until the lamp stabalized. Banging sounded from a nearby echo in a corridor somewhere. It was followed by a louder more imposing smash. It didn’t stir any of the soldiers. The remnants of a once strong regiment was now down to 20 men and women. They were all battered and exhausted; their olive green fatigues hung on their dreary and worn bodies. The men were vaguely recognizable to the glorious soldiers they had once been, their ammo belts hung off their rags like a burdening child. The women, once beautiful, were only recognizable by the obvious cheek bones pocking off their faces in front of their worn-out hair. All of them had tied their hair in a bun which only succeeded in bringing out their skeletal features further.

An orderly, only recgnizable by rank now, walked up to the tall figure in the peak cap.
“Commissar, they’re in the corridors now heading for our location. I still haven’t received communications from the surface. They’ll be no reinforcemen-“.
“I see”, he said cutting him off. The game was up and it was obvious what the outcome would be. The commissar personally wondered why the adjacent had whispered to him. The confined space of the vault meant every trooper could hear them. The game was up.
“Commissar? Is this it?”, a woman murmurred from a shadow in the corner of the room.
“I believe it is”.
“Sir, I’m afriad”, a man’s voice wimpered. ‘I’m afriad’, like that statement had any validity to it. They had faced monsterous foes, fought neck and teeth for every inch of territory but still it wasn’t enough to be courageous. There wasn’t any point in saying otherwise, there wasn’t much time left.
“I know soldier, I’m afraid to”, the adjundant tried to interrupt but he cut him off swiftly.
“No, we have to be honest. There’s no point in putting on the facade for any longer. Men and women, yes I am afriad. We are all afriad. We have seen and experienced things the likes of which we will never see again. I may be a commissar but I am still human and like all of you I too am afraid. Tell me soldiers, do you know what makes a good commissar?”.
All the troopers stared blanked at him, his imposing voice cutting the increasing thumps surronding the room that were getting louder.
“Any commissar can persuade himself that he doesn’t fear what the enemies of man have to offer but a true commissar accepts he is afriad and doesn’t give his fear the satisfaction to exist by doing so. The moment we do so if the moment we become brave”.
A small murmur of agreement sounded around the room.
“Soldiers, I have served you long enough to know that we have lost all the possessions our regiment held sacred; our glorious dead, precious manpower and now our base. But if you think about it, we don’t have those anymore and we can’t carry them with us when we die. They were just a figment of our imaginations anyway”. A ripple of shouting bellowed in agreement.
“So you need to ask yourself? Will you succumb to fear, an illusion? or will you join me in showing that we can end what we started with honour and dignity?”. A roar erupted through the vault. It was followed by a smack against the vault wall as the ground shook. All the soldiers instinctively aimed their rifles at the door.

“I do not know if God is with us but all I know is all of us are humanity and through death, it will endure as it always has and always wil-

The speech was cut off by the vault door exploding.

Surrender in the British Expeditionary Force during August 1914

In the hot summer of August 1914, the British Army was in retreat. Against a German army group twice its size, it desperately struggled to fall back. Since the end of the First World War, it has been popularized that the British Army managed to escape through superior quality of its men and training. This romanticising of the British Army, which is still embedded in popular memory, has left the assumption that the British army was an extremely disciplined and well-skilled army from its experiences in colonial wars. However, recent evidence of the BEF’s conduct has brought to light fundamental flaws in this interpretation. One aspect in particular makes this evident which is that as the Historian Alexander Watson has pointed out, the surrender to death ratio of the BEF during 1914 was I : 0.65, with 19,915 British soldiers being taken prisoner. This was larger than 1915 (I : 5.64), 1916 (I : 6.92) and 1917 (I : 5.67).[1] It is only in 1918 when large scale surrenders occur again (I : 0.75). The question the thesis will attempt to answer is why in 1914 was there such a loss of men to surrender in the opening stages of the First World War?

The interpretation that the British Army was a fantastic and glorious fighting force has long been ingrained in British historiography. This has been understandable due to the early nature of sources that fed into this assumption. Historians, such as John Terraine,[2] and John Gooch[3], who spent their careers studying the BEF in detail have been held in high regard for their use of regimental diaries and firsthand accounts from senior personnel (such as Sir John French and Kitchener). Other historians such as Edward Spiers,[4] Richard Homes,[5] and Adrian Gilbert,[6] have adapted a similar framework through the 20th century and added to it, which has validated the generalised claim more that the BEF was heroic during the retreat from Mons. This is understandable because the sources Terraine and Gooch have sited have been from institutional sources (Regimental and High military ranking accounts) which display the underlying theme of the ‘British Bulldog’ tradition of bravery under overwhelming odds. Even to this day, this perception remains prevalent; popular Historians such as Allan Mallinson have justified that the British Army, though inadequately prepared, escaped through bravery and discipline alone.[7] However this viewpoint has been questioned in recent years. Compared to other European Armies the nature of the primary, regimental and scholarly sources of the British Army have excluded the subject of why large surrenders took place in 1914 and why it became a problem. Current historians such as Alex Watson and Alan Kramer have begun to show that surrender was an issue predominantly in the British Army. They have posed the question: If the British Army has been proclaimed as inexhaustibly great by British Historians, why was the loss of men so prevalent in 1914?

Using a mix of primary sources (in the form of personal and regimental diaries and institutional investigations into surrenders); secondary sources (in the form of regimental diaries) and scholarly sources as a point of reference, it is assumed that a balanced perspective can be provided. However, the sources used in this thesis will carry the same dilemmas that previous historians have experienced and are not without their problems. The most predominant is the sources hold a range of underlying biases towards the events of 1914. For regimental diaries positions of responsibility, as to what happened, have always been ambiguous because the causes of surrender have always been attributed to fatalistic conditions. For example, the History of the Irish Regiment went as far as to deduce that surrender had been caused by a lack of trenching equipment.[8] As a result, responsibility is drawn away from the participants to denote that these situations were beyond the army’s control. This also becomes apparent in high ranking-officials who constantly emphasise acts of valour, which hold little significance to the outcome of battle, over so called ‘cowardly’ ones. In this way, it is inevitable the surrenders would be stigmatised. The point is furthered by investigations into captures which implement a moral bias against the captured. For example, Colonel Elkington of the 1st Warwickshires and Colonel Mainwaring of the Royal Dublin Fusiliers, who attempted to surrender themselves and their men at St Quentin were court-marshalled and discharged for cowardice. Even on a basic level, there are inherent biases within the diaries of soldiers and officers who experienced the retreat personally. For the soldiers, the sources are often non-descriptive and many of the writings simply state the events unfolding and what action was taken in reaction; overall there is a lack of emotive writing. Officers on the other hand are better able to articulate their feelings on paper in order for the reader to empathize with them. The discrepancy between both illustrates an educational bias between the soldiers and their officers, which means whereas the soldiers would have had difficulty in expressing themselves; officers hold a better vantage point to express their opinions and their perspective is more likely to be taken for granted. Nevertheless, the limitations of the sources are acknowledged and it essential to take these biases for granted when analysing the evidence because of the abundance of primary and secondary sources. The sheer volume of referencing will succeed in providing a dynamic and diverse range of perspectives that will enable better empathy with the events that unfolded during August 1914 and this will give the reader a greater feel for the people experiencing it.

