Forging the rapier among scythes: Lieutenant-General Sir Horace Smith-Dorrien and the Aldershot Command 1907-1912
Seim, Richard Ray
Vandiver, Frank E.
Master of Arts
When the Boer War ended in 1902, Great Britain began to analyze her extremely poor performance in that conflict. For decades, her army had accomplished its assigned missions on numerous colonial campaigns and expeditions. But the Boer War clearly demonstrated that her old military practices and attitudes were terribly outdated. In August 1914, when the First World War engulfed Europe, Britain fielded the best trained, equipped, and led army in the world. In the twelve years between the end of the Boer War and the start of the Great War, England had completely refurbished her army. Most of the credit for preparing the British Expeditionary Force belongs to Lieutenant-General Sir Horace Smith-Dorrien, General Officer Commanding- in-Chief, Aldershot Command, 1907-1912. He improved the living conditions of the soldiers; injected realism into marksmanship, training, and maneuvers; taught the cavalry to fight dismounted with rifles; developed the initiative and self-respect of the individual soldier; and most importantly, streamlined Britain's haphazard mobilization procedures. Although he played a key role in the early months of combat, his major contribution toward winning the war to end all wars was his farsighted and sound training programs and reforms during the four years that he was in command at Aldershot.