Trial by Fire: Command and the British Expeditionary Force in 1914

Trial by Fire: Command and the British Expeditionary Force in 1914

by Nikolas Gardner


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While existing accounts of this period have elevated the exploits of the British soldiers on the battlefield to almost legendary status, the operations of the British Expeditionary Force in the dramatic opening campaign of the First World War remain poorly understood. Based on official unit war diaries, as well as personal papers and memoirs of numerous officers, this study sheds significant new light on the retreat from Mons in August 1914, the advance to the River Aisne in September, and the climactic First Battle of Ypres in October and November. In addition, Gardner provides important insights into the ideas and values of British officers in the initial stages of the war.

Beyond explaining the conduct of the 1914 campaign, Gardner analyzes the initial stages of the learning curve experienced by British officers as they grappled with an unaccustomed type of warfare, including the unprecedented scale and intensity of the conflict as well as the advent of trench warfare. He also demonstrates the impact of rivalries among senior officers on the operations of the army. As a whole, the study adds depth to our understanding of command in European armies during the First World War.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780313324734
Publisher: ABC-CLIO, Incorporated
Publication date: 08/30/2003
Series: Contributions in Military Studies Series , #227
Pages: 280
Product dimensions: 6.14(w) x 9.21(h) x 0.69(d)

About the Author

NIKOLAS GARDNER is currently lecturer in Military History at the University of Salford in the United Kingdom. After receiving his Ph.D. in History from the University of Calgary, he taught European and Military History at the University of Calgary and Mount Royal College.

Table of Contents



The"Hybrid" Officer Goes to War: British Commanders and Staff Officers in 1914

Command in Crisis: Mons, Le Cateau, and the "Great Retreat"

The Advance to the Aisne and the Advent of Trench Warfare, 6-30 September

The Costs of Confidence: Command and the Demise of II Corps, 1-30 September

Losing the Race for the Flank: The First Incarnation of IV Corps, 9-25 October

A Hazardous Experiment: Command and the Indian Corps in the First Battle of Ypres

The Victors of First Ypres: Sir Douglas Haig and I Corps, 21 October-11 November

Conclusion: Personal Leadership, "Hybrid" Officers and "Social Darwinism": The Nature of Command in 1914


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