From the previous points, it is clear where the dissertation is leading. Unlike the static nature of trench warfare, the early months of the First World War were illustrated by dynamic and mobile warfare. At any point during the fight, soldiers would have been attacking, counter-attacking or retreating and this tested the soldier’s physical and psychological fitness. As a result, it is more difficult for commanders and officers to keep track of units during battle and surrender is more likely, as is the possibility of soldiers willing to give themselves up to the enemy. However, questions need to be asked about the nature of these surrenders. Was it simply that the conditions and demands of modern warfare were harder for British Military Personnel? Or does it illustrate fundamental flaws within the British Army that led to surrender? The thesis will point to the later. But then this displays a further problem; if the British army did have fundamental flaws how did these take form? And how did they relate to surrender? The thesis will therefore be valuable as it will uncover un-studied ground, which will provide a base work for future historians to further analyse this relatively esoteric phenomenon.

The thesis will be split into two parts. Part one, The BEF on the Battlefield, will put the BEF’s surrenders into context and analyse the demands of modern warfare that the British Army faced, which will illustrate that battlefield conditions made surrender more likely. Part two, The British Army in 1914, will analyse the BEF’s structures and its fundamental flaws within the officer corps, which laid the foundations of ill-trained staff. It will point the dissertation to conclude that though the conditions were important in contributing to surrender, it was the officers on the ground who ultimately gave themselves up as prisoners of war.

 

  1. The BEF on the Battlefield

1.1 Context

To gain an informed perspective, it is vital that context is provided for the events which occurred during August 1914. The British Army declared war against the German Empire on the 4th August and began to land troops in the French ports of Boulogne, Le Havre and Rouen by the 9th. Troops were continuously unloaded until the 20th and then orders were given for the BEF to march to Mons. The journey was 138 miles over a two day period. On the 23rd, The BEF engaged the Imperial German Army for the first time and by the afternoon it was given the order, By Sir John French and Sir Smith Dorrien, to fall back. Suddenly the British Army was in a full scale retreat. For three days, while fighting rear-guard attacks, it travelled 42 miles where it was finally reinforced by reserves. On the 26th Smith Dorrien organized a joint counter-attack with the French Army under General Joffre at Le-Cateau, after which the BEF retreated a further 91 miles to the Marne River where a successful counter-attack was launched which finally halted the German Army. It set an allied victory and forced the Germans to abandon their plan to capture Paris. Instead they retreated northwest, setting the stage for four years of static trench warfare. Altogether the series of events including the march to Mons stretched a distance of 271 miles over ten days, something which displays the long and exhausting journey for British military personnel that required both physical fitness and constant endurance.

With context given, it is easy to empathise with how the strenuous conditions of modern combat (exhaustin long marches and retreat) led to surrender. However two revealing cases have shown that conditions, though important, were not as significant as the military personnel on the ground. Both of these are revealing in the fact they create a direct correlation between officers and capture; these are the near surrender 1/ Royal Warwickshire’s and the 2/ Royal Dublin Fusiliers at St Quentin and the surrender of the 500 1/ Gordon Highlanders, 2/ Royal Scots and 2/ Royal Irish at Bertry. At St Quentin, both regiments found themselves exhausted and unable to go on under Colonel Elkington of the Warwickshires and Mainwaring of the Royal Dublin Fusiliers. Having retreated with a sense of confusion as to where the rest of the BEF were located, they planned to organize some evacuation of exhausted soldiers after finding that the town train station (that was promised by Sir John French to evacuate soldiers) was abandoned. After consulting with both non-commissioned officers and soldiers, both were persuaded that resistance could still be mounted. The prospect of surrender was dashed after the Mayor of St Quentin proclaimed that both Colonels needed to surrender in order to save the town. This, coinciding with the idea the men needed to be saved from pointless killing, compelled both Colonels to unconditionally surrender. The surrender was prevented at the last moment by Major Tom Bridges of the 4th Royal Irish Dragoon Guard who instructed both Colonels to re-organise the men and inspired the men by playing a tin whistle and drums from a local toy shop. This miraculously inspired the men to march out of St Quentin. In the aftermath both Elkington and Mainwaring were court-martialled.[9]

The Surrender at Bertry also displays similar themes. On the road to Bertry, Colonel Gordon and Colonel Neish of the Gordon Highlanders realised the three regiments were left behind and marched back to Bertry. During the night, on the 26th August at midnight, the column ran into French civilians who told the officers the main body of the BEF had come the same way earlier in the day. Shortly, these were discovered to be German soldiers disguised as French civilians and after a scuffle, German ambushers opened a volley of fire into the column. Some resistance was mounted but this was stopped by Neish who ordered the column to surrender in order to prevent loss of life, after which both accompanied by several officers attempted to flee on foot. During this time, Neish compelled the other officers to go back for reasons of duty and honour and this succeeded. However by the time they returned the column had unconditionally surrendered. After the war, an inquiry was launched into how the retreat occurred which concluded that cowardice of both Gordon and Neish was the main factor.[10]

Both cases display similar themes. Firstly, there is a turning point in both cases where officers advocate the least line of resistance. Secondly, this compelled the organized formations with recognizable chains of command to surrender because these formations saw no reason to defy their superiors. Thirdly, it displays situations of isolation where the British formations are separated from the main body of the BEF. Smaller situations such as these permeate throughout the retreat from Mons. For example on the 27th August at the village of Etreux, 3 companies of the 2nd Royal Munster Fusiliers, part of 1st Division’s rearguard, did not receive the order to retreat and were cut off. The death of the Munster’s commander Major Paul Charrir during a counter-attack destroyed morale and lack of relief, coinciding with isolation, meant the companies needed to go through a German corp in order to get back to their parent division. Around 9pm 4 surviving officers agreed that duty and honour had been fulfilled and two hundred and fifty men of the companies surrendered.[11] It displays the same underlying factors which contribute the surrender in the BEF as well as the fashion in which units gave themselves up.

 

1.2 Battlefield Conditions

The demands of a modern war meant the BEF needed to rapidly adapt to new battlefield conditions that it was not prepared for. The case for this is varied and play a large and integral part in contributing to large loses of men as prisoners. Mass exhaustion, fatigue, escape from a highly determined enemy and a seemingly endless culmination of problems contributed greatly to the context in which surrender took place.

