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Annual Booklist 2018-2019 : Dr Andrew Cormack FSA, FRHistS

Andrew Cormack has been the editor of the Society's Journal since July 2008. He has produced numerous articles, mainly for the Journal, and was the editor of The Journal of Corporal William Todd, 1745-1763 for the Army Records Society in 2001. His PhD on the fate of old or disabled soldiers appeared as 'These Meritorious Objects of the Royal Bounty' - The Chelsea Out-Pension in the early Eighteenth Century (published by the author) in 2017 and was the runner-up for that year’s Templer Medal.


My interest in the British Army of the eighteenth century was sparked off by J.A. Houlding's Fit for Service - The Training of the British Army, 1715-1795 (Oxford; Clarendon Press, 1981). This has become a 'classic' and is by far the best book published on the Army in the eighteenth century during the entire twentieth century. Its theme arises from the question - why was the Army always unprepared for the 'next war'? Houlding devised the concept of the Friction of Peace, which comprised all of those duties and circumstances that prevented the regiments from realistic training - riot suppression and other policing; attempts to control smuggling; the absence of barracks and training grounds; road building in Scotland; Royal escorts and the general dispersion of the troops. The book also, of course, deals with the Army's inspection and training when these were possible. A marvellous story that you will not be able to put down.

The attitudes of former centuries, something of which historians should always be aware, scarcely ever cease to amaze the twenty-first century mind. Mark Stoyle's Soldiers and Strangers: an ethnic history of the English Civil War (Yale University Press, 2005) is an extraordinary account of the views taken of 'foreigners' predominantly by the Parliamentary side during the Civil Wars. While both sides employed experienced professional soldiers from the European mainland - Dutch and some French - the surprising bit of this book deals with English attitudes to fellow occupants of the British Isles: the Scots - a useful but unco-operative, expensive and difficult-to-get-rid-of ally; the Welsh - stalwart but rampantly Royalist and therefore wrong-headed; the Irish - all presumed to be Papists and therefore murderously dealt with by the 'Godly' party and, most surprising of all, the Cornish, who were not considered to be English at all and worthy of no civilised treatment. The book emphasises just how far the British Isles was from considering itself in any way a united kingdom.

Juno Beach - Canada's D-Day Victory by Mark Zuehlke (Douglas & McIntyre, 2004) is a highly detailed account of the first 24 hours of the fighting undertaken by the 3rd Canadian Infantry Division in Normandy. The skill with which individual accounts have been stitched into a comprehensible patchwork is most impressive. But not as impressive as the contribution that Canada's soldiers made to victory in that exceptionally difficult and savage day of fighting, which assured the peaceful future of most of Europe for the remainder of the century.

The rather oddly titled The Bridge to Airpower: Logistics Support for Royal Flying Corps operations on the Western Front, 1914-1918 (Naval Institute Press, 2015) by Peter Dye is a book that presents a fascinating picture of how work 'behind the scenes' enabled the 'sharp end' to perform as it had to. However, although logistics has been dealt with in previous books, the demands of the air service were significantly different to those of the rest of the Army. The majority of its ammunition may have been the same, but almost none of the other technical stores it required were of any use to the other Corps. The fragility and complexity of its principal equipment - aeroplanes - imposed an additional burden on a support system that was also called upon to supply a service whose operational roles were continually expanding in the fields of photo-reconnaissance, Contact Patrols and wireless-controlled Artillery Co-operation.

Another old favourite that examines the internal arrangements of the Army in the eighteenth century is Alan Guy's Oeconomy and Discipline: officership and administration in the British Army, 1714-1763 (Manchester University Press, 1985). Military history is not, these days, solely about battles and this volume was an early foray into explaining how the Army managed itself as a conglomeration of inter-locking businesses when regiments were, to a large degree, the private enterprises of their colonels. As with several of these books, and my own work, it is only by understanding the background that the foreground can be brought accurately into focus.

As regards a book that ought to be written, a history of the Royal Artillery in the eighteenth century is much needed. It should cover its organisation and growth, its training, its equipment and capabilities, and its pension system. It assuredly had one, though it had nothing at all to do with Chelsea until 1834.

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