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On the Road to Victory (Hardback)

The Rise of Motor Transport with the BEF on the Western Front

WWI Transport Military

By Michael Harrison
Imprint: Pen & Sword Military
Pages: 182
Illustrations: 100
ISBN: 9781526750433
Published: 4th November 2019

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The Great War produced many innovations, in particular the spectacular development by the British and French armies of motor transport.

The age-old problem of moving soldiers and their supplies was no different in 1914 than it had been some 2,400 years ago, when the great Chinese military thinker Sun Tzu informed his readers that the further an army marched into enemy territory, the more the cost of transport increased, even to the point that more supplies were consumed by the transportation of men and their horses than was delivered to the troops.

Using many previously unpublished illustrations, including artists' impressions, this book tells the story of the men and women who made motor transport [MT] work for the victorious British Army on the Western Front, so that in 1918, the humble lorry did indeed help propel the British Army forward ‘On the Road to Victory’.

I wasn’t expecting to really enjoy this book, mainly because I didn’t realise how many motorised vehicles were used by the British during World War One and secondly I’m not the biggest fan of motor vehicles. But this book was a really big eye opener to me. I knew that many of the countries going to war were not very mechanised with the exception of the British army, but when you read this book the sheer volume of vehicles used in this case by the BEF is enormous. Yes they did use lots of horse power during the war, which had been my impression but it turns out the British used a lot of motorised vehicles. Although this book is mainly about vans and working vehicles, I find it staggering because when you look at the size and thinness of the wheels it is hard to fathom how they managed other than to only keep to concrete roads, because I imagine many would have got stuck in all the mud.

This was a fascinating read throughout, along with being a well written book as it would be published by Pen and Sword Books. The author Michael Harrison has included a great many pictures, illustrations, cartoons, advertisements and photos into the book, they are all first class and really do liven up an excellent book. On a final note, having just read another fine Pen and Sword book, Images of War – Operation Dynamo. I can now see where it seems most of the vehicles ended up having to be used to transport soldiers back to Dunkirk in order to get back to Britain. I will give this book an excellent 4.5 stars out of 5.

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UK Historian

With so many technical innovations, it is perhaps understandable that the impact of motor transport during The Great War has received such poor coverage. The introduction of motor transport with the BEF made a critical contribution to eventual victory. – Most Highly Recommended.

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Firetrench

WW1 was a period of great technological change and the British Army was one of the front runners who made such good use of the latest logistic systems. A very interesting read on a rather unsung element of the BEF in WW1 on the Western Front.

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Military Model Scene, Robin Buckland

As featured in

Great War IMPS

Logistics & supply are the key to understanding Warfare from any period & this well written and researched book provides a fascinating look at the role of Motor Transport in the British Army on the Western Front.

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Paul Reed via Twitter

Michael Harrison’s book is a good instruction on the lesson that wars are won by logistics. The timely arrival of the motor combustion engine and its capability to impact change in transportation methods is well made; not least driven (no pun intended) by the massive and increasing train capacities needed just to provide fodder to the horses on the Western Front. That said, I doubt the lorries were loved as were the horses. The development of useful and reliable motor transport is tracked (no pun again) and the author delivers a good and readable narrative that adds to any library on wartime logistics.

Michael McCarthy. Battlefield Guide

Michael McCarthy

About Michael Harrison

Born in Birmingham; Michael’s favourite subject has always been history and in particular, that of the Great War. An MA in British First World War studies at University of Birmingham gifted Michael a chance to expand his knowledge of early motor transport. Added to which, he had had historically priceless conversations with men who had driven such vehicles in the early 1920s. This work is Michael’s attempt to pass on that largely forgotten, but important story.

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