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The Soldiers' Peace

The Soldiers' Peace

Michael Senior
ARRSE Rating
3 Mushroom Heads
The sub-title of this book is Demobilising the British Army 1919 and that is precisely what it describes. The author clearly has a passion for research as mostly the text is who said what, where and when in handling this massive. After a good Introduction which, despite a number of spelling mistakes, provides a positive grounding into the following chapters and reveals that planning for the end of the Great War was being considered soon after it started.

The enormity of the task of demobilisation cannot be underestimated and this is brought out by the first two chapters in which Senior guides us through the complexities of the plans for demobilising and the subsequent failure of those plans. In addition to the immense logistical, care, future employment, pensions and so on, the fact that disobedience, unrest and mutiny was of great concern during the Great War – especially after the Russian Revolution – which is why it has a dedicated chapter.

Moving on to the actual post 11 November 1918 demobilisations, there are plenty of fascinating facts to be pondered including the prospects for women in British Industry, the power of the Trades Unions, the fairest ways to release men from active Service, the quantities of armaments and materiel left in-theatre, the compensation for injuries, pensions, care for the wounded plus a hundred and one other aspects. These all receive detailed examination together with the options available at the time. Just a few informative examples include the 300,000 Dominion troops in France alone in November 1918, the 750,000 horses and mules scattered through the areas of former conflict, the 80,000 Chinese labourers in France etc. However, the gargantuan task of getting Tommies’ back to the UK in a timely fashion receives, deservedly, the majority of the examination and discussion. Repatriating the 188,000 British and Dominion Prisoners of War is described, as is their treatment during captivity.

The Author continues to the topic of dismantling the infrastructure that supported our Services during the Great War including 119,372 road vehicles, many miles of railway track, 1,350 tanks, 893,195 proof gallons of rum and 131,862,080 sandbags. After most of the stockpiles of live shells were taken from the battlefields the final 350,000 tons in France were sold to contractors who extracted the nitrates for fertiliser before recycling the metals.

Fittingly, the final chapter discusses the Army of 1919 with details of the problems in Ireland, Palestine and Russia that were being dealt with, as well as the Armies of Occupation in Turkey and Germany; a couple of pages of photographs relevant to the whole book are also towards the end of the book. To finish there is an interesting postscript about various topics including memorials and War graves, plus six appendices.

In conclusion, this is a heavy but informative volume with a myriad of facts and figures. The Author’s use of a decent proof-reader wouldn’t come amiss and, personally, I would like to have seen a few more photographs within the chapters and relevant to them – although I doubt that any graphics would outshine the superb and deeply thought provoking photograph on the front cover!

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