Victory to Defeat: The British Army 1918–40 (Hardcover)
A compelling history of the decline of an army from the triumph of victory in 1918 to defeat in 1940 and why this happened. A salutary warning for modern Britain.
The British Army won a convincing series of victories between 1916 and 1918. But by 1939 the British Army was an entirely different animal. The hard-won knowledge, experience and strategic vision that delivered victory after victory in the closing stages of the First World War had been lost. In the inter-war years there was plenty of talking, but very little focus on who Britain might have to fight, and how. Victory to Defeat clearly illustrates how the British Army wasn't prepared to fight a first-class European Army in 1939 for the simple reason that as a country Britain hadn't prepared itself to do so. The failure of the army's leadership led directly to its abysmal performance in Norway and France in 1940.
Victory to Defeat is a captivating history of the mismanagement of a war-winning army. It is also a stark warning that we neglect to understand who our enemy might be, and how to defeat him, at the peril of our country. The British Army is now to be cut to its smallest size since 1714. Are we, this book asks, repeating the same mistakes again?
About the Author
General The Lord Dannatt GCB CBE MC DL is one of the UK's most respected military commentators, frequently appearing on television and radio and in newsprint, most recently on the Russian invasion of Ukraine and its implications for the West. As Chief of the General Staff his leadership and example were critical in shaping the debate about the role of the professional army in modern warfare. His autobiography, Leading From The Front (Bantam Press), was published in 2010, and he entered the House of Lords as a Crossbencher the following year
Robert Lyman is one of Britain's top military historians. He spent 20 years in the British Army and he is currently a Research Fellow at the Changing Face of War Centre, Pembroke College, University of Oxford. His most recent book, A War of Empires (Bloomsbury/Osprey, 2021), was published to critical acclaim and was shortlisted for the RUSI Medal for Military History 2022.
“Their analysis is succinct, scholarly, convincing, and, with the largest war since 1945 raging in Europe today, timely. It covers strategy, tactics, resources and capabilities, as one would expect, but also ranges far outside military explanations for the debacle, and will be the standard work on the subject for many years to come.” —Andrew Roberts, author of 'Churchill: Walking with Destiny'
“Powerful and well-researched, Victory to Defeat is a superb example of how history can explain the present and inform the future. Highly recommended.” —Lloyd Clark, author of 'The Commanders'
“An unflinching account of how the British Army threw away the hard-earned lessons of the Western Front, only to face defeat and ruin in France in 1940, which sends out a powerful message for our time: we must think deeply about war and warfighting, and support our fighting men and women with all that they need, if we are not to risk another seismic failure on the battlefield. An essential and urgent book.” —Professor Nick Lloyd FRHistS, author of 'The Western Front'
"The most important book on military history I’ve read in 5-years. If I could buy a copy for every member of Parliament, I would." —Justin Maciejewski DSO MBE, Director of the National Army Museum
"Both [authors] are former soldiers, Dannatt having ended his career as chief of the general staff; and they bring their military perspective to their account of this vitally important period. As such their work is highly useful...an interesting and well-researched study of a crucial episode." —Simon Heffer, The Sunday Telegraph