War studies postgraduate students

Profiles of some of our recent PhD and MPhil students.

Sonia Batten - The Language of Grief, 1914-39

Sonia Batten works in education. Her interest in the First World War began when she tried to dig a trench in her parents’ back garden at the age of seven. She is preparing a PhD thesis (part-time) on ‘The Language of Grief, 1914-39’, an exploration of language and commemoration during and after the Great War under supervision of Dr John Bourne.

Nick Beeching - Worcestershire Regiment in WWI

Nick grew up in Hastings and was educated at Hastings Grammar School, Christ Church, Oxford and Brighton Polytechnic. He has degrees in Modern History and International Relations as well as a Post Graduate Diploma in Information Systems. He is also a professionally qualified Project Manager

He has had what might be described as a varied working life having been at various times a machine press operator, school master, IT Trainer, and Training Centre Manager and has practised Project Management in both the public and private sectors.

He has, however, retained his enthusiasm for history (inspired by his two grandfathers, one of whom served in WW1) throughout his life. Military History, especially the Total Wars of the Industrial Age, has always been his enduring interest. His current research topic is the Worcestershire Regiment in WW1 with a particular focus on the Western Front in 1918.

John Brennan - Irish Chaplains in WWI

I am a teacher of history at a second level, Integrated college in Enniskillen, Co. Fermanagh. I became interested in the First World War because my grandfather was in the Irish Guards and his contribution, along with the contribution made by almost all Southern Irishmen who fought in that war, has up until recently been ignored by the authorities in the Republic of Ireland, whereas the contribution made by Northern Irish soldiers has been highlighted.

As a history teacher in an Integrated college, I believe that my students should understand the facts of the past rather than perpetuate the long held myths which have contributed to the divisions in Northern Irish society.

My main interest in the First World War then is its impact on Ireland and on subsequent Irish history and to research the role played by people from all political and religious backgrounds in Ireland. I am particularly fascinated by the role played by Irish Chaplains of all denominations and this is the area I am presently researching under the supervision of Dr Michael Snape.

Mike Bullock - British Army Signal Service on the Western Front

Mike Bullock is a retired director of Barclays Bank plc. He has been deeply interested in the Great War for many years, but his particular fascination with Signals is more recent. His father was a wireless operator with the Royal Air Force during the Second World War, while Mike himself served as a subaltern with The Royal Corps of Signals during his National Service. He is nearing completion of his PhD on ‘The British Army Signal Service on the Western Front, 1914-1918’. This is a much-neglected area of academic attention. The completion of his Ph D will fill an important gap in the historiography of the Great War. Mike Bullock is also a member of Toc H.

Geoff Clarke - Logistics at Operational Level on the Western Front

Geoff Clarke was born during an air raid in 1944, in Wimbledon, while his father was following Butch Harris’s orders as a two-tour navigator in Bomber Command. He was educated at the old village school on the Common, and then at King’s College School as a ‘Surrey Scholar’. He went up to Cambridge in 1962 to read History, of the subjects studied at school the one that struck the most chords. A fascination with railways and an enduring interest in History were quite probably genetic- the family seems to carry what he hopes is more an elephant than a Bourbon gene in the memory department, and included several generations of railwaymen, whilst History has been the chosen subject of a number of relatives.

After graduation he became a Management Trainee with British Rail where he has spent the bulk of his working life to date. Experience of the grittier reality of an industry in the throes of physical modernisation, and of the much more difficult task of modernising its institutions and attitudes to cope with a rapidly changing economy and vigorous competition knocked some corners off, as in a different way did the demands of subsequent more office bound appointments in stimulating an interest in and study of Economic Theory and Statistics. Machiavelli and Dale Carnegie might have been more useful tutors, but in the immortal words of Joe E Brown, ‘Nobody’s poifict’. In his spare time he greatly enjoyed playing Rugby of a moderately coarse variety on two Continents. He spent a number of years in the Territorial Army, mostly as a Ports and Coastal Waters transport type, which left him with a deep respect for the Officers and men of the Regular Army, especially for its Senior NCOs, and an abiding regard for the weekend volunteers. His MBA rounded out his education in management theory and, in exposing him to Management Science speak, did serious damage to his syntax. In recent years he has worked on various Consultancy projects, largely connected with transport, and largely located around the fringes of the former Soviet Empire.

