There is a tendency to consider the British army to be a conservative organisation reluctant to change. The same is often said about the Victorian Navy, although the later Navy and the RAF don’t share that reputation. This book contains a series of articles that examine a wide range of changes (or failures to change) over a period of a century and a half.
The wide time span, variety of topics and coverall of all three services means that the book loses a certain amount of cohesion. The articles themselves cover some important topics, and are of interest in their own right. Some look at familiar topics in more detail, and often challenge the general view (the detailed examination of the reform of British divisions in 1918 is one example of this, taking the general perception that it caused chaos and looking at the actual changes). The need to adjust to new technology was often key, affecting all three services during this period, but the impact of the realities of warfare also played a part. One unusual case was the improvement in army administration before the First World War, triggered by an active desire for peacetime reform, rather than under the pressure of combat.
I must admit I found the switch to organisational theory in the epilogue somewhat jarring, and something of a distraction from the conclusions being drawn. Perhaps the main thing to emerge from these articles is that reform and change was accepted or encouraged in all three services for much of this period, even if not every reformer met success (this doesn't mean that changes weren't welcome, just that sometimes the source of a suggestion was important).
1 - The British Army, 1795-1815: An Army Transformed? Andrew Limm
2 - 'Forsaking the good cause'? The Changes and Obstacles in Reforming the British Army, 1815-1854, Peter Randall
3 - Resistance and Reform: Transformation in the British Army Medical Services 1854-1914, Andrew Duncan
4 - 'The Most Resistless and Revolutionary Weapon of Naval Warfare that has Ever Been Introduced": The Royal Navy and the Whitehead Torpedo 1870-1900, Richard Dunley
5 - The Thin Khaki Line: The Evolution of Infantry Attack Formations in the British Army 1899-1914, Spencer Jones
6 - Edward Ward, Halford Mackinder and the Army Administration Course at the London School of Economics, 1907-1914, Peter Grant
7 - 'Oil Fuel Will Absolutely Revolutionize Naval Strategy': The Royal Navy's Adoption of Oil before the First World War, Martin Gibson
8 - Oil and Water: A Comparison of Military and Naval Aviation Doctrine in Britain, 1912-1914, James Pugh
9 - 'Hopeless Inefficiency"? The Transformation and Operational Performance of Brigade Staff, 1916-1918, Aimée Fox-Godden
10 - Vanishing Battalions: The Nature, Impact and Implications of British Infantry Reorganisation prior to the German Spring Offensives of 1918, Simon Justice
11 - Communication in the British Army and the Challenges of Technology, 1914-1940, Sarah McCook
12 - From 'Jock Column' to Armoured Column: Transformation and change in British and Commonwealth unit tactics in the Western Desert, January 1941 to November 1942, Neal Dando
13 - 'Lessons Learnt': The Royal Air Force, Operation JUBILEE and the Adaptation of Air Power in Support of Combined Operations, 1942-1944, Ross Mahoney
14 - British Aero-Naval Co-operation in the Mediterranean, 1940-45 and the Creation of RAF No.201 (Naval Co-operation) Group, Richard Hammond
Epilogue: Learning the Right Lessons: Military Transformation in Crisis and the Future of Britain's Armed Forces, Matthew Ford
Editors: Michael Locicero, Ross Mahoney and Stuart Mitchell