I have been involved with the British Army Military Book of the Year prize, colloquially called the BAMBY, since 2010. The competition has been in abeyance for the last year, due to a staff shortage at the Prince Consort’s Library, Aldershot, but I am pleased to announce that my offer to organise the BAMBY for 2018 has today been accepted by the Education Branch of the Army.
Historically, the BAMBY considered a shortlist of six titles on military subjects, the judging panel consisting of serving and retired Army personnel each of whom received a complimentary copy of each book. The shortlist was announced in March each year, judging completed by September, and the winner announced in October. An important part of the competition was the accompanying Talk Series, which allowed each author to speak to a predominantly military audience about their book. The competition concluding with the prize-giving and a further talk by the winning author just before Christmas. The model I offered to Education Branch is subtly, but importantly different.
The Prize will continue to consider a shortlist of six books but the judging panel will be far more representative of the Army than it was previously. I was a Judge on the BAMBY for seven years, but was the only Other Rank; there were no female or BAME judges and the average rank of judges was Lt Col. In future, the judging panel will be far more representative, transparent, and will change annually. I will also be standing down as a judge to concentrate on organising the programme, and shortlist. The Judges will no longer receive a free copy of each book, instead they will be able to take a copy out from the Prince Consort’s Library, and will use a judging template to make a more objective decision. The Prize will thus become more affordable for the Army. Another cost-saving measure is the decision to purchase a perpetual trophy rather than an annual prize; the trophy will be held at Prince Consort’s Library.
It is intended that the shortlist will be available by Easter 2018. The criteria for shortlisting is that the book must be on a broadly military subject, must be published in the United Kingdom in the preceding twelve months, for our purposes 1 January – 31 December 2017, and must be a first edition. The Judging Panel will be appointed from amongst volunteers, regular attendees at the ‘War Talks at PCL’ Talk Series, and ex officio appointees. The Panel will be ten in number: five Officers and five Other Ranks, representing the full spread of ranks and Corps. The 50:50 rank split representing the use of the Library by different ranks. The BAMBY Talks will sit as a sub-set of the ‘War Talks at the PCL’ Talk Series and will run from April – September each year.
Although owned by Education Branch, the BAMBY sits easily alongside the ‘War Talks at PCL’ Talk Series, with a shared aim to encourage soldier education, and library use, as well as my personal aim to return PCL to a pre-eminent position for the discussion of military affairs within the Army. I am really pleased to be running the Prize, and look forward to meeting you all soon!!
All the best,