The Soldiers’ Peace
Demobilizing the British Army 1919
Pen & Sword Military, UK 2018
Hardback 192pp RRP $44.85
Reviewer: Mike O’Brien, September 2019
We sought a copy of this book because it deals with the demobilisation of the British Army after the Great War. It mentions the return of Dominion soldiers from Britain, but only in passing. Nevertheless, the wide range of problems faced by the British were also faced by Australian authorities in London, and particularly our chief of the repatriation process, General Sir John Monash.
The introduction gives a very good summary of the magnitude of the task. Demobilization involved arms, ammunition, animals and equipment as well as personnel. The planning done for ‘demobbing’ during the war is discussed as well as the reasons for its failure. This failure was largely caused by the planning being based on the economic needs of the state rather than the needs of the soldiers. The troubles that arose in a largely conscript army at war’s end – disobedience, unrest and mutiny – are carefully examined. The mechanics of the eventual demobilization are well covered as is the transition to the army of 1919, an army with many roles including the occupation of enemy countries and the garrisoning of parts of the Empire.
This is a well-written and well-researched book. It is somewhat let down by its indexer – while there are several mentions of Australia, New Zealand and Canada in the body of the text, the indexer ignored them.
In Ernest Scott’s official history volume (Australia During the War) there is a chapter on Repatriation. The key question raised by this book is when might we expect a scholarly full-length book on the Australian repatriation process from that war.
Once again we are most grateful for this review copy from the publisher.