Book Review: The British Field Marshals, 1736-1997: A Biographical Dictionary


by T. A. Heathcote

Barnsley, S. York.: Pen & Sword/Havertown, Pa.: Casemate, 2012. Pp. xvi, 368. Appends., biblio., index. $29.95 paper. ISBN: 1848848811

A very useful ready reference to the senior-most officers in the British Army. 

Originally published in 1999, The British Field Marshals lists every person who ever held the rank of field marshal in the British Army, whether holding substantive rank or honorary rank, such as Kaiser Wilhelm II or Emperor Hirohito, which was later rescinded.  The entry for each officer includes a short profile of from one to five pages, outlining his life and career, and often include curious, even at times sometimes scandalous, anecdotes.  Many of the entries include significant observations on the nature of the high honor: for example, even when awarded for actual soldiering, it was most often granted to mark the end of a man’s career, and only a handful of the 138 field marshals actually served in that rank in the field. 

The appendices provide information on the various regiments and corps in which the marshals served, their original branches of service, and even the secondary and military schools which they attended.  There is also an extensive bibliography which lists biographies of virtually all the marshals, as well as numerous histories of scores of campaigns, many now half-forgotten. 

A valuable reference for anyone doing British military history.

Reviewer: A. A. Nofi, Review Editor   

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