Strategy and Propaganda: Lord Kitchener, the Retreat from Mons, and the Amiens Dispatch, August-September 1914
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AbstractAmong the dramatic events that marked the start of the First World War, British political and military decisions and actions are particularly well documented and researched. These well-known events include the complex political balancing act conducted by Prime Minister Herbert Asquith in the crisis of July-August 1914, in his successful attempt to minimise resignations from his Cabinet and revolts within his Liberal Party, and to lead both Parliament and the country united into the war. They also include the creation before the war and the deployment in August 1914 of the British Army’s Expeditionary Force (re-designated the British Expeditionary Force or BEF before the end of the month, which is how it is usually known), and the confirmation of Field Marshal Sir John French as its Commander-in-Chief. Equally well-known is the appointment of Field Marshal Earl Kitchener to the post of Secretary of State for War on 5 August, his call for volunteers to create a new mass British Army, and the unexpectedly large popular response. Yet another well-known story is the BEF’s first battles at Mons and le Cateau, the successful retreat from Mons, and the decision to turn the BEF to participate in the decisive Battle of the Marne in September. Most accounts that follow the British military story that far (and many do not, preferring to stop with the first declarations for war), also acknowledge the importance of the Amiens Dispatch (sometimes called the Mons Dispatch), a sensational account of the battles of Mons and le Cateau published in a special Sunday edition of The Times newspaper on 30 August, which also features in most accounts of British propaganda in the war, and of the British Home Front. It is often stated as fact both that Kitchener’s personal call to arms was the principal motivator of British military volunteerism in 1914 (often if incorrectly called ‘the rush to the colours’), and that it was Kitchener’s personal animosity towards war reporters that largely determined British policy towards the national press’s reporting of the BEF’s actions in this period. It is the purpose of this present account to assemble a narrative chronology of these events, so revealing the critical interaction between politics and strategy, military operations and battles, social and cultural responses at home including volunteerism, and both the nature and apparatus of British propaganda.
CitationBadsey, S. (2019) Strategy and Propaganda: Lord Kitchener, the Retreat from Mons, and the Amiens Dispatch, August-September 1914, in Connelly, M., Fox, J., Schmidt, U. and Goebel, S. (eds.) Propaganda and Conflict: War, Media and Shaping the Twentieth Century. London: Bloomsbury.
TypeChapter in book
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