Geography and Time: The Debate on British Strategy, 1916-1918
ON 31 October 1940 Winston Churchill told his War Cabinet that 'The question might be asked, "How are we to win the war?" This question was frequently posed in the years 1914-1918, but not even those at the centre of things could have possibly given a reply as late as August of the last year of the war.'1 The Prime Minister's reminiscences, designed to encourage his ministers to see a bright strategic future when they had little cause for such optimism, were bad history. Between 1914 and 1918 those, at the centre of things', the British policy-making élite, had several replies to the question of how Britain might win the war.
The notion that the debate within the policy-making élite was an almost gladiatorial contest between 'frock coats' (politicians/'easterners') and 'brass hats' (generals/'westerners') permeates much of the historiography of the war.2 The wide currency of these ideas is not surprising, for they have a venerable pedigree, dating back to the battle of the memoirs which commenced as soon as the guns stopped firing. They were lent weight by the prestige of writers like Lloyd George, Churchill, Robertson, and Hankey, who had themselves been members of the policy-making élite, and by historians as distinguished as Sir Basil Liddell Hart and Sir James Edmonds.3____________________