4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
R. A Forczyk
- Published on Amazon.com
Bruce Gudmundsson's The British Expeditionary Force 1914-15 provides a good amount of data about the organization and equipment of the original BEF sent to France in the First World War. This volume, like most in the Battle Orders series, provides useful charts and tables about unit structures from corps down to battalion level, along with some discussion of tactics and operations. Unfortunately there is a glaring omission in this volume, namely a comprehensive order of battle that actually lists the units in the BEF, particularly the specific components of divisions. For example, if a reader wanted to find out what division the 2nd South Lancashires was part of, he would not be able to find it in these pages - which is rather odd for a series that focuses on order of battle. Unlike other volumes in the series, like the one on the Korean War, the author tends to focus on general organization, rather than specific organization. Furthermore, there is little effort made to discuss when specific units arrived or were activated, or who led them. In sum, the reader is presented with a very detailed, but generic look at the BEF.
The volume includes nine maps, many of which focus on the battles of Neuve Chapelle and Aubers Ridge in early 1915. Actually rather little insight is provided about tactical innovation, except for the author's rather obvious observation about the need for more and better artillery preparation prior to an attack. There is no real discussion of weightier issues, such as how to deal with the tactical problems posed by machineguns arrayed in depth or the need for specialist trench raider units. Nor is the effect of heavy losses by the BEF in late 1914, particularly at First Ypres, mentioned but this certainly had an effect upon organization and tactics. The author does provide the usual sections on mission, doctrine/training, C3I and tactics. Specific characteristics of units - such as the difficulty in getting replacements for the Irish battalions or the weaknesses of the two Indian divisions - are not mentioned.
I was also surprised that the bibliography failed to note Martin Middlebrook's excellent "Your Country Needs You," which provides much data about the BEF than this volume. Readers seeking an OB for the BEF will have to purchase Osprey's Men-at-Arms #81. Overall, the charts are nice, but this volume feels more like an addendum to someone else's book, rather than a stand-alone piece.