The key element when considering the retreat from Mons is fear of the German Army during the retreat and this is best represented in the of scale, which brings into context how outnumbered the British Army was compared to its German counterpart. In 1914, the British Army number 118,000 and comparatively this was minute in the face of the European Armies. The Imperial German Army on the other hand fielded a standing army of 1,318,000.[12] Between both, the BEF was hopelessly outnumbered in the face of German offensives. During the Battle of Mons, the British Army was not at full capacity and numbered an estimated 80,000 men 300 guns. It faced the German First Army under General Von Kluck, an army that numbered 160,000 men and 600 guns and gave the German army a 2:1 advantage in manpower and weapons.[13] Thus, it is easy to empathise with the sense of inadequacy that the British Army felt against the relentless, and seemingly limitless, attacks the German Army was able to mount. It contributed to the constant sense of hopelessness that permeated throughout the British Army. According to Niall Fergusson, an army only needs to perceive that defeat is imminent in order to surrender, rather than actually be inflicted physical damage.[14] Thus it is understandable that the perception of an aggressive German Army catching up and destroying the British Army caused panic amongst the soldiers and officers; for them fear and anxiety of being captured or killed, by a foe which could not be located, stretched them to breaking point. For example in St Quentin, Captain N.P. Clarke expressed anxiety and fear about the fact they would eventually have to fight the Germans at any moment who had: ‘unknown strength in unknown places at any time’.[15] This context of uncertainty created ideas of hopelessness and was reflected by the officers and the men who followed them. John F. Lucy described how officers encouraged their soldiers to move forwards desperately, saying capture would result in death or 4 to 5 years or torture in a German fortress. [16] Colonel Elkington at St Quentin was only to keen to unconditionally surrender for the reason of sparing innocent lives in the wake of inevitable German destruction. [17] This sense of uncertainty of what was to come was further exacerbated by battlefield conditions such as night fighting, where sight is scarce. For example the Surrender at Bertry was stimulated by an ambush during the night, which caused Colonel Neish to surrender within a small period of time:

 

Heard Lt. Col Neish say “oh this is aweful”… He then said “I have surrendered; Col. Gordon is gone and says the officers are to save themselves but I say that the officers are to stay with the battalion. Is that you Fraser? Come here” I went up to him and stood there and after a few minutes he sent me to tell the enemy that we had surrendered.[18]

 

The mixture of uncertainty, an overwhelming enemy and the perception that defeat was imminent was a dominant factor in surrender for many of the officers and the men who followed their orders and therefore was an overbearing concern for isolated British officers and their units.

Modern battlefield conditions require precise communication between units. Though the BEF was superbly disciplined in relaying information, the means to communicate between command on strategic and tactical levels were inadequate. In this way, organizational difficulties were intrinsically linked to communication. Messages were hand written or orally passed down. These were inadequate when dealing with modern battlefield conditions such as fast-moving units and deafening noises of gunfire. Such cases meant it was impossible for units to keep coherency and mis-communication had a detrimental effect as various units who were left behind. For example, Captain G.A. Eliot of 2nd Royal Irish Rifles illustrated the terrible intelligence on the ground, being informed: ‘30,000 French Cavalry were coming to reinforce us from Arras… having received no instruction that the rest of our brigade had retired’.[19] Such false information had the effect of blurring the lines between fabricated and factual information of what was occurring around units, coinciding with paranoia of German aggression that was heard from French soldiers and civilians. For example Major C L Brereton, having spoken to an American journalist was made paranoid by the fact the people around him had suspected the man of being a German spy.[20] Mis-communication went so far as to effect individuals as well as units. For Captain Owens, after halting for two hours, he received orders to rendezvous with his battalion but had found they were nowhere in sight and none of the soldiers at the ordered location knew anything.[21] Similar accounts like these, of messages of units that were not in their designated locations or individuals who found themselves stranded and unable to return to their units, were commonplace throughout the BEF and many of them became confused during the fighting as to where they needed to go.

If lack of communication illustrated anything it was that the sense of isolation was an underlying factor which motivated capture for officers. Like communication problems, isolation created confusion among the men and their officers; reinforced the fear and anxiety of being captured as well as ignorance pushed military personnel to breaking point. If situations where units are reinforced is analysed, cases of surrender are avoided due to units being connected back to the main body of the British Army. In the situation of St Quentin, Major Tom Bridges gave an ultimatum to rally the men, ‘giving them half an hour’s grace…but letting them know that I would leave no British soldier alive in St. Quentin’,[22] and the use of the tin whistle and drums had an obvious effect on morale: ‘They sat up and began to laugh and even cheer. I…made them a short exhortation and told them I was going to take them back to their regiments. They began to stand up and fall in’.[23] This is also observed in minute cases. During the battle of Mons, a platoon was spotted retiring without orders. The Battalion CO was furious and threatened to have the sergeant shot. When being ordered back, the men under him ‘did not seem to mind coming back in the very least. The CO asked no questions then, but the sergeant was left missing after the action and so nothing more was said about it’.[24] Like Bertry, Captain R Whitbread’s unit had been ambushed at night but was saved due to reinforcements.[25] Thus, the sense of isolation for the soldiers permeated feelings of helplessness in the wake of German aggression. For many, that sense of helplessness contributed to officers giving their units up in order to save their units integrity.

In order for an army to complete military operations, it needs to be able to transport men in order to attack and react to dynamic conditions on the battlefield. Without the use of transports an army simply marches. Though motorized transport had been used to transport soldiers to the British coast, much of the transport for supplies was still horse drawn and for the soldier marching was the standard method of travelling. In terms of marching, a drastic transition to long distances can result in physical exhaustion if soldiers are not physically trained to do so; it also further contributes to deteriorating morale because it provides an endless collective doubt whether the unit will reach their destination. Inadequate physical fitness posed a huge burden which was due to the condition of the soldiers themselves. Reservists alone accounted for 61.8% of all personnel on mobilisation due to the fact battalions were linked with their over-sea battalions.[26] This meant a reliance on personnel who had not seen active service for years and only received 6 days worth of training to become physically fit again. Within this context, the consequences were diminishing morale and precarious expectations as to where the soldiers were going to end up. For example, Samuel Knight of the Welsh Regiment records:

 

We are off again: marching, marching, marching. Nobody seems to know our destination… we halt to go to billets; a meal and prospects of a rest. Will they be realised? Again the order “fall in” is given. Wearily we move off…….Is it possible for us to march another 30 miles?…… Few words are spoken: legs move mechanically: dust and perspiration begrime our haggard and bearded faces.[27]

 

Another private, Walter Bentham described a march of 38 miles with no rest.[28] Such long distances seemed to disintegrate any hopes of survival on the battlefield and, more importantly, it would contribute to the perception that British soldiers were unable to continue marching. For example St Quentin, which had been a staging area for stragglers and the wounded, had turned into a safe-haven for exhausted soldiers. For the officers overseeing them, it seemed as though it was pointless for the men to continue because it meant their men would be sacrificed needlessly (with the added concern of civilian casualties). When Elkington ordered the unconditional surrender, he remarked:

 

It was Thursday afternoon; I had not slept since Monday morning; I had seen villages burning and others shelled….The consequences was that when I came to sign the paper I felt my duty was to make our purpose quite clear… as I wrote the words I paused; but the state of my brain was such that I felt if I argued as to the conditions it might leave an opening for the Germans to shell the town and kill the civilian population…Prostrated with Mental and physical exhaustion, I wrote these words.[29]

 

For the soldiers, the constant physical exertion deteriorated the will to go on and the officers witnessing this confirmed this. The difference was that whereas the British soldiers failed to analyse this failure within a wider military context, the officers provided a framework (on a tactical level) in which the surrenders could be understood: for them, wasting valuable men who were exhausted physically in battle was the final straw and was the determining factor for many of the officers who let their units be captured.

