First World War books

Afternoon Gents,

I'm opening myself up to some abuse here by admitting that yes, i am a student. However i'm starting an MA in October and thought you splendid chaps may be able to help. (creeping over :p)

Anyone know of any books dealing with the Military Police in the First World War? Specifically my dissertation will be about the punishment system used by the British army so anything like that would be useful for me. Also does anyone know of any autobiographies of senior commanders, Haig, Rawlinson, Smith-Dorrien (of Isandlwhana fame) and the like.

Cheers in advance

oh and by the way, the first topic i posted way back in april or whenever was on the behalf of my dad, so i havent just had a change from being a Staff Sergeant with 22 years to an MA student. Just in case, i know how suspicious some people can be. Ta!

I live in Ypres and am ex RMP. There is not much on the market covering the MFP or MMP in WW1 although I am reliably told therer is a book in the pipeline awaiting completion and publishing.
When looking at the high rankers of the First War do not fall into the trap that soldiers were all "Lions led by Donkeys". Stay well away from any book written by John Laffin on the High Command. It is extremley biased and does not show the true picture. If you can get a copy of John Terrains book "Douglas Haig, The Educated Soldier". It is a great book that highlights Haigs command very well.
"Shot at Dawn" by Julian Putkowski and Julian Sykes looks at every Brit soldier executed during WW1 and is handy for reference. Another good reference book is Anthony Babingtons "For the sake of example" which covers the capital courts martials from 1914-20.
A good reference book on the "Tommy" himself is the book "Tommy" by Richard Holmes. There is a few pages on the role of the MFP and MMP.

Hope this is of some help.

Richard Holmes' book "Tommy" has a section on disipline as does several of Malcolm Brown's books.

Some of the observations about military discipkline need to take account of the fact that there the British Forces were made up of several distinct "Armies". The Regulars - TA - New Army volunteers and then the Colonials and the Indians and other native troops.
For starters, try

Gary Sheffield: The Redcaps: The Authorised History of the Royal Military Police (London: Brassey's), 1994.

Gary (he's a colleague, so I'm not being over-familar!) also did a chapter on the RMP in Paddy Griffith: British Fighting Methods in the Great War (Frank Cass, 1996).

Although we don't seem to be in the same place at the same time much at the moment, I'll ask Gary for any further clues when I next see him.

Where are you doing the MA?
Thanks for all the help so far. I have the Richard Holmes book already, in fact that section in the book is what really sparked my interest.

I had the feeling that someone would say something like that, but i've not heard of the two books you recommend so thanks for that! The 'Lions Led By Donkeys' thing really annoys me, it's one of the reasons i want to look into discipline, i want to try to explode some myths, and as the 'Lions' thing has been pretty well attacked especially in recent years, i wanted to try something different.

To Archimedes
Again, thanks for those suggestions. My MA is actually in Historical Research at Lancaster so a bit far from the PRO and the IWM but oh well, on the train i go!

Any more help would be much appreciated. Thanks again.
Frank Richards DCM, MM book, "Old Soldiers Never Die" (Naval and Military Press Ltd reprint), has some interesting information regarding discipline at the battalion level.

It can be found throughout the book, but particularly chapter 5. He mentions a number of instances where soldiers who had received quite substantial sentences for crimes (largely unspecified) were kept in the lines and managed to wipe their sheet clean through acts of bravery. They were never awarded the decoration commensurate with the act, though.
You can get another insight into Great War discipline from a boiok called "The men I Killed" by Brigadier Frank Crozier. The title doesn't just refer to dead Germans. He admits to shooting people summarialy to "stop the rot". He may be an exception -or may not be.
Try some of these (as I reach them down from my bookcase):

Lovell-Knight, A.V. (1977): The Story of The Royal Military Police, Leo Cooper, London.

Tyler, R.A.J. (1980): Blody Provost, Phillimore, London.

Boyes, R. (1988): In Glass Houses, A history of the Military Provost Staff Corps, MPSC Assn, Chichester.

Putkowski, J. & Sykes J. (1889): Shot at Dawn, Leo Cooper, London.

Babington, A. (1983): For the Sake of Example, leo Cooper, London.

Sheffield, G. (1994): The Redcaps: A History of the Royal Military Police and its Antecedents from the Middle Ages to the Gulf War, Brassey's, London.

Also try contacting the RMP Museum, which I think is still in Chichester, as I am sure there are a few others out there including:

Unknown, (1943): The history of the Office of Provost Marshal and the Corps of Military Police.

Crozier, S.F. (1951): The history of the Corps of Royal Military Police.

Unfortunately I do not have copies of the last two so cannot give you full details.
Try the Naval and Military Press. The Regimental Histories are amazing. I have just finished the official history of the Rangers and it makes fantastic reading.
Now here is book that I think you will find very usefull:

1914 Field Service Pocket Book. It was reprinted by David & Charles in 1971.

Chapter 8 covers:

44. Discipline:

Powers of a Commanding Officer
Powers of a Commanding Officer of Native Troops

45. Courts-Martial

Courts-Martial under the Army Act
Courts-Martial under the Indian Army Act (Native Forces Only)
Forms of Charges for Courts-Martial which may occur on Active Service
Field Punishment
Forms of Charges for Courts-Martial under the Indian Army Act which may occur on Active Service

46. Provost Marshal and Military Police

47. International Law (Summary of the Geneva Convestions, Declaration of St Petersburg and The Hague Convention)

An excellent little book designed to be carried in the saddle bags of a field grade officer.

Interestingly for an former monkey like me:

"In India, on active service, the PM can punish corporally, there and then, any person below the rank of NCO, who, in his view, or that of any of his assistants, commits any breach of good order and military discipline. Punishment not to exceed 30 lashes (or such lower amount as OC troops may determine) and to be inflicted with the regulation cat."
To Inf/MP.

Thats fantastic, i was going to trawl through some service manuals and War Office pamphlets and i think you might just have saved me a bit of trouble. Bloody marvellous! Thanks again.

Thanks a lot guys you've been a huge help. I'll try the RMP museum. Does anyone think they'll mind me asking about that sort of thing, i know that the MOD gets a bit touchy when people want to look into courts martial, especially ones which resulted in executions? Hopefully they won't mind. Cheers again.
Glad to be of assistance (who says us Monkeys never help/)

Almost anything relating the the Great War will be held by the Public Records Office unless it has been retained by the MoD for a specific reason.

There is also another problem with Great War records. The War Office (as it was then) was hit on the first day of the Blitz. This caused the loss of about 1/3 of their records to fire damage, plus another 1/3 to water damage putting the fire out. This is why there is such a gap in the records of soldiers from the Great War. Since the late 1970s almost everything that survived has been sent to the PRO.

There is no great mystery about the capital courts martial of soldiers in the Great War. It is accepted today that most of those executed for military offences would not be executed by today's standards. However, this is now and that was then. Also there were a number of executions for criminal offences such as murder.

I am still unsure exactly what angle you are approching this issue from. Is your paper about discipline in general / the miliatry police or capital courts martials?

Whatever it is good luck.
To Inf/MP

Just to help with your curiosity, my paper is going to be about the use of discipline in the First World War British Army, mostly in France. I want to try to destroy some of the myths about the army being far too eager to discipline people, It's the first example of a proper citizen's army in British military history so i want to see if the army altered it's discipline to suit, or whether, as seems more likely, the army just carried on regardless. I also want to try to investigate the myths of 'battle police' and the things that have grown up since the end of the war. For example those people who want a blanket pardon of all those exectued in the First World War, despite, as you pointed out, the fact that some were shot for serious crimes, as well as military offences.

Anyway, it'll probably end up nothing like that by the time i've finished it, I've got a whole 12 months to do it.

Thanks for your help again
As a complement to Shot at Dawn I would recommend two books

• Death Sentences passed by military courts of the British Army 1914- 1924

By Julian Putkowski ISBN 0 9532388 0 6

• British Army Mutineers 1914- 1922

By Julian Putkowski ISBN 0 9532388 2 2

Putkowski is or was a labor MP and was one of those lobbing for a blanket pardon how ever in these books it shows just how many troops were sentenced to death only to have the courts findings commuted to lesser sentences and as such gives a much broader picture of the Military discipline system during the Great War, Rather than just dealing on those who were actually executed.
There is a new book called 'blindfolded and alone' which despite the melodramatic title is, I believe, reasonably balanced. For Haig's personal views see the new addition of the Haig diaries edited by Gary Sheffield. A very interesting read altogether.
If you want to understand the context of the punishments, it is worth reading something like 'Memoirs of an Infantry Officer' by Siegfreid Sassoon. So often we condemn actions from previous years without understanding the prevelent attitudes within the society in question (armed forces in this case).

I did some research into Courts Martial at the Public Record Office in Kew. They have all the WW1 summaries there. They are housed in huge A3 leather bound tomes. On the left hand page are the details of the miscreant - name, no, unit etc and on the right hand side a grid of disposal - ranging from RPs on the left to death on the right.

There were hundreds of death sentences but very few had been marked to signify that they had been carried out. Of interest the back of the books dealt with prisoners of war. I couldn't find any Germans who had been sentenced to death and had the sentence carried out but there were two Turks! (The cases in question were for murder).

You should also look at Gary Sheffield's book Leadership in the Trenches: Officer-Man Relations, Morale and Discipline' in The British Army in the Era of the First World War, (London: Macmillan, 2000) if you've not got it on your list of things to look at already.
For those who have read "Mud, Blood and Poppycock", a little help if you would...the author writes of the "myth" of the Lost Generation- can anyone give me an idea of how his argument went, methods used, and is this argument becoming accepted by scholars today?
Max Hastings : Forgotten Heroes.

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