From childhood the reminiscences of older generations-relatives, neighbours, and schoolmasters- of experiences of and in the Boer War and the Kaiser’s and Hitler’s wars stimulated a particular interest in military history which has endured, increasingly focussing on the period from 1900 to 1920. It has taken him past the familiar but misleading landmarks of the likes of Liddell Hart, Leon Wolff, Alan Clark and Joan Littlewood to the sounder ground of John Terraine and his successors, and provided a splendid excuse for a number of memorable pilgrimages to the battlefields of the Western Front The MA course at Birmingham, in which he was one of the guinea pigs of the Class of 2004, was a perfect opportunity to introduce some discipline into his study (not entirely- the Prize for Perplexing Prolixity was well earned by a sentence of 100 plus words containing no main verb in an early draft of the Dissertation). The opportunity to interact with faculty and frighteningly knowledgeable and erudite fellow students has proved most stimulating, and left him wishing to climb higher.

His intention now is to prepare a study of Logistics at Operational level on the Western Front in the closing mobile phases of the war, in pursuit of a deeper understanding of a somewhat overlooked but important aspect of the management of the BEF.

Derek Clayton - Battle of the Sambre

Derek originates from West Yorkshire, but moved to the Midlands in 1975. He graduated as BA (Combined Hons) in French and German from the University of Birmingham. He has taught Modern Languages in and around the city ever since and is currently at King Edward VI Five Ways School. He is also Secretary of Birmingham Referees’ Association and an FA Licensed Referee Instructor. He is a supporter of Leeds United.

His long-standing interest in military history finally focused on the First World War and ten years of research culminated in the publication, in 2004, of his history of the 9th King’s Own Yorkshire Light Infantry in the Great War, From Pontefract To Picardy (Stroud: Tempus Publishing). He recently finished the MA in British First World War Studies at the University of Birmingham, a programme that he unreservedly recommends. His dissertation examined the performance of the 49th (West Riding) Division in three attacks: at Thiepval on 3 September 1916; at Poelcappelle on 9 October 1917; and at Valenciennes on 1 November 1918. He is now researching a PhD on the Battle of the Sambre, 4 November 1918.


Peter Dye - The RFC Logistic System on the Wester

Peter Dye is Director General of the RAF Museum. Peter is a retired Air Vice Marshal in the RAF and served in a variety of engineering, training and personnel positions. He was awarded a Portal Fellowship in 2007.


The development and effective employment of the air weapon on the Western Front represented a revolution in the way that national resources were employed in exploiting a technological opportunity to achieve tactical and operational advantage. It also established an interdependence between logistics – in the form of its enabling systems and processes - and air power that has profoundly shaped the activities and culture of the Royal Air Force. Logistics was both a midwife and a wet nurse to air power – a relationship that continues to this day. Little has been written about logistics on the Western Front and virtually nothing about how the Royal Flying Corps and the Royal Air Force were supported in the field, enabling an immature technology to be turned into an effective weapon in a matter of just 4 years. The opportunity exists to explore this relationship in more detail and to identify the key aspects that allowed the air weapon to develop so rapidly. The logistic system developed on the Western Front provided the foundation for the strategic success of the Royal Air Force in WW2 and has a continuing role in shaping the employment of air power in the 21st Century.


  • ‘The Royal Flying Corps Logistic Organisation’, Royal Air Force Air Power Review, Vol 1, No 2 (1998)
  • ‘Logistics and the Battle of Britain’, Royal Air Force Air Power Review, Vol 3, No 4 (2000)
  • ‘Logistic Doctrine and the Impact of War: The Royal Air Force’s Experience in the Second World War’ in Sebastian Cox and Peter Gray (Eds) Air Power History: Turning Points from Kitty Hawk to Kosovo (Frank Cass, 2002)



Adrian Faber - Bilston during the Great War

Adrian Faber is editor of the Express & Star newspaper in Wolverhampton. Previously he was editor of the Shropshire Star and has been editor of evening newspapers in Bristol, Brighton and Cheltenham. A born and bred Brummie, he now lives in Wolverhampton. Adrian studied for his first degree in Medieval and Modern History at the University of Birmingham. He has just completed the Centre’s MA in British First World War Studies – a programme he would thoroughly recommend.

Unsurprisingly, Adrian is particularly interested in the role of the provincial press during the First World War. His MA dissertation focused on the Express & Star in 1918. He is just embarking on a PhD research project, under the supervision of Dr John Bourne, examining the small Black Country town of Bilston during the Great War. He aims to look at how this industrial community took ‘ownership’ of its fighting men while they served abroad. Did the values and ethos of these sorts of close-knit working communities help to make the British army a war winner? The Express & Star, along with other local newspapers, will be an important source. He would be very pleased to hear from anybody who has information about men from Bilston who served in the First World War or the families and friends they left behind.


