Tuesday, 7 February 2012

I am coming to the conclusion that the British unstinting praise of the French army in the Crimea and Baltic was due to yes the British Army being broken-down, BUT importantly to the Army Reformers and increasingly vocal and dominant professional and middle classes, the British Army was unredeamably broken because of its Aristocratic nature. The French army appealed to the professional classes because it promoted based on merit; French officers were promoted from the ranks and that fulfilled themiddle class emotional and moral ideal of the 'self made man'. Furthermore, that the Army was seen as being Aristocratic meant that many of the perceptions of the aristocracy went hand in hand with that perception: the Army was therefore, lazy,"jobbish" and not "professional", it was not run my "men of business" or "practical, experienced men" whereas the French army was egalitarian, promoted on merit and its army had that "Practical experience" It was rather ironic, therefore that it was the least aristocratic parts of the army, - the Commissariat nad Medical Services - who were condemned as being failures and evidence of miss-management and the most aristrocratic part of the French army - the Etat Major (Staff Corps)- was singled out for praise for being not the reserve of an elite. The French Commissariat (Intendance Militaire) fulfilled many middle class ideals of centralisation, but was perhaps centralisation taken too far, as it has subsumed the medical services, train, veterinaries in fact all the non-combat and support roles into one monstrous organisation that was qausi-military (civilians in uniform) which was as full of the "jobbing", "favouritsim" and other faults levelled at the British army. The French Commissariat was resented by Line officers especially since it undermined the authority of Regimetnal Staff Officers and that Line officers had to salute Comissariat staff despite them being civilians. 

Rerfom organisations such as the effervescent Administrative Reform Association which counted Dickens and Thackery as members, believed that the Government should be organised on the same lines as big business and that "Public Management should be brought up to the same level as Private Management". MPs, government bureaucrats and army officers should be the "Right Man in the Right Job" - the "Right Man" being a well educated, experienced, middle class professional. The desire for the army to be run like big business and on "practical lines" resulted in philanhtopric men such as Joseph Paxton creating the Army Work Corps to build barracks and huts in the Crimea, largely recruited from Navvies who had built his 'Crystal Palace' or the putting out to tender to Peto & Brassey for the construction of a railway to carry supplies for the army rather than the military. Bursting mortars in Baltic, leaking boots and unfulfilled private tenders, however, broke the spell that middle class businessmen and practices could solve all the problems of the British army.

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