As both a professional museum curator and an independent historian of military operations, organisations and experience (defined in the broadest sense) my research increasingly focuses on the intersection between military structures, theory and practice and material culture (‘the stuff of war’). I also have a strong public history ethic to add to my solid research skills.
Having developed an academic profile as an historian of armoured warfare connecting theory with practice, my research now examines the practicalities of coalition warfare in the First World War, with particular focus on the period of the 1918 German Spring Offensives.
Easily bored if not challenged in my historical study, my First World War passion has been rekindled by the work of the late Elizabeth Greenhalgh in her studies of the French army and it’s commanders and structures. From that research I intend to offer accessible web content on the Franco-British experience of the First World War.
I see that part of France and Belgium known as the Western Front as a multifaceted and complex environment in which the military operations form only one, albeit extremely important, part. Whilst my focus has always been to the greatest extent on the operational history of the war, my interest has always been piqued by the individuals’ stories within the main and commonly understood sequence of events. Relating the personal experiences of individuals captured in the diaries and letters of those who fought on both sides during the battle of Cambrai in November and December 1917 presented an opportunity not only to cover their “deeds”, but to look at their lives before, during, and after the war in other ways.
- Cambrai 1917: The Myth of the First Great Tank Battle (Weidenfeld & Nicolson, 2008)
El Alamein: The Battle that Turned the Tide of the Second World War (Osprey, 2012)
Contributions to Edited Collections
- “Practical Considerations in British Tank Operations on the Western Front, 1916-1918” in Searle, Alaric (ed.), Genesis, Employment, Aftermath: First World War Tanks and the New Warfare 1900-1945 (Helion, 2015)
- “‘After Amiens’: Technology and Tactics in the British Expeditionary Force During the Advance to Victory, August – November 1918” in Sheffield, Gary & Grey, Peter (eds.),Changing War: The British Army, the Hundred Days Campaign and The Birth of the Royal Air Force, 1918 (Birmingham War Studies series) (Bloomsbury Academic, 2013)
- Amiens 1918: Victory on the Somme – IWM website (2018)
- ‘No wonder weapon’ in Wartime: The official magazine of the Australian War Memorial, 2017, 80
- ‘Assault at Cape Helles’ in Wartime: The official magazine of the Australian War Memorial, 2015, 70
- Profiles of Anthony ‘Giles’ Courage, John Hardress-Lloyd, Arthur Parker, Hugh Kennedy Woods, University of Birmingham ‘Lions led by Donkeys’ project
- ‘Harper, Sir George Montague (1865–1922)’ in the Oxford Dictionary of National Biography (https://doi.org/10.1093/ref:odnb/33719)
- ‘General Harper and the failure of 51st (Highland) Division at Cambrai, 20 Nov 1917’, Imperial War Museum Review, 10 (1995)
- ‘Professionals and specialists: Military mining on the Western Front’, Imperial War Museum Review, 6 (1991)
Between late February and mid-July 2018, I planned, co-ordinated and delivered a social media engagement project to ‘live tweet’ the events of the 1918 German Spring Offensives as part of the First World War Centenary. With support from a team of collaborators, this was a much-praised example of public history, attracting over 3,500 followers and more than 2.6 million tweet impressions in this period.
- ‘Gallipoli 1915: The Drama of the Dardanelles’
A microsite developed in 2000 for IWM featuring a historical narrative and downloadable resources on aspects of the campaign. This site has now been archived (see https://www.clio-online.de/webresource/id/webresource-1026?language=en)
A word on the name of this site: Debout, les Morts! Although the title of a roman policier français by Fred Vargas and a silent film from 1916, neither is the inspiration for this site. On 24 May 1915, the 95e Régiment d’infanterie in fighting at Bois-Brûlé was famously rallied to counter-attack by adjudant Jacques Péricard with this cry ‘Wake up the Dead!’ But, again, his brave action is not the connection.
Debout les Morts! has traditionally been used by NCOs in the French Army to rouse sleeping soldiers to their duties. It’s the less crude equivalent of ‘Hands off cocks, on with socks’.
Given this site’s purpose is to awaken interest, it seemed appropriate.
As for ‘vingtfrong’, that’s my version of a British Tommy’s corruption of ‘twenty francs’.
An area of this site focuses on the personnel of the ‘missions militaires‘ or military missions that, notionally at least, connected the British, French, Belgian, Italian and American armies on the Western Front. Other sections on specific themes will almost certainly follow.
This site is dedicated to the memory of Dave O’Mara ‘@Croonaert’. The best historian of the French Army I knew and a man I greatly admired.