"A Slashing Man of Action": The Life of Lieutenant-General Sir Aylmer Hunter-Weston MP

Elaine McFarland

Research output: Book/ReportBook

Abstract

Hailed by General Sir Ian Hamilton as «a slashing man of action», Aylmer Hunter-Weston began the Great War as one of the British Army’s rising stars. By its close, his reputation was very different. Branded by some contemporaries as a «butcher» and a «mountebank», he has also been criticised by modern military historians both for his role in the Gallipoli campaign and also at the Somme, where his corps suffered the worst losses of any engaged on the first day of the battle. Drawing on original archival research, this is the first full-length study of his colourful and controversial career. It explores how he gained his sanguinary reputation, and asks how far this was actually deserved. Rejecting a simplistic «butchers and bunglers» approach, it argues that Hunter-Weston was an intelligent and highly professional soldier, whose failures can best be understood by reference to the structural challenges of modern war on a mass scale. There is no doubt that his personal flaws and idiosyncrasies contributed to his woeful image, but he also emerges as a transitional figure, frustrated by a battlefield in which managerial skills had become more important than heroic personal leadership. Indeed, his career offers valuable glimpses into the practical business of generalship, including the under-researched «political» role of senior officers. While not one of Britain’s great commanders, «Hunter-Bunter» remains one of the most compelling.
Original languageEnglish
Place of PublicationOxford
PublisherPeter Lang International Academic Publishers
Number of pages336
ISBN (Print)9783034302906
Publication statusPublished - 2014

Fingerprint

Hunters
Idiosyncrasies
Commanders
World War I
Archival Research
Soldiers
Corps
Length
Military Historians
Somme

Keywords

  • military history
  • Great War

Cite this

McFarland, E. (2014). "A Slashing Man of Action": The Life of Lieutenant-General Sir Aylmer Hunter-Weston MP. Oxford: Peter Lang International Academic Publishers.
McFarland, Elaine. / "A Slashing Man of Action": The Life of Lieutenant-General Sir Aylmer Hunter-Weston MP. Oxford : Peter Lang International Academic Publishers, 2014. 336 p.
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McFarland, E 2014, "A Slashing Man of Action": The Life of Lieutenant-General Sir Aylmer Hunter-Weston MP. Peter Lang International Academic Publishers, Oxford.

"A Slashing Man of Action": The Life of Lieutenant-General Sir Aylmer Hunter-Weston MP. / McFarland, Elaine.

Oxford : Peter Lang International Academic Publishers, 2014. 336 p.

Research output: Book/ReportBook

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AB - Hailed by General Sir Ian Hamilton as «a slashing man of action», Aylmer Hunter-Weston began the Great War as one of the British Army’s rising stars. By its close, his reputation was very different. Branded by some contemporaries as a «butcher» and a «mountebank», he has also been criticised by modern military historians both for his role in the Gallipoli campaign and also at the Somme, where his corps suffered the worst losses of any engaged on the first day of the battle. Drawing on original archival research, this is the first full-length study of his colourful and controversial career. It explores how he gained his sanguinary reputation, and asks how far this was actually deserved. Rejecting a simplistic «butchers and bunglers» approach, it argues that Hunter-Weston was an intelligent and highly professional soldier, whose failures can best be understood by reference to the structural challenges of modern war on a mass scale. There is no doubt that his personal flaws and idiosyncrasies contributed to his woeful image, but he also emerges as a transitional figure, frustrated by a battlefield in which managerial skills had become more important than heroic personal leadership. Indeed, his career offers valuable glimpses into the practical business of generalship, including the under-researched «political» role of senior officers. While not one of Britain’s great commanders, «Hunter-Bunter» remains one of the most compelling.

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McFarland E. "A Slashing Man of Action": The Life of Lieutenant-General Sir Aylmer Hunter-Weston MP. Oxford: Peter Lang International Academic Publishers, 2014. 336 p.