"An ill-timed conservatism": tactical instruction at the Royal Military College, Sandhurst, 1874-1914
Date of Award
Master of Arts
From a military and strategic standpoint, the First World War was, for the British and most other belligerents, a disaster: economies were pressured to their limits and few events exemplified tactical, operational, and ·strategic futility more than the Western Front. Since 1918, politicians, journalists, and historians alike have endeavored to assess the reasons for the catastrophe that was the Great War and to place blame on anyone's shoulders but their own. Although the British government made an inquiry into the adequacy of training at the Royal Military College, Sandhurst, shortly after the war, historians have largely forgotten military education as an important element of the Crown's strategic position.2 The failure of historians to examine the intellectual preparation of the British military leadership is peculiar, especially as writers have often addressed the "incompetence" of the officer class. What was taught at Sandhurst influenced the way military leaders thought, especially in matters of artillery preparation, rapid tactical deployment, and unit mobility. In these and other matters, the professors, by way of the curriculum, established a series of pseudo-scientific military "laws" and "proved" their validity through the use of historical examples. The importance of the Royal Military College and its curriculum grew tremendously in the last quarter of the nineteenth century. In many ways, Sandhurst was more important to the British army at the turn of the twentieth century than at any other time since its founding.
Prestia, Joseph David, ""An ill-timed conservatism": tactical instruction at the Royal Military College, Sandhurst, 1874-1914" (1997). Master's Theses. 834.