An Army of Brigadiers

British Brigade Commanders at the Battle of Arras 1917

Trevor Harvey

Following on from two major studies in recent years that have explored the roles and responsibilities of British generals at different levels within the British Expeditionary Force's command structure, Dr Trevor Harvey's study provides an analysis of command at the level of the infantry brigade. It is based on a critical period during the Great War
Date Published :
June 2017
Publisher :
Helion and Company
Series :
Wolverhampton Military Studies
Illustration :
32 photos, 16 full color maps, 25 tables
Format Available    QuantityPrice
Binding. : Hardback
ISBN : 9781911512004
Pages : 440
Dimensions : 9.25 X 6 inches
Stock Status : Available


There have been two major studies in recent years that have explored the roles and responsibilities of British generals at different levels within the British Expeditionary Force’s command structure. Dr Simon Innes-Robbins has written about the generals at predominantly GHQ and Army levels whilst Dr Andy Simpson has explored the development of the role of corps commanders during the Great War. For the first time Dr Trevor Harvey’s study provides an analysis of command at the level of the infantry brigade.

His study is based on a critical period during the Great War, the period from late in the Battle of the Somme to the end of the Battle of Arras in mid-May 1917. Dr Harvey’s analysis is based on the service records of 116 brigadier-generals whose brigades played some part in the Battle of Arras. He explores their roles, responsibilities and backgrounds, both in theory and in practice, in the lead-up to and during the battle to explain and illustrate the range and limitations of their commands. Based on this analysis, Dr Harvey presents case studies of five brigadier-generals, their staff officers and their battalion commanders.

Each brigadier-general has been selected from one of the five corps that participated in the Battle of Arras which provides an operational backdrop to the exploration of their roles. The brigadier-generals exhibit, in different combinations, their different operational experiences, their different career paths and their different personal characteristics. In undertaking his research, Dr Harvey has drawn on a wide variety sources, including diaries, letters and personal papers privately held by descendants of his chosen subjects. From the evidence drawn from the case studies, Dr Harvey identifies a series of threads about the responsibilities and actions which these brigade commanders share. He argues that the application of these threads enables the orthodox ‘administration and training’ interpretation of the role of brigadier-generals to be successfully challenged as both unnecessarily narrow and unduly limited.

Dr Harvey’s study has been praised by his examiners because ‘it provides unique and original insights on British operations on the Western Front in 1916-17 which will be of great interest to scholars interested in British generalship during the First World War’. This ground-breaking study is a significant addition to the historiography of generalship during the Great War.

About The Author

Trevor Harvey was born in West Germany, spent part of his childhood in Canada before returning to the UK. He was educated at West Bromwich Grammar School and is a graduate of the universities of London, Cranfield and Birmingham. He is a past Fellow of the Chartered Institute of Bankers and a past Member of the Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development. He joined the Western Front Association in 1982 and is currently Chairman of the Heart of England Branch. Trevor was a member of the initial cohort of the University of Birmingham’s MA in British First World War Studies graduating in 2006. After a career initially in financial services and subsequently involved in the management of an international business school, he retired in 2010. This book is based on his PhD thesis awarded by the University of Birmingham in 2016. Trevor lives in South Warwickshire.


"This is the sort of book that Helion does so well - a specialist analysis that will be of benefit not only to historians and serving soldiers but also to the wargamer."

- Miniature Wargames

“An Army of Brigadiers” is certainly good value at the prices I have seen...An interesting and important book.”

- The Long, Long Trail

“Highly recommended - and an absolute must for those with specific interest in the Battle of Arras and events of 1917.”

- Britain at War

“This is a fascinating book for anyone with an interest in all things Western Front…And, in the centre of the book - Maps - big colourful, easy-to-read maps. Love it!”

- Wargames, Soldiers and Strategy

The extensive research is comprehensively referenced, supported with data and well illustrated with maps and photographs…a must have for the serious student of the British and Commonwealth Armies of 1917. 5 stars.”

- Soldier Magazine

“ … Impressively researched… Harvey provides a wealth of fascinating detail and astute analysis, and makes a substantial contribution to the operational history of the under-researched Battle of Arras… At last, we have a weighty study of brigade command in the BEF, and we owe Trevor Harvey a debt of gratitude…”

- Stand To!

“as… would expect excellent research…….it fills a gap in the literature….superbly presented by Helion”

- SOFNAM Autumn 2018

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