Thomas Cook's Tourists: The Challenges and Benefits of Inter-Theatre Service in the British Army of the First World War

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Abstract

This article examines the movement and integration of combat formations and commanders between the British army's various operational theatres during the First World War. By considering the physical mobility of these individuals, it also examines an important corollary: the mobility of knowledge. It shows that not only did formations have to negotiate tactical and geographical difficulties, but they also had to overcome a variety of organisational barriers relating to service history and identity. In some cases these barriers served to decelerate their integration into a new expeditionary force. To overcome these barriers the army employed a series of institutional and informal methods that aimed to rapidly and effectively integrate these formations into their new force. These methods were sophisticated and recognisably modern, resonating with contemporary notions of how complex institutions organise and integrate 'newcomers'. Despite the challenges of these environmental and organisational barriers, the movement of personnel was beneficial. These formations and commanders acted as knowledge conduits, promoting the establishment of cross-theatre learning networks within the army, and proving to be a necessary development in a war in which success was predicated upon the swift and efficient transfer of knowledge and experience.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)82-91
JournalJOURNAL OF HISTORICAL GEOGRAPHY
Volume58
Issue number4
Early online date9 Jul 2017
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - Oct 2017

Keywords

  • Military mobilities
  • British Army
  • First World War
  • Organisational learning
  • Organisational culture

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