Victory to Defeat

The British Army 1918-40

 “If you want peace, prepare for war.” The old adage seems appropriate in 2023, as Putin’s invasion of Ukraine has forced the West to rethink its defence expenditures. The UK’s military capabilities have been gradually withering and planned cuts will see the British Army shrink to its smallest since 1714. Against this backdrop, former Chief of the General Staff Lord Dannatt GCB, MC and respected military historian Robert Lyman, provide a cautionary tale with their book Victory to Defeat.

Referring to the triumphs of 1918, and the subsequent reversal of military fortunes 22 years later, the pair illustrate the dangers of neglect in the face of impending war. They show how the British Army, having perfected combined arms warfare at the end of World War One, lost its hard-won-knowledge for the sake of political imperatives and poor leadership. By taking its ‘eye off the ball’, Britain was wholly unprepared for a peeradversary conflict in 1939 and suffered dearly for it. According to the authors, ‘history has a tendency to repeat itself ’, and their words serve as a warning that Britain in 2023 has once again neglected to understand who its enemy is and how to prepare to defeat them.

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