Andrew Duncan - The Education of British Army Officers 1902-1914

Andrew did both his undergraduate and his M.Litt degrees in Modern History at the University of St Andrews, and he will always look back fondly on his time in the Auld Grey Toun. He is a devoted distance runner, and having previously run for St Andrews and for Fife AC, now runs for Birmingham Uni. In his spare time, he tells off-colour jokes and extravagantly implausible anecdotes.


The thesis will explore regular officers’ education in the broad sense, examining class-room teaching at Sandhurst and Woolwich, and also empirical experience drawn from colonial campaigns or administration, with the intention of demonstrating that officers drew on what they had learned to make their decisions in 1914.

It will examine the ethos and professionalism of the officer corps, the (non-prescriptive) doctrine that the army had in the form of Field Service Regulations, and the combat effectiveness of the army when it fought in the opening campaign on the continent in 1914.

The formal education of officers at Sandhurst, Woolwich, and Camberley will be given extensive coverage, as little has been written about the curricula of the first two institutions. Some consideration will be given to officers who did not pass through either Sandhurst or Woolwich, joining from the Militia or the Special Reserve, and OTC programs and training for Territorial Force officers, but the emphasis will remain on the Regulars.

The army’s standard round of annual training will be examined, starting with small unit tactics, progressing to coordination with other units, and culminating in large exercises, with an examination of what was practiced, and the results that were observed and the decisions made by the umpires at the exercises. Lessons that officers learned from campaigns or postings in the Empire will also be included, to examine the different ways that officers could continue to learn, in what would now probably be called ‘continuous professional development’.

Finally, the opening weeks of the war and the choices that officers made will be explored, to link together learning and action in battle.  


  • ‘The Development of the British Army Medical Services 1856-1914, Transformation and Reform’ in Ross Mahoney, Stuart Mitchell and Michael LoCicero (Eds.) A Military Transformed? Transformation and Innovation in the British Military from 1792 to 1945 (Solihull: Helion, Forthcoming (2013))


Paul Fantom - Patriotism and the Working Class in Wednesbury

Paul Fantom was born in Wednesbury in the Black Country, and educated at Wood Green High School, Sandwell College and the University of Manchester, where he read economics.  However, a long-standing enthusiasm for history led him to undertake further, part-time study with the Open University, from which he gained a first-class honours degree, postgraduate certificate and a master’s degree awarded with distinction.  His master’s dissertation examined the social history of his hometown with respect to the radicalism of the Chartist movement in the 1830s and 1840s.

Paul’s interest in the First World War can be traced back to the stories his grandmother told him about growing up in the early years of the 20th Century, together with her account of the Zeppelin raid on the Black Country that took place in January 1916.  Further investigation revealed that two of his great grandfathers had served with Staffordshire Regiments during the Great War. These factors ultimately contributed to his switch from 19th to 20th Century research and he is now pursuing a part-time PhD under the supervision of Professor Carl Chinn. This research is exploring patriotism and the working class in Wednesbury during the Great War, examining how this affected both the front line and the home front, and making particular reference to the recruitment and war service of the citizen soldiers of the Fifth (Territorial Force) Battalion of the South Staffordshire Regiment.  He would be very interested to hear from anyone with information about Wednesbury during the Great War.

Aside from an enduring fascination with other areas of history as diverse as the Renaissance and the social and political history of the Black Country, his Paul’s other interests include cinema, crosswords, current affairs, music, photography, the theatre, travel, and he is a supporter of West Bromwich Albion.


Aimee Fox-Godden - Beneath the Learning Curve: Inter-theatre Knowledge Management in the British army, 1914-1918

I hold a BA (Hons) in English and History and an MA in British First World War Studies from the University of Birmingham. My MA dissertation examined the operational performance of brigade staff officers in British and Australian formations in 1916-1918. In 2007, following my undergraduate studies, I was the first recipient of the Royal British Legion’s HM The Queen Mother Great War Scholarship, based out of the Centre d’Accueil de Thiepval for six weeks. In 2011, I became the first international student to be awarded a summer scholarship at the Australian War Memorial where I researched into the performance of the Australian Imperial Force at First Passchendaele, 1917.


