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Supplying the British Army in the First World War (Hardback)

WWI 1914 1915 1916 1917 1918 Military

By Janet Macdonald
Imprint: Pen & Sword Military
Pages: 224
ISBN: 9781526725370
Published: 16th April 2019


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Napoleon famously said that an army marches on its stomach, but it also marches in its boots and its uniforms, carrying or driving its weapons and other equipment, and all this material has to be ordered from headquarters, produced and delivered. Janet Macdonald's detailed and scholarly new study explains how this enormously complex task of organization and labour was carried out by the British Army during the First World War.

She describes the personnel who performed these tasks, from the government and military command in London to those who handled the items in the field. They were responsible for clothing, accommodation, medicine, transport, hand weapons, armament and communications – a vast logistical network that had evolved to keep millions of men in the field.

This meticulously researched account of this important subject – one which has hitherto been neglected by military historians – will be essential reading and reference for anyone who is interested in the modern British army, in particular in its organization and performance in the First World War.

I approached this book as a logistician by profession. Ignoring the introduction which repeats one of the untrue shibboleths about the government believing the war would be over by Christmas (if so what was Kitchener doing raising all those Service Battalions), it recovers spectacularly to deliver a very detailed account of the business of equipping the army for a long war on many battle fronts. Dealing with all aspects from procurement, through contracting, the realities of staged payments, technical standards and supplier selection it actually describes what we know today to be ‘supply chain management’. In doing so it describes how raw materials were identified and sourced, with delivery direct to battlefronts whenever possible to avoid double handling inefficiencies. Some of the information and statistics regarding the sheer size of volumes of materiel required to furnish the troops with the necessities of war is frankly astonishing. A very necessary book for anybody wanting to fully understand the value of logistics in getting an army to the point where victory in battle could be possible.
Michael McCarthy. Battlefield Guide.

Michael McCarthy

About Janet Macdonald

Janet Macdonald has published books on numerous subjects. Her first book on naval history was Feeding Nelson’s Navy: The True Story of Food at Sea in the Georgian Era; her second, the British Navy’s Victualling Board, 1793-1815: Management Competence and Incompetence. She took her MA in Maritime History at the Greenwich Maritime Institute, London, and her PhD at King’s College London, where she was awarded a Laughton Scholarship. Her thesis was on the administration of naval victualling. Her most recent books are From Boiled Beef to Chicken Tikka: 500 Years of Feeding the British Army, Sir John Moore: The Making of a Controversial Hero and Horses in the British Army 1750-1850.

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