In the latest issue we cover:
History of the British Army – Mons, 23 August 1914
How the tiny BEF stopped the German juggernaut for a day – before being bundled into retreat by overwhelming numbers.
The making of a massacre – The truth behind the Waxhaws atrocity
Robbie MacNiven reveals the story behind a rare act of barbarism during the American War of Independence.
Roman Warriors – The myth of the ‘military machine’
Were Roman legionaries really as disciplined as history suggests? Ross Cowan suggests they could be as wild as their barbarian enemies.
Prussia’s Iron Commander – Moltke the Elder
Kicking off an occasional Great Commanders series, Graham Goodlad profiles the career of the military architect of modern Germany.
On the Precipice – The Cuban Missile Crisis
Just how critical was British PM Harold Macmillan’s role in preventing nuclear annihilation in October 1962? Dave Sloggett investigates.
Also in this issue: Back to the Drawing Board, Museum Review, War Zone, War Culture, Book Reviews, and much more.
The looming First World War centenary in 2014 is laden with significance. Not least is the fact that it will mark a hundred
years of modern industrialised warfare.
It is not true that the ‘first modern war’ took place in the 19th century. The American Civil War is often awarded this epithet. In fact, that war, like others at the time, was not fully modern. Men still went to war in gaudy uniforms, waving flags, and fighting in close-packed lines. War was changing, for sure, but the paradigm shift was incomplete.
That is why hundreds of thousands all over Europe were eager to join up in 1914. War was still an adventure, still imagined to be something akin to the images on biscuit tins and recruitment posters. Europeans, for the last time, went willingly to war that terrible summer.
Our British Battles series has reached the First World War this issue, and we begin with Mons. It was a conventional battle fought by a small professional army that was over in a day. In terms of scale, it was not that different from Waterloo – fought almost exactly a hundred years before, very close by.
But Mons was the end-piece of 19th-century warfare. The British Army was defeated at Mons – forced to retreat despite tactical success on the battlefield during the day’s fighting – by the sheer mass of the opposing force which threatened to engulf it.
Humanity entered a new era in 1914: the era of industrialised carnage, of long wars of matériel and attrition, of killing and destruction on a scale unimaginable to earlier generations. We will have much to reflect upon as we enter the period of the centenary.