My research examines the British army’s use of knowledge as a force multiplier through the identification and examination of formal and informal processes for knowledge sharing between three operational theatres in the First World War: the Western Front, Gallipoli and Palestine. Underpinned by the concept of the ‘early information society’, the efficacy of these processes is examined through engagement with Knowledge Management theory, particularly the work of Ikujiro Nonaka, Gabriel Szulanski and Linda Argote, providing a framework within which the British army’s acquisition, exploitation and adaptation of knowledge can be measured and validated. Knowledge sharing will be considered with reference to key areas such as artillery, logistics and medical services, charting whether there is evidence of best practice from various theatres influencing their development.

Over the last twenty years, First World War scholarship has been driven by the broad concept of the ‘learning curve’ theory. Despite recent re-evaluations of other operational theatres and attempts to position them within the broader experience of the British army, the learning process still remains focused on the Western Front. Manpower and materiel constraints aside, there has been limited research into the relationships between theatres and even less about how knowledge and experience were exchanged between them. My research will address this gap by assessing how operational theatres shared best practice and, ultimately, whether they were successful in doing so. By considering these relationships, my research seeks to show how the British army developed a cross-theatre ‘learning network’ to increase its competitive advantage, thus enhancing its ability to cope with the changing nature of warfare.



Trevor Harvey - Development of the Canadian Corps

Trevor Harvey is one of the management team at Ashridge, an organisation based near Berkhamsted, Hertfordshire, that helps managers and organisations improve their respective performances.  Born to a soldier father who served as a gunner with 51st Highland Division, his up bringing was typically itinerant. Life on an army base in West Germany was followed by emigration to Canada. On the death there of his father, his family returned to the UK. His secondary school years were spent at the local grammar school in West Bromwich. He attended his first Baggies game in the 1959-60 season and has since found the habit hard to break.

The history of the Great War is an interest for Trevor. It may be his pre-occupation but it is not his occupation. The Centre’s MA programme provided a valuable structure, focus and purpose to what otherwise would probably have forever remained an unthreaded set of popularist readings. His dissertation explored the role of Sir Arthur Currie in the Battle of Hill 70, his first operation as commander of the Canadian Corps. Trevor is continuing the pursuit of his interest in the Canadian Corps under the guidance of both John Bourne and Rob Thompson. He is researching a PhD on the development of the Corps and its operational impact on Canada's contribution to the war effort.

Alison Hine - Expansion of British Army during WWI

Alison Hine served in the British Army from 1974 until 2002, firstly in the Women’s Royal Army Corps and then in the Adjutant General’s Corps.  She held a variety of regimental and staff appointments in Britain and abroad, including single and tri-Service appointments in MOD, and ended her military career as a Colonel.   Since then she has worked as an occasional Battlefield Tour guide and is a member of the Guild of Battlefield Tour Guides. 

Having first become interested in military history at school (Caesar’s Gallic Wars and First World War poetry!), she dabbled in it until leaving the Army when a part-time MA  course in Military Studies at Chester College gave her the opportunity for more in depth study.  Her thesis on how the expansion of the British Army during the First World War was managed whetted her appetite and she has now enrolled for a PhD at Birmingham, researching how the Army was rebuilt after the Somme.

Peter Hodgkinson - BEF Battalion Commanders

Peter Hodgkinson’s interest in the Great War is lifelong. The war seemed an intimate part of his childhood due to his grandfather’s stories of Motor Ambulance Convoy duty, fed by the BBC’s Great War series. As a teenager he read avidly and indiscriminately. Then a professional life as a Clinical Psychologist, latterly specialising in trauma and sudden death, intervened. In the early 1990’s he returned to a new generation of WW1 scholars.

Peter completed the MA in First World War Studies in 2006. His fascination for understanding the endurance of the men who fought, and how societal attitudes impacted on coping, led to his MA dissertation “Human Remains on the Great War Battlefield – Coping with Death in the Trenches”.

He is now reading for a PhD on the BEF’s Battalion Commanders under the supervision of John Bourne.

Brett Jarvis - Kitchener's 'temporary gentlemen'

I served in the British Army as a soldier, NCO and officer, finishing my career as a Captain in the Princess of Wales’s Royal Regiment. I served in Northern Ireland, the First Gulf War, and Bosnia. I recently completed a History degree at Fitzwilliam College, Cambridge. 

I am now reading for an M.Phil, studying the post-war careers of Kitchener’s ‘temporary gentlemen’ under the supervision of Dr John Bourne.


