Military Identities: The Regimental System, The British Army and The British People, c.1870–2000

TitleMilitary Identities: The Regimental System, The British Army and The British People, c.1870–2000
Publication TypeBook
Year of Publication2005
AuthorsFrench, David
Number of Pages404
PublisherOxford University Press
CityOxford
Abstract

The regimental system has been the foundation of the British army for 300 years. This study of the Cardwell-Childers reforms shows how the army was refashioned in the late 19th century, and how it was subsequently and repeatedly reinvented to suit the changing roles that were forced upon the army. It challenges the assumptions of both the exponents and detractors of the system, showing that there was not one but several regimental systems. It demonstrates that localized recruiting was usually a failure, with many regiments unable to draw more than a small proportion of their recruits from their own districts. It shows that regimental loyalties were not a primordial force — regimental authorities had to create them and in the late 19th century they manufactured new traditions with gusto. It shows that in both world wars regimental postings quickly broke down, and regiments had to take recruits from wherever they could find them. It shows that the notion that the British army was bad at fighting big battles in the First and Second World Wars because the regimental system created a parochial military culture, is facile.

(UNC Chapel Hill)

Short TitleMilitary Identities
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60801864

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