Remembering the Great War

This month's journal printed a series of reflections on commemoration and remembrance, asking what role the arts play in mediating war in modern society. To commemorate Remembrance Day, has also trawled through the RUSI archives to bring articles from the First World War back into modern memory. 

Remembrance in this month's Journal

The Internet and the Remembrance of the Two World Wars by Dan Todman

The World Wide Web has enabled the memories of those touched by the twentieth century's titanic wars to be archived and shared by relatives, academics and history enthusiasts alike. But does online remembrance enhance the commemoration of the fallen, or reinforce stereotypes and narratives of what the wars meant to Britain?

A British Way of Remembering by John Mackinlay

Reflecting on the grace and splendour of the field cemeteries of past wars, John Mackinlay reviews Steve McQueen's installation, Queen and Country. A modern interpretation of those same principles of dignity and respect, he argues that it is fitting commemoration of the soldiers who died in the Iraq War.

Memoir of a War Artist by David Cotterrell

What is the role of an artist in conflict? Unlike a journalist, an artist does not merely document the war, nor must they simply uncover the truth, but they can subjectively interpret and mediate the range of emotions at play. The art of such observers has a vital role to play in helping society understand the cost of war.

The Lost Art of British Battle Painting by Jenny Spencer-Smith

Without a King commander on the field, or the opportunity for public approbation, British battle painting paled in comparison to its French counterparts. Although the convention may have been usurped further by modern photography, the continuing reproduction of famous battle paintings confirms their enduring popularity and ability to capture the public's imagination.

C E Montague, Liberal War Writers and the Great War by Will Pinkney

History has relegated much of the Great War's Liberal literature to the realm of romanticism, but Montague and others were in fact deeply political. Montague's criticisms of the Paris peace treaties and of British politicians, together with his demand for greater respect for those who had fought, helped shape the way the war was both perceived and remembered in Britain.


Remembrance from

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History: Beyond the 'Learning Curve': The British Army's Military Transformation in the First World War by Dr William Philpott

Placing the British army's experience on the Western Front into the context of wider military developments in strategic and tactical thinking amongst allies and opponents alike, Dr Philpott's assessment of the often traumatic but nonetheless dynamic transformation in the conduct of war between 1914 and 1918 provides an important corrective to the existing Anglo-centric interpretation.

History: The First World War and Radio Development by Dean Juniper

Radio did not come of age in the First World War but it did experience a sudden and successful adolescence. The War made radio user-friendly; suggested social, commercial and political applications; created the beginnings of an audience; brought in powerful new devices; outlined fresh needs and technical possibilities; and provided a momentum for change which continues today.


History: Anglo-American Co-Belligerency, 1917-1918 by Dr David R Woodward

Britain and America's relationship during the final years of the First World War demonstrates that a common enemy does not ensure a seamless alliance. Wilson and Pershing were able to use coalition warfare to extract operational concessions and support for self-determination. The changing nature of Germany's global threat, however, ensured that this was the most careful of balancing acts.

Analysis: 'The shock of battle' 1914-1916 by General Sir Anthony Farrar-Hockley

British soldiers fought under difficult conditions during the First World War. The confusing, chaotic and lethal manner of battle no doubt sapped the energy and morale out of the soldiers. Some were tempted to desert and were consequently punished for their 'crime'. General Sir Anthony Farrar-Hockley argues that pardoning soldiers eighty years after the event will open old wounds that would not serve anyone, especially those scorned in the past.

Analysis: Earning the thanks of Harry and Jack: The Journal of the Royal United Service Institution and World War Generalship by Lieutenant Colonel Russel W Glenn

Russell Glenn analyses the RUSI Journal's contribution to the subject of Generalship, and asks whether improvements in Generalship after the First World War can be attributed to its work. Glenn argues that the Journal helped to identify the traits necessary for senior leadership in the period 1914-1948 and provided food for thought in the field. The Journal ensured that Second World War generals knew the errors of their predecessors and the expectations they would need to meet.


From the RUSI Archives

Here are a selection of articles printed in the RUSI Journal during or just after the First World War. They are available from

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The Soldiers

The Lot of the Wounded Sailor - written 1917

A French Estimation of the British Forces by Louis Cazaman, 1917

The Registration and Care of Military Graves During the Present War - written 1917



Debates on Tactics

The Procedure of the Infantry Attack by J.C. Fuller, 1914

Shielded Infantry and the Decisive Frontal Attack by G. H. J. Rooke, 1914

The Tactics of Penetration: A Counterblast to German Numerical Superiority by J. F. C. Fuller, 1914

Artillery Support of the Infantry Attack by Klingelhoffer, 1914

The Great Transition by W. H. F. Basevi, 1914

The Principles of War, with Reference to the Campaigns of 1914-1915 - written 1916


Theatres of War

British Armies in Flanders by John Fortescue, 1915

Antwerp - written 1915

The British Army on the Continent - written 1915

The Jutland Battle - written 1917

Verdun and the Somme by T. E. Compton, 1917

The Battles of August, 1914, in Lorraine and the Ardennes by T. E. Compton, 1917

Report on the Defence of Gommecourt on July the 1st, 1916 - written 1917 

The Battle of Charleroi by T.E. Compton, 1918

A German Captain's Narrative of the Rush towards Paris by Thomas F.A. Smith, 1918

German Raid on the British Trenches Near La Boisselle, April 11th, 1916 - written 1918


New Technology

Power Traction in War by John Macdonald, 1915

Railway Transport Arrangements in France by R. Bonham-Smith, 1916


Armistice and the Future of Defence

The Necessity for an Adequate Army in the Future - written 1916

The Army after the War by Clericus, 1918

The Army After the War: Another View: Another View by Norman C. King, 1918

The Armistice - written 1919


*The views in these articles are not the views of the Royal United Services Institute but the views of the Author*


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