Winston Churchill described the opening campaign of the First World War as ‘a drama never surpassed’. The titanic clash of Europe’s armies in 1914 is one the great stories of 20th-century history, and one in which the British Expeditionary Force (BEF) was to play a notable part.
Previous accounts have held to an unshakeable belief in the exceptional quality and performance of the BEF during the battles of 1914. But closer examination of the historical record reveals an army possessed of some key strengths yet bedeviled by many weaknesses. Within an authoritative and well-paced campaign narrative – making full use of dramatic first-hand accounts – Challenge of Battle will re-examine the BEF’s leadership, organisation, tactics and weapons.
It will describe how British commanders were forced to come to terms with the fearsome nature of modern warfare, as its soldiers returned to Europe to fight a first-rate opponent for the first time in nearly 100 years, and will demonstrate how the infantry’s famed marksmanship and the cavalry’s reconnaissance skills need to be set against the inexperience and tactical shortcomings of the BEF as a whole. It will also reveal the progress made by the BEF during the campaign, which would conclude with the successful defence of Ypres against superior enemy forces.
This thought-provoking new book will clear away the layers of sentiment that have obscured a true historical appreciation of the British Army’s opening campaign of the First World War. For the first time, the reader will be given a complete picture of the BEF at war.
Adrian Gilbert has written several books on military history, most notably on the First and Second World Wars and sharpshooting. His most recent book, POW: Allied Prisoners in Europe 1939-1945, was published by John Murray in October 2006 and was acclaimed by The Sunday Times as one of its books of the year .Adrian Gilbert is also an authority on combat sniping. His best-selling works on the subject include Sniper and Stalk and Kill, published on both sides of the Atlantic. Some of his other books include The Imperial War Museum Book of the Desert War, published in 1992 to coincide with the...
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