Improvising Language Capability: The British Army’s Corps of Interpreters, 1914-1915

Jim Beach, James Bruce

Research output: Contribution to JournalArticlepeer-review


This article examines the British army’s short-lived Corps of Interpreters on the Western Front during the early stages of the First World War. It begins by establishing a benchmark for the regular army’s French language capability in 1914. It then explores the interpreters’ recruitment process, employment, and the corps’ subsequent dissolution. Further insight into their motivation and suitability is then determined through a prosopographical analysis of their backgrounds and accounts of their employment. Overall, the article provides an important case study of the pitfalls of improvising military language capability during a crisis.
Original languageEnglish
Number of pages21
JournalWar in History
Early online date18 Jan 2023
Publication statusPublished - 18 Jan 2023


  • British army
  • First World War
  • interpreters
  • French
  • language capability
  • Cultural Studies
  • History


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