‘Tommy Atkins’ has been the nickname given to soldiers of the British Army since the eighteenth century. The origin of the name is shrouded in mystery, but it has stuck. By 1914, the Tommy had changed dramatically since the days of Queen Victoria’s redcoats. Edwardian army reforms had improved recruitment and training and had re-organised the regular forces and reserves. When the First World War broke out, the system went smoothly into action and the BEF was carried across the Channel to France. But the British Army was relatively small and the First World War required a rapid expansion of the ranks. Lord Kitchener’s call for men raised the so-called New Army, half a million strong, but more were needed and conscription came into force. Many of those who volunteered together were also trained together and fought side by side in battle. In the fire of machine guns and amid the shell-fire, large numbers of men from city parishes, towns and villages fell together. Neil Storey takes us through the recruitment, equipment, training and experiences of these soldiers in the First World War: the Tommies, ‘the poor bloody infantry’. This book is part of the Britain’s Heritage series, which provides definitive introductions to the riches of Britain’s past, and is the perfect way to get acquainted with the Tommy of the First World War.
About the Author
Neil R. Storey is an award-winning social historian specialising in the study of the impact of war on British society in the first half of the 20th century. He has been writing since the late 1980s on topographical, military and crime history themes. He has written features for local and national magazines and journals as well as several books on the First and Second World Wars.