Physical fatigue is also a factor that contributes to mass exhaustion. Put simply, physical exhaustion, coinciding with sleep deprivation, leads to a decrease in physical performance and a complete breakdown for those who are not physically capable. The underlying consequences for the soldiers were sleep deprivation and in many cases, soldiers lost consciousness while marching. For example, Lucy described the effects of extreme fatigue on his comrades: ‘Men slept while they marched, and they dreamed while they walked….Commonplace sensible remarks turned to inane jibberings. The brains of the soldiers became clouded…Our curse was loss of sleep’.[30] Even for non-reservists such as Lieutenant Colonel J V Ramsden, marching whilst having only 45 minutes sleep in 36 hours was too much.[31] For those not marching, the sudden relief of having temporary rest had a detrimental effect because it gave them the opportunity to stop permanently and due to this, it is understandable that units were left behind in an attempt to escape from the enemy. Indeed fatigue formed the majority of cases where troops found themselves suddenly behind enemy lines. For example, at Estree fifty men of the Royal Welch Fusiliers were left behind due to sleep and only managed to scatter away in scarce time.[32] Lieutenant Loyd of the Scots guard reported that two Officers of the Irish Guard, ‘were left behind and awoke to find themselves surrounded by Germans holding the town. They crept out of their house and along garden walls, across some meadows’.[33] For many men, the prospect that they could rendezvous again with the main body of the BEF was futile. For example Gordon, though adamant later in expressing his contempt for surrender, expressed his doubts to Neish about escaping with the 500 men after waking up to find the main division had left his battalion and himself.[34] Thus fatigue became an underlying reason as to why officers considered the least line of resistance for their men after not having the physical determination to continue.

Even with personnel that are not physically fit, exhaustion and fatigue are preventable if armies are well supplied. If not, soldiers and officers are unable to obtain the energy to go further. In the context of 1914, distribution of food was a major concern and continually posed a problem; it also commented on inadequate levels of organisation in the BEF. For example, on average the British soldier carried two days worth of rations and “Iron rations” which consisted of an emergency supply of bully beef, jam and biscuits; a staple diet which had been relied on in colonial wars. However the demanding burden of long distance walking resulted in many of these supplies being finished during the march. Private H.D. Bryan of the Scots Guards expressed frustration after his rations had been used up during the march to Mons, ‘we were told that dinner would be up in 2 hrs time… & great was our disappointment to find that instead of a good dinner waiting for us there was only hot water with which to make tea…the Interpreters are our great friends and also prove invaluable foragers’. [35] The adequate means of keeping up supplies resulted in two means of acquiring food. The first was the food that was piled on the roadside in desperation, by Royal Engineers, which worked to an extent because soldiers were able to pick up any food that was needed and to a degree this had a psychological effect. According to Loyd, ‘An A.S.C. (Army Service Corps) Depot of dumped food for the 1st Div. Proved a great benefit and were filled surreptitiously our haversacks from the supplies piled by the roadside. We needed food’.[36] The Second alternative was scavenging from the local French population. Though soldiers managed to obtain the necessary supplies to continue on, this negatively affected the troops psychologically by firstly creating the obligation they could sanction the taking of local supplies and secondly, in many cases alcohol was distributed which severely destroyed any will to continue. A good example is Dunn’s testimony of an officer who forcefully requisitioned a shop’s food, ‘During the short halt I was sitting in a doorstep when the door opened and a large jug of beer was passed out…they must have thought we were winning’.[37] The long period of food deprivation and the sudden over-consumption of food and alcohol led to soldiers permanently stopping, as was the case with German Soldiers during the Ludendorff offensive in 1918. As a result, discipline and unit coherency deteriorated rapidly. Upon entering St Quentin, Captain Arthur Osburn, the medical officer of the 4th Dragoon Guards commented:

The whole square was thronged with British infantrymen standing in groups or wandering about in an aimless fashion… Some few, obviously intoxicated, wandered about firing in the air at real or imaginary German aeroplanes. The great majority were not without their arms but had apparently either lost or thrown away their belts, water bottles and other equipment.[38]

Such chaos, coinciding with a lack of energy from mass exhaustion and fatigue, for the officers meant units became more susceptible to capture because deprivation diminished willpower and for the officers witnessing their unit’s deprivations it reinforced the sense of hopelessness on the ground.

The effectiveness of an army is reflected in the way it is utilized and directed on the ground, both from a strategic and tactical level. It illustrates the pragmatic and initiative of ‘command and control’ which directs the flow of battle. For the BEF, this two distinct command styles succeeded in having detrimental effects on performance and morale. British military thinking highlighted two contradictory military philosophies: ‘restrictive control’ (to follow an officer’s order unconditionally) and ‘umpiring’ (when a commander abdicates his responsibilities by letting his subordinates use their initiative). The polarized opposite means of ordering soldiers on the battlefield often meant officers stubbornly held on to one method or ambiguously switched between both. For example, Wollocombe recorded how constant switches between orders during enemy shelling at Audencourt resulted in casualties because of the fashions in which the orders were distributed.[39] In many ways the indecisive switching between both command styles represented officers as being a beacon of moral authority rather than practical force; this coincided with the fact subordinates were nervous of using their initiative because it was culturally assumed that higher ranks denoted more knowledge than a junior rank and were de facto superior.[40] For example, before the surrender at Bertry, disputes broke out between Neish and Gordon about seniority and whether there could be a retreat without written orders; Gordon arguing that he was entitled to full authority being the regimental officer.[41] It illustrated the un-prepared nature of the officer corp in coping with the dynamic conditions of the Western Front that stemmed from lack of practical training; in practice a commander was a subordinate for discipline rather than a director of soldiers.[42] For example, Colonel Stevens and Major Jones of the 37th (Howitzer battery), surrendered after having no orders to retire, coinciding with the sudden arrival of retreating horse teams; all of the soldiers he commanded immediately did so afterwards.[43] Thus, the inability to command on a tactical level by officers resulted in indecision and a better likelihood of being captured. However it is important to emphasize that whereas battlefield conditions made surrender more probable, responsibility still falls on the officers who made the decision to do so.

 

 

 

  1. The British Army in 1914

The previous section has brought to light the conditions that led to elements of the British Army giving themselves up to capture. Though it is valid to claim that the rigours of modern battlefield conditions contributed to this occurring, it is also a reflection of an army’s combat effectiveness. An army can have well-trained soldiers with experience but if not directed properly in battle, this can have a detrimental effect on its performance. With this premise in mind, it is understandable that surrenders originated from fundamental flaws in the British Army that took shape through the officer corp. Differences in performance, between officers and soldiers, can be deduced from German field intelligence reports in 1914 which usually spoke with admiration on the conduct of British soldiers, as well as their resentment at being taken prisoner, their unwillingness to co-operate and their mental resilience.[44] For example, Brigadier- General Gleichen of the Cheshire’s (who had been captured on the 24th August), recorded: ‘The Germans were astonished at their rifle fire, and owned to very heavy loses. They asked whether we trained our men to fire at the enemy’s balls, as most of their men were hit thereabouts’.[45] This was in stark contrast to reports of the Territorial Force, ‘Kitchener’s Battalions’ or British conscripts who were seen as deprived of masculininity.[46] Therefore, the factors contributing to surrender lie with the inefficient command system that was separated between lower and senior officers.

