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Retreat and Rearguard 1914: The BEF's Actions from Mons to the Marne Hardcover – 17 Nov 2011

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Product details

  • Hardcover: 224 pages
  • Publisher: Pen & Sword Military (17 Nov 2011)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1848843917
  • ISBN-13: 978-1848843912
  • Product Dimensions: 2.8 x 16.5 x 24.1 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (19 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 236,863 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

Jerry Murland was born in 1946 and after leaving school served for a period in the Parachute Regiment before training to become a teacher. He retired from a successful teaching career in 2006, a career that spanned 32 years in both secondary and primary schools and culminated with appointments to the headship of two schools in Coventry. Since retirement he has devoted more time to writing and pursuing his interest in the Great War of 1914-18. He is married and has two children. He lives in Coventry and Rhayader.

Product Description


Is to be congratulated on producing a book that combines excellent sketchmaps of specific actions and a broad selection of photographs with descriptions that bring the often chaotic 200-mile retreat to life. - Guards Magazine

Customer Reviews

4.6 out of 5 stars
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

21 of 21 people found the following review helpful By Chris Baker VINE VOICE on 10 May 2012
Format: Hardcover
For their comparatively small size, the British Official History of military operations dedicates more space to the battles of 1914 than any other period. It dedicates as much attention to the actions of battalions as it does to entire Divisions in the final Allied offensive of 1918. Yet it also manages to miss, or give short shrift to, several localised and numerically small actions that proved to be of crucial importance in the British withdrawal from Mons and the long slog southward that ended with a crossing of the Marne in September 1914. There is a gap to be filled and Jerry Murland's "Retreat and rearguard" does it well: it comprises a series of vignettes that go a long way to explaining these actions and improving our understanding of the nature of early war experience of the "Old Contemptibles".

Drawing on a wide range of sources - many personal accounts having not hitherto been published - and illustrating them with some clear maps, Murland describes battalion-sized actions at, amongst others, Audregnies, Le Grand Fayt, Etreux and Nery, along with many other instances of small unit rearguards, and setting them in the context of the overall retreat. The description of fighting is down at tactical, individual level although set in context of bigger things. The book illustrates that while it was exhausting and at times perplexing, the retreat did not descend into chaos and at times the BEF gave the advancing Germans a sufficiently bloody nose to hold them off and buy precious time. This was achieved at no little cost, with several units suffering terrible casualties.

A good book, well worth buying especially if you have an interest in the war's early phases.
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7 of 7 people found the following review helpful By Donald on 22 April 2013
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Whilst we await shedloads of books on the Great War in the centenary years ahead, there are still some recent publications which are worthy of note. The diligently researched TITLE “does what it says on the tin” and provides a description of many of the smaller actions of BEF in the Mons to the Marne retreat of Aug- Sept 1914. Whilst the well-documented set pieces of Mons and Le Cateau receive adequate treatment in a readable publication which draws heavily on participants’ diaries, there are well deserved detailed accounts of the actions at Audregnies and Etreux which saw the sacrifice of battalions of the Cheshire and the Munsters. The author would appear to have no axes to grind in his essay and his story is the better for that but ,whilst acknowledging many sources, his chapter on the bridge demolition would have gained form a study of the Douglas Haig Fellowship’s annual publication: Records.
Maps are the Achilles heel of all military history publications and this work is no exception. Irish Guardsmen will feel aggrieved that they do not appear on the sketch of Villers- Cotterets and, similarly, men of the Cheshires would regret the absence of the iconic windmill in the depiction of the stand at Audregnies. What makes this book a work to recommend for the general reader is a “What Happened Next” chapter in which the author traces the adventures of some of those “left behind” in the headlong retreat. Stories of evaders and escapers in the Second War have been much publicised but those similar in the earlier conflict do not appear to have attracted the same interest. This easy to read book goes some way to rectify the omission.
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23 of 24 people found the following review helpful By Mr. D. J. Filsell on 22 Feb 2012
Format: Hardcover
Jerry Murland is an ex soldier, mountaineering instructor and teacher. He is also the and author of the recent, and highly regarded Aristocrats Go To War. He brings the all rounder's approach to his analysis and history of wahat Basil Liddel Hart called "that thing apart", the regular British Army of 1914.

This is a period and a subject in which I have a particular interest; Murland's book is one I opened with particular relish and closed without finding disappointment. Like the best of current military historians the author has the ability to knit his narrative of events with truly apposite personal stories and accounts. Drawn from published and unpublished papers and accounts, they both colour his work and inform the reader.

Absurdly, the Pen and Sword's publicity release for the book describes the account of the 12 day, 200 mile, retreat from Mons as a "near rout, "over blood drenched miles". Murland gives the lie to such half baked blurb. Certainly, there was poor, broken, communication, certainly there were losses. Certainly much was poorly accomplished by officers at all levels in the fog of this new kind of warfare. Yet itt was a retreat imposed on the British, not least by the withdrawal of French flanking forces. Few retreats by `new', small, and learning, army, have been better handled, They were led by commanders experienced only in `small wars', and a larger irrelevant one on the South African veldt, untypical of either previous or following wars.

Like authors before Jerry Murland has underlined that,despite inevitable losses, the retreat from Mons and the rearguard actions en route to the outskirt of Paris was an impressive feat of arms.
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