Simon Justice - The BEF in Defence of the Western Front 1917-18

After training as an accountant, Simon invested twenty-five years in high-tech sales and marketing. He lives with his wife near Oxford and they have one daughter. His association with the University of Birmingham’s Centre for War Studies began in 2007, when he commenced an MA programme in British First World War Studies, from which he graduated in 2009. His final dissertation was titled ‘Means to an End: The Experience of 1918 and its influence on the British Fourth Army’s Performance on the Selle’.


Defence of the Western Front, as conducted by the British Expeditionary Force (BEF) in spring 1918, is traditionally presented as a below-par effort against greater offensive strength, which failed when it ran out of steam. Superior German combat power is characterized in the application of refined assault tactics, wielded expertly by armies trained-for-purpose, and swollen with divisions transferred west following the collapse of Russia. Conversely, a generally weak and patchy British performance is chiefly attributed to the faulty application of German methodology, further degraded by poor planning, command and control, insufficiency of men, and a lack of reserves, training and preparation.

Accepting these contentions as representative – notwithstanding strategic shortcomings – the inability of the Imperial German Army to inflict anything past brief tactical reverses on the BEF in March and April 1918 must still be held a puzzle. The fact is that while German preparations for, and execution of, the last spring offensives of the Great War have been the subject of scrutiny in recent years and are widely understood, the same cannot be said of British counter-measures. Studies encompassing the BEF in 1918 have tended to focus on the development of assault tactics. As such, the defence has been largely marginalized in favour of linking offensive operations and tactical development through 1916 and 1917 directly with the ‘Hundred Days’ campaign which culminated in the Armistice.

My thesis will examine the organisation, planning, command and control, training, tactics and morale of the BEF as it prepared for, and faced, the 1918 defensive battles of the Somme and the Lys. It will seek to establish the true nature of the BEF’s response to the German offensives and the extent to which the experience of that final spring contributed to allied success later in the year.


  • 'Behind the Lines: Sir Douglas Haig and the Cavalry Corps, September-October 1918', Records: The Journal of the Douglas Haig Fellowship, (14) (November 2010), pp. 36-55.
  • ‘Vanishing Battalions: The Nature, Impact and Implications of British Infantry Reorganisation prior to the German Spring Offensives of 1918’ in Ross Mahoney, Stuart Mitchell and Michael LoCicero (Eds.) A Military Transformed? Transformation and Innovation in the British Military from 1792 to 1945 (Solihull: Helion, Forthcoming (2013))


Andrew Limm - ‘Through hell and high water’: The British Army in the Low Countries, 1793-1814

I first came to the University of Birmingham as an undergraduate in September 2007 and graduated with a degree in War Studies in 2010. Having developed a keen interest in the Napoleonic period, thanks to my special subject, which focused on the British army in the Peninsular War, I chose to undertake further research into this period in the form of a research MPhil. I was then able to upgrade my research to a PhD in May 2011.


My research focuses on Britain’s strategic and military involvement in the Low Countries during the French Revolutionary and Napoleonic Wars. Central to this, is an analysis of Britain’s ‘special relationship’ with the Low Countries, chiefly the desire of successive British governments to prevent/ remove French influence from the area by despatching military expeditions to the region. The abject failure of many of these expeditions however brings me on to the other aim of my research, which is to revise our understanding of the quality of the British army in this period.

The current historiography of the British army in the French Revolutionary and Napoleonic wars is dominated by the thesis that the British army underwent a transformation from a dysfunctional force at the end of the American War of Independence into a modern and efficient military machine by 1809. The catalyst for this change, as argued by a group of mostly British historians, was a series of reforms made by the Duke of York during his time as Commander-in-Chief of the Army, in the period 1795-1809. Despite achieving victory under the Duke of Wellington in the Iberian Peninsula in 1808-1813 however, the British army suffered a string of humiliating defeats in the Low Countries during 1793 to 1814. My aim, therefore, is to revise our understanding of the quality of Britain’s strategic thinking and the conduct of her armed forces during this period. In order to achieve this, I have chosen to assess four of the British expeditions to the Low Countries, analysing their strategic origins, assessing the quality of military planning and evaluating the conduct of the British armed forces on campaign. The four expeditions are those to Dunkirk in 1793, the Helder in 1799, the Scheldt in 1809 and the expedition to Bergen-Op-Zoom in 1813-14.


