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Fire and Movement: The British Expeditionary Force and the Campaign of 1914 Hardcover – 30 Oct 2014


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Product details

  • Hardcover: 496 pages
  • Publisher: OUP USA (30 Oct 2014)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0199989273
  • ISBN-13: 978-0199989270
  • Product Dimensions: 23.1 x 4.3 x 16.5 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (11 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 14,055 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
  • See Complete Table of Contents

More About the Author

Peter Hart has worked as the Oral Historian of the Imperial War Museum since 1981. He is the author of several books on the Great War. His latest work Is 'Fire and Movement: The British Expeditionary Force and the Campaign of 1914'. In a former life he was the lead singer of the Liverpool punk rock band 'Those Naughty Lumps'.

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Review

It is [a] combination of strongly expressed opinion, nuance, rigorous argument, and research which makes this book an excellent read, as much for the beginner as for those with previous knowledge. (Bijan Omrani, Military History magazine)

About the Author

Peter Hart is Oral Historian of the Imperial War Museum in London. He is the author of The Great War: A Combat History of the First World War;Gallipoli;The Somme: The Darkest Hour on the Western Front; and 1918: A Very British Victory.

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7 of 7 people found the following review helpful By Robert Massey on 15 Nov 2014
Format: Hardcover
My nine-year-old son wanted to know why Peter Hart's latest book is called `Fire and Movement'. Well, I explained, this was how the British army commanders expected the war to be fought in 1914, with overwhelming fire followed up by fast infantry assault; this was the `spirit of the offensive'. What actually happened was very different. How and why it was different it is the purpose of this book to explain. By this point, my boy had wisely decided to carry out some assaults of his own on creepers and straying animals while playing Minecraft, leaving me to ponder the difficult tasks this work has to achieve. First, it has to consider the role of the British Expeditionary Force against the 1914 backdrop of the vastly greater armies of France and Germany - and against the differing reputations of those two forces. Secondly, it has to assess the quality of the BEF's achievements in their own terms, and to ask serious questions about whether the near-legendary status of the BEF in some quarters and accounts is well merited. Revisionism is a Hart forte, so the prospects were good.

The opening chapters allow Hart to challenge a number of commonly held and hindsight-driven ideas about the British army's weaponry and tactics, including the roles of cavalry, machine guns and artillery; this overview will interest all readers with an interest in how the British commanders expected any forthcoming war to be fought. It is on the road to Mons, however, that the book really hits its stride, as the BEF's 4 divisions joined the larger Belgian Army deployment (7 divisions) and the enormous French Army (75 divisions in total) against German forces of 79 divisions - not that this was just about numbers, but the statistics cannot be ignored either.
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Format: Hardcover
I thoroughly enjoyed reading “Fire and Movement” and I would h(e)artily recommend it to anyone who wishes to learn about how the British Expeditionary Force fought and operated during the battles of 1914.

Peter Hart pulls no punches. Far fr...om being “a rapier amongst scythes”, or “that perfect thing apart”, he highlights both the failings and the strengths of the British Expeditionary Force and how it operated in the field. One particular point that he reinforces is that the British cavalry, far from being the useless outdated ornamentation of the battlefield that was only interested in charging, was capable to a multitude of roles that its continental brothers-in-arms were not trained to do. As mounted infantry, capable of moving to vulnerable points on a battlefield where reinforcements were needed, the British cavalry proved its worth time and again during 1914. The tactical effectiveness and sometimes lacklustre performance of the branches of the Royal Regiment of Artillery during the early weeks of the war, in comparison to their German counterparts, are honestly recounted, as are the early engagements at Mons, Le Cateau and the subsequent Retreat. I, personally, would have liked to have read more about the rearguard action at Villers-Cotterêts by 4th (Guards) Brigade of 2nd Division on 1 September 1914, as the author has decided to concentrate on the “Affair at Nery” instead, but this is a very minor point. The fighting during October and November in Northern France and around Ypres is also well-covered, again highlighting that French troops were also involved in large numbers during the fighting, something often ignored by more partisan British authors.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful By FTM Doyle on 31 Oct 2014
Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
Like many other "reviewers" I found this book most interesting and highly readable; (as with all of his other books). It debunks many of the old accepted facts of the first few months of WW1 and is somewhat "revisionist" in context but nevertheless does not detract from what the BEF actually did achieve. In that way it is more useful in helping readers have a better grasp of the reality of 1914 and of the true worth of that "contemptible little army".
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9 of 10 people found the following review helpful By Robin Friedman TOP 500 REVIEWER on 11 Oct 2014
Format: Hardcover
The British Expeditionary Force (BEF) acquired its nickname of "The Old Contemptibles" from a remark attributed to Kaiser Wilhelm dismissing it as a "contemptible little army". In August 1914, Britain sent a force of approximately 120,000 men to join France and Belgium in the Great War against Germany. Peter Hart tells the story of the BEF during the eventful first months of the War in his new book, "Fire and Movement: The British Expeditionary Force and the Campaign of 1914". Hart, the author of several books on WW I, is Oral Historian of the Imperial War Museum in London. His history draws extensively on the records of the Museum.

The fighting in 1914 was different from the trench warfare that later came to dominate fighting on the Western Front. The Germans looked for a quick victory in France in order to turn their attention to the Eastern Front in Russia. Both large armies, that of Germany and France, sought a quick, decisive victory based on annihilation and maneuver. That was not to be given the size of the armies and the changes in military and economic resources.

Hart integrates his history of the BEF with the history of the War in 1914. He emphasizes throughout the small size and resources of the BEF in the early campaigns in comparison with the armies of Germany and France. His study aims to correct the work of earlier writers who frequently make extravagant claims for the BEF. Nevertheless, he finds heroism, grit, and determination in the actions of the troops and some of their leaders in the face of terrible fighting.

The book begins with Britain's preparations for war and its alliances in the years leading up to the conflict.
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