Playing for Time: The Effects of the Victorian Colonial Wars on the British Expeditionary Force of 1914
Technical Report,01 Jun 2018,23 May 2019
ARMY COMMAND AND GENERAL STAFF COLLEGE FORT LEAVENWORTH KS FORT LEAVENWORTH United States
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The British Expeditionary Forces operational approach in 1914 resulted from the effects of the Victorian-era colonial wars. Doctrinally and organizationally the BEF reflected the British Armys previous decades spent conducting colonial operations. Its doctrine lacked standardization and detail because army leaders did not want to stifle initiative. British Army leaders built an infantry-centric force focused on offensive operations in line with their experiences in colonial conflicts. British general officers made numerous operational mistakes in the colonial wars, highlighted by failures during the Second Boer War. Reforms produced better prepared tactical formations and leaders, but strategic considerations meant that the BEF would remain too small to effectively fight a sustained war on the continent. Once World War I began, the BEF could only delay the massive German armies arrayed against it. The BEF played a role in the allied counteroffensives of the fall of 1914. Although tactically successful, the BEFs inability to achieve operational objectives contributed to the emergence of the Western Fronts stalemate. At the end of 1914, British leaders sacrificed the BEF to gain time to build larger armies which could fight a battle of attrition.
- Military Operations, Strategy and Tactics
- Military Forces and Organizations
- Humanities and History