Directing Operations has been described by Gary Sheffield as "undoubtedly one of the most significant books on the British Army during the First World War to appear in recent years". Based on comprehensive research in primary sources, it is the first work to examine the role of British corps command in the BEF on the Western Front in World War One. It demonstrates the importance of pre-war thinking in the BEF's conduct of operations, tied in with extensive efforts to learn lessons from previous operations and to apply them as the war went on. It stresses the central role of the artillery in offensives on the Western Front, and how corps gained steadily more control over artillery assets during 1915. By 1917, learning from the Battle of the Somme in 1916, corps was the level of command at which most artillery was commanded and organised. This set the stage for corps to become responsible for the detailed planning of the set-piece attacks of 1917 and 1918. They nevertheless demonstrated in the Hundred Days (from August 1918 to the end of the war) sufficient flexibility to delegate artillery control down to divisions when required and resume it for set-piece operations like the assault on the Hindenburg Line in September and October 1918. The final chapter is perhaps the most original of the book, since in it the day to day activities of WW1 generals are analysed - what did these men do when not fighting battles, for example? This is the first time this aspect of command on the Western Front has ever been addressed.
Dr. Andy Simpson has worked in IT in the City for over 30 years, studying the history of World War One (and many other topics) in his spare time since 1990. He was brought up on the North-East coast, by the River Tyne, and educated there until he went to Bedford College (then part of the University of London) to take his first degree, in History. He undertook his Ph.D. on a part-time basis from 1992 to 2001 at UCL under the supervision of Professor David French. Directing Operations is Andy Simpson's third book. The first, Hot Blood and Cold Steel (Tom Donovan, 1993) was a main choice at the Military Book Club and a popular success. It has been published in three editions. The second, The Evolution of Victory (Tom Donovan, 1995) was a synthesis of revisionist thought on the topic of the BEF on the Western Front as it stood in the mid-90s. Directing Operations is largely based on the author's Ph.D. thesis. In addition he has contributed to the new Oxford Dictionary of National Biography and various edited volumes on the Western Front in World War One. He is a Fellow of the Royal Historical Society and a member of the British Commission for Military History and of the Western Front Association.