The essays in this book span the twentieth century. In its first half the British army began each of its major wars with defeat. In 1899 it was humiliated by the Boers, and not until 1902 did it finally overcome the Afrikaner republics; in 1914, it was driven back by the German advance through France and Belgium, and its conduct of every battle on the western front thereafter was dogged by controversy until the last ‘hundred days’ of 1918 itself; and between 1939 and 1942 the German army – as well as the Japanese – routed it whenever they met. In the second half of the century its wars were shorter, and it became more adept at achieving early success. By the year 2000 the army was deemed to be efficient, professional and effective. Its reputation would have amazed earlier commentators. For most of the previous hundred years the army’s public image owed more to Colonel Blimp than to Bernard Montgomery or Bill Slim.