Book Review: Changing War: The British Army, the Hundred Days Campaign, and the Birth of the Royal Air Force, 1918


by Gary Sheffield and Peter Gray, editors

London / New York: Bloomsbury, 2013. Pp. xiv, 270. Illus., maps, tables, notes, biblio., index. $130.00. ISBN: 144115633X

The Triumph of the BEF

Despite the “Lions led by Donkeys” image sold to the public by various authors in the decades after the Great War, the consensus among military historians is that by 1918 the BEF had become a sophisticated, thoroughly modern, highly effective fighting force.  The dozen essays in Changing War, all by British specialists in military history, do two things, continue the re-evaluation of the British Army and its role in the Great War and they strengthen the argument that the seminal “Revolution in Military Affairs” of the twentieth century took place on the Western Front between 1914 and 1918, rather than in Germany 20 years later. 

All of the essays are interesting.  Several, however, stand out either for their insights or their subject matter.  Among these are those on the logistical preparations for the Battle of Amiens, combined arms operations during the “Hundred Days,” the crossing of the Sambre-Oise Canal on November 4th (possibly the best executed operation of the campaign), the highly effective pursuit by the Cavalry Corps in mid-October, the logistics of air operations, and the influence of air-ground cooperation during the campaign on subsequent British military thought. 

Other essays cover the “command culture” in the BEF, tactical innovations during the Hundred Days, Anglo-Allied cooperation, various aspects of the pivotal Battle of Amiens, and the formation of the RAF.

A volume in the series “Birmingham War Studies,” Changing War is not only important reading for serious students of World War I but also for anyone seriously interested in the development of combined arms operations.

 Note: Changing War is also available in e-PDF  format, ISBN 978-1-4411-0125-9, or as an e-Pub, ISBN 978-1-4411-9952-2.

Reviewer: A. A. Nofi, Review Editor   

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