  • ‘The British Army 1795-1815: An Army Transformed?’ in Ross Mahoney, Stuart Mitchell and Michael LoCicero (Eds.) A Military Transformed? Transformation and Innovation in the British Military, 1792 to 1945  (Helion, Forthcoming)


Matthew Lucas - Australian, British and Canadian

Matthew Lucas graduated as a nurse in 1995. But since then military history, and especially the Great War, have become more prominent in his life. He completed a degree in War Studies and History in 2000 and followed this with spells as a visiting lecturer at Wolverhampton University. He spent the summers of 2001 and 2003 living and working as a battlefield guide on the Somme. In between he also spent a year travelling around battlefields in South East Asia and long periods in Australia and Canada collecting material for his M Phil (begun in February 2004), in which he aims at comparing Australian, British and Canadian combat experience on the Western Front between 1916 and 1918.

He has been a keen member of the Western Front Association since 1990. His article ‘All quiet on the Western Front, Fact or Fiction’ was published in the January 2001 edition of Stand To! He has also featured on Pilot Guides (as shown on the Travel Channel and the BBC) as a battlefield guide on the Somme. Last summer, he worked on the archaeological dig for the ‘Ancestors’ programme on Wilfred Owen. He visits the battlefields on a regular basis as a guide with Leger and Anglia Battlefield Tours and recently (May 2008) became Historical Information Officer with the Western Front Association.

Michael Maskey - The Cabinet and the Strategic Direction of WWI

Michael comes from an Army family and spent his childhood moving around Europe and the Middle East before reading law at Kings College London. A solicitor, he ended up as senior partner of Russell-Cooke LLP and lives in London and Oxfordshire. His interest in the First World War originally arose through reading and (collecting first editions of) the war novels and poetry and gradually widened into its history and historiography. Apart from history his other interests include cricket, rugby and skiing.

He recently completed an MA in First World War Studies at Birmingham University where his dissertation examined the Army Postal Service on the Western Front. He is now researching a PHD, under the supervision of John Bourne, on the contribution to the strategic direction of the War made by the Cabinet and the extent to which it was successful in performing its role as the body constitutionally responsible for the strategic control and conduct of the War. He hopes this research will contribute to the body of scholarship on the strategic conduct of the War.


Ross Mahoney -  “The Flying Sergeant”: The Leadership Effectiveness of Air Chief Marshal Sir Trafford Leigh-Mallory at the Tactical and Operational Levels of War

Ross Mahoney is a Postgraduate Teaching Assistant in the School of History and Cultures where he teaches on various undergraduate modules. Before this, he was a full-time Lecturer in the Further Education Sector. Prior to his PhD, he completed an MPhil at the University of Birmingham, entitled ‘The Royal Air Force, Combined Operations Doctrine and the Raid on Dieppe, 19 August 1942.’ He holds a PGCE in Post-Compulsory Education and a BA (Hons) in History and War Studies from the University of Wolverhampton.

He received the Royal Aeronautical Society’s Aerospace Speakers Travel Grant in 2011 to deliver a paper at the Annual Meeting of the Society for Military History. He is a West Point Fellow in Military History at the United States Military Academy.


This thesis examines the career of one of the RAF’s most controversial commanders, Air Chief Marshal Sir Trafford Leigh-Mallory. The historiography on Leigh-Mallory has invariably seen him labelled as either misguided or incompetent or at worst both. His career has been analysed through the prism of his role in both the Battle of Britain and Operation OVERLORD. However, this thesis seeks to provide a more balanced view of this important officer’s development and impact.

Grounded in an understanding contemporary leadership theory this thesis will provide an examination of Leigh-Mallory’s competency, and why a leader with so many detractors reached senior command. In order to assess Leigh-Mallory’s effectiveness at the tactical and operational levels of war this thesis conceptualises the inputs and outputs of leadership, and links them to the production of fighting power. It examines the key inputs of education, training and experience. It then considers how Leigh-Mallory’s actions affected issues such as morale, cohesion, followership, and empowerment. It considers endo- and exogenous factors that influenced Leigh-Mallory’s career such as social background, organisational culture and succession planning. A broader understanding of these interrelated factors will allow for a broader consideration of Leigh-Mallory’s effectiveness and how prepared he was for the ambiguity and challenges of senior command.

An interdisciplinary methodology is required because Leigh-Mallory’s sudden death in November 1944 saw him have little in the way of personal papers. This created a methodological problem that precluded the use of a biographical approach. Therefore, in order to consider the issue of effectiveness this thesis utilises a 360-degree appraisal methodology. This methodology allows the examination of different sources such as contemporary views, historic opinion, personal papers and operational records to measure his leadership effectiveness.



