Top Five Books:
1. Douglas Southall Freeman, Lee’s Lieutenants
Shaped my understanding of the role of staffs and structure in making war.
2. Paul Fussell, The Great War in Modern Memory
Confirmed for me the importance of literature in understanding war.
3. CS Forrester, The General
A riveting account of an Edwardian’s officer’s development during World War I. I would have loved to list all the great war novels that I love — Once an Eagle, Caine Mutiny, Away All Boats, All Quiet on the Western Front — but I can’t and so list only these.
4. Carlo M. Cipolla, Guns, Sails and Empire
A compelling account on the effects of technology on war. If more pundits read it we would have suffered through the revolution in military affairs phenomenon.
5. Alistair Horne, The Price of Glory: Verdun 1916
A brilliant account of the horrors of the Battle of Verdun told from the soldier’s point of view.
The One that Shaped Me the Most:
CS Forrester’s The General is the one I come back to over and over again, although I have also worn out and replaced Once an Eagle three times. I have finally quit reading that book but keep coming back to The General. Curzon, the protagonist, is a cavalry officer of modest intelligence but a great deal of common sense. The novel traces his career from the Boer War until he is wounded in one of the fruitless offensives of WWI. What is chilling is how this good soldier becomes politically adept at intrigue to get what the wants. Yet he remains sympathetic because he is fundamentally a good man. Curzon is “everyman” — basically a good and competent soldier who in the end is confronted with a situation he does not understand. He is finally promoted beyond his capacity — and that is his tragedy.