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Kitchener’s Mob

The New Army to the Somme

Peter Doyle & Chris Foster

 

The History Press, May 2 2016

A plethora of books is arriving  to commemorate the centenary of the first Battle of the Somme, that epochal battle that represented the greatest loss of life in a single day that the British armed forces had ever suffered.  This book leaves the battle to one side: its core is the process of ramping up the size of the British Army to cope with the scale of warfare that the High Command envisaged. Once the Great War found its unholy rhythm, Kitchener’s recruitment had to be stepped up to cope with the horrendous rate of attrition that was soon suffered.

 

The book touches on the social pressures that were engineered to encourage reluctant men to enlist, and gives good coverage to the logistical challenge of housing, feeding and clothing the raft of new recruits.  The latter was a particular problem. Indeed the authors’ obsession with kit becomes a little wearing at times.

 

Mob is copiously illustrated – with both contemporary illustrations, of which many are fascinating, but also modern ones of vintage equipment. The creation of the Pals battalion is covered in depth; this becomes a little repetitive as the pattern of the development of each is remarkably similar – local aristocrat or bigwig funds or stimulates their creation. Local businesses step in to aid equipment or clothing, and so on.

 

The book’s undoubted core strength is its well-reproduced illustrations. Overall Mob gives a good flavour of the era, and of the challenges that the government faced in such rapid expansion. As the foreword by Professor Peter Simkins notes, 22% of the male population enlisted during the war. Remarkable times.

Kitchener kitcheners finger