Junior Officers

The overwhelming majority of the 14,561 men listed in the Oxford University Roll of Service served as lieutenants or captains in the army. Douglas Haig, Commander-in-Chief of the British Expeditionary Force from late 1915, and himself an alumnus of Brasenose, wanted young patriotic Oxford and Cambridge men as officers.

The public school education and ethos of young British officers led to a widespread belief among this group that war was something noble and chivalric, the ultimate test of manliness. These ideals were to be severely tested by the trials of modern warfare.

Junior officers were the pivotal connection between the senior officers and the men. They were the conduit through which higher orders were transferred to the smaller tactical units on the battlefield. They were connected with ordinary soldiers, living in close proximity to them, leading them in battle, finding them billets when on the march, censoring their letters, and writing to their relatives when they were killed or wounded. The bonds between officers and men could be strong, Macmillan and Butterworth for example both displaying huge respect and affection for their men, which seems to have been reciprocated.

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