In this biography Rodney Atwood details the life of General Lord Rawlinson of Trent (1864-1925), a distinguished British soldier whose career culminated in decisive victories on the Western Front in 1918 and command of the Indian Army in the early 1920s. He served his soldier's apprenticeship in the Victorian colonial wars in Burma, the Sudan and South Africa. His career provides a lens through which to examine the British Army in the late-19th and early-20th century.
In the South African War (1899-1902) Rawlinson's ideas aided the defence of Ladysmith, and he distinguished himself leading a mobile column in the guerrilla war. In the First World War he held an important command in most of the British Expeditionary Force's battles on the Western Front. He bears a heavy part-responsibility for the disastrous first day of the Somme, but later in the battle his successful tactics inflicted heavy losses on the enemy. His Western Front career culminated in a series of victories beginning at Amiens. He commanded the Indian Army between 1920 and 1925 at a time of military and political tension following the 3rd Afghan War and the Amritsar Massacre. He introduced necessary reforms, cut expenditure at a time of postwar retrenchment and began commissioning Indians to replace British officers. He would have taken up the post of CIGS (Chief of the Imperial General Staff), thus being the only British soldier to hold these two top posts. He died, however, four days after his sixty-first birthday.
Drawing extensively on archival material including Rawlinson's own engagingly-written letters and diaries, this thorough examination of his life will be of great interest to those studying British military history, imperial history and the First World War.