The Thinking Man's Soldier - The Life and Career of General Sir Henry Brackenbury, 1837-1914, Christopher Brice

The Thinking Man's Soldier - The Life and Career of General Sir Henry Brackenbury, 1837-1914, Christopher Brice

General Sir Henry Brackenbury is an almost forgotten but important figure in the history of the Victorian army. In the early part of his career he saw service in several of Britain's colonial wars, and witnessed the Franco-Prussian War, but his main contributions came as head of the Intelligence Branch, the Military Member of the Viceroy's council in India and finally as the Director General of the Ordnance during the Boer War. As the author repeatedly says, if he had been born a few years later then Brackenbury would almost certainly have served as Chief of Staff, but that post wasn't created until after his retirement.

Brackenbury is an interesting figure in his own right, rising successfully to high rank despite never commanding a sizable force in battle (he came close in the Sudan, when he inherited command of the River Column during the failed attempt to save Gordon, but during his time in charge there were no battles). However the book is of wider interest for the light it casts on the late Victorian army. At the start of his career the army was famously amateurish - the purchase system was still in place, and officers who actually studied their profession were distrusted. During his career that slowly changed, as the army became slowly more professional. The army's poor performance out of battle in the Crimea triggered some reforms, but later invasion scares, and the increasing complexity of European warfare triggered later bursts of reform. Brackenbury was an important military thinker during this period, and the author covers his many publications, some of which were anonymous at the time, allowing him to express opinions that would otherwise have caused problems for him.

Brackenbury's career provides us an unusual view of the late Victorian army, seen away from the series of generally small wars that dominate most histories, and instead looking at the essential background activity without which no modern army could take to the field. He comes across as a capable and ambitious man, who played an important part in the evolution of the British Army, and whose efforts at the Ordnance helped ensure that the army didn't run short of munitions during the Boer War, a conflict that involved the largest British army ever sent overseas at that time, and a demand for munitions on an unprecedented scale.

1 - The Brackenburys of Lincolnshire
2 - Early Years
3 - The Late Victorian British Army
4 - The Indian Mutiny
5 - The Literary Work of Henry Brackenbury
6 - Army Reform
7 - Brackenbury's Women
8 - The Franco-Prussian War
9 - The National Aid Society
10 - Aftermath of the Franco-Prussian War
11 - The Ashanti War
12 - Return from Ashantiland and Experiences in Natal and Cyprus
13 - The Zulu War, the Sekhukhune Expedition and Beyond
14 - Ireland: Disappointment and Near Disaster
15 - Redemption in the Sudan
16 - The Intelligence Branch
17 - The Mobilisation Plans
18 - Intelligence Work
19 - The Hartington Commission
20 - Legacy of Intelligence Work
21 - The Challenge of India
22 - Military Member
23 - Brackenbury and the 'Russian Menace'
24 - The Reorganisation of the Indian Army and Farewell to India
25 - President of the Ordnance Board: The Calm Before the Storm
26 - Director General of the Ordnance
27 - The State of the Ordnance Department
28 - The Mowatt Committee
29 - Army Contracts and the Trade
30 - Problems of Production
31 - The Ehrhardt Gun
32 - The Conclusion of the South African War
33 - Ill-Health and Retirement
34 - Conclusion and Assessment

Author: Christopher Brice
Edition: Paperback
Pages: 368
Publisher: Helion
Year: 2013

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