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Simon Batten
ARRSE Rating
4.5 Mushroom Heads
Books on the preparation for the Great War are in relatively short supply. The Edwardian years saw major army reform after the shocks of the Boer War, a rethink of the strategic role of the army and a complete overhaul of the reserve forces. Russia and Japan saw changes in weapons and tactics in their 1904-1905 war. Pre seismic war activity rumbled around the Balkans with wars in 1912 and 1913 leaving old feuds unresolved and embittered factions eying each other.

The Blackadder school often sees the British Army as being preoccupied with polo, hunting and the social season as war clouds gathered. Major exercises above divisional level were rare in the UK, Aldershot Common was too small and Salisbury Plain was only acquired at the end of the 19th Century.

In fact the army was preparing itself for a European expeditionary war in some detail.Observers attended foreign exercises in general and French ones in great detail. These were of far larger scale than their British equivalent. Memoranda of understanding were established between French and English forces and crucially the rail mobilisation schemes were co-ordinated.

The author has looked at the background of this situation and then focused in detail on the British Army exercises and this provides the ammunition to shoot down many false stories. .Haig was an enthusiast for aerial recce, ample training with machine guns occurred and amphibious exercises were carried out. RTR types will be pleased to note that the exercises of 1913 saw the first use of tracked vehicles!

Simon Batten, unlike many military authors, has been painstaking in his work. There is been a good balance of published and unpublished material. The 210 pages are backed up with a good 1912 ORBAT, bibliography, indices and helpful websites. The illustrations are relevant and a touch of humour is injected.

The book is probably aimed at the historian or military reader. The cover price is £35 but there are some cheaper offers of this new book on Amazon.

For anyone studying the Great War in depth this book makes a real contribution to the events in the war itself. The author has also written A Shining Light and hopefully he will produce more works to this high standard.

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