Currents in military thought

In previous posts I haven’t really explained the real subject of my thesis, which is the state of military thinking in Britain in the ‘20s and ‘30s. This is because it’s such a massive subject and it’s very difficult to summarize. But my thesis doesn’t make much sense out of context, so I’ll give it a try.

The First World War is a big overarching theme that runs through military thought in Britain during the interwar period. To get a sense of how great an effect the war had on the British psyche, all you have to do is read almost any novel published in Britain during the period. Pretty much everything, even books by authors like Agatha Christie and Tolkien, touch on the war in some way. Unsurprisingly, professional soldiers were particularly focused on the First World War – figuring out what had been done well and what could be done better. All of the military intellectuals in Britain during the ‘20s and ‘30s had served in the First World War, and all of them to a greater or lesser degree were concerned with ensuring that the next war, when it came, would be less destructive. Military intellectuals were moved to heights of insight previously unattained by British thinkers. Professor Brian Holden Reid notes in his book, Studies in Military Thought, that J.F.C Fuller and B.H. Liddell Hart were the first British military thinkers of the first rank. Both came to prominence following the Great War.

So this was an important period in military thought – maybe the most important in British history. Military thinkers were concerned with a number of issues: “…on the type of war to anticipate in the future, a war of movement or another four years of attrition in trenches; on the size and nature of armies, the nation-in-arms or a small, highly trained professional army; on the capabilities and limitations of air power; and finally, on the use of weapons developed to break the trench deadlock – poison gas and the tank.”[1] These are very important matters, all of which would be relevant during the Second World War. I’ll deal with how military thinkers approached these issues, and the two main currents of military thought during this period, in my final blog entry.

[1] Jay Luvaas, The Education of an Army, 331