 

2.1 Lower Officers: Command on a tactical level

The BEF in 1914 had been quoted to be ‘incomparably the best trained, best organized, and best equipped British Army that ever went forth to war’,[47] and it is understandable how the statement is accurate. In terms of training and discipline, the British army was ahead of its European counterparts. This is because the system of training was made to be rigorous and disciplined. From the moment the British soldier woke up, his day was set by a rigid framework that the regimental system provided and training was strictly conformed to timetables. For example from 6am to 12pm, British Soldiers abided by a routine that included physical training, long marches, drilling and target practice.[48] Emphasis on discipline is supported by the fact between 1902-1913 the rate of soldiers court-martialled dropped to only 30 per 1000 each year, compared to 77 per 1000 between 1868 and 1893.[49] Training also reflected previous lessons learned on the battlefield. Though the last major war Britain fought was the Boer War from 1899-1902, experience gave it the benefit of how to effectively utilise tactics on the battlefield. The Boer war ended the tactic of mass volley fire and marching in close ranks. After the Haldane reforms of 1905, training drastically changed to emphasise marksmanship and use of cover and space. Soldiers were often encouraged to utilise this to its full potential by meriting higher wages to soldiers who had better marksmanship skills.[50] Even for reservists who were mobilised in 1914, their regiment was not just a military organization, it was a self-contained society. It formed a daily hierarchal life where the individual was never to forget for a moment they were not part of their regiment.[51] Therefore the emphasis on training and discipline denoted that British soldiers were trained to be combat effective on the battlefield.

For officers, inefficiencies in combat were intrinsically linked to training. Like British soldiers, officers went through similar training and discipline that was physically and mentally demanding. For example, officers were governed by same standing orders and took extraordinary amounts of preparation. This is emphasised by the idea of ‘lead by example’ that many of the officers embodied; it was believed not doing so would have a detrimental effect on the soldier’s morale.[52] However, despite this the British officer was hopelessly inexperienced. For example, annual military manoeuvres were very limited. An officer spent a total of six weeks of which four days were actually spend on the field, meaning that in active service sixteen days were spent on testing military tactics.[53] Even for experienced officers who had served in colonial wars, the conditions on the Western Front were overwhelming. For example, at Bertry, the sudden volley of fire into the column immediately caused Neish and Gordon (veteran officers) to issue the order to surrender. [54] The effect of this was monumental because unless the officers were in the field, they had little simulation of battlefield conditions; it showed many lacked sufficient a mixture of leadership training and instructions which intended to make officers psychologically cope with battlefield conditions, making them more susceptible to panic than the soldiers under their command. For example, both cases at St Quentin and Bertry represent situations where leading officers become incapacitated by indecision. At St Quentin, the mayor’s demand that the British officers give out of fear of civilian deaths and soldiers unnecessarily dyingwas the final straw that panickedElkington and Mainwaring into unconditionally surrendering.[55] Thus, lack of preparation for real combat on the battlefield meant officers were unable to deal with extreme situations their positions demanded.

Lack of any real training also coincided with the burden of administrative and executive duties that constantly plagued officers. The effect was a diversion away from any real training and signified the officer as a maintainer of discipline rather than an effective leader. For example, the quarter-master general as well as being in charge of troop movements was also in charge of logistics.[56] The cost of this was also evident compared to other European Armies. Multi-skilled personnel increased the cost of maintenance. To mobilise just two corps of infantry, the treasury needed to pay an annual budget of £14.5 million whilst Germany fielded 19 corps for £19 Million because German Staff focused exclusively on military matters (and conscripts on the European Continent were paid significantly less than British soldiers).[57] Thus, the overbearing administrative job that being a British officer embodied diverted them away from their military roles and hampered any possibility of focusing on a higher level of leadership.

Lack of preparedness for combat was also due to flaws in British officer selection. After 1906, the British Army had attempted to centralise itself and emphasise selection by merit. For example, British High Command put in place policies which would assist officers by organizing lectures which taught strategy and military history. In 1908 Major General. W. E. Franklyn, organized an ad hoc ‘War School’ For forty officers. It was run by his General Staff officers, lasted for two weeks and consisted of a mixture of lectures and practical problems.[58] On the other hand, the selection for British Officers made little headway in the eyes of the older generation of British officers. For example, by 1914 British regimental officers recruited most of their officers from public schools that placed ‘character’ above intellectual attainments, or technical performance, and many reports about performance were either unduly favourable or so vague as to be practically useless. For example, the CGS Sir William Nicholson rejected the idea of merit outright based on the cost it would entail but there was a lack of any real evidence to support his assumption.[59] For regimental officers, battalions tended to send their badly performed staff preferring stubbornly to keep talented personnel. This was because the regimental system, with its glacially slow rate of promotion, failed to promote professional zeal. It produced officers with little commitment to taking their profession seriously or, at best, an inward-looking professionalism that encouraged them to believe their regiment was the centre of their profession. Statistically on average, a subaltern in a line infantry regiment became a captain when he was 39, and majors did not become lieutenant-colonels until they were 47.[60] Even if the British officer did go to Cadet College to be an officer, there was no guarantee they would be selected by performance. For example, up to a third of entrants to staff college were guaranteed their places due to patronage, arms of service or pay rather than ability and this undermined the status of the officer corp.[61] Brigadier –General Sir James E. Edmonds found that examiners were instructed to compulsorily fail 5% of all candidates regardless of marks in entrance exams even though by 1913 the ratio of applicants to places at the staff college was between four and five to one, with 185 applicants for 36 places.[62] Though there had been intellectual requirements for recruiting staff, these tended to be bypassed because the pass mark was too high and by 1913 it was scrapped so there was no measurement of empirical progress.[63] From the evidence provided, it is understandable how the transition to higher rank for many officers was not incentivised by merit or experience. In 1908, of seven infantry generals at the War Office, only one had commanded a battalion. Colonel Elkington only managed to gain his position because his father had been a Major-General and unlike his father, he had no experience of war.[64] Therefore, the selection process only succeeded in dampening any prospects of well trained officers who took their role seriously and this had a psychological effect. Once officers were confronted with situations they had not experienced in training, the possibility of panic and giving up was substantially higher.

The mixture of inadequate training, patronage and poor officer selection had a cumbersome effect on the battlefield which drastically increased the possibility of officers willingly giving themselves up, and their units, to the enemy. This was further exasperated by battlefield conditions in 1914. A mixture of exhaustion, fatigue and a breakdown in communication meant the command structure of the BEF began to fall apart; this took the form of a breakdown between officers and arguments over authority. Neish recalls how he received no instructions from Gordon.[65] Gordon later justified this by implying his position was a ceremonial one (which contradicted his claim beforehand that a ceremonial position have him greater authority): ‘Lt. Colonel Neish, asked me to issue orders… I invariably pointed out to him that my positions did not warrant me taking this responsibility because so long as General Doran did not become a casualty, I remained merely a Regimental Officer and could not possibly assume the position of commanding’.[66] Therefore, a breakdown in command warranted indecisiveness which put British soldiers and officers in a state of real danger, which was reinforced by fear of being overrun by the German Army.

