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Managing Armageddon: The science of transportation and the British Expeditionary Force, 1900-1918

Phillips, Christopher (2015) Managing Armageddon: The science of transportation and the British Expeditionary Force, 1900-1918. PhD thesis, University of Leeds.

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Abstract

At its most fundamental level, the First World War in northern Europe was fought between two competing industrial systems. The efficient production and delivery of materials from the factory to the front lines played a critical role in deciding the outcome of the conflict. This thesis examines the management of the second of those factors, the provision of a flexible, effective logistics organization in the rear of the British Expeditionary Force [BEF] on the Western Front. The thesis draws upon war diaries generated by the administrative departments, and the personal papers of individuals concerned with maintaining the supply lines of the BEF and ensuring that the BEF’s ‘tail’ continued to wag. It reverses historiographical trends which have stressed the influence of the war upon the societies which fought it, to instead emphasize the manner in which highly-skilled experts from some of Britain’s largest and most complex businesses were able to contribute recognizable industrial techniques and working methods to improve the efficiency of the BEF’s transportation infrastructure and the operations systems employed upon it. This thesis rejects post-war claims, most vociferously asserted by David Lloyd George, as to the obstinacy and insularity of the British Army as an institution. The administrative success of the BEF was the result of civil-military combination and cooperation. The most famous manifestation of this process, the appointment by Lloyd George of Sir Eric Geddes to the position of Director-General of Military Railways during the Battle of the Somme, was not unique. This thesis argues that the British Army actively sought out and engaged with transport experts both prior to and during the war, a practice which consolidated a longstanding, triangular, working relationship between the British Army, the State, and the prominent railway companies of late-Victorian and Edwardian Britain.

Item Type: Thesis (PhD)
Keywords: British Army; logistics; First World War; civil-military relations; railways
Academic Units: The University of Leeds > Faculty of Arts, Humanities and Cultures (Leeds) > School of History (Leeds)
Depositing User: Mr Christopher Phillips
Date Deposited: 05 May 2015 11:51
Last Modified: 05 May 2015 11:51
URI: http://etheses.whiterose.ac.uk/id/eprint/8684

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