BIROn - Birkbeck Institutional Research Online

    The British Army, the Regimental Officer, and the South African War: command, leadership, and professionalism in the Coldstream Guards Middle Echelon (1899-1902)

    Clegg, Amelia Esther (2023) The British Army, the Regimental Officer, and the South African War: command, leadership, and professionalism in the Coldstream Guards Middle Echelon (1899-1902). PhD thesis, Birkbeck, University of London.

    Clegg.Amelia.Thesis.Final.September 2023.pdf - Full Version

    Download (14MB) | Preview


    Between 1899 and 1902, Britain was engaged in its most extensive imperial campaign to secure dominance in Southern Africa. Pitted against a formidable and underestimated opponent, the South African War proved to be prolonged and costly – taking nearly three years to defeat the Boer forces. Studies of the British army in the conflict have focused on the generals or ordinary soldiers. By contrast, this thesis is the first study in recent years to concentrate specifically on middle-ranking British army officers in the South African War, focusing on the experiences of three regimental officers of the Coldstream Guards. The thesis is framed by reference to the Royal Commission of 1902, tasked to investigate the British army’s performance in the South African war when the middle-ranking tier of military leadership was strongly criticised. It has two main aims: to dispel the myths regarding the ineffectiveness of middle command officers and to show that these officers were a critical driving force in the army’s response to the problems of conventional warfare and the peculiar difficulties of guerrilla war. In the end, middle command officers made vital contributions to the army’s success in the conflict, and in demonstrating this, the present work will add a new dimension to our understanding of the British army as it grappled with the complexities of war in South Africa. This thesis takes a micro-history based on the three mid-level leaders as a prism through which to tell a larger story about the unacknowledged role of middle leadership in the South African War, providing a more nuanced account of their contribution and explicitly considering prior socialisation concerning gender, class, education, and professionalism in late-Victorian Britain. It reconsiders the nature of mid-level leadership and its effectiveness and analyses the identity, social experiences, and self-perceptions of the three Coldstream Guards officers.


    Item Type: Thesis
    Copyright Holders: The copyright of this thesis rests with the author, who asserts his/her right to be known as such according to the Copyright Designs and Patents Act 1988. No dealing with the thesis contrary to the copyright or moral rights of the author is permitted.
    Depositing User: Acquisitions And Metadata
    Date Deposited: 10 Oct 2023 15:09
    Last Modified: 10 Oct 2023 15:09


    Activity Overview
    6 month trend
    6 month trend

    Additional statistics are available via IRStats2.

    Archive Staff Only (login required)

    Edit/View Item Edit/View Item