 

                 2.2 Senior officers: command on a strategic level

The success of battlefield operations are determined by the way in which command and control is able to act and react to situations in the theatre of war. In this case the stakes are higher because the scale of operations becomes larger from regimental (2000-4000 men) to corps (20,000-40,000) size units. The BEF was no different and cases of surrender are contributed to fundamental flaws within high command. The unexpected retreat from Mons was the signifier that British Army was outnumbered. It also showed conflict between command styles. The conflict between direct control and ‘umpiring meant senior officers only enforced their orders with a degree of moral authority than demanding expectations.[67] In many ways this lack of control represented the idealistic and disconnected attitude of the General Staff in reference to what was going on, on the battlefield. The stubborn regimental tradition, and the sense the regiments had not been beaten, fed into the emotions of the General Staff witnessing the retreat from Mons. General Smith Dorian, for example, outlined his feeling of optimism at the sight of battered, exhausted and fatigued British soldiers: ‘It was a wonderful sight. Men smoking their pipes, apparently quite unconcerned… no formation of any sort and men from units mixed up altogether. I likened it at the time to a crowd coming away from a race meeting’.[68] On the other hand, onlookers who also witnessed the retreat expressed the opposite opinion. General Joffre’s (of the French Army) liaison officer, witnessing the same event, expressed his doubts to Joffre. Joffre was appalled at his report:

The situation is extremely critical. For the moment the British Army is beaten and is incapable of any serious effort. The third and fifth divisions are nothing more than disorganised bands, incapable of offering the smallest resistance. Conditions are such that for the moment the British Army no longer exists.[69]

It confirmed the opinion of onlookers that the British Army was on the verge of collapse and the naivety of the Generals is reflected towards surrender. For example, Field Marshal Haig vaguely suggests that surrender was unequivocally an act of cowardice rather than factors such as fatigue or isolation.[70] It confirmed that Generals of British High command simply did not understand the situation on the ground and that lack of understanding did little to prevent surrender from taking place when it was preventable.

The naivety of British Generals towards the situation on the ground can be seen from their general bias towards who was responsible for surrender. The denials that surrender was due to voluntary actions meant senior officers excluded the possibility that surrender was possible in the British Army (and if it was, it needed to be categorised as cowardice). This is understandable because Senior British officers adopted a passive approach to suggest they played little part in the battles and suggested failure was due to external events (as a way of maintaining their own careers and absolving them from any blame). Descriptions of isolated heroic acts, for example, were given prominence to the outcome of battle. When commenting on 5th Division’s retreat, Dorian concluded Major Yate of the Yorkshire Light infantry was responsible for holding the Germans off by sacrificing himself.[71] According to Colonel Bond’s report, Yate’s charge had no effect on British defence.[72] This also appealed to the cultural mentality of British officers, which emphasized heroism. This is further shown by regimental diaries which blame surrender on circumstantial factors. In the case of Bertry, the regimental diary of the Gordon highlanders states that they were overpowered by superior numbers.[73] Other perspectives at Bertry have said otherwise. Captain Fraser commented, ‘I think if we charged the column in the village we should probably have scattered them and taken the village’.[74] Captain Stewart had immediately, on being fired upon built a strong firing line.[75] It was only the decision of Gordon and Neish surrender occurred. At St Quentin, for the officers, the soldiers were in a semblance of order and could be directed onwards and some groups of riflemen were formed as a rearguard.[76] It is this bias towards surrender by senior officers and their absolution of blame that prevented measures, to deal with capture, from occurring and that was exacerbated by conditions o on the ground. Thus, the naive mentality of senior command contributed greatly to large numbers of soldiers being captured.

Direction of troops on a strategic level requires large amounts of experience. Like lower ranking officers, problems on the battlefield were directly caused by lack of preparation or training. The purpose of the army is to fulfil its political objectives. In the case of the BEF, the objectives set were ambiguous. For example, Britain’s war aims under Sir Edward Grey were not certain, as was the strategy of how to defeat Germany. Even when war did break out, political policy of Edward Grey was ‘business as usual’ and British strategic thinking revolved around a purely naval strategy; the BEF was seen as a ‘Projectile to the fired by the British Navy’.[77] Indecision was exemplified by the fact at the outbreak, the cabinet to sent just four infantry divisions and cavalry divisions to France on the 5th August. It was only when Kitchner was recalled from Egypt did he send the last remaining divisions to France on the 3rd September.[78] This was also emphasised by lack of training; only one of the nine members in the Great General Staff had any combat experience and the war council itself consisted of four civilian ministers and a civilian chief of staff. Furthermore, there was little preparation for senior officers for the battlefield. At any one time, an officer could only command a battalion during the 4 days of manoeuvres which meant there was no real practical sense of how to direct large formations in battle.[79] From the beginning of the BEF’s conception there was always confusion on how it could be used in a European War. Ergo, It is arguable that from the start, the lack of decisiveness in the BEF’s role proved to be a major disadvantage and that indecisiveness was carried on to a tactical level that displayed all the problems lower-ranking officers faced.

 

Conclusion

Observing surrender in the BEF in August with a simple explanation, one would conclude that battlefield conditions played a significant part. A combination of mass exhaustion and fatigue exhausted British personnel, who were clearly unprepared for the long and cumbersome march that the retreat caused. Lack of supplies increased exhaustion and this was emphasised by lack of communication between units due to outdated methods of relaying messages. A combination of these factors means surrender can be attributed to the demands that modern combat entails. However, this explanation is simplistic. A valuable question that can be asked then is why did the rest of the BEF refuse to surrender? In the general retreat from Mons, the majority of the British Army managed to stay intact. The coherent effect of the regimental system and physical hegemonic presence of the army together, played a significant part in keeping the BEF together. It also means that the cases of surrender need to be analysed with cautious eyes. After the retreat, the British army managed to re-organise itself successfully, with its French allies, halt the German Army completely. With counter-offensives at the Marne and Aisne, the trenches were dug and German plans for taking Paris were halted permanently. This would also support the claim that surrender was contributed to psychological factors that British officers and soldiers experienced during the retreat. Fear of being enveloped by a much larger, and aggressive, German army played a domineering factor for British officers giving themselves up. For them, the idea of wasting their men needlessly to a determined enemy was not worth the sacrifice. This coincided with the sense of isolation and confusion that the drastic nature of the retreat caused; the sense of being cut off from the main body of the British Army and being killed at any place at any time by an unknown number of troops pushed the anxiety of officers to breaking point.

All of these points suggest two key factors: Firstly, that surrender circulated in the mind of officers rather than soldiers. Even for reservists, who had not seen military combat for years, experience in colonial wars, training and disciplined life of the regiment was more than enough to make them believe surrender was not a viable option. In these cases, it is only when British soldiers suddenly found themselves individualistically behind enemy lines that surrender occurs. Secondly, responsibility points to both senior and lower ranking officers which highlights fundamental flaws within the framework of the British Army. Progression through patronage, lack of combat simulation training and administrative duties failed to put officers in the mindset of war. It resulted in indecisiveness for many officers in extreme conditions (coinciding with conflicting command styles) something their training was supposed to gear them towards. As a result, in these situations British officers simply broke down and gave themselves up and the well disciplined nature of the battalions under them meant they too easily followed the least line of resistance. On a senior level, the inability to apply large scale strategic thinking in training meant Generals simply were not able to prepare for a European War. This was the result of political indecisiveness as to the BEF’s role, lack of experience personnel and naivety of officers. The combination of all three factors meant surrenders were often stigmatised, and isolated acts were glorified, as a way for senior officers to absolve responsibility. Ergo, this thesis concludes that lack of preparation and inexperience in the officer corp, due to flawed means of choosing viable officers, was an overriding factor in surrender. Though this was exacerbated by battlefield conditions, it is the position of army leaders to train themselves so situations such as these do not occur in battle.