  • A Military Transformed? Transformation and Innovation in the British Military, 1792-1945 (Solihull: Helion and Company, Forthcoming (2013)) – a collection of essays edited with Stuart Mitchell and Michael LoCicero


  • ‘Operation JUBILEE and the Transformation of Air Support for Combined Operations: The Case of Command and Control and Aerial Bombardment’ in Ross Mahoney, Stuart Mitchell and Michael LoCicero (Eds.) A Military Transformed? Transformation and Innovation in the British Military, 1792-1945 (Solihull: Helion and Company, Forthcoming (2013))
  • ‘A Blueprint for Success: Army-Air Force Co-Operation and the Battle for the Mareth Line, 19-29 March 1943’ in Matthew Ford, Patrick Rose, and Andrew Hargreaves (Eds.) Allied Military Effectiveness in the Mediterranean, 1942-1945 (Leiden, NL: Brill, Forthcoming (2012))


Stuart Mitchell - An inter-disciplinary study of learning at the divisional level of the British Army on the Western Front between 1916-1918.

Stuart Mitchell has a BA in Journalism and Contemporary History (QMUL), MA in History of Warfare (KCL), Aston Villa fan, drummer and imbiber of popular culture in its various forms.


The idea of a learning curve (or process) has become broadly accepted among military historians of the Great War, but explanations for how and why this actually occurred still remains sparse. This thesis draws upon a plethora of different disciplines to analyse what the BEF did to learn the lessons from combat in an uncompromising and difficult operational environment. As a case study to explore the themes of learning the British 32nd Division have been used. They partook in a number of major operations including The Somme and Ancre, German retreat the Hindenburg Line, Nieuport, Passchendaele, Amiens and The Hundred Days Offensives; experiencing both great success and abject failures. Although recognised as a predominantly Northern Division the men within the units of the division came from all ends of the British Isles and consequently they offer a fascinating and representative case.


  • (co-edited with Ross Mahoney and Michael LoCicero) A Military Transformed? Transformation and Innovation in the British Military from 1792 to 1945 (Helion Press, 2013)
  • 'Learning the Lessons of the Somme: A British Division's Experience' in William Philpott and Jonathan Boff (eds.) Mastering the Industrial Battlefield: Military Transformation on the Western Front, 1914-18 (Ashgate, 2013)


Fin Monahan - How has Organisational Culture affected RAF Operational Capability?


Given that a fighting force needs to remain agile enough to deal with changing enemies, threats and political pressures, it is imperative that it is able to deal adequately with change in order to maintain operational capability. However, despite the central importance culture plays in developing doctrine and promoting flexibility, it has received little attention from academics. This research examines the historical development of leadership, staff institutions and overall organisational culture in order to determine how they contributed to the development of doctrine and flexibility of the RAF from its formation to the present day. The research will also establish the extent and ease with which culture can be moulded to further the needs of a military organisation. The specific areas of research cover the initial formation of the RAF, the inter-war years, the cultural changes brought about by the mass mobilisation of the Second World War and the stagnation of doctrine for more than 20 years during the Cold War period. Finally, the research will examine how the RAF transformed from a Cold War organisation into an expeditionary force. 

Linda Parker - Anglican Chaplains Returning from WWI

Linda has been a History teacher for 20 years but has recently changed course. Her interest in the First and Second World Wars began in her youth but has been encouraged by years of holidaying with her husband at various European battlefields. She has been researching the history of Anglican chaplains in the Great War for several years and has a book The Whole Armour of God, examining their role, being published in February  2009 (Helion & Co.). She is now starting a PhD under the supervision of Dr Michael Snape. Her thesis will examine the impact of Anglican chaplains returning from the Great War on the life of the Church of England in the interwar era.


Chris Plant - Evolution of Command

Chris Plant’s interest in the First World War began when he found out that his great grandfather fought during the war as part of the 46th (North Midland) Division. Chris was able to develop this interest between 2001 and 2006 when he worked as a curator in the Photograph Archive of the Imperial War Museum. In the autumn of 2006 he moved back to Yorkshire. As well as being a part time waiter and looking after his young son whilst his partner works full time, he is now reading for a PhD under the supervision of Professor Gary Sheffield.  He is examining the evolution of command and staff work in British infantry brigades on the Western Front. Chris is also a member of the Western Front Association and a volunteer at the Royal Armouries, Leeds.


