British Expeditionary Force, The Final Advance, September to November 1918

In a war of stalemate that seemed never ending, September to November offered real hope for the BEF. The author provides a nicely researched account of the BEF push forward and through the Hindenburg Line – Most Highly Recommended

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NAME: British Expeditionary Force, The Final Advance, September to November 
1918
FILE: R2753
AUTHOR: Andrew Rawson
PUBLISHER: Pen & Sword 
BINDING: hard back 
PAGES: 218
PRICE: £19.99
GENRE: Non Fiction
SUBJECT: WWI, World War I, World War 1, First World War, World War One, the 
Great War, BEF, Western Front

ISBN: 978-1-52672-344-1

IMAGE: B2753.jpg
BUYNOW: http://tinyurl.com/y9cvq3gq
LINKS:  
DESCRIPTION:  In a war of stalemate that seemed never ending, September 
to November offered real hope for the BEF.  The author provides a nicely 
researched account of the BEF push forward and through the Hindenburg 
Line -  Most Highly Recommended

The BEF had a most extra ordinary war that has been somewhat lost in all the 
wailing and moaning about the futility of war. German ambition had once more 
taken Europe to the brink of disaster. There was multiple failure by politicians that 
allowed Europe to sleep walk into conflict but overwhelmingly it was German 
arrogance and ambition that caused WWI.

At the start of the war the BEF performed magnificently. It was most of the British 
Army, that tiny standing army and small reserve was all that was available. Britain 
had never believed in a large professional standing army, depending on the Royal 
Navy to defend the sea lanes and British coasts from aggressors. What was available 
may have been small, but it was well trained and equipped and it had great spirit. 
The Germans dismissed it, to their cost, as a Contemptible Little Army.

As massive numbers of German troops poured through neutral Belgium into France 
they expected a very quick victory but met a determined BEF that fought well above 
its weight in a series of skilled rear guard actions that slowed the German advance 
and then allowed the opportunity for counter attack. The counter attack was itself 
extraordinary and in the finest traditions of British arms. British and French generals, 
who had never worked closely together before, managed a co-ordinated counter 
attack that started to drive the Germans back to their own border. It was not only 
extraordinary for the exemplary co-operation of two armies that had no tradition of 
working together, but because the BEF was almost exhausted and a major re-supply 
operation gave it enough to start throwing the Germans back but, in the end, not 
enough to keep the momentum going against a significantly larger German force 
to drive it over the border and on to surrender. The Germans had just enough time to 
start digging. Then began the long war of attrition as two defensive lines faced each 
other, dug in ever deeper and pounded each other with artillery and machine gun fire, 
launched gas attacks and searched for an opening in the enemy defences.

Much has been made over the years of the incompetence of the Allied Generals and 
the timidity of the American commanders when they eventually joined the war.  This 
has been very unfair. The way forward was only to fight and force the enemy to 
surrender. The Germans believed they were superior in every way and would win. 
The Allies simply could not allow that. It was a battle of win or die. 

Large scale attacks had to be undertaken even though it would produce terrible 
casualties on both sides. Until new technology became available, the generals could 
only use mining and frontal attacks to attempt to exploit any vulnerability in the 
enemy positions. The massive losses in young men and materials was necessary to 
avoid defeat until new weapons became available. The tank started to change the 
dynamic because it was a slow moving pill box, that was machine gun proof, which 
the infantry could keep up with and take cover behind. Together with massive mining 
operations, the tanks began to wear down the Germans as the Royal Navy blockade 
wore down the German ability to resist. At the same time, Allied aircraft and their 
crews began to break the German ability to control sections of the skies over the 
battlefields.

When the Russian armies collapsed, in the turmoil of insurrection, the Germans were 
able to move all their forces to the Western Front. That could have been decisive and 
given them victory but the US land forces and aviators had arrived to rebalance the 
forces on the Western Front. It may have taken the Americans a while to develop the 
resources and confidence to begin offensive operations but it was hardly surprising 
that it would take time to reach the level of ability British and French forces had 
learned over almost four bitter years of fighting the first industrial war in history, 
where machines frequently had more impact than men.

However, the BEF endured and survived and grew. By September 1918 it was ready 
for the final push against the Germans. It proved equal to the task and it began the 
route of German troops.

The author has done justice to the BEF with detailed study of the 50 mile advance to 
Armistice in November 1918. His clear and well presented text is very ably supported 
by more than 50 detailed and annotated maps of all the battles and actions. He shows 
the strength of British combined arms tactics that repeatedly defeated the Germans. 
A comprehensive and impressive study of a winning BEF.