Excerpt from THE SOMME A CONTEST OF ENDURANCE, Review Essay by Jack Spence:
So much for context. Two of the authors under review — Frank Fox and Taylor Downing — provide specialised treatment of two subjects: the work of General Headquarters (GHQ) based at Montreuil-sur-Mer and the impact of shell shock on those who suffered and those in authority who had to deal with it.
Frank Fox, whose G.H.Q. (Montreuil-sur-Mer) was ﬁrst published in 1920, was severely wounded on the Somme, but after a year’s convalescence returned to France as a staff officer at Montreuil.
The work was reissued in 2015 by Charles Goodson-Wickes, the author’s great-grandson and literary executor.
The reader is offered a meticulous and well—researched account of the vast bureaucratic structure and process required by Britain to prosecute the war successfully. This was, in many ways, a miracle of improvisation that governments of the past had never had to deal with on this scale, given the logistic requirements of modern war. In effect, the war, at one level of analysis, was a bureaucratic contest between states, all of which were seeking to mobilise and destroy the enemy’s ability to wage war most effectively. The author considers this in superb detail: for example, how munitions were supplied and despatched to the front; how medical facilities were organised; how horses and mules were cared for; and how a rudimentary educational system was devised. Fox is also illuminating on Secretary of State for War Horatio Kitchener’s New Army, providing an altogether fascinating account of the supporting role of the Dominions and the US. This argument is supported by a wealth of statistical information, photographs and a helpful chart detailing the various directorates and inspectorates controlled by the quartermaster general. Finally, there is a delicately phrased account of GHQ at play: ’monkish in its denial of some pleasures, rigid in discipline, exacting in work, but neither austere nor anxious’.7
This is an important text full of insight into how the British organised themselves for war.
7Frank Fox, G.H.Q. (Montreuil—sur-Mer)
(Beaumont Fox, 2015), p. 1.
(The RUSI Journal Dec 2016, Vol.161)