[1] Alexander Watson, Alexander Watson, Enduring the Great War: Combat, Morale and Collapse in the German and British Armies, 1914-1918 (New York: Cambridge University Press: 2008), p. 145.

[2] John Terraine, Mons: Retreat to Victory (London: Wordsworth Editions Limited, 2002).

[3] John Gooch, The Plans of War: The General Staff and British Military Strategy, C. 1900-1916 (London: John Wiley and Sons Inc, 1974).

[4] Edward Spiers, Army and Society 1815-1914 (Detroit, Addison-Wesley Longman Limited, 1980).

[5] Richard Holmes, Riding the Retreat: Mons to the Marne 1914- Revisited (London: Pimlico, 2007).

[6] Adrian Gilbert, Challenge of Battle: The Real Story of the British Army in 1914 (Oxford: Osprey, 2013).

[7] Allan Mallinson, 1914: Fight the Good Fight, Britain, the Army and the Coming of the First World War (London: Bantam Press, 2013).

 

[8] Stannus Geoghegan, The Campaigns and History of the Royal Irish Regiment: Volume 2, From 1900 to 1922 (London, William Blackwood & Sons Ltd, 1927), p. 150.

[9] Peter T. Scott, “Dishonoured”, The “Colonels’ Surrender” at St. Quentin, The Retreat From Mons, August 1914, (London: Tom Donovan Publishing Ltd, 1994), p. 6.

[10]TNA, WO 141/ 37 (‘Inquiry into the surrender of the 1st Gordon Highlanders Intelligence reports and prisoner interrogations’ (GHQ).

[11] Alan Kramer, ‘Surrender of soldiers in World War 1’ in How Fighting Ends: A history of Surrender, ed. By, Holger Afflerbach and Hew Strachan (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2012), 279-308 (p. 281).

[12] Watson, p. 157.

[13] D. Lomas, Mons, 1914 (Wellingborough: Osprey, 1997), p. 19.

[14] Niall Fergusson, ‘Prisoner Taking and Prisoner Killing in the Age of Total War: Towards a Political Economy of Military Defeat’, War in History, 11 (2004), 148-192 (p.152).

[15] Captain N.P. Clarke, “Through German Lines” in BlackWood’s Magazine (June, 1915).

[16]J.F. Lucy, There’s a Devil in the Drum (London: Faber & Faber, 1938), p. 147.

[17]Lieutenant- Colonel A.E. Mainwaring, A Statement [by] A.E.M. N.p.,N. d, p. 7.

[18] Captain Fraser, Gordon Highlanders, NA, WO 339/22031, p. 135.

[19] Captain G. A. Elliot, 2nd Royal Irish Rifles, in NA, WO 141/ 37 (‘Inquiry into the surrender of the 1st Gordon Highlanders Intelligence reports and prisoner interrogations’ (GHQ), p. 136.

[20] Private Papers of Major C.L. Brereton, IWM Documents. 2615, p. 5.

[21] Private papers of Captian H.B. Owens, IWM Documents. 4788, p. 18.

[22] Lieutenant Colonel Sir Tom Bridges, Alarms and Excursions (Harlow: Longmans Green, 1938), p. 87.

[23] Mainwaring, p. 8.

[24] Lieutenant-Colonel T.S. Wollocombe, IWM Documents. 130 p. 51, IWM

[25] Private Papers of Captain R Whitbread, IWM Documents. 4460, p. 5.

[26] Martin Samuels, Command or Control? Command, Training and Tactics in the British and German Armies, 1888-1918 (London: Frank Cass, 1995), p. 119.

[27] Private papers of Samuel Knight, Welsh Regiment, IWM, Documents. 7061, p. 12.

[28] Private papers of Walter Bentham, IWM Documents.15272, p. 4.

[29] Mainwaring, p. 7.

[30] Lucy, p. 147.

[31] Private Papers of Lieutenant Colonel J V Ramsden, IWM Documents. 482, p. 4.

[32] Captain J.C. Dunn, The War the Infantry Knew 1914-1919 (London: Penguin Group, 1989), P. 30.

[33] Diary of Geoffrey Archibald Loyd- Lieutenant, Scots Guards, IWM Documents. 7631, p. 8.

[34] TNA, WO 141/ 37 (‘Inquiry into the surrender of the 1st Gordon Highlanders Intelligence reports and prisoner interrogations’ (GHQ) ‘Testimony of Colonel W.E. Gordon.

[35] Private papers of H.D. Bryan- 1st Battalion Scots Guards, IWM, Documents. 138331, p.4.

[36] Loyd, p. 8.

[37] Dunn, p. 30.

[38] Arthur Osburn, Unwilling Passenger (London: Faber & Faber, 1932), p. 78.

[39] Wollocombe, p. 45.

[40] G. J. De Groot, Douglas Haig, 1861-1928 (London: Unwin Hyman. 1988), p. 51.

[41] Lieutenant Colonel Neish, NA CAB 45/197, p. 55.

[42] Liddell Hart Centre for Military Archives, King’s College London, Strand, London (KCL). Brigadier- General Sir James E. Edmonds paper. Papers, III/7, p. 15.

[43] Henning, NA CAB 45/ 196.

[44] Gilbert, p. 256.

[45] Gleichen, letter to Smith Dorrien, NA CAB 45/206.

[46] Joanna Bourke, Fear: A Cultural History (London: Virago Press, 2005), p. 8.

[47] J.E. Edmonds, History of the Great War Based on Official Documents: Military Operations France and Belgium 1914, Vols I and II (London: Macmillan, 1922, 1925), p. 2.

[48] Military Identities: The Regimental System, the British Army and the British People, C.1870-2000 (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2005), p. 102.

[49] Ibid, p. 182.

[50] Mallinson, p. 80.

[51] Anon, The Standing Orders of the 2nd Battalion The Royal Warwickshire Regiment (Aldershot: Gale & Polden, 1934), p.4.

[52] Gilbert, Challenge, p. 157

[53] Edmonds paper. papers, III/7, p. 15.

[54] Captain A.D.L. Stewart, Gordon Highlanders, p. 13.

[55] Lieutenant- Colonel A.E. Mainwaring, A Statement, p. 7.

[56] Captain O. Wheeler, The War Office: Past and Present (London: Methuen, 1914), p. 252.

[57]Edmonds, Brugadier-General J.E., General S. H. E. Franklyn, Brigadier C. N. Barclay and Major D. M. A. Wedderburn, “Four Generations of Staff College Students- 1896 to 1952”, AQ 65(1) (Oct. 1952). p. 46

[58] David French, Military Identities: The Regimental System, the British Army and the British People, C.1870-2000, p.159.

[59] Ibid, p. 151.

[60] Ibid, p.150.

[61] Ibid, p. 47.

[62] Edmonds paper, III/2. p.7.

[63] Edmond papers, III /2, 4 and III/5, pp. 14- 16

[64] Peter T. Scott, “Dishonoured”, The “Colonels’ Surrender” at St. Quentin, The Retreat From Mons, August 1914, (London: Tom Donovan Publishing Ltd, 1994), p. 6.

