Electronic Thesis and Dissertation Repository


Doctor of Philosophy




Dr. Amy Bell


During the First World War, the high mortality rate of officers led to an officer shortage. This, in turn, resulted in the Army promoting officers from the ranks rather than drawing on the traditional supply of upper-middle-class, public-school-educated officers, giving lower-middle-class men the opportunity to obtain temporary commissions. In an effort to standardize the process of granting commissions to rankers, the Army created Officer Cadet Battalions, which offered a four-month crash course in the art of being an officer to candidates recommended by their commanding officer in the field. Drawing on letters, memoirs (published and unpublished), oral interviews as well as troop journals published by Officer Cadet Battalion units, this dissertation explores the masculinity and identity of lower-middle-class ‘temporary gentlemen.’ It finds that, in contrast to negative portrayals of lower-middle-class men in the popular press at the time, which painted them as emasculated upstarts, the lower-middle-class ‘temporary gentlemen’ studied here were confident in their own worth, keen to contribute to the war effort and certain that their contribution would be of value. They fully bought into the upper-middle-class ‘officer and gentleman’ hegemonic masculinity of the public-school educated officer, which was promoted during the Officer Cadet Battalion course they took, and did not attempt to construct an alternative model of masculinity. Nevertheless, they were convinced that they could live up to the hegemonic standard and excel.