Book Review: The Imperial Army Project: Britain and the Land Forces of the Dominions and India, 1902-1945


by Douglas E. Delaney

Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2018. Pp. xviii, 360. Illus., maps, diagr., tables, appends, notes, biblio., index. $115.00. ISBN: 0198704461

Unifying the British Empire’s Armies

Prof. Delaney (Royal Military College of Canada) examines how Britain managed to create an effective Imperial army out of the diverse armies of the motherland, the several Dominions, and India in the era of the World Wars. He divides his subject into six chapters.

The first covers 1902-1909, during the post-Boer War reassessment of Britain’s defense policy, when civilian and military leaders began touting the idea of raising an “Imperial Army” through the closer integration of the armies of the Dominions and India with the British Army.

Chapter Two covers the creation of the Imperial General Staff, the reform of military education, and efforts to adapt the rather diverse armies of the Dominions and India to the model of the British Army in anticipation of cooperating in expeditionary operations. This is followed by a third chapter examining the operations, expansion, and development of the several armies during the Great War. This is followed by a chapter on trends in the postwar period, through 1933, when another major war no longer seemed unlikely.

In Chapter 5, Delaney looks at trends in the interwar period, characterized initially by severe austerity and uncertainty over doctrine and policy, and then hasty rearmament during the mid-1930s, after which he gives us a chapter on operations during the Second World War.

While it is true, of course, that the “Imperial Army” effort proved of great importance to the survival of the British Empire during the Great War, Delaney tends to overlook the many flaws and tensions that affected relations among the components, such as the tendency of senior British Army commanders to view the Indian Army and Dominion forces with varying degrees of disdain, and numerous instances of poor cooperation between contingents. This is a valuable read for anyone interested in the “British” role in the world wars.


Note: The Imperial Army Project is also available in several e-editions


Reviewer: A. A. Nofi   

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