Stepbrothers in Arms. Replacements in the British Expeditionary Force on the Western Front 1918

Lynch, Tim
Date published: 
November 2017

By 1918, the British Expeditionary Force had become a complex mixture of Regular, Territorial, New Army and conscript soldiers, each with their own culture of attitudes and beliefs about their particular identity and about the task before them. For generations of military historians, unquestioning acceptance of the existence of a vaguely defined but nonetheless seemingly crucial ‘regimental family’ ethos has become an article of faith in attempts to describe or explain the behaviour of soldiers in battle, but is the romanticized ‘band of brothers’ portrayed by Shakespeare and Spielberg real? This book explores what the concept of the regimental family meant for soldiers on the Western Front and examines how, in the wake of enormous losses a disparate group of volunteers and conscripts became an effective fighting force. The British Army’s regimental system has often been described as tribal but very little effort has been made to study it as such. ‘Stepbrothers in Arms’ provides an accessible introduction to the study of the real experience of service in the First World War and will be aimed at the growing number of lay researchers looking beyond hagiography towards a more balanced understanding of the factors affecting the largely overlooked ‘human factor’ in the trenches.