Monday, 21 July 2014

Bloody Red Tabs: General Officer Casualties of the Great War 1914-1918 - Frank Davies and Graham Maddocks

The information presented was written by Chris Buckham; however, it was published in War History Online Journal. Therefore, the material is reproduced here by the author with the permission of the journal. If you would like to republish this information or refer to excerpts please contact the Review Editor WHO, Mark Barnes ( Website for the Journal is:
Title: Bloody Red Tabs: General Officer Casualties of the Great War
Author: Frank Davies and Graham Maddocks
ISBN: 978-1-783-46237-7
Pages: 225
Illustrations: 24 B/W
Publisher: Pen and Sword Publishing

                Popular culture likes to paint the senior officers of the First World War as petrified fossils of an earlier style of warfare unable to adjust to modern fighting methods and strategies. Further, they are also identified as compensating for this shortfall through repetition of outdated techniques and a refusal to both acknowledge their own shortcomings and to make themselves aware of the impact of their decisions. This prevailing attitude was, the authors allege, the result of a society reeling from the devastating losses of the war and looking for culpability and UK governmental leadership in the form of Lloyd George’s memoirs placing very clear responsibility for the war’s conduct on the shoulders of senior military leadership.

                Davies and Maddocks have undertaken an effort to adjust this perception and bring it closer in line with reality. Their approach does not seek to refute the idea that there were shortcomings amongst some of the commanders; indeed they readily acknowledge that there were some examples of poor leadership. What they do seek to redress is the idea that General Officers lacked courage and that they were unaware of the conditions under which their men fought; in this I would suggest that they were, for the most part, successful.

                Drawing upon statistics of killed, wounded and captured General Officers by year; operational experience and explicit orders from senior HQ’s and government officials forbidding front line exposure for senior officers, they show that, as a group, casualties were very prevalent amongst senior staff. This is not an unbiased study; the authors are quite clear of the position that they hold right at the outset and they focus their efforts to prove their thesis. Their research is comprehensive and they provide a detailed synopsis of the fate of each senior officer casualties from the British and Imperial Armies.
                I enjoyed this book and found it enlightening and educational. The authors have gone a long way towards redressing a misconception that history, thus far, has done little to address.

1 comment:

  1. A good reminder of everyone's sacrifice--not just those on the front lines. Also, a good challenge to the stereotype of Generals only watching the battle on the hill under a velvet canopy--far removed from harms way.