Mission Improbable: The Transformation of the British Army Reserve
  • The most in depth analysis of the British Army reserves in over 25 years.
  • A significant illustration of organisational transformation of the army since the abolition of conscription.
  • Controversial findings, backed by extensive research, sociologically rich and important to current defence debates.
  • Suitable for academics, military, policymakers interested in British military, defence policy, organisational transformation, military logistics and capability.


Extensive research, including interviews with ministers and generals, fieldwork with army reserve units, and surveys underpins this definitive account of Future Reserves 2020 (FR20).


A central tenet of recent British defence policy, FR20 sought to radically transform the role and function of the British Army Reserve by making it more capable and more deployable, whilst simultaneously cutting costs by outsourcing logistics capability to reserve forces.


In this book, Bury examines the origins, evolution and impact of the policy. He controversially shows how its intensely intra-party and intra-service political origins, the Army’s resistance to them, and the Army Reserves’ organisational nature, have undermined the policy’s ability to deliver the key military capabilities it envisaged. In doing so, he provides evidence of incoherent defence policy making in the Cameron era.


Nevertheless, there have been successes. By examining the impact of FR20 at the unit level, the book illustrates that whilst some units will struggle to deliver the required capability, in other areas such as integration with the regulars, professionalism, and opportunities, FR20 is delivering.


A cracking read that fills a real gap in our understanding of the modern history of the British Army and the history of the Army Reserve. With interesting and pertinent conclusions for the leadership and a number of lessons on how not to do transformation in the Armed Forces, this should be a ‘go to’ book for the latest thinking into one of the most marginalised, but highly politicised, populations – Reservists.

Professor Vincent Connelly, Oxford Brookes University, UK


Essential reading for military scholars interested in transformation in the twenty-first century, Patrick Bury's unique study of the British Army explores the recent emergence of the new Reserve force out of the Territorial Army through a detailed ethnography of its logistic regiments. The book's findings are both fascinating and also potentially incendiary. While highlighting revolutionary changes in the way that the British Army sustains itself, Bury also shows that far from a rational adaptation, the creation of the Reserves was deeply politicized.

Professor Anthony King, University of Warwick, UK


This thorough analysis of the British Army reserve highlights the political nature of the decision in 2010 to expand the reserve rather too rapidly to compensate for the significant reduction in the capability of the Regular Army.  Several years later, and after much hard work, it is clear that an expansion will be achieved, while the evolution of modern confrontation provides new avenues for reservists to ply their specialist skills, so they should be in demand.  Future attempts to transform the reserve have plenty to take from Bury’s study.

General Sir Peter Wall, GCB CBE DL


...thoroughly recommend this work especially to military scholars, military history 'buffs' and more especially politicians to understand the citizen soldier psyche.

The Australian Reservist


…an important contribution to the debate around wider Army Reserve and military logistics. This book should be read by anyone with more than a passing interest in the reformation of the Reserves.

The Wavell Room


226 Pages  I  Size: 234 x 156mm  I  Publication: 31st January 2019

Paperback ISBN: 978 1 912440 04 7  

Mission Improbable: The Transformation of the British Army Reserve