‘Command and Morale’, my latest book, appeared last week. For a long time I’ve been thinking of bringing together some of the articles and book chapters I’ve published over the years. Around the centenary of the outbreak of the First World War seemed a good time to bring the project to fruition.
The essays range from some of my earliest publications, products of research from my MA back in the 80s, through to one I wrote especially for the book. So, the collection represents a series of snapshots of an academic career that has, so far, stretched over three decades. It originally had the working title of ‘Gary’s greatest hits’ but someone pointed out that ‘Gary’s B sides’ would be more accurate. Actually, B sides are where you can be creative: one of my favourite Bob Dylan performances is his impassioned, bluesy cover of the Everley Brothers’ ‘Let It Be Me’, the B-side to (from memory) ‘Heart of Mine’ from 1981. But I digress.
The title of the book reflects my two major research interests in FWW studies: high command, and morale and motivation at unit level. I resisted the temptation to engage in major rewriting of the text, just correcting a few glitches (in one case, my original text was butchered by the in-house editor of the collection in which it appeared so the work was a bit more extensive). Otherwise I provided some afterthoughts, in which I engaged with work relevant to the subject which had appeared since original publication.
In the one original piece I trace the difficult relationship between Douglas Haig and Henry Rawlinson from the Sudan campaign of 1898 (when I think they first met – if anyone can provide me with evidence of an earlier meeting I’d be interested to see it) through to 1915. What struck me when researching this chapter is that their backgrounds within the army were so different. We need more research on factionalism in the First World War army. It does both men credit that they were able largely to put this aside and work together.
However, as I argued in my bio of Haig, ‘The Chief’, Rawly does not come well out of the First Day on the Somme. By ignoring both the letter and the spirit of Haig’s concept of operations, he threw away the chance of a substantial advance on the southern flank in the afternoon of 1 July 1916. Although there was a ghastly failure in the northern sector, a failure for which Haig bore much responsibility, there was a real chance of a major British success in the south to accompany the impressive French advance. British 18th and 30th Divisions took all of their objectives and German resistance largely collapsed. This was the time for mobile reserves to be deployed, as Haig’s CONOPS demanded. Rawlinson, wedded to bite and hold, did not rise to the challenge.