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.'

Jim Barry, The RUSI Vic Library


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

  • List of Figures; Acknowledgements; List of Abbreviations; 1 The Rise of the Reserves: The Post-Fordist Rise of the Reserves; Military Transformations; Professionalisation; Cohesion; Logistics Sub-units; The British Army Reserve; The Research; Overview.2 Balancing Budgets, Strategy and Recruitment: Previous Reserve Transformations: The Cardwell-Childers Reforms: A First Attempt at Integration; Haldane and the Territorial Force; The First World War; The Second World War; Carver-Hackett Cuts Deep; Conclusion. 3 The Transformation of Military Logistics: Military Logistics; Post-Fordist Industrial Logistics; Adaption, Innovation, and the Legacy of Cold War Military Logistics; Centralisation; Integrating the Core and the Periphery; SCM and Outsourcing; The Emerging Logistics Network; Recent Tactical and Operational Logistics; Strategic Vulnerability? 4 ‘A Finger in the Wind Thing’: Intra-Party Politics and Origins of FR20: The Context of FR20; Background to FR20; Policy Exchange Paves the Way?; An Independent Reserves Commission?; Paired Fates: The Regular Army and Future Reserves 2020; Failure to Adapt: Organisational Reality Bites; The Politics of Numbers; Conclusion. 5 FR20: Delivering Capability?: FR20 Change Management; Main Effort: Recruitment; Equipment, Training and the Limits of Post-Fordism; Can These Sub-units Deliver? 6 FR20 and Cohesion: Standard Model Survey Results; A Different View of Cohesion; Logistics and Reserve Cohesion; The Persistence of Social Cohesion; The Decline of the ‘Drinking Club’; The Rise of Professionalism; Discipline; Conclusion.7 FR20, Transformation and Society: An Emerging Division; SDSR 2015 and the Divisional Level as an Organisational Solution; FR20 as a Transformation?; FR20 and Civil–Military Relations; FR20 and Society; Bibliography; Index.

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