[65] Lieutenant. Colonel Neish, p. 8.

[66] Major and Brevet Colonel W.E> Gordon, V.C.A.D.C. Gordon Highlanders in NA, WO 141/ 37 (‘Inquiry into the surrender of the 1st Gordon Highlanders Intelligence reports and prisoner interrogations’ (GHQ)

[67] Samuels, p. 49.

[68] Terraine, p. 138.

[69] Ibid, p. 148.

[70] Brian Bond, Nigel Cave, Haig- A Reappraisal 70 Years On (London: Pen and Sword, 2009), p. 122.

[71] Horace Smith-Dorian, Memories of Forty-Eight Years’ Service (Murray, 1925), p. 407.

[72] R.C. Bond, History of the KOYLI in the Great War (P. Lund, Humphreis, 1926) p. 95.

[73] Cyril Falls, The Life of a Regiment Volume IV, The Gordon Highlanders in the First World War, 1914-1919 (Aberdeen: Aberdeen University Press, 1958), p. 168.

[74] Captain Fraser, Gordon Highlanders, p. 25.

[75] Captain A.D.L. Stewart, Gordon Highlanders, p. 36.

[76] Scott, p. 52.

[77] Niall Ferguson, The Pity of War (London: Penguin Books, 1999), p. 55.

[78] Ibid, p. 167.

[79] W.S. Hammer, The British Army: Civil-Military Relations, 1885-1905 (Oxford: Clarendon, 1970), p. 140.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Bibliography

 

Primary Sources

Imperial War Museum

Diary of Geoffrey Archibald Loyd- Lieutenant, Scots Guards, Documents. 7631

 

Private papers of Captian H.B. Owens, Documents. 4788

 

Private Papers of Captain R Whitbread, Documents. 4460

 

Private Papers of Lieutenant Colonel J V Ramsden, Documents. 482

 

Private Papers of Lieutenant-Colonel T.S. Wollocombe, Diary, Documents. 130

 

Private Papers of Major C.L. Brereton, Documents. 2615

 

Private papers of H.D. Bryan- 1st Battalion Scots Guards, Documents. 138331

Private papers of Samuel Knight, Welsh Regiment, Documents. 7061

 

Private papers of Walter Bentham, Documents.15272

 

 

National Archives, Kew

TNA, WO 141/ 37 (‘Inquiry into the surrender of the 1st Gordon Highlanders Intelligence reports and prisoner interrogations’ (GHQ)

Fraser, Captain, Gordon Highlanders, NA, WO 339/22031

Gleichen, letter to Smith Dorrien, NA CAB 45/206

Henning, NA CAB 45/ 196

Neish, Lieutenant Colonel, Gordon Highlanders, NA CAB 45/197

 

Liddel Hart Centre for Military Archives, King’s College London

Liddell Hart Centre for Military Archives, King’s College London, Strand, London (KCL). Brigadier- General Sir James E. Edmonds paper. papers, III/7, III /2, 4 and III/5

 

 

 

Memoirs and first-person accounts

A.E. Mainwaring, Lieutenant- Colonel, A Statement [by] A.E.M. N.p.,N. d

 

Bridges, Tom, Lieutenant Colonel, Alarms and Excursions (Harlow: Longmans Green, 1938)

 

Edmonds, Brigadier-General J.E., General S. H. E. Franklyn, Brigadier C. N. Barclay and Major D. M. A. Wedderburn, “Four Generations of Staff College Students- 1896 to 1952”, AQ 65(1) (Oct. 1952).

Horace Smith-Dorian, Memories of Forty-Eight Years’ Service (Murray, 1925)

 

J.F. Lucy, There’s a Devil in the Drum (London: Faber & Faber, 1938)

 

Osburn, Arthur, Unwilling Passenger (London: Faber & Faber, 1932)

 

  1. Wheeler, Captain, The War Office: Past and Present (London: Methuen, 1914)

 

N.P. Clarke, Captain, “Through German Lines” in BlackWood’s Magazine (June, 1915)

 

 

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Regimental histories

Anon, The Standing Orders of the 2nd Battalion The Royal Warwickshire Regiment (Aldershot: Gale & Polden, 1934)

 

  1. Bond, History of the KOYLI in the Great War (P. Lund, Humphreis, 1926).

 

Falls, Cyril, The Life of a Regiment Volume IV, The Gordon Highlanders in the First World War, 1914-1919 (Aberdeen: Aberdeen University Press, 1958)

Geoghegan, Stannus, The Campaigns and History of the Royal Irish Regiment: Volume 2, From 1900 to 1922 (London, William Blackwood & Sons Ltd, 1927)

 

 

 

Academic Sources

Bourke, Joanna, Fear: A Cultural History (London: Virago Press, 2005)

 

  1. Lomas, Mons, 1914 (Wellingborough: Osprey, 1997)

 

De Groot, G. J., Douglas Haig, 1861-1928 (London: Unwin Hyman. 1988)

 

Edmonds, J.E., History of the Great War Based on Official Documents: Military Operations France and Belgium 1914, Vols I and II (London: Macmillan, 1922, 1925).

 

Ferguson, Niall, The Pity of War (London: Penguin Books, 1999)

 

French, David, Military Identities: The Regimental System, the British Army and the British People, C.1870-2000 (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2005)

 

Gilbert, Adrian Challenge of Battle: The Real Story of the British Army in 1914 (Oxford: Osprey, 2013)

Holmes, Richard, Riding the Retreat: Mons to the Marne 1914- Revisited (London: Pimlico, 2007).

 

John Gooch, The Plans of War: The General Staff and British Military Strategy, C. 1900-1916 (London: John Wiley and Sons Inc, 1974).

 

Mallinson, Allan, 1914: Fight the Good Fight, Britain, the Army and the Coming of the First World War (London: Bantam Press, 2013)

 

Samuels, Martin, Command or Control? Command, Training and Tactics in the British and German Armies, 1888-1918 (London: Frank Cass, 1995)

 

Spiers, Edward, Army and Society 1815-1914 (Detroit, Addison-Wesley Longman Limited, 1980).

 

Terraine, John Mons: Retreat to Victory (London: Wordsworth Editions Limited, 2002)

 

  1. Scott, Peter, “Dishonoured”, The “Colonels’ Surrender” at St. Quentin, The Retreat From Mons, August 1914, (London: Tom Donovan Publishing Ltd, 1994)

 

Tuchman, Barbara, August 1914 (London: Constable, 1914).

 

Watson, Alexander, Enduring the Great War: Combat, Morale and Collapse in the German and British Armies, 1914-1918 (New York: Cambridge University Press: 2008)

 

W.S. Hammer, The British Army: Civil-Military Relations, 1885-1905 (Oxford: Clarendon, 1970)

 

 

 

Articles and Chapters

Fergusson, Niall, ‘Prisoner Taking and Prisoner Killing in the Age of Total War: Towards a Political Economy of Military Defeat’, War in History, 11 (2004), 148-192.

 

Kramer, Alan, ‘Surrender of soldiers in World War 1’ in How Fighting Ends: A history of Surrender, ed. By, Holger Afflerbach and Hew Strachan (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2012), 279-308.