Playing the Game

The British Junior Infantry Officer on the Western Front 1914-18

Christopher Moore-Bick

Date Published :
June 2012
Publisher :
Helion and Company
Series :
Helion Studies in Military History
Illustration :
20 b/w photos
Format Available    QuantityPrice
Binding. : Hardback
ISBN : 9781906033842
Pages : 330
Dimensions : 9 X 6 inches
Stock Status : Available


The British Army expanded significantly during the First World War, creating a huge demand for new officers to lead the infantry through the horrors and privations of trench warfare. Thousands of civilians accepted commissions with little or no previous military experience, and success on the Western Front depended to a large extent on their ability to learn new skills and responsibilities quickly. This book examines the lives and careers of these junior infantry officers, focusing especially on the transition from civilian to soldier. It does so by looking particularly at the young men who volunteered in the early stages of the war having only recently left either public school or university. Products of Edwardian society, they reflected prevailing military opinions about the importance of entrusting command to 'gentlemen'. Once in the army, they continued to draw on traditional ideas, habits and practices to make sense of their new roles and surroundings but, faced with an unprecedented type of modern warfare, they also rapidly gained military knowledge and experience. The synthesis of these various influences gave junior infantry officers a distinctive character amongst the many voices of the First World War. This book follows their transition and the creation of this identity though its different stages, beginning with an exploration of the educational and social backgrounds which molded the young men of 1914, creating their habits, traditions, expectations and familiar activities. It examines a series of formative experiences, including obtaining a commission, training, traveling abroad, visiting the trenches and coming under fire. Once on active service, officers learned how to perform their duties in the field, cope with the rigors of trench life and work alongside the various personalities who populated the front. Their social lives and activities are also scrutinized. The book concludes with an examination of the psychological challenges encountered on the Western Front, exploring the ways in which traditional concepts of heroism and a soldierly identity were remolded in the face of an industrialized and impersonal war.


"Playing the Game is an ambitious work, and succeeds in ... taking a novel view of leadership in the Great War."

- Journal of the Society for Army Historical Research

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