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«A Slashing Man of Action»

The Life of Lieutenant-General Sir Aylmer Hunter-Weston MP

Elaine McFarland

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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Bibliographic information published by Die Deutsche NationalbibliothekDie Deutsche Nationalbibliothek lists this publication in the Deutsche Nationalbibliografie; detailed bibliographic data is available on the Internet at

A catalogue record for this book is available from the British Library.

Library of Congress Cataloging-in-Publication Data:

McFarland, E. W. (Elaine W.) “A slashing man of action” : the life of Lieutenant-General Sir Aylmer Hunter-Weston MP / Elaine McFarland.  pages cmIncludes bibliographical references and index.ISBN 978-3-0343-0290-6 (alk. paper)1. Hunter-Weston, Aylmer, 1864-1940. 2. Generals--Great Britain--Biography. 3. World War, 1914-1918--Campaigns. 4. Great Britain. Army--Officers--Biography. 5. Legislators--Great Britain--Biography. I. Title. II. Title: Life of Lieutenant-General Sir Aylmer Hunter-Weston MP. DA69.3.H77M34 2014 940.4’1241092--dc23 [B]


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