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Digital Subscriptions > Family Tree > September 2019 > The count down to war

The count down to war

The Second Great War did not break out unexpectedly. Many fought against the signs and portents for years. But come it did. Military historian Graham Bandy looks at the state of the Army 80 years ago, and Britain’s quiet preparation for conflict, once it became clear that it was inevitable
A converted infantry to Royal Artillery unit. Inset: note the infantry cap badges with Royal Artillery collar badges

It has been said that the seeds of World War II were sown within the walls of the Palace of Versailles – the treaty that punished the Germans for The Great War being seen to be more than a little harsh. However, as the First World War was believed to have been ‘the war to end all wars’ steps were taken to reduce the size and scope of the British Army.

Inter-war introspection

The ‘Ten Year Rule’ – a budget plan from the British Government – was set up in 1919 stating that no ‘great war’ would be engaged in by Britain, and therefore, by extension, no ‘Expeditionary Force’ would be required to fight. For the next 13 years, the three services competed for limited funds, and the Army estimates were reduced every year from 1923 until 1932.

The reductions started with the ‘Geddes Axe’ of 1922, which removed 22 infantry battalions and eight cavalry regiments from the pages of history, and further, it withdrew seven battalions from overseas garrisons. Several of these were of course, Irish regiments that were disbanded after the creation of the Irish Free State. In a similar vein the Territorial Army was reduced from an establishment of 216,041 people in 1923 to 184,161 in 1926.

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About Family Tree

It’s time to dig for victory, see what clues your delving can unearth! Turn the clock back to 1939 with our special issue and discover your family’s story. This month we’re commemorating the 80th anniversary of the start of World War 2, and are researching and celebrating our ancestors’ lives from the time. To help you trace your family tree we’ve got: a packed guide to the essential family history records all you need to know about researching family in Second World War and first half of the 20th century and a bumper crop of tips to help you create your own family history home archive – filled with carefully stored photos, stories, notes and treasures. Beginner or expert, there’s plenty to discover and do as your learn more about your family’s story. Enjoy!