Matthew Powell - Army Co-operation Command: A History


The scholarly history of tactical air power development has been advanced over the past decade with studies investigating its development in Britain and the Western Desert, its use during the Allied invasion of Europe from 1944 and the lessons learned and implementation in an Allied form in North Africa. There has yet to be a full study of the organisation set up for all army co-operation within Britain. 

This study will investigate the circumstances within which Army Co-operation Command was set up after the Fall of France in 1940 and the work that was done by the Command until its disbandment in 1943. It will also look to assess impact on army co-operation thinking that Army Co-operation had whilst the new 2nd Tactical Air Force was being formed. Further, it will investigate the attitudes of the War Office and British army to the new Command as well as those of the other major RAF Commands that were working alongside it during its existence.   


‘The 38th [Welsh] Division in the Great War’, Stand To: The Journal of the Western Front Association, 88, (April/May, 2010), pp.44-49


Michael Taylor - Crozier's Command of 119 Brigade

Michael was born and brought up in Stoke on Trent though he has lived in a small village in rural Perthshire for many years.  He obtained his first degree (in Geology) at the University of Wales, Cardiff and most of his subsequent career was spent in local authority museums working in the field of natural sciences and rising through the ranks to be Perth and Kinross Council’s Head of Arts and Heritage.  He now works in Edinburgh at Museums Galleries Scotland. 

His interest in military history started at an early age and like many children of the 60s he was greatly influenced by the BBC’s The Great War.  He combined his interest in history and natural history in studies of museum collectors and collecting before a chance encounter in the ‘Tommy’ at Pozieres brought the Birmingham MA programme to his attention.  He obtained his MA with Distinction in 2007 and his dissertation dealt with the methods used by the BEF to process, house and utilise its German prisoners of war. 

Michael became intrigued by the rather unlovable Brigadier-General Frank Percy Crozier and is now reading for a PhD, under the supervision of John Bourne, which will examine the efficacy of Crozier’s command of 119 Brigade, 40th Division.

Alun Thomas

Alun Thomas' PhD (part-time), under the supervision of John Bourne, was on 8th Division, a war-raised Regular infantry formation of the BEF. His research interests include the semi-open warfare of the Hundred Days in 1918, the British Army during the transition to peace, 1918-1922 and the Rhondda valleys in the Great War.

Alun grew up with a grandfather and great-uncles who had served in the Great War, for whom the war was nearer in time than the Second World War is to the present day.

Though, since childhood, an avid amateur student of all things naval and military, he came late to formal study of military history, having studied social and economic history at school and university and then taught it for seven years. The study of the British Army in the Great War was re-awakened by part-time service in the Territorial Army with 2 Mercian [V], descendants of 1/5 South Staffords, and Birmingham University extra-mural classes run by the late Charles Cleaver.


Andy Vail - Response of Protestant Nonconformists to WWI

After many years on the railway, Andy fulfilled a long held ambition to study history full-time by completing a BA in History at the University of East Anglia, where he wrote his dissertations on Protestant Dissent. He is now a post-graduate student in the History of Christianity at the University of Birmingham where he is combining his interests in Nonconformity, and the attitude of Christians to warfare by studying how Protestant Nonconformists in Birmingham responded to the First World War.

He is interested both in the formal stances taken by local churches and the individual stories both of those who participated in the conflict and those who opposed it.  He is also photographing local chapels including any surviving war memorials. When not researching local chapels he can sometimes be found preaching in them, as he is also an active lay preacher.

Dennis Williams - The British Second Army in 1918

Dennis is a new recruit undertaking a significant learning curve. His interest in the First World War stems from his childhood. He knew both his grandfathers, who had each served on the Western Front and survived the experience.

After 25 years as a teacher and senior education officer, Dennis left local government to work as a freelance consultant and project manager. The plus side was the opportunity to pursue formal study of his lifelong interest in history, in which his only previous academic achievement was the lofty status of GCE History Grade 4 when at school. He undertook the MA in Military History at the University of Leeds, and his dissertation considered Plumer’s Second Army during the Final Advance in Flanders in 1918. His current PhD research, under John Bourne’s supervision, aims to rediscover the often over-looked history of British Second Army in 1918, the coalition under the King of Belgium, and the liberation of Flanders.

Dennis is a former county councillor and lives in West Yorkshire. In addition to spending time with his family, he enjoys listening to rock music on vinyl records, theatre-going, and is a keen wargamer.