The First World War was above all a war of logistics. Whilst the conflict will forever be remembered for the mud and slaughter of the Western Front, it was a war won on the factory floor as much as the battlefield. Examining the war from an industrial perspective, Arming the Western Front examines how the British between 1900 and 1920 set about mobilising economic and human resources to meet the challenge of 'industrial war'. Beginning with an assessment of the run up to war, the book examines Edwardian business-state relations in terms of armament supply. It then outlines events during the first year of the war, taking a critical view of competing constructs of the war and considering how these influenced decision makers in both the private and public domains. This sets the framework for an examination of the response of business firms to the demand for 'shells more shells', and their varying ability to innovate and manage changing methods of production and organisation. The outcome, a central theme of the book, was a complex and evolving trade-off between the quantity and quality of munitions supply, an issue that became particularly acute during the Battle of the Somme in 1916. This deepened the economic and political tensions between the military, the Ministry of Munitions, and private engineering contractors as the pressure to increase output accelerated markedly in the search for victory on the western front. The Great War created a dual army, one in the field, the other at home producing munitions, and the final section of the book examines the tensions between the two as the country strove for final victory and faced the challenges of the transition to the peace time economy.
Table of Contents
Contents: Introduction; The road to war: the Edwardian economy, military preparedness, and war planning; The pre-war procurement system: the War Office, the Admiralty, and the private armaments producers; ’Business as usual’ and the challenges of war; The rise of the engineer’s war and the origins of the Ministry of Munitions; The Ministry of Munitions and industrial warfare; Producing for the industrial battlefield: the Ministry of Munitions and the Somme; Oh what a costly war: managing and paying for industrial warfare; Coping with crisis: the war economy in 1917; The intractable problem of manpower: the western front and the home front in transition; The transition to a peace economy and the challenge of reconstruction, 1918-1920; Conclusion; Bibliography; Index.