British Fighting Methods in the Great War

In This Review

British Fighting Methods in the Great War

Edited by Paddy Griffith
Frank Cass, 1996
191 pp. $42.00
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Despite the writings of a few defiant historians outside the mainstream, the popular image of the British Army in World War I is one of soldiers exhibiting great valor sacrificed to the near-criminal stupidity of their high command -- "lions led by donkeys," in a memorable phrase. The current work makes an important contribution to a different view. The editor is a prolific and provocative historian of tactics, a subject disdained by too many students of strategic affairs, and he has assembled a group of thoughtful colleagues to explore the ways in which the British army adapted to the challenges of trench warfare. The reader comes away with two unsettling questions. If the British (and presumably other) European armies changed their approaches to war as quickly and well as is suggested, was the slaughter of World War I simply unavoidable? And if historians are only now unraveling the workings of battle in 1914-18, how certain can today's experts be that they fully understand the workings of modern warfare?