The date is August 1914. The British Expeditionary Force is in France and You're in the Royal Field Artillery. You're riding alongside one of the battery's gun limbers on its way to the assigned position on the east side of Mons, Belgium. This begins your journey into the Hell they called World War One. To purchase this historical memoir go to https://createspace.com/3649268

Friday, August 2, 2013



When war was declared, the Regular Army comprised 247,432 men (all ranks), of which 79,000 were in India. The ‘Special Reserve’ and the Territorial Force totaled 270,859 men. It was intended that the defence of the homeland would be carried out by the fourteen divisions of the Territorial Force, which was created in 1908 by then Secretary of State for War, Richard Haldane.
      “County Associations were established, to organise and administer the Territorial Force, the infantry battalions being established at 29 officers and 980 non-commissioned officers and men.  The Force establishment was 312,000 men, but this target was never reached and recruitment peaked, probably, in June 1909 at 270,000.  By the beginning of that year, each Territorial unit had been assigned a specific role, either in coastal defence or as part of a central force.  Much of the Territorial Force’s equipment was obsolete and the Force never fulfilled Richard Haldane’s intention of being immediately available for service overseas. In 1910, members of it had been invited to accept a liability to serve abroad in the event of mobilisation, but barely seven per cent had made the ‘Imperial Service’ pledge, by September 1913.
      Prior to Britain declaring war, her small, all-regular, professional army was designed to police the Empire, therefore at the outset only capable of fielding, in Europe, only six infantry and one cavalry divisions, totaling 162,000 men. Virtually all of the Regular Army available in Britain, in 1914, numbered about 160,000 men, of whom a little over 100,000 were front-line troops. 
Each infantry division numbered three brigades of four infantry battalions with supporting artillery formations. The entire British Army, worldwide, did not amount to more than eleven Regular divisions.
     There was an ongoing debate around the decision to send all six divisions to France and Belgium, or hold back one or more to protect the homeland until the Territorials had additional time to train. In attendance at the August 5th meeting of the War Council, was Prime Minister Herbert Henry Asquith, Sir Edward Grey; who served as Foreign Secretary from 1905-1916, Winston Churchill; First Lord of the Admiralty, and Lord Richard Haldane; War Minister, and served as Lord Chancellor from 1912 until he left office in 1915.
     Also present were eleven Army general officers, including Field Marshal Sir John French and two of his corps commanders, Sir Douglas Haig and Sir James Grierson, among others.
    At the last minute there was an invasion scare that altered the War Council’s decision to send only four of the six divisions, along with one cavalry division. This was to take place immediately – embarkation was to begin August 9.
      Field Marshall Lord Kitchener had reluctantly accepted his appointment as Secretary of State for War. He passionately wanted to protect Britain’s Regular Army. He believed that Britain’s professional army, especially the officers, should be used for training new recruits instead of throwing them away fighting battles.
He wasn’t involved in the original planning process for fighting a war in Europe, which offered him a different perspective on the impact six divisions of the Expeditionary Force would have on the outcome of the war, especially in contrast to Germany and France’s seventy divisions each. 
     Lord Kitchener disapproved of the French offensive strategy, he ordered Sir John French, if he was asked to participate in any “forward movements” in which the French army wasn’t present in large numbers, and in which the British might be “unduly exposed to attack,” to consult his government first.
That Sir John must “distinctly understand that his command would be an entirely independent one and that he will in no case be under the orders of any Allied general.”
     In this one stroke, Kitchener negated the principle of unity of command. His motive was the preservation of the British Army. Given Sir John’s temperament, the order practically nullified the order to “support” and “cooperate” with the French. This was to haunt the Allied war effort long after Sir John was replaced and Kitchener himself was dead.
       Lord Kitchener wanted the BEF’s staging area to be Amiens, which offered a safe distance from the advancing German Army. However, at the last minute it was changed to Maubeuge, where the BEF would experience the full weight of the German forces.
     On August 6-10, 80,000 troops of the BEF with 30,000 horses, 315 field guns, and 125 machine guns, were gathered at the Southampton and Portsmouth embarkation ports.


Field Marshal John Denton Pinkstone French, 1st Earl of Ypres (28 September 1885 – 22 May 1925)
He distinguished himself by commanding the Cavalry Division during the Second Bore War. Sir John French became Chief of the Imperial General Staff in 1912, before serving for two years as the first Commander-in-Chief of the British Expeditionary Force during World War I.
      After being promoted to Chief of the Imperial General Staff (‘CIGS’) on 15 March 1912, then promoted to field marshal on 3 June 1913. French had neither staff experience nor studied at Staff College in order to excel in his position. As CIGS he forced through some controversial changes to infantry battalions, first changing the composition of a battalion from eight small companies commanded by captains, to four large companies commanded by majors.
He also ensured that cavalry would continue to be trained to fight with sward and lance rather than fight dismounted with firearms. These changes caused concerns that French lack of intellect and knowledge for the position he held. 

Field Marshal Douglas Haig, 1st Earl Haig (19 June 1861 – 29 January 1928) was a British senior officer during World War I commanding the 1st Corps until he replaced Sir John French as commander-in-chief of the BEF.
     Some have criticized him for the number of British casualties that occurred during his command, and regarded him as representing class-based incompetent commanders unable to grasp modern tactics and technologies.

General Sir Horace Lockwood Smith-Dorrien (26 May 1858 – 12 August 1930)
Smith-Dorrien commanded the British II Corps during World War I and is best known for his successful defensive action in the Battle of Le Cateau. He commanded the British Second Army at the Second Battle of Ypres before being relieved of command by Sir John French.

Marshal Joseph Jacques Cesaire Joffre 12 January 1852 – 3 January 1931 was a French general and commander-in-chief of the Allied army during World War I best known for regrouping the retreating allied armies in order to defeat the Germans at First Battle of the Marne in 1914.
     Joffre was a career officer and saw active service in different theaters and was serving in the colonies when he was asked to returned to France to be appointed commander-in-chief of the French Army in 1911.
     He purged French officers which were, “defensive-minded” and replaced them with those believing in the offensive “Plan XVII”.
     Like French, Joffre was selected to command despite the fact he never commanded an Army, and “having no knowledge what so ever of how a General Staff works.”
Charles Lanrezac (July 31, 1852 – January 18, 1925) was a French general, formerly a distinguished staff college lecturer, who commanded the French Fifth Army at the outbreak of World War I.
At the Battle of Charlerol he intended to strike the Germans on their western flank, but before he could act, the German 2nd Army struck first. After experiencing heavy casualties, he ordered the French Army to retreat. He recovered from his embarrassment at Chalerol by launching  a successful counterattack at the Battle of Guise. He was relieved of his command by Joffre before the Battle of the Marne.

Ferdinand Foch Was born in 1851. He fought in the Franco-Prussian War of 1870-71 and became an artillery specialist in 1907. When war broke out in 1914, Foch commanded the French Second Army until the Battle on the Marne when he headed the French Ninth Army.

No comments: