Harlow, Nicholas A. (2019) SI VIS PACEM PARA BELLUM: MUSKETRY TRAINING IN THE BRITISH ARMY, 1884 –1914. Doctoral thesis, University of Huddersfield.

Musketry training has defined the role and purpose of Infantry on the battlefield since the Seventeenth Century. This thesis examines the musketry training of the British Army from an educational perspective during the thirty year period prior to World War One. In doing so, it attempts to bridge the gaps between three distinct areas of historiography: military, social, and firearms history. The main sources used have been the Musketry Regulations, any interim amendments to these, and the Annual Reports of the School of Musketry’s Commandant. Together they form the basis for an assessment of how the Army conducted rifle training, as well as a discussion of the opinions of the officers responsible for its creation and refinement, particularly their contemporary assessment of successes and failures.

The discussion examines the Individual training of the Infantry specifically, as distinct from the Cavalry and support arms, being the only group equipped with the rifle throughout this period. The Infantry’s standards of marksmanship training were consistently the most rigorous of any arm of service, and their Individual training formed the universal foundations upon which all further training and tactics were built. These were the factors determining the point at which soldiers were considered ‘trained men’ in the eyes of the Army, and ready for combat service.

The period chosen includes changes and innovations made after both Boer Wars (1880-81, and 1899-1902), as well as the transition from single-shot rifles to magazine-fed designs. Many of these developments directly influenced the tactics and arms used at the beginning of World War One, and primary research has been conducted on specialist training, particularly the ‘Mad Minute’. This was also the period when senior First World War officers were trained, and so can provide another perspective on training and combat later in their careers. Service histories for certain influential figures relevant to this study are included as an appendix, to demonstrate their personal career paths in relation to the areas covered in this thesis.

This study concludes that, when viewed over a thirty-year period, changes in training were generally evolutionary, and relied heavily upon existing training mechanisms and equipment. It demonstrates that the British Army was attempting to incorporate greater realism into Individual training in the 1880s, but using the existing educational framework. This approach changed with the introduction of the Lee-Metford rifle in 1891, and the perceived benefits of this new arm. This came full circle after 1902, with a far greater focus upon realistic and progressive Individual training, and with assessment separated from instruction for the first time. This became the blueprint for training over the course of the twentieth century. This thesis therefore adds to our understanding of both the battle procedures of the Late Victorian and Edwardian Army, and the formation of what we could consider ‘modern’ firearm training from both a